A Foggy Day

One of my favorite things while growing up in the sixties was the arrival of summer. School was done and it was time for healthful outdoor activities such as bicycle riding, ball games and the appearance of the mosquito fogger. The city would dispatch this intriguing device around my neighborhood park to control the mosquito population. I couldn’t wait for its arrival!

It would drive slowly down the street belching clouds of insect repellent into the air. When I say clouds, I mean clouds. Picture a foggy day in London, only foggier. We would ride our bicycles through the fog, barely being able to see a foot ahead of us. No one seemed to be bothered by this practice. No health warnings, official notices or evacuation orders were issued. It was just another day in the Bronx.  What was this cloud of gas composed of? Toxins, carcinogens? No one seemed to care, except of course the mosquitoes.  Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” He may be right, except for mosquitos, they just die.

My Smoking Cane

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m skeptical that paranormal activity exists. However, I do have an open mind on the subject. I believe we have a spirit or life force during our life, but is it extinguished upon death? Perhaps it transitions over to a different plane or reality when we pass. My few “experiences” in our favorite bed and breakfast in Cape May have allowed me to at least consider the possibility that spirits may be around us.

Another “paranormal” experience I have had has to do with a cane I purchased at an antique store in Lafayette, New Jersey a few years ago. I like to collect canes and walking sticks and the cane I purchased is a beauty. I brought it home and placed it with my collection in my office. About a week later, I noticed a cigarette smell in the air. Neither my wife nor I smoke cigarettes and my son, who is a cigarette smoker, hasn’t visited home in quite a while. We have an African Gray Parrot and a guinea pig as pets and I doubt they are catching a smoke when we’re not home.

My office windows are shut and neither of my neighbors, who live a good distance away, smoke. So where is the odor coming from? It persists on and off to this day. Sometimes I can smell it in the family room when I’m watching TV. My wife, who is a medical professional, claims she doesn’t smell anything and that it is my aura. However, as a former cigarette smoker, I know cigarette smoke when I smell it. Some paranormal “experts” believe that this odor is very common if spirit energy has attached itself to a favorite object from the past. Could it be my cane?

There is an interesting book that I suggest you might consider reading called “Haunted By The Things You Love” written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and John Zaffis, who is considered an expert in finding and explaining spirit attachment to ordinary objects. Far fetched? I’m not sure at this point, but the idea is certainly interesting.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Lately I’ve been watching a cable tv channel called “Destination America.” At one time, it had a lifestyle and travel format featuring points of interest in the United States. Over time, it morphed into a channel focusing on the paranormal. Some of the past and present programs are: “A Haunting, Demon Files,  Ghost Asylum, Ghost Brothers, Ghost Stalkers, Haunted Collector, Amish Haunting, Paranormal Lockdown, My Haunted House and Ghosts of Shepherdstown.”

Different titles but the same premise. Paranormal investigators will use a variety of electronic gear to seek out and communicate with spirits. These investigations are almost always conducted at night with some questionable “contact” inevitably being made.

” From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!”

Anonymous

I actually enjoy these shows, especially around Halloween. But what if spirits do exist?

My wife and I frequently stay at a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey. The third floor suite which we use is rumored to be haunted by a young lady named Rebecca. I have seen a bag fall off of the nightstand when I mentioned her name and I have seen the rocking chair in the living room move on its own. Coincidence? I am skeptical and want to believe, but the proof isn’t there quite yet.

Cape May is perhaps one of America’s oldest and most “haunted” seaside resorts. The Victorian houses which have become bed and breakfasts are supposedly occupied by numerous spirits who have varied agendas. An excellent book on this subject is “The Ghosts of Cape May” written by Craig McManus. Sweet dreams!

A Memorable Misnomer

 

Summer is here and I’m in the mood for a cold, refreshing Egg cream. The name is a misnomer as this beverage contains neither eggs nor cream. There are various theories as to the origin of the name, but these seem to be speculation at best. I suppose an accurate name would be a “Seltzermilkchoco drink.”

I have read that Egg creams were once so popular in New York City that author, Elliot Willensky, wrote in his book “When Brooklyn Was the World: 1920-1957, “a candy store minus an egg cream, in Brooklyn at least, was as difficult to conceive of as the Earth without gravity.”

The ingredients of  a New York style Egg cream are as follows, no variations or substitutions please:

Ingredients:
1/2 cup  of cold whole milk, skim milk does not yield a proper Egg cream.
1 cup of bottled or preferably fountain seltzer
2 tablespoons Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup.

Instructions:
Pour 1/2 inch of cold milk into a tall glass.

Add seltzer to approximately 1 inch from the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).

Gently  pour 2 tablespoons of Fox’s U -bet chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).

Drink Immediately!

Some small independent companies have tried to bottle pre made Egg creams. Nice try but don’t bother. They taste nothing like the real thing.

Enjoy and you’re welcome!

Have All You Want, It’s On The House!

Prior to 1977, bottled water was pretty much unheard of. Nobody would pay for something that was essentially free. If you were thirsty, the cold water faucet on your sink was the answer. But, through the powerful and unrelenting forces of consumer marketing, we were eventually convinced that a bottle of “Pristine spring water drawn from the protected subterranean aquifers of Maine” would be a much better choice and worth the money.  Now I drop a few dollars for bottled water and I have no guilt, but I should.

As a child, I played hard and got thirsty. Thankfully, the New York City Parks Department had a solution, the public drinking fountain. This wonderful device provided gallons of free liquid pleasure for the taking. I could take a drink and fill my water balloons and water gun with abandon. My more mischievous cohorts would often press their finger on the spigot while I was sipping away, causing water to splash all over me.

Occasionally, the fountain would be reduced to a pile of concrete rubble, almost always around the Fourth of July. Young minds and gunpowder can be quite destructive. Thankfully, the city would replace the fountain despite our callousness. After all, the thirsty required relief.

Did I worry about lead, carcinogens or bacteria when I bellied up to the fountain? Hell no! In fact, I believe the water fortified my immune system.  One of my closest friends and I often ponder that perhaps the government was spiking the water with mind altering drugs to test their effectiveness on young minds. That would explain some of the more bizarre things we have done later in life.

So now I’m thirsty and I have my two dollars at the ready.  My rationale, it has to better, it’s from Maine!

Blame It On The Astronauts

Everyone seems to be grousing about the heat wave we are currently experiencing in New York City. Yes, the temperature is over ninety degrees and no the world is not ending. Local media are out and about, interviewing the man on the street, soliciting his learned opinion regarding the temperature. Not surprisingly, the answer is usually “It’s hot today, I’m trying to stay cool!” It must be a slow news day, “The Sky is Falling!”

We have mobile weather vans, Doppler X-15 super-duper radar and “weather watchers” all reporting something that should not be alarming to anyone. We are approaching summer, it gets hot, live with it or move to Antarctica where the highest recorded temperature EVER was 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whenever the weather took an odd or extreme turn, my mother would always blame “those astronauts flying around in space” as the cause.  We now blame cow flatulence.  Is the earth warming? Probably. Will the earth eventually cool? Possibly. Will a meteor strike the planet and destroy everything in its path? Maybe.

Live responsibly and live for today.

A Burning Pot Belly Stove in July?

 

I have many wonderful childhood memories. One in particular comes to mind. When I was around the tender age of eight or nine, I remember my dad would, at my mother’s insistence, often spend Saturday afternoon with me for some quality male bonding time. However, much to her dismay, our activities tended to be limited in scope.  We would drive to a candy store somewhere on Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, New York, near where my dad grew up. Candy stores can be lots of fun for an eight year old; think ice cream, candy, pretzels, comic books and bubble gum. However, the candy store we would visit was a bit different. It was completely devoid of any of the aforementioned goodies. It was dark and sparse, with only a few newspapers and some cigarettes and cigars. The soda fountain was dusty and inoperative.  Ice cream? Think again.

We would head to the backroom where there were several adult men sitting about in their tee shirts, shuffling little pieces of paper and answering the phone which seemed to never stop ringing. A constant stream of anonymous people would come in and out through a back door that led to an alley. In the center of the room was a pot belly stove, fully stoked and blazing away. This stove fascinated me. I would be mesmerized by the dancing flames and the smell of burning wood. An odd thing though, it was summer time. Why would you need a burning pot belly stove in mid-summer?

Turns out, my dad was taking me to a numbers running operation, also known as the Italian Lottery. Bets were being made on sports scores and harness racing results.  This practice was illegal, thus the need for the burning stove. Should the police ever raid the place, all the betting slips would go into the fire and any evidence would go up in smoke.  If the police asked about the working stove, I guess they would say that they were toasting marshmallows for the kid.

Memories of fun times never fade away.