Monthly Archives: August 2014

Re-gifting, and Waxy Build-up Repercussions


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After working in the thrift trade for six months now, I’ve noticed a curious trend. Buried inside nearly every box of donated goods I open is a candle … thingamajig. When did candlemiscellaniae become so popular?

In fact, in just one day this week, I sorted out these six wonders of the wick and wax trade (as shown above in glorious slide show presentation):

#1  The “peace on Earth” model – whose beauty may even lift it off the ground if kept alight long enough

#2  The “wax in roses” quadrant model – with the added feature that it can emboss synthetic flower petals in wax for all time

#3  The “celestial candelabrum” model – suitable to grace any grand piano, Liberace’s included

#4  The “9 times the fun with wax” model – whose users can envision a day when the entire base is covered in tallow

#5  The “praise to the heavens” model – so good it’s gotta be raised from the very desk it sits upon

#6  The “flambeau” model (far right-hand side candle in photo) – large enough to light up a cave end to end

What a waxy mess all these models create, not to mention weird candle odors throughout the house. And what about those cornball, ticky-tacky, nick knack candle holder designs?

So, you might ask, how and why has candleitis disease become so widespread? First off, I believe most of these candle do-flops were given as presents or I wouldn’t see them donated in such pristine condition. Worse yet, through the reckless behavior of re-gifting to “friends” (note: real friends don’t give candle hodgepodge as a serious gift), the disease is transmitted on to other innocent people. Before you know it, candleitis has spread everywhere since the same wicky item can be re-gifted ad infinitum.

I remember the good old days when candles and candlesticks served far better purposes. Did you know candles were once used to examine eggs for freshness? That candlelight became the standard unit of luminous intensity? That people celebrated something called the Candlemas church festival? And that people actually went candlestick bowling?

Ha! The “9 times the fun with wax” model couldn’t hold a candle to candlestick bowling.


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One Wine (and two-thirds), Fun and Done

012I pick my vices carefully. I have to. I have Lyme disease.

These days, to help combat illnesses borne from Lyme, I’ve become a health nut. I’ve eliminated all the sugary, fatty, unhealthy foods – the things that make them fun – to co-habitate with the disease. As a result, nearly all vices have been eliminated from my life, too. Fortunately, one I’ve always enjoyed I can still partake in – wine. So long as I limit it, alcohol can be consumed.

After years of various experiments with my wine threshold, I’ve learned one and a two-thirds glasses a day is my limit. For a while, I thought it was one drink, then one and three-quarters, then one and a quarter. For a while I tried two plus drinks and crashed (which made me wonder: what do I need over two freaking drinks a day for anyway?)

Recently, I ordered one glass of Sauvignon Blanc – my favorite variety – at a restaurant. Of course, my waitress didn’t know I had a one and two-thirds drink maximum. After nursing my cherished wine pour for almost an hour, the waitress continued to ask if I wanted another drink. I was so tempted to say, “If only you knew me, what I can’t eat, what I shouldn’t do and the sacrifices I make to maintain my health. If only you knew how this drink you served me, this teeny, tiny, little ol’ four ounce drink, is SO PRECIOUS. I mean, look at that guy at the end of the bar. What? He’s on his third martini now? He’s so lucky.” (Or is he?)

My memoir, Maybe Boomer, covers my path of pain and confusion living with Lyme. I’ve lived with it for forty years. Among many things, Maybe Boomer is a story of survival to be the best I can while living with a never-ending daily nemesis. You can read more about it in the introduction to Chapter 13, “Health,” from Maybe Boomer.

Next week, I’m going to visit California wine country for my very first time. I wonder how many wine-tasting sips it takes to make one and two-thirds drinks?


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Remember This? Splendiferous Summer Camping and the Family Ties That Bound

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One Friday morning in August of ‘65, we packed all our clothes and gear into the Plymouth station wagon to head off to Thurmont, Maryland, and a camping area in the mountains called Crow’s Nest Lodge.

Mom – setting civilized rules from the get go – declared dried fruit as the official family snack food for the weekend. Oh, great. Flatulence City. Steadily munching on dried apricots in a vehicle that had no air conditioning would be suicide.

Well, ha! Talk about eating her words. Mom barfed all her dried fruit snacks only an hour into the drive.

By the time we’d set up our gear at the site, I’d already begun to see what it meant to live in the wild outdoors.

With camping, Mom now had the beauty of nature in which to feed the family, do the dishes, pick things up, and take care of the kids. Similarly, Dad could set up the tent and go straight to reading the newspaper to the sound of bucolic bees and whippoorwill. It was beautiful to watch both my parents unwind in the out-of-doors, particularly Mom, who got away from unnecessary modern conveniences like pillows, clothes washers, chairs with backs, and flush toilets to become one with our forefather’s bygone days of outhouse living.

Dad was a natural in the outdoors with his talent for knowing just how to erect the two-hundred-twenty pound quarter-inch-thick canvas army-style six-man box tent that when fully constructed looked strikingly like a cinder block.
And I noticed how Mom brought the same cooking skills with her from home to the campsite. At dinner Friday night, her meals cooked over the Coleman camp stove were as brittle and overdone as ones charred on our electric range at home. I picked at my food, trying to separate the blackened parts from areas that still retained some semblance of color.

To truly scar my first camping experience, I discovered I was a high maintenance sleeper who repelled a sleeping bag at night – I actually woke up Saturday morning bound by rope. What? Maybe I did wiggle a bit, but rope? I was too sleepy to remember this rodeo, but come daylight, the memory of Dad sloughing it off by saying it was all part of roughing it in the wild rang a little hollow.

Then, after Saturday night’s dinner of Mom’s Crow’s Nest special of very baked beans and scorched franks, I filled up on real food – Jiffy Pop. It was not only satisfying, but shaking the aluminum encased platter of corn kernels over an open flame was a metaphysical experience for me. By ten o’clock, I was still there, igniting everything short of the picnic table. Eventually, with all wood articles incinerated, I burned wax, Play-Doh, foil and anything I could get my hands on, all as if I could burn my varied anxieties away.

Sunday morning, loosening myself from rope once more, I heard raindrops hit the tent roof. Scrambling to get out of the tent as fast as I could, I saw how the entire campsite had been protected from soggy wetness by a huge tarp that completely covered it.

Hallelujah. I knew Dad had to be good for something someday.

As the rain fell harder, the tarp began to leak. Drops of water plopped into the bowl of milk that had already drenched my cornflake breakfast. Everyone ate, but no one talked. Just plop, plop, dink, plop, plop.

When my sister, Cathy, couldn’t take the silence anymore, she turned on her transistor radio. As Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” screamed out, Mom frantically spun the dial for relief, finding the only other audible, stable voice – the local weatherman.

“The National Weather Service has just announced a severe weather bulletin for Thurmont and the surrounding area…. ”

Mom flipped off the radio and, along with Dad, decided it was time we pack up all of our belongings into the Plymouth and head home.

During the long, lackluster drive back, I reminisced the weekend experience.

Camping wasn’t fun. I hated rain. I hated commodes. And I hated our tent, the biggest six ring circus on Earth. Not only was there my rope fiasco, but the tent had been too small for everyone’s sleeping bags, blow-up mattresses, and clothes left strewn all over the musty floor. The only thing that was remarkable about the weekend was how each of us tiptoed through every one of these articles and managed to never touch them or another Andberg for two entire days.

I felt an inexplicable but strong urge to strike back, as if to swing in the air at everything but hit nothing. That’s because there was nothing solid to hit. Everything lurked somewhere below the surface in my world. In venturing out into the wilds of dangerous woodland with basically only tents, flashlights and Jiffy Pop, I’d been afraid of change. As it turned out, camping wasn’t any different than being at home. In fact, the saddest thing of all was that there was no change.

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One Key to Life

005There is one key to life I have found essential: Keep it simple, starting with – how appropriate – my key ring.

During the past decade or so, life has served me well by owning just three keys – one for my front door, the car, and the workplace. I like as few keys as possible because most unlock trouble. Those kind of keys are usually given out at work: keys to the back door, the storage area, lockers,  cash registers – things that bring added responsibility, ones that often aren’t even in your job description.

On the other hand, some people, especially men, take pride in the size of their key collection. They strut around, deliberately making their bulging key ring jingle, hoping someone will ask what each key is for and the story behind it. Beware. His first key story will only unlock a litany of others from his treasure chest of tales you’ll desperately wish you had the key to throw away for all time.

It makes me feel good I’ve downsized my key totals. If only I could get rid of all the damned computer passwords I’ve accumulated. Then I will have unlatched another passageway to happier living.


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N-o-w – Everything’s Perfect, Just Like a Full House

TaosThe well dressed Texan cranks his one-arm bandit machine alongside a skinny teen clad in a baggy, basketball-themed outfit. The teen’s grandfather, weary looking, but comfortable in sweat clothes, plays alone, eight machines down from his kin.

“Now that Buffalo Thunder’s open twenty-four hours, my grandfather can gamble here all night – and – it’s not so bad they serve alcohol, right? Sure I have to drive him home, but they allow eighteen-year-olds to play here now, so I can slot all night too. It rocks!”

“Till you run out of money,” The Texan says.

“Oh, no, he just cashes his social security check here – another new rule.”

“Really? How does New Mexico do it?”

“The pueblo doesn’t have to pay revenue-sharing to the state now, or something like that. I dunno. Who cares? Rock on.”

Such changes are part of the Pojoaque tribe’s new proposed gambling compact to the federal government. How can people even THINK of such ideas?

Keep on rockin’ in the free world, New Mexico.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to live here anymore.

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