Welcome To The Hotel Florida

So, which is it- California , Florida or Arizona? When a person gets to that point in life where he is thinking of spending less time in cold climes, he looks into where to buy that winter condo. Lots of serious thinking goes into that decision-making.

Come December, most Chicagoans would rather be anywhere else that has a temperature above 50 degrees, no evidence of snow and regular sunshine. As for me, I still have fifteen years left on the mortgage payoff so I guess I can deal with the winter blahs.

Then again, the only time I visited Florida, I was not so impressed. Back in 1975, in my early twenties, a buddy and I drove there. Actually, he did all the driving because it was his father’s car and he did not want me to touch the steering wheel. We went in late August as the motel prices were supposedly cheapest then. We found out why. It was unbearably hot.

Chicago can be hot and sticky during July and August as well, but Florida has a sneaky type of heat because you don’t feel the humidity. And you get that Caribbean blast. Not only that but staying on the beach-front in Miami, it can be quite sunny and dangerous to the skin and the next thing you know a rain shower comes down without any warning. No dark, ominous clouds. Then after a few minutes of getting drenched, it stops just as suddenly. You also have to worry about coconuts falling out of palm trees as you stroll down Collins Avenue. Who needs this?

I am told that during the winter it gets down into the high thirties at night and up to the mid sixties during the day. That’s nice but not enough to get me to pack my bags. I hear that they don’t know from heaters so the natives wear their clothes to bed at night.

What’s the big winter attraction in Florida- DisneyWorld in Orlando? My buddy and I went there just a couple of years after it opened so the Disney folk had not yet bought up a lot of the land near the theme park. We were able find a cheap efficiency apartment a mile or so from the amusement center and took in the place. In order to see an exhibit that took no more than ten minutes to view, we stood in line for an average of forty minutes. Try doing that six or seven times in one afternoon. Who needs this?

Not only that, but we were tortured with continuous playing on the sound system of that diminutive classic- “It’s a small, small world, after all”. That’s what they should have used on the prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay to make them talk.

And another thing. Hurricane season in Florida is anytime it feels like it. A unit owner in my condo building up north also has a winter condo in Florida. He told me a couple of years ago that the condo association down there assessed each unit owner an extra twenty thousand dollars as their share in bringing the building up to hurricane-resistance code. Who needs this?

I’m done with my Florida bashing. I can’t speak much about Arizona other than the half hour I waited one winter day in the Phoenix airport while I changed planes. It did look sunny outside and I’m confident that there were no hela monsters or lizards crawling about the airport terminal. As for California, what’s an earthquake between friends?

Impatience Management

Your honor, I admit I’m an impatient person and don’t tell me I have to control my anger. Just please listen to the facts. It’s about the frustration of dealing with idiots who don’t know how to use a self-service checkout at a supermarket. They stand there staring at the device trying to figure out how to pay. Or how to weigh the produce or input the correct quantity of apples purchased. Or how to find the proper description of the item if there is no scan-worthy bar code. They stand there scratching their head instead of asking for assistance. Like the one attendant for six self-service machines is going to volunteer to
walk over and accomodate them- yah right? Even the five other people in line with me applaud when I make a comment.
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This Drives Me Angry

Psst… as long as my editor is not looking over my shoulder, I’d like to discuss a real pet peeve. He wants me to stick to topics that draw interest mostly from people who have angst about getting older. Heck, I think we all do. The guy who is twenty thinks about how mature he is going to have to act when he turns thirty-five. The gal who is forty with kids contemplates whether her future grandchildren should call her grandma, some other derivative or by her first name. She is also planning revenge on her own kids by spoiling the follow-up generation. Those in their late fifties and early sixties wonder if it makes sense to buy the burial plot now while it is cheaper or let the surviving relatives worry about it.

Back to my peeve. It’s about the jerks who drive their car while holding one hand on the steering wheel and the other on their cell phone attached to their ear. And they are doing this while going thirty miles an hour in a forty mile an hour zone- in the left lane. I want to yell at them, “stay the _____ home.” Or “hang up the _____ phone.” Or “pull over, _______.” You can fill in the missing blanks. My dander is up because these morons don’t give a ______ about being fair and decent to anyone else. It’s all about them. Their excuse, of course, is that it is not illegal in certain areas. But, that still doesn’t make it right.

In the City of Chicago, it is illegal to drive with the phone in your hand pushed against your ear. Trust me, it is probably the most ignored law by both the motorists and the cops. Fines range from $100 to $500. But, that does not seem to scare drivers from doing it. Some suburbs also do not permit driving and talking at the same time but unfortunately most have not enacted such a law. Even in the suburbs where distracted driving is not illegal, it is still a crime to do so while driving through a school or construction zone that has temporary speed reduction.

I’m not even bringing up a worse crime- texting while driving. The State Of Illinois issued over 7800 citations for distracted driving in 2010. From the number of violators I’ve observed this past year, this seems low- an average of a little more than 20 a day. Maybe some cops are too distracted themselves stopping off at doughnut shops.

It got me to thinking if there is a generation gap going on with this issue because I rarely see a senior citizen committing such a heinous crime. Some will say that’s because most of them cannot figure out how to even use the buttons on their cellphone to make a call. The seniors I know- ahem- mostly just take incoming calls. Less of a hassle. My mother accidentally discovers missed calls days after they were displayed on her cellphone desktop. Or she will call me and mention that she is returning a voice mail message I left. I tell her that I did not leave her a message. She then tells me that I indeed did. I then have to tell her in a nice way (yah, sure) that I left the message the previous week.

Forget about her creating or adding to the address book. She has me append any new entries for her. I still think she types the entire number in when she wants to make a call regardless.

This is the same lady who brags that she has an email address and once sent one out just for fun to prove it. What she forgets to mention is that:

a. she doesn’t have a clue as to what her email address is or where it is
stored or how to retrieve any possible waiting for her because-

b. she hasn’t checked her email account since the day she created it on her granddaughter’s computer.

Gotta go- my editor is coming around the corner.

On Being Alcohol Proof

The first time alcohol touched my body was when I was quite young. My mother took a swab of cotton, dunked it ever so slightly into a bottle of rubbing alcohol and applied it to a scrape on my knee. I screamed like the dickens and gave her a look like “why are you trying to kill me?” The cure was worse than the malady. At the time, I made a mental note to try to avoid in the future anything that had to do with alcohol. I guess you can say I made myself alcohol proof.
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Radio Nights

By Larry Teren


My dad gave me a pocket transistor radio with an earphone in the very early 1960’s. I had eclectic tastes even then. Depending on the mood or what was available, I would listen to Dick Biondi spin rock and roll records on WLS or Franklin MacCormack and his “All Night Meister Brau Showcase” on WGN. If the Chicago Cubs were on the road, especially a West Coast night game in Los Angeles or San Francisco, I’d be sure to listen in on the broadcast.

There was something cool about listening with the earphone plugged in even though there was no one else in the bedroom to disturb. I’m sure I fell asleep countless times this way only to wake up with the earphone somehow laying under the pillow.     Continue reading “Radio Nights”

The Three Stooges

Living down the block from school as a kid in the late 1950’s and early 60’s enabled me to come home early enough to catch some quality afternoon tv for children. This was before the era of do-gooders trying to offer diversity-based educational stuff like The Electric Company or Sesame Street. We did have early education staples such as Ding Dong School with Miss Frances and Romper Room (“I see Jimmy and Mary and Bobby”) but a lot of it was electronic babysitting.
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Fat As A Fiddle

With wisdom comes age. Now, I know you think that it’s the other way around but it makes more sense my way. At least, the smarter I get, the less it does me any good.

Take doing exercise. In my youth, I played all the seasonal ballgames outdoors for a couple of hours at a time and did not feel tired out or end up complaining about injuries. In my twenties, I played softball, basketball and volleyball and did not get winded. I broke a bone or two but it didn’t stop me from getting around.

All that sweating and physical abuse didn’t protect me from shifting body weight thirty years later. I was not much of a jogger as I have flat feet but I used to do an acceptable double time. The hop, skip and a jump over the years dragged down to a slow waltz.
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Jack Benny and Dad

jack bennyJack Benny was in the top five of all-time show business personalities. As a kid in the late 1950’s and early 60’s , I watched his tv show and laughed like everyone else. Jack was beloved by all his peers which is unusual in a competitive world. His stage persona was that of a vain cheapskate. This was a scriptwriter’s dream and it did him well for close to sixty years. He died in 1974 at the age of eighty after pretending to be 39 for so many years.

My father celebrated his own eightieth birthday in October, 2002 by falling down and breaking both ankles. He had just left his car and had walked up the stairs to his townhouse. Once inside, he tripped in the foyer and that was that. Somehow my mother helped him into a chair and she called me to come over. I did and it was in the late evening time. A private ambulance service brought him to the hospital of choice. We waited in the emergency area and by 11pm the doctors had done their thing. They bandaged him up as best as possible and told me to take him home.
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History Is For People Who Live In The Past

My editor, an unnamed relative, says that History is for those who want to live in the past so I should write in the past- that is, past tense. My brother, I mean editor, doesn’t like me using what is called historical present when I do my storytelling. I ask him if he ever hears of Damon Runyon as the guy has made quite a living doing just that. He then throws out names like Saroyan, Benchley, Thurber and Perlman and said that they never wrote in such a mixed up way. So I tell him I am writing in the vernacular. He said it is more like the vehicular- with all my run-on thoughts.
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