Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

“A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.”

October 19, 2021

Some time during the night I woke up because I was cold. I threw on a sweatshirt, added a blanket and snuggled underneath it. When I came downstairs, my house was only 63˚. I turned on the heat. Now the house is cozy.

My cleaning lady came yesterday for the second time. Nala was excited. Henry was standoffish, but she kept trying to pat him. I’m loving my clean house and alI did was write the check. Nala got a flu booster shot this morning. Gwen goes in tomorrow for testing. My car is getting an oil change tomorrow. I have to go to the dump tomorrow because I forgot the dump is closed Monday and Tuesday. I also have to yard pick. I can see Nala’s trash from the deck. My to do list is down to three items, the worst being the laundry. I hate to do laundry. I’m thinking I’ll save that for the end. I have lots of clothes left.

Today I am going to pot some succulents I bought recently. Nala has pulled out several of my house plants so I have empty pots. The only other chore for the day is to change my bed after which I can resume my sloth status. Tonight is uke practice night.

When I was a kid, I only read the funnies in the newspaper. I’d turn the pages, and my fingertips would get black from ink. Only the Sunday funnies were in color. Most of those funnies are gone now. I remember Barney Google, Blondie, Lil Abner, Maggie and Jiggs, Orphan Annie with no eye balls, Andy Capp and Dondi though I have idea why I remember that one. One of my favorites was The Phantom.

My father loved his newspapers. When we traveled, he always bought the international USA Today. He got the Globe for a long time until he decided he was really a republican, and the Globe was too liberal so he started reading the Herald. We used to call it the rag. He never appreciated our nickname for his paper. After my father retired, during warm weather, he’d sit on the front steps with his coffee and paper. The whole neighborhood greeted my dad. Cars would honk hello, and he’d wave.

I get two print newspapers: the Boston Globe and the Cape Cod Times. I love reading my papers and turning real pages. I drink a cup of coffee with each paper. My mornings are filled with ritual.

“I make no secret of the fact that I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it. But you have to be efficient if you’re going to be lazy.”

October 18, 2021

The morning is chilly. This is the time of year when the house is colder than outside. I need a sweatshirt. The sun is bright. The sky is a deep blue. The leaves at the ends of the branches are barely moving. Today is dump day. The car is already loaded. Anything else I need to do is in the house. My things to do list is getting smaller. I’m down to six from ten.

My new cleaning lady is here for the second time. She is great with Henry and waits for him to come to her. Nala likes everybody and everything except the vacuum. She thinks it is a beast and has been constantly barking. I’m sure both cats are under the beds hiding. Gwen hid under the bed this morning when I went in to give her the morning shot.

My week will be busy, and I’m not so sure how I feel about that. I miss my sloth days. Tomorrow, Nala goes to the vet for a booster shot. Gwen goes on Wednesday for a day of testing. As for my ukulele, I have practice tomorrow, a lesson on Wednesday and a concert on Friday. My fingers have permanent string marks.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know a single other kid who took music lessons. We did have that first grade rhythm band for which I played the triangle, but it took no musical ability to tap it, just timing. I think the sticks were the hardest to playing because you had to kneel on the floor to play them. We didn’t pick what instrument we wanted. The nuns picked for us. I became quite proficient on the triangle.

I never helped in the kitchen when I was a kid so I didn’t know the first thing about cooking. When I was in college, I had an apartment my junior year. My roommate did most of the cooking while I did clean up. When my parents came to visit, they always brought bags of groceries. They brought lots of meat and vegetables, but they also brought cookies, bags of cookies. They usually took us out to dinner. I loved when my parents visited.

In Ghana, I had a cook, Thomas, who didn’t have a repertoire of dishes. Each meal was pretty much the same. Breakfast was two eggs cooked in groundnut (peanut) oil, two pieces of toast and coffee, instant coffee, and canned milk. Lunch was a bowl of fruit: oranges, bananas, pawpaw (papaya) and maybe mango. Dinner was chicken or beef. The beef was cooked in a tomato sauce which tenderized it a bit. The beef sold in the market always came from old cows. We had mashed yam or rice as a side. Vegetables were hard to come by back then. Tomatoes and onions were just about it. When we had chicken, I had to buy one alive at the market. Thomas dispatched it for me. I could never do that. We also ate a couple of my chickens.

When I went back to Ghana, my students said they tried to find Thomas, but they thought he had passed. I would love to have seen him again and maybe enjoyed one of his meals.

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

October 17, 2021

Today is a delight, the perfect fall on Cape Cod day. The sun is hot, but away from the sun the air is breezy and a bit cooler. It is flannel shirt weather at 66˚.

We had quite the audience in Hyannis. Many of them stayed the whole concert, the whole hour. I had a great time. Our chairs were in the sun and the warmth was wonderful. The crowd clapped after every song, and many of them took videos. I felt like a musician.

The Sox were unbelievable last night with two grand slams and another homer just for added effect. The next game is tomorrow. I figure poor Nala will have to wear her neckerchief again. She actually wore it until the end of the game.

When I was a kid, girls’ sports were almost non-existent. I played softball summers at the park where I pitched and played first base. When I was in the seventh grade, I played CYO basketball. I was a guard. In those days, guards couldn’t go beyond half-court and couldn’t shoot for baskets. I used to throw the ball inbound across most of the court and close to our basket no matter where I stood at half-court. The other team was usually taken by surprise. It was fun.

When I was 10, I joined the junior drill team. We practiced Saturday mornings at the armory. I loved that building. It had wooden staircases and lots of wood in all the rooms. There were flags everywhere. Upstairs there was a huge hall like room where we practiced. I remember the floor was always dusty. The junior drill team was a feeder unit for the senior drill team, St. Patrick’s Shamrocks. I had two aunts who marched in the early days so it became a family tradition. When I joined the senior drill team, I was eleven. Many of the other members were much older, 18 and above. I remember the bus rides to competitions. I didn’t know any of the songs at first. I have no idea why, but the one song I remember is called Junior Birdman. My favorite lyric was, ” For it takes: 5 box tops, 4 bottle bottoms, 3 coupons, 2 wrappers, and one thin dime.” You had to hold the dime note, dimmme, for a while which is why I liked that lyric.

I still have friends with whom I marched close to sixty years ago. We do have occasional reunions which are always like old home week as my mother would have said. My friend Maria calls periodically so we can keep in touch. When we see each other, it is as if no time has passed. Old friends are like that.

“The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit. But we’re not apologetic about it.”

October 16, 2021

Today is warm, 72˚. Clouds are around but not enough to block the sun. The breeze is slight. I’m hanging around the house and doing a few chores. Despite the lovely weather, I’m putting in the front storm door. I have to move it from the cellar one step at a time as it is so heavy. Both dogs love to stand and watch so I like to keep it opened. Nala stands on her back toes for the best view. Every time I go to the front yard they keep track.

My things to be done list has ten items. I figure I can cross off four of the items today. The laundry and the dump are both on the list. They are perpetually on the list.

Nala is wearing her Red Sox neckerchief. My team lost last night, and I’m hoping Nala brings them some luck. Henry won’t allow me to put one on him, but I have several for the different holidays so I’ll keep trying. They were Gracie’s. She didn’t mind. Last year I bought a costume for Henry. It is a gray spawn of Satan costume, but I never got close to putting it on him. I’m hoping Nala will wear it if only for pictures.

Today is a Ghana day. I’m taking you back to Koforidua, towards the end of training: weeks seven, eight and nine. The first week there we were all together. We had hours of language each day. The last two weeks we were divided into secondary school teachers and training college teachers. We student taught during those two weeks. I remember going to the spot, a bar, on the corner of the road to the secondary school. We walked through the rain forest from our school. We had a daily stipend so we took turns buying beer which I hate, but I drank it anyway. We played a few drinking games. I remember singing on the way home. On the weekends we were free. A few of us hitched to Accra. A Mercedes picked us up. The owner was Arabic, and he owned mosquito coil companies. He gave us a few.

In Accra we stayed at the hostel for 50 pesewas a night, about 50 cents in those days. I remember wandering the city and getting to know it. Accra was small back then, and most nights were quiet. I love walking at night. I always felt safe. I had favorite restaurants, mostly hole in the wall Lebanese restaurants, cheap and delicious. I went to the movies. One theater was close to the hostel while the other was across the bridge and further away.

Our last week of training was at Legon University. We had real coffee in real cups. That doesn’t sound like much but trust me, it was big. We were close to Accra, just a mammy lorry ride away. We went often. We had our language tests, and that was about it for the week. At the end of that last week we were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. I was thrilled beyond description.

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”

October 15, 2021

Today is cool at 63˚ though it is supposed to get a bit warmer. The forecast is partly cloudy, but the sky is covered in clouds. The breeze is slight. I think it is a sweatshirt day.

I made a list of stuff I want to get done, and I’ve already crossed off one of the biggest tasks: bringing the bags of litter to the car. Gwen, being diabetic, uses the cat box to the extreme. I clean it every day and empty it far sooner than I used to. The used litter bags are heavy. I almost fell down the stairs the last time I carried some to the car. This time I used my cart. It was filled and so very heavy I could only take it one step at a time down the stairs. I pushed it near the car where it sits until I can load the car later.

Today is shot day. I’m getting flu, pneumonia and shingles. They are my first pneumonia and shingles shots. The flu I skipped last year. I was in the house all flu season.

When I was a kid, we only went to the doctor if something was wrong or when we needed shots. The doctor’s office was right beside the driveway to the school parking lot and was in a big old house. His office was on the first floor. I remember sitting and waiting on a bench and looking around the hall outside the doctor’s office. There was a tall stairway with wooden stairs and a carved newel post. I remember how shiny the wood looked. The doctor’s office was at the front of the house. I remember he had a complete skeleton hanging off a hook. His desk was huge as was the doctor. He had one of those giant bellies men sometimes get. I remember he wore a vest and a doctor’s white coat, a coat so small I figured he could never button it across his belly. When I was around 10, I went to see him after I had fallen down the stairs. It was the morning after the fall. He wasn’t gentle. He cleaned the cut by scrubbing it with a gauze pad. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I was thrilled when I didn’t get stitches as the cut was already infected so the doctor slathered something on the cut, covered it with gauze and sent me on my way.

In Ghana, I had scratched an itchy mosquito bite on the top of my foot until it bled. It got infected. I went to the Peace Corps doctor in Accra. He was a good guy. He gave me two options: he could cut it and drain it or he could put antiseptic on it under a gauze pad. He told me the gauze pad would take 5 or 6 days until the cut was healed. Draining it would only mean a few days until it healed. I had him drain the infection. It hurt. Afterwards, he told me it would take 5 or 6 days until it was healed enough. I was a bit surprised as he had told me a few days. He admitted he lied figuring that was the only way I’d have it cut and drained. He was right.

P.S. I went to the deck a bit ago, and there was my stolen African statue just lying there. It didn’t even have bite marks. I hope Nala brings back the tagine next.

“Every lizard lies on its belly, so we cannot tell which has a belly-ache.”

October 14, 2021

The morning is cloudy and still a bit night chilly. Yesterday was a delight. Today is predicted to be sunny and even warmer than yesterday. Earlier, the sun poked out for a bit, and I saw sky blue between the trees. I’m hoping they’ll be back as I need to go out and do a few errands. I’m going to Agway for mums and canned food for Jack. Gwen’s special food came yesterday. It was gone this morning. I hope Jack didn’t eat it. His dish of food is up high where it is safe from Gwen who can’t jump.

I can’t find my English muffins. I thought they were safe from the felonious Nala. I’ll have to check the yard for the tell tale wrapping. She is brazen. Nothing is safe.

The two dogs are eating each other on the couch. Nala has Henry’s neck, and Henry has Nala’s lower jaw. They keep bumping into me. I shoo them off, and they come back.

When I was a kid, I never thought of my life as humdrum. It had a pattern. Every weekday was school, but I never groused. That would have been useless. Years and years of school were still ahead of me. After school, the afternoons were mine. I rode my bike or took a hike into the woods below my house. We buried our turtle there under a special tree. The turtle had come from Woolworth’s and lasted years in his bowl on the counter, a plastic oval bowl with an island and a palm tree. That turtle loved flies with a little life and moving in the water. Much later, the woods were bulldozed to make room for senior apartments. My grandmother lived in one. My father always called it wrinkle city. The turtle had been buried in a small metal tin. Wherever they dumped the dirt, they must have dumped the tin.

A lizard used to live in my house in Ghana. The ceilings were really high, and in the living room there were two small square windows at the top of the front wall. The lizard lived in one of them. I didn’t care. The lizard was welcome, but my cat had a different idea. Whenever the lizard was close enough, my cat tried to catch it, but the lizard saved itself by scurrying up the wall. I think I had a soft spot for the lizard because when I first got to Ghana, I saw the lizards and was amazed. Seeing those green lizards was my first African moment. One day I saw the lizard under a chair. I grabbed it thinking I was a mighty hunter. I was going to put the lizard outside to save its life, but I was too late. When I lifted the lizard, it was missing its upper body including its head. I tossed it outside. I passed the title of mighty hunter to my cat.

“He had probably been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. “

October 12, 2021

The weather is still fall perfect. The high will be 68˚. The sky is partly sunny and party cloudy. I’ll try to stay on the sunny side. Gwen is hiding. She is usually sitting on the floor waiting for me. I did find her under the bed, but I didn’t pull her out. I have to give her insulin so I’ll try again in a bit to get her to surface, but I don’t want to stress her. I suspect her hiding is because of my having taken her to the vets yesterday.

This Friday I am getting a plethora of shots: flu, pneumonia and shingles.

I remember getting the smallpox vaccine before I could go to school. My doctor gave it to me close to the top of my left leg. He said he didn’t want for me to have a scar on my arm, the usual spot for the needle. The vaccine was not a shot; instead, it was on the surface. The needle pricked the skin. I remember it bled a bit, but what I remember the most is part of my scab was torn off by a branch while I was playing. I cried. I thought I’d have to get it again. I didn’t.

Before we left for Ghana, we were given yellow fever shots. In Ghana we had a medical day not long after we arrived. Table after table had, I think, nurses ready to give us the shots. I didn’t know so many shots existed. I thought they’d run out of spots for the needles. We also drank polio vaccine and got a gamma globulin shot on the butt. The only medical pieces we were responsible for taking were anti-malaria pills every week. We took Aralen, chloroquine. I did stop taking it during the dry season as there were no bugs. Peace Corps would have been unhappy bugs or no bugs.

While I was in Ghana, there was a cholera epidemic. I had two cholera shots but got a mild case anyway. By mild I’m talking lying on the bathroom floor close to the toilet hoping for only one problem orifice at a time. That was as sick as I’ve ever been. I was in Niamey, Niger by the Sahara.

My dance card has only a couple of events: CVS on Friday and Hyannis on Sunday with the uke band. I have uke practice today and a lesson tomorrow. Without my uke, I’d seldom leave the house. My sister’s birthday is today, and I surprised her by playing Happy Birthday, picking the notes on my uke. She was delighted that I had learned it just for her.

“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

October 11, 2021

Today is the perfect fall day, sunny and warm. The high today will be 68˚. Gwen and I are heading to the vets for a 10:30 appointment where I’ll learn how to give her the insulin injections. After that, the rest of the day is open. I may scour the yard’s back forty hoping to find missing items.

We’re back from the vets. It was easier than I expected to give Gwen her needle because it is so tiny. The vet had me practice using water. Gwen didn’t notice. I have to go to CVS to get her insulin and needles. I already ordered her special prescription food and treats at Chewy. Gwen goes back next week for a day of testing. Nala goes back for a booster. I’m thinking to add to it all by getting my flu shot.

Last night the Red Sox game was riveting, all thirteen innings. I jumped up, screamed and applauded the walk off two run homer. It scared Henry.

When I was a kid, you could get a day of game Red Sox ticket for anywhere in the park. I remember sitting in a box seat by the Sox dugout for a couple of games. I also remember the bleachers, the cheapest places to sit. We used to take the bus then the subway to Fenway. Sometimes we had money for a hot dog. Mostly we just bought peanuts. The bleachers were the most fun. They were filed with raucous fans, many of them my age, a kid’s age. Giant number one fingers seemed to be the most popular souvenirs. They were also good for hitting people on their heads without causing any damage.

My father was a football and hockey fan. He watched the Sox but always seemed to get bored. He hated basketball, the Celtics, and most times I listened to the games on my transistor radio. When the Celts played on the west coast, I had to have the sound way low so I wouldn’t get caught listening to the game when I should have been sleeping. I loved listening to Johnny Most, the radio announcer. When I could watch, I used to turn off the TV volume and put on the radio and Johnny. He made us excited about every play, every game.

Last year I bought a Halloween costume for Henry. I have no idea what I was thinking, but I couldn’t help myself. The costume is a spawn of Satan. I’m hoping Nala will be a bit more receptive. I’ll try it on her closer to Halloween. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

“The longest journey in life is “between the past and the future”.

October 10, 2021

Today is an ugly day. It is cold, dark and damp. Showers are predicted for later. My concert is cancelled but not my trip to the dump as it is closed the next three days, and my car is already filled with trash and wet cat litter and probably flies.

My living room has been ravaged by a four legged marauder. I noticed today that a wooden figure from Ghana is gone, and a small pottery tagine from Morocco is missing its top. I’ll have to go through the yard and hope to find the missing items.

This morning I dusted places which haven’t seen the light of day for probably years. I hadn’t meant to dust, but I just couldn’t leave it. I used my sweatshirt sleeve, my handy dust rag. I found small chunks of peat my sister had given me. I lit one, and the aroma brought me back to one of my trips to Ireland, the one with my parents, my grandfather and two aunts, a tour group of sorts. We stayed a night in Youghal, a beautiful seaside town where some of Moby Dick was filmed. The place where we stayed was really old. The stairs to the rooms were worn and dipped in the middle. The dining room had a fireplace where peat was burning. The TV room had a small TV and rows of mismatched chairs facing the TV. My room had a saloon door for the bathroom. It was funny as you could see the toilet below the saloon door. My bed slouched in the middle. If you tried to sleep on one side or the other, you rolled to the middle. In the morning, while we were having breakfast, a parade of kids dressed in their uniforms went to school. I think I counted five or maybe six kids. That B&B is still among my favorite places where I’ve stayed.

This blog is a repository of my memories, the memories of my childhood and my wanderings. Ghana plays big because it has influenced all of my days since then. When I got to Ghana, I was only twenty-one. I was wide-eyed and took in everything, amazed I was in Africa. I remember training started the second day. My room in Winneba, our first stop, was on the second floor. I could look out over the town, and I remember being excited seeing my first palm trees. The ocean was a short walk away. Breakfast was the best meal because we could identify what we were eating. We couldn’t at dinner.

I etched all of those all those wondrous experiences into my memory bank so I’d never forget. Even now, I can touch it all. I can see and hear it. I see women in colorful cloths carrying babies on their backs. I can hear the tribal languages in the market and the calls to me, to the obruni, to the white person. I remember the market smells, the goats and the goat dung. When I close my eyes, I can see my whole town as it was.

When I finally returned, Bolga was far different, but I didn’t care. I was home for a while.

“I wish that every day was Saturday and every month was October.”

October 9, 2021

The wind is intermittently strong enough to bend branches and twirl leaves. The morning is fall cold, the sort of cold which disappears as the day gets older. The sun is bright but not quite warm enough. It is a sweatshirt day.

When I walk through the house, I find small chewed pieces of branches and pine cones and even a few brown leaves dangling from a small branch. Nala brings them inside through the dog door, but because she always goes in and out that door, I pretty much ignore her comings and goings. Henry is using the dog door every now and then. This morning he came in to watch me get the papers.

I had Frosted Flakes for breakfast. If I had been sitting on the floor watching TV while I was eating, I could have been ten again watching Creature Double Feature. I am watching a science fiction movie which, at best, is a B-movie. It is called Monsters of War. The monsters are dinosaurs, hungry dinosaurs. The movie is in color. It needs to be black and white. It fits.

My dance card has a few items. One is the dump, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. It gives me something to look forward to says I with tongue in cheek. The others are uke concerts, today and tomorrow. I’ll have to bundle up.

When I was a little kid, my Saturdays, after breakfast and a movie, were unplanned. In the winter, I could go to a matinee up town. On warmer Saturdays I’d roam on my bike, no destination in mind. My mother never asked where I was going once she saw my bike. She knew I didn’t know.

I liked the back roads of my town. I’d pick a direction. I had stops. One was the horse barn behind the town hall. The horses were in stalls. I could see their heads from the doorway. Another stop was the zoo. I’d watch the mountain goats and deer in the first exhibit, one you could see from the sidewalk. There were rocky hills to climb for the goats. I remember being amazed to see a couple of goats at the very top just standing there surveying their world. Another direction led to the next town and Lake Quannapowitt. Sometimes I’d circle the lake. Other times I’d just bike home a different way. I remember the train station near the church. The golf course was in another direction. I’d walk my bike along the side of the road looking for errant golf balls. I often found one on someone’s lawn across the street.

I was gone all day on Saturdays. I cherished the day because Sunday was a wasted day to me with church in the morning and having to stay close to home waiting for dinner in the afternoon. After dinner, we’d watch some TV before going early to bed. I remember westerns.


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