Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Listening to the oldies....

I've gotten to the point where I try to avoid listening to the music of my youth because the grandkids think I must have rocked with the dinosaurs. I sometimes get nostalgic which easily leads to depression over a youth not appreciated but surely missed. I couldn't wait to get past the teens. I craved being all grown-up. Maybe I thought I would receive some respect from my dad. That didn't happen til I was in my late fifties so if that was, in fact, the reason for my craving I should have craved a red Corvette.

Sadly, I chose to listen to the music from the early sixties this morning. There was some wonderful music back then....like Candy Girl by the 4 Seasons....and there was some not so great stuff. I won't mention any of those though because they might possibly be your favorites. In order to keep from drifting off into depression I will tell about a day in the spring of.....well, I don't remember. It must have been '62. My sister's best friend was a girl named Cathy from down the street. I secretly loved Cathy and planned to marry her if she would promise to never see her insane brother, Gary, again. Since I never revealed my love, she never had to make that promise. I am sure she would have agreed if the subject ever came up.

My sister, Cindy, was a shy girl without an ounce of rebellion in her body. Cathy was wild and crazy before wild and crazy was cool. I never knew how they could be best friends but I was glad they were. Cathy was always at our house....probably to avoid the insane brother. If Cathy came to see Cindy I made it a point to be in the same room. Cindy was a pretty good older sister. She rarely threw things at me to drive me off. Looking back, I was for sure a royal pest.....I did not care.

Cathy loved to dance which was another contradiction to their close friendship. Cindy didn't dance. None of our family danced. My mom was certain dancing paved the way straight to....well, you know.

I loved to watch Cathy dance to whatever Top 40 was playing on that little AM radio. As a side note here, and Cindy might correct me if I'm wrong, she and Cathy made matching moo-moos. Cindy's was modest and conservative. Cathy's was.......whoo-hoo....it was amazing. She was wearing her moo-moo when some Llano cousins came to visit. My cousin Roy fell in love with Cathy ten seconds after they arrived. We were in Cindy's room listening to music, laughing, and having a great time. All of a sudden Chubby Checkers suggested we all get up and do the Twist. We all jumped up and started working out to the only dance my mom didn't condemn (no touching). We all danced like the good Christian children we were. If you've ever watched an old movie where the kids were dancing to the Twist, you would have noticed the nerd in the corner grinning like a goof and barely moving his hips to the music. That was us. Cathy did not have that inhibition. She got so revved up she split the side right out of that moo-moo. If Roy and I hadn't already been goofy enough, we sure raised the bar then. We both started giggling and ran from the room. As we ran I asked Roy why we were running away. He didn't have a clue so we turned around and ran back but it was too late. Cindy had already helped Cathy out with something else to wear....stupid sister.

Sigh....yep, I sure should have taken the time to be a kid.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween....

For years Halloween has been a holiday to endure and not necessarily enjoy. You have to cash in a CD to have enough money for candy and the whole night is spent getting up and down to answer the door. Before we had the ability to freeze the screen it was impossible to watch any TV that night. When I was a kid Halloween was thrilling because of all the preparation and expectation....or maybe it was because it signaled the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn't try to analyze it. I simply prepared myself, my costume, and my extra heavy duty bag for collecting candy from the neighbors. Call me weird but my favorite candy was the peanut butter flavored taffy wrapped in orange or black paper. Good times.

My daughter-in-law, Cayce, asked Debbie and I the other day if we could remember our favorite Halloween night. I had a hard time thinking of one but finally remembered. I was on the edge of proclaiming myself too old to Trick or Treat. It would be my last year because I lived with the fear of embarrassing myself while running into the love of my life. I won't mention her name because she might possibly read this and I would be embarrassed again.

I decided to make the most of this Halloween night. I dressed up in my black cape with top hat (I was into old movies set in London) and I hoped the weather would hold off for a few hours. A cold front with rain was headed our way and I didn't want my cardboard top hat to turn into mush (I never told anyone but I loved that top hat). I also decided for the first time ever that if I came to a house with no treat I would leave a trick. I looked all over for a piece of chalk or a used piece of soap to create havoc. I could never get away with taking eggs or toilet paper. Yes, my mom did keep count of them! I finally found a piece of purple crayon so I was armed.

I stepped out of the house to start my culinary collection finally. My parents made us WAIT UNTIL IT WAS DARK to start Trick or Treating. The oncoming front had pushed in a thick blanket of fog. My dream of stalking the streets of London were complete. My sisters and brother met up with Sharon and Kelly, other neighborhood kids whose faces are in my memory but unfortunately the names are not. We hit the first three houses next to ours with huge success. The fourth house was dark and quiet. I boldly walked to the door anyway, rang the bell, knocked....yelled "Trick or Treat" in a threatening way and nothing happened. That's when I did it. I broke the law for the first time in my short and innocent life. I pulled out my purple crayon and DESTROYED the front door! BRUHAHAHAA!!! Actually, I only had the nerve to put a small mark on the door bell but it felt good...REAL good!

The next house we visited was answered by a wide-eyed foreign man. He looked at our costumes and said, "Hello?" We all yelled "trick or treat". He didn't move. He stared at us for a moment longer before asking, "So, vat is dis trick or treat you speak of?" I explained the whole tradition of hand it over or suffer the consequences, thinking the whole time this guy must be kidding. He wasn't kidding.....he threw his hands in the air and ran off yelling for his wife to find some treats quick!! He and his wife came running back carrying some apples and bananas asking if that was okay. We thanked him and turned to leave. I turned back around and warned him that about two hundred more kids would be ringing his door bell before the night was over. I don't know how they handled that.

The next morning I was so filled with guilt I walked back up the street and cleaned the purple mark off the offending neighbor's door bell.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This exercise thing is working....

Oh sure, I don't work out for very long but I'm going three times a week and I must say I am looking pretty good for an old man who has never exercised in his life. Seriously, I never took a PE class until I was a freshman in college. I was in the band and the school administration knew band guys got enough harassment without PE. This is why on the very first day of PE in college the coach told us to hit the track and show him how fast we could complete the mile. I was so proud to be the first to finish. I strutted up to the coach and asked him what he wanted me to do next. He told me he would like for me to run the extra three laps to make a full mile.

Anyway, I'm now making up for the years spent thinking I was in good shape. An oval is a shape but I don't want to be that shape anymore. I have some upper body strength and it feels good to pick up my little granddaughter Claire without having to sit for five minutes. I've also toned up the muscles in my mid-section. Now I can bend over and tie my shoes without passing out......now I can SEE my shoes. I'm not saying I am where I want to be but I'm on the right road and as long as my old pal Charley keeps going with me I think I can stick to it.

Charley doesn't need to work out. He's at least a hundred...no wait, he's seventy-one and he doesn't carry an ounce of body fat. He is retired from American Airlines. We retired the same year. My hobby has been sitting in a quiet, still position and pondering life. Charley's hobby is cutting down trees and splitting the wood. We're a lot alike that way. Charley goes to work out with me for two reasons. First, I asked him if he would because I needed the encouragement to keep going. Second, Charley doesn't want to get old. Bad news Charley, we don't go to the Senior Center because of the location.

We each have our own workout routine.  Mine is different than his because I can't use any of the equipment requiring pressure on my leg. I ride the bike for half an hour and then go through the upper body sets. Charley looks at the bike for about fifteen seconds and then hits all the weight sets. As a result I'm usually finished before him. I go down the hall for a cup of coffee and wait. After a few minutes Charley wanders in and pours a cup of coffee along with three or four donuts.

Charley is married to a beautiful, sweet lady so don't take this the wrong way. The first time we went to the center we were drinking coffee and watching members walk the track. (Four laps is a mile, you know!) Charley said, "You know, if you were a single guy this would be a great place to meet girls." I decided right then that old Charley is older than he thinks.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Uncle Frog II

When I was seven there was no person on earth cooler than Uncle Frog. He was kind enough to come live with us for a second time and shared the bedroom with Glenn and me. Of course had it not been for that unfortunate loss of his funds at the Jacksboro Highway Bar, Frog probably wouldn't have agreed to move in and entertain us kids when he did.

Frog drove a brand new GMC pickup. Back then no one drove pickups except farmers and construction workers. Frog was no farmer. I still remember that pickup as if he were driving it today. It was gray with white hubcaps. He built a toolbox for it and painted it bright red. Did I not say Uncle Frog was cool?

Frog came home from work every day covered with mud and cement dust. He did come home on time though because my mama insisted on everyone being around the dinner table at the same time. Before dinner Frog would clean up good and replace those dirty work clothes with freshly starched Levi's, white shirt, and pointy-toed cowboy boots. Then we would have dinner. He tried to come to the table once without cleaning up and mama marched him right out of the dining room. Old Frog never crossed my mama without paying dearly for it.

Frog made a promise to mama that he would stay as far away from the Jacksboro Highway Bar as he could while living with us. As far as anyone could tell he stuck to his promise. It was during this time of severe sobriety that Frog got his life together, saved his money, and moved to Irving.

Frog must have saved his money pretty well by sleeping in the bedroom with Glenn and me. The first time he came to visit after moving he was driving a brand new 1957 Cheverolet Bel-Air coupe. It was white on black with a red interior. Life couldn't have been better for old Uncle Frog until the day he met his beautiful German wife, Frieda, years later.

I was happy for Frog but I sure missed him living with us. I did find myself getting in less trouble after Frog moved away but that didn't ease the loneliness. I missed finding quarters on my closet floor that Frog would "drop" for Glenn and me to find. I missed waiting on the porch for Frog to drive up in his gray pickup after work to hear about his day. I missed watching him polish those cowboy boots till I could see my face in them. I missed the water gun fights....in the house! I missed watching him use the cuff of his jeans for an ashtray like a real man would do.....couldn't wait to be old enough to smoke and use my jean cuff as an ashtray.....but mama wouldn't let me. Thinking about it, I still miss all those things. When I was seven and Frog was living in our bedroom it was a good time.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Yeah, I'm buff...

I mentioned last week I had joined the Senior Center in Hurst in order to have access to their gym. It's a great gym and I enjoy my three day a week workouts. I start out on the stationary bike and ride 5.5 miles which gives me a good warm up and burns calories the equivalent of a Snickers bar. Since I don't eat Snickers bars anymore I'm already ahead for the day! Since joining I think I've ridden to downtown Dallas and in the coming weeks I should be able to ride home. I didn't even think of the side results of the stationary bike. Aside from burning off the residue of hundreds of Snickers bars, the exercise is actually helping my leg improve. I'm going more and more without my cane now and hope to give it up completely soon....please do not mention this to Debbie.

When I first started my workout regimen I was warned to ease into it. Although the fire department is next door it would still take precious minutes to arrive if my heart seized up on me. I started with the lowest possible settings on the computer. As I gleefully road along, the screen kept repeating, "Hello! Is anyone actually riding me? You can go faster if you wish but don't hurt yourself fatso!" I eventually turned on the TV instead of reading rude computer comments. I've worked up to a fairly aggressive setting now. I plugged in the parameters today and turned on the TV. Instead of watching Mayberry, RFD, a large message appeared on the screen that said, "No TV for you today fat boy. We're going cross country". Thirty minutes later I had covered 5.5 miles of the worst terrain in Texas. My heart rate got higher than I've been able to achieve in any of my earlier activities of eating nachos and watching reruns, I was gasping for oxygen, sweat was pouring off me and I still worked off only one Snickers bar.

Before the ride got too hard I noticed a new face walking into the gym*. He walked kind of like Fonzie on Happy Days....you know the subtle strut I'm talking about. Although he appeared to be about a hundred and had not a hair on his head, he was still in amazing shape. All the ladies started yelling, "Hi Coach!"....a disgusting display. He walked around and greeted all the women. He seemed to ignore the men. As he walked past my bike I made eye contact and spoke. He looked at me for a second and said, "Eh."....not "Eh?" like "excuse me I didn't hear you" or even "EH!" like "I don't know you but feel I should respond". It was just a flat......eh....Giving him the benefit of the doubt I should say that although my comment to him in my mind was structured, "Good morning my good man. How are you today?" it came out of my mouth as "doin?" All in all our short conversation said everything each of us was interested in hearing.

No one introduced me to Coach so I had to make assumptions based on events. Coach walked over to the weights and started pumping iron. Slowly several ladies gathered around him and picked out weights for themselves. Coach then said, "Welcome to class ladies! Are you ready for your workout?" From these actions I assumed Coach was actually a real coach and not some pervert cruising the center looking for hot chicks. As they worked out I also developed the additional assumptions, 1) Coach's name is probably Muffin....Stud Muffin....Coach Stud Muffin. Yeah, that's it. 2) I have a lot more hair than Coach and that is why I don't have as many muscles. 3) I'm beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable from all this fixation on Coach. Fortunately, about that time I hit a large hill in the program and had to concentrate on not dying.

Wednesday I'm going to back up my parameters a bit before my ride. Hopefully if it's cross country again it will be in New Mexico instead of the Texas hill country.

*Editor's note: Although Mr. Mihills referred to a 'face' walking into the gym, he actually meant to say 'someone walked into the gym I had never seen before'. Mr. Mihills has been notified that faces cannot walk anywhere.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

So then....

....there I was, dragons to the left of me and dragons to the right of me. I swung my double bladed sword like a madman, sweat pouring from my fantastically trim body, fear consuming my heart.....and then I woke up. My dreams are much more colorful than my every day. I really need to be more selective about my evening meals.

I have been having really weird dreams lately. Sometimes I'm an amazing guitar player wowing the crowds with my vintage electric guitar. I guess even in my dreams I can't play the banjo well enough to dream about it. Other times I'm back at work and scrambling to get a project done on time. That dream is actually worse than dreaming about dragons because the project is always impossible. I'm rarely the hero in my dreams. Usually I'm the dumbo in need of help. But boy oh boy, I slayed some dragons last night.

I've been plagued with insomnia and bad dreams since I retired. I really don't have enough to distract me during the day. It's just too hot outside. My indoor activities like writing short stories, reading, and watching oldies on TV cause me to get sleepy...so I nap. Then I lay awake half the night and have odd dreams the other half. Its a maddening cycle I've fallen into. When fall finally gets to Texas I'll be back outside working the yard and creating sawdust in my shop but for now I am slowly going crazy.

I remember seeing a movie years ago in which Michael Keaton was a resident in an asylum. In one scene he escapes and on his first morning of freedom, he breathes deeply the fresh air and says, "Ah, its a good day to be insane". That scene struck me as interesting because I was in a stressful situation at work and wondered if life would be better if I was crazy. I can say with certainty now that it is not!

I feel rather useless to the world right now and would love to improve the situation. Unfortunately, I have nothing to offer the world. I did try to volunteer at the hospital. Through LifeLine Chaplaincy I made visits to patients in an effort to boost their spirits and help in any way needed. While learning this I was told to never sit down in a hospital room unless invited. Sick people do not care if you are standing. They never invite you to sit down. They are sick for crying out loud. I could make the visits okay but all the walking and then standing in one spot bothered my leg so much I had to quit. I really can't do anything else.

I got a membership at a gym....well, to be honest it was a membership at the senior citizens center in Hurst. They have a top notch gym though and that's why I joined. I don't want to learn how to line dance. I don't want to learn how to make quilts. I just want to use the gym and at $20 a year it's the best deal in town. I go three times a week to work out. I feel great after a good workout. I go on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Today is Thursday.....I feel rotten. I would work out every day but Debbie would miss me if I was gone that often even though she's asleep when I go and asleep when I get back. I know she would miss ME though because too much exercise and I would turn into wonder man and she would long for the old flabby me. I would never do that to the love of my life.

Well, that's all I have to say. It was a good ten minutes but now I have to finish my crossword puzzle, eat a light lunch, and take my nap. Have a good day!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Build a Toothpick....

The weather has been extreme this summer in Texas. My two hobbies have been shelved until fall gets here and I'm about to go stir crazy. I can't work in my yard because of the heat and humidity and working in my wood shop is impossible. I thought about installing air conditioning in the shop but decided Norm on New Yankee Workshop would shake his head in disgust if I did.

It rained last night and into the morning so the heat was abated somewhat. The humidity was awful but I thought I could use the fan in the shop for a while and work off some of the cabin-fever blues. I wandered around for a few minutes and then dug some wood out of the 'inventory'. I thought I might make a nice box. For some reason everyone loves a box if its made of wood. I designed the box in my mind and sorted out the necessary wood. I turned on my table saw and cut everything to length. I wanted to dado the boards for a nice finished look at the joints. Debbie bought me a new dado blade for Christmas and I have used it a few times already. Unfortunately, a few months ago I was digging through an old tool chest in my shed and found my old dado blade. I couldn't remember why I stopped using it and then stored it away so efficiently. I decided to use it today.

The old blade is really cool. You don't have to measure or add shims. You don't need to use up scrap boards testing for proper depth and width. You just dial in the measurement you want, install it on the shaft, and get to work. Why did I ever stop using this thing?!?! I dialed in 3/8", installed the dado, and turned the saw on. I then remembered why I had buried that old dado so deep in the tool chest. The saw started vibrating and dancing around. I hadn't locked in the wheels so it started rolling toward me, tools were falling off workbenches, neighbors were dialing 911 to report the disturbance. It was awful. I wanted to run but realized I was a man and I had to face my challenges like a man.....so I walked over to the wood pile, selected a nice, straight, 4' long dowel rod, and carefully reached the off switch. I wasn't to be outdone by a stupid dado blade so I locked down the wheels, removed all remaining tools from attached work benches, grabbed a scrap piece of wood, prayed, and turned the saw back on. It started the crazy vibration again but I reminded myself I was trying to use a professional grade dado blade with a tiny little 40 year old table saw. It wasn't possessed. It was not possessed. I took my scrap of wood and fed it into the blade. Oh my goodness.....do you remember how the Cookie Monster ate cookies on Sesame Street? That's how the dado attacked that poor piece of wood. I ran for the door, pulling the plug to the saw as I ran past. I didn't slow down until I was in the kitchen. Debbie asked what was wrong and I calmly said, "I need a drink of water and there's a monster out there in the shop!". She laughed....I laughed....I sipped on water until it was gone....finally I went back outside. I tiptoed over to the saw, grabbed my blade wrenches and took that dado off the shaft as fast as I could. I carried it back out to the shed and buried it deep in the old tool chest......then I locked the chest, locked the shed, said another prayer and went back to my shop. As I started to clean up the shop I noticed a splinter on the table of the saw and it was a perfect toothpick. I carefully picked it up and carried it inside. Debbie asked me what I had made today. I held up my prize and said, "I made a toothpick! I think I'll stop for the day".