This bird was no chicken

I never took a good look at a female cardinal until there was one perched on the railing of my front porch the other morning. When I think cardinal, I think the red one. The one on the front of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball jerseys, the side of the Arizona Cardinals football helmets, and on many Christmas cards. Everyone does. People in St. Louis often refer to their team as simply “The Redbirds.” Because, well, cardinals are red, right? The male ones, yes. But only the males. I heard years ago the reason the male cardinal is so bright… Continue Reading

Tough Guy vs. Agnes

Jimmy O’Donnell, Jr. calls his dad “Tough Guy.” That’s because he is. I’ve known James O’Donnell, Sr., “Spot” to just about everyone, for almost 50 years and I’ve never seen him shy away from a challenge. Just the opposite. He dives right in. And always with a smile. The world could be coming down around him, and Spot will say, “We have to find the humor in this.” Spot was head pressman at the Sunday Dispatch in Pittston during the period I worked there full-time, 1967 through 1990, so you know I’ve seen him in the middle of more than… Continue Reading

Handy is as handy does

“You’re looking at the most un-handy guy in America.” That’s the way I’ve introduced myself to every clerk at every hardware store I’ve ever walked into. Particularly at Petro’s in Jenkins Township where I am usually holding a handful of parts I’ve pulled out of a kitchen sink or toilet tank. Co-owner Joe Petro or employee Gordie Finn usually gives me a look of, “Tell me something I don’t know, Eddie.” Then they fix me up. Well, when I took on the challenge of my leaking bathtub faucet on Tuesday, I decided to apply modern technology to the situation and… Continue Reading

Left behind no longer

My Aunt Dorothy will be laid to rest tomorrow. Her death, at 91, brings down the curtain on a generation of Ackermans and Strubecks. She was the last member of my dad’s and mom’s families. While Aunt Dorothy was alive, my generation, my brothers and sister and a flock of cousins, was still in the on-deck circle. Now we’re in the batter’s box. Aunt Dorothy slipped away quietly and peacefully Monday morning. She died the way she lived, with great faith and great dignity. She certainly was ready to go. I have to be careful at times like this that… Continue Reading

My dad is the flag …

… and vice-versa. That’s why to me Flag Day is sort of Father’s Day too. My mind used to wander during the playing of the National Anthem. I’d stand and put my hand over my heart and try to concentrate on the lyrics, but before long I’d be critiquing the singing, or looking around at others in the crowd, or wondering what I was going to have for dinner, or who was going to win the game about to start. I hated myself for this, but try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get it under control. But following… Continue Reading

In praise of pickles

My first fast food experience was not at McDonald’s or Burger King. It was at the Stop ‘n’ Go in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Word of their 15¢ hamburgers reached us through my Uncle Buddy and it meant my dad was able to do something he had never done before: take the family out to dinner. A blue collar worker all his life, Dad put his pay envelope on the kitchen table every Friday and got an “allowance” that covered gas for the car and maybe a buck or two for an after work beer with the guys. And maybe not. But… Continue Reading

Reminiscent of Steinbeck’s ‘Lennie’

Folks at the Cincinnati Zoo called gorilla Harambe “a good guy” and from the videos of him interacting with that little boy who fell into his pen Memorial Day weekend it sure seemed he was. Yes, the gorilla roughly dragged the tyke through the shallow moat and most likely would have injured him, perhaps fatally. And, yes, the action taken to kill the rare gorilla in order to save the boy’s life undoubtedly and disturbingly was correct. But the behavior of the gorilla could not be characterized as aggressive. If anything, it appeared loving. The gorilla, as seen in the… Continue Reading

It’s summer, book it

I just finished “The Defense” by Steve Cavanagh. (No, there’s no ‘u’ in his name. Although I keep insisting on putting one in.) And when I say “just finished it,” I mean five minutes ago. Had to get it out of the way before sitting down this morning to write. Good read. Not the best book I ever opened, but certainly not the worst. I found it smooth and easy and exciting enough to keep me turning the pages. What more could I ask for? It’s Cavanagh’s first effort, too. His debut novel. It’s a courtroom thriller, the kind made… Continue Reading

Viva la time difference

I’ve been bounding out of bed at 5 a.m. Sometimes earlier. Partly because I like to play early morning tennis (typically on a court before 7) but also these days because the French Open is on TV. Live. You don’t care, I know. But I do. And thank God someone at Direct TV does because they offer the Tennis Channel. Paris is six hours ahead of us, time-wise, and so at 5 a.m. here, it is 11 a.m. there, and the day’s matches are just getting underway. Perfect. I get up, and flip on the TV before I even start… Continue Reading