Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, August 30, 2014: Special "Things For Which I Am Grateful" Edition

Things for which I am thankful: my relatively good health, which means that most of my relatives are quite healthy and so am I. Access to good health care is a good thing, too.  Just look at the "D" section in my phone contacts...doctors from head to toe, literally!
I am very thankful for my home, seen here posing in all its winter finery.  The best part about it is that my Peggy lives here with me.  I would put more pictures of her on here, but she is modest and shy, and would only say, "What's with all these pictures of me? Who am I, Jennifer Aniston all of a sudden?"
Like any former DJ, I have a basement full of old 45s and album and cassette tapes of my playing old 45s and albums on the radio. My records are not this neatly organized, but give me a while and I'll find what you want to hear.  In the meantime, listen to this by T. Rex...
The joy of watching the Orioles play baseball is a treat.  I've been a fan since the days when Gus Triandos was lumbering around the bases, and I've been a fan through the great years and the lean years.  I know that football is the bigger deal now, but baseball is the thinking person's game, I think. Plus, as opposed to the hebdomadal scheduling of football games, as Earl Weaver said, in baseball, "We do this every night."
 I love Baltimore winters.  Sights such as this fill my heart with glee. I know they don't for many people.
As we come closer to the end of a week of things we're grateful for, I realize that the hard part for me was cutting the list down to a few each day.  I am a thankful person, grateful for so many things. One of them is the the ready availability of dictionaries. I like to just pick them up and rummage through them, learning new words and finding out the etymologies of others.  Many a person who looked up "greatful" in a dictionary was grateful that they did!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gratitude, Three times Seven, #5

We have friends up in Canada who just adopted a doggie from a rescue agency. You ought to see this little guy, whose name is Mocha!  He's cute as a bug, with a great big grin.  He's really the ant's pants, and they love him.  But he was abused by his former "family."  He was abused, and the abuser's wife, happily, decided to find another, better, home for him, and so they have.  I am grateful that animals, many times more that humans, have the ability to forgive one abuser and trust other people not to treat them like footballs.

And of course I am also grateful for the people who take in a dog such as Brittany and Justin did, knowing that the pooch might need a little extra TLC because of his past.  They are giving him the love he needs and has deserved all along.

And for a third thing for which I am grateful today, how about LOVE?  The love of my wife is a greater gift than any I could dream of.  We have a friend who was patient enough to wait for love to come her way, and she is now living the dreams she had only dreamed of before.  And there are people who love their jobs, their hobbies, their baseball takes many forms, but we ought to spend more time enjoying it and seeing others do the same, and less time deciding if a certain love is right for a certain other person.

I'd really love that.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gratitude, Three times Seven, #4

It's a lot easier to find my way to places I have never been with a GPS device, and with Google Maps on the cell phone, I get turn-by-turn directions to any place I want to be...around the corner, or around Eugene, Oregon, if need be.  Our new phones have a new female voice giving out the advice, and she is sort of, well, breathy, in that way that certain actresses use instead of acting. Which is ok by me; it's sort of entertaining, but what happened the other day with the GPS never happened to us before.  We were looking for a house on a block where the numbers ran in the opposite direction of the next block, and there was a left turn to make that left us on the same street even though we turned, and it was too much for the GPS, which then said, "You have ARRIVED." It said this as we sat in the middle of an intersection, waiting for the light to change, so I was pretty sure that my cousin and his family did not live in an invisible house right on the street.  We found it the old-fashioned way -we called them, and a real live nice human voice directed us to the house, where we had a wonderful brunch.

I'm grateful for the people who run the UK 1940s Online Radio Station, which is on the net 24 hours a day, serving up the music that the world at war listened to, and more.  They not only play the authentic old music of the era, but also news broadcasts and relevant speeches.  I recommend it to anyone who runs around today with their arms in the air, fearing the end of the world could come any day.  We've been at that precipice before.

Image from the Cape May beach camera
I'm grateful for beachcams and webcams  that take us worlds away. I'm no voyeur, not at all interested in watching what people are doing in Hong Kong, Baluchistan or Nome, but I like those live webcams that allow you to see traffic in Scotland, a giraffe preparing to give birth somewhere in Europe, the beach at Cape May NJ, or a water cooler in some office someplace.  We Skype with our friends in Canada and that's about it for us appearing on camera.  Hollywood has yet to devise a reality show that would feature us...but there's always tomorrow!  Hear me, The Learning Channel?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gratitude, Three times Seven, #3

Continuing the Seven Days of Gratitude...

The last big picture he made
I love winter, and all that comes with it...the chill, the downright cold, the need for wool sox and long johns and scarves and stocking caps and gloves and all that.  You can always put on more clothes if it's cold.  This also entitles me to dislike summer like Nick Nolte dislikes having his picture taken. I do not like heat or humidity or gnats or mosquitoes or any of the 101 horrible things about the season that everyone else loves, leaving me alone to love winter, the ugly stepsister of all seasons.  Therefore I am grateful to Willis Haviland Carrier (November 26, 1876 – October 7, 1950), father of modern air conditioning, and the man who made it possible to survive summer south of the Yukon. Not that I would want to make this choice, but if it came down to having a stereo in the car or A/C, I'd do the singing for myself, windows up and cool.

Farnsworth in 1939, looking miffed
because nothing good was on TV
 that night

While we're thanking great people of industry and invention, let's mute the TV for a second and give it up for Philo T. Farnsworth (August 19, 1906 – March 11, 1971), holder of some 165 patents, many of which were crucial to the development of television. Without Mr Farnsworth, what would we know of the magical world of professional football, giant spinning wheels of fortune on game shows, and news accounts of "people who make a difference" in their communities? Television makes it possible for an entire nation to be terrified of the same things at once!

And we all can be proud to live in the land that was home to Henry Ford, inventor of the new car smell! Fun fact: when you load up the briquets in the charcoal grill this Labor Day, remember that the charcoal industry was started by Henry and a distant relative named E.G. Kingsford as a way to get rid of the wood scrap generated in the Ford Motor Company plant in the 1920s. Ford hated waste, and when he saw wood chunks being tossed out from the assembly line, he said, "Let's scorch the wood and grind it up and add coal and sawdust and borax and I don't know what-all else and make little briquets that will burn in a bowl-shaped metal tub, so that everyone can enjoy a smoky hamburger outside." Henry is also thought to be the first man ever to say, "Don't be getting all up in my grill."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gratitude, Three Times Seven, #2

"You're never too old to learn," someone said to me, probably someone who was about to deliver a painful lesson.  But the point was well taken.  You know the old expression attributed to Mark Twain: "When I was sixteen, my father was the stupidest man I ever met.  Now, five years later, I'm amazed at how much the man has learned."  When we're sixteen, sure, we think we know everything.  That sort of youthful zest and zeal sounds like an Italian salad: Bravado à la Braggadocio,  but we need it to deal with being sixteen.  Face it, the time you're in your late 40s, you don't have to worry about zits or having your voice crack, so you can settle down a little.  This summer,  I learned lessons about mourning, lessons that I should have learned earlier in life, I suppose, but "what's learned last is learned best," as Ralph Waldo Emerson never said.   What Pastor Bruce Wilson said at my dear Deanna's funeral got past the veil of tears I wore.  He told us that her work on earth was done, admittedly much sooner that we would have liked or expected, but she wouldn't trade places and come back from the Kingdom of Heaven for anything.  Glory be, she has reached the mountaintop, and no matter what I used to think, I'm grateful to have learned to appreciate a loss in a new way. 

I put a picture in every blog entry.  This place has
nothing to do with anything in this page today, but if
 you ever find yourself a) hungry and b) in Lusby,
 Maryland, may I suggest the Frying Pan Restaurant? 
And I'm grateful that a wonderful woman named Holly Jackson happened to read my blog entry about an odd woman who taught me and a whole roomful of baby boomers in third grade. Holly had just been to an estate sale of the belongings of a woman with the same name. Was she the same woman? We don't know. But Holly wrote to me and therefrom sprang a friendship which, not even a year old, has already seen us share ineffable loss and sweet joy in dizzying turns of fate. 

And I am grateful for the online Merriam-Webster dictionary . which reliably informs me that the word "therefrom" is, indeed, a word, but it is archaic, along with most of my vocabulary. Consarn it all! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Three times seven, take 1

I liked being a teacher; I taught DJ Techniques, Radio Production and Current Events and, as most people do when they teach, I found that I learned a lot from my students, as I hoped they learned from me as well.

Because of this Facebook thingamajig, I find that I still learn from them.  One of them, a fellow from one of our favorite towns, Havre de Grace, MD, is named John Gross, and he recently challenged me to dump ten gallons of ice water over myself  list daily three things for which I am grateful, for seven days.

Easy as pie. In fact, easier than pie, since I won't have to make a crust for this daily list.  Three times seven is 21, and if I can't list 21 things I appreciate, then grits ain't groceries, and they're on my plate for sure.

THIS Phil Harris, voice of Baloo

We'll start with Peggy, my teenaged wife of almost 41 years.  I won't go into a dissertation about how I fell in love in the first three seconds of a blind date that's still going on, but let's just say that I'm a lucky man in that my wife and my best friend are the same person, so when I want to tell my best friend how much in love I am, she's always right there!  How convenient!  And, I will hasten to point out that I realize that life with me is not easy.  Just the music that pours out of my den (Phil HarrisPerry Como with the Fontane Sisters! Kris Kross!  The Fralinger String Band from Philadelphia!) and the jokes that pour out of my den ("Conjunctivitis.Com is a site for sore eyes!") and the books that are stacked in my den, and my projects down in the basement workshop ("I need two parts Hydrogen, one part Oxygen, and I'll be swimming in free water!)  None of that bothers her, as long as she has our lovely home to share with the man she has loved since that blind date many Junes ago.  I love Peggy above all.  But I need to list more things for which I am grateful.

Young Frank Zappa
I'm grateful for my new iPod, with the capacity to hold a lot, an awful lot, of music and podcasts, which means if you drive through our neighborhood, you might see a man walking along with earbuds in his ears and a happy smile on his face.  It's I, strutting to the oldies! And the "random" setting means hopping from Slatz Randall and His Orchestra ("Let's Not 'n' Say We Did") to The Beau Brummels ("Laugh Laugh") to Frank Zappa ("Holiday In Berlin, Full Blown").  I love my music!

And for the third thing today, let's say I love the world and almost all the people in it.  We spent Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch with my cousin, second cousins and third cousins and it was wonderful fun to chatter about this and that.  I've been blessed with lots of good friends in this happy life, and the chances are that if you're reading this, you're one of them, so thank you for that, too!

More tomorrow!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Rerun: Boss Tweeds

I guess it's reality TV, if you need to specify the genre, but it doesn't have any Kardashians, and hardly any fishing, and no icy roads at all, so I like to watch "Undercover Boss" when someone interesting is on.

The premise of the show is very simple.  The head cheese of some big company puts on a disguise and works among hoi polloi, so as to get a little taste of life on the other side of the assembly line, pizza oven or fish nets.

The setup never varies.  The show opens with a look at the company involved, and then we meet the HPIC* who talks a bit about how well the company is doing, but he/she thought it would be a good idea to leave the home office for a couple of days and work with people who actually do the work.  So the boss gets fitted for hair extensions, or a toupee in the case of a man experiencing baldness, and they add or remove facial hair, glasses, and color the hair.  Slip Mr or Ms Big into a company uniform or whatever mufti they wear delivering pizzas, and away we go!

They always come up with a cover story for the people on the job site, lest they become concerned as to why there are 27 cameras pointed at them.  They say that they are part of a reality show where one lucky guy just won his own Domino's franchise and is learning to make pizzas and drive real fast with pizzas in his car so as to run the place.   Or that they are shooting a reality show about people whose businesses went under and are trying to get back in the game in this new line of work.

The hitch is, it has to be a huge company for this to work.  I mean, if you're the head sandwich maker at Nick 'n' Tony's Deli, and you come to work one day and neither Nick nor Tony are around but you see someone who looks a lot like Tony prowling around trying to slice prosciutto, you're gonna get wise in a hurry, you know what I'm saying to you here?  But if you are one of 83,000 burger flippers working for Checkers, and the boss looks like the guy on the left above, and then one day a guy in a red shirt and vest is introduced to you as a new trainee who used to run a Blockbuster, you'll go for it, sure as heck.

So, the tycoon reports to work and there's always a problem, always a complaint.  Working conditions are awful, the equipment is so bad that "I have to bring in my own cleaning supplies from home" (Popeye's) or "I can't hear the customers in the drive-thru line" (Checkers.)  We get to hear the personal problems of the people tasked to work with El Supremo, and that comes in handy later.

As does all the pointing-out-of-problems, because like in last week's episode about Oriental Trading Company - America's #1 source for inflatable golf clubs, giant gag eyeglasses and pink lawn flamingos - the guy loading the truck on a day when the temperature hit 103° told the cheese that they used to get free sports drinks when it was that hot.  The boss is then shown in deep remorse as he realizes that it was his idea, when the economy hit the skids, to cut back on the free electrolyte replacements.  Hey, it's never 103° in the boardroom!

Then all the employees are called to the home office, and the big shot prances in and watches the dawn of recognition break across their furrowed brows.  He/she then earnestly avows to take their suggestions and complaints to heart, hands out money for cars, scholarships and medical bills, and there you are for another week.

Peggy was asking what percentage of the promises of sweeping reform benefiting the working person I thought were actually carried out.  I guess 50-50, but maybe that's high. Or low. I have to figure that at least once, as soon as the camera crew drove away, some boss said, "That guy in Omaha who said I made pizza like a drunken aardvark...get him in here...NOW!"

Tune in next week for our new hit series "Unemployment."

*HPIC= Head Person In Charge