Friday, September 22, 2017

This Blog Is One Year Old Today

Well, it's been quite a year since I began all this on September 22, 2016. On a personal level, I've been up, been down, and am on another upward swing. On another level, we've seen a lot happen here in the United States Of America.

I'd like to thank everyone who reads what I write. I know that some posts are less interesting to a large audience than others. Some posts have as many as forty views and some as few as a half dozen.

I'm okay with that. If you see a title for a post, or start to read it, and then think that reading the post isn't worth the time it takes, that's fine.

Let me catch you up on a few things.

1- It's been ninety-three days since the last time I had a case management meeting here at the Binghamton Y.M.C.A. and I've filed a formal complaint with the state agency in Albany that handles these kinds of things. The annual review of their paperwork is scheduled for two weeks from today, so it will be interesting to see just what the investigator finds.

2- I made it through the summer without having air conditioning in my room. There were several days that the heat became too much to handle in the room. My method of dealing with that was to either hang out in the resident lounge where there is A/C or to buy a day pass for the B.C Transit buses and ride around in comfort all day on the buses. I usually paired this with multiple stops to eat, to shop for groceries and to do anything else that needed doing. Careful planning of which bus to take at what time meant I usually spent no more than ten minutes in the hot weather outside.

#3- Still no luck finding a job. I even tried several temp agencies, with no success. The staff at one agency told me to my face that I had wasted their time by coming in and filling out an application. They had a very unprofessional attitude.

Wishing you a safe and fun weekend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Some Personal Sports Memories

Do you know, or have ever known, someone who when watching a sporting event, has a "I could do that better" kind of attitude? Maybe this person just comes across as feeling that way, or maybe goes so far as to say it out loud.

The truth of it is, of course, that most of us who aren't professional athletes aren't anywhere close to being good enough to play our chosen sport as a career. I've known a few who were good enough but didn't quite make it. One was a quarterback who went to training camp with two different teams. He was one of the first players cut with the first team, but was having a really good camp with the second one when he blew his knee out.

He had a degree in sports management and wound up being the substitute gym teacher for the male students my senior year in high school. One day, we were warming up for class and he just stood there watching me.

He watched me throw the ball several times and then shook his head in disappointment. He said that it was just too bad that I was so short at 5'9". He said I had all the tools a QB needs. To this day, I can still drop back, roll out to either side, and throw a deep ball with accuracy. My mechanics, he said, were nearly perfect. and still are; my throwing motion results in a perfect spiral almost every time.

There's just no way I could ever play in college, let alone the N.F.L., at my height. But it's nice to know that that's the only thing that stopped me from being able to.  I did play two years of football as a young man; studying game film and learning game plans were both things I was quite good at.

I had some other good things happen in that senior year of high school in gym class. I hustled all the way from my place at short stop to make a play on a runner at first base. He was called safe but to this day, I really do believe I got the tag on him before his hand touched the plate. Even with his being called safe, I felt good for having shown the hustle that I had.

I also got to play a game at catcher in gym class that year. My team won by a final score of 3-2 and the way I called the pitches was a big part of that. Again, just so nice to do such a good job, even at a high school level of play.

On the basketball court, I made a sweet pass to my friend Mark, who caught the ball and drilled the winning shot. That too, came in my senior year.

Much more recently, I was on the court here at the Y.M.C.A. on a winter afternoon. This was three years ago, when I was forty-eight. A young man who exhibited a rather unpleasant style of behavior walked up to me and said "Get off the court, old man.".

This, I took as a challenge. I had, at that time, a cool looking red-white-and-blue ball. I calmly dribbled it out to the perimeter, stopped and turned around. I checked twice to make sure I was outside of the three-point line. I measured the shot once, and then a second time.

As I let the ball go, one thought went through my mind. Which was "If you're ever going to make a three point shot, which you never have, now is the time.".

I'm proud to say that the shot was nothing but net; a perfect shot that sent the young man off the court in silence.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Remembered Things

One of the things about being my age, which is fifty-one, is that I've seen a lot of things come and go. Some had such a brief appearance on the stage of pop culture that they're almost totally forgotten. Others were around for years or even decades.

One of these that I would like to talk about are Kiddierama booths. These were small booths that had cartoons kids could watch while sitting in the booth. If I recall correctly, the cost was 25 cents. The cartoons would rotate so you never saw the same one twice in a row. These were an assortment of various cartoons. They included Mighty Mouse, Woody Woodpecker and several other characters.

The booths were usually located in department stores, but you would sometimes see them in other places. According to some sources, the owners of the company that built and serviced them tried to convert them to using VHS tapes in the mid to late 1980s. They had been using Super 8 film prints, it seems. The last time I saw one of these was in the bus station in Syracuse, New York, in 1987.

This, of course, was the old bus station, which was in a bad neighborhood and was run down. It's since been replaced by a very nice and new one in a much better location. I had a long layover between getting off one bus and transferring to my next one, so I watched cartoons to pass the time.

Another thing I remember, and these were around for a long time, were the small television sets located in bus stations. These sets were black-and-white. You got something like ten or fifteen minutes for 25 cents. These had no cable connection, so all you could watch were over the air stations.

Again, it was a nice way to pass the time. I always liked watching local newscasts in various cities to get something of a feel for what each city was like.

These became obsolete when the switch from analog to digital broadcasting was made. Retrofitting them with converter boxes would have been much too expensive to do.

I'll finish this post by talking about something that did not last very long. Does anyone else out there remember cable radio? This was radio delivered over a cable television system. Now, to be honest, I am aware that there are a few such systems still going strong, but for the most part, the whole idea came and went fairly quickly.

The neat thing about this was that usually, the fidelity of whatever you were listening to was quite good. The local company we had in this area, which was named New Channels, offered this at a very reasonable rate as an add-on to basic service.

If enough people read this post and like it to warrant a follow-up, I'll post one.

And as always, thank you for reading.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Labor Day Weekend

We're close to, or at, Labor Day weekend, depending on how you define it. If you have Friday through Monday off from work or school, then to you, it's a four day weekend. Personally, I've always thought of it as a three day weekend. Either way, it marks the unofficial end of summer.

Today, it felt like autumn all day long. When I went out to run errands this morning, I had to wear a jacket. There was a crispness in the air that you only get in autumn or the days leading up to it. I went out again a little after eight tonight to get a sub for dinner, and it was cooler still. I spent a few minutes looking at the moon before I came inside because the clouds that were drifting along made for an amazing sight with the moon as a backdrop.

I have experienced fifty Labor Days, with number fifty-one coming up, Some have been memorable and some have been completely mundane. With the recent passing of Jerry Lewis, I'm remembering all the M.D.A. telethons I watched over the years. I remember the year when several of us kids who lived on Kellum Road went from door to door collecting money to donate. We piled as many of us as could fit in my dad's station wagon (the second one he owned, which was green).

Off to the television station we went, and we got to appear on air during the cut-away to that hour's local portion of the telethon. We got thank you letters from the M.D.A. a few weeks later.

I remember one Labor Day when my mom sent me to our garden, which was on a neighbor's property, to pick carrots we ate at dinner.

 I remember another one when my dad and I went to the New York State Fair. One of the neat things about the fair is that there are so many things to see and to do that cost very little or nothing at all.

The fair has always been affordable, with admission usually about the same price as a movie ticket. We saw a demonstration of equestrians on their horses, which was neat. We played a round of miniature golf on a temporary course set up by a church as a fund raiser. We ate some good food at a food tent set up by another church. And we stopped on Interstate 81 to help some people whose car had suffered a flat tire. My dad and I changed the tire for them, and they were grateful.

I remember the first time we went to the fair, when we spent a whole week attending it. My family went with several other people that belonged to a club that my parents were members of. My brother and I slept in our own tent while Mom and Dad used a larger one they had borrowed. That year was the year that Rob Salamida became the youngest person ever to obtain a food permit for the fair.

I ate lunch at his food stand every day that week. I had a chance to tell him that two years ago when he taught my Marketing class at SUNY - Broome Community College. He got a kick out of that. Rob is a person who worked his you-know-what off to become very successful. He's very down to earth and an all around great guy. And he makes some amazing food products.

Whatever your plans for the weekend are, I wish you a safe and fun weekend.

Also, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Monday, August 21, 2017

This Week Is Off To A Good Start

To say that I had a bad weekend is putting it mildly. I'm having some serious issues with the person who oversees the Residential Housing program here at the Y.M.C.A. and the longer things go unresolved, the more upset I become.

For me, getting over a bad couple of days is not easy but it is important. So, today, I got up at 7:30 in the morning and got busy from the get-go. I cleaned the room, took out the trash, showered and shaved, and then put together everything I needed to cook a good meal.

I've had a craving for really good pasta sauce for a few days. I love to make it from scratch. Part of that is because I learned how to do it from my grandmother. She was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry but spent several years living in the part of Endicott that was settled primarily by Italian immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s. She learned the way to make truly authentic Italian food and taught me, in turn.

Everything she needed for her sauce came from her own garden, with one exception. She had a former neighbor who for several years had an olive grove in his back yard. She would trade some of what she had for the olive oil he made.

So, into the kitchen I went this morning. I made the base for the sauce, then added a three cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan and Asiago). I've done this so many times I never measure the amount of cheese. I just add what looks right and cross my fingers. Today, as happens most times, it was just the right amount for my taste. I do measure my spices because over-seasoned sauce is not a good thing.

I turned on the burner and set it at medium heat. I let the sauce come to a simmer and then moved it to the back burner with very low heat. I got the water ready to cook the pasta, adding just a little olive oil and a very small amount of spices. I do not care for large amounts of sodium so I never add any salt to the water. The only salt in the sauce was a small amount added to the tomato paste that I used.

The package said it would take thirteen minutes for the pasta to be "al dente", which is how I like it.

It took just that exact amount of time. I drained the pasta, poured the sauce into a clean storage container, and put the pasta in two more containers when cooled sufficiently.

I did my dishes and cleaned up not only after myself but also cleaned a minor mess someone else had left behind.

The sauce was delicious. It was robust, not overly sweet (I do not add sugar unless it's needed to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, which was not an issue today), and just tasted so good over the nicely seasoned pasta.

I still have things I need to deal with, some of which are routine, some of which are not. But today it was nice to get off to such a good start.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We Miss You, Elvis

Forty years ago today, the world lost a living legend. A man who had grown up dirt poor wound up making a fortune by being one of the very best singers ever. Elvis Presley burst onto the music scene with "That's All Right" in 1954. Over the next twenty-three years he put together one of the deepest and best catalogs of any artist ever. For most artists, a double-sided hit such as "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" backed with "Little Sister" would be the crowning achievement of their career.

For the King, it was just two more slices of rock and roll that have stood the test of time.

When he was drafted, he was offered the chance to have his duties consist of performing for his fellow service men and women. He politely refused, and was assigned as a mechanic and driver.

Yes, he made several bad movies, movies he wanted desperately to get away from with their bad writing and almost worthless songs. But he also did make some good films, like "Jailhouse Rock". If you want to see him really nail a dramatic role, watch the film "Flaming Star" from 1960.

I've been saying for years and I do believe it to be true, that no other major artist of the 20th Century had the range Elvis did. I speak not just of his singing voice, but of the kinds of material he recorded. Some people call them pop records and some call them sell outs but records like "Are You Lonesome To-Night?" and "It's Now Or Never" thrill me every single time I listen to them.

Even near the end, when RCA had to set up a mobile recording studio at his mansion, he rallied and came up with some good records. I've been a fan of "Moody Blue" ever since my Mom put the 45 single of it on our turntable one afternoon.

He had his own personal demons, ones that challenged him and changed him. We all know about the prescription pills. But less well known, or at least less recognized, is that he had multiple health problems.

In the end, he simply couldn't overcome the odds against him. There is a school of thought that says he might have lived a better life, a longer life, if he had been in a more stable relationship. His marriage was a failure. Personally, I see a man who never stood a chance of making it all that much further than he actually did. He died at the age of forty-two on August 16, 1977.

And we still miss him.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kevin The Caterer, Part 2

Hello, again. I've not posted recently because I've been very busy. Today, however, the only errand I need to run will take just fifteen minutes or so. I'm enjoying the chance to rest.

I've been working on starting my catering business. I've priced out some of the things I'll need, and purchased a few of them. I found a great bargain from QVC on something I really want, but things got so screwed up I may never do business with them again.

First, their website gave me a "this page is unavailable" message when confirming the order online. So I called customer service, who said the order had indeed not been placed. I was transferred to a sales representative who placed the order for me.

It turned out that the first order had been placed. I found this out when I got two e-mails for two orders. I called back and cancelled the second order. Now, at this point, I wasn't the least bit upset. People make mistakes, right?

I was told that the first monthly payments for the two orders ($35 ) had been pre-processed. That means that a hold on my checking account in that amount had been placed. I was also told that the payment for the second order would have the hold released within three to five business days.

Now, at this point, I was still pretty mellow about the whole situation. But on Monday, two days ago, when both holds were released, I began to wonder just what was going on. That afternoon I got a call on my cell phone from an out of state number I didn't recognize.

My standard procedure for such calls is to let the call go to voice mail. I did just that.

Yesterday, I checked my e-mail (regular and spam folders) to see if any messages about my order had been sent. There was nothing there.

So, today, I tried to log into my account on their site only to keep getting kicked back to the page to create a new account. After three tries, I gave up and called customer service.

For the record, this is where I got upset. I was told that my debit card had failed to be authorized. The order has been cancelled. My account has been cancelled. The person to whom I spoke said that the e-mail address I gave her didn't match the one on file. When I asked her to explain how two messages had reached me already, she hemmed and hawed but couldn't explain.

She also said that they tried to call me on Monday. Now I know who the out of state call was from. No voice mail message was left.

Then she said that the address I gave doesn't match what my credit union has on file. Of course, it does. I called and checked just to be certain. So, someone at QVC really screwed up on that.

What really got to me was how this person acted as though everything was my fault. I told her, not in an entirely polite tone of voice that-

#1- This was my first time ordering with QVC in over a decade. I had an account several years ago,  but all of the information associated with it is long out of date.

#2- That I may, or may not, try to create another account.

#3- That I may very well purchase the item from someone else, even if it means paying more money. I do not have a lot of time to waste, and this whole situation had indeed been a waste of my time.

 What really bothers me is that I want the item. The price QVC is selling it for is by far the lowest to be found. And I can split the payment up over six months. If I do buy it, total with shipping is $105. The next lowest price I've found from a reputable source would come to $135 and be due all at once, as well.

So, I have a decision to make. I'll let you know what happens.