Terrible Towels

Lately Kish and I have experienced a weird phenomenon:  every time we go out to buy towels, the towels we bring home don’t work very well.  In fact, you might say they suck — except that “sucking” suggests a moisture absorbency that these towels totally lack.

Rosie, the waitress from the old Bounty TV commercials, would tell you that the key quality of towels — paper or cloth — is their ability to soak up fluids.  That’s why she was always accosting customers, butting into their conversations to yammer on about the “quicker picker-upper,” and sticking Bounty towels into half-filled glasses of water to show how much water the towels could absorb without dissolving into wet paper nubs. 

But modern towel manufacturers seem to have forgotten — or perhaps they never learned — this essential lesson about what a towel should be.  They make towels that look delightfully warm and fluffy and soft, but that don’t actually soak up water.  It’s as if the cloth has a kind of coating on it that prevents it from sucking up fluids.  So when you use the fluffy towel after taking a shower, you’re just smearing water around on your arms and legs, and your hair stays wet.  The difference between the old towels in our house and the new breed is like night and day — or, most aptly, dry and wet.

It’s absurd.  It’s like buying a pillow that is hard and jagged, ordering a drink that is so brackish it  doesn’t quench your thirst, or purchasing a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t actually suck up dust and dirt.  Modern towel manufacturers consistently produce a product that doesn’t even perform its principal purpose.  How in the world did this happen?

Blue Paint On Brick

These bright blue lines appeared on our street this week.  The lines look they might be an art project, or a way of marking off parking spaces, or an effort to turn our street into a hockey rink, but I’m concerned they mean trouble ahead instead.

The blue lines point to blue metal lids — like the one you can see on our sidewalk, just above the fence — that mark where water lines can be accessed.  The blue lines appeared at a time that Columbia Gas is doing work in our neighborhood involving the relocation of certain gas meters.  (The gas lines have bright yellow metal lids, which give the sidewalks a kind of dappled effect.)  I’m fearful that the blue lines mean that our quaint brick-paved street is going to be ripped up as part of some big project.  I’m hoping that is not the case, because once you tear up old brick streets they never look quite the same again.

Is there every a case where paint markings on a street don’t mean bad news ahead?

Best In The State

What makes a great sports bar?  You know, the kind of place where you want to go watch your favorite team play a game?

screen-shot-2016-06-04-at-2.58.35-pm-470x220-1Clearly, there are some basic elements.  Great sports bars aren’t white tablecloth and fine china venues.  You’re looking for tasty food favorites at reasonable prices, an ample selection of beers to stoke your competitive spirit, and a friendly and attentive wait staff that won’t leave your glass bone dry during the key part of the game.  You want to have plenty of TV screens in the room, so any table or chair will have good sight lines to the screen carrying your game of choice.  And, equally important, you’re looking for an energetic atmosphere and a setting with lots of fans watching their games, where you won’t be shushed for letting out a cheer, giving a few high-fives, or blurting out a random curse at a bad play.

Whatever the qualities that make a great sports bar, JT’s Pizza & Pub here in Columbus clearly has them all.  The MSN website just named JT’s the best sports bar in Ohio.  Given the sports-obsessed culture in Ohio, that’s incredibly high praise, but it’s really not surprising.  JT’s has great pizza, appetizers, wings, and sandwiches — exactly the kind of fare you want from a sports bar — an extensive beer and drink menu, and a raucous atmosphere come Game Day.  Stop by for an Ohio State game, an NFL Sunday, or March Madness if you don’t believe me.

Congratulations to my nephew Joe, the proprietor of JT’s, and my nephew Danny, who works there, for making JT’s into a sports bar that has won Best in the State honors.

Popular Nightmares

Dreams, and nightmares, are among the most private things we experience in life.  No matter how close your relationship might be with your spouse, your family members, or your friends, no one can actually share the dream with you.  And if you’ve ever tried to describe a disturbing nightmare to someone, you realize you can’t really capture the way you experience it — if you can even recall the rapidly vanishing fragments of the nightmare at all.  At best, you’re providing a pale reflection of an intense experience.

why-do-we-have-nightmaresStill, wouldn’t you like to know whether other people have the same kind of nightmares that from time to time haunt your dreams?

One company did a survey of 2,000 respondents to find out about their nightmares and see which nightmare scenarios were the most common.  The survey found some interesting results — including that the commonness of certain nightmares varies between men and women.  Women, for example, are far more likely to have a nightmare about a loved one dying or their house burning down, whereas men are much more likely to have a dream about killing someone.  (Curiously, women are slightly more likely than men to have a nightmare about going bald.)  The survey also showed that the frequency of certain dreams may be tied to the respondents’ specific circumstances.  Married couples are much more likely to have nightmares about abandonment by a partner or a partner’s infidelity than single people.

The top 10 most frequent nightmare scenarios, as determined by the survey, are:

  1. Falling
  2. Being chased
  3. Death
  4. Feeling lost
  5. Feeling trapped
  6. Being attacked
  7. Missing an important event
  8. Waking up late
  9. Sex
  10. Loved one dying

Farther down the list are other common scenarios, like being unprepared for an exam or being naked in a public place, and some weirdly specific nightmares, like your teeth falling out, being covered by bugs, or having car trouble.

Reading the list may cause you to realize that many of us have the same kinds of dreams, but also that there are other bad dreams that you luckily don’t have.  I’ve never had a nightmare about killing someone, fortunately.  And a word of caution — if you’re like me, looking at the list might cause you to remember a nightmare that you had otherwise forgotten.

Now, I can only hope that seeing some of the common nightmare scenarios other people have won’t cause my subconscious brain to add those to the nightly dream mix.

My Friends And Family Resolution

I’ve thought a bit about what my New Year’s resolution for 2020 should be, and I’ve decided it really is pretty simple:  my resolution is to try to make it to the end of 2020 without irretrievably alienating any of my friends or family.

This may sound like an easy resolution to keep, but I don’t think it is — not really.  In fact, I think 2020 is going to be one of the toughest years, ever, to get through while keeping your coterie of friends, family, and colleagues intact.  That’s because, in this already absurdly super-heated political environment, we’re moving into a year where there will be a presidential campaign, a presidential election, and, apparently, an impeachment trial — all percolating at the same time.  Many of my friends and family members, of all political stripes, feel very passionately about each of those events in isolation.  When you put them all together you’ve got what is probably the most combustible combination of political events in American history.

One year that might be comparable is 1864, when a presidential election took place in the midst of a Civil War, when even the Union, alone, was bitterly divided.  But even 1864 might not really be a good comparator, because in those days the candidates and the country as a whole didn’t need to run a gauntlet of caucuses, primaries, debates, and 24-hour news coverage.  Unfortunately, we’ll be subjected to all of those things.

Our current circumstances have produced the kind of fervent environment where one ill-chosen word or ill-advised joke could damage feelings beyond repair, end a friendship that has endured for decades, or cause family members to vow never to talk to each other or interact again.  I don’t want that to happen.  I like and respect all of my family members and friends, and I’d like to end 2020 without experiencing any regrets that some stupid blog post, social media comment, or argument after a few adult beverages wrecked things.  So this year will be a year of walking on eggshells, with all things dealing with the presidential election off-limits for me.  Call me a wimp if you want.

This is my own, self-imposed pledge.  I’m not going to shush my friends or try to keep them from expressing their strongly held views in strongly phrased ways.  But as for me, I value my friends and family more than I value my need to engage in political debates.

 

Looking Back Before Looking Forward

The turn of a new year is inevitably a time for looking forward:  for resolutions about how we’re going to change our bad habits, our diets, our savings patterns, and our exercise regimens, how we’re going to move the needle in a positive direction in our personal and professional relationships, and how we’re going to otherwise become the better people we hope we can be.

mus-fapc1114_850But before we start looking forward, I think it makes sense to look backward at the bearded, white-haired, old man year that is limping out the side door with that scythe and hourglass.  How did the past year go?  What did we accomplish?  Sure, a year is a somewhat arbitrary time period to use for assessment purposes, but thanks to the fact that it’s what marks another lap of the Earth around the Sun it’s what we’ve got to work with.

How do you evaluate an entire year?  I think there are certain baseline criteria, like health.  If you and your loved ones have made it through the year unscathed and without any significant health concerns, current or impending, you’ve got to chalk it up as a pretty darned good year.  By that means of measurement, 2019 was a good year for us and our immediate and extended families, and we’d take another one just like it.

You can also look at what you’ve done.  For 2019, I made some modest resolutions that I thought were reasonably achievable with a little effort, and I’m happy to say that I’ve accomplished every one.  In fact, I’m reading a pretty interesting and challenging book right now.  Perhaps my approach simply shows the value of going small, but it’s nice to know that I’ve met my resolutions for once.  Positive things also have happened on the work and home fronts.  We bought a new car that we like, and we enjoyed spending some time this past summer at our cottage in Stonington, where we’ve made some new friends and made progress at getting it to where we want it.  We’ve enjoyed some travel, and are ending up the year in a pretty place where it’s warm.  These may seem like little things, but in my experience the little things are the things that you can really control, and the little things add up.

Finally, you can compare the year to past and future years.  The past years tend to blend together, unless they are years marked by a life-changing event, like marriage or the birth of children, so it’s hard for me to do that.  As for 2020, it’s a presidential election year in a country where many of the people seem bitterly divided.  Who knows?  At the end of next year, we may well look back fondly on 2019 as a year of comparative peace and harmony.

Sure, I still weigh more than I would like, and my knees creak when I stand up after sitting for a while — there may be a connection there — and when I look at what’s going on in the big world outside our little world I wonder where we’re heading.   But that’s life for you.  All things considered, I think 2019 has been a pretty good year.

Bigger Than A . . .

We’ve had our gift exchange, and a Russell has taken the cake — or more aptly, the bread — in the nostalgic present category. He found this vintage aluminum bread box that will fit perfectly on the counter of our kitchen in Maine, which has a decidedly retro look.

Bread boxes were once a staple of American homes — so much so that, if you were playing the Twenty Questions guessing game, one of the initial questions inevitably was, “is it bigger than a bread box?” In those days American kitchens often had more shine and chrome than American cars. But bread boxes vanished from American kitchens around 1980 or so. I can’t even remember the last time I saw one.

If you’ve never seen a bread box and wondered how big it was, now you know.