Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A lost word from my childhood.

It snowed today.  Not a rare occurrence in my neck of the woods, but it was the kind of snow that got left on the side streets and the town cleared just the main highways.  I had a tickling at the back of my brain that this day would be perfect for something, but the image wouldn't fully emerge.  I stayed in and caught up on some projects, and it was later in the day when I found myself on our family website, that a post from my brother Ace, helped me complete the image.

Note the air hose on the ground.
     He had posted a note simply entitled "Remember" where he recalled sounds and smells from his youth and sadly some of them no longer exist. The one that stood out for him was the sound of a bell as you pulled into a gas station.  There used to be an air hose stretched across the driveway and it dinged a bell inside when a car drove over it.  The attendants would spring into action at it's sound, just like Pavlov's dogs.  They would wash your windows, check your oil and tire pressure, and pump the gas for you. Back then we called that "Customer Service".  I don't think it exists anymore.  Back to the point.....

The snow covered side streets and my brother's reminiscing, cleared the image up for me that I had been struggling with.  The word I was missing was "pogi".  It's other forms were "pogied" and "pogiing" (I just had to add them all to my dictionary to remove the red edit squiggles, which made me sad).  What?  You don't know these words?  It's kinda the point of this blog, but I'll help you out and use them in a sentence....

     We pogied our way to St. Mary's School this am. 
     We've been pogiing all morning and we never got caught.
     Why walk when you can pogi?

Parents holding, helmet, knee pads, elbow pads emergency backpack.
What?  Still nothing?  Tough crowd.  All right, the term, as it applied in my youth, was a verb meaning " to grab the bumper of a car, usually one stopped at an intersection, and to slide behind it on a snow covered street as a means of transportation".  You got extra points if it was a bus.  Oops, I forgot to warn people that this blog contained "dangerous" ideas.  My bad.  I haven't seen anyone pogi in a couple of decades, but look at where we have come in that time, seat belts, car seats, air bags, cameras for backing up (this would have screwed us in any pogiing attempt on a car), electric outlet covers, knee pads, elbow pads, bike helmets, childhood obesity to cushion our falls, the list goes on and on.  I got yelled at one time for calling a "Chinese Fire Drill" in a stopped car full of teens.  I was told that it was dangerous, but weird, all of them survived and were laughing their asses off when they got back in.  I feel a little racist in this blog now, because I  posted a picture of over-protective Asian parents and used the term "Chinese Fire Drill" right after it.  I hope my Asian audience will forgive me, but I digress.....

    So how did we pogi? We generally started out for school a little early.  You would think that it would be faster to pogi than to walk, but you had to wait for the right opportunity.  There were 2 or 3 stop signs on our walk to St. Mary's and that is where you could catch a car.  Your brothers or sisters would distract the driver while you snuck behind the car and grabbed onto the bumper.  The car would then take off with you and your Millbrook wrapper stuffed boots in tow (The Millbrook bread wrappers helped keep your socks dry if you ended up with a split or a hole in your boot).
The summer version of pogiing
You then just held on until you strategically decided to exit the
ride.  A car closing in from behind would be a valid reason to let go of the bumper.  If the car accelerated over 30 mph, that would be another reason.  A police car anywhere in the vicinity, yeah you would bail for that.  Once you let go, you tried to keep going as far as you could slide on the snow covered streets.  Eventually friction would slow your momentum and your pogi was done.  Points were awarded for the length of the ride, if you could stay on around a turn and how graceful your dismount was.  The picture on the right was the closest thing I could find on the whole World Wide Web to kids pogiing, adding further proof that the word and activity are both out of existence or at least since Al Gore invented the internet.  I asked some friends at a party this weekend if they knew the term, and no one did, except for one other person that had graduated from St. Mary's in Cdga (way to represent,  Jen Mapes Green).  I was beginning to think the whole thing was just a delusion until she confirmed and then told me the meaning of the word. I know I'll lose it someday, I was just relieved it wasn't that day. 

     After a successful pogi, you had to tell the story to your classmates, and of course the ride got longer, faster, more epic and dangerous, with each telling.  I personally went over a mile one time, going 75, with 4 cop cars chasing me, and my boots on fire. I could melt some Millbrook bread wrappers to prove it if you need me to. 

So that's my lost word and activity.  I would invite you all to comment with your own lost experiences, and words that you used to hear, but no longer do.  Tell me if this blog sparked a childhood memory of your own.  Share this post to your Facebook or e-mail it to your friends and see what the reaction is.

  I'd love to have more people confirm the existence of the word pogi, hey who knows, maybe it will even make a comeback? Well, maybe not. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

3 brothers, a shopping cart and a very steep hill.

By special request.

     So, I think I have mentioned before that my brothers and I used to belong to the Columbian Squires.  It was the junior order of the esteemed Knights of Columbus. We held our meetings on Monday evenings in the K of C hall above a furniture store in Canandaigua.  It was downtown, so it was walkable for us. I laugh at that statement because surely the definition of "walkable" has changed since the 70's.  Case in point, I have a sister who drove her kids to the high school each am, which really wasn't much further than where the High School that we went to was located, so it must not have been "walkable" any more.  When I was a kid, the lake was walkable, Roseland Amusement Park was walkable, and when I started college, CCFL was walkable, all from my home at the north end of town, on Fort Hill.  So, we walked to the Squires meetings and it was on one of these walks that we encountered divine providence. 

     It had no business being there.  It didn't.  There were no grocery stores near where we found it, the closest at the time was the Star market on West Avenue, but we were many blocks from there when we found it.  A perfectly good shopping cart, and placed at the top of Wood street in Canandaigua.  Now, for those not from Canandaigua, a description of Wood street is in order.  It is a steep street bi-sected in the middle by Gorham street (right near one of the two octagon houses in the county), and terminating at the bottom at a T intersection with Ontario street. Railroad tracks lay about 20 feet further at the bottom if you continue in a straight line. 

At the time this story takes place, it was winter, and the cart we found was on it's side, in the snow, just waiting for us, at the top of the hill. There were 3 of us as I recall it, brother Redface, brother Ace, and myself.  For some reason I don't connect my brother Aquaman to the Squires, or that night.  If he joined, it's been lost in my memory, but I'll bet that he was at least hit and miss for meetings if he was even a member.  On this evening, the sun was starting to set, and we three were staring at the cart and the incongruity of it in the snow, at the top of the hill.  It took us a while to come up with " Hey, maybe we should push someone in it?" 

Now how we decided who would ride in it has been lost to the ages, but we had the standards like everyone else, Eeenie, Meenie, Minee, Mo or Rock, Paper, Scissors, or Bet I can hold my breath longer, but in the end, it was brother Redface who ended up in the cart while we pushed.  I'm not sure if he felt at the start of that ride if that was a win or a lose, but I know how he felt at the end of it.  It was not a win.  To this day, one of the things I ponder is why he got in the cart the way he did.  In retrospect, I would have crouched on my feet and knees, but brother Redface entered ass first forming a V of sorts, legs and arms up, and almost completely unable to change his position once seated in the cart.  He always trusted us more than he should of.  This story needs to stay on point so here's what happened next..
Brother Redface (before we pushed him)

Neither Ace or I had more than a fundamental understanding of gravitational force, momentum, and Newton's laws, but we were about to get a quick education.  I started pushing the cart and it's occupant quickly down a rapidly descending slope, and the road surface was slick with snow.  You would think we might have anticipated that I might slip and actually propel the cart more as I fell to the ground, but you would be wrong, and that is exactly what happened.  I had only just started to push the cart, and lost my footing, and my momentum caused me to fall forward and push the cart as I fell.  As I quickly scrambled to my feet, I realized that the cart was accelerating more rapidly than I could, so in essence, it was out of control.  Everyone realized this, that is, except my brother Redface.  He was enjoying the wildly careening ride, oblivious to the fact, neither Ace or I had any control of the situation.  We screamed at him that we were no longer steering and he laughed, we yelled it again and again until his brain finally realized that our voices shouldn't be sounding that far away if we were still hanging on to the cart.  Then the panic set in, and with good reason.  I did mention that the hill was steep and bi-sected by Gorham Street, right?  It's a 4 way stop, or at least is intended to be.  On that particular evening, my brother Redface seemed to be blatantly ignoring the stop sign and as the cart continued downhill, the 30 mph speed limit as well.  There seemed to be no solution to his predicament, and it was getting increasingly more dangerous too.

The T intersection with Ontario street was rapidly approaching, and brother Ace and I had a bird's eye view of the impending crash of the cart and the curb.  We really weren't into praying much then, but I have to say I think we both prayed at least there wouldn't be a passing car at an extremely inopportune time.  Back to Redface, now screaming, pleading and making his own deals with God.  I suddenly had an epiphany, but unfortunately it wasn't a solution to the problem, rather it was a clear recollection of Newton's first law of motion, which roughly paraphrased is " A body in a shopping cart in motion will continue to remain in motion unless acted upon by a superior force". You see, the curb would do a great job of stopping the cart, but not necessarily of stopping my brother when propelled from the cart towards the railroad tracks.  A quick thought of explaining this to the police crossed my mind, " Well officer, he was still moving when the train came through, so I can't see how we could be considered liable...."   Back to brother Redface, now hoarse from screaming, and with fear tremors starting.

     We were feeling pretty helpless, unable to catch the cart, slipping on the ice and snow, and unable to even shout any soultions to our brother.  He was 2/3 of the way down the hill and destined for an abrupt stop, when he had an epiphany and fortunately this time it was a solution to the problem.  He couldn't get out of the cart, he couldn't steer it, but he could ROCK it, so rock it he did.  He started shifting his weight back and forth, realizing that the fall on the asphalt was far preferable to the ending at the bottom of the hill.  He shifted it enough to actually change the trajectory and suddenly the cart veered left and ran into a snowbank and ejectied our brother into the same snowbank, shaken up, but unhurt.  We gathered up our shaky legged brother, left the cart, and headed off to our meeting, and chalking this up as another "Remember that time you almost died story".  I remember being chilled in a different way that winter evening, not relating to the cold, but to the calamity narrowly avoided, and not by me, though I had started the cart running downhill. It made me more aware of the possible unintended consequences of my actions, and I have to say, that it was a long time before I used anything other than my own two feet else to propel myself anywhere, well, after all, most the places were walkable.

The End.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My girlfriend Stretch.

OK, this week's blog is pretty tongue in cheek, but enjoy it just the same.

     I have a confession to make.  I've had a girlfriend on the side for quite a while now.  I don't know how it happened, how do these things ever happen?  I'm pretty sure it started a few years ago at camp.  We were both leaders for a national organization for youth that encourages kids to get out and camp, and that I can't mention here. We ended up going on a few camp outs together.  Next thing you know, there we were sharing a seat on a log, and after the kiddies went to bed, we'd share stories of our lives until the wee hours (you know 10 o'clock). It was a special time, and I'm sure both of us could feel it.

These kind of relationships always start this way, they
come in with a whisper, but can build up to a gale force wind. While we talked, we discovered the most amazing coincidences about our lives.  She had 3 kids and I had 3 kids!  They went to the local school and so did mine!  She had 2 girls and a boy, and I had 1 girl and 2 boys!  She was married, and so was I ! She goes to church, and so do I ! Is anyone getting goose bumps yet?  It gets even better.  I sold pie, and she ate pie!  She worked in the medical field specializing in cardiac care, and I have bad tickers in my family!  I love to talk about my work, and she can't talk about hers because of  HIPAA laws (wait, that's not a coincidence, that's just a benefit, sorry). 
It was amazing that we had all these things in common, and we both could feel this instant connection. There was a small issue, however,  we weren't alone on this camp out.  There was another male leader who attended and he was more her height and was a good golfer.  I haven't described Stretch yet, so I probably should now.

     She's like 7 and 1/2 feet tall (or at least she looks it from my 5' 6 " vantage point).  She's blond, slightly older than me, and dare I say it, ugh skinny.  I can't really put up a picture of her, so imagine if Cheetara from the Thundercats had a Katy Perry moment with Hello Nurse from the Animaniacs, and they produced a female offspring....

  That's what my girlfriend Stretch looks like.  Back to the story...
So this other leader who can look Stretch in the eye, instead of her boobs (This is a huge tactical advantage), swoops in and starts talking about golf.  I can see her eyes glaze over almost immediately and I, sadly, have nothing to offer in a conversation about good golfing. By the end of the camp the other leader even has a cute nickname for her made up, and it looks unlikely that my relationship with Stretch will be able to survive, sigh.  That's the way these things go sometimes though, you are only interesting until something newer and shinier comes along (or taller).  I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't compete at that level, literally, and packed my duffel and sadly left for home. 

(Wait, did you just go  Awww?  I have to remind you that, so far,  this is a story of two married people and what sounds like the starting of an inappropriate relationship between them.  You people are sick, each and every one of you, and are the reason that the Bridges of Madison County was such a popular book and movie.  Trust me I can't get away with the stuff Clint Eastwood can.  Historians in the future will surely trace the exact moment of America's moral decline back to the opening of that movie but I digress....)

So I'd see Stretch around for a while after that, but we never seemed to get back to the closeness that we had, that was, until I started a charity golf tournament!  You see, I have some people fooled into thinking I do it for altruistic reasons, but really it's all about getting the ladies. She formed a group and even though my tall competition was a member of her team, I could tell her eyes were really on me.  I made sure we gave the money to cardiac rehab center, just to impress her.  After a few years, my competition fell off her team, and we started to get closer again.  Did I mention that she likes a cigar every now and again?  Did I further mention how hot I think that is?  This soon became our thing, and I became her cigar buddy, Score!  Now I was guaranteed personal face time with her 1 or 2 times each year. Now, the question was, how to add more activities?   During this period, I talked my kids into joining the youth group of her church and they didn't even attend that church!!  My daughter even went on a Mission trip with them and I quickly signed up as a chaperone for the trip, figuring that Stretch would surely go as a chaperone too and we could recreate our camping moments.  Sadly, she didn't and I had to go anyway.  That's a blog for another day.  I still hadn't found the way to get closer. We started to hang out together as couples, and went to bars and stuff, but her husband was always there.  He's tall, muscular, funny, and hard working, Damn him. It was a few years ago that we realized that they didn't really do anything on Christmas Eve, and we like to host an intimate party for some family and friends that night, so it seemed a natural fit that they start to attend. Now I had her in an intimate setting and with mistletoe close by.  The only flaw in that plan was the height difference again, each time I would try to get amorous, she would peer over my head unaware and carry on conversations with the taller people at the party. Foiled again.  At this point in my pursuit of Stretch, I was beginning to feel a lot like Wile E. Coyote and I was the
one getting perpetually screwed by the Acme company, but things were about to change, and in a big way (picture a bigger Acme crate arriving). 
It was at one of these parties though, that she invited me to come and "exercise" with her at the local high school weight room and she did it right front of my wife! I coyly played along and we made a date for the following Monday at 6 am (She likes to do it early, like me). I could hardly wait until Monday came around.

     Before I finish the story, I should probably share a little tidbit about myself.  I tend to set unrealistic and high expectations and frequently set myself up for disappointment.  Every morning, and I do mean every morning, while I shower, I think to myself, "Hmm I wonder if my wife took this time to change into a negligee and will be lying prone on the bed when I enter my bedroom?".  So many mornings that leaves me entering my bedroom, glancing at the empty bed, and sighing heavily. I know it's stupid, but it's a pattern of mine, and hey, sometimes it happens.  So you can imagine how I looked forward to my upcoming "exercise" date.  Would showing up in a smoking jacket be overkill?  What cologne to wear (musk seemed appropriate)?  Show more skin or make her work for it?  The decisions were agonizing.  Finally, Monday came, and I set off for the weight room with expectations set high.

I had gotten up a few hours early to make sure I was appropriately dressed (see picture to right).  During the 15 minute drive to the school, I was certain that our first date was going to go perfect.  I mean, she set it up at 6, just so no one else would be there and if a sexier environment for a first date exists, better than an empty high school weight room, I don't know it.  I arrived promptly at 6, and went in to see what she had chosen to wear, but she wasn't there.  Now, that's an oddity of mine as well, I like my girlfriends to be prompt.  When she finally did arrive at 8 after, I was flabbergasted!  No lingerie, no sports bra, no Chanel  # 5 (in fact she smelled a little pre-sweaty), she had everything but her hair done up in curlers. Me, and my well oiled body were not happy.  You see, I've had girlfriends like this before, the ones that take you for granted, but I've never actually had it happen on the first date.  Stretch had revealed her true nature to me, and I didn't like it one bit.  I decided, at that moment, that we could be workout, cigar, drinking, charity working, party going buddies, but the romantic part of our relationship was dead, sigh.  
      So I've had a girlfriend on the side for a while now.  My wife knows, and she doesn't seem to mind.  Women have a sense for these things.  It's kind of sad how hard Stretch tries to get closer to me (she reminds me of Wile E Coyote sometimes), but the deck is stacked against her.  Now you can go, Awww. 


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sometimes, they call me Willie.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

It's true isn't it?  It doesn't really matter what they call us, but, then again, yes it does.  I get a different sense from each person that uses one of my monikers.  It could be the body language that goes with them or vocal inflections, but I hear them all differently, and I react to them that way.  They call me Bill, Billy, Will, Yarg, Yager, William Allen Yarger (especially when I am in trouble), Dude, Wilber, Taco Bill, Bilbo Baggins, Billy-Boy, and yes, sometimes they call me Willie.

     My dad called me Willie, but not all the time.  He would refer to me as Bill most of the time, but seemed to use Willie as a just- between -us name.  For the talks on his knee, I would be Willie.  For his life lessons on the farm I'd be Willie, like the time we went there to bury my dog.
My dad, Paul Cooper Yarger

I was Willie that morning.  I asked my mom today if she remembers dad calling me Willie, but she doesn't.  It's a toss up whether it's because of her failing memory or if he didn't do it in front of her, but I remember.  He didn't use it often,which made it special to me, and coincidentally since then, only people that I have a special relationship with, have called me Willie. 

     One of my first bosses,  Papa Frank, asked if he could call me Willie.  There was a Phil already working there when I started so to avoid confusion, it became Phil and Willie.  You'd be surprised how common a custom this is in the foodservice industry.  I had a great waiter at Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa this year, named Trebor.
Papa Frank
When I asked the origin of his name, he said sheepishly, it's Robert spelled backwards, because we can't have two waiters here with the same name. So Willie wasn't so bad, I could have been called Llib or Mailliw. Since Frank was a mentor, I didn't mind  him using Willie, and it followed that the people I worked with there started using it too.  Some of these folks still do today, but a lot of them have shortened it to Will.

     My Mother in Law calls me Willie.  I can't really fault her, and after all she gave me the best gift I have ever received in my life, my beautiful bride.  She would have guessed the golf ball mono-grammer she gave me a few Christmas's ago was the best gift, but she would have been wrong.  That comes in second. It's not like I find all the balls that I lose on the golf courses, but at least everyone else who finds them knows who to thank.  I'm pretty fortunate to have the MIL I have, even if she did move into our town. She is happy to have the regular interaction with us that she does, and she rarely turns down an invitation to join us for functions.  That's the kind of person Willie likes. 

     One of my favorite sisters calls me Willie (What?  You don't play favorites?  How do your siblings know how hard they have to compete to get to the top spot, then?  Weird.)  I haven't introduced her in the blog yet, so I'll do that now.  My sister, Hummingbird, is about 5 years older than me, but she acts and moves like she is 10 years younger.  I can categorically say that she is the only sibling I have, that has bitten by the "cleaning bug".
She smells like Windex every time I hug her.  I named her Hummingbird, because she reminds me of one.  She flits about from place to place cleaning, even if you are there having a beer, and she never lands.  She's kept at least 2 jobs for the majority of her life, one for the pension and benefits and the other to keep her active (Like she needs it).  I think I have this one named perfectly.  She started calling me Willie after working with me at Papa Franks, and she was one of the ones who never stopped.  Most of her e-mails to me start, "Heh Willie" and I smile when I read this even before I know what they are about.  I've got a couple of blogs in mind for this sister, but I'll leave it there for now.  I like it when she calls me Willie.

      My best friend from high school used to call me Willie, but eventually switched to Wilber, which took on a different meaning.  Everybody grows up, but given my choice today I'd have kept him calling me Willie, if it kept him as the same person I went to high school with.  It's natural for relationships to ebb and flow, but it still stings when you look back and see how little you have in common now.  His dad still calls me Willie. He is still the same as I remember while I was growing up.

      My girlfriend, Stretch, calls me Willie.  She's not really my girlfriend, she's my exercise buddy, and breakfast companion.  I don't know how she started calling me Willie, but it would seem strange to have her call me anything else now.  When she does call, it's always to sign me up to work on a charity thing, or to exercise or to go have cocktails. She's my kind of people, she likes to contribute, but she likes to have fun too.  I've got a whole blog on her almost finished, let me know if there is interest in hearing more about her, and I'll put in on the front burner.

      Lastly, my current boss calls me Willie.  He used to manage just the part of my business that fell into Canada (about 15%), but for 2011 he starts to manage all of me. We were peers first, before he became my boss, so the relationship started as equals, and he started calling me Willie.  It stuck, but now the relationship is changing.  I'm not a big fan of management, it's a character flaw of mine.  He likes to know what's going on with his people frequently, which is something I struggle with.  I am hoping that the relationship we had prior to his becoming my boss will survive.  I thought of him as a mentor but really appreciated our nights out together when he would let his hair down a little.  I know he appreciates my sales ability and has already expressed a great willingness to work with me to accomplish the company goals.  If I were a betting man, I'd bet things will work our great this year, and he will both continue to mentor me, and call me Willie.

     It's kind of an odd blog this week, but one that is perfect for interaction with the readers.  Do you have nicknames that carry special meaning?  Special people that have pet names for you?  Do you respond better to one name or another?  Do you hate one of your names or when people call you something in particular?  I had a secretary/customer service person for 8 years that hated to be called Mo (her name was Maureen).  I didn't find out that fact for years. I still want to call her that now, and catch myself often just before I do.  Tell me your stories, and I'll share them with Willie.