Friday, July 31, 2015

In the good old summertime

Hot enough for you?
Our brief sojourn in the midwest
reminded us both of how blessed
we are to live in Montana. With
no humidity our summers are
glorious. A few steamy days aside -
we rarely need to turn on the air
conditioner to chill out. Even if
some days may hit the nineties -
every night the air turns crisp and
sinks into the fifties. Therefore as
long as you are willing to open you
mind and windows, one's personal
climate zone remains temperate.

Fresh air
In cities like Dallas or Manhattan, one
easily forgets the benefits of breathing
fresh air. Most city folks live and work
in hermetically sealed spaces. Beyond
their commute said climate controlled
isolation has abolished the communal
camaraderie that was always a part of
summer. In days of yore we all opened
our inner sanctums in order to beat the
heat. Thus for a few months we heard
and saw more of our neighbors than as
we did the balance of the year. Today
few if any live or work out in the open.

Do you hear what I hear?
Here in Montana we still enjoy the
sounds of summer. The tinkling of
ice cubes in a cocktail. The mumble
of your neighbor's television drifting
through a window. Lilting laugher
breaking the sound barrier as friends
dine al fresco. Or over hearing proof
that some are not as happily married
as we thought. In most other climes
many prefer to chill with their peeps
inside rather than face the heat. And
somehow... our wonderful season of
collective intimacy has faded away.

What bugs me?
As a boy, certain sounds signaled the
beginning and end of every summer.
Their symbiotic serenade were always
the perfect accompaniment to a game
of hide and seek at dusk. "Ready or
not - here I come!" For some reason
I never hear crickets in Lewistown
nor do I catch the croak of a frog or
hum of a cicada. That's probably due
to the surrounding rancher's liberal
applications of Roundup. Or maybe
said creatures are naturally not local
phenomena. No matter, I miss them!

Grill n' chill
Remember summer suppers? Whether
due to increased humidity or a brief
lowering of our standards - the hot
weather motivated even my mother
to let her hair down. All of a sudden
societal constraints were loosened.
Rather than traditional fare we dined
on chilled aspics, garden lettuce, ripe
tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad,
burgers off the grill, and huge slices
of watermelon. In essence we lived
like we were on a perpetual vacation.
And as I recall, the living was easy!

A summer place
People of certain circumstances used
to cool their heels far away from the
sweltering city Memorial thru Labor
Day. While Dad toiled at a hot desk,
it was women and children first on
the beach. Every Friday the faithful
hopped a train to join their families.
For others relational rules loosened
along with their girdles. By the end
of each summer everybody returned
back to town a bit wiser and tanner.
And like Tom and Daisy Buchanan,
all was forgotten and... forgiven.

Home security
For those who stayed close to home,
one did whatever it took to survive
the summer. Awnings kept the sun's
rays at bay. Furniture was sheathed in
light and floral slip covers to protect
against sweaty residue. Some rolled
up their carpets and replaced them
with sisal mats. During daylight all
windows were closed, curtains drawn.
Post sunset - everything was flung
open so that the house could air out.
Each day said ritual was repeated
until finally, autumn's chill arrived.

Gone but not forgotten
Most of summer's past rituals are
no longer necessary. We now live
a non-seasonal life. Therefore we
have no reason to live differently
simply because it's hot out there.
Have all of summer's pleasures
vanished? While not nostalgic for
sweat - I do miss summer nights
spent sitting on a stoop catching
fire flies in a jar. The summer of
our discontent is still out there.
All we have to do is step outside
and catch it while we still can!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Here today - gone tomorrow!

Delayed reaction
Is it us or... them?! Nothing about air
travel seems to work anymore. Every
trip we've taken lately ends with some
sort of delay, cancelation, or mess. All
was smooth sailing on the way out. Yet
after an early awakening, checking in,
hitting security, and arriving at our gate
- our first flight of the trip was delayed
almost two hours. Meaning we missed
our connection. Given no seats on any
flights to Billings available for the rest
of the day, we had no choice but to stay
where we were stuck - overnight!
Stop and shop
That's where the bad news ends and
good news starts. Our dear friends
"A" and "V" live near our dead end.
After a call suggesting we dine out
that night they insisted we stay with
them. And so, we did. After all that
stress, pressure, tension, and angst
that only an airline delay can cause
suddenly we were in nirvana. And
post being pampered like kings - we
really didn't want to get back onto a
plane nor go home! Suddenly our
misfortune was beyond a blessing.
Delightful diversion
When's did you last turn lemons
into lemonade? One's friends often
have the ability to take you to the
bright side. Instantly their home
became our home. Like refugees
we arrived there with luggage plus
emotional baggage. The next hours
were like a chic quickie. By the next
morning we were refreshed, relaxed,
and very reluctant to depart. However
soon we'll host our hosts in Montana.
Our hope is they'll enjoy their visit
half as much as us! I'll drink to that!
Stop, drop, roll
Often crisis create lasting memories. An
old friend recently posted a picture of a
trim-a-tree party in my first apartment.
I don't remember much about that night.
However I vividly recall vacuuming in
preparation when suddenly disaster hit!
I'd purchased my first fresh balsam for
a pittance at a local discounter. Upon
bumping the tree stand with my Hoover
suddenly EVERY needle fell off into a
Charlie Brownesque mound below. Post
cleaning up the mess I quickly bought a
new tree before we could all hang out!
Surprise party
For many years since I've told
said tale of how a crisis became
a happy memory. It's proof that
one can turn almost anything bad
into something fabulous. All that
is required is a willingness to see
the good in caprice. The best laid
plans rarely yield the ultimate joy.
There is a thrill to happenstance
that seems to always deliver more
bang for one's angst. Could it be
that a higher being is doing their
best to make the wrong... right?
Wherever life takes you
Frank and I are basically opposites.
He's a half empty while I'm a half
full kind of guy. However my better
half is much better at traveling. He
can easily be rather adventurous on
the road. Whereas I strategize each
step and when a bump on said road
arises, I fall apart. Maybe it's time
for me to chill out and let go. It's
guaranteed that diversions will be
surprising. So at at this point why
not expect the unexpected? Next
time we fly - I'll  go with the flow!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


On the ball
Believe it or not I'm a fairly decent
bowler. As a divorced father of four -
I spent quite a few rainy Saturdays
in bowling alleys. After all of my kids
were grown, I found that bowling was
no longer a necessary skill to practice.
Well... until the other evening when
I struck out with one of my offspring
once again. Amazingly after ten years
of not playng, I did much better than
anybody (especially me) expected.
Most important it was fun to watch
my granddaughter "M" on a total roll.
Rites of passage
Bowlers are rather like avid cult or
lodge members. Rather than a secret
handshake, they perfect individual
moves that prove they know what
they're doing. Instead of donning an
odd fellows gown or hat, they travel
with all sorts of exotic accoutrements
including magical powdery substances
that somehow enhance their prowess.
Most important - they have a secret
language that if nothing else sounds
rather retro and oddly alluring. And
did I mention those fancy shoes?
Out of fashion
I've never belonged to any fraternal
organization. However working in
the fashion business is similar to
throwing random balls down a lane.
Sometimes one scores. Other times
one misses entirely. Fashionistas
have their own set of rules which
by and large are secret. They can
immediately spot a real versus faux
Birkin. And little strikes one harder
than their razor sharp sense of style.
If you're not in you're out. Just like
last year's hot shoe - you're dead.
Members only
Most cliques, societies, or groups
maintain subcultures that exclude
all but a limited few. Rules define
rites of passage which bar entry to
most. Some feel that's more than
wrong. However I think nothing
could be more democratic. If a
bunch of stuffy old men want to
go stag - so be it. And if some
feel whiter wearing sheets, who
cares? As long as nobody is hurt
it's no one's business what happens
behind private club closed doors!
Dues process
Most want what they cannot have.
Hence some try to buck systematic
segregation. Even when one wins
access it's hard to feel welcome in
obviously hostile territory. So why
insist on admission into a private
organization that purposefully and
aggressively excludes others just
like you? I'm all for trailblazing.
Yet proving one's point shouldn't
require paying monthly dues for
the privilege of being ostracized
on the golf course or reading room.
Ain't necessarily so
At some point we all accept the fact
that some people are never going to
like us. My reaction is to deny their
existence. Whether said response is
spurred by defense, survival, or my
jaded perspective doesn't matter.
They don't want me hence I don't
want them. Dual denial motivates
most to move along and join up with
others of a similar ilk. You see few
of us find little allure in exclusionary
tactics. Rather than hang with creeps
we gather our forces with like peeps!
Insider trading
When I entered the gay fray - bars
and clubs were among the few places
where queers could be queers. Once
within said enclave our camaraderie
required a secret code that only we
homos knew. Post exiting our closet
(and you watching many episodes
of Will & Grace) America cracked
our code. Now we can be "out" 24/7.
Hence many gay bars are closing
which in theory is for good reason.
However this homosexual will more
than miss that old gang of mine.
Last rights
There is a homogeneous component
to acceptance and equality. While I
wouldn't have it any other way, I do
miss feeling special, unique, apart
from  the rest. Said sense is oddly
akin to the sensation that snobbery
and similar realms of institutional
disdain create. Hence I miss being
an isolated minority. Groucho was
right - "I don't want to belong to a
club that accepts people like me as
members." Be careful what you
wish for. In America it comes true!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

No parental supervision required

Too good to be true
Time flies when you're having fun.
The last week has been a time to
restore and renew. Spending time
with two of my children on their
own turf was more than wonderful.
Each has built a life of their own as
all of us have. As we've grown up -
it's fascinating how most of our
historic parent/child barriers have
vanished. Frankly, it's rather nice
being treated like a human being
rather than a parent. I really wish
I didn't have to fly away so soon!
No fault policy
We all make mistakes however as the
parents of young children, we've no
idea of the longterm impact of said
missteps. For years I've tried to help
my kids deal with the residual anger,
angst, and apprehension caused by
a rather tumultuous childhood. Some
have embraced their father for who
he really is while others have moved
on. In a way all of us have come to
a place where we're comfortable
with who we are. Hence we now
embrace the other within that reality.
Pre existing conditions
My parents are long gone. Hence
all turmoil related to our dynamic
is but a regretful memory. We all
loved each other dearly and as
long as I'm alive - their love will
always be a part of me. A parent's
legacy is that no matter what,
their child was loved. However
I've learned that unconditional
love requires a candor that may
be the hardest part of parenting.
If you truly love someone, how
could you not tell them the truth?
Help line
Now that we're all adults - it's much
easier. I now appreciate my children
for who they are. People talk of how
wonderful it is to be a grandparent -
"no responsibilities!" However I've
come to enjoy the freedom of being
the parent of adults. Finally their
problems are not my problems and
"To each his own" literally! How
they live their lives is no longer any
of my business. But rest assured
that I'm ready and willing to offer
plenty of help or advice if asked.
Fully insured
Does this mean that I don't care? It's
simply confirmation that my work is
finished. It's time for them to assume
responsibility. The best part of said
shift of power is that I now see my
children for who they really are. My
sons and daughters are grown men
and women. Seeing them in action
is a fascinating phenomena. In part
because they've always been who
they are today. I've simply stopped
trying to force them to be something
or someone they're not.
From the let go
That's the best part of being a parent -
letting go. Parenthood begins with a
helpless human being thrust into your
care. The responsibility of guiding a
child towards adulthood requires both
strength and resolve. Then suddenly,
they pull away from you. They resist,
rebel, and remove themselves from
your control. Said process usually
doesn't bring out the best in most
of us. However once it's over, we're
all the better for it. And in hindsight -
it was all more than worth the effort.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What are you really saving?!

Fact or fiction?
If I hear one more local brag about
shopping at Costco - I'm going to
scream! Many complain about how
expensive things are in Lewistown -
specifically Albertsons. Hence they
have no problem driving two hours
simply to bag a bargain. The idea
of spending one's time and  energy
in search of a deal baffles. However
maybe it pays? So I thought I'd do
some research and figure it out for
myself. Who knows? Maybe I'm all
wrong. Or... maybe I'm totally right!

Fuel for thought
The IRS allows you to deduct  57.5 cents
for business mileage. In theory that pays
for gasoline and vehicle wear/tear. If one
calculates the miles from our home to the
Costco in Billings it's a total of 133 miles
each way. Using the above formula that
totals to  $152.95 for a round trip. Or you
can simply consider the cost of gas. The
average rate of consumption for a pickup
is 17 miles per gallon. The average cost
of a gallon of regular in Montana is $2.83
per the AAA. Do the math - getting from
here to there still comes to at least $44!!

Shop till you drop
Per the government, the average American
household spends approximately $7,000 a
year, or $135 per week on food. According
to Costco, their average annual revenue per
membership household is $1,500. Add the
$110 membership fee and we'll round that
off to a total of $1,600 a year. Assuming an
average Lewistownian makes four trips per
year - a Costco shopping spree comes in at
about $400. Then add the cost to actually
getting. All of which means you have to
save at least $150 or $44 per trip to save!
Sounds like a losing proposition to me...

More or less
Next I compared the prices for several
items at Costco versus Albertsons sale
prices. In addition when able - I also
explored the savings at Shopko. The
average Costco savings - large mega
sizes plus related waste aside came in
at roughly 20%. Now do the math...
$400.00 average Costco shopping trip
(including membership) yields $80.00
in savings off Albertsons prices. Add
back half of the government's mileage
rate and you saved $5 after expenses.
Or gas alone - you save at most $36.

Is that all there is?
How much is your time worth? Said
shopping trip takes at least six hours.
Computed at the Montana minimum
wage that's worth $48.50. So... add
that to the cost of gas and you spent
$12.50 more than you would have at
Albertsons. Of course you did get a
nice trip out of that. And maybe you
ate out while you were in Billings?
Or bought some togs? So in the end
what did you really save? And was
that minuscule amount of savings
worth punishing our local economy?

We all fall down
You see, locals just like you get paid by
local outlets that employ them. Hence
in theory - the more we spend locally -
the more locals get employed. Let's
think about that - driving all that way
to save a few cents may not make any
sense. Shifting more and more of your
spending outside of Lewistown benefits
Billings or Great Falls - not your fellow
neighbors nor your community. While
you may think you're winning, it seems
that shopping at Costco may actually
be more than a losing proposition.

More than you bargained for
Why can't we put our money where
our mouths are?! Before you lament
the loss of another local business -
do the math for yourself. If nothing
else, do us all a favor and admit that
you don't shop out of town to save
money - but rather for the thrill of
it all. And embrace the fact that your
shopping on the wild size is doing
your town more bad than good. So,
isn't it time to take responsibility for
our community and invest our hard
earned cash in LEWISTOWN?!

Just the facts maam...
For those of you who are skeptics - following are
my shopping comparison facts. Albertsons prices
are from the most recent sale leaflet. All Shopko
prices are also as advertised. Costco pricing was
pulled from recent consumer shopping lists that
are published on the internet. Sadly, no Costco
fresh meat, fish, poultry, or produce prices were
available. So in theory - you can either save or
lose even more depending on what point you
want to make. My point is... SHOP LOCALLY!
Yoplait Yogurt
6 oz for
.49 cents each
24 6 oz. variety pack
$ 9.99 or
.41 cents each
16% savings
Breakfast Sausage
12 oz. for $3.99
6 Pound
Saddle Pack $13.99
= 12 oz for $1.74
56% savings
Sour Cream
Daisy 24 oz $2.99
Darigold 3 lbs $3.99
= 24 oz. $1.99
33.5% Savings
Chunk Light Tuna
Bumble Bee
12 oz. $2.99
Chicken of the Sea
66.5 oz $10.99
= 12 oz. $1.99
33.5% Savings
Squeeze Mustard
Heinz 14 oz $1.49
French's 60 oz $4.89
= 14 oz $1.14
23.5% Savings
Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
32 oz (64 oz) 2 for $9.99
2 liters $11.49
= 64 oz. $10.81
+ 8% higher

1 box $1.79
4 for $5
= $1.50 each
16% Savings
10 for $17.5
= $1.75 each
2% Savings
Fancy Feast Cat Food
24 3 oz cans $14.99 = .62 each
20 3 oz cans for $11 = .55 each
 2% Savings
36 3 oz Cans $19.49 = .54 each
13% Savings
Alcon Opti-Free Replenish
10 oz $8.98 each
10 oz $8.99 each
2 16 oz for $19.59
= 10 oz $6.12 each
32% Savings