We Think We Have it Rough

White rye-type bread

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HOT WATER

My dad walked home from work nearly every day.  He rarely took the car unless it needed work, or he was in a hurry.  When he arrived home, he followed a ritual that very seldom changed.  I remember him coming up from the basement into the kitchen and going directly to the fridge for the slab bacon. He cut off a square chunk, then sliced a slab off the rye bread. The bacon was too big to eat in a chunk, so he sliced it into thin pieces and laid them on the bread. Finally, he cut the bacon-covered bread into small squares.  He ate the squares, one by one. If  I was there, he shared. Hmmm, hmmm, good!

After this snack, Dad went back downstairs to light the fire in the small stove. He had modified the stove to run a pipe through the firebox and  into the water tank.  He kept a box of  kindling to fuel the fire.  The fire heated the water in the tank.  Once the fire was going, he started a project around the house like cutting the grass, or fixing something.

By six o’clock, the water was hot, and Dad went upstairs to take his bath.  When he was squeaky clean, he came down for supper.  Afterwards, Mom still had enough hot water to wash the dishes.

The small wood stove served to heat water during the summer months.  During the winter, the coal furnace heated the water. Another pipe routed water through the furnace into the water tank. Dad opened a valve to switch the water flow from the stove to the furnace.  During the winter we had hot water continuously because  the fire was going in the furnace.

Dad installed a gas-fired  water heater in 1950.  He bought the heater from Sears with instructions for how to do it. After that, he never used the small stove for heating water again.

Let’s Do Something Wild and Crazy

ZZ Top Eliminator at the Rock and Roll Hall of...

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Four years ago, Grandma Peggy and I wintered in the Phoenix area. We wanted to do something wild and crazy to make us feel young again. The following story is a letter I wrote to our  kids about the adventure. I hope it gives you a giggle. We still talk about it.

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ZZ TOP Concert 18 April 2007

I have definitely learned the lesson that I can’t relive my youth. In my quest to be young again I tried an experiment in the name of entertainment. When Peggy and I arrived in Arizona in January, I read an ad for a concert to be held in April. I thought to myself that I’d like to go to hear this group. Over the years, I listened to some of their music and thought it was cool. The selections that I heard were limited to those played by popular disc jockeys of the day. No doubt the music selections rang true with many people, which is why they played them. I was also enamored by their album jacket photos of a yellow 34 Ford roadster. The group is ZZ Top.

Last Wednesday, as I read the morning newspaper, I came across the same ad. I asked Peggy, if she would like to go to a concert tonight. Being a dutiful wife, she responded “sure.” She never even asked what the event was about. Within a couple of hours, I had tickets for the main floor. Wow, I got main floor tickets to one of my favorite groups. How lucky can one get?

We drove to the Dodge Theater in downtown Phoenix using the GPS to guide us. The computer took us right to the front door. Not only that, there was a parking garage immediately across the street. “This was meant to be,” I thought.

The tickets were at the will call window, and there was no line because we were an hour early. I looked around to survey the crowd. Not too many young people, I thought. I guess I’ve known this group longer than I remember. Anyway, Peggy and I were not the oldest people waiting to get in. There was a very distinguished looking white haired and wrinkled lady ahead of us. She was with her kids, who also had white hair.

We grabbed a sandwich from the concession stand inside. There were several beer stands set up across the lobby. Strange, I thought, selling beer at a concert in downtown Phoenix.

We found our seats and waited for the concert to begin. Peggy was dressed smartly, in a white blouse under a black jacket, and plaid slacks. I wore my best slacks and carried my sport coat. Since the theater was still relatively empty, I wore the jacket to fend off the cold breeze falling on us from the aircon. It turned out to be the only sport coat in the theater. Most of the other attendees wore tee shirts and shorts.

The theater filled slowly. “This group must not be popular anymore, they don’t appear to be sold out,” I told Peg. The lights dimmed, and four very young men appeared, dressed in tee shirts without sleeves. Heavy chains with loads of keys hung from their waists. They wore blue jeans with holes at the knees, and across the seat. The pants looked as though they would fall off at any moment. Perhaps they were pinned to the guitars hanging from their shoulders. Their hair was long and dirty looking, certainly unkempt. Disgusting tattoos covered their arms. This was the warm up band. They called themselves BBB, which stood for Bang, Bang, Bang, or Bang, Bang, Boys. (Be careful when you search for them by those names, some very strange sites turn up.)

The concert began to a crowd that was about fifty percent of capacity. My trained ear told me that the drummer was the most talented musician on the dais. The three guitarists were seemingly into their music. Expressions of ecstasy or pain, I couldn’t tell the difference, grimaced on their faces. The bass notes pushed into our chests with the volume. The high notes pierced our ears, causing my normal tinitus to amplify. The skinniest of the three guitarists also shouted lyrics into the microphone. None of the words were intelligible, or at least I couldn’t make out any of it because my ears were ringing so loudly. As the number of songs progressed, more and more people continued to trickle in to fill the seats around us. They must be experienced concertgoers, I thought to myself. They knew this awful group would play first.

I often told myself that I can live through 24 hours of anything life throws at me, but this group was changing my mind. I lost count at six numbers. The songs sounded somewhat different, but the same. It was just organized noise. After thirty minutes of this torture, the group finally left the stage to some weak applause. What a relief, we will enjoy the quiet of an intermission. Wrong, the ringing in my ears was deafening.

Peggy looked me in the eye and said, “If being here doesn’t prove that I love you, nothing does.”

“It will be better when the real group comes on,” I said.

“I hope so,” she replied.

A youngish couple in their forties sat in front of us. Their son, about twelve, was with his friend. They had a typical Yuppie appearance. The kid fascinated me.  I had the greatest urge to slap him in the head. He wore a baseball hat with a flat bill over his left ear. Why would a nice young white kid want to look like a rapper? The two boys had cell phones. The son’s flipped open to reveal a keypad for text messaging. He was texting as we sat waiting for the concert to begin. When he closed the phone, it opened a second way to reveal a regular cell phone. His father makes entirely too much money, I thought to myself. He just spent two hundred and fifty dollars to attend this concert with his family. He gives his twelve year old son a three hundred dollar phone, and he lets him dress like s _ _ t.

ZZ Top came on stage with a theatrical flair. “Much better,” I said to myself. The three of them dressed in sequined sport coats, (I guess I wasn’t the only one.) A giant light curtain behind them changed colors as they played. The drums were lit up with the band’s logo. The microphone stands were decorated with glittery stuff, the crowd stood up and cheered. Peggy and I remained seated. Two banks of giant speakers flanked the players on stage. Ten-foot high bass speakers hung from each side. Large floodlights aimed at the audience, flashed on and off, and blinded us. (Nothing like wrecking the eyes as well as the ears for enjoyment.) I finally stood up from my sixty-dollar seat to see the spectacle. Peg remained sitting. She was the only one who did (maybe it hurt her ears less to do so.) The sounds reverberated into my chest so I could feel the pulses pressing into my heart. The ringing in my ears increased in volume with the guitars. I expected the crowd to sit down, it didn’t. Why would all these morons pay sixty bucks for a seat they don’t use, I asked myself?

During the opening act, both Peggy and I had empty seats next to us. As the people began to come in those seats filled up too. First, a very large young lady plopped into the seat next to Peggy. The armrest thrust sideways into Peggy’s side as she sat down. I laughed, then two guys the size of a mountain squeezed by us to fill the seats next to me. The armrest on my side moved toward me. The man spilled over his seat into mine. He folded his arms on his chest to keep them from crushing me.

The girl next to Peggy had a boy friend in the seat behind her. They weren’t lucky enough to get seats side by side. The girl twisted sideways to talk to him.  As she did, her jeans stressed downward revealing the crease of her butt to Peggy just short of a moon. When the band came on stage, the crowd stood up. The boyfriend eased his way forward to stand next to his girlfriend. That put him into the aisle. He felt conspicuous in the aisle so he kept pushing her sideways. Eventually, Peggy was looking directly into the ass of the girlfriend.

The ZZ Top noise was just a tad better organized than the Bang Bang Boys, but it was just as loud. The song lyrics were still unintelligible, and the standing crowd was getting rowdier. The two guys next to me politely asked to pass by to exit. Thank God, I thought, at least I lasted longer then they did.  A few minutes later they returned holding beers the size of a bucket, only to squeeze past us again.

All the while, ZZ Top did not play a single song that I recognized. I looked at my watch. We had survived forty minutes. I leaned down and told Peggy to stand up, because in five minutes we would quietly go for a beer.  In thirty seconds she asked if the five minutes were up yet.

My ears are still ringing. I have chalked it up to “been there, done that,” and now I’ll move on to the next “Wild and Crazy Thing.”

Luv,

Grumpa Joe

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