Saturday, January 19, 2008

100 Things

Not trying to be solipsistic here...but I found the prototype for this on a wonderful blog called Catheroominations ( and I thought I'd fill it out for myself, keeping just a few of hers which fit me, and making the rest up. I love filling out those online survey quizzes, and I recommend this exercise for getting in touch with the you only you know best! Thanks, Catheroo. If I were to add a #101, it would be to say that your blog is really great!

As Jackie Gleason used to say, "And aw-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaay we go!"

100 Things About Me

1. I like online jigsaw puzzles
2. I like tea in the morning and coffee every night after dinner
3. I don’t like noises from outside of the house, especially loud car stereos
4. I’m more likely to be hot than cold
5. I love football and baseball jerseys and my favorite is the Browns home jersey (brown and orange)
6. I would love to write a book, but who would read it?
7. Bad spelling annoys me but bad grammar is worse
8. I hate liars
9. I like people-watching and find it endlessly fascinating
10. I like to drive, except in the city
11. I get crazy leg cramps while asleep
12. I believe in the spirit of Elvis
13. I wonder if newspaper advice columnists ever make up the letters they answer
14. I believe in fate and signs and certain personal superstitions
15. I never cry
16. I think the lyrics to a song are far more important than the music
17. I am loved by someone special
16. I could live the rest of my life without chocolate
17. I like to drink beer in a frozen mug
18. I used to drink Coke but have not had a soda of any sort since June 2005
19. I like to ride the exercise bike while watching sitcoms
20. I have a bizarrely good memory for dates and a terrible memory for names
21. I hate Brussels sprouts and lima beans
22. I hate bullies even though my size and quick tongue kept me from being their victim
23. I am a Cancer born on 6/30, but so is Mike Tyson: so what good is astrology?
24. I believe that an occasional flareup helps relieve built-up tensions at work
25. I have never voted for a Republican for any office at any time and never will
26. I have lost too many friends and loved ones to cancer (actually, one is too many)
27. I think the glass is half full - I am basically optimistic
28. I keep promising myself to never split infinitives
29. I can’t stand bad table manners
30. I used to love country music but now it seems banal in its present state
31. I love to drive around in my truck with Peggy, looking at changing leaves in the fall, and Christmas lights
32. I believe I am relatively easy to please but I can see how others might not agree with that
33. I love music with saxophones, ukuleles and accordions
34. I used to go to grocery stores where no one knew me, speak with a quasi-European accent, and ask a clerk, “Please to tell, where are ze potato cheeps?”
35. I love being married
36. I can speak Spanish well enough to get by and sometimes think in Spanish to keep it sharp in my mind
37. I would love to learn ventriloquism
38. I love words and etymology
39. I want more time to read
40. I am a morning person
41. I began watching TV news fanatically when I was 5
42. I’m generally happy
43. If you are sick or injured, I will be glad to help take care of you
44. Wind chimes irritate me
45. I like reading newspapers and at one time was plowing through four per day
46. I wonder about California: they send their drunk-driving celebrities to jail and their murdering celebrities get off scot-free
47. I love to wear shorts outside in the winter
48. I once had a friend whose husband’s mother was the cook for a prison in Alabama, and I wanted to meet her to swap creamed chipped beef recipes
49. I miss the anticipation of getting pictures back from the photo developing shop - digital photography just might catch on!
50. I love popcorn but the smell of the fake butter makes me nauseated, so I have to search hither and yon for “natural” flavor nukecorn
51. I love old New Yorker and Life magazines for the slices of old-time life they provide
52. I love to cast actors to play my family, friends and co-workers in the forthcoming movie of my life - Drew Carey as me, Edward G. Robinson as my grandfather
53. I can drive a manual transmission vehicle
54. I have the greatest assistant in the working world and our entire department would be much less great without her
55. I have forsworn many of my OCD traits but I will never yield on my stance on punctuality - I am fanatically early for everything
56. I like a beer with my dinner but I can live without it
57. When I was a kid, I would spend hours reading the Information Please Almanac and the World Book Encyclopedia- that‘s why I love surfing the net - so much information to be gleaned!
58. I love the oral histories written by Studs Terkel and love to hear people’s reminiscences on my own
59. I think that Norm MacDonald is one of the funniest human beings
60. Bad pronunciation bugs me
61. I have never eaten venison, nor rabbit, nor buffalo
62. I love it when pompous blowbags use malapropisms
63. I’m considered witty
64. Favorite snack: handful of mixed nuts
65. I have absolutely zero talent at acting, which puts me in some highly-paid company (Hi there, Jim Belushi!)
66. I was well into my 50’s before I realized that people would just as soon NOT have their grammar, spelling or pronunciation corrected.
67. I have never been arrested
68. I’m old-fashioned with my VCRs instead of TiVO but I tape the news just in case we miss it “live”
69. I sing along in the truck but I am a terrible singer
70. I don’t know whether Phil Spector killed that woman, but I sure know he made some of the greatest records ever
71. I am a Maryland native
72. I had almost no self-confidence growing up and then one day I said, hey what the hell, I’m good enough
73. I love listening to old-time radio shows such as Phil Harris, Jack Benny and the Great Gildersleeve
74. I laugh a lot and hope to make others laugh, the better to share the maxim “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine”
75. I believe in karma
76. There are times when nothing will do for dinner but McDonald’s
77. I get cranky when I’m tired or hungry
78. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more courteous Southern drivers were than Northerners when we went down South in ‘04
79. I am tremendously nostalgic about the 50’s and 60’s and have been known to visit my old public schools just to walk down the halls and bask in memories
80. I was a volunteer firefighter for 7 years and still claim kinship to the fire dept brother-and-sisterhood
81. I believe in love at first sight and my marriage is a testament to it
82. Like most Baltimoreans, I idolize Cal Ripken, Jr., and have always found him to be a kind and admirable person
83. I am an Orioles and Ravens fan but I don’t take it as a personal shortcoming if the teams don’t do so well
84. When Oprah was a local Baltimore newscaster, I grew so tired of her grammatical errors that I called channel 13 and asked them to counsel her against saying “Join Richard Sher and I this morning at 9...”
85. I wonder why anyone takes what they read in the gossip magazines to be any kind of true
86. I love driving my pickup truck and can’t imagine not having one
87. I love a band called LOVE from the late 60’s and no one else I know does!
88. At 6’ 5”, I have come to know the look of a woman in the grocery store who cannot quite reach the Vienna sausage, fig newtons or hoisin sauce on the back of the top shelf, and I’ll be glad to help
89. I bought a professional hair trimmer so Peggy can keep me buzz-cut in between visits to Gail at the Groomin’ Saloon
90. I like to use 50’s-hepcat words for money, like “semolian” for dollars, “sawbuck” for 10 dollars and “yard” for 100 bucks.
91. If I like a joke, you can count on hearing it again for 20 or 30 years
92. I don’t like going to the movies anymore because of the boorish way people behave - talking, phones ringing, etc
93. I love pop songs sung by Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby and Matt Monro
94. I was an A&P grocery clerk before I became a young DJ
95. I love my job but my dream job has always been to be the booth announcer on a game show (“Tell her what she’s won, Mark!” “Be glad to, Bob! First, a year’s supply of Turtle Wax, a case of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat, and a new gas range from Tappan - Tappan: the leader in kitchen appliances since 1888”)
96. I have plenty of faults, but I do think I can cheer people up when they need it
97. I prefer to shave with a razor; it gives a much cleaner shave than an electric
98. I will never forget the night a friend called and asked what I was doing and I answered, “I’m organizing my spare light bulbs by size and wattage” and I don’t think she believed me
99. I talk back to the television but I never get an answer
100. My heart still skips a beat when I see my wife

Who's next?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A little love for the counselor

I'm trying to be more flexible, and I think I may have found something about which to change my mind. Those of you who know my mind (and I do thank you!) know that I tend to hold to the beliefs and values that have seen me through almost three score years. For instance, in the late 1960's I developed an attachment to the band Love ( that refuses to waver, even in the face of the disdain that greets me when I speak of the band with the fervor of a young convert or door-to-door soulsaver. I travel down any "Road" that the novels of Kerouac can take me, I "Howl" at the poetry of Ginsberg, and whenever I see a fire engine racing to an incident, I'm as likely as not to try to go see where the call takes them. These vestiges of the 60's are with me for good.

I was, like the rest of the nation, awakened to horrible news early on New Year's Eve. A family from right around the corner - a neighborhood that I cut through to get to work - was coming back from a family holiday in Michigan when some drunk-driving fool, driving in the wrong direction down an interstate in Ohio, smashed into them, killing the mother and four of the kids. Two other kids and their father survived somehow.

You might be surprised to hear that back in the day, the "town drunk" was an amusing comic figure, lampooned in many TV shows and movies. About the most that most police agencies would do to a drunk driver then was to take him or her home, leaving their car by the side of the road to be retrieved later. Very rarely was anyone charged, prosecuted or jailed. It was the kind of thing that people whispered about, shaking their heads as the lovable lush veered from pillar to post on the way to get more hooch. News coverage was much less broad in those days too, so maybe there would have been more a serious tone taken with drunk driving had people been able to see photos like this in the paper, or online, or on TV:

You see, that's what the carnage looks like when a drunken butthead races at breakneck speed in the wrong direction on an interstate and runs head-on into a van full of people from my neighborhood who were only trying to come home from a fun family Christmas. Notice the gifts and the kids' clothing all over the highway. This is where the lives of five people came to a sudden and violent end, because this man was driving while his blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit.

But, here is where I am changing my thoughts.

When I was in third grade, our school librarian lived in our neighborhood, and then one day, despondent over her marital troubles, she drove to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and jumped off, ending her life. Our teacher, a woman from Southern Maryland's farm country who, shall we say, lacked big-city sophistication and sensitivity, told us, "The library is closed for a while. Mrs. ______ 's husband left her, so she went to the Bay Bridge and killed herself. Bring in books from home if you want to read them."

When I was in tenth grade, a fellow sophomore was run over by his school bus one morning. Midway through the morning, the principal got on the intercom to state, "There have been a lot of rumors about someone dying this morning. Well, it's true, and his name was Ricky ______, a sophomore. Please remember to be careful at your bus stops when the bus is backing up. That is all."

Then, in my eleventh grade, a senior was killed on his way to school when his motorcycle skidded on a wet road and he was struck by a car. This time, the principal delivered more of a heartfelt threnody, and spoke with some sadness over the p.a. system about the loss of a fellow student. But, the teacher in whose classroom I was standing while the announcement was made to a stunned student body had this to say: "Bob was not a great student in Senior English, but he didn't deserve to have this happen to him."

Gee, ya think?

Having been educated in what must seem like a draconian era, I was a bit skeptical when, in the past few years, I saw that schools routinely furnished counselors and psychologists to help students cope with such enormities. Using the cloudy logic that has marred many a thought, I used to think, "WE didn't need to have people come in and help us face it when WE had a sad loss back in OUR day."

And then it came to me that maybe we should have! At least, it would have been better if we had gotten some counseling in third grade, tenth grade, eleventh, whenever. Maybe a bit of committed, understanding counseling would have made my generation, numbered among which are certainly the parents of this Ohio felon, more kind, more thoughtful, more centered. My generation was going to put an end to war, and yet they voted for Cheneybush like lemmings. By the millions, we gulp antacids like crazy, seek to numb our neuroses with Prozac, mess with drugs, booze, and inappropriate couplings, and weep and wail for the departed, when, if a skilled counselor had just spent a little time with us back in the formative years, we might have grown up all the better for it.

And, no matter what else you had to do at work today, unless you were involved in another tragedy, how would you have liked to be faced with meeting with kids coming off their winter break and explaining how something like this could have happened? And how do you deal with their fears, with their tears? I say, let's have a little love for the counselors and therapists among us, and hope this current generation of kids grows up better than m-m-m-m-my ge-ge-generation. Now that they have help on the rocky shoals of life, I believe they will.