Birdie Its Cold Outside

 

This afternoon as I write this article, the outside temperature is 10 degrees. I am in my three-quarters glass office and quite warm. Outside are several dozens of birds of many kinds: mourning doves, two blue jays, sparrows of various types, black-capped chickadees, woodpeckers, male and female cardinals and, I believe, a couple of grackles. And some little reddish bird too. The ones appear to be mated, the blue jay and cardinals, tend to always be together.

My wife the Beautiful AP came into the room and stood by the sliding doors to our deck. She was watching the wind whip through our trees.

I came up behind her and put my arms around her waist. And we both looked at the windy day from the security of a warm house.

I kissed her cheek and then I sang to her – heck I can be a romantic son of a gun. “But, baby, its cold outside” and I kissed her cheek again. And she turned, tilted her head (I love her head tilt) and I sang again, “But, baby, it’s cold outside,” and she slapped me.

“Woe, what the hell?”

“That song is sexist and should be retired,” she said.

“What are you talking about?” I said. “It’s a beautiful song and fits the weather today.”

She slapped me again.

“What the hell is with those slaps?”

“They are symbolic,” she said.

“Of what?” I said.

“Harder slaps.”

“Jeez,” I said.

“You are singing a song that might imply violence against women,” she said.

“What the hell? You have got to be kidding me,” I said. “It’s a love song. You know the male wants…”

“I know what the male wants but the female doesn’t want that.”

“Let’s go to the Internet and put the song on,” I said.

So we did. I thought the song was cute and flirty and had nothing whatsoever to do with violence against women. The self-righteous of the political left have demonized the song and my wife, despite her awesome intelligence, has fallen for the hoax.

We listened to it a second time.

“You don’t see what’s going on in the song?” she asked me. “She says ‘no, no, no.’”

“No,” I said. “She wishes she could say ‘no, no, no.’ But she can’t.”

“No,” said the Beautiful AP. “In another line she definitively says ‘no.’”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” I said. “I knew listening to NPR could give you erroneous ideas.”

“Plus she asks what’s in the drink. A date-rape drug isn’t ‘flirtatious’ now is it?” she countered.

“There’s no date rape drug. She was hinting that there might be alcohol in the drink. It’s flirty.” The Beautiful AP shook her head.

“Look, here’s how we settle this,” I said.

“We settle this because I am right,” she said.

“Wrong,” I said.

“I’m right,” she said.

I made a copy of the lyrics and we read them.

“Totally innocent and fun,” I said.

“An invitation to sexual abuse,” she said.

I looked out the window at our three bird feeders and noticed both Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal and Mr. and Mrs. Blue Jay eating up their food in the frigid air. They could be singing the song, “Birdie, Its Cold Outside,” or would they be fighting over the meaning of the damn thing?

Politics has become a form of religion, if you ask me. Soon everything will be banned. The left has become as righteous as the right. The song is not sexist; it’s flirtatious; nothing more. (Don’t tell my wife I wrote this last paragraph. I’m afraid she’ll slap me again.)

Dean Martin’s performance of the song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaflZPQhtmE

Complete lyrics to the song:

(I really can’t stay) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(I’ve got to go away) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(This evening has been) Been hoping that you’d drop in
(So very nice) I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice
(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what’s your hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I’d better scurry) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour
(The neighbors might think) Baby, it’s bad out there
(Say, what’s in this drink?) No cabs to be had out there
(I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now
(To break this spell) I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
(I ought to say no, no, no, sir) Mind if I move in closer
(At least I’m gonna say that I tried) What’s the sense of hurting my pride
(I really can’t stay) Baby, don’t hold out
[Both] Baby, it’s cold outside
(I simply must go) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(The answer is no) But, baby, it’s cold outside
(The welcome has been) How lucky that you dropped in
(So nice and warm) Look out the window at the storm
(My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious
(My brother will be there at the door) Waves upon a tropical shore
(My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious
(But maybe just a cigarette more) Never such a blizzard before
(I got to get home) But, baby, you’d freeze out there
(Say lend me a coat) It’s up to your knees out there
(You’ve really been grand) I thrill when you touch my hand
(But don’t you see) How can you do this thing to me
(There’s bound to be talk tomorrow) Think of my life long sorrow
(At least there will be plenty implied) If you caught pneumonia and died
(I really can’t stay) Get over that hold out
[Both] Baby, it’s cold outside

Dear reader, what do you think? And remember, it’s okay to take my side!

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

Blinding Insight

 

 One night I was driving onto Sunrise Highway in Freeport, New York, coming back from a South Shore Audubon meeting at the library, when I was blinded by a SUV with those new LED lights. I wanted to make a left hand turn onto Sunrise. I couldn’t see the road, I couldn’t see where I was to turn; I couldn’t see the street light above me. I could not see my dashboard. I was blinded.

“Can you see?” I said to my wife the Beautiful AP.

“This is horrible,” she said.

I stopped somewhere on Sunrise Highway before I even tried to see where I had to turn. The SUV passed me by and my vision returned.

“How can car manufacturers make such lights for their cars and SUVs?” asked my wife. “They will kill people.”

“Like cigarettes,” I said. “The car companies will pretend that these lights do not blind other drivers. That they are great for the environment while people smash up on the roads.”

She agreed. “They’ll pretend everything is just great with these lights.”

“Imagine being on a winding country road and being blinded by one of these cars?” I asked.

Lately more cars and SUVs are using those LED headlights. They are blinding as they approach you. The cars are bad enough but those SUVs are devastating on your eyes.

Are the two of us the only people who realize what danger these LED lights pose?

My wife and I can’t be the only ones now noticing how much more dangerous driving at night can be. The normal car lights do not blind you as they approach. You can clearly see the difference between the normal lights and the new LED lights. Even high beams on normal lights do not blind you.

Have accidents happened because of LED lights? I am guessing they have.

I think the time has come to outlaw such headlights on cars, SUVs and trucks.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble an at bookstores.

 

The Bird-Boating on the Osprey

 

The Osprey is both a bird of the raptor class (usually meaning hunter/killer) and the name of a boat that plies the waters of Cape May, New Jersey’s back bays. The Osprey bird is a fish eater and can often be seen swooping over the water looking to nail its prey for itself and its young.

The small, rectangular Osprey boat seats up to 20 people. In the front it has an open deck that allows birders to get up close and personal with the birds and the water, with both often swooshing around them. (http://www.ospreycruise.com/)

What a treat bird-boating those back bays of Cape May is! At the helm of the Osprey boat is the knowledgeable and quite humorous Captain Bob Lubberman. He is accompanied by a naturalist. On our last the trip in October, our naturalist was Thomas Baxter, a young man who knows the ins and outs of the birds inhabiting the back bays during migratory season; and, yes, some of these back-bay birds stay all year round.

On this particular trip we had about 15 people on board, all carrying their binoculars. A few were rank amateurs on their first trip—I am no longer such a rank amateur; you might say I am just rank.

Right off the bat, across from the dock about 100 feet away on the far side of the inlet were several Cormorants, Herons and Oyster Catchers. Baxter pointed them out and so our October tour began before the boat had moved an inch.

“Look in the air, about eleven o’clock, is a Red Tailed Hawk,” said Baxter. All our binoculars shot upward. There the hawk was, gliding beautifully on the air currents.

“For those of you who are new to birding and the use of binoculars,” said Baxter, “When you see the bird with your naked eye, do not bend your head to get your binoculars; just bring them up to your eyes. Keep the bird in your normal vision and then you will not lose him when you raise the binoculars. If you move your head when you try to use the binoculars you will lose the bird.”

We were out about a few hundred yards and the mudflats were filled with shore birds. “At one-o’clock,” said Captain Bob, “you’ll see a couple of Surf Scoters diving, these are large ducks.” These male ducks are black with white and black heads and seemingly orange beaks—caused by the sunlight bouncing off them.

Now my wife, the Beautiful AP, is a photographer learning her trade and she will zoom over to the area of the boat’s open front deck where she can best photograph the birds being identified. Occasionally she runs over me. I am zooming as fast as I can to the right spot but my zoom is closer to an amble. Her zoom is closer to Usain Bolt’s 100-yard sprint.

There are other camera-carrying birders and they do the same thing—zoom to the best area of the open front deck to get a picture of the indicated birds. “Brants over to the right at three o’clock!” Zoom, every photographer careens to that side of the boat. “Great blue heron at ten o’clock!” Zoom.

The Osprey boat can at times land on those massive mudflats and some birders have the courage to exit the boat in order to forage for and munch on the plentiful “salt” grass.

“Mmm, yes, it is so salty!”

Of course, it’s salty, that’s why it’s called salt grass!

Sorry, this type of naturalist eating is not for me; I want my salad prepared by a gourmet chef; not nature’s mud where birds have been (I’m going to be indelicate here) dumping their brains out. I actually don’t want to think that what I eat is or was alive so don’t bother writing me to tell me that everything I eat sooner or later can be traced back to living nature. When I was in Japan and the fish was served with its head still there and its eyes gazing into my eyes…well, no thanks.

Although my wife took some great close-up pictures of Ospreys in our August bird cruise, our October trip saw us see no Ospreys as these beautiful birds had left for their winter homes; but we did spy a host of birds of every type—even amazing Peregrine falcons living in the metal and concrete works of a drawbridge.

These two Peregrines were alert when our boat stopped under the bridge in order for us to gawk and photograph them. Captain Bob explained why they were so annoyed and aggressive: “At first when they made their home here, the opening and closing of the bridge didn’t seem to concern them. But as summer came and the tourists flooded the area, that bridge opened and closed so often that the birds became ill-tempered. Now they associate any boat passing under the bridge with the bridge opening and treat it as an annoyance or a threat, so you see why they are taking off and flying at us and around us.”

These are beautiful birds and the fastest creatures on earth, being clocked at up to 200 miles per hour! Even birders with cameras can’t move that fast (my wife is close though).

On this particular two-hour trip we saw a myriad of birds. Here’s a list taken from my memory: Scores of Cormorants and the same with American Oyster Catchers. There were so many Brants that they rivaled the thousands we see on Long Island. Of course, Canada Geese, honking and craping like crazy and found in all areas. Yes, we had Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets and Surf Scoters. Add to these the many Royal Terns and Caspian Terns and Dunlins and Dowitchers. Couple these with Bald Eagles and Peregrines and Red Tailed Hawks and Kestrels and Sanderlings. Finally, so many various Gulls I actually couldn’t keep up with which ones they were.

There were more species but I was too busy zooming and missed them.

We also saw a small school of dolphins in the back bays, which is unusual because the water is not very deep in most parts. Captain Bob told us there were probably a lot of fish present and that lured the dolphins.

If you are in Cape May, do try to take an Osprey bird-boating tour. I think you’ll enjoy it…but stay off the salt grass; it will give you high blood pressure.

Frank’s books are available at amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

Peregrine Falcon debates attacking us:

Cormorant takes a break:

 

Mother & Son Ospreys (August, 2018)

Photos by Alene Scoblete

My Damn Wife

 

My wife, the Beautiful AP, is my editor. A few days ago I handed her my latest article “The Righteous Outliers.” I thought it was a brilliant piece.

“So what did you think of my article?” I asked her, awaiting praise.

“I didn’t like it,” she said.

“You’re kidding.”

“No,” she said. “You wrote about two people in the club and about Thomas [not his real name] and I think you are going to hurt their feelings and our friends are going to be upset by this.”

“I didn’t make fun of anyone,” I said.

“You’re good with dialogue. I heard those two in the club actually speaking in your article. You don’t think everyone is not going to know who those club members are?”

“I gave them fake names,” I said. “I can’t believe you didn’t like it.”

“I hated it,” she said.

“I mean people who have certain beliefs sometimes go to the furthest ends of those beliefs and become intolerable. They lose their sense of humor and they are so critical of anyone who isn’t as fanatical as they are. You see it in religion, politics, societies…”

“Yes, yes, the idea is good. These outliers are everywhere in society,” she said.

“Righteous, righteous outliers. So that’s what I was writing about. I thought I caught it,”

“And Thomas? Do you think he wants you to share with the world the fact that he is being followed by his former religious friends because he’s converting to Catholicism?”

“I didn’t use his real name,” I said. “I mean his former religious friends have shunned him or are waiting outside his house speaking in tongues and trying to save him from the Satanic Catholic Church. Those people are all righteous outliers.”

“I hated the article,” she said.

Today I gave my wife my written analysis of the Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate hearing from Thursday. I don’t know the truth of what happened and I am glad the FBI is looking into the allegations. My article was merely my attempt to show that a certain stereotypical pattern existed in the situation with Ford being the quivering damsel in distress while Kavanaugh was the beastly, sexually assaulting angry man. I claimed this stereotyping could be portrayed in a movie and the critics would say that this stereotyping was trite. My article was not taking either of them lightly.

She read the article, turned from the computer and glared at me.

I was smiling. “I hit on something that no one thought about or wrote about,” I said.

“I hated it,” she said.

“What?”

“I hated it.”

“Seriously,” I said. “Come on, seriously?”

“This is a serious case and women are not going to be calm in the face of what you wrote,” she said. “This is a serious and emotional issue. They will not think of what you wrote as an ‘interesting analysis.’”

“What did I write? What did I write? I was just showing how you can see a stereotypical pattern in the event, that’s all. It was with both of them.”

“People are going to misunderstand what you meant,” she said. “You know and I know that people post absolute emotional garbage on the Internet. The reaction to your piece is going to be fierce and you will be mischaracterized.”

“Jesus Christ,” I said. “You mean I can’t write about hard-hitting issues?”

“Of course you can. But, you called Ford a damsel in distress and Kavanaugh the beer-bloated male bully but you’ll find that no one will understand you seeing a stereotypical pattern in this case. People will be outraged, thinking that you are trivializing the whole incident and what it represents—especially to those of us who can say, “Me too.”

“I don’t even know what you mean,” I said. Actually, I knew exactly what she meant but didn’t want to admit it.

“I mean: don’t publish it,” she said.

So I am writing this reaction at 2:30 in the morning. My problem is this: I know my damn wife is right about both articles. If it were ever Frank Scoblete versus the Beautiful AP testifying before the United States Senate—I would not be nominated as writer of the year.

Now comes the hardest part. I have to give my wife this article for editing. If you are reading this, it passed muster. If not…well, this will be the third article dumped on the trash pile this week.

Frank Scoblete’s latest book is Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

Of Mice and Men and Me

I was sitting in my particularly special recliner one afternoon, having finished my writing on a particularly strong intellectual subject, and I was now reading a particularly fascinating book titled UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says by Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan, when a mouse sauntered across the living room floor.

A mouse! In summer! A mouse! I watched it leisurely stroll under the couch.

Call my wife! the Beautiful AP! call my wife! of course, of course, at the library where she works. So I called. I must have misdialed the number. “I am sorry, this is not a working number!” said the operator-voice. Crap! I dialed again.

“Rockville Centre Public Library, please hold (click, then music).”

A mouse! In summer! And I have to wait to talk to a librarian?

“Hello, Rockville Centre Public Library,” said a voice that I thought was my wife’s.

“We’ve got a mouse,” I said.

“What?”

“A mouse! A mouse! He just ambled across the living room floor! What should I do?”

“Who is this?” asked the voice that I now realized was not my wife.

“Sorry, sorry, can I speak to the Beauti – I mean Alene,” I said.

“Maybe I can help you,” said the voice.

“No, no, we’ve got a mouse and I have to talk to my wife.”

“Who is your wife?” asked the voice. “Why don’t you call her?”

“Alene, Alene,” I said. “Alene! Alene! She works there.”

“And you are?”

“Her husband!” I said, “Her husband!” I realized now that I didn’t recognize this voice so it must be someone new. Most of the librarians know me, especially Amy.

“Hold on a moment and I’ll look for her (click, music).”

Four years later, the phone picks up, “Alene speaking.”

“Mice! We’ve got mice!” I said.

“How do you know? You heard them in the attic?”

“No, no, one walked right across the living floor! He saw me and didn’t care; he just kept going.”

“Where?”

“Under the couch!” I said.

“Call the exterminator,” she said calmly.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, right, right,” I said.

“How big was it?” she asked.

(The size of an African elephant. Huge. A true killer!)

“Small, baby size.”

“Well, call the exterminator,” she said.

“Yes, yes…oh, crap!”

“What? What?”

“There’s one over there at the sliding doors, a different one,” I said.

“You sure this is a different one?”

“Yeah, yeah, this one looks sickly,” I said. “We’re being invaded—in summer no less!”

“Don’t panic,” she said.

“I’m not panicking! I’m not panicking!”

“Okay, how big is this one?” she asked.

(Godzilla! Godzilla-size!)

“Small. Another baby,” I said.

“Can you catch it and throw it outside?”

“You kidding? With what? With what? I’m not touching it.”

“The net you use for your fish tanks,” she said. “Trap it in there and throw it out so we don’t kill it.”

“It’s a damn mouse!”

“I don’t want to kill it if we don’t have to.”

“Didn’t the Japanese kill Godzilla!?”

“What? What are you talking about?” she said.

“Never mind, never mind. I’ll figure it out, somehow,” I said.

“Use the net you use for your fish,” she repeated. “You won’t have trouble if it is sickly.”

“Then my net gets all sickly-shit on it,” I said. “What then?”

“You clean the net afterwards.”

“Oh, yeah, right, I’ll clean it.”

“And call the exterminator,” she said. “I’ve got to go. I have a patron at the desk.”

“But the mice….”

She hung up.

I got my fish net and cautiously approached Godzilla. I caught him and he struggled a bit but I opened the sliding doors to our deck and catapulted him out of the net. He hit the wood and slowly walked towards the back of the deck. I closed the doors quickly. He fell off the deck onto grass.

But that first one, that casual elephantine one was probably still under the couch.

I called the exterminator. He couldn’t come right away. What was I paying this company about four-trillion-dollars a year if they couldn’t come when I called…when I was in great danger from a massive, monstrous mouse invasion?

That night I kept every light on in the house because mice seem to prefer the dark and I hoped this monster would stay out of sight if my house were super-illuminated. But I wasn’t taking any chances.

No, no. I sat in my recliner, holding my fishing net, keeping watch in the harsh glow of all the lights, prepared to stay up all night just in case a monstrous mouse again sauntered across my living room floor. But then, my wife pried the fish net out of my hands and escorted me to bed, reassuring me the whole way. I drifted off to sleep thinking it’s great to have a good spouse when you have a horrifying mouse.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

 

They are high among the woodland giants; at the top terraces of massive trees, and in spindly ones; in those middle terraces that can support the weight of human beings and bears, in dugout crevices and holes, they look out at the forest floor and up into the canopy of leaves; and in bushes and even on the ground scooting about. They are there. You can hear them.

Now listen, listen: birds, birds of every size and type, singing their distinct songs of love; males and, yes, even females, looking to mate, to reproduce, to continue their lines as far into the future as those lines stretched so far into the past.

Birds. Some are nature’s beautiful angels and some are cold-eyed hunters and killers; all singing their songs to attract mates and after mating, to discuss daily living.

We hear their songs as chirps, whistles, and trills; hoots, honks, whinnies and squawks; caws and cackles. Each bird looking to distinguish itself so others of its kind will hunger for them, so others will know they are there.

For human birders the second step in recognizing who hoots who is learning the birds’ songs. There are some birders in our South Shore Audubon Society (on Long Island, New York), who can connect – like that! – with just about whichever bird is making whatever song. Birds listen to bird song but we listen too.

I do not have the ear as of yet. I recognize several songs but most of the charm of the 5 AM cacophony is lost on me. My wife the Beautiful AP isn’t much better at it than I am. Still, we haven’t been at this birding very long and sooner or later we’ll be able to identify some of those singers.

Our guide Joe, a former college biology professor, will stop the troop and point “up there” and “out there,” and say, “What bird is calling?” Slim-as-slim Michael, as new a birder as I am, will answer and he is almost always correct.

While tuning in to the songs of birds, I now hear trills from my mate:

“Scrape your plate and load it in the dishwasher.”

“Don’t come home with a plastic bag! There are canvas bags in the trunk.”

“If you can put your lips on a coffee cup and a wine glass, why do you need a plastic straw for a drinking glass?”

The birds are far more sonorous than this non-feathered creature who chirps to me daily—but the main thing is I’m beginning to listen.

 

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

The Incredible Fading Man

 

This Sunday my wife the Beautiful AP and I went on a bird walk at Hempstead Plains, a venue near Hofstra University and Nassau Community College on Long Island.

I didn’t like the place. You had to walk through small thickets, in and out of powerful vines that would catch your ankles and not let go, and the occasional really thorny thorny plants. The grass was wet; the walking was dirty. I was miserable.

We saw a bird here or there but I had to keep my head down to see where I was going so I wouldn’t fall on my face. Thus, I didn’t look up too much.

The place has a combination of rare local plants—something called Gerardi something or other which seems to be impossible to transplant elsewhere and is therefore on the endangered list and an invasive species called “those yellow flowers” which they have tried to kill by cutting, mowing and burning but the damn plant is taking over the Hempstead Plains.

The volunteer at the place told us to look out for ticks. How the hell do you do that, short of bringing a microscope and constantly checking the ground, the plants, your body and maybe everyone else’s body that might be swarming with these vile creatures?

Thankfully, when the walk was finished I stood by the administration building (a bunch of recycled shipping containers made to look like a building) and I stated emphatically out to the world at large that “I will never come here again” (unless, of course, my wife says I have to).

There were four people standing near me. What I took for a mother (or teacher or both) and three kids, two girls and a boy, maybe ages 15 to 20. They were about to go on their walk. I thought I’d have some fun with them. I mean what the heck! I’m a funny guy and maybe I could get a laugh out of them. One of our South Shore Audubon Society members, Bill, was near us as well.

I said to them as a group, “I saw the most amazing bird today.” I paused to make sure that they were hanging on my words and then I hit them with the punchline, “Rodan!” Bada-bing, folks! “Rodan!”

All four of them looked quizzically at me.

“What is that?” asked one of the girls.

“Rodan,” I nodded. “Rodan. You know, Rodan.”

“Never heard of that bird,” said the mother.

The boy shook his head. “What kind of bird is that?”

“Come on, man, Rodan,” I said.

“Never heard of it,” said the other girl. “What’s its Latin name?”

“You folks don’t know Rodan?”

They shook their heads.

“Rodan destroyed Tokyo,” I said. They just looked at me.

“When did that happen?” asked the first girl.

“I wasn’t aware that Tokyo was ever destroyed,” said the mother.

Bill stepped in to save me. “He’s talking about a science fiction film from Japan in the 1950s. Rodan was a giant bird.”

The four of them looked at me. I think they were wondering if this crazy man really thought he had seen this giant bird during his walk through Hempstead Plains.

I smiled wanly and turned my attention to something else—actually I pretended to turn my attention to something else. I was actually wondering if I am that far behind culturally? I thought every kid knew the great Japanese monsters that destroyed Tokyo. How could these four be so ignorant?

It wasn’t them. It was me. My reference points are my own life’s events and memories. I actually don’t know most of the current modern singers or songs or movie stars. I am out of sync with modern times.

Yes, more fool me, I’m fading: Rodan, for crying out loud, Rodan!

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

My Grizzly Wife

 

I love zombies! In movies, books and television shows just give me the undead snarling, biting, gulping victims’ guts and flapping intestines side-to-side in their mouths, and eating off the juicy exposed bones of their prey. I love the blood and the killings and I especially love when a zombie gets his or hers by having his or her head blown up, shot, stabbed or crushed with a giant stone.

Let me watch Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead over and over; and the Night of the Living Dead even in the early mornings. The zombie is a genre that I love.

But I am normal; please keep that in mind.

My wife, the Beautiful AP, is the truly grizzly one in our home. She makes me look like a calm and rational lover of fine fiction. There are no zombies in the real world. None of the stuff in those books, movies or television shows is real. I even know how all the special effects are done.

So, as I said, I am normal.

But the Beautiful AP watches shows that could make me ill and one of them almost did—a show called My 600-lb Life about immensely fat people who have operations (by this really weird dyed-haired doctor) to do something gory to their stomachs so they can lose weight.

I was dozing in my comfortable armchair after watching a rewarding Walking Dead episode, and my eyes opened. There on our 65-inch screen, in living color, I saw the weird doctor carving up a monstrously fat woman and digging around in the blubber looking for her stomach.

“Oh, God! Oh, God!” I said. “Shut that off. I’m about to throw up.”

“This is so fascinating,” said AP as she ate her buttered popcorn. (Point of fact: the Beautiful AP is thin and in amazing shape.)

I kept my eyes closed until a commercial for chocolate cake came on.

“How can you watch that?” I asked.

“The world of the morbidly obese is really interesting. They sometimes have to lose a hundred or more pounds just to get down to six-hundred pounds,” she said.

“Those operations,” I said.

“I know. The doctor…”

“Who is weird,” I said.

“Who is weird,” she agreed. “He goes right into them and has to move their blubber and organs to get at the stomach. Everything is crushed in there.”

She is also now watching a New Zealand show about immensely blubbery New Zealanders titled Big Ward. Evidently New Zealand has a huge fat problem; maybe New Zealanders are worried that with the increasing number of obese people trudging around that their island nation will sink into the sea.

If I nod off in my chair, she will immediately put on those shows or others such as Hoarders: Buried Alive and Hoarders: Family Secrets about people who keep disgustingly filthy clogged homes. She also likes Tiny House Nation about seriously whacked people who have teeny-tiny houses built for them, houses no bigger than my living room. Some of these people have crammed their fat children into these houses!

Okay, I give you My 600-lb Life, Big Ward, Hoarders; Buried Alive, Hoarders: Family Secrets and Tiny House Nation – or zombies? That’s right, which is the worst addiction? Vote!

But no matter what, I am going to hide the remote from her. I want to be able to keep my food down.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

Save the Best for Last

 

My wife, the Beautiful AP, and I went bird watching recently at the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge in Howard Beach, Queens, New York. This is my favorite place to go for the variety of birds, and for everything else—the marsh, the lakes, the ponds, the bay, the paths, the forest and the magnificent vistas.

You are in beautiful nature yet, through your binoculars off in the distance, you can see the skyline of Manhattan, which is always a spectacular sight. And since this refuge is quite close to Kennedy Airport you get to see hundreds of planes flying into the sky—mankind’s successful attempt to mimic the birds of the air.

Having gotten out of a 10-day post-New Year’s single-digit deep freeze, it was a relief to escape into 40-degree weather, although along the ocean and wetlands, it was still cold and windy.

We had to sneak into the park; it was closed because of the Federal government’s shutdown. We did a two mile walk on the main path; on our left the salt quarter-frozen bay and on the right the completely frozen freshwater lake.

About a hundred feet into the walk we encountered a young female photographer who was sitting on a bench looking at the bay on the opposite side of which is Far Rockaway.

“Any luck?” asked AP.

“Nothing except some flitters that are too fast to photograph,. They zip into the bushes and vanish,” she said. “Nothing is standing still today. There just isn’t really much to see.”

“Well, good luck,” I said as we walked on.

When we hit the area that had no bushes or trees on either side of the path, the wind whipped us. “So much ice,” said AP, looking over the bay.

“Nothing out there,” I said. Just then high overhead a small flock of Canada geese sailed over our heads. “I wouldn’t want to be a Canada goose,” I said. “Nobody seems to like them.”

“Do you like them?” asked AP.

“Not after stepping in their shit all these years,” I said.

“Remember the ones that were so aggressive at Hall’s Pond? If you didn’t give them something to eat, they attacked you.”

“Even if you fed them,” I said. “They still bit you.”

So we kept walking the path, stopping occasionally to look through our binoculars to see if there was anything to see. There wasn’t. The Manhattan skyline looked great as did the planes soaring into the air, but that was about it.

“Maybe we will see something in the second half of the walk,” said the Beautiful AP. “Maybe the second half will be good.”

“The second half of life’s been good,” I said.

“My first half wasn’t so hot,” said AP.

Indeed, AP’s first 29 years saw her more like a deer caught in a car’s headlights on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. She titled her parents’ marriage “Ozzie and Harriet in the Twilight Zone.”

“I was in the Twilight Zone with them,” she said. “It was a middle-class suburban family in chaos.”

“I had wild ups and downs in my first half of life. I certainly disappointed my father,” I said.

“You didn’t become a major league baseball player,” said AP.

I laughed, “I didn’t become the next Joe DiMaggio. I was nowhere near as good as you had to be to become a professional player, even a minor leaguer. So I didn’t get the fame he wanted for me. I petered out. And then a bad marriage, divorce and damn it wasn’t exactly turning out like It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“If we hadn’t met each other I sometimes wonder if I would ever have left Twilight Zone,” she said.

“Without your support I would never have become a well-known writer,” I said.

“The second half has been the best,” said AP.

“Agreed,” I said. “I’ve always felt bad for the people who look over their early years, say in high school or even in college, and reminisce as if these were the best years of their lives. It is sad that the right now is not their best times.”

“I have no nostalgia about those years. I’d never go back,” said AP.

“Me too. Just as we wouldn’t go back from where we came from on this walk, other than a flock of Canada geese, not a bird in sight, I prefer moving ahead. ‘Let the dead past bury its dead,’ as someone famous once said.”

“So let’s move on with the future of this walk,” said the Beautiful AP.

Right then a sparrow landed on the path in front of us. Our first non-goose! AP focused her camera but the sparrow scooted into the bushes before she could take a picture. The sparrow was not the last. We took a couple of steps and two unidentifiable black birds zipped over our heads. At least they were birds!

At the tail end of our walk all hell broke loose! Or maybe you could say that the heavens’ opened. Suddenly there were a half dozen different birds flying overhead, landing in the denuded trees, walking on the snow on the path searching for water and seeds, and some just stood on the side of the path looking at us. AP took dozens of photos. A couple came over and both the husband and the wife exclaimed, “Look at all the cedar waxwings!”

These birds are small and look like miniature cardinals. They were not skittish and the Beautiful AP got dozens of pictures of them. There were cardinals and robins and sparrows and gulls and, yes, flying overhead and honking like crazy were those Canada Geese. There were some other birds too—I just don’t what kind. It was, I kid you not, like being in an aviary.

When we finished, we snuck out of the Refuge and walked  to the car.  AP summed up our lives and this bird walk stating, “The second half was so much better!”

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

School Days

 

The Beautiful AP and I were coming back from swimming on Tuesday morning. It was the first day of school for kids on Long Island, New York. AP was driving. It was 7:45. We swim weekday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30. It’s a great way to start the day.

“Look at the four of them,” I said.

“Off to school they go,” said AP.

“Look at the little guy,” I said.

She laughed.

Two of the four kids were in high school; they were chatting with each other. The third kid, probably in eighth grade, was buried in his phone. The little one had to be, maybe, sixth grade? My, my, my did he strut!

“The poor kid has to show he is something special, walking with all these older kids. So he has that exaggerated strut, ‘Look at me!’ his strut says. ‘I’m not just a little guy. I’ve got it!’”

“First day of school is nerve wracking,” said AP.

“Especially for the teachers,” I said. “The day before the first day of school, Labor Day, that night’s sleep—if you do sleep—can be filled with horror. If you teach high school, you will be meeting 130 to 160 kids. You know some of them will be PITAs [pains in the ass]. The high schoolers are only meeting about nine teachers. Teachers have it tougher.”

“I feel sorry for the kids,” said AP. “I mean they all have to act cool or at least most of them do. They could be shaking inside.”

“True,” I said. “But I do think the teachers have more to fear.”

We were on Ocean Avenue, with the High School on our right and the Middle school on our left. About 10 teachers were heading for the Middle School.

“Look at that group,” I said. “Which of those teachers will be destroyed this year? Which will go home many a night and cry? Which will go home after a good day of teaching only thinking of the kid or two who gave them trouble that day? At times it’s hard to even enjoy the good days.”

“There are plenty of teachers who love what they do and enjoy teaching,” said AP.

“Yeah, that may be so, but just about all of those teachers here and across the country are going to be emotionally stripped and whipped on given days. They’ll know what pain is.”

In my 33 years of teaching I never had to send a disciplinary referral for a kid or even yell at a class but I was well aware that at any moment I could be hung out to dry by my students.

I used to have schoolmares. I’d dream that I had suddenly lost control of a class and the kids were now tearing me to pieces. I’ve been retired going on 16 years and I still have schoolmares! As it turns out, all teachers have schoolmares at one time or another.

I saw horror visit many teachers; their careers painted in the colors of torment. I don’t know how they did it; year after year, students mocking them, baiting them, and ganging up on them. Some of these teachers were true experts in their subjects—but devastated almost daily.

There were quite a number of new teachers who couldn’t make it into their second year—or even their second semester. I saw a big, strong Marine come back to the teachers’ room and cry. He left soon after this. A former cop took up teaching in his retirement. On the third week of school, he jokingly asked me, “How do you do this without a gun?” He left after his first year to enjoy his retirement from the police force.

I knew teachers who had only honors classes because they couldn’t survive “regular” classes. And how were those honors classes? Pandemonium.

“What about teachers who say they look forward to a school year?” asked AP.

“I’ll place a bet that often enough they will write referrals; they will have dreadful days. Their mouths say they are looking forward to the year but their hearts? No. They will have tough times.”

Ah, yes, the first day of school! When that bell rings before each period, it ushers in the next round—and that bell rings day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and…how could I still have schoolmares?

“So are you saying that you hated your teaching career?” asked AP.

“I loved it,” I laughed. “I loved it.” Yes, I did.

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.