Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It's a drag

The highway known as I-70 is a 2,151-mile superslab that starts at I-15 near Cove Fort, Utah, and ends when it runs into I-695 (the Baltimore Beltway) near Baltimore, Maryland.

The highway serves the American motorist in two ways - it more or less follows the path of the old "National Road" - US 40 - from west to east across the nation, and it serves as a place for people to use as a dragstrip in western Baltimore County, MD.

Time and again, the Maryland State Police are busy breaking up crowds of spectators and participants in illegal street races on the highway.

That's right.  Too bad for that family that might be on their way home from a weekend at Grandma's, or the cheerleading competition, because if you're on the road back to Baltimore late one night, you might just feel like you're in Daytona, racing in the 500.

Last weekend, people whose houses adjoin the highway in the Woodlawn area (out-of-state residents: that's where they keep track of your $ocial $ecurity!) called MSP at 2 in the yawning to report the loud cars racing around.  The highway patrol responded and told the racers to go home, or at least go somewhere.  The speed-lovin' crowd was actually blocking all the lanes of the highway with other cars to create a racing space.

And away they went.

And the trooper came back an hour later, and guess what?  They were back, preparing for Round 2.  The trooper pulled his car up to the starting line and stepped out, causing the racers to scatter like roaches when you come in and turn on the kitchen light at 2 in the morning.

One guy didn't get away fast enough. He's 42-year-old Keith Parker of Pasadena, MD, who, police say, stood at the starting line urging others to vamoose. He was arrested and faces several charges.

"This has been an ongoing occurrence for quite a while. And that is why we have our troopers regularly do patrol checks in the area," Elena Russo, an MSP spokesperson, told WJZ-TV

This is the same spot where 2 spectators were killed and 2 others severely injured in 2009 by a drunk driver.
Related image
The aftermath of a drag race on MD 301 South

I understand it's a thrill to hop up your car and make it go really fast and loud, and part of the pleasure is finding out that your machine is louder and faster than Jerry from around the corner. This is why there are drag strips, where people can do this legally.

The highway - and this seems to take many people by surprise - is not a drag strip.

But this is America 2017, where we all do what we want, where and when we want, and tough beans for anyone else.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

One for the books

They say it's a sin to tell a lie, even the little white lies that are based on good intent.

And should former Major Leaguer Chuck Finley, winner of 200 games in a 17-year career, and former husband of "actress" Tawny Kitaen, be proud to have his name used in a library fake-out of white lies and unread books?

What am I talking about?

Come with me to East Lake County, Florida, where a couple of guys who worked for the local public library were worried that some books might be taken off the shelves because they weren't being taken out.

Hey, there was a time when I wasn't being taken out, and no one worried so much.

Anyway.  George Dore, library director, and his assistant, Scott Amey, had a problem. Their funding was directly tied to how many books were being checked out, so they decided to create a phantom reader (and name him "Chuck Finley" with a bogus address) and dummy things up so that it looked like that chimera checked out 2,361 books over a nine-month period.

One look at "Chuck's" reading list would show "he" "read" "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck, and "Why Do My Ears Pop?" by Ann Fullick, a book for children, and 2,359 others.

In November, someone dropped a dime (quietly, one hopes!) on this book scam, and no lesser an authority than the Lake County clerk of courts' inspector general's office figured out the fakery, and Dore was put on administrative leave while everything was filed.

"Do we have problems here? Oh Dewey ever!" he did not say.

Dore's boss is Jeff Cole, director of the Lake County Public Resources Department, and would not discuss Dore's claims that "other people do the same thing," but anyone who was ever 8 years of age recalls their parents asking them whether they would jump off a bridge just because all the other kids did.

There seems to be a flaw or two in Dore's plans. The books that Finley "read" were checked out and returned within an hour, and there is no record of Finley leaving his home in Newport Beach, CA, to come get books from a library 2,544 miles away.

All the chicanery "improved" the library's circulation by 3.9 percent, and maybe someone will write  book about it someday.

The report from the Inspector General is due in 21 days, with a fine to be assessed daily if it's late.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Just a litter too much

Residents of my neighborhood are often startled to see an old man strutting around the streets of HaHa Heights, clad in a hoodie and sweats and Rockports and listening to an iPod that might send him from Weezer to Bing Crosby to The Ronettes to Sammy Davis, Jr. to Tompall and the Glaser Brothers.

I am that man, and I thank you for not running me over with your automobile.

When I'm on the main road, I keep my eyes on the traffic coming in both directions, and then on the side streets, I tend to look down at what's on the pavement. It's awful, what people throw out of their cars as they career along. Empty bottles and cans. One shoe. McWrappers. Pens (apparently empty). Blue plastic grocery bags. Asian carryout doorknob hanging menus. Nails and screws (I stoop to get these). Deflated non-bouncy balls. And a half-empty roll of duct tape.

With little else on my mind but what song will pop up next in my iEars, I ponder the provenance of this roadside trash. There is no excuse for tossing out your empty bottle of Miller Golden Draft or Sutter Home, or anything else for that matter, but I keep seeing that half roll of "duck" tape in the same spot day after day, and I keep thinking someone was rolling along in someone's car, taping up some broken thing, and then just tossed out what remained on the roll rather than have it rolling around in the car.  

Because who wants a messy car, when you can just as easily have a messy street?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Rerun: You're the only one

I have a prized record album among my many treasures, a 1964 concert recording called "Jerry Lee Lewis: The Greatest Live Show on Earth."  The first words you hear on the record are the emcee of this concert saying, "Live! from the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium, in the WVOK Shower of Stars, the one...the only...Jerry Lee Lewis!"

And then, Jerry Lee comes out and sings and plays.  I got this record in high school and now own it on CD as well, and so as a conservative estimate, I would say I have listened to that concert 17 million times over the years, or fewer.

But it wasn't until just the other day that I listened closely enough to hear what the DJ said at first.  (It had to be a DJ; no one else talks like that!) 

"The one...the only."

And it dawned on me, a little late because I'm dim that way, that we are ALL the ONE and ONLY whoever we are.  You are the only YOU!

Even Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock 'n' roll pioneer born in 1935 in Ferriday, LA, who is often confused with funnyman/philanthropist Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch, Newark NJ, 1926), is the only Jerry Lee Lewis, as far as fame and accomplishment go.  It is entirely possible that there are other people named Jerry Lee Lewis running around, but that's not my point.

What is my point (and you knew I'd get to it sometime today) is that there is only one of each of us.  Each human has his or her strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, private joys and sorrows and public versions of the same as well. I talk to young people a lot (they are the only people I can find who haven't heard all my tales and yarns) and one point I try to make to them is that their individuality is so important.  If we see each other as cookie-cutter versions of everyone else, that means we are only looking at the surface.  What's in each cookie...each what makes us unique.  We have two cats.  Eddie runs to the door when company comes, ready to show off and be adored.  Deanna runs to the basement, peering up the stairs to see when it's safe to come out again.  Two sister cats; two personalities.  

I like hominy and sausage, art that looks real, and music from the heart.  I despise lies, and meanness, and sad goodbyes.  We all could go on and you're not ever going to find someone else with all the same favorites and dislikes, and how wonderful that is.

Thank you for being the one...the only...YOU!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, February 25, 2017

Think about it.  There must be a word for when things are switched. Like when you use an English muffin in place of a hamburger bun...that's called "roll reversal."
They say brown eggs contain the same nutrition as white, but they sure look homier in commercials, don't they?
I recommend this movie wholeheartedly! I see that it was a big box-office flopola, but if you see it and you don't fall in love with Anna Kendrick, I just don't know what. It reminded me of "The Big Hit" which starred Marky Mark and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Because it doesn't look like we're having a winter this winter, here's a picture from last winter. Blizzards. Sledding. Winter coats.
Nature provides the best camouflage, even better than LL Bean or Ed E. Bauer.
OK, so I'm a little peeved at Nature this winter for denying me the bitter cold weather and icy precipitation, but she makes up for it with displays like this!
I think this apartment building followed the architecture of those cookie-cutter stadia like they had in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Not long ago, I found myself involved in an imbroglio involving people who were upset because the Starbux coffee chain wants to install a drive-through restaurant on the main road in our county seat.  Just for the sake of context, this is what children in other parts of the world have to pass by on their way to getting an education every day.

Friday, February 24, 2017

He bombed out

We read and hear the conventional wisdom that bigtime drug dealers (a/k/a "Kingpins" and "Czars") would be just as successful running major corporations, with their innate business acumen and learned abilities to deal with personnel, supply, and distribution issues.

To test this theory, I suggest to the television networks that they try a companion show to my beloved "Undercover Boss" called "From The Alley to the Boardroom," in which we would see a local vendor of illicit substances promoted to running a Fortune 500 corporation.  Such compelling viewing! Watch, as "Timmy Fish-Eyes" becomes known as J. Timothy O'Hoolahan, CEO, COO, HMFIC of one of America's premier distributors of sugary soft drinks and salty snack chips!

And while I'm divvying up the ideas that occur to me at 0347 hrs daily, why not team up two great spectator sports - NASCAR and the New York Stock Exchange - and have a race called the Fortune 500, in which capitalists race around in their Beamers and Land Ruiners and Buicks?  First one to the golf course gets the best tee time!

Good ideas aren't hard to find if you look in the right places. For the next few years, I wouldn't ask Mark Barnett, late of Ocala, FL, because his plan looks like it hit a few snags.

It seemed deliciously simple.  ALLEGEDLY, Barnett, 48, offered a guy $10,000 to place bombs cleverly hidden in food packages (I'm thinking Jiffy-Pop) on the shelves at 10 Target stores from New York to Florida.

"Once the boxes had detonated inside of Target stores, Barnett theorized that the company's stock value would plunge allowing him to acquire shares cheaply before an eventual rebound," is how the Federal complaint puts it.

And he would buy the stock low and sell it high!  How could that go wrong?

Well, I guess if the guy took his 10 large and went right to the federal authorities, that would be one way.  And that's what happened.

The ALLEGED perpetrator.  He'll
have his day in court. 
Barnett had to hire help for his master scheme because he's already busy being on probation for kidnapping, multiple counts of sexual battery with a weapon or force, and grand theft. The government tacked charges of possession of a firearm that has affected interstate or foreign commerce onto his lengthy rap sheet.

But don't you worry!  He'll be in stir for a while (we hope) - long enough to come up with another airtight plot!

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Image result for mike ilitch wikiIn his later years, he wore the nuttiest toupee seen anywhere east of Phil Spector's, but you really have to hand it to Little Caesars Pizza king Mike Ilitch, a Detroit native who got out of the Marines and played minor league baseball in the Tigers farm system for several years until a knee injury put him on the bench for good.

He came home and started the pizza chain with his wife, and at the time of his death last week, was one of the 400 richest men in America.  Not bad for the son of an immigrant Macedonian tool-and-die maker and his wife!

And he is credited with a great deal of the money and energy behind the renaissance of Detroit, a Rust Belt city hit hard by changing economic times and fortunes. He owned the Tigers ballclub, as well as the Red Wings of the National Hockey League, and he purchased real estate in downtown Detroit to keep his business headquarters there, keeping thousands employed.

Of course, contrast this with the stinginess of that Papa Pizza guy who says just because he makes a fortune, he doesn't see any need to share his loot with the people who work for him or anything.  

Ilitch worked hard and spent his money, seeding his community with his earnings to make a chance for all to succeed.  And while all this was known, here's something not so widely known until his sad passing:

Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, moved to Detroit shortly after the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott she started.  She was living in Motown in 1994, and that was when someone broke into her home, robbing and assaulting her. Damon Keith, a Detroiter and a retired federal judge, got word of this and let Ilitch know that Ms Parks needed a safer home.

"They don't go around saying it, but I want to, at this point, let them know, how much the Ilitches not only meant to the city, but they meant so much for Rosa Parks," Keith told WXYZ.

For the next 11 years, until Ms Parks's death in 2005, the Ilitches paid her rent for a unit in the Riverfront Apartments downtown. The judge showed a check from 1994 for $2,000, and that continued monthly, with no public fanfare or publicity.

"You'll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Mike and (his wife) Marian had the courage to lose sight of the shore and discover new oceans," Judge Keith told the TV station. "They kept pushing Detroit, and had it not been for them, I am saying, Detroit would not be in the renaissance that they're in now."

We can't all discover new oceans, or pay someone else's rent. But without spending a nickel, we can discover good things in each other, and we can pay each other compliments free for nothin'!

And if you have megapizza dough, here's an example of a great way to $hare it.