Humor

Bay Village snake hunters: Basement edition, Part 1

This is the first in a four-part series detailing the crazy adventures of a Bay Village homeowner faced with a serpentine crisis.

Imagine one day encountering your worst nightmare – one that makes your skin crawl and your body shudder. Then multiply that nightmare a whole bunch of times, and stick it in the creepiest part of your house – the basement. Could you handle it?

Well, my lovely wife, Amy, had to do just that. On Aug. 31, she encountered two 7-inch-long snakes (think very long, skinny pencils) in our Bay Village basement. These snakes were identified by wildlife biologists as Northern Water Snakes, probably recently born.

The following day, I found two more in the basement, bringing the total to four. One was gracious enough to show us his "school picture day smile." I call him "Bitey."

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Volume 13, Issue 18, Posted 10:12 AM, 09.21.2021

Go Brow– ... Raiders?!

It was 20 years ago when the Browns schedule came out and my left-coast Bro called and hatched a brilliant plot. "The Browns visit Oakland this year, my buddy has season tickets and he can get me two. C'mon out!" That weekend of Sept. 24, 2000, was the sports vacation made in heaven. Both Bay Area baseball teams were headed for the playoffs. The SF Giants had just built a new stadium. I love Progressive Field but the new Giants stadium had some really cool features.

One of the outfield walls had a peephole built into it where people could look in at the action without a ticket. If someone hit a homer far enough out to right field the ball landed in the bay, where boaters vied for the souvenir. The concessions were uniquely Bay Area with garlic fries and cioppino on the menu. When many Italian fishermen came in from a day on their boats they would chip in part of their catch to make a delicious sea food stew that over the years became known as cioppino. It's not an actual Italian word but kind of a hybrid Italo-American colloquialism.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:06 AM, 02.16.2021

2 miracles = sainthood

I may have the most improbable birth story of anyone you know. My mother was born in Italy in the early 1910s. She came to the U.S. at the age of 11 and was put in the first grade. With an academic career doomed, her father fudged her date of birth so she could go to work in a sewing factory as soon as possible. When the Depression hit in 1929 every one of her and her three sisters' paychecks were crucial to the family's survival. The family lived on West 69th Street and was among the first families to participate in mass at the new parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Father Vincent was the legendary founder of OLMC. He asked some young ladies to volunteer on Saturdays to clean and prepare their venue for Sunday Mass. My mother volunteered. One Saturday, Father Vincent asked if any of the ladies were interested in a vocation as a nun. My mother raised her hand. Father Vincent told her he knew her dad and would speak to him about it. Nothing ever came of it so I'm guessing Father Vincent knew grandpa couldn't afford the hit to the family income during those desperate times.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:14 AM, 02.02.2021

Westlake police roll out welcome mat

When I moved to Westlake from Cleveland in 2011 I couldn't help but notice Rocky River Police at the Hilliard exit almost on a daily basis. This was a concern. Was the Westlake Police Department similarly an adjunct to the treasury, a cash-cow for the mayor's court? We would soon find out.

In 2020 my wife and I celebrated 44 years of marriage. Many things keep us together but taste in movies isn't one of them. But I'm a trouper and I guess it could be said I'd follow her anywhere so I always accompany her to "her" movies. But there are consequences! I'm still being pilloried some 10 years later for sleeping through the movie "Avatar." To her it was a near-religious experience, to me it was a three-hour nap.

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:57 AM, 12.15.2020

What's in a name?

Kindergarten was an idyllic time for me. My teacher was a wonderful woman who was on a perpetual hunt to dish out amazing hugs. The only negative was when I brought my first report card home with the name Giovanni Palmiero written on it. Who was that?! I had been called Johnny my entire life. My best friend was baffled by that fact and mispronounced it Sfanni and I rushed home crying. The next day my mother went up to the school and changed it to John. Crisis averted.

Fast forward 15 years. Two years of college had not left me in a good place so I joined the Army. My Army recruiter came by one day puzzled. He could not find a birth certificate for anyone named John Palmiero. Oops! He had to go back and find a birth certificate for Giovanni. I had forgotten what was on my birth certificate.

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:56 AM, 12.15.2020

Considering the GIOAT

From birth to the age of 12 I thought living in a double house on West 128th in Cleveland was nirvana. My grandmother and Aunt Vance lived downstairs and every Sunday we gathered down there with 15-20 relatives for spaghetti and meatballs.

My brother was two years older than I. We both were pretty fast runners. The biggest difference was he dreamt of using that speed getting around end for the Cleveland Browns while I saw myself stealing bases for the Indians.

Rocky Colavito was the star for the Tribe. Even the non-Italians wanted to be him. He had a very unique ritual before every at-bat. He lifted his bat up over his head and brought it down with both hands behind his back. He had tremendous power and could throw the ball from the outfield straight to the catcher, cut-off man be damned.

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Volume 12, Issue 22, Posted 9:22 AM, 11.17.2020

A cardinal idea

Besides walking my dogs, another way of meeting neighbors in Westlake is at the school bus stop.

"How many live in your house?" one of my new bus stop buddies asked incredulously with a raised eyebrow. "Nine", I replied. "Wow!" was his response followed by an awkward silence. "Well, I'm sure you shop at Costco for that crowd," he said.

Not wanting to sound like the ignorant Cleveland emigre, I deftly changed the subject but as soon as I returned home I advised my lovely bride that a Costco membership was a must-have out here in the land of the Green Demons.

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Volume 12, Issue 18, Posted 10:23 AM, 09.15.2020

Ode to 'Springtease'

While I sit and contemplate the change of seasons, I note the swing between cold wet rain or sleet and mornings of song birds, blue skies and warmer days. This is a new season I’ve dubbed "Springtease."

I am confident we will get to summer days, as they arrive every year. BUT, less than welcome is the (re)appearance of a singular robin. I don’t know the life span of a robin so I don’t know if it is last year’s miscreant or an offspring with his father’s DNA.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 10:45 AM, 05.19.2020

Warning for first-time grandparents

Do not take the baby anywhere near a sandbox or beach until he/she stops putting everything in its mouth. I speak from experience!

Babies happily chew on everything when they have a few teeth. The sound of sand grating on little teeth triggers the gag reflux in the listener (you).

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Volume 10, Issue 11, Posted 9:28 AM, 06.19.2018

Alternative people, alternative facts

I became a presenter with The Institute for Learning in Retirement several years ago, with a course I called, “Lincoln and His War.” Each course is six 75-minute classes, one a week. I also presented this class last spring.

This year I thought I would put together a different class – deciding to do one I’m calling, “American Icons.” Each class would be an "in-person" talk by a noted American, portrayed by yours truly. After much thought my icons will be: Archibald Gracie IV – “I survived the sinking of the Titanic”; Teddy Roosevelt – “Speak softly and carry a big stick”; Wyatt Earp – “Doc Holiday and I: Our Gunfight at the OK Corral”; Ernest Hemingway – “My Moveable Writer’s Life”; Secret Service Agent Clint Hill – “Protecting the Kennedys”; and of course, Abraham Lincoln – “On Leadership.”

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:16 AM, 04.04.2017

Go figure this!

The other day I looked in the fridge for my jar of apricot preserves. I pulled it out and to my surprise the lid was missing.

"What the heck did you do with the lid?" I asked myself. I began the search for the missing lid. I looked in the discard bag, emptying it out and sorting through the contents. Was it there? No! I searched high and low, every possible place it could be to no avail.

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Volume 8, Issue 20, Posted 10:25 AM, 10.18.2016

Words for a day

“That does it!” a Westlake woman willfully exclaimed. “After recently reading the word ‘wonky’ in a newspaper not once but twice, I thought it proper to look up its meaning rather than to guess at it. Heaven forbid that I would choose to use the term myself someday, I’d want to get it right!”

Upon feeling chuffed for being so conscientious, this Westlake word wonderer admitted that despite having at least half a dozen English dictionaries around the house and countless more in foreign languages, she couldn’t recall the last time she had picked one up.

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Volume 8, Issue 18, Posted 9:46 AM, 09.20.2016

Remembering my days as a talk-show host

When applying for positions in law and education, I would list my experiences, degrees, grades, skills and at the bottom, I had a one-line past experience: radio talk show host. To a person, the first thing I would be asked about in an interview was that radio show! 

How I got my own radio show is probably something they were wondering. I’m not exactly a conventional radio personality, although I suppose I’m somewhat conventional when it comes to small-town radio, which is what my show was broadcast on, not a major network. I have the kind of odd and uninteresting voice with a Pittsburgh accent that works out all right in life but would not work out on national radio.

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:46 AM, 05.17.2016

Gilligan's Island? Try Gilligan's Knickerbocker

The Knickerbocker Apartments has a longtime resident cat. A sign on the door of Phyllis' apartment reads "Gilligan's Place." Gilligan is a black cat – who, by the way, is vice president-elect of the Knickerbocker (I kid you not) – that graciously allows the apartment's human tenant to cohabit "The Place" with her.

Before the days when the Bay Village Kiwanis provided us with plastic mailboxes by each apartment door, we had to bend in half to slip our communications under the door. For many of us seniors this wasn't the easiest feat to accomplish.

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:42 AM, 05.17.2016

'Houdini' cat a master of escape

When Toetu came to live with us, we had no inkling that she was an escape artist. She liked to play in the front entryway where she could look through the screen door at the outside world. While looking at the outside, she was dreaming on how she could be part of the outdoors. Imagine our surprise when we discovered her wandering down the driveway in front of the garage.

How had she managed to get out of the house when all the doors were locked? Mystified, my husband called her name, scooped her up and brought her back in the house. Twenty minutes later, we were surprised once again to see her outside smelling the bushes alongside the driveway.

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 10:05 AM, 03.15.2016

I have to laugh at myself

I've heard senior citizens say, "I wish I was young again." Guess what? I just realized that I have reverted to what's known as second childhood. I recently found myself telling people, "I'm 84 and a half." How many little folks have you heard telling someone, "I'm 4 and a half, or 5 and a half"? Both of us are proud of our age. I have to laugh at myself.

There was a time in my life several years back when out in a restaurant and I needed to use their rest room. I was just about to enter when a gentleman emerged and informed me, "This is the men's room!"

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 10:07 AM, 03.15.2016

Happy as a clam!

Let’s hand it to Mother Nature: 2015’s transition from late summer into early fall afforded Westlakers and Bayites plenty of dazzling days with above-average temperatures and cool, crisp nights. What better conditions for walking in area parks, taking scenic bike rides, or exploring the locally grown bounty at area grocers and farmers’ markets!

When it comes to traditional autumn activities, clambakes bring a taste of the East Coast to the Westshore. For anyone thinking of hosting a clambake who is not sure where to start, rest easy. Local purveyors are prepared to provide all that’s needed! Otherwise, there’s no shortage of clambakes staged by local groups, restaurants, and homeowner associations. (If, however, you’re the one who will be picking up the tab, be ready to dish out some serious clams!)

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Volume 7, Issue 19, Posted 8:51 AM, 10.06.2015

Spring chores, more chores!

Chances are good that whoever coined: “A man may work from sun to sun but a woman’s work is never done,” neither hailed from Westlake nor Bay, nor lived in recent times, and definitely had no concept of gender equality.  

But this “old chestnut” applies to many residents – regardless of gender – in our neighboring communities. Some work truly is never done. In springtime, especially, we may find ourselves caught in a tug-of-war between everything requiring attention indoors and out.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 9:23 AM, 06.02.2015

DROP what you’re doing…

… As long as it’s not holding your kid over a cheetah pit, or salvaging your smartphone for trade-in, as not to drop a bundle.

This WBVO exclusive recounts how late in the morning of April 14 an area resident was seen running toward the easternmost entryway of the Westlake Post Office. Midway across the main lane, her smartphone suddenly went airborne, landing smack on the pavement behind her. At first, the older lady appeared relieved to see the phone and its protective case intact.

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 9:34 AM, 04.21.2015

Was 'It' really that bad?

Winter-weary Westshore residents may wonder whether 2015’s official start of spring really means “business!” No lollygagging, now! Should the vernal equinox achieve its maximum potential, Friday, March 20, could signal that “It” (the 2014-2015 winter season) is finally behind us!

However, we who are wise to winter’s ways on Lake Erie’s south shore know that spring’s arrival doesn't assure that we’ve seen the last seasonal snowfall. Wouldn’t it be nice if it DID?

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 9:55 AM, 03.17.2015

The New Year in briefs

Hello, January!  

Remember “Old Man 2014,” long beard, flowing robe, and all? Well, Father Time is yesterday’s news! Cherubic “Baby New Year” with his Jan. 1 debut sporting a diaper, top hat and sash is “in!” 

A reliable Westshore resident recently revealed that Baby New Year has since donned a snowsuit and is bracing for the balance of the Northeast Ohio winter that December forgot.

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Volume 7, Issue 1, Posted 9:45 AM, 01.06.2015

Any reservations about resolutions?

Turning over a new leaf and staying the course throughout the year requires a high level of commitment and dedication. Kudos to area residents who have not only kept their 2014 New Year’s resolutions but are about to embark on those they set for 2015! 

Chances are, they’re way ahead of many of their neighbors who may still be coming to terms with this year’s leaves, either literally or figuratively!

Wayne and Garth (of "Wayne’s World" fame, not well-known country singers) may speak for area “non-resolvers” by inimitably proclaiming, “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy,” in lauding those who merit praise for their accomplishments.

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Volume 6, Issue 25, Posted 9:34 AM, 12.09.2014

You can laugh or you can cry…

The choice is simple when challenged with life’s everyday crises. Not sweating “the small stuff” is wise; why not the “medium stuff,” too?

Westshore residents in the habit of “laughing it off” may successfully defend themselves against routine annoyances. Some in our area could credit the perennial Reader's Digest feature, “Laughter, The Best Medicine” with instilling the notion that it really is!

What era in human existence has been devoid of hardship, war, aggression, violence, corruption and strife? Why haven’t several million years of walking upright and standing tall resulted in the human race embracing a standard of civilized behavior sufficient to make the world a better and safer place in which to live? “Too much slime,” Ghostbuster fans might say!

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Volume 6, Issue 24, Posted 9:27 AM, 11.25.2014

Halloween banter and malapropisms … bear them or not!

If you’re picking up this issue and it’s already November, we know how busy you’ve been carving pumpkins, getting the kids’ costumes ready, decorating the yard, handing out candy, brewing spiced pumpkin coffee or savoring a seasonal pumpkin brew after arduous hours of raking leaves! So what if you’ve missed the “witching hour?” There’s always next year!

All you have to do is clip this article and tuck it away with in your stash of rubber masks, freaky wigs, hats, capes, and other Halloween duds – not to be confused with Milk Duds. It will be right there when you need it! Rest assured, what follows will be just as bad this time next year!

Heads up: you might hit a small snag if your predominant wardrobe style is gothic or boho chic, since your Halloween garb may overlap with your regular wear. In this case, it’s up to you to figure out where to keep this article!

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Volume 6, Issue 22, Posted 9:38 AM, 10.28.2014

What bugs us?

Many bugs – especially mosquitoes, sweat bees, gnats, flies and midges – that persistently pursue us, bug us. Beneficial bugs, like bees, bug us when they sting, to put it mildly. Keeping in mind that stinging insects are more aggressive in late summer and early fall, it’s a good idea to swap cut-offs and flip flops for slacks, socks and shoes when walking in grassy areas. Swatting at stinging insects increases chances that we’ll soon be smarting!

Bugs in the house and ants in the pantry can join the list. What about moths in our woolens? Holy moley! (Shouldn’t that be “holey” moley?)

It’s little wonder that the word “bug” describes something that annoys or bothers us.

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Volume 6, Issue 19, Posted 10:08 AM, 09.16.2014

Puttin' on the brakes...

Yes, “puttin’,” with a double “t” and no “g,” as in “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Did you just drop what you’re doing, grab an imaginary cane, and start tapping away?

Otherwise, you may be relaxing, savoring another sip of coffee, and enjoying “puttin’,” with a double “t,” for a change of pace.

While changing pace, who remembers when “Drivers Education” was offered at Bay Village and Westlake high schools? 

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Volume 6, Issue 16, Posted 9:31 AM, 08.05.2014

Looking for signs along the way

Although yellow, triangular signs depicting leaping deer may have been less prevalent in Westlake or Bay Village 30 or 40 years ago than today, longtime and newer residents alike definitely know what they mean! 

Do the deer care? Not really. They’re too busy looking for dinner! Courtesy of lush local landscape, deer find Friday night feasts faster than do hungry Westshore diners foraging for a dinner destination with less than a 40-minute wait!

How effective are these signs? By the time a buck or two have been bopped and signs erected, survival-minded deer could be crossing elsewhere. Are enough safety-minded motorists spotted pumping brakes and glancing side-to-side to warrant “jumping deer” signs? If so, good for those who do! For them, the signs are working!

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Volume 6, Issue 15, Posted 9:38 AM, 07.22.2014

More labels, please!

An extraterrestrial visitor observing Westshore inhabitants might note our penchant for labels. Some residents favor designer labels and clever product names can be catchy. Labels serve to warn and inform. So, what about “people” labels?  

Often slang, certain monikers stick while others simply don’t. Like poodle skirts and bell-bottomed pants, some are instantly recognizable by the decade from whence they originated. Others endure, just like denim jeans.

Beatniks, dudes, dorks, racks, greasers, preppies, cats, nerds, geeks, jocks, mods, bimbos, biddies, cougars, geezers, space cadets, freaks, grease monkeys, girly girls, bigwigs, fuddy duddies, molls, dollies, hipsters, hippies, yuppies, yippies, bridezillas, and milennials merely scratch the surface of ways in which to describe social, physical or behavioral characteristics.

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Volume 6, Issue 14, Posted 10:13 AM, 07.08.2014

So, what else is taxing?

The newsstand appearance of this edition on “tax day” should find Westshore residents who filed early sighing in relief. You can tell who they are. They’re the ones smiling and jauntily going about their normal routines.

Conversely, notice who calls off sick to work on tax day and then watch for their cars stacked in the long post-office queues when reported on the late-evening news.

Many refund checks have likely been spent by now, meaning it’s a long haul until the next IRS windfall, provided that the tax gods smile down on their subjects the next time around.

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 10:19 AM, 04.15.2014

Boot boots, shoo shoes ... hello, sandals!

Since March roared in like a lion, it’s supposed to go out like a lamb. Here’s a word to the wise: before swapping shoes for sandals, one must first boot the boots!

The thought of treating one’s tootsies to sunlight and fresh air is uplifting. The challenge of removing crusty salt from trusty boots is daunting. Cleaning leather boots is a chore; restoring suede boots requires superior effort. Regardless of whether rock salt was abundantly applied until supplies ran short, or conserved for later in the season, the trade-off for traction is tolerating salt’s mess!

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 9:25 AM, 03.18.2014

Irish for a day

Anybody doubting whether a significant number of non-Irish Greater Clevelanders feel a “wee bit Irish” on St. Patrick’s Day should consider the holiday’s broad appeal. Take note of Irish flags and decorations displayed at homes, offices and businesses around town.

Look no further than the grocers’ shelves to see amply stocked corned beef, stew meat, soda bread, Irish butter, cheese and beer. Who can miss the cookies, cupcakes and doughnuts slathered with green frosting? The enthusiasm is infectious and the holiday enjoyed by many.

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Volume 6, Issue 5, Posted 9:58 AM, 03.04.2014

Aaahhh...chooo! Dealing with the germs of the season

When ads tout there’s still time to get a flu shot and cold remedy coupons arrive weekly, winter’s not over yet. Even without a coupon, anyone who’s ailing but well enough to trudge into a 24-hour drug or grocery store rarely hesitates to buy relief at any price, provided it’s in stock!

So, what did we do before flu shots were de rigueur and abundantly available from doctors’ offices, convenient care clinics and an increasing number of local pharmacies (i.e., what’s more efficient than taking the shot, purchasing deodorant, diapers, disinfectant and picking up your favorite newspaper on a single visit?).

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 10:25 AM, 02.04.2014

Thoughts while shoveling snow

Looking out the window: why did I think I couldn't afford a Caribbean vacation this year? Why didn't I give a case of Christmas Ale to that friend who has a pickup with a plow? Why did I bother to have a son if he's never home? 

At least I had the foresight to buy a snow thrower with an electric start. And fill the gas can last week. Even if it won't eat through that salt-hardened two-foot drift on my double-wide driveway apron.

Layers. And layers. Wool socks. Long underwear. The weather channel says it's 10 degrees but feels like minus-5. Do I really need to go anywhere? Other than St. Somewhere?

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 10:25 AM, 01.21.2014

When silence is golden

With a quick show of hands, who merits a gold star for exemplary English usage? If unsure about how high to raise your arm, you are not alone. Rise up and reaffirm that English is not easy!

For instance, errors in choosing when to use: who/whom, affect/effect, its/it’s, lay/lie, (and the list goes on), commonly occur.

“Lay” and “lie” complicate matters because they’re irregular verbs that challenge those striving for their star. The simple past tense of lie (to recline) is lay and the past tense of lay (to put or place) is laid, and it’s all downhill from there. (No lying!) This is why “place the book on the table,” or, “he rested on the recliner” may be welcome workarounds.   

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 10:25 AM, 01.21.2014

Turkey, dressing and did someone say 'latkes'?

The overlap of the 2013 Thanksgiving observance with the first day of Hanukkah is attracting ample media attention, and why not? The next such occurrence is at least 75,000 years away. Even with current medical advances, there’s no need to fret about what to gift the hostess just yet.

Were he still alive, Cleveland’s comedic musician/entertainer Mickey Katz (Meyer Myron Katz) might have been thrilled to get his arms around “Thanksgivukkah” as the combination holiday is called. Area residents may be more familiar with his son, actor Joel Grey (Joel David Katz) and granddaughter, actress Jennifer Grey.

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Volume 5, Issue 24, Posted 10:03 AM, 11.26.2013

Why wait? Winterize!

Delivering little more than frost on the pumpkins, October’s first Alberta Clipper was kind to West Shore residents but reminds those who haven’t finished winter preparations to act now.

The first chill of arctic air triggers a flurry of activity to ensure that snow throwers and furnaces operate correctly and chimneys are cleaned and inspected. Leaves are collected, lawns aerated and fertilized, spring bulbs planted and shrubs pruned.

Hunkering down for blustery, cold weather involves winterizing yard equipment, cars, boats, RVs and motorcycles. Some homeowners caulk foundations, upgrade insulation, and fix or replace weather stripping, gutters and roofs. Others may purchase doors, windows and siding for added comfort and energy savings. 

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:18 AM, 11.12.2013

Halloween Fun

Hundreds of children arrived the day before Halloween. The Knickerbocker Senior Center is a safe, fun place to go trick-or-treating on Beggar's Night.

Seniors were in the main hallway, the game room and any other spot the children and adults could pass easily.The little muppets dressed in all types of costumes. The children were very polite and said thank you with very soft, cute voices. You should have seen the smiles on their parents' faces. Wow, it was great.

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:12 AM, 11.12.2013

Collecting Quarters

Washing clothes is a boring but necessary chore. Mum always said to wear clean socks. I always answered,"OK mum, I'll change them."

That was great because mum had a washing machine and she did the family laundry. I live in an apartment and have to do my own laundry. Having enough quarters to feed two washing machines is a real challenge.

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Volume 5, Issue 20, Posted 9:37 AM, 10.01.2013

The Apple Orchard

When I was a very young boy my mom and dad and little sister would go to rural Ohio to visit my aunt and uncle. When we got there it was lunch time. My aunt told my uncle to go out to the apple orchard and bring something back to eat. By and by my uncle returned. My aunt made paprikash which is a Hungarian stew usually made with chicken.

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Volume 5, Issue 16, Posted 9:22 AM, 08.06.2013

A Strange Dream

One afternoon I called my lady friend to see if she would like to go to Huntington Beach the next day. We would pack a picnic lunch and watch the sail boats on the lake. My tripod and scope would give us a great view. My only worry was the steps from the top of the hill down to the beach. At my age, I was a little afraid of falling.

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Volume 5, Issue 15, Posted 9:49 AM, 07.23.2013