Patsy Porco

Turn Left at Frank Porco

In Humor on April 28, 2019 at 2:31 pm

My husband, Frank, recently underwent a CT scan using contrasting dye.

After the test, he was given a card to carry with him, in case the police pulled him over.

“Why would I get pulled over by the police?” he asked.

“Because you’ll be radioactive for the next few days and will appear on GPS,” the PA told him.

“You mean that a person could be following GPS instructions and be told, ‘In 200 feet, turn left at Frank Porco’?”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “But you could be pulled over because the police suspect that you’re carrying radioactive materials in your car.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” the PA said. “Your car will show up on police GPS as being radioactive. But once you show them your card, they’ll let you go.”

Frank’s jaw dropped. “So all a person has to do, if he is carrying radioactive materials, is show a card explaining that he was injected with radioactive dye, and the investigation would end there?” he asked.

“Well, I suppose that could happen,” the PA said. “Let’s just hope it never does.”

“And let’s just hope nobody takes a left-hand turn into the front of my car,” he said.

“Yes, let’s hope that, too.”

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Picture from The Town Scryer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Thrill of the Hunt

In Humor, shopping on March 17, 2019 at 2:03 am

I love tag sales and estate sales. I just love them. Something about finding a treasure for a great price lifts my spirits, tickles my happy bone, and does things to my digestive tract that I’d rather not mention.

You might call them garage sales or yard sales instead of tag sales, but they’re the same thing. Estate sales are another beast entirely. Someone dies and his/her heirs sell off the deceased’s lifelong accumulations. It’s sad, if you think long enough about it … so I don’t.

Sellers know the allure of estate sales, so sometimes they stoop to deceit. I once went to a purported estate sale with a friend. As we walked down a hallway, we passed a closed door that was marked “Do Not Enter.” We thought nothing of it … until a woman who was working the sale approached the door carrying a bowl of soup. She knocked on the door. The door opened a crack, just wide enough for an arm from inside the room to reach out, grab the soup bowl, and then re-close the door.

“I think that person is pretending to be dead,” my friend said. I think she was right.

But usually, estate sales are run by companies that specialize in this type of sale. The people running them are organized, strict about their no-haggling rule, and they don’t allow the heirs or the dead person on the premises while the sale is going on.

It used to be that you attended estate sales in person, but now you can find them online, posing as auctions. The bidding can get fierce at the end of the auctions. Bidders get flooded with adrenaline and pay outrageously high prices for items just so they can beat out other people. I can just imagine their buyer’s remorse the next day when they realize that they bought a piece of junk for a week’s salary. Well, in truth, I don’t have to imagine their remorse. I’ve lived it.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 12.49.23 AMSometimes, though, you can get a really good deal. I “won” a 10-foot, real leather, two-piece sectional couch for $310. Of course, that was the price before the “bidder’s premium” and taxes were added on. Then, I had to hire two guys to pick it up and bring it to my house. All in all, I paid close to $500. But, it was still a deal. Or that’s what I’m telling myself. It’s also beautiful, which helped to assuage my doubt about the purchase. I finally got to the point where I was very happy that I bought it. I told a bunch of people about it and one said, “I hope it doesn’t have bedbugs.” Oh for the love of God. Some people just have to bring other people down. I told her that we vacuumed it, and disinfected it, and polished the leather and we saw no sign of bugs. I also told her that we got the piece from a gorgeous home in a wealthy neighborhood. She shook her head and said, “Bedbugs cross all income levels.” Rather than kill her, I offered up a prayer that my sectional was bug-free. I’m sure that worked. God is the supreme protector of, among other things, second-hand furniture.

Facebook is also a good place to find online tag/garage/yard sales. Every neighborhood has at least one site where people sell their unwanted possessions. There’s also a Facebook Marketplace which aggregates the individual sale sites. I’ve bought quite a lot of really useful and necessary items from these sites. For example, I got a set of antique mahogany bed steps. Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 12.52.46 AMThe top step has a storage compartment inside it. The second step pulls out onto the bottom step and it, too, has a storage compartment for … bedpans. In the 1800s, when this one was made, people slept in really high beds, so they needed steps to get into them. The steps were kept next to their beds. The lid of the top step flipped open and people kept their spectacles and other other antiquities in the hollow compartment. The second step was used to store a person’s chamber pot. That way, if he or she had to relieve him/herself in the middle of the night, the chamber pot could be used and then shut up in the step until it could be emptied in the morning.

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My husband and son were disgusted by this information about my new, 200-year-old bed steps. I assured them that any antique germs that were still lingering inside the second step could easily be obliterated with a few Clorox wipes. How strong could those germs be after two centuries? They’re probably hobbling around on walkers by this point. If I’m wrong, however, I just might become patient zero with the Bubonic Plague. I hope my friends are vaccinated.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 1.13.14 AMIn addition to the leather sectional and contaminated bed steps, thanks to local online auctions and Facebook sites, I am also the owner of, among other things, Windsor-like chairs, wicker dressers that needs painting, many pairs of sterling silver candlesticks, a pair of brass candlesticks with hanging crystals, wooden shoe trees, a red Chinese wedding dress, red kitchen chairs, folk-art prints, silver and gold jewelry, and a cast-iron clothes iron with an interesting history.

After some research into my antique iron, I discovered that it was called a “sad iron.”Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 12.57.03 AM I thought that it was so-named because the person (woman) who was ironing was sad about having to do this job, but that wasn’t the case. It turns out that “sad” used to mean “solid” back in the day. Also, back in olden days, keeping an iron hot was a struggle. A woman would have to heat the iron on her stove, and then carefully remove the iron by grabbing its burning-hot metal handle. After medicating her burnt hand, she’d have to run to the ironing board and iron really fast before the iron got cold again. Then she would put the iron back on the stove and repeat the painful process. Somewhere along the way, somebody invented a wooden handle, aka a “cold handle,” that didn’t absorb as much heat as cast iron so that a person could lift the iron off the stovetop without scalding herself too much —but the real genius of the nineteenth century was a woman named Mary Florence Potts.

Mrs. Potts’s invention changed women’s lives for the better. She invented and patented a clothes iron with a detachable wooden handle. A woman would buy the handle and several metal bases that were pointed on each end (so that ironing could be done in either direction). The brilliant part was that a woman could continue ironing even after her iron got cold because all she had to do was detach the handle from the cold iron, attach the handle to a hot base that was warming on the stove, and then reheat the cold iron. Women went wild for Mrs. Potts’s iron. She was renowned for being a successful female entrepreneur, and her invention appeared at two World Fairs. I am now a proud owner of one of her irons — well, actually, a knockoff of one of her irons. I didn’t know that it was a copy until I looked up Mrs. Potts’s sad iron online. The genuine irons say “Mrs. Potts Sad Iron.” She started off selling them herself but eventually let the American Machine Company of Philadelphia do her marketing and selling. Unfortunately, mine was made by the A.C. Williams Co. of Ravenna, Ohio. Regardless, I feel honored to own a piece of history —  a copycat piece of history, but a piece, nonetheless.

While writing this, it occurred to me that what I enjoy most about these sales is the thrill of the hunt. I get exhilarated when I find a one-of-a-kind item for a great price. Sometimes, though, those unique items turn out to be less than one-of-a-kind (like the time I bought my cousin a “vintage, handmade quilt washed and hung to dry in the Texas sun” that turned out to be a used quilt from Bed Bath & Beyond), but those setbacks don’t deter me.

The only deterrent to my hobby could be my husband, but so far he’s been very accepting of my purchases — the ones he knows about, that is. So far, he hasn’t looked in the chamber-pot storage area of my bed steps. And, I doubt he ever will.

 

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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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Chuck Smith, Virginia Author

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