November 09, 2022



By John R. Greenwood 

It sounded simple enough. Retire from the daily grind of being a transportation manager and enjoy the easy life. No more sick drivers, broken trucks, or damaged products to cover, fix, or replace. I'd have 24 hours a day to sit at my desk and write. Well, things haven't worked out as planned. Yes, I enjoy life and all the benefits retirement has afforded me, but the easy part was a myth. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was the world deciding to turn upside down. Anger and discord between my fellow citizens have replaced the stress and strain of accident prevention and timely product deliveries. Nothing quells the desire to write about a simple home improvement project or anecdote about a rambunctious grandchild quicker than reading about a crazed lunatic bombing innocent people just for the hell of it.

What I've come to realize over the last three years is that life is only as good as you perceive it to be. You can choose doom and gloom or embrace dry feet and a cool breeze. Letting the daily news soak into your skin is unhealthy and will give you a headache. Mulching maple leaves or changing the oil in my truck have become my new happy places.

I still get up before the sun does. Enjoying that first cup of coffee has remained my favorite chunk of the day. I sip it slowly while watching Youtube videos of "Mustie1" reviving an old Volkswagon Bug, Jimmy "Diresta" forging a bowie knife from a leaf spring, or Jim Baird on an eleven-day adventure running the Bonnet Plume River through the Yukon wilderness. Living vicariously through the lives of others sometimes dampens the excitement of my own self-anointed achievements, like installing a new motion light on the garage. The point is we all have our own ladder-height successes.

The "simple" fact is decisions on what to do and when, what to do and for who, and what to do and how have muddled my once perceived life of leisure into a daily sorting of priorities and head-scratches. Writing has taken a backseat to almost everything in my field of vision. As I write this, my mind is in a dozen different places. I'm trying to decide whether to keep tapping keys or snap close the laptop, throw my jeans on and snatch up that leaf that just floated by the window. Years of living by the hands of a clock are hard to shake. Mrs. G. is struggling with the same dilemma. When you spend your entire adult life with guardrails and wake-up alarms, it's hard to adjust to having choices on which road to take.

I'm not complaining; I'm blessed to have options. Retirement automatically places you in direct contact with people experiencing the same emotions and facing the same weighted concerns. Grandparents subbing as occasional daycare or transportation providers is a common theme, as well as being a qualified volunteer for any number of competing organizations. Choosing who and how often you can avail yourself can be more difficult than sorting through sixty years of memorabilia trying to decide what to keep and what to send packing.

One activity has brought my wife and me some unexpected satisfaction after retiring. We both purchased Ancestry subscriptions and immediately began researching our family histories. We've found ourselves spending a lot of time in cemeteries. Because we've remained within a six-mile radius of where we were both born and raised, we are fortunate to have most of our previous generations interred close by. Along with locating the sites of long-forgotten relatives, we began the process of cleaning, restoring, and maintaining the gravestones of several of them. This pastime led us to dozens of unexpected discoveries within both families. It also became a therapeutic and rewarding way to honor our past. We follow the National Cemetery Administration protocol for cleaning government-furnished headstones and markers. You'd think spending time in cemeteries as you enter your AARP years would be unhealthy or depressing, but it has morphed into the opposite. Along with paying homage to family and friends no longer with us, it helps strengthen your appreciation for being alive to do it. The calm and quiet are just an added bonus.

I think it's time to end this long overdue post and go snatch up those few leaves that fell during the days it took to finish it. The temperature has dropped, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Soon the roar of snowblowers will replace the whining of leaf blowers, and there will be more time for writing.

Then again...



April 12, 2022

Gifting Art

Gifting Art 

By John R. Greenwood 

Art savoring his gift, brings a wide smile to the artist 

In my last post, I wrote about a painting I received as a gift from artist Chris Leske. It was a painting of my past life delivering dairy products in the city of Saratoga Springs. It was a ten-year span that made me rich. Not monetarily rich, but rich in the friends, stories, and experiences I amassed in the decade of the 80s. I now enjoy looking at that painting every day and seeing those years through a beautiful 8x10 window. 

That gift was doubled today when I witnessed another friend receive his own painting from Chris. Along with my milk deliveries, Chris had equally fond memories of a coffee truck that pulled up in front of the Manle Auto Parts store every weekday morning. Manle's (now Scallions) was located on the corner next to The Parting Glass, where Chris worked. Art Bullet and his red truck with the stainless cap would circle the city, stopping wherever a group of workers could be found. Manle Auto Parts was locally owned and predated all the auto part chains of today. It was a daily ritual to see a large group gathered around Art's truck, getting their morning coffee and donuts. Chris recently captured that image in a beautiful watercolor painting. From the minute he rediscovered Art via Facebook, he had a vision of that truck parked on the corner.

You got more than something to eat and drink when Art showed up. He was a stand-up act that came right to your door Monday through Friday. In a pre-politically correct era, you were sure to be entertained by the coffee-truck comedian with a devilish grin and a dirty joke or three. It was his signature and his success. You didn't have to be hungry to look forward to hearing that unmistakable horn coming up Lake Avenue. You'd show up for the raucous laughter surrounding the truck for the next ten minutes. With money to make, a schedule to keep, and another twenty stops to get to, Art would pull down the hinged sides and take off down the road. 

Art bought dairy products from me throughout those ten years, so I was speechless when Chris showed me the painting he'd done of the coffee truck. When he said he wanted to surprise Art with it, I knew I had to be there.  

We all texted back and forth about getting together for some laughs and a cup of coffee. It took a week to coordinate a time and place to meet. We decided on a nearby Stewart's. Chris and I rode together while Art showed up on time as expected. Within minutes laughs were flying out of the corner booth like fireworks. There were almost forty years between those laughs, but they hadn't changed one iota. What followed was a three-way ping-pong of stories, jokes, and do-you-remembers. We roared when someone mentioned we'd become those same old men we used to kid about sitting in the Stewart's booth for hours.

Eventually, we ran out of steam, and Chris pulled out the painting. He'd posted a photo of the artwork on Facebook previously, so Art had seen it, but he had no idea he was about to be its owner. When Chris handed it to him, he froze like I did the week before. You could see those 80s running through his head like a runaway train. The three of us sat there in silence, soaking up the moment. The picture of the three of us wouldn't have made a great cover for a Hallmark Card, but the emotions associated with it could have sold millions. 

This piece attempted to put into words the impact an act of kindness can have on someone. It was a gesture that couldn't be measured with any machine or gauge. It was an act straight from a generous heart brought to life with a paintbrush and fond memories. A perfect example of life being better through the gift of "Art."

Art's Coffee Truck 

March 31, 2022

Caught Off Guard

Caught Off Guard 

By John R. Greenwood 

“Hey Johnny, I got something I want you to have.” 

That was the text message I received on a random Tuesday afternoon. It was from my friend Chris Leske. 

Minutes later, we sit down for a quick cup of coffee in the maroon booth at the corner Stewart’s. Chris and I had been collaborating on a magazine article that would be a snapshot of his life as a musician, cook, and artist. It came out days earlier in the Simply Saratoga Spring 2022 Edition. I wanted others to see what makes Chris and his story worth reviving and sharing. Read it, and you’ll better understand the connection we shared and the time lapse between then and now. 

With two fresh coffees and another ten minutes of story swapping, neither of us could wait another minute. I’d been staring at the parcel wrapped in brown paper lying on the table between us. I’m far from Sherlock Holmes, I’m more of a Get Smart tripping on the clues type, but even I knew the package in front of me was a painting. 

“Well, go ahead, open it!” 

As I peeled off the masking tape and pulled back the paper, I had the same look as Ralphie Parker opening his Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model, air rifle with a compass in the stock. 


I was overwhelmed and speechless. 

I was looking at ten years of my life rolled into one not-so-simple watercolor, all of it passing before my eyes like a Rolodex of scenes. Instantly, I envisioned those early morning milk deliveries to Lou’s/Comptons, Shirley’s, and the Spa City Diner; the long dark hall leading into the cellar of Lillians, and the steep decrepit stairs under the Tin & Lint; my Friday afternoon finale at the Parting Glass, Madame Jumel’s, Hatties, Mother Goldsmith, and Caffe Lena. It was a flood of warmth and nostalgia, a flash of joy, and a tinge of regret that it didn’t last longer. 

This was more than the gift of a painting; it was an artist’s look into my heart and soul. Our conversations and recollections over the last few months had manifested themselves into Chris's paintbrush and creative eye. It was his way of thanking me for my writing, while all I wanted was to convey how grateful I was for him opening up his artistic mind to me. 

For me and many, these are the snippets of life that make the dark days worth muscling through. It can be hard to wrestle away the negatives, but when that sun comes out, boy it feels good. It takes a unique eye to decipher the needs of others and then place them on a piece of canvas or in a musical note, and many of the people in my life have that skill-set. 

Banjo Man Chris “Lee” Leske is one of them, and I want to thank him for the gift that will keep on giving. 

My "Clem" painted Price's Dairy truck loading at the
dock of the now extinct Saratoga Dairy on Excelsior Ave. 

Photo is from Bill Barton's 
Facts and Tidbits of Saratoga's Dairy Industry From 
Early 1800's To 1988 


The Painting  

By John R. Greenwood 

colors are secondary 

to the story shared

the gift, a painting 

wrapped in brown paper

years stacked neatly 

in a old red milk crate 

revived in an instant

the hours, the work, the friends

an artist’s gratitude 

overwhelms the receiver

memories framed and hung 

in reverence 

February 26, 2022

Did He Really Say That?

Did He Really Say That?
By John R. Greenwood

On Father’s Day 1979, my wife gave me a small 5x7 Hallmark plaque with a photograph of a man and a boy fishing off the end of a dock. The inscription in the bottom right-hand corner read: 

“Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value.” —Albert Einstein 

My sons were only one and four at the time, and I’d just taken a huge leap of faith by purchasing Price’s Dairy from Victor Price. My wife and I were in our early twenties with little money and even less business experience. Basically, it was the Price’s Dairy name, a milk route, and a few old trucks. We had nothing to lose. The next ten years were the hardest and most rewarding years of my life. I amassed a lifetime of friends and memories in one decade, and although it was heartbreaking to see it end, I never regretted one day of it. 

The little wooden Hallmark plaque graced my desk throughout the Price’s Dairy years. When I went to work for Stewart’s and earned a management position in the Hauling Office, the plaque came with me. It would remain on my desk until I retired in 2019. It’s in front of me right now as I write this. Although the quote has been my mantra and roadmap whenever I sought the answer to life’s meaning, I always wondered whether Albert Einstein was really the source.

Several weeks ago, I was looking for something to write. I’d been neglecting this blog, and it deserved a little nourishment. I set out to prove or disprove whether or not my buddy Al was as proficient with his prose as he was in his calculations. Where do I start? Google has yet to let me down—this was no exception. When I typed in the quote and asked whether or not Albert Einstein was indeed responsible, Google directed me to a May 2, 1955 issue of Life Magazine, which contained an article titled “Death of a Genius.” The article appeared one month after Einstein’s death and a month before I was born. Now all I needed was to find the quote. Thanks to the power of the internet and Google, I could page through the entire issue. In the process, I was able to locate it. One of Life’s editors, William Miller, his son Pat, a Harvard freshman at the time, and Professor William Hermanns, a friend of Einstein’s from Germany, visited Einstein some months before his death. During the visit, the four men discussed the importance of staying curious. 

Einstein explained, “Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.” 

Finding the roots and context of my mantra for the last forty years helped me understand its significance. As a man constantly searching for signs to guide me, this felt like confirmation that maybe I’d been on the right road all along.

Thanks to Zubal Books of Cleveland, Ohio, I now have an original issue of that May 2, 1955, Life Magazine, and I couldn’t be happier.

                                 Life’s simple pleasures.

Einstein's Desk 

January 02, 2022

Anti-Aging Medicine

Anti-aging Medicine
By John R. Greenwood

Simply open your phone, and you're flooded with advice on how to look and feel younger. I'm starting to think that my phone is the main reason I'm on a fast track to aging. One thing that does keep my mind from rusting is maintaining a sense of humor. Eating well and exercise is crucial to staying fit physically, but in my opinion, keeping your laughter tank topped off is the key to enjoying the ride. When it comes to placing all your eggs in the exercise basket, comedian Ron White explains it best. He once talked about a man in Florida who tied himself to a tree ahead of an impending hurricane. At 53, the man felt he was in good enough shape to withstand hurricane-force winds. Ron questioned the man's thought process by explaining it this way, "It's not THAT the wind is blowing, it's WHAT the wind is blowing. If you get hit with a Volvo, it doesn't really matter how many sit-ups you did that morning."

There is no one size fits all answer to fighting the aging process. No one gets out alive. I hope to go as far as possible with a smile on my face and compassion in my heart. As I headed out on my latest bottle release mission, Mrs. G. simply shook her head and said, "Be careful." Knowing I run a little off-balance, she says it multiple times a day. To see her husband of 47 years leaving the house to place a quote-laden bottle in some random location probably has her questioning her life choices.

If memory serves me correctly (it rarely does) this is bottle #10 to be released into the wild. 

"Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone." - Jeff Fiebig

Every paycheck of mine since 1974 has relied on a company whose bottom line was based on ice cream. I have witnessed parents, grandparents, teens, toddlers, and even a Labrador or two, lose a scoop off the cone. I've seen it from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, Watertown to Newburgh. The faces that follow those tragic drops could bring tears to the most hardened soul. It's not the cost. It's the immediate blow to the taste buds. It's the hard-brake to the happiness engine that makes losing a scoop to the parking lot such a downer. 

On the opposite side of Bottle#10 is a truth that we can ALL finally agree on.

"In a dream, you are never eighty" - Anne Sexton

As I read the quote aloud, I realized I hadn’t considered the ninety-year-olds out there.

Now that my bottle deposits have surpassed double digits, I'm not sure I'll continue this random act of insanity. 

But if I do, you'll be the first to know.

Happy New Year!