Thursday, November 29, 2012

Does His Writing Pass the Smell Test?

We can’t live in a perfect world. Or maybe I should say…why can’t we live in a perfect world? There’s a good reason: What one person considers perfect, another may probably think of as…flawed. Consider…smells, if you will.

Surveys of Americans in recent years illustrated that cigarette smoking is down among adults, but both cigar and pipe smoking is on the rise. Yes, I said pipe-smoking! That’s the thing you may have seen protruding from your grandfather’s teeth as he ambled about the house.

Four-term New Jersey Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick who served in the 1970s, was known for smoking a pipe—a characteristic she adopted when her doctor advised her to quit cigarettes.

Personally, I quit smoking in 1980, but I keep a full cigar humidor handy for guests, and I still have a nice collection of pipes. And although it’s been years since I fired-up one of my briars or meerschaums, I can still recall the enjoyment I got from lighting up a bowlful of my favorite black Cavendish pipe tobacco.

Curiously, I have found over the years that a lot of cigar smokers also own a pipe or two. And a lot of the pipe smokers I knew would not turn down a good cigar if offered one. Cigarette smokers, on the other hand, I find almost parochial in their choice of tobacco. So much so, that most won’t even stray from their steady brand.

At least that’s the way it used to be. And I have smoked all three devices. I always considered a cigar or pipe something to be enjoyed slowly, and usually when I’m alone, whereas cigarettes were more of a …social activity. If someone else lit up; you did too.

Now, with cigar and pipe smoking on the rise, well, I guess that will also bring a new brand of tobacco Nazi out of the woodwork. I heard one recently on Philadelphia’s local news. “I can’t stand it when I’m on the beach and I’m downwind of someone smoking a cigar,” she complained. “They smell terrible! They think just because they’re out in the open they can smoke!”

Well, imagine their nerve: Smoking out in the open by the sea, and assaulting a TV personality’s nostrils. I wanted to talk back to my TV and tell Suzie newscaster that it’s just not a perfect world. Not for her; not for me.

Of course, I enjoy the aroma of a good panatela, but I am usually repulsed by the stench of some of the perfumes worn by contemporary women. There’s one omnipresent fragrance that—to me—smells suspiciously like cat urine. Yet I catch that aroma often—especially in restaurants.

And, although not as offensive to me, I certainly don’t want someone doused in Jean Nate’ sitting at the next table while I’m trying to enjoy a steak—medium well, please.

No matter how delicate your olfactory senses, you can log on to anytime, and not have your nose offended. Even though I have heard people exclaim from time to time, “That guy’s writing stinks!”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Should She Be In her Tree?

Well, tis the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house…well, at least all through the kitchen…my wife is running around like a chicken, er…turkey with her head cut off. You see, we have Thanksgiving at our home every year—always have had—and that means Barbara runs the show.

Daughters will be here…sons-in-law, grandchildren, and this will be the first year we entertain a great-grand-child — 13-month-old Andrew. So his gifts from Turkey Claus are already under the Thanksgiving Tree, which, anyone who has ever visited our house can tell you, is a staple in the Vanore Home. As is an Easter Tree, Valentine Tree, St. Patrick Tree, Summer Tree, Halloween Tree…and, oh yes, we also have a Christmas Tree.

Lest you think that our home is a veritable forest…you should know that they are all the same tree, re-decorated for every season. My wife has done this for more years than I can remember, and although there are probably others who decorate their home in this fashion, I’ve certainly never seen another.

By next weekend, while we’re having cold turkey sandwiches with turkey soup, the Christmas tree will no doubt be in some process of final assembly. And before you ask, yes, my wife has finished her Christmas shopping, which should come as no surprise, since she started in August, while the Summer Tree was still prominent in our living room.

But even so, we do not rush the seasons. We don’t want to hear Christmas music until at least Thanksgiving. When I heard carols being played in the local WalMart last week, I remarked to the saleswoman that it was not yet Thanksgiving. She very wearily told me that if I thought it was too early, I should be thankful that I didn’t work there, because the store started Christmas before Halloween this year.

“They’ve taken all the enjoyment out of the holidays,” she complained. She told me that she had spent many years in retail sales, and always enjoyed the Christmas season, with people showing an advancing Christmas spirit as the holiday approached. “But they start too early now,” she sighed.  “Everyone’s tired and fed-up by the time Christmas week arrives. And …they spend far more than they can afford!”

Well…she bagged my purchase and wished me a happy Thanksgiving…reluctantly, so it seemed. Sadly, in some way, I guess her manager was already getting the staff ready for Valentine’s Day…or at least the January White Sales.

I just had a disturbing thought…the Vanore household has never had a Presidents’ Day Tree. Oh, Lord A’mighty…what have I done? I don’t need to give my wife any more ideas.

She’s already out of her tree.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ignore This Till After the Holidays

Thanksgiving’s around the corner, so I’d better get this one out of the way. Just file it away so you can start fresh after the holidays.

We are perpetually hammered with stories about how “fat” we’ve become as a society. And just as often, that increasing girth is randomly attributed to Big Macs, Whoppers, cheesesteaks, hoagies, pizza, Egg McMuffins, and just about any other fat-filled, high calorie American meal that can be had in minutes from a roadside fast-food dispensary.

But why do we ignore the other side of bodily functions? Why do we focus primarily on the fuel that goes into our bodies and give secondary consideration to the engine that uses that fuel? Simply put: I believe our “fatness” is due more to our inactivity than to the ingestion of a Big Mac.

A recent article in American Legion Magazine indicated that the average American burns 150 calories less per day at the workplace than they did 50 years ago. That’s because many American jobs today involve more sitting around (usually in front of a computer screen) and less moving around.

That means we carry around more than thirty-seven-thousand calories per year—every year. That’s fuel that we store instead of burn up. And that’s how we get fat.

And it’s not just the workplace. Think about it. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to change the channel on your TV, you had to get up from your seat, walk across the room, turn the channel selector, and walk back to your seat.

Most cars in 1960 had windows that had to rolled down manually. Even that burned a few calories at the toll both—at least a few calories more than are burned by the act of pressing a power window button. In fact, now we don’t even have to do that. We have E-Z Pass!

 The differences may be meager in these examples, but thirty-seven-thousand calories here; thirty-seven-thousand calories there—it can add up over the course of lifetime.

This trend has developed over two generations. Young people today don’t seem to walk anywhere. And it’s not exclusively their fault. Parents are too quick to transport them: to school, to the ballgame, to the mall…

I can just imagine asking my dad to drive me to my little league game. He would have begun his answer something like this, “Do you see those two funny-looking things at the ends of your legs? Well, try putting one in front of the other. Before you know it, you’ll be at the ball field.”

Well, now I’m going to get hypocritical and recommend you do something sedentary. While you’re sitting in front of that computer, log on to, where you can download all of my work by just pressing a key.

Think of it—you can download my novel, “Grave Departure” for about the price of a Big Mac. Hmmm…how about that—fast food for the brain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Scowls on the Honeymoon

Here in the south Jersey-Philadelphia area, we were fortunate, in that Hurricane Sandy didn’t slam into us the way it did to the shore’s barrier islands, or the way it disrupted New York. My cousin, who lives near the water in New York, lost his car and still doesn’t have power.

I thought I’d take a moment to let you know how we—my wife, Barbara and I—spent those “hurricane days” while hunkered down in storm mode.

Barbara read two books; I read two books. I tried watching the first half of the Eagles’ lifeless performance against the Atlanta Falcons that Sunday, but returned to my murder mystery before the second half started. I found the characters in Caroline Graham’s novel far less boring than the Eagles offensive attack—or rather lack thereof.

I stopped looking at the Weather Channel early Monday morning, because I didn’t need to hear any more about Michelin Tires or Allstate Insurance. The ratio of advertisement to actual storm information was running about three-to-one, so I opted to recline back on the couch and pick up another novel—this one by Mary Higgins Clark.

Here in south Jersey, we were right in the storm’s anticipated path of landfall—as the Weather Channel was persistently warning us. I know that information is intended to cause us concern, but as Barbara was quick to tell me, “There’s no sense worrying about things we have no control over.”

See, I would not have said it that way. Being an editor, I would have said, “There’s no sense worrying about things over which we have no control.” Because every English major knows you should not end a sentence with a preposition.

Can you guess what kind of reaction I got when I admonished her language skills? Let’s just say that it’s difficult to imagine how a pretty face such as her’s can form such a disagreeable scowl. It’s almost as though she’s had a lot of practice.

Well, she has been enduring me for more than 34 years, and next year, when we celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we’ll be renewing our marriage vows in front of children, grandchildren, and some close friends that have been instrumental in our lives, but just couldn’t make the original ceremony.

We even located the priest who originally married us back in '78. He thinks the idea is pretty cool, and he’s really looking forward to “marrying” us again. Why not? It worked pretty well the first time, so I’m hoping to get another 35 years out of this ceremony.

And we’ll be taking a honeymoon afterward.

No doubt, we’ll also take a couple of books along. But…I’m going to try my best to refrain from correcting Barbara’s grammar if she does happen to make a slip.

A honeymoon is not the best place to tell your bride that, “There’s no such word as irregardless!” Or, “Two negatives do not make a positive!”

I don’t need to see no disagreeable scowls on my honeymoon!