The Navage Haps – November 2019

I’m a big fat liar.

In last month’s Haps post, I promised I’d take more pictures of our day-to-day lives, so I could give you a glimpse behind the Wizard’s curtain.

Welp. That didn’t happen.

Maybe it wasn’t a very interesting month?

I don’t know. I’m just bad at capturing the little moments of life.

But what I lack in photographs, I can make up for with words.

Words are better anyway, right?

That’s why we graduate from picture books to wordy books when we’re still in grammar school.

Okay, let’s get to it.

I’m always glad to see the ass end of October. Don’t get me wrong – I love Halloween. But the months and months of Halloween prep take a bit of a toll, so I’m definitely ready to steer the ship towards Christmas come November 1st.

And this Halloween was a real letdown. Our faith in humanity took a ding.

Halloween was a nasty night in terms of weather this year.

Cold, rainy, windy, and as raw as the oyster Handan mistakenly ate on our honeymoon.

We live on a secluded cul de sac in a secluded neighborhood in the very farthest reaches of our town.

On a good year with clear skies and warm weather, we only get a handful of trick-or-treaters.

So this year, we weren’t expecting more than maybe one or two kids all night.

Handan and I decided to put a huge bowl of candy (about 7 pounds) out in front of the door on our portico with a sign instructing the little ones to take a handful (and only a handful, or the Witch living inside would get them!)

We’d done this in the past, and it worked out just fine.

But the times, they are a’changing, folks.

Around 6:30, the doorbell rang.

We ignored it, as we were engrossed in a good movie, and they should know better than to ring. Seriously, there was 7 pounds of candy in a bowl on a table by the door. Why on earth would any child ring?

The bell rang again.

And again.

And one more time.

What the hell?

This was absurd. Couldn’t they see we either weren’t home or didn’t want to be disturbed?

Whoever was out there finally gave up.

Silence again.

But my peace was shattered.

Something nagged at me.

I went out to check the candy bowl.


Not just the candy, mind you.

The entire enormous bowl.

Just gone.

I realized that the ringing must have been from legitimate kids looking for candy.

We felt violated. This wasn’t how Halloween was supposed to be.

I grabbed a powerful flashlight, put on a jacket and ran down the yard and into the cul de sac.

The night was pitch black. We have no streetlights, and the moon had not yet risen.

Absolute darkness.

I shone my light around.

There, a group of teens.

I didn’t recognize them, and I didn’t like the looks of them. There’s an age after which you’re not going to be trusted if you’re out and about on Halloween night.

I didn’t trust these kids.

(Good lord, I’m turning into a “Get off my lawn” old man! Soon I’ll be yelling at clouds and wearing my britches just below my chin.)

But I couldn’t prove anything, and good luck trying to approach a kid to ask to look in his bag in today’s world.

So I let it go. What else could I do?

Handan was now in the road with me. She didn’t trust them, either, and she was worried about me alone in the dark.

We turned back to towards our house, and then we saw the empty candy bowl leaning against our mailbox.

At least the little jerks left the bowl – we like that bowl!

Anyway, that was a wakeup that Halloween is no longer how I remembered.

Even on our little street in the middle of nowhere in a decent town, there are those who just don’t care enough to act properly.


We turned in for the night, and the next day I took down all the Halloween decorations and packed them away in the basement.

See you next year!


Back in May, we bought a dogwood, and I planted it out in front of the house. By the end of the month, it was looking like this.

I had no idea what could be causing its death, so I took some more photos and posted them on a big Facebook group dedicated to outdoor spaces. The people in this group are very knowledgeable, and they’ve helped me out in the past with all sorts of questions.

The consensus on this tree: dig it up, bring it back and get a refund. It was going to die.

And I almost did just that.

But something stopped me.

Maybe it was part laziness (I really didn’t want to dig it out and go through the hassle of returning it).

Or maybe I just wasn’t ready to give up on it.

We don’t give up easily around here.

So I devoted myself to caring for the wretched thing.

I broke off all the dead leaves.

I mulched its base.

I watered it every day.

And slowly it began to recover.

A month and a half after I nearly uprooted and returned it, it was looking like this.

Whatever had befallen the poor thing seems to have abated.

And now that that leaves have fallen off for winter, it is showing the most brilliant red berries.

People may tell you that something is a lost cause, but your gut will know the truth of the matter! ๐Ÿ™‚


Do you remember two years ago when a drainage pipe froze under our deck and flooded our basement, and Handan had to crawl under the deck on a zero degree December day as the sun was setting?

Well, it happened again.


The pipe didn’t freeze – it’s not cold enough for that yet. But something had happened, because our pool patio was flooding every time the water softener went through its daily flush cycle.

Normally, Handan insists on performing jobs like these because she’s smaller than I am and can handle the cramped spaces. But I’ve lost a lot of weight since that chilly night two years ago, so I informed her, somewhat indignantly, that I was, in fact, capable of crawling under the deck.

Besides, she was just getting over a bout of sciatica, and I wasn’t going to risk her back by having her crawling around in the mud under the deck.

I bundled up for the long crawl to see what the heck was going on with our plumbing.

Handan lit my way from the far end with a flashlight. It’s a tight squeeze that gets tighter as you progress, and the only way in is by doing the military crawl.

The problem turned out to have an easy solution. Unfortunately I’d need to crawl back out, go to Home Depot, and then crawl in again to fix it.

I looked back. Ugh.

After the frozen pipe fiasco, we upgraded the drainage pipe underneath the deck. The pipe that came out of the house went into a larger diameter pipe a few feet away from the basement foundation. The problem is that the kid we hired to install the new drainage system secured the two pipes together with caulk.

Simple caulk.

After two years, the caulk finally gave out, and the pressure of the water kicked the little pipe right back and out of the big pipe, and that was causing our pool deck to flood.

After I saw what was happening, I bought some ridiculously sticky Aqua-Seal tape from Home Depot – the kind you can apparently use underwater. Imagine working with fly paper, and you’ll have a good idea what this tape is like. I tried cutting it with scissors, and that was the last action those scissors ever performed.

Fortunately, I was able to rip the tape with my hands.

I wrapped the hell out of the two pipes while sand and grit fell into my eyes from the deck above. Didn’t matter, though – my face was so close to the pipes that my aging eyes couldn’t see a damn thing anyway. When I thought I had the two pipes well sealed, I gave them another wrapping for good measure and started my journey back.

Getting back out was easier than crawling in, though you may not think so from this picture, lol! This was about the point where I had to turn from feet-first to head-first for the final climbout.

Freedom! Let’s hope neither of us has to do this again!


November marks the month when my babes finally got her learner’s permit.

Oh, sure she knows how to drive!

In fact, she has driver’s licenses from 3 different countries.

Unfortunately, Connecticut doesn’t recognize those licenses, so in order to get one here, she needs to take the written and road tests.

Now, when I got my license back in 1988, I never took driver’s ed, nor did I get a learner’s permit. My dad taught me how to drive, and very shortly after my 16th birthday, I took the road and written tests on the same day.

So all this time since then, I thought there were two written tests – a short one for the learner’s permit (which I never got) and a longer one for the actual license.

I scheduled Handan for her permit test, and I don’t think either one of us took it very seriously. I printed out the manual and plopped it on her computer.

She looked at it and tossed it aside.

“I’m not going to read that, my babes.” She said. “Just read me some practice test questions.”

This was one week before the exam.

I read her a few, and then we moved on to something else.

We intended to study every night, but…

I don’t know…

It just never happened.

Then it was the night before the test.

I decided it would be best if I signed up for the premium version of the free test website I was on the week prior. I bought the family plan, thinking that Barish could use it, too. He has his permit, but I was still thinking he had another test ahead of him.

So the first thing the website asked was for Handan to take a diagnostic test to assess her knowledge. It also wanted to know when her test was {tomorrow!}

She took the diagnostic, and the website informed her she had a 0% chance of passing her knowledge test the next day.

Wow, that’s a pretty bleak assessment!

We ignored that pessimistic computer and soldiered on with the practice tests.

The next day, I was feeling 50/50 on her odds of passing.

We worked our way through the various processing stations at the DMV until finally it was time for her vision test and then the knowledge test.

She was gone such a long time!

I worried that could only mean one thing: the test was not going well.

An eternity later, she walked out of the testing room with a smile from ear to ear.

I swear the entire waiting room lit up when they saw her.

Complete strangers were congratulating her on passing the test.

Oh, she was over the moon!

And so was I! We wouldn’t have to come here again – at least not for another permit test!

It was only a few minutes later, as we again went to another processing window, that I learned that there is only one written test.

And she passed it!

If I had know that this test was the one and only test, I would have made her study much more than one night!

And I would have been freaking out even more while she was taking it!

So all’s well that ends well.

We have two permit holders in the family now. Let’s see who gets their license first!


Recently, I took Handan and Barish to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Have you heard of them? They play mostly Christmas carols – but not like any you’ve heard before!

It was one of the most high-energy shows I’ve ever seen, and the light show was incredible!

This was the first concert I’d been to since either The Grateful Dead or the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra back in the mid 00s.

Yeah, I know – that’s a pretty big spectrum from the Dead to the orchestra, but I love almost all types of music.

I remember that night at the orchestra. The headliner was some woman who was the best violinist in the world at the time (maybe she still is – I don’t recall her name). She was there as a guest of the SFSO, and they were scheduled to play some piece by one of the famous composers. Again, I can’t remember.

I don’t remember because what came first just blew me away.

It was the warm-up piece. The prelude to Miss Famous Whatserface.

The piece was Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland.

I’d heard it a hundred times in movies or on TV. It’s a beautiful, stirring song – almost always played to some sort of sporting accomplishment.

But I’d never heard it live in a proper symphony hall.

In fact, that was my first time at the symphony, and Fanfare for the Common Man was the first song I ever heard in a symphony hall.

The sound was so full and perfect that by about a minute in, I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

When I was young, I couldn’t understand why people cried at the opera. I guess I thought that they thought that the story was really sad.

And maybe that’s it, for some. There are a lot of pretty bleak operas out there.

But now I understand that the music itself can move a person to tears.

I remember the chills I got the first time I heard Pavarotti sing “Nessun Dorma from the opera, Turandot.

And that was just on a stereo!

I so hope that someday I can go to an opera and feel that passion and power!

But until that day, I’m perfectly happy to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra each year!

Handan, Barish and I had such a fantastic night!

It was Barish’s first concert in a major arena, and he was just floored by the experience.

I can’t wait to take him to more rock shows in the next couple of years!


Thanksgiving was a great success this year. We gathered all the family members in Connecticut – Handan, Barish, Mom, Dad, Uncle Ray, Aunt Nedra and me – and had a brilliant Thanksgiving dinner of steak and scalloped potatoes.

Does anyone else serve a non-traditional meal on Thanksgiving?

The highlight of the day was that our politically divided family was able to enjoy a perfectly peaceful and enjoyable holiday due to one simple rule: no politics.

I had my doubts going into the day – all of our other gatherings have been pretty highly charged. But Handan and I didn’t want any of that, so we spread the word beforehand that political conversation topics were off limits.

I’m delighted to report that it worked like a charm!

In a world full of frothing hatred, family should be a sanctuary, even if everyone doesn’t always agree.


Okay, that’s it for November! It’s time for me to go cook some buffalo wings for the family. It’s our new weekly meal.

Buffalo wings are keto, so it’s perfect for us. I used to cook them only occasionally, because frankly they were a pain in the butt and a huge mess.

But then Handan got me a deep fryer, and everything has changed.

She’d been trying for years to get me one, but I kept rebuffing her.

Why the hell would I want yet another piece of equipment in my kitchen?

But this summer, my babes and The Boy kept wanting wings more and more often.

Finally, I relented and let her get me the fryer.

And oh, what a great decision!

This thing is the best!

It’s wings every week now with no mess and totally simple cleanup!

It even has its own oil filter and storage box.

For anyone on keto – heck for anyone period – if you like buffalo wings and fried food, then this deep fryer is for you!


I’ll be back with another Hap Yap at the end of December!

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  1. In regards to your little tree. It was probably suffering from transplant shock. Not dying. So good for you, for not returning it and giving it some TLC. That’s all it needed as it adjusted to it’s new home.

  2. Loved this! You speak and write like my brother (who is in heaven) and it felt like a telephone conversation with him. Crazy, I know. It’s true though. Just thought I would thank you. I am listening to “Fanfare……..” as we speak! Never knew the name of it. They have it on YouTube, btw. Tell Handan I said congratulations on the license! I’ll be waiting for the event report for December. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you, Handan and Barish.

    1. Awww, wow, Linda, this makes me feel so good inside. Handan and I wish all the best for you and your family this holiday season! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hi Greg Handan and Barish,

    Loved your newsy update.
    Yes we have a tree dying..and can certainly empathize with pipe troubles.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. We took our boys, when they were about 9 and 11 to see TSO years ago and believe it or not, the then 9 year old fell asleep! Guitars, drums and fire and there he was, fast asleep. Granted we picked them up from a boy scout sleepover to go straight to the show, but still, fire and flashing lights and people cheering. That kid can literally sleep through anything LOL! I’m glad you all liked the show-they are on our see again list (without the kids this time!)

  5. My husband and I have seen TSO three times now. Their performances are spectacular and the music is beyond what anyone can imagine. It’s the perfect Christmas event. From our house to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas with bountiful blessings from above.

  6. Iโ€™m glad I have fellows in the โ€œIve cried over musicโ€ club, because I have been there many a time. My best experience was seeing the Lion King stage play and the Circle of Life at the beginning, I swear there was not a dry eye in the house. Absolutely stunning. It sounds like you had a magical experience at the Symphony.

    Good luck to Handan and Barish getting their licenses! Iโ€™m glad I got mine as soon as I could at that age as the process these days is just ridiculously convoluted. I was lucky enough that I only needed one on road test and two written tests (though I failed my first on road test! But most people here do.) Hopefully the process goes smoothly!

    1. There are few things as moving as good music! I’ll be the Lion King live in incredible. We just watched the latest movie. It was good (amazing CGI), but I’m not sure it tops the Disney original for emotional impact. Fingers crossed on the licenses – it’ll be a relief to give up part of my chauffeur gig!

  7. I thoroughly enjoy your “short” stories. LOL. You are a hoot!!
    WOW! Just WOW!! I don’t think I have heard clearly ever since taking my son to see/hear TSO when he was younger, about ten years old. For three years in a row! And forgot to invest in headphones each time. He was so mesmermized by each performance and I so enjoyed his company. We haven’t been back because I really hate driving in Seattle. And the parking is horrendous! But I have enjoyed TSO on TV (with the sound level at a much more comfortable level.)
    Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    1. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Jennifer! I can see us going back again to see TSO – we really loved it. Headphones may be a good idea, though! ๐Ÿ™‚