Monday, June 18, 2018

Driving Me Crazy

Is it just me, or is everyone driving like fools these days?

→ I'm heading to WalMart last week (because it's the only place where I can find Luzianne Family Size Ice Tea Bags, since you asked.) I'm in the left turn lane to hang a louie onto Rt 43 and when the light turns green, the car in front of me, being piloted by a person of unknown gender (tinted windows) does not move, even though I gave them a polite wakeup tootaroonie on the horn. Suddenly the person began gesticulating wildly, lifting what was either their middle finger or a pretzel stick, and soon made their intention known by sidling over into the lane to go ahead straight. But because the car was from Pennsylvania, I was able to attribute it to them being "one of those damned Pennsylvania drivers." (It could have just as easily been someone from Delaware or DC.)

→ We're going to the Book Thing yesterday and a car passed us on Perring Parkway like they were giving something away down by the Montebello Pumping Station. Every time we came to a red light, there was that car, and he would zoom away when the light turned green, only to be there waiting for us at the next  red light.

→ I could cite examples of people texting and checking their Instagram until the cows came home with their own phones. But that's just what I see as I'm driving. Then I go on Instagram and people are showing action photos of the jerk in front of them, or a coyote ululating on Beaver Dam Rd, or a traffic backup on 83 South, and I realize these are pictures taken from the driver's seat...
Image result for picture of coyote taken from a car
→ And Friday night, as I came home from the Giant without Luzianne Family Size Ice Tea Bags, I see an interesting tableau vivant just at the entrance to our court...two vehicles that had just recently played bumper cars, one of which was perched up on the sidewalk where I might have been walking! had I not been at the Giant. I parked at our house and ankled down the hill to get the word. It seems that a car being driven by a female massage therapist was turning in to our cul-de-sac, and in the process of turning in, was struck by a Honda CRV being driven by a man who had the right of way. As I bathed in the exchange between the two drivers and the neighbor who came out because out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, he got up from dinner to see what was the matter, I heard the woman tell the guy who was driving the Honda, "I forgot to look when I was turning."

I recounted to that neighbor as we walked home later that my dad gave me advice when I learned to drive, during the Lyndon Johnson administration. Dad said to drive while assuming that every other vehicle on the road was being operated by a homicidal maniac bent on killing me and all others on the road.

He hasn't been wrong all that often.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Altared States

This really happened to a buddy of mine:

He got married years ago.

But wait!  There's more.  He got married in July, and he was therefore suitably attired in the full soup-and-fish...the white suit and tails, with rented patent leather shoes and all.

 Thus dressed, he was on his way to the church for the ceremony when he ran out of gas on Silver Spring Rd. (Note to prospective grooms: fill up the car before the rehearsal dinner!)

Now, I was not there to see this, but according to the groom himself, he saw a man mowing his lawn right by where his car conked out, and he got out of the car and ran to the man running the mower, asking if he could get some gas out of the little gas can in the driveway.  And as the story goes, the man had some sort of Scottish accent and sounded just like Angus Young when he burred, "Nooooo laddie ye cain't 'ave me gas; I'm tryinnnn' ta cut me grass."

And the quick-thinking man, as the seconds ticked away to his altar appointment, waited until Lord Cheapenberry took his mower around the house to the back yard, and grabbed that gas can, and poured every drop of precious petrol into his car, and drove off, tossing the empty can back into Macbeth's driveway.

He got to church with minutes to spare.

In my dotage, I am often asked for advice by young men about to take their first dip in the matrimonial waters.  I always tell them to take a towel along.  Then after we all finish laughing, I get down to the serious nitty gritty about marriage. Not really about how to BE married; that's up to every participant to work out.  I'm talking about how to GET married, specifically, what to do when you're a man tying the knot with that special someone.

Pick up your rented clothing well in advance.
Try on EVERY SINGLE ITEM that comes in the vinyl suitbag...including the tie and including checking that there is a cummerbund (pause for laughter) and enough shirt studs (again).  There is nothing worse than seeing a guy with a bandana around his waist because TuxedoLand forgot his cummerbund, or with his shirt cuffs closed with paper clips.
On the day of the wedding, show up on time, dressed as you were told, be reasonably sober, and take your place in the background.  As it should be, all the attention will be on your lovely bride.  Your big day will be Opening Day for baseball, or when the monster truck show comes to a coliseum in your town.  This is HER day, so smile and pose and take wet sloppy kisses from Aunt Mildred and dream of Bigfoot.
Like any other actor, know your lines.  Yours are "I do," "I love you," and "Isn't this the tastiest cake you ever had?"

Every man who wears a cummerbund gets to feel like he's Benedict Cumberbatch, whether he wants to or not.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, June 16, 2018

I see kiddie bedroom setups like this in IKEA and other places and I think it would have been the coolest way to grow up. I would have needed more bookshelves, though.
This seal is happy as a clam.
This man is happy as a clam, sitting in the upper section of some ballpark, reading his magazine.
In Japan, they have an annual contest among flower shops and nurseries in which they decorate their trucks in landscapes. It really is a big wide world, isn't it?
This classic New Yorker cover shows a June bride thinking about things.
One can always tell a newcomer to Baltimore when they say "Lombard St" the correct way, instead of the Baltimore way ("Lumbered"). This is the Lombard St in San Francisco, but I don't know how they pronounce it out there.
This young man grew his hair long enough to be donated to Locks Of Love, the organization that makes human hair wigs for those who have lost their hair due to illness. What an amazing gift!
Those Venus Fly Traps really do work! I had one when I was a kid, and now here's one that found a lightning bug!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Just Getting Away From It All

Image result for Capt. William Howard Hughes
Here's a good idea - if you're in the Air Force and you plan to abscond for, say, 35 years, you might want to drop into a local hair cuttery and see if you can get them to give you a different hair style or something.

William Howard Hughes (Howard Hughes?  really?) Jr, pictured twice above, phoned home to tell his parents that he was going to the Netherlands.  That was 1983 and his military task was to test aircraft surveillance systems for NATO. He packed his top security clearance and left his post at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

And then, when he left Holland after a few weeks, he was not seen again until the Air Force tracked him down at a place where he was living in California. Charged with desertion, and with owning and operating a sparse beard, he now awaits trial at an Air Force cooler. He was living under the alias "Barry O’Beirne," although he doesn't look like any O'Beirne I've ever known.

Just like in all the spy movies, investigators found his car at the Albuquerque International Airport, and inside his home was a to-do list and a list of books he wanted to read.

This should have been a clue. No man in real life has a to-do list, at least not one that he plans to do anything about.

And this was in the early days of everything in life being videoed...investigators found surveillance tape showing him withdrawing more than $28,000 from 19 different banks in the Albuquerque area.

And just like in the movies, his family figured he had been kidnapped, and the Air Force thought he might have gone over to the Soviets.

(For younger readers, there was a time when Russia was considered our deepest, most feared enemy. Imagine.)

His sister Christine said he never would have just split on his own.  "That would be totally out of character for the Bill we knew. We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily.”

He disappeared voluntarily.

After they tracked him down, the Air Force, with some justification, wanted to know why he left the joys of military life.

Hughes said he was “depressed about being in the Air Force.” That's why he left, becoming  O'Beirne, setting up a whole new world right in "plane" sight (He was in the Air Force, remember!) while all the while, his name was bandied about every time the there was some sort of catastrophe that could be blamed on the Russians, the idea being that the Russians were behind the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, and the explosion of the Ariane rocket in French Guiana with info they got from the Man With Two Names.

The Air Force eventually admitted that Hughes was not carrying specific documents at the time of his disappearance, and they are not even sure IF anyone leaked classified information.

Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, says the case remains under investigation.

“Until we have the whole story,” she said, “we don’t have the story.”

If they find Hughes/O'Beirne guilty, he could serve five years of confinement, forfeit all his pay and be dishonorably discharged from the Air Force.

But at least they FOUND him.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


People who get all het up over "dirty words" they hear on television are quick to file complaints about it.

And it comes as a surprise to them that the Federal Communications Commission has nothing to do with what they say on ABC.  The individual local stations that carry network shows are left holding the bag if fines are going to be handed out over events such as what happened on the Good Morning America broadcast on ABC on May 24.

Image result for wjla f bombOn that day, the Disney-owned network had report # 12,954 on the horrors of Disgraced Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein (that is now his full legal name, until the happy day when some prison awards him a number instead.) Reporter Eva Pilgrim used a clip of an interview that Howard Stern had done with actress Gwyneth Paltrow in which they discussed how the filthy scum Weinstein leched on her in the 90s and her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt threatened to make sure that Harve would be totin' an ass whuppin' if he did it again.

I was listening to the interview on Sirius XM, a pay service that I pay for, so Howard can speak as he wishes. But he said a bad word (to the ears of some) about what Brad said, and Eva and her people should have excised those four letters, and they didn't. WJLA, WMAR here in Baltimore, and all the East Coast stations that carry GMA broadcast the word, which absolutely no one had ever heard before.  I was watching GMA that morning (I multi-task) and I enjoyed seeing Robin Roberts go apoplectic over the word, and I could only imagine how high the plank was that the tape editor was forced to walk.

I laughed, but The Parents Television Council has filed a formal FCC indecency complaint against WJLA, channel 7 in Washington, over it.

As I say, it's only the local stations that are subject to the FCC's indecency rules. They are responsible for what goes out on their air no matter where it comes from, and profanity is verboten from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Showing mutilated bodies, starving orphans, neglected victims of natural disasters, mistreated animals, ghouls, zombies and demons (real or fictional) is ok, and, in fact, any sort of human or animal misery, and images and sounds thereof, are regarded as sure ratings boosters, so no problem.

But a good old word about something done under the consent of the king is just oh, so wrong.

They don't usually make a deal of it if someone effs up on the news, but,
"While we recognize that there is a news exemption from indecency laws, we believe that that exemption should only apply to live interviews where there is little opportunity to appropriately edit out indecent material," said the PTC. "That was not the case here. The word occurred during a taped and edited package segment. The network had every opportunity to edit the word out before it went to air. We are asking the FCC to look into this matter and apply existing broadcast decency law."

A few years ago, these dedicated guardians of the public weal went after The Muppets, calling for a boycott of some sock puppet for "not meeting family viewing guidelines," for such horrors as mentions of plastic surgery, and the Muppets in a bar consuming alcoholic beverages.

Like that random lady on The Simpsons is always crying out, "Won't someone think of the CHILDREN?"

The FCC could stick Channel 7, owned by Sinclair here in Baltimore County, with a fine of $397,000.

The PTC also took time out from pointing fingers to raise their hand in salute to CBS for saving the world from hearing Robert DeNiro say a bad word on the Tony Shalhoub Awards on Sunday.

The person in charge of deciding what will offend us on television, radio, and is named "Kay."  These awful words that no one ever uses are just the worst thing! You should say something to her, if you see Kay.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Requiescat in pace

There is a lot to say about this. First of all; it is real. It appeared in the Redwood Falls Gazette, one of America's newspapers.

Her family left no one to wonder how they felt about Kathleen, and that alone started some commotion in the small town in Minnesota known as Redwood Falls.

Some people had conciliatory words (“The good Lord loves you more than anyone else ever could. You are in heaven now with our savior. R.I.P.") said one online contributor, and another said, "What a life she lived. Hope you find peace."

No one has heard from Gina or Jay. There are fewer than 700 people in their hometown, so you have to figure on this being a major topic of conversation down at the Dairy Queen this summer.

The whole thing has also been bruited about among the staff of the Gazette:

More and more, I sound like one of those old Geezer Butlers going on about the olden days, but there were never any death notices back then where the family torched their non-dearly departed like this. In fact, every effort was made to put the best face on things, even when the subject of the obit lost his life by being run over by a streetcar while running down the street with his pants in his hands. If you catch my drift.

So no, I wouldn't have written or submitted a death notice, but then, I don't know what it feels like to have a mother get in the family way by a member of the family. And it's Jay and Gina's story to tell.

Some day, I would give anything to hang around the Pearly Gates for an hour or two, just to see and hear some of the incoming.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In Tribute

Someone dies, and soon (sometimes within minutes) people rush to the scene of the death or some location significant to the deceased and leave flowers, candles, and stuffed animals, sometimes with a note or card.

Les HallesOf course, I'm referring to the throngs showing up at Brasserie Les Halles, the French restaurant where Anthony Bourdain plated Coq Au Vin and sauced Onglet A L'echalote several decades ago.

Make mine crêpe, s'il vous plaît.

Bourdain chose to step off the planet, which was his decision...his last one, to be sure. Kate Spade, the same, in the same manner, they say.

We're hearing now that Ms Spade was consumed with the suicide of Robin Williams, and followed his lead.

All this speaks to the need for mental health care in this nation and around the world. It's funny (in a mordant way) that we will break our necks to seek professional help when he have a sore neck, or, for three or four days, take to our beds with a cold in the head (men only.)

But when something is wrong with our minds, our emotions, we tend to say, "Oh, I have to deal with this on my own."  The stigma against seeking psychological help is a strong one, but if these suicides teach us anything, maybe it will be the lesson that these feelings can be helped by qualified, trained persons.

The first step is to know the number for help: 1-800-273-8255.

The second step is to be brave enough to share the number with people you know to be in need of the help they offer at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. All weekend long, we heard time and again that the misperception that simply talking about suicide will lead someone to commit suicide is just that, a misperception. Talk to people! It just might keep them around.

And while I'm up here on this bar of soap, I'm going to say this: If you have money enough, and feeling enough, to run out and buy flowers and/or candles and/or stuffed animals in honor of Anthony Bourdain, that's fine.  But if you have that money to spend, you also have money to buy flowers and/or candles and/or stuffed animals for some lonely person in your family, workplace, acquaintanceship, or neighborhood at the same time.

Surprise THAT person with a sweet gift while they're still here to appreciate it with you.