Feature Contributors

The Deafening Event of 2024

The title sounds almost scary, but truly it is not. 2024 is a special year in the realm of entomology. It is the year that two broods of cicadas emerge at the same time. The last time this happened in our area was in 1802 when Thomas Jefferson was President approximately 221 years ago.

No, this does not mean that cicadas are taking over the world. But there will be more cicadas visible at the same time, especially in Indiana and Illinois where these two broods overlap. The two Broods are Brood XIX, the Great Southern Brood, which emerges every 13 years and Brood XIII, the Northern Illinois Brood, which emerges every 17 years. During the great convergence of these two species of cicadas there will be literally millions of these guys all over trees, bushes, sidewalks and streets coming out to greet mates. The next time this event will happen will be in 2245.

Cicadas spend most of their lives in the soil just waiting to emerge. There is nothing really dangerous or damaging about these cicadas. You may see lots of cicada shell casings attached to trees, bushes, and buildings. The males are the only one of the species that even makes a noise, but when he does, he wants all the females to know that he is in the mood for courtship. In fact, a male can create a song reaching 100 decibels which is equitant to a lawnmower or sound of a subway train. 

Many think cicadas are locusts, and the terms are often used interchangeably. But our periodical cicadas here are NOT really locusts. A locust is a different insect that is closely related to the grasshopper. In Africa and other parts of the world, the locust can decimate crops and vegetation by Biblical proportions anything that is in their swath of movement. 

Here is the takeaway about the 2024 Cicada Event.

  1. Emergence happens when the soil temperature reaches about 60-65 degrees. (This is normally sometime in June or maybe July.)
  2. There will be temporary noise pollution for some and/or a wonderful sound of nature for others.
  3. Emergence will provide a protein rich food supply for many predators including birds which will then increase in population.
  4. Dead cicadas will provide nitrogen rich products which benefits our ecosystem.
  5. There will be a bunch of Cicadas. 

Enjoy this wonder of nature.

Column: Will Shelbyville's new apartments be sold as vacation timeshares?

Dear readers,

My stack of unopened mail gets bigger every week. I can’t print all your letters, but if you mention “The Helbing” it does increase your chances.

Let’s get started. Today’s letter isn’t going to open itself.

Dear Kris,

The Helbing was glistening in the sun as my wife and I exited the Blue Agave Mexican restaurant last week. As I looked at the sculpture, I suddenly perceived the essential meaning held within the twisted stainless steel. In that moment, I gained an appreciation for that magnificent sculpture. I finally saw the clouds and rain appear within the twisted metal.    

I tried to get my wife to see it too. After a few minutes standing there in the parking lot, she said, “OK, I see it.”

I could tell that she really didn’t see it yet. It reminded me of those three dimensional pictures that were included in the funny papers years ago.  After staring at the page, it was unbelievable how the picture really looked three dimensional. Unfortunately, just like George Costanza, my wife could never see those either.    

 

 

I wanted to help her see the clouds and rain in the sculpture. I tried pointing to parts of the sculpture, but she just got mad. She finally admitted that she hadn’t seen it. She said she had claimed to have seen it just to shut me up, so that we could go home. Finally, she took the keys and insisted on driving. She claimed that I was imagining the clouds and rain in the sculpture because I had drunk too many margaritas. 

I tried to explain to her that Mike Helbing sculpted wind, rain, and water into stainless steel. The official name of the artwork is “Blue River-Wind, Rain, and Water.”

She said that just means Mike Helbing drank too many margaritas too. 

On the ride home, I decided it was time to change the subject. I commented on the progress made on the apartments being built behind the old Porter Pool. My wife suggested that maybe I should investigate putting down a deposit on one with a view of The Helbing.

She said maybe I would be happier living where I could gaze out at all the imaginary things in The Helbing whenever I wanted.

Kris, since you are the resident expert on all things Helbing, I have some questions.  Do you know how much rent will be charged for the apartments with a view of The Helbing?  I’m sure they will cost more than the apartments with only a view of the Cork Liquors store.

Please withhold my name. As my wife put it, “Everyone who spotted you gazing at The Helbing already thinks you’re an idiot. Don’t write a letter to Meltzer’s column and remove all doubt.” 

Dear name withheld by request,

What you experienced was a Helbing epiphany. Congratulations!

Many who began hating The Helbing see it one day in a different light and come to appreciate its artistic value. So, there is still hope for your wife. Here are a few fun facts about The Helbing.

  1. The Helbing weighs as much as 2,917 Schwinn Stingray bicycles.
  2. If the twisted stainless steel of The Helbing were straightened out, it would span the distance from my boyhood home to Morrison Park and back again.
  3. In his youth, artist Mike Helbing, creator of The Helbing, was once suspended from St. Joe for three days by Sister Angeleta. The suspension was a punishment for knowing the correct answer. 

I happened to see Mayor Scott Furgeson at a recent charity event, so I asked him about the cost of renting one of the new apartments. Mayor Furgeson said, “Kris, I haven’t been told yet, but I would think apartments with a view of The Helbing would be twice as expensive.” 

I’m even more optimistic than the mayor. With the increased popularity of our famous sculpture, I don’t think the builder will rent the units with a view as apartments.

I think if you want to wake up with a view of The Helbing you will have to invest in a timeshare!

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Household Foggers -Friend of Foe?

It is common when an insect problem is discovered to run to the store and grab a “bug bomb.” Let us think about this and evaluate whether this is a good idea or not. There are some things that should be considered before spending money on a fogger. Take a cockroach problem for example.

  1. Will a fogger really solve my problem? In the case of cockroaches, a fogger may work against you instead of working to accomplish your goal. Consider this fact. Cockroaches are Cryptic in nature meaning that they hide upwards to 90% of their time in cracks and crevices. They like tight dark places where they feel safe. With that being said, these areas are where the insecticide should be. When a bug bomb is released, the insecticide goes from an area of greater concentration to an area of lesser concentration. This process is called diffusion. In doing this the insecticide spews out and covers everything around the release point but does not enter into cracks and crevices. This is due to atmospheric pressure which is higher outside than inside causing a small breeze to come OUT of a crack instead of inside air with the insecticide being forced into a crack or crevice.
  2. Perhaps a better strategy is to be more surgical in treatments including the use of baits and crack and crevice treatments. If the goal is to get the roaches out of their hiding places, a flushing agent can be used to cause the roach to be forced out of cracks and crevices. These types of treatments are safer and less likely to contaminate large, not targeted areas with pesticides where pets and humans may come in contact.

I admit foggers can be beneficial in other cases, but they are not as effective as one might believe for a cockroach problem. This is not magic, but science. Once we understand how things work, we can be more effective in getting the result we are shooting for. 

Cockroaches have been around for centuries, perhaps thousands of years. They survived the ice age, can build resistance to chemicals, and adapt to changes of the environment.

Don’t let them get the upper hand in your home or property. A good solution is to get involved with a good pest control program to protect what is most important to you - your home and family. Give us a call to discuss options if you need help. 

Knowledge is power!

Column: The story of a lost ten dollar bill

Dear readers,

While looking for something in my desk drawer this week, I found an unopened package of pencils. They weren’t my usual No. 2 Ticonderoga pencils. These pencils had been custom ordered by me 25 years ago.

Neat gold lettering on each pencil said, “Schwinning into the Millennium.”

It was a commonly held belief that all computers would crash at that Y2K moment in time. I had planned on giving out the pencils as a public service. People would need an alternative way to communicate as we entered a dystopian future. As it turned out, the computers didn’t crash.  Like our arsenal of atomic bombs at rest on the top of rockets, my pencils weren’t needed. Better safe than sorry, I always say.

It seems hard to believe that 25 years have passed since I was planning on entering the new millennium. The years I spent in grade school lasted a lot longer. Childhood years are similar to dog years. The six years spent in grade school pass at the same rate as approximately 42 years in adult time.

A phenomenon that explains why friendships made in childhood remain closer than those made as adults. I believe that I remain closer to my childhood friends even if we haven’t socialized in 50 years. 

 

 

Today’s story about the lost $10 bill is from 1965. It might not be exactly 1965. I’m guessing the year by gazing at today’s photo. Look closely at the photo. The tallest boy in the middle is Larry Robertson. Left to right in front of Larry is Mark Jessup, Mike Jessup, and me. The Jessups were our next-door neighbors. Everyone in the photo is still among the living except for Mike. He died this past Nov. 8. 

The Jessups were great next-door neighbors. Mike and Mark’s parents, Stewart and Mary, didn’t mind other kids being over at their house and I spent many hours there.

Stewart worked for the City of Shelbyville. In the summer, he oversaw Sunset Park. We lived closer to Morrison Park, but on most summer days we would all ride our bicycles over to Sunset Park. Mike and Mark would take lunch to their dad. We would stay and play at the park.

In those days there were little grocery stores in every neighborhood in town. Strickler’s was the store in our neighborhood. One evening Mike’s parents gave him a $10 bill and sent him to Strickler’s to pick up a few items. Somewhere between home and the store Mike lost the $10 bill.

Mike rounded up several of us kids to help him look, but we had no luck. After sunset, several adults, flashlights in hand, made a final search for the lost money. My dad, Philip, was one of the adults. Everyone didn’t have a flashlight and Mike was partnered with my dad for one last walk to Strickler’s.

Soon Mike and my dad returned with good news. My dad had found the lost $10 bill. I wasn’t surprised that my dad had found the money.  Philip was always good at spotting mushrooms and Indian arrowheads on the farm.

That is how the $10 bill story ended for the next 55 years. Then my dad died on Aug. 8, 2020. Mike Jessup and I did not stay in touch over the years. A few days after my dad died, I happened to be in the checkout line behind Mike at Kroger. If you shop at Kroger, then you know that we had plenty of time to catch up.

Mike told me that he had fond memories of my dad. He said that he never forgot how my dad gave him a $10 bill that night to replace the one that he had lost. My dad told Mike that he didn’t want him to get in any trouble for losing the money. 

Somewhere in my mind I heard Paul Harvey say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Letters Home: My stay in a Japanese hospital

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who reached out with well wishes after my last column regarding my accident in Amsterdam. Thank you all so much, and rest assured, I am healing more and more each day.

Along with everyone’s well wishes, I received quite a few questions related to Japanese hospitals, my particular stay, and how long I think I will be in the hospital. So, in this column I am going to try to answer as many of those questions as I can.

So many of you have expressed surprise at how long I am staying in the hospital. Americans are especially amazed at how long I am being kept in the hospital. I arrived back to Japan on Jan. 8 and I was immediately admitted into the hospital; my surgery was scheduled for Jan. 19 , then rehab for two weeks post-surgery minimum, in hospital.

It seems that the 19th was the earliest it could be done due to a crowded operating room schedule. Alas, pre-surgery, I was limited in my mobility due to the torn triceps tendon, as a result, even though I followed the doctor’s instructions about moving my legs and toes as much as I could, I developed two blood clots in my legs which traveled through my heart and landed in my lungs. So, this little setback means I must stay in the hospital at least a week longer than anticipated, to try to dissolve these.

So, for over ten days I was in a holding pattern while I awaited my surgery. People were astounded that I wasn’t sent home to await the surgery. This is typical in Japan, and in fact, it is not uncommon for people to spend a month or more in hospital when having a serious condition or surgery that needs treatment. I like that the Japanese healthcare system doesn’t shoo people out as quickly as they can and they allow patients to recover properly under direct supervision of the hospital staff.

 

 

Upon admission, I was given a choice of a shared room with four people, or a private room. The cost difference per day was around $20 more for a private room, which has to be out of pocket, but because I not only have travel insurance, but also a supplementary policy, this will be covered so I opted for a private room. In the U.S. the cost difference is so great that without good insurance a private room would be too expensive to have.

One reader was very interested to know what a typical day entails for me in a Japanese hospital. A patient’s usual day is quite regimented. Things tend to happen like clockwork.  For example, at 7 a.m., a woman comes to serve green tea or water; at 7:15, a nurse’s aide comes in with a hot towel so I can wipe my face. It’s a thick, disposable paper towel called an oshibori. It is refreshing upon waking up first thing and being able to wipe one’s face with a hot towel.

At 7:45, a nurse comes with my morning medication to be taken after breakfast. Promptly at 8 a.m., breakfast is served.  It usually consists of some sort of grilled fish, white rice, and miso soup. Sometimes, a slice of fruit is also on the tray or a gelatin cup. I am not a fish eater, so that is a bit of a problem as most meals have some sort of fish component.

Between 8:20 and 8:30, the breakfast tray is picked up. If you aren’t finished eating, they will allow you more time to finish. Around 9 a.m., a nurse comes to take my vitals (blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen levels). At 10 a.m., a cleaning lady comes through to empty the trash, dry mop then wet mop the floor and just make sure the room is generally clean.

At 11 a.m., the woman comes around with more tea or water in preparation for lunch which is served at noon.  Again, between 12:20-12:30, the tray is picked up. Around 1 p.m., a nurse comes in to take my vitals again, then around 3 p.m. I have rehab. It started out at about 15 minutes, but as I heal the time has increased to about 40 minutes. I still have to use a leg splint for several more weeks, and that means I must use a Japanese walker (see photo). It looks funky, but it works really well and is very sturdy and stable.

Visiting hours are from 2-4 p.m., with a maximum of three people allowed to visit and for only 30 minutes each. Visitors can only be immediate family and they must adhere to all Covid protocols, like getting their temperature taken, filling out a form, and wearing a surgical mask.

A student brought me papers to grade and they almost didn’t let her in because she isn’t “family.” I bargained with them to let her come for 15 minutes to hand over the papers to me, and they did allow her to give them to me.  But normally the rules are strictly enforced with no exceptions.

 

 

At about 5 p.m., the woman comes around with the evening water or tea and dinner is served at 6 p.m. Evening meds are delivered about 6:30 p.m., and vitals are taken again at about 8 p.m.

A boy comes around about 8:30 to disinfect the bed table by wiping it down thoroughly. A tenth Covid wave is threatening to rear its ugly head, so many Covid precautions are still in effect. The hospital WIFI is shut down at 9 p.m., so I have gotten into the habit of going to bed just after the WIFI signal goes dark.

The first week was so uncomfortable as I was still suffering from severe jet lag. My body clock is now on Japan-time, so my sleeping pattern is more regular. That is my typical day in a nutshell.

For two days post-surgery, I was forced to use a bedpan, which is a humiliating and humbling experience. I know it’s a normal bodily function and I realize that the nursing staff are all professionals and things like that likely do not bother them in the least, but for me, the idea of being assisted with one’s most intimate daily elimination duties left me demoralized. Besides, I have shirts older than most of the nurses on staff, so I felt odd having to be cleaned up and sponge-bathed by such young women.

Thankfully, I graduated to being able to go to my room toilet with assistance to now finally being able to do it all on my own.  It’s the small victories for sure! 

It is amazing how much you take for granted in your daily life until you can’t do something, and how helpless you feel when you are dependent on all those around you. For example, Tuesday is shower day, and a hot shower never felt so good.  It’s the little things, truly.

Again, the entire nursing staff has been fabulous so any hangups are purely my own. Nobody at any time has made me feel strange or uncomfortable by their behavior or actions, it was all me feeling inadequate, embarrassed, and vulnerable during these instances.

By all means, if you have any more questions regarding my Japanese hospital experience, please feel free to drop me a line at toddjayleonard@yahoo.com.

No doubt at least a couple more future columns will include my hospital and rehab stints here in Japan.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Love is in the Air

The month of February is considered the month of love, and rightly so with Valentine's Day celebrating togetherness and bonding relationships.

What about animals? Do they celebrate romance? Well, not really, but many nuisance animals do find themselves in mating season during the month of love. And while humans search for that mate to spend a lifetime with, there are some animals that just do not see it that way. Two examples of nuisance animals that are not committed to one another are the raccoon and the skunk. Both species are “polygynous” meaning that they mate with multiple partners and never form permanent bonds with their partners. These males also have nothing to do with raising the young.

Mating season for raccoons in Indiana is late January into early February. Birthing starts in April and goes into May. Why is this information important? During the mating season females are looking for a safe place that they can give birth and raise their young. The lesson here is to not make your home attractive to a mother coon. Button up soffits, holes in foundations and areas where there is good cover for the raccoon to have babies. Think of it this way, if a raccoon has young, there will likely be 1 to 9 babies so along with mom this is multiplying your problem. It is best to not let it happen by not providing a harborage for them or a ready meal of pet food left for your household pets outside the home.

Skunks mate in late February into early March. The females give birth to 4 to 7 young born usually in May. Males have nothing to do with the family after mating.  Again, don’t make your home inviting to skunks unless you want to take a chance of your pets tangling with skunks living under or around your home or you experiencing that unusual ‘fragrance’ lingering around your home. Seal foundation openings and do not leave pet food out overnight since both the raccoon and skunk are opportunists eating a variety of foods including pet food, human food scraps, insects and garbage. 

Nuisance wildlife can cause damage to your home, compromise the safety of your pets and disturb your peace of mind. Be proactive and do not procrastinate when preparing for unwanted animal pests. If you have questions feel free to give us a call for a free evaluation.

Column: Welcome to the Super Bowl Party

Dear readers,

Welcome to the official Team Schwinn Super Bowl party. It looks like the entire team along with several guests have already arrived. The team’s official stenographer, Kim Medsker, will transcribe for those of you who couldn’t be here in person. Enjoy!

Kris: I can see that Kim has her steno pad and a sharp No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil at the ready. Let’s take a lap around the room.

It looks like Susie Veerkamp, Susan Weaver, and Kathrine Glass are having a Southwestern Class of 1973 reunion over by the punch bowl.  Kathrine, I’m surprised to see you. I thought you were boycotting the Super Bowl this year.

Kathrine: I was planning on boycotting because the Budweiser Clydesdales weren’t invited last year. However, the Clydesdales are back this year and so am I. Susie, are you responsible for all these tasty hors d'oeuvres?

Susie: Not all of them. I don’t know who brought the Spam carved in the shape of a football.

Kris: I carved the football Spam myself. 

 

 

Kathrine: Susan Weaver, is that Kansas City red you are wearing?

Susan: Yes, I’m picking the Chiefs to win.

Kathrine: Susan, I think that outfit qualifies you as a “football fashionista.”  Have you always been a Chiefs fan?

Susan: No, I’m officially a “cheese head.” When I first met Al in 2014, he took me to a Green Bay Packers game. If the Packers aren’t playing, I always pick one of the teams to win. It makes the game more exciting to watch. Like Vince Lombardi famously said, “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do we keep score.”

Kathrine: Look, I think Stephanie Rick just arrived.

Kris: She along with Fred Dickman and Kevin Zerr seems to be admiring the little football I carved from a chunk of Spam.

Stephanie: I can’t believe you rounded up some Mechanic Street kids from the 1960s. You know Fred, Kevin and I all lived on Mechanic Street in our youth. We were just making bets on who would be the first guest to sample the Spam football.

Fred: I’m not sure about the Spam football. You might have to cut it up and hide it in a casserole. As far as today’s game goes, I think it’s too close to call. I’m hoping San Francisco wins. My favorite halftime performer of all time was Prince. 

Kevin: I think Fred is right about the Spam football. No one seems interested in it. I see that Rick Gray and Jeff Gibson have joined the party. We can plan our next Shelbyville class of ‘73 reunion. 

Stephanie: Kevin, as a former football star from the class of ‘73, who is your pick for today’s game?

Kevin: My favorite global pop star is Taylor Swift. So, I am cheering for her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s team the Chiefs. I’ll keep a close eye on the game just hoping to get a glimpse of Taylor Swift in the crowd.

Rick: I remember watching the first Super Bowl in 1967 with my dad.  The Kansas City Chiefs were playing the Green Bay Packers. Max McGee caught two touchdown passes from Bart Starr to ensure the win for the Packers. Max McGee would later be known for being one of the cofounders of the restaurant Chi Chi’s.     

Rich Adams: I don’t know if he ever started a restaurant, but Bob Zimny, former teacher and coach at Shelbyville, played professional football. Zimny was a member of the Chicago Cardinals when they won the NFL championship in 1947. 

Kris: Rich be sure to give me your phone number before you leave today. I’ll want you to be my lifeline if I ever get invited to a trivia contest at Capone’s. 

Jeff: Kevin, I would never have picked you for being a member of the  Swifties. At one of the early Super Bowls, the halftime entertainment was the “Up With People” singers. I think they performed here in Shelbyville when we were in high school.   

Kris: Three Dog Night performed at the Bears of Blue River Festival.  Well, if it isn’t Rob Robertson. Rob, you were always the resident sports expert for the kids growing up near Morrison Park in the 1960s. What do you think about today’s game?

Rob: This year I’m picking Frisco to win. My favorite game was Super Bowl XLI. The Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17. 

Kris: Cousin Tom, I can’t believe you are arriving so late to the party.  Did you have car trouble?

Cousin Tom: No, I just heard that the Budweiser Clydesdales were going to be back this year. I had to take a TV out to the barn so that my horse Clementine could watch. 

Kris: Is your donkey Cletus also a Clydesdale fan?

Cousin Tom: No, Cletus is a Taylor Swift fan.

Kim:  Kris, my pencil is getting dull, can we wrap this up?

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Just How Tough is a Cockroach?

One of the most resilient insects in the world is the cockroach. Why would that be? What makes them such survivors? The purpose of this article is to investigate an insect with the amazing ability to survive. 

According to Pest Control Magazine:

  1. A cockroach has the ability to run faster than many other insects. Its speed tops out at about 3 miles per hour just like a human being taking a walk, but that speed compared to its size certainly gives it a real edge on escaping predators. 
  2. Its adaptability is superior. A cockroach can adapt to its environment like no other insect. If food is scarce, they can survive with little or no food for a much longer time than humans and most other animals. Dehydration is an insect’s enemy, however. Without water, cockroaches will not survive long but remember cockroaches and other insects may be able to survive without standing water if they are in a high-humidity environment.
  3. Low temperatures will not kill a cockroach unless it comes along very quickly because the cockroach, along with other insects, can build up a type of antifreeze in its body as seasons change from hot to cool to cold which allows them to just survive as they wait for warmer temperatures. Remember the cockroach survived the Ice Age!
  4. A cockroach can even live without its head. Even with the loss of a head, the circulatory system allows for a clot to form so it will not bleed out. Since roaches have multiple “brains” along the nerve cord, this allows them to continue to move and run. The catch is if there is no head, eventually a cockroach will die because it cannot process food or water.
  5. Cockroaches can literally hold their breath for 40 minutes which allows them to survive in sewers and drains.
  6. Cockroaches will eat about anything. They are not picky!

If you find yourself in a situation where cockroaches are getting ahead of you, give us a call to discuss your questions concerning your cockroach issue.

Column: My super awesome pregame column

Dear readers,

One week from today is Super Sunday. All eyes will be on Las Vegas where Super Bowl LVIII is being held. The festivities will be in the new Allegiant Stadium which will become Circus Maximus for the day.

Reba McEntire has been chosen for the honor of singing the national anthem. Reba was picked based upon the popularity of her hit song “Fancy” about a southern girl who still works in Vegas.

The rumor is that Reba will sing from a chariot being pulled by a team of Budweiser Clydesdales. We’ll have to wait to see.

I know what some of you are thinking. Whoa Kris, slow down a minute.  Are you allowed to say, “Super Bowl?” Isn’t it a registered trademark of the NFL? Don’t you have to use code words or euphemisms like, “The Big Game” or “The Big Dance?”

The NFL does hold the copyright to “Super Bowl” and “Super Sunday.”  “The Big Dance” is actually copyrighted by the NCAA along with the “March Madness,” “The Elite Eight,” and “The Final Four.”

Companies copyright or get a trademark on anything they think will sell on a T-shirt. Favorites of mine from the past include “Got Milk?” “Where’s the Beef?” and “Who Killed J.R.?” 

 

 

Just because something is a trademark or copyright doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about it or write the words. You just can’t print up your own T-shirts and sell them at vacant gas stations along with velvet paintings of Elvis. 

I also can’t claim or imply that my column is endorsed by the NFL. Unlike Bud Light who has a contract with the NFL as the “Official Beer,” my column is not the “Official Column of the NFL.”

Maybe just to be safe I should insert a disclaimer here.

Disclaimer: This column is not endorsed by the NFL, Budweiser, Taylor Swift, Carl’s Jr., Reba McEntire, Fancy or any person or corporation. This work is a product of the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.

OK, now let’s get to the question on every football fan’s mind this week.  How many times will the TV cameras zoom in on Taylor Swift during the Super Bowl?

The casinos in Vegas are already taking bets. Of course, with modern betting there is much more to wager on than just the number of times Taylor will appear on TV. Side bets include the odds of Taylor wearing a scarf and if so, its length. Will Taylor wear any clothing item made from cashmere? Will she watch the coin flip? Will she sing along during the national anthem? 

Some football fans are worried that Taylor Swift might not make it to the game in time for the coin flip. She has her final performance of four shows at the Tokyo Dome the night before the Super Bowl. Will the NFL delay the game if Taylor is running late? Will she parachute into the parking lot before the game dressed as an Elvis impersonator?

I think that about wraps up this week’s pregame column. I didn’t have time to mention anything about the teams playing in the Super Bowl.  I’ll get to that next week.

Unlike the NFL, NCAA and other businesses who try to squeeze every last cent out of words they combine in a clever order, I’m not that greedy.

Feel free to use this column however you want. Read it aloud in public.  Make copies to pass out to tourists visiting “The Helbing.”

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Letters Home: The best laid plans ...

This column is going to be a little different from my normal ones in that I am going to recount an accident I was involved in while traveling through Europe last month.

After spending nearly two weeks during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my travel partner and I were finishing our sightseeing in Amsterdam after taking a riverboat cruise from Switzerland to Holland, passing through lovely French and German cities on the Rhine River.

After arriving in Amsterdam by riverboat, we arranged a few extra days to sightsee in Amsterdam (photo). The first day meant we visited the royal palace, some lovely churches, and the Rembrandt Museum — with general exploration of this fabulous city. The next day we were planning on visiting the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh Museum.

While enroute to the Anne Frank house via a city tram/train, as I got up out of my seat to prepare to exit at the next stop, the tram driver was forced to slam on his brakes to avoid a collision with a taxi, which sent me flying across the car where I fell hard on my knees. I was initially in shock not fully knowing what had just happened, so I was able to crawl, somewhat, to a nearby seat. Momentarily we arrived at the stop where we needed to get off, but as soon as I exited the tram, my knees buckled and down I went like a ton of bricks. I was more seriously injured than I initially thought.

 

 

Immediately, a Dutch pedestrian, many in fact, came to my aid, but something was horribly awry with my knee and I could not move. One Dutch gentleman called an ambulance and stayed with us until it arrived in order to interpret in case the ambulance people spoke no English.

As I laid there on the pavement, spread out like a beached whale, I was so touched by the concern of the Dutch people in cars and on foot. Several cars stopped to ask if I needed any help, they passed water bottles to me out of the window, even an umbrella was offered, as it had started raining. Strangers helping a stranger in a foreign land in a time of need. Humanity at its best.

After the ambulance arrived, I was loaded in and rushed to an orthopedic hospital on the outskirts of Amsterdam proper. The attendants were wonderful as well, so caring, friendly and assisting. I was promptly admitted and given x-rays, where it was concluded that I had a torn tendon in my left knee and a contusion on my right knee, not to mention two stoved fingers that were turning black and blue and swelling up like little sausages.

My knees had begun to swell, too, and bruising was appearing all over. I injured my right arm, as well, making it painful to do anything with it.

The doctor informed me that while my injuries were serious and I would absolutely need surgery on my left knee, that if I preferred to return to Japan, she thought that it was possible with a full leg stint and crutches. Not knowing anyone in Amsterdam and feeling more secure returning to Japan, I opted to hobble back to Japan the best I could.

The Dutch doctor was concerned about me being on a plane for 15 hours to return and suggested I take an anti-coagulant injection several times before boarding. I had never had to give myself any type of injection before, so that was a new experience, as well as being hauled to the hospital in a Dutch ambulance.

Two things I hope to never experience again in my life!

As a matter of course, when traveling from Japan to overseas, it is customary to purchase travel insurance for such an occurrence. I am so glad I did!

I can’t imagine the cost of all the healthcare expenses without it. No one can predict what can happen, and a freak accident like that which happened to me could happen to anyone, so I recommend anyone traveling abroad to purchase some sort of travel insurance as a precaution. Chances are you won’t need it, but in the case you do need it, it can make the world of difference to you financially.

After spending the next two days in the hotel trying to learn how to walk in a leg stint and on crutches, we were ready to return to Japan. I called ahead and asked for wheelchair assistance and that was the best decision ever because the airport personnel from start to finish were all great and professional.

We flew from Amsterdam to Zürich, then Zürich to Narita Tokyo, where we had to change to Haneda airport by land (thankfully a college friend lives near Narita and offered to drive us across Tokyo to Haneda in his car as I don’t think I would have been able to get on a bus in my condition).  From Haneda, we needed to fly to where we reside In Fukuoka.

 

 

As soon as the plane landed, we were in a taxi and on our way to a Japanese hospital where I was promptly admitted. I will be in the hospital for a month for my surgery and then subsequent rehabilitation after such a serious injury. My injury, my surgeon explained, is rare in normal people but is quite common among professional athletes who do contact sports like football or rugby.

The force that I hit my knees when I was on the tram mimicked that of what an athlete might experience on the playing field when tackled hard.

So, while my New Year’s holiday ended badly, I count myself lucky in many ways. Ironically, while in Amsterdam, I was being so careful with the uneven streets and cobblestoned pavement, worried I might fall, when in fact it happened in the enclosed space of a tram car.

The moral of this story is that you never know what can happen, so be as prepared as you possibly can by purchasing proper insurance, and I am encouraged by the extreme kindness of strangers to a foreigner in a foreign land who needed assistance.

Someday I hope I am able to pay it forward to a foreigner in need that I may be able to help in a similar way as those who helped me while abroad.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Happy Groundhog Day!

The first official Groundhog Day in the United States took place February 2, 1887. Why February 2nd? The ancient Celts celebrated a pagan holiday called Imbolc marking the beginning of spring while Christians in the early days called this time Candlemas, the day that Jesus was celebrated with a feast due to his presentation at the temple in Jerusalem. Another consideration for this date is that February 2nd falls directly between the spring equinox and the winter solstice.

In any case, tradition says that if the groundhog or ground dwelling animal saw his shadow on that day, there would be 40 more days of winter. That is why we hope for an overcast or cloudy Groundhog Day to hasten the arrival of warm weather.

These facts are interesting, but the groundhog is not exactly accurate. His success rate in forecasting is about 50%. (On long term forecasts with our weatherman, the success rate is about 35%!)

Did you know that groundhogs, sometimes known as woodchucks, hibernate in the cold winter months normally starting in November? These wiry critters are ground dwellers and have a lifespan in the wild of about 3 years. They can make a whistle type sound with their incisors to warn other groundhogs of present danger. This ability has given rise to the nickname “whistle pig.”

Groundhogs breed in February or March having kits, also called pups or chucklings, in April and May. Groundhogs can climb trees and undermine foundations, not to speak of decimating garden vegetables. Farmers are not very happy when they see a groundhog because a ground pig can eat more than a pound of soybean plants per day. If you do the math that is a hefty loss of crop.   

If you have problems with groundhogs, give us a call for evaluation to develop a plan to control your wildlife problem. 

Column: Sports Illustrated is gone, but I'm still here weekly

Dear readers,

It’s been a tough week out here at Giant FM. Not so much for me, but both Jeff Brown and Johnny McCrory are sports guys. The news that Sports Illustrated died was tough on sports fans everywhere.

One of my loyal readers reported, that upon hearing the news, a well-known sports fan proclaimed, “They laid off all the writers at Sports Illustrated, but Meltzer is still publishing stories about ‘The Helbing’ weekly. It’s just another example of how life is not fair.”

I’ll agree, life is not fair. However, I’m actually more upset about the local Dairy Queen removing the “Curly the Clown” sign than the end of Sports Illustrated. To anyone paying attention, it couldn’t have been a big surprise that Sports Illustrated was coming to an end. There were hints. It was fading away just like what happened to the Bears of Blue River Festival.

 

 

When Shelbyville started the Bears of Blue River Festival, it lasted several months. Every day the festival began with a competition to see who could get their lawn chair set up in a prime spot to view the night’s entertainment.

Each night was different. Sometimes it was a “lip sync” competition. Sometimes it was a musical act straight from the Hullabaloo TV show. The highlight of each festival season was always an Elvis impersonator.

The Bears of Blue River Festival began to fade. Instead of lasting several months, it began to shrink in duration. Soon there were fewer and fewer lawn chairs. I stuck with it until the end. It was sad.

I remember the final day. It was just me and a few other diehards sitting in lawn chairs that needed new webbing. We were watching someone’s grandfather pretend to remove his thumb. The magic was over. 

Sports Illustrated was a weekly magazine for years. In 2018 it became biweekly. In 2020 it became monthly. In 2023 the swimsuit issue featured 81-year-old Martha Stewart on the cover pretending to remove her thumb. Just like the Bears of Blue River Festival, the magic was gone.

Sports Illustrated won’t be the last magazine to fail. Harper’s Weekly is gone, as is Field & Stream, Popular Science, and even Playboy.

Speaking of Playboy, Hugh Hefner’s last wife has just written a trashy “tell all” book about her years married to Hefner. The title of the book is “Only Say Good Things.”

It was Hefner’s request of her before he died. She of course ignores his request and dishes the dirt.

In the days of Playboy, it was always a joke for men to say that they bought the magazine for the articles. Playboy did feature articles and short stories by many famous writers including Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, John Updike, Jack Kerouac and Steven King.

Showing that sometimes you can’t judge a magazine by its cover.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Column: Shelbyville, home of the giant stainless-steel thingamajig

Dear readers,

Shelbyville Common Council member Linda Sanders said out loud what everyone must have already been thinking. Shelbyville needs a new motto.

I wrote about it last week and Team Schwinn offered up a few suggestions. Sifting through this week’s mail, one thing is clear. No one wants to keep our old motto, “Pride in Progress.”

The most popular Team Schwinn suggestion was “Shelbyville, Home of the Giant Stainless-Steel Thingamajig!”

Coming in a close second was “Shelbyville, Gateway to Boggstown.”

I did notice that most of the readers who preferred it were from Boggstown. 

Kathy Bastin Kelley suggested “Shelbyville, Gateway to the Metal Thingamajig.”

Jeff Bate suggested “Home of the Eclipse” or “Eye of the Eclipse.”

One of my Rushville readers suggested, “Shelbyville, where Rushville Shops at Walmart.” 

 

 

I figured that most people voting for the “Giant Stainless-Steel Thingamajig” were probably joking. Then again, Greensburg is pulling tourists off the interstate with its tree growing out of the courthouse clock. Perhaps a series of billboards putting the idea in drivers’ minds could cause an irresistible urge to stop in Shelbyville to see “The Helbing.”

It seems to work for Buc-ee’s and it’s just a big gas station. 

Every town or city must have something going for it. Pittsfield, Maine, is home to the largest non-stick frying pan. Cawker City, Kansas, is home to the largest ball of yarn. Why not a giant stainless-steel thingamajig?

Some cities have a famous citizen to celebrate.

Greenfield has the poet, James Whitcomb Riley. Rushville has the 1940 presidential candidate Wendell Willkie. Fairmount, Indiana, has James Dean.

 Linton, Indiana, always had a very large sign proclaiming, “Linton, home of Phil Harris.” I haven’t driven through Linton lately, but if the sign is still there, I’m sure many people who see it have the same thought, “Who is Phil Harris?”

It didn’t get the most votes, but one reader thought our new motto should be “Shelbyville, Home of the Indiana Derby.”

Shelbyville is very fortunate to be the home of the only thoroughbred horse track in Indiana. The Indiana Derby is a major sporting event. It occurs annually making it an obvious choice to include a festival and parade to promote the event and the city. Indianapolis uses the Indy 500 and Louisville uses the Kentucky Derby to promote their cities.

Shelbyville should consider rebranding the city as “Home of the Indiana Derby.” The total eclipse of the sun also is a big event, but it only happens every 400 years and that’s a long time between parades.  

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Letters Home: Japanese addiction to smartphones

Of course, it goes without saying that Japanese youth are no more addicted to their cellphones than any other young person in an industrialized country, but it does seem to be bordering on becoming a full-fledged epidemic in Japan.

The widespread use has gotten the attention of the government and schools which have them troubleshooting how to get ahead of the current trend before it becomes out of control completely.

The ease and convenience of smartphones have made them indispensable in our daily lives and their use has become so prevalent across all age groups and socio-economic levels that it seems to be an automatic response for people to pull out their smartphones to kill time when waiting in line at the post office, riding on a train (photo), or even when having dinner with family and friends.

Young and old alike have become entirely too dependent on their devices to the point that it is causing behavioral changes across all of society. Couples out on a date can be observed with their noses in their phones, texting furiously, when a live, actual person is sitting across the table from them. There is a fear that people will lose the ability to interact appropriately with other people in social or business situations. 

No doubt, the entire COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help the situation that began before the health-scourge occurred that made people isolate for long periods of time in often government-mandated quarantine scenarios. People got accustomed to not coming face-to-face with other people and this became the new normal. It has been difficult for people to get back to pre-pandemic levels of human interaction.

 

 

My colleagues and I were discussing how the class of kids that entered university after things normalized somewhat in Japan after the pandemic were the ones who spent two to three years in quarantine doing their lessons remotely. Part of going to school is the socialization aspect of interacting and negotiating with other kids and teachers throughout the day. 

These kids missed out on a hefty chunk of time to experience that aspect of their teenage life, and in many instances, it shows. Some of these kids seem more withdrawn and less motivated to try to interact in meaningful ways in the classroom or in club activities. I had a number of students who were being treated for mental health issues that resulted directly from being isolated so long during the pandemic.

Thankfully, it is slowly getting back to normal, but that initial period of time when the kids came out of isolation and were thrown directly back into social situations caused some to have difficulty interacting in a classroom situation, not being comfortable presenting orally or answering verbally in class, etc.

In Japan, like many other countries, issues related to pathological Internet use, such as self-imposed isolation, pornography addictions, a general Internet addiction and Internet use disorder, behavioral issues and a related issue I see in my students is an Internet gaming addiction or disorder that seems almost obsessive.

I read a research study (Tateno, et al) that stated that Internet use has been increasing year after year and today there are over 100 million Internet users in Japan. Each day, the actual time that people are using the Internet via their smartphones is increasing more and more. This widespread and increased use of a smartphone is leading to not only mental health issues, but also dietary issues regarding proper nutrition because Internet addicts tend to eat processed and quick, instant meals; often Internet addicts become sleep deprived (especially “gamers” who cannot stop playing, trying to reach that next high of achieving the next game level); which is related to academic failure in some cases because their obsession leaves little time for their studies. Smartphones allow for convenient and instant access anytime and anywhere, usually.

The research study I read indicated that smartphone addiction “is characterized by excessive and problematic smartphone use and clinical features of behavioral addiction [are affected by]: preoccupation, functional impairment, withdrawal and tolerance.” (Tateno, et al, 2019) The study surveyed 573 Japanese university students as respondents.

I guess I am sounding like a “boomer” complaining about the spread of these new-fangled devices that are ruining society as we know it. It is important to note that the invention of the radio and then TV, and the widespread use of those “new technologies” amongst the citizenry, predicted similar dire and gloomy effects on society and humanity at large, so will smartphone Internet use eventually balance out and people will just absorb it and adapt it into their own psyche? Will the hype surrounding the pervasive use of smart devices just be accepted and become normalized? Has it already?

Only time will tell, of course, but enough research is being done currently to raise alarm bells amongst government agencies in charge of such things.

Online bullying is a real issue in Japan, too, like elsewhere.  Students (and professionals) can hide behind anonymity to lash out and harangue others online or on social media sites. It can especially be detrimental to younger people who place so much value and emphasis on their social standing in a group, and to be ostracized or ganged up on in such a group can have severe mental and emotional repercussions on a young brain that is still developing and one which has a difficult time separating short-term/long-term issues from what is essentially important and what really doesn’t matter.

During official meetings I notice my colleagues checking their phones incessantly. The tell-tale vibration means someone has reached out to them, or commented on something they are following. This becomes very distracting not only to the person who should be paying attention to the agenda at the meeting, but to those around him/her who hear the same vibrating noise and briefly focus their attention on that which is happening in real time instead of what is being discussed at the meeting.

I sometimes forget my smartphone when I leave the house, which is nearly impossible for some people to fathom because having one’s cellphone with them is almost as important as it once was for a person with false teeth to put their teeth in before leaving the house. I came to the whole smartphone craze late, opting to use a flip phone for as long as possible.

Now that I have a smartphone, though, I can’t imagine living without it. I try to stay cognizant of people I am with not to be distracted by the phone when I am with other people, but the potential for addiction is real. However, the convenience and ease of having the world at your fingertips is also a valid reason for getting with the program and entering the 21st century feet first. 

The idea for this column came from my experience of riding trains here in Japan and noticing that 98% of passengers sit down (or stand) while flipping through their phones or watching YouTube or TikTok using headphones. In Japan, it isn’t polite to chat on trains with other people, so smartphones allow people to occupy themselves for the duration of their journey which doesn’t bother those around them. It is an automatic response, I have noticed, for people to sit down and pull out their phone.

I guess it is a bit hypocritical of me to be writing about the evils of having instant access to everything via a smartphone considering most of you who are reading this article at this moment are likely using your smartphone to do so! And there lies the crux of the argument, I suppose.

Does one sacrifice the ease and convenience of having access to everything and everyone via an electronic device or take the risk of it becoming an obsessive-compulsive disorder? Balance and self-discipline are the keys to navigating the 21st century in a healthy and time-efficient manner.

Note: Reference cited: Tateno, et al (2019) “Smartphone addiction in Japanese College Students:  Usefulness of the Japanese Version of the Smartphone Addiction Scale as a Screening Tool for a New Form of Internet Addiction” published by PubMed Central.

In Search of the Rogue Rat

I know that the title sounds like a movie title, but it is far from fiction. In our area, rogue rats are normally of the species Norway rat. If a Norway rat has found its way into your home, this invader rat can wreak havoc.

  • If you have ever found a sack of bread with a large hole in it or chew marks on door casings or doors, you might just have an “Alpha” or “Rogue” rat living in the house. 
  • If candy mysteriously disappears from a candy dish or your pet’s food that is left out mysteriously disappears, a rat may be the culprit. 
  • If one finds items moved or knocked over around the house, it does not mean that ghosts have inhabited your home; however, a rat may have.   

Rogue rats can appear out of nowhere affecting differing environments from houses that are cluttered to those that are spic and span, from mansions to apartments, and from cities to rural areas. All rats need is a source of food, water, and shelter.

Rats are smart. Their intelligence level is very high compared to many other types of wildlife.  Rats can solve problems quickly and adapt to difficult living conditions making them difficult to trap. If a rat has ever been caught and escapes the trap, there is very little chance that the rat will ever come close to a trap again. 

The same goes for baiting for rats. If a rat consumes bait but does not ingest a lethal dose, there is very little chance that the rat will ever touch that bait again.  When dealing with rats in general, it is a good idea to get professional help. Give us a call if you need help or have questions.

Column: Shelbyville, Shoes Optional

Dear readers,

New Shelbyville Common Council member Linda Sanders has suggested rebranding the city with a new motto to replace “Pride in Progress.” Mayor Scott Furgeson likes the idea and so do I.

I wasted no time in calling a special meeting of Team Schwinn to come up with some ideas. While rebranding might seem silly to some, history has shown it can make a huge difference to a city especially when it comes to tourism.

Almost everyone knows the motto of some American cities. New York is “The Big Apple.” 

New Orleans is “The Big Easy.” 

Chicago is “The Windy City.”

Cleveland, Ohio, for years had the motto, “The Mistake on the Lake.”  Changing it to “Cleveland Rocks!” brought the city fame, fortune, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Las Vegas, Nevada, increased its tourism and attracted several professional sports teams when the city changed the motto from, “Where the Mob Buries the Bodies” to “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.”

 

 

Closer to home, Greensburg, Indiana, has been pulling hundreds of tourists off Interstate 74 to see their famous courthouse tree with the now famous “Tree City” brand.

Since Shelbyville is named to honor the first governor of the State of Kentucky, I told the team that a Kentucky theme might be a nice touch. Our sister city, Shelbyville, Kentucky’s motto is “The Gateway to the Bluegrass.”

We had a couple of jugs of eggnog left over from our Christmas party. After the team members turned in their suggestions, I suspected some may have had a little too much eggnog. So be warned, some of the suggestions might be the eggnog talking.

Without any additional introduction, here are the top 10 suggestions for Shelbyville’s new motto:

  1. Shelbyville: There’s No Tree in our Courthouse, but we have 10% fewer Hillbillies than Greensburg.
  2. SHELBYVILLE, HOME OF THE INDIANA DERBY!
  3. Shelbyville, Former Home of the Famous Bears of Blue River Festival
  4. Shelbyville, ALWAYS MORE LOST THAN FOUND
  5. Shelbyville: Don’t Blame Us, It Was This Way When We Arrived.
  6. Shelbyville: Home of the Giant Stainless-Steel Thingamajig!
  7. BALSER, HE’S MORE THAN A STATUE
  8. Shelbyville, Home of the Do It Yourself Walking Tour, Available 24/7
  9. Shelbyville, We’re Not Called Shelbytucky for Nothin!
  10. Shelbyville, Gateway to Boggstown

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

 

Column: Look, it's my first totally awesome column of 2024

Dear readers,

Wow, it’s a brand-new year.

Like typing teacher Terry Markland always said, “practice makes perfect.” Take out a fresh sheet of paper and sharpen your No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil. Now practice writing the words Mayor Scott Furgeson and the number 2024.  

You can thank me later. I know my readers and most of you haven’t yet gotten used to saying King Charles the third and Queen Elizabeth died in 2022. Some of you were still dating your checks 2022 a couple of months ago. By practicing now, hopefully you won’t have to void every other check you write this year, and you will remember it is now Mayor Furgeson not Mayor DeBaun.

Speaking of former Mayor Tom DeBaun, that brings us to my first reader letter of 2024.

 

 

Dear Kris,

I saw where Mayor Tom DeBaun gave Mitch Brown, also known as rapper “Kid Quill” the “Key to the City.” Mayor DeBaun said the purpose of bestowing the honor on Kid Quill was to support local artists and recognize something or other. Maybe it was “artistic expression” or maybe “authentic expression,” whatever.

Upon receiving the key, Mr. Quill said he is proud to show local kids that it’s possible to do anything you want to do, provided it’s being a rapper.

Kris, just like Kid Quill, you graduated from Shelbyville High School. For more years than the Kid’s been rapping, you have been showing local kids that it’s possible to write a cheesy weekly column. I’m sure more local kids want to follow in Mr. Quill’s footsteps than yours. Just the same, aren’t you disappointed that Mayor DeBaun didn’t give you the key to the city? With little effort, DeBaun could have made a second key on the machine at Walmart.

Also, I was also wondering if in 2024 we can look forward to you joining Johnny McCrory on his morning radio show.

Sincerely,

Wondering in Walkerville,

Dear Wondering,

There is a perfectly good reason why Mayor DeBaun didn’t give me the Key to the City and it’s not because he isn’t a fan of my column. Mayor DeBaun is not only a long-time reader of my column, but for many years he was a member of the “View From My Schwinn Precision Drill Team.”

You were probably too busy watching the lovely Schwinnettes, Hope and Heather Norris, to notice Tom. I’m hoping, now that he has retired from being mayor, he will have time to help get the drill team “parade ready again.” I’m afraid we along with our bikes have gotten a little rusty. It has been several years since we peddled together in a parade.

No, Tom didn’t give me the key to the city for purely practical reasons.  If you noticed, the only other person he gave the key to during his 12 years of being mayor was Gilbert Gottfried. At first blush, it might not be obvious what Mr. Gottfried and Mr. Quill have in common. It is that they were both leaving town. Mr. Gottfried was headed back home to New York and Mr. Quill is on his way to Australia.

The reason only people leaving are given the Key to the City is strictly practical and fiscally responsible. Since the recipient is leaving, the city doesn’t have to go to the expense of changing the locks. 

As to the possibility of me appearing in Johnny’s morning show, it’s a definite maybe. 

Today’s photograph is from a column published April 1 during one of the years when DeBaun was mayor, and the Public Square was under construction. 

Congratulations to Kid Quill on his successful tour of the U.K. I’ll try to interview him on his return from Australia.    

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Letters Home: Japanese Tea Ceremony culture

In November, I had an opportunity to attend a traditional tea ceremony (sadou— “the way of tea”) in my prefecture. It was sponsored by the National Museum of Kyushu and was performed in a beautifully appointed tea house that the museum maintains on its property.

This particular tea ceremony’s grouping of people was organized by a friend who works at the museum, and our particular event catered to foreign tea enthusiasts who wanted to have this unique opportunity to attend a tea ceremony at the museum. I was trying to remember, but I think it had been more than 20 years since I had last attended a tea ceremony so I was long overdue to experience again this very cultural, educational, artistic, and ceremonial event.

Historically, green tea was first introduced to Japan during the 8th century from China. It was mostly reserved as a beverage for the priestly and upper classes and was widely regarded as medicinal.  However, during the Muromachi Period (1333-1573) it became popular among the citizenry in all socio-economic classes.

The wealthier class continued to maintain a certain air of sophistication around tea where they would hold tea parties as a way to display the lovely ceramics and pottery that is associated with drinking traditional tea in Japan. 

It was also during the Muromachi Period that the simplistic, more spiritual concept of tea drinking inspired by Zen-Buddhism became more commonplace. The tea ceremony I enjoyed at the museum was done in this style, called “omotesenke.”

 

 

The father of the modern “way of tea” was Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) and he promoted a style that emphasized simplicity and even austereness in how the tea is served, following a prescribed and formal process and procedure that is beautiful in its solemnity and exquisite in its presentation.

 

 

The tea ceremony itself is sacred in that it is a moment in time that cannot be repeated exactly as it was ever again with the same people, same atmosphere, etc. The tea ceremony takes place in a traditional tatami (straw mat) room and the room usually has wall dividers called fusuma that can enlarge the room for more people, or make it smaller for a more intimate gathering of just a few people.

The room always features a tokonoma, which is an alcove where a traditional calligraphy scroll is hung in view of the guests to admire and enjoy while in the room. This scroll can be changed out for each season which adds to the uniqueness that each ceremony offers, making it distinctive and special in its own right. Oftentimes, seasonal flowers are displayed in the tokonoma in a traditional ceramic vase.

 

 

Initially, the guests gather in an outer chamber to wait for the tea ceremony to begin. One guest is designated as the “head guest” who will lead the others into the tatami room where the ceremony takes place. Upon entering, the head guest bows and then sits closest to the alcove and the other guests file in and take a seat on the floor in a line beside the head guest.

Traditionally, guests are expected to sit seiza (on one’s knees) which can be difficult for the uninitiated. Thankfully, in modern times much flexibility is allowed to guests who participate usually, and a more relaxed position is tolerated where one can sit cross-legged or with one’s legs off to the side. Sometimes chairs are offered to those who, for physical reasons, cannot sit on the floor with ease or in comfort.

 

 

For each ceremony, great care is taken to select the right tea, the perfect sweets to accompany the tea, and the appropriate tea bowl that the tea is served in. The ceremony I attended was in the autumn so everything had an autumn feel to it — the coloring of the sweets, the flowers, the scroll — all adding to and enhancing the entire atmosphere of the tea room.

First, guests are served the traditional Japanese sweet and it is expected that it be eaten before the tea is served. It acts as sort of a palate cleanser and compliments the tea itself; hence why great care is taken by the host to select the perfect sweet and tea for the occasion.

 

 

When served the tea, it is placed in front of the guest on the tatami flooring and the server and guest exchange deep bows. It is customary to pick up the tea bowl in your right hand and then place it in your left hand, and with the right hand turn the bowl clockwise by one turn. This is so the front of the tea bowl is no longer facing you, the guest, but is now facing outward. The guest then takes several sips before placing it back down on the tatami mat, where the guest then bows again and expresses gratitude for receiving the tea.

We were instructed before arriving not to wear any fragrance or cologne as the incense in the brazier where the water for the tea is heated is specifically chosen and any additional scents would interfere with the aroma of the incense wafting from below the kettle in the brazier. We were also told not to wear any jewelry that might clang against the ceramics while being served the tea which would be distracting but could also damage or chip the porcelain the tea is served in.

Additionally, we were asked to wear white socks on our feet during the ceremony. We were able to change our stockings in the ante-chamber before the ceremony began. Normally, it is appropriate to dress modestly, but casually and neatly, to attend a tea ceremony

It is customary after being served the tea initially to reflect upon the experience and to pick up the tea bowl and admire its delicate and special attributes. Once finished it is appropriate to turn the bowl so the front is facing the host and gently set it down on the tatami flooring.

 

 

Once the host or tea master has served the guests and no guest wants a second bowl of tea, the host then wipes clean the tea bowl and rearranges the utensils. This indicates the tea ceremony is concluded.  In our case, one of the women serving the tea then allowed us to come in close to observe the tea utensils and the bowl for a more detailed explanation about the tools that were used, as well as an explanation of the type of tea served, and the various utensils that were painstakingly selected for our ceremony.

Because the tea house had beautiful gardens to peruse, we all went outside and looked at the lovely landscaping which was accentuated by the beautiful autumn foliage. Often, a traditional tea house will have an authentic and traditional Japanese garden available for the guests to stroll around in and admire.

The primary purpose of the garden is to set the scene for the tea ceremony by offering a calming, relaxing, and tranquil space for guests to enjoy. Depending on the season, flowers are often included in the garden but they should not be too bright or have a strong fragrance which would detract from the tea ceremony itself.

 

 

I especially appreciated the stone basins and lanterns that were featured in the garden. Traditionally, the basin would be used by guests to rinse their hands before entering the tea house. Also, tea houses traditionally feature a very short door through which guests enter by getting on their hands and knees to pass through. This is to symbolize that all who enter the tea house are at the same level and height as the others, making everyone equal in stature. 

I have made a solemn promise to myself not to wait another twenty years to attend my next tea ceremony!

In fact, I may make an effort to attend at least one yearly because there are few things that are as quintessentially Japanese as the tea ceremony so I should try to experience it as often as I can since I live here.

The Shelby County Post is a digital newspaper producing news, sports, obituaries and more without a pay wall or subscription needed. Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email by visiting shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.

Column: Adventures as big as life itself

Dear readers, my friend Chuck Cochran died on Christmas Eve.

I featured Chuck this year in my Veterans Day column. Last month, when I wrote about his military career, I had no idea that I would soon be writing his obituary. It was only a couple of weeks later that Chuck assigned me that honor. 

I answered my phone early one late November morning and heard a familiar commanding voice, “Kris, this is Cochran. Come over to my house immediately.” 

Receiving marching orders from the retired Lieutenant Colonel was not unusual. Chuck was known by his friends to be curt, opinionated, stubborn, and bull-headed. After Chuck died, his long-time friend and fellow antique automobile collector Steve McManus put it best, “Those of you who didn’t know Chuck, or didn’t understand him well enough to get past his initial gruffness, really missed out.”

When I arrived at his home that morning, I found Chuck in the living room with several other friends of his that he had summoned. Chuck was not feeling well and had decided that he needed to go to the hospital.  Actually, “not feeling well” is an understatement. Chuck was clearly having thoughts of impending doom. He was assigning each of us specific tasks.

My task was to write his obituary. Chuck dictated the exact words that he wanted to describe his departure from this world, “Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Cochran blocked out on God’s time for an on-time departure.”

He then said, “Kris, you know me well enough to fill in the details.”

 

 

As usual Chuck was right. I did know him well enough to fill in all the details, but somehow, I still screwed it up.

Chuck was a generation older than me, but we both grew up near Morrison Park. We shared the same childhood memories of countless youngsters who grew up in that area of town. In the years I had known him, he shared with me the stories of his life. I knew him well.

Chuck graduated from Shelbyville High School in 1948. Yes, he was a junior when SHS won the state championship in 1947. Chuck had many stories and fond memories about the championship class of ’47. Chuck was the center on the reserve team. He not only knew the members of the championship team, but he played against them weekly. Every Wednesday the coach held a scrimmage between the varsity and reserve teams.

Every year senior classes come and go, but not the Shelbyville class of 1947. It isn’t forgotten. This year, Indiana University celebrated the opening game as “Bill Garrett Game” in honor of the center on Shelbyville’s championship team. 

Somehow when putting the details in Chuck’s obituary, I put him in the class of 1947 instead of 1948. Genealogists of future generations will mistakenly put Chuck in the class of 1947 instead of 1948 and it will be my fault. I guess if I was destined to make an error, putting him in the championship class isn’t all bad. It is certainly better than if it were the other way around.

Taking someone out of the championship class would have been unforgiveable. Basketball isn’t everything in life, but to kids growing up in Indiana, it’s close. After all, the most famous high school movie about basketball is named “Hoosiers.”

Those of you who made it to the end of my column this week are probably wondering what the photo of the old car has to do with Chuck Cochran. The car was restored by Chuck.

It is a 1934 Chrysler Imperial Airflow Model CX and is in Jay Leno’s collection. Chuck was nationally known for collecting and restoring antique automobiles. Pretty cool for guy from SHS class of ’48.

I’ll fill in the details in a future column. 

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Column: 'Twas the night before Christmas

Dear readers,

It is Christmas eve. Let’s reminisce.

Look closely at today’s photograph. It is the Meltzer family’s Christmas card from 30 years ago. Left to right is Trent, Zane, Sandy, and me.

The bicycle in the photo is a Schwinn Wasp. My cheesy hobby writing my weekly column, “A View From My Schwinn,” was in its infancy.

My column had brought me great happiness. I felt a need to share. There was no end to my self-promotion. I passed out free T-shirts with my logo on them along with bumper stickers with the slogan, “I Brake for Schwinns.”

Looking back, I’m amazed at how long my family put up with my obsession with all things Schwinn. They were such good sports, but even good sports have their limit. That Christmas I found their limit.

 

 

Earlier that fall, my good friend Billy Emerick had found a smaller version of my Schwinn bicycle at a yard sale. When I saw it, I instantly thought it would be really cool if my entire family rode the same model Schwinn. Schwinn made most of its bicycle models in various sizes and for both men and women.

By that Christmas, I had found two of the smaller old Schwinns. In my mind’s eye, Christmas morning at the Meltzer house would be worthy of a Norman Rockwell illustration. Trent and Zane would be filled with joy when they feasted their eyes on the bikes Santa had brought them.  Christmas morning came and let’s just say their eyes weren’t filled with joy.

A few years later, Trent inspired by the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” penned his own poem to commemorate that Christmas. The “Ernest” referred to in the poem is a character from the movie, “Ernest Saves Christmas.”

Enjoy!

 

 ‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

My brother and I were snug in our beds.

While visions of new bikes danced in our heads.

 

When out in the alley we heard a noise.

Zane thought it was Santa with our new toys.

We wanted to see Santa so to the window we snuck.

But it just looked like Ernest unloading a truck.

 

I said, “Maybe it’s Dad, he and Ernest are almost twins.”

Zane said, “Look he’s unloading some rusty old Schwinns.”

The next morning Zane and I were sad.

We realized that Santa’s helper really was Dad.

 

Why didn’t Santa find a helper he could trust?

Zane and I didn’t ask for old bikes covered with rust.

This year I told Santa for me and my brother,

If you need a helper, please ask our mother!

 

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Letters Home: Senpai and kohai system in Japan

One very distinct and time-honored tradition in Japan is the “senpai” and “kohai” relationship between classmates and work colleagues.

A senpai is usually an elder or senior person who has a higher level of experience than the younger or junior person (kohai). This hierarchical relationship can be related to personal experience, job position, education level, or simply age within a particular organization, institution, or company. Often times, it merely means the one person happened to join the club or team before the other person … even if the younger person might have more ability than the older person, it is likely that the person would be referred to as kohai.

The role of the senpai is to act as the “go-to” person for the junior person to offer assistance, counsel, or even friendship to the “newbie” or kohai. In return, the kohai should afford the senpai a higher level of deference, respect, gratitude, and even personal loyalty. This system is most commonly seen in the context of schools, especially in school culture clubs and sports teams (bukatsudo).

The terms are gender neutral in that they may refer to both males and females equally.

 

 

Due to the proliferation in the West of Japanese manga and anime, the term is not completely foreign to people who are aficionados of Japanese comic book culture. Early on when Japanese anime was gaining in popularity overseas, the term senpai was sometimes misunderstood to have a sexual context, but it simply is an honorific title of respect that refers to the relationship of an older classmate or colleague who is wiser or more experienced in things than the younger, junior person.

The senior/junior relationship has its roots in Confucianism, but has become a very distinctive and unique aspect of Japanese culture and tradition, even though the original concept was imported.

Using senpai to refer to an older classmate is still very common and is used frequently amongst younger people. I often hear my students in class address a friend or classmate with senpai in normal conversation. Most often, the two students belong to the same university club or play on a sports team together.  

It has been my experience to notice the senpai/kohai relationship and distinction occurring at about the time children enter junior high school. I don’t notice it so much among younger children, but once they get to the lower secondary education stage of their lives, it starts to be used. This perhaps could be because this is the time when they begin to play sports more earnestly and start to join student clubs. 

The tradition then continues through university and into their professional lives after joining the work force. Especially if a new worker joins a company where there are people from his/her university already employed there, the term would be used when referring to an older colleague who is already established in the company or school (in the case of teachers).

This is not to suggest that those who are senpai have it made in the shade in being given deference and respect by their underlings or kohai. Being a senpai is a huge responsibility and has real implications for the senpai; in order to be a good elder to his/her kohai, the senpai must be good at advising their kohai by offering support and assistance when needed to the junior person. If a senpai is too bossy, selfish, overbearing, and/or treating the kohai badly, then the senpai will lose the respect of the kohai which is avoided at all costs.

A bad senpai is the kiss of death in the social-hierarchy of the group because once one gets that reputation, it is hard to regain that respect once again. The relationship runs so deeply within Japanese culture that people maintain lifelong senpai/kohai relationships long after the initial association for the hierarchical relationship has finished.

The other side of this hierarchical coin is that the kohai must show his/her senpai proper respect and deference in order not to be labeled as a contrarian or a disrespectful antagonist. If a kohai insists upon not showing the needed respect to his/her senior, then the kohai will likely be put in his/her place (if not by the actual senpai then by other kohai or senpai in the group).

A tired an overused saying in Japan is “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” but it is quite apropos in this situation. The kohai will quickly be admonished by the others in the group and likely be told to shape up or ship out.

The senpai/kohai system in Japan is, in part, the oil that keeps the finely-tuned cultural and societal inner workings running smoothly. People know their place and behave accordingly. There is a related concept that is quite prevalent in Japan that is marginally related to the senpai/kohai tradition and that is “amae.” 

Amae is a Japanese character trait that emphasizes the need to be dependent upon or attached to others in order to remain in good favor with the group. A worker may ask a boss a softball question at a meeting to show his/her dependence upon the higher up. Even if he/she knows the answer to the question, it is considered appropriate to show dependency upon the experience or wisdom of the other person in the supervisorial role. 

On first reflection, one would think that something like amae wouldn’t be a positive character trait, especially when looking at it through an American cultural lens where independence is expected, welcomed, and admired. But in Japan, a sense of dependency upon another person, group, or work situation portrays the importance of the group and one’s desire and need to have that group or person to depend upon.

The ultimate goal I think is for the person to display the need for maintaining a harmonious atmosphere within the shared space which may or may not be related directly to individual specialties or social boundaries. The bottom line is it shows a need for mutually beneficial relationships with those with whom one is interacting with frequently or on a regular basis. 

Amae is such an ingrained aspect of Japanese interactions that I believe it is largely done unconsciously in depending upon others to do things for them. My first introduction to the concept of amae was when I read the book “The Anatomy of Dependence” by Takeo Doi in the 1970s. His description of amae was so interesting to me back then, and over the past nearly 40 years I have had so many opportunities to see it play out around me in my interactions with Japanese people while living and working in Japan.

If my memory is correct, one aspect Doi focused on in the book was how this sense of dependence is similar to how children will purposefully behave childishly in order to get parents to indulge them more and he believed that this need extends into adulthood and generally Japanese people yearn for this child-parent type of connection with those whom they must interact with in daily life.

All this talk of dependence and amae makes me want to pull Doi’s book off the bookshelf again and reread it! 

Photo: A kohai (left) is visiting a football stadium in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with his senpai (right). They both belong to their own university's football club. The senpai is also a coach for the football team.

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Origin of the Christmas Wasp

 

Before there were beautiful stories of Santa and Christmas, there were darker tales told at Christmas time. One tale that originated in the early 1600s in Poland survives even today in rural areas in Europe about the Christmas Wasp or Wasp King. During this time period, candy canes in northern Europe were black and yellow commemorating the Christmas Wasp.

The story is told that a poor farmer made a deal with the Devil concerning his turnip crop. The devil would cause the farmer’s turnip crop to be a bumper crop, and the farmer would yield his soul for eternal damnation.

The Devil tried to collect what was due to him for producing a bumper crop for the farmer. But the farmer offered to cut off his own fingers instead of yielding his soul for eternal damnation.

When the devil refused that compromise, the farmer thought fast and offered the devil a taste of the world’s finest honey. Apparently, even Satan liked honey, so he agreed to follow the farmer to his woodshed for his prize of honey. The farmer told Satan that all he had to do was to reach into a hole in the wall and he would get a real treat. What Satan did not know was that in the hole was a wasp nest, and wasps do not produce honey. The stings were so severe that the Devil fled back to Hell. 

The story does not end there. The Wasp King was so irritated at the farmer that he and his fellow wasps stung the farmer to death. 

Well, enough with the dark side of folklore concerning insects and Christmas. Enjoy your Christmas Season and don’t reach into any wasp nests!

Column: Reindeer games

Dear readers,

I’ll get to the mailbag in a minute, but first I have some bad news. Team Schwinn is ending our public service project, “Letters to The Helbing.”

Outreach volunteer Jack Yeend reports that only one letter has been received. It was a prank letter penned by Bill Stafford. Bill was supposedly working on an art project of his own to be installed on the people trail called, “Water, Trees, and Flowers.” 

I thought a public that once paid $3.99 a minute for advice from psychic Miss Cleo would jump at the chance of getting free advice from a giant stainless-steel sculpture. It looks like I was wrong. Now let’s open the mail.

I received a letter from Cousin Tom’s donkey Cletus this week. It’s not unusual for me to receive correspondence from Cletus. He writes almost weekly harping on and on about the time Team Schwinn embarrassed him by trying to enter him in the Indiana Derby. 

For you newer readers, we really did try to enter Cletus in the Indiana Derby. It was mostly local attorney Tyler “Earl” Brant’s idea. We located a jockey who didn’t have a mount in the derby, outfitted him in our official “View From My Schwinn” silks and showed up to race.

Cletus was disqualified for not being a horse. Team Schwinn knew it was a long shot. Maybe some of us went along with the scheme knowing it was a joke. The officials at the track were great sports but did insist that Cletus leave the premises. As you might expect he was stubborn, and it took us forever to get him back in the trailer.

 

 

I decided to publish Cletus’ letter this week because it is timely and I’m glad he has embraced his donkey heritage.

Dear Kris,

Tis the season, so how about a shout out in your column for the donkeys.  Somehow the reindeer have hijacked Christmas. Poor Rudolph couldn’t join in the reindeer games, boo hoo. Children even know their names, on Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and yada, yada, yada. 

I’m somewhat confused because I have a Christmas story that has been passed down in my donkey family for many generations. As it was told to me, long before my family legally immigrated to this country, my ancestors lived in a place called Nazareth.  

One of my grandfathers (too many greats to include) was present for the first Christmas. It was winter and he carried a pregnant woman to Bethlehem. The trip was no cart ride. It was about 70 miles as the crow flies and walking in the rocky terrain took better than a week. To make things worse, not an hour or so after arrival the baby came and was placed in grandpa’s food.  

A great number of visitors stopped by to see the baby which resulted in a sleepless night for grandpa. Several days later grandpa traveled with the family to Egypt. According to donkey folklore, there were other animals present, including sheep and a camel or two, but no reindeer.

So now for my Christmas question. Can you please explain how the reindeer got in the story?

Just wondering,

Cletus

Dear Cletus,

Reindeer got in the story somehow along with fruitcake, eggnog and too much shopping.

Christmas is really all about the baby who was named Jesus. However, the good news is that most humans get around to remembering that by December 25.

Don’t bother writing me a letter this spring asking about Easter. I don’t have any idea how bunnies took over that holiday.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Christmas Folklore and Insects

During the Christmas Season it is always interesting to investigate how insects play a part in Christmas legends and folklore. One interesting story has to do with the legend of the Christmas Spider. 

The Christmas Spider originates as a German or Ukrainian story. In its simplest form, it is a story of a poor woman and her experience every Christmas Eve when the Christ Child would appear and bless her house. On that day, the house had to be spotless. Even the spider webs would need to be removed. 

But one Christmas Eve, the spiders came down and formed their webs all over the Christmas tree covering every branch and twig. When the Christ Child came to see the house and bless it, He saw the webs and their beauty. When the Christ child touched the webs, they turned into silver and gold. 

Since that time, we have enjoyed tinsel as a decoration that is hung on Christmas trees in remembrance of the Christmas spiders’ webs.  

Insects are many times used in storytelling to explain supernatural events. There are many Christmas stories worldwide that include different insects.

The Christmas season is a perfect time to examine some of these stories and continue to pass them down through the generations.

Column: Only 15 shopping days until Christmas

Dear readers,

Thanksgiving is over. It is now finally time for the holiday that Hobby Lobby began celebrating in June. 

My Arlo Guthrie LP “Alice’s Restaurant” is safely stored away until next Thanksgiving. I’ve replaced it on the stereo with my Nat King Cole “Christmas Album.”

I always like to get in the Christmas mood by playing “The Christmas Song.”  It’s the one that begins,

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire                                                        

Jack Frost nipping at your nose                                                       

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir                                                  

And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Just by reading those lyrics, I’ll bet many of you already have the song playing in your head. Now I’ll cut a slice of fruitcake and pour myself a glass of eggnog. OK, let’s open this week’s mail. 

 

 

Dear Kris,

Help! Our family is already having a holiday argument. You can settle the argument because we have already agreed to go with whatever you say. The argument is about regifting.

Our family is split almost evenly between “there’s nothing wrong with regifting” and “regifting is lazy, tacky, and wrong.”

What say you, Kris?

Name withheld upon request.

Dear divided family,

To quote Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided cannot stand.” Most people think Lincoln first made this statement in some civil war speech.  It was really his “go to” saying back when he was practicing family law in Illinois. 

In all family law matters, Lincoln would just make that statement using his most commanding voice followed by, “Now get out of my office. My fee is a sack of turnips or a roll of Necco Wafers. Pay my secretary on your way out.”

I only mention this bit of Lincoln trivia to give you one more example of why you are so very lucky to be living in the 21st century -- as if not getting polio and having indoor plumbing weren’t reason enough.

Unlike Lincoln, I can give you advice that is useful. It has nothing to do with my legal education being any better than Lincoln’s. It has everything to do with the fact that I watched the 12th episode of the 6th season of Seinfeld, “The Label Maker.” It is the episode when dentist Tim Whatley famously regifts a label maker.

The old saying,” killing two birds with one stone” was coined by the person who first invented regifting. You not only save money, but you also reap the benefit of cleaning out your closets and crawl space at the same time.  

Regifting can be a bit tricky, but if done with the right attitude it can be rewarding for both the giver and the recipient. Here are a few simple rules.

Try to not regift the item to the relative who gave it to you last Christmas. Unless you are sure they are absent minded.

When regifting chia pets, be sure to put in a new packet of chia seeds.

If regifting an item that isn’t really age appropriate for the new recipient, it is better if you aren’t off by more than a few years.

If the regift has been stored in the crawl space for several years, be sure to wipe off the mold.

Finally, what do you do if you are out of money, but know that a regift will disappoint the recipient?

Easy, just give them a certificate that says, “A donation has been made in your name to “The Human Fund.”

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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