PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

I’ve heard that to become an expert at anything you have to practice it 10,000 times. Ted Williams said it took him that many times swinging at a baseball coming at him at 90-plus miles-per-hour to become the hitter he became. I’m sure it applies equally to basketball shots, golf swings and putts—just about every endeavor that requires us to lock an activity solidly in place.

The only area where I think that logic has failed on a personal level is my lack of competence at gardening—weeds aside. When it comes to growing weeds, I am in a class by myself.

After at least 10,000 attempts at growing flowers and vegetables, I have become an expert at killing them. If it were a felony I would probably be charged with flora-cide. I’m told that I have a black thumb. That is the opposite of a green thumb, which implies competence at making things grow. It has been suggested that I should probably buy my starter plants already dead to eliminate the middle step.

A friend of ours comes to visit about once a year. The woman can walk past a wilted plant and it jumps to attention. She can say hello to a philodendron and it explodes from the pot. I have watched her closely and can’t figure how she works her magic.

I’ve read all the books and taken the suggestions about soil preparation, plant food, watering—every aspect of keeping things alive. I have been an attentive gardener. I even talk to plants. Please don’t spread that around, half the people I know already think I’m nuts and the other half knows it for sure.

So you can imagine my surprise when a rose I ripped out of the ground at one place and jammed it into the soil at another, adding no nutrients and giving it only enough water to get it started. To my flabbergastment  it has begun to sprout greenery instead of brownery. I cannot recall that ever happening before. Is it possible that I have reached a 10,000 failure level and have transitioned to success?

I have a theory. Instead of lovingly caring for a plant as I usually do, I took no special care and it is going just fine. Was disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew right, that “benign neglect” is the way to go? He wasn’t talking about plants, but it apparently applies.

It is very possible that I have been loving my plants to death?

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

 

 

 

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PEOPLE OF A CERTAIN AGE

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

 

People of a certain age hate being referred to as “People of a Certain Age.” It is Political Correctness code for “Old.”

Being of a certain age, I spend a lot of time these days thinking about time and the rapid passage of it. When I was in the army, I thought my hitch would never end. Every day was like a dog’s days: 7 days long. Those in bad marriages can tell you the same thing; time really drags.

Then you retire from that job that was never—ever—going to end and everything speeds up. You look back at past events and say, “I can’t believe it has been15 years since I retired?” “Was it really three presidents ago?”

Of course, when we’re young we don’t give much thought at all to time. We have no sense of it in the long term or that we will ever run out of it. Time-related thoughts in the young center on such events as the agonizingly slow approach of holiday breaks from school and the ooze of time until we’re old enough to get a BB gun, a driver’s license, our first car.

I have been alive more than 29,000 days. It was more than 10,000 days ago that I moved to California. Trash pickup days flash by at warp speed. The lawn grows at a fearsome rate. I just mowed the back yard of my house yesterday—or was it last week—and it already needs mowed again.

If I’d had haircuts at the socially accepted two week intervals I would have had more than 2,000 of them. Of course, you would have to knock off a few years at the beginning of life until I had my first haircut and my mother cried about it. Then you would have to subtract quite a few more at this end of life because I don’t have enough hair left to waste a trip to–and the expense of–a barber. Clippers make short work of what little remains.

In fairness to Father Time and the Baby New Year, I should mention that not everything speeds up when you get older. It seems sometimes like that Social Security check is never going to get here.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

GOT A QUESTION? ASK A WIFE

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

As we get older, we sometimes have problems with our memory. Also, sometimes we have problems with our memory.

When I have trouble remembering something, I just ask my wife. I’ll say, “You know, whatshisface, that guy—when we were at the—you know—the whatchacallit? Without fail Sherry comes up with the answer, no matter how vague the question.

I’m older than Sherry, so it stands to reason my memory would fail sooner than hers. I often say, “just wait until you’re my age, you’ll see . . .” Seven months later she is that age. But her memory just keeps chugging along.

Once I asked her if she could remember where we bought a teak desk with the burl inlay thirty-five years ago and how much it cost, she will not only remember it, she will pull the receipt out of her file and show it to me. The woman saves everything and never forgets anything, which makes it extra important that I don’t offend her because she will remember that, too.

The downside of depending on someone else to remember things for you is that, more and more, you lose the natural ability to store things on your own that you will need later.

It works that way in this computer era, too. We get used to looking things up and, rather than digging down there in the far reaches of our own brains, we just tap out the question on a keyboard and there’s the answer. Ever thereafter when the need arises we don’t even try to rely on our own memories, we automatically ask Mr. PC or Mr. Mac.

When I remind myself of my lazy nature, I call upon my old reliable excuse: “That’s just the way I am and I’m too old to change.” It gets me out of a lot of stuff.

It’s slothfulness, I know. It’s a lot of effort to dig around among the neurons and get those synapses snapping. Besides, I don’t want to overcrowd my brain with miscellany. There’s only so much mental storage space and I’ve had a lot of years of cramming data in there. I figure I have just about reached capacity.

Until Sherry catches up with my memory lapses, she can be my Google.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

STILL A FARM BOY

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Most people who live in California come from somewhere else. That includes me. It is an automatic assumption that you are not from here.

It’s not like that where I actually do come from. I think most people who live in Perry County, Pennsylvania started out there and are still there—or not far away. I seem to be the exception.

Careers sometimes send you to places you would not have chosen on your own. The weather is often a factor that drives people south. Itchy feet is a common cause among the young.

When people ask me where I’m from, even though I have lived in a lot of places and been all over the world, it’s an easy answer; I claim a little green hunk of paradise among rolling Pennsylvania hills and sparkling streams. It has a rich history that goes back well before we were the United States of America—and has a population that appreciates it.

I’m sure many who still live there don’t see my ancestral home as I do. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I looked over that fence in 1958 and set off for what I thought were greener pastures. In fact, it turned out to be many years of bumpy roads and stormy skies. It is true that times would not always have been ideal if I had stayed closer to my roots, but in all the other places I’ve lived, I never felt truly connected. If you are going to have troubles anyway, it is more comforting to suffer them among those you grew up with. They forgive you your shortcomings because they were standing right next to you when you acquired them.

Thomas Wolfe wrote that “You can’t go home again.” It’s true. Not because where you came from has changed. It is because you have changed.

Still, there will always be enough of Home that stays with you to keep you warm when life gets cold.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

AN ADDICTION TO OTHER PEOPLE’S “STUFF”

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

It’s amazing how much “Stuff” a person can accumulate over the years, adding one item at a time. One day you look around your house and say to yourself, “we are in real danger of an avalanche.”

If you are “of a certain age” (I hate that term because I AM of a certain age), you may remember the “Fibber McGee and Molly” radio show of the 1940s. Fibber had a closet that was so crammed with “Stuff” that every time he opened the door, everything came thundering out of it. Our entire house is a lot like Fibber McGee’s closet.

I am a certified (or is that “certifiable”) garage sale junkie.

There, I said it.

There is no cure for an attraction to other people’s “Stuff” and there are no organized support groups where people with a similar addiction can meet and tell their sad stories—and swap weekend sale site locations.

When we’re driving along and spot a garage sale sign, my car’s steering wheel actually vibrates—swear to God—and sometimes turns on its own and does not settle down until we are parked in front of the sale site.

It’s not my fault, man.

I once had a two year record of never having missed a Saturday garage sale day. Perfect attendance at church would win me a medal, but there are no medals for perfect attendance at garage sales. In northern California we have a lot of good weather, so the sale season is pretty much a year-round thing. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall keep me from my appointed rounds.

My wife, Sherry, routinely tells me as I’m about to hit the sale circuit, “If you buy something, you have to get rid of something to make room for it.” Well, that’s never gonna happen. I worked hard for those treasures. I spent more for gasoline than those things are worth, so there is an investment component here.

Okay, back to my story of too much “Stuff” which, by the way, is not a concept I necessarily subscribe to. Most people call extra rooms in their homes “guest bedrooms” or “dens.” One of the extra rooms in our house is used as a pantry and for storage of a lot of the “Stuff” I have accumulated in my excursions.

There is the real danger in there of a Fibber McGee-like cave-in and I am certainly going to do something about it. One of these days.

My mantra is similar to that of someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. “I can quit anytime I want to.”

And I will give it some serious thought, right after I check out half-price day at the local thrift store.

A new REFLECTIONS every Wednesday

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

A JACK RUSSELL TERRORIST

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

All I ever wanted in a dog was a big, goofy animal that sat when you told him to sit, and didn’t chase chickens. Truthfully, we didn’t want a dog at all. A house with three cats sharing space with two aging humans is already near capacity.

It started one night. You know how when it’s dark outside and you think you see something dark running across your back yard? Black on black. Kind like of Mafia hitman’s shirt and tie. Well, we didn’t know it at the time, but that was our introduction to a little Jack Russell terrier.

We didn’t see him in daylight until the next day, which was a Sunday. He had apparently escaped from somewhere. He had been running around for awhile and possibly mistreated in that time. He finally came to my wife. She brought him into the house, put him in her bathroom to separate him from the kitty herd. It was late in the day, too late to take him to the county animal shelter.

He turned out to be really friendly. He climbed up on my lap, cuddled under my arm, looked up at me with big, brown, wet, pleading eyes, and by Monday morning there was no way he was going to the animal shelter.

We took him to the vet to see if there was any ID embedded in him. There was not. What he did have was a fractured jaw, some bruises, and cooties. We figured he had gotten into a disagreement with a garbage truck or maybe got kicked by one of the equines we had at the time. We accommodated the fractured jaw by feeding him soft food. We couldn’t tell if he’d had his shots, so we brought those up to date. We had an ID chip installed and named him “Chip.” We also had him—ah—neutralized, so to speak.

To make a long story even longer, hundreds of dollars later we had repaired and taken ownership of a Jack Russell terrier with more energy than is generated by Hoover Dam. Just imagine a team of Jack Russells hitched up to a sled. They’d be a shoo-in to win Alaska’s Iditarod.

Chip occasionally gets super excited and races back and forth from one end of the house to the other. We call it “turboing” and we step aside for fear of getting bowled over by a 15-pound dynamo traveling at high speed.

Life in our household was changing dramatically.

Cats, as you may know, are relatively self-sustaining. They tend to go their own way pretty much, requiring only food, water, and an occasional lap. Otherwise we lived in peaceful harmony, making few demands of each other.

A dog is different. A Jack Russell dog is really different. He requires at least two walks a day because we can’t let him out on his own or he would be in the same dangerous situation we rescued him from.

Chip the Wonder Dawg, as I have taken to calling him, wrestles with Willow, the cat, who is the same size and weight as Chip. As far as we can tell, each is happy with the arrangement, neither fears the other, and nobody has gotten hurt.

The moral of this story is that a Jack Russell terrier is not a dog for older people. But the only way you will get him away from me is if you pry him from my cold, dead fingers.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

WELCOMING OUR ANNUAL VISITORS

Every year, anywhere from the first week of January to the first week in March, we are honored by a visit from a pair of Canada geese. They build their nest on an island in a pond adjacent to our property. The hitch is that it is only an island if it is not a drought year and the water level has come up sufficiently. Otherwise it is just a large clump of dirt in the middle of a huge hole in the ground.

Coyotes like to make a meal out of geese, so it is critical that there is a moat around their birthing grounds. We never know whether there will be enough rain to fill the hole. The Canadas send scouts ahead to make sure it is safe to camp here for the spring and summer. We got lucky this year. The pond is a pond and the geese have arrived.

We think the arrivals are a pair from previous years because when they came close to the back yard they did not fly away when I approached them. I tossed some cracked corn for them, but they didn’t seem especially interested. That will change.

There is a regular routine to building trust. Even though these geese probably have some memory of us buried deep in the back of their little bird brains, they are still cautious at the outset. As time passes, they come closer and enjoy the food we provide.

We will see them both floating on the pond for several weeks. Then, we will only see the male. That means Mother Goose is setting the eggs she has added to the nest one at a time in those weeks that we saw both of them.

The countdown begins.

It takes 21 days to hatch a goose egg. So, three weeks from the day Mom disappears—give or take a couple of days—we can expect to see little fuzz-balls floating on the pond. I say give or take a couple of days because the female has to put the kids through basic training. First she has to waterproof them so they don’t sink. She does that by applying goose oil to their fluffy little bottoms. That done, it’s off to swimming lessons.

I’m sure they go through Survival 101, which consists of Mom telling them that if some critter arrives that is larger than they are—and, at this point, that’s just about everyone—they should skadaddle as fast as their tiny web feet can propel them.

As Tarzan must certainly have said to Jane, “It’s a jungle out there.”

As the weeks go by they will grow larger and larger and come closer and closer to us for their twice-daily rations. By July they will be milling right around our feet, with Dad hissing at us. He knows we’re not going to hurt his babies, but part of the Dad Code requires that he hiss a warning, just in case.

Then, one day we will hear honking. It will mean Pop Goose and the little ones—that are no longer little—are in flight training to prepare them to fly away and join the larger flock to get ready to migrate.

No more than two days later, they are gone without a goodbye or a honk of thanks.

It is always a sad day and the best we can do is hope they will come back to us next year.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”