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Archive for the ‘Maryland’ Category

(from 1999)

Last week I purchased a golf “driving net” and set it up in my back yard. With it, I will hone my golfing skills to the brink of perfection and beyond. My fingers were trembling as I teed up my first golf ball.

“Whack!”

The ball careened wildly off the top of the net and shot straight up over my backyard fence at a little over 400 miles per hour. About ten seconds later (and two blocks away), I heard a distinct “TWOP!” as the ball landed on a distant neighbor’s roof. Then, a “CLANK!” as it tumbled into an aluminum gutter.

Somewhere in the distance, a bird chirped.

I decided to move the tee box closer to the net.

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(from a former life in Maryland)

Last week I decided to mow my lawn for the first time this year. Normally, this takes about ten minutes.

Let me digress.

Since I mowed hundreds and hundreds of lawns as a teenager, I now hate mowing lawns, especially my own. It’s that simple. So a couple of years ago I bought a very large, over-powered riding lawn tractor even though I have an incredibly small yard. Tim the Tool Man has nothing on me.

RARrfff! RARrfff! RARrfff!

It was with this 52-inch-wide cut lawn tractor in mind that I landscaped my lawn with gentle contours and vast areas of mulch suitable for a one shot (ten minute) lawn mowing operation. I installed a gimbal-mounted sailboat cup holder on the dashboard of the mower which allows me to sip a favorite brew while skimming very quickly across the terrified blades of grass. There’s only time to drink ONE of them. If you hurry.

The lawn tractor’s battery was dead, however. To be expected. I hooked up a charger and pulled a few weeds. Three hours later the mower cranked up smoothly. Then — ran out of gas.

The gas can was empty. When I returned from the gas station and filled the tank, I noticed the flat tire. I jacked up the mower and removed the flat tire, again visiting the same gas station, where I filled the tire to the optimal pressure…

At long last the lawn tractor was ready to tackle my yard. Thoughtfully, I decided to check the oil level, which was low. Very low. Like, as in empty, because I had drained the oil at the onset of winter. I remembered doing that. A third trip to the gas station to buy a couple quarts of oil. Finally — with a cold beer nestled in the sailboat cup holder — I plopped down in the captain-chair seat, adjusted my amber ski glasses just so, and attempted to start the engine.

The battery was dead all over again. The charger hadn’t helped. Screw that. This time, a trip to Sears, where I bought a new one.

It was almost dark when I finished mowing my ten minute lawn. But that’s okay. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have noticed the burned-out headlight. But that could wait until next week.

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(circa 2000)

Several years ago I became worried I had contracted some weird skin disease. Every morning when I looked in the mirror, the face of the guy that stared back at me was covered with red specks. For a while I jokingly referred to them as “Morning Pox”. Then one day the red specks escalated to the top of my bald head.

“Tim,” the doctor began, delivering one of the most frighteningly common yet worthless diagnoses ever: “We can find absolutely NOTHING wrong with you. You’re as healthy as a young bull!

That same week I visited Mom in Florida, spending 14 days in the sunshine, blue skies, and resulting bliss, during which time symptoms of the dreaded Morning Pox disappeared completely. Dapper, tanned, and blemish-free, I returned home to where, the very next day Morning Pox resurfaced.

Thus began a progressive obsession of analyzing my lifestyle. Absolutely nothing was overlooked. I came up with — nothing. And then, one day, I discovered itsy-bitsy microscopic quill tips poking through the backing of my feather pillow cases. Could this be the source of the Morning Pox scourge?

Indeed it was.

I traced the onset of my affliction to the very day I had purchased several feather pillows ON SALE at Montgomery Wards. Seems like those CHEAP quills were incessantly piercing holes in my cherub-like complexion, night after night, while I tossed and turned in the shadowland of sleep.

Morning Pox went away the moment I threw out those cheap pillows and purchased a set of top-quality (and very expensive) goose down pillows from an over-priced, yet reputable dealer. It was worth the price.

The lesson I learned? (see link’s “# 1”) Don’t skimp on something you use every day for a full one-third of your life.

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There goes the neighborhood.

A number of years ago my neighbors decided to raise pigeons in a coop that was located very close to my driveway. (We’re talking a poorly-zoned suburban setting here.) On hot summer days the coop wafted really nasty pigeon poop smells into my yard and worse if my screen doors and windows were open. From time to time, these good folks would cull their pigeon flock in a gruesome backyard event by butchering and freezing the tiny birds, a practice with which I have no problem if you happen to be living on a farm or in the country. The pigeon flock was frequently freed from the coop in an effort to enforce the homing instinct, or, I suppose, to exercise the flesh before committing to the freezer.

Unfortunately, the pigeons always seemed to find their way home, much to the dismay of the entire neighborhood.

Pigeons from Hell.

On one such day, I neglected to close my vehicle’s windows, which resulted in a flurry of mysterious white droppings and pigeon feathers scattered all over my back seat, and hours of cleanup effort. Seems like one of those damned pigeons made a shortcut visit before returning to the coop. About two weeks later I began to notice a very unpleasant odor whenever using the vehicle. I searched everywhere, but discovered nothing. The odor soon subsided.

A year passed. That’s when I discovered a tiny, mummified pigeon carcass stuffed underneath the front passenger seat.

So much for shortcut visits before returning to the coop.

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Flip Flop

(circa 1989)

The office computer where I work is a dog. It is about 20 times slower than my personal computer at home. And we won’t even talk about the work computer’s sub standard, syrup-slow dialup Internet speed, which is like pouring frozen molasses down a clogged drain and waiting for the last drip to drop. Or its 256 K of memory. I can brew a pot of coffee while waiting to see the Weather Channel’s National Radar picture. And heaven forbid if I accidentally click on the ANIMATED Doppler link. Incoming junk mail often takes up to 20 minutes to download.

I hate my computer at work.

When I get home I boot up MY computer first thing just to get into an UN-office state of mind. Zip. National Weather comes up in 2 seconds. Zap. MS Word loads instantly. Zing, zang, I’m happier than a mouse in a cheese factory.

On the other hand, I recall a time several years ago when my office computer was much, MUCH faster than my home computer. That was back when even mediocre computers cost thousands of dollars. I loved going to work. A twenty megabyte hard drive and a 12 megahertz processor waited for me every morning, a sweet mistress waiting for input. What’s not to like? Back then I hated going HOME. I rarely used my computer at home for anything other than writing. WordStar 2.0 and a 10 megabyte hard drive.

Funny how times change. Zip, zang. Flip, flop. I hate my computer at work.

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Tim says: Below is the first ever Simply Tim, introduced by Rich on July 28, 1998.
Rich’s Note: You’ve heard me mention my friend Tim and his tribulations. I received the following from him recently:

“THE FISHING TRIP”

Last Friday one of the guys at the Harbor Inn invited me to go striper (rockfish) fishing on Sunday. He said to meet him at his dock at 6 AM sharp and to make sure I had a valid rockfish stamp on a valid Maryland fishing license. “Be on time,” he said. I drove all over town Saturday hunting down the required licenses. It took four hours, but I was ready. That night I could hardly sleep.

Sunday morning.

As an afterthought, I stopped on my way to the fisherman’s dock to pick up a bag of ice and a gallon of drinking water just in case. The pit stop was on the way and took two minutes. I pulled up to the dock at exactly 6:02 AM. The V-shape wake from the departing boat was still washing gently across the cove. I watched the thirty-footer slide effortlessly into the main river channel and disappear around a grassy point.

Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.

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The Mower Myth

(circa 2005)

I decided to purchase a riding lawnmower a number of years ago while living in Maryland. My first choice was a Sears Craftsman. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I had $1,700 in my wallet. I had already decided I would spend every penny of it on a good tractor and whatever accessories $1,700 would buy. I buzzed into the Sears showroom like a bumblebee in search of a flower, and after a while, there it was: the DREAM machine that I was going to take home.

Or so I thought.

I waited patiently for a salesman to approach, but none seemed interested. At some point I noticed two salespeople talking among themselves at a nearby register. As I approached, one wandered away and the other one looked at his watch. “Hey, there,” I greeted the man. “I’m here to buy a lawnmower.”

The salesperson looked at his watch again. “Sir,” he said. “I’m just about to get off work. Do you mind waiting for the next salesman? He should be coming on duty any moment now.”

I was beside myself. “You see this?” I asked the salesidiot, opening my wallet and fanning through 17 one-hundred dollar bills. “I was going to buy THAT riding lawnmower right over there. All I needed was to be rung up. But NOW you can kiss my money goodbye and I will NEVER buy a Craftsman ANYTHING again.” I walked out of the store and drove immediately to Montgomery Wards, where I purchased an outstanding Scotts’ Turf Master, 15 horsepower, 43-inch, 4-wheel steering lawn tractor.

Or so I thought.

After several years of happy mowing, I needed a replacement mower part — a cable that affixes to the mower deck and attaches to a lever that raises and lowers the cutting depth. After about an hour of useless Google searches, I visited the Scotts website, where I uncovered a customer service telephone number hiding way down in the fine print. Telephonetime passed (as telephonetime often does) before reaching a human being. “I’m sorry,” said the customer service person, “but Scotts doesn’t actually MAKE lawnmowers. MURRAY makes them and we just stick our name on them.”

“But, but,” I stammered. “By golly, that sucks! I used to own a Murray mower that died after only two years!”

“You know, sir,” consoled the Scotts’ representative without missing a beat, “I agree — it really does suck. May I have your zip code, please, so I can give you the number to the nearest Murray parts-dealer in your area?”

I bit my lip until it bled, and gave him my North Carolina zip code. I was rewarded with a toll-free number. Sure enough, a bona fide “Scotts” parts dealer (in OHIO) answered the phone. Ohio is pretty darn close to my zip code, right? “That cable will be $6.75, Mister Lee,” he said, after a few minutes of parts number lookup. “Plus $8 shipping and handling.” I bought TWO of them.

The fact that I can purchase what I believed to be a “Scotts” lawnmower and end up with a Murray irks me to no end. How can they do that? Is a Ford a Ford? I know, I know — just look at kitchen appliances: Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag: whom makes which ones?

To be fair, I like my Scotts Turf Master no matter who made it. I wish it were truly a SCOTTS, though. But I’m sure glad it isn’t a Craftsman. Then again, who knows? Maybe it is.

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