Mr. Travel Expert

At various times I have given my expertly advice on booking flights, restaurants and hotels around the country.
This time my advice is “Don’t do what I did.”

For my current semi-annual trip to Indiana I booked the flight months ago. I also bought travel insurance because when you’re trip is to visit a 99 year-old mom, plans can change. I held off booking the car-rental until a month ago.

I used “Kayak” to find all the deals from all the companies. I sorted them by price and stayed away from cars that scare me to look at them, let alone drive them. You know, cars like the Kia Rio, Chevy Spark, Honda Fit and Velveeta Cheese Box.

So, the sub-sub compacts were out.

Then I saw a seductive offer from Dollar Rent-a-Car. The sub-compacts were $24 a day, compacts were $25 a day and then they offered a big bold “?” for $25 a day. I wondered what the “?” could be and of course I clicked on it.
The fine print was clear; a guarantee that this would be at least a compact, but more often than not it would be a standard or upgraded car if they have too many models on the lot. They called it a SURPRISE.

Well that was for me. I ordered a “?” for 14 days.
I’m a lucky fellow, so I imagined I would have at least a Buick Regal or a Chrysler 200. (There I was—flying down those Indiana farm roads in my “200”, the sun burning my bald scalp through the sunroof)

There were four people ahead of me at the Dollar counter. The first lady was renting a Chevy Cruz, second guy a Kia Rio (NO NO—you’ll be sorry), and the guy ahead of me was renting a Buick Regal (Damn, that was MY Buick Regal)

The counter-dude was young and I gave him my mature, confident smile and told him what a fine, efficient job he was doing. He smiled back, thanked me and started looking my name up in the computer. He smiled when he saw I had rented a “?”

He started typing furiously, asking for my driver’s license, credit card, phone number, address where I would be staying and the time I was returning the vehicle.

Then it was time for my Surprise.
He said, “All right, sir, I see you have our “surprise” vehicle and that means whatever vehicle that is a compact or better and is our heaviest inventoried will be your “?”
Tonight sir, you have a choice. Would you like a Ford 150 or a Dodge Ram 1500?”

“Those are damn trucks.”
Monster Truck

“Yes sir, when you see our lot you will see we are over-inventoried with trucks.”

“I don’t want a damn truck. It’s raining out. Am I supposed to put my suitcases in the passenger seat? Your signs states, Dollar Rent-a-Car, not rent a truck.”

“Sorry, sir, that is the stated policy.”

“Well, I also read that I can cancel at any time without penalty.”

“That is true, sir.”

“Well, I cancel.”

I then rented a Chevy Impala.

Then again, maybe it would have been fun!!!Couple in Pickup

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Here and There

I’m not there, I’m here. You’re there, not here. Unless, of course, you are here like me.

I’m in Indiana today. You’re where you usually are.  I hope you two nice every-day-readers from the Russian Federation are still there. Stay out of Ukraine.  Thank you.

Now back to Lafayette, Indiana.

Early Autumn in downtown Lafayette, Indiana
EarlyAutumn in Lafayette Indiana

It’s my semiannual trip to see mom, brother, kids, grand-kids, and old friends (both meanings of the word—old).

My mom is six months into her 10th decade on the planet. Since I last talked about her she’s had one good fall. Trying to make a 3 am potty-call, she missed her wheel chair and tumbled head-first on the tile. It was her first-ever ride in an ambulance and she was not happy about it. She said it was so bumpy she couldn’t hold her bladder. She asked the EMT for a bedpan and he told her they don’t carry that piece of equipment. She said, “Well, you’ll be sorry you made that mistake, cause I’m letting it rip.”

A few stiches in her head and some smashed fingers were a lucky outcome which only required a month or so of healing. She’s back in full stride again…complaining about the horrible food, the bad entertainment and a dumb God that won’t listen and make a deal with her. She keeps offering him/her a trade-in. She says, “I tell him to save a young one and take me. I’m tired.”

Mom gets lots of visitors. It’s like going to see a combination Phyllis Diller/Joan Rivers in a nursing home. Her stand-up routine is from her wheelchair. After their visit, I think they are more worn out from laughing then she is from living.

She complains all the time that she has totally lost her appetite. She tells me she hardly eats anything. My mom has been saying that for years. If it’s something she likes, she’ll pack it away. I guarantee she can eat more than any other 100 pound person on the planet. Last week my daughter called her when she was on her way to visit. She asked mom if she could stop and pick up something to eat. With my daughter’s permission I’ll give you the exact conversation.

Grandma:         I’m just not up to power today. Been sleeping all day. No food sounds good.
Me:      How about some soup? I could pick you up some warm vegetable soup? Potato? Anything?
Grandma:         No, just not much appetite.
Me:      ok, but we are close to Subway or Burger King.
Grandma:         Well maybe I could eat a hamburger with cheese, pickle, onion, and ketchup. How about a root beer and a few fries?

That’s my mom and it’s good to be home again.
Stay tuned for more Indiana stories.

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A Rolling Stone Gathers Relationships

Most of the people I hang with are younger than me. My mom has the same problem, but she’s 99. Nobody left.

For me it’s just circumstantial. I’m around many people born in the ‘70s and ‘80s and our historic memories are completely different. I’m not complaining. Who wants to hang around with old farts? That’s my friends’ problem when they hang with me.

Stories I’m familiar with and remember like they were yesterday are totally new pieces of information for many of my friends. Some of those stories popped up this week and I remembered we don’t know things that happened before we were born or while we were in elementary school.

A newly released book chronicles the Gary Hart presidential campaign and how reporters followed him around and caught him with his mistress. One of my friends had never heard of Gary Hart. I understand that and so it’s fun dredging up my memoires of incidents like that and many friends think I’m making stuff up.

Another story came up when a group of us were discussing “early” Rolling Stones stories.
Rolling Stones

When I talked about Bill Wyman I had a few blank looks. I think this particular story is wacky enough to talk about here today.

Bill Wyman was born in 1936. He played bass and was the oldest dude in the original Rolling Stones. He had a big falling-out with Mick and Keith and left the band in the early ‘90s. The Wyman story I like takes place in 1983 when he was 47 years old.

It seems that Bill Wyman fell madly in love with the beautiful Mandy Smith. Madly is the right word. Mandy Smith was 13 years old. Now I’m talking about 1983, one hundred years after Brigham Young showed us how to practice pedophilia and run a big church. Things have changed.

So Bill did the honorable thing and waited five years before getting married to Mandy. Her mother, Patsy, gave her consent. Bill was 52 and Mandy just turned 18.

Then Patsy, age 49, married Bill Wyman’s 31 year-old son, Stephan.

Suddenly, Bill Wyman’s mother-in-law became his daughter-in-law.  —Sheesh!

Then, after two years, Mandy said, “Yuk, I’m married to a 54 year old dude, let me out of here.” They divorced.

Then, two years later, Stephan Wyman said, “Yuk, I’m married to a 54 year old woman, let me out of here.”
They divorced.

The good news is Mick and Keith have made-up with Bill Wyman and allowed him to set-in with the Stones on a few gigs recently.

Keep it up Bill, not bad for a 78 year-old bass player.
You know how those bass players are!

Bill Wyman

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Yeah, it’s that time of the year. Scary times. Books, movies, Halloween haunted houses, all designed to scare the hell out of us. Do you like being scared? What’s it feel like to you when you get scared?
Scared Woman

I vividly remember the first real scary book that haunted me on every page and when I finished it I was still scared. Yes, it was a work of fiction. I love reading fiction. I love writing fiction. But great fiction usually comes from real life.

Let me tell you how the story that scared the crap out of me was born.

Back in the ‘50s we didn’t have the so called 24-hour news cycle. Ted Turner didn’t start the 24-hour Cable News Network (CNN) until 1980. We had the local news and the three networks gave us the “big” stories in the evening.

A murder here or there was always a local thing; unless of course it was gruesome enough to make the network news (If it bleeds it leads)

So, in 1957, when Ed Gein was arrested for the murder of two women in Plainfield, Wisconsin, most of the country didn’t hear about it. As the investigation of Mr. Gein continued the police found silverware, furniture and even clothes made of skin and body parts. Psychiatrists interviewed and examined him and determined Mr. Ed Gein was trying to make a “woman suit” of skin so he could become his dead mother. Now it’s getting good.

But still, there was no Anderson Cooper around asking questions and digging up reports so most of us never knew about that hideous crime. But a writer living in the next little town knew the ghastly story.

He wondered how that true life crime could be twisted into a book. So he did it. The writer, Robert Bloch, published his “fiction” in 1959. Just in time for a 16 year old kid to read it in bed one night and even though this kid was scared half to death he couldn’t put the damn thing down until the end.

Another guy named Alfred read it and got scared too. He made a movie from the book just one year later. Every one of you saw it. At least once. I don’t need to tell you the name of the movie.

Here’s a familiar picture below. The picture alone should send a chill up your spine.

Or does your fright feelings happen to your hair follicles? In your throat? Shaky hands? What happens to you when you get really scared?

What happened to you when you watched the shower scene?

Bates Motel

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Commas Are Good

I write stuff. I re-write stuff. Then I take the stuff to a critique group of fellow writers. They write stuff and do the same. We encourage and help each other. We also circle grammatical errors.

I always have lots of circles. I seem to have a problem with commas. I’ll use them when I shouldn’t and not use them when I should.

Commas are important. Commas are good.

Would you like to see why?

Here are some signs I didn’t make, but someone who has trouble with commas certainly did.
commas are good 2 commas are good 3
Commas are Good 1 commas are good 4



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Snob Slob

I think of myself as very laid-back. I view myself as very egalitarian. And then I notice I use the word “very” to distinguish myself as more laid back then regular laid-backers and more egalitarian than most.

Then I spin around like Beetlejuice and look in the mirror again and know it’s mostly lies. I’m an insufferable snob about so many things. How about you? Do you have certain things you are snobbish about?

But, this is about me so I digress. Let me be truthful about some of my snobbery. Bare bones true snobbery.

When I see someone drinking a Budweiser or Coors I actually see them lifting a bottle of pee to their lips. My stomach turns. Yes, I have tasted pee, and it damn sure wasn’t intentional so turn the page you Golden Shower freaks. My memories of the “pee prank” comes roaring back just looking at a bottle of Bud. Horrible tasting stuff!

Anyway, I’m such a snob about my beer that I won’t even discuss pilsner or lager, just talk to me about your IPA taste buds.

I hated 90% of the ‘90s music. Since then I have hated 95% of the last 14 years of new music. Old fogey? Probably. My parents hated 100% of the ‘60s and ‘70s music so I guess that’s par for the aging thing.

I’ve always loved Jazz, Classical and most of the Pop music written before 1990. I wasn’t around for the swing-band era, be-bop era, rag-time era, but I love most of it.

My generation took blues and country music and invented Rock & Roll. It was all good. It evolved into many forms along with many hairstyles. I entered the Heavy Metal phase with an open mind.HairBand

But then I vomited throughout the disco era.

Now Disco is bigger than ever. It’s called “Dance Music.” Rock & Roll is now bad country music. (The only one honest about that is Taylor Swift and who likes her?)


When I was younger this was a huge “snob” item on my agenda. A guy wasn’t allowed on the fence…it was GM or Ford. I was in the GM camp for many years. Ford was dumb (until the Mustang…yeah). Now I’m in nobody’s camp. I think they’re all over-priced ego trips. I’m waiting til my computer drives me around. I’m pissed because the oil companies have filled the American brain with oil-sludge. We get what we deserve so we keep burning and breathing more of their stuff when we could have broken the habit 10 years ago. Thankfully we have people like Elon Musk who is showing us what we “need” and “don’t need.” And we certainly don’t need fossil fuel to get us to grandma’s house.
Truthfully, I’m not a wine snob. I love wine, I own lots of wine, I appreciate how my taste buds respond to different wines. I love tasting wine varieties. And I totally respect your opinion on this or that wine. A wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. Wine is an individual experience.

Don’t even go there with beer. Bud tastes like pee.

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Musical Notes

I’m excited that old guys are still turning out great music. One of my all-time favorite groups, Pink Floyd, is about to release a new album. The album “Endless River” is their first album in 20 years.

They are like a long list of English Rockers who were influenced by American Blues players. Syd Barrett, original vocalist and guitarist in the early years, loved the music (and names) of two particular blues guys; Mr. Floyd Council and Mr. Pink Anderson. And that is where their name came from.

On another silly side of music, long-time singer and songwriter Barry Manilow did not write his big hit song, “I Write the Songs.”

I was four years old when I played my first tune of the piano. It was probably your first tune also– “Chopsticks.” That song was written in 1877 by a 16 year-old girl and was originally entitled, “The Celebrated Chop Waltz.” (so much more sophisticated)
piano practice

Speaking of piano, my piano is like most normal pianos. The eighty-eight keys have 230 total strings tuned to certain pitches or tones to make the piano sound like it does. Each of these strings averages about 165 pounds of tension. The total combined “pull” of those strings is over 18 tons. It’s important to have quality wood in that thing.

It was 33 years ago that MTV (Music Television) premiered. When they came on the air the very first music video they played was, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. (the truest irony ever)—Up to that point, music was a personal mental picture with private emotions stimulated by the words and tune. It ended then.The Buggles


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