Grab a hankey!

I ran across this video from Argentina this week. It is extremely powerful and moving.

The Nightingale

At Mrs. Poolman’s suggestion, I picked up The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah after Mrs. P had finished it. I had some initial doubts, since I suspected it was “chick book.” In fact, it probably is, but there were enough other plot elements to keep me interested.

The NightengaleThe book is the story of two French sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.  Each in her own way resists the Germans. When they were young, their mother died and their father essentially dumped into the care of a guardian. The “chick” part of the plot deals a lot with the two sisters’ ambivalent feelings towards each other and towards their remote and mostly absent father. To be honest, it was this part of the story that kept me from finishing it sooner.

On the other hand, the author places the characters and their family angst into an interesting and active time and place in history. One sister is active in the French underground. Her adventures keep the story moving along. The other sister stays at home and mostly just copes with the occupiers and tries to survive and protect her daughter. About half way through the book a crisis involving her best friend forces her to take a more active role in resisting the Germans. Things pick up at that point.

There is no equivocating about whom the author considers the good guys and the bad guys. Although one Wehrmacht officer is depicted as a decent human being, the remaining Germans are painted as purely evil.

The entire World War II story is told as a flash-back as one of the sisters is remembering it in 1995. You don’t know which sister is the modern character, and I won’t spoil it for you.

I had one major complaint with the book, and it was one I repeated to Mrs. P several times. I wish the author had taken a little more care with the history in which she has planted her story. Time after time she describes war-related events that, if not totally impossible, were at least highly improbable.

She has characters discussing how the war was going badly for the Germans in North Africa before they really were. She has one of the sisters smuggling downed American fliers out of France months before Americans actually began any kind of aerial activity. (There were American fliers in the RAF, so this isn’t totally impossible, just unlikely.) She has an American Mustang (Hannah makes a point of saying it is a Mustang.) shot down while strafing a German airfield in the middle of the night She places this a good year before Mustangs were used in any numbers. And no one was strafing airfields at night any way. It’s night, so the pilots can’t see what they are doing. They also risk flying into the ground or into trees while making low-level passes.

In summary, The Nightingale isn’t bad. I’m not sorry I took the time to read it. However, I think it will appeal more to readers who enjoy stories about women’s feelings and relationships (Mrs. Poolman, for instance), rather than those who prefer a more action-focused plot.

Great breakfast sandwich

I made breakfast sandwiches for Mrs. Poolman and myself this morning. We call them “Westerns” for a reason I cannot remember. These used to be a favorite late-night snack for my brother and me when we were still living at home in high school and college. I haven’t made them very often since then. I don’t know why.

The "Western Sandwiches" are a little messy.

The “Western Sandwiches” are a little messy.

–Saute some chopped onion and sweet pepper (green, red or both.) Scramble eggs into the veggie mixture.

–Fry some deli-style ham. We used to use “chipped ham,” but that is tough to get outside of Pittsburgh.

–Slather a little mayonaise onto toast and pile on the eggs and ham.

It’s not very healthy, but it is very good. Yum!

A close shave

I think I started shaving when I was around 13 years old. I’ve always had a fairly heavy beard. It wasn’t as bad as my brother, who (legend has it) began shaving before he was potty trained. For many years, this was a torturous experience. I was always nicking myself. My neck, especially, was usually raw from the nicks, cuts and razor rash.

Then in the mid-1980s, my face found a savior in the form of a professional makeup artist. I was presenting on a live regional Emmy Award broadcast, and the producers had hired a makeup artist to make sure everyone looked their best under the lights. I think I had a particularly rough shaving session that afternoon. He looked at my razor-burned and nicked neck and asked me what kind of shaving cream I used. I don’t remember the brand, but I was probably using a cream or a gel at the time. He told me:

“Poolman, what you need to do us just go and get an old-fashioned shaving brush and a cake of shaving soap. That should take care of about 90 percent of your shaving problems.”

250px-Shaving-BrushI went out the next day and bought a mug, a brush and a cake of shaving soap. I began using them that weekend and never looked back. It has been 30 years and during that time, I have “nicked” myself maybe a handful of times a year, and those were usually occasions when I was trying to stretch a little extra life out of a dull blade. I use a shaving gel from an aerosol can when I travel, simply because the mug-brush-soap doesn’t pack easily. When I’m back at home, it’s back to the shaving mug and brush.

I have been an evangelist to any guy who would listen on the benefits of the shaving brush. It’s smooth; it’s efficient; and it’s cheap. A bar of shaving soap costs around a dollar and lasts for a couple of months.

Despite it being the “best” way to shave, apparently the technique hasn’t caught on very well. Several months ago, I went to the both CVS and Walgreens to find a replacement cake of soap, and neither store had it in stock. I ended up ordering a case of a dozen from an on-line vendor. Then, earlier this week, my shaving brush broke. (The stress incurred when lathering the brush in the mug eventually cracks and breaks the handle from the piece holding the bristles.) No big deal. So you buy a new brush for $6.00 every couple of years.

If you can find one.

I went back to CVS and Walgreens, but no joy. So back on-line I went, and spent some money that I would have preferred to keep local. This is really sad. Not only is the shaving mug and brush a long standing masculine tradition, but it’s actually the best way to protect your face during a shave. It is both better and less expensive than the myriad of creams and gels that are available. The stores shouldn’t be discontinuing those products; they should be promoting them. Whatever are they thinking?

St Patrick’s Day 2015 – Seein’ a little green

This is always a busy week here in Savannah. St. Patrick’s Day is like a mini-Mardi Gras for this town. For 12 years, Mrs. P and I organized, set-up and hosted a parade-watching “tailgate party” in a downtown square. This was a very intense project. When we first started doing this in 2002, the idea hadn’t caught on yet. You could show up at six or seven in the morning and settle into a prime spot. By the mid-2000’s, that changed for the worse. In recent years, it has involved getting downtown before 3 a.m. and picking a spot. We were not allowed in the square until 6 a.m. so we and other early-risers would line the perimeter of the square and negotiate with each other about where we would all set up. In a perfect world, it would be “first-come, first-served,” but the world is not perfect. Negotiating with the early risers was usually very civilized. However, there were always some folks who would roll up at 5:45, drop their stuff in the street and start pointing to one of the prime spots (on the perimeter) that someone else had claimed four hours earlier. At 6 a.m. the police blow a whistle and the rush would begin. It was usually all over in about two minutes. Then we would sit around, waiting for the sun to come up and trying to stay warm for the parade started at 10:15.

This was our party in 2013.

This was our party in 2013.

Last year, Mrs. P fell and broke her knee a couple of weeks before the event, which ruled out our ability to organize a party. No one else picked up the baton. Our children were both working and none of our friends had any interest. This year, Mrs. P was ready to get back in the game, but, again, we had no help. One 60+ year-old couple is simply not enough of a team to compete in the pre-dawn madness.

So, instead, Mrs. P and Poolboy put their heads together and decided we should have a parade viewing party at our house. (There is no shortage of live coverage on the local TV stations.) So that we did.

We’re not used to hosting parties that start at 10 a.m. on a weekday, but it all worked out. Everyone brought something to contribute to the food table. We had Bloody Marys and beer to drink, and a breakfast casserole, ham, fried chicken, potato salad, pasta salad, squash casserole and even green grits (a Savannah tradition.)

When the parade coverage ended around two in the afternoon, most of our guests retired to the patio (where many had spent the day anyway). The temperature was 85 degrees, which made it feel almost like summer.

Almost like a summer Sunday afternoon.

Almost like a summer Sunday afternoon.

The pool water wasn’t so warm, but that didn’t stop some of the children who were there. More power to them.

A couple of crazy ones.

A couple of crazy ones.

Hey watch this!

Hey watch this!

Beats me.

Beats me.

Mrs. P was trying to talk up getting back into the game in 2016, but she wasn’t getting a lot of encouragement. Depending on our children’s work schedules next year, we may be able to field a force sufficient to compete in the zero-dark-thirty land rush, but we’ll just have to see how that goes.

Good bye to a good dog

We had to say goodbye to our 14-year old Labrador Retriever, Casey, last week. Casey had been failing for some time. His cataracts left him mostly blind and we really don’t think he could hear a thing anymore. He had a bad case of arthritis in his back legs. As a pet owner, you always hope you will know when it is the right time to put your pet down — not too soon, but not too late either. We think it was Casey’s time.

Casey in 2009

Casey in 2009

We adopted Casey in January 2003 from a lab rescue group in Atlanta. We had driven to Atlanta and spent the night so we could be at the “adoption day” event bright and early. Casey won Mrs. Poolman’s heart when he leaned up against her leg and just slid down her leg to lie on his back in a definite “Please scratch my chest” pose.

As it turned out, Casey wasn’t the brightest dog in the animal kingdom, but he may have been one of the sweetest. That was one of his two definitive personality characteristics. He loved children. When he was still spry enough to go on walks, I used to joke that he was the post popular kid in the neighborhood. Small children would literally run out of their houses, calling his name. When we stopped, they would hug is neck, and he would respond with a big slurp on the child’s cheek.

His other defining characteristic is that he loved to carry things around in his mouth. He rarely chewed anything, but he had a real oral fixation. Shoes, stuffed animals, you name it. If he could pick it up, he would carry it. He wasn’t really a very good retriever, because, although he liked to chase and fetch, he didn’t want to give up whatever he had. He loved rolled up newspapers. They were the perfect size and shape. The highlight of his day was to fetch the morning newspaper from the front walk. He was known around the neighborhood as that well-trained dog that fetches the newspaper. “How did you teach him to do that?” We hated to tell people that he just came that way.

Shortly after he came to live with us, my brother- and sister-in-law came to visit us. Brother-in-law was carrying some luggage in from his car and his home newspaper was dangling from his hand in its plastic bag. They had not met Casey before, so he was shocked when Casey came running up from behind, jumped and grabbed the newspaper right out of his hand. Casey pranced around the yard, tossing the paper up in the air and very proud of himself.

It wasn’t all cotton candy and unicorns. He had a strong storm anxiety and on one occasion managed to eat the better part of two couches and a down comforter.  That doesn’t even count the numerous rainy nights we were kept awake by his whimpering and pawing.  And the last year or so hasn’t been easy.

All in all, though, he was a great member of our family for just over 12 years and we will miss him.

Good Christmas season and a nice family visit

Mrs. Poolman and I spent most of the past two weeks lounging around and doing not much of anything. Mrs. P worked for two days the first of Christmas week and then again on Jan 1-2. In between, we had a great holiday, and then a three-day visit to see my middle-sister, Maggie, and her family at Lake Hartwell, near Anderson, S.C. We didn’t do any floating in the lake on this visit, but one afternoon, the clouds parted and it was nice enough to take a boat ride. So the nine of us piled into the neighbor’s pontoon boat for a winter afternoon’s boat cruise. Very nice.

The view from the back deck.

The view from the back deck.

My niece with her "child," Norman the Basset.

My niece with her “child,” Norman the Basset.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Sister and Mrs. Poolman enjoying the day.

Sister and Mrs. Poolman enjoying the day.

Sister with the center of attention.

Sister with the center of attention.

Mrs. P enjoying the ride.

Mrs. P enjoying the ride.