About Steve

A fulltime writer; author of two cookbooks and three novels. Live and write on a ranch east of Sacramento, California.

A HORRIBLE THOUGHT

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

I had a scary thought. What if everyone had already sold or given away all of their used stuff and there were no more yard sales and thrift stores because there was nothing left to be sold or donated?

First, my friend Mike would have a nervous breakdown. Then a national day of mourning would be declared to observe the junque vacuum. Flags at half staff.

How would people furnish their homes? Where would they get nick-nacks to fill their shelves? To replace their cat-scratched sofas and their small appliances? If anyone wanted to read a book they would either have to get it from the library or—God forbid—buy it new. I can’t even imagine that. A paperback book should cost a quarter, as God intended. A hard cover book should cost no more than a dollar. The only books that should be allowed to be sold at full retail price are those I have written.

Publishers would be overjoyed to be charging full price, of course, but petroleum company executives would be outraged. Gas consumption would be down because millions of scavengers would no longer be driving around weekends looking for valuable art and artifacts to take to Antiques Road Show and get disgustingly rich.

You can’t have people driving less. Oil executives’ mansions cost money, you know. Tuition at top universities for their kids doesn’t come cheap. Who’s going to pay boarding and training fees for their race horses? Do you have any idea the psychological damage that would be done to be forced to give up their company jets—and golf? Have you no sympathy? Have you no humanity?

But wait. It just occurred to me that such a horrifying scenario can never occur as long as my friend Mike and I are alive. Between the two of us we already have enough junque to supply every yard sale and thrift store in America.

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STICKERS ON FRUIT

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Have you ever wondered why there are stickers on fruit sold in supermarkets? Those usually include the name of the company that sold the fruit to the grocery chain, along with a picture of the item, itself. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that a banana is a banana and a pear is a pear without attaching a picture of it to tell you what it is sticking on.

The fruit was probably grown by some poor farmer, possibly in a third world country, who invested money and labor, risked pests, drought, fire, and the wrath of God to grow what sits in a basket in your kitchen or dining room. Then the middleman came along and took ownership, slapped a sticker on the fruit, and shipped it to market.

I have several objections to the practice. Objection 1: I don’t need to be told what is so obvious. Objection 2: I don’t care who caused said fruit to get it to my supermarket. Objection 3: It’s almost impossible to get the #^%*@* sticker off the fruit.

Pardon my language.

Years ago, when I worked at a Los Angeles radio station I wondered aloud in a newscast why the U.S. Postal Service used a glue on the back of stamps that ensured that the stamp would come off if even slightly moistened while in transit. I suggested that postal officials should consider partnering with the creators of bumper stickers so they could make stamps that would stay stuck. Those #^%*@* bumper stickers never come off.

I apologize if there are any church ladies around..

Years later the postal service, whether having heard of my suggestion or simply put two-and-glue together on their own and adopted the bumper sticker idea with their stamps.

We all know that government is slow to act, if it acts at all. But you have to wonder why it took them centuries to realize the need to improve their stickum.

I leave you with this suggestion: Never put a U.S. Postal Service stamp on your vehicle’s bumper because those #^%*@* things will never come off.

Oops!

LADY LUCK SNARLS AT ME

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Not only did we not have all of the numbers in the big Mega Gazillion dollar lottery jackpot, we did not have any of the numbers. What are the odds of that?

I know they say that you can’t win if you don’t play, but the chances of not winning if you do play are astronomical. We often hear that statistically you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery. That is especially true in my case because I guarantee that if I go outside during an electrical storm, I am literally toast. I may not even have to go outside.

My bad luck mojo only relaxed its grip on me one time. It was at a roller skating party in 1953. A drawing was held and I won a stuffed duck. I should have had that duck bronzed because it was the last time Ms. Luck smiled on me.

Years ago I had a friend who would play the pinball machines regularly. The games cost five cents in those days. That guy could get more out of a nickel than anyone I know. He routinely won so many games that he never spent more than a quarter. I am confident that before I would win a single pinball game, that machine would collapse from the weight of the nickels I had to put into it.

The same guy also had a lot of luck with the ladies. Well, I’m no George Clooney myself, but that guy got hit with an ugly stick and the girls still fell all over him.

I should mention that my lucky friend’s luck ran out when he was relatively young.

I’m still above ground and I still don’t play the pinball machines.

There is a saying that “what goes up must come down.” Well, I never bounce on a trampoline because I don’t want to take any chances.

 

A RELUCTANT TROOPER

REFLECTIONS

(excerpted from the memoir, “But First This Message”)

by Steve Liddick

It was 1962 and I was a reluctant U.S. Army private caught up in the big Vietnam era draft.

Our ship was headed for Korea where I was to be a radio announcer for the American Forces Korea Network (AFKN). The trip across the Pacific Ocean would take 30 days. The crossing on the USS General Edwin D. Patrick troop carrier blazed along at the blinding speed of seven knots . . . about the same as your average jogger.

To this day I still can’t see how the government could believe it was cost-efficient to slowly transport a thousand troops across the Pacific Ocean. We were consuming three meals a day on a fossil fuel-burning ship for an entire month. If my math is correct: 1000 men X 30 days = 30,000 days, divided by 365 days in a year = more than 80-years of our collective military service being wasted rather than working at the jobs we were ripped out of our civilian lives to perform. It seemed to me then and now that it would have been cheaper to fly us all there.

I had not yet been in the army long enough to realize that (a) logic has no place in the military (b) I must never question a decision made by anyone with a higher rank than mine, and (c) everyone was of a higher rank than mine.

Several weeks into the trip on the USS Edwin D. Patrick we were given a brief shore leave at Yokohama, Japan.

Japan is an ancient land brimming with tradition. One tradition among taxi drivers is that no matter where an American GI says he wants to go, he is driven to a part of town where the cab stops in front of a restaurant owned by the driver’s cousin. Plus, on the way there the driver weaves in and out of traffic at terrifying speeds which no one in that pre-seatbelt and airbag era could possibly survive in the event of a crash. All this is done on the opposite side of the road from what we are accustomed to driving in America.

After several hours of walking up and down streets ablaze with neon lights, it was back to the ship and another taxi ride from hell.

Fast forward to a year later and time to return to the states.

Departure day arrived. I gathered up my gear and packed a crate of personal items to be shipped home. I said my goodbyes and rode a bus to Seoul.

I boarded the USS General J. C. Breckenridge troop ship for the trip home.

When we arrived at Treasure Island, across the bay from San Francisco a month later, we were herded into a huge warehouse and each given a checklist. The list itemized the various stations we were to stop at to turn in equipment and bring our medical and service records up to date. We were also paid up to date.

After stopping at a half-dozen or so processing stations I must have looked puzzled as I poured over my checklist to see whether I had covered everything.

“Where are you supposed to be, young man?” asked an officer.

I said, “I’m not sure, sir.”

He took my checklist and looked it over.

He handed the list back to me. “Son,” he said, “you’re out of the army.”

Those were some of the sweetest words I had ever heard. They ranked way up there with the time Patty Sweeney said, “could you unzip me?”

SOPHISTICATE VRS CLODHOPPER

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Do you want to look sophisticated? Do you want people to think you’re really hep? Do you want to appear as though you are cookin’ with gas?

Okay, first of all don’t use words like “hep” and phrases like “cookin’ with gas.” Nobody has said those things since the 1940s.

What is it about some people that they hold onto the phrases of their day—long after their day?

I guess some are big fans of the passé.

“Radical” was worn out by the end of the 90s but I still hear it. I don’t remember when “super” passed away, but it’s still out there for those who have not “gotten the memo.”

See? Now they have me doing it.

I once worked with a guy who, when someone said something interesting, he would say. “swingin’.” That went out of fashion in the 1950s along with “ginchy” and blue suede shoes.

“Cool” seems to have survived the ages, while “hot” has not. “Cool” jumped the acceptability barrier and continues as a symbol of approval.

Hard to say why some catchwords and phrases live on while others fall out of wide usage.

A woman I worked with a few years ago did everything imaginable to appear chic, worldly, and way out there on the front lines of really smart stuff. However, her efforts were so clumsy that she came off looking like a hick.

She would use what she apparently believed were the current catch phrases, “Don’t go there,” and “I didn’t see that coming,” not realizing that they had long since been relegated to the conversational slag heap.

She apparently never heard the groans coming from others in meetings when she would toss in words like “Paradigm,” “Algorithms,” and “Modalities.”

I guess she figured her bosses would think she was really hep.

If I ever again hear someone say “at this point in time” I may “toss my cookies” on their blue suede shoes.

LOOKING FOR A CURE

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

People who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes have many aids to help them kick the habit: nicotine patches and gum, self-help books, support groups, nagging spouses.

But what about those of us who are addicted to, say, ice cream?

There is no ice cream patch. If there were it would be pretty messy.

Like Pavlov’s dog, my mouth begins to water when I hear the ice cream truck’s song as it cruises neighborhoods in its unholy quest to get the very young hooked.

I suppose it could be worse. If ice cream were outlawed there would be many more addicts. That’s what happened when a Constitutional amendment banned alcohol.

There is a law of nature that says that if you can’t have a thing, then that is the very thing you will want. It also works that way with the “must-have” toy around Christmastime every year. Word gets out that a toy is in short supply and that your kid will be scorned by his and her peers if you don’t stand in line at the local toy store to get one for him or her. Meanwhile, he and she are at home crying their eyes out because they will be pariahs if they don’t get one of the rare thingamabobs for their very own. People got violent when the Cabbage Patch dolls and Tickle Me Elmo toys were hard to find. Fights broke out at toy stores. Pet Rock sales really took off when the rumor started that they were only a few left.  Prices soared and a black market developed for each of those items.

Bad enough if consuming ice cream were a crime. What if churches declared it a sin? That would be the cherry on top, so to speak. There would surely be a run on the stuff. Most ice cream addicts would do their sinning out of town, of course. Either that or at small back room ice cream parlors where, if you had the right connections, you could feed your addiction.

Organized crime would again flourish, supplying the illicit product to eager scofflaws. Modern-day Elliot Nesses would be combing the land for modern-day Al Capones. Shady characters would lure people into dark alleys to sell fudge ripple out of the trunks of their cars.

Those deprived of their ice cream would by lying in dark rooms, crying out pathetically for butter pecan, French vanilla . . . their mothers.

Families would be ripped apart. America’s already-overcrowded prisons could not accommodate the enormous influx.

Fortunately I have my own ice cream maker and a large freezer.

The only way you will get my ice cream away from me is if you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Comments and shares are encouraged.

ADDICTED TO OUR IPHONES

REFLECTIONS – Updated every Wednesday

by Steve Liddick

We are becoming a nation of addicts. I don’t mean drugs, although that is another problem to discuss at another time. No, we are becoming addicted to our smart phones.

You see it all the time; mostly young people walking down the street talking or texting on their iphones, seemingly unaware of the world around them. I have seen people walk into lamp posts, parking meters, and even into other people. Occasionally you see couples in restaurants or two people walking side by side, talking on their phones, not conscious of the actual human next to them. You have to wonder who they are talking to. Possibly to each other, but they apparently don’t know how to relate in the old-fashioned face-to-face mode.

I went to a county fair once and saw a young woman sitting on her horse, completely oblivious to her surroundings and–I’m not making this up–she was texting. It was as though the horse was not even there, just a convenient place to sit. At the very least she might have taken her weight off the poor animal and found a conventional chair to sit on to do her texting.

More and more car crashes these days involve drivers who were texting instead of paying attention to the road ahead of them. Texting while driving is at least as dangerous as driving drunk.

I own an iphone, of course. It would be un-American not to. I’m not addicted to it, though. I only use it for phone calls, email, messaging friends, connecting to the Internet, reading my Kindle books, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, monitoring my checking account, watching TV shows and movies on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Crackle, taking pictures, checking Craigslist, ordering items through Amazon, and as a calculator. I don’t wear a watch anymore, so I use the phone’s clock and alarm features to give me the time and to remind me when to walk the dog, water the outdoor plants, take my pills, and carry the trash down to the road for weekly pickup.

But I it’s not like I’m addicted or anything—like today’s young people.

Comments are invited

 

THE SHELF

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

For many years I had been overweight. Women had not looked lustfully at me since—well—they’ve never really looked at me lustfully, but that’s a whole other story.

Let me just say that my particular poundage piled on for the most part as a protuberant pot belly. Potbellies is a trait that runs in my family. Even the men have them.

I suppose if you look hard enough you can find an advantage in any physical disability or deformity. I’m sure the hard of hearing enjoy being able to turn off their hearing aids to shut out a screaming child. Extra tall people can reach high shelves. Of course, there’s a down side to both conditions. The hard of hearing can’t fully enjoy music. The tall have to duck at doorways.

The chronically fat have their own set of problems. One of them is that we don’t like to be called ‘fat,’ preferring instead to be referred to as heavy-set—or portly. Better still, just refer to them by name.

Formation of a pot belly may be Mother Nature’s way of keeping a person farther from the dinner table to keep it from growing even larger.

I do not prefer taking my meals in the dining room. I’m a casual diner. I think it may be rebelling against my mother’s edict about not taking food into the living room, my personal favorite dining spot. My lounge chair is a place where a pot belly comes in handy as a kind of shelf for my plate. I could sit there with a book in one hand and a fork in the other, with my plate secure and in no danger of falling off its shelf.

But one day I concluded that a bay window was not only unattractive, it was also unhealthy. You hear stories about heart problems and diabetes linked to overweight. Just taking a walk was exhausting. My wife and I sometimes took walks. She likes to walk and talk, but I told her I could do one or the other—but not both.

I decided to get rid of the tummy. I applied my iron will to the project and over most of the next year I slimmed down by sixty pounds. I have nieces and nephews who don’t weigh as much as I lost.

To be honest, women still don’t look at me lustfully. But I no longer open a door by turning the knob and bumping it with my stomach.

The only disadvantage I can think of is that when I have my lunch at my lounge chair, the plate keeps sliding down onto my lap.

 

THE PINKS AND THE BLUES

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

When I was growing up, all efforts were made to keep the boys separate from the girls. At my elementary school there were even separate entrances for each. The girls couldn’t play with the boys on the segregated playground’s pickup softball teams. They might skin a knee or something awful like that.

It went on like that until high school. By that time separateness was pretty well established.

Adolescent boys had buddies, pals, homies; comrades described in various macho ways. Bruises were common. Spitting was encouraged. Belching was a competitive sport.

Adolescent girls had girlfriends and phoned each other each evening to ask what the other was going to wear the next day. They had circled their wagons into cliques dedicated to delicate activities in which they would not skin their knees or something awful like that.

The upshot is that by the time we hit our teens we didn’t really know much about the opposite sex. How could we? The boys were always over here wearing blue; the girls were always over there wearing pink.

So, there I was at 17 with some mysterious force at work drawing me to this group of total strangers. What’s a poor hormone-saturated teenager to do? Woe is me.

To make a long story a little longer, we worked it out. Clumsily, I admit. Lots of kicking the dirt and blushing and finally getting around to asking one of those alien beings on a date.

It became a little less clumsy as time went by. We learned the rules: don’t honk your horn at the curb when you pick up your date; say nice things about her mother and, when discussing what time she is to be home, never tell her father you’ll have her in bed by ten.

Sure, we got better at sorting out the gender differences, but the truth is, a lot of the mystery never did go away.

The years went by. We got married, continued to work at figuring out the other half, failed monumentally, divorced and went our separate ways.

When I got suddenly single at 37, it wasn’t much different from when I was 17. Again there was an entire world of strangers out there.

I’m married again. Got a good one this time. Maybe I became better. Hard to say.

I don’t kid myself that I have entirely figured out the pink half of the species. But I learned a couple of tricks to avoid trouble. Saying “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward domestic tranquility.

Saying “yes dear,” usually takes care of the rest.

GOING TO THE MOVIES WITH GRANDMA

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

By Steve Liddick

Saturdays were special in the 1940s. There was no school and it was the day I got my allowance. My 50-cents and I would get on a bus to the city to see a movie. The bus ride cost a dime. The movie ticket was a budget-busting 15-cents and a box of candy was a nickel. That left ten-cents for the bus ride home and one lonely dime for two comic books.

I would usually stop off at my grandmother’s apartment in the city on the way to the show to say hello, maybe get a snack, and ogle the pretty nurses from Grandma’s kitchen window as they went by on their way to the hospital next door.

Grandma was a pretty hip old lady who understood kids. She knew the young would always have oddball fashions and terminology all their own. She understood the need of the young to be the same as their peers in fashion and different from grownups in their language.

“Where are you going, boy?” she would say.

“To the movies, Grandma,” I’d say.

“Wait, I’ll get my purse and go with you,” she’d say.

“Uh . . . ”

Now, when I said I was going to the movies, I meant I was going to the theater Grandma would not have been caught dead in. The grungy Rio Theater showed a western and mystery double feature, 24 color cartoons, a Three Stooges short subject, a Superman or Rocketman serial and a live talent show on stage. We all got to holler and cheer and boo at what was on the screen, sit with our feet up on the orchestra pit railing, and be obnoxious where our parents couldn’t see us.

But, what my grandma meant by “wait I’ll get my purse and go with you” was, “we’ll go to Loews Regent Theater.”  Instead of watching Lash Larue whip the bad guys into line or Red Ryder and Little Beaver thunder across the silver screen, we would be watching Howard Keel sing to Jane Powell. Or maybe it would be Fred Astaire dancing alternately with Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller or Mitzi Gaynor. And you couldn’t holler and cheer or boo at what was on a classy screen like the one at Loews Regent Theater with its plush carpets and gilded decor. Certainly not with your grandma sitting right next to you. They didn’t even have an orchestra pit railing and even if they had it would probably be covered with velvet and you wouldn’t have been allowed to put your feet up on it.

But grandma paid for the tickets and the candy and I got to spend the time with her.

Many years later, long after Grandma had passed away, MGM came out with a video compilation of clips from their movies of the 40s and 50s.

Those Saturday mornings all came back to me in a warm wave as Howard and Mitzi and Cyd and Fred and all the rest sang and danced in glorious Technicolor.

But the best part of watching those videos was that for a couple of hours I got a chance to sit beside my grandmother one more time.