Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Domino Principle:

Ever notice that sometimes trying to save time and money can actually cause you to lose both?

Today while I was cleaning the house, I sprayed a bit of Windex onto the toilet handle and proceeded to wipe it clean with a piece of paper toweling, when the darned thing ‘snapped” right of into my hand!

The porcelain had somehow broken away from the stainless, rendering the handle useless. I think that this bothered me more because I had only purchased this antique looking handle a few months ago to replace the plastic one that had come with the toilet at the time the builder installed them. You see; my house is twelve years old. So that means that the plastic, piece of junk lasted for over eleven years. It was only replaced for esthetic reasons when I had seen this pretty “old-world style” porcelain handle in the store one day.

Now that it HAD to be replaced, I went down to the home improvement store figuring I was going to opt for the less beautiful, but obviously more durable, plastic version once again. Once I was in the store however, it became clear that I could not just change out the handle without installing an entire new flushing system that is compatible with the handle that it comes with. So against my better judgment, I purchased the same, more expensive yet prettier handle that I was replacing.  At least I would not have to take the entire system apart and start from scratch.  All I had to do was slip out the old handle and slip in the new one!

 NOT!

 Of course Murphy’s Law was being enforced in full swing.  Every step of the way, the gods were against me.  The handle had managed to miraculously “meld together” with the pieces that it was supposed to come away from and I now had to replace the fittings as well.

I suppose in a perfect world, they would merely unscrew from each other (just as they were assembled a few months earlier), but not today. It took 45 frustrating minutes of coaxing, prodding and begging with a wrench and Philips screwdriver before they finally released their Excalibur-like grip and suddenly (without reason) separated as if they had never been stuck in the first place.

Then when I was finally able to install all the pieces and screw them into place, I found that there was a defect in the threads of the new screw making it impossible to tighten. So once again, I took it all apart and somehow was able to salvage the screw from the original system, which now looked like it was something recovered from the wreck of the Titanic. But hey… whatever works!

I installed the new handle, put the top back onto the tank and gave it one test flush before I put the tools away and cleaned myself up. I could feel the little tension as the chain lifted the rubber flapper valve from its place on the bottom of the tank allowing fresh water to run into the bowl, flushing away the old water. Everything was good… up until this point.

I was SOOOOOO close but alas, I could hear that the water would not stop running.  So once again I had to lift the top off of the tank and check things out.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The copper arm that attaches to the flapper valve had corroded and I had to replace that one, last, final piece of the equation.  I had now managed to do all of the work that I was hoping to avoid plus… since I had to replace everything anyway, I could have bought the plastic version (that was cheaper and more durable) that I wanted to use in the first place. Live and learn.

I can only hope that this replacement lasts longer than the few months its predecessor held on for.

Until next time,

Don

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Riddle: What’s Saggy, Gray and Way Too Forgetful? (Hint: ME!)

I have become borderline senile and there’s no more hiding it.  Gone are the days when I was “sharp as a tack” and I must admit, it is very frustrating (although a bit comical at times as well).

It used to be that if you wanted to know the name of a song or who it was that sang it, I was your man!  As fast as you could ask the question, I would tell you who sang it, when it was released and what label it was released under.  Nowadays, I get back to you with answers like, “You know who I mean, that guy who was married to that girl from that movie…” 

It’s also not very pretty when your mind knows what you’re trying to say but your mouth is just blabbering away with a tongue-twister full of nonsense.

In just the past week alone, I have called asparagus celery, could not think of the word “clumsy” to save my life, dated a check with the year 1999 and have walked into a room only to have forgotten why I entered it, more times than I care to admit.  We won’t even bring up the great missing wallet caper!

The icing on the proverbial cake came in the form of an email to my cousin.  I was thanking her for a wonderful pumpkin cookie recipe that she so kindly shared with me, when I inadvertently called her by her sister’s name.  Keep in mind however that this was NOT a slip of the tongue… I was WRITING this!  To add insult to injury, it was an email message from Facebook and her name was less than an inch over my typing!

She was very sweet about it, but I am sure she must think I’m a bit daft.  Heck… I THINK IT!

I have tried to tell myself that it’s the mixture of my medications or that I am so overwhelmed and stressed out.  Sometimes I  have even tried to attribute it to lack of sleep, but the truth of the matter is that these are clearly signs of getting older.  So I guess along with a sagging jowls, thinning gray hair and droopy eyelids, I am also destined to play the fool.  I’m confused, when did I actually sign-up for this?  Why do they call them golden years?

I guess the good news is, by the time I become a total blithering idiot, I won’t have the sense enough to know the difference.  The bad news?  I have no children to become a burden to and will most certainly be sent to some God forsaken, county run home for aging “wannabe” authors.  Or by that point is it “wantedtobe” authors?  See, it’s already starting!

Oh well, I think I’m going to go watch a little television to take my mind of things.  Now… where did I put that remote again?

Until next time,

Don

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Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head…

CLICK HERE TO START

When it rains, it pours. So it would seem here in South Florida these past couple of days.

 Last week when I left for Las Vegas, we had been dry for a while and our poor little plants would go limp as they begged for water by early afternoon. Without anyone to take care of the plants, I watered heavily before I left for my trip and hoped for the best.

Of course when we got home everything was on its way out. I had to clip back the dead foliage and unfortunately, discard a bunch of plants that didn’t make it. I’m going to miss my beautiful basil. I knew in my heart of hearts that this was going to happen but hoped that we would get those afternoon showers that South Florida is so famous for. No such luck. That is, until now.

It’s as if the sky has opened and the heavens are pouring down upon us. The water just won’t stop. It’s not only rain; we’re also getting (on and off) winds of epic proportions. Last evening the roof was torn off of a local civic building and was nowhere to be found! They sent helicopters out this afternoon to try and locate the roof! I have never heard of anything so strange… not even during hurricanes. The weather center believes that we were hit with (at least) a couple of tornados last night.

As I write these words, my pool is overflowing, palm branches are strewn all over the property and I think that the foliage that was only days ago, literally “dying of thirst” are now screaming “uncle!” as they reach their saturation point. As if that isn’t bad enough, we keep losing power and lose our cable even more often. Cable shuts down about every 5-7 minutes. By the time it reboots… it shuts down again.

 I guess sometimes life is like this; very “all or nothing” in what we get. I have often heard it said, “Be careful what you wish for.”

I remember one time a few years ago, I had flown up to New York to help my sister Theresa decorate her daughter’s bedroom. I was going to paint murals and assist in designing the room (I have a gift for that stuff). As I exited the plane at the LaGuardia airport terminal, I was chatting with James via my cell phone, when I spotted a Nathan’s Famous Hotdog Stand. I had not had a Nathan’s hotdog in years and told James that I hoped my flight back would allow me time to indulge in this delectable blast from my past.

On my return flight, New York was hit with a massive snow storm that brought the airport to a screeching halt. I was trapped in the terminal for 36 hours and the only place opened to get any food was… you guessed it, Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs! Funny how something that would have normally been considered a treat, became so unwelcome and unpleasant when it was the only nutrition available for a day and a half. Being an airport kiosk, they didn’t even offer fries or ANY other kind of food… just franks and soda pop. I never craved oatmeal so badly in my life. I would have given my kingdom for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or even a doughnut.

One great sausage... just not for breakfast

 I learned then, that next time I would wish for just enough time to have “A” frank before catching my flight. Live and learn!

So it is the same with all those who wished that it would just rain already. If you’re going to wish for something, be specific!

As for me, I will spend the evening writing and/or cooking. Rainy days (and nights) like these were just made for my mother’s wonderful beef and rice dish that is as comforting as it is delicious! It’s also extremely easy to make. You simply put the meat up to braise and in a couple of hours, you are enjoying a hearty, healthy and oh so satisfying family dinner. Did I mention that it is also very inexpensive?

 Hmmm… Maybe tomorrow’s Blog should be my mom’s recipe. What do you think?

Until next time,

Don

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I’m Baaaaaack!

I had a very nice time in Las Vegas (I left last Thursday) but I am home again and anxious to tell you all about my trip.

I arrived early afternoon and after checking into my suite at the Palazzo, I did some unpacking and ironing.  I know; what an exciting way to start my Vegas extravaganza!  What can I say?  It had to be done.

After a quick shower, I changed and we headed on down to The Red Rock Resort where we were to have a site-inspection of the property starting at 2:00 PM.  We met with Erica who was an absolute doll.  She first treated us to a beautiful poolside lunch.  I had the chipotle shrimp salad (I’m still making better food choices.  I know “what happens in Vegas STAYS in Vegas,” but I don’t think that pertains to calories). In any case, my lunch was delish!

After a leisurely luncheon, Erica took us on a tour of the hotel showing us all of its unbelievable meeting and event space.  Before I knew it, we were finished and saying goodbye to our newfound friend.  Fortunately that was the only order of business on the agenda for the trip and to be honest, it was much more like spending some quality time with a colleague than it was actual work.

Now we were on our own!  Understand that neither one of us are gamblers so casinos are not really the Vegas draw for us, but we do love the shows!  We went back to our hotel and took in the shops and the sights before going upstairs to our suite so we could change for dinner and our first show, “Jersey Boys.”  We had about twenty opportunities to see this show on Broadway, in New York City but somehow managed to miss each one.  I always loved the music of the Four Seasons and never knew why the original group broke up and I was looking forward to the answer tonight!  It was everything I had hoped it would be… a really great story with terrific music.  It was interesting to learn that Bob Gaudio wrote their first hit “Sherry” in less than 15minutes on his way to Frankie Valli’s house.  The song took Bob Gaudio less time to write then it did for everyone to decide upon what to call it.  They sang the song over the phone for their producer, Bob Crewe, who loved everything about it except the name (It was originally called Terry).   They had briefly considered “Jackie” (after Jackie Kennedy), but finally agreed upon Sherry.  All in all the story of the Four Season’s was fun, nostalgic, interesting and above all, entertaining.  Click here

6th Row Center... That's What I'm Talkin' Bout!

The following night we had tickets to see “LOVE.”  It is a Cirque du Soleil production set to the music of the Beatles.  Two great shows.  Together they were the soundtrack of my youth!

Once Again, In the Heart of Things

Back home in Florida, our dear friend and neighbor had sold her home and moved away.  Thankfully, we will be friends forever; it was just as neighbors that it came time to part.  Gloria had sold her home to a lovely couple from New York.  They are using the Florida home as a sort of weekend retreat.  They have come down often in the past months since they have purchased the home, but our schedules never seem to jive and we keep missing each other.  That is until this night.  It seemed we were both in Vegas at the same time.  Although we couldn’t connect as neighbors, we did get to share a lovely Italian dinner at the Mirage Hotel, two thousand miles from our homes.  Go figure!

After dinner, we set off to see LOVE which was playing right there at the Mirage.  It was a spectacle of music, color, light, costumes and of course, all of the aerial acts that make a Cirque show so special.

Finale

Our days were reserved for lollygagging around the pool with nothing to do but relax.  I can’t tell you how long it has been since we had a chance to do that.

Looking Straight Up... Poolside

I know that I had abandoned my Blogging duties, but I trust you’ll forgive me if you realize that this was my first vacation in over three years.

Sunrise Over the Mountains

It was a great trip but it is also good to be back. 

Update on my weight loss:

I am down over ten pounds in spite of the fact that I indulged in some fried chicken the other night.  We were exhausted and couldn’t even think of cooking.  I could have made a better choice than fried chicken, but what the hay, you only live once.  Besides, it was just one piece.  One huge, juicy, deep fried breast that I enjoyed with a salad.  Worst case scenario would be that I didn’t lose anything that day but, I certainly didn’t gain anything from it either… except the big smile on my face!

Until next time,

Don

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Lost Without My Washing Machine:

For the past two weeks, my washing machine has been broken.  I hadn’t really realized just how much I truly depended on it until it was not available any longer.  Between clothing, towels (for bath, dishes and pool) bedding etc., I must do laundry 3-4 times a week. 

The repairman came to the house twice in ten days, each time discovering that he needed to order a new part. 

Last week (Friday) I had to give in and take some clothes down to the pay laundry so James could have the clothes that he needed to go away with. 

In my naiveté I took five dollars’ worth of quarters, three large loads of laundry, my detergents, stain removers and bleach and headed on down to my local Fluff & Fold (or whatever the name was) to get me some clean clothes! 

It has been a while since I have used a public laundry-mat.  In fact the last time I used a coin operated machine, was in my old condo.  It was $1.25 per load and 25 cents to dry.  You can imagine my shock when I found out that each load now costs four dollars and seventy-five cents to wash!  On top of that, I was laughed at with my pocket full of quarters.  Seems the pay laundry hasn’t used coins in years.  They work with the use of a card (like a credit card) that you put money into via a machine using your ATM or credit card.  You may use bills too, but nothing smaller than five dollars.  You then insert that card into a slot on the machine, and for each load that you do, $4.75 is deducted from the card.  To add insult to injury, it costs two dollars just to purchase the card you need to run the machines before you put any money on it! 

There was a lovely woman there who was watching as the clerk gave me the instruction.  She interrupted and gave me an extra card that she had in her purse (I guess whenever you accidently forget it, you have to purchase another).   

In my anxiousness to get to the laundry and get done, I had forgotten my wallet (I know… we had this discussion before!  Shame on me! It really is a highly unusual occurrence, although you probably don’t believe it from what you read here).  

So there I was with only enough money to do one load.  I had the clerk exchange my quarts for a five dollar bill and then started to sort through the three sacks and make judgment calls on what items were necessary to get done and what could wait.  Luckily, my dryer at home works fine [knock on wood] so I only had to wash the one load and I was out of there in about thirty minutes. 

It really got me thinking though.  Isn’t it true that for the most part, the people using the laundry-mats are struggling financially?   At least that’s how it is here in South Florida.  Everyone with a home has their own washer/dryer and those in condos have wash rooms for convenience with the discounted (coin operated) machines, if they charge at all.  It’s the migrant workers, those on Welfare and the underprivileged living in small apartments who rely on these places.  I started figuring out that if an average family was somehow able to get away with a mere three loads a week (whites, colors, sheets) it would still run about twenty dollars a week to do laundry not counting detergent & bleach.  That’s eighty dollars a month!  And that’s really lowballing it.  How do they manage? 

The whole experience made me depressed.  I wondered how one could help these people.  It was one of those moments that if I had my wallet with me, I would have transferred a hefty bit of extra money to that woman’s card, before returning it to her.  She would not have known it until the next time she went to use it and been so pleasantly surprised.  Alas, all I had was the five bucks, so I put it all on there, only able to give her a measly $1.25 for her kindness. 

I still remember quite vividly, the days when my own family struggled to make ends meet.  My heart goes out to all those people feeling as hopeless now as we did then, and I pray that one day soon, they too will find their life taking a turn for the better.  God bless them. 

As for me; I am very grateful that my washer was finally fixed today and I have laundry going as I type this Blog! 

 

 

 

Until next time,

Don

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Excerpt #5 From Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)

Unforgettable

(Trudy’s Story) 

Copyright  2011 by Donald Philip Massetti 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book or Blog may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

This is a novel based on the true-life events of Gertrude Abate. 

Aside from immediate family, names have been changed to protect the privacy and the rights of all other individuals.

1943:

In the pizza parlor Trudy began to feel a bit uncomfortable.  She had never eaten any kind of Italian food before and didn’t know if she would like pizza.  Her mother had told her a story about being on a long train ride back in England where she had to share a car with an elderly Italian woman.  When lunchtime came around the old woman had opened up her case and took out some food wrapped in paper.  The small, warm train car filled with a rather strong and pungent aroma from anchovies and some type of sharp cheese.  It made Lily sick to her stomach.  The woman had kindly offered to share some of her lunch with the teenaged Lily, but the girl quickly declined the offer.  Years later she would instill in her own children her fear of “exotic” foods from nationalities different from their own.

Trudy’s heart began to beat fast as she wondered what this forbidden, foreign fare might taste like.  She didn’t want to tell Mario that she had never eaten pizza before.

A happy looking plump man with dark hair came from behind the counter and placed a dish with a fresh slice in front of each of them.  She had to admit, it smelled pretty tasty, not at all what she imagined from her mother’s stories.

Mario waited for Trudy to pick up her slice and take the first bite.  Trudy sat there patiently.  The shop owner looked at Mario to see if there was a problem.  Mario looked back at him, then at Trudy, then down at the food again.  Mario glanced back up at the pizza man and shrugged.  After quite a bit of time Mario finally said to his date “aren’t you going to have a bite before it gets cold?”

Trudy looked sheepishly at him and answered, “Sure, I’m just waiting for my knife and fork that’s all.”  In unison, Mario and the shop owner let out a belly laugh.  Trudy’s face turned bright red.

“You pick it up with your hands and eat it,” Mario explained.

Trudy smiled, “stop,” she said looking down at the melted cheese before her.  “Eat it with your hands, now you’re making fun of me!”

“You’ve never had pizza before have you?” asked the young man.

Then he proceeded to pick up his slice and fold it over and take a bite.

The shop owner rushed over to the table with a knife and fork and announced, “If the young lady would like a knife and fork, then she shall have them.  Here you go miss.  I hope you enjoy my pizza any way you choose to eat it.”

Trudy was crimson with embarrassment.  Her secret was out; she had never eaten pizza before.  However she decided to forgo the utensils for the more traditional approach.  If she were going to do it, then she was going to do it correctly!  She picked up her slice, gave it the flip as Mario had just shown her, took her first bite and started to chew.  Her eyes widened.

“This is delicious!” she mumbled placing her hand over her full mouth.  “I can’t believe what I’ve been missing all this time,” she added.  

Mario smiled and looked up at the man watching behind the counter.  “Looks like a success.  Two more slices!” he called out.  “And you can hold the cutlery,” he added with a laugh.

Nothing Like That First Bite of Pizza

Hope you liked this little tid-bit.

Until next time,

Don

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My Favorite Movie of All Time:

It seems that I get emails from people who want to know more and more about me.  To answer a question I received this week, I will tell you what my favorite movie is and why.

When I was a young teen in New York City, there used to be a television station (WABC channel 7) that hosted a show called “The 4:30 movie” each weekday afternoon.  One of the films that showed up annually to the show was, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.”

My mother told me that she and my dad had seen the flick when I was a baby in 1958 and it had touched her heart.  So it became a kind of tradition that she and I would wind up watching the movie each time it was aired.

It has ever since, been my all-time favorite film, although most seem to incorrectly believe  that the honor belonged to The Wizard of Oz.  It may be true that I can quote the entire fantasy film verbatim from the opening line to “Oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like home,” but that is another whole phenomenon that even I can’t truly explain.  The fact of the matter still remains that “Inn” is the movie most near and dear to my heart.  Maybe it was the fact that it came into my life at such a very happy time for me personally.  Or maybe it’s because it was something shared between my mother and me.  Maybe I simply love the story.  Perhaps it’s all three, but I just adore the movie.

Based on the Alan Burgess novel “The Small Woman,” The Inn of the Sixth Happiness follows the life of Gladys Aylward as she makes her way to China during the tumultuous 1930’s.  The film stars Ingrid Bergman as Gladys, a real-life Christian missionary of the day. Against the very practical advice of just about everyone she encounters, including Dr. Robinson, the man who was the senior missionary, Gladys heads into the war-ravaged region to help spread Christianity. 

When Gladys Aylward felt the calling and volunteered to become a missionary in China, Dr. Robinson, the senior missionary rejects her offer.  He out and out refuses her permission to become a Chinese missionary because she was, in his opinion, not qualified.  He did however secure Gladys a housekeeping position at the home of a wealthy explorer.  There, she uses her employer’s vast library to gain as much knowledge about China as she could possibly absorb.  She saved her money to purchase her own ticket aboard the Trans-Siberian railway to make her way to China.  It was a very dangerous journey, but she chose to travel as inexpensively as she could in an effort to get to China as quickly as possible.

Gladys settles in the quaint town of Yang Cheng, where Jeannie Lawson, an elderly missionary is in desperate need of an assistant at the Inn that she was setting up for traveling merchants.  It was customary for the Chinese to tell and listen to stories as they ate their meals, and Ms. Lawson figured it was the perfect opportunity to impart some wonderful Bible stories to her captive audience.  

After an accident causes the sudden death of Jeannie Lawson, Gladys finds herself having to take over running the Inn, now named The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

She receives two powerful allies.  One; Lin a general in the Chinese military and the other; the elderly Mandarin of the region (played by Robert Donat). 

The Mandarin finds Gladys to be a very stubborn yet charming westerner, and eventually appoints her as his Foot Inspector.  Although outlawed, the mountain people were still following the antiquated tradition of binding the feet of their female children.  This practice was not only very painful; it also caused the feet to become deformed.  Gladys was already somewhat of a legend in the region due to her kind, tender and caring Christian ways.  The local people had great love and respect for the British immigrant.  In fact Gladys’ name had even been officially changed to Jeni, “the one who loves.”  The mandarin was hoping to use that respect and love in his favor to help eradicate the outdate practice within the region he governed.

Jeni was not only extremely successful in her task, but during her travels through the county she stumbled upon a dangerous prison revolt.  She worked as a liaison between a man named Lee who represented the disgruntled and mistreated prisoners (of which he was one) and the jailers, to settle the dispute calmly, without violence.   This sealed her acceptance by all of the Chinese and the loyalty of Lee forever. 

However it is during this time that China is being invaded by Japan and Jeni is encouraged by both Lin and the Mandarin to flee the country.   Feeling that she was now a true Chinese, she refuses.  Eventually the Japanese make their way into the tiny town of Yang Cheng forcing the population to evacuate.  As the people prepare to leave the village, the Mandarin makes one final public proclamation, announcing his conversion to Christianity, inspired by the Christian love displayed by Jeni.

Aylward is overcome with emotion, but is now left alone with 50 orphans she had accumulated from the war-torn region (five of which were her own adopted clan).  Aided by Lee, the former leader of the prison revolt that she helped to resolve, Jeni makes plans to evacuate the children.  Lin tells her that the only hope is to take the children to the next province, where trucks will drive them to safety, but they must get there within three weeks, or else the trucks will leave without them.

Just as they are preparing to leave, another fifty orphans appear from a neighboring town, so Jeni and Lee have no choice but to lead one hundred children on a trek across the countryside. Although it should only have taken them a week, the roads are infested with Japanese patrols, and the group has no choice but to cut across the mountains.

The film culminates with the huddled mass of determined children, led by Jeni, marching into the town, their little feet bloodied and covered in bandages from the arduous journey.  To keep up the moral of the youngsters, Jeni kept them all singing along to the tune “This Old Man” (with a knick-knack paddywack give a dog a bone).  As the townspeople, who had been hoping against hope for the seemingly lost group, heard the children’s song, they all cheer for the long awaited safe arrival that had only been made possible by Aylward.  No one could believe that they had made it through the dangerous territory safely (except for Lee, who sacrificed his own life to save the children from a group of Japanese soldiers encountered along the journey).

Greeted by Dr. Robinson, Jeni reminds him who she was and how he had once rejected her as a missionary years before, as unqualified.

Victorious at last: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLr-3KobVeU&feature=related

It is not only heartwarming and inspiring, Inn is also a true story that can cause one to reevaluate their priorities and realize what an incredible difference one determined person can make in this world.  Here’s to making a difference in any small way that we can!

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Until next time,

Don

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