Patsy Porco

Good/Bad 2018

In 2018, Humor on December 31, 2018 at 8:49 pm

All over social media there are people saying that they can’t wait to see 2018 end. They say it was a horrible year and good riddance to it.

Let’s all take a breath and assess 2018. Something good had to have happened this year to each of us. In fact, I think that almost every event can be perceived in both a negative and a positive light (if you look really hard), so I’m going to attempt to find some sun amidst the darkness.

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 8.41.41 PMWhile 2018 presented challenges for me and my family this year, it also brought us our fabulous dog, Duke, whom we adopted from a local shelter. If we hadn’t gotten Duke, I wouldn’t be sitting at my laptop right now, listening to him emit sounds similar to a balloon slowly losing air. I also wouldn’t be enveloped in a cloud of gas so noxious and thick that I will have to fight my way out of it. But that’s the price we pay for having a hilarious, fun-loving, affectionate, and loyal dog. We love him to pieces and he loves us right back. We just don’t take him out in public.

Also in 2018, my commute to work got longer by 2 subway rides. This added about 20 minutes to my trip and will probably subtract years from my life. I used to take one train ride into Manhattan, but then my company moved and I could no longer walk to my office from Grand Central, at least not in a timely manner. Now, when I arrive at Grand Central, I have to elbow my way through dense crowds of people taking pictures of the astrological drawings on the ceiling, race down tunnels and stairs to the Times Square shuttle track, and push my way into a jammed subway car. When we get to the Times Square stop, I catch a train downtown to my job. The Times Square stop is like an underground carnival, where you can watch amateur musical and acrobatic performers, buy newspapers, vinyl records, and rolling papers, or join a cult. On every shuttle to or from Times Square, you will be unwillingly or unwittingly entertained. There is sometimes a man who takes up four seats with a portable keyboard and who plays songs and sings during the short ride. Other times, you get on the train and don’t see anything out of the ordinary and then the doors close and someone sitting all alone will start belting out songs at top volume when nobody expects it. This can be very jarring to your nerves, especially if you haven’t had enough coffee yet. Sometimes a dodgy group of men will appear from another car and start clicking their fingers and tapping their toes and proceed to rap a song they’re composing on the spot. The performers always request donations as the doors of the train open, but if you plant yourself by the door when you get on, you can escape before they get to you. But, despite being part of a captive audience and having to endure a longer commute, I eventually arrive at a job that I love and work with people who are really nice. And there’s free coffee. Of course, after my enjoyable day in the office, I have to repeat the above-described commute in reverse, during the afternoon rush. But—and here’s another upside—I only do this once a week because I am allowed to work from home the other four days. I left that information out until now so you could feel sorry for me, at least for a minute or two.

While the next thing happened in 2017, it affected 2018, so I’m including it: In the summer of 2017, during a party we hosted in our yard, one of our picnic tables fell through the deck. The adult table wasn’t affected, but the kids’ table hit the deck, or actually crashed through the deck onto the ground a few feet below. Only one child was sitting at the table at that time and fortunately he wasn’t hurt. He kept eating his hotdog as we hauled him up through the splintered wood. Then we moved the childrens’ table next to the adults’ table, which was on more stable decking, and continued on with the party. A year later, we finally replaced the deck. So, 2018 brought us a new deck … and no lawsuit from the child’s parents.

There were other events in 2018 that I’m still examining to find a positive side, so I understand that some things that happen can be fairly awful. But when you find yourself dwelling on the bad things that happened this year, be grateful that a flatulent dog isn’t sitting next to you making outrageously rude noises. I’ve never heard of a dog who makes noises when he passes gas. He could well be an old man in a fur coat.

My wish for 2019 is that the year brings upsides that outweigh the downsides. That’s all I want … and Beano for our dog.

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You Have to Crawl Before You Iron

In Humor on December 29, 2018 at 2:35 am

Many years ago, my sister said that she is afraid of ironing because she always winds up with her head under the ironing board, afraid that the iron will fall off the board and onto her face, thus scarring her for life.

When she told me about her unusual fear, I laughed. And from that moment on, every time I ironed, I found myself crawling around on the floor under the ironing board, also afraid that the iron, which was always precariously balanced on the edge of the board, would fall on my face, thus scarring me for life.

I don’t know why she and I always end up on the floor under the ironing board, but we do. Sometimes I’m under there picking up something silky that slipped off the board. Sometimes I’m wiping up water that leaked out of the iron onto the floor. Other times, I’m shoving the dog out from under the ironing board before he jostles the iron off the board and onto his face … thus, scarring him for life.

This doesn’t keep me from ironing, though. I love to iron. Give me a pile of wrinkled clothes, a can of spray starch, and a movie on TV, and I’m happy. I get great satisfaction from the piles of starched and folded clothes that I transformed from unwearable to glorious. Ironing also calms me.

I have a friend who gets the same therapeutic benefits from prepping food. “I just love chopping, grating, mincing, slicing, dicing, and muddling,” she told me. She likes having little bowls and ramekins filled with all of her prepared ingredients before she begins cooking. I guess I can see how the monotony of chopping, grating, mincing, slicing, dicing, and muddling could be a soothing activity but it doesn’t appeal to me. That’s probably because after doing all of that mindless work, I’d have to actually cook.

I can cook, and I do cook, but I don’t enjoy it. It’s probably because my mother spent an enormous amount of time preparing meals that were complicated, beautiful, and delicious. I either don’t think I can live up to her abilities, or I’m lazy. It’s probably the latter. I could live on meat and vegetable pizza for the rest of my life. It’s the perfect food, containing all of the food groups. No additional salad required.

My chopping, grating, mincing, slicing, dicing, and muddling friend doesn’t understand this at all. But she’s Italian. ‘Nuff said.

I’m part Irish and was probably a washer woman in a past life, so that might explain my love of ironing. But I could also have been a dog, considering how much time I spend crawling around on the floor. I was probably in the same pack as my sister.

Ironing

Yes, the word “the” is missing from before “cover” in this meme, but I hope you can overlook that and enjoy the message.

 

Chimney Sweeps, Assigned Nipples, and St. Stephen’s Day

In Humor, Ireland on October 28, 2018 at 4:45 pm

I have a neighbor, Mike, who is closing in on 90 years of age. He was born in Ireland and emigrated to the U.S. when he was a young man.

One thing that I discovered during my visits to him is that he’s very secretive about his age. Naturally, I became determined to figure out how old he is. It’s just human nature. Anytime someone tries to hide his or her age, deducing it becomes imperative for people who know the person.

During one visit to his house, I made it a point to ask him how old he was when he came to the U.S. He told me he was 21. The next time I saw him, I asked him what year he arrived here. He said it was in 1949. Last week, I asked him when his birthday was and he said November 18. Then I did the math. By my calculations, he should be celebrating his 90th birthday soon. Unless he lied. He’s very quick-witted, so I’m sure he figured out why I was asking him all of those date-related questions.

Another thing I learned about Mike is that he’s very interesting to talk to, or I should say listen to. He can talk for hours about the old days in Ireland. He can’t hear very well, so I only ask my most pressing questions because I have to yell to be heard by him. And then I usually have to repeat my question at top volume, because he still doesn’t always hear what I’ve asked. Sometimes he pretends to hear, or I hope he’s pretending. Today, he asked how I was. I said, “I have a headache.” He said, “That’s good.”

During my visit today, he told me many stories. My favorites involved chimney sweeps, a nursing sow, and St. Stephen’s Day.

Mike told me that, right before Christmas, everyone in Ireland cleaned their chimneys so that Santa wouldn’t get dirty when he entered and exited their homes. How it was done was: one male member of the family would climb up on the roof with three or four small fir trees tied to a thick rope. Another male family member would stand in the house by the fireplace. The man on the roof would lower the fir trees down the chimney to the man by the fireplace. When the trees hit the floor, the man on the ground would yell, “Up, up!” The man on the roof would then pull the trees back up. Once the trees reached the top of the chimney, the man on the ground would call, “Down, down!” This went on until the chimney was clean and both men were covered with soot. I asked him how they knew when to stop. He said, “When they decided it was clean enough.”

Then he told me about a sow that his family owned. The sow had 12 piglets and when it was feeding time, each piglet attached itself to one of the sow’s teats. At the next feeding time, they all went back to the nipple they had used before. God help the piglet who tried to take a different nipple. He or she got knocked down by the piglet who “owned” that particular nipple.

The last story involved birds. Mike said that the wrens (he pronounced it “rins”) in Ireland—he couldn’t speak for wrens in other countries—built nests with a roof and a little door, and the mother wren always laid 18 tiny speckled eggs, the size of grapes. He said that they were told that wrens were an endangered species that needed to be protected. So, on St. Stephen’s Day, December 26 (the Day of the Wren in Ireland), little kids would knock on doors and collect money to protect the wrens. Mike said that the kids usually went in pairs, but sometimes three or more children made up a group. The children all wore wooden clogs, which was their everyday footwear. One of the kids in each group would bring a tin whistle, harmonica, or another small instrument. When the homeowner answered the door, the kids would go into the kitchen. Together, they would recite:

“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, on St. Stephen’s Day got caught in the firs. She is little, but her family is great. So give us some money to keep her safe.”

Then, one kid would play his whistle and the other would dance in his wooden clogs on the flagstone floor. Mike said they made such a racket that any dogs in the house would go for their throats. After the performance, they would be given a “coppers,” i.e., pennies or half pennies. Mike said they never got silver. Then they would proceed to the next house. Mike said there would be hell to pay if they missed a house. Surprisingly, people looked forward to the kids’ visits.

The collection territories were very distinct, so each group of kids could only go to certain neighborhoods or they’d face the wrath of the kids whose area they invaded. Mike said he always only had one partner, and they went to three villages. After Mike and his friend were finished collecting for the wrens, they went to his house and sat on the stone wall in front of it. Because there wasn’t actually any charity that they knew of that was dedicated to saving the wrens, he and his partner would divide up the coins. Mike said that was why he only allowed one other kid in his group, to maximize their profits.

After filling their pockets with coppers, they’d head down to the two stores in their village to buy school supplies, candy … and cigarettes. There were two brands of cigarettes available for purchase at their stores, but the best one was Players, he said. He and his partner would each buy a pack of cigarettes and, if their take was especially profitable, they’d spring for Players. Then they would go and smoke a few behind a barn. Any leftover cigarettes would be hidden from their parents to be smoked at another time.

I’m sure the wrens approved of how their money was spent. What would they do with coppers, anyway?

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