Night Walks

Is Someone Behind Me?

Do you get an uneasy feeling when you take an evening walk? Do you hear the opening bars of Thriller as you make your way down a darkened street? Yeah, me too. One of my favorite forms of exercise used to be taking a nightly stroll after I got home from work, when it’s deathly still and dark-dark outside. In the past, I’ve always enjoyed these walks. They would help me unwind and clear my head after a hectic night at work. However, recently walking at night freaks me out a little. Maybe it’s because I’ve just had another birthday, and I’m one year closer to that Social Security check. Who knows? 

The main reason I began night walks in the first place was to ensure my hound dog Skittles wouldn’t have another run-in with a skunk in our backyard. I figured that most skunks, opossums, and other nocturnal creatures would steer clear of our neighborhood sidewalks. Since our crazy dog is unfortunately no longer with us, I have found these night walks have taken on a decidedly creepy bent. As I round the school and head back home, I’m not sure who I’ll run into first. A maniac in a Scream mask, or one of our local boys in blue, asking why I’m hanging around a school at night. On second thought, maybe I’m the creepy one.

When I was a teenager, I never thought about the night as I headed out with my buddies. As we visited some cute girls or got into some good-natured trouble, the dark was our constant traveling companion. Nowadays, it seems like my night walks have taken on a certain menace that I can’t quite put my finger on. As I mentioned earlier, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or it could be that I’ve watched one too many episodes of Supernatural. However, I think it’s mainly because I don’t have my crazy dog protecting me from things that go bump in the night anymore. I’ll keep up my nightly walks and pretend I’m still out with my dear old Skittles. She always had my back. Maybe she still does. 

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Taking Pictures

Getting Just the Right Shot

Probably like most dads, I’m only in a handful of our family photos. Although my wife has recently become a shutterbug with her Samsung Galaxy S9, about 99.9% of our family pictures have been taken with me behind the lens. That’s okay. I’ve come to accept my role as Family Archivist. It runs in my family. Dad was our Videographer and took his job very seriously. We have Super 8 footage of the Wiki-Wiki bus in Hawaii he was supposed to be on, as it made its way out to the plane without him.

Mom was our family Photographer. However, she was better known as The Decapitator. This was because she managed to chop off the tops of our heads in just about every picture. I recently came across a photo of me and my date from the Lakeview High Homecoming Dance in my senior year. Sure enough, scalped again. I like to think I do a better job than Mom did with her Instamatic. Because of all of the advances in digital photography, I’ve become pretty good at capturing just the right shot.

I take my role as archivist very seriously. If I’m not going to get these shots, who will? Recently, at my nephew Bret’s wedding, I was the only one who shot the pictures and video of the ceremony from the front. The rest of the guests were on either side of the gazebo. I stood for the whole ceremony, but it was worth it. This illustrates Jerry’s Photo Tip #1: Sometimes you gotta move your ass to get the shot! However, never insert yourself into the event, and always make sure to stay out of the way of the professionals. 

Anyway, I spent the morning after the wedding uploading all of the pictures to Amazon Prime Photos. It’s really amazing to use your HDTV as a giant photo album. One of my goals for next year is to upload ALL of our family pictures to Prime Photos. This means scanning and uploading a ton of snapshots that are still in CVS envelopes. It’s going to be a tedious task, but the end result will certainly be worth it.

Hey, it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful sunrise. Where did I leave my camera again?

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Let’s Go Ride a Bike

It’s Time to Get Out There

(Disclaimer: I can assure you that there is no link between the title of this article and a certain song from a certain movie about a flying nanny.) 

Early fall is my favorite time of year to dust off my bike, pump up the tires, and hit the road. After being coaxed into hot evening rides by my wife all summer, there is nothing better than a cool cruise around the neighborhood. Once the leaves start to turn and the temperatures drop, taking a ride in a light jacket and jeans is a refreshing change of pace. However, that was not the case today. Summer is hanging on by her fingernails, at least until somebody shows her the date on the calendar. The party’s over my dear, see you next year.

Anyway, whenever I ride my bike (a 29” monster from Walmart), I am transported back in time to riding the streets with my childhood friends. As I pointed out in another article when you’re a kid, you have a map of your neighborhood, and surrounding streets, downloaded into your brain’s GPS. This occurred to me today, as I pedaled my way around my neighborhood streets. Having lived here for 27 years, you’d think I’d have a better grasp of my subdivision by now. Nope. I wound up making a wrong turn and came across a garage sale. Since a squirrel had destroyed my bird feeder the previous winter, I had been on the lookout for a replacement at a good price. They happened to have a very stylish one, priced at only $2. What a deal!

Anyway, not all my bike memories as a kid are pleasant. I remember the time when I fell off the handlebars of my friend’s bike. Ouch. Then, to add insult to injury, my “friend” rode his bike over me. Good times. However, I do have a good handlebars memory. Back in the day, junior high boys rode bikes and the girls walked, everywhere. If you wanted to talk to a girl, your options were pretty limited. You either hopped off your bike and walked it, or rode alongside slowly, and hoped you didn’t keel over. However, if a young lady needed a lift, you were in heaven. 

I remember one time when I gave one of the cutest girls at Arthur Jr. High, a ride on my handlebars. I was literally riding on air, while making sure to avoid any potholes that might send my beautiful passenger face-first into the pavement. I managed to get to her destination without incident. This earned me a few bonus points among the cool kids. Good times.

So get out there! Before long, the leaves will be all over your lawn, and winter will be arriving with a vengeance. Take a ride while you can, and save some hot cider and donuts for me!  

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Old 98

There’s Nothing Like It

(Author’s Note: Since summer is officially drawing to a close, I thought I would post this story about sunshine and warm weather to tide us over until next year.)

My wife and I were just taking our last walk down Old 98 for the season. Old 98 is also known as Scenic Gulf Highway in Destin, Florida. It’s part of our daily routine down here, and we wouldn’t miss it for the world. Listening to the emerald green waves breaking on the sugar-white sand is a wonderful part of our Destin Soundtrack. Also, our morning walk is one way we burn off all of the delicious seafood we have been eating since we arrived. We’ve been to many beach towns over the years, but for me and my wife, nothing compares to Destin. 

It never ceases to amaze me that even though there are plenty of resorts and vacation rentals on Old 98, it still has a very laid back vibe. I think part of the reason is that there’s not much build-able waterfront real estate located right on the beach. This results in a great view, even if your condo is across the street from the gulf. Also, scattered among all of the resorts and hotels are some of our favorite restaurants. Places like Pompano Joe’s, the Surf Hut, and the Crab Trap. All of them are right on the beach, so you can enjoy warm gulf breezes as you savor some of the best seafood in town. There’s nothing like a wonderful meal, as you enjoy another spectacular Destin sunset.

Recently, we drove through Perdido Key, which straddles the Florida / Alabama line. We were on our way to see a Bryan Adams concert in Orange Beach, AL. There was absolutely no charm to the area at all. Just a long stretch of white sand dunes and a few gigantic hotels. It was about 5 p.m. on a Friday and there wasn’t a soul around. Contrast that with Destin, which has a all-day parade of families heading to the beach with chairs, coolers, and beach toys. There are also other folks who are constantly walking, running, or cycling by. Plus, an occasional gaggle of bikini-clad heartbreakers heading down to the beach, looking for some fresh victims. Yes, it’s quite a show on Old 98. Can’t wait till next year. 

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Locker Room Etiquette

Gross is Gross

(Warning: Extreme Content! Do not read during breakfast!) 

The other day at the gym, I was treated to a sight I could have done without. As I entered the men’s locker room, I saw an older gentleman standing there in his tennis shoes and nothing else. Most guys use a towel in the locker room or try to keep their nakedness to a minimum. Not this guy. He had one foot up on the bench, applying lotion to his aged body. It was as if he was preparing to swim the English Channel. I just about gagged, but I held it together long enough to find a locker far away from this exhibitionist. What is it with some people? Maybe this guy was a porn star back before television and doesn’t have any inhibitions left. All I know isit was a disgusting way to start my day. Hopefully, writing this article will somehow purge it from my memory.

Outside of catching that riveting documentary, Porky’s, it’s still unclear to me what really goes on inside a women’s locker room. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Most guys probably have no idea what goes on in there either. Although the porn industry has provided us with many detailed theories on the subject, I’m pretty sure they’ve exaggerated just a bit. Regardless, I have a hard time believing that some old ladies are stripping down in there and slathering themselves up with lotion. I mean gross is gross, regardless of gender. Also, it doesn’t matter if she’s a senior citizen or some hot young thing in her 20s. Now I’m getting off track. Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, now I remember. Our community center has a wonderful pool area, with a sauna, and my personal favorite, the steam room. After a good workout, I love to enter my personal rainforest for a few minutes, just to relax and decompress. What I don’t need is a moron doing lunges or stretches in there. Some low-rent Richard Simmons, trying to finish his workout by ruining my quiet time. I haven’t taken a poll, but I’m sure most folks who use the steam room would agree with me on this one. In conclusion, if you use a locker room or steam room regularly, please be considerate of your fellow members. As for the rest of us, “Look Away!” If I’ve ruined your breakfast, I apologize.

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The Power of Napping

Catch One if You Can

Ask any new mom, and she’ll tell you that a good nap is almost a magical experience. When her little bundle of joy stops fussing and finally dozes off, she will instantly sack out on the nearest couch as well. A few days ago, we had another addition to our family. My cousin and his wife are the proud grandparents of a beautiful baby girl. I’m sure our new mom will figure out her little girl’s nap routine fairly quickly, and take advantage of it whenever possible. Catching a quick nap can be the difference between a good day and a miserable one.

Personally, I have always been a big fan of naps. My affection for a quick snooze began many years ago when I worked on the afternoon shift at my last job. After I got moved to days, I was missing my afternoon sleepy-bye time. Since I am no longer working there, I can reveal my lunchtime secret. I used to work on a floor full of conference rooms. I would take my lunch in one of these rooms, then set a wake-up timer on my phone and drift off to slumberland. I only got caught a couple of times, and thankfully, it was by friendly co-workers. I hate to think what would have happened if the CEO showed up early for a meeting!

Working on the afternoon shift, my mornings were spent getting the kids off to school. Hopefully on time, with everything they needed for the day. If you’re in a similar situation, I strongly caution you NOT to go back to bed. You’ll wake up in a few hours, and your whole day will be shot! Adios, yoga. I find it best to take my siestas after lunch, and then only for an hour maximum. Normally, I wake up after about forty-five minutes anyway. Also, you may find after a catnap (like Thomas Edison) you wake up with all sorts of great ideas for your goals. Take action on these immediately! If nothing else, write them down, so you can work on them later. So, hang in there new moms! Nap time is coming, then bliss.  

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School Clothes

The Annual Shopping Torture

Now that Labor Day has passed and all the little children are safely out of our hair for another school year, it made me think about buying school clothes. When I was a kid, there were few things that me, my brothers, and my sister hated more than that annual shopping torture.

My Mom would try in vain to find clothes that would hopefully make it to Thanksgiving, before we started to grow out of them. And don’t get me started on how stylish these threads were. Since my Dad was a detective with the Detroit Police Force, it seemed like Mom was trying to dress us boys like little versions of Dad. Minus the sideburns and wide ties.

I’m a big guy, and I currently measure six foot three inches tall. However, before gravity started yanking me back down to earth, I measured six foot three and a half inches. However, I have been seeing a chiropractor lately, so I may have gotten back that missing half inch.

Anyway, I remember one summer, when we went on our annual shopping excursion in late July. We probably had our vacation week in Irish Hills scheduled for August, so we had to get the shopping done before then. Coincidentally, that was the year I shot up six inches over the summer. You wouldn’t have thought it was possible,  but I pulled it off.

With four kids to keep track of, my Mom didn’t really notice I had grown half a foot in such a short amount of time. Then came, “try-on day”. We would get dressed up in all of our school clothes, just to make sure they still fit correctly, weren’t damaged, or needed to be exchanged. When I put on my stylish threads, my Mom just about had a heart attack. I looked like Frankenstein, in pants and a shirt borrowed from a third-grader.

What followed was a quick babysitter call, followed by a land-speed record trip to Federal’s to exchange my undersized clothing for something from the Men’s department. Hopefully, none of today’s moms had to go through that little episode, but you never know. Growth spurts do happen. Years later, the same thing happened with my son Kevin, so what goes around comes around. Hey moms, at least the little monsters are back in school. Enjoy it!   

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Birthday Spankings

You Have to Catch Me First!

The other day, I saw a sign on a neighbor’s front lawn for an upcoming birthday party. For some reason, I wondered if the birthday boy or girl was going to get a Birthday Spanking. Back in the day, these mock spankings would be dished out at every birthday party. It didn’t just happen once either. Any adult had the right to whack your behind and give you a pinch to grow an inch, but they had to catch you first. Back when I was a kid, I said a lot of hellos from the other side of the room, just to be on the safe side. While researching this article, I found out some countries give Birthday Punches, so I suppose I got off lucky!

Recently, I missed a birthday party for our one-year-old nephew or grand-nephew. It’s hard to keep track of all the family titles these days. Anyway, since he was turning one, I wondered if anyone gave him a spanking. I tried to remember when this annual abuse started when we were kids. Probably, from the first birthday on. Of course, those were different times. Looking at photos from my first birthday party, you can clearly see shots of smoking adults, ashtrays all over the place (within kids’ easy reach), and giant beer bottles that must have held 16 oz, or more. The sheer lack of child-proofing would be enough to send modern-day parents over the edge. As my Aunt Aurilee used to say, “I like when Jerry takes a sip of my beer, there’s always more in the bottle when he’s done!” Yee-uck, slobber!!

Needless to say, times have changed. Nowadays, if an adult so much as raises a hand against a kid, there’s a good chance he or she will be brought up on charges. Even if it’s a justifiable smack on the hand for reaching for a hot stove. These days, if parents witnessed their children being tossed on the lap of a family member, and given the appropriate number of swats, the police would surely be called. Just for fun, it might be worth starting a “Birthday Spanking Challenge”, just to watch parents collectively freak out. Then post the videos on YouTube! I should be careful though. I just turned 60 the other day. If someone tries to spank me, they could be whacking my rear end for a very long time. Just remember, you gotta catch me first!

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Hamster vs Hampster

For the Love of Pete, Get it Right!

In this Facebook / Twitter world, we’ve all seen stories that make us say, “What?” Recently, I heard about one of those gems. It’s a Millennial tale, and I tend to take those with a grain of salt. I mean, those kids can’t all be useless little crybabies, wearing t-shirts that say, “My Mommy Says I’m Special”. Can they? Well, it turns out at least one can. I had a hard time believing this story at first. However, it appears to be true, if you can believe the tweets of the woman in the office, who witnessed this meltdown.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the incident. A twenty-nine-year-old Millennial woman threw a major fit at work. The reason for this outburst was that her boss had the temerity to point out she had misspelled hamster in her op-ed draft. For some reason, she spelled it with a “p” (as in hampster dance). This spelling-challenged young lady stated that she had always spelled it that way, and she didn’t see any reason to change it.

Say what? You’re wrong, get over it! Nope, she doubled-down on the crazy by calling her mommy. She had an on-speaker conversation in a common area of the office. Now, here’s the really disturbing part, Mommy backed her up and told her that her boss was an idiot! Really? How does this help her precious little snowflake adjust to the real world? Quick answer: It doesn’t.

From personal experience, I am constantly being corrected while writing these articles. Sometimes, it seems like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Grammarly all have it in for me. Of course, I don’t take it personally. I’m grateful I didn’t publish a bunch of typos and grammatical errors. For me, this illustrates the fallacy of the Snowflake Generation.

They all have their Personal Truth. If they can show you their work, 2 + 2 does indeed = 5. Hey, you can spell hamster anyway you want in your private life. However, when you’re at work, act like a frickin’ grownup! You represent your company, and if you’re writing an op-ed for publication, get it right! Stop calling for the Wambulance! It’s terrifying to think this generation will be in charge one day. Please pray for this country, pray hard.

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The First Leaf

The First of Many

A few days ago, I noticed a red leaf on my lawn. For crying out loud, I’ve just gotten used to cutting the damn grass every week. Since we’re heading into late August / early September, seeing leaves dropping this early tends to mean we’re in for a pre-fall cooldown. Which I’m sure will be great news for all those kids who have been practicing football and soccer in the scorching summer heat. Temperature-wise, we are heading into an extended downturn of highs in the upper 70s. Warm days, followed by cool comfortable nights in the 50s. Sleeping heaven.

My love affair with fall is only exceeded by my love affair with Christmas. However this year, I’ve decided to give fall the attention it deserves. We generally don’t go overboard with decorations, but this year I really want to make Halloween special. Probably like most people, I have a tendency to gloss over the fall season, in preparation for the Christmas chaos. The website Organized Home, doesn’t even have a Halloween Countdown Checklist, which is pretty surprising. Unlike Christmas, I generally just (bat) wing it for Halloween. However, this year I thought might be a good idea to develop a checklist, to make my spooky preparations a little less hectic.

The other night, I ran up to my local Big Lots just before closing. After I hustled through the wide-open doors, I noticed a very realistic Halloween bat decoration flying around the store. Then I realized that was no decoration, he was the real deal. Vlad was pretty large, as bats go, and he even had the white chest markings. So it was pretty easy to picture him transforming into a guy in a black tuxedo, slicked-back hair, and a pointy overbite.

The store clerks and I tried to shoo him out the open doors, with no success. So I headed to the audio section of the store, to pick up a new set of earbuds. On the way back, Vlad came swooping at me from the Halloween aisle! No lie. If he’s getting into the Halloween spirit a little early, who am I to argue? Crack open the hot cider and grab me a tasty donut. The fall colors are coming soon to a neighborhood near you. 

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