• Category Archives A F.O.O.L. In New Hampshire
  • My Plans For The Fourth

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    Time to get out my walking shoes.
    I realize that it would make sense to wait until Independence Day next year, but desperate times take desperate measures.
    As you may or may not know, I am facing a serious challenge next year in my run to be the Flatlander Party’s gubernatorial nominee (which, as I often have to explain to folks, means I am running for governor, not guber).
    I don’t usually have any competition for the nomination, but this year I may find myself in the fight of my life for the job. The party hasn’t done well in elections over the years, so the grumbling inside is that there needs to be a change. Seeing that I’m the only one from the party that has run for office over the years then, of course, all the blame falls in my lap.
    A lot of people forget that it was me that started the Flatlander Party, right here on these pages years ago. It’s been me that has suffered the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and took the losses in elections humbly.
    I knew it would take years until we would be properly recognized and I was the one who took on that struggle, knowing that someday we would finally be a force to reckoned with.
    Now, just as we are finally breaking through (I did get seventy-five votes this last election) others want to step from behind the embarrassment curtain they have been hiding behind all these years and now step out into the glory.
    Like the story of the Little Red Hen I read in grammar school, I did all the work while others claimed to have too many other things to do in order help. Now, as our star begins to rise, others want to just step in and eat the bread.
    Still, this is politics and I should have seen it coming. I shouldn’t have expected anything less.
    So, I have some work to do and I need to do it early.
    The Flatlander Party doesn’t have the numbers of the other two major parties, but we do have enough to make a difference. The problem in getting their attention for the primary vote is that they are spread far and wide across the state.
    So, I am kicking it into gear early to get their attention.
    What better way than to march in some Fourth of July parades in some of the cities and towns in New Hampshire.
    I realize I will only make a few of the parades considering travel and timing, but I have hired a few surrogates to march in some others holding signs with my name on it.
    Of course, this all works on the element of surprise and not only will it put me in front of some members of the Flatlander Party early, but it may also get me some much needed, free media coverage.
    No one attending Fourth of July parades this year will be expecting it. On off election years, parade goers line the streets waiting to see the local high school bands march and play, some brave veterans walk by, maybe local police and firefighters, some folks from local organizations that do good around town and even guys in funny hats driving little cars. No one will be expecting a smiley politician to show up.
    Advantage me.
    I’m sure some will be shocked as they see me walk by, waving as if I care. Some will react with boos I’m sure. Maybe a few polite ones wiell give me a smattering of applause.
    One things is for sure though, I will stick out like the sorest of thumbs and I will be noticed. Even my surrogates will make some waves. The media will love it, especially the boos, I’m sure to get free air time out of it.
    Of course, I haven’t been invited, but I’ll make sure to pull off my best Rosie Ruiz and slip into the parades as they turn a corner, my campaign sign ticked neatly into the elastic waist band of my shorts (which come in very handy for more than just an ever-expanding waistline).
    So, if you see me marching in your Fourth Of July Parade, remember I have no choice. A desperate man has to do what a desperate man must do.
    I know you’ll understand.

    ********

    I hope you will join me on July 13th at Pitman’s Freight Room in Laconia for a StorySlam to benefit the NH Humane Society. If you have a story to tell based on the theme “It Seemed Like A Good Idea” please come and put your name in the hat (of course, you’ll need a ticket. After all this is a fundraiser.) For more information see the ad on page 44. Visit “Real Stories North Of Concord” on Facebook or email to realstoriesnoc@gmail.

     

     


  • My Least Favorite Week

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    I know I shouldn’t say it, but I dread this week.
    I realize that this week will always arrive; not much I can do about it. I also realize that it is my own fault, my lack of preparation that makes it harder than it has to be.
    Yes, it is the second week in June here in the Lakes Region and that means only one thing: it’s time to put the air conditioners in the windows again.
    This yearly struggle is nothing I ever look forward to. I put it in the back of my head until the inevitable moment comes when I turn on the TV and hear the frightening news: “It’s going to be a beautiful weekend with temperatures in the 80s and possibly hitting the 90s.”
    I sit and stare at the TV. I’m not surprised, just unnerved a bit. It seems that only last week it was in the 50s and summer heat would never arrive. After all, it is a short season. Maybe, I thought, I’ll get lucky this year and we will have a cold, rainy summer.
    But, like my hopes for a New York Jets Super Bowl victory, it only takes a few weeks into the real season to realize that those hopes will once again be dashed.
    In fairness to me, I did do a bit of preparation ahead of time. I went to a local hardware store and bought some insulation as well as the tiny screws to hold the air conditioners in place that I can never find the day of the actual installation.


    Still, the thought that I would never have to use them crossed my mind. That would have been fine; there is always next year.
    Of course, that wasn’t to be and the bad news from the weatherman with the overbearing smile confirmed to me it was time.
    The windows in our house are wooden and a bit old. They have a series of ancient screens and storm windows on runners that one can spend hours trying to get to open and close correctly. That one being me. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Getting Together

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    I was recently made aware that the 49th year reunion of my grammar school class will be happening next year.
    Yes, grammar school.
    I never even realized there were such things as grammar school reunions.
    I do believe that this might be a new cultural phenomenon brought on by the advent of social media sites such as Facebook.
    There are about twenty-five of us, out of what I would estimate at about a hundred and fifty in the class, who have been found out by the organizer of this event and then innocently invited to be a part of this Facebook group dedicated to our class.


    I went to a Catholic School on Long Island, New York called St. Thomas The Apostle. I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade, so I spent a fair portion of the early formative years of my life with these people. One of the women in the group was actually the first girl I slow danced with at an eighth-grade soiree (of course, as was required by the nuns, keeping room between us for the Holy Spirit).
    These were serious days in a young kid’s life. These were the days years before hair would start to sprout on my face and decades before it appeared in my ears and nose. So much of what happens in these years is imbedded in my psyche.
    As is with Facebook, now that some of these old classmates have joined the group, it gives us license to go spying on each other’s profiles. Though we are living in different parts of the country now and pursuing different directions in life, as I gaze through the profiles there is still one constant that runs through all of them – We are all getting old(er).
    Some of my old classmates have been posting some posed class photos from those days gone by that they have managed to hold onto all of these years. Someone even had a copy of our yearbook, a typewritten and photocopied first and only edition with no photos. I was reminded by one who had held on to this relic that I was voted Most Generous. Not really in the higher echelon of Best Looking or Best Athlete, but at least in the minor leagues of acclamations.
    I had forgotten about that. It made me feel good. A slight sense of immortality. And an award that can stand the test of time.
    Being a Catholic School, we are all decked out in what was our usual attire through those eight years. The boys with their woven, monogrammed ties and white dress shirts and the girls with their plaid monogrammed jumpers with white short-sleeved shirts. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Sudden Summer Syndrome

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    As Memorial Day and the official kick-off to the summer season are upon us here in Central New Hampshire, I am confronted with phone calls from former members of F.A.T.S.O. to help them to deal with the upcoming stresses of the season.
    As you probably know if you read the papers – well, this one anyway – F.A.T.S.O. is a support group I started with my friend Vinnie years ago to help new transplants deal with the stresses of adjusting to their first winters here. It stands for Flatlanders Adjusting to Solitary Oblivion.
    There have been dozens of graduates of the group who have successfully adjusted and now find winter no more than a few months (and in some cases, like this past winter half a year) of a mild inconvenience.
    Still, winter is only one of four seasons here. The other three being Autumn, Motorcycle Week and Summer. (There is a bill in Concord right now to designate Road Work as an additional season. We’ll see how that plays out.)
    Some former F.A.T.S.O. members who have only been a year or two separated for the groups’ umbilical cord, are finding that they are now nicely adjusted to winter, but at the same time are having trouble doing the same with the summer months. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • New Scratch

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    It’s usually around this time of year that I volunteer my time to help educate the youth of our great state.
    Of course, I don’t have a teaching degree so there is nothing I can do in the classroom on a regular basis, but I can help to fund education by coming up with some new ideas for lottery tickets.
    You have most likely heard that the money from the sale of lottery tickets goes towards education. This is a good thing.
    An unintended benefit of lottery tickets is that it also helps keep the convenience store industry afloat as well as keeping the coin department of the U.S. mint in operation. There has been talk of eliminating coins altogether to save money, but when an uproar over what will people use to scratch off their lottery tickets reached Congress, funding for coin production was actualy increased. (Little known fact I got from a guy named Zach on the Internet.)
    Still, there has been controversy over the years.
    For instance, we all know someone who chose not to play responsibly as required by state law and they ended up with either hours of community service or jail time.
    Of course, there have been the protests by environmental groups concerned about the toxic effects of the silver dust scratched off lottery tickets. They claim that science is settled. I’m not convinced though. (I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail about that.)
    Probably the biggest public relations nightmare for the lottery commission was the great scratch ticket riot of 2014.
    It was a summer Saturday afternoon at a popular supermarket near the shores of a famous New Hampshire lake. There were many tourists as well as locals who were stocking up on supplies for the weekend. As is the case on these hectic weekends, many tried to gather 14 items or less to be able to get through the express line faster. Of course, there were a few with well more than 14 items and their part in this is under reported. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • The Battle Ahead

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    It was certainly an uncomfortable afternoon as the existing members of the Flatlander Party got together last Saturday for our yearly Spring Fling brunch.
    Our party’s recent trouncing in the past election for governor has not sat well with many of the longtime party members and folks are antsy for a change.
    The elephant in the room, besides the photos of actual elephants brought back by on member on her recent safari to Africa, was my perennial (and some would say ad naseum) candidacy.
    The Spring Fling brunch is not designed to discuss who the next candidate might be. It is supposed to be a time of fellowship and camaraderie. There are usually a few new possible members there and as we try to grow the party so we realize that talking about our constant failure year after year after year might have the opposite effect.
    Still, there were many whispers among longtime members, gathered in their small cliques, thinking about the future and what changes would be needed to increase our influence in politics in general.
    As in any election, economics was going to play a big part. The funds of the party were small, but investment in the last election was significant and there was still quite a bit of inventory on hand to be considered.
    The party had invested a large sum on having my photograph printed on thousands of oversized cardboard mailers to send out to possible voters across the state. The only problem was that, once the oversized cardboard mailers were paid for, there was no money left in the budget for postage. With this huge inventory lying around, it is going to make it harder to pick a different candidate for the next election.
    There are also lawn signs that were picked up and cleaned off after the dust of the election settled. They are ready to be used again.
    Going into the brunch, I was well aware of what the temperature in the room would be. Add to that the heat from the many Sternos keeping the buffet food lukewarm in the Grange Hall where the event was held and it was rather sticky (as were the scalloped potatoes). Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Getting Used To It

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    Some things just take getting used to.
    Have you gotten one of those new debit or credit cards with a chip in it?
    Supposedly, these are designed to help keep us safer from those evil doers who want to steal our information and go on spending sprees using our cards.
    It seems that this country has been behind the times with these things and we are finally catching up.
    Just in time for the evil doers to have finally figured out how to overcome this nuisance to their livelihood.
    Still, when I first got my new chip card I was pretty excited. After all this was New Hampshire in the middle of the winter and something like this got my blood boiling a bit. I hadn’t been this excited since I purchased my new ergonomically designed snow shovel a few winters ago.
    Of course, like most new things we crave as humans to make us happy, the novelty soon wore off by the second snowstorm. The next winter it was time for a snowblower. Next year, who knows; maybe a new house in Florida.
    I had heard about these chip cards and I was excited to see how they would work.
    My first stop was a local department store to purchase some cat food.


    This in itself was a winter diversion I had planned for a while, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone, a feat I could never accomplish in reality seeing I never had a good pitching arm. (Even if I did, I could never do it.) But, I digress.
    Our cat, Dagny, needed to add a little wet food to her diet so I needed to find which type she would prefer. It would be a process of elimination by purchasing many different types and bringing them home and then, one by one, letting her taste each flavor until she found one to her liking, if at all.
    Unfortunately, we did not have a dog to make quick work of whichever food was not lucky enough to be chosen, so there would be a good deal of waste involved if Dagny couldn’t decided on her preferred flavor right off the bat.
    I must admit I was surprised to see the selection of cat food available. A few dozen flavors. I might have to make several trips until the magic recipe was discovered. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Real Stories

    A Fool In NH Column HeadingI never knew how much I enjoyed telling stories out loud until a few years after my first column was published here in the Weirs Times.
    All of those early columns were stories that had to do with my adjustments to life here in Central New Hampshire after having moved here from Long Island, New York in 1985.
    There was always an underlying theme to these tales of adjustment. It was the fact that a handy person I am not. What were experiences of frustration for me, years later turned into amusing tales.
    Of course, there was sometimes some slight embellishment to make the stories a bit more entertaining, but often there was no embellishment at all; I took some of my more embarrassing moments, moments that I’m sure others would be afraid to admit, and turned them into stories for others to (hopefully) enjoy and maybe have a good laugh at my expense.
    I never regretted for a moment using my own shortcomings to give others a good chuckle. In all honesty, it has been cathartic for me. Now when faced with a task I’d rather not attempt, I do anyway since, succeed or fail, it always makes for a great story.
    A few years after the first stories of my misadventures in raking the roof in winter, buying firewood for the first time and spending a morning at the dump appeared, I was asked by a local group to come and tell my stories in person. This was about seventeen years ago now.
    That first presentation wasn’t very good (a story in itself), Still, I was intrigued enough to want to do it again. It has been said that next to dying, public speaking is the second biggest fear for most people. For me it is having to fix a leaky faucet. I admit I was a bit nervous that first time speaking in front of a crowd, but as the years went by and I was invited by more groups and organizations in telling my tales, I became more comfortable with it and looked forward to the next presentation.
    It encouraged me to publish a couple of books with some of these stories as well and people actually bought them.
    Imagine that! Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • A New Friend

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    You never know what the day will bring.
    A corny enough saying, but so very true.
    Working at the Weirs Times presents me with great opportunities. One, of course, is having the freedom to express myself on this page each week. I can pretty much go wherever I want.
    Another part of my job is to get out on the road on occasion and find people, places and things in New Hampshire that would make for a good feature story.
    I have taken a ride on the Gundalow Piscataqua along the river of the same name, I have experienced a zipline adventure in the White Mountains, had a complete spa day and even spent an afternoon with the infamous Wolfman at Clerk’s Trading Post in Lincoln, to name a very few.
    Even the stories which would seem rather mundane on the surface proved to be much more interesting than you might imagine once I met the people behind them. Along the way I have also gathered knowledge that I never expected.
    Last week, working on the paper you are holding in your hand today, my lone assignment for the week was to drive a couple of miles from the office and take a picture of Bill Carter for the front page.
    The story had already been written years ago by Lorrie Baird and we thought Bill’s story should be repeated. His adventures and sacrifice in World War II are the kind of stories that need to be retold so that new generations can fully understand the sacrifice these young people in the 1949s made to save the world. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Disconnected

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    Last week I gave some ideas in using famous movie quotes to help new transplants, otherwise known as Flatlanders, in adjusting to their first winters here.

    I had no idea at the time what was about to befall us that Tuesday. If I had known in advance about the coming snowstorm I would have included another famous movie line once shouted by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire: “STELLA! STELLA!”
    Of course, this wouldn’t have helped in adjusting to the storm, but it would have provided some good old fashioned primal scream therapy to at least help get through it.
    My household was fortunate enough in not having to endure a prolonged power outage like so many others; in fact, we didn’t have any at all. Though we did lose our TV and Internet for about a day. If I had been given a choice before the storm of which I would rather endure, no lights and heat for three or four days or longer, or no TV or Internet, the choice would have been simple.
    Still, as some suffered through the former, those who only had to endure the latter still didn’t know enough to count their blessings. Finding my way online using just my cell phone (how advanced and yet primitive, depending on your age) I kept track of the progress, or lack thereof, by the cable company in getting life returned to normal – as far as normal is nowadays.
    I got the opportunity to read the various comments by others, most sitting on comfortable couches in their lit and heated homes, moaning and groaning about the cable workers who weren’t working fast enough through downed trees and power lines, howling and dangerous winds and subhuman freezing conditions in getting them back on Facebook and Netflix fast enough.
    These folks were, obviously, connected to the Internet, but not in the way they would like. The inconvenience was apparently unbearable. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Berry Interesting

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    I’m sure I’ll take some grief for this, but if I don’t say something, who will?
    Back about ten years ago I took a lot of heat for questioning the state legislature in quickly passing a bill to make our state fruit the pumpkin (yes, the pumpkin). The idea was presented to them by a group of elementary school students from Harrisville, New Hampshire.
    I wasn’t questioning whether or not the pumpkin should be the state fruit. I was questioning how easily the legislators passed the law. The whole idea behind the kids submitting the idea in the first place was to learn how the legislative process worked. A few legislators who publicly questioned whether or not the pumpkin should be the state fruit were chastised on the floor of the house as well as in the media for being shallow to the children’s feelings after all the work they did in promoting the pumpkin.
    I thought that arguing against the bill was a perfect example of how the legislative process is supposed to work and that by having a fight over what the state fruit should be would teach a more valuable civics lesson to the kids than just passing the bill with no questions so as not to hurt any feelings.

    I found myself also grouped with those who were being insensitive to the feelings of the children.
    Not really fair.
    This week I am here to defend the pumpkin. It has been officially designated as our state fruit and I am fine with that. I’m not one to make a stink if things don’t go the way I wanted (there’s too much of that going on already).
    It is new legislation introduced this year that got me thinking.
    Now it is being considered, if not already decided as I write this, to make the blackberry the state berry.
    Huh?
    Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Some Things

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    A couple of weeks back I confessed that I didn’t have many ideas to write about. This week it’s a different story. It seems that being outside in the fresh air, cleaning up after yet another snow storm, can really clear out the mind and the sinuses.
    Here are a few ideas and random thoughts I had that I would like to share with you.

    The National Weather Service gives names to every tropical depression and hurricane. The Weather Channel even gives names to winter storms. I suggest we give numbers to bad weather systems and people’s names to nice weather systems. I think that forcing some folks to always being reminded of having the same name as devastating storm (I’m talking about all you Sandys out there) is a psychological burden. Instead we should be lifting people up by having their names related to something nice. ( “Pleasant system Brendan will be over our area for the next several days making for great weather. We are keeping an eye on system number 5647 which could being heavy rains and winds next weekend.”)

    Speaking of weather, I think it would be a good idea that the weather folks should stop predicting snow in estimated inches like “six to ten inches” leaving us to wait and see where in this range it will fall. Instead they should predict it in levels of aggravation. For instance, 1-3 inches would be “no aggravation,” 4-6 inches would be “bit of a pain”, 6-10 inches would be “okay, that’s enough” and 10 plus inches would be “A giant pain in the butt.” So, weather forecasts could go something like: “Laconia will have no aggravation from this storm while it will be a bit of a pain for the seacoast and a giant pain in the butt for the White Mountains.” I think this would help us all mentally prepare a little better and not be so focused on the specifics of inches. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • You Have No Idea

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    I hate to admit it, but I am at a loss about what to write in this week’s column.
    I’m sitting here at a local sandwich shop eating a turkey sub / hoagie / grinder / hero (to cover bases of all those who are strong supporters of politically correct sandwich names), yellow note pad at the ready, just waiting for the flood of inspiration to come forth like some long, dormant volcano. I have been here for a while now and nothing much is happening, unless you count the mayonnaise dripping off my chin.
    I’m not really sure what it is that is keeping me without any ideas. Maybe it’s this stretch of arctic weather we’ve been having after such a nice long stretch of above average temperatures. I haven’t gone outside much, so there hasn’t been much I’ve seen to inspire me.
    Even inside there hasn’t been much to fuel a creative idea. Nothing’s been broken in the house for me to make worse by trying to fix it which is always good for a column or two.
    I was going to write about the latest meeting of F.A.T.S.O., my winter support group to help new transplants adjust to their first winters here, but we had to cancel because it was too cold and there was a threat of bad weather. (Some of them just don’t get it.)
    I could write about the latest happenings with the legislature in Concord, but it’s been pretty much the same ole, same old. The same old legislator wants to try and pass the same old casino bill..again…Zzzzz. (I am told just a couple more years of trying this and this legislation will make it into the Guinness Book for most failed attempts….Now that might be a column.)
    I could chime in about all of the protests and yelling and screaming that have been going on across the country since the last election, but I won’t. You can thank me later. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Don’t Panic

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    If you are like me you are a six-foot two bald guy. If you don’t fit that description, than you might be like me if you are old enough to remember the days when you would be strolling through the parking lot of the local supermarket and would be aroused from your reverie by the honking of a car horn.
    You would stop and turn to try and see where the honk came from. More often than not it could be traced to a car where sitting behind the wheel might be a friend or neighbor that you have not seen in a while.
    You might wave your hand and give a smile in recognition or, if the mood strikes you, walk over and reconnect in conversation.
    Those days have long since gone. Now when we walk through the parking lot our ears are filled with the various sounds of not only honks, but beeps and whistles as those there with us are pressing the buttons on their key fobs to lock their car doors.
    No longer do we look up when we hear the noise. No longer do our Pavlovian instincts lift our heads in anticipation of a greeting from another human. We just take the sound of the honks and beeps and whistles with a grain of salt and keep our heads down and go about our business. If someone was trying to get our attention we would never know.
    Of course, we will look up when one of those others holding the key fob and not paying attention, accidentally presses the panic key, setting off a flurry of whoops and screeches and flashing car lights. I have often thought of using this method when recognizing an old associate across the parking lot but have thought better. Continue reading  Post ID 2893


  • Take The Quiz

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    The start to this winter as well as the labor crunch going on here in New Hampshire has made it increasingly difficult to staff the offices of F.A.T.S.O.
    Many of you know what F.A.T.S.O. stands for, but due to new federal regulations put in place by the Secretary of Acronyms under The Bureau of Linguistics which was formed in 2013, I am required to explain at least once each time I introduce it in a column.
    F.A.T.S.O stands for Flatlanders Adjusting To Solitary Oblivion and is a winter support group to help new transplants to New Hampshire adjust to their first winters here.
    It’s a twelve step program with only eight steps to make it easier. After all, there is enough to worry about.
    Last year’s mile winter helped us to get by with a small staff of five. The lack of calls for assistance made it very manageable. Still, we knew that things would be different if the next winter turned out to be cold an snowy.
    And here we are.
    We are fortunate that many of our members are adjusting nicely and don’t need our help as much. It is the influx of new transplants that causes us concern. We would love to be able to help everyone (and collect that nice membership fee) but we know that we will never be able to accommodate all applicants fairly.
    So, we are now requiring that all new Flatlanders needing help with their winter adjustments here take a short quiz so as to help us decide who really needs our help and who will most likely be able to manage to figure out for themselves.
    The quiz will consist of twenty multiple choice questions as well as one essay question.
    Some of the multiple choice questions are:

    Frost Heaves are:
    a) An Intestinal Disease
    b) The latest Ben & Jerry’s Flavor
    c) SLOW DOWN!
    Continue reading  Post ID 2893