Tag Archives: bargain shopping

Cook’s Codger Corner

By Thanksgiving Trump will lose interest or be injured while chasing a shiny object.
—Tom H. Cook           August 2015

 If Trump becomes president, Mexico and Canada will both construct (and pay for) walls to protect their borders from fleeing Americans.
—Ibid     May 2016      

Let us write to you in words you can understand. We are not displeased with your writing per se but our readership is becoming more mature and the pithy, hip, urban underground bling that you have been throwing down is too avant-garde for the speed bump lovin’ tweedy leaf rakers and corduroy cowboys we need to keep chill. The Board digs your vamping, but we will be unable to continue employing you unless you can help us skew older.  So Tom, you may be too hip for the room. Rock on and keep it real!  If you want to try an “oldster column” we will consider it.  Peace out.     —Editorial Board Hill and Lake Press


    Cook’s Codger Corner
Money saving tips and ornery observations buffalunatix

 Hey fellow seniors. Put on a flannel shirt because even though summer is coming it is still a bit chilly first thing in the morning.  WCCO says high of 70, but not in my pantry.

We are all concerned about money, what with property taxes and the like.  Fat lot of good it does to have a house that keeps going up in value if you are not going to sell it.  Who wants to leave the neighborhood and give it over to the hipsters?  Yeah, their kids are cute, but where am I supposed to go, to those chi-chi condos downtown?  Monthly association fees and people living on top of me, no thanks.

Well enough chatting.  Let’s get into the e-mail bag.

Dear Codger,
Do you know how much toothpaste is wasted every year?  Probably a lot.  Don’t throw out that nearly empty tube.  Cut it diagonally with a pair of shears (scissors).  There is another week’s worth of paste in there!                           Sharon M.      Girard Ave.

Dear Codger,
My kids want me to throw out all my maps and just Google or tell Siri when I want directions.  I need something I can spread out and look at and maybe write on. I want the big picture.  I can’t bring the computer in the car, and with all the traffic and horns, pay attention to a voice saying ”in four hundred feet merge left onto the Badger Creek entrance to I-94.”

I am going to AAA and see if they still have real maps like we used that summer to go to Mt. Rushmore. Hope they still lay out the route with those nasty smelling markers.
Linus E.      Chowen Ave.


Dear Codger,
All the grocery stores put the oldest milk in the front of the case.  Get on your knees and rustle around the rear of the cooler.  Someone with tats (tattoos) and piercings will come and offer to help.  Ask if they have a fresher container in the back.  Almost always the sell by date they find will be a week later!              Barb P.            Humboldt Ave.


Dear Codger,
I just had a check-up and my doctor said, “Don’t buy any green bananas.”  Is that bad?  I’ll hang up and listen.                                    Merlin G.         Irving Ave.

Tom H. Cook is a writer of sorts.  He serves at the pleasure (and whim) of the Executive Board





“You Can Really Taste the Savings”

earby-owl1.jpg“Why, a four year old child could understand this report! Run out and find me a four year old child. I can’t make head nor tail out of it.” –Groucho   Marx

I never doubted both my children would find someone special, marry, and eventually spawn. It is completely natural and has been going on since the Taft administration. JoAnne, with her knowledge of crafts, cooking (soups a speciality) and singing, is a natural grandmother. Her extreme patience, a virtue she says I have helped her to develop, is an another plus.

My main concern has been about my ability to be a grandfather. I was an adequate parent, but a grandfather is supposed to be a font of calm wisdom and gentle humor. Since my daughter Rachael got married in 2004 I have watched for signs of my evolution into a camping, outdoor-loving Mark Trail or at least a calm, pipe-smoking Mr. Fixit in a flannel shirt. Words like consarnit, drat, and fiddlesticks have not crept into my vocabulary. I do not motor into town, nor am I “fixin‘ to.” I have not been able to cultivate friendships with canasta playing neighbors named Blanche, Ethel, or Hiram. I would risk my life if I were to call JoAnne “mother.”

Granddaughter Charlotte is nearly two and I have not yet made her a bird feeder out of scrap wood left over from a deck I built. I love her and her newborn brother Theo, but I sweat panic attempting to assemble anything requiring instructions. I can barely say, let alone whittle, a wooden whistle without sounding like Elmer Fudd. I do not have a tool bench I can warn the young whippersnappers to be careful around. I doubt they will ever visit me in my non-existent workshop (“Watch but don’t touch!”), while I router the hasp onto the dorsal flange and wood putty the octal corners of their broken toy.

My legacy will not be defined by things I build or repair. Instead I am Tom-Tom, the provider of baked goods. When driving up to visit the kids I invariably stop at a local supermarket with a generous selection of day-old pastries. I have always found that cakes, breads, and pies taste just as good — if not a little better — once they are past that pesky sell date. Dipped in tea or milk, a well-aged cinnamon bun fresh from the freezer is nearly as good as one from the oven, and at 75% off, it is no contest.

One day Rachael bit into one of those sweet rolls, looked at JoAnne, and declared, “You can really taste the savings!” They laughed hysterically. It and I have become a gentle family joke. We all want to be remembered for something.

Tom H. Cook is a no longer local writer attempting to find humor in the aging process. He has been known to remark, “Argh, I forgot to buy gingko!”.


I believe I accidentally stumbled on an idea for the next reality television show.  Last month I was trying to figure out what Southern California types do with their old and odd, out of  fashion, worn, obsolete, and eccentric stuff.   I awoke one Saturday (at an hour that only Francis Scott Key would find inspiring) to search for things I do not need at prices I cannot turn down.

What I witnessed was whole families in pick-up trucks or aging vans trolling the  neighborhood at great speed.  They represent the countries of the Pacific Rim, India, Africa, Central and South America.  They are recent immigrants trying to survive off the fat of the land.  What is sport in Minneapolis is serious business in L.A.

These clever and resourceful people, sometimes referred to in a less than flattering manner as “coyotes,”  scour garage sales as far away as Malibu, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley.  I learned that much of what they purchase on Saturday finds its way on Monday to Roadium, an open air market located in a former drive-in movie theater in Torrance, California.  Roadium is a mix of Tijuana, Calcutta, and Bloomingdale’s basement.  Like Rick’s Café in “Casablanca” everyone with something to sell or trade ends up there.

I began thinking,  “What a reality show.”  There is a strong “Survivor” component as well as the entrepreneurial element of “The Apprentice.” If this were on TV, camera crews would accompany “teams” of foragers on Saturday morning, and the action would pick up again on Monday as they attempt to sell their wares.  You would need a heart of stone not to root for each of the families.

The colorful atmosphere at Rodium would be a natural for TV. It feels so Third Worldly, if someone were to approach you and ask to see your passport, your first inclination would be to reach for your pocket.  There is music and chatter everywhere.  The only English you hear is the cry “One dollar, one dollar…”  There are also vendors—some there more long term– who sell wedding dresses, Chinese bras, Hawaiian shirts, dresses designed for Charro, car parts, cosmetics, not yet expired vitamins, dented canned goods, DVDs, exotic birds, and coffins.

The drama is the “Coyotes”  who come only when they are able to raise the $35 or more for a square of asphalt.   Their life is a difficult one.  Not only do they cover many miles and pick through tons of stuff, but they must arrive at Roadium early and bid against others for the choicest spots to set up.  A prime location purchased from the management may change hands a number of times during the informal auction that follows.  Bidding takes place furiously in many languages with the winner sometimes having to pay $200 before they make a sale.  The only rule seems to be that anyone who says a word in English is disqualified and has to go home.

The next activity is “What’s in the van?”  A vendor who acquires a good spot may suddenly need more inventory.  An instant auction ensues with goods acquired on Saturday changing hands again before it even hits the asphalt.  This is pure capitalism with a splash of “The Antiques Road Show” thrown in.  At the end of the day Donald Trump would come out and congratulate the winner and offer him an easier job, like running one of his companies.  I believe I would call it “Survival In The Marketplace” since television is more comfortable with spin-offs.

Roadium is fascinating.  It is similar to Hester Street and the Lower East Side of eighty years ago: recent immigrants who are shut out of the traditional venues of commerce, without a stake or connections, working long hours to gain a foothold into the middleclass.  Sound familiar?


Tom H. Cook has one child graduating from college, and another getting married, yet he writes about stuff.  His wife warns him that his regular “Trash Eve” forays are destined to lead him to his next career.