Dick's Blog

“Submarine”, Chapter 54 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”, A Free Book

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Next Week, “Proper Attire”, Chapter 55 of 92 of “Inside and Outside” (another humorous story about how grandkids call things like they see them)


Lacking the real thing since I’m on a diet, I drew this sketch with the colored pencils my wife keeps in the desk for when little kids come to visit. The picture shows how you build and fill a submarine sandwich from the top. If you follow this and the description below, you will become a culinary expert in making and launching submarines the right way like they do in Boston.


Call them what you like, but to me they’ll always be submarines, subs for short. The frustrating thing here in Connecticut, and the rest of the world as far as I know, probably even in Italy, is what they make doesn’t look anything like it’s done in Boston, where I grew up. 

First of all, a small boat is not open on the side. A wave would come and flood the thing. Ferries, cabin cruisers and destroyers may have openings on the sides of their superstructures, but a small boat, and submarines as well, are entered from the top. If you look at a typical Italian sandwich, grinder, hoagie, or Panini in Italy, these things that try to pass for an Italian submarine sandwich, the opening is all wrong. The roll is slit all around the sides, creating a top and bottom half. They plaster all the goodies between the top and the bottom. Everything falls out the sides when you take a good bite. The people in Boston have a better way. They were first to start the revolution against the British, and they’re still far ahead when it comes to building subs, at least the kind you eat. Connecticut (Electric Boat) builds the best subs or submersibles, but they’re made of metal and hard to eat. Maybe Godzilla could take one on. 

So, what’s the proper way to build an Italian submarine sandwich? You start with a roll, of course, but it’s what you do to that roll that separates the men from the boys. You slit it along the top, about two- thirds of the way to the bottom. You then pry the top open revealing a trench from one end to the other of the roll. The goodies are going into the trench, but in a special way so that they don’t fall out when you take a bite. Further, the olive oil that you liberally pour in there won’t drain out except into your mouth. That way, you will get your full Mediterranean diet for the day, all in one glorious helping, without any loss of any vitamins or minerals.

Next you lay in the sliced meat like salami, ham, or prosciutto and then provolone cheese, crosswise, lining the trench to create an impervious trough for holding the rest of the goodies. Into the trough go finely chopped tomatoes, pickles and onions, and on top, the olive oil, oregano and a little salt, if you’re into fluid retention. The impervious layer of meat and cheese keeps the oil from seeping through the bottom. 

We’re not quite ready yet. Now comes the positioning of the submarine in your hands for launching it down the skids into your stomach. The boat should be cradled in your hands, one behind the other, and lifted slowly to the elevation of your mouth. Now slowly tipping up the end furthest from your mouth, you proceed to gobble, like Godzilla would do to a newly minted craft out of Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. If you are really good, you won’t miss a crumb or spill a drop. “Dive! Dive!” No trace of our submarine, not even an oil slick. 

To recapture my youth, we make them at home sometimes. The only deviation from the original is, my wife yells at me when I go for the salt. 

Next Week, “Proper Attire”, Chapter 55 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”

“The Toaster Police”, Chapter 53 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”, A Free Book

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Next Week, “Submarine”, Chapter 54 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”


I wrote this around the time that the “right to die” Terry Schiavo case in Florida was at full boil. This was one of the darkest and craziest times in U.S. politics when our over zealous national politicians, tried to protect us from ourselves. Fortunately, they came to their senses before creating a constitutional crisis. On the lighter side, this is a humorous story about how even us ordinary citizens can find ourselves in the act of protecting each other. I’m trying not to laugh. We recently revisited the resort mentioned in the story. The lady who I secretly dubbed with the title, “The Toaster Police”, was still there, but her prized belt toaster was gone, replaced with a pop-up toaster. Small world! I’ve seen the identical used belt toaster (very popular model) for sale. Maybe, she got tired twiddling with the belt speed knob and decided to sell it. It’s a fantastic machine if it is used correctly.

The Toaster Police 

Without thinking, I became a deputy in the toaster police. That was not my intent, but what could I do, let the whole town go up in flames? It all started in Rhode Island at a resort motel last summer. We had rented two adjoining rooms for my daughter’s family and ourselves. They had a great three-star restaurant next door, a fresh water pool, and a short drive to a beautiful beach. The ocean water was crystal clear with just the right size waves for body surfing for children and adults. There were too many people, but they all had smiles on their faces. And, you could buy lunch and a beer at the restaurants just off the beach. A little too crowded for me, but I can adjust when I’m on vacation. We had a ball.
A continental breakfast was provided as part of the package. The operation was run by a woman, who I came to secretly call the “toaster police.” She ran a tight ship, scrutinizing every facet of her business, including operation of the belt toaster. No one was allowed to adjust the speed knob, too fast and the toast or bagel zipped through the machine barely getting warm, too slow and it smoldered and smoked, potentially bursting into flames before exiting the appliance. The problem was the knob didn’t work. It spun in either direction, having no apparent effect at all. Everyone was twirling it this way and that, trying to make toast the way they wanted it. Smoke often poured out. The “toaster police” would mutter aloud and move people aside to reset the toaster speed. She had the knack, but all it made was tepid toast.

I’ve noticed that all kinds of rules and toaster police are showing up, protecting everything, including us from ourselves. Some of it is legitimate. Some of it is a violation of our rights. Some of it is downright silly. It looks like Connecticut will be the third state to ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving. They are dangerous. My bank has a sign that all sunglasses, hats and hoods, anything that might conceal your identity, must be removed prior to entering. We live in a dangerous world. We recently returned from Florida where we visited friends. They live in a well-manicured retirement community. If you leave your garage door open when you are not personally in sight, the association garage door police leave you a ticket reminding you of your transgression. I don’t know what happens if you get too many summons. Maybe they nail the door shut. At their health club, due to the demand, a monitor checks the elapsed time on the treadmills. After 30 minutes, the treadmill police ask you to step off for the next person in line. 

While we were in Florida, the Terry Schiavo case was at full boil. The right-to-life police were picketing, filibustering, and passing legislation with a presidential endorsement to continue her vegetative state. Only after collecting a lot of bad press, and potential loss of votes, did they quiet down. I truly wonder, after all that fuss, if these people would really want to live that way. At some point, approaching a painful death or zero quality of life, even the most ardent supporter would plead for their own Kevorkian. Where are you Jack when I need you? The police put him away for good. 

Back to toast. We were in Ogunquit, Maine, a pleasant seaside resort town. At our motel, they have a continental breakfast nook. A delightful lady serves coffee and makes small talk. When I sat down for my first cup of coffee and a toasted bagel, I saw a man enter with a wild curly mop of hair, a little like Harpo Marx of the old time Marx Brothers vaudeville comedy team. Harpo never spoke. He mimed and played a magnificent harp. Unconsciously, and unfairly, my first impression was that the man looked kind of goofy. 

Going out for my second pour, the man was at the belt toaster. In his hands was a bagel, lathered with a thick layer of cream cheese. He was about to place it in the yawning maw of the (very familiar model) toaster. That’s when civic duty and a sense of altruism forced me to speak up. As an honorary member of the toaster police, I said, “I don’t think that is a good idea!” The coffee pourer heard me and rushed in. “Oh sir, it will catch fire.” Tacitly, based on the horrified expression on her face, she was saying that the breakfast nook, and even the whole town could go up. The goofy man replied, “How else can I toast it?” 

“Sir,” she said, “you’re supposed to toast the bagel first!”  

“Huh?” he replied. 

By this time the dripping bagel was about disappear out of sight into the electric inferno. Fortunately, the lady had long fingernails. With a stabbing motion of a great blue heron after an unsuspecting fish, she plucked the bagel out of harm’s way, preventing the fire of the century. I meekly retreated with my cup of coffee, leaving the man with a pained look on his face, like what do I do now? I’m not sure I like being a member of the toaster police, protecting people from themselves. I could have just walked away and watched the smoke come out of the toaster (and the whole town go up in flames).

Next Week, “Submarine”, Chapter 54 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”

“Whatever”, Chapter 52 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”, A Free Book

Photo on 3-19-18 at 10.56 AM


Next Week, “The Toaster Police”, Chapter 53 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”


Technology is moving so fast that something I wrote a decade ago sounds ridiculously out of date. Fortunately, the English language is mostly intact except the contractions and shortcuts used to speed up the texting process. This essay is about a play on words. You best be careful in your haste to communicate quickly that what you say “means” what you really want to say.


We had just gotten back to our motel room after a long day of snowshoeing. My son had left his cell phone at home and was trying to call his wife using his phone company calling card. “Would you try using your calling card?” he asked. “This damn thing isn’t working!” I picked up the motel phone and punched in approximately 40 numbers to complete the call. It had been a long time since I had used mine. Now what was my PIN number? Heaven forbid you make a mistake and have to start over! I always wonder what the charge will be with the middlemen involved in calling from North Yahoo to Suburbia. God knows what local network is piling on. You may hear things on the line that are different from the usual protocol. “Welcome to the Norizon North Woods Technite System. We go far beyond your call.” Later, I found out from my phone bill that it did cost me a bundle. It wasn’t a middleman. Modern technology has changed our lives again. The advent of cell phones has made calling cards virtually obsolete, and expensive.

Handing him the phone, I tried not to listen. This was a private conversation. After all the small talk, he said, “We had a wonderful time.” Then he affectionately said, “I love you.” followed by a muted, “Whatever!” I think he meant, “What ever!” which has a different meaning.

I was initially stunned. “Whatever” seemed to diminish the vow, “I love you.” Maybe, I don’t love you, or maybe it doesn’t make any difference. What I thought I heard was far from the truth. No wonder witnesses are so unreliable in any court proceeding. When he said, “I love you,” one of his kids had probably fallen off the couch. He was talking to an empty line. The “whatever” was an acknowledgment that he was speaking into the ether, that tenuous substance that scientists used to think transmitted light through space. Then I realized, what he said to himself was a vow of commitment. The “whatever” meant, whatever happens, whatever the circumstances, through thick and thin, whether you are on the phone or not, “I will still love you!”

That got me thinking, first, about the single word, “whatever,” and the two distinct words, “what” and “ever.” “Whatever” is a run on word, an exclamation, like a sigh of resignation. The two words, “what ever,” slows things down. There is a pause between the what and the ever. “What ever you say, what ever you do my love, I still love you.” When you combine what and ever together, you get a new word, “whatever,” with a different meaning, something indifferent, dismissive or impatient. That’s what I initially heard, or thought. When I slowed it down, the true meaning came through. The same can be said about “wherever” and “whenever.” Slow them down and they say, “Where ever you are, and when ever you need me, I’ll be there to love you.” That’s a whole lot of loving.

The “whatever” thing has become a joke around our house. At first my wife objected to the add on. “I love you, what ever.” It sounded like “whatever,” like I really don’t mean what I’m saying, or saying “I love you” is just a perfunctory statement. Now, when one of us says “I love you,” the other chimes in with, “Whatever!” We break out laughing. Laughing is good. Saying, “I love you” after fifty years of marriage has taken on a deeper and richer meaning.

Next Week, “The Toaster Police”, Chapter 53 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”