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.





St. Patrick: A Saint For All Nations

No wonder so many people of different nationalities honor St. Patrick on his feast day. It must be because he really wasn’t Irish after all and had international connections.  Historians say he was a Briton, kidnapped as a teenager around 380 a.d. by Irish marauders and sold into slavery on the Emerald Island which was then a pagan stronghold.

After six years he escaped back to Britain and later became a priest. He traveled to Rome where the pope gave him the job of bringing Christianity to the land of his former captivity. He was successful and tamed the wild Hibernians. Well, maybe not completely..

Patrick’s father’s name was Calpurnius which indicates a Roman relationship and gives Italians, Brits and possibly other Europeans some claim to Patrick. There seems to be an affinity between the Irish and Italians, at least in my experience.  My home town was initially made up mostly of Irish immigrants, including my grandparents. This was followed by a wave of Italian immigrants. After the initial fist fights, things quickly cooled down because the two groups met in church every Sunday, the kids went to the same schools and the young people danced and flirted at the church socials. I remember one St. Patrick’s Day celebration where spaghetti was the main entree.

Two of my full-blooded Irish uncles married full-blooded Italian girls which gave me Irish-Italian cousins, Italian aunts and a wonderful introduction to Italian cooking.  Up until the first time I sat at my Aunt Sissy’s dinner table, I thought a ravioli was some kind of musical instrument. What a revelation!

Besides Christianity, maybe St. Patrick brought some Italian recipes and a few pounds of oregano to Ireland. Come to think of it, the U.N. should consider using fine ethnic cuisine as a weapon of mass seduction. Instead of sending troops into troubled areas of the world, let’s send our best cooks. Some good wine wouldn’t hurt either.

Irishmen can sometimes be a little stiff-necked. There’s the story in my home town of Mike who was a wee bit upset by the influx of Italians. His friend Pat saw it as a good thing and one day when they were walking past the Madonna’s Church, Pat said, “Listen, Mike.  There’s an Italian service going on. You can hear them praying in their native language and it’s to the same God you and I pray to.”

“A fine lot of good it will do them, don’t you know,” Mike replied. “He won’t understand a word of it.”


I’ll never forget my first mission in the Air Force. The first one is always the scariest, they say. I was a private, a clerk typist at Mitchel Air Force Base on Long Island.  Master Sergeant McGlumphy called me over to his desk one morning.  “Private Newman, I’ve got an important mission for you today,” he said and I began to feel queasy.

“You’re to fetch coffee and donuts for the entire office staff, including Major Schultz, and it’s essential that you deliver everything here intact, as ordered and without delay. The major is very strict about that. There will be hell to pay if you fail.”

I wrote down the complicated order – about a dozen coffees with various instructions on cream and sugar content and two dozen donuts, some plain, some coated with particular icings.

The trip to the target, the base cafeteria, was uneventful, but the civilian counterman turned out to be hostile. “This is for the McGlumphy bunch, isn’t it?” he snarled. “Which coffee is McGlumphy’s?”  I lied and told him I didn’t know. I didn’t want to have to watch him too closely.

He loaded everything onto a wobbly cardboard tray that threatened to fold up at any moment. There was no way I could balance it with one hand so I had to wait to follow someone through the cafeteria’s exit door.

I fought off bogeys at 10 o’clock,  barracks buddies I met along the way who insisted no one would miss a few donuts.  Five minutes later I ran into flak. An air policeman chewed me out for unstable jay walking. He fined me one donut.

By then, walking unsteadily, I’d lost three cup lids and there was considerable leakage. I was losing fuel. I had to circle in front of the headquarters building until a WAF exited and held the door for me. Sergeant McGlumphy was now in sight and my cargo was reasonably intact.  I was beginning to feel relieved and ready for debriefing.  Just then Major Schultz popped out of his office and said, “Ah, the coffee and donuts!  Good man!”

It was a reflex reaction. After all, I was still a raw rookie and he was an officer. I automatically snapped to attention and saluted and – bombs away!  Fortunately there is no way you can demote a private.