Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sweater Weather

I admit it, I love clothes. I really do.  I read fashion blogs and follow fashionistas on Twitter.   I have more shirts, slacks, and sweaters than my wife. That doesn’t bode  well considering that they take up more space in our closet than I was “allotted.”   My chest of drawers needs an annex to store my tee shirts and pullovers.  And jeans, forget it. Let's just say AG Jeans is having a banner year.  When I walk into Nordstrom's the sales help prostrate themselves at my feet, salivating at the thought of a juicy commission.  And shoes, don't even get me started.

So a recent visit to Boston found me at the North Shore Mall in Peabody, Massachusetts.  I had just cleaned out Nordstrom’s, or maybe Nordstrom’s just cleaned out my wallet, and was browsing the mall, when lo and behold, there stood another favorite store of mine; Banana Republic.   So I waltz in and spot this really handsome sweater on the front table.  It was sort of a grey pullover with a variety of muted patterns on it. It really caught my eye.  It screamed,  “Buy me Barry. You need to take me home.” Well, who can argue with that, right?  Fall is here and I only have seven sweaters.  I needed another one, or three, or perhaps five.  I lovingly picked it up and held it to my chest. Looks awesome. I get a large and go to the dressing room.  Hmmm.  Little tight.  I go back and get an extra large.  That’s it.  My wife says, “Wow that looks great on you.  Buy it.   We just won't tell anyone it's a woman's sweater!” WAIT! WHAT?  The display was covered in woman's clothing.   How could I not see that? The manikin had boobs and nail polish for crying out loud!  How did that not register in mind?   Talk about right church wrong pew.  How about great sweater, wrong gender.

 That one slight detail was pretty much the deal breaker. Now I realize the world is changing.  You want to wear woman’s clothing?  Fine. Knock yourself out.   I’m just not too interested in joining the club.   That sweater could have been my introduction to the world of cross dressing. I mean you don't just wake up some morning and decide to raid your wife's closet and fashionably go off to work.  It starts out innocently enough with a sweater. What's next, lacy bikini underwear?  A thong? What if I threw caution to the wind and bought it anyway.  Then I would be mortified to walk into a restaurant and see a woman wearing the same sweater.  Yeah, that would go over big. How can I ever explain that  one? “Oh,” I would say, “My wife picked this up for me at Good Will.” I don't think so.  I just can't imagine getting dressed in the morning and casually asking my wife, “Does this sweater make my ass look fat?”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Upside Down Tomato Plants

This a repost of a story I wrote a few years ago.  It relates well to my most recent one about the Miracle Garden.

My wife, who has a partial green thumb, became enamored with the Topsey Turvey Upside Down Tomato grower.  You know, As Seen On TV. A word of advice, if you are contemplating purchasing anything As Seen On TV, DON’T.  This is because whatever you think it will do—it WON’T!  Besides, I have enough trouble growing anything right side up.

I was very skeptical, because for the life of me I can’t think of anything that grows better, up side down.  I don’t.  You don’t.  My cat certainly doesn’t, in fact she gets real pissed off and scratches and hisses when I hold her upside down. 

My wife persisted, wore me down actually, so being a smart husband I agreed.  We went to Home Depot and bought the kit.  It came with a plastic basket, a wire harness, and a plan for building an elaborate trellis system. All this for only $9.99.  We buy three!  Then we had to get the dirt because even though the plant is growing upside down, it has to grow in something.  That was $24.  Next we bought the plants. That was $2 a pop.  I’m not done.  Since the plants will be growing upside down, they have to be attached to something.  Alas, they don’t just hang there in mid air.  So we had to get three shepherd hooks.  They were $15 each.  I’m into this thing for over a hundred dollars and haven’t seen one tomato. 

We get everything set up and hang the plants from the hooks.  They immediately begin to sag a bit.  This is not looking good.  We then water the plants.  The shepherd hooks bend so far over that the plants start to touch the ground.  I had to rig a rope from my fence to the hooks to keep everything off the ground. I look at the plans for the trellis and begin to understand why it calls for 4x4s and 2x4s, and a suggestion that I get a building permit.  These things weigh eight tons a piece. 

According to the geniuses at Topsey Turvey, gravity will force nutrients into the plants that will result in volleyball-sized tomatoes.  I’m not a botanist, but I always thought that roots are supposed to do that.  And speaking of gravity, you have to water these things two to three times a DAY because, yep, you guessed it, gravity also forces the water to run out the other end.

Another problem is, just like you and I don’t like to be upside down, neither do the tomato plants.  Yes, they do grow down for a while, but once they discover the sun, they reverse course and begin to grown right side up.  Normally you stake the plant to support the tomatoes.  However, with the upside down grower you cannot.  This results in tomatoes being ripped off the branches and being forced by our old friend gravity to fall to the ground.

Final tally—ten tomatoes.  That’s not a misprint, ten tomatoes.  Well, actually two had some funky holes in them so we’ll say eight.  That comes out to roughly $13 per tomato, not counting the three-hundred gallons of water.  This year I will be going to a farm stand.  Let me leave you with a word of advice.  If you are thinking, even remotely, about the upside down tomato plant grower...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Miracle Actually Happened in the Miracle Garden

I have a lot of interests and hobbies.  Photography, playing the drums, biking, reading, hiking, writing, cooking; the list goes on.  Sadly, gardening is not one of them.  I’ve tried and failed miserably every time I've attempted to grow anything other than weeds.  Weed growing, it seems, is where my talents lie.  In the past, I have planted tulips that never grew because I somehow managed to plant them upside down.  Believe me, the instructions were not that clear.  The “As Seen On TV” Upside-Down tomato plants were a bust because of a minor thing called gravity which ripped the tomatoes from the stalk thus providing a veritable feast for the bunnies and bugs.  Never mind that those stupid planting sacks each required 40 plus pounds of dirt. My raised bed Miracle Garden continues to mystify  me year after year.  The first year nothing grew because I might have, perhaps, well, maybe I forgot to add fertilizer.  Ok, rookie mistake.  The next year, we tried to grow tomatoes from seeds.  Well, we misplaced the seed packets of course, and then planted too late, and well, lets just say, we managed to eke out one tomato and a funny looking yellow cucumber.  Last year for some reason due to fact that I might not have watered the tomatoes on a regular basis, (meaning more than once a month) our crop was meager at best.  Our cucumber crop however was amazing.  Amazing in the fact that I have never tasted a more vile tasting vegetable.  Sort of a combination of bitter and sour wrapped up in a crunchy-mushy consistency.  It was a science experiment gone horribly wrong.  Every single one ended up in the compost pile.

Well, this year, I decided to opt out of the Miracle Garden.  I gave full reign and authority to my wife.  Now, if something went wrong in the Miracle Garden, I would have someone else to blame.   I accompanied her to the local Agway Store snickering and making jokes all of the way there, knowing full well that nothing but weeds and strange mutated plants can survive the Miracle Garden.  We brought home six plants and I gleefully downed a few martinis as I watched her plant the tomatoes.  Well, my wife, having carried and raised two sons knows a thing or two about nurturing.  Day, after day, she was in the Miracle Garden, weeding, watering, plucking suckers off the plants.  I have no idea what that even means but apparently its supposed to be good for the plant.  And, probably as a general rule, it's a good idea to pluck suckers off of anything you hold near and dear.   Just sayin’. After a few weeks, she had to stake the plants because they were growing so rapidly.  After a few more weeks she had to get longer stakes because these babies were really freakin’ growing.  Then a miracle happened. They started to flower.  Whoa, this was news.  And not just flower, but FLOWER!!!  Then another miracle happened.  The flowers turned into, you guessed it, tomatoes.  

I mean these plants started to burst with tomatoes. We had an abundance, a plethora, a  cornucopia, I’m running out of adjectives, so let me get out the Thesaurus, a profusion, a copious amount, literally mass quantities.  In essence, a lot of tomatoes.  And not just marble sized tomatoes.  Oh no, these were huge.  Like softball size.  It got to the point that were giving these tomatoes away because we couldn’t eat them fast enough.  I was exporting crates of tomatoes to third world countries.  These tomatoes are the mythical Hydra of the plant world.  Pluck off a tomato, two new ones take its place.  I don’t even like tomatoes and I was eating them at a furious pace. 

As I look out the window it is now fall and tomatoes are still going strong on the vines. When is it going to end?  The vines are now well over six feet tall and still producing tomatoes.  I did a rough count and there are at least six DOZEN tomatoes still there.  This is in addition to the boatload that we previously harvested.  Now THAT’S a Miracle Garden.  So how do we top that next year? We do the Miracle Garden dance and pray for Round 2!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cammo Tux. The Possibilities Are Endless!

I was shopping for some sweaters at Kohl’s the other day.  You know Kohl’s.  The store with ridiculously low prices that get even lower when you start to present the cashier with a multitude of coupons, Kohl’s cash, credits and 30% off discount coupons.  Yeah that store.  Where you save more money than you actually spend.  How can that be?  I bought two sweaters and after all was said and done I paid three dollars.  They practically give the clothing away and yet they manage to stay in business.  How do they do that? Well more than likely through great business acumen, attention to the bottom line and wonderful merchandising.  Such as this gem of a dinner jacket, my favorite find of the day.  

That’s right a cammo inspired tux. Not just any cammo tux, but a velvet one to boot with satin lapels.  Now I like to wear fashionable clothes and this seems to suit me just fine.  Imagine, going to  a dinner party and literally blending in with the scenery.  What fun you could have popping out of a potted plant and scaring the wait staff.  Or sitting at the main table of a wedding completely unnoticed.  I know, the possibilities are endless.  Or even better; crashing parties and no one knows you are there.  Think of all of the good food and drink you could get for free.  What a way to impress your date and not pay a penny.

Or perhaps a formal hunting party.  This would have been perfect attire for my friend's 50th birthday party at his hunting lodge.  Talk about a fashion statement!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Two Country Bumpkins Fly First Class

We traveled to Colorado to celebrate the marriage of our son Todd and his fiancée Jackie.  We had a 6 AM flight, which means, at least  to my wife, that we have to get up at 2 AM to drive to the airport and then basically sit around for a few hours, twiddling our thumbs and chewing on grass stalks. I would whittle, but they probably would confiscate my knife.  So after a quick nap, I now have 1 ½ hours of sleep to last me all day.  Plus we will be traveling through two time zones.  This should be fun.    Oh and we decided to fly first class.  Ah yep, that’s right, two yokels flyin’ first class in an air-o-plane.  

We get off to an inauspicious start.  First off, our seats are on opposite ends of the cabin.  I know, I know, first world problems, but for my first time in first class, I would at least like to sit next to my wife.    Luckily a kind soul changes seats with us, allowing us to sit next to each other.  Nice.

We settle into our comfortable, roomy, luxury seats and relax.  Ahh! After first class boards, the rest of the passengers begin their death march into economy class.  The passengers are giving us the death stare because of our sudden elevated status.  You can see the hate and loathing in their eyes.  I know that stare.  You know that stare. We used to give that stare all of time when we were peons.   Oh well, la-de-dah.

So we start off with hot, fresh coffee brewed to our exact specifications, in a china cup.  Almost as good as room service.  We then discover all of the perks that first class (henceforth known as FC) has to offer.  Soft blankets, overstuffed pillows, refreshment trays hidden in the seats.  Our own closets for clothing and of course our own bathroom. Enough leg room for someone taller than 3 feet.  Plus, in the event that the oxygen masks come flying out, we get first class oxygen and (at least according to the stewardess) the seat cushions actually do work as floatation devices.  This is FC peace of mind ladies and gents. 

After sipping my delicious coffee, I decide to have a drink.  My rationale is, it’s 6 AM here, but somewhere in the world it’s 5 PM so I order a Bloody Mary.  It’s an unusual feeling to get shit-faced so early in the morning, but hey, it’s FC and I want to get my money’s worth. 

The usual assortment of business travelers are in the FC cabin with us.  Also, there was a young couple with customized baseball jerseys stenciled with “Just Married 5/1/15,” on the front and Bride and Groom embroidered on the back.  Adorable right?  Adorable 3 ½ months ago when they actually WERE just married.  Not so cute as they approach their first anniversary. 

Suddenly the stewardess does something out of the ordinary; she refills my coffee cup without me even asking.  Whoa this is big.  Then she brings me another Bloody Mary.  Things are getting interesting and it’s only 7 AM. 

We reach our first destination, Charlotte, North Carolina.  First on, first off when you fly FC.  We collect our stuff and I sort of wobble over to a seat in the concourse to wait for the next plane to take us to Denver.  After a short layover we begin the final leg.  Just like the first one, we are separated in the FC cabin.  Another kind person agrees to change seats and off we go.  Seriously, the people in FC are so accommodating.  Imagine asking someone in coach to trade an aisle seat for a middle one.  Yeah! See how far that gets you.  We settle in and put our smug expressions on to deflect the death stares from the people boarding in coach.  And boy do they take a long time to board.  Kids, bags, carry-ons, packages of all sorts.  You know, if they worked a little harder then maybe they too could fly in the rarified FC air.  Just sayin’.

A young couple boards the plane with, you guessed it, a baby.  Well under ordinary circumstances that would be a cause for alarm, because we all know the sheer joy of flying with a baby.  The squirming, the screaming, the crying, did I mention screaming?  Well that won’t bother us because we are in FC and they are in… Oh shit, they are in FC too. And right behind us.  Let’s hope she put some whiskey in that bottle because this might get ugly real quick. 

While the riff-raff in coach fight over a bag of pretzels, our flight attendant goes around taking orders for breakfast.  I choose quiche.  Really, they had quiche for breakfast.  I’m not making that up.  The quiche comes with herbed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits with real butter and jam, and fresh fruit with strawberries the size of a billiard balls.  And get this, real cloth napkins and metal silverware.  Folks, this is what’s called civilization. The cabin quickly fills with aroma of eggs, and cheese and potatoes.  Ahhh!  For years I smelled that in coach and thought in my crazed, starving state, I was hallucinating.  Well I wasn’t.  I’ve been vindicated.  They really have edible food in FC.  And in such abundance.  Another quiche?  Sure.  Another Bloody Mary?  Shhhure thingy.  More coffee?  Hit me.

After breakfast; you guessed it, hot towels.  Ahhh.  And not the pre-moistened towelettes.  Nope.  Real. Terry cloth. Towels.  What’s next?  Mani-pedi? Massage? 

The rest of the trip was quiet and uneventful.  Uneventful because I was sleeping off a snootful of Bloody Mary’s in my large comfy FC seat.  The baby didn’t make a peep. The service was top-notch and the landing smooth.  Hello Denver! Nice to make your acquaintance. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cape Cod, The Prequel, Our Drive To Paradise

Driving to Cape Cod this year was an ordeal; and that’s putting it mildly.  It was 5 ½ hours of being tortured by every type of driver that I hate.  And you do too.  We start off with the weaver.  Already you know what this jerk is all about. He’s in a lowered Honda Civic with orange rims and a loud muffler.  In and out of traffic, switching lanes without signaling.  Darting into the tiniest of spaces. You know this guy.  Hey buddy, pal, you want to end your life, no problem.  But count me out.

The cutter is a particularly arrogant asshole in that he or she is too good to wait with the servants, peons, and other assorted little people on something so trivial as a five-mile backup to the bridge.  No, they try to zip right in and jack your spot.  Didn’t you know? It’s their right. Don’t let him cut in front of you.  You say. But if you don’t, YOU cause the 10-car pile up.  Who needs that grief?   So you be a gentleman and take the high road by letting him in, clenching the steering wheel, gritting your teeth, muttering under your breath if you have kids in the car, screaming and cursing if you don't.  

The most loathsome creatures of all are ones who drive in the breakdown lane.  Some d-bag in a late model minivan, stuffed to the gills with kids and gear, bombing down the road, just kicking up dirt and debris, like nobody’s business, without a care in world. La-de-dah-de-dah.  Yes! You know this lowlife because they are the same ones that don’t know how to count in the 12 item or less aisle.  The same ones that take up two spaces in the parking lot; both of them handicapped.  The same ones who never have exact change but always end up in the exact change lane.   “Look kids,” he says, “This is how d-bags drive. Take notes.” 

Well, much to my delight, I would like to tell you that they met with an untimely bump in their vacation plans. Oh yes.  Cop cars planted themselves at both ends of the breakdown lane.  No one would let them back in.  It was a thing of beauty.  Drivers started cheering and no one posted a police presence on WAZE.  Yes! Finally, a cop when you needed one!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cape Cod, The Final Installment

It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon on a gorgeous sunny day, and the wind has picked up.  Two young geniuses are pushing their expensive mountain bikes through the rutted sand.  Sand is flying around either being windblown or kicked up by these two boys.  You don’t have to be an engineer to figure out that sand, grit, and salt water aren’t recommended around trivial bike things like brakes and shifters. 

Pulling up the rear are the mom, dad and grandma, “The Talking Caboose.”  You see, grandma is yacking it up on her phone non-stop for the whole world to hear. 
Dad is, of course, carrying what looks like a tent.  This should be fun to watch. 

The boys stop and of course plant their bikes on the wet sand, and to add insult to injury, perpendicular to the wind; thus exposing the entire length of the bike to the wind. Immediately the wind picks up and blows both bikes over into the salty, wet sand. Now blowing sand and grit, not to mention salt water is finding its way into every nook and cranny of these two bikes. Next stop bike shop. 

While the bro’s are watching their bikes fall down in the sand and get ruined, dad whips out, you guessed it, the tent.  Apparently, putting up tents during extremely windy conditions is the new black on Cape Cod this year.  In any event, it is a thing of beauty to witness. Dad is nearly airborne since the tent has caught wind and he is struggling to keep his feet on the ground.  Mom pulls out of the bag a rod-like apparatus that snaps open and extend about 12 feet.  As these rods whip in the wind, they nearly poke the out eyes out of a nearby toddler, innocently playing in the sand.  These deadly rods are Jedi light sabers on steroids.  Grandma is oblivious to everything because she is still talking non-stop on her phone.

Dad is now sitting on the tent while mom starts to thread the rods into the loops on the tent.  The wind is buffeting them around and the tent goes airborne again.  Whoever said that two heads are better than one never met these two.  This tent refuses to stay on the ground. Undeterred, dad tries a new tack; he reverts to caveman days by using a rock to hammer smooth metal pegs into the wet sand in an attempt to keep the tent on the ground.  Will it hold?  Not!  He bangs one peg in, turns his back to get the second peg and the first one pulls out.  Repeat. After three failures you want to go over to him and shake some sense into his head.  “IT WON’T WORK!”  While dad is doing his Neanderthal shtick, mom finally succeeds in getting the rods into the tent, but not before nearly shish-kababing grandma.  Grandma on the other hand doesn’t even bat an eyelash being so engrossed in her conversation on the phone.  The two boys are picking up their bikes for what seems the hundredth time. Finally the tent is up but won’t stay on the ground.  Solution? Insert grandma inside the tent and weigh her down with small boulders.  I kid you not.