Suddenly, September Traffic

If Gershwin were a Midwestern commuter, he might have written: “Summertime, when the traffic is easy.”

That’s because, at any given point during June, July, and August, a good chunk of the population is on vacation. That means, in turn, a reduced number of cars crowding onto highways and byways at the peak hours. The result, typically, is a smooth and pleasant ride to work.

When school starts up again, though, everything changes — which is why it’s not only schoolchildren who dread the words “back to school.” Vacations are over. School buses and school speed zones are blinking their yellow lights. Everyone is back in town and — what’s worse — everyone is leaving for work at about the same time, after they’ve dropped their kid off at school or the bus stop. People who might have been leaving for work at 8 in July are now on the road at 7.

It’s like the Super Bowl, where everybody is watching the same TV channel and uses the bathroom at the same time, placing huge burdens on municipal sewer systems at the same moment in time. Roads that formerly ran free and easy are now clogged and filled to rank overflowing with traffic, and it stinks.

It’s why September driving is usually the worst and most congested of the year. This week, it was suddenly September traffic in Columbus.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

IMG_20140826_200111

I’ve always thought and hoped that I was a special dog.  I’ve tried to be good, I really have.  I’ve chewed a few things, sure, and sometimes the food I eat comes right back up again, but I can’t help that.  I protect our place when cats come around, and, unlike another dog whose name starts with K, I never have “accidents” in the house.

But I knew I was special when I saw my picture on the cover of a magazine.  And, at about the same time, the Leader started giving me wet food out of cans!  Food out of cans, can you imagine?  That’s when I knew how special I really am.

Now, when I was through the neighborhood, I know all eyes are on me.  “There she goes,” they are saying, “the special dog who was on the cover of a magazine.”. Other dogs in the neighborhood, like Sassy, act like nothing has changed, but they can’t fool me.  I’m famous!

If being famous means getting that wet food from the can, I like it!  Speaking of which . . . I am hungry!

P.S.  Don’t forget today is National Dog Day!

The Day Of Golfing Acceptance

When I got back from golf today Kish asked me, brightly, “How was golf today?”  “I sucked, but it was okay,” I replied . . . and it actually was true.  I really did suck — horribly, completely, irrefutably, from tee to green and every hazard in between — but it was okay.

IMG_1090That’s a big change for me.  I think I may have reached the fabled Day of Golfing Acceptance.

When I was younger, I hoped that one day I would be a good golfer who could regularly shoot rounds in the low 80s.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, and I realize I have neither the time, nor the talent, nor the temperament to devote the hours of practice needed to make a significant improvement in my game.  The difference now is that I’m not going to become infuriated at myself and the Golf Gods about the bad shots and the bad scores.  So I suck.  So what?  I’m reconciled to the fact that I’m always going to be a mediocre player who shoots in the 90s.

That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the game.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s more enjoyable when you’re not blurting out awful curses at shots into the weeds or bad bounces on the green.  And who knows?  Maybe some day I’ll decide I do want to try to be a better player — but that day is not today.  Today I was awful, but I liked getting the exercise and sharing a few laughs with my golfing companions.  I’ll take it.

The Season Of Hand-Out-The-Window Drivers

The weather’s not bad right now, as we wait expectantly for the next Midwestern exposure to the dreaded Polar Vortex.  That means it’s the season of the hand-out-the-window drivers — that small fraction of motorists who like tooling down the road with their forearms and hands flapping in the breeze.

IMG_2905Of course, the HOTW drivers flout standard driving conventions.  Obviously, they aren’t keeping both hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock, as we were taught to do by our hectoring drivers’ ed instructors. And there has been no need for a driver’s hand to be out of the car since the hand-signaling Model T era, before automakers made the turn signal standard equipment.  In fact, air conditioning means there’s no need for the window to be open at all.

Yet still the HOTW drivers persist.  Some use the elbow on the door frame, hand clutching the edge of the roof approach, others extend the arm outward and hold the side-view mirror, and still others just let their hands wander free in the air stream, like a happy, tongue-lolling dog with its head outside the car.  But, why?  Why expose the arm to the outer elements?  Why have the forearm skin battered by the random insects that meet their fates mashed against a car windshield?  Why not experience the pristine wonder of the completely enclosed, carefully climate-controlled, fully interior driving experience?

I’m guessing the HOTWers have a bit of rebel in them.

Penny, The Cover Girl

In today’s mail we received Healthy Pet magazine.  Imagine our surprise, and double-take, when we saw our dog prominently featured on the front cover.

IMG_2906That’s right — that’s Penny, looking all noble, in the circle on the cover.  Sure, her name is misspelled, but that kind of publicity is priceless.

Upon close examination, we saw that it was, in fact, our Penny — but it’s not the actual, glossy cover of the magazine.  Instead, it’s a kind of add-on cover courtesy of the Animal Hospital of New Albany, where Penny’s veterinarian practices.  Presumably it was added specifically for our benefit, and the homes of other four-legged patients received special covers about their pets.

We’ll have to save the cover, because along with her brief brush with stardom Penny’s medical schedule is advertised for all the world to see.  There’s no federal law protecting the privacy of pooches, so there’s no problem with a magazine cover that embarrassingly discloses that Penny will be getting that heartworm/lyme/E/A test in a few weeks.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t come back positive, now that the mailman knows all about it.

My Low-Carb Lunch (II)

IMG_2898Today I was up in Cleveland, and when lunchtime rolled around there was nary a food truck in sight.  So, regrettably, there was no apparent way to continue the celebration of Food Truck Summer today.  Fortunately, the Fast Talker consulted some kind of map app on her smartphone and rattled off a list of options.  The only one I was able to hear clearly in the rapid-fire torrent of words was Urban Farmer, which sounded intriguing — so that’s where we went.

Urban Farmer is a steakhouse, at bottom, but it looks like it’s a strong proponent of local sourcing, organic options, and a lot more.  It’s been open for three months, in a part of Cleveland that is being rejuvenated by the opening of the Convention Center on St. Clair Avenue.  It’s got a quirky interior, with mismatched chairs and unusual lighting fixtures and an outdoor eating area — which you don’t often see in a steakhouse.  It looks like a place that would be fun to frequent for an after-work drink.

It also offered just what the doctor ordered for my low-carb diet:  a lunch special today that consisted of a 6 ounce New York cut steak (which looked like a lot more than 6 ounces) and creamed spinach.  I scraped the bread crumbs off the top of the creamed spinach in a nod to low-carb sensibilities, then alternated forkfuls of the succulent, almost buttery steak with the creamed spinach.  Normally I wouldn’t eat creamed spinach under any circumstances — it’s one reason why, as a kid, I preferred Bugs Bunny to Popeye — but I was desperately hungry, and the combination of the rich steak with the creamed spinach was satisfying and made me feel good about my adherence to my new eating regimen.  The Fast Talker, who is normally not a big eater, got a good-sized, rich-looking pork sandwich and ate every bit of it, which tells you something.

I hope Urban Farmer hangs around.

Captain Kirk Vs. Mr. Sulu

Apparently William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk) and George Takei (Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu) don’t like each other.  In fact, they really don’t like each other.  It all relates to some comments Takei made a a comedy roast about Shatner, or to Shatner’s belief that he wasn’t invited to Takei’s wedding, or . . . something.

This is distressing news for people like me, who were fans of Star Trek.  We want to believe that the members of the Starship Enterprise crew got along like ice cream and apple pie.  After all, they were part of a united world where peace and science reigned and Earth was leading a United Federation of Planets in efforts to peacefully explore the galaxy.

Fortunately, every true Star Trek fan also knows that nothing is as it seems.  If you think about the plots of the episodes, you realize there are lots of explanations for the feud that allow us to cling to our cherished illusion that the crew members are all close friends.  Such as:  (1) We are actually living in an alternate universe where Sulu has a scar and Kirk is a bloodthirsty, marauding pirate; (2) Kirk’s body has been occupied by some kind of shimmering life force that wants people to fight because it lives on hate; (3) Kirk and Sulu are being controlled by an alien who turns out to be (a) a little child, or(b)  a chicken-like creature that is destroyed in a smoky meltdown after Kirk smashes his magic wand; (4) Kirk and Sulu are being controlled by phony Plato-like intellectuals who have consumed alien plants that give them the power to mentally direct the actions of other people; (5) Kirk and Sulu have been exposed to some virus that is making them old and cantankerous.

Oh, wait . . . they are old and cantankerous!  Too bad Bones is no longer with us to cure them.