Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cats and Home Depot

A two-part blog today

Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you:


Dear Casanova: You have lived in this house for several years now and I have tolerated your little idiosyncrasies. I admit I’ve been a little lax on rules enforcement, but now it is time to review the HOUSE RULES:

1. Nighttime is when big people sleep. It is most difficult to sleep when a cat is curled up on your head with his tail brushing across your nose.

2. The bed is a King size. That is the largest one they make. It should easily sleep two adults and a cat. You weigh about 15 pounds, a fraction of what either of your two human bedmates weigh, so there should not be a problem here. I could not buy a bigger bed even if I wanted to and I refuse to move to the couch again to accommodate you.

3. The bowl that says “Cat Man” is yours. The food in that bowl is cat food. The food on the counter is human food. Placing your paw in the middle of the human food or poking around it with your nose does not make it cat food. Dining on cat hair is not my idea of an epicurean delight. Stay away from my food.

4. The hallway from the living room to the bedroom was not designed by NASCAR. I know that some of your cat relatives can reach a top speed of 60 mph. Racing me to the bedroom, even with a head start, is not a fair game. Tripping me offers you no advantage because you can already beat me fair and square.

5. Let’s revisit the bedroom for a moment. I have lived up to my end of the bargain by not taking you to a groomer to have you washed and trimmed, and you’ve kept your end by grooming yourself daily. But MUST you groom yourself just as I’m drifting off to sleep? And the occasional hairball… must you cough it where I step when I get up from bed? I think not.

6. You have an entire room with a fine potty box filled with kitty litter. I do not bother you when you go in to do your business. So why, when I enter my human bathroom, do you feel compelled to claw, cry, meow, and otherwise try to turn the door knob and even to crawl under the door? Just as you prefer privacy in your potty box, so do I in mine.

7. Then there is the kissing thing. Even though your tongue is a bit like steel wool, I appreciate your affectionateness and desire to kiss me. Given my preference, however, I would prefer you kiss me BEFORE you clean yourself.

8. I know you have several uncanny abilities. When we have visitors you have the ability to identify the one who likes cats least and rub against that person’s leg, climb on their lap, and muss their hair. It would be better if you did not do that.

9. Many people do not understand that you are just a pet to them but to us, you are our kids. We adopted you and you’re welcome here as long as you choose to stay.

10. Finally, don’t get all uppity when you read this one, but having a cat is better than having a kid around the house for the following reasons: you eat less, you don’t ask for money, you won’t wreck my car, you don’t smoke, I won’t have to pay for your college, and you will not come home pregnant, and even if you do we can sell your offspring.


Ok, so I sneak off for a quickie lunch with Mrs. Dr. Forgot. It was at one of our usual Mexican Cantina lunches with food you can’t pronounce and shouldn’t trust. Pedro (real name Skippy) took our order and disappeared. The food was good - a little spicy, not AIEEEE CARRUMBA!!

On the way back my date said, “Let’s stop at Home Depot. I have to pick up some plant food.” How innocent is that? Ok, no problem

Once we got there she reminded me that the grates on the BBQ were getting awfully greasy and maybe it is time to replace them. In fact the entire BBQ is about 10 years old and getting pretty grungy. Hey! Guess what! Home Depot is having a sale. Half off on selected BBQ grilles! What a deal! The conversation was as follows:

HOME DEPOT ASSOCIATE: “Can I help you, sir?”
She: “Can we see the BBQs that are on sale?”
ME: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

HDA: “Right over here.”
SHE: “Look, Honey, by the time we buy new grilles, for just a little more we can have a whole new BBQ.”
ME: I am NOT putting another (Joe Biden word)ing BBQ together.

HDA: Sir, we can assemble one for you. In fact we have three already assembled on display outside.:
SHE: “Be still my heart!”
ME: “Right. How much extra for assembly?”

HDA: Nothing, Sir, they come either assembled or unassembled, same low price.”
SHE: “Be still my heart.”
ME: Ok, help me load the 5 bags of caca (she calls it plant food), and the 50 lb. bag of sand she bought (don’t ask me why – we have lots of sand in the desert for free), and the three other items and the BBQ into the car.

(Pay for caca, sand, BBQ, and misc.)

HDA: “Car, sir? Is that your PT Cruiser?” (begins to snigger)
SHE: Oh, I’m sure it will all fit. We don’t live far.” (Not sure what not living far has to do with whether or not it will fit)
ME: “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

HDA: (Sniggering as he measures the car then the assembled BBQ) “No way, sir, the BBQ is 60” and your rear door is 43” Yes, sir, that is WITH the seats down. We do have a truck you can rent.”
ME: Let’s get the (Joe Biden word)ing truck.”

Fast forward to loading the BBQ onto the truck. The HDA is not permitted to help much lest HD be liable so I had to climb up into the truck bed. When was the last time you saw an overweight man who was never that well coordinated and now well on the other side of a half century in age, try to climb up into a truck bed? Not a pretty sight. HDA giggled but did not help. Neither did it help when I finally got into the truck bed and stood up, cracking my head on the corner of the BBQ.

For those of you who have never been Moms, or who flunked First Aid 101, a head or scalp wound bleeds “like a studded pig.” Not only did I not get sympathy because by this time both SHE and the HDA were laughing raucously, but blood was streaming down my forehead and I was demonstrating language skills usually possessed only by the saltiest of sailors.

I finally got the BBQ secured and drove the 6 blocks or so to my house. We got the BBQ unloaded and applied a band aid to my wound. The HDA said he was putting me in for a Purple Heart.

Next to unload were the five 40lb. bags of sweet smelling stuff that is there after the cow has gone, along with the sand and other odds and ends. I went to my tool shed and pulled out my dolly (Hello, Dolly!) so I did not have to lug all that stuff around to the back yard. But the weight of the bags popped one of the tires on the dolly rendering her useless. That was my noon run.

So that is my story and I’m sticking to it. Next time she coos, “Honey, I’ll buy lunch,” I plan to make myself a sandwich and write Thoughts blogs

A little blogging music Maestro… Johnny Cash, “Home of the Blues.”

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Clairton's Rich Heritage

Clairton History

Today’s blog holds dual significance for me. It is the 400th post on this blog and the 66th post about Clairton. It is also significant because a dear, longtime friend and blog reader has agreed to share a bit of her family’s heritage.

We have written dozens of blogs about our hometown, Clairton, PA. Part of the richness of Clairton came from the amalgamation of individuals from varied backgrounds into one community. There were Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Mormons, and all manner of religions, as well as Anglos, Middle and Eastern Europeans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, and all manner of ethnicities. They worked side by side in the mills and operated businesses that served the community. Sometimes they married into one another’s culture. They established and built many of Clairton’s landmarks and when their adopted country went to war they served with honor.

Today’s blog is written by Donna Lancianese Lajcack whose family was so typical of so many World War II era Clairtonians. Read and enjoy.

When my Dad, Roman Lancianese, was nine years old, he immigrated from Abruzzo province in Italy with his mother, Inocenzza, and his brothers during the 1918 World Flu Epidemic. My grandfather, Pierino, had come to America and worked for two years to pay his family's passage. As they sailed into the New York City harbor, with his name pinned to his coat, my Dad stepped onto his new homeland at Ellis Island and began his new life of opportunity. In 1990, I had his name placed on a plaque. On a bus tour to Ellis Island that year, he found his name. ALL his friends and my Mother took a photo as they all pointed to his name. My Dad was so PROUD!

His family came to Clairton, PA; my dad loved his adopted country. Always curious and engaging, he worked as a "water boy" when the Glassport, PA bridge was being built in the Wilson area of Clairton. Like others, he helped to build the St. Paulinus Church, as he had lived nearby and worked in his dad's businesses. Eventually, he owned/worked in a bowling alley, bar/restaurant, flower shop, hair salon, barber, beautician and more. His smile was extraordinary and he had a passion for life and new adventures. He captured my Mother's attention (Rose Marie) when she happened to meet him at St. Paulinus Church when she was 17; he always called her, "his beautiful Rose." They married on Feb. 2, 1942 and had four children---Donna, Ramon, Gloria and Perry.

During World War II my Dad could not serve in our USA Armed Forces because of his eyesight. He stayed behind and helped others at home. One was his cousin who also emigrated from Italy. After becoming an American citizen his cousin was drafted into the US Army at age 37 and was shipped overseas to Italy, to fight in his former homeland! He became a POW within six months and remained there until the war had ended. During this period, my Dad had not only worked in his own business, but he also worked in his cousin's business. When his cousin returned, my Dad gave him ALL the money he had earned from his cousin's business during those war order to help his cousin to begin his life anew. How many of us today would have made all those same sacrifices, even for a relative?!

My Dad was always aware of historical significance. He traveled to the "Chicago's World Fair," standing in front of Admiral Byrd's boat for a classic photo. He walked the ten miles from Clairton to the Allegheny County airport as a young man to see Lindbergh's stop on his way into history. Years later at that same airport, he carried my 18 month old brother, Ray, in his arms and held my hand when President Harry S. Truman came out and stood on the plane's top step and waved vigorously to the crowd. In my yellow dress and a large yellow ribbon in my long hair of curls, I remember looking up to my Dad as he told me to smile and wave to our President; I was almost three years old. I clearly remember how President Truman waved his hand back and forth over his hat to the small crowd. I then looked upwards to my Dad; his smile was always so extraordinary and captivating. It was "a moment in time" that was burned into my memory as a young child and never forgotten. My Dad always continued forever to show his respect and pride for HIS adopted and beloved country...the United States of America. He loved and lived life so large.

My Dad worked long business hours, but he continued to assist others in need throughout his life, by loaning them money in their need. He learned to play golf at 40, and he taught everyone he knew how to play golf, including his children and my husband, Denis. My brothers, Ray and Perry, became golf professionals. When my Dad celebrated his 90th birthday in 2000 on a Pittsburgh golf course with friends, he hit "his third life-time hole in one!" His golf-mates were celebrating ALL the way to the clubhouse! The Pittsburgh Press noted this special birthday event the next day in their newspaper. My Dad passed away in 2004

His vision in teaching others through kindness, a friend to all, a "hands up" to those in need, his wonderful sense of humor, a willingness to work hard to give his family the best that he could, his graciousness to everyone he met, and his extraordinary smile to bring loving joy to so many people, made my Italian immigrant Dad, Roman Lancianese, this wonderful, respectful and hard-working immigrant Citizen of his beloved...."America the Beautiful!"

Donna Lancianese Lajcak

A little blogging music Maestro… “That’s Amore,” by Dean Martin.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Mostly Personal

A small departure: Today’s blog will talk a little about the author, Dr. Forgot as I am called. That is a moniker I picked up from colleagues at a school where I worked. It is in reference to my being an absent-minded professor. I won’t go through the specifics or the defining incident, but suffice it to say that one Sunday morning en route to catch a plane to go to a conference on Gifted Children, I stopped by the school first to pick up some notes and in the process locked myself in. But that’s another story for another time.

Cars, cars, cars: I’ve always been a car guy. My first was a used 1949 Willys Station Wagon that my father bought for me so I could deliver The Daily News to local paperboys and stores. I was 14 at the time and drove the streets of Clairton, PA without incident for two years until I was legally old enough to get a driver’s license. When the old used Willys petered out after a year or so we invested in a brand new 1957 Willys panel truck. It looked almost exactly like the old one.

In college my first car was a 1949 Packard. My roommate Geno, also a Clairton boy, and I bought the car from a Utah farmer for $80. Except that we didn’t have $80 between us, we only had $20 each, so the farmer took our $40 and a verbal promise to send him the other $40 the following month – which we did. No contracts, no lawyers, just a handshake. During college I bought and sold several cars, making small profits by cleaning them up. After college I bought many – probably a total of 70 or 75 cars over the years. But my pride and joy came to me in 2000.

A new dealership: A Jaguar dealership opened near my house in 2000. I knew the family who owned it and had purchased cars from their other dealerships over the years. As I drove by the newly opened dealership I spied a gorgeous top of the line Jaguar Vanden Plas. Of course I knew I could not afford such a car so I stopped in to do a little window shopping. Turns out that the car was not new but had just been returned from a lease. A local casino executive leased a luxury car for his girlfriend regularly. It was pristine (the car, not the girlfriend). About 16,000 miles and looked brand new. The owner said he would sell it to me at a rock bottom price which was still a little rich for my blood, but this was, after all, my dream car. I went home to think about it and picked up the daily mail which included an advertisement from the new dealership with a $5,000 certificate that said, “Make your best deal and then take $5,000 off.” I took it as a sign. This was providence. I raced back down to the dealership, certificate in hand, and purchased the car. From that moment onward it has been my pride and joy. I’ve kept it in pristine condition and receive compliments every time I drive it.

Fast forward 10 years: In two weeks it will be 10 years to the day that I purchased the Jaguar and that means the car is nearing its 14th birthday. Yes, it has been expensive to maintain over the years, more so than most, but this was my combination hobby and fun car. Still, things were wearing out. The power steering worked most of the time, and several other things were getting ready for replacement to the tune of several thousands of dollars. So I probably should not have driven it to San Diego last week but I did.

In the middle of the desert, about 100 miles from nowhere the engine sputtered then caught again. It happened a few more times as we limped into San Diego. The local Jaguar dealership was unable to provide an accurate estimate but was certain that repairs would likely cost more than the value of the car. So I drove around the area looking at possibilities while Mrs. Dr. Forgot roamed the shopping malls. I eventually arrived at a dealership that was very aggressive in providing a deal on a new car. The car was plain vanilla on the outside (well, the color was actually pearlized white) but the interior was loaded with all the bells and whistles. The price was a very good one and when we finally got to discussing the Jaguar the manager offered me an excellent price. Turns out he is a tinkerer and would but the car himself and do whatever repairs needed. So I drove home in a new car. It was not planned that way. The new car does not elicit gasps from onlookers the way the Jaguar did and people do not start conversation with me about the new car. But it is a highly rated car with excellent gas mileage, 50% better than the Jaguar, and it runs on regular. My cat is a little miffed about it. He used to love to go into the garage and stretch out on the roof of the Jag. I think he thought they were related, both being cats. But I’m sure he’ll get used to the new car just as I will.

A little blogging music Maestro… An oldie from 1967 by The Who…“Jaguar”

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The End of a Journey

The Amazing Dr. Cutuly

Over my shoulder a backward glance: Part of today’s blog has been excerpted from an earlier one I did just about two years ago. Every community has its heroes, its zeroes, its notorious, and its characters. I have written about many that hailed from Clairton, PA, hometown to many who have made their marks on the world. We have had spies and Mata Haris (alleged), Congressional Medal of Honor winners, statesmen (several of whom were women), college presidents, authors, Hollywood actors and stuntmen, sports heroes, legends, and giants in many other fields. To review some of the local kids who made good, simply click on the Clairton label on the alphabetical list of topics to the left of this post.

Some heroes stayed home: Although the imprint of Clairton legends can be found in nearly every field around the world, many served the community from within, Police and firefighters, teachers and business owners, ministers, doctors, and the wonderful people from Meals on Wheels who prepare and deliver food daily to seniors, shut-ins, and others in need. Today I will focus on one such local hero, Dr. Eugene Cutuly who passed away yesterday just months shy of his one-hundredth birthday.

Memories of Clairton: I’ve written before about Pittsburgh suburb Clairton, PA. I was born at home in Clairton because I wanted to be near my mother when it happened. My parents were in the iron and steel business. My mother would iron and my father would steal. I entered a contest once. The winner got to go to Vegas for a week and the loser had to go to Pittsburgh. Locals rode a Noble J. Dick bus to “dawntawn Picksburgh.” The population didn’t change much – every time a baby was born some guy left town.

Clairton in the 1940s: Wind the clock and your minds back several decades to when Clairton was a Norman Rockwell kind of town – at least in my memory. Set along the Monongehela River the mills made the coke that made the steel that made Pittsburgh Steel City. With a population of some 20,000 Clairton boasted at least three movie theaters, a dozen or so car dealerships, and a swimming pool in the high school. There were at least five doctors: Dr. Rascatti, Dr. Wright, Dr. Trunzo, Dr. DeEmidio, and Dr. Cutuly as well as Dr. Stollar from Elizabeth who often treated Clairton residents. I believe they are all gone now.

A Most Unusual Man: Dr. Eugene Cutuly got his medical license in 1948 and began to practice in Clairton. Office visits cost $ 3 and home visits cost $ 4. He was one of the old time physicians who took care of children and adults. His telephone number was listed and it was not unusual for him to see patients at his home, especially during the past several decades when his office was a room in the home. Dr. Cutuly counted among his patients my siblings, myself, and both my parents (who passed away at ages 87 and 90) and he was several years older than either of them!

A Career Ends: It was neither frailty of the mind nor body that made him decide to retire from practice. A slight case of vertigo and a tad less agility were the factors that made the 97-year old practicing physician decide to finally hang up his stethoscope in 2008. He was one in a million – a model of how America used to be and an example of what modern technology has cost.

Dr. Cutuly answered his own phone, made his own appointments, was his own nurse and medical assistant, and spent as much time with his patients as was required. He was an anachronism.

Prior to earning his medical degree Dr. Cutuly earned a Ph.D. in Anatomy and was a teacher and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.

The intertwining of lives: Besides treating my entire family, Dr. and Mrs. Cutuly were kind enough to have a daughter my age. Joan and I went through junior high and high school together and she was my date for my first ever Sadie Hawkins Dance. On a more embarrassing note, when I was in about the third grade, classmate Richard Baxter decided it would be funny if he stuck a pencil point in my rear end while I was standing and reading aloud in class. The lead pencil point broke off and I had a painful visit to Dr. Cutuly who dug out the offending point and properly treated the wound. To this day, that scar reminds me when the weather is changing. Another visit at a younger age was to sew up my hand that had been ripped open by broken glass. He stitched the wound and sprinkled disinfectant powder on it and told me it was “Special soldier powder" that was used in the war. This powder would make it heal more quickly and make the wound not hurt.” The power of suggestion worked and it did not hurt.

Rest in peace, Good Doctor: I am certain that Dr. Cutuly’s soul is somewhere with his wife, Elizabeth, who predeceased him by 15 years as well as with the souls of many of the patients he treated over the years. Our sympathy goes out to his daughters, Joan, Laura Ingram, and Mary Kartheim and other loved ones who have not yet taken the journey.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Come Sail Away,” by Styx.
(note: photo credit Lake Fong/Post Gazette)

Dr. Forgot