Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three Hands in My Pocket

They say begin at the beginning. 

I disagree.

We went to New Orleans for Xmas. It was our gift to one another. One of the things we planned to do was to take the Charles Street trolley to check out the mansion area in the Garden District. Unfortunately, the city was working on a section of the rails and we needed to take a local bus to by-pass the construction area. Bus #12. Of course, the bus was packed. I found a spot right behind the driver where I could stand with my back to the wall. Anne was seated right beside me. My wallet was in the front pocket of my cargo pants. When I got off of the bus and walked about thirty yards. I realized that my wallet was NOT in the front pocket of my cargo pants. I had been pick-pocketed.

Anne says I never learn. I should have been more careful. Anne says I never learn. I should have done things differently. Anne says I never learn.

We were walking back to the room from the art museum in Madrid. It was early evening and we strolled across a dimly lit square. The square was empty except for us and a young couple behind us. Suddenly, Anne spun around and shouted at the couple behind her, ""What the hell are you doing?" The young man threw his hands up and feigned innocence and misunderstanding. Anne continued to shout that he knew exactly what she was talking about and that he had tried to unzip her backpack and get something out of it. All I did was look on ... Anne seemed to have things well under control.

Many years ago, we were helping to chaperone a group of high schoolers on a a trip to Italy and Greece. We were getting ready to board the subway in Rome in order to reach another museum. We divided the kids into groups of five, each with one of the chaperones. It was rush hour. Just prior to boarding, the group leader warned us about staying together and watching our valuables. He emphasized that we should be especially careful of the gypsies getting on and off at each station. It was shoulder to shoulder on the subway car. A young woman with a baby in a chest sling got on with us. I did my best to provide a human barrier for her to prevent the baby from being crushed amid the pushing and shoving of the passengers. When we got off at our stop, everyone was talking at once. Someone had tried to get into one student's backpack, but stopped when they hit dirty socks. Someone tried for our group leader's wallet, but his jeans were tight and he felt the wallet move and grabbed it. Gary, the group leader, laughed and said, "Did you guys see the woman with the fake baby?" I reached inside my front pocket and my money was not there. I had been pick-pocketed.

Anne says I never learn. I should have been more careful. Anne says I never learn. I should have done things differently. Anne says I never learn.

I have some experience. 
I recognize the fake baby now!

I have some experience. 
I listen for the zippers now.

I have some experience. 
I know now that the third hand in my pocket is not mine.

I have had some time to think. I believe my experiences provide me with a unique perspective. I think I can be of help to others.  That is why I developed this.


There is one, and only one, problem here. You look like a tourist ... act like a tourist ... get robbed like a tourist. The problem is that you stand out in the crowd like a sore thumb. I'm going to take that big bull's eye off of your back. I will do it utilizing a three-pronged approach. First, a few Nuggets of Knowledge.

1. Zipper Etiquette - When you hear a zipper slide and you are not in the restroom or the Red Light District of Amsterdam, grab your wallet and yell "POLICE". If you actually are in the Red Light District of Amsterdam,  dispense with calling the police.

2. Fake Babies - If it ain't sipping on a breast or pooping its pants, it ain't a real baby ... even if it says, "mama".

The second prong is what I call ... Mis-Directions ... now you see it, now you don't.

1. The Seizure - The foaming mouth is generally sufficient mis-direction. However, it never hurts to fall out on the ground, jerking and shaking your leg every now and then. A little toothpaste will do the trick ... and your mouth feels fresh and clean all day.

2. The Concussion - One theory is that this mis-direction may make you even more of a target. It doesn't matter. Nobody looks in the bloody bandage for your money. You can use either red paint or ketchup for the blood on the bandage. I recommend the ketchup because the flies and insects it draws make the deception even better. If you are a purist, pound your head against a brick wall and "get real".

3. The Smallpox Outbreak - This one is definitely a winner. Take my advice and mist your face every hour or so to simulate a raging fever. It never hurts to stagger a bit as well.

4. Oral Gratification - Thieves seldom try to take anything out of your mouth. If anything, they try to put something in there ... like their fists or a gun. Nor do they tend to search your mouth for valuables unless you are sporting a bunch of gold teeth.  Access to your money is an issue. Don't wait until you get to the cash register to pull out a ten spot. To be on the safe side, always carry a few tissues in your hand. A couple of well-timed coughs and you can pay any bill.

5. The Six-Fingered Glove - This one is so easy, yet so effective ... especially for muggings. As soon as you see the knife or gun, throw up your hands and beg for mercy ... tearing up shouldn't be a problem. When they realize that you don't have a wallet, scream "I've been robbed ... pickpocket". Nobody counts fingers when your hands are up. Meanwhile, in finger six is a wad of of hundreds that would choke a horse. This might not be your best option in summer.

6. The Foley Bag - When you had that surgery, you probably thought that there would never be a silver lining in that cloud. However, I am sure many of you are still using that bag as a water buffalo when camping. Store a little yellow dye in there for a couple of days to reduce transparency and it is a natural for hiding money. Don't get lazy though ... it it not nearly as effective if you don't stick the tubing down your pants.

7. Papillon - This one has a money back guarantee. Believe me, your money is safe. I don't want to discuss it. If you are confused just ask Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. Access is definitely an issue. For you senior citizens, a little raw broccoli in the morning might help.

The third and last prong of my approach is the Barking Up the Wrong Tree Approach.

1. If the Shoe Fits -  This is not new to senior citizens. We have hidden money in our shoes for years. I wouldn't advise this for the younger generation. Everybody knows that you keep your drugs in your shoe and your shoes are so expensive that is probably what the thief wants anyway. My plan is a combination plan. It involves the pair of socks you are wearing that you wore all of your last trip as well. It stops the crooks in your tracks, not theirs.

2. The Sandwich (requires two) - Nobody messes  with you and your partner when you have each others backs. Sometimes the simpler a solution is, the better it is. Just get yourselves ready to head out for the day. Stop by the hotel concierge desk and hand him a roll of duct tape (or rope). Put on your backpacks and stand bask to back. Just have the concierge duct tape (or tie) the two of you together. I do admit that sitting is a slight problem.

3. The Kung Fu - Once every fifteen minutes (no matter where you are), leap into the air and do a Kung Fu kick while yelling to your partner, "Get behind me, Grasshopper". If you have them, wear white pj's , a nice cloth black belt and a headband.

4. The Chained Wallet - I am going out on a limb on this one. I am sure that everyone has seen all the guys in the motorcycle gangs with the wallet on a chain sticking out of their back pockets. Some people swear by this method. I admit that you never hear of one of those guys being pick-pocketed. Duh! You never hear of someone licking a running chainsaw either. For anyone other than a motorcycle gang member, I suspect you might lose your wallet, a perfectly good chain and your belt loop.

5. The Man Purse - Women have known this forever. Wear your purse in the front with a strap across your shoulder. It works for us guys too. It doesn't hurt that the thief takes one look at us and anticipates us screaming in a shrill voice while frantically waving our arms were he to attempt to take our purse.

I can't imagine that you haven't picked up some techniques thus far that would fit you like a second skin and unquestionably keep you and your money safe. Nevertheless, I have saved the best 'til last.  The ultimate Barking Up the Wrong Tree Approach is ...

If you want to keep your money safe,

try the 


The Concealed  Weapon Permit

Friday, January 25, 2013

Retirement - A Misnomer

I admit it. I am old … 61 and not counting! I admit it. I should be looking back … reveling in my past glories and coulda’s. But, I’m not. I know this sounds crazy … but I don’t want to look back. If I look back, then it really is over. I don’t want to rest. I want to do. Most of all, I want to learn.

I have this thing about what I don’t know … about being ignorant. Not about everything. Just ignorant about things that I should know. I have been this way for many years, but I only act on it sporadically. Like my vocabulary. I was in the “average” group in school… somewhat by choice and manipulation … but there, nonetheless. The accelerated classes drummed in the vocabulary, but not in my classes. Over the years, my feelings of inadequacy surfaced and I study the dictionary, or highlight and look up words in the dictionary. Of course, it is a terrible way to learn and I don’t retain the info. I am sure it is all stems in part from some larger than life entanglement of emotions stemming from a childhood crisis or two and I definitely should have gotten over it by now. The manifestation was probably the “what if they knew “scenario that I have bounced around in my head forever. What if they knew that I am not a good football captain? What if they knew that I am not a good classroom teacher? What if they knew that I don’t know what to do as a principal? What if they knew that I really don’t know how to paint? What if they knew that I am not that smart? What if they knew? What if they knew?

Somewhere between “so what if they know” and “you’re being ridiculous”, my answers lie. More than likely I am just trying to anticipate and structure my upcoming retirement. I want that time to be new and exciting … a time of learning and doing and going and seeing. I want it to be about what I can so - not what I cannot do?

I believe that I have already laid the groundwork to make it some of it happen. I’ve been planning hikes in the area around Asheville for when we move and have at least three books on hiking trails in NC and SC. I have all kinds of ideas about traveling once I am not hampered by the school schedules. I have already gotten some reading materials on Kafka and plan to extend that to Dante and Nietzsche. My strategy is to increase my knowledge of art and have subscribed to a couple of art mags that I read cover-to-cover and more recently bought a program on the History of European Art with 48 lecture DVD’s to watch. I even consider my tai chi classes to be a part of my overall plan to live healthier and to learn.

That’s how I see retirement. Growing. Learning. Re-inventing myself. We’ll see!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reading 2012

Reading is not a passion for me. Rather, it is a goal. It is purposeful in that it fills in the gaps of many years of neglecting to read. This year, I chose selections by Edith Wharton, Zane Gray, H. Rider Haggard, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lawrence Sterne, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, P.D. James, Du Bois and Rudyard Kipling to fill some of those gaps. I try to read a lot of the classics (that I missed). I read Frankenstein, Les Miserable, Madame Bovary, The Invisible Man, Turn of the Screw, and Heart of Darkness. In areas that I am woefully weak (like poetry), I chose collections by Poe, William Blake, Keats, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Browning, and anthologies of African American poetry. I like to read as background for the things I do … before I traveled for example, I read tons of travel guides. To top the year off, I threw in a book on child abuse, The Book of Job and the Gettysburg Address. I like to think, not so much that I am improving my mind … instead I am distracting it from dangerously random thoughts!

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson - re Appalachian Trail

The Man Who Would Be King - Kipling

The Souls of Black Folk - Du Bois

Kipling Stories All Children Should Know -Kipling

Gettysburg Address - Lincoln

Edgar Alan Poes' Complete Poetical Works - Poe

Death Comes to Pemberly - P D James

The Book of American Negro Poetry

Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

The Importance of Being Ernest - Oscar Wilde

Amsterdam Travel guides

World's Best Poetry - Sorrow and Consolation

Poems of William Blake - William Blake

The Book of Job - King James Version

Dracula - Bram Stoker

Kipling Stories and Poems - Rudyard Kipling

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy - Lawrence Sterne

Madame Bovary - Gustove Flaubert

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

Poems of Stanley Kunitz - Kunitz

The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells

The Lost World - Arthur Conan Doyle

Middlemarch - George Eliot

The Recollections and Letters of Robert E. Lee  - R.E. Lee

People of the Mist -  H. Rider Haggard

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James

The Dark, Dark House -Lynette Ferreira   re: child abuse

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

Riders of the Purple Sage - Zane Grey

Nathan the Wise: A Dramatic Poem in Five Acts - Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton