Ashes to Ashes (A Progressive Wake)

Today is my 59th birthday. Happy Birthday to me. Last Saturday, I attended a funeral. It’s getting a little close to home.

The only way for me to deal with death is to laugh. I hate death. I hate sadness. I don’t like crying. I don’t like being in a room with lots of sad people. So, I want to prevent that at my funeral.

Now, some may say it’s unlikely there will be much sadness at my funeral, but I’m trying to be optimistic.

I don’t want a preacher with a couple of readings and a generic homily with my name stuck in a few places.

I don’t want a “Celebration of Life” since that just means “boring-ass funeral.”

So, I want my services to be fun (or at least different.)

One of the interesting (or bizarre) aspects of cremation is that the ashes don’t have to end up in only one container. More than one of the bereaved can receive a portion of the deceased as a memento (“souvenir” seemed crass.) For an extra fee, you can have ashes sealed in a locket, so you can match your relatives to your outfit.

This has been discussed twice now, coincidentally at two different Italian funerals. This is why so many Churches in Italy have so many pieces of so many Saints. Divide and conquer.

I am planning to be cremated when my time comes, and hopefully not before. Since I am not a small person, there may be an excess of ashes. So, this is my last request, which my wife predictably refuses to honor.

Wait for my wife to be acquitted of my murder on grounds of temporary (or permanent) insanity.

Cremate me. First, put some microwave popcorn in my pockets so I have a snack while crossing the River Styx, then cremate me.

Divide my ashes into ten urns. There aren’t ten people who care enough to want a piece of me – again, see the Italians: “You wanna piece of me?” – but they’re not for people, they’re for pubs. They’re the stops on my progressive wake. A progressive wake is a pub crawl to the Hereafter.

Mark the urns:

  1. Trinity Hall
  2. Dubliner
  3. The Ginger Man
  4. The Old Monk
  5. Adair’s Saloon
  6. Lakewood Landing
  7. Meddlesome Moth
  8. Hillside Tavern
  9. The Londoner
  10. Flying Saucer

Deliver each urn to the appropriate pub. (I didn’t choose any outside the Metroplex or on a cruise ship, so this should be doable on an afternoon.) The delivery person might want to wrap the urn in a box and address to me, with a good tip to the bartender and a promise that it will be picked up quickly. This would probably be more acceptable than to ask, “Can we leave a small jar of dead guy here for a few hours?”

Now, you (my mourners) are ready to hold the progressive wake.

At my memorial service, hand each of the five or six people that show up a map with all the pubs marked. You could also show them the map at the bottom of this discussion, or give them a link to this page.

Call an Uber or two for the participants (don’t drink and drive!)

  • Visit a listed pub.
  • Bonus points for calling “Bring out your dead!” as you enter.
  • Drink the suggested drink (see the map) – or whatever, it’s not like I’m there to judge. (Well, part of me is there, but I won’t judge.)
  • Tell an amusing story about me. After a few drinks, just make something up.
  • Collect the urn.
  • Tip the bartender.
  • Repeat.

Once all the pubs are visited and all the urns collected, return to the memorial service. Apologize to the hosts from the funeral home for the slight delay.

Record any eulogies that are given. If the participants followed the spirit(s) of the Progressive Wake, they may be good blackmail material or at least they will be funny.

Dump all the little urns into one big-ass urn. Have someone with allergies do this, so there will be some tears at the service, after all.

Bury me none on the lone prairie.

Progressive Wake

Unemployed Pirate

I have decided that I am an unemployed pirate. It is an interesting job. Well, it’s not really a job, if I’m unemployed. I suppose I’m an unemployed chef, as well, because I made fish sticks for lunch.

Unemployed Pirate
Ye Host, The Unemployed Pirate

Jimmy Buffet said, “Yes, I am a pirate … 200 years too late”, and I know the feeling. I want to be a pirate. However, the hours aren’t that good, there’s apparently lots of work, and you might get killed or imprisoned.

It seems much simpler (and safer) to just take a cruise, demand drinks and food from the cheerful staff, and say, “Thank ye, matey!” when your order is delivered. I’m pretty sure most pirate ships didn’t have room service.

Still, it seems like putting “Pirate” on a resume (or a business card) would stand out as a desired position, and then you would also have the advantage of writing off all your vacation cruises as job training. Tax piracy is still piracy, right?

So, take a GPS on your next cruise. There’s probably one built into your phone. Track your coordinates as you travel from port to port. Now, you’re a navigator. Sure, you probably need to know how to read paper charts and use a sextant, but that’s just if you forget to charge your phone.

Tell your mate to go get you a drink. If you get a drink, you’re the Captain. If you’re told to get your own damn drink, you’re probably just the First Mate. Just don’t ever both wear T-shirts with your “ranks.” It’s very non-pirate.

Yes, I am a pirate. I’m simply unemployed, and I would like a pirate job with decent hours, a medical plan more extensive than just an eye patch and a hook, room and board, and a good chance of advancement. I’d also like a retirement plan a bit more extravagant than a stud earring. Oh, and little chance for arrest.

How much is it worth?

Everyone has food memories from their childhood. Some even have happy food memories.
If you’re like me, and you’re living in the city where you grew up, you may still be able to relive your childhood memories. The only time you can’t is when the place closes. (I really miss Kip’s Big Boy, but I have Frisch’s Big Boy when I visit my grandkids in Ohio.)
I think food memories are hardest on people exiled from their childhood homes (sometimes by choice) where the food is still available, you just can’t get there from here. This is especially true if you are from a cultural background that reveres food.
The Spousal Unit is from Brooklyn and she is Brooklyn Italian. She is … opinionated about food. If you want to get her going, just call “pasta” “noodles” or tell her if she needs pizza, Dominos can be here in a half-hour, and if she really needs an Italian food fix, there’s always the Olive Garden.
Never mention Olive Garden – except to her sisters, who inexplicably like it.
This week, in earth-shaking news, DaVinci Pizzeria, the Spousal Unit’s favorite pizzeria in Brooklyn (and therefore in the world) started shipping their pizza. Shipping, as in having FedEx deliver pizza to anywhere they can reach in two days that is willing to pay the rather pricey shipping charges. (Frozen food requires two-day shipping, which is not cheap.) You can order online, which takes some of the fun out of calling for pizza, but it works. 
DaVinci has Sicilian pizza, which is not pizza. It’s a very thick crust, and you don’t get slices, you get squares. It reminds me of Chicago deep-dish pizza, but I don’t say that out loud, because I want to live.
So, while my wife was reveling in the pizza of her childhood arriving on her doorstep, a lot of other people are complaining directly to the pizzeria on their Facebook page about how much it costs.
These were my (slightly-edited) thoughts which I posted, but their page is wisely moderated, so we’ll see if they think it’s worth posting – it’s a defense of small business and a plea to just mind your own beeswax if you think someone has their priorities out of whack:
To everyone complaining about shipping costs, I feel your pain. As the husband of a Brooklyn expatriate, I have had 19+ years of “You don’t understand! You can’t get that here! I NEED IT.”
 
I’ve only been to DaVinci Pizza once – we were visiting my wife’s family and friends in the area, so we went for lunch. My wife was taking photos of all the food with her cell phone. One of the staff asked if she wanted a picture of the two of us. She said, “Why would I want that? I just need photos of the food.”
 
Any food shipped to Texas from New York is insanely expensive – but it’s mostly the shipping costs, with the possible exception of Junior’s Cheesecake – and they’re relatively famous, so they have volume in their favor. Pastosa Ravioli will ship, but the shipping costs more than the pasta. We tried to order cookies for my wife’s Aunt in Florida once, and decided we just didn’t love her that much. 
 
My only salvation is Jimmy’s Food Store  in East Dallas who has owners that import some critical Italian necessities (as in the aforementioned Pastosa Ravioli.) So, if you’re in Dallas, go to Jimmy’s. Tell them Kevin sent you. 
 
Here’s the issue that Mom and Pop businesses run into – the stores don’t set the shipping rates. They either absorb them which kills their profit or pass them on which annoys their potential customers. Sure, you can ship more slowly, but the food won’t arrive edible. I did think $80+ shipping to get $100 of pizza to Dallas was a bit insane, but it’s cheaper than us flying to Brooklyn and having my wife discover all the other stuff she needs to take home. (It’s also cheaper than a two-day UberEats delivery with the pie in the back of a random driver’s car.) 
 
So, I had really, really good Sicilian pizza last night and a calzone for lunch today, and my wife is happy (Happy wife, well, happy wife.) However, I know my late mom-in-law will put in a good word for me on Judgement Day because I got her favorite child (well, except for her Shih-Tzu) a real Brooklyn Sicilian pizza and I ate a proper calzone.
I didn’t really have much of a choice – I saw the announcement that they were shipping, and I told my wife, so it’s my fault, anyway. My only fear was adding up the costs, and wondering what would happen if it arrived and it sucked.
It didn’t suck.
It may be too expensive for some. However, if it brings someone’s childhood back, even for a moment, that’s worth it.

A Tale of Two Cities

I’ve been in Dallas most of my life, and as much of my travel has been for business, I usually visit cities that are relatively easy connections. However, visiting the relatives can be a different story. I speak of two of my favorite “cities”, Cedarville, Ohio, and D’Hanis, Texas.

Editor’s Note: This is a filtered brain dump of a bunch of research I did in the middle of the night. So, whether or not it’s coherent is probably in the eye of the beholder. (As always, if you read something I wrote and think, “That is profound!”, please call my wife and ask for her neurologist’s name. She has a lot of specialists.) 

Here’s the ways I usually travel:

  • Ship. Fun. Relaxing. Requires deep water. (So much for Dallas.)
  • Plane. Pain. More Pain. Expensive Pain. Pretty fast, though.
  • Train. Faster than my wife’s driving. Might not be as fast as mine. 24×7 travel. Limited stops. Usually visit Chicago.
  • Bus. 24×7 travel. Small towns. Get to see a mob of people descend on a McDonalds every few hours (“Buses Welcome!”) Spousal Unit refuses to ever ride one again (something about riff-raff touching her.)
  • Car. Back-seat drivers (often in the front seat.) Stress. Highways. Rest Stops. Overnight Stops. Souvenir Stops. Still more fun than the bus.

And now, our two citites.

Cedarville

We’re thinking of visiting the grandkids later this year, and we’re thinking “roadtrip.” I believe they used to drive straight through (ah, youth!), but we’ll stop somewhere for a night along the way. (Memphis is about half-way.)  Two nights in a hotel are cheaper than flights, we don’t have to rent a car, and it’s not like I can’t afford the time right now.

There are two airports within an hour or so of the kids’ place, even though Cedarville is not a large town. (There are a number of universities in the area, so there are students to consider.)

Train service is really bad in Ohio. Cedarville is close to Dayton (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) and Columbus (Ohio State and it’s the freakin’ capital) but neither is on the Amtrak network. (Amtrak was my cruise before I found ships.)

The closest bus service is Springfield and we’ve stayed in Springfield before, so it’s not really that far. (Still, there’s a university in Cedarville. Today’s kids don’t ride the bus? The bus has WiFi onboard, so you could live blog it.)

So, you fly to Dayton, take the train to Cincinnati, take the bus to Springfield, or just drive.

This time we’ll drive.

D’Hanis

My first thought when presented with the transportation options to Cedarville was, “Geez, even D’Hanis has bus service.” Now, D’Hanis is small. It’s unincorporated. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Wikipedia lists it as a “human settlement.” It’s my spiritual home (well, one of them.) It’s also my Mom’s hometown.

The closest airport is Hondo (one town to the east), which is a regional airport (and former Army Air Force training base) so there’s no commercial traffic. My Dad flew in there once in a private plane, and had to wait two days for the weather to clear before he could leave again (instrument ratings are good to have.) The closest “real” airport is San Antonio. Let’s just say people go to the Hondo airport more for the restaurant than the flights.

D’Hanis had train service when my Mom was growing up – in fact, when the first train line was built in Medina County (in 1881) and bypassed the town, they just moved the town closer to the tracks. (This is why there is technically an Old D’Hanis and a New D’Hanis.) By the time I was riding Amtrak for fun, the Sunset Limited passed through town, but the closest stop was San Antonio. I had to stay up late to see D’Hanis from the train, since we passed through before the crack of dawn, but I did manage to see the town – just for a second. Again, it’s a small town. I also found D’Hanis in the 1954 Southern Pacific timetables, so the Sunset Limited stopped there at one point, on the eastboound and westbound runs.

D’Hanis had Greyhound service and the Kerrville Bus Line which was a Continental Trailways affiliate. I actually rode the Kerrville Bus to HemisFair ’68 with my Mom and little brother, who got car-sick. (Bus-sick?) Greyhound absorbed Continental Trailways years ago, and the Kerrville Bus just goes to college towns and casinos now (an interesting market plan.) However, Greyhound seems to be routing on I-10 instead of US 90, so they don’t stop in D’Hanis any longer. So, no more bus service. Ouch.

So, now you have to go to San Antonio to get anywhere. That hasn’t changed much, it’s just now you can’t get to San Antonio.

So, D’Hanis is off the grid. Unless you have a truck. (Pretty much everyone has a truck, but still.)

This really distressed me. It took a while to figure out why, but then I realized that D’Hanis was the place I always knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 (bus fares kept going up!) I would get off the bus, and go mooch off call on my relatives. By the time they realized it was more than a visit, I would be moved in. D’Hanis was the place my late grandmother once said I could be buried if I “died alone” because there were extra slots next to her and my Granddad. (I think she was comforting me after my divorce, since that was the last time I was alone.) Sweet and morbid at the same time. (That’s pretty much the definition of my family.)

Cedarville was the place I knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 and the kids would give me a cup of coffee and point me to D’Hanis. So it goes.

This also means neither town will ever be in a country song. If you can’t get out of town, you can’t be in the song. It’s in the rules.

Stayin’ Alive

The job search continues. It’s been a bit busier lately, but nothing of substance yet. There were a couple that were close, but not close enough. I’m still looking at random alternatives, and there are a lot of sites that seem to think I would be a really good Uber driver. There are also a plethora of recruiters who seem to be keyword-matching my resume to jobs and then asking to present me – if I send them a copy of my resume. Uh, how did you think I was a fit for the job? Maybe I should start a recruiting company.

We’re not going to sell the house and get an RV since the Spousal Unit has decided she’s probably afraid to drive an RV. Luckily, she determined this before we dropped a hundred fifty grand on a rig (and sold the house), so I have that to be thankful for.

I’m also thankful that this year can’t possibly be as bad as last year. (Yes, I realize that is a challenge to the universe.) However, I realize that every other time I thought I had hit rock bottom, I bounced, and then fell further, but I’m pretty sure that losing a job after 19 years (“retiring”) is about as low as it can go. If nothing else, I outlasted the co-op who also wanted to retire as an IBMer. Also, technically, I retired. On the bright side, it was a job I really hated. I didn’t hate the job, I just couldn’t handle the politics. So, if you need a program manager and you’re at a company that’s too small to have politics and turf wars take up most of the productive time, call me.

So, I’m still alive. The dogs still like me as long as I cough up the snacks. I can still work, if somebody needs a presales technical engineer who can learn a product in a week or two and be presenting to customers the week after that. I’m constantly amazed that even though I’m apparently very old, companies seem to be choosing millennials over me, especially since I’ve seen millennials almost pass out while doing a presentation, and use instant messaging to ask a question of someone in the same conference room. For the record, I’ve never passed out doing a presentation, and I just ask questions if I don’t know something.

So, my New Year’s resolution is to survive until 2019. It’s one of my poorer resolutions, but hopefully, I can accomplish it.