Sunday, June 29, 2008

Guns 'n' Poses

I've been oddly drawn to reading the Family Circus for years now. I think it's because they had a dog named ''Barfy.'' But here's Billy making a good point, one that Calvin made a dozen years ago: verbing weirds nouns!

I had a hard time not laughing at this picture in the paper yesterday:

This young woman with her crudely-lettered sign amused me. Not that it's even worth trying to argue with the Supreme Court definition of a ''well-regulated militia,'' now that the court has been packed with right-wing crackpots. Your Supreme Court just told you that your neighbors have the right to pack a piece and strut around waiting for someone to look at them crossly, and then watch the lead fly!

And the poorly-laid-out perspective of her home-style calligraphy (notice how "My gun permit" leans to the right, eerily reminiscent of Antonin Scalia) is a cause for concern as well. But the fact that she used ALL CAPS to spell out THE SECOND AMENDMENT when the font she copied clearly calls for lower case letters except for the first is bothersome. The least of the sins committed at Neverland Ranch was the use of ALL CAPS in the entryway to that Stygian hellhole:

And you know what? If people could only learn to be more careful with their capitalization, more precise with their spelling and more selective in their choice of artists, why, that would be awesome! Or awsome. Or something, I dunno...

I also read someplace about a survey that indicated that people who have been the victims of lightning strikes tend to have higher levels of irritability in later years. Well, for crying out loud, why shouldn't they? You get zapped with a little thunderbolt from above, you're entitled to be a touch cranky about it, I feel. And the bigger question, to me, is: why is it necessary to find out how petulant or cantankerous some poor Joe became after that July afternoon when he was crossing the street when BOOM! lightning hit him, and it came down in ALL CAPS! like that.

Riding up Harford Road the other evening, I saw a sign in someone's front yard that really gave me the willies:

I can't stand the thought. We're coming to the end of eight years of imprudent leadership by a vacuous, supercilious, obtuse party boy. It's time to think a little, folks. Remember the lesson they learned in Minnesota when a few voters thought they'd send a message to the big guys by voting for a wrestler for governor? So it was that a few too many votes were cast in this half-baked protest, and then the entire state had to suffer with having oafish grappler Jesse "The Body" Ventura as governor for four years. And the time on "Barney Miller" when Wojo brought one of those bolo ties for Barney when he came back from a trip out West, only Barney didn't know it was a gag and he wore the corny tie! Jimmy Buffett is the musical equivalent of a bolo tie, and we don't need another millstone around our necks after these past eight years, do we?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Two Weddings and a Moveout

It's been a busy ten days for Peggy and me, but there are senses of accomplishment and satisfaction and that indescribable feeling that comes from being in two rooms full of love. And, against all odds, I wore the same white dress shirt to two weddings in 6 days and befouled it not. No gravy, salad dressing, chocolate syrup, beer, pasta sauce or cheese spread found its way onto the front of my shirt, and so it shall be taken to the dry cleaners for laundering and starching, to await its next foray into the social world. Normally, one could have gotten long odds against any white shirt I wear to an event where food is served coming home with its front still as white as the snow that I wish had fallen around here last winter.

Do you ever sit and ponder, whom could you call upon if you really needed help? For instance, if I ever get word that a pack of enraged mountain men has vowed to "git" me, I know two distant relatives, both the size of Coke machines, who would be hearing from me. For any sort of eye question, I have the greatest optometrist in the world, Dr. Connolly, and she patiently explains my ocular situations to me, and helps me work out solutions. Last summer's cataract surgery never would have happened had it not been for her amazing kindness. I have never known a medical professional as kind as she.

And then you really need to ask, if I needed someone to run to the all-night Drug Town and pick up a prescription at 3 am, whom could I call?

Or, if I needed a hand with something, what friend could I call upon? Our friend Frank was just that sort of guy - genuine, down-to-earth, a great guy. And living proof of the adage that the good go young, because he passed away in April of '06, leaving his wonderful wife Cindy and their four amazing kids. I don't know any other way to put this, except to say that there are families and then there are FAMILIES, and these good people are the most together family you could hope to meet.

Not long after the world lost Frank, the highly-regarded cinematic classic Jackass Number 2 came out, and Cindy told Peggy that their younger son wanted to see the movie. Peggy said that I had already seen it and would love to go again, so we two guys went and guffawed as only guys can do. It was the reverse of the time Peggy and I went to see the stinkeroo of all time, The Bridges of Madison County, in which we are supposed to think it's ok for Meryl Streep to hop under rickety Clint Eastwood just because her husband, who only worked sunup to sundown as a farmer, was not as romantic as an unctuous traveling photographer. This gave Streep's character license to be licentious, you see, because the poor hick was out of town, taking the kids to the State Fair to show off their hogs or something, so naturally Meryl is open for business all weekend. It made me sick. So when that movie ended, I stood there, basking in the relief that, much like a proctological exam without the benefit of anesthesia, it was, at long last, over. All about the theater stood other guys, similarly buoyed by the blessed unspooling of the final reel of that waste of celluloid, and as we checked our watches and made plans for dinner, we noticed that all the women were still in their seats, sobbing and daubing at their eyes. Just the reverse at the end of the Jackass movies, for those paltry few of you who have not seen them. Guys stand up, punching each other in the shoulder and reviewing their favorite segments, while women remain in their seats in a sort of goggle-eyed shock. Clearly, the solution comes to mind. The Jackasses of Madison County! Bam Margera is now the traveling photographer, and he talks the woman into letting his crew bunk over for the weekend, and then darts around setting off fireworks at 3 AM and brings in all sorts of local fauna to do what local fauna do in every locale.

I simply must do something about this digression. Anyway, Frank and Cindy's younger daughter was married last week to a fine young man, and she will begin her teaching career this fall - at the same school where my beloved niece-in-law used to teach, this being Baltimore and all, where all things and all people are intertwined like a Kevin Bacon movie. We had a great time at the wedding, and one could feel that Frank was there in spirit. I believe that the dearly departed are still with us in many ways, and I believe that love lives forever. Yes, love forever changes, but true love only changes for the better, according to Heaven's plan for us all.

When I transferred to the Health Dept in '01, my new boss's assistant, Lois, really helped me out. My boss's idea of training me was to hand me a key ring (20-some keys, none labeled), show me my desk, and let me run things as I saw fit. While I liked the hands-off approach, I did need some illumination into some dimly-lit corners of my new job, and she helped me time and again, and we became good friends in the bargain. She's since moved along in the department, with a well-deserved promotion and lots of new responsibility, but I still love to talk to Lois and get her take on things and, yes, walk up to the wall of her cubicle and loom over the top, gazing at her as if I were a giraffe eating mulberry leaves while she recovers from the awful shock that must come from seeing my mug over the top of one's cube wall. Last night, her son married a young lady who works in my building, and we were invited to share in that special joy as well. Such a nice wedding. The priest gave the young couple such great advice, and once again, the room was full of love and happiness, and I wish them all the love their sweet hearts can hold. Theirs is another family filled with love and support for each other - the kind of people that one feels better about everything just by being around them! Her new daughter-in-law, just like last week's bride Laura, is a beautiful young lady through and through, meaning that she is as lovely in her heart and soul as in her beaming countenance. We had a wonderful time at both weddings, and today is a very special day for me and Peggy - 'twas on this very day in 1973 that we met on a blind date that is still going on, so what a week to be surrounded by so much sweet love. And thanks to both brides and their families for being wonderful parts of our lives - the best parts!

But I was wondering how did it come that when the DJ played Journey's Don't Stop Believing, the young people at the reception went wild? I was stunned to hear them all singing out loud..."Just a small town in a lonely world....she took the midnight train goin' anywhere...." After all, that song was a hit three years before the bride and groom were born! But a little Wikipedia research taught me that it was used in The Sopranos TV show, and has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. That resurgence would seem to be missing for onetime Baltimore reception favorite The Chicken Dance, but I can hope that one comes back too.

I'll tell where I know I could round up a whole bucket of Chicken dancers, and that's the retirement community that Mom moved to amidst all this white-shirt wearing. (I must mention here that Peggy looked her usual stunning self at both weddings, and, with the ladylike grace that she exudes, she also had no bibdrops on her pretty clothes.) Yes, every 53 years, Mom just gets the urge to move, so she is selling the house to the nephew of the neighbors across the street, and the furniture moving to the retirement castle was done by the son of the people two doors down. This is Baltimore, remember. Everything is related! Mom's new condo is roomy enough for most of the furniture that Dad made, and for most of the mementos she has collected over her 4-score and 2 (and counting.) The view is of the woods surrounding Goucher College, so it will be almost like the old house in that regard, seeing trees, deer, foxes, semi-clad college students gamboling about (ok, cross out that last one, but still, the view is great, the chow is top-notch, the other residents are nice and some are even her friends - she ran into a woman with whom she went to High School the other day, so we're hoping this will be a good move.) We all did a lot of humping and lifting and hauling, all for a good cause. Of course, the phone company screwed up her order and she had no telephone for the first few days, but I made myself heard long and loud until - quelle surprise! - a tech suddenly cleared his busy toolbelt-hoisting schedule and got around to doing what he was supposed to have done in the first place!

Today I was mowing the lawn, listening to old country music cassettes, and one of the songs was Tex Ritter's "Just Beyond the Moon." Lyrics - for those who have never heard this one -

My mother and my father were in love for 50 years
So when dad died we wondered why my mother shed no tears
We asked her once about it but she wouldn’t tell us why
Instead she’d walk outside each night and smile up at the sky
Then just before she left us she called us to her side…
She told us what my father said to her just before he died

I remember when you said you’d never leave me
Through these golden years I’ve kept the same vow too
But now that I am going please don’t leave me
I’ll walk just beyond the moon then I’ll stop and wait for you

You can look up every night and you’ll see me light the light
Where I’ll watch for you to join me someday soon
We’ll go lookin' through the stars for the heaven that is ours
And I know we’ll find it soon somewhere just beyond the moon

I’ll walk just beyond the moon then I'll stop and wait for you

I’ll just sit there by a star and I’ll watch you from afar
Til I see you walking toward me someday soon
Then together hand in hand we’ll find our promised land
And we’ll settle down forever darlin’ just beyond the moon

I’ll walk just beyond the moon then I'll stop and wait for you.

I wish that much love for Cindy, for Frank, for everyone I love, and for the couples who so kindly invited us to their special days. The song makes me think of my Dad; he and Mom were married for over 50 years and he liked Tex Ritter and he liked John Ritter too, another good guy gone home too soon. Every day in which we are allowed to walk this earth, attend weddings, haul Mom's stuff to the retirement castle, listen to Tex Ritter: those are good days.

Listen to Tex:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kool Kid

I sure was a grocery clerk, way back in the day. Peggy loves to hear me tell what the price of a gallon of milk, 5 lbs. of sugar, or a bottle of ReaLemon was when Nixon was president and I worked for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. (the real name of the A&P chain, which is now called SuperFresh around here.)

You might have read the short story "A & P" by John Updike ( While Updike is both a fine writer of great renown and, along with Norman Mailer and John Irving, one of Tom Wolfe's three great enemies, I doubt that he ever worked at an A&P. He doesn't have the sense of purpose that came along with the hallowed red apron and name tag, from what I gather. But he did all right in his field, so perhaps a lifetime of Eight O'Clock Coffee, Jane Parker Spanish Bar Cake and Ann Page Fancy Salad Mustard was not for him.

Today I stopped at another supermarket for rolls and bananas. I had been at the bank, where the manager told me last week I needed a copy of a certain document to perform a certain transaction (which I can't discuss here; it's a matter of national security.) So I ankle in there today, and the manager is on vacation, and Miss Hathaway tells me that a copy won't do; she needs the original. And so the dance begins, before the NorthEast Baltimore area vice president in charge of the NorthEast Baltimore area finally rules, in a landmark decision, that I can have my $442.80. I parade down to the supermarket, and here is a verbatim transcript of what the (20-year-old, maybe) cashier said to me:

She: How are you today, sir?
I: Well, to tell you the truth, I am hot!
She: So am I, but I'm not bragging about it!
I: (uncontrollable paroxysm of laughter)


She: $5.56, please!
I: Here's a 5, and I thought I had two quarters in here....wait a minute...hold on
She: I took them out of your pocket while you were sleeping!
I: You are delightful; has anyone ever told you that?
She: You wanna buy me dinner? I mean, seeing as how you have five dollars and all...

Do you love it? I've been on that side of a cash register (when things got real busy, I stopped marking prices on cans of Vienna sausage with der kerplunker and took over a register, where I spent some time on the front lines of pure capitalism: separating people from their money in exchange for goods) and, while I would always try to chat amiably with customers, I was never so cool as to actually engage in an entire comic routine with a cooperative straight man (uh, me! in this case.) She was funny without forcing it, slightly impertinent without being impudent, and, altogether the perfect remedy for an afternoon of almost-100-degree temperatures and the officious assistant manager of the bank branch just an egg custard snowball's throw from the supermarket (and wouldn't I love to...)

Young Ms. Ashley, I wish you a thousand years of brightening the days of others, I wish that the world and its carborundum ways will never dull your razor wit, and I hope you know I thank you for the smiles

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's The Cool Thing #2

Back in the days when the National Lampoon was really funny, they had a page of suggested license tags for each state. For my home state, they suggested a logo that read "Maryland: Cradle of Graft." People caught with their cookies in the hand jar are regular sights around here, and it takes above-average crookedness even to make the news in a state where onetime vice president and designated Nixon polemicist Spiro T. Agnew was still taking canvas bags full of money from paving contractors while he was vice president of the nation! So, in case you are thinking of pursuing a career in the lucrative field of being a crook, please be advised that we want you to Do The Cool Thing, namely, when you get out of your car and are met by a teeming horde of reporters, cameras, and sketch artists readying themselves for your inevitable indictment and trial, smile like a madman and wave confidently while carrying some manila folders, and your suitcoat over your shoulder, Sinatra-style. Ring-a-ding ding, baby.

Smile smile smile as if there were nothing wrong in anyone's world! That one look says, "I couldn't have done anything wrong, for if I had, I would look contrite and repentant and all sorts of sad for letting people down, no? "

Nah. What the heck. I will tell you a really cool thing though. There is a woman at work, with long flowing beautiful flaming sorta-blond sorta red curly wavy hair. I mean, this is shampoo-ad hair. And you add to that, she is one of those naturally enthusiastic, always-cheery, super pleasant types who just elevates the entire room just by entering it. I saw her the other day and noticed she had cut her hair to a chin-length bob - still a great look, and I said so. Later on, another woman from her workplace told me that the lovely one had given up her hair for Locks of Love, the organization that makes human hair wigs for children who have lost their tresses due to cancer and radiation. And when I had commented on the new way she had her hair, she just said, "Oh, it's just something sporty for the summer." Generosity and modesty! Can you imagine how wonderful some people can be? That was my feel-good story for the week, yea, the entire month!

Someone please tell me why when two groups oppose each other by pulling on a rope, they call it a Tug Of War? Shouldn't it be a War of Tug? I have to know...