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Wednesday, January 17, 2018


This fall we had someone checkout our heating system.  The technician knows Mrs. C from years of her dealing off and on with the same company, a company she trusts and also where her cousin is employed.  The system checked out ok, but we were told that the furnace was about 5 years past its “Best Used by Date.” 
A new system would be pretty expensive.
We decided we would wait one more heating season.
This Winter has been damn cold, tough on a system 5 years past it’s “Best Used by Date.”
The other day we awoke to a very cold town house.  We called in the problem and the same technician showed up that afternoon.   Apparently, some part overheated due to age and working hard in the last cold snap.  After it cooled off, the system was working again, but this was a wake-up call.  Five years past the “Best Used by Date” is too long.
We saw a salesman from the same company the next day.  He recommended a system and also recommended upgrading our air conditioner as it was also five years past it’s “Best Used by Date” and there was a combined system sale offered for the next month.
This new system would be damn expensive.
He offered a one-year interest free payment plan.  I liked the guy, he was left-handed, played guitar and was from North Carolina…nuff said.
So next week we will be having a new HVAC system installed.  It ain’t cheap.  Now I don’t mind tightening the belt for something that is needed (I’m lying, I mind a lot, but what are you going to do) but what I hate is a new HVAC system is just no fun.
When you get a new TV, it is more fun to watch.  When you get a new guitar, it is more fun to play.  When you take a trip, it is a nice get-a-way.  If you buy a new car, your neighbors come over to admire it. Most new stuff you can brag to friends, you can show off your new goods or pictures of your trip.  You get a bang for your buck.
A new HVAC system is expensive, but they are not fun.  There is no bang for your buck.  You don’t invite friends over to your basement and show off your new furnace, you don’t have a party and brag about how warm it is.  A new system is expensive, but somehow, I am just not excited about it.
Mrs. C wants to take a cruise next year to Hawaii.  We may just spend time in the basement admiring the new HVAC system instead.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dinner at IHOP

Dinner at IHOP

Mrs. C has forever been trying to get me to eat at IHOP (Formerly knows as International House of Pancakes).  I have sworn that I would not eat at a pancake house. 

Why she has been intent on me joining her to this restaurant is beyond me.  Twice I have almost gone for breakfast, but the parking lot was full and people were waiting outside…no thanks.

“We should go for a dinner.”

“Why, who wants pancakes for dinner?”

“They don’t just have pancakes, they have sandwiches, burgers, fries and other stuff.”

“You mean like a diner?”

“Yeah, and you like diners.”

“Yes, I do, so why not go to a diner instead of a pancake house that is like a diner.”

“You’re a jerk!”

Now while that may be true, keep in mind that New Jersey is famous for three things; miles of seashore, gangsters, and diners.  No state has more great diners than New Jersey.  Why would I eat at a pancake house that is like a diner when our state is famous for diners?  I might as well go to Pizza Hut for crappy fake cardboard pizza, instead of Vinny’s genuine fantastic pizza.

Well we went to a movie the other day, and afterwards I agreed to try IHOP as it was right across the street.  It was worth it, not for the food which was ok, but for the conversation.  Not conversation with Mrs. C which was ok, but for the conversation of the couple in the next booth.

There was a lady who was somewhere between 30 and 75…hard to tell, and with a look that suggested she had more cats than the health code might allow.  I will only give you a gist of the conversation which was impossible to not hear.

“Know why I wore this coat and not my other raincoat?  I have two coats you know”

It took about five minutes of this questioning before finally getting to the answer.

“The other coat is dry clean only.  Why dry clean only?  Won’t it get wet in the rain?”

For the next ten minutes all we heard was a repeat of the rain question in different forms.  I heard the term “dry clean only” about a thousand times. 

“Why dry clean only? Won’t it get wet in the rain?  Dry clean only, I don’t understand.  If it gets dirty I don’t want to have to have it dry cleaned, but it is dry clean only.”

I can’t repeat the whole conversation, but you get the picture.  We both tried to edit out her voice, which was, by the way, an annoying nasal combination of Jersey and Boston with more than a pinch of stupid.

At some point we no longer heard “dry clean only” but our ears perked up at this gem,

“I think I need a shower, I haven’t had one since Atlantic City, just after the snow storm.” 

The snow storm was eight days ago.

To which Mrs. C and I both whispered at the same time,

“Maybe she is ‘dry clean only!’

IHOP; the food at a Jersey diner is better, but you cannot top the entertainment.


Getting lazy, so another re-run, this from January 2013 

The following is my son Matt’s favorite story about his grandmother, coincidentally my mother.  It may sound callous or cruel to some so I must provide some background.

My mother grew up at a time when getting sick often meant you might die.  The caution “Put on a coat, you’ll catch your death” was not just an expression.  Mom lost her mom to disease before she was eight years old.  She lost a baby sister when she was four.  Her father died before she was ten.  Mom was raised by her step-mom who was a wonderful grandma to me, but apparently seemed more like Cinderella’s guardian to my mother. 

My mom had many friends while growing up who did not make it to adulthood.  People from her generation knew children who died from a sniffle, they knew men who killed themselves when they lost everything in the stock market crash, they knew many, many young men who left home for war and never returned.  Simply put, mom was no stranger to death and was more numbed to its pain than those of future generations. 

My mother lived on the Maryland eastern shore, on a creek which led to the Chesapeake Bay.  I wish I could have claimed this as the home where I grew up, but my folks did not move to this idyllic house on the water until after I graduated from college.

In the summer when we visited, my kids loved to catch Maryland blue claw crabs off the dock. Mom would throw them in a pot and steam them for dinner.  If this seems cruel to you, (live crabs frantically clacking in a steaming pot for ten seconds before they die is not pretty) keep in mind crabs do not die of old age.  If we do not catch, steam and eat them, a fish will find them while they are shedding their shell and methodically bite off their legs before slowly eating them alive.


When my children grew up they still visited “Gammie’s” every summer for an annual “Crab Feast.”  They went with their friends, crabbed from the dock and Gammie would steam the crabs and serve up a feast along with corn-on-the cob.

One year, several of Matt’s friends were not aware of the size restrictions on keeping and eating blue claw crabs.  They brought up a bushel of crabs for Gammie to steam and as mom was grabbing the crabs with a long-handled crab tong and throwing them in the pot, she realized one was under the size limit.

“Oh my, this crab is too small.”

“Really, we didn’t know, should we throw it back Mrs. Hagy?”

“He really is under sized…” Then as mom flung the tiny crab into the steaming pot she declared,

“Oh well, babies die every day!”

Matt still laughs today at the thought of this sweet little old lady and her flippant remark.

When I am gone I hope my children have a fonder memory of me than this casual comment that they will always remember from Gammie.

And yet: 

The vision of an 88 year old, 102 pound gray-haired lady callously flinging an undersized crab into a steaming pot and saying “Oh well, babies die every day!” somehow was endearing. 
I think it represents the hard life of her generation, her toughness and in a strange way the strength of her religious convictions.  People die, babies die, life goes on and is everlasting. 

“World without end…ah…,”