Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wide open spaces in the ice box become rare

I love my mother-in-law.


But after all, she is my mother in law.


In any case, she moved into our household a few years ago and it's been a good thing for all of us in our family.


However, she has made her presence known here in our spacious home.


This is especially true when perusing our refrigerator.


See, my mother-in-law, a widow, has a very active social life as she makes the rounds going out for lunch and the occasional dinner with her friends.


Many of them are widows also and it seems that the most popular social activity for these ladies is grabbing a bite to eat at the many hundreds of restaurants throughout Northeast Ohio.


In any case, she and her friends rarely finish the enormous portions that seem typical for eating establishments here in the USA these days.


Here's the point. Despite her very healthy appetite, my mother-in-law just can't finish these wonderful meals served up to her and her grandma friends, eating their way across the landscape as their way of keeping in touch with one another.


That means she is constantly bringing home leftovers.


Italian, Chinese, Outback, Mama Roberto's, Chipotle, Petie's Restaurant, American diner style, etc.


And the containers.


I never realized how many varieties of styrofoam and plastic containers existed in the world.




So throughout my refrigerator, space is at a premium.


 Because my wife's mother can't finish a restaurant meal and her calendar keeps filling up with new dates with new opportunities to bring home a doggie bag, the contents of which she doesn't have time or opportunity to consume.


Let's be blunt about this.


We really don't have a refrigerator at our home.


It's more like a Smithsonian Institute Museum display, making record of the eating habits of the modern American socially mobile grandmother.


And now I can't find anything.


My favorite soda pop is sandwiched somewhere between Tuesday's leftover spaghetti and Wednesday's leftover burrito.


I'm trying to find the cottage cheese.


Unfortunately, it's hidden behind a stack of containers.


Three containers holding Friday's leftover fish, some type of lemon cheesecake, and the remains of a chicken salad that originally resembled Mount Vesuvius in size and shape.


If she is  ever accused of murder, the police could easily re-create her whereabouts by stacking up all the containers and  tracing them back to the restaurant of origin and the corresponding gray hair gatherings that became the excuse for another meal served away from home.


God bless her and all her pals reminiscing about the good old days and exchanging stories about their grandchildren.


The thing is though, I'd like to get my Frigidaire back.


With all the kids out of the house, I long for wide-open spaces where bottles of water can be chilled and maybe even some bubbly can sit there waiting for some magic moment where it can be  accessory to a celebration.


So eat on m' lady and enjoy this great life that you have so richly earned.

Just stop bringing home so much dad-blasted food with your name written on the container with a sharpie.


My pride and my dignity cry out for a little space at 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

There's a ballgame that everyone wants to win

I am a huge sports fan.


But today, in this column, I'm about to tell all my fellow sports fans to go to hell.


Literally, you are going to hell.


This is what I mean.


Sports fans carry that name because they are fanatic when it comes to their favorite teams.


We attach real significance to events that in fact have no value whatsoever.


Let's look at the scene early Sunday morning at the municipal lot adjacent to Browns Stadium.


Tailgaters who've made their plans weeks in advance, grilling the most delectable cuisine.


Beverages, mostly the beer variety, are carefully chilled so guests can have their fill of their favorite Pilsner.


As the morning progresses, so does the  inebriation, and by gametime the grill chef is usually three sheets to the wind. He staggers into the stadium, enduring the second half of the ballgame in a state of stupor.


He staggers home and falls asleep on  the couch. His children contemplate this disgusting routine capped off by a fit of vomit followed by more sleep and ultimately a hangover the next morning.


This exercise in futility makes me wonder about how we invest the  precious little time God has given us.


I love the Browns and I love the Indians, but  why am I willing to let hundreds of hours of my life slip away watching exploits of overpaid juiced-up crybabies who don't give a rat's patooti about what happens to me or my family.


Lots of guys and gals can't quite make their way to church during the weekend because of the elevated importance  assigned to  tailgating  and the football game.


If church is not  your gig, maybe you could volunteer.


There are plenty of  nursing homes where your smiling face and caring disposition could make the difference in the life of a senior citizen otherwise imprisoned in a nursing home where family members are too busy to visit this geriatric warehouse.


Meals on Wheels could use some help on Sunday mornings as well. There are shut-ins who wouldn't mind it if you sacrificed your Budweiser induced coma in favor of your effort to alleviate a little loneliness.


You see what I'm driving at.


It's a great time of the year as the baseball season culminates in the final drive to the playoffs and pigskin exploits capture our imagination at the high school, college, and professional levels.


But the fact is that none of that has any real value in the eternal scheme of the universe.


St. Peter's clipboard has a checkoff list which is devoid of points assigned for leisure time watching and drinking, watching and drinking, watching and drinking.


Look, enjoy it because it's fun,


But keep it in the background of your life so that you can really spend your time doing something important for somebody else or for God.


When you die, you will come across a really important scoreboard.

Your own personal scoreboard.


That's the game you really want to win.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Little things change everything: It's within your power



And a gesture changed the world.


A gesture that was merely a human reaction.


Here are some details.


The place was Fenway Park. It was a day game.


It happened in the middle of the infield.


Between innings, the shortstop walked over to the second baseman and put his hand on his shoulder.


The two men talked about  the way they should position the infield as they faced the fierce lineup of the hometown  Red Sox that afternoon.


The famously cruel Boston crowd took notice and went quiet.


The Bostonians seemed especially angry that day, but the simple act of a hand on a shoulder changed everything.


Time stood still.


A hand on a shoulder.


That act of friendship.






In case you were wondering what the big deal was, let me fill in a few more facts.


The shortstop was Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a star born and bred in the deep woods of the south.


A hero from  the heart of Dixie.


And who was the second baseman he treated as a brother that day?


Jackie Robinson.


Beantown was not a friendly environ for the first black man to break the color barrier in major league baseball.


And much more so than today with the NFL and NBA grabbing some spotlight, baseball truly was America's game back then.


In fact, baseball was America.


But when the bleacher bums of Boston saw the All-star shortstop casually demonstrate his solidarity with this brave pioneer, they knew they had to surrender.


They had to wave the white flag, so to speak.


That gesture changed America and the world.


Soon, "separate but equal"  would also fall.


"Whites only" signs would  begin to disappear and Martin Luther King's capturing of the national spotlight in the fight against racism was just around the corner.


And America would walk fitfully toward fulfillment of its destiny as a land of racial justice.


We still haven't eliminated racial strife in our great land.


But we have made progress, no doubt.


And that remarkable act that played out between Reese and Robinson before a sold out crowd silenced not only those that were present.


It began to  silence voices of bigotry that had  long been making too much noise in our Christian nation.


Look folks, you probably can't change history the way Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson did that day in Boston.


But you can make a caring gesture now and then.


Slip a few bucks to a homeless man.


Tell a Marine that you appreciate his service.


Put your  hand on the shoulder of a handicapped child.


It's just a gesture.


But maybe there are angels out there in the bleachers, watching.


Maybe your gesture helps another to summon courage.


In our modern world where we protect our personal space, it's okay to touch people and to convey your moral support.


The impact can be meaningful.


Just ask Pee Wee Reese.


You're the shortstop.


Find the second baseman.




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Memo to Ma Nature: Don't touch that handle!

Every now and then I encounter a sign above a commode.


"Remember to flush"


I hope Mother Nature ignores this reminder.


Here's the story.


The Cargill Company has reopened a gigantic salt mine beneath Lake Erie.


The salt mine was closed about two weeks ago when scientists noticed ceilings sagging in the monstrous caverns excavated below the shallowest of the Great Lakes.


And now, they are "pretty sure" everything is okay.


So the mine has reopened.


I'm uncomfortable.


You see, the Cargill salt mine has been retrieving sodium chloride in massive amounts for over 100 years.


That's a long time.


So long that beneath Lake Erie is a huge underground city that continues to grow as additional salt is removed.


Eighteen hundred feet below ground, this mysterious saline Atlantis is hauntingly without life. 


Nothing, not even rats, can survive in this environment where nothing grows.


It features gargantuan spaces the size of several football fields over twenty feet in height.


Pillars of salt are strategically placed to support those high ceilings.


That's what worries me so much.


I'm worried because above the ceilings are layers of rock.


And just above that rock is our own Lake Erie.


So I'm sort of… terrified.


Water always finds the lowest point.


Doesn't it seem dicey to be using explosives to create the world's largest dance ballroom underneath one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water?


God forbid if this salt mining causes the rock layer above to be compromised.


How are you going to stop the lake from emptying into the mine once a leak begins?


By the way, there is a precedent for that sort of thing.


A few years ago, Lake Peigneur in Louisiana began draining into a  salt mine underneath its floor.


Huge Freighters were sucked into the whirlpool created by this bizarre disaster.


The striking video of the Lake Peigneur incident looks like floating toys being flushed down a toilet.


The behemoth mine beneath Lake Erie is much larger than the one in Louisiana.


How'd you like to be aboard the Goodtime II as you and your fellow passengers start swirling round and round?


In 2011, some wiseacre published an Internet alert describing Erie's collapse into the salt mine.


The writer predicted a completely empty lakebed by 2012.


Fortunately, this alert was only an April fool's joke.


But if you've been following this story of the temporary closing of the Cargill mine, there's enough to make you nervous.


Imagine the  Western Reserve without our great blue lady Erie.


Our teetering local economy would be decimated.


Bill Kappel, a hydrogeologist with United States Geological Survey, reviewed the Cargill mine situation and urged constant vigilance.


Then he gave a warning.


"Realize every time you make a void in the earth, Mother Nature doesn't like it."


I don't like it either.


Mother Nature, I've posted a sign for you.


"Please remember not to flush"


At least, wait until I'm on dry land.


Salt, anyone?