As should be obvious to all of you now, Kathy’s Café is popular with the older crowd. Frankly, the much, much older crowd. You will make mistakes in serving these folks but that’s expected, you’re human. Well, most of you are.
Kathy asked that I mention that, in general, the new servers have been doing fine work. Let me just go over a few situations that are sure to arise and how to handle them in the Kathy Café way.
Never, ever, ever ask “Do you have any questions?” Always, always make sure you say “Do you have any questions about the menu?” If you just ask “do you have any questions,” one wisenheimer will ask something along the lines of “Yes, do you know how I can get Amazon Prime on my television set?”
You are not being paid to sigh or to roll your eyes. Do not sigh, do not roll your eyes, do not cuss silently or audibly, when one of our precious Seniors asks you to repeat, for the fifth time, the day’s Specials.
When the lady with the hearing aid that keeps falling out of her left ear—her name is Doris—asks if you can put a sunnyside up egg on top of her bowl of corn flakes, all you have to say is, “Why of course, Dearie.” Trust us. When her corn flakes come out, she will have forgotten all about ordering the egg.
And finally, the most important reminder of all: Do not ever, ever ask a table packed with old folks, who’ve had 20 minutes to look at the menu, “Do you need more time?” That is incredibly rude. They may have only three more years left or three months or even three days. They do not need to be reminded of this.
Always be precise. “Are you ladies and gentlemen ready to order?” should do the trick.
Kathy thanks you for your dedication and your efforts.
And by the way, we’re looking for volunteers to work Thanksgiving Day. The time and a half pay plus the fact that sweet old Doris is never here that day should be an incentive for some of you.
(Posted October 25, 2022)
Aging Author Interviewed
“Welcome again to ‘Talking to the Author.’ Today’s guest is Larry McCoy who recently celebrated his 85th birthday. Hi, Larry. You’re looking for a publisher for your latest manuscript? Tell us about this new book.”
“What new book?”
“You sent us an email a few weeks back saying you had almost finished a book you call ‘Confessions of a Hoosier Class Clown.’”
“I did? Oh, gee. I thought you wanted to talk to me about my simplistic views of the American political scene and what needs to be done.”
“No, but I do understand you spent many years working in news. Why did you do that?”
“We’ve heard reports that you frequently yell at the television regardless of what is on the screen. Is that true?”
“You know, I was wondering….”
“Whoa, whoa. Cut that out. You say that again and I’ll slap you. No more ‘you knows.’ You turn on the television, and there is Aaron Boone of the Yankees saying ‘you know’ every second or third sentence. No, I don’t know Mr. Bozo Boone. The same goes for the so-called reporters on TV. You know, you know, you know. Blah blah blah.”
“Okay. Gotcha. Let’s get back to the subject at hand. Do you think your book
will interest people outside of Indiana?”
“It better or I’ll choke’em.”
“Is there any sex in this book?”
“I guess you could use it for that but a rubber doll would probably be easier and quicker and it’s easier to rinse a rubber doll than a book, no?”
“What’s your favorite part of the new book?”
“No, seriously. What do you want people to take away from this book?”
“That taxes are pretty damn high on Long Island, and I can use every extra cent I can get my hands on --even four or five dollars extra a month would sure help.”
“On the off chance this book would be made into a video who do you see playing the young Larry McCoy?”
“Isn’t he way too old?”
“Way too what? Watch your language, you beefy punk.”
“What year did you graduate from high school?”
“Who said I graduated? I’ve been asked by the governor’s office in Indiana not to make that claim, especially at a time when they’re asking the federal government for more money for education in the state.”
“What period of your life does this book cover?”
“Periods? I don’t have periods. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Oh, you were talking about time frames. Why didn’t you say that? It begins when I’m five years old or so and ends when I’m 22, going on seven, and just got married.”
“Any chance you might write a sequel to cover the other years of your long life?”
“No. Trust me, I was a lot more interesting when I was a teenager and pestering teachers and other students than when I was downing bourbons and doing crossword puzzles on the Long Island Rail Road.”
“I understand you just turned 85.”
“You do, do you? Hey, that there might be a perfect whatchamacallit, right off the top of my head. A…a…a sonogram! Something that is the same frontwards and backwards. You do, do you? Oh, damn, not a sonogram. Give me a minute here. I got it, a Sarahdrome. No, sorry. Not a Sarahdrome a Palindrome. That’s the ticket, a Palindrome.”
“Uh, Larry. First off, I don’t think ‘palindrome’ is pronounced the same way as Sarah Palin pronounces her name. And second, ‘you do, do you?’ backwards would be ‘ouy od, od ouy.’ Not the same, not a palindrome.”
“Well, tough tomatoes. Maybe not, but in the words of one of my granddaughters, ‘that’s close enough. ‘ ”
“Back to the book. So you’re finished or very close to finishing this latest work and are now looking for a publisher. How’s that going?”
“Horrible. The words ‘speed,’ ‘hurry,’ ‘rush’ don’t exist in publishing. You read The New Yorker and they will have a blurb about one of their contributors whose latest book will be published in November of 2023. A year from this November. You can’t keep checking your email inbox every 30 seconds hoping to hear from a publisher.”
“What do you do then?”
“Pout. Have some more yogurt with way too many peanuts. Dream about the days before the bastard doctors took over, the days when if I wanted a bourbon I poured one and then another one. And life was sweet, sweet and good.”
“I read that you spent ten years in Germany. Any plans for a German translation of this book?”
“Hell no. There would have to be an English translation first, you twit.”
“I hope you find a publisher and maybe we can interview you again when the book, ‘Confessions of a Hoosier Class Clown,’ is published.”
“Absolutely. Thanks. Put me down for November 2024. And by the way, it wouldn’t hurt you to have some donuts for your guests, you hear?”
(Posted October 3, 2022)
BEING A WINNER
It’s good to be a winner, and, despite what people who shared space with me in newsrooms might think, I am a winner and can prove it. Just the other day, there were all these signs of my winning ways when I opened my computer:
“Walmart Winner You have won an Ultimate Nonstick Cookware
“Lowe’s You have won an Dewalt Power Station
“Lowe’s Golf Cart You have won an Club Car Golf Cart
“170 Piece Stanley You have won an 170 Piece Stanley Tool Set
“Tumi You have won an Tumi Leather Backpack
“Congratulations! You have won an Ryobi Lawn Mower.”
And there were others. So there you have it---Larry McCoy is an winner. Why do I get the feeling that whoever or whatever wrote the above notes didn’t learn English as a first language? Other questions: If you turn on the Dewalt Power Station and put the Ultimate Nonstick Cookware on top of it, does the cookware become sticky? And what happens to the Tumi Leather Backpack if you run over it with the Ryobi Lawn Mower?
I’m writing this as my 85th birthday approaches. 85. That means I’m older than Neil Diamond, Elliott Gould and Coco Laboy—individually not all together.
For those hoping to live into their 80s, make sure you have some fun along the way. I offer a few suggestions.
When you and your partner go into a restaurant—just the two of you--tell the host or hostess, “There are 17 of us.” You might want to have your phone ready to snap a quick reaction picture.
When there’s a new young lady working at your morning coffee place alongside Barney, who’s been there for years, wait a couple of weeks before you ask her, “Have you told your folks yet about you and Barney?” (If the next time you see the young lady, she rushes to fill your order and get you out of the place, you’ll know why.)
I f someone old enough to be one of your kids—that is mid 50s or early 60s—tells you, she has never been to a White Castle, make sure she knows you’re disappointed that she has apparently never been out on an all-night drinking binge and/or never developed the urge to consume, in one sitting, all the salt needed for an entire calendar year.
If your life buddy doesn’t use his or her cellphone much, grab it when they aren’t looking and call the number with your cellphone. Next, hold both cellphones to your ears and chat away like the dickens. If he or she asks, “What are you doing?”, reply “I’m talking to your phone. It’s lonely.”
If you know a history buff or someone who teaches history, ask if they know of any civilization that survived when half the drivers backed their cars into their driveways rather than merely pulling straight in like normal human beings.
Yes, Irene, I plan to go to the gym before breakfast on my birthday, and yes, every time someone asks, “How are you?” I plan to keep saying, “I’m vertical.” Which, so far, is the damn truth.
(Posted September 19, 2022)
Hearing Aid Day
JULY 12, 2022 .
“Hey, Bert? I got the damn things. They’re in, in my ears. Hope you got a lot of room on your answering machine. Am I talking too loud? Let me know when you call back.
“When you first got yours, did it feel like the wires in both ears were touching your nostrils? I’m supposed to take notes over the next two weeks about any problems I might have. It’s neat that the red-tipped wire goes into your right ear and the blue-tipped wire goes into the left. Just like the red and blue states in politics.
Do you know what happens if, just for the hell of it, you stick the red wire in the wrong ear? Does that turn you into a socialist or does it make you start looking and sounding like Ted Cruz? Oh, God.
“Can you hear me? It seems noisy as hell, and I’m all by myself in the car on a little side street with no traffic. I don’t have any control over the volume right now. That comes, I’m told, in two weeks when I have to go back. They’re going to make it so I can change the volume, make things louder or quieter, by using my iPhone. Amazing. I already use my iPhone to check on my heart monitor.
“You know what? I’ll betcha there’s some 14-year-old hot shot sitting around right now programming an iPhone to flush toilets. Smart ass. That would be something, right? Then the next step. Oh geez, I don’t even want to think about it.
“Since you got your hearing aids, is it easier for you to solve Wordle? Boy, I sure hope that’s one of the side effects. I’ve struck out two or three times in the last week. Someone at the gym says there is a dirty-word Wordle, something call PornoWordle. You ever hear of that?
“I’ve change my mind. Forget the nostrils business. I feel more like an open wine bottle with corks shoved deep into my ears. Again, let me know if I’m talking too loud. It sounds like I am. I was sucking on a cough drop a minute ago, and it sounded like someone was moving furniture around in my head.
“Did yours itch? Since I put them in I’ve wanted to scratch like crazy. The lady doctors running this place in Massapequa are pretty good at explaining things. What do you think? When I go back should I ask if they can program these babies so that any time a Republican at the gym tries to talk to me all I hear is static?
“A note in the box they gave me says the hearing aids are made in Denmark. Does this mean anytime I want a drink the only thing I’ll order is Carlsberg Beer? Better not be.
“Well, that’s…Oh, oh, I almost forgot. Our bet on this Saturday’s game against the Red Sox—was that for five bucks or 50? Better make it five, Old Friend. Irene is already yapping at me about how expensive the hearing aids were. I’m worth it, right? Damn right. See ya.”
When you’re close to 85 and the jeweler asks if you want a new $10 battery for your wristwatch or a life-time battery for $20, do you ask if he knows how much time you have left?
When you hear a speaker say someone will be “sorely missed,” do you think of asking whether a little Vaseline would help ease the soreness?
When you see a fellow with a large stomach—large in the sense it hangs over his belt and almost reaches his knees—should you ask the friend with you, “I wonder if he is behind in his gym payments?”
When you hear a valedictorian speak and speak and speak at a high school graduation and she thanks, by name, a teacher who helped her “write the speech,” should you shout “But did you have any one edit the damn thing?”
When an adult speaker at a graduation ceremony claims “the only thing you can’t control is time,” should you resist the temptation to stand up and shout “Rubbish, rubbish. For starters, how about three a.m. bathroom visits?”
Am I the only senior (“senior” in the sense of oldness) intimidated by lots of knobs on wristwatches? Rachel, our oldest granddaughter, gave me a fancy watch three or four Christmases ago. This proud graduate of Indiana University only fiddled with one of the knobs, the one which when pushed in one direction will set the time and pushed in another will change the date. (It took me more than a month to advance this far.) The watch has a second hand, but it never moved—never moved before I had my battery changed. The jeweler, who I’m pretty sure is not a graduate of Indiana University, must have done something, touched one of those damn knobs to get the second hand moving. What are the chances this development will speed up the demise of my life-time battery?
(Posted June 27, 2022)
On the Deck Vs On the Desk
A few months before my 84th birthday I realized I had chosen the wrong profession more than half a century ago. After being fired from my first job out of college as a disc jockey, I wandered into the news business where I spent 45 years.
Despite challenging hours and some bosses bereft of talent, I loved the work much of the time. It’s exciting to handle a major breaking story—we’re talking here of the now antique definition of “breaking news.” One of my proudest moments was writing a quick piece, some of it off the top of my head, when China’s Mao Tse-tung died. As an editor in the Central Newsroom at Radio Free Europe, my story on the Chinese Communist leader was translated and broadcast into the Soviet-dominated nations of Eastern Europe.
On retiring 16 years ago, I was generally satisfied with what I had done in newsrooms in Chicago, Munich and New York, although cringing when remembering several bad decisions. I still can’t explain my failure to order wall-to-wall radio coverage of the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Last year on a pleasant April afternoon, Danny Bettes, the partner of our oldest granddaughter, walked into our backyard on Long Island to build a new deck. He had a van full of equipment—saws, drills, hammers, crowbars, levels, benches, tape measures, extension cords and lots of stuff I’d never seen before.
He also had a speaker that played music. Danny and Rachel Parish, the granddaughter, are both in their late-20s and share my taste in music—lots of country and the likes of Bob Seger and Tom Petty.
I have no skills with tools, no understanding of how to make things fit together. If I had learned to measure and to cut a board so it slips into a tight corner perfectly, to pound a nail at an angle to support a post and to manipulate an electric saw to turn a piece of wood into any shape needed, I could have worked outside much of the year and listened to country music and good rock the entire work day. Mind you, loud country music and good rock. After a couple of years as a carpenter, maybe I would have been able to move half as gracefully as Danny did when walking nonchalantly on the support beams (I hope that’s what they’re called) that now hold up the deck.
But foremen, even in carpentry, are quick to chew out an apprentice when a mistake is made. Fair enough. While the music was playing and I was being handed boards from the old deck to stack in a trash pile, on came “Night Moves” and I shouted, “Glenn Frey.”
“What?” Danny asked, shaking his head almost in disgust. “It’s Bob Seger.” The boss was right. Watching him work, he talked to himself when going over options of how to deal with this problem or that. Other times he sang the lyrics to the songs, lots of songs.
Hours after my “Glenn Frey” faux pas, he made sure Rachel and her grandmother, Irene, knew about it. I was of little help after the old deck boards had been removed, but I could still open the back door and enjoy the music and think of what life might have been like if I had spent much of it pounding nails instead of keys on a keyboard.
(Posted May 28, 2022)
Email sent February 16, 2022 to Sunstar Americas, makers of Sunstar Gum Stimulators.
Because I’m above average in intelligence, I smoked for about 40 years. I smoked a pipe, which any orthodontist, endodontist or your run-of-the-mill dentistdontist, will tell you is good for your gums, pulling them away from your teeth. I and other smokers have been regular and generous donors to these gentlemen’s bank accounts.
Before I go to bed, my routine includes flossing, sticking a tiny brush between my teeth—tooth by tooth—and, before brushing, using a Sunstar Gum Stimulator. My orthodontist, the owner of a bright shiny car, recommends that I change the little red tip on the Sunstar Gum Stimulator every two weeks. Ha, ha.
I’ve tried and tried to pull an old tip off with my fingers, as you claim is possible, and when that didn’t work I used a pair of needle-nose pliers. The instructions you include with a new tip says to “moisten base of new tip and press on to handle with a twisting motion.” While I think almost all of us would like to have our tips moistened from time to time, this graduate of Indiana University, grandfather of four, Class Clown of Frankfort High in 1955 has been unable—in months of trying—to get a new tip on the stimulator.
What does one do when stumped these days? Right. Go to You Tube. A You Tube video of a guy changing a Gum Stimulator tip shows him with two cups (detergent in one, water in the other), a cigarette lighter and a socket from a wrench set. This video runs several minutes. I did not watch all of it. I stopped after the guy inserted the new tip in the socket and kept warming the socket with a cigarette lighter.
I had my teeth cleaned this morning, and when I told the dental hygienist, for the third or fourth time, how I had failed again to conquer the challenge of tip replacement she promised to show me the next time I come in.
Fair enough. She owes me. A year ago I gave her a recipe for a fine pie crust from “The Hoosier Cookbook.” Your tip replacement instructions should be so simple and foolproof.
Larry McCoy, Public Defender
At least once a month I get a phone call meant for the Public Defender’s office in Cincinnati. We have the same phone number except for the area code.
I got another call this morning and, as usual, played it straight, telling the lady caller that when I saw “Cincinnati” pop up on my cellphone screen I was sure she wanted the Public Defender’s office. I told her I was on Long Island and probably wouldn’t be a very good public defender. She laughed and thanked me.
But shouldn’t I have some fun with these calls? String the callers along for a while?
The next time I get one of these calls I could say:
“Holy crap. You did what?”
Or “Oh, brother, are you screwed.”
Or “To be honest, I think you belong in jail.”
Or “Don’t give me that baloney. Sounds to me like you’re guilty as hell.”
Or “What were you thinking? How could you be so stupid?”
Or “Stop crying. Suck it up. There are worse things than prison. What? Well, I can’t think of one right away, but there must be something worse.”
Or “Listen, Lady, lots of people think the Public Defender’s office is a free service. It isn’t. I need $100 in cash to start preparing your defense. Once the money’s in hand I start working, not a second before. Got a pen and paper? Take down this address.”
If I ever try this, I’d better make sure Irene is out of the room otherwise I may need a lawyer of my own.
(Posted January 18, 2022)
10 Things I Should Stop Doing In 2022
1. Turning on a cable news channel and expecting to get the news.
2. Saying over and over, “I don’t remember voting for Joe Manchin for president.”
3. Having a December lunch with a Jewish couple and asking, “How do you celebrate Christmas?”
4. Putting something we no longer use in the basement. (Throw it out, Larry, throw it out.)
5. Letting a whole week go by without washing my eyeglasses.
6. Pretending that, in its own way, MSNBC is not as biased as Fox News.
7. When a friend texts Christmas morning greetings, not responding with “Christmas morning is a big morning for sex in my family. How about yours?”
8. Yawning nearly non-stop from 8-9 p.m. every night but not going to bed until after 11:30.
9. Teasing Irene over and over about putting antlers on our car next December. (Just go ahead and do it.)
10. Asking a granddaughter who has a pet bird, “How big does that bird have to get before you can eat it?”
(Posted December 30, 2021)
My Mornings During Covid-19
7 a.m. I try to be out of bed and downstairs by 7 to watch the top of a CNN broadcast from a sitting position in a room where important business is conducted several times a day. (The older you are, the broader the definition of the word “several.”)
7:15 a.m. After sipping from a bottle of Gatorade Zero (a product that is a true zero in taste, sugar and color), I apply a prescribed gel to my left IT Band. No, this is not a befuddled ancient citizen rubbing Vasoline willy-nilly on his router or modem. Nor is it an old guy fiddling with his willy-nilly. The iliotibial band is one of those parts of the body that was never taught in health classes at my high school in Indiana. There are a number of possibilities why our teachers never mentioned it: they had never heard of it; it hadn’t been discovered yet; a largely Anglo-Saxon teaching corps didn’t think any word with six vowels in it was worth learning. (While we’re on this subject, one website says the IT Band can be aggravated by “frequently wearing high heels.” That must be it. I have to stop!)
7:20 a.m. I get dressed, take another swig of Gatorade, watch a few more minutes of TV, grab a tangerine and, depending on what day of the week it is, I may take out the garbage or the newspapers and cardboard.
7:45 a.m. Eating my tangerine in the car, I arrive at Bay Park in East Rockaway, Long Island, about three miles from my house. It’s a park on the water that was destroyed along with a neighboring sanitation plant during Superstorm Sandy. Both have now been rebuilt. I go for a walk.
8:15 a.m. I’m back in the car. While the park is pretty, there are no spectacular views and the walk itself is pretty boring. All the ball fields and courts are closed as is the dog run. There are usually only one or two other souls in the park, and they keep their distance. The other morning a car drove by with a driver who looked like Harpo Marx. The dog in the passenger seat had the same hairdo, so I’m guessing the driver and dog share a hair dresser. That was the most excitement yet in about three weeks of walking there. If I could count on the Harpo Marxs being regulars, that would brighten my days.
8:20 a.m. If we need groceries, I stop at the King Kullen supermarket where I can buy a copy of Newsday, a paper hard to find these days. (Before the crisis. I would buy a Newsday and a $1 scratch off lottery ticket at a convenience store and then go to a coffee shop around the corner for a black decaf and chatter with a counterman and the owner. The conversation year-round was frequently about baseball interspersed with occasionally brilliant observations concerning what I will simply describe as the vacancy at the White House.)
8:30 a.m. I get on the floor at home and do 20-30 minutes of stretching. Many of the exercises call for holding the same position for 30 seconds. During normal times at the gym, I can cheat, but there’s a loud, ticking clock in the room with me now so I have to do the full 30 seconds.
9:00-9:10 a.m. Shower and shave. Every morning I tell myself I should bend down and open a low cabinet door to tighten a doohickey that keeps water from draining out of the sink. Every morning I don’t.
9:15 a.m. Breakfast, Usually cereal, OJ and toast with way too much jam on it, but some mornings its scrambled eggs, OJ and a roll with way too much jam on it.
9:15-11:15 a.m. Media time. That includes turning on the TV to check the stock market and the lead story at the top of the hour (many mornings the lead story is approximately 456 hours old) and reading The New York Times front page, the letters to the editor, the op/ed page columns, any book review written by Dwight Garner and doing the mini crossword puzzle.
11:20 a.m. I leave the breakfast nook and go into the front room where there is a woman in a rocker who says her name is Irene. I ask her if she has finished Jumble, one of our mutual intellectual challenges of the day.
11:25-11:55 a.m. I check email and Facebook on my mini iPad. There may be a conversation with the lady in the rocker about what movie we might watch at 8 p.m., hoping to preserve a few remaining strands of sanity.
11:55 a.m. I head upstairs, telling myself that essay I’ve been working on for the last two days is a genuine gem.
12:00-12:10 p.m. After again checking email and Facebook plus a quick look at the obits in the Frankfort, Indiana, paper, I open the essay, shocked to find it is illogical, unfocused and that I have used the same word six times in one page.
12:15 p.m. I’m falling asleep. My essays will do that to you. I decide to go downstairs, have an early lunch and an early nap.
The outlook for tomorrow? More of the same.
(Posted April 9, 2020)
Letter to My Doctor
March 31, 2020
Dear Dr. ______________
Don’t worry. I’m keeping my weight up during this pandemic. That statement is on the up-and-up in every meaning of that expression.
I remember you saying that dark chocolate was good for you, so assuming you meant it was good for me too I’ve been treating it like one of my medicines. I’m taking one dark chocolate 100g bar twice a day. If you think I should be taking three or four bars a day, please let me know. (My favorite brand of dark chocolate is pretty darn expensive, but I’m keeping track and putting the receipts in my medical expenses file for this tax year.)
With the gym closed, I’m still getting my exercise. I go for a half hour walk in a park and then, after a stop nearly every morning at the supermarket, I come home and do my stretching. On a very hard floor, mind you. Without a gym exercise ball at home, you might think my routine would be shorter, but it isn’t. There’s a clock with a loud tick in the room where I stretch and the methodical tick, tick, tick makes it harder for me to cheat in counting to 30 on every rep. And yes, to be honest, I have thought of using a different room or moving the clock.
Besides the dark chocolate, I’m watching my sugar consumption in other ways. Most mornings I drink a large glass of orange juice and usually have toast or a roll with a generous dollop of Austrian jam. I’m careful about reading the labels on sugar content. The jam jar says 12%, but that was the sugar content when it left the plant in Austria. It probably loses some of that as it makes its way across the Atlantic to my supermarket on Long Island, right?
I’m being careful about hydrating. Aren’t you proud of me? I have a bottle of water on the cabinet behind me as I’m writing this. A Google search the other day said that 90 to 95% of beer is water, so after around four in the afternoon (some days three p.m.) I switch to beer. My math may be a little off, but I figure that most days by the time I go to bed at 11:15 I’ve had the equivalent of 540-570% of water. Pretty good, if I do say so.
To be honest, once things get back to normal, it will be interesting to see what I weigh. Normally, I got on the scale at the gym. A few days ago a relative came and took the scale we keep in our bathroom (why she needed it so urgently I don’t know). The way I see it, Doc, if I’ve put on two or three pounds or more by my next appointment it will be her fault, not mine. I hope you agree.
Best wishes. My next appointment isn’t until just before Labor Day, Labor Day 2020, I hope.