Monday, July 30, 2012


We lost another member of our AA community recently but, happily, he didn’t die from alcoholism. As a matter of fact he enjoyed 24 sober years and died in his 70’s.

One of the things that I loved about Bill was his dry sense of humor. He was a master at Gallows Humor … “the macabre humor that finds irony or comedy in serious matters“, such as in an alcoholic past. It is used often in AA and my favorite example of it is the following …

The man who told this tale on himself was in his 60’s and quite attractive. You could just imagine how he would have looked in his younger years and I’m sure that a huge ego was part of his makeup then too.

His work entailed a lot of traveling and he liked this since he could drink to his heart's content with no family around to censor him. This particular morning that he relates to he woke in his motel with a HUGE hangover. He groaned as he remembered that he had an appointment that afternoon with an important client. He knew he had to pull himself together or risk losing his job.

He splashed cold water on his face, took 4 or 5 aspirins, combed his hair and headed to the nearest drugstore. He’d decided to tell the druggist that he felt “flu-like” and surely he would give him something that would ease the pain.

As he was waiting in line to be served he felt a tug on his sleeve and looking down he saw a little old lady gazing intently at him. “Excuse me, sir”, she said, “but I just have to ask you. Are you Richard Burton?”

WOW… Was he ever pleased. Maybe he didn’t look so bad after all. Puffing himself up and, smiling sweetly he answered, “Why thank you so much for the compliment, but no, I am not Richard Burton. However I am curious. What is it about me that made you think that?”

At which point she motioned for him to bend down lower and she whispered in his ear …“He was a drunk, too, you know !”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An inspired idea unites a community !

One of the nicest things about my recent visit North was reconnecting with my nephew Chris. He’s an amazing young man and when he told me about his “front yard garden” I just had to share it with you.

He made the unorthodox decision to plant his garden in FRONT of his house because it received the best light for growing and the area needed a makeover anyway. Little did he dream that the project would stimulate so much interest and positive feedback in his neighborhood.

As Chris mapped out and then planted his garden he realized that he was being closely watched. People that had never spoken before stopped and expressed their interest. Young parents brought their children to peek in the greenhouse and to ask Chris what he was planting and when it would be ready to be picked.

He believes that he’s met at least 30 or more people who live within 4 blocks … all of them “neighbors” that he would never have known otherwise. A few of them have even become close friends.

In Chris’ words: “It has turned out that the production of food (which was the initial intent) has taken a back seat to all the other things this garden has done: community building, bringing neighbors together, a teaching tool etc. I still get a lot of food for myself, neighbors and the food bank, but it’s almost incidental. Finally, this year I planted a special bed of golden cherry tomatoes for people walking by. They are just about ripe. It will be fun to see how people react to that.”

Chris lives on the West Coast and that’s over 3,000 miles from me so I doubt if I will ever see his project first hand, but just knowing it is a reality has brightened my life. Imagine how many other lives could be enhanced if more people followed his example !

Monday, July 23, 2012

The majestic barred owl* … He gets the last word !

It’s a rare treat to see an Owl during the daylight hours so I was thrilled to have it happen on my last trip North to visit my daughter and her husband in New York.

I was inside the house when my son-in-law came in and motioned for me to come out front … “but be quiet” he indicated. The minute I was outside I could see why.

There was a very large Barred Owl perched on the tip of a tall pole near their driveway. These birds, though basically nocturnal, will hunt even before dark if there is prey on the ground that excites them and such was the case here.

My kids had let the chickens out of their cage for a bit of exercise and, luckily, they spied the owl before he could do any harm. However a funny thing happened.

As the owl, practically drooling, looked down on the chicks, my daughter shook her fist at him and shouted: “you stay away from my girls”. At which point the owl turned his beady eye in her direction and then, lifting his tail, let loose a large watery turd.

“…and that’s what I think of that”, he seemed to be saying before he spread his wings and nonchalantly flew away.

* The National Geographic, Illustration by Donald L. Malick

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FLYING HIGH … two views !

I never have been able to resist a swing hanging from a tree and this one was particularly attractive. It was just one of the many fun happenings that came my way on my recent trip north.

This particular day my daughter, son-in-law and I were the guests of his brother and wife. Just being there and soaking in the spectacular view would have been enough but the night included a fine dinner too.

I should have taken pictures of their gardens because the meal consisted of just-picked veggies and there’s little that can beat that for good eating!

And here’s a different take on “flying high”. It’s a picture of my son-in-law painting the barn that houses their antique business. It was scary to see him aloft like that but it didn’t seem to faze him. He actually took a series of pictures on his cell phone of the view from atop the ladder and then he displayed them on his TV screen when he got home.

I can’t ever imagine myself up that high. It literally made my knees weak just viewing the pictures he took !

Monday, July 16, 2012

How many flags could a woodchuck steal if a woodchuck could ……

I arrived in Colombia County, New York a few days before the 4th and most nights my daughter, her husband and I would listen to the news. One of the main stories locally was the mystery of the missing flags from a Hudson cemetery.

Every year local veterans groups place American flags in front of the tombstones of Civil War Veterans in the cemetery and this year many of them had been stolen. Who would be so unpatriotic and brazen as to steal these flags right off the graves? Even if it were kids, it was unforgivable and a downright shame. The reporters telling the story and the public at large were aghast at such insensitivity.

The local police were baffled too and took the case seriously. They offered a $500 reward for any information leading to the capture of the criminal (or criminals) and placed motion sensors at strategic points in the cemetery.

Imagine their surprise when they played the film back and found their villain to be none other than a WOODCHUCK ! This wiley little guy was seen to pull the flag down and drag it away in his teeth. Evidently the manufacturer of the flags uses a substance that, although meant to lengthen the life of the flag, proved to be irresistible to the “perp”.

So, despite the desecration of a Civil War cemetery a mystery was solved … a “criminal” apprehended … and a good chuckle was had by all !