Friday, February 25, 2022

Insight: Gone but certainly not forgotten

Sir Paul McCartney
By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Last week’s revelation that Sir Paul McCartney would be performing in a concert this June in Baltimore after an Orioles baseball game wasn’t shocking, but the social media comments thereafter were to me.

More than 75 percent of those comments on an Orioles fans Facebook page mentioned that they either didn’t know who Sir Paul McCartney is or claimed to have never heard any of his music. That left me feeling a little sad and suddenly very old.

It got me to thinking if those people had never heard of McCartney’s music, what else hadn’t they heard of? This transcends the concept of “Cancel Culture” in my opinion and leaves me wondering about how little a footprint newsmakers and popular items leave behind in our 24 hours news cycle society.

Coveted and must-have toys, the latest fashion trends, actors and politicians, and billions spent on advertising nationwide apparently cannot embed some things into the collective American consciousness today. I call it "transcendental memory syndrome."

Without further fanfare, here are a few other items or companies that have long since been forgotten.

Who today remembers Green Goddess salad dressing? Once the rage in restaurants and on supermarket shelves from coast to coast in the 1970s, now Green Goddess is nowhere to be found. Loaded with creamy mayonnaise, avocados and green herbs and spices, the concoction once rivaled Italian, French, Ranch, Blue Cheese and Thousand Island as a leading salad topping but you would be hard pressed to find it now on any restaurant menu.

Two decades ago, you could find me driving my blue 1996 Pontiac Firebird. Growing up I had always wanted a muscle car and came close several times to buying a Pontiac Trans Am after watching Burt Reynolds drive one in the “Smokey and the Bandit” films.

But at that time, my budget was minimal, and I had to settle for a 1986 Pontiac Grand Am, a smaller, more compact, and less powerful 4-cylinder cousin of the Trans Am. But 10 years later, I traded in my Grand Am for a 1996 V-6 stick shift Pontiac Firebird and I was living my dream.

These days there are very few Pontiacs remaining on American roads, with the last one rolling off GM’s assembly line in 2010. Now just 12 years later does anyone even remember Pontiac vehicles, let alone still have one?

Through the decades of my adult life, many dazzling upstart soda brands have come and gone. Off the top of my head, I can think of Jolt Cola, Surge Cola, Orange Slice, Crystal Pepsi, Orbitz, and Aspen.

Jolt Cola was made in my hometown of Rochester New York and was a precursor in 1985 to today’s energy drinks with an original slogan of “All the sugar and twice the caffeine.” Later the “sugar” was dropped from the slogan and the last time I saw Jolt Cola being sold, it was about 2006 at my neighborhood dollar store. 

Same thing for Surge Cola. It was produced and distributed by Coca Cola originally as a competitor to Mountain Dew in the late 1990s. Surge Cola had a distinct citrus taste, bright green in color and featured an extensive promotional campaign with catchphrases such as “Life’s a Scream” and “Feed the Rush.” By 2004 however, Surge Cola joined Jolt Cola as long forgotten passing fads in popular culture.

Add Zima to that list too. Sometime in the 1990s, I first noticed Zima in stores, and it was marketed by Coors as a light alcoholic wine cooler-type of alternative to beer. Frequently the target of jokes by late-night television comedians for its non-masculine qualities, Zima ceased production and it was erased from public awareness.

Early in my career as a journalist, I was given a Minolta 35mm camera as a gift and I used it extensively from the mid-1970s into the 1990s. With the rise of digital photography technology in the 1990s, 35mm film became harder to find and develop, so my Minolta was relegated to the sidelines in favor of a digital Nikon camera. I loved the quality of the images it captured though and was saddened to hear the news when the Minolta company went out of business in 2003. Does anyone out there even remember the Minolta brand today?

With my parents living in Florida in the 1980s, it was handy to board an Eastern Airlines flight to go visit them. I also found American West Airlines practical when I was flying to Phoenix, Arizona where I was stationed for a time in the U.S. Air Force. It’s unlikely anyone under the age of 40 will have ever heard of either of those airline carriers - or Northwest Airlines, Mohawk Airlines, Braniff Airlines, Pan American, US Airways and Continental Airlines too.

Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I worked the summer at Carroll’s Hamburgers. Nobody today remembers that franchise and few recall Burger Chef, a restaurant chain my father would stop at for a quick meal when driving along the New York State Thruway.

It's been said that no matter how hard we try, time goes on. But despite the passing of time, Sir Paul McCartney remains a big deal for me and always will. <


Andy Young: Dressing to Depress

By Andy Young

According to the calendar, Mainers have been enduring winter for the past nine or 10 weeks. But by late February it seems as though we’ve been sitting through the darkest, coldest season of the year for an eternity.  

The last time I remember the weather being anywhere near decent, people in these parts were primarily concerned with, in no particular order, Y2K, President Clinton’s impeachment, and when (or if) the perpetually snake-bitten Boston Red Sox would ever win the World Series.

I knew for a fact the doldrums were upon us last Saturday. I had just finished toweling off after my biweekly shower and was in the process of picking out my outfit for the rest of the day (and likely for the rest of the weekend).

After donning a T-shirt with no obvious holes and putting on a pair of nearly rip-free underwear, I pulled a clean pair of pants out of the bottom drawer of my bureau. I do this every so often, usually when my other two pairs aren’t just standing up by themselves but are threatening to walk away on their own unless they get their semi-annual trip to the washing machine.

 Stepping into them, I tugged the new-ish (probably less than 10 years old) slacks northward. Then, after some wriggling that involved a significant degree of difficulty, I zipped them up and snapped them shut. That accomplished, I put on my shoes and socks (though not in that order) and proceeded to the final piece of assembling my sartorial ensemble.

But then it hit me: that next step was completely unnecessary! My pants, which three months ago would have required a belt, some suspenders, or a moderate length of rope to keep from descending, are, at least for the time being, in no danger of going anywhere.

I’ve never pretended to understand why people dress like they do; in fact, to me the term “fashion sense” has always been an oxymoron.

When it comes to comprehending why people wear what they wear, I’m an equal opportunity ignoramus. I don’t understand backward baseball hats on youthful males any more than I grasp why so many young women pay outrageous sums for aerated blue jeans that come pre-ripped for the consumer’s convenience.

It’s not just an age thing, either. I’ve been clueless about people’s garment-related choices since the time I became old enough to begin selecting my own clothing.

Years ago, a friend I consider wise and worldly advised me that three flannel shirts and two pairs of pants were enough for any real man.  I’ve got the requisite amount of pants, but I’m still one flannel shirt shy of his recommendation.

I’ve compensated, though, by retaining the white, machine washable sweater I’ve had since high school. It’s still got the W.T. Grant label on it, though that’s literally hanging by a thread these days. But it’s always been a vital part of my wardrobe, since putting it on it completely conceals whatever is underneath it (usually a ratty old T-shirt with a frayed collar).

Oh, and for those PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Apparel) zealots: please don’t confuse the term “a frayed collar” with “afraid collar.” No article of clothing I own has (or will ever have) any need to fear harm from me.

But the winter malaise will be behind us in a few weeks. And with any luck, a month or so after that I’ll have exercised sufficiently to get my waistline back to its pre-winter measurement, so that a belt will serve as both a fashion accessory and a necessity.  <

Friday, February 18, 2022

Insight: Stirring saga of the shabby snow tire

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

As a young man, my father taught me many helpful things about how to manage issues in life, but he never mentioned always checking to ensure mechanical work that I’ve paid for was completed properly. 

That would have been good to know several weeks ago when a bad storm struck our area on a Friday. As a nor’easter dumped major snow and ice on our neighborhood, I parked my wife’s car in the garage and left mine outside to endure the brunt of the blizzard.

As the vehicle sat in the driveway, apparently some moisture entered my right rear snow tire valve stem and when the temperature dropped into the single digits overnight, that moisture froze and cracked the tire valve, and I never knew it.

While I cleaned my car of snow and ice Sunday morning so I could go to the grocery store that weekend, I never saw anything out of the ordinary but on my way back from shopping, the low tire pressure light came on my dashboard alerting me of trouble. I pulled over and walked around the vehicle to discover my right rear tire needed air.

That Sunday afternoon, I called the tire store where I had purchased the set of snow tires. I originally thought I would need a replacement snow tire and wasn’t aware of the valve issue. The tire store manager said he would have to special order a replacement tire and to give him a day to have it delivered in a shipment from out of state. For this particular week, Monday was a legal holiday, and I didn’t need to move my car in the driveway because my wife was off from work that day. 

Early Tuesday morning, I pulled my car onto the street to then move my wife’s car out of the garage so she could go to work. In doing that, I noticed that my right rear snow tire was nearly flat. I decided that it was too risky to drive the car several miles to the tire store.

I called AAA for a tow to the tire store and when the tow truck driver arrived, he informed me that there really was nothing wrong with the snow tire, my problem was a cracked tire valve stem from the ice.

He filled the tire with air and loaded my car onto his rig for transport to the tire store. While the tow truck was enroute to the tire store, I called the tire store manager and let him know that I didn’t need a new snow tire, but instead required a valve stem replacement for the nearly flat right rear tire. He told me they’d fix it and it was a good thing because the shipment of snow tires was running behind and they were having difficulty finding another 205 65R 16 snow tire to fit my vehicle.

About an hour later, the tire store manager called and said the work had been finished and I could pick up the car any time. When my wife arrived home from work, she dropped me off at the tire store and I told her that she didn’t need to wait for me because I needed to go to another store afterward to get an item for dinner that I had forgotten during Sunday’s shopping excursion.

I paid the tire store manager my bill of $30.98 for the valve stem replacement and he handed me my keys. I did a quick walk around the car and all tires seemed properly inflated. I was happy to have gotten away from the situation so inexpensively and didn’t have to buy a new snow tire, which had been quoted to me for a price of $148.

On the way to and from the store everything was fine and so I was surprised the next morning when I started my car to go to work and the low tire pressure light was on again and the right rear tire appeared to be losing air once more.

I drove to the same tire store and the manager directed me to pull up by a bay where he could add air to the tire. He took the cap off the tire stem to add air and stood up and walked to my right front tire. He then said, “Well there’s your problem.”

It seems the mechanic the day before had thought the right front valve stem needed replacing, instead of looking at the nearly flat right rear tire. The tire store manager apologized and said they would replace the right rear tire valve stem at no charge to me promptly.

About an hour later I was back on the highway headed to work and since then the tire and valve stems on both my right rear and right front tires have stayed properly inflated.

The lesson to be learned here is that sometimes what is plainly obvious is not always obvious to others. I’ve determined that I’m always going to inspect work performed on my vehicle and that I need to find another tire store to purchase and service my tires in the future. <

Andy Young: An unbeetable root vegetable

By Andy Young

Even when dinner at our college cafeteria was considered inedible by the other 899 people who dined there, my friend Karl always cleaned his plate. Multi-hued meat, runny mashed potatoes, canned vegetables that had been harvested before anyone consuming them was born, or furry sponge cake made from actual sponges: it didn’t matter. He’d unfailingly eat everything, no matter how grossly unappetizing it was.

But there was a reason: during his childhood his parent had a rule for him and his siblings; "Eat it or wear it."

Those words meant exactly what I (and Karl’s other horrified friends) thought they did. At dinnertime in their house each child got a plate, and 10 minutes to consume everything that was on it. Anyone failing to do so got the remains dumped over his or her youthful head by their dad.

Karl wore beets once. Thereafter he was a permanent member of the Clean Plate Club.

Thankfully, parenting has changed significantly since then.

So has my opinion of beets.

When we were kids my grandfather enjoyed borscht, a purple beet soup which looked nearly as vile as it smelled. On the rare occasions when those horrifying purple orbs were on the menu at our house, my siblings and I found the only palatable method of ingesting them was by mashing them into one massive glob, swallowing it quickly and then power-chugging a full glass of milk as a chaser.

Once I began cooking for myself, I thought I was rid of beets forever. But after a four-decade moratorium I decided to give it another try, and…well, there’s no other way to say it: I’ve been reborn! Fresh beets, when skillfully roasted, baked, or boiled, are sinfully good, and they’re as nourishing as they are delicious. I’ve been converted from beet-phobic to full-fledged beet zealot.

There are, however, a couple of things aspiring beet eaters should know before jumping on the root vegetable bandwagon. First, don’t panic when you relieve yourself after you’ve ingested these tasty taproots. You’re not bleeding internally; it only looks that way.

Secondly, clean up carefully after a beet repast. I learned the importance of that some time ago when I ventured out for a bike ride immediately after munching sloppily on a couple of large, tasty beets. Two or so blocks from my house I cycled past a child who appeared to be about 6 years old. She was, with the assistance of a woman I correctly deduced was her mother, pedaling down her driveway on what was clearly her first time on a big-girl bike. As I cruised past, I gave her an impressed look and said in my most encouraging voice, “You’re doing a great job.” The delighted, gap-toothed smile she flashed in return was priceless, but what was more memorable was the look on her mother’s face. It was one of utter revulsion, the sort one reserves for disease-carrying, drug-dealing child molesters.

Pedaling on, I felt a touch of pity for the young lady who’d evidently been saddled with a perpetually sour and suspicious parent. The remainder of my ride over seldom-traveled back roads was uneventful; I didn’t encounter another soul. But afterward, enroute to a well-earned shower, the reflection I saw in the bathroom mirror revealed why that girl’s mother found me so appalling. The reddish-purple stains bordering my mouth made me look like a zombie who had just finished munching on hors d’oeuvres that had been prepared by Jeffrey Dahmer.

So enjoy your beets. But to avoid alarming the neighbors, remember to scrub your entire face thoroughly when you’re done. <

Friday, February 11, 2022

Insight: Memories frozen in time

 By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Each day millions of photographs are taken around the world and stored as images to be viewed later. These pictures are captured as moments in time and reflect joy, sadness, splendor, sorrow, majesty, and beauty. These snapshots can depict significant occasions or a person’s desire to save an image of a child’s first steps, a wedding or from a cherished reunion. 

Whether taken on a cell phone or by a sophisticated digital camera, none of those images can compare to the ones captured forever and stored inside your brain by your memory. Throughout our lifetimes, every one of us when healthy can vividly recall the moments that have made us who and what we are today, and we all possess the ability to relive the backstories, recollections and events leading up to what makes these remembrances so special to us.

Someone recently asked me to choose three moments in time from my life that have profoundly affected me, what would they be, and why did I narrow the list to these three? Here’s what I answered…

May 19, 1991: It was a Sunday, and I was living in Florida after having moved there three months before. I was staying in my parent’s guest room while saving up money to get my own apartment. About 2:30 a.m. the doorbell rang and knowing that my mother was a sound sleeper, I got up to answer the door. I still recall what I saw when I turned on the porch light and opened the front door to my parent’s home. Standing there was a state trooper in uniform who asked me to step outside for a second.

I did and he told me his name and he asked me my name and if my mother was at home. I answered yes and he then told me that my father had been involved in an automobile accident earlier Sunday evening near Orlando. My father had gone to visit his elderly sister for the day about an hour and a half away and had driven his station wagon there. The trooper informed me that a drunk driver had crossed the center line of the highway and struck my father’s car killing him. At first, I thought the drunk driver had died, but the trooper told me my father had done nothing wrong, was doing the speed limit and had his seatbelt on when he was killed.

That ringing doorbell changed the course of my life and left me without a father, who I had just gotten to know again as an adult after living thousands of miles away for years and service in the military overseas. So that’s one frozen moment in time I’ll never forget.

April 22, 2004: It was a Thursday evening in Florida, and I drove to meet an elementary school teacher named Nancy after getting off work. I had been corresponding with her online on a dating website. We agreed to meet over ice cream at a Friendly’s Restaurant and that date changed the arc of my life significantly. She was beautiful, humorous and the conversation flowed easily. Without a doubt it was the best date I ever had, and we agreed to see each other again soon. Around 14 months later Nancy and I were married, and I will never forget that first date or laughing at her homemade sign around her neck that read “Hi Ed” as she stepped out of her Ford Bronco and into my life forever. Another moment frozen in time.    

June 10, 1977: It was a Friday morning, and I walked into a conference room in the Federal Building downtown in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I joined a group of people in the room who stood silently at attention when a judge wearing a black robe entered the room.


We all raised our right hands and proudly repeated the following oath. I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”


The members of this group were then congratulated for enlisting in the U.S. Air Force and a few hours later we were all put on a flight to San Antonio, Texas for six weeks of basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base. That morning at the Federal Building in Albuquerque remains stuck in my memory and is another one of those occasions frozen in time that changed the direction of my life and made me who and what I am today.     


The collection of the most meaningful photographs in the world are not contained and displayed in some posh museum in a faraway country or flashing on some gigantic screen in Times Square in New York City. Instead, these indelible images are readily accessible whenever you want in your own mind.


What precious memories do you hold sacred that are frozen in time for you? <

Andy Young: M x D = Y

By Andy Young

Anyone possessing the right attitude about life knows that every 24-hour period is important in its own way. But some days are more special than others. Take this Friday, for example.

Feb. 11th is already legitimately historic. King Henry VIII became recognized as the Church of England’s supreme head on the 42nd day of the year in 1534. The first session of the United States Senate that was open to the public convened on Feb. 11 in 1794. And the 11th of February 1990 saw not only the release of Nelson Mandela from captivity after 27 years of confinement in various South African prisons, but something nearly as unlikely in the sports world, when James “Buster” Douglas, a 42-1 underdog, knocked out previously undefeated Mike Tyson to win the world heavyweight boxing championship.

Historically significant persons born on February 11 include Pope Gregory XIV in 1535, Thomas Edison in 1847, and in 1863, John Francis Fitzgerald, who in addition to serving half a dozen years as the mayor of Boston in the early 20th century, later helped his grandson, future president John F. Kennedy, get elected to Congress for the first time, in 1946.

But this particular Friday (2-11-22) is extra special, because how often does a date, when abbreviated in the familiar numerical shorthand, feature the last two digits of the current year as the product of the month and the day? There are only three such dates in 2022; the others: the already-elapsed Jan. 22 (1-22-22) and the still-to-come Nov. 2 (11-2-22).

This is the second consecutive year that a mere three calendar days will satisfy this particular specification. The trio of dates that qualified in 2021 were Jan. 21, March 7, and July 3.

In 2023 the pickings will be even slimmer. If you don’t have a “month times date equals year” party on Jan. 23, you won’t be having one at all, since 1-23-23 is the only date that qualifies next year.

But don’t despair, numerologists: 2024 is going to be magical for number nerds, and not just because it's a leap year. A septet of 2024’s dates qualify as lucky: Jan. 24 (1-24-24), Feb. 12 (2-12-24), March 8 (3-8-24), April 6 (4-6-24), June 4 (6-4-24), Aug. 3 (8-3-24), and Dec. 2 (2-12-24). That means nearly two percent (okay; 1.91 percent, for those offended by embellishment) of 2024’s days qualify for “month times date equals year” status.

Hopefully devoted digitologists won’t start taking all those magic dates for granted after the mother lode of 2024, because in both 2025 (Jan. 25 and May 5) and 2026 Jan. 26 and Feb. 13) there’ll be only two opportunities to have the product of the date and the month equal the last two digits of the year.

And after 2026 there’ll be only eight remaining such dates for the rest of the decade: Jan. 27, March 9 and Sept. 3, 2027; Jan. 28, Feb. 14, April 7 and July 4, 2028; and Jan. 29, 2029.

The 2030’s will have 21 occasions where the year will equal the month times the date. The first will be Jan. 30, 2030, and the last will be March 13, 2039. But the outlook gets a lot dimmer for the 2040’s, when three separate years (2041, 2043, and 2047) won’t have even one date where M times D equals Y.

That pretty much sums up this subject. Unless, speaking of sums, anyone wants to explore the significance of this year’s Feb. 20, March 19, April 18, May 17, June 16, July 15, Aug. 14, Sept. 13, Oct. 12, Nov. 11, and Dec. 10. <

Bill Diamond: Make your voice heard on child welfare reform

By Senator Bill Diamond

Last month, Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released their annual report of child deaths tracked by their offices. The deaths included in the report are homicides, those that occur as a result of abuse or neglect, and deaths that happen in families that have had prior involvement with Maine’s child protection system. Tragically, 2021 saw the highest number of child deaths since DHHS started keeping records in 2007: A shocking 25 child deaths. Even more tragically, this number doesn’t include the four child homicides that happened last year because these criminal cases are still ongoing. 

Each and every one of these deaths is a heartbreaking loss to families and our larger community, but when a child is lost to violence, we know that something has gone terribly wrong. Despite this sad milestone, I’m actually more optimistic than I’ve been in quite some time that we’re going to address the systemic failures that let these kids down. My optimism is due in large part to the number of people from all across the state who have shared their stories with me recently. It’s critical that Mainers take hold of the chance we have in front of us to make change, and I want to share with you some upcoming opportunities to do just that.

On Friday, Feb. 11, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee will take comments from the public regarding part one of a report they commissioned from the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or OPEGA, about Maine's child welfare system. Part one is an information brief about how oversight of Maine's child welfare system is structured. You can read the information brief and offer testimony by visiting, and you can watch Friday’s proceedings at

Parts two and three of OPEGA's review are coming this March and September and will examine how effectively Maine's child welfare system is evaluating the risk children face in their homes during both the initial parts of a case investigation, and when that child is being considered for reunification with their family or for other permanent placement. The independent Child Welfare Ombudsman has identified these two areas as needing improvement in recent years. I’ll keep you updated on this important review and hope that you’ll choose to participate in future public feedback sessions on this report.

Another opportunity for you is to testify in front of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17. During that public hearing, I’ll be presenting my bill LD 1812, which would increase staffing in the Ombudsman’s office so that they can better execute their mission of helping families resolve child protection issues with DHHS. The Committee will be hearing several other bills on this issue during that public hearing, too, and your voice is a critical piece in helping these bills become law. You can submit written testimony or sign up to testify live via Zoom at If you need special assistance or would prefer to testify live via a toll free number, please contact the Legislative Information Office at 207-287-1692. 

The Health and Human Services Committee will continue working on these issues in the coming weeks and months. My bill LD 1834, An Act To Establish Ongoing Monitoring of Maine's Child Protective Services will have a public hearing at some point soon, though it hasn’t been scheduled yet. Another one of my bills, LD 1857, An Act To Prioritize the Prosecution of Child Murder Cases, had a public hearing in late January and was the subject of recent work sessions in the Judiciary Committee. A portion of the Committee voted in favor of advancing the part of my bill that directs the Attorney General to formally request that the Courts prioritize the scheduling of homicide cases where the victim is a child. That bill now faces votes in front of the full Legislature, and you can help by requesting your Representative and Senator lend their support. You can reach your Representative at 1-800-423-2900 and your Senator at 1-800-423-6900.

If you have any questions about the bills I’ve shared here, or if I can help you sign up to testify, please reach out to me. You can contact my office at (207) 287-1515 or email me at any time. Thank you to everyone who is doing their part to fix the system by sharing their stories. <

Friday, February 4, 2022

Insight: Blame the dog when things go wrong

Fancy, age 5
By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Thanks to my stepson Daniel we now have a new living room rug after the old one was soiled by our dog Fancy.

The evil deed was perpetrated one evening last week when we were the dinner guests of Daniel and his fiancé Mckayla. By the following day, the rug smelled terrible, and my wife Nancy and I decided to pitch it out.

The rug was old and had previously been used in Nancy’s classroom for several of her first-grade classes at school. Fortunately, Daniel had given us his apartment rug when he and Mckayla got together, and it happened to fit our living room perfectly.

This is not the first time Fancy has been caught ruining our home furnishings. As a puppy she chewed rat holes on both ends of our sofa and once while we were at work, she got out of her crate and tore the covers off several sofa cushions.

When we moved from New Hampshire to Maine, she took a liking to the taste of the baseboards in our first-floor office resulting in them having to be covered. We don’t mind her looking out the dining room window in the summer but learned quickly to keep the window shut as she ripped the screen trying to get at squirrels that she spotted in the neighbor’s yard across the driveway.

Can’t begin to tell you how many television remotes we went through before we got the expensive smart TV. Since that smart TV remote is costly, we now make sure we either take the remote with us or place it higher than the dog can reach when we get a phone call or are summoned away for a minute to the kitchen.

The old TV is now in the spare bedroom, but its $16 remotes were an ongoing order for a while from Amazon after Fancy chewed and mangled them. Same thing for the DVD remote ($12). By my estimate, we went through eight TV remotes and four DVD remotes, courtesy of our dog.

She also was caught chewing on one of my wife’s school yearbooks and has been apprehended numerous times stealing papers from my desk and frequently from Nancy’s desk in our office. Quite often the papers she grabs and dashes away with to chew on are student’s school papers that have been graded, but Fancy is also known to snatch paper clips, rubber bands, ballpoint pens and pencils.

That usually ensues in a frantic chase around the dining room table or down the hall into the living room to extract the items from her mouth before she swallows them.

Early one morning last year, I had toasted a piece of raisin bread and had just sat down at my desk to eat it when Nancy called out from the bathroom and asked me to bring her a clean towel. I was only gone for 15 seconds but in that length of time, Fancy had jumped up and grabbed the piece of toast from my desk and was swallowing it whole when I had arrived back there.

Because raisins are highly poisonous to dogs, I was advised to bring her immediately to the 24/7 animal emergency facility and what typically takes a drive of about 40 minutes was made in half that time. After having her stomach pumped and being put on an IV, the veterinarians released her after I paid the $585 bill for treatment. And for the record, since then I have not had one slice of raisin toast.

This dog is a serial mischief maker. She’s been known to go through your coat pockets to extract Kleenex placed in them and she will scoop up leather gloves and race by you at breakneck speed to the other room with her prize possessions.  

Fancy will knock the toilet paper roll off its holder in the bathroom and strew it all over the house. She’s always vigilant for socks, napkins and wash cloths fresh out of the dryer awaiting folding before being stored and put away.

Once in New Hampshire we visited a couple that sold alpaca merchandise and I purchased Nancy some warm alpaca mittens to wear in the winter to school. Those lasted less than a month before having a hole torn in them by our dog.

If you are careless with your food, Fancy is laser-focused and has been known to grab cheeseburgers, tuna fish sandwiches and an assortment of snacks and crackers right from your plate at both the kitchen counter and from the dinner table.

We’ve tried exiling her to her crate during dinner and putting her on a leash while we’re eating, but nothing so far has worked. I’ve found that it’s hard to guard your food, cut your meat and pass the potatoes all with one hand on the leash and one foot stepping on the leash to restrain her impulses.

The moral of this tale is that new dog owners (like we were at one time) should be rigorous in training their furry friends or else they could create a rascal like we have. But then it’s truly all the dog’s fault. < 

Andy Young: On Giving and Receiving

By Andy Young

I’d love to say I made my initial donation at a Red Cross blood drive solely out of altruism. 

But I can’t.

The actual reason I gave up a pint of red body fluid that first time was because it was the only way I could get my friend Mike to stop calling me a baby who was afraid of needles, an insult I was particularly sensitive to because it was true.

In retrospect, I’m glad I yielded to Mike’s peer pressure. The physical pain involved in blood donation is minimal compared to the indescribably gratifying feeling one derives from helping others and doing so at no financial cost whatsoever. I’ve been donating regularly ever since then, except for a period when some medication I was taking rendered me temporarily ineligible to do so. 

Then about 10 years ago someone from the Red Cross contacted me about donating platelets. 

It seems that for those of us with type A-positive blood, our platelets are more valuable to the medical community than our whole blood is. There’s also an efficiency factor involved, since healthy donors can contribute platelets 24 times over a 12-month period, whereas the maximum number of times a person can give whole blood in a calendar year is six.

What exactly are platelets? Well, according to (and more specifically Dr. Marlene Stephanie Williams, M.D.), “platelets are the cells that circulate within our blood and bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels. When you get a cut, for example, the platelets bind to the site of the damaged vessel, thereby causing a blood clot. There’s an evolutionary reason why they’re there. It’s to stop us from bleeding.” These tiny protoplasmic bodies are, it seems, of particular value to cancer patients, whose blood often needs help clotting.

All this reflecting takes me back to my youth, when my parents, grandparents, and every other influential adult in my life felt the need (particularly around the holidays) to remind me and my siblings that it was better to give than to receive. I had a hard time grasping that message back then, since the anticipation of all the cool stuff I might be getting for Christmas or my birthday was a good deal more exciting than the prospect of presenting my brother with a plastic truck I spent 59 cents for, or the mini-screwdriver I was going to give Uncle Eddie to put on his keychain.

I figured the whole “tis better to give….” thing was a quip initially uttered by some noted wit like Ben Franklin or Will Rogers, but it turns out its originator was some fellow named Jesus of Nazareth, who the Bible (Acts 20:35) quotes as saying “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

As I’ve aged (I was going to say, “as I’ve matured,” but why lie?) I’ve grown to better understand the inherent rewards of giving, but I still love receiving certain intangible things (affirmation from loved ones and random kindnesses, to name two) today just as much as I treasured the baseball cards, basketballs, and various other material items I was gifted with as a child.

Certain wonderful things in life are impossible to compare. Is apple pie tastier than carrot cake? Was Michael Jordan better at basketball than Bill Russell? Is Paris more beautiful than Bora Bora?

I still can’t say categorically that I prefer giving to getting. But for my birthday this weekend I’m going to make another platelet donation, on the theory that neither bestowing nor receiving can hold a candle to doing both things simultaneously. <