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It’s hotter than two cats fighting in a wool sock.

But far be it for me to complain about the heat.

As I sit here in my air-conditioned office with a three-speed oscillating fan blowing stale air directly at me from a position not 2 feet from my face, fluorescent ceiling lights off, bathed only in the daylight peeking in from the slats in the stylishly challenged 1990s vertical blinds, windows closed so as to keep the comfortable funk in and the hot air out, you’ll not hear me complain. It’s not winter. So it’s not a problem. Bring the heat.

I’ll complain about the central air conditioning at home, but it won’t be because it’s hot outside. Or because the machine itself is faulty. Rather, it’s because I’m an Idiot. With a capital “I.” Idiot.

Our two-story house is comfy, cool and dark on the first floor, and stifling, sunny and hot in the bedrooms upstairs. Always has been. I blame it on many factors: hot air rises; the rooms are closer to the Sun; and “we” chose to place the largest, heaviest, most cumbersome pieces of vent-blocking furniture directly on top of or in front of the vents that would — in ideal living conditions — spew air that has been either heated or cooled, depending on the needs of the inhabitants and the whimsy of the furnace and central air unit.

When the temperatures last month reached the 90s and stayed there for a good long time, I closed the sliding glass door to the porch, shut the windows upstairs (can’t imagine why it’s hot up here), and fired up the central air conditioning. I looked at the room temperature on the thermostat, said 80 degrees is probably a little warmer than we need it in here, and flipped a switch.

I also turned on the furnace blower fan that circulates air throughout the house — this is a separate switch operating a separate thing that makes a fan-like noise that comes from behind the wall in the room of great mystery and gas-fired machinery.

I heard the fan running, so I went back to my normal busy homeowner chore-laden routine of sitting in my chair and watching “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

After about a half hour, I checked the room temperature and saw that it had gone up two degrees. Great, I said. The fan is working and is circulating all that hot air upstairs down and into the furnace room of mystery, which is in turn making the thermostat think it’s getting warmer in here.

Mind you, never once did it dawn on me that by turning the air conditioner on and making the house hotter, I should perhaps walk outside to see if the air conditioner is … oh, I don’t know … on?

Instead, when bedtime came, I turned everything off, set up my two oscillating bedroom fans — which, according to Karen, have three settings: low, medium and hurricane — next to the bed as close to my head as possible.

And another day in paradise came to a close.

I turned the air conditioner on again the next afternoon and noticed the temperature went up after a while. My decision at the time, which made perfect sense in the moment, was to say nothing to Karen (who spends her entire summer on the back porch and remains pretty much oblivious to the goings on and operational protocols I undertake in the spirit of keeping the house in working order while simultaneously looking busy and sneaking food).

This procedure became the daily routine for a good couple of weeks during June. I couldn’t figure out why it sounded like the air conditioner might be working, even though there was no evidence of this. Also, I had yet to step outside to see if it was running. But I did turn on the little thermostat switch every day, so I was at least trying.

Then one day curiosity and perspiration got the best of me. I stepped outside to see if there was more I should be doing. And as those of you who got bored and skipped ahead to this part have already learned, there was no sound coming from the giant green metal box that sits outside and generates cool air. So I immediately went into tactical repair mode. I called on all the skills and practical knowledge I have gained after 20 years of home ownership. I went looking for the fuse box.

It was in a corner of the garage in which there is little to no light. I didn’t feel like bothering to find the flashlight (it was all the way indoors) and couldn’t open the garage door — which would have given me all the light I needed — because I haven’t fixed the garage door yet. (Another story for another day. Some big springy thing busted and shot across the garage and made one heck of a racket. We’ve been using the side door and I’ve been hoping she doesn’t come in off the porch to ask when I’ll be tackling this mystery.)

So I did what I could. I looked at the fuse box (the parts that I could see), saw nothing that looked out of place, and called the repair man. I am so good and prompt at fixing things we have a service contract (for everything we own, including the spoons).

I surprise myself sometimes when I speak with the scheduler for home repair visits. It takes me too long to call for help, but when I do, I want that help immediately. The very nice scheduler on the phone said the earliest someone could come was the next day between noon and 4. My needs were more immediate, I informed her, and because I have a service contract, I wanted someone to come to the house right now. Well, she poked around and through some miracle of trying harder, was able to arrange for a person to come between 8 and 10 p.m. that very night. I sure showed that scheduler who was in charge here.

The guy who showed up was very nice. And knowledgeable. One of those guys who admits to having invented air conditioning — and all machinery, in fact — and is not bashful about explaining how everything works. I tried to stay awake and look interested as he blathered on, but all I really wanted was to get the air conditioner working and get back to doing nothing.

He also explained to me that an extra special visit to fix a problem like this one was going to cost us extra because this was not part of the service plan. He then described the day he invented the concept of service plans and how each of them works.

Then, without the use of any tools, he took a very quick look at the air conditioner and asked me to direct him to the fuse box. I felt all important because this was an answer I knew. He took out a flashlight, noticed that one of the breakers was in the “off” position (as in, “not on”), flipped it, and the metallic sound of BTUs began coursing through the ductwork.

It wasn’t that the breaker was thrown or that a fuse blew. It was simply turned off. Hundred bucks, please. Enjoy your evening.

I wish I was kidding. Off. On. Hundred bucks.

But you’ll not hear me complain about the heat. I’m far too busy living down my stupidity.

I look so forward to tackling that garage door.

Wait. … What? … You’re supposed to lift it?

Sometimes, it’s the little victories.

We had one here the other day that made me feel proud about my chosen profession and the chosen professionals with whom I share cavernous air-conditioned space.

It was the story that took 13 years to write: The Vainauskas triplets, graduating this weekend from Broadalbin-Perth High School.

You all saw the story on the front page of Thursday’s River City Tattler. (Those of you who haven’t should look ashamed.)

For those of you who haven’t read it (which is probably a very small number), in a nutshell, it was about (spoiler alert) three siblings who, 13 years ago, got their picture on the front page of the local newspaper on their first day of kindergarten and now, 13 years later, got their picture on the front page of the local newspaper on their last day of high school.

It was about other things, too, like what they want to be when they grow up, how often they fight, etc. The story wasn’t just about the local newspaper. Although it should have been. We had to include some stuff about the kids.

Professional journalist Jaime Studd roped the whole thing together — talked to the Vainauskas triplets, took their photo, typed the words into the computer, and spent the better part of an entire day digging through our no-longer alphabetized, cartoonishly jumbled and antiquated newspaper clipping filing system in search of the original photo showing them as kindergartners. (A search, by the way, that, before the afternoon was over, involved more than one member of the news gathering staff and, if my ears were correct, more than one syllable of colorful language).

And for all of her hard work, Jaime was rewarded with a bunch more work to do, quickly and with some accuracy.

But that’s the boring part, because nowhere in there am I mentioned.

Following is the good part, because it’s where I come in.

I didn’t know what year we wrote the original kindergarten story. Not only because I don’t pay attention, but because even if I did, it wouldn’t matter because I don’t remember things. So I have completely stopped bothering.

All I knew was, years ago, there was a story in the paper. The photo of the little kids was ridiculously cute. The idea for the story, which was probably not mine but for which I will take full credit because who’s gonna say otherwise, was the kind of idea that sells newspapers.

I said to myself at the time, lo those many years ago, that this is only half of the story. We need to find these kids when they graduate, take the same photo, and write about me and my awesome journalism idea.

Problem was, because I said this to myself, I didn’t have any help from the rest of my co-news gathering professionals, one of whom might have remembered when the story was first published. But that would have been no help either, because only one of them is still here after 13 years.

Well, maybe four.

Because I didn’t remember what year we published it, I have spent the better part of the past decade and a half wondering, every June when thoughts turn to graduation season, if these youngsters are still around and waiting for us to show up with cameras and typewriters a-blazin’.

The only positive contribution I have made to this entire scenario is remembering the original story once existed. Also, I make the first pot of coffee each morning.

I couldn’t remember the name of the kids.

It was before we had our current and modern excellent computer filing system made available by electricity, so I couldn’t just do a Google search (for a name I didn’t remember).

And our file cabinet archive is challenging, so little chance there.

No idea who they were, where they might be, how old, nothing.

But, to my own credit, I have at least been asking our reporters every year for the past several years to make sure they ask their high school principals if, by chance, there is a set of triplets graduating in that particular class that particular year.

Been doing this for years.

Nothing. No triplets here, they’d say.

Last year, when this happened again with another reporter hitting another roadblock, I figured we missed them and that the triplets were off living their lives.

I did it again this year, if I remember correctly. At least, I meant to. Several weeks ago, I think, we were discussing our annual attempt to fill our journalism pages with unique feature stories about graduation (the kinds of stories that sell newspapers), including this one about these three siblings.

Well, Wednesday afternoon, Jaime came into the newsroom saying she found the kids (they had started out in the Greater Amsterdam School District and since moved to Broadalbin-Perth). My decade-long search for work I had no intention of doing myself had paid off in the form of work done by someone more eager. And successful.

It was the stuff that boring movies about people who work at newspapers are made of. Jaime said they were graduating this week, they had a copy of the original article published (I now learned) 13 years ago. She was able to photograph them in a pose similar to the original one, she talked with them about their lives and plans. We (and by “we” I mean “everyone but me”) ran the photos and story at the top of Thursday’s front page.

This is the kind of stuff that sells newspapers.

But that’s not really about me, so, back to the original point.

What I am driving at is that I have been doing this now for 30 years, this newspaper thing. In fact, this weekend is the 30th anniversary of my first day on the job at the Courier-Standard-Enterprise in Fort Plain.

I have been working here, and at other newspapers owned by this publishing company, for more than half of my life. I hadn’t realized until typing the previous sentence that I had done anything for more than half of my life. Except beer.

But Wednesday I realized, while chair dancing in celebration of my personal victory of someone else finally landing this story, that this is one of my most, if not the most, satisfying professional successes. I can’t stop smiling about it. A plan actually came together.

For a story that took 13 years to write.

It will not be easy to top this one, but when we get back to work on Monday, at the beginning of year 31, we’ll give it the old college try.

And by “we,” this time, I mean me.

Heather and Justin

One week from today, son Justin is getting married.

And if you think there has been anything else on my mind of late, you would be mistaken.

While blindly slamming together a bunch of mind-numbing newspaper information the other day for all the people who have nothing better to do than read about local news things (like that’s important), I was concentrating heavily on all the things in my life that have caused this much distraction. I came up with a list of life’s highlights and lowlights, but they all paled in comparison, emotional reaction-wise, to my little boy signing his life away to the lovely Heather.

And I mean that with all the affection and appreciation a doting father-in-law-to-be can have for the beautiful, sweet young woman who is not only the reason I am adding a hyphen-filled title to my dad resume, but also, for some reason, thinks this guy’s the one.

Kids. They’ll never learn.

Anyway, I am surprised at myself for the level of emotion I am feeling about this wedding. Not only because I’ll be in a tuxedo and have a captive audience doting over me as the father of the groom, but also because I’m gonna look real good and probably garner the majority of the compliments.

I simply can’t wait.

These emotions are beginning to play off of one another. I get sad when I think that it seems like only yesterday my little boy was trying to plug the car keys into the electrical outlet, or translating for adult ears the gobblety-speak of his younger sister, or announcing, from his high chair, that the toaster just popped (“Toot,” he’d trumpet), and then mash a piece of dry, slightly warmed white bread between gooey moist fingers, getting more of it on his face than in it.

Hopefully this latter habit will not reappear next Saturday during the singing of “The Bride Cuts the Cake.” If there’s one thing I hate about weddings, it’s people who still think it’s funny to mash cake into another person’s face. But, then, I have also always hated old movies that contain a pie fight. Never understood the humor of one person hitting another person in the face with food. And I have felt this way my whole life — long before I became a fuddy-duddy.

OK. That was a tangent. I’m over it.

I’ve been thinking about all the things fathers are supposed to teach their sons before they head off to Marriageville, and how many of these things we have yet to talk about.

If I’ve taught him one thing, it’s make friends with the bartender. All else in life, I have learned, is an off-shoot of this one essential lesson. If I have taught him anything else, it was by pure luck or keen observation on his part.

I realize it’s been 30 years, which seems like plenty of time to instill all of my fatherly knowledge (which would only take a few quick moments anyway), but somehow the years slipped by so quickly.

Here’s a piece of advice: The years slip by quickly. If you think they’re going fast now, you — being the roller coaster afficionado that you are — are gonna love the next two decades. Hang on tightly and keep both arms inside the ride. This tidbit, I have to believe, I have mentioned in the past. The memory is shot. It can’t hurt to mention it again.

Also, the memory is shot.

Pay attention more than I did. That’s probably the next best piece of advice I can offer. Regret sucks, it comes C.O.D. in the back of a giant dump truck, gets deposited right on top of your head, it hurts like a sonofagun, and never, ever goes away.

Be mindful of your regret, there, sonny boy. That’s what I would have wanted to hear 30 years ago. I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the advice at the time, because, I wrongly thought, I knew more about the world then than everyone else in it would ever know.

I didn’t realize it would take until this very day right now today before I would know more about the world than everyone else in it would ever know.

Take a lot of pictures. One of my favorite advances in the world of technology has been the making easier of picture taking. Everything nowadays has a camera in it. We no longer need to drop film off at the drug store and wait two weeks for our pictures to come back. We can grab our phones from our pockets, snap a quick shot of the baby and the kitty sleeping on top of one another in the sunlight pouring through the nursery window, and, with the quick flick of a couple of fingers on a couple of buttons, we can share this photo with everyone in the world.

I grew up in an era when the option to request double prints was considered a technological breakthrough. Today, we go “click” and the next thing we know, it’s on CNN.

Anyway, take a lot of photos. When you visit the old people in your life (namely, me), photos will be the best way to fill in the awkward pauses in the conversation — which are going to happen, once we discuss what I had for lunch that day (which I won’t remember) and why it is I found my teeth in my slipper.

The great things that happen in marriage are the bookmarks in our lives. Our vacations, our big home renovations, our ridiculous purchases. They stick out above the other pages, they mark the stuff we did before and after that great event. And they hold our place until the next bookmark comes along.

Write the year — this is very important — get out a Sharpie and write at the top of each bookmark what year it came into your life. You’ll be disappointed — I certainly am — when you are unable to remember which thing you did first and what year that was.

I have no idea what year Karen and I did a complete gut-job renovation on the downstairs of our house. Living room and dining room completely torn out and done over. But what I did do, when we were installing the new floor, was, I grabbed the Sharpie and wrote the year and our names (circling all of it with a giant heart; awwwwww) in the middle of the cement slab. I took its photo and then we covered it with the new flooring.

I can’t tell you what year it was, but I can tell you I have a photo of it. Somewhere.

Laugh all the time. Life is hilarious and a lot more enjoyable when viewed that way. Some of my favorite bookmarks are simply the times Karen and I have laughed so hard that I started squeaking, which forced her to laugh harder and start making monkey noises, which forced us both to stop making any sounds at all as the air in our bodies was forced from our lungs.

Finally, hug your dad. He’s thrilled and proud and beside himself and fragile, suffering from emotion. He’s also no longer the only married guy in the family. He’s been handing out the hugs for 30 years now and could use a break.

He could also use a hug. It’s your turn, son.

I can’t for the life of me remember the dream I was having the other day. And that’s a shame, because it was pretty funny. Must have been.

But that, unfortunately, is what happens with dreams. The stupid ones we remember. We tell our spouses, they look at us funny, tell us some drawn-out story about some dumb dream they had when they were 12 that in no way compares to the story we were telling. So, we pretend to be interested while the whole time we’re trying to remember the dream that was really kinda fun.

Then she realizes I haven’t been listening, the covers get stolen, and the cold shoulder is exposed.

All because of a stupid dream.

But my dream from the other day was funny. And not because it happened at work, although it did. And that’s not even the funny part. I can’t remember the funny part.

It was Monday; I was seated at my desk, doing the trusted work upon which many among our swarm of readers unknowingly, and unwittingly, rely. Many of you have no idea what I do all day, and that would make two of us, but those chores, when it gets to be about 2 or 3 p.m. — also, any time after 10:30 a.m. — have no earthly ability to keep me from nodding off in mid-sentence.

Literally.

I was in the process of making up very important newspaper information off the top of my head, fully intending to publish a correction in a subsequent edition, when I suddenly heard myself laugh out loud.

Kind of a sputtering guffaw. It caught me off guard. I can’t remember what was so funny, but whatever it was, it came to me in that limbo we enter between consciousness and deep sleep and, you know, making newspapers.

That unconscious point when thoughts lose their place in line and just show up in a seemingly normal (because we’re dreaming), yet incontrovertibly impossible and entertainingly random order.

And after I realized that I was laughing, I immediately learned I had been asleep. For, like, 1 second. (I think.)

Enough time for one hilarious thought. And for my computer to spit out a whole bunch of random letterrrrrrrrrrrrrs.

Must’ve had my hands on the keyboard.

My bad.

I looked around real fast to see if anyone had noticed I had nodded off (or, worse, if I had let out a “snork,” which is known to happen). Thankfully, it was a time of day when the rest of the crew was still out in the field, making up their own things to correct. The news cavern was completely empty.

(Empty…empty…empty…echo…echo…echo)

I shouldn’t be embarrassed about slipping away for one whole second. I mean, I can tell you, but it’s not like anyone else will ever find out. It’s just disappointing that it’s already happening, is all.

I had always thought — or hoped, actually — that nodding off at random junctures would be something done only by fathers and old people and not something that I would eventually contract.

Dad used to do it. I’d walk into the living room, see him asleep in front of the TV, seize the opportunity to finally change the channel to a show that featured real humans, and as soon as I clicked the dial one turn, he’d startle awake and say, “Snork. I was watching that.”

And back we would go to “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” Or, “Lawrence Welk.” Either way, no real humans.

And back he would go to the land of nod.

I blame staring, which I do all day long, and not a lack of sleep, for my problem. Well, this one, anyway. I no longer have to get up at a ridiculous time of day (although there was a time …), so I’m not tired in the morning.

I often go to bed relatively early — around grandma:o’clock p.m., as a rule, unless there is something compelling on TV that holds my interest after 9. But I’m not burning the midnight oil at this end either (although there was a time …).

One of the surest ways I have found to combat sleepiness is by going to bed.

This is another cruel hoax perpetrated by advancing age. Not a fan.

I have reached that stage (go me) when I start to get real dozy any time after 9 p.m. and have found the cure for it is crawling into bed.

There, I lie awake for hours, no longer remembering what it felt like to be tired. Going to bed is better than caffeine for curing that 2:30 feeling.

I get to a point at night when I can no longer keep my eyes open. I crawl upstairs, turn on the bedroom TV and the nightstand light, grab the iPad, and for the next three hours send that day’s crop of Words with Friends back to their rightful owners while watching the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” marathon on the Foodporn channel.

It’s as if every night I forget how to fall asleep.

I have made peace with the knowledge that I have reached the age when forgetfulness has begun to take control of my life.

Also, I have made peace with the knowledge that I have reached the age when forgetfulness has begun to take control of my life.

But forgetting how to fall asleep just seems like a cruel joke.

I see the commercials on the TV for those products you can choke into your body when it gets that time of the day when we all — every human being, apparently — starts falling asleep while staring off into a computer screen covered with boring words and letters and numbers and Likes and LOLs and requests to play Words with Friends and gripes about how boring it is at work.

“That 2:30 feeling,” they say on the one commercial.

But I’m not about to drink whatever is in those teeny bottles of wonder juice that are so good for my health and well being they are sold next to the convenience store cash register, with the “Seriously, Dude, You Forgot Your Anniversary?” roses, emergency candy, cigarette lighters, lottery scratch-offs, mini flashlight key holders, and someone’s extra pennies.

I often wonder how long it will be before science discovers that all the power drinks society has been guzzling for the past couple of decades, it turns out, have actually been bad for our health.

I mean, if some animals and plants have been determined to cause death in people, how long before tiny bottles of taurine, glucuronolactone, malic acid, N-Acetyl L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, caffeine, and citicoline start curling our toes?

I mean, it’s nothing to lose sleep over, but you nevzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

I was reading with glee — keeping an eye on the road and a hand upon wheel — in the iPhone version of the Recorder the other day about the number of people arrested in Montgomery and Fulton counties during “Operation Hang-Up.”

I was so thrilled, I almost swerved into a ditch. I stopped singing along with my MP3 player long enough to roll down my window, stick my head out into the oncoming wind and traffic and shout, “It’s about time.”

I was so ecstatic, I almost dropped my cheesy gordita.

Nothing grinds my gears faster than a person holding a cell phone to the side of their head while driving. There are laws. There is common sense. And there are cell phone owners.

And for the life of me, I can’t understand why they all haven’t learned to co-exist.

I often wish I had one of those fake red flashing lights so I could turn it on, slam it onto the roof of my car — kinda like they used to do on those ’70s undercover cop/detective TV shows — then drive like 90 while impersonating a police officer, just to chase down these law-breakers and scare them into hanging up their telephones.

That would sure show them.

Oh, what glee.

During the past week, real police officers have been involved in a statewide campaign focused on throwing into jail for life people who are caught using electronic devices while driving.

On Wednesday of this week on Route 30 alone, state troopers said they issued 53 tickets during “Operation Kevin Mattison is Right.”

This is a good start, but represents hardly more than a dent in the real problem.

Five of the arrests were for violations involving the use of electronic devices; 35 people — and this, I will never understand — were busted for using their cell phones.

There were other charges levied against other people, like one pot bust, but who cares? The phone users finally got what was coming to them.

How long ago was it — and it couldn’t have been too long ago, because I remember it and I really can’t remember anything any more — that we all went about our lives without portable phones?

When we left the house, we left the phone behind. We got in the car, and unless we were part of the 1 percent, there wasn’t a phone in there.

We pulled into traffic, struggled to buckle the seat belt we forgot to buckle (thankfully there’s an alarm that reminds us about such things), and shifted our go-cup of coffee from one hand to the other while fiddling with the radio dials until the rock ’n’ roll came screaming from the tin speaker at a decibel level greater than that of the surrounding traffic. (Few things are more annoying than a good song being interrupted by an oncoming vehicle tooting a horn because you’ve drifted over into “their” lane; or, worse, an “emergency” vehicle coming up from behind making all kinds of warning noises because you’re in the way of their “emergency.”)

How did we ever live our lives before the advent of the never-ending telephone conversation? And why is it that people who own cell phones think the laws against using them while driving do not apply to them?

What can a telephone conversation consist of that is so important it has to take place during the commission of a crime?

“I would have hung up, officer, but I was thisclose to peace in the Middle East.”

“Oh. In that case, citizen, I will let you off with only a warning this time.”

And another thing. Do people in a moving vehicle somehow think they cannot be seen? That clear window glass traveling at 55 mph is not penetrable by the human eye?

I was thinking about all this while tooling along the highway Friday, feather-dusting my dashboard, which collects an inexplicable amount of dust.

At 79 mph I can literally take an index finger and write my name in the dirt on the front of the glove compartment over on the passenger side.

There is no way I should be able to do this. I keep the windows closed; I don’t smoke. Where does all this dust come from?

Luckily, auto parts stores sell those dashboard duster things you can use while sitting there doing nothing other than veering in and out of traffic, blowing past people going too slowly because their phone conversation is more important than their road manners.

Is there a law against running these people off the road? Because I don’t have one of those flashing 5-Oh suction cup rooftop cop lights, and installing a siren seems a bit over the top. There should be a way us law-abiding drivers can retaliate against these inconsiderate yo-yos.

If I wasn’t afraid of spilling hot coffee on my work shirt, I’d give one of these people a nudge with the right front fender, then charge their insurance company to fix the damages.

If they are talking on the phone, breaking the law, they can pay to fix my car. Any judge would have to side with me on this.

 

Kevin Mattison is executive editor of the Recorder and finds the easiest way to rip open the packet of hot sauce for the gordita is by grabbing it with two hands and steering with his knees. Contact him at kmattison@recordernews.com. And check out his collection of columns, old and new, at https://mattisonsavenue.wordpress.com/

Funny thing about memories. The ones from our youth become more vivid and important and dear to our hearts while the ones from yesterday and a half hour ago go pfffffffffft into thin air.

What were we talking about? I don’t know, but I remember the smell of the kindergarten finger paint; the first-grade teacher’s perfume; the police whistle the second-grade teacher would blow to shut us up; the third-grade teacher’s cardigan (always over the shoulders and one top button buttoned; rarely with the arms in the sleeves); and the taste of the very first Nutty Buddy ice cream cone I had in the fifth-grade cafetorium.

Until fifth grade, I thought the only ice cream available to school children came in a plastic cup, half vanilla, half chocolate, with the paper lid you pulled off by grabbing the tab. (Licking the ice cream off the back of the lid was a job requirement. Even though there wasn’t much ice cream there; and what was there tasted like the paper lid. And, hey look, half the lid is brown and the other half is white.)

The ice cream had to be eaten with a snowman-shaped tongue depresser that gave me goose bumps every time it scraped against my teeth. The very thought, today, brings the goose bumps back to life.

Leaving the wooden spoon in the mouth too long — sucking the ice cream off of it — made it taste like wet wood. Getting the spoon too wet made it split down the middle. And two wet half-a-spoons were pretty much useless to a kid trying to scrape every last drop of ice cream out of the corners of a round ice cream cup.

Bit of a diversion there, but the sunlight looks warm and the birds are probably chirping on the other side of this office window. And there’s no sense in having an office window if daydreams cannot be cultivated on this side of it.

This, young people with your lives ahead of you, is the important stuff we grownups have to deal with while gathering our thoughts in preparation for another day at the grindstone. Some day, perhaps, you will also have thoughts. And pleasant childhood memories with which to fill them.

Spring does a thing to the sap that, during a cold, impersonal winter, tends to harden in our souls and shut us down.

And by “us” I mean “me.”

The promise of a new growing season reawakens the parts of us that can’t wait to start hibernating at the end of one year and can’t wait to thaw out and return to life at the beginning of the next.

You can tie off your YouTubes, dummy up with your smart phones, stick your joy sticks, and otherwise smother the technological advances that have since smothered what should be celebrated as the gift of childhood.

Give me a warm spring day, a stick, a rock, a creek and another chance to go home again. I’ll spend all day outside and come home in clothes covered in and smelling like the universe of my youth.

I’ll do this any day, every day. Maybe we can’t go home again. But we can wish it so.

Far too many decades ago, play and discovery, for me, were under-appreciated. Taken for granted. Today, with greater frequency, the memory of what I had and how much I frittered its value are taking the time away from the time I spend worrying, working and fending off the stupidity each new day, without fail, brings.

These are the things, technoboys and technogirls, that grownups think about when they’re seated at their desks in their offices. How to solve the next crisis? How to avoid the one after that? What happens if the top dogs don’t cover the bottom line?

This is not what we think about when the sun gradually begins to share more of its warmth, the birds return in full throat, and the office window unfairly separates us from all of it.

There are more important things to think about. And all of them are memories. Like threading a minnow onto a fishing line and the wzzzzzzzzz-click-plunk of flicking that minnow across the pond, off the end of a trusty spinning reel.

Like the day the mailman ran over Tim’s tricycle in the driveway.

Like how the water in the creek can be ice cold — even on the hottest day of the year. And how every time that sip of water — gathered in the shimmering reflection of the 10-year-old daring enough to get thisclose to the water’s edge without accidentally slipping in, face first — was more refreshing than mom’s lemonade.

This, technoboys and technogirls, is what your glassy-eyed parents are thinking about when, mouth slightly agape and ears completely tuned out, it looks like they are contemplating something very grownup important.

They are thinking about something much more important than anything found in life’s grownup world. Nothing holds a candle to the memories upon which that world is balanced, too often precariously.

I hope today’s entitled, with more electronic gadgets hanging off of them than seems practical (or affordable) for people that age, eventually reach this same conclusion. I further hope that when they do, they are looking up at it and not down at their thumbs, which are sure to be flailing away with lightning quickness as the next BFF ROFL(his or her)AO.

What will fill the memories of the next generation’s nostalgic years? Do kids still walk dogs, sip from a babbling brook, bait hooks, skim rocks, jar lightning bugs?

OMG. Are you, like, serious? Bugs? Walk?

I live in a very neighborhoody neighborhood. We all walk and jog and chat and mow and plant and stop and chat some more and care and smile on our quiet, tidy streets. The neighbor dogs are walked twice every day and their poop is carried home for them twice every day and I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I saw a dog walking with a kid at the other end of the leash.

OMG. Are you, like, serious? Poop? Walk?

I do find it ironic that if we old folks didn’t have access to the technology so loved today by the thumbs of the young folks, we wouldn’t all have reconnected with the other old folks we used to know as young folks and be so dripping with the nostalgia that has, from all appearances, engulfed us (or, me).

We’re fortunate, in this best of both worlds, that we can use new gadgetry to travel through time to the faces and names of our pasts, polishing the memories we’ve spent our lives preserving.

Today, Memory Lane is the main street in my perfect world, in my perfect neighborhood. Today and every day, it is crowded with grownup versions of our former selves. We all walk and jog and chat and mow and plant and stop and chat some more and care and smile on our quiet, tidy street.

Just outside this window.

 

Wishful thinking

I wish we could get things done without everyone acting like they’re mad at everyone else always.

I wish I could type a simple sentence without my pinky hitting the shift lock every time I aPPROACH THE LETTER A.

I wish more of us could hear criticism, realize it’s constructive, and use it to our advantage. We have become a society that revels in the opportunity to find fault.

I wish we were happier more frequently.

I wish teh and hte were acceptable versions of the word “the.” It would cut in half the amount of time it takes me to type.

I wish this also held true for adn.

I wish over-stuffed, bombastic, narcissistic blowhards like Rush Limbaugh would dry up and blow away. I credit him for helping to change, in a negative way, the way we hear and react. Statements like this, however, only add fuel to his fire and make him stronger. Talk radio that fuels hatred does not improve society. He would love to hear this.

There was a time in our society when all we wanted to do was buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

How good that soda would taste today. (Provided its ingredients have not in the years since been found to kill white mice in science labs.)

Sidebar: Has anyone given thought to the possibility that laboratory rats get cancer from needle holes? We injected them with soda; they got cancer and died. We injected them with lighter fluid; they got cancer and died. We injected them with Cap’n Crunch; they got cancer and died. We injected them with artificial sweetener; they got cancer and died. We injected them with caffeine; they got cancer and died.

Conclusion: Injections cause cancer in sacrificial rodents.

I’m over it.

I wish someone would explain to me why the current, inexplicable rise in gasoline prices is the fault of the current president but the gas bags presently making this claim were remiss to announce that the last inexplicable rise in gasoline prices was the fault of his predecessor. Shut up. All of you.

I think it should be “March forward,” not “spring ahead” on the second weekend of March, when we adjust the countless clocks we now have on every appliance in the house. It’s not spring, it’s still winter. But “winter ahead” is stupid. Several years ago, we changed the time of year, by a few weeks, when we change the time. It’s now time to change the name we have for it.

Why someone else hasn’t suggested this yet is more than a little disappointing. Ican’t be responsible for everything. Ihave a mouth to feed.

“March forward” has a positive sound to it. And the thing we’re marching toward (nicer weather) is worth the trek. This is what I think. Also: I know it’s been a week since we set the clocks. This epiphany did not dawn on me until Monday, when a full day of feeling an hour behind was really starting to get on my nerves.

I wish someone would justify to me the suggestion made by one of the very scary Republican men running for president that he can’t understand why this president has not yet pulled our troops out of Afghanistan; yet, nowhere a scant three years ago were these words being uttered from this same stagnant cavern about our previous doe-eyed leader.

I wish more holidays were like St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a happy holiday. Also, it has meat boiled with vegetables. And beer.

Better yet, I wish corned beef was the same price all year long that it is during the week leading up to today.

I think House Hunters should be what we call presidential candidates. When we’re not referring to them with more appropriate and richly deserved adjectives.

I wish more of the money “raised” by youth organizations actually went to those organizations and not to the international corporations responsible for sending our gullible cherubs out onto our neighborhood streets and in front of our big-box retailers all in the name of delicious, cartoonishly over-priced cookies.

Also, I wish more of the actual “selling” was conducted by the children themselves and not the parents. It should be about interpersonal communication, responsibility, initiative. Instead, it’s more about how many boxes Suzie’s mommy sold while Suzie was flat on her posterior, thumbs flailing across a smart phone, LOLing with her BFF about how her lame mother agreed to do the work for her.

And while we’re at it, I wish someone could tell me why 15 cookies the size of a poker chip cost an arm and a leg. Cookies this expensive shouldn’t come in single-serving packages.

(Yeah. Right. Like you can’t down a sleeve of thin mints in the length of time it takes to fill a glass with milk.)

I wish Rick Santorum could hear what we hear when he opens his mouth. He might stop.

I wish the justification for an apology was not based on what was being accidentally burned and whose nose was getting bent in the process. Politics has long been a filthy business, but now that it’s constantly on every TV, radio, telephone, ticker, headset, Jumbotron, cable, satellite and microchip, the stench has become overwhelming.

I wish the contest for the White House would return to the schedule it once shared with the Olympic Games. It never goes away. It would be less taxing and breed more tolerance and interest if it was around a lot less.

I know this will never happen. But a guy can wish, caN’T HE?

Gimme Three Sets

A return to the healthy yet boring, worthwhile yet sad, necessary yet sober, mandatory yet malnourished, doctor-recommended middle-aged life of a gym rat affords one plenty of time, while watching the calories and the seconds tick away on the treadmill, the food channel on the overhead TVs, and the Spandex perform downright amazing feats of strength and resolve, to listen to hours of iPodded music through modern microscopic headphones locking the skull in a death grip while sweating off the tonnage and, at a glacial pace, turning the flab to fab.

With apologies to song writers Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant, fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the entire sweet home of Alabama, the following is meant to be sung to the tune of the Skynyrd favorite, “Gimme Three Steps.”

It is mind exercises like these, conducted during physical exercises necessitated by decades of neglect, that make it easier for some among us to keep from choking the snot out of a physical trainer. Also, it makes the timer on the treadmill go faster. But only a little.

 

I was stuck in a rut,

Just sitting flat on my butt,

Couldn’t bend to tie my shoe.

When up walked a man,

Lifting weights with one hand

(A trainer looking for you-know-who.)

He said, “Hey there, dough boy

with the mouth full of french fry:

Whatcha tryin’ to prove?

’Cause if you want to explode

Add one more fry to the load.

And what’s that smell that comes from you?”

 

(I said, “Excuuuuse me.”)

 

“You should be scared and fearing for your life,”

He said, “Come join me at the gym when you’re free.”

See, he was lean and mean

And had no fat, ya’ll,

One of them fitness freaks.

“Oh, wait a minute, mister,

I’m gonna catch a blister

To lift these weights with you.

And although you don’t know me,

But I hope you don’t force me

To Zumba class at 2.

 

He said:

“Gimme three sets, gimme three sets, mister;

Gimme three sets, then three more.

Gimme three sets, gimme three sets, mister,

And then do sit-ups on the floor.”

 

“Four?” “More.”

 

Well the sweat ran the way

Of an ice cube in May,

And the water dripped on the floor.

But I’m telling you, son,

That it ain’t no fun

Weighing three hundred forty-four.

Well, he turned the pressure up on me,

And that’s the worst that I could have asked for.

For you could hear me screaming a mile away

Before I passed out on the floor.

 

“Now won’t you: 

Gimme three sets, gimme three sets, mister;

Gimme three sets, then three more.

Gimme three sets, just ignore that blister

Or you’ll never fit a-through that door.”

 

And I mean the garage door.

Love handles all

It’s not that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, the little lady and me — the Wilma to my Fred; the Marge to my Homer; the Posh to my Becks.

Although, traditionally, we haven’t gone overboard. We never go overboard, so traditionally nontraditional are we.

We (thankfully) don’t need a random day in the middle of a random month during what normally is a long, horrible winter to remind one another that the home and life (with its requisite aromas and noises) we share in this one life we have been granted is gooey sweet and flowery aromatic and teddy bear cozy and hoodie-footie snuggly and over-priced diamond ankle bracelet worthy and not to be traded for all the bon-bons in Brussels or tea in China or eggplant in parmesan.

We are fortunate enough, the Juliet to my Romeo, to realize this every day of our tethered existence and therefore are spared the responsibility of losing our minds at the last second, trying to figure out what to buy her because it’s Valentine’s Day and if I don’t get her something sweet or smelly or cozy or snuggly that’ll mean I’m the worst husband ever and that very suggestion is just plain laughable.

Every day is Valentine’s Day for the Little Red-Haired Girl and this Charlie Brown.

Oh, she gets candy and cards (one from the cat and one from me) on every card-buying occasion, including Valentine’s Day. And she’ll get the requisite flowers/candy/plush toy/can of furniture polish, whichever costs the least, lasts the longest, and takes the least effort.

And I’m taking her bowling this weekend because football season is now over (a fact about which we have spoken some but not at great length since her team lost and my team failed to), and I need to remind her there are still sporting events at which she is more adept at kicking my butt. (Having yet again eliminated fanmanship of professional football teams.)

Also, there’s a lot less to do on the weekends now that there’s no football to stare at for hours on end. This Ralph might as well take his Alice out of the house to interact with other humans.

Maybe even have conversation with one another.

That last part is optional. I just threw it in because I was seven words short.

Every day is a roller coaster of love at Chez Mattison. To single out one day on the calendar would make all the others pale in comparison. And that’s not fair. There are no pale days for my Ellen and her Portia.

During a commercial break the other night, I asked the Edith to my Archie if she could remember all the wonderful Valentine’s Day things we have done for one another, lo these many decades, in celebration of the love we share.

She paused in her search for scars and bugs on the cat and reminded me of the year I bought her a tennis bracelet and dinner at a lovely restaurant in Saratoga Springs.

I had forgotten about the tennis bracelet (which goes around the ankle instead of the wrist; a decision I will never understand but with which I am in complete agreement). Probably because that was the last day I saw it. It’s on loan to the Gift Hall of Fame.

I didn’t remember that the bracelet year also involved dinner out. That’s surprising to me. That seems like a lot more effort that I am capable of or interested in. That could have been two gifts spread out over two years, instead of both being burned at the same time. Obviously wasn’t thinking that year. Or, I did something horribly husbandish and felt the need to make up for it.

Like that’s possible.

The particular Valentine’s Day of which I speak is so ingrained in the memory of the Veronica Lodge to my Reggie Mantel that after reminding me of it, she wasn’t even sure she was right.

“I thought you gave me the bracelet and then we went out to dinner,” she said. “Maybe I’m wrong.”

I asked her if we were living in our current house during this volcano of romance and she didn’t know that either.

All of which, I immediately decided, lets me from now until the end of time off the Valentine’s Day hook.

She doesn’t remember when I gave her one of the romantic-est non-Christmas and non-birthday gifts I have ever gone out of my way to have a store clerk pick out and wrap for me. This can only mean one thing: I can stick with cards, flowers and candy for the rest of my life.

What does she care? She won’t remember anyway. Inattentiveness can be very sexy.

OK. Maybe I’ll go the extra distance this week and make her a meat loaf in the shape of a heart and frost it with mashed potatoes. (Maybe a couple of asparagus spears to replicate the whole sappy Cupid arrow thing.)

That’s actually an inspired idea. The perfect gift to remind the one I love how much she means to me. It’s cheap, will take very little effort, and all the heavy thinking is already done.

Nothing says “I love you” more than new and creative ways to take the easy way out. Topped by an over-saturation of fat and calories meant to keep the “love” in the “love handles.”

Yep. This Ozzie still knows the direct route to his Harriet’s heart.

Being born and raised in upstate New York has had its benefits.

For example, when it forgets to snow during the winter, this can be an enjoyable region of the country to call home.

On those increasingly rare occasions when the ground is covered by snow from November to March, however, the opposite is true.

Being born and raised in eastern Massachusetts, I imagine, also has its highs and lows. Nifty accents and access to a gigantic city being a couple that come to mind.

The wind beneath my wings knows more about this than I, having done this very thing.

Another one of the highs in her life, it should (but won’t) go without saying, came when she crossed (and eventually merged) paths with this upstate New Yorker.

This union has more often than not worked itself into a tolerable if not occasionally satisfying lifetime commitment. It has its ups and downs, but those directions are opposites, so they are to be expected.

Thankfully, none of the downs have been my fault. A fact to which the love of my life would agree the opposite is unmistakably true.

A major sporting event this weekend that happens to involve our two favorite teams has had me thinking of just how many opposites the two of us have brought into this relationship from the two separate lives we once lived. I have been thinking of these things in the off chance the relationship doesn’t survive the football game.

This is only a partial list; I can’t remember them all. But when we were growing up:

We were Ivory; she was Dove. (We are now both Dove, as Ivory eventually turned my skin to oak.)

We were Fantastik; she was Windex. (We are now Windex, as neither of us cleans windows, so it stopped mattering.)

We were Hellmann’s; she was Cains. (We are now Hellmann’s because I do most of the mayonnaise shopping and cooking and Hellmann’s rules. Unless we’re walking on the complete opposite side of the street and decide to break out the Miracle Whip. The Miracle Whip is a fine product that stands by itself, but please don’t for one second try to tell me it’s a straight-up swap for mayonnaise. True, they both can be substituted for one another in most of the same recipes, but they are entirely different beasts; one being much more of an acquired taste than the other. And none of which excuses the use of Cains.)

We were Viva; she was Bounty. Today, we’re Brawny pick-a-size. Marriage is about compromise.

Growing up in a rural community, we were raised with Scottissue. Growing up in the suburban hub of one of the nation’s largest cities, she was Charmin. Charmin has become a product I find difficult to keep from mocking simply because of its TV commercials with the cartoon dingle bears. The commercials are embarrassing, if you ask me. I wouldn’t be able to go through the line at the grocery with this item in my cart, knowing it is marketed nationally as the one that cartoon bears rely upon to prevent a velcro nightmare.

Also, she was over the roll; we were under the roll. Going under the roll is an inexplicable decision that is no longer a part of my life. Iwas long ago shown the light and can never imagine a life any different.

We were StarKist; she was Bumble Bee. We were chunk light; she was solid white.

My, how times have changed. Today, I’m the solid white and she’s the chunk light. Brands no longer play a role, as price is the deciding factor when Ibring home the canned tuna (and mix it into the Hellmann’s.)

We were Colgate; she was Crest. Today, we are not exclusive. When the old tube (squeezed exclusively from the bottom) is empty, a new brand with a new flavor is worked into the mix.

Keeping the marriage sparks jumping, one toothpaste flavor at a time.

We were Skippy; she was Peter Pan or Jiff (doesn’t really matter). Once she told me she wasn’t Skippy, I lost interest in her ability to judge peanut butter. There is only one true peanut butter. Please.

We were soda; she was tonic. This is a regional thing that thankfully disappeared shortly after I swept her off her feet and moved her to Green Acres.

Also a regional designation: She called them elastics. We (and by “we” I mean the remainder of humanity) called them rubber bands.

We were Gulden’s spicy brown; she was French’s yellow. Today, there are so many mustards available,Ihave no idea what we are. Ido know there are several mustards in our lives (and none of them yellow). Can never have enough mustard variety. They are all pretty tasty.

Can’t say that about ketchup. Ketchup has pretty much remained ketchup. We were DelMonte; she was Heinz. Now we’re store brand. It’s ketchup.

We also occasionally come from the opposite side of the field when it comes to our sports teams. (See Mets vs. Red Sox, 1986. Just don’t say you heard it from me.) One of the things we enjoy sharing is our love of sporting events; chief among these, professional football. But here again, she being from the Bay State and me being from the Empire State, we still find occasion to go our separate ways. This weekend is no different.

On Sunday evening, while she’s screaming at the television because of this stupid play and that dumb call and this referee who is obviously biased and that announcer who apparently likes one team more than the other, I’ll be slumped on the floor in a corner, facing the wall, shivering like a scorned chihuahua in February, probably rocking back and forth, in a distant, dark room somewhere upstairs, until my Monday morning work alarm goes off.

Being a life-long fan of one of the two remaining NFL playoff teams, Ihave spent the past two weeks battling anxiety and nerves over the outcome of the final game of the season, knowing full well — and completely ignoring the fact — that no matter what I say or do, I cannot affect the final score. I am not, however, going to tempt fate.

But that doesn’t detract from the fact that in the living room chair right next to me sits a person who, through no fault of her own, was born and raised — and eventually plucked from — the land of the other team.

She has thus far handled the situation well.

I have not.

She has said she can’t lose, because even though that other team from her home “state” is her first choice, she has become a fan of the team for which I live and breathe and die (and bleed blue), so she will be happy no matter who wins.

And I am most assuredly the opposite.

I might need a Kleenex. She’ll probably hand me a Puffs.