Post 269: A wish for you!

The boys and I thank you for the time you spent with us this year, and have a video wish for you!

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Post 268: Dougy is NOT in the mood!

Cats have better things to do than react to printers and be cute about it. Dougy, usually a pleasant kitty, was NOT in the mood to do the printer thing.

His human, however, paid scant attention to the signs: Dougy ended the encounter with a sarcastic “Woof! Woof!”

(“As if a cat would react doggy-style to human expectations! Hrmph! I’m Douglas the Cat!”)

Okey dokey, Dougy. Peace and flowers, man!

Post 267: old friends

I learned today that a couple old friends now read this blog. I feel a bit self-conscious about that, I suppose. Must mind my company manners now, not reveal the evil side I’ve hidden from them for 40-50 years…!

Aw, heck with it! They know by now, surely, that I can be petulant: Hunawhir, circa 1971, I had a hissy because Ralph insisted I taste a stinky cheese (don’t recall which variety). “If it smells like the bottom of a stable, it tastes like that, too!” He talked me into trying it, I gagged, made rude sounds and comments, no doubt offending the very nice host and hostess, and…! Yeah. Not nice! “The Ugly American”!

Or I can resist a good time: Strasbourg, same trip, and Ralph wanted to expose me to as many Alsatian wines as possible. I don’t know how many places we stopped by and Ralph said, “Just one more!” and I tried to drink just one more special wine. I finally “spilled” the contents of my stomach in the last wine bar in a trough urinal in front of several Frenchmen taking a leak. It was purple. I think I whined when I got back to the table, however I managed to find my feet to make it back!

Then there was the Stiefel incident at Zum Bitburger, the neighborhood Gasthof I wanted my friends Ralph and Deborah to try while visiting me in Kaiserslautern.

You’ve no doubt seen the boot-shaped glassware Germans have, der Stiefel (or boot) glass. Deborah and Tim, one of my roommates on Beethovenstrasse, had moderate amounts of Bitburger Pils, perhaps wine, while Ralph and I challenged ourselves to “der Stiefel”!

bitburger

I’d drunk from one once, remembered the trick. (Hold it the wrong way, and you get a lap full of beer! Ha! Ha! I think I wanted to “surprise” Ralph, though I’m sure he was sophisticated enough to know the trick before me!) I called the waitress over and pointed at the Stiefel glasses lined up on the shelf, and indicated Ralph and I both wanted one.

The waitress gave us an odd look and a smile. The barkeep, who looked suspiciously like the guy on the Bitburger Pils bottle label, smiled, waved in acknowledgement of the order. I think he was laughing or, at least, enjoying the pour a bit more than you’d expect, even though he ordinarily was a happy, friendly fellow, someone I liked to talk with when I visited the Zum Bitburger Gasthof. Something was just a little “off” about the moment.

The “dienendes Mädchen” – “serving wench” as this was about to become a debauch, and debauches require serving wenches – came back to the table, and placed a Stiefel in front of Ralph, then me. We’d been drinking liter glasses of Bitburger Pils before the Stiefel arrived, so the fact that we had to look around the glasses to see each other on the opposite sides of the table foretold the long walk back to the apartment on Beethovenstrasse!

“These are bigger than the one I drank from,” I mentioned to Ralph, “I’m sure of it.” I think the one I drank from the earlier time had been a liter Stiefel. But THESE were huge! No, we hadn’t slumped in our chairs! They were so huge, we had to look around them to talk!

Ralph is notorious or famous for this line, usually a prelude to a fun time you wouldn’t try on your own, but that Ralph wisely decided you wanted to try: “Are you up!?”

I don’t know if he asked me the famous line or not, but, to the amusement of the local patrons, who watched as discretely as they could, and the barkeep, who just watched, with a huge smile on his face, we each tilted back the huge, huge boots, which had to be held with both hands!

The rule is you drink the whole thing back in one take. I don’t think we tried, so the German guests at the Zum Bitburger probably got bored with the crass Americans who didn’t observe Stiefel custom or provide adequate entertainment value for the mark, and went back to their own drinks. I don’t remember how big the glasses were in volume. Four liters, five liters? A lot, that I can vouch for!

Did we finish our drinks, Ralph and I? Were we up?! I suspect so. We were younger and more stupid then. Deborah and Tim helped us stagger back down Beethovenstrasse, where we climbed the three stories worth of stairs, and plopped into bed to sleep the sleep of the drunk and the dead.

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Postlude: Bitburger’s motto is “Bitte ein Bit”. (“A Bit, please!”) It is a premium pilsner that has a remarkable characteristic reflecting that high quality: “Abends Bit, Morgens Fit!”, another motto of Bitburger pilsner, “Evenings [drink] Bit, [and in the] morning [you will be] fit.” Astonishingly, it is so! Ralph and I emptied a keg and had little more distress than a little fatigue and, erm, “gas”! (“Oh, Ralph!”) No headache, though! Love that Bit!

Post 266: the $449.39 question

X-Friend wrote last November after Weggieboy contacted her to let her know he’d had to pay her $449.39 telephone bill because he’d stupidly co-signed for her when she needed a co-signer on her telephone contract, then she failed to pay a couple months:

Doug I’m sorry about this and I will pay you back we have had some financial set backs but I promise I will pay you before Christmas.” [sic]

The promised date by which the debt would be repaid, Christmas, is past.

I considered several possibilities: 1. suck it up and forgive the $449.39 debt, 2. file a small claims suit since I have definitive proof she owes me the money, 3. give her a little rope and let her work out a time frame that works for her even though this $449.39 hit me at a time that wasn’t convenient.

Option 1. is stupid and unrealistic. Option 2 requires her to be in state, which she isn’t now. Option 3 galls me, but may be the only option.

After stewing about the possibilities, I sent X-Friend a follow-up e-mail to remind her I haven’t gone away and I want my money:

X-Friend-

I co-signed twice for you and twice you failed me. The first time you paid the overdue bill, but I felt sorry for you and gave you a check at work for the amount of the bill. It was a $267 (I think- $200+) “gift” because Adult Child’s buddy left town without giving him money for the bill, and Adult Child didn’t have the money to pay his and the friend’s, leaving you with the whole thing. The failure was that I ever got the letter saying I had to pay your bill or else, though you showed up at the same time I did and took care of it: I was humiliated and mad to get that treatment! I pay my bills in time.

The second time- I was a fool to co-sign a second time!!!- I got the deadbeat telephone call from Viaero for a $449.39 bill you, Adult Child, and “Person of whom I’ve never heard”, the three people on the contract, failed to pay. Failure two. It was a steep price to pay for trust in you, given you failed me once on this same cellphone account. This time I wasn’t humiliated, just displeased, and I wrote an extensive letter to Viaero to let them know why and what I hoped they could do about it considering I was held accountable for your debt, thanks to co-signing for you, and considering I was paying in full one last time. I believe they followed my instructions and they have my $449.39 for your bill.

The third failure on your part was to repay the $449.39 “before Christmas”. I can appreciate you have financial set backs just now. Though I am fat and have a beard, I am not Santa Claus. I’m not the 1st National Bank of Doug either. I’m not charging you interest for the $449.39 I paid to save you humiliation and legal issues with Viaero. I’m not a nice guy for that, I am a fool because I trusted you THREE times and you failed me three times. Besides, not to pay the $449.39 you owed would have screwed up my credit record. The last time I checked, my rating was 812…because I use credit moderately and pay my bills in a timely manner! I don’t carry bills past the first billing cycle, and sometimes pay before the bill is due when the credit card company sends me e-mail notice of what my account will be charged later in the month. (I have the option of waiting or paying immediately, so pay immediately.)

Yes, I do expect to be repaid the $449.39. There will not be any Christmas miracle or forgiveness of a debt to me in the spirit of Christmas because the amount is too significant to me as a retiree on a fixed income.

I’m not giving you a time frame for repayment of your debt to me because I don’t know how strained your finances are, of course, nor is it any of my business beyond $449.39. I prefer a cashier’s check, a postal money order, or cash (only if given in person) because I seriously doubt I’d feel comfortable accepting your personal check after the three failures noted above. I believe you understand why. You are not stupid by any means.

My address is: [etc., etc.]

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Will I get paid? For the time being, that is the $449.39 question.

I Just Work Here: A sincere message for the jobless among us as benefits run out

Aside from being one of the better blogs I follow, the person who writes it is a thoughtful, articulate woman whose ability to pinpoint the heart of a situation is admirable.

Post 263: perils of co-signing

You may remember I had a bad experience as a co-signer, specifically the person I co-signed for failed to pay her $449.39 cellphone bill. I got stuck paying under threat of screwing up my credit history.

When I brought the bill to her attention, by facebook, she replied, by e-mail:

“Doug I’m sorry about this and I will pay you back we have had some financial setbacks but I promise I will pay you before Christmas.”

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The clock is ticking…!

Post 262: the gift (re-edited)

Mandarin ducks don’t occur in Western Nebraska, not naturally. There are people who raise exotic birds who sometimes breed these handsome little Asian birds, and one time (October 1992) one managed to land at Laing Lake, where he spent the winter among a small flock of six male and female wood ducks.

A woman visiting from Arcata, California, a birder, spotted the Mandarin duck. She was very excited to see this life bird, but hesitant to count it because she didn’t think they occurred here.

She contacted the local newspaper and talked with the managing editor, who sometimes wrote about birds in his column. He suggested she contact me since I had some notoriety as the person who had the first and only ever Nebraska phainopepla appear in his backyard.

The phainopepla stayed a couple of months, used the bird bath for water but found food elsewhere. I took photos and reported the sighting to the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union, the organization that reviews rare bird records in this state and determines what class of record to accord each one. Mine got a Class 1 – Photo, just about as good as it gets.

The managing editor felt I probably was sufficiently competent to answer her question because of the phainopepla, but it was just a matter of dumb luck that it chose my backyard and is an unmistakable bird for purposes of identification!

Margaret called me, told me about the duck, which I hadn’t yet seen. I knew wood ducks were up there, having seen them earlier in the season, but the Mandarin duck…! Though I had no doubt she’d see the real deal because they are unmistakable, I told her it probably was an escapee from an exotic bird farm. I promised to go up to the lake and verify the sighting just the same.

After verifying the sighting, I called Margaret back to let her know she was right about the bird, and had she taken any birding outings since coming to Nebraska? She hadn’t, so the next few months I introduced her to the areas and birders that make this part of Nebraska a great place to bird.

The story of the friendship that blossomed is long. It turned out we shared identical tastes in hobbies, books, and music. As far as birding was concerned, Margaret was super at shorebirds, my weakest area for identification, and I was stronger in Eastern birds, many of which occur here along with their Western North American counterparts and, of course, local birds. We were a complete team in the field, though she found the Western Nebraska birding by car method strange enough to comment on! (You have to move around to find the little buggers!)

She had personal family reasons for being here, reasons I needn’t discuss. By late spring of 1993, she returned to Arcata. She came back here for a short time later, but by 1994, she returned to California for the rest of her life.

It turned out that her daughter’s boss at the time was a hobbyist who made decorative duck and shorebird carvings when he wasn’t tied up with his work as an attorney. Coincidentally enough, he also was from Alliance, Nebraska, where I live! Margaret asked him to make a Mandarin duck as a gift for me. He’d never seen one before, but, working from photos created this:

Picture 256 mandarin duck

Margaret died in 2006 from cancer. Her gift is one of my prized possessions, a remembrance of a friend who was good company, a great birder, had excellent taste in new authors she shared with me (and I shared my favorites with her), and classical music (she liked late Romantic and Modern; I like Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic). What we shared in person and in our letters made Margaret the best of friends, even though she and I spent most of that friendship 1435 miles (2310 km) apart.

One idea she had and shared that really stuck with me had to do with fate. She was a daughter of Polish immigrants. She wrote a brilliant commentary back to me about a Rameau opera I shared with her (“Les Boréades”), noting that had her family not come to America, she’d be a farm woman pulling potatoes out of the ground, unaware of this exotic music only the upper class heard and enjoyed in Rameau’s time. “We live in the best of times to have access to such beauty!”

RIP, Margaret. I think of you each time I see this little carved duck. Oh, yeah, same with blue-winged teals in all those little puddles and lakes in the Nebraska Sandhills. That little puddle duck you were so excited to see, that I found too common to get excited about every time you pointed another one out along the road now is “our bird” as much as the Mandarin duck that brought our paths together in the first place.

Yeah, blue-winged teals are special, too.

Post 261: Christmas…again!!?

Pretend I am in the “Christmas mood”…!

christmas stamps 2012

You’ve just received an envelope with the stamp above attached. You are upset because the rate this year is 46 cents, and the post office attached a 1 cent postage due stamp on the envelope. “What #*&@! sent me a Christmas card with postage due?” you mumble. “Bah humbuggery if you ask me….”

The cat looks familiar….

xmas 1

You open the envelope. Same cat. Slightly different message: “Snuggle into the holidays vs. Snuggle in for the holidays,” you think, “Whatever.” That penny postage due business still rankles, and you still don’t know who to thank for the irritation of having to find a penny to get the card.

You open the card, and there it is: Andy sprawled on his back and a really nice greeting! Yeah! And the other cat is Dougy.

xmas 2

“That ^$%#@ Doug owes me a ^$#%$ penny!” Yep! Weggieboy sent you an old card with postage due this year! Nice to know you count, eh!?

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May you have a blessed Christmas and a great New Year, if I don’t get around to it later this week. And don’t worry! I’ll give you a penny the next time I see you!