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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

  • Monday, April 23, 2018 4:00 AM
    Former advertising man and WWII veteran Keith Bratton couldn’t get rich creating ads, so he decided to also not get rich by creating off-the-wall ideas, inventions and schemes. He’s been very successful. He hasn’t made a dime.
    Keith, 92, moved from Carmel to Meadow Brook Senior Living in Fishers two years ago following a stroke. Keith was one of the first people I met more than 35 years ago when I moved to Indy. I visit him often.
    Here’s a look back at some of Keith’s innovations: First, there were Santa-bolic Steroids, which were tiny pills to boost energy at Christmastime. There was Kosher Konfetti for Jewish weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and circumcisions. He invented a tiny mock cable to jump-start your watch battery from someone else’s.
    This one-time award-winning account executive for the State Fair set up a booth (along with WRTV food critic Reid Duffy) between the corn-on-the-cob vendor and the pork chop tent…that sold dental floss. He suggested the Fair sell cotton candy that was 60 percent polyester and only 40 percent cotton, so it would be reusable (just fluff and dry).
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  • Friday, April 13, 2018 4:00 AM
    I never know quite how to behave when I go to the doctor.
    I once got a bad case of the giggles during a blood test, and several years ago when they ripped the EKG pads off my hairy chest, I said a bad word. Generally, I bend over backward not to draw attention to myself, although one other time I was bending over forward and I may have yelped.
    Last week I had my annual physical. I was sitting in the waiting room filling out a new form that asks “if you have contracted any new diseases since your last appointment.” Maybe I'm old school, but if I had developed something serious, I probably would have squeezed in another visit.
    The last page of the questionnaire was titled: A SIMPLE TEST TO SEE IF YOU HAVE HEARING LOSS
    This was in big, bold capital letters, like they were already yelling at me—as if hard of hearing is closely connected to hard of reading.
    The survey had 10 questions to diagnose the problem. Here they are, verbatim:
    1. Do others complain that you watch TV with the volume too high?
    Every night, my wife comes into the bedroom while I'm watching Colbert, looks at me and says, "I can't believe how loud this is." I know she is saying that, because I can read lips.
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  • Friday, April 6, 2018 4:00 AM
    A common remark by people who read my column is: “Your wife certainly is witty.” This drives me up the wall because I am the one who puts the words in her mouth every week. Reading my column and then saying my wife is funny is like watching the Simpsons on TV and saying Homer is a great actor.
    The most common question my wife gets is whether the stuff I write about in my newspaper columns is really true. “If it is true,” people ask, “why do you let him write about such personal matters? And if it’s not true, why do you let him make up such baloney?” It’s hard for me to win.
    Most of what I write about is admittedly an exaggeration. If I said my wife left to go shopping and came back two days later, that is an obvious embellishment. If my wife were really gone for two days, I would, of course, have called the police.
    Here’s what I am concerned about. Because I am always trying to be funny, I’m afraid the cops wouldn’t take me seriously: “Hi. This is Dick Wolfsie. My wife left on Thursday to buy clothes, and I haven’t seen her in two days.”
    “Yes, Mr. Wolfsie, that’s a very amusing premise. We here at Missing Persons are aware of the use of hyperbole to create a humorous and whimsical effect. By the way, we suggest three days. Those of us who have an ear for comedy know that a wife missing for two days just isn’t catchy enough. You need the number three. Three is a funny number.”
    “I’m not trying to be funny, officer. I believe my friend Alan may have run away with my wife.”
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  • Friday, March 30, 2018 4:00 AM
    I have a friend (let’s call him Joe . . . which by the way, is his real name) who posts everything he eats on Facebook, or what could be called Feed Your Face Book.
    Joe photographs daytime snacks, late-night raids of the fridge, even the doughnuts he hid under the front seat of his car. He claims he has uploaded 3,000 food pictures onto his Mac—including a few dozen Big Macs, I might add. He wants to create a new app called Snack Chat. It’s like Instagram in the sense that the picture of the food disappears in a few seconds, as quickly as Joe’s lunch.
    I’m not sure this is a new idea. Unlike Joe, I’ve been uploading meals and then downloading them onto my shirts for more than 60 years. It’s not uncommon for people to ask me about certain food choices I have posted on my clothing for all my friends to see . . .
    “Looks delicious, Dick. Wasn’t that the special at the Olive Garden last week?”
    “Been to a ball game, Dick? I recognize the mustard.”
    People are always imposing a visual record of their lives on others. I am tired of friends showing me their pets on their cell phones. I’d rather see a serving of French fries than a French poodle. An adorable pic of your granddaughter on her new trike isn’t very interesting to me. But show me a snapshot of a slab of smoky baby-backs and I’d respond with: “Awww, how cute.”
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  • Friday, March 23, 2018 4:00 AM
    The Wolfsies are building a new house. That’s a misleading statement, because while my wife is making a lot of design decisions, I’m not doing anything that could remotely be called building. The new house is only a mile from our current house. Mary Ellen saw another subdivision she really liked but it was in a different ZIP Code and she was afraid it would take me too long to find my way home.
    We checked out lots of places during our house hunting. In one neighborhood, we saw a Commander Avenue, Commander Way, Commander Circle and Commander Court. Did they run out of nautical terms right after they named the development Commander Point? In another community, we saw a Sheila Road, a Shelly Court, and a Shirley Way. These must have been the builder’s daughters. Or his ex-wives.
    We presently live on a street with a long Native American name. My son was 10 before he could pronounce it and 17 before he could spell it, so I used to tell him that if he ever had to call 911 for me, it would be easiest just to drag me out to the highway. I told my wife I wanted to move to a wooded area where we could find a house on Elm or Maple Avenue. She found a great place on the corner of Sassafras and Eucalyptus, but we decided that was no improvement.
    One thing we learned is to never ask for directions within a housing development. Even the people who live there are clueless. If you’re not actually looking for the street you’re presently on, couples out for a leisurely walk will stare at you and shrug. Even their Lhasa Apso will give you a quizzical look.
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  • Friday, March 16, 2018 4:00 AM
    I'm doing Kegels right now, as I type. I'm supposed to do 50 per day. When my doctor suggested I do them following a medical procedure, I was not familiar with these particular exercises. My wife knew what they were; my sister knew, too. Heidi, my proofreader, was surprised to learn that men can do them. And I'm surprised…that this newspaper published this column.
    I hesitated to write about doing Kegels after Mary Ellen and I discussed that I might have to include some private parts of my life. (I think this is where I'm supposed say: no pun intended.)
    Kegels are a type of pelvic-floor exercise. If you are a guy and are clueless about them, as I was, please look it up. I would explain exactly how to do them in this column, but I was even embarrassed when the doctor gave me the instructions in his office. (Now, I'll wait while you ask Siri. Otherwise, the rest of this column will make no sense). By the way, Siri will definitely know what Kegels are. All women do. 
    Mary Ellen reminds me to be diligent about following the doctor’s orders. While we’re watching a TV show, eating dinner or going somewhere in the car, she asks, "Are you doing your exercises?" I always say "yes." It’s so easy to lie about this, compared to when I say things like "Yes, dear, I know it looks like I'm napping but I'm really on the treadmill.”
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  • Friday, March 9, 2018 4:00 AM
    Last week when Mary Ellen suggested we go to an 11 p.m. movie, I was surprised. 
    "That’s too late. I’ll doze off and you’ll be angry with me,” I yelped.
    "I don't care," said Mary Ellen. "We are going to see a movie tonight.”
    The Academy Awards were coming up and my wife wanted to be sure to see all the flicks in the "Best Picture" category. The last one left for us to see, Lady Bird, was only showing at 11:15. I wrote this column on Friday evening at 6 p.m., two days before the Sunday Oscars. And it was just about the time of day when I was already choosing which pair of pajama bottoms would go with which t-shirt. If we were to go out for a movie, we needed something to occupy ourselves between 6 p.m. and 10:30. We ended up watching a movie on Netflix, which is kind of like grabbing a bite to eat at home before heading out for dinner.
    I decided to ask our friends Bob and Cathy if they wanted to come along. “Bob, Mary Ellen and I are going to an 11 o’clock, movie. You guys want to join us?”
    “Cathy usually doesn’t get up until noon.”
    “No, I mean 11 tonight.”
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  • Friday, March 2, 2018 4:00 AM
    I just received my greatly anticipated spring edition of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, which provides a new opportunity to skewer their latest array of gifts. By the way, HS offers kabob skewers with your name engraved on them for meat lovers who are tired of having to track down their missing utensils after every neighborhood barbecue.
    The HS catalogs always begin with a letter from the chairman, John MacArthur. This issue’s introduction includes, “ . . . discover our quality products, innovative products, products that are one of a kind, and unusual products . . .” One product they obviously don't sell is a thesaurus.
    Here are a few of my favorite items from this spring edition:
    The Year of Your Birth Folding Knife: A brand new uncirculated penny, minted in the year you were born, is embedded in the handle of the knife. Murderers, you should avoid leaving a weapon like this behind, because it could help the police identify you…unless you look great for your age. Or terrible.
    The Vision Enhancing Wear Overs: These glasses fit over your present glasses to enhance your sight and filter out UVB rays. Were you tired of being called “four eyes” in high school? Now bullies can call you “six eyes.” Ain’t technology great?
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  • Friday, February 23, 2018 4:00 AM
    For the past several years I have had the pleasure of reading this weekly humor column on WFYI radio. In preparation for broadcast on a new station, I was listening to some old audio files and realized that, like so many other people, I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice. This reminded me of a dear friend who I wrote about five years ago when he passed away, a man who really did have a voice for radio.
    John Gillis was as tall as a grizzly bear, but as gentle as a teddy bear. The 40-year veteran of Indiana radio was an iconic figure. His loyal listeners looked up to him. “I guess being 6' 4" was a big help,” he once told me.
    John loved the sound of his own voice. I offer this as high praise, because each word that tumbled off his tongue was not only meticulously chosen, but it was savored by listeners for still another nanosecond before he went on to the next. “His 60-second traffic reports,” said longtime associate Jeff Pigeon at John’s funeral, “lasted about eight minutes.”
    John once told me: “I have 20 seconds to do what I have to do, read a sponsor’s name, and then if I can figure out a way to twist a word or inject my personality into it, that’s it—I’m a disembodied voice, and every 10 minutes I stop what I am doing and talk to my imaginary friends.”
    A disembodied voice? Perhaps. But it still embodied everything that was good about radio in those years. He wasn’t just a person locals recognized on the street, he was a person everyone felt they knew personally. Everyone liked him, but they knew instantly that he liked them, as well.
    John loved radio. It was his best friend. “Everywhere you travel, it’s there; it takes you places immediately . . . it exercises your imagination.” If there was any sadness, any remorse in John, it was that media had changed. “We went high tech and lost the high touch,” he told me. “Radio should be about content, character and personality.”
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  • Friday, February 16, 2018 4:00 AM
    I was at home working late one afternoon on my column when the phone rang. My wife’s cell number popped up on my caller ID. “Hi, Mary Ellen.”
    “I adore you,” came the reply.
    How odd. My wife is a loving person, but she is not given to romantic declarations on her way home from work. And yet, she added, “Sometimes I can’t get through a minute without thinking about those romantic times we had in Rio, Fernando.”
    Ahhh . . . what could be more romantic than Rio? But there was a problem: I’ve never been to Rio. Of course, I don’t have the best memory in the world. I once slept through France on a bus tour, so I still swear I’ve never been to Paris. Also, this Fernando reference was going to be a pesky distraction for me the rest of the day.
    I kept listening: “While my husband is still alive, we will never find happiness. We have to get rid of him. Soon.”
    The Postman Always Rings Twice. However, I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. My wife has a delicious sense of humor. Maybe she was just having some fun—you know, pretending she had a boyfriend and that they were going to ice me.
    Then I heard a man’s voice: “You are the brightest star in my galaxy, the cherry on my cake, the rose in my garden.”
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  • Friday, February 9, 2018 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen was frantic. We were expecting a special guest, and I had never seen her so meticulous about tidying the house—not counting, of course, the days before Nettie, our housekeeper, comes.
    Actually, Nettie had just been here to clean two days earlier. Mary Ellen originally wanted her to come just a few hours before our important visitor arrived, but the timing didn’t work out. So when Nettie heard that our guest wasn’t due for almost 72 hours, she had a very fair question for Mary Ellen: “Is Dick going to a hotel for three days?”
    Mary Ellen thought that was pretty funny, and the two of them had a good time trading stories about my messiness:
    “How does he get so much toothpaste on his bathroom mirror?” asked Nettie.
    “Or potato chips under his pillow?” asked Mary Ellen, doubled over in pain, laughing. “I bet you’ve never seen that before!”
    “And silverware under the dresser?” added Nettie, almost in tears.
    For the next three days, I was not allowed to cook anything or walk in the house with my shoes on. I could take showers, but I had to squeegee the glass doors each time. Oh, and by the way, I still had no idea who was coming. It was a secret.
    “I feel like we are adopting a child and Social Services is coming to inspect us,” I said.
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  • Friday, February 2, 2018 4:00 AM
    They just reported on the local evening news that Indiana is the 10th fattest state in the Union. I wonder where they did their research. The State Fair? The Mini-Marathon? That could make a big difference.
    I’m never sure how they come up with these stats, but over the years I have made fun of scientific researchers for their fascination with bizarre and meaningless numbers. These are individuals who, statistically speaking, are among the unhappiest people in the world. About 75 percent of the studies show that 57 percent of statisticians are 49 percent unhappier than 75 percent of all other scientists. You probably knew that.
    Here are some odd facts the number-crunchers have come up with: redheads need 25 percent more novocaine in the dental chair than people with other hair colors; 67 percent of men prefer gas grills to charcoal grills; pet owners wake up 45 percent more often in the middle of the night. I have written humor columns on all of those things.
    But back to chubby Hoosiers, and the weirdest statistic of all: According to the University of Illinois, people who are overweight use more gas per mile than people who are thin. If no one were overweight, we could save a billion gallons of gas a year. What an astonishing figure! (I’m not referring to the out-of-shape figure that contributes to this excessive waste of precious natural resources.)
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  • Monday, January 29, 2018 4:00 AM
    Phyllis Baskerville passed away peacefully this past week. In my 35 years on Channel 8, she may have been my favorite guest. She was not someone to be toyed with—or she was the perfect person to toy with. You decide.
    I first met Phyllis in 2002 after doing a live TV segment in Fortville. As I headed for my car, the spunky 75-year-old woman in her pick-up truck approached me and asked me to follow her home. “I have somewhere else I have to go,” I told her. “This will be worth your time,” she shot back.
    Minutes later I pulled up in front of a Pentecostal church, which made me wonder if this was going to be an attempt to convert me. What I saw when I entered the sanctuary was heavenly. Taking up every bit of available space on the floor were thousands of classic toys, all in mint condition, and many in the original boxes. Memories flooded back as I saw board games, wind-up toys, lunchboxes, and dolls that I had not seen in 50 years. “This is a TV segment,” I told Phyllis, assuming that was her intent in bringing me to that place. “Not now,” she countered. “Not until I get everything on shelves.”
    We soon struck a deal. I interviewed her when the collection was still in disarray, then returned a year later to show the progress she had made. The next year she opened Dolly Mama’s Toy Museum in Fortville.
    There is more to this story, of course, beginning in Florida in 1998 where Phyllis and her husband, a former district fire chief in Indianapolis, had retired. When he developed Alzheimer’s, Phyllis was overwhelmed, as many caregivers are. “I went to a support group meeting,” says Phyllis, “but that wasn’t for me…I didn’t need someone else’s problems. I was living it. I needed something else.”
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  • Friday, January 19, 2018 4:00 AM
    My wife noticed that I was continually swatting at flying bugs in the house. I told her that this one little black gnat had been bothering me for several days, but that every time I took a whack at it, it disappeared.
    "Those are not insects,” said Mary Ellen. “You probably have floaters.”
    "What's a floater?” I asked. I always thought a floater was a dead body the police found in the river.
    Mary Ellen explained to me that floaters are a common eye disorder that causes tiny specks to drift around the field of vision. Then she realized why, for the last several weeks, I was always waving at her while we were watching TV. 
    Over the past few weeks, the little gnat and I had developed a closer relationship and with proper eye-roll and head tilt, I could sometimes control exactly when and where Skipper would appear (yes, I named him). He still makes unannounced visits, like right now as I'm typing this, he’s kind of driving me CRAZY.
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  • Saturday, January 13, 2018 4:00 AM
    I have just finished reading Alexandra Horovitz’s marvelous new bestseller Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Know and Smell. The book is mostly about the incredible sense of smell our canine companions have and how as humans we often overlook this sense (we always overlook our noses). In one chapter she describes a sight-seeing tour that’s really more of a sniff-smelling excursion. The guide takes you through the streets of New York City and points your shnozz to all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) urban aromas—from sausage to sewage, from sourdough to subways.
    That book reminded me of a medical issue I have. I mentioned it several years ago in a column about growing old. I have pretty much lost my sense of smell. And it has gotten worse. Many people wrote me and said I had a serious medical issue. Medical advice from friends usually stinks. Not that I would know what stinks.
    There had been several indicators of this problem. When Mary Ellen, Brett and I used to sit in the living room watching the evening news, our dog was always at our feet. All of a sudden, both my son and my wife would start waving their hands in front of their noses. (The first time it happened, I figured I was blocking their view of the screen.)
    “You didn’t smell that?” they’d shout.
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