Saturday, August 29, 2009

Emergency Kit

Remember last week, when I was talking about sprinting?

Well, here I am, sprinting again ... but don’t worry ... I’m not wearing spiked shoes ... and I’m not anywhere near a cindered track (Do those track meet facilities still have cindered tracks? Where would they get the cinders?)

I’m not even walking fast. My “sprinting” consists of concentrated activity, usually at a keyboard, for a short period of time ... and that interval is usually governed by how many messages I receive from my back.

So I’m “sprinting” ... using small bursts of energy to advance toward a vaguely-defined goal ... likely the production of another installment of “Squiggles.”

I’m racing the clock.


Word from CATHY (Illinois) is that she recently attended the 63rd anniversary of her high school reunion ... Class of ‘46.

“We had enough of a crowd show up that they had to bring in extra chairs,” she reports. “It was great fun, conversing with the 80-year-olds ... and a few “almost 80" ... which included me and my twin sister, who will hit that milestone next December.

“High School Reunions are more fun each year you go back. In the eyes of the beholder, they are ‘always young’ and you’ve known them almost forever!

“The class clown is still funny, but he surprised us this year by doing a superb job of giving the blessing before the meal. His older brother, also in the same class, made the comment that the Father of his Parish would be amazed!

“Those two kept us laughing through four years of high school, and at every reunion (held every five years, except since our 60th, we meet for lunch every year). They came from Arizona and Pennsylvania ... and other far off points to meet once again ... hoping ‘ya’ all come back next year’!”


Recent word from LOREE (Kansas) ... “Well, today started with rain at 5 a.m. ... and a nutty dog (Dixie, due to thunder and lightning). We also had some wind ... it has rained over 2 inches here today ... that is GOOD! ... I’m ready to kick back and call it a day ... it’s thundering again, so you know what that means ... Dixie’s pill wore off hours ago. It’s time for my own evening meds, so I may as well take her along, and get prepared for what’s coming!”

(Oh, Loree ... I do hope you ... and Dixie ... have had some quiet interludes since then)


Remember those Burma Shave signs alongside the highway? I’m sure you never SAW any of them ... but I remember them from my own childhood ... and maybe you’ve HEARD about them.

Here’s a sample, courtesy of HELEN (Florida):


- Burma Shave


Remember ... (courtesy of WALT, Ohio) ... “When a quarter was a decent allowance? ... and you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny?”


HANDY HINT #2 (Oops! I wonder if I misplaced #1) ... courtesy of RUTH (Florida) ... When giving distasteful medicine to young children, first run an ice cube over their tongue; this temporarily freezes the taste buds.

(I can tell ... just by appearances ... that Professor Squigglee is wondering if this would work with bad news, too ... you know, the kind that leaves a bad taste)


And how ... you ask ... is The Little Red Car these days? Oh, fine, as far as I can tell ... runs fine ... when the light changes to green, Little Red pops a wheelie and goes bouncing on down the highway with the Big Guys ... still ... when a warning light came on ... and stayed on ... we thought we’d better take Little Red back to its favorite garage.

Six or so hours later ... after Phyllis and I had worn out some shoe leather at a nearby mall ... and set a new world record for window shopping ... Little Red was ready to go again.

Despite two careful explanations from the technicians, I still don’t understand what the problem was ... but the warning light is off now ... and Little Red runs fine ... just like before. 

But we didn’t pop any wheelies on the way home ... though it would’ve been so easy ... given the lightness of my billfold at that point.


And now ... PANT-PANT ... puff-PUFF! ... I’ve “sprinted" all the way to this week’s poem ... and I’m about to go staggering off to a quiet, soft, shady place to cool down for the next race (I’ll beat that clock yet!)

Sometimes ... in case you haven’t noticed ... I start out talking reality, then take a sudden turn as the imagination kicks in. That’s the case with this particular poem ... originally published in Capper’s ... about 10 years ago, by the way.

Maybe not always ... but sometimes I do carry a spare poem to share along the way (fair warning ... if you see me coming, and you’ve had your quota of poetry for the day ... you might want to duck down the nearest alley ... otherwise ... )

The poem:


I always carry
a spare poem or two.
Who knows? I may
find a motorist
stranded, run out
of poetry somewhere
on a poemless road,
looking for rhyme,
if not reason,
in the scheme
of things, someone
in need of metaphor,
simile, structure,
a triolet, perhaps,
but mostly free verse,
free for the taking,
and this one's for you.
Enjoy. Pass it on.


COMMENT? Feel free ... below, if you like. 

Or if you prefer e-mail, that's fine, too ... especially for more detailed observations, to

... and it helps if you put "Squiggles" or "S&G" ... something like that ... in the subject line (just remember, no religion or politics ... please!)


UNTIL NEXT TIME ... take care ... see ya!

© 2009  

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's So Simple

PROFESSOR SQUIGGLEE, as some of you may know, is a real stick in the mud (don’t tell him I said that) ... that is, he’s a stickler for starting at the beginning of anything or any topic, and working methodically through to the logical conclusion.

Well, not me.

As some of you also may know ... I sometimes like to start in the middle ... well, not exactly like .... but just happen to find myself there ... and work in all directions.

Admittedly, I don’t always find my way to a logical conclusion ... or, sometimes, any kind of conclusion, but I do enjoy the scenery along the way.

This time, though ... in case it’s not readily apparent, I started at the end (the poem) and worked my way forward ... how forward ... or backward ... time will tell.


THIS MORNING ... pick a morning, any morning ... while I was trimming my beard ... an easy task, since it was only one day old ... the beard, that is ... for some strange reason, baffling both to science and to me ... I thought of my poem, “It’s So Simple.”

So I went clawing through the rubble ... oops! I almost said “rubbish” ... on my desk ... and there it was, right at my fingertips (didn’t know that I’m gifted with dozens of extra fingertips, did you?) ... so, once again, if I’ve hit all the buttons right ... or even some of them ... it should appear somewhere below in this installment.

Meanwhile ...


LAST WEEK’S POEM ... remember “A Plague of Squirrels”? ... reminded LOREE (Kansas) of a battle her sister in Joplin, Mo., has been waging for ages.

Those particular squirrels thrive in the nearby giant oaks which provide an endless supply of acorns ... and in her sister’s house, if they can find a way in.

But let’s let Loree tell us about it:

“Unfortunately, the squirrels seem to like more variety (than those acorns), so any flowers she sets outside are fair game for those blasted squirrels.

“Bird feeders are another big attraction for them, and a garden with home-grown tomatoes? Yummy, yummy!

“Some of the methods she describes to me ... and has tried ... for eliminating those pesky critters, make my toes curl ... and sound far too drastic for me.

“I love all animals, and rarely see a squirrel in my yard, since I have three dogs ... two of which run in and out, and one that does guard duty full time outside. I suggested to her that if she would put a gate across her driveway, since her yard is already fenced, a dog would be the perfect answer for solving the problem.

“Unfortunately, while I am the animal lover in excess, she believes in going through life without a dog to have to feed and water in return for services rendered. End of topic, as far as she is concerned.”


I COULD SUGGEST some other approaches I’ve used ... like waving my old hat in a threatening manner ... shaking my fist at them ... tossing walnuts or pine cones at them ... but these methods don’t work ... and I know that trying to reason with them would be useless, too. So what am I to do with my own squirrels? I guess I’ll just have to put up with them ... and they with me.


I THINK I’VE mentioned that I’ve come full circle ... Way back in the previous century, when I was in high school, I was a sprinter ... hundred-yard dash and the 220 being among my specialties ... and now here I am, well past the age of thirty-nine ... and I’m a “sprinter” again.

Let me explain.

First of all, don’t worry ... I don’t do any actual running. Oh, I dream about running ... and wake up with leg cramps ... but the awake-time “running” I do is strictly against the clock.

I’ve found that I can hold up pretty well ... unless it’s a really physical task ... for about 15 minutes ... so a 15-minute “sprint” serves my purposes for most of the things I do during the day.

At least that’s my intention. It usually turns out that these little projects ... remember, I expect them to take about 15 minutes to accomplish ... seem to entail unforeseen hurdles ... and those hurdles turn my “sprint” into a marathon (puff-puff ... PUFF).


THIS WEEK’S POEM ... Aha! You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? Never! I’ve got a memory like a whatchamacallit ... but that’s another topic, too.

Oh, do read on.

Before we're finished, I will have led you down the winding garden path with still another poem about writing. As always, my usual disclaimer: I write about writing, not because I'm expert, but because the process intrigues me so.

As you will see, as you work your way through the poem, I don't think writing a poem ... or writing anything for public consumption, for that matter ... is really a simple matter.

But the end product, I think, should give the appearance of having been done with ease ... that’s when it’s really successful, I think.

What I'm saying in the poem, I guess, is that a poem should come to the reader with the ease one experiences in simply pouring a cup of coffee. I hope you'll have a sip ... and I hope you enjoy it:


Writing a poem is as simple as pouring
a cup of coffee. First, though, you plant

a seed, wait for the sprout, nurture it,
then transplant the seedling, let it mature,

hope that frost doesn't kill the buds,
let the bees pollinate blossoms, wait

for the beans to mature, pick the beans,
dry them, haul them, roast them, transport

them again, package them, grind them,
add water, let them leap as they

percolate and you keep an eye on the clock.
Then you simply pour, sit back and enjoy.
(originally published in ByLine magazine)


COMMENT? Feel free ... below, if you like.

Or if you prefer e-mail, that's fine, too ... especially for more detailed observations, to

... and it helps if you put "Squiggles" or "S&G" ... something like that ... in the subject line (just remember, no religion or politics ... please!)


UNTIL NEXT TIME ... take care ... see ya!

© 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Plague of Squirrels

(I know ... those aren't squirrels ... at least I don't think they are ... but I sometimes like to do the unexpected ... to see if anybody notices)

Remember last week? I mean, how I went on and on ... and on ... about the previous week’s having crawled along with the speed of molasses on a winter morning ...

Well, this past week was ... um, let’s see ... it was the week when NOTHING happened at Brimm Manor.

I hate it when that happens.

Even The Little Red Car didn’t have any adventures worth talking about. Oh, Little Red did honk a couple of times ... like at the guy ahead of us who fell asleep and didn’t see the light change ... and Little Red did give a friendly little toot to the driver who passed us, then slammed on his brakes and made a sudden right turn just inches in front of us ...

But those were the exceptions.

For example, when we came up behind the only vehicle in the whole universe which was moving more slowly than we were ... Little Red didn’t honk ... or go around with a mighty roar and the squealing of tires ... Oh, no, not Little Red. We just settled back and enjoyed the scenery ... until that particular driver must have suddenly realized he was being followed ... and made like the Lone Ranger with a cloud of dust ... and was gone.

It was that kind of week.

But this time I’m going to spare you the details. How lucky can you get? But next week ... if nothing happens ... I may just go on and on ... and on ...


TODAY’S QUOTE: “I’ve finally figured out why time passes so fast. It’s not because we’re having fun, necessarily ... though I must admit that time does seem to go faster then. Aside from that, I’ve discovered why ... at my stage of life ... time seems to be whizzing by ... It’s all DOWNHILL.” - Professor Squigglee



Something did happen this past week. Phyllis and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Which one? Oh, SHE keeps track of numbers like that. I just do the driving.

And drive we did. All the way to a swanky place in a nearby state park.

I hate being late. And we weren’t. In fact, we got there about half an hour before the dining room opened. No problem. We like to walk ... and walk we did ... through the huge parking lot ... along the curving sidewalk past the luxury accommodations ... down to the lakeside dock, where we enjoyed the breeze and the view.

Eventually we returned to the main building.

Being a person of an economic bent ... especially when it comes to footsteps ... I saw no reason for walking all the way back around to the front of the building ... when there was a door just ahead that appeared to lead to the dining room.

Aha! It was unlocked ... and we suddenly found ourselves inside ... alone ... in a rather large, ornate dining room ... obviously not the one we were aiming for.

I never look back ... well, almost never ... but this time, for some reason I”ll never understand ... I turned around and looked at the door we’d just come through ... and there was a sign which said:

“WARNING! This is an EMERGENCY EXIT!! Opening this door will SET OFF AN ALARM!!!”

Other than that, though, it was a pretty quiet week.


SPEAKING OF CELEBRATING ... LOREE (Kansas) has a brother-in-law who has taken her under his wing ... sees that she gets out of the house once a week (claims it combats cabin fever) ... stuff like that.

Loree wanted to say thank you by taking him out to supper at the FUN BARN ... where they could enjoy a great meal ... and a country-western band.

Fine ... except there was a problem in the kitchen which delayed the start of the meal by a good 30 minutes. But the food did come ... and it was great.

Oh, when Loree made the reservations, she had mentioned that they would be celebrating her brother-in-law’s birthday.

So-o-o ... at the end of the first half of the band’s performance ... the announcer said, “I believe we have someone here celebrating a birthday ... “ (and announced the brother-in-law’s name ... and asked him to stand up). Two other celebrants were announced and were asked to stand up, too.

The band played “Happy Birthday” and the whole crowd joined in singing it ... Meanwhile, Loree was thinking about the look her brother-in-law had shot her when he was asked to stand .... and she was wondering if she’d have to find another ride home.

Ah, but the owner’s wife came to the rescue.

The birthday guys each received a bright red ball cap that said “Fun Barn” on it ... and all was well again.

As Loree phrased it, “Gosh! My brother-in-law, who collects those, lit up like a Christmas tree, and all was forgiven! I suspect he may have even worn it to bed that night when he went home.”


SPEAKING OF REMEMBERING .... remember Loree’s postscript that I shared with you last week? Something to the effect that “ ... every time I read something from Professor Squigglee I get a flash of a squirrel, with dark-rimmed, oversized glasses ... “ Well, that brought to mind one of my old poems ... which you may have read before ... but anyway ...


What vile crimes have I committed
that I must be punished by you,
you frenzied plague of squirrels?

You dig up the tulips, tear out
the gutter guards, leave pizza slices
dangling from the evergreens,

litter the driveway with twigs
and leaves while you perfect the art
of nesting, pile our picnic table

with walnut chewings, spread hysteria
by screeching from the highest limbs,
patter across our silent green roof

at daybreak, hide juicy, squishy things
under the swing's yellow cushions,
come down our chimney bearing gifts

of frantic sooty footprints over all
the basement, spending a whole afternoon
eluding me, until finally hiding

in a box so I might carry you outside
to set you free, a twitch of the tail
your cursory thanks for the ride,

and I see you later scampering down that
superhighway of cable, as though nothing
had happened today, absolutely nothing.

(Received a third place award in an Ohio Poetry Day competition)


COMMENT? Feel free ... below, if you like.

Or if you prefer e-mail, that's fine, too ... especially for more detailed observations, to

... and it helps if you put "Squiggles" or "S&G" ... something like that ... in the subject line (just remember, no religion or politics ... please!)


UNTIL NEXT TIME ... take care ... see ya!

© 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cool Hat

SUNDAY SURPRISE ... courtesy of RUTH (Florida), via an e-mail ... "Thought for the day: GOOD looks catch the eye, but GOOD personality catches the heart. You're blessed with both." (Bob's note: I just had to share this with S&G readers ... because it fits so many of you.)


Whoa is me!

That’s right ... WHOA! ... and ME!

It’s been that kind of week. I feel like I’ve been driving with my brakes on ... that’s MY brakes ... not The Little Red Car’s (I would never do a thing like that to Little Red).

It hasn’t been a BAD week, as things go. It’s just that everything I’ve attempted seems to be slathered with molasses ... and it’s been slow, but somewhat easy, going.

Don’t worry. I’m OK. I’m not setting you up for bad news.

Let’s just back up a bit.

The week started on Saturday. Now, my weeks don’t usually start on Saturday, but I feel like this one did because Phyllis and I went on a special outing ... with a busload ... er, motor coach-load ... of well-behaved seniors (older people, if you prefer).

We went all the way to Cincinnati, where we had a nice evening meal, then on to hear an outdoor concert by the Cincinnati Pops, featuring a slew of Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers.

It was a wonderful evening. Even when it was over and we were sitting in a sea of traffic (how glad I was that I wasn’t driving) ... we were treated to the sights and sounds of a nearby fireworks show.

But we got home late. Very late (for me).

It was after midnight when we were deposited where we had left our cars to board the motor coach. After midnight!

For me that’s really late!

Little Red got us home safely ... though I have almost no memory of having driven ... but I must’ve, because I was behind the wheel when we pulled into that long, majestic driveway at Brimm Manor ... and shortly I plopped into bed like a toppled tree.

Days later ... naw, I think it was later that same day ... I crawled out of bed, still numb.

And I’m still numb ... though I understand, from a usually reliable source, that it’s now Friday again ... not AGAIN! ... and will soon be Saturday, when another S&G is due for posting.

WHOA IS ME! Or have I said that already?


REMEMBER WHEN ... They threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed ... and they did keep them back! - courtesy of WALT (Ohio)


YOU KNOW you’re a Floridian if you can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites. - courtesy of HELEN (Florida)


LOOKING BACK ... all the way back to March 10, 2003, when S&G was a weekly e-mailed letter (remember that?) ... when I said the following:

"It occurred to me, while I was waiting in the parking lot of a nationally-known store, that sometimes writing poetry is like trying to roller skate on a gravel road: The scenery may be great, but the going can be rough. And sometimes, despite the expenditure of a considerable amount of effort, it seems that you’re not getting anywhere."

Still true, I think. Still true.


RECENT E-MAIL ... from LOREE (Kansas) ... after reading last week’s installment ... then having a few quiet moments in remembrance of her hens ... her mailbox ... and paper box.

"It’s been a busy week here," she says. "I sent out an SOS to my handyman that I needed him ASAP. Unknown to me, he was in Arkansas, and his wife, after reading my e-mail plea, called him and told him to come home immediately.

"Well, turns out that he was returning the next day anyway, so at least I don’t have the fact that I ruined his trip on my conscience!

"Anyway, between him, his helper, and myself, we have a new chicken pen erected, and the three old hens and one rooster that survived the assault, are enjoying their new home.

"It took them a couple of days to accept the fact that they no longer could roam the range that had been their territory ... two and a half acres inside a 4-foot high welded wire fance.

"Chickens must be slow learners, for they spent a solid day wearing a path back and forth along the inside of the new pen, before that soaked in!

"In the meantime, the 25 new baby pullets I ordered this spring are ready to graduate from their own little pen and move in with the survivors. Happy Day! That means I won’t have to be running in two different directions with feed and water!"


AND LOREE’S P.S.: "Why is it that every time I read something from Professor Squigglee I get a flash of a squirrel, with dark-rimmed, oversized glasses? Now don’t take offense (none taken, Loree) ... I’m not saying that either he or yourself are squirrel-y ... but that darned image just keeps popping up, and won’t go away!"


I CAN’T SPEAK for Professor Squigglee ... oh, I could, and he might get huffy ... but as for me ... you only have to go back a few years to find the perfect fit for me ... with those dark-rimmed oversized glasses. I thought they were the latest thing ... and I guess they were ... back then. But now? Hey, I’m modern again ... clinging with both hands on the trailing edge of progress, while wearing smaller glasses.


TODAY’S POEM ... Speaking of old things ... like horn-rimmed glasses ... I have a few old hats, too ... but they’re a lot like old shoes ... the older they are, the more comfortable they become, so it’s almost impossible to throw them away ... despite hints from someone quite close to you that maybe it’s time to let go of them. All of which brings to mind a windy day when Phyllis and I were walking along, minding our own business, when the wind suddenly grabbed my old hat and sent it tumbling down the street. As I turned to watch it go, I could’ve sworn that Phyllis let out a huge sigh of relief ... then, much to my surprise, a guy who, half a block away, apparently had seen me being "robbed" of that horrible hat ... grabbed it ... and came trotting up to hand it back to me. Then there was this other day ...


It has been
lost and found,
rumpled, crumpled,
laundered until
it cries for mercy,
and it sits like
a cabbage leaf
on my head.

But then she,
a young girl about
half my height,
flashes a smile,
says, "
Cool hat!"
and for a moment,
just a heartbeat,
a quickened stride,
I feel like
tossing my hat
in the air
and dancing.
(originally published in


COMMENT? Feel free ... below, if you like.

Or if you prefer e-mail, that's fine, too ... especially for more detailed observations, to and it helps if you put "Squiggles" or "S&G" ... something like that ... in the subject line (just remember, no religion or politics ... please!)


UNTIL NEXT TIME ... take care ... see ya!

© 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How to Reach 80

TODAY’S QUOTE: "Why is it that good intentions are so like a crooked arrow? No matter how well aimed, they somehow manage to miss the mark ... so often." - Professor Squigglee


IT’S NOT OFTEN that Professor Squigglee and I agree on something ... though I hasten to add that we seldom argue with each other ... and we NEVER resort to fisticuffs. But this time he has hit the nail ... and I don’t mean the thumbnail ... squarely on the head.

I started this week ... actually, began at the end of last week ... formulating my attack ... er, approach ... on this week’s installment of S&G. For one thing I planned to start earlier this time. But here I am, suddenly confronted by FRIDAY again ... and I’m beginning to feel like Robinson Crusoe ... (I’ll let you explain that to each other).

So ... better late than never (to borrow a well-worn quote), right? Maybe not. When I sat down at the computer, it immediately locked up. Obviously it recognizes me. I even thought I heard it groan ... but that might have come from me.


AND NOW ... now that I’m out of the mood, the computer is saying, "Yeah, yeah ... let’s go, big fella, pop a wheelie and get moving."


SO IT’S BACK to good intentions. Here’s one of the items I had hoped to post long before now ... still good, though, from an excellent source:

SUNDAY SIZZLINGS ... This from LOREE (Kansas): "Hard to believe that Christmas is a scant five months away ... Santa usually just drops an IOU on the front porch now, but at least he puts a big red bow on it ... and a Rudolph sticker ... which sort of takes the edge off ...

(Note from Bob: Could it be that I’m so late with this item that it seems early?)


REMEMBER WHEN ... it took five minutes for the TV to warm up? - courtesy of WALT (Ohio)


YOU KNOW you’re a Floridian if you are on a first-name basis with the hurricane list. They aren’t Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Charley or Hurricane Frances. You know them as Andrew, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, etc. - courtesy of HELEN (Florida)


LOREE (Kansas) concludes a recent e-mail thus: Needless to say, I’ve spent the rest of the week wavering between grief and the urge to kill!

But let’s back up just a tiny bit ... while she explains that ... " someone or something helped themselves to 20 of my laying hens overnight, in one mighty heist. Since the search of my entire three acres found neither clues nor body parts, I can only assume that they went to a new home!"

As if that weren’t enough ... "This was followed four days later with my big mail box and my Winfield Daily Courier paper box both being wiped out. The mailbox was mounted on a genuine big red hand pump like so many of us used to pump water when we were kids."

The pump was set in concrete ... and is in the photo which accompanies Loree’s poem on her web site:

Loree sums it up: "It was like losing a member of the family when I discovered the damage. No sign of gravel being thrown about from a car out of control, suggesting an accident. In fact, just the opposite appearance ... that of a deliberate drive-by mailbox murder!"

(Note from Bob: I’m biting my tongue to keep from saying what I really think should happen to the perps of these two crimes ... Let me just say we’ve got a long way to go before we can honestly preach to the rest of the world about how civilized and law-abiding we are.)


TODAY’S POEM ... One of these days ... months, actually, if things go well ... I’m going to be 80. That’s right ... THE BIG EIGHT-OH. That’s a milestone I never expected to approach ... and that’s another story, too ... but I hardly expected it to come up so suddenly as I sat enjoying the conversation surrounding that big event honoring one of my all-time favorite people. Even when I wrote the poem, 80 seemed like such a remote possibility ... and now, here it is ... rumbling steadily toward me like a freight train in the middle of the night. For now, the poem, which was originally published in Capper’s:

We ate Cajun food,
savored the singing,
all the memories
of this tiny lady
celebrating and
being celebrated
for her active life
as mother, fellow
worker, confidante,
for bringing us
sunshine on cloudy
days. And we all
leaned forward
to catch every
word as she stood,
she said, to share
her secret: "Just
keep breathing."


COMMENT? Feel free ... below, if you like.

Or if you prefer e-mail, that's fine, too ... especially for more detailed observations, to

... and it helps if you put "Squiggles" or "S&G" ... something like that ... in the subject line (just remember, no religion or politics ... please!)


UNTIL NEXT TIME ... take care ... see ya!

© 2009