Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gobbler's Knob

Had I been raised in the town of Godforsaken Minnesota, or some other icicle on the map of the US, I would not be irate when the weather spokes-model/meteorologist on local TV flubs another prediction.

After all, when winter arrives do we really need to know it will be cold and snowy in Montana, Idaho, Minnesota or parts of the world where kids take dog sleds to school? We expect it!

In this part of Pennsylvania weather prognosticators try their bestest to read all the latest data, consult the experts in their field, view satellite feeds while chewing their nails and still have a less than stellar track record.
I have better success asking my magic 8 ball if I will need to shovel and salt my driveway tomorrow.

In recent weeks, the whine-of-the-day overheard everywhere is about weather folks being compensated big bucks for doing their job incorrectly.  “After all, how come they get to keep their jobs when if I made the same mistake over and over I would be fired Blah Blah Blah Blah etc.” is the cry of the masses.
Frankly, I am almost as tired of hearing that, as I too am guilty of saying it!

We here are obsessed with weather, in particular snow and ice. Even the slightest mention of a small accumulation has us clearing store shelves of milk, bread and eggs then we French-Toast connoisseurs stay glued to our flat screens watching newscasters stationed on every street corner holding rulers and yardsticks giving us minute-to-minute snowflake counts.

Where did this madness originate?

I remember in the early 1980’s when the Weather Channel was launched.  I recall one of my brothers-in-laws stayed glued to that network, 24/7, watching satellite maps over and over again. He had a paving business and needed to know how to schedule his work day.  I could certainly understand his obsession but never believed that anyone else would have an interest to the degree it would warrant a whole network and actually make a profit.
I was the same guy who never believed people would pay for television, radio or buy bottled water when you can get it right from the tap. I put all of my investments where I knew it would make me a fortune; 8 track disco tapes.

Tomorrow, February 2nd, is the biggest weather day of the year in Pennsylvania, “Groundhog Day”!
There will always be those state cheerleaders who tout the benefits of living or visiting the Keystone state but honestly it boils down to really only two attractions, Punxsutawney Phil and the Liberty Bell.

Now before I get to the rodent, let me sidetrack to the bell.

First understand the Liberty Bell just ain’t what it once was.  If you are making travel and hotel plans to fly across the continent to see a piece of Americana in the here and now, stay home and watch something on Netflix.  When I was a kid, you saw the Liberty Bell in person, at Independence Hall.  You could actually touch it, put your fingers in the crack and take a picture postcard home with a little patriotic pride in tow.
I am uncertain just where the real bell is currently housed but I believe it is kept in a secure enclosure, protected by armed guards from a special government agency, and miles away from the viewing area. Actually you are only looking at a hologram.
This must be true as I believe I heard about it on Conspiracy Radio. 
You are permitted a quick glance, then you are whisked away out of the viewing area.  If you attempt an over-the-shoulder second look you may find yourself in front of a judge and then in orange overalls picking up trash along the Schuylkill expressway.

Now onto the sleeping rat.
If you watched the Bill Murray movie ‘Groundhog Day” you most certainly were not exposed to the true Gobbler’s Knob festival that is Phil and the townsfolk of Punxsutawney, including the deep dark secrets of the flea-infested marmot and the festivities.
Some lesser-known tidbits that may or may not be factual:

  • Phil is a cross-dresser.
  • Phil does not actually see a shadow and scamper back into a hole.  He reads a proclamation then whispers his prediction to the chief Mucky-Muck of the “Inner-Circle” the protectors and servants to the fur ball.  Yes, Phil does speak in High German.
  • Members of the Inner-Circle have all been secretly selected by his highest himself, hand plucked from the finest of the Masons and Illuminati that Pennsyltuckey has to offer.  The “IC” as the boys call it are really just fun loving varmint guards who let Phil do just what his whim wants. Think Elvis or Justin Bieber.
  • Catholics are prohibited from joining as it is a secret society, with a special handshake, and they may actually be Occultists.
  • There is no parking at the Knob, you can either take a bus from the local Mc D’s in town or hike the 1 ½ mile UPHILL walk.  Check your magic 8-ball for the weather.
  • No alcohol is permitted in Gobblers Knob and if found will be confiscated and consumed by the local police and the Inner-Circle.
  • Yuengling is the official beer sponsor of the event. (If you are passing through Pottsville Pennsylvania, take a tour of the plant)
  • Phil is 45 years sober.
  • Phil’s success rate is only 40% about the same as the weather spokes model with satellite feed.

Happy Groundhog’s Day.  
Spring will eventually arrive.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Birthday 5

One day, when I was just a very young boy, my mother asked my preference about THE upcoming event i.e. “would I prefer a little brother or sister”?  My honest response was “neither, I want a dog”!
I was the oldest of the litter, and there were 4 of us by the time I was six.  My parents eventually deposited 2 additional mouths around the kitchen table totaling a family of eight.
I honestly admit my self-centeredness, believing deep-down that I was actually an only child despite the reality of a shared bedroom with 2 brothers, one bathroom for 8 people and trying desperately to somehow understand why all these aliens keep appearing in my life, demanding my attention, and all I want is from them is to stop gnawing on my Army men.
Sibling relationships are complex, and birth order does complicate matters. Despite all of the childhood drama I am often amazed as to how we became very close, with none of the smoldering embers that eventually ignite to destroy relationships in other families.
These issues are never so evident as what I now observe with my 5 grandgirls.
My youngest, one of the Southern Belles, turns one year old today.  She is so close in age to her sororal-twin sisters, and a little bigger and more active than most her age, she is often thought to be a triplet when people see them together.
The twins know better. 
Grandgirl 5 wants so badly to “fit in” and excited just to be with them. She doesn’t utter a protest when they confiscate her toys or push her aside when they are playing together and she is just a little too curious and wants to be involved. She remains a sweet happy little girl.
In all fairness to her two oldest sisters, they are also so sweet with many moments of kindness and caring to their clinger-on, but overall she is a third wheel.
Dear number 5, have a Happy Birthday.  Enjoy your special day and have fun opening the presents we sent to you.
With any luck you’ll be able to play with the toys we mailed, and get to eat a piece of birthday cake.

But hurry before the twins swoop in and take it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Snow Business

Snow has always been the domain of children.
As I watch another snowfall this week, realizing it is not just a nightmare that somehow transported me to some God-awful part of Minnesota, I long for a warmer climate that I know somehow is just around the corner.

If you live in a snow-infested region of the world, and you are an adult trying to recapture your childhood with your skiing, snowmobiling et al., please try not to pretend that you really enjoy your life.  Just blame your ancestors for raising you there and crawl back into your igloo.

I do enjoy watching the children sled down the “giant hill” that is my backyard careful to avoid a crash into our pear tree.
We who have had white winters always recall the bestest and most frightening snow hill, and I am glad that I can provide a group of 4 year-olds lasting memories. By the time they are 6 they will all agree that my hill is no higher than a hump of snow-covered mulch, barely sloped enough for a marble to roll down. They will move on to their eventual thriller wondering what all the excitement was about.
I did enjoy snow days, as all children do, getting off from school, sledding, snowball fights and making a few extra bucks shoveling.  The secret to making top dollar was to get an advanced shoveling contract with the neighbors in the row homes.  There was nothing in writing, only a verbal promise to do a good job, include a street parking space (always a deal closer) and a promise that you will not have to ring their doorbell at 5AM (as you did the last snowfall). They can just pre-pay.
The nice thing about snow removal in a neighborhood of city row homes is you can make a ton of money quickly and any resident who does not contract at least can provide you with a pavement where you can store their neighbors’ snow.
I long for a neighborhood youth entrepreneur, a go-getter to knock on my door and ask for a contract.  The only kids who come around are the fund raisers with their cases of chocolate bars. They must have some underground secret language, probably texting one another about the chunky guy in the 2nd house who will always buy a couple of boxes.
Hey I don’t eat them all, they get hoarded in the basement, stored on IKEA shelves awaiting the upcoming clash-of-the-classes I keep hearing about on Conspiracy Radio.
I need something to serve up along with my cases of Dinty-Moore.
None of the neighborhood kids shovel snow, nor make an effort. Those who will work are usually the reluctant ones with parents who wish to instill a strong work ethic. 
We did have a little boy, Ryan, who asked if he can remove our snow. Ryan promised to do a good job, be sure to give us a parking space, and if we prepaid he would not ring our doorbell at 5AM.
In reality Ryan’s mother, Susan, did most of the snow removal.  We actually helped her.  Ryan wandered off and went sledding in our backyard.  He was only 4.
He never returned until a few years later when he was selling school fund raising candy.
Now we have Peppermint Patties.

Resolutions Revisited

Hey New Year life-changers, are you still there?

I am not a farmer, although Pennsylvania is my home, this transplanted city boy, now fully country, has picked up some Amish-speak that dwindled here from Lancaster County and earlier European times.

One phrase is:  “Make hay while the sun shines” comes to mind as fitness experts, e-cigarette makers and diet guru’s frantically work to separate you from your unemployment check as January quickly closes in and their hottest sales month comes to an end.

Many years ago I substituted a Bacca addiction (tobacco you Yankees) with a new oral fixation-FOOD!

There have been relatively few products or programs on the market that I have not tried, believing their magic beans possessed the weight loss secret of the ages. I have been bamboozled by the best of them.

Older, wiser and a little less well funded (and yo-yo dieting pounds heavier), I have developed an inner-radar detecting the most bizarre current fat shedding schemes on the planet today.

I heard one of the latest scams provides you with a little pill, so powerful, that you must follow the ingestion schedule on the bottle or your weight will disappear so quickly you could dissolve into nothingness overnight. 

Plan B-You may have to reduce your intake to only one daily, or even less, so be very careful.

I guess their plan C will be just licking the thing when the mood arises.

Oh yes, by the way, the pills work best with a sensible eating plan and 30 minutes of walking daily.

I often thought that when the day arrives, and I finally reach my Nirvana of less poundage, I would impart my wisdom and journey between the pages of a softbound cover, $19.95 available on Amazon (the PBS fund drive version has 8 DVD’s and a workbook).

I too can help millions from my beach house on my private island, an airstrip for my personal jet, and wealth rivaling the average 20+ year-old Grammy-Award winner.
The following year I will need to lampoon it on this blog.