It takes courage to compile a bucket list you honestly intend to accomplish. My cousin Dolores fulfilled her dream by skydiving on her 80th birthday.  I’ve jumped out of  planes  many times, but I’ve always waited until they landed, so I’m sure I was more nervous watching her video than she was while plummeting to earth with only a few yards of nylon preventing a free-fall landing at 300 miles per hour. (You can check the math for mph after falling 3,000 ft) . Dolores’ helmet would have been no help.. However, the odds for a safe tandem skydive are excellent, about 500,000 to one. Statiscally, you should be more frightened getting into your car than buckling on a chute.

There are bucket list choices that some would call foolhardy.  A friend told me he hoped to swim the Hudson River before he died. I heard later he planned to accomplish this and I called to congratulate and encourage him. His wife answered the phone. “He’s in the river now and I’m worried sick,” she said.

“It’s only about a mile across to Manhattan from Jersey and he’s a good swimmer,” I said. “He’ll be landing in the Big Apple in no time.”

“He’s not swimming across,” she said.  “He’s swimming lengthwise.”

The last I heard he’d reached Poughkeepsie and was going strong just 235 miles from the Hudson’s source in the Adirondacks.  Fortunately, he’s accompanied by another bucket lister who wants to row his boat to Glens Falls.”

I don’t have a bucket list even though I’m getting pretty close to the bucket. I’m hoping they’ll let me fulfill a post-bucket list, because I’d need supernatural help.  A certain company has afflicted me for years with neglect and overcharges.  I’ll call the outfit “McNasty Enterprises LLC” and won’t bore you with details of their misbehavior. If I get to heaven I’d like to be granted some get-even powers. There would be no physical harm involved, just a little mischief.

For instance if I can spiritually hack McNasty’s computers I would temporarily replace their accounts receivable files with Rachael Ray recipes and clips of Marx Brothers movies. I’d also want to levitate the billing department manager whenever he’s inventing fictitious fees or browbeating a customer.

I hope Saint Peter would grant my request. It might convert a few crafty characters and save them some Purgatory time.


I’ve had to contend with only two real antagonists in my lifetime.  They are a couple of squirrels that have raided my bird feeder daily.  I paid dearly for complicated “squirrel-proof” feeders trying to thwart the little ravenous beasts.  The designs were quite ingenious and they all worked, one for almost a week before Bonnie and Clyde, the aforementioned squirrels,  figured them out.

The wintry day that I hung the first of these expensive contraptions on a back yard oak limb I watched from my window as the thieving pair approached.  Clyde struck first, climbing the tree and leaping onto the feeder. He looked surprised to discover that his weight had brought down a protective shield that closed all the feeding holes.

He returned to the ground to explain the problem to Bonnie. They appeared sad as they ambled off to search for buried acorns and open garage cans.  They returned the next day.  Clyde climbed the tree again and gnawed at the stout hitching line until the $50 feeder plunged to the ground and split open.  Dinner was served.

Another imaginative design had a small feed compartment in the middle of a seesaw platform.  Any would-be diner heavier than two or three catbirds would tip the platform steeply sending him flying.  Bonnie and Clyde worked as a team, each climbing to an opposite side and taking turns at the feeder while a flock of hungry sparrows screeched expletives from a nearby tree.

And so it went until I installed a clear plastic feeder that attached to my man-cave window with suction cups.  I can now sit and watch cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and an occasional redheaded woodpecker chow down.  Several weeks have passed and Bonnie and Clyde have not yet figured a way to climb up aluminum siding.

I saw them in the yard this morning, looking up forlornly at a squadron of feeding finches. It looked like Clyde’s mouth was watering.  Maybe I’ll go out and toss them a handful or two of Cheerios and peanuts from time to time until some neighborhood birder puts up a feeder that’s not Clyde-proof.  I can’t let them starve.  It looks like Bonnie may be expecting and is scrounging for two.


We tend to use age old expressions that are quite inaccurate and which we contradict in our next breath.  Yet none of us objects to hearing these phrases because we’re all dedicated users.  Why is that?  Well, it goes without saying.  See what I mean? That’s one of the phrases and if it were true, that would be the end of this post. No one hardly ever says, “It goes without saying” and then shuts up. No, we go on at great length to explain why it goes without saying.

What is the reason for these popular phony phrases?  You might reply “It’s perfectly obvious”  but of course it isn’t.   Or you might say “If you asked me” and then proceed, like I’m doing now, to pontificate long windedly without actually being asked.

“Not to mention” is another good example, Whoever says that is on the verge of mentioning something to support an opinion.  But how can you say “not to mention” without mentioning what you said you were not going to mention?

I often begin with “Needless to say”  before explaining in great detail my take on a particular subject.  At some point a listener will say, while looking at his watch, “I hate to interrupt” (a polite phony phrase), but didn’t you also say you were going to make a long story short?”

Most of our phony phrases are rather harmless, but be careful about ones like, “I’m not one to pry, but…..” and  “I don’t believe in spreading vicious rumors, but have you heard….?



It’s Wednesday which is garbage day eve

and I’m planning what I’m going to heave.

It was once more spontaneous

with all of it  miscellaneous.

Now each item is separately placed

in containers  “recycled” and ” yard waste”.

There’s hazardous too,

loose paint and hard glue,

our old meds and tonics,

and broken electronics.

This sorting of all my debris

is taking its toll on me.

A task that just stumps.

I feel so down in the dumps.




Most of us have had at least one nickname during our lifetime and maybe even a current one.  If you’re in a position of authority you might have a nickname you don’t know about – and that you wouldn’t want to know about.

Parents will agonize over the given names of their newborn son.  Should he be named after an ancestor, a saint or a famous person?  His first and second names should go well with his surname and think about the resulting monogram.  Philip Ignatius Ginty, for instance, would be a bad choice.

After long debates the parents decide on Donald Madison Ginty and then proceed to call the boy “Snooky” for his first five years.  By the end of Donald’s first day in kindergarten his Disney fan classmates have dubbed him “Ducky Ginty” and he’s stuck with that for the rest of his school years.

There are websites with lists of nicknames, complimentary and otherwise. We didn’t need that kind of help in the old days.  We relied on inspiration and imagination.  We named our somber and sickly-looking high school chemistry teacher “Zombie”. Of course he didn’t know this, but on occasion a boy would be sent to the principal’s office for a discipline infraction and he would blurt out, “The Zombie sent me.”

As a kid I would have liked being called something like “Buck” or “Duke”,  but my friends chose less picturesque nicknames which I do not choose to revive here.  I still have some strict rules about name shortening.  I tell my friends they can call me Eugene or Gene, but not “Huge” until I find an effective weight-loss plan.

There’s the story of the tough-looking cowboy who was asked by his ranch foreman, “What part of Texas are you from, Tex?”

“New Orleans,” Tex replied.

“But that’s not in Texas.”

“Ain’t nobody gonna call me Louise.”



My beard and I have been very close over the last 40 years. We’ve been through a lot together. I can remember when I first decided to become hirsute, foolishly thinking it was strictly a personal matter and no one else would become involved. Let me warn you, if you’re planning to give birth to whiskers, things can get quite hairy.

Turning up at the office after only one shaveless weekend I was surprised to find my tiny black stubbles soon became the center of controversy, a matter of everyone’s opinion, and the comments were mostly negative. I soon learned there were some people back then who felt that a man who grows a beard loses face.

Over the centuries, depending on the current customs and attitudes, a man with a beard might be considered wise, noble and virile, or crude, barbaric and eccentric.

I had hardly sat down at my desk that Monday morning when the whole office was bristling with opinions. “I don’t like it. Shave it off!” was the typical terse verdict.  One middle-aged woman of Mediterranean heritage, said simply, “Your beard looks awful.”

“I’m disappointed that you don’t like it Madam,” I replied.  “I’ve always admired yours. You should let it grow longer.”

An engineer, whom I hardly knew, accosted me on the elevator. “Do you want to know what I think of your beard?” he asked.

“Certainly,” I said. “And then I’m going to give you my opinion on your suit and your new caps.”  He got off at the next floor. I was fighting fire with fire.

My new beard was actually a trial project and I didn’t like it all that much myself. I thought it made me look a little sinister, but those uppity critics had raised my hackles and each morning when I looked in the mirror and asked myself whether I should give in and defoliate, my answer was, “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin!”




After my first success at wheeling and dealing I thought I’d found my calling, but I’ve never been able to dominate the field again as I did on that Saturday afternoon in 1939.

My 4th grade pal Skippy had a fielder’s mitt I just had to have. I had no money or real treasures to trade, but Skippy had mentioned once he’d like to have a pet turtle and when I offered to trade my turtle for his baseball glove he seemed interested.

There was only one drawback. My turtle hadn’t moved or shown any signs of life for over a week.  I didn’t mention this minor detail to Skippy but I could see he was curious about the lack of movement. He reached down to nudge the beast.

“Be careful!” I said. “He’s a little excitable and might lunge at you and maybe bite.”

“Well how come he’s not moving?” Skippy asked.

“Turtles are shy with strangers.  Give him time to warm up to you and he’ll be running around your house.  Old Rocket is playful. Now hand me your glove.”

“His name is Rocket?”

“Yes, he’s the fastest turtle around. If you hear about a turtle race, be sure to enter Rocket.  Are you throwing in some kneatsfoot oil to break in the glove? It needs work.”  I was trying to change the subject.

“Get your own oil,” Skippy barked and put old Rocket in his pocket.

That was the last time I came in better than second best in a bargaining contest. I’m usually a patsy for the “Salesman of the Month” when buying a car or an appliance. Even if I’m lured in to a “Once in a lifetime sale”, I get an apology for an unfortunate typo or an explanation of the microprint footnote that mentions heavy surcharges.

And I’m not good at garage sales or flea markets where haggling is expected. “I’ll say, “The five dollar price for these two beat-up candlesticks must be wrong” and the dealer will reply, “You’re right. It should say ‘five dollars each’ .”

“That’s very high. What can you do for me?”

“I can sell you those candlesticks for ten dollars.  How’s that?”

And my one and only triumph is still not a done deal, Skippy’s grandson mentioned last week that , just before he died, Skippy told him I’d cheated him out of a baseball glove in 1939 and he should try to get it back.

I’ll never return that mitt.  I’ll swear that on the grave of Rocket.