Life is too short to drink shitty beer, Part 2

My eldest brother and sister (#1 & 2),  have lent some additional information to this discussion.  (This “eldest” shit comes from my mother and father.  I’m not and have never been permitted to call my brother Sam my “elder” brother because, according to my mother and father, he’s not my “elder” brother, he’s my “eldest” brother.  I’m serious.  You don’t want to read a book they have read first.  Every grammar/spelling mistake has been corrected.  Laugh if you want, it’s true.)

My brother and sister remember a party when I was maybe 4.  My father had sourced a barrel of crabs (a barrel is 3.28 bushels – this was a BUNCH of crabs) from family sources on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  My mother grew up on Hooper’s Island, and her father owned a crab factory until it was washed out by a hurricane.  She and her mother both dated Phillips men, of Phillip’s Seafood fame.

Anyway, he’d gotten a deal on crabs for a company party.  And he’d, of course, gotten a deal on some cheap beer.  During the party, my eldest brother Sam was in charge of replenishing the beer, bringing up luke-cold beer from the basement.  My elder brother, John, who was maybe 10 or 11 at the time, was in charge of disposing of the beer that was not fully consumed.  Since it was shitty beer, there was a bunch of that.  People thought it was the crabs that gave the beer that taste.  And of course, later John was as sick as a dog.

I’d noted before that I grew up in a sailing family, on the Jersey Shore.  When I was a freshman in college, my father bought a well used Block Island 40 sailboat.  It was kind of a piece of crap, the engine rarely worked when you wanted it to, but it was a rocket ship.  It was fast, and fun to sail.

An impromptu family reunion had been thrown together one summer weekend, and the “boys” all decided to go sailing.  4 brothers and my father, plus my wife Jan.  My Dad graciously offered to supply the beer.  He pulled 2 cases of warm crappy beer out of the garage, and tied 2 frozen milk jugs together and put them over his shoulder.  Those made their way down to the boat, and into the icebox (not fridge, not freezer – ice box).  After a couple of hours, it would get down to about 65 degrees….

Obviously without my father’s permission, but at the encouragement of all of the rest of us, Sam had secretly bought 2 cases of COLD Miller High Life beer and 20 pounds of shaved ice.  We found a beat up cooler in the garage.  Those all made it into the boat.

About 20 minutes into our 1/2 day sail, Sam went below, and hit the cooler.  He asked all of us in a loud voice if we wanted a beer.  We all responded in the affirmative.  Shit, we said “YES!”  He then asked each of us:  “Do you want one of Dad’s beers, or a good beer?”  We all responded “A good beer”.   Except Dad.  “I’ll have one of my beers”.  The “good” beers all came topside looking like a commercial.  The ice just slid perfectly off of each one, a remnant left to glaze the bottle.  And Dad had his nasty-ass canned, lukewarm beer, looking very left out.

Some time later, Sam again ventured below.  “Anyone want another beer?”  “Sure!” we all responded.  “You want a good beer, or do you want one of Dad’s beers?”  All responded “Good beers!”  As Sam handed out beers he said to Dad “You want one of your beers, or a good beer?”  “I believe this time I’ll have a good beer…”  Sam = winner!

A few years ago, Mom and Dad came to visit us in San Antonio.  Dad always bitches about our beer choices.  This time, we’d had a Super Bowl party a few weeks earlier, and had about 8 different kinds of beer in the fridge.  He still bitched.  Complained about “Light beer – it has no alcohol in it!  You buy beer for the alcohol, right?  So, I don’t buy light beer!”  Crap I’d heard it 100 times.

We went to dinner to a Mexican restaurant.  About 30 minutes after one of his light beer rants.  When the waiter asked him what he wanted – out of a choice of maybe 15 beers, he chose…  “Coors Light, please”  Really?  When they left, we found that they had bought us some beer to replace what they drank.  2 cases of quite probably the worst tasting beer in the US:  Schlitz.  It was on sale!

“Life is too short to drink shitty beer”

My dad was a chemical engineer.  Corrosion engineer, specifically. He knew his chemistry.  Vodka was vodka.  Beer was beer.  All he cared about was the price per drink.

But he really did know his stuff.  During WWII, he was running a Liberty ship in the Pacific.  We never did find out why a chemical engineer was running a Liberty ship.  He was an infantry officer, fresh out of ROTC.  They found out he knew something about boats, the US had just “fired” all of the crew from Liberty ships because they were too expensive to be run by the merchant marine, and he found himself running a 441 foot ship.  There was no booze on board.  But…  They had CASES of canned cherries.  Cherries, plus yeast = fermentation.  Fermented cherries could be distilled.  Distilled cherries were a lot like vodka!  So, he built a still on board.

My Dad bought the worst beer, and the worst alcohol.  He was correct in his statement “Vodka is 100% distilled spirits, with no additives.”  He never recognized that some bad tasting stuff would boil off first.

He would bring home the good booze bottle empties from the yacht club just to refill with rotgut.  I’m not kidding.  As kids, we learned how to refill the Chivas bottle at parties our parents threw.   My brother Hugh and I were bartenders for their housewarming.  We were 12 and 14.  Ah, the good old days.  He claimed people can’t tell the difference.  But his friends did – they also knew where he kept the good stuff.  So did we!

Beer wasn’t bought by the case, it was bought by the station wagon load.   Seriously, the carload.  Bartells, Milwaukee (no, not OLD Milwaukee, just Milwaukee), Steel City, etc.  it was just terrible.  No, I mean it.  It was horrible.

Absolutely true story:  One night when I was maybe 12 or 13,  someone left the garage door open.  He was really pissed to find 2 cases of his rotgut beer missing the next morning. We were all grounded because none of us would admit to leaving the door  open. The following morning, 2 cases of beer were stacked in front of the garage door. The top case was open, and there were 20 bottles plus 4 open ones in the case. Each was missing a swallow or 2 of beer. It was so bad that the kids who stole it returned it. Sometimes free isn’t free.  Or it isn’t worth it.  “Life is too short to drink shitty beer.”

The FIRST Incredible Journey

It’s funny how terms are invented.  For instance, all of us that grew up on Long Beach Island are sure we know the person that invented the word “Shoobie”.  We don’t know exactly who it was, but we know that we know him/her.   A Shoobie is a person that goes to the beach with shoes on – a beach tourist.  No one that actually LIVES at the Jersey Shore would actually wear shoes on the beach – it just isn’t done!  In fact, as kids we bragged about never putting on a pair of shoes – including flipflops – for an entire summer.

Even the movie theater was in on it.  The law said you had to have shoes to get into the movie theater.  So they had a big bin of flipflops at the entrance.  You picked up a pair, and took them to your seat.  The law didn’t say you had to wear them, you just had to HAVE them.  At the end of the movie, you threw them back in the bin.

The Catholic Church recognized this as well.  Saturday 6pm mass required only shorts and a t shirt.  No shoes required.  Even the priest was barefoot – all to encourage kids to go to church.

Back to the story.  It was early fall, just after Labor Day.  The summer between freshman and sophomore year at college.  College started in late September, so we had most of the month off.  It was fantastic. A few of us – Rick, Steve, his sister Linda and I – thought “I wonder if you could have a drink in every bar on the island?”  Long Beach Island is 18 miles long, and a few of those miles aren’t inhabited.  It’s long and skinny.  We knew every bar on the island.  So we started in Holgate at around 5pm.  I don’t remember much in between, but I do remember ordering a beer in the last bar at the tip of Barnegat Light, a gay bar.

Rick drove (Yes, we were bad back then. No designated driver.  We were obviously way too drunk to be legal. And it was the off-season).  He had a Vega.  He loved it, but really, it was a piece of shit.  And at least I didn’t have to drive.  I was the designated driver for the drive-in, because you could put 3 in my trunk.  Anyway, by the time we got to Barnegat Light, we were really trashed.  It was between 2 and 3 am.  And we decided that we needed to top this night off by climbing the lighthouse (Barnegat Light, “Old Barney”).


We walked over to the lighthouse, and found it closed (imagine that).  Locked up tight.  So, I climbed on Steve and Rick’s shoulders, and we broke in through a window.  I pulled Linda up, and then she and I pulled Steve and Rick up.  We were in!  This thing was built prior to the Civil War, out of brick.  The base was several feet thick, and we were in an alcove.  The alcove was piled high with furniture, and it was as black as the ace of spades.  We clambered over the furniture, and started climbing up.

About 2/3 way up, I said “you know, I went up this thing last summer, and I don’t remember the staircase being this narrow.”  It was a spiral staircase.  Rick pulled out a lighter, and flicked it.  Yup, the staircase wasn’t that narrow!  We were climbing up on the supports inside of the staircase!  The stairs were over there…  We corrected ourselves, laughing our asses off, since we’d managed to avoid death.  We got to the top, and it was obvious that some renovation was going on.  I went all of the way up and started doing hand puppet shadows in the lighthouse light.  Finger figures 200 feet tall dancing on the sand.  There was probably a Russian trawler out there with the captain saying “… are zeez som kint of code?”   Rick, meanwhile, had found the worker’s tools, and started gathering them up.  Only Rick knows why – they were old and beat to crap.  But free is free, I guess.

At some point, someone realized that we might be obvious with our shadows, and my hand puppets, and that we might want to get out of there.  So we made our way down the stairs (this time) and out.  We threw Rick’s “new” tools in the back of his hatchback Vega, to drive home.  Except that we’d parked in sand.  Deep sand.  Try as we might, we couldn’t get the Vega to move.  And then along comes a local policeman.  Ugh-oh, we were busted.  I mean, we were still shit-faced drunk, and there were pilfered tools in the back of the car.  The cop opened his trunk, pulled out a shovel, and crawled under the stuck Vega.  He spent about 20 minutes digging us out, and then helped push us free.  Great guy!  We thanked him, promised to drive home carefully, and left.  Yet again, laughing our asses off.

We decided to finish the evening off right:  Let’s climb the water tower (a very common occurrence – probably why I hate heights), and we watched the sunrise.  Linda joined the boys and pissed off of the water tower.  Perfect ending to the very first “Incredible Journey”.  Often later attempted by others, but never really duplicated.


Blowing Shit Up, Part 2

My best friend growing up was Steve. His Dad decided to become a lawyer later in life, and they moved “down the shore” permanently. He and I were first class pyromaniacs. It was just plain desolate on LBI in the winter. We started pretty simply. A weekend day began with a decision:  Go north, to the hobby shop (see Blowing Shit Up, Part 3), or south to the A & P.  Heading south, our initial destination was the A & P.  For $0.11, you could buy an entire box of “Strike Anywhere” wooden kitchen matches.  But we needed the money.  So, we’d go through empty lots, looking for Coke bottles.   Back then, when you bought a Coke or a case of drinks, you had to put a $0.02 per bottle deposit down when you bought them.  You got your $0.02 back, when you returned the empty bottle.

We needed 5-1/2 bottles to get to $0.11.  So, yes, we needed 6 bottles.  Some days were easier than others.  And if we had a good day, and found more than we needed, we’d “bank” the extra bottles in a lot somewhere, so we could get them later.   We’d buy the box of kitchen matches, and head to the beach. This is where we’ll come back to the story, a bit later.

Bob and Sally are college friends of my wife, Jan. I’m in a mixed marriage. She’s a Gator and I’m a Seminole. When we moved from Tallahassee to Houston for me to go to grad school, we hooked up with them. We started going camping with them, and we still do, 35 years later. I think the reason why Bob and I get along so well, in spite of the fact that he’s a Gator, is that he’s a bigger pyro than I am.

When we went camping, Bob would bring half a cord of wood in the back of their old Chevy van. He thought the weekend was unsuccessful if he brought any back. The park rangers were awed by our ability to burn a bonfire without going outside of those small fire rings they have in the park. Bob was also a big believer in the liberal use of fire starter. No, not charcoal lighter, Coleman fuel.  Bob kept his Coleman lantern long after we progressed to electric lights, just so he had an excuse to buy and bring another gallon of Coleman fuel.  Coleman fuel is purified gasoline.  And, his lantern was defective. Every time he lit it, it would explode in flames. Sally would yell at him, and we would all laugh.  One time we pulled into a campsite, and we all said “this one looks familiar”.  That’s when we noticed the huge oak tree with the scorched limbs up about 15 feet.  Bob had been here…

Fairly soon after we moved to Houston, they invited us to dinner. Dinner with the four of us mostly consisted of lots of beer before dinner, followed by a couple of magnums of Lambrusco. It was right after Christmas, and Sally had taken all of ornaments off of their tree.  Bob thought it would be a good idea to burn the tree in the fireplace. It didn’t matter how many times I told him it wouldn’t work, he insisted that he could burn it “a little at a time”. He’s an engineer, you know.  I, on the other hand, a lowly biologist in grad school, couldn’t possible know differently. Even though I had the equivalent of a Masters in Christmas tree burning.

See, building dunes was and is a big deal on Long Beach Island.  One of the ways they build the dunes is through the use of snow fences.  Snow fences are used like this:

The snow fences catch the blowing/moving sand, and stack it up.  After a few wind storms, they tend to get buried.  At the end of each street, there would be a path through the dunes to get to the beach.  The Township would use snow fences to line the paths.  Like kids everywhere, there were some adults we didn’t like too much.  So, we’d go to the end of their streets, and we’d move the snow fences around.  By summer, they had no way to get to their beach, because we’d  moved the fences, and built the dunes up to where they couldn’t get to their beach without having to climb a huge dune.  Sorry.

They also used discarded Christmas trees to build the dunes.  They were perfect for catching and keeping sand.  A stack of trees would quickly turn into a nice dune.  But on our beaches, they usually didn’t get much of a chance.  Because we had a box of “strike anywhere” kitchen matches!  Wow, a good dry Christmas tree can burn.  I’m not sure that gasoline burns any quicker.  A stack would go up in just a second or 2.

And, that’s how I knew what would happen, Bob.   No, you can’t burn a Christmas tree in your fireplace “a little at a time”.  Fortunately, their house had a pretty big masonry fireplace.  Because we ended up shoving that tree up the chimney.  He still almost burned the house down.  And Bob lost his eyebrows.

“Hurry. Break your old record.”

It’s funny when this comes up in conversation.  Like this:  My wife will ask “Honey do you want another beer?”  “Sure!” I say.  Then I add “HURRY!”  Of course, this gets all kinds of reactions from observers.  Especially other women:   “Are you KIDDING?”  “Does that ever work?”  “Oh, I wanna see THIS!”  “She’s going to bitch slap you!”  And instead, it always garners just a smile from my wife.   They look on incredulously.

See, this is a “family thing”.  Zero disrespect is intended, it’s simply a joke.  A joke that’s been going on for many, many years.  It started with our girls, who are about 2 years apart.  They were probably around 5 and 7.  Older sister quite often took advantage of her younger sister.  She could get her younger sister to do just about anything, but sometimes she needed a little edge.  So, when she would get her little sister to run to the kitchen to get her a drink, she’d say “I’m timing you.  Hurry.  See if you can break your old record.”  There was never a record, never a stop watch.  Just a ploy to get her to fetch whatever she wanted, quickly.   This lasted for years – until high school, at least.

So, if you overhear one of us – any of us – say “Hurry”, just know, we are waiting for the fetcher to “break your old record”.  Not really, of course.  It’s just a familiar family joke.

LUV Valentine’s Day Story – Best flight ever on Southwest!

Sorry for not posting a recent update.  We’ve been snowbiking in Durango for a week.  Sure wish Southwest flew there – Jan and I both said several times:  “I sure wish we were flying Southwest!”  Anyway, here’s the LUV Story (for those that don’t know, Southwest’s stock ticker is “LUV”):

I was working for a big IBM distributor located in Indianapolis.  I was VP of Business Development, and it was Indy 500 Time Trials weekend. We threw a huge party for time trials, and it was a ton of fun. You can’t get anywhere near Indy on race weekend, so we would invite clients and prospective clients up for the weekend before the race. This particular year, one of our good friends was getting married back in San Antonio, and I had to hop on a flight home for it. Good old Southwest Airlines. I had an aisle seat near the middle of the plane. The plane was fully booked, with only middle seats left. A guy standing in the aisle called out to his girlfriend behind him “I’m going to grab this seat honey”, and sat down in the middle seat next to me.  She turned to him as she came by and said “You’re dead!”. Uh oh.

I asked him what he had done. He told me that they were In the bar watching the Indy time trials, and almost missed their flight. They had first group boarding passes (Southwest has open seating), and now they weren’t even sitting together. I asked where they were going (the flight went to New Orleans, where I was changing planes), and he said “Tampa. For a romantic weekend.” Rhetorically, I told him he’d gotten off to a bad start. He said “yeah, and I brought a ring.”   Hmm.

So I said “You could make this up to her.”  “How” he asked. I told him I was sure that we could get some help from the flight attendants, and that he could propose on the flight. He thought that was the dumbest idea he had ever heard of. “She might say no.” So the lady in the window seat chimed in. Between us, we goaded him into it. I told him it would make a great story for the rest of his life. We were taxiing to the runway to take off, and I grabbed a passing flight attendant. I quickly told her the story, and her only comment was, “Oh, we can make this work!” She left to talk to the rest of the crew. Shortly after takeoff, she came back and unveiled the plan.

He went to the back of the plane. The flight attendant paged his girlfriend to the front of the plane. She had been sleeping, and had no idea what was up. He got on the PA and said “Honey, I’m sorry for how this weekend got started. It was my fault that we almost missed the plane, and that we aren’t sitting together. I would like to make it up to you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”  Not a sound on the plane but the engines. The flight attendant handed her the mic, and she barely got out a “yes” through the tears. The plane erupted. This was back when Southwest had facing seats on the exit rows, called the “lounge”. They met at the lounge, he dropped to one knee (he didn’t want to, but I’d told him he had to), and he put the ring on her finger. Again the plane erupted in applause and cheers.

I gave up my aisle seat for her, and Southwest bought all 3 of us free drinks. She asked the flight attendant to find out what state they got engaged in. She wasn’t all that thrilled to hear “Arkansas”.  Then the Captain offered to come back and perform the ceremony for them. They declined.

Southwest really went over the top when we arrived. As they exited the plane (the flight attendants asked the rest of us to wait, so they could get off first!), Southwest had a large group of employees meet them, along with a giant bouquet of flowers and a magnum of champagne.  Class act, Southwest.

Happy Valentines Day!

She’s a REAL sweetheart, Part Deux

We run a small business out of our home. We do have employees.  As is typical, we have occasional problems with them.  For instance, Jan hates it when our everyday kitchen silverware (stainless) comes up missing pieces.  She yells at everyone (well, she “discusses” with everyone), and we scrounge around the office, and some pieces make it home. It finally got to the point that we needed some forks – too many were missing.  So, I went on to ebay, and bought some to match. Perfect solution.  While I was at it, I bought 20 soup spoons.  These spoons are our favorite – they are oval shaped, not round like regular soup spoons, and larger than regular spoons.  We love them.  She loves them.

When the forks came in, I gave them to her.  The soup spoons went into my desk drawer without her knowing that I bought them.  Over the next few weeks, I’d pilfer a spoon or 2 a week, and put them into my drawer with the new ones.  Finally, with only 2 spoons left, she stormed into the office and yelled (sort of) at everyone about her missing spoons. Everyone promised to look, and to look at home (they were all in on this).  Then I started adding spoons back, 1 or 2 every week or so.  Until the spoon section was overflowing.  I mean, where there were 2 in the drawer, now the stack was 2” tall and falling over.  I’d hear an occasional “what the hell?” when she emptied the dishwasher, but that was about it.  One day she was working at my desk and went to look for something in a drawer.  She found my stash, which was down to just 2 or 3.  “You ASSHOLE!”  She doesn’t say bad words very much. But that’s when she came up with the idea to get me back with the drink dregs (see prior story – “She’s a real sweetheart”).

She’s a sweetheart, Part I

My wife Jan is a saint.  At least that’s what everyone says.  And, it’s probably the case – since she puts up with me.  There are some times that I feel sorry for her.  But she knows that I love her (a lot), and she also knows that if I’m not pranking her, I must be mad at her.  And please know, she does get back at me.  And, sometimes they are great.

I finally realized THIS WEEK that she was screwing with me.  She knows I hate the dregs of drinks – you know, the nasty little bit left in a bottle or can?  What especially ticks me off is when I fix a drink, and the big container of whatever it is, has about a tablespoon left in it.  Usually, you can hear “SERIOUSLY?” come out of my mouth.  This week, she did it again.  So, I took a picture of it, and texted it to her with the caption “SERIOUSLY?” on it.  Then I called her.  I could hear our daughter Theresa in the background laughing her ass off.  And Jan also had trouble holding it together.  It was finally THEN that I realized that she’d been screwing with me.  For months.  Damn.  Just to piss me off.  Well done.

One day a couple of weeks ago, we were lounging in bed on a Saturday morning.  Just a few days after our 40th anniversary.  I was reading the paper on my iPad, and she was playing a puzzle on her iPad.  She has this thing about her jigsaw puzzles on her iPad.  If she quits playing, for even 2 seconds, she HAS to hit the pause button.  I’m not sure why – there’s no one to compete with.  It makes no sense.   But I know this.  So, I’ll occasionally yank it out of her hand and hold it out of reach while it’s running.  Or, I’ll hold her arms down while it’s running, counting off time.  Yeah, I’m an ass.  But, it’s pretty funny.  At least for me.  And for her, ‘cause she knows how stupid this all is.

So, I’ve been harassing her that morning while she was playing.  Anything to distract her, and screw up her totally unimportant (to me) running clock on her puzzle. She was fighting back, pretty successfully I might add.  She doesn’t hesitate to go over the line.   Finally, I said to her:  “So.  When you were in high school and thinking about your future husband and what he might be like, did it ever cross your mind that you would have to say to him ‘If you bite me, I’m going to be pissed!’”  We’ve been laughing about that ever since.

Stay tuned for Part Deux.

My Dad and his tools

8 kids are brutal on tools. Hell, we had just 2 girls, and they are brutal on tools.  Eight? Especially with 4 of the 8 as boys.  And we were sailors, so we obviously needed tools for our boats. And as kids, I mean, we NEEDED to steal his tools – we didn’t have money for our own.  Also remember that salt water and tools don’t get along well.

As number 6, I was a recipient of all of the learning that my parents accumulated with the first 5.  By the time they got to me, they had heard and seen it all. But I have to give them credit, sometimes they knew we were doing something innocuously and just let us get away with it.

Sometimes Dad just gave up.  He’d get his car worked on at Pep Boys and he made a hell of a deal with them.  He bought tools by the gross.  Seriously, 12 dozen, 144 at a time.  He would go in and buy a case each of regular, Phillips head, and pliers.  $0.04, $0.06 and $0.10 each respectively.  That’s $28.50 for the whole thing:  432 tools.  The fact that he had to do this not only more than once, but pretty regularly, says something.  What the hell did we do with them?  My Dad’s most often heard dream was that there would be 2 screwdrivers and a pair of pliers in every drawer of both houses.  He would have died a very happy man.

He had his own “office” area in the house and he often worked out of the house.  He had HIS pair of scissors, in his top desk drawer.  He got so tired of them being stolen, that he drilled a hole in the drawer, put a stainless steel eyebolt in it, and tied the scissors to the bolt.  The first kid that needed scissors went to the drawer, looked at the string, then the scissors, and then used the scissors for what they were designed for.  My Mother didn’t raise dummies.  He was pissed.  The best part was that there were 8 of us.  Too many to even narrow down the blame.

His solution to the cut string on the scissors was to step it up a bit.  Well, a lot.  He took a piece of 1/8” stainless steel wire (2000 lb breaking strength), and swaged it (again, we are sailors, he has this tool) to the eyebolt and to the handle of the scissors.  It was quite successful.

Image result for swaged stainless wire

In that same drawer was his copy of the Yellow Pages.  Before the internet, this was a bible for finding businesses.  They were 3-4” thick.  And yes, we’d steal it too.  He’d even leave last year’s copy in plain sight for us to take.  Nope, we’d ignore the bait, and go for the new one.  He came up with a similar solution:  He took his electric drill and drilled a hole through the Yellow Pages, and then took another piece of stainless steel wire and swaged it to the book and to the same eyebolt that the scissors were attached to.  The VERY first time he went for his Yellow Pages after this “security update”, he looked up a number:  609-555- and a hole.  There was a hole where the number was supposed to be!

When my Dad got a new (or new to him boat), the very first thing he would do is “de-brass” it.  Or “de-Johnson” it.  He blamed Lyndon Johnson for everything. New boats always seemed to slightly trail the death of one of my parent’s relatives.  Weird.  Anyway, he HATED brass fasteners on a boat.  He’d buy stainless screws, bolts and nuts by the pound. Then he would get me and my brother Hugh to do the work.  All hand tools back then.  Except the drill.  He had an electric drill.  Notice that I didn’t mention buying washers.  They were $0.06 each, even in quantity.  Nickels were only $0.05 each.  And they worked just as well as stainless washers.  And child labor was free.  Hugh and I would drill out nickels for hours.  Hundreds of them.

One year he splurged and bought a stainless steel centerboard for his boat.  For non-sailors, this is a large flat piece of metal or wood that goes up and down, below the middle of the bottom of the boat. This helps sailboats sail closer to the wind without sliding sideways.  Anyway, this thing weighs about 130 pounds, and this one was something like 3/8” stainless steel.

Image result for lightning centerboard


Where we raced, the water is a bit shallow.  The local Lightning fleet has a rule allowing for a portion of the centerboard to be cut off, allowing better performance in shallow water.  Trust me, this works. It involves cutting about 2 feet diagonally off of the end.  And once again, Hugh and I were engaged to do the work.  I think he paid us for this one.  Something like $0.05 an hour.  With a hacksaw. The only electric tool we had back then was a drill, and a drill wouldn’t work on this. Until we got far enough into the centerboard that the handle would no longer clear the edge, and then he took the hacksaw blade and wrapped it with black electrical tape, and we did the remaining 85% with it.  An hour a day each.  For 3 or 4 months!  Yes, it took that long. And no, he wouldn’t replace the blade.  I think we used 1 or 2 blades for the whole thing.  Blades were expensive, you know.

Smell that gas!

Our younger daughter, Stephanie, and her (now) husband bought their second home a couple of years ago.

Steph is also my business partner in our appraisal business.  At some point in time, with her numerous childhood health problems, including open heart surgery at 6 months, she lost her sense of smell.  We don’t know when it happened, but she was maybe 6 or 7 when we discovered it.  She can detect strong odors – but they are mostly irritating, and that’s why she “smells” them.  By the way, she has to disclose this on her appraisal reports.

This house has gas heat and appliances.  So, when they bought the house, I insisted that they get gas detectors that will identify a gas leak, since she can’t smell the mercaptan that they put into gas to give it that “gas smell”.  Natural gas and propane have no smell, so they add mercaptan to it, so that the human nose can detect a gas leak.

A couple of months ago, she came into the office with that “I had no sleep” look.  I asked what was wrong and she said “that stupid gas alarm you made us get kept going off all night long!”  Uh-oh…

I started asking her questions:

“Where is it located?”

“In our bedroom”

“Where in the bedroom?”


“Seriously, where in the bedroom?”

“On the wall!” (you moron)

“Plugged into an outlet?”

“YES.  Plugged into an outlet” (see “exasperated look” in the dictionary)

“Where was Jack (her dog)?”

“On the floor” (where else would he be?

“WHERE on the floor? Near the detector?”

“Yes, near the outlet.  Why?”

“Was Jack farting last night?”

“Yes, Dan (her husband) said he was terrible.”

“So, Jack was farting under the detector.”

“Yes, why?”

“Google it”

2 minutes later:  “Holy crap!  They detect farts?”

“Yup.  And, the same stuff they put in natural gas to make it stink, makes your farts stink.”