All posts by Mark Hiatt

That One Magic… Thing

You have seen the ad, I’m sure, for Prevnar, that makes fun of people who might think a single sit-up or a single piece of kale is going to help them to live forever, right? There are a couple running now, here’s one:

But I’ve always been impressed by this kind of thing because there is a magic sit-up. There is a magic piece of salad. There has to be. Think about it for a minute.

Of course if you roll out your mat and do a single sit-up and then roll the mat up and never do another you are not going to get any healthier. But if you roll out your mat and do a hundred sit-ups a day, every day, for ten years, it’s going to have to have some kind of an effect on you, right? Well, somewhere between that first sit-up and that 365,000th one, is the one that’s going to make the difference. Twelve today? Thirty? Seventy? Hey, you’ve still got diabetes. You’ve still got all of the signs of heart trouble. You’ve still got a sixty-inch waist or whatever.

And then somewhere along the line you pass that one individual sit-up that actually does make the difference. If you had quit that morning, at 357, or 1126, or 26417, you would still be a mess. But after? After you finish now you are golden. Your blood pressure is better, your back paid eases, your hair stops falling out or whatever. There really is a magic sit-up.

The Magic Piece of Kale

And it follows that there has to be a magic piece of salad, too. If you are coming off of a life of pizza and super-sized drive-through then having an individual salad isn’t going to make a difference. But if you have fifty-two of them you’ve displaced one meal a week and that’s a real start. If you suddenly find yourself eating three hundred salads a year or more, that’s a big change and you likely will notice that—and others will likely notice the change in you, too! And while the difference between that first salad and the third is not much, and the difference between that two hundred ninety-seventh salad and the three hundredth salad isn’t much, the difference between the first and the last is a Big Deal so somewhere along the line there was the salad that made the difference.

Up and down the block, there’s the cement sidewalk square where I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle, and right next to it is the one where I could. Before this line, heading back up that way, I couldn’t ride a bike. After here, I was and I am a bikist.

Before this hour I knew a few hokey scales and I knew how to handle the instrument. But after that hour of practice, I was a Guitar Player (and then there are several nuanced layers, before this I wasn’t a jazz musician or a blues musician or a rock musician but I was still a guitarist). There is a moment where it changes. Sometimes you can see the moment coming and going and you can celebrate it. Sometimes, it just passes in an instant. You weren’t pregnant half an hour ago…. When that record started playing on the car radio you were still alive.

Here’s to the changes in our lives, huh? May they be positive ones for you and yours in the year ahead.

And if not, may they at least be over in an instant.

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I Loves Me Some John Henry

I loves me some John Henry.

That’s an unusual thing to read, or to write, about your plumber. I know. But they have been a great comfort, pardon the pun, to me and my family through the years.

When Kathie and I first bought Castle Pretentious, five years ago as I write this, we were scared. We had both lived in some kind of rental housing the whole of our adult lives. If anything ever broke, we sent a note to the landlord or called the manager and it got fixed within a day or so.

We went on vacation and found our refrigerator had given up when we walked in the door with our luggage. One phone call and we had a new one—with an ice maker that worked, too!

The semi-convenient laundry facilities would cash-out from time to time and a quick call would bring a trained professional with a box full of tools and ideas to monkey with it for a while and then it would be fixed.

But we had no idea how to do most everything involved in home ownership. How much is a toilet seat, anyway? How much is a really good one? How much is a, pardon me, crappy one? What if we needed a new window, or a new water heater? How much do those kinds of things run, generally? We had no idea.

Only a few weeks after we moved in there was a huge storm. A branch came off of a neighborhood tree and on its way to our driveway took the life out of our chimney. Well, here it comes….

John Henry's in Lincoln
John Henry’s in Lincoln

We called John Henry and they sent out Thad and he climbed up on the roof and fixed the damned thing. It’s been up there ever since. Couldn’t be happier.

Last summer, toward the end, our central air conditioning started to give us trouble. We again had no idea, but we called Thad and he came out and fixed it, too. And he explained that we had probably gotten about all of the value out of our 1989 air conditioner that we were going to get. We should think about getting a new one. It would be quieter, it would cool better, and it would save us a huge fraction of our current electric bill over a very short amount of time.

Sure enough, this spring when the temperature rose up so did the ugly noises coming from the outdoor unit. We had someone out to fiddle with it and it worked again, but they told us the next time would probably be the last. We called John Henry and they sent out Ryan with a book of options. A few checkmarks and a few signatures and we were on the books as owners of a soon to be new central air conditioner. The last thing Ryan said as he started to pull away was “If you have any trouble with this unit, let me know and I’ll send someone out to fix it for you, until the new unit gets here. We’ll fix it for free.”

Well, they gambled. They lost.

Over the last ten days, they’ve been here eight times, coaxing and cajoling our sad little 1989-era unit into chuffing along through another week or so. I’m pretty sure we have used-up whatever profit was in the deal, and they’re still planning to come out and do the installation.

We still don’t know much about home ownership. We can’t do any of that stuff you see on cable-TV over the weekends. We can’t spackle. We can’t frame. We can’t wire and we can’t plumb. But we can join in on the Do You Know A Guy conversations, now. We have a plumber, heating and air conditioning guy.

Ask me about ’em, some time.

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Class Reunion

Or, How Did We Get So Damned Old?

So, I went to my high school reunion a couple of weeks ago.

I never saw so many damned old people. Bald heads and bellies and wrinkles and old hair styles as far as the eye could see. I fit right in.

One thing I noticed right away was the hotties back in high school are hot grammas, now. I see the gray hair. I see the wrinkles. But when I look at these ladies, I still them as seventeen years old!

It was great to reconnect with old friends. Some of them I keep up with almost daily, via Facebook. But some I hadn’t seen for years and years. We picked up like we’d never been apart. I love that. I love them.

Someone once told me that you don’t go to reunions for yourself. You go for the others. Someone there will be glad to see you; they’ll come up and tell you something about a time you shared, something you said that meant a lot to them through the years, they’ll want to apologize for something they said or did. I’m always glad I went, when I get home.

One thing that struck me was the list of classmates who were gone. I came from a big school, and a big class. And already, more than twenty of us are dead. Some of them are real shockers, at least two were record-setting athletes that, again, in my mind are still fit and in their late teens. I would have bet any amount of money that I would have been gone before them. But we never know.

Never forget that next time you see someone may very well be the last time you see them. Plan accordingly.

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I Want A Car, Damnit!

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a cool car. And for as long as I can remember, the definition of cool car has shifted (pardon the expression) and changed depending upon what I have seen last.

Photo of Austin-Healey "BugEyed" SpriteOne of my earliest memories is of riding with my Dad in an Austin-Healey BugEyed Sprite. I can remember “helping” Dad work on this little car out in the garage one evening, holding and handing him tools. It was a cool car, no doubt. But Dad sold it when it was modernized with sleek new headlights and roll-up windows and… well, things were never the same after that.

Triumph SpitfireThe first I remember falling in love with was a Triumph Spitfire. There was one on Michigan Avenue in Norfolk and when I would be out riding my bike I always made a point to cruise past. It was so low, and the whole front end lifted up from the windshield like one of those LeMans racers. You could see nearly every mechanical component and work on all of it if you had to (and you had to, given the state of the British car building art in that day).

MGBI considered the MGB for a good long while. It was slightly bigger (safer?) and the originals had that perfect proportion and classic line that just says Sports Car. It seemed like a practical alternative since it had a usable trunk and some room behind the seats to store or carry things like groceries home from the store.

DeLoreanFrom there I had a brief flirtation with Porsche and a few others but I got really hooked on the DeLorean. I loved everything about that car. The man, the story, “The Dream”, the stainless steel and, of course, the gullwing doors.

But again, as I got older and things changed I started shopping for other cars. I began to realize that I needed reliable transportation and not just super-zoomy looks. I’d have to be able to get to work to pay for the damned thing, after all.

So after some painful reconsideration, I scratched the Spitfire off of my list. They weren’t very good Cars when they were new, and that was thirty-five years ago for the last one off of the boat. I know—I worked at Johnny Baxter in Omaha and saw the last ones come in.

Okay, the British were out, except for the DeLorean. The Porsches were out because, well, just because. Likewise the E36 BMW 3-series. I decided maybe I’d look into something more modern, something with airbags and a dealer network.

Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet Corvettes of a certain vintage are available for cheap(ish). I thought that might save me. I never was much for gold chains and open shirts, so I never really thought of myself much as a Corvette Guy. But I’m not getting any younger and I definitely have more yesterdays than tomorrows. Then I discovered why they were so cheap and moved on.

MustangMaybe a Ford Mustang could do the job? Parts and service anywhere. Still have the drop-top for when the weather was at all nice… but no, I never was excited about Mustangs. So why start now? I need a car that invokes some kind of a passion. I want to enjoy spending a little time and money on it, so that I can enjoy it longer and keep it up.

Honda S2000I have always loved Hondas, and have owned several. Honda made a nice oddly-styled little sports car several years back. The advantage here was that I could take it to the terrific local garage that’s been doing my work for years and it came with airbags and air conditioning and all of the built-in dependability one expects from a Honda. But I just was never really excited about these, either.

They also work on Toyotas, and the last generation of the MR-2 MR-2 SpyderSpyder is kind of cool, if totally impractical.

Kathie keeps reminding me that this does not have to be my “forever” car. I could buy an MG and keep it for a year or two and probably not lose a whole lot of money on it when I sell it on to get my… DeLorean. Or Toyota. Or whatever.

In the meantime, the old workhorse Honda Accord we got back in 2001 now has 175,000 miles on it and nearly everything still works. So I guess I don’t have to make a decision right away….

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Martin’s New Nails

Photo of Martin Winona Hiatt
“…and his hair was perfect” — Warren Zevon

This is what has been taking up so much of my time, recently. I never really knew that having a dog would be so fun, so rewarding, so much work, or so much comfort. But it is and I am glad for all of that, and more.

About the time that we start to call Martin “Stink Dog!” we start thinking of taking him in for a shower and a pedi-pedi. I clipped a dog’s toenails as a child and hurt the animal and scared myself to death. I clipped my own nails short—right up at the finger. So that must be the way you do a dog’s nails, too, right? Uh, no. So since I am deathly afraid of hurting Martin, we take him to PetSmart and have Alysson or Nathan work him over.  A pedi-pedi is about $10 or $12, I think. For that kind of money, I’d just as soon not have to worry about it. I mean, even when you’re dead broke you have $12, so let a professional do it.

Continue reading Martin’s New Nails

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I Loves Me Some Dog

Photo of Martin, our new GoldenDoodle
Our Little GoldenDoodle, Martin

I have wanted a dog for years. Dozens of years. I always knew that one day I would have an animal of my own. I never knew it would be so fun, so rewarding or so much work. Continue reading I Loves Me Some Dog

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