Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hip Huggers

Haggis, I guess
Lutefisk, I suppose
I have to realize that with every topic I might talk about here, there's a chance that someone out there might be...involved...with what I'm writing about.  For instance, I might talk about how I am not interested in eating haggis or lutefisk, but someone out there somewhere might be a big fan of "pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock" (that's haggis, a Scottish delicacy) or "dried whitefish treated with lye" (that would be the Minnesota favorite lutefisk).

If you're serving either of these gastronomic ghastlies, please include me out!

Now, then. (Ever wonder where that came from? Now is not then, nor is it right the other way around.)  At any rate (6.86%) I don't think I know anyone who has engaged the services of a professional cuddler.

They do exist. A fella named Evan Carp up in Pennsylvania opened it up a couple of years ago, and there are others in of them in Anne Arundel County, MD. 

Mr Carp has a disease that causes extreme pain in his hands and feet and was so alone that he said he only went out once a month, and that was to go to the doctor. He had heard of other cuddling operations around the country, felt that cuddling would help him in physical, emotional, and financial ways, and started a company to handle the business.  And it's going strong.

He now has 30 employees taking in $80 per hour ($400 all night) for totally platonic snuggling.  Most of them are women whose customers are men.

You might want to sit down and catch your breath after that news.

Lonely businessmen, widowers, people who just abandoned their campaigns for president: all of these types are naturals to part with 80 clams to lie down with a woman whose nails are drying anyway for the next hour.

They guarantee that nothing untoward happens at these cuddle palaces, and I believe it. It's just a sad, lonely world when people can't find other people willing to hold them in their arms for a while and listen to NPR or some old records or watch anything or work the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game").

Julie Swope, a psychologist, says there's a benefit to snuggling, and that it can change the brain. “It increases the endorphins, and endorphins are the substances that help us feel good, so we get a jolt, we get a glow, we get a smile” said Swope.

This is for all the lonely people.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Tale of Two Blood Samples

Peggy goes to the Q. Diagnostic Center:

The whole way over to Towson, her car is borne aloft by the wings of angels, and it seems to park itself in the giant garage, where a team of valets waits to detail the Corolla in the 4 minutes she will be away from it.

She steps into the lobby as a man in a big red coat and snappy uniform hat holds the door for her.  An elevator attendant has the car ready for her to step into.  A sofa is in the elevator for her to rest while she rides up four stories, and then she steps off the elevator just as a smiling employee holds the door, offers her a nice cold water and takes her right back into the blood draw area, which has opened long before the scheduled 7:30 start just because.

Robert Wagner, wearing a velvet blazer with a silk scarf and shirt, is there waiting for her with a dozen mixed roses.  They chat amiably during the 13 seconds it takes to select a vein and draw enough blood.  As she leaves the room, Celine Dion music is on the radio, and Peggy wafts back to the car on an ocean breeze of love and good feeling.  On the way home, cars seem to part like Moses and the Red Sea, and she is home in minutes.

Mark goes to the Q. Diagnostic Center:

Every nutball between here and Towson is out this morning, making left turns from the right lane, pulling out of Dunkin Dognuts with a Bavarian Creme in their right hand and a Mocha Chocolata YaYa in the other while steering with their knees, and speeding like it's Indianapolis.  OF COURSE the person pulling into the garage ahead of me miscalculates how to pull up to the parking ticket dispenser, so they have to get out and take 20 minutes to get their ticket.  Once parked, I get in the elevator and get to the blood center at 0704.  Minutes later, a lady comes along to be second in line, but she asks if I am in a hurry because SHE has to go to work and it doesn't look like I have to. And then along comes a senior couple, and the lady starts jawing with them about how there didn't used to be a bench to sit on but now there is and her daughter moved back in with her two kids and a baby and the dogs and she had to teach her daughter how to roast a turkey so they did that yesterday and for Thanksgiving she is making the Lithuanian side dish that everyone loves so much, and also a pie, but pumpkin this year because apple is too sugary, and we had a pecan pie and we were going to freeze 1/2 of it but we kept eating until there wasn't enough to freeze and isn't a shame about Joe Flacco.

They run through every vegetable, appetizer, side dish and entree that has ever been served at any Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, because I have to fast, hearing about great heaping plates spilling over with turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy does not bother me a bit.

The receptionist opens the door at precisely 7:30 and we file in. No phlebotomist is around, but she walks in at 0733 with a cheery greeting for her coworker ("What you opening early for?" "I didn't!") and five minutes later calls me back with this pleasant invitation ("Clark!  Room 1!").

"In The Air Tonight," the most deadly horrible of all the awful songs in the Phil Collins canon, is pounding off the walls and into my ears as I sit gently upon the Throne Of Blood.  The phlebotomist can't get enough red stuff out of my right arm and mumbles that I need to drink more.

Finally! Just what I've been waiting to hear!  And from a medical professional, no less.  I go home and take her advice.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fun and Games in Pittsburgh

Oakland Raiders player Aravious "Ray-Ray" Armstrong, 24, is in trouble in Pennsylvania. His offense?  He lifted his jersey and pounded his chest at a dog who was attending the game at mustard-colored Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

To be correct, the dog was at the game because he is a police K-9 pooch whose handler was on duty there. I mean, who would choose to go to a game there?

It is a third degree felony in that state to taunt a police dog.

Deputy Maria Watts told a Pittsburgh TV station that Armstrong was hollering, "Hey dog!  Hey dog!" as he came out of the locker room for the pregame merriment.  The dog, known as Bandit, became agitated at this, so Armstrong toyed with it a bit more. And then Deputy Watts filed charges.

This increased the dog's angst level, which was already considerable to begin with that day, considering that Michael Vick was also there.

Two things about this:  a) when I walk around our neighborhood I encounter two dogs within fences who bark their fool heads off as I ankle by.  My customary reaction is to bark back at them.  I speak fluent dog.  And this generally settles them down, as they are not used to having people speak their language.

2) it is so good to know that all the crime in Pixburgh is under control and that no miscreants are at large, thus allowing Deputy Watts to pursue felony charges against a man for speaking to a dog. 

My free advice to Ray-Ray's attorney would be to point out that Bandit The Dog needs glasses, so how can we be sure that Armstrong is the one who called him a dog?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Book 'Em!

My dear friend Amanda Sheridan-Stokely, as kind a person as there is on this earth, challenged me to name ten books that have stayed with me. Well, I sat down and listed ten books without even blinking, and then, with a moment's thought, typed five more titles and thought I'd better slow down.  Sorry to exceed the request, but books are my friends, and have been since I figured out that's where all the information was. Who can limit the number of friends they love?

My list follows:
The Catcher In The Rye - J.D. Salinger Show me a teenager who hasn't read this, and I'll show you a teenager who hasn't read it yet. It sums up everything there is to say about being between Phoebe's age and Holden Caulfield's parents' ages, with nod to the ageless Allie, somewhere between the two forever.

The Ring Lardner Reader - Ring Lardner The master of American colloquial writing, Lardner was an expert chronicler of baseball, war, and life among the hopeful and hopeless.

How To Talk Dirty and Influence People - Lenny Bruce -When I was a kid, people said Lenny was a "dirty" comedian, which is like describing the Mona Lisa as an "old" painting.  Lenny skewered the hypocrites, the racists, and the warmongers like they had never been skewered before or since.

Up In The Old Hotel - Joseph Mitchell - Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker about life on the more seedy and salty sides of New York from 1938 - 1964, although he remained in the employ of the magazine until his death in 1996. He suffered 32 years of writer's block, never publishing another word after his final book, "Joe Gould's Secret."  Fascinating man.

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote - Capote took the notion of writing about a real crime as if it were a novel in the story of the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959. Not a whodunit or a how-did-he-do-it, more of an example of great writing and investigation.

Yes, I Can - Sammy Davis, Jr. - If this story of a man who never attended school or had formal instruction in singing, dancing, acting, doing impressions or playing music, and yet became a master of all those arts, had been fiction, people would have considered it too far-fetched. There was only one Sammy, the man who once said "There are only three people who matter to me: Sammy, Davis, and Junior."

The Keillor Reader - Garrison Keillor - The Bard of Lake Wobegon recently published this collection of radio transcripts, speeches, newspaper columns and the like.  A multi-talented man, much like Sammy, but with the ego pointing inwardly.

Washington Goes to War - David Brinkley - Longtime NBC news anchor, and the man for whom the word "wry" seems to have been invented, wrote about DC in the World War II era.  His autobiography is also fascinating, if only for being the only autobiography I can recall by a person who said his mother just didn't seem to like him very much.  Hey, I guess it happens.

Chips Off The Old Benchley - Robert Benchley - Essayist, Broadway critic for The New Yorker, movie actor, and wit. In all his comic essays, he portrayed himself as a whimsical semi-fool, hiding the fact that in real life he was a serial philanderer and serious alcoholic.  I'm grateful for not having known that when I fell in love with the words of the bumbling semi-fool.

On The Road - Jack Kerouac - The beatnik bible, the story of the man who fell under the spell of wanderlust in postwar America and started an entire new trend in writing.

The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby - Tom Wolfe - speaking of new trends in writing, this is the first volume collecting former newspaperman Wolfe's writings as he led the way into the New Journalism - telling the facts with pizzaz and lots of onomatopoeia.  Bang!  Zoom! You gotta read this book! Here is one sentence from his article on stock car racer/moonshiner Junior Johnson: "Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud lavender, Assassin pink, Rake-a-cheek raspberry, Nude Strand coral, Honest Thrill orange, and Baby Fawn Lust cream-colored cars are all going to the stock car races, and that old mothering North Carolina sun keeps exploding off the windshields."  Not the sort of writing we had seen before.

Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters - John Waters - Baltimore's gift to oddball living shows his versatility: filmmaker-turned-essayist.

The Entertainer - Margaret Talbot - I love this book, written by New Yorker staff writer Talbot about her father, character actor Lyle Talbot, the eternal sidekick in movies and TV (and also father of Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert on "Leave It To Beaver" and is now an award-winning documentarian). Lyle's career began in tent shows and medicine shows and circuses, and the story is the story of American show business in the 20th Century seen through the eyes of someone who worked in most aspects of that business.

The Little Engine That Could - Platt and Munk - The first book I ever read, and it gave me encouragement to read more, so I haven't stopped.

Webster's Dictionary - Noah Webster et al -  Because, every word in the other books is in this one, too.  It's just a matter of arranging them nicely.

And now that I finish, I realize I left out Jean Shepherd, John Updike, Studs Terkel, Roger Kahn, E.B. White, and dozens of authors I also love.   

Let's do this again soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, November 21, 2015

50% of the people who live in our house love accordion music.  I even have a CD called "Legends of Accordion." Nothing beats a squeezbox for fun music, and yet, here's what some people do to a helpless accordion.
Grapes are such a versatile fruit.  They can turn into alcohol (wine) or just a plain beverage (grape juice) but I like them best when they get jammed up with peanut butter on a sammidge.
When the miracle of TV came along, and flickering black-and-white images on a tiny screen were the top of the line in techno, who would have dreamed that in a few decades we could still see football played on a screen that was almost lifesize?
I love the impedimenta of ceremonies, like the giant check that charities receive as donor and recipient grip and grin, and also these huge scissors that they use in our county to cut the ribbons to open a new road that was built solely to help me get to Geresbeck's faster.
Thanksgiving dinner by Rockwell...but does anyone understand why they would carve the bird at the table?  Makes more sense to slice it up in the kitchen and put it on a platter, but that's just me...
A friend asked me for a recommendation for a romance movie. There's never been a better one than "Casablanca," if you ask me.
Traveling this week, are you?  Happy Thanksgiving!  Tell Mr Griffith I said hi, if you meet him on the road...
I've been eating sweet potato pie since before Patti LaBelle was a Bluebell, and for my money, it's better than pumpkin pie any day...especially this Thursday!

Friday, November 20, 2015

He's no hero

The bland food options offered in federal prisons are unlikely to appetize the Subway pitchman.
Dinner is served...

When Jared Fogle was arrested earlier this year, Peggy and I looked at each in the same way that millions of others looked at it. We knew he was nerdy; we didn't figure on the pervy part.

But off he goes now for 15 years in the federal prison system, after committing sex crimes that would make both Caligula and Charlie Sheen cringe and shudder with dismay. 

There will be no Subway subs, no five-dollar foot loooooooongs, for Fogle until the year 2030.  The BMT will not be stopping by his cell.  As it said in the New York Daily News, "(t)he Federal Bureau of Prisons’ national menu only offers a bland buffet of daily options that make a Subway restaurant seem like five-star dining."

If you're new to the story, the sandwich chain was paying Fogle a king's ransom for advertising their products, since he said their turkey and veggie subs helped him pull down a 245-pound weight loss. Turns out he was pulling all our chains.

But in the Big House, he'll be served about 2,200 calories a day, more than he'd be getting on his old diet, and more than Dr Oz would recommend also.

But while he sits and stews and doesn't get to eat stew, it might be good if he beefs up a little more, because his attorney said in court that losing all that weight set off "insatiable hyper-sexuality." And what recourse does a hypersexual have, but to get into kiddie porn and sex with children?   

He'll be seeing a lot of bean soup and baked fish, boiled eggs and PB & Js for the next decade and a half.

I'm no expert in this matter, so all I can say is, if losing weight gets us all that worked up, maybe we all should keep our fat pants on. 

Poor Jared will be dressed in orange for fifteen years. I hope it seems to take 15 decades.