How Chicken Used to Taste

I have a confession to make.

I turned 73 a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t had a decent chicken dinner since the late 1950’s when my dear old Mom used to fry up a batch for our Sunday meal. Man, that chicken tasted great… in fact, it tasted so good it tasted like… well, like chicken.

And now, here it more than sixty some years later, and I’m actually drooling, thinking about how real chicken used to taste.

Today, shoot, an epicure like me can’t even find a frog leg that tastes like real chicken. Indeed, even the expensive “pasture-raised” fowl taste like cardboard and aren’t worth wasting a skillet of Crisco on. (Not that I fry with Crisco, but my dear mother did back in the daze when I walked seven miles to school after milking the cows and feeding the hogs so I still have fond memories of the nasty stuff.)

As for beef, shoot, the last time I had a steak that tasted the way tenderloins are supposed to taste I had to shell out $100, not including a side of broccoli with a slice of cheese on top that added another $15 to the ridiculous bill. And the cynic in me figured the steak tasted great not because it was beef raised the way we used to raise ’em back on the farm but because clever food scientists who concoct “natural flavors” for a living had most likely developed some kind of marinade to trick old fools like me.

As for genetic engineering to explain why chicken and beef now taste like old apple cores… now, that’s a topic that vibrates the hair on the back of my neck, but I’m already deep in babble mode so I’ll exercise restraint and not wander down that path today.

Speaking of apple cores, we get some great apples here in our neck of the North Carolina woods. You see, every fall we drive west and come back with a big bushel or two of a nice variety of apples freshly picked from the trees in a place aptly named Apple Valley, which is close to Lake Lure (where Dirty Dancing was filmed a zillion years ago, for what that’s worth. Gosh, that reminds me of the times back in the day when I was known for my ability to cut the rug with a variety of lovely young lasses. That of course was before I met my beloved late wife Ellen Schoenberger Day. But let’s save those sweet memories for another time).

And each fall when we visited the Lake Lure area, we always bought a gallon of fresh apple juice, too. Fall, you see, is my favorite time of year here in NC… when we’re not dealing with tropical storm force winds and rain, of course. Happily, I recently made it through our second intense weather event without having a tree fall on our house or intaking water from the creek adjacent to CasaDay when another big storm roared through like a banana slipping its skin.

Speaking of bananas, I confess that I consume one on a daily basis, not because I like them that much, but because they sell for an incredible 38 cents a pound at our supermarket. I wonder every time I buy another half dozen how bananas can continue to sell for such a cheap price, given how far they have to come to reach the U.S. And that’s not to mention the fungus that could attack the Cavendish variety of banana that’s sold in America should that fungus (Panama disease I think it’s called) ever reach South America, where our bananas come from. Still only thirty-eight cents a pound in 2021. Remarkable.

Finally, friends, if I’m overdoing it with these occasional ramblings, don’t bother telling me because it’s not going to do any good. I get this way when I’m close to putting the final words to another novel. For some reason, the more I write the more I want to write, and it’s just plain wonderful as a retired dude to finally have the time to sit and flood this old keyboard with the endless river of words that runs through me.

And yes, for those concerned, one of these daze I will look into seeing a counselor for hypergraphia.

P.S. Check out my novels at https://amazon.com/author/chetday

Stereo Espresso – a Wake-up Fast MP3

Is getting up in the morning Hell for you?

Well, if it is my StereoEspresso MP3 is a wake-up tool you’ll never want to be without.

If you’re living in our awful Modern Times (and if you aren’t, you’re either dead or in a position to not have to get up in the morning anyway) and count yourself as the average overworked, over-stressed man or woman, getting started in the morning is torture.

For instance, your alarm goes off and you can’t believe it’s already time to get up because you’re as exhausted as a hung-over grad student who stayed up all night to finish a paper.

So what do you do?

If you’re like the average Joe or Jane, you stumble to the kitchen to pour the day’s first of many cups of coffee.

You may even have an espresso machine.

And I also bet you’ve set the autotimer on your caffeine machine to have hot brew ready and waiting for you as soon as you get out of bed every morning.

Then you swallow that dark, stimulant-laden beverage — either loaded with sugar for an extra energy boost or black as coal if you really need to jump-start your body.

After a shower and another cup of Java — sipping that one on your drive to work, am I right? — you eventually start feeling like you may be awake enough to survive to the first coffee break.

You know as well as I do that the above routine is NOT a healthy way to start your day and to live your life.

Well, my free StereoEspresso MP3 is going to help you wake up every morning without the jitters and bad breath associated with coffee and caffeine.

Here’s one good way to use this amazing audio tool:

Program your bedroom MP3 player to blast this track to coincide with your alarm clock. You’ll have jacked the volume the night before, and, boom, you’ll burst wide awake to a fun, uplifting tune that’s layered with powerful brainwave entrainment technology.

This MP uses audio technology that stimulates beta brainwave activity, which is associated with improved emotional stability, as well as productive energy levels, attentiveness, and concentration.

Click here to download a zip file containing use instructions and this ABSOLUTELY FREE and powerful MP3.

How to Stop Farting with Sequential Eating

Do you suffer from gas or fart like there’s no tomorrow?

Does your tummy bubble and groan, tumble and moan every time you sit down to eat?

Do you pop a Rolaids or Tums after half your meals?

If any of the above apply to you, then you’re one of millions of other human beings who aren’t properly digesting their foods.

If you’ve plagued by digestive problems, today’s your chance to try sequential eating, a technique I learned from the late Dr. Stanley Bass more than twenty years ago.

This sequential eating technique may sound weird, but it works beautifully for a lot of folks.

Here’s what you need to do to eat sequentially

Instead of eating a forkload of beans and then a forkload of potatoes and then a forkload of salmon, eat all of one food first and then go on to the next item on your plate.

For this to work properly, you MUST eat the least dense food first and the most dense last.

For example, say your dinner consists of salad, green beans, boiled red potatoes, and salmon. (We’ll ignore the fact that this is a bad combination and that for best digestion starches and proteins shouldn’t be eaten at the same meal at all.)

To practice sequential eating, you’d eat all of each item in this order:

Eat all the salad.
Eat all the green beans.
Eat all the potatoes.
Eat all the salmon.

If anyone happens to comment on how you’re eating, just tell them your doctor told you to do it and then they’ll leave you alone.

To repeat the key principle:

You MUST eat the least dense food first and the most dense last.

I had one man write and tell me his 50+ year indigestion problems resolved in two days after he started practicing sequential eating.

Try sequential eating. I’m betting your farting days will be a thing of the past.

How to Overcome Fear

For this week’s meditation we turn to my favorite Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, who reveals…

I fear nothing. I hope for nothing, I am free.

Wow, that says it all, doesn’t it?

I mean, seriously, most (if not all) the problems that plague each of us as human beings come from fearing something or hoping for something.

Well, for the next seven days, try this meditation to let go of both fear and hope…

To begin, take several long, slow deep breaths until you’re clear and still.

Once you’re focused, breathe in something that you’re afraid of. During the still pause between the in-breath and the out-breath, notice the nasty feeling in your body as your fearful thought reveals its power in you.

Now, as you start to slowly exhale, let go of that fearful thought. Just breathe it out slowly. As you’re breathing out and letting go, you’ll notice a feeling of bliss has replaced the icky feeling of fear.

If several things are causing you fear, repeat the exercise with each one.

Work with fear today.

Tomorrow, repeat the exercise but instead of fear, breathe in something you’re hoping for. Hold the hoped for thought for a second and note the feeling. Exhale slowly and totally release whatever it is you were hoping for.

As you’re breathing out, you’ll again notice a feeling of bliss.

Wow, fear and hope both shackle us.

Let go of what you fear as well as what you hope for, and, guess what?

You’re free!

In Memory of Maggie

(I wrote this piece about one of my favorite canine companions in late November of 1999, almost exactly twenty years before my beloved wife Ellen passed away.)

One hot afternoon in the late summer of 1999 before I became self-employed, I stepped outside the building where I worked at the time to get some fresh but humid air in my lungs after a long stretch of being hunched over a computer keyboard.

Curled up in a nasty, dirty ball of old white fur at one side of the double doors of the back end of the building was one of the sorriest-looking dogs I’d seen in my 51 years on this planet.

I have lousy vision, but I didn’t even have to squint through my coke-bottle lenses to see more fleas hopping on that old dog than kids at Disney World. I suspect the fleas were having a better time, too, because they didn’t have to stand in line for a ride or for something to eat.

I have to confess something before getting further into this story.

Although our house is always full of pets, I’m not the world’s greatest animal lover.

Yes, I tend to get attached to them when they end up living with us, but I usually go out of my way to not add to our always over-crowded shelter for homeless critters.

On the other hand, my wife Ellen is an animal magnet who attracts stray cats and dogs the way succulent buds attract bees. For her, we could always find room and food for one more guest.

Before we had kids, at one point in our marriage, Ellen fed, counseled, and cared for eleven different stray cats, three of whom eventually made the cut and remained as in-house pets, one of which we still have. Her name is Daisy, and she’s neurotic, and that’s another story.

So, anyway, there I am, squatting in front of this smelly old pile of white fur, trying to decide if I should poke through the fleas to see if anything was still living amidst the bones.

I’m thinking at the time, “Chet, if it’s alive you’re going to have to take it home to Ellen. And if you do that, you’re going to have two stray dogs at Casa Day as well as two live-in stray cats as well as the neighborhood felines and canines that park outside the house all day and half the night. Do you really want to complicate your life even more?”

I sighed, gave into the inevitable, and poked the pile of fur.

Lo and behold, from somewhere inside the mess a body and face uncurled, with dark black eyes clouded with cataracts. Old white terrier ears perked up, and an old dog cocked her head and melted my heart.

Thus did I meet Maggie, and I immediately named her Old Dog.

Inquiring around the building I learned Old Dog had been hanging around for days and that a couple of people had been feeding her and giving her water. Everyone believed her to be between owners. “You better give her a home,” someone advised, “before she disappears. Stray dogs have a way of disappearing around this neighborhood.”

I understand that’s a problem in parts of China, too, where dog is considered a delicacy. Tastes like chicken, I’m told, though I don’t know this to be a fact. But that’s another story too.

Anyway, realizing I was letting myself in for yet another animal adventure that I could probably just as well do without, I bundled Old Dog in my arms and carried her to my car.

Hauling that mutt, I looked like Pig Pen with dirt and fleas falling off me all over the place.

I mean, seriously, if we’d had access to her permanent record, we would have discovered that Old Dog had been given her last bath in 1993.

So I brought Old Dog home and after setting fire to the car to clean out the fleas and germs, I carried her to the back yard and plopped her down by the hose.

She kind of grinned, though it wasn’t a pretty sight, what with all the missing teeth and yellow stumps and bad breath.

I gave Old Dog three shampooings and rinses in a row.

I had to scoop a mound of dead fleas out of the way to work on her paws, but I finally got her cleaned up and more-or-less presentable.

She’d been on such a bad diet for so long her fur felt like brillo pads.

Even cleaned up, Old Dog didn’t have much going for her.

She could barely walk, she was just about blind from cataracts, and she was deaf as a dumpster. If you weren’t standing right in front of her, you just couldn’t get her attention unless you clapped your hands as hard as you could. Then she’d eventually turn around, though sometimes it took seven or eight minutes.

My wife took to Old Dog like hot pepper sauce takes to red beans and rice, and she promptly informed me her name would be Maggie.

As those married for more than 25 years are apt to do, we argued about names for four days before I finally capitulated.

And that’s how Old Dog became Maggie.

We really didn’t think Maggie would survive more than a couple of days. She was starving, she was half blind, she was totally deaf, and her back legs gave way under her more often than not, and she’d fall over and then pick herself back up.

But we put her on a healthy diet with plenty of love, super green drinks, probiotics, and digestive enzymes, and, happily, over the next couple of weeks she came back to life. The vet figured she was anywhere from 16 to 109 years of age.

Well, Maggie turned out to be some kind of dog. Even though she slept 22 or 23 out of every 24 hours, when she was awake, she was a joy to behold.

I remember taking her outside to do her business during cold winter mornings. She’d perk up those old terrier ears of hers and then she’d suddenly flash on a memory of her youth, and those back legs would start pumping, both kicking backward at the same time, and she’d race the length of the driveway before stopping to rest.

It sounds nuts, but Maggie was so graceful during those bursts of speed she reminded me of Secretariat, the most beautiful racing horse in my memory palace.

I remember how she’d drive the cats crazy, how she loved to sneak into the kitchen to eat neurotic Daisy’s food all the time. It drove Daisy so batty she took to peeing on the bookcases for awhile, but that’s another story too.

I remember how Maggie always wanted to sleep on one part of the couch if any of us were down in the den watching the idiot box. On rare occasions she’d get up and stretch and walk over and crawl into my lap. Petting Maggie was like stroking a porcupine. Even adding a good oil with plenty of essential fatty acids to her diet, we never did soften down her dried up fur.

I remember how Maggie would clatter with old terrier feet on the kitchen floor when she felt good, and how she’d kind of drag herself up the stairs, suffering in silence, when she was having a bad spell.

Maggie could sneeze like a champion, and my sons nicknamed her Sonic Sneeze, and we called her that sometimes when my wife wasn’t listening.

I remember how she’d do everything but leap over the car to get in with us if we were going somewhere.

Gosh, I can remember almost everything about Maggie’s year with us, and that amazes me since now that I’m hunkered down in middle age half the time I can’t even recall my zip code.

But today, most vividly, I remember two Fridays ago when I came home to learn Maggie had been hit by a car when she was sniffing in the street in front of our house.

Two Fridays ago I found Maggie where my wife had put her in the backyard.

There she was, as still as cold stone, and still one of the sorriest-looking dogs I had ever seen.

She was dead, and I broke down and bawled like a baby.

I couldn’t touch her at that point.

I had to walk around the house a couple of times, choking off tears and letting tears flow.

I eventually made it to the garage and pulled out the shovels and went to the woods behind our house and dug her a good grave, with hard, square edges, just as symmetrical as could be.

I wrapped my old dog in a couple of towels and put her in a cardboard box, and lowered her in the hole, and covered the hole with earth and leaves.

I stood over her grave and cried some more and finally managed to speak my heart to her when I said, “Gosh, you were a good old dog, and I’m going to miss you a lot.”

Then I closed off my tears before going into the house to try to do the things we all must do when death comes to visit.

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and I still miss Maggie a lot, and I know I always will.

Oh sure, talking about her helps layer over some of the grief, and meditating and accepting her death helps some, and praying helps some, and writing about her helps some. But, you know, so far the only consolation that really helps is that I expect to meet Maggie again when I pass on.

On that happy day she’ll gallop toward me, her back feet kicking at the same time like Secretariat in his prime, and Maggie, an old dog no more, will leap into my arms, almost knocking me over with the joy of our reunion.

What a grand old time we’ll have on that day.

How to Beat Insomnia Naturally

It’s bedtime, and you’re tired so you go hit the sack.

You invite sleep by closing your eyes, but sleep ignores your invitation. You toss from left to right and then from right to left, sit up and drink some water and again try your best to get to sleep, but all your efforts fail.

If this happens once or only occasionally, on certain bad days, for instance, you most likely have nothing to worry about. However, if sleeplessness haunts you on a regular basis, you may have a sleep disorder called insomnia.

Insomnia has various causes. It can result from fear, anxiety, stress, or depression. The side effects of some medications interfere with sleep. Mental or physical exhaustion or pain can also cause insomnia. Insomnia can be transient, acute, or chronic, depending upon its severity.

Hundreds of thousands of people pop sleep-inducing prescription drugs and sedatives at bedtime to help get a good night’s sleep. The most common drugs prescribed for insomnia are benzodiazepines. The problem with these drugs is that they become addictive, if used over a long period. There are of course non-benzodiazepine drugs, but these may also cause dependence, both psychological and physical, if used continuously.

In addition, there are quite a few non-prescription sleep-inducing drugs and herbs which are used as sedatives.

Some people resort to alcohol as a sedative, but their sleep will not be of the quality desired. And alcohol consumption is not without its side effects and hangover problems.

Happily, you can overcome insomnia without drugs or pills. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found quite effective in reducing the problem in many people. This kind of therapy attempts to correct the distortions or unrealistic ways of thinking which appear to be the underlying cause for various types of fear, anxiety, depression or stress, which in turn contribute to insomnia in many cases.

Traditional Insomnia Tips

People have traditionally used various methods for beating insomnia without pills and drugs. Here are some tips you can use to dial down any insomnia issues you may have…

  • Drink a glass of warm milk before bedtime. Warm milk contains a natural sedative called tryptophan.
  • Adding honey to warm milk will help the body absorb tryptophan faster and will also produce a quicker sedative effect.
  • Try taking a hot water bath in the evening just before going to bed.
  • Natural nutritional factors in pomegranates will help induce sleep, so try eating one a half hour before heading off to bed.
  • Aromatherapy and listening to soft, slow, lilting music are quite effective in producing an atmosphere conducive for sleep.
  • Meditation and other mind relaxation techniques are often found to be extremely helpful in this regard.
  • Similarly, insomniacs can also try Tai chi, yoga, or acupuncture.
  • Avoid stimulants at night. That means no tea or coffee or soft drinks after five p.m. because these drinks contain caffeine that can disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid smoking in the night, a couple of hours before your sleeping time. If you can quit smoking for good – all the better.
  • Lifestyle changes that help you sleep well are your best bet for beating insomnia.

Embrace Fear and Let Go

Before I started using brainwave audio technologies, I estimate I hadn’t recalled much more than tiny snippets of a dream in, gosh, at least ten years and probably many more than that.

One of the things I liked immediately when I began creating and using brainwave entrainment meditation MP3s was that I started sleeping as soundly as a puddle of snoozing cat and dreaming vividly and often. For the first time in years I could clearly recall in the mornings my imaginings of the nights before.

Well, soon after I started using brainwave entrainment on a daily basis, I dreamed that I was in the atrium of a large bank-like building, the front of which had huge plate glass windows. Granite columns rose from the polished floor to the top of the atrium, some four stories above my head.

I was walking through this atrium, minding my own business, when a man suddenly ran past, shouting, “The storm’s coming, the storm’s coming. It’s headed right for us!”

He evaporated from my sight as only dream people can do.

I walked toward the plate glass windows, looked outside, and, sure enough, a terrible storm was headed right for the building, a perfect storm with tornadoes, hurricane force winds, lightning, and pounding rain.

I started to run as fast as I could toward the interior of the building, but then a voice screamed, “We’re all going to die!”

I looked back and, yes, the tornado’s winds were driving uprooted trees and debris straight toward the plate glass windows.

I could feel myself panicking, sweating, shaking with fear, going zero at the bone.

I collapsed to the smooth, polished floor, worrying furiously about what I could do to protect myself. For lack of anything better, I crawled to one of the granite columns and then wrapped my arms around it even though I knew the force of the terrible winds would laugh at my feeble hold on safety and easily toss me about like an egg shell.

My eyes squeezed shut to avoid the glass fragments and flesh-piercing slivers that would be headed my way any second now.

I felt fear flooding through my veins.

My heart pounded as I clutched onto that column for dear life.

Suddenly, totally immersed in this dream, for no conscious reason, I calmly took a deep breath, opened my eyes, totally accepted the storm, and then watched in calm fascination as glass and trees and street signs and driving rain and other storm stuff flew past me, leaving me untouched, calm, relaxed, and utterly at peace.

Seconds later, I woke up, happy, smiling, almost in tears because of the wonderful experience of completely letting go.

For the first time since 1980, when something similar happened to me while doing a Zen breath-counting meditation, I felt completely at one with everything in the world — the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the violent and the peaceful.

It’s been many years now since I had that dream experience, but I still reflect on it several times a week to remind myself of the way I’m prone to attach to things I really don’t have to attach to and fear things I really don’t have to fear.

As a result of what I experienced while clutching the granite column in my dream, I’ve become a better witness of what I say and do — an observer who can now better embrace the still calm around which the storms of life swirl, bluster, and blow.

The Diced Diet

Let’s start 2021 off right with a detox diet that’s easy and fun to do… and it tastes great, too.

Many years ago, an Englishman named Basil Shackleton included in his terrific book on The Grape Cure a health-generating meal replacement he called The Diced Diet.

Below you’ll find complete details for his Diced Diet, which is, simply put, a recipe for one meal a day that you can use to cleanse and rejuvenate your body.

The Diced Diet
by Basil Shackleton

After I had bought my farm in the Cape and before discovering the grape treatment, I made a number of experiments with raw foodstuffs to enable me to survive.

The Diced Diet, given below, is my most successful discovery next to the grape diet.

The Diced Diet is invaluable as a whole meal, lunch, or dinner, though preferably the latter. It has remarkable healing and cleansing properties, and will, if eaten regularly as a main meal during the day, actually cure rheumatism and skin rashes, and it is a guaranteed cure for constipation.

If the Diced Diet is eaten at least during five days of the week, it is impossible to be constipated, unless there is a structure in the intestines.

The ingredients of the diet are well balanced, and the whole can be considered a perfect food.

Ingredients

2 ounces of well-washed organic raisins
One medium-sized Granny Smith apple
One ripe and well-washed tomato
Two ounces sweet milk cheese (Gouda)
Two ounces dry-roasted peanuts (no oils, fats, or salt)
The juice of half a fresh, ripe lemon
The seventh ingredient is your saliva

Method of Preparation

After washing the raisins several times in hot water, place them in a cup and allow to soak in really hot water for about ten minutes.

Then squeeze the juice of the lemon into another cup and add the raisins after they have been drained of water. This may be left for twenty minutes to half an hour. The lemon juice should just cover the raisins.

Wash the tomato, cut into small pieces, and place in a bowl.

Cut the cheese into small pieces and place in the bowl with tomato.

Then throw the peanuts into the bowl, finally adding the raisins and lemon juice.

Stir thoroughly and the food is ready for consumption. In fact, it should be eaten within fifteen minutes of preparation otherwise it begins to lose its own vitality!

Now find yourself a comfortable chair and relax with a little reading matter and your feet up if necessary because it takes at least half an hour to thoroughly masticate and swallow the food.

Remember that saliva is a very important ingredient!

If possible make the Diced Diet your evening meal, your dinner, and don’t drink any liquids until two hours have elapsed after the meal.

After a week of this food as your main meal of the day, you will feel completely revitalized, especially if you cut down on other foods and leave out meat altogether during that week.

The various ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual tastes, but no other ingredient may be added or taken away. The sweetness of the diet is controlled by the time allowed for the raisins to soak in the lemon juice. The longer the soak, the sweeter the juice.

And that, Dear Reader, is Basil Shackleton’s remarkable Diced Diet.

I’ll see you again next Tuesday with another natural health tip you can use to improve your physical well-being.

An “I Am” Meditation

For this week’s meditation, we turn to Chogyam Trungpa, who teaches:

No one can turn you completely upside down and inside out. You must accept yourself as you are, instead of as you would like to be, which means giving up self-deception and wishful thinking.

During the coming week, work on accepting yourself (and the time and space you’re currently living in) as you are and as it is, warts and all.

Once you’ve settled into a comfortable position, slowly and consciously inhale and exhale three deep breaths. With each successive breath, note how you become more aware of both your mind and body.

Now that you’re relaxed from the three deep breaths and in a comfortable physical position, let’s begin the “I Am” meditation.

This technique is very simple.

First, slowly breathe in, mentally thinking I, pause for several seconds as you complete the inhalation, and then slowly breath out, thinking AM. Again, pause for several seconds as you complete exhaling.

Note the space, quiet, and calm that always exists in every pause between breaths.

Repeat this simple meditation for at least five minutes, slowly adding more time as your practice deepens or if you’re feeling anxious.

I Am is one of the world’s simplest and yet most profound meditation techniques.

When you accept yourself as I Am, you give up self-deception and wishful thinking and attain freedom, peace, and bliss.

I’ll see you again next Monday morning with another simple meditation you can use to improve your life and sense of well being.

Debit Card Nightmares in Modern Times

I woke up on a recent Monday to a phone call picked up by my land line’s answering machine with the Caller ID reading “Fraud Detection” and a recording stating my name and the correct last four numbers of my debit card.

The recording gave a “reference number” and said to call their 1-800 number immediately because my debit card had been put on hold due to a suspicious charge.

Though I hesitate to reveal so much about myself, I am getting old, I do not trust computers even though I’ve used them since 1985, and I’m almost pathologically paranoid about phone calls like this one. I’ve also started to shrink, which is apparently yet another of the endless joys of aging.

How do I know I’ve shrunk, you ask?

Well, even though it’s none of your business, I know it because I recently ordered a pair of blue jeans from Amazon, and the 29″ length that used to be perfect for my stubby little legs is now two inches too long, which brings to mind a couple of lines from T.S. Elliot’s wonderful poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled
.

Sorry, I’m wandering. Let’s return to the suspicious debit card charge reported to my answering machine.

But first a little back story to this latest problem so typical of the frustrating Modern Times in which we’re all imprisoned.

You see, being an old school guy, I’ve always refused to use a debit card and only acquired one a month or so ago because my late wife Ellen had repeatedly told me over the years: “Chet, the day is coming when you’ll need a debit card for an emergency and, besides, it’s way past time for you to join the 21st century. Nobody writes check anymore.”

Well, long story short, a month ago I decided she might be right about the possible emergency, so I went to my bank and left with a debit card, put the card in my wallet, and promptly forgot about it since I pay bills with my checking account and buy groceries with cash.

I figured the debit card would get even less use than the cell phone Ellen also talked me into attaining a couple of years ago “in case of an emergency.” Being a frugal old man even then, I purchased a cheapo Tracfone unit and a 30-minute a month plan for $10 a month.

Since I tend to write more than I talk, I figured thirty minutes a month would be more than enough time and, besides, the minutes rolled over. Well, I called my wife once on this phone from the grocery store parking lot when she was still alive just to see if it worked. It did. And that’s the only time I’ve used it.

Out of curiosity, I logged onto the Tracfone website a few minutes ago to check my stats. My minutes have indeed rolled over. Believe it or not, I’ve accumulated a few minutes shy of 90 hours of available talk time. Ninety hours! Are you shitting me? What on earth am I going to do with 90 hours of available talk time on a flip phone that has spent 99.99% of its life on the desk in my home office?

Oops, sorry, I’ve wandered away from the debit card problem, haven’t I?

Let me refocus…

So, back to my recent early morning freak-out when, kaboom, I wake up to a scary recording from an alleged “fraud detection” service. Because of my paranoia, I didn’t trust the recording, even though when I researched the phone number online it appeared to be a legitimate third-party company that detects debit card fraud for numerous legitimate banks and credit unions.

Well, nobody’s ever accused me of believing anything the first several times around, so I scratched my old skull and thought for ten or fifteen minutes about what I should do next.

I quickly ruled out suicide or going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head, though I’ll admit to kinda liking the latter option.

A quick hour or so later I came up with a plan. My old brain was humming that day!

Here’s the plan I came up with: Using my head for something other than a hat rack, out of an abundance of caution, I did NOT call the number the recording said to call but instead looked on the back of my debit card and found an 800 number to call that went directly to the debit card department of my bank.

How smart is that??? LOL!!!

I mean, seriously, I may have lost a step or two in terms of 100-yard dashes (unless I’m running to eat and then I’m faster than ever), but the old braino can still light up neurons like the Fourth of July when it has to solve a problem.

For Pete’s sake, the phone number on the back of my debit card HAD to be legit, right?

And, yes, I dialed it and quickly realized it was a safe number.

You see, after waiting on hold to lousy elevator music (why can’t any of these companies play Frank Zappa or Metallica or something interesting), I finally hooked up with a nice customer service lady.

Well, I guess I should rephrase that since I didn’t actually “hook up” with this nice lady. I mean, seriously, you can’t hook up via phone. And besides I’m an old widower now who needs a haircut, a shave, and a hot bath. I’m not exactly the catch of the day.

I’m kidding about the hot bath. I continue to grab a shower every Saturday night, just as I’ve done for the past seventy years or so.

Hahaha, I’m kidding there, too. I may be old, but I’m clean.

Drat, I’m drifting again. Where were we? Oh yeah, the catch of the day.

Speaking of the catch of the day, I’m wondering if my local market’s going to have fresh gefilte fish on sale this morning? They had shark fins available a month or so ago, but the mall’s sushi joint beat me to that one as well as all the prime sashimi. In case you’re wondering, according to Wikipedia, “Gefilte fish has the texture of a dense matzo ball, but for those who aren’t familiar with all of these Jewish foods, think of gefilte fish like a fish meatloaf. In fact, it doesn’t even really taste like fish. If ‘fish’ wasn’t in the name, you may not even know what it was made of. As for taste, it’s pretty mild.”

Darn, now I’m getting hungry for a dense matzo ball meatloaf.

Anyway, the nice lady I’m not going to “hook up with” proceeded to ask me a slew of questions to confirm my identity. My paranoia didn’t like having to answer these questions, especially since some of them went back decades regarding details about cars and houses I’d owned in the past.

As an aside, it’s true. Today my fear that privacy no longer exists was confirmed because the nice lady had access to databases that obviously knew EVERYTHING about me.

You see, before the nice lady would reveal to me the details of the suspected fraud on my debit card, she asked me my height, to make sure it matched what their database said was my height on THEIR copy of MY driver’s license.

I told her my driver’s license said I was five feet and seven inches tall, but in actuality I’ve apparently shrunk a couple of inches because the 29″ inseam blue jeans I’d ordered recently from Amazon had to be sent back since the lengths were about two inches too long. Either that or else the blue jean company had mislabeled the length, which, of course, in our Modern Times of gross incompetence could certainly be the case. She said that was okay either way, that shrinkage was a physiological fact of life, and, indeed, quite common in old men, and that I shouldn’t worry about it too much.

Appreciative of her caring words, when I stopped tearing up I was a few minutes later able to answer her next question, which was to provide her with the last four numbers of my driver’s license, along with my entire Social Security number.

Luckily, I had my wallet at the phone with me so I was able to provide the right figures. This of course could have been an embarrassing pain in the ass if I’d not had the forethought to have close at hand my wallet containing my driver’s license and Social Security card. I mean, seriously, do you know how difficult it is to keep nine non-sequential Social Security numbers in a 73-year old brain?

I’ll tell you how difficult it is. It’s akin to performing heart valve surgery with an associate’s degree in carpentry, not that there’s anything wrong with an associate’s degree in carpentry. I mean, seriously, Jesus probably had one of those from the community college in Nazareth when he was still living with his family, right?

Anyway, by this point, I was pretty exhausted mentally, but things got worse…

You see, I was further embarrassed when the nice lady gave me four numerical options as to how much I’d paid for my home. Given that it was 22 years ago when I bought this dump, I narrowed the four choices down to two and then guessed at the right price. Yes, yes, I know how absurd it sounds to not recall how much I paid for a house.

A house, for Pete’s sake!

We’re not talking about how much I paid for a pair of blue jeans that were two inches too long. Even an old fart should have enough memory left to recall how much he paid for an entire house. I mean, seriously, WTF!!!

Well, I could not dredge that figure up for the life of me, though I was able to discard two of the four options since one number was enough to buy, on a good day, a couple of cases of Tootsie Roll Pops; and the other option was totally out of the ballpark for my cheesy neighborhood. You should see this neighborhood. My God, it’s really gone downhill over the years. Why, just the other day…

Never mind about that.

Back to the nice lady and her many questions that I had to answer to prove that I was the real Chet Day and not some weirdo imposter trying to defraud the debit card fraud department of a national bank.

But, honestly, how on earth do they expect a Golden Aging Senior like me to remember stuff that happened 22 years ago? I mean, seriously, I couldn’t remember where I’d put the box of bran flakes this morning when I feared I was in for potential constipation issues because I haven’t been consuming sufficient fiber lately.

Well, I can happily report I found the cereal after only five minutes going through various cupboards.

If you think that’s impressive, what ’til you hear this: I found the milk almost instantly. It was in the refrigerator!!!

When the nice lady was finally satisfied I was the real Chet Day, she revealed that the debit card charge that had been flagged as suspicious was for, get this, 77 cents and payable to CBNOnline in Canada. Even though I’ve basically lived on the Internet since late 1999, I’d never heard of CBNOnline in Canada, and I told her so.

I then asked if she’d ever heard of CBNOnline, and she said she thought CBN referred to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Well, shave Santa with a butter knife,” I exclaimed, “that proves it wasn’t me.”

“How so?” the nice lady asked.

Long pause as I thought about asking her to check one of her database for the answer because surely if she had a copy of my driver’s license, she also had to know my religious preferences, though I’ve made it a habit for the past 55 years or so to check the “unaffiliated” boxes on all the damn forms we have to fill out in these absurd Modern Times.

Speaking of damn forms, I propose to you that the day rapidly approaches when we’ll have to fill out some stupid form at Chick-fil-A if we want a slice of pepper jack cheese on our spicy chicken sandwich. They’ll probably want a thumb print at the bottom of the form, too.

While we’re on the subject of thumbs, for reasons I don’t comprehend I always think my thumb is on the left side. On the other hand, it might be on the right.

Anyway, by this point in my dialogue with the nice lady at my bank’s debit card fraud department, this whole deal was getting really, really absurd and crazy because…

1) I’ve never used this debit card; and

2) I would never use a debit card or a credit card of a gift card for a charge of 77 cents. I mean, seriously, can you think of anything today that costs 77 cents? I can’t. In fact, I doubt that a guy could buy a single peanut M&M for 77 cents in 2021 America.

Anyway, before I turn this into a major 22,413-word rant about Modern Times, the 77-cent charge — thanks to the third-party fraud detection service that contacted my answering machine — had not gone through. That made me happy. Now I know how Jeff Bezos feels when he checks his bank balance!

I then had the nice lady cancel my debit card, which made me even happier. I made sure the cancellation actually occurred by having her confirm to me at least seven times that no new card would be mailed to me, indeed that I never wanted to see another debit card for the rest of my days.

Now, I know the person reading this rant is a good person because you’re still reading this endless rant, and because of your goodness you’re possibly feeling sorry for this nice lady, maybe even thinking she needs a raise if she has to put up with ranting old fools like me who refuse to adjust to Modern Times.

Well, you’re probably right about that, and I’d be okay with giving her a raise because she was patient, especially when I rather aggressively roared, “Why do you keep asking me all these damn questions? I’m the real Chet Day. I’m not some scam artist stupid enough to call a major national bank’s fraud department to try to steal money from a debit card! I mean, seriously, how dumb would you have to be to try to defraud the fraud department of a major bank on an insecure phone connection? Does this actually happen? Are there really people stupid enough in Modern Times to attempt such a heist?”

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I did indeed go on and on in this vein for probably twenty or thirty minutes, and, yes, you’re right, maybe the nice lady did think I was a “little off” because I was ranting rather excessively about the unending aggravations of Modern Times, but, hey, it’s her job to be sensitive and understanding, right?

And besides, before she picked up, an automated voice told me our conversation might be recorded, and I’m always hopeful during times like this that the recorded conversation will work its way up the corporate ladder until a CEO or CFO commits to change you can believe in. Hahahaha. LOL. ROTFLOL! Fat chance of that, right?

Well, anyway, I mean, seriously, far too many people are overly sensitive these days. For example, just last Tuesday, I almost got my head bitten off because I was arguing about identity pronoun usage with the bagger at my local grocery store when a young woman behind me interrupted our analysis and did everything but whip off her mask and beat me to death with it.

I guess she didn’t know I’d been an English teacher in a former life and that I was legitimately interested in identity pronouns and how the usage of many of them have changed the past few years. God knows, I wasn’t trying to trigger a fellow shopper who believed in her heart the sensitive subject of gender pronouns in the prison of Modern Times was off limits to old men buying milk and bran flakes.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I keep milk in my refrigerator? And speaking of bran flakes, have you watched the movie Constipation on Netflix? Probably not. You see it hasn’t been released yet.

Anyway, everything worked out on my end with the debit card, but, seriously, I am getting too old for this kind of excitement starting at 8:15 of a morning in our exciting Modern Times.