Category Archives: Reading

This Man’s World

I’m sure you would agree that a man’s world and a woman’s world are two fundamentally different places.  Strange lands.  Alien territory.  Different languages.  You get the idea.

I wrote a story for my wife for Valentine’s Day this year.  If you have had some challenges in bringing these two worlds together, I offer you the reading of this story.  You may just find a nugget or two of truth that may help bring into clarity something that is currently blurred for you.  I hope you enjoy it:

As a man, I sit upon the throne of my male world. It is a unique position that gives me a view like no other, one that extends to the furthest reaches of my domain. This domain consists of vast and varied landscapes that grow more beautiful with each passing day. Places like the Land of The Dream, the Land of Marriage, the Land of Family, the Land of Friends, the Land of Church and the Land of The Workplace are easily viewed from this regal throne.

These lands are separated by rivers, like spokes on a wagon wheel. At the center of the “wheel” are the headwaters. Known as The Godhead, it is the source of the rivers that flow out between each Land, providing all the Life needed to sustain each one.

At one time, however, the scenic beauty of some of these Lands was absent. They were dry and arid with little if any life to be found at all.

Then God gave me you.

Without even trying, you brought life to the Lifeless Places. You completed everything that was incomplete. You did something that had never been done before: You made me whole. And, just as importantly, you helped me discover what had up to that time been an uncharted territory: the Land of Here And Now. Since that time, I have come to realize that you hold the Sacred Treasure Map to that Land, given to you by God Himself.

Now, looking over this male world of mine are two thrones. One is, of course, mine. The other, my sweet Beth, belongs to you. You, my soul mate, complete me. You are the cool breeze on a scorching August afternoon. You are the gentle kiss of moonlight as it rests upon the waters. You are the laughter of a thousand children on the darkest of days.

You are my everything.

Now we sit upon the two thrones, hand-in-hand as we look over my domain. You look on in awe and wonder as I point to different Lands and the things we can see coming towards us on the distant horizon. Then, still holding my hand, you walk me down into my world.

Without fail, we always enter my world below through the Land of Here And Now. And then it is my turn to be in awe and wonder! For I find that as we walk the length and breadth of the different Lands of my world, we are at the same time still in your world of the Land of Here And Now. With absolute skill, you continue to use your God-given map to show me amazing treasures to behold as my own every day.

What a beautiful union of two worlds! I could never have asked for a more wonderful, incredible and more amazing woman to be by my side. I am so glad it was you!

Forever Yours,

Matthew

The Cat Who Didn’t Finish

I love mysteries.  I’ve enjoyed a series called “Two-Minute Mysteries” since I was in elementary school (and as it turns out, so has my wife).  And I’ve also been a Sherlock Holmes follower for years (something I may have already mentioned before).  My wife enjoys those stories, too.  So much so that I have “Love Watson” engraved inside my wedding ring and she has “Love Sherlock” engraved inside hers.

She eventually got me going on a mystery series that she had been collecting since before we were married.  The title of every book the author wrote began with, “The Cat Who…” and involved a man who more or less inherits an extremely smart Siamese cat whose cat senses help him solve various mysteries.  Now, I need to make it known that I don’t really care for cats.  (In fact, as a side story, my grandparents’ neighbors had pesky cats that would come through the tree line and go after my Grandpa’s pheasants.  Us grandkids would come running to let him know that the cats were coming through the tree line again.  He’d grab a red plastic whiffle-ball bat from the garage, us kids trailing like a pack of hungry hyenas as he walked out to the tree line and hit the cats on the head with the whiffle-ball bat.  It didn’t hurt them any, but it sure was funny to see there feet scurry on the ground, yet going nowhere–just like a cartoon–and then they’d tear off into the yard from whence they came.  I know; if you like cats, your opinion of me just plummeted.  I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.  Oops, it happened again).  So at any rate, initially, my interest in this series was scant at best.  But the more I read, the more I liked what was happening and found that it was actually a very good series to follow.

Here’s the thing:  the author has been writing these mysteries since the 70’s.  She was belting them out hot and heavy through the late 70’s, the 80’s and well into the 90’s.  Then it’s evident that the stories start tapering off.  Obviously she’s getting older.  More and more time passes between books.  It’s now well into the 2000’s.  I’m getting concerned.  How old is this woman?  Is she going to live long enough to write one more story?  What is she going to resolve?  What is she going to leave hanging?  The suspense is growing by each book I eventually see.  It finally gets to the point where it’s obvious that the book I’m waiting for is going to be the last one.  The author is in her 90’s now and not doing well.  The last book is finally published and, like Smeagol, I start referring to myself in the plural and mumbling something about “my Precious”.

So I begin reading.  A very enjoyable time!  I’m savoring every page, knowing this is the last time I will ever be able to do this with this series.  But as I am working my way towards the end, I’m starting to get nervous.  I’m going to be running out of pages soon, and nothing seems to be resolving itself.  Nothing.  What the….?  No way!!  By the end of the book, there are more questions than answers:  instead of getting the woman the main character has been interested in for so long, she moves away; somebody burns down the huge and gorgeous barn-house that the main character lives in (and no one knows who did it); and then there’s whatever else was left hanging in the air, unresolved and unaccounted for.  I felt like Gollum when he lost his ring.  “No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!  My Precioussssssss!

Shortly after I read the book, she died.  I was devastated.  No one can fix this.  This stinks.  I was so disappointed that I eventually got rid of the whole series we had collected.  “Why would you do that??“, you ask?  Sure, I could start over with the series and read them all over again some time down the road (that’s why you collect a series, right?).  But why would I want to do that when I know everything ultimately ends the way that it does?  Yup…I think you get it.

Sigh.  Oh well.  There are worse things to have happen to you. Continue reading The Cat Who Didn’t Finish

Bagels Anyone?

I’ve had a boatload of jobs over the years.  One of those jobs was for about six to eight months in my early twenties.  There was a Jewish delicatessen in the area called Bagel Haul Deli that had absolutely fantastic bagels!  Of course, they also had other goodies like muffins, cookies and croissants to tempt the taste buds.  I was looking for a different job at the time and saw one day that they were hiring for a baker.  Thus begins our tale….

I lived about twenty minutes away from the deli–assuming traffic was good–so it wasn’t just around the corner.  My hours as a baker were 2:30a.m. to approximately 10:30-11:30a.m.  My first four hours were spent baking everything up and my last four hours were consumed with delivering everything I had just baked (minus the stash kept at the deli to sell there) and cleaning everything up once I got back.

A second baker would come in somewhere around 3:30a.m. to assist, namely with the bagels.  Why?  This style of  bagel was known as “Chicago-style bagels” (this is what I was told, although I understand that they are actually known as “Montreal-style” bagels).  This style is more dense than the other style, known as “New York-style” bagels, which are puffier and more airy than their counter-part.  Either style, though, gets boiled before being baked.  So at this particular deli, the boiling was done in a huge circular vat of boiling water that stood about four feet high and was about two feet in diameter.  Once these were boiled for a specific amount of time, they were put back on the trays where toppings such as garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt were put on.  Once this was done, they were wheeled over to the oven where the other baker took over.

This wasn’t your Grandma’s oven, by the way.  The oven itself was a room about six feet wide, ten feet long and eight feet high.  It had at least six metal racks that were a good three feet deep and ten feet long, all rotating like a drum around the inside of the oven.  The oven baker accessed those racks by opening an oven door that exposed an opening about two feet high and eight feet long.  So between these two bakers, everything got baked up and ready to deliver by 6:30a.m.

The more pleasant of the two jobs was manning the oven.  Since I was the new guy, I usually got stuck with the first job.  To this day I cannot eat an onion bagel.  Go ahead…ask me.  “Why is that??”  Well, imagine yourself getting up at 2:00a.m. in order to get the baking process started by 2:30.  Now imagine yourself an hour later, standing over a vat of boiling water with all kinds of steam getting all up in your face.  Then imagine yourself dumping tray after tray of onion bagels into that boiling water and steam that is now saturated with onion-stench enveloping your sinus cavities and overwhelming your olfactory senses.  It about made me want to have a puke bucket nearby.  That wasn’t the only one either:  Cheese bagels gave off some rather obnoxious fumes and rye bagels had a weird and nasty smell when put in boiling water.  On the bright side, blueberry bagels gave off a rather pleasant boiled aroma, while cinnamon-raisin bagels just about made you want to crawl into the water with them.

One thing you didn’t want to do was be late!  If you started late, you never got caught up–and that also meant that you had to call the owners and have one of them meet you there to help you.  That happened to me twice while I worked there.  The anxiety of that possibility, coupled with a habit I had at the time of reading in bed by lamplight, resulted in the culmination of my quitting that job.  I know, I know…how does reading in bed add to a person’s stress level?  It’s supposed to be relaxing, right?

To answer that question, I should probably tell you that I had another habit.  This one involved my alarm.  When it would go off, I would sometimes hit the snooze button and turn the lamp on that was by my bed.  Mind you….sometimes.  Not all the time.  And sometimes I would find myself falling asleep while reading.  Which meant that my lamp never got turned off.  So I would stir in my sleep just enough to realize that the lamp was on and then fly up and out of bed, standing in the middle of the room hyperventilating with adrenaline, because I had no idea whether I had dozed off from reading or if I had hit the snooze button and was now late for work!!  Usually I had just dozed off, but how do you recover from that and just go back to sleep?  I remember many times just sitting on the edge of my bed, rubbing my temples and trying to get over that “post-adrenaline-rush” headache that always followed.

Bagel anyone?

Limericks

Probably the first thing you think of when you see the word “limerick” is a leprechaun skipping down a countryside road in Ireland somewhere, the cool shoreside breezes blowing his bright red beard hither and yon as he belts out one rhyming five-line stanza after another.

Limericks, for me, started way back when I was a wee lad.  My brother and I had a Goofy album called “Children’s Riddles & Game Songs”  (How do I know this?  I still have it.)  Overall, I enjoyed the whole album.  But when it got to the limericks Goofy would share with the listener, they were the best!  I still remember a couple of them:

There once was a man from Sneeds,

Who simple indeed were his needs.

Said he, “To save toil

Growing things in the soil,

I’ll just eat the packets of seeds.”

Aaheeuull!!  (Envision hearing Goofy give one of his famous laughs right here.  I know, that’s pitiful, but how do you put a laugh like that in writing??)

There once was a woman from Wooster,

Who used to crow like a rooster.

She used to climb

Two trees at a time,

But her sister used to boost her!

I know….kid humor, but I sure remember those being funny back then.

I remember having to make a “Poetry Book” for my Mom for Valentine’s Day one year in early grade school.  Yes indeed, one of the requirements of that assignment was a page of limericks that were supposed to be originals.  I thought long and hard–or short and soft, depending on whether you think it’s humorous or not–and came up with, at least by my standards back then, what I felt were some rather good lines for the poetry masterpiece I was to make:

I once knew a boy named Nick

Who very much liked to kick.

But he kicked a ball

And took a great fall.

Now he’s given up the trick.

Hmmm.  I read that now and it’s just not as good as I thought it was back then.  So let’s see what I can come up with now:

I have a favorite football team,

The college type–colors white and green.

If they could just dominate

And then subjugate,

They’d be college football’s “Bruce Lee”!

Mysteries

I have always loved mysteries.

I can remember there being quite a few mystery-type series that got me going on this path so long ago.  As with just about any young boy from the late 70’s and early 80’s, a staple mystery starter was The Hardy Boys (and a few Nancy Drew thrown in).  Do you remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series?  I didn’t get into a whole lot of those, but the first (and favorite) was “The Mystery Of Chimney Rock”.  How about “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators”?  I have found very few who have read that one.

This has progressed over the years into a love for the Sherlock Holmes stories.  The movies that have Robert Downey Jr. are good entertainment, but obviously don’t follow the actual stories.  If you want to see what is arguably the best rendition of the 221B Baker Street stories, you must watch  the Sherlock Holmes series that Granada (an English T.V. production company) put out over a ten-year span (1984-1994) that stars Jeremy Brett as the best Sherlock Holmes ever portrayed.

But I would have to say that what truly started my love of mysteries was a series that I found somewhere around 2nd/3rd grade called “Two-Minute Mysteries”.  These are short mysteries with the solution upside down at the end of each one.  I absolutely loved these (and still do)!  In fact, shortly after my wife and I met, we discovered that we both found the first book of this series (there’s three of them) around the same young age–and that we both still had our own copy of it!   I loved these stories so much that I modeled a mystery of my own after this “Two-Minute Mystery” format back in 5th grade for an assignment we had to do.

So, compadre, walk in my hiking boots for two minutes and enjoy, word-for-word, my original 5th grade two-minute mystery!  The wording and punctuation are that of a 5th grader, so keep that in mind.  I’ll let you in on the solution next time we meet up.  And one more thing….if you think this might be a waste of time, you should know that I stumped the whole class–including the teacher:

The Case Of The Missing Dog

It was one of those nights with a very heavy fog.  Suddenly their came a scream,  “My dog’s been stolen!” screamed Mrs. Hernandez.  A policeman came up to her.  “What’s the matter?”  “My dog’s been stolen!” she said.

“I went down to feed my dog and discovered he was missing.  I went out the front door just to see a man, with my dog, turn the corner and get into a car.”

“A very good alibi, Mrs. Hernandez.  But not good enough!”