Thursday, October 27, 2016

The love is flagging

The closest big town to Slatington, Pennsylvania, is Wilkes-Barre. Kunkletown, Jim Thorpe (a town named for the great Olympic hero) and Danielsville are also close by.

Jim Thorpe began his athletic career at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School in Carlisle, PA, but when he died in the early 1950s, his wife Patricia was angry that officials in his native Oklahoma would not erect a memorial for she swung a deal with the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk in PA.  They built a gravesite for Thorpe and merged the towns to become Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in hopes of creating a tourist mecca that never developed.

So, I don't know what's happening in Kunkletown,  Danielsville, Wilkes-Barre or even Jim Thorpe, for that matter. But I do know that the volunteer fire chief of Slatington was fired recently for insubordination.

If you've never seen the political machinations of small towns and volunteer fire companies, you'd be amazed, and I don't know why HBO doesn't have a series based on it.  They could call it "Sirens," and Randolph Mantooth could play the fire chief, and Kirstie Alley, the mayor.

The story is that a volunteer fire lieutenant from nearby Fountain Hill passed away, and that (former) fire chief Keith Weaver asked permission from the Slatington Town Council to take the ladder truck to Fountain Hill for the funeral, at the request of that town's fire department,  This is standard at fire department funerals; two ladder trucks will be used to fly an American flag.

But what's also standard in American life is following orders and directions from superiors.  The town council told Weaver to take his crews to the funeral if he wished, but denied permission to let him take the ladder truck.

And you already guessed what he did.

The council voted 6-1 to terminate Weaver, who served in the volunteer position for 13 years. The termination was "for insubordination for Weaver taking the ladder truck out of town when he was not supposed to.  It’s about taking a firetruck out of town. You just don’t do that stuff," Councilman Jon Rinker said. "I told him you can take your men and go."  Since the primary function of the Slatington Fire Department is to provide fire protection to Slatington, you can see why, in case of a fire, having their only ladder truck 25 miles away would be a problem.

Councilman Bryon Reed, the only council member to oppose the termination, said, "No matter what, he did volunteer for many years. He donated a lot of his time to the borough and he was always there."

A member of the fire department named Jeffrey Hausman said that Weaver had "done a lot. He has always been here. My theory is it’s not fair, but the council did what they had to do. You’ve got to follow orders," Hausman said.

The trucks displaying the flag at the funeral
In order to understand this completely, one would have to know all the history and the behind-the-curtains contrivances among the councilpeople and the chief. So all I can say is, yes, the chief was right to want to take the truck to help honor the fallen comrade, but since charity begins at home, that's where the truck should have stayed.

Whether or not it's right to fire Chief Weaver for it is a whole 'nother matter.  But in Slatington, PA, that's how things go.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bottom of the Barrel

I don't see why we have to keep going through the same stuff all the time. 

This is America, land of the free, but that freedom does not extend to a point at which we get to tell each other how (and whom) to worship.  

If you disagree with that sentence, you might as well stop reading this now and try an animal camera site instead, because I have trouble coping with people who have decided that their religion and method of experiencing it is the only way for everyone to live.

And here is what got me all cheesed off today.  Down in South Carolina, a Cracker Barrel waitress served an apparently married couple in their 50s their supper and then found, in place of a tip, a note that told her she should be home and not working! 

And of course, because she is out working, her husband comes home from work and then goes out visiting Cheat Street because she's not home, according to Mr and Mrs Selfrighteous. 

They gobbled their chow and then left the dining area, darting back in to drop off a napkin with the mean note (poorly) written on it. Here is the text, and I won't trouble you with adding a "sic" to every spelling or grammar error.  For once, that's not the point!

"Thank you for your excelent service today - Your a good waitress. Here's your tip: The womans place is in the home. You're place is in the home. It even says so in the Bible. You may think that your contributing to your household by coming into work, but your not. While your in here 'working' this is the reason your husband must see another women on his way home from a long day at his work. Because you should be takeing care of the household duties. You may think what you are doing 'working' is right, it is really essentially a disgrace to his manhood and to the American family. So instead of coming to your 'job' and looking for hand out's to feed your family, hows about going home and cleaning your house and cooking a hot meal for your husband and children, the way you're husband and God intended, and help make America great again. Praying for families and our nation."

I added the emphasis to "make America great again" to show what sort of people believe this country is not currently great. 

In an ironic twist, the couple ends the note "Love" and their last name.  

Not that it's any of their business, but it turns out the server is not married to anyone, but is working to earn money toward her higher education, and has a supportive boyfriend.  

She told the local news down in SC that the couple were friendly and polite during dinner, and that this deplorable (!) note was all the more surprising, given their earlier kindness.

This whole stupid story brings to mind several things about people.  The comments from the news station site contain statements from Cracker Barrel habitués who said that many times, they have tied on the feedbag at the Barrel on a Sunday and heard other diners telling their servers that it's sinful for them to be working there on Sunday!

While they're eating there on Sunday.

How very kind.
And of course, there is a need some feel to decide that their religion is the only worthwhile faith. And the tendency of some to make a religion of being penurious and miserly. It's almost a sport for some to sit and figure ways to cheat servers out of the money they deserve for plopping down plates of Uncle Nutsy's Pancake Breakfast and a side of grits before them and then watching them mop their maws with a paper napkin.

So what?  So tip your server, live your faith, and don't use one to stint the other.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The times they really are a-changing

We heard not long ago that Bobby Vee (born Robert Velline, 1943) was battling Alzheimer's Disease, and the end came yesterday for the man who took up the hiccup-y sound of Buddy Holly and brought it to the top 40 charts many times in the early 60s. He was, indeed, a teen idol, with hits such as "Devil or Angel", "Rubber Ball", "Take Good Care of My Baby", "Please Don't Ask About Barbara", "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "Come Back When You Grow Up" between 1960 and 1966.

But how odd that his passing came just a couple of weeks after Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman, 1941) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Here's the connection. One of Dylan's first music jobs was playing the piano (under the nom de keys "Elston Gunnn") (with three Ns) in The Shadows, Vee's backup band.

Vee was born in Fargo and it was there that he decided to add a pianist to his group. Along came Dylan, who was from Hibbing, Minnesota, and said that he had just finished a job backing Conway Twitty on the road, but failed to point out that he could only play piano in the key of C. Even at $15 a night, it didn't work out, and Dylan put music aside to enroll at the University of Minnesota. Later, he moved to New York and you know the rest of that story (although you never heard it from Paul Harvey.)

Fast forward a couple of years, and Vee finds himself on tour, a rather important pop star playing New York City. He passes by a record shop in Greenwich Village and sees a familiar face on an album cover:
"I was walking down the street. There was a record store there, and there was an album in the front window. And it said, ‘Bob Dylan.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Looks a lot like Elston Gunnn,'" Vee recalled.
And they didn't see each other again for years. In his autobiography "Chronicles," Dylan indicated that he wished Vee had stuck with the rockabilly sound he started out with.

"He’d become a crowd pleaser in the pop world. As for myself, I had nothing against pop songs, but the definition of pop was changing."

However great the differences between the singer of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "Like A Rolling Stone," Dylan and Vee respected each other's music.  

"I wouldn’t see Bobby Vee again for another thirty years, and though things would be a lot different, I’d always thought of his as a brother,” Dylan wrote in his "Chronicles." "Every time I’d see his name somewhere, it was like he was in the room."

Vee told a Dylan website (there are dozens!) that even though Dylan's music was so wildly different from his, he liked it a lot too.  
"I probably plugged into him on the second or third album, and the stuff was really unusual. It was so far removed from what I was doing. Not long after that, I started listening to his stuff and really became a big fan," Vee said.

So, how nice it was in 2013, two years after Vee had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he was at a Dylan concert in St. Paul MN - and Dylan did a version of Vee's first hit, "Suzie Baby."

And Dylan said that of all the people with whom he had ever performed, Vee was "the most meaningful person." And Bob led the audience in applauding as the legendary Bobby entered his final sad twilight. That must have felt good all around.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Where there's never a boast or brag

I'm here to tell you something about men.  None of this will come as a surprise at all to any woman, who all know everything about men right off. Nothing can fool a woman.

But for those who don't know's a rule of thumb.  The more a guy talks about how great he is/was about something, the less great he really was. 

You find these guys everywhere...and their stories are nowhere. They will change the topic of conversation around to how they once bagged a bull moose with a cap pistol and six feet of he scored the winning touchdown on Homecoming against crosstown rival Spiro Agnew High School with five would-be tacklers hanging on for dear life as he carried the ball into the they rescued that carload of teachers and orphans that plunged into the Great Suwahaheanowmee they can bench-press someone their own weight and the bench that person is sitting the fish just give up and jump into their boat as soon as they drop in their line...and how many women they have been with in a lifetime of carnal conquests...

Image result for 1989 chevrolet celebrity beat upA great place to spot these dudes is at a high school reunion, where the urge to show off their accomplishments is paramount. Time after time, I've seen guys boasting about their fabulous lives at a reunion, only to leave later in a 1989 Chevrolet Caprice <<< beater that needed a hotshot to get off the lot.

Women know that the men who actually accomplish things are too busy accomplishing things to stand around talking about accomplishing things.

And at the same time, the reunion talk will turn to someone who didn't show up for the reunion.  Where is "so and so" now? Guess he couldn't make the reunion because he's too busy running the news division of a TV network or being an emergency room trauma surgeon or...even better...he's out doing something good for needy members of his community with his devoted family.

That sort of thing is the best success of all, but when did you ever hear someone boast about it?  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Rerun: You Never Know

I remember the first few weeks after I quit smoking at 9:10 AM on September 17, 1988 (but who's counting?) because most everyone was supportive, and from that day to this, I haven't smoked, not a puff, and have no desire to.

'55 Buick
But, within a week of tossing away the butts, I was walking back to my truck after work, and saw a woman driving one of those gigantic 1955 tu-tone Buicks on Chesapeake Avenue in Towson. She couldn't have been more than 107 years of age, and was gripping the wheel with one hand as she piloted the barge through the pedestrians and other cars. 

The other hand was occupied holding what I guessed was a Pall Mall cigarette that she was hooving on like it was the last cig she would ever enjoy.  Puff, puff, puff.

And it dawned on me that she was going to live and smoke forever. For all I know, she is even today cruising around the traffic circle in Towson, on her way to the Safeway for another carton of Pall Malls.

Happy Birthday, Ms Sullivan!
I thought of that lady when I saw this story from Texas
about a woman named Elizabeth Sullivan, who recently blew out 104 candles on her birthday cake, and attributes her superannuation to drinking three cans of Dr Pepper per day. "Every doctor that sees me says they’ll kill you, but they die and I don’t," Sullivan told CBS as she reached for another chilly 12-ouncer . "So there must be a mistake somewhere.”

In Texas, Dr Pepper flows from many public drinking fountains, it's so popular.  I don't like soda at all anymore but I used to like Coca-Cola and ginger ale. Dr Pepper, however, has a curious cherry taste that reminded me of carbonated cough syrup.

Their slogan used to be "Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4," which was designed to have consumers drink three Peps a day to ward off the slump between meals by slipping a cup of liquid sugar into their bloodstream. 

Still, I don't see myself living to be 104, since I don't smoke or guzzle Dr Pepper, but if I did, it would mean I lived long enough to see Ms Sullivan dating Keith Richards in the year 2055.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, October 22, 2016

As we get ready to say goodbye to baseball again until next Spring, take a look at a catcher's mask worn by Moe Berg, who caught for a few teams in the 1920s and 30s. Moe is better known for speaking a dozen languages, reading at least ten newspapers per day and making films during a baseball tour of Japan in 1934...films which came in handy in his second career as a United States spy in World War II. Hollywood is making a movie of his life, to be released next year, starring Paul Rudd, who looks like Moe Berg like I look like Haile Selassie, but whaddya gonna do?
You look at this picture and you think, there's a man named Enos Slaughter, and his nickname was "Country," because he hailed from Roxboro, NC, before playing in the majors from 1938 - 1959.  But it was something that happened to him before he got to the big leagues that is the best part of the story to impart to young people of 2016. Ol' Enos was playing in Columbus GA and dogged it on his way back to the dugout one time...he walked in instead of running. His manager said, "Son, if you're tired, we'll get you some help out there."  And Enos Slaughter never operated at a pace less than full-tilt hustle on a baseball field again. 
When Hurricane Matthew was finished his dirty work on and around Fernandina Beach, FL, he left behind a veritable treasure trove of sea shells!
This is the house once belonging to Vera Coking in Atlantic City, NJ. "Penthouse" publishing smutking Bob Guccione wanted to build a huge casino on her property and on either side of it, and began construction, figuring that Mrs Coking would accept the $1,000,000 he offered. She wouldn't budge, but Guccione ran out of money and abandoned the project anyway. Several years later, penthouse building king Donald J. Trump tried to force the aging widow of her house with an eminent domain lawsuit, like the one that we used to chase Native Americans off their property. She won. There is justice.
Speaking of justice...if you want to go to Indonesia, have fun! Send me a postcard.  Just don't steal anything.  This is how foreign thieves are punished there...
We're saluting American poetic genius Bob Dylan, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. His sixth album came out in 1965 and was entitled "Highway 61 Revisited."  These tracks parallel Hwy 61 in Bob's native Minnesota.
Busch Gardens in Pasadena CA closed in 1979. There were lots of birds who lived there in huge aviaries, and the vast majority of them winged it to zoos and other sanctuaries.  But the Busch people did a curious thing.  They set some of the parrots free. And ever since, for one day a year, those parrots and their families pause during migration to return to roost in Echo Park near the site of the old Gardens.  
This is a handy item to keep on the shelf just in case your water stops running.  It also makes a handy dessert if frozen.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Take your choice

We'll be married 43 years this December, the Mrs and I, and I like to say that it's really a blind date that has never ended.  I mean, do you say that the conversation you started the other day is really over, when you keep talking to the person?  Same here.  Our conversation, the one that began when we were introduced by friends, is ongoing, and I can honestly tell you that not once in all the years since have we either sat and stared at each other, wondering what in hell to say next.  There is always SOMEthing.

If you recall the Simpsons episode "Krusty Gets Busted," when the mistaken arrest of Springfield's favorite TV clown (that word!) led to sidekick Bob getting to do the afternoon show, you remember how Bob tried to take a higher tone on things.  

"Well, perhaps we can shed some light on your problem in a new segment exploring pre-adolescent turmoil. I call it, 'Choices'."

Peggy and I will wile away endless hours driving to distant destinations or while waiting to be seen in clinics or raking leaves or trying to avoid deep sleep when a soccer game is on TV by doing something you might call "Choices" if you feel like being corny.  

It goes like this:

  • "Whom would have as a dinner guest: Oprah or Howard Stern?" (or two disparate friends or acquaintances who shan't be named here).  
  • and then the other person, having just answered "Howard, of course!" asks "Would you eat fried liver with a side of kidneys if you got to have all you wanted of any dessert, or would you have your favorite entrée but you have to eat a snack-size baggie of black licorice and candy corn for dessert?"
  • You can go back and forth on the gross desserts and undesirable dinner guests (sorry, Kanye!) all night, or you can come up with new Choices...
  • Name two people.  With which of them would you rather drive to Los Angeles? And could you sleep in the car while that person drove, without worrying that they'd drive you into a ditch just east of Omaha?
  • Early Beatles or later Beatles?  Early Stones or later? Bing Crosby or Perry Como? Listen to Dave Matthews or jump off Trump Tower?
  • Clean out the garage or watch Jerry Springer?
  • Of course, any question - even "Would you rather watch bowling, tennis or soccer for fifteen hours straight?  - is better than The Worst Question Ever Uttered In A Relationship, which is, as you know....."Do you think we should completely redecorate the entire house, or just move?"