Today's thoughts

Category: Poems (Page 1 of 22)

Creature Features: Shaggy #1331

Everyone in our household is getting a little shaggy. At least, Tally our fuzzy schnauzer gets groomed today. She’s been growing her mustache for three months now in these pandemic times. The spa that we took he to for years, Urban Fauna, has sadly closed its doors for good. We’re taking her this afternoon to Coats and Tails, just down the block. Provided they do a good job, we’ll at least have convenience on our side. Hopefully, Supercuts will reopen soon and I can get rid of my shaggy appearance. 

One of our favorite neighborhood taverns is the Blue Moon. My wife is drawn by their mini-corn dogs called Scooby-Snacks. They’ve been a welcome to-go choice over the past month, after they were closed during the initial stages of the virus. I’ve written about Scooby-Doo recently (See Post #1310), but failed to mention his lazy cartoon companion, Shaggy. As described by Wikipedia, “Shaggy Rogers has a characteristic speech pattern, marked by his frequent use of the filler word “like” and, when startled, his exclamations of “Zoinks!”. His nickname derives from the shaggy style of his sandy-blond hair. He also sports a rough goatee. His signature attire consists of a green v-neck T-shirt and maroon bell-bottom pants, both of which fit loosely.”

Both Scooby and Shaggy are readily bribed with Scooby Snacks due to their mutual large appetites, insisting that ‘being in a constant state of terror makes us constantly hungry!'” I guess they have a lot in common with our family, hoping the Blue Moon Scooby-Snacks can ease our terror of Coronavirus. Casey Kasem, of American Top 40 fame, was the original voice of Shaggy, while Don Messick was Scooby, while also voicing The Jetson’s Dog, Astro. “Ruh-Roh!”

Tally, of course, is a fan of snacks, too! She’s not particular, having enjoyed fortune cookies last night from our Chinese take-out order. They always throw in extras for her! It reminds me of one of my favorite poems that I wrote years ago and have adapted for today’s Creature Feature post:

 

Tally

We have a dog named Tally,

Eats everything in sight.

She wants a treat each morning,

Gets ham most every night.

.

She’s at my feet when dining,

Just waiting for her share.

I simply can’t ignore,

Her impatient stare.

.

When we take her on a walk,

Her nose is on the ground.

Searching every crack,

For a morsel to be found.

.

Ice cream is a favorite,

She licks it off the stick.

And if you want some for yourself,

You better eat it quick.

.

When we order Chinese,

Her tail begins to wag.

And she starts to whimper,

When she sees the bag.

.

She wants her Fortune cookie,

In no mood to chase her ball.

She’s been known to eat them,

Plastic wrapper and all.

.

On the morning after,

When I went to scoop.

You’ll never guess what I found?

A fortune in her poop.

Copyright 2009 johnstonwrites.com

The original was written for Tally’s sister, Tinker, that we lost five months ago at age 15. She was “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” (See Post #33). Tinker, although a schnauzer, reminded me of Disney’s Shaggy Dog. Tally, on the other hand, will no longer be shaggy after this afternoon.

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Gangster Wanna-Be #1298

I’ve been watching Hunters on Amazon Prime starring Al Pacino, among others. It made me think of his loosely-based role as Tony Montana (Al Capone) in the 1983 movie Scarface. I watched it several months ago after a visit to the Las Vegas Mob Museum. As a Gangster Wanna-Be, it was part of an informal tour that led me from Chicago to Manhattan to Vegas to Phoenix. Rat-atat-tat.

Al Capone and Nitti ruled Chicago, while John Dillinger died there. He was captured in a Phoenix hotel after innocently offering a generous tip. Nitti lived in the building that is currently the site of Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse. A stairway in the bar leads down to a hidden vault, surrounded by the history of The Chicago Outlet, framed in pictures on the walls. In Manhattan, I next had lunch at Spark’s Steakhouse, where just outside, Gambino boss Paul “Big Paulie” Castellano was gunned down by hit-men hired by his soon to be replacement, John Gotti. For more detailed Gangsta’ information see Posts #1124, #1067, and #907.

The cross-country thug tour will resume when we’re all able to travel again. In the meantime, I offer this poem:

Gangster Wanna-Be 

I’ve seen a lot,
Of crime scenes.
Read some books,
And magazines.

In the movies,
Hollywood portrays.
Killers are stars,
And Crime pays.

It’s fascinating history,
Of murder and betrayal.
Men, women, and children,
Always seeking bail.

There was not much love,
On St. Valentine’s Day.
After the Chicago Mob,
Had their way!

I can also guarantee,
That you won’t float.
If you’re wearing,
A Chicago Overcoat.

Scarface went to prison,
Reign passed to Nitti.
John Dillinger’s legend,
Ended in the Windy City.

These are a few,
Of the obituaries.
Near the basement vault,
Below Harry Caray’s.

When “Joe Batters” swung,
It wasn’t at a ball.
And “The Lady in Red,”
Was no innocent Doll.

If you didn’t pay,
Your Teamsters’ dues.
You might end up,
In cement shoes.

In the Big Apple,
There was Murder, Inc.
Lansky, and “Lucky”
Controlled illegal drink.

Gambino boss “Big Paulie,”
Once ran N.Y.C.
John Gotti got him,
But prison was to be.

“Bugsy” drawn to Vegas,
Made it a gambling town.
Home of the Mob Museum,
A “Hitman” took him down.

The museum tells the story,
Of these overrated thugs.
In display are WANTED posters,
Featuring their ugly mugs.

The bullet-riddled wall,
From the St. V’s Massacre.
With Outlines of the dead,
Is by far its biggest lure.

I’ve dined at Spark’s,
Where a bullet was dessert.
Saw Nitti’s escape route,
Wearing my Cub’s shirt.

I’m a gangster wanna-be,
On the surface it looks fun.
I would gladly dress the part,
But couldn’t fire a gun.

I could tip like Dillinger,
Live in a Flamingo Suite.
Gamble with House money,
Drink, eat, repeat.

“Bugsy” made the claim,
“We only kill each other!”
Where did he go wrong?
You’d have to ask his mother.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Anniversary 19 #1296

A few months ago my wife and I visited the Bellagio Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas the site of our marriage nineteen years ago. We had planned to celebrate in San Francisco tonight over dinner with her daughter and husband. Instead we’re having a fancy, dress-up dinner at home. With every special occasion, I present her with a porcelain Limoges Box and poem. Considering current travel restrictions, I thought it would be appropriate to help her envision our original sight-seeing plans, including a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. “The Golden” also served as the backdrop for her daughter’s wedding last year at the Presidio, commemorated with a similar painted box of crooked Lombard Street. 

Golden Beholdin’

We missed out,
On Spring Training.
This viral threat,
Is quite restraining.

No Alcatraz,
Or Golden Gate.
I guess it all,
Will have to wait.

Bali breezes,
Delayed in May.
Instead at home,
We’ll probably stay.

For now we’re still,
Florida bound.
And taking steps,
To break new ground.

Surf and turf,
A little wine.
With so few options,
On where to dine.

Chocolate-covered berries,
Our traditional dessert.
I’ll even wear,
A dressy shirt.

I offer to “bridge,”
These “troubled waters.”
Instead of celebrating,
With one of your daughters.

A Limoges reminder of,
Where we would have been.
Until we can travel,
The World again.

Happy Anniversary,
For our nineteenth year.
Through thick and thin,
So lucky you’ve been near.

I Love You More,
And more each year.
Thanks for putting up,
With me, my dear.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Grounded #1295

With all due respect to those who are truly suffering, I offer a little poetic humor. I think it speaks for itself. 

Grounded 

Not sure what I did,
On St. Patrick’s Day.
But when I got home,
There was heck to pay.

It was serious,
The way it sounded.
When I was told,
“You’ve been grounded.”

No friends could come over,
Forced to stay inside.
“Social Distancing” rules,
I was told to abide.

I was locked in the bathroom,
Scrubbing my hands.
I wasn’t even allowed,
To see games or bands.

My use of toilet paper,
Was restricted to squares.
I tried to apologize,
Over my errs.

I thought they were going,
To wash out my mouth.
Can’t visit the kids,
Who live far South.

I sought explanation,
Got confusion instead.
Could have made it simple,
“No dinner – just bed.”

I looked out the window,
Masked intruders in the street.
This all makes me hungry,
“Is there more to eat?”

People are sick,
Maybe I am too?
My sympathy symptoms,
Turned out to be flu.

Celebrities were dying,
I began to understand.
We all had to cancel,
Trips that we planned.

Everyone was in trouble
Not just me!
We were all grounded,
No one was free.

It made us all paranoid,
Reluctant of a hand.
It was all reminiscent,
Of reading, “The Stand.”

We gorge on snacks,
Binge on bad TV.
Over this evil enemy,
No-one can see.

“We’re in this together,”
Wishing it was only me.
I’m used to being grounded,
Since I turned three.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Concrete Slippers #1294

Without sounding to morbid, I’ve written a sequel to the “Concrete Shoes’ poem from the other day. (See Post #1292). There’s obviously still a lot of frustration in once again finding relative comfort when I pound the pavement every day. Clearly, there’s a lot of wear and tear when your feet meet the street, as mine have after many years of running. I expect it to be challenging, but instead it continues to be uncomfortable. It also occurred to me that I was relating it to a Mafia-like burial known as putting the victim in concrete shoes, cement shoes, or a Chicago overcoat. In a way, I guess I’m a glutton for punishment but it’s not in me to simply stop. Consequently, I’m changing my analogy from shoes to slippers, hoping that I can soon “slip” out of this “heavy” funk. 

Concrete Slippers

I feel my body,
Just might crack.
If you wound up,
And took a whack.

I’m like a statue,
Stuck in place.
I’m lucky to move,
Let alone race.

Flexibility,
I already lack.
Laboring as if there’s,
A piano on my back.

Feet like bricks,
Muscles tight.
Something’s wrong,
I’m far from right.

Is it old age?
Or medication?
My concrete feet,
Need a vacation.

I run like molasses,
My springs are shot.
Calves and thighs,
Have gone to pot.

Energy low,
Little drive.
I’m moving forward,
But may never arrive.

I’ve tried new shoes,
A heating pad.
Should I respond,
To a Low-T ad?

Caffeine or Energy drinks,
Might give me a boost?
But I’d rather sit back,
On my retirement roost.

Yet, every day,
I beat the street.
With cement slippers,
On my feet.

Copyright 2010 johnstonwrites.com

I thought about my days playing media league slow-pitch softball and the speed at which I could run the bases. I was once a track team sprinter who dreaded having to run more than 100 yards. I prided myself on a quick start, but would fade badly after about 60 yards, yielding to those who finished strong. It was disappointing when the 60-yard dash was eliminated from inter-school competition, so I tried to switch to the 60-yard hurtles. I just didn’t have the spring in my legs or the form to effectively compete. Vertical leap was never one of my strong-points. I avoided the mile run like the plague, let alone 5,000 meters, and it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I tried my hand at distance running. The primary motivation was to run a marathon, and I accomplished it at a respectable 8-minute mile pace. Training for it was much harder than doing it, so after the second time it was been-there-done-that. At 68 years of age, my current average mile time has deteriorated to an embarrassing twelve minutes. I try to pick up the speed but anymore it feels like I’m wearing a Chicago overcoat and concrete shoes, along with a virus-proof cement mask.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Concrete Feet #1293

I’ve only been out of bed for an hour and a half, and have already scrubbed my hands seven times. It’s a sign of both the times and living downtown. Going up and down the stairs of an apartment building, you tend to worry about the common touched areas like railings, doors, and walls. Between the dog and my daily run, I’ve already tackled the three flights four times. Even though it’s only been a month now since the Coronavirus began to affect my life, it seems like years of germaphobia and isolation have painfully passed. When will this nightmare end?

Typically, Sundays are my favorite day to run. There is less traffic on the streets and I can listen to my favorite radio program, Sunday Brunch, on KINK-FM, one of the stations owned by my former employer.  I was worried as I tuned in this morning, concerned that the host, Peggy LaPoint might have been a casualty of recent “temporary” cutbacks. Fortunately, she was still “spinning the tunes,” like Neil Young’s Harvest Moon that brought back memories of his 1972 studio album, Harvest. A friend and I went into the Bloomington, Indiana store that I believe was called Tracks Records on Kirkwood Street, hoping to get one of the first copies. Their delivery truck was not operating for some reason, and the owner sent us to the distribution center in Terre Haute to pick up his supply. Not only did we get our albums hot off the press, plus they were free for our trouble! Those were the “Good Old Days” when music was more valuable than gas, time, or money.

This was the only good thought that came out of this morning’s 5k run. The time span usually consists of ten songs, but with little advertising on the air lately, it’s been more like eleven or twelve. This is the reason for the employee lay-offs. Knowing Peggy, I’m sure she’d do her job for free (or at least a few albums, CD’s, or downloads). From my standpoint, running even when accompanied by good music, has not been easy over the past few weeks. I might have to make some adjustments in my medication. I’m feeling sorry for my aging self when all I have to do is look around at those poor souls who can’t even stand without the aid of a walker or wheelchair. Realistically, I’m fortunate to even be chugging along anymore at age 68. With all due respect, I wrote this silly poem to reflect my current struggles:

Concrete Feet

Growing old,
Has got its cost.
The price I’ve paid,
Some feeling lost.

My toes are numb,
Ankles swollen.
Youthful energy,
Has been stolen.

Not as flexible,
Balance failing.
But tie the laces,
Even when ailing.

Muscles tight,
Stiff and sore.
Even with Advil,
Hard to ignore.

A lot more steps,
With shorter stride.
But the finish line,
Instills great pride.

Pace has slowed,
Endurance waning.
Those once passed,
Are quickly gaining.

I’m no longer,
Considered fast.
Eight-minute miles,
Well in my past.

Yet I go out there,
Every single day.
Can’t let anything,
Get in the way.

Rain or snow,
Dark or light.
And when I’m done,
All seems right.

It’s hard to run,
With heavy feet.
Like they’re stuck,
In set concrete.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Secure A Cure #1270

Poetic words were hard to come by in this viral crisis, as emotions waver from tears to laughter, depending on how you can best handle it. Versions of my ramblings have ranged from too angry to very silly as I struggled to find something in between. I’ve tried my best to express the feelings of frustration in these stanzas, after weeks of blogging about it – just hoping there’s a cure. 

Secure A Cure

Just wake me up,
After this is done.
The fat lady sings,
Once recovery’s begun.

These nasty germs,
It must be said.
“Kill them dead,
Before they spread!”

If I live on,
Beyond this threat.
I hope there’s things,
I won’t regret.

Social distancing,
Will be just history.
Once we solve,
This viral mystery.

Greet me with a hug,
Or shake my hand.
Then side-by-side,
Close we’ll stand.

This worldwide mess,
Will come to pass.
An infestation,
Spread in mass.

Maybe a cough,
A bit of a fever?
Are you a giver,
Or a receiver?

The first symptoms,
Are just like the flu.
As bad as the plague,
But something new.

An invisible enemy,
Like nothing before.
It steals toilet paper,
From your favorite store.

It took March Madness,
All fun for that matter.
Comfort food in isolation,
Made us a little fatter.

You have to keep,
Six feet away,
Or this bad bug,
Will have its way.

It makes some hoard,
Then strikes you sick.
Wash your hands,
And do it quick.

Masks can’t cover,
This silent threat.
Staying home,
Is your best bet.

Stop touching your face,
Hide your ignition key.
Just sit on the couch,
And binge watch TV.

These past few weeks,
Have been a blur.
Someone please,
Secure a cure!

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Viral Spiral #1260

It’s back to reality and the deserted streets of downtown Portland. A discussion with my son in the Florida restaurant business has me worried about the future of his family. I’m back at my desk trying to craft a few words to summarize our trip to Arizona and decided on a poem:

Viral Spiral 

Instead of spreading,
Irish Cheer.
Or toasting with,
A Guinness beer.

We saw our savings,
Go down the drain.
While toilet paper,
Made folks insane.

Our Courtyard Hotel,
Was a ghost town.
Cancellations,
Began to abound.

The six of us,
Of thirteen planned.
Dined on meatloaf,
And washed our hands.

Rather than,
A baseball game.
The world became,
A viral shame.

We shared a dream,
About “eating a peach.”
And talked of cars,
Priced out-of-reach.

Two more went home,
We were down to four.
No tourney to watch,
Not a single score.

But a double rainbow,
Held fortunate appeal.
And Ted served up,
A “delicate” meal.

So off to Marana,
A full day early.
While life as we knew it,
Turned really squirrelly.

The sun came out,
As we quarantined.
A viral spiral,
Now forced to heed.

We met the neighbors,
And the construction crew.
Watching them “crown,”
Was something to do.

The restaurants were open,
Through St. Pat’s eve.
But most were shuttered,
By time to leave.

We made a brief escape,
To Dillinger’s hotel.
And the ladies did Tubac,
Intrigued by a bell.

The guys went to Sam’s,
To find the shelves bare.
Yet our hosts were gracious,
Their goodies to share.

It was a memorable reunion,
Despite a world of trouble.
We were comfortable and safe,
In the Laegeler bubble.

The wine case we brought,
That soothed our woes.
We shipped back full,
Of wipes & dirty clothes.

copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Last Breath #1241

It’s always good to hear from friends, especially those who conjure-up fond memories of a Rolling Stones concert 39 years ago (December 1, 1981). We took a group in the WMEE 97 FM van to the now non-existent Pontiac Silverdome to see the show, also featuring Santana and Iggy Pop. It was a gathering of co-workers and companions well worth trying to recreate. Her thought was to see their stop on this year’s tour through Nashville. Unfortunately, I’m in Bali, unless the Corona Virus disrupts our travel plans. The question always comes to mind: Will this be the last chance to see them together? As I learned after watching Tom Petty play at Seattle’s Safeco Field, you never know if there will be a next time? He died a month later. Mick (Michael Phillip) and Keith are both now 76, Charlie 78, and Ronnie 72, so for each of the last ten years I’ve expected a farewell tour or worse. Iggy Pop and Carlos Santana are also 72, as I look back to that unforgettable Detroit concert. These guys should all be retired like me. 

As I talked with my friend about possibilities to get together, I’m amazed that forty years have passed since we first met. Anymore, our friendship is limited to birthday conversations and an occasional meal. Two thousand miles separate us, but every time we talk it seems like only yesterday when we saw each other every day at the office and even traveled together. (See Post #1038). I would love to get together again in Nashville. After all, life can take unexpected shifts. I joked with her how pleased I was to read the recent Indiana University Magazine obituaries without finding another lost classmate.

My mood has been dark these past few weeks while trying to fight-off this nasty cough. Running has been a challenge every morning and sleep has been restless. I try to keep my writing and poetry humorous, but my words took a more serious twist this morning, as I contemplate my inevitable mortality. 

My Last Breath 

As I close my eyes,
Take a final blink.
I want it to be,
A playful wink.

Like I know something,
No one else does.
I don’t know why?
Just because!

I’ll have a last laugh,
Put a smile on my face.
Make every effort,
To go out with grace.

I’ll take my secret,
To the grave.
And with this last breath,
Pretend to act brave.

Like it’s no big deal,
To leave forever.
And all earthly ties,
To suddenly sever.

Into the unknown,
I’ll boldly venture.
And face the start,
Of this next adventure.

All I’ve accomplished,
The love I’ve felt.
I’m satisfied with,
The hand I’ve been dealt.

I have no regrets,
I’ll exit with style.
I take my first steps.
And leave you a smile.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Massacre #1224

I was caught in a slot machine massacre, taking the life out of my bank account. On the last night of our week-long Vegas adventure, I tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate my losses with one last flurry of spending. As we were leaving town on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but think about the Mob Museum and the bullet-riddled brick wall that was reassembled to memorialize this famous Chicago shootout. I consequently pulled some information from Wikipedia hoping to learn mire a out this event exactly 91 years later. “The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre was the 1929 Valentine’s Day murder of seven members and associates of Chicago’s North Side Gang. The men were gathered at a Lincoln Park garage on the morning of Valentine’s Day. They were lined up against a wall and shot by four unknown assailants who were dressed like police officers. The incident resulted from the struggle to control organized crime in the city during Prohibition between the Irish North Siders, headed by George “Bugs” Moran, and their Italian South Side rivals led by Al Capone. The perpetrators have never been conclusively identified, but former members of the Egan’s Rats gang working for Capone are suspected of a significant role, as are members of the Chicago Police Department who allegedly wanted revenge for the killing of a police officer’s son.”

The garage at 2122 North Clark Street, now the parking lot of a nursing home, was the site of the 10:30 a.m. shooting. Seven men were murdered by four unidentified killers. “Two of the shooters were dressed as uniformed policemen, while the others wore suits, ties, overcoats, and hats. Witnesses saw the fake police leading the other men at gunpoint out of the garage after the shooting. The victims included five members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang. Al Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the Massacre.”

“Capone’s lookouts likely mistook one of Moran’s men for Moran himself, probably Albert Weinshank, who was the same height and build. The physical similarity between the two men was enhanced by their dress that morning; both happened to be wearing the same color overcoats and hats. Two of the killers reportedly opened fire with Thompson sub-machine guns, one with a 20-round box magazine and the other a 50-round drum.” Later in the year, these guns and other related items were found in a St. Joseph, Michigan bungalow, although the case has really never been totally solved.

Victims:

-Brothers Peter and Frank Gusenberg, front-line enforcers for the Moran organizations

-Albert Kachellek (alias “James Clark”), Moran’s second in command

-Adam Heyer, the bookkeeper and business manager of the Moran gang

-Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optician who had abandoned his practice to gamble on horse racing and associate with the gang

-Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran; his resemblance to Moran is allegedly what set the massacre in motion before Moran arrived, including the clothes that he was wearing.

-John May, an occasional car mechanic for the Moran gang

Massacre

A heart-felt message,
From Al Capone.
Meet by Lincoln Park,
And don’t come alone.

Bring your whole gang,
Those stealing from me.
Around 10:30 a.m.,
If you’re free?

There’s a garage,
On nearby Clark Street.
If you stop by,
I’ll serve a sweet treat.

Seven showed up,
And died that day.
As guns blazed,
Revenge to pay.

As fate would have it,
“Bugs” was late.
His date with death,
Would have to wait.

A Moran double,
The mistaken aim.
Their hats and coats,
Were both the same.

It was a killing,
Never solved.
Though many theories,
Soon evolved.

A brick wall,
Is all that endures.
Al’s Valentine,
A Massacre.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

I remain intrigued with this mob mystery and will continue my retirement hobby of visiting related educational sites around the country, including recent visits to Frank Nitti’s Vault below Harry Caray’s in Chicago (See Post #1067), John Dillinger’s capture in downtown Tucson at the Hotel Congress (See Post #845), and the John Gotti Spark’s Steakhouse slaughter in New York City. The common theme is always a nearby Italian restaurant.

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