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Thursday, September 18, 2014


Except for on Thursdays, my wife doesn’t often read my posts.  Thursday is “Mrs. Cranky Thursday” and usually recounts a recent conversation between the Cranky’s.  Mrs. C reads those posts so she can defend herself in comments.  I tell her no need to defend yourself, most of the readers seem to take her side.


Every once and a while I ask her to read a post before I hit “submit.” I do this to make sure I don’t insult someone, or just for her opinion if the post if funny or crap.  Mrs. C thinks it is her duty to assure the historical accuracy of a post.

“We went there in August, not July and it was two years ago, not three.”

“I know, but August is not a funny month.  July just sounds funnier, and odd numbers are always funnier than even numbers.”

“But it was not in July, and it was two years ago!”

“Who cares, what is the difference?”

“It’s just not accurate!”

“I hardly think some lady in Brussels who reads this post will give a hoot about the month or the year.  I think she will find it more humorous if the month is July and it happened three years ago.”

“That’s just dumb.  Why is July funnier than August, and why three years ago better than two years ago.”

“July just sounds funnier to me, and I once read where comedians always use odd numbers in their routines because for some reason even numbers aren’t funny.”

“I think, for one, August is funnier than July and is also accurate;  and two, I think even numbers are funnier than odd numbers.”

“Your first point is funny because one is odd, and odd is funny, the second point is not funny because it is point number two.  If you had said ‘and three…’ it would have been funny.  See how that works.”


You are a jerk!”

“Look regardless of the month or the number of years, did you like the post or not?”

“It’s OK.  I just find the inaccuracies distracting.  I wish it were more accurate.”

“OK, thanks, I’ll change it to August and two years ago.”

“Thank you!”

Actually I am leaving the month as July and it happened three years ago.  Mrs. Cranky never reads my posts anyway.

I may be a jerk, but I still think it is funnier my way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Several years ago, when Spencer was about seven…(holy Hannah, he just got his drivers license so it was more than several years ago.)

Whatever; years ago a neighbor gave me some firewood.  He did not have a fireplace and he had just cut down an eighty year old white ash tree on a property he was developing.  This neighbor, I called him Big John because he was 6’ 6” and was at one time was the leading scorer for the Seton Hall basketball team, dropped off 35 huge logs into my backyard.  Each log was about four foot across and just the right length for a fireplace.

I left the logs in the back for over a year to season.  They burn better when seasoned and they are also easier to split.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that white ash is a very good tree for fire wood.  This tree being old was extra dense.  A single log fired up easily and burned forever.  This stuff was like gold for anyone with a wood-burning fireplace.

It was not easy to split.  Even when dried out it was not easy to split.  Each giant log had to be split into four smaller logs which could then be split into two fireplace sized logs.  I split two of the original huge logs every week.  It was good exercise, and good bonding with my seven year old son.

I had not split wood before, but I had seen pictures of it being done.  A big brawny guy takes an axe and with one whack one log becomes two.

Not, I soon found out, with four foot in diameter 80 year old white ash logs.  No, to split these logs it took a maul, two sledge hammers, and multiple wedges. 

You start with three wedges through the middle of the four foot wide log and whack them until the big log splits in two, then one wedge to quarter the log, and finally the maul to split the quarters into two fireplace sized logs.

I started the wedges with a little sledge hammer we named “Little Baby.” Once in place a standard sledge “Big Baby” was used to pound the wedges.

Spencer was my helper.

“Spence, hand me ‘Little Baby’ so I can start the wedge.”

“Spence, give me ‘Big Baby’ and watch this split.”

Soon Spencer started the wedges with “Little Baby” which he swung with two hands as I held the wedge delicately in place ready to release it quickly if “Little Baby” was missing its mark.  Fortunately that was not often.  Spence handled “Little Baby” pretty well.
Little Baby
I would then ask for “Big Baby” to pound the wedges in.  When the log was about to split, I would sometimes let Spence do the honors with “Little Baby.”
Big Baby
There is nothing, and I mean nothing as satisfactory as the sight and the sound of a log splitting in half.  It is an adrenaline, testosterone rush! When Spence split a log you could almost see chest hairs grow.

It took a full summer to split all those logs, and two years to burn them.  I would only burn one a night.  They started quickly and kept other logs of lesser quality going.  When I visited people who had a fireplace, I would bring along a log or two instead of a bottle of wine.  Those logs were much prized.

It may look like work splitting wood, and in fact if you did it all day it would be a great deal of work, but for an hour on the weekend it was great exercise, and a great way to bond with a seven year old boy.

I expect some day many years from now, Spence will be splitting wood with his young son. I can hear him now,

“Hand me ‘Little Baby’ let’s get this wedge started.” 

The Cranky Old man is working from his JV computer.  Comments are difficult, but I am lurking. 


People love to make fun of New Jersey. 

There is the old joke that everyone asks “What exit?” when determining where you live in New Jersey.  Actually some towns are not located near the Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. 

Transients claim New Jersey smells.  It does smell if you travel through the oil refinery area of the Jersey Turnpike, but that is just a small part of New Jersey.  There used to be pig farms and rendering plants in Secaucus which combined with the refinery was really pungent.

There is the “dirty water” cocktail rumor.   OK, that one is true; some bars do water down the booze.

Go ahead, make fun of New Jersey, we don’t go to the beach, but we do have “The Shore” and we may not have fine dining, but we do have Diners.

I think New Jersey invented the diner, named as they were converted rail road dining cars.  We have more diners per square mile than any other state.  Diners are the best.  If you’ve had too much to drink…a diner is the best medicine.  Two eggs over, bacon, home fries, rye toast, coffee and you are good to go.

Here is what I love about diners:

They are open 24/7. 

Their menus are over 8 pages; they have breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You can order Italian, Greek, or just plain comfort cuisine, and you can order anything on the menu at any time of the day. 

Diners are all family owned and operated by Greeks, I don’t know why, they just are.  The owners never take any time off, they all work 24/7 and always welcome you with a smile.  You can hear the owner yelling at everyone in the kitchen, and then he walks out and gives you a big smile and a hello.

The food is always reasonably priced…ok, cheap.

You do not have to order coffee at the diner, it is automatic and if you have more than two sips, the waitress spots it while walking by and tops off your cup.  The waitresses seem to always be carrying a pot of coffee.

No matter what you order at the diner it is at your table ready to eat in less than five minutes.

All the waitresses at the diner chew gum, and they always call you “Honey.” If you are at a diner and the waitress does not call you “Honey,” you are not in New Jersey.

When you are done eating, they do not rush you out at the diner.  You can talk and drink coffee for hours.  On the way out there is always a toothpick and a bowl of mints after you pay.

Go ahead, make fun of New Jersey, but the next time you pass through, and most people only pass through New Jersey, take any exit, and follow that road until you find a diner…it won’t take more than a few miles, there is at least one diner in every town.  Stop in and order lunch…or breakfast…or dinner, whatever.  Eat, chat and enjoy the special cuisine and atmosphere that you can only find at a New Jersey Diner.

“Set on down, what can I getcha Honey?”

Tell them Cranky sent you.