Paul Thorner Collected Stories
© 2017 Paul Thorner. All rights reserved.

496. 10/12/2020

A Found Penny

When I was a boy I would follow the flashing rivulets along the curb after a rain in hopes of finding a penny. One day I was lucky and found a shiny penny. As I held it in my hand I wondered where it had been before I found it.

That penny had fallen out of my friend Jimmy's hand on his way to buy a cup of ices from Louie's shaved ices wagon one hot summer day in the late twenties. As he approached the wagon he noticed he had lost a penny. Jimmy went home and told his mother what had happened and asked for another penny. It was depression time and she didn't have too many pennies to hand out. But Jimmy was her youngest and was often picked on by his older brothers. She couldn't disappoint him.

The penny she gave him came from change she received the day before at the grocery store when she had bought a quart of milk for twelve cents. The family had used up the milk the house-to-house milkman had left. That happened sometimes when you had six children at home and you lived week-to-week on the salary your husband brought home as a street-car conductor

Doug, the grocery store owner, had taken that penny out of the cash register drawer. It was shiny and he remembered that fancy-shmancy Mrs. Gibbons, who lived in the seven-story apartment building with the elevator, had given that penny to him.  Her maid was ill and she had done the shopping. When paying for her purchase, she mentioned to Doug she kept only shiny pennies in her pocketbook.

Three days before was a Tuesday, the day of her weekly afternoon bridge game with her friends who lived nearby. As she was walking through the park she passed by the daily penny poker game played by the old men in the neighborhood. She noticed a stack of shiny pennies at one hand and asked if she could exchange a nickel for five of them. The man agreed and told her about the shiny pennies.

The man said that last week he was trying out a new beer called Harmony with friends at Pete's Bar. The beer salesman had told Pete a bold story that the beer was made in Panama where waters of the gentle Pacific mixed with waters of the raging Atlantic in the Panama Canal. A local amateur beer-maker had added berries of the Panama Berry tree in the fermentation process and unknowingly had made a drink unique in the history of beer-making. So went his story. The men at the bar were flipping coins to see who would pay for the last round. By accident, a penny had fallen into a glass of beer. It remained there for a while. When it was finally taken out and dried it had turned shiny. The others tried their pennies and sure enough they had all turned shiny. I'm not sure how the drinker had gotten the penny. It might have been change when he paid with a nickel for the two cents Daily News. Or the change for a nickel when he bought a fresh roll at the bakery. Or the change he got when paying for a penny cigarette at Sam's candy store.

That's as far back as I can go about the shiny penny history.

When I found the penny I showed it to my mother and she said I could spend it on whatever I wished. Can you imagine how proud a 7 year-old boy feels, when he points out a tootsie-roll in the display case of the local candy-store and pays for it with his own penny?

The penny isn't worth much these days, but if I see one on the floor I pick it up. It brings back old memories. I remember when it had value and I could buy a delicious tootsie-roll for a penny.


495. 9/29/2020

"Will You Marry Me?"

I never said those words to my wife, Eadie. The occasion for it never seemed to come up. During our time together we both realized that we would marry, even though I hadn't given her an engagement ring in advance. That was taken care of by the engagement party arranged by our mothers. More later.

Here's my story. We first met late one Friday afternoon waiting on a trolley line after classes at Brooklyn College. I had finished an afternoon science lab and she had been at a Welcome Freshman Social. It was February 23, 1941. She was sixteen years old, an incoming freshman. I was eighteen and a junior. Coincidently, I knew something about her. She lived across the street from me. I had seen her many times riding her brother's bike up and down the block. She had a pretty face, a fit young body with barbell curves, hair in a swinging pony-tail, often wore a tight red sweater set. She always looked like she was enjoying the activity.

She got on the trolley first and took a seat in the back. When I got on I had a decision to make - where to sit. I hadn't had any contact with girls. Up until then my time had been spent with school and sports activities with my friends. While trying to decide, I suddenly realized my one step after the other had led me to her. "May I sit here?", indicating the empty seat next to her. She nodded and I sat down.  I don't remember what we talked about on the ride or the walk home. I don't know what she said to her mother about our meeting, but whatever it was it provided a reason for our next meeting. With some high school friends, Eadie had formed a social club and the club was having a Friday afternoon get-together. She had promised to bring a portable phonograph. And that led to these special family words spoken by her mother, "Why don't you ask that nice college boy from across the street to carry the phonograph for you?" Eadie asked and I did.

That was the beginning of our friendship. We would meet on the trolley, in the cafeteria, the library, on the buildings steps, the quadrangle benches. I belonged to a club called the Bio-Med Society, whose members planned to make careers in science-related subjects and in medicine.  In the club were six member couples who were in early romantic stages. The group went bowling, roller-skating, to college activities, Broadway shows, Madison Square Garden events. I asked Eadie to be my date to one of these events and that was the start of our courtship, which evolved into our love affair.

It's now March 1944. We had been going together for three years. By this time our parents had met and approved of us as a couple. So, what's the next step? An engagement party, which our mothers dutifully arranged. I don't remember if they discussed this with Eadie or myself, but I suppose they did. My mother provided me with one of her rings to present to Eadie as an engagement ring. But the occasion to ask in advance, "Will you marry me?" had slipped by.

In June 1944 I joined the U.S. Navy. By December the separation was proving too much. At least while I was at home we could hold each another on the couch. I pined to see her and worked out a plan to get me home. My father was suffering from a heart condition and I told Eadie and my mother to contact the Red Cross and to tell them his doctor said it would help my father if I could come home on a temporary 'compassion leave'. The plan succeeded and I flew home on December 13. That evening I went to Eadie's home and said to her father, "Mr. Horowitz, I came home to marry Eadie. If you don't make us a Jewish wedding we're going down to City Hall Saturday morning to be married." (Finally a chance to say the word 'marry'.)

Some important information should be included here. Eadie was a senior at Brooklyn College and was to graduate the next month. Saturday would be her 20th birthday. She was the middle child of five. An older sister's boyfriend was in France with the U.S. Army. An older brother was in China with Chennault Flying Tigers. Mr. Horowitz thought Eadie was too young to be married and anyway, should wait her turn.  I could see he was perplexed over how to react to my statement. He finally said, "I let you into my home a skinny eighteen year-old kid and now you're telling me what I should do?"

We continued to discuss my ultimatum through Thursday, when I suggested to Mr. Horowitz that we include my parents in the decision. I knew they were on my side, while he thought they would stick with him. We met at my home Friday night where my folks convinced him it was the right step at the right time. With that settled, the rabbi and the wedding hall were hired on Saturday, the guests were invited by phone and the wedding took place Sunday afternoon. We spent our honeymoon at a midtown Manhattan hotel. Eadie joined me in Corpus Christi, Texas after her graduation.

When I pass through the Pearly Gates and see my beautiful Eadie, the first thing I will say is "Will you marry me?" She'll reply "We are married." Then I will whisper, "I know. It's our time now. Let's go somewhere private where I can love you in my arms once again."


494. 9/5/2020

The Uses of Newspapers

I was having lunch with my grand-daughter yesterday when I knocked over a glass and it shattered on the floor. I immediately picked up the larger pieces. Then I crumpled a newspaper sheet, wet it under the faucet and dabbed it on the small shards of shining glass, which stuck to the paper. It was an automatic reaction. "Wow," my granddaughter said. "Where'd you learn that trick, Grandpa?" "It as an automatic reaction," I replied. "I learned  it from my mother, about ninety years ago."
My mother and father had taught me other uses for a newspaper sheet. One was obvious on Friday afternoons when my mother covered the kitchen floor with newspaper after she had washed it. Wet, bunched, newspaper sheets were great for washing and polishing windows. Newspapers were used to pack away and protect Passover dishes and glassware until next year's holiday. You packed seasonal caps and hats with newspaper to keep their shape. If you didn't have a large brown paper bag, you could use a newspaper to make a book cover. If you didn't have a flyswatter, you could roll up a newspaper and use it as a substitute. Newspapers could be used as shelf liners.

My father showed me how to fold a newspaper to make an airplane and fly it across the room. Also, how to make a painter's hat from paper. Sometimes the light bulb glass breaks in the socket. He taught me a good way to remove it is to wad up some newspaper, press it into the base of the broken bulb and turn it free.  Also, how to protect windows when painting them - by wetting long strips of newspaper and placing them alongside the wood you're painting. The newspaper easily adheres to the glass pane and keeps it paint free.  My mother showed me how to wrap paper around candle bottoms so they'll fit in holders tighter. How to make paper chains and paper dolls. I remember her sharpening pencils by rubbing the point on newspaper. Fold newspaper to use as a fan. Use as a sunshade at outdoor events. There are probably other things I was shown to do with newspapers that I have forgotten.

When I was a boy there was an itinerant peddler we called the 'sweet potato man', who came down our street pushing his four-drawer wheeled oven. The purchased item would be wrapped in newspaper so you wouldn't burn your hands. And when you bought herring from the grocer he'd wrap it in newspaper, an age old-custom.

Can you imagine the consequences of my grand-daughter's life if she didn't know that herring should be wrapped in newspaper? What would happen if the topic of wrapping herring came up in conversation at a party and she'd say "I don't know'? She'd be left out of the conversation. But with her newspaper knowledge she could discuss the merits of using one sheet of the larger New York Times versus two pages of the smaller New York Post to wrap herring.  She'd be right in the middle of things.


493. 8/27/2020

The Accident

It was a mild spring morning as she bicycled south alongside  parked cars on Morningside Drive in Manhattan. Suddenly, without warning, a car door opened in front of her, she crashed into it and fell to the road. "Let me help you," said a man emerging from the car. He took her under both arms and lifted her onto the front seat. "Your knee is bleeding. I have a First Aid kit. It will take just a moment."  He carefully cleaned the wound and applied a band-aid.

He returned the kit to the trunk, came back to the front and sputtered out, "I'm really sorry. I didn't see you coming. I don't know how it could have been avoided. I guess it fits into the category of 'accident'." Realizing she had not been riding in the bicycle lane, she tried to mollify his feelings of guilt, saying "You're right. It was an accident."

"By the way, my name is Eric. I was on my way to Starbucks for coffee. Won't you please join me. I see the front wheel of your bike is slightly twisted out of shape. I'll put it in the back seat and drop it off at a bicycle repair shop I know when I take you home later. The repair is on me."

She got her first good look at him. Not bad-looking, about 5'10", trim body, pleasant smile. She had been impressed with his direct manner about the wound, Starbucks and the 'repair' situation. "I'm "Carol. Okay, Starbucks it is." He retrieved the bike and off they went.

Settled at a table, he could see she was a pretty. well-groomed woman in her thirties. She learned he was a financial advisor with Crane and Company on Wall Street. He found out she was a merchandizing manager at Lightfoot and Co., a kitchen accessory company. He graduated from VMI and had spent two years in Iraq as a second lieutenant. He played in a softball league every Sunday in Central Park. She went to NYU, was a drama major, had very limited experience in regional theatres for three years and gave it up for the business world. They talked about books, Broadway, family and other subjects. The chatter was easy and flowing.

It was time to go. He took her arm as they walked to the car. It felt comfortable to both of them. They stopped at the repair shop and continued on to her apartment house. He offered to walk her in, but she said it wasn't necessary and thanked him for a pleasant morning. He bent to kiss her, which she returned in favor. "May I have your phone number?" She willingly gave it, turned and entered the building.

That spring morning was five years ago.  This spring morning you can see them in Central Park, Eric covering left field  in a league softball game, Carol on the sidelines tending to their four-year-old son Jason riding his bicycle.  Jason knows the story of how his parents met and is keeping his eyes open hoping  to encounter  a pretty young girl on her old tricycle, especially if it needs  repairs. They could sit on a park bench while the bike is in the repair shop and he could be her advisor on which ice cream treat is best for her money from all the items the Good Humor man sells from his bicycle cart. Like father, like son. But not company stocks - ice cream sticks.


491. 8/16/2020

The Meaning of Words

There are about a half million words in Webster's Dictionary. The ordinary person speaks about ten thousand words a day. Yesterday the word 'vestibule' came to mind. Why, I'm not sure. Maybe it was because I was thinking of a story I was writing which included the word 'vestibule'. Do you know what the word means? It means a 'passage or room between the outer house door and the interior of the building'. You've walked through this area countless times, but when was the last time you used the word? Maybe never.

What do you believe the ordinary person thinks the following sentence means, "When my wife and I were courting we'd steal a few kisses in the vestibule?" Maybe they would think 'courting' was playing tennis or basketball on a tennis or basketball court. We did play tennis together, but not basketball. My meaning of the word 'courting' was 'to woo' or 'gain favor'. As for the 'stolen kisses',   maybe they thought we stole a few Hershey's chocolates Kisses from a hiding place in the vestibule. They were using the ordinary definition of 'steal' - 'to take and carry away without right or permission'. The one I meant was another definition of 'steal', which is 'to get for oneself slyly or by skill and daring, i.e. a kiss'. I would hold and kiss my love in the vestibule, separating when I saw someone coming up the front steps

I'm sure there are thousands of words in the dictionary which are seldom used. During my use of the dictionary searching for the exact meaning of the word 'vestibule', I came across other interesting words i.e. vicissitude - irregular, unexpected or surprising  change. Or onomatopoeia. - formation of words in imitation of natural sounds (as buzz or hiss). There are hundreds other.  

Please be advised the stolen kisses in the vestibule were fruitful. We married three years later.


489.  8/4/2020

Yes, You May Stand At My Grave And Cry

Yes, you may stand at my grave and cry
Let your tears be tears of remembered joy and pleasure
Old memories that you still treasure
Me tossing you children up in the air
You knew I wouldn't leave you there
Laughing children bouncing on my knee
Tickling, chasing - which brought us all glee
Sitting on the steps
Waiting for the early morning sun to rise
Everyone asleep, only us alive.
The dictionary at the kitchen table
To determine which one is more able
New campers under the tent
No sleeping mats - our backs are bent
Taking the cable car across the Niagara River, just us four
Mom afraid, left alone, waiting, then running, shouting, "Open the door."
She later said, "I thought If you're going down, I'm going down with my four."
The country pool on a hot summers day
Devising water games to play
Picking blueberries at the side of the road
Then Mom serving us blueberry pie a la mode.
Swimming with sunshine sparkling on our rippling brook
Then sitting and snacking in a shady nook

Yes, you may stand at my grave and cry.
Yes, you may shed happy tears from old memories which float by
And may your lives be as smooth as the ducks on the lake gliding by


487. 8/8/2020

How Abusive Phrases Are Quelled

I read somewhere that in everyone's lifetime there comes moments when the phrase "I hate you!" or I could murder you!" or "Your brains are in your tuchas" or something like it is spewed out.  Thankfully the intent is not meaningful and in most cases it is quelled  immediately. The article continues with the different ways the epithet is dismissed.
 If it's your sister or brother, the love that exists erases the meaning of the utterance at once.  If you embarrassed your mother-in-law, you tell her that her new wig looks great on her. She had already picked up the frying pan to clobber you with and then hissed out the words 'son-in-law' to quell her feelings. Lucky you married her daughter. If it's your son you tell him you'll take him to the Yankee game Sunday. If it's your daughter you tell her she can have the tattoo she wanted on her stomach. If its your dog you kicked, you pick it up, scratch its belly, andsay 'good dog' five times. With a friend it depends if you win money from him at cards frequently. Or if you might need to borrow from him in the future. Just say you're sorry If it's the driver in the car who splashed you as he drove by, you can use all the vilest words you know - he can't hear you anyway.
If it's your wife that's another kettle of matzoh balls. Be prepared for any of many heart-stopping phrases no man wants to hear. "Stay on your side of the bed tonight." "You're in the basement, stupid." Or "pack your stuff and sleep at your Mom's. Or "I'm going to see my lawyer in the morning." Now the choice is yours. You can reach for her and tell her 'I'm sorry, I love you.' Or you can promise her two tickets to Hamilton. Or a weekend at Mohegan Sun. Or maybe both, depending on how strong she makes her case - warm bed, Sunday morning interludes, that weekend at the Plaza.
If nothing works you may want to use the doggie approach. Sit with her on the couch, gently smooth her belly, feed her grapes one at a time while lovingly saying "You're the greatest" six times. If she stretches out to receive the endearments, you've quelled her anger.

Note: My Writer's Group gave me this topic to write about.


485.   7/24/2020

Lucky Breaks

I've had a few lucky breaks in my lifetime. The first and most important was when I sat down next to a pretty girl on the trolley going home after activities at Brooklyn College in February 1941. I married that girl in December 1944 while I was in the US Navy during WWII and we sat side-by-side for 63 more years.

Speaking of the Navy, I applied several times for the Navy Officer Training Program but was rejected for poor eyesight. I wanted to serve and was disappointed. I was working as a research chemist in a defense plant. One day I had a lucky break when one of my associates told me of a new Navy program for Aviation Electronic Technicians. I took the entry test and shortly thereafter I received a letter stating I qualified for the program. The letter had a Navy letterhead which said that when-and-if I was called up to present the letter to the 3-man review panel at the induction center. I worked out a plan. The letter had an official Navy logo at top and that suited my purpose. I presented it to my local Draft Board, stressing the urgency that the Navy wanted me for the program. Two days later I received my induction notice. Poor eyesight or not, the letter provided my entry into the Navy.

Regarding lucky breaks, the New York City Transportation Service has been good to me. One day I picked up a discarded New York Times paper and scanned the Help Wanted section. There was a notice for a 'loose-leaf binder' salesman. I had had some experience in the field. I applied and was hired. The salary was one hundred dollars a week. I had been earning eighty. But to my surprise, the money wasn't salary, but a 'draw' against commissions. That disturbed me. Up to date, my sales record wasn't very good. However, that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had been going to school at night working towards a Masters Degree in Sales Management and Marketing. I had learned something from my few years in sales. Very soon after starting the job, I acquired an account which published bi-monthly business treatises in loose-leaf form. I had become a smart loose-leaf binder salesman. From that time on and for my thirty more years in sales, I always received a quarterly commission check. I don't think I would have done as well under a salary arrangement.  

I'm 98 years old and this morning I got another lucky break. I didn't see my name in the obits, so I sat down at my computer and wrote this story.

484. 7/22/2020


It was October, 1964 and I was visiting my son for Freshmen Fathers' Week-end at Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school, in Hanover, New Hampshire, a six-hour car ride from our home in Brooklyn, New York.

I arrived about 3 P.M. and knocked at his dorm room. There was no answer. Probably in class. I opened the door and took a few steps into the room. The sight I beheld shocked me. I quickly stepped back and closed the door. If a movie director had asked for a messy room he couldn't have gotten a better display. I stayed outside for a few minutes to regain my sensibilities and then re-entered the room. Articles of clothing were strewn on the floor and furniture. Empty beer bottles abounded. Used cigarettes and ashtrays were everywhere. Lampshades were at different angles. Pizza boxes and half eaten pieces were scattered around. Books, papers, half empty glasses had found their own places everywhere. The sight was out of my experience. I stayed for a short while shaking my head in wonderment. I finally exited the room and waited for him in the lobby.

At home he had his own clean room. My daughters shared a room. My wife and I had met at Brooklyn College, a free institution, and we each shared a room with siblings in our respective parents' home. As the years went by and the topic of education came up we figured we had it made. The kids would go to Brooklyn College and live at home. But, as the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, said, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray." I was in sales, my wife was a teacher and our kids turned out smart. Who could predict! And so my wife and I were the pushers for the top schools. Did we make a mistake? Were we wasting all that money? He could have gone to Brooklyn College. What were we going to say to him?

No more suspense The denouement of this story is a happy one. It wasn't his room. I had made a mistake. His dorm room was next door and okay. He graduated from Dartmouth and earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School, married a lovely girl/woman, has two great children, four wonderful grandchildren and still keeps his room neat.


483.     7/10/2020

A New Profession

Due to the Covid-19 epidemic I haven't left my condo in three months. My hair grew all that time, at age 98 I've learned a new skill and entered into a new profession. I've become a barber and my place of business is called Paul's Barber Shop and Hair Styling Emporium. It has a limited clientele and business is conducted on my patio. The business hours are every Thursday between 10 and 11am. So far I've been the only customer.

The business was first called Paul's Barber Shop, but after seeing the results of my first attempts on myself I had to add Hair Styling to the name. I'm never sure what the final results of my efforts will look like. I've used scissors before to cut paper, material, toenails, mustache, but not hair. The kitchen scissors may not be the best instrument. And the final results vary.

I cut my hair in the bathroom. Cutting the top of my hair is not difficult. I can see the hair in the mirror and do a fair job. It's the long, curly hair in the back of the head which is the problem. My technique is to place a mirror in my left hand and hold it to the back of my head and attempt to locate the hair that needs trimming. Have you ever manipulated a mirror behind you and tried to capture the image you are seeking? Then you know it's not easy. I move the mirror one way and I lose the place I'm looking for. I compensate and still can't find it. I finally do locate the right spot and do some cutting. Then the mirror moves and I've lost it. I figure I'm still in the right place and keep cutting. I stop when I touch the back of my head and it feels right. Another standard I use is how much cut hair has accumulated on my shoulders. And the final clue as to when I am finished is when I notice blood on the tip of my left ear.


482. 7/6/2020

A Different Way to Meet

In the story of love, couples have met in all sorts of ways. But, I'm pretty sure none have met the way my wife and I did.

I was walking west on 42nd street after doing some research at the 5th Avenue Library. I noticed a young woman walking a few paces in front of me. I watched as she kept one arm behind her trying to button a loose button at the back of her blouse. I wanted to help her, but was nervous in asking, especially over something as personal as a loose blouse button. We stopped at the corner for a light to change. "I'm sorry to bother you," I said, "could I help you with the button?" Oh my gosh", she said. "I've been wanting to ask you as we kept walking but was too nervous to ask."

When the light changed we stopped on the other side and I closed the button. We continued walking side by side and engaged in some casual conversation. I noticed she was a pretty young girl with a lovely smile. I wanted to continue our meeting. I saw it was 5:30 and I took a chance. There was a McDonald's ahead and I asked "How about a burger and fries?"  She hesitated for a moment and then replied "Sure." As we ate and engaged in small talk, I learned her name and phone number and I married that young girl.

I'm an old man now and have arthritis in my hands. It's harder for me to do things and it takes longer. But I do my best and willingly assist my wife when she smilingly requests that I help with her blouse, buttoning and unbuttoning.


481. 7/4/2020

The Concept of Time and the Ages

I came across a statement in an article which read 'probably millions of years ago', referring to a seismic event. The concept of the word 'millions' in relation to every day life intrigued me. I can understand a day, a month, a year, 100 years, 500 years - but millions of years? It prompted me to look up how old the earth is and learned that scientists have concluded the earth is about four billion years old. Man appeared about 250,000 years ago, taking billions of years to evolve from a single-cell organism to the Homo sapiens of today.

The Industrial Revolution began around the early nineteenth century, which means that almost all the major improvements, discoveries and inventions have taken place during the past two hundred years. And since homo sapiens evolved about 250,000 years ago, this indicates man's brain developed in tiny steps from then until about 18481.

I came across a statement in an article which read 'probably millions of years ago', referring to a seismic event. The concept of the word 'millions' in relation to every day life intrigued me. I can understand a day, a month, a year, 100 years, 500 years - but millions of years? It prompted me to look up how old the earth is and learned that scientists have concluded the earth is about four billion years old. Man appeared about 250,000 years ago, taking billions of years to evolve from a single-cell organism to the Homo sapiens of today.

The Industrial Revolution began around the early nineteenth century, which means that almost all the major improvements, discoveries and inventions have taken place during the past two hundred years. And since homo sapiens evolved about 250,000 years ago, this indicates man's brain developed in tiny steps from then until about 1800. The years since 1800 include the inventions of the airplane, automobile, telephone, radio, television, computer and its affiliates, electricity, light-bulb, type-writer, frozen foods packaging, sewing machine, harvester

All this research led me to other discoveries. Bodies of water - oceans, lakes and rivers - have been around for billions of years, man for about 250,000, and yet the boat was developed only about 8,000 years ago. That means waters weren't traveled on by man for almost 250,000 years. The same goes for agriculture. The land has always been here, but agriculture began only 10,000 years ago. And the idea of the wheel occurred after those afore-mention developments.

What intrigues me is the evolution of my interest from when I first read the word 'millions' to my learning of the world's history, man's appearance 250,000 years ago and what little had been accomplished and developed in the world the past 250,000 years up until about 200 years ago. And I am amazed about how much was discovered in my lifetime alone - only 100 years or so.  

It was an interesting journey. So, how do we comprehend time? We know it's here now and it has always been. Is it possible to grasp the idea of it? Does it have a meaning? Well, I have plenty of time and I'll be spending my time better understanding what time is. When I come to an answer I'll let you know.

By the way. I didn't mention the first modern alarm clock, which was invented in 1847. I must remember to set mine so I'll wake up in time to investigate what time is.


480. 6/20/2020

The Body's Color

The color of a a body tells us nothing about the person's worth. An objective view of a body's skin color does not in any way indicate the intellect of the brain or the heart's social feelings. This lack of information must not allow us to discriminate against someone who is different. Let's imagine the body without skin, but encased in see-through material. What we'd see would not indicate if the person was white or black or brown or red or yellow. There would be no us/them. It would be all us. No outward differences. Well maybe tall/short, fat/thin, plain/handsome.

So, what's the big deal about one's color? It doesn't tell us anything about the person. What's more important in a relationship are the individual person's feelings and beliefs - what's in one's heart and mind.

The design of all bodies is exactly the same. All our organs function the same. With the see-through skin you still wouldn't know anything about the person. We'd all look alike. The color of one's body does not indicate the character of the person. Don't make quick assumptions until you know the person. The skin color is not important. It's what it covers that's important.

sU In a painting, all colors have the sane value. Mixed with others, they produce beautiful pictures. So should it be in life. Let's make it our aim to enjoy a mixed, multi-colored beautiful world.


479. 5/31/2020

My Mom

Recently, my mother has been in my thoughts. Why, I have no idea. Maybe it's because I'm an old man and won't be around much longer.

The last time I saw my Mom was 66 years ago. She died when she was only 54 years old and I was 32. When I think of her now I think of her with love. What I remember is a well-groomed, attractive woman who cared for her family. I don't recall saying "I love you, Mom" very often or at all. I hope I did and it's just that I've forgotten those times.

I remember her as a good mother. She did the cooking, shopping, cleaning, sewing - maintained a spotless home. She encouraged learning, bought me books, introduced me to the public library and local museum, taught me card games, checkers. I guess I thought that was what mothers were supposed to do. I don't remember a lot of hugs and kisses. I don't recall many expressions of love and affection.

I have a picture of my mother and father taken seventy years ago at a wedding. Now, whenever I walk by the picture I stop and say 'I love you, Mom. I'm sorry I didn't say that more often to you when you were here."

Perhaps I'll soon get a chance to tell her.


478. 5/15/2020

A Penny

I saw a penny in the parking lot this morning and didn't hesitate for a moment whether to pick it up or not. After all, in today's economy a penny isn't worth anything. Still, I rescue any abandoned penny I occasionally find. My mother told me 'finding a penny was good luck'. I believed her then and as a dutiful son I still do.

I remember when a penny had value When I was a boy you could buy a sour pickle right out of the barrel for a penny. Or a banana from a wandering pushcart for a penny. Or for two pennies, shaved flavored ices in a cup from Tony the iceman, who came down the street with his pony pulling his ices wagon. In the candy stores were penny vending machines, consisting of glass bowls atop a metal stand offering gumballs, poly seeds, peanuts. You put in a penny, turned the handle and the item would drop into a covered cup. To retrieve the item you lifted the cover and the peanuts would drop into your hand, or sometimes onto the floor.

In my corner candy-store was a five-foot high by four-foot wide glass display consisting of six shelves, each with open boxes of wrapped candies, in different sizes, shapes and colors. It would take a moment to decide which of the delicacies you wanted and point it out to the store-owner. Sometimes you changed your selection as he was reaching for it, and to the store-owners annoyance he would retrieve your second choice with a scowl. One item was different. It was a white paper, about 3 inches by 12 inches, dotted with evenly spaced small blobs of colored confectionaries, which you removed by licking them off with your tongue and teeth. It took a long time to finish and you could share it with your friends.

In my youthful experience I learned when it was the best time to find a penny. It was after a heavy rainstorm, when the rainwater gathered at the curbside rushing down to the corner sewer, sweeping all the detritus in its path. If the sun was shining, the rivulet sparkled like a country brook as it swept along the curb. I would follow the stream down and around the block, and if it was my lucky day, a penny would shine through the dancing water. I would pick it up and rush to the corner candy-store singing my version of "Pennies from Heaven".

Every time it rains , it rains, I search for a penny
And most times when I've searched, I don't find any
But when I feel the rain, I don't run under a tree
Today, there was a shining penny just waiting for me


474. 6/12/2020

The Lonesome Duck

I was reading on my patio this morning when I saw a solitary duck swimming on the lake outside my window. The lake was smooth and the ducks movements didn't cause any ripples on the surface. It was like a mirror. Yards away, was a group of six ducks. Was the lone duck abiding by the social distancing recommendations? After a while it came to shore, flapped its wings a few times and then I lost sight of it.

I went back to my reading. The next time I looked up there was a group of seven ducks all looking like they were wearing masks. I couldn't tell if the solitary duck from before had put on a mask and joined the group. It doesn't matter. All ducks look alike.

I dozed a while and returned to my book titled "Para-psychotic Visionary Experiences". I was on page 78 which discussed "Perceived and Imagined Observations". It made mention of a breed of ducks on Wake Island which favored the prevalent blackberry bushes and when finished eating them had stained bills which the natives think of as masks. The natives have incorporated the strange sight of the ducks into a ceremonial dance known as the Dance of the Masked Ducks. Only the men are allowed to be in the ceremony. It is the women's responsibility to gather the blackberries and make the paste which the men apply to their masks. For the ducks bills on the masks the men use the snout of the sharks which circle the island and paste the snouts to the masks with the sap of the oglua trees. This ceremony is only performed when the blackberries are in full bloom, which is the first day of the native summer holiday, July 6. A few years ago the chief was ill and the ceremony was cancelled. But, all is not sorrow. The natives have planned for this. July 7 celebrates the lost July 6 holiday with the Lost Holiday of the Dance of the Masked Ducks. A few years ago the weather was terrible and the Lost Holiday of the Dance of the Masked Ducks was moved to September 2, which is the date of the annual swimming competition between Wake Island and Sleepy Peninsular. This wasn't the only confusion. That season Rosh Hashanah was mixed up with Saint Vincent's Day and it took until Passover to straighten things out.

Back to the ducks. Did I really see masks? Was I half asleep when I glanced at the ducks? Did this incident fit under Imagined Observations? I'll have to wait till Thursday when the lady in condo 1023 feeds the ducks. I'll be sharp. No mumbo jumbo. No just awakenings. No para-psychology books. Just the facts, ma'am. If she feeds them blackberries, which make up the masks, I'll know the answer. If she doesn't feed them blackberries, I will still know the answer. A blackberry mask is a blackberry mask is a blackberry mask. Or is it?


473. 3/6/2020

A Long Line of Hope

I once read where it was written "Never forget there is a boy dying on the streets in Calcutta who is smarter than us."

I thought of that sentiment when I saw a newspaper picture of a line of migrants extending as far as the eye could see, which included babies, children, mothers and fathers, elderly people. They were wrapped in whatever clothing they possessed to ward off the cold. One baby had already frozen to death. They came from towns and cities ravaged by conflict and war, leaving behind wounded and dead family members, friends, neighbors. Which child among them might have improved the world?

Another article contained the story of two children who were injured by bombs while playing at home and because of the continued bombardment couldn't receive medical help and died. The mother wished them a safe journey by crying out at the burial, "Goodbye my children. Travel safely to God." She couldn't protect them at home and was asking her God to look after them now. If He had protected them on earth, perhaps one of them might have brought peace to the world.

Christians believe in Jesus Christ. Jews believe in the Messiah. Arabs believe in Mohammed. There are Buddhist and Hindu deities. And many other Gods. And still the world is full of tragedy, sorrow, agony, pain. All created by men who know the consequences of war and continue to wage wars. The Gods have been around for centuries. Billions of people have come and gone. Not one world leader has said "No more wars."

Let's hope there is a child somewhere now who can bring Peace to the world. Please don't kill him.


362.  9/1/2017

 Behave Yourself

A few weeks ago the rabbi congratulated me on my 95th birthday and at the end of his comments added "and behave yourself."  I know the rabbi and I'm sure the 'and behave yourself'' was just a humorous ending to his remarks. But, what if it wasn't? What could he have meant by 'behave yourself'?  I thought I always behaved myself. Was he suggesting my old behavior needed change and for me to behave differently now? Now that I'm 95 I shouldn't do the things I did at 94?

What does 'behave' really mean? I went to the dictionary and it describes 'behave' as  1: to bear or comport oneself in a particular way 2 : to conduct oneself in a proper manner. AHA! It's the second definition that people associate with the word 'behave' - to act in a proper manner, 'proper' being the key word. What does a mother mean when she says to her child 'behave yourself''? She means behave in a proper way, the correct way, the right way. Not in a 'particular' way. Leave it up to the child and his 'particular' way could bring the house down.

            So, from now on I'm going to behave myself. I've made the following changes:
                        · Only one glass of wine each night instead of the usual three
                        · Wash the dishes after each meal instead of the end of the week
                        · Change my socks every five days instead of every seven
                        · Shop before there's only ice cream left in the refrigerator
                        · Fill the gas tank before it reads 'empty'
                        · Don't pinch every pretty woman you see - pick and choose

It's been a week since the changes have gone into effect and things are going well. It's only one glass of wine a night now. I eat my meals out so there aren't any dirty dishes. I've bought four dozen extra pairs of socks. The empty refrigerator has room for plenty of ice cream. I call Uber and don't use my car. And I've found a very pretty woman who welcomes all my pinches. As you can see, I'm behaving myself.


361.                           8/17/2017


The scene opens with me sprawled in the shower. "Hello-o-o-o" comes the call from the front door. "I'm in the shower," I shout back. The EMS crew comes into the bathroom and one of them with a smile asks "What are you doing there?" So, let me tell you what I was doing there.

I had completed my shower and while drying myself on the outside mat I noticed I felt a little weak and whoozy. Not my usual self. I remained there for several moments to gather myself, then grabbed the powder container and stepped back into the shower. The powder slipped out of my hand, I bent down to pick it up, lost my balance and ended up on the wet shower floor with my legs in an awkward position. I figured it was best if I remain that way for a while, which is what I did. I felt better and tried to move about in an attempt to stand up. The floor was wet, there wasn't anything to grasp onto, my legs were bent in such a manner as to not afford me any traction. I found myself stuck and not able to extricate myself.

But, not really. Two years ago I had purchased an alert system for just such an emergency. It's a flat plastic communication device, about 1 and 1/2 by 2 inches, hangs around my neck and rests on my belly. It is comforting when I'm home alone and have no one to touch me. When you squeeze the two red buttons on the sides it sends a message that you need help. It goes out to 911, EMS crews in the neighborhood, any doctors driving by, the U.S. Army Medical Corps, and the Mayo Clinic, if you live in Ohio. In my case, EMS arrived in twelve minutes. I was lifted out of the shower, placed in a chair, my vital signs checked, given an OK and since it was 12:30am, advised to go to bed, which I did and felt fine the next day.

The moral of this story is everyone who lives alone should have a personal alert system. Imagine if I didn't have one. First, I could have been in the shower until someone  might knock on my door, which happens infrequently. Second, I wouldn't have written this story, which helps maintain the quality of the work presented in class. And third, without the alert, it is possible I could have been in the shower until the Christmas vacation, when the great-great-grandchildren come to Florida to visit their favorite GG Paul.

So get the alert. EMS will come and you won't scare the kids exhibiting yourself in the shower.


360 on order


359.                          8/17/2017

The Simple Needle

Last week I reached into my sewing box for a needle to sew a button on my shirt. There were so many of different lengths and thickness. Then the thought came to me - when was the first needle made, how was it made, what was it made of. What's the history of the needle?

I checked it out. The needle was one of mankind's first tools. Over the centuries it developed from a simple craft item to the precision tool for modern sewing machines. Some historians say the invention of the needle ranks in importance with that of the wheel and the discovery of fire. The wheel altered man's original mode of transportation to allow him to move the jugs of beer away from the ladies and have a private party in Omar's cave. Fire provided warmth and cooked food like pizza, spare ribs and French fries. The needle provided the means to survive freezing weather by stitching together animal hides for clothing and shelter and kept the ladies busy when they weren't skinning dinosaurs.

When people began to wear clothing, about 60,000 years ago, they didn't sew it at all - they just enclosed themselves in leather or furs. Next they held the skins in place by wrapping themselves with string or leather cords. About 45,000 BC, when people began living in Central Asia, where it was colder, they needed warmer, stronger clothing. They started to use sharp pointed instruments, called awls, to poke holes in their clothes and then used the awls to push the cords through the holes and basically tie the pieces together. The awls were made of bone, stone, wood, ivory, antlers, tusks, plant material. The thread or cords were made of animal sinew, veins, gut, hair, leather and the clothing material was of furs and animal hides. Besides clothing, the skill was employed in making other items such as teepees, fishing nets, carrying bags, boat skins.

Then around 40,000 BC, it is reported that some gal, sitting home alone while her man was out playing paw-jongg with the guys, (the name was changed to mah-jongg when the ladies took it over), had the idea to make a hole in the end of the awl and thread the first needle. The needle's eye was created with a rudimentary stone drill used by the tribe's dentist in a nearby cave. This made sewing a lot faster and easier, and soon the idea spread to other cold places like northern Europe and North America. Wire-making technology appeared in the second millennium, which allowed the eye of the needle to be made by turning the wire back on itself. The next major break-through in needle-making was the arrival of high quality steel-making technology from China in the tenth century. It prospered in Spain because the Catalan furnace was able to produce reasonably high quality steel in significant volume. By the middle ages needles were treasured items and kept in safe places. The technology later extended to Germany and France. England began making needles in 1639 creating the drawn-wire technique still in common use today. By then needles weren't treasured so much. Black, left-handed ivory shoehorns became the craze. Historians have not been able to discover why.

There is evidence that needles were used not only to stitch hides together for warmth, but also sewing and decorating for social and erotic display. So, as both of you look in the mirror and glimpse at your expensive, designer gown and tuxedo before leaving for the Third Annual Sophisticates Ball in Trump Tower, remember Jane Flintstone, who initiated style and fashion when she sewed two pig snouts on her buffalo skin and won first prize at the Fifth Cavemans Gala and Ball held at Bob's Hole in the Mountain Bear and Grill at the corner of Dinosaur Street and Pterodactyl Avenue in Cavetown, South Siberia many, many winters ago.

358.                         8/17/2017


I met up with Marion Proweller last week. No, not in person. In my dreams. Why? I have no idea. Our last contact was 82 years ago when we graduated from P.S. 25 in Brooklyn in January 1935 and I hadn't thought of or seen her since. So, why last night in my dreams? I have no answer.

Not having an answer, I felt compelled to learn what dreams are and what they mean. Here's what I found out: A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Dreams can have various natures, such as being frightening, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous or sexual.

Opinions about the meaning of dreams have varied and shifted through time and culture. Many endorse the Freudian theory of dreams - that dreams reveal insight into hidden desires and emotions. Other prominent theories include those suggesting that dreams assist in memory formation, problem solving, are simply a product of random brain activation or that the events in dreams are generally outside the control of the dreamer. I believe that dreams are outside the control of the dreamer, but I take issue with the word generally. My feelings are that all dreams are random brain activities and the dreamer has no control over them. I never recall going to bed thinking I'll dream about something specific and it happened. Or that I had control over the events once the dream started. Just the opposite. I believe dreams go in all crazy directions.

So, getting back to my dream of Marion. It intrigued me. I searched the internet and found her son, Martin, who lives in Dallas, Texas. I called him, told him who I was and why I was calling and we had an interesting conversation. He gave me a rundown on his mother's life, which was typical of first generation Jewish middle-class Americans - high school graduation, employment, marriage, house purchase, children, grand-children, retirement, old age. Marion passed away at age 90.

As things turned out, I didn't get a chance to ask her if she ever dreamed of me. I know the answer. Why would she? That's my life. And death is a part of it. But, life goes on. And if I ever think of Marion again, I'll remember her as a bright, happy, young girl I knew from our eighth-grade class long, long ago.