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Tuesday, October 16, 2018
  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 10:12 PM
    We have a great fix-it guy. His name is Randy. If your name is Randy, there is some kind of unwritten law that you must become a handyman. Handy Randy has a lot to live up to. Our last handyman died 13 years ago this month. It’s taken us that long to find a replacement for Steve. And a replacement for the missing hallway floor tile, and the bathroom faucet handle, and the bulb for the refrigerator.
    Here’s a memory of Steve from 2005.
    When Steve comes over, we sit and chat about his kids and his grandkids. Then he gets around to his infirmities and then his wife's cousins who are overstaying their visit. Then what's new at the temple. And finally, how things are going at his regular job—which, interestingly, is just talking to people on the phone about their problems. And he's not a therapist: he's an acoustical engineer.
    Then it's time for a little lunch. We talk about the history of smoked salmon, the relative merits of a Kosher hot dog, and the debate about yellow vs. brown mustard.
    Then we start talking about his granddaughter, Amanda, again. Apparently she is a very good talker for only two years old. This trait must run in the family.
    After about an hour, I do something that is a bit rude. I ask Steve about actually fixing something. Like the door that won't close properly.
    "Steve, sorry to interrupt, but can we talk about fixing the hinge on the front door?"
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  • Friday, September 28, 2018 4:00 AM
    While opening boxes after our move to our new home, I found several stacks of old news articles, many sent by friends, plus some cut out by me and saved. I am always looking for ideas for my TV segment and newspaper columns. I found one clipping that bears repeating, about how much time people spend kissing.
    In this article, no experts are quoted. There is no scientific polling, no international study referenced. But the people from a well-known breath mint/gum company claim the average person spends 20,000 minutes in his or her lifetime kissing. Again, this is simply an average. Your smooching may vary, depending on whether you attend a lot of Greek weddings or have more than 15 grandchildren.
    I'm not an overly competitive person, but I do believe in keeping up with Joneses, who, by the way, are our newlywed neighbors down the street. However, the Fettermans next door have been married 40 years, so these folks may represent a more realistic goal for me.
    I assume I've been rolling along at an acceptable rate up until now, but I’m going to increase my output so my obit can read: “Exceeded the standard kissing time by 2,000 minutes.” Even my harshest critics would be forced to concede that when it came to lips, I was successful at putting two and two together.
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  • Friday, September 21, 2018 4:00 AM
    “What’s in here?” I asked Mary Ellen as I started to open still another carton the movers had deposited in the lower level of our new home.
    “What does it say on the box?” she asked.
    “It just says STUFF,” I said.
    “Well, that sounds like your kind of labeling system, Dick. A few years ago when we got new carpet, you did the packing alphabetically. The cat ended up in the same box as the computer.”
    Before she finished her sentence, I realized this was not a box from our current move, but a box still unopened from two moves ago in 1985. I apparently hadn’t missed whatever was in it for almost 35 years. Anything called “stuff” couldn’t be that important, anyway.
    Inside, I found a huge stack of assorted business cards—hundreds of them. I saw it as a good chance to relive old memories, to recall people I hadn’t thought about in decades. On the top of the pile was:
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  • Friday, September 14, 2018 4:00 AM
    My sister has just returned from a vacation in Iceland. She hit some popular night clubs and talked with several women about the singles scene in that exotic land.
    Apparently, the biggest issue men have when hooking up with women in Iceland is not that the ladies are frigid. The men can be a little frosty themselves—but temperature is relative. The problem is that the person they meet at the Moose Antler Pub could actually be a relative. 
    Here’s why: Iceland is the home of only about 320,000 people with a lineage that has been documented over the past 1,000 years. Generally, people don’t move away from Iceland. (Why would they? And give up the best reindeer barbeque in the world?) Not a lot of people summer in Iceland, largely because summer lasts about four hours. As a result, swinging singles often end up together not realizing that some of their ancestors were once actually swinging from the same family tree. Most Icelanders hail from a group of ninth-century Viking settlers whose descendants are still on the island, except those who went to Hollywood to make Capital One commercials. 
    Wedding planners and family reunion organizers compete for the same guests. Online dating services in Iceland try hard to match people who enjoy spectator sports, hunting, and moonlight walks, and whenever possible, have different grandparents.
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  • Friday, August 31, 2018 4:00 AM
    How would you like to save $15,000—or $14,722.50 to be exact?
    Just buy the annual Entertainment book, chock-full of good deals, brimming with coupons, awash in discounts. For a cheap person like me, it’s a godsend.
    For many years, my wife counseled me not to pay the $25.00 for the publication. It was her contention that we’d never use the coupons—and if we did, we’d either go on the wrong night or end up at the wrong place, or the coupon would have expired. I consider this user error and decided that with proper management of my discounts, the result would be monumental savings. So back in June I said…
    “Here’s the plan, Mary Ellen. For the next few months we are going to go to every place in this book, all 569 of them. Think of the money we’ll save. Think of the fun we’ll have. It will be like a second honeymoon, only this time we’ll get two one-topping pizzas for the price of one…as long as we buy a liter of Pepsi and we don’t have it delivered.”
    With that, I laid out on the kitchen table an elaborate chart detailing the itinerary—our cost-saving journey through Central Indiana. My wife was not impressed. “I don’t mind dinner at the DQ, but do we have to play a game of Laser Tag the same night?”
    “First of all, it’s not one game, it’s two. It’s the second game that’s free. How many times do I have to explain this to you?”
    “According to this, Dick, you want to get up early Sunday morning and go duckpin bowling.”
    “Yes! Where’s your sense of adventure?”
    “I just think we’ll be tuckered out from the two hours of paintball on Saturday night.”
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  • Friday, August 24, 2018 4:00 AM
    Surveys show that most people hate at least one part of their body. I’m not happy with my ears, for example. I think they stick out more than they should. My wife says I’m crazy and to be that obsessed with my own looks makes me appear very elfish. I hope she meant selfish.
    Every morning when I shave, I tilt my head down to look at my receding hairline. For a long time people asked me if I was losing my hair. I wasn’t, really. I knew exactly where it was: in the sink. About 25 years ago, I had a hair transplant. A hair transplant is sort of like what happens when a person dies. “He’s gone to a better place,” people say. That’s the same with my hair. I don’t have more hair, but what I had, the doctor put in a better place.
    While looking in the mirror over the weekend, I noticed a chin that I had not been aware of before. I was happy with the two I already had. Fortunately, that morning I saw something advertised on TV that gave me hope. Called The Miracle Neck Slimmer, it’s a device they claim was created by a world-renowned physiotherapist. I was all ears.
    At first, I thought the contraption was a scam, but they said that the manufacturer guarantees a 68 percent reduction in neck wrinkles. I have achieved similar results by simply slinging my head back and looking straight up at the ceiling. The results are temporary, of course, and I have slammed into several doors, but it does work. Well, I think it works. It’s hard to look in the mirror in that position.
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  • Friday, August 17, 2018 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen and I were relaxing on our back deck and after swatting a few mosquitoes, I said, “You know, sweetheart, we should look into screening in this area.”
    “Yes, Dick, you’ve been saying that every year for the past 25 years. Not only that, but we are moving, remember?”
    A few minutes later I mentioned how quickly the summer passes once the July 4 weekend is over.
    “You say that every year around this time.”
    I also remarked that the neighbors don’t grill out as often as we do. Apparently I had made this observation before. Several times.
    Suddenly, I felt this great pressure on me. After 39 years, I didn’t have a single new thought to offer. I had always taken great pride in my snappy repartee, but those days were clearly over. Several seconds of uneasy silence followed. Mary Ellen finally spoke…
    “When it gets this hot, I think about cutting my hair shorter.”
    “Where have I heard that before?” I asked.
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  • Friday, August 10, 2018 4:00 AM
    Facebook has received some very negative financial reports lately. I have also been in the midst of some difficult business deals of my own. We had a big garage sale last weekend and a woman talked me down from a dollar to 50 cents for a Channel 8 coffee mug. I was disappointed in myself for succumbing to her cagey negotiations, but I kept it in perspective: I had a better week than Mark Zuckerberg by about 70 billion dollars.
    The first day of the sale was fun, but the second day put me on edge. I got impatient with some people. One man was asking me questions about an old portable CD player that I had marked a dollar.
    “Does it work?” he asked.
    “Of course it doesn’t work. It’s a dollar. If it worked, it would be two dollars.”
    I became annoyed when people whipped around the cul de sac, eyeballed our offerings from the street and then sped off when disappointed with the selection. How rude is that? Occasionally, the driver would shout out what they were searching for:
    “Got any assault weapons?”
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  • Friday, August 3, 2018 4:00 AM
    “What is this?” Mary Ellen asked me as she dangled a doodad in front of my face. It was small, white, plastic, oddly shaped, and had several grooves. “It looks like it goes to something,” she said.
    “I don’t know what it is,” I responded, which I prayed would end the discussion, but I knew it wouldn’t, because my wife can’t leave a thingamajig alone. She has to know what it’s for.
    “Put it somewhere in case we ever need it. It looks important,” she said.
    “So you want me to keep it because we don’t know what it is for?”
    “Of course, if we did know what it was for, we’d also keep it. So, I guess we keep everything,” I responded.
    “Don’t be silly—some things don’t go to anything. We can throw those things away. We should only keep things that look important.”
    I knew exactly what she meant. I have an entire drawer filled with things that look important. I just don’t know what they are important for.
    Since we were doing some deep cleaning, I decided it was time to clear out the mess that had accumulated in my office over the years. Why not begin with the doodad Mary Ellen unearthed? I was 100 percent certain that nothing in our house required anything quite like that. But there was only one way to really be sure that it was not important, that it didn’t go to anything: I threw it away.
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  • Friday, July 27, 2018 4:00 AM
    My troubles all started when I disconnected my cable in the basement. I only watch television downstairs while I am on my exercise bike, but when the plot gets exciting, I forget to pedal and by the time the show is over, I’ve only “traveled” about 28 feet, which isn’t even a first down. It was time to get rid of the distraction.
    When the cable company got my receiver box and remote control back in the mail, they thought I wanted to discontinue my entire service package, and the next day, all my televisions displayed a black screen with the message: “CUSTOMER DISABLED,” which is a very unfortunate way to phrase my predicament. I called the cable service and they informed me that to fix this problem they needed to know all the numbers on the backs of all the cable boxes on all five TVs. I have a great photo of my wife scrunched behind our big-screen TV, nudged in between a giant fern and a china cabinet, trying to read the tiny numbers and talk on her cell phone at the same time.
    We were told by the customer service rep that our TVs had been misconfigured. Go figure. The soonest they could come out to fix the issue was five days. No cable television for five days was a very scary thing. Mary Ellen and I love each other; we just weren’t sure how we’d fill all that time.
    While we were on the phone discussing the current outage, I asked if she could make any suggestions for the future to help me reduce my cable bill. She provided some options. This is NOT what she really said, but this is how it sounded to me:
    “So, if you switch to Direct TV, it will lower your bill, but that’s only a promotional rate for a year…or you can just stream your shows, but then you can’t use your DVR. You could get Apple TV, but you have to buy boxes for all the TVs, unless you buy all new TVs that are smart . . . or subscribe to HULU, or you could get a dish, assuming you can get service there. Oh, you could also watch TV over the Internet, but you need to download the service for that, so you may not get any local stations or you may need an antenna. We have a website where you can diagnose your specific problem and then find a solution all by yourself, which we here at AT&T think is also the future of medicine.”
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  • Friday, July 20, 2018 4:00 AM
    When our new washer and dryer arrived last week, I watched as the two behemoths were installed by two other behemoths. “Don’t I get instructions?” I asked, as they were packing their tools to leave. Expecting a simple tutorial, I was instead handed a 94-page manual. In four languages.
    I stared at the two appliances for several minutes. Our laundry room now looks like the cockpit of a 747. Between the two machines, there are more than three dozen buttons. Each lights up when it’s touched and emits a series of short annoying beeps as if it is trying to communicate with me like the aliens in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
    Our old washer had two settings. Going from a normal cycle to a gentle cycle is not something a man does lightly, so I never messed with that. My wife sometimes ventured there, but for the most part, the Wolfsies put a normal spin on things.
    These machines looked so imposing, we were both afraid to go into the room. We walked back and forth in front of the door for several days, avoiding the inevitable. Things were piling up outside and I knew that we couldn’t hold out indefinitely. But I didn’t want to be first—nor did Mary Ellen.
    I don’t have a lot of confidence with machines, in general. My wife won’t let me load the dishwasher because she says I don’t respect the slots. Somehow I end up deforming all the Tupperware. I’m okay with cups and glasses, although Mary Ellen claims it matters which end is up, which I think is just a compulsive affectation on her part. She also has this thing about my rinsing the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher, but no one runs socks and underwear under hot water before throwing them in the clothes washer. I’m right, aren’t I? I can see you nodding your head.
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  • Friday, July 13, 2018 4:00 AM
    As Mary Ellen and I prepare to move into our new home, she keeps saying we have to “downsize! downsize! downsize!” We are both very stressed from doing this, which is why my wife is down a size and I’ve gone up a few.
    As I described in a previous column, I discarded more than 300 VHS tapes of my past TV segments, but there were a handful I just couldn’t part with. I wrote about a few of those. Here’s the rest of the list:
    A local animal behavior specialist took my beagle Barney (my TV co-host for 13 years) for a few days and claimed he had cured him of his destructive chewing and digging habits. In the middle of the interview with this expert on my front porch step the following week, Barney dug up the landscape bed and gnawed the microphone cable in half while the vet looked on in horror.
    I’m keeping the tape of Eloise Overdorf who at 93 wanted to go 200 miles per hour in a car. Bob Haverstick, founder of Never Too Late, an organization that granted final wishes to seniors, made it happen. The nonagenarian jumped into a two-seat dragster driven by Davey Hamilton and off she went. “You looked disappointed,” I said when she exited the car less than 20 seconds later. “I am,” said Eloise. “I thought I was going to drive.”
    In one interview, I asked the dumbest question of my career. A pet shop owner had a 6-foot alligator named Huey in a giant tub. I was amused to see that the gator was wearing a T-shirt that said AM Indiana, the name of my show. During the interview, I asked: “Has anyone ever gotten in the tank with Huey?” “No, Dick,” said the owner, “the reptile put the T-shirt on himself.” On second thought, I may destroy that tape.
    I kept my interview with the KKK. After the entire audience listened to 20 minutes of hate being spewed about the inferiority of the “negro,” the granddaughter of Sam Jones (then-president of the Indianapolis Urban League) rose to say that although she was black, she had ancestors who were white. “Maybe you and I are related,” she said to the Grand Wizard. Oh, the expression on his face!
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  • Saturday, July 7, 2018 4:00 AM
    The Wolfsies are moving to a new house. Finally time to get rid of almost 40 years of accumulated stuff. Mary Ellen had to decide about whether to chuck the many books, diaries and letters that were quite worn (as well as a few dozen shoes that had never been worn). I had a dilemma, as well. In our basement, stacked up to the ceiling, were approximately 300 tapes of me on television over more than four decades, videos that no one will ever look at . . . even if they did still have a VCR. Decisions had to be made. And so, as tough as it was, I reluctantly trashed every tape with only a few exceptions. I hope my son will one day watch them. Many date back to before he was born. Here are the ones that survived the giant cut—my top 10.
    The oldest tape saved is from 1979 when I interviewed the Columbus Zoo director, Jack Hanna (later a frequent celebrity guest on David Letterman’s Late Show). It was one of Jack’s first TV appearances, and one of mine, as well. Jack hung a dozen week-old possums on my sweater, like he was decorating a Christmas tree. That segment helped me win my first Emmy . . . and my last. (Talk about beginner’s luck!) Jack went on to win four Emmys and international fame. I guess it’s better to be the hangER than the hangEE.
    Dick the Bruiser’s interview will remain on my shelf. It was 1992, and I arranged with the wrestling star to come to his house at 5 a.m. and pretend to roust him from his sleep. He came to the door in his typical gruff Bruiser mood (only worse) and as I proceeded to deliver forearm smashes to his chest, he quickly turned the tables and banged my head into his Weber Grill, then picked me up and threw me in his swimming pool. Rest in peace, Bruiser.
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  • Friday, June 29, 2018 4:00 AM
    The other day, I received something interesting in the mail. It wasn’t an exotic postcard from Maui; it was a thank-you note for a recent purchase I had made.
    Dear Mr. Wolfsie,
    Thank you for buying a new Oreck. We hope it brings you many years of vacuuming pleasure. Please call us about hosting an Oreck party today.
    Your friendly Oreck sales team
    The truth is that I don’t have any intentions of spending a single enjoyable moment with my vacuum. I was a bachelor until I was 33 years old and I managed to maintain a very active social life without hovering over a Hoover or dallying with a Dirt Devil. In addition, I have always felt there is something very frightening about vacuum cleaners. Every dog I have ever owned agrees.
    It was a friendly gesture by Oreck, to be sure. But I have no recollection of a similar follow-up after the Wolfsies bought our new sump pump. And I’ve gone through all my previous correspondence and no one cared a whit whether I had a positive experience with our document shredder. As a general rule, I don’t want annoying phone calls and letters asking me if I’m a satisfied customer. If I have a garbage disposal that is not disposing, the load of goop in my sink is a good indication that I’m not happy with my purchase. I’ll take it from there.
    I recently had some issues with my Internet connection. The cable company called me the next day to ask if I would rate the service I was provided. “I would be happy to do that,” I told the caller, “provided someone finally shows up.”
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  • Friday, June 22, 2018 4:00 AM
    The following is a true story. But I have written two alternative final paragraphs.
    My ethical dilemma begins with an insensitive remark I made to a friend. As an apology, I invited him to breakfast at our favorite café, and I sent him a $30 gift card to cover our meal.
    We met the next week. When the waiter returned with the card, he informed us there was some credit remaining. “You use it,” said Jim, “and thanks for breakfast.”
    “How much credit is left?” I asked the waiter.
    “Let’s see,” said Jake, “the balance is $971.12. And I think that’s a record at this place. Second place is $13.78.”
    You could have scraped me off the floor with a spatula. “Wait,” I said, “this is a mistake. The card was only for $30.”
    Jake talked to the manager who said their records showed I paid a thousand in cash two weeks earlier at 8 a.m.
    “Listen, Jake, I’d have to be really snookered at eight in the morning to spend a thousand bucks on a gift card at an omelet shop.”
    The manager personally came over and confirmed I could use the card’s balance. “It’s our mistake,” he said, “and we will honor it.”
    My wife forbade me to use the balance and demanded that I return the card or destroy it. I knew she was right, but I wanted other opinions. First, I emailed my brother, a New Yorker. I was curious what his perspective would be.
    DICK: Peter, the other day I bought a $30 gift card but they gave me $1,000 in credit by mistake. What should I do? 
    PETER: About what?
    Next I sent an email to my editor, Heidi.
    DICK: Heidi, can you help with this situation. I have a thousand dollar gift-card at a local breakfast joint because the cashier entered it into their system incorrectly. I only paid for a $30 card. Any suggestions.
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