Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Matchbook Treasures

Well, not treasures really. But it's still interesting browsing through a couple boxes of matchbooks given to me recently by my sister-in-law. They were given to her by her own in-laws who are in their nineties and don't want them anymore.

Most of them come from restaurants and hotels they visited over the years. Some include handwritten dates and notes as to whom they were visiting if it were in a distant city.

But there are lots of matchbooks from area restaurants which is why I got this collection, since I've been collecting matchbooks from restaurants I've visited for many years as well. And with a no-smoking policy going into effect in Michigan restaurants beginning May 1, chances are slim I'm going to find new matchbooks at local bars and diners.

Hmmmm, here is a matchbook from Dominos Pizza with a list of their outlets in Michigan, all eleven of them. That's gotta be an oldie. Hea, here's one in the shape of the iconic maize 'n blue Wolverine helmet with the 1979 football schedule!

Though the traveling days for this couple are over, they sure saw their share of sights: San Francisco, Boston, London, New Orleans, Hilton Head, New York, etc. I'm looking at one from Williamsville Inn in Williamsville, New York, near Niagara Falls. The cover advertises rooms with wall to wall carpeting, private baths and color television. Sound like an oldie? Let me see if I can Google this place.

Demolished in 1999. A Rite Aid drug store now sits at its former location. Don't you love Google? You can find out so much so quickly.

I guess those matchbooks I decide not to keep I could sell to Spartans over in East Lansing since they've displayed as arsonic (word?) penchant for lighting couches on fire when they've suffered a tough loss in athletic competition. [Not tonight though. Dang!]

Sometimes the messages inside the matchbook are more interesting than what's outside. Check out what I found inside a "Chevy's Restaurant" book:

A correspondence course for open heart and brain surgery? Wonder if it's for real. I Googled and there is actually a University of Matamoros in Mexico. I took some Spanish in high school and college. I could handle a correspondence course, I think. If ever there were a time to change careers, maybe this would be it. With health care reform, you never know. This could be legal.

But if I go for it, I won't forget all my blogging buddies out there. You'll get ten per cent off at Big Dave's Brain Surgery Center. I'll do even better than that. You find a better price for your aneurysm repair, I'll match it AND give you ten per cent off.

It pays to have friends on the internet.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why We Drive

Our youngest son left early today to return to Ithaca, New York and his studies at Cornell University there. My wife and I drove him as far as Toledo, Ohio, dropping him off at the AMTRAK station there at one-thirty this morning. His train was scheduled to leave at three.

We had offered to drive him back to Syracuse in New York where his truck lay parked in a field adjacent to the AMTRAK station there. Wendy and I felt sure the truck would have at least a dead battery since Scott had been home here a month. Scott wouldn't hear of that. Too far a drive for us, he said.

Too far a drive? We're driving to Florida next month . . . all the way down to the Keys! Flying? Forget it. Sure, I flew to London but I would have driven there too if I could have. Wendy's not too fond of getting on a plane now either, worried about those new scanners that peer through your clothing. She doesn't want to risk being the centerfold for the next issue of Airport Security Illustrated.

Scott said he didn't mind the long train ride from New York and back, nor being without his car while at home since he just drove our mini-van around. In fact, Wendy and I had to drive our other car pretty much the whole time our son was home during Christmas.

When we dropped him off in Toledo, there was already a large contingent of people waiting for the train, almost all of them Amish. They were certainly from one of the more fundamental Amish sects--the men all with beards and hats, and the women clad from head to toe, mostly in black. As I passed by I did notice one young Amish woman breast-feeding her baby. She didn't make much effort to hide it either, which I found rather ironic considering how conservatively dressed she was otherwise.

Scott said later that this particular Amish clan spoke no English. Leastways none that he heard. But it wasn't the Amish who made Scott's trip home a little more eventful.

The train hadn't even left the Toledo station when one man complained that he needed sleep and requested a sleeper car. There were none operating this trip, he was told. Undeterred, once aboard the man began going from car to car, looking for a sleeper. Not a good idea. He was summarily kicked off the train.

Down the tracks in Erie, Pennsylvania, a train official with a flashlight came up the darkened aisle checking the citizenship and identification papers of passengers. Wow, right out one of those Eastern European spy novels. But this is America! Of course, Scott was fine. But not the unfortunately fellow sitting a few rows behind him.

Scott heard the man say he left his student visa at home. And that it had expired in 2007. And that he no longer was a student in the U.S. Three strikes, you're out. Off the train, anyway.

Luck also wasn't with Scott's seatmate riding east on the Lakeshore Limited. This lady managed to catch a little sleep while the train rocked and rolled across the countryside. After one stop, the woman awoke to ask Scott where they were as the train rolled on again. They had just left Buffalo, Scott said.

"That was my stop," the woman said, panicking. She pleaded with the conductor and others but the best they could do was to let her off at the next stop. She could either rent a car, take a taxi, get someone to pick her up, or catch the westbound train early the next morning.

That's why we drive. Hmmmm, but today I turned on the radio in the mini-van to hear some techno-hip hop music of some kind. Scott must have been messing with my radio. I hit another button on the selector and now get Jimi Hendrix. Sheesh. I'll get Wendy to re-program my stations back. She knows how to do it better than I.

"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky. Purple haze . . . "

I need some road songs. Oh, and Scott's truck? Started up fine, he said.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oh Heather, I Was Bad

I was dreading the phone call I got last night. When the phone rang around dinnertime and Wendy handed the phone to me, I knew it was going to be Heather. And I knew talking to her wasn't going to be fun.

You see, Heather is what you might call a weight maintenance coach. About a year ago I went through this health screening at work at which time it was suggested a weight maintenance program might help me take off some of the excess pounds I've put on over the years.

It was free so . . . what the heck. I thought I'd give it a try. My first weight maintenance coach was Amy. She didn't last too long Maybe she was fired because I wasn't making much progress. I guess I could have lied and told her I lost a lot of weight. Since she was just a voice on the phone, how would she know? But I can't lie like that.

So Heather came next. Every month or two she would give me a call. And my weight would be about the same. So in a way, I figured she was successful. I was maintaining my weight after all. When I heard from her in October, she asked when would be a good time to call back. I suggested after the New Year since I had difficulty watching my weight around the holidays. Knowing that she was going to call first thing in January would give me incentive.

Well, that was the plan anyway. But you know what happens to the best laid plans when the holidays roll around, right? There's holiday parties here, a cookie there, a chocolate truffle back over here. To make it worse, the cold weather made me huddle in my Lazy Boy for warmth. Hibernating bears burn more calories in the winter. No more long bike rides or walks on the icy sidewalks.

Then came yesterday. I felt like I was going to confession. Yes, my weight was up. Yes, I remember I wanted to maintain. No, I didn't join the "holiday weight maintenance" challenge like I promised, but I had a good reason. They didn't offer it this year at my work.

I promised more exercise and less eating out. I said I would begin a stair-climbing program right away at home. Whatever penance I could do, I would do. She wasn't angry at me. It was more like how your mother might talk to you if she were disappointed in you. Oh, the guilt, the guilt.

When she noted that she would be on vacation and unavailable for the much of the next month, I saw a chance to change the subject.

"Going anywhere?" I asked.

"To Costa Rica. I used to live there," she said.

A-ha! An opening. I mentioned that my nephew just visited down there, then I asked when she lived there and for how long. I mentioned that it'll be a lot warmer down there than around here. But too soon she changed the subject back to me. Darn! I said to call me back in about a month. I promised that I would have better news next time.

Whew! Somebody get me a beer.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


You wouldn't think our freezing winter here in Michigan would be a time to be scourged by pests. But I personally have been troubled by a couple, one here and one at home.

The pictures tell the story of one of my tormentors. One of my Christmas gifts was a "squirrel-proof" bird feeder which I hung on a dead branch outside out kitchen window so I could watch the nuthatches and finches come get their winter seed.

Then this week, this! I found the feeder on the snowy ground, taken apart, with seed scattered everywhere. So the squirrel shown in a picture taken earlier is a "person of interest" in this crime. Lousy squirrel. Take a good look at him. I may post a reward for his capture.

Obviously the feeder wasn't THAT squirrel-proof. Especially after it fell (or was knocked) to the ground.

I'm also bothered by a Japanese spammer who has been making daily posts to my "Halloween Epitaphs" blog. In Japanese, of course. Why he's so interested in that particular blog I have no idea.

Do they even celebrate Halloween in Japan? I know by my sitemeter that I get few Japanese visitors and the few I do get don't find my blog by Googling "Halloween Epitaphs." I copied some of the spam text lines into a translator but it translated nonsensically. I delete the spam and in a few days there's more.

So what to do? I really don't want to do that "guess the letters" puzzle that I know many other bloggers have been forced to do with their own blogs. I am going to try to change the name of that blog to see if that throws off this spambot. I hate those things.

Another spammer has been posting pitches for his Cialis or Viagra site on a blog titled "Simons Says - Guest Blog," a blog ghost-written by my son's Boston Terrier. Why there? Especially when I wrote a blog once titled "Why I Need Viagra." It would make much more sense to post his spam there.

Makes me wonder who's smarter, the spammers or the squirrel.