Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Be funny if she came from Reading, PA.

So I had to run down to one of our sites today for a clinic, and when things were well in hand I headed back to the main office. Right on a main road I drove in the center lane. A woman in her early-to-late 60s was driving in the right lane. I say she was driving, because she was doing something more than driving. She was reading a book. I swear this is true.

I thought at first that she was looking down at the steering wheel on acct. of some sort of mechanical problem. The mechanical problem was that the last time her mechanic serviced the car, he should have disabled the starter. I pulled up next to her and saw that the book was, I guess, a novel. I mean, who reads Toynbee or Edith Hamilton while they're driving their car? What fun would that be? Anyway, she and her paperback pageturner rolled along. Just before the traffic light at Josenhans Corner, she turned the page, no doubt in eager anticipation of what was to be revealed on the next page.

Having learned long ago from the wisdom of "Animal House" ("You'll be glad later if you're not here now") I vamoosed away from her, fast as I could. For all I know, she's still out there tonight, reading her Danielle Steel, being a menace to society,
driving her little white econobox. A Corolla, I think it was, and you know, that's kind of a frugal chariot, am I wrong, Emily?

There Is No Frigate Like A Book
Emily Dickinson

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

I hope to avoid her on the roads forever..my pickup also bears a human soul who's in no rush to earn his wings, Clarence!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why Oprah Hates Me

Some days, friends, this old blog just writes itself. All I need is a quick look at the paper and brief listen to the radio news, and I'm rip-roarin' to rip into it. Wanna take you back to 1979... a simpler time in America. Skylab plummeted to the ground in July, and that followed widespread fear that the space research lab might land on and crush Sex Pistol bassist Sid Vicious, and it very well could have, had Vicious not died in February of a heroin overdose ingested at a party thrown to celebrate his release on bail over charges that he killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. In a poignant touch, Sid's mom, herself a former registered heroin addict in England, said, "He knew the smack was pure and strong and took a lot less than usual." Ah, the support of a kindly old mama.

While the nation mourned the loss of El Sid and regrouped, we also saw a return to the inconvenience of 1974-style gasoline lines. In those faraway days, oil barons
reduced the amount of gasoline available for sale so as to create artificial shortages and drive up the cost. As I say, it was a simpler time. Now they just raise and raise and raise the price and don't even worry about the national leader doing a damned thing about it! It's like asking Colonel Sanders if he thinks we should eat more chicken!

But that's old news. In those halcyon days, channel 13 here in B'More had Oprah Winfrey reading the news on the early-morning Good Morning America cut-ins. Already, the Big 'O' had shown a predilection for doing a talk show, newsreading clearly not being her strong suit. So. every day as I pulled on my socks, Ope would close her five minutes with "So remember, join Richard Sher and I at 9 for 'People Are Talking.'

After a while, time spent waiting for someone to give her a little grammatical backup, I called the station and asked that they point out to OW that she needed to use the objective case, and should be saying "Join Richard Sher and me...."

Actually, she should have been saying "Go read a book !" but she didn't.

Next day, when Oprah closed the local newscast, she got as far as "that's it for now; be sure to join Richard Sher {and at this point she got a look on her face quite similar to the way Earl Weaver would look as he attempted to chicken-peck an umpire with the bill of his Oriole cap} AND MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! for People Are Talking!"

Uh oh. The Oprah had become upset.

So that's been the extent of our relationship over the years. Peggy has watched her show a lot, especially the Book Club and Oprah's Favorite Doggone Things episodes. Considering her show to be a daily exercise in self-glorification, I generally lean toward more fulfilling fare at 4 PM...such as Judge Joe Brown, Judge Hatchett, and the saucy, sassy Sandra Lee with her Semi-Homemade offerings (Jello chocolate pudding + Cool Whip = fake chocolate mousse!) But all day and all night, we hear the Oprah promos on the local outlet, and last weekend she was hollering about the saddest thing I have ever heard.

Oprah was promoting a show "from New York City!" and the final guest she mentioned was "My Cousin, Lisa Marie Presley!!!!!!!!!"

Now, friends, various estimates of the wealth of Oprah place it somewhere between the gold bullion reserves at Fort Knox and the total wealth of most of the Scandinavian countries. She is rich. Rich beyond your wildest dream and my wildest dream, and my wildest dream involves me and Peggy scooting up to the Jersey shore on a magic carpet. Oprah owns about 47 houses, and one farm in Indiana somewhere, and has the wherewithal to hand every member of her audience the keys to a new Pontiac. And the new Pontiac that goes with the keys! You hear your friends say "I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody blah-blah-blahed..."? Oprah has that many nickels. In fact, she's probably only vaguely aware that nickels are still being minted, preferring to keep her wallet full of Grants, Franklins and Clevelands.

In fact, when she endorsed Barack Obama for president as representing "change we can believe in," Ope thought of buying up all the dimes and quarters in circulation.

So, I have to wonder, just how sad it must be to have all that success - and I cannot gainsay Oprah's success and how hard she has worked to achieve it - and yet, with all that fame and all that power and all those bigshot friends like John Travolta and Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg and a cheery consort named Stedman Graham
she still is not satisfied with the way her life has turned out. How sad, to have to claim to be the cousin of the daughter of the King. Which would make her, what, Elvis's niece? And who is Oprah's best friend? None other than Gayle King! And whom does my Mom watch every night on CNN? Larry King!

The similarities boggle the mind. And while I reeled from this news came the news that some clown in Canada had been arrested for DUI, and, once in custody, had claimed to be David Lee Roth,

the erstwhile and current (for summer touring purposes) lead singer for Van Halen. Dave's wizened image (above) is proof positive that spandex is very harsh on the constitution, not to mention the Constitution. Apparently driven mad by Canadian bacon and Anne Murray records, the Canadian claimed to be Roth and blamed his erratic driving on a peanut allergy.

Contacted by undoubtedly-frantic US Customs officials, Roth turned out to be in Arizona at the time that the Mounties were busy getting their man above the border, as always. He denied having been in Canada, and stated for the record that he is the victim of no known nut allergy, although it's fairly common knowledge that he avoids Valerie Bertinelli. Rudimentary tests ruled out any capacity for shape-shifting on Roth's part, so he couldn't have been in two places at once, let alone two nations. But if he possessed one scintilla of Oprah's sense of showmanship and self-delusion, he would have claimed to be Conway Twitty's uncle's second cousin's grandchild by marriage.

And that's why Oprah is where she is now and DLR is in Arizona, for the love of Pete. Let's hope his career will get a boost from this publicity, and be reborn like a Phoenix. Or at least, maybe Oprah will give him a Pontiac.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's The Cool Thing, #3

When you're playing in a dixieland band...some of that hot jazz...and just after the halfway point in the song...while the trombonist is making a noise on his horn that sounds like the time the dishrag got caught in the InSinkErator because Aunt Glenn wasn't paying attention that Thanksgiving night when the entire family was full of kraut and vinegar and under the influence of an ennui so sizable that it had its own zip code...just before the end of that hot trombone lick...the cool thing is for a member or members of the dixieland band to holler "Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

Cool thing 3A - when you're driving down a narrow street, cars parked on either side, and you see a guy driving a beat-to-hell Mustang coming your way and there's no room for the two of you to schqueeeeeze through at once...and he pulls back the reins on his Hoss to let you go...the cool thing is to give him The High Sign - the motorist's acknowledgment of all-too-rare courtesy. Cool way to give The High Sign is the certified Jerry Stiller method - head slightly bowed in reverence, index finger suddenly pointed at the benefactor, lips slightly pursed.

It's not like that, George!

Still wrong, Jenna!

Proper High Sign technique

Speaking of Highway Courtesy, wha' happen' to that deal where everyone was running around doing random acts of kindness: to wit, paying bridge and tunnel tolls for the people in the car behind them? Did anyone ever really do that?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You Asked For It

Today I felt like Woodward, or Bernstein, maybe a little of both. It was strongly suggested to me, in quite an odd manner, that I ought to blog about certain events currently transpiring in the lives of two people I know. I tossed it around inside the old melon (only current other thoughts in there: another heartbreaking Orioles loss, and how good Kunzler All-Beef Franks are when grilled in beer and wrapped in a wrap) and figured, what the heck, the whole world needs to know this story, and if some hearts get broken along the way, well, remember: some will win, some will lose, and some are born to sing the blues.

I guess the way to begin weaving the tale is to illuminate the differences between the two people involved here. She was just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world. Later on, she took the midnight train going anywhere, and we all know where that leads! As for him, well, he's a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit. He was also fated to take the same midnight train going anywhere, but at least we know where he started out!

Well, they got involved with each other. Some say they met in a revolving door at the bus depot and just started going around together. But all the ingredients were there...a singer in a smoky room, a smell of wine and cheap perfume, and that's tough, because you can't smoke inside rooms any more, and have you ever tried getting the aroma of wine and cheap perfume out of a denim jacket? We heard later that she was working in a redundant position at a free dental clinic, because according to one of her postcards, "
For a smile they can share the night... It goes on and on and on and on" (italics mine.)

The night can be a lonely place, and the heart is a lonely hunter. She saw strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night. Apparently, some of the people she met worked as support poles for nocturnal illumination outlets, because in a email to his cousin Francie, he described "streetlight people, living just to find emotion, hiding somewhere in the night." It is very hard to hide when outfitted as a light pole, as Allen Ginsberg could have told you.

On the Fourth of July last year, we got word that someone had seen him on ESPN in that hot-dog eating contest at Coney Island, where he reported that he was working hard to get (his) fill. He told interviewers that it was true that everybody in the crowd wants a thrill at such an event, but when total abdominal stretch-out has been attained, the experienced competitive eaters among us are out there paying anything to "roll the dice" (euphemism for tossing one's cookies, as it were) just one more time.

Some WILL win, and some WILL lose, but only Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley and (debatably) Barry Manilow were born to sing the blues. Last we heard from our Greyhound lovehounds, they were attending a Matthew McConnaughey cinematic retrospective, where it truly seems like the movie never ends: it goes on and on and on and on.
Don't stop believing, you two crazy kids. Hold on to that feeling. Glad to be able to share your story, if only out of coercion.

And for the sake of the PowerPoint presentation for this saga, here's one of those charts that are often the last thing someone attending a daylong training session can remember from the post-luncheon part of the class:

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Open Wide, Please

Listen, I know that this makes me another kind of Philistine for even suggesting that hotshot commercial photographers are overdoing something, but I saw a magazine ad with Lucy Liu's face on it, except she had her eyes closed. I know, I know, it's more of that over-stylization that was so doggone popular a few years ago, but here I sit, hoping that someone - anyone - can tell me how a picture of anyone is more attractive with their eyes intentionally shut. Unless it's an ad for eye shadow or some other makeup. And what family album would be complete without a really great group photo of the time Al took everyone for a nice picnic, and then when the pictures came back, Uncle Ray or Cousin Selma blinked at the exact moment that the camera's aperture did, leaving countless descendants to try to figure what happened: did Ray blink just then, or was he sound asleep with the family all gathered around him anyway?

So - arty or not - please, photographers, unless your subject is praying or demonstrating sleep techniques or makeup, this closed-eye-and-smiling pose is way overdone.

And then we turn to another favorite topic - warnings! I think I first noticed this about twenty years ago when I bought a sledge hammer, and walking out of the store I hefted the hammer and saw a little decal on the shank, a warning sticker that advised me that I should refrain from striking any part of my body or anyone else's with the hammer because it could cause bodily injury! Dag, who would have thought of that? But then I realized that the corporate lawyers had told the hammer manufacturers, "Listen, guys, we have to put this sticker on the hammers or else someone will smash their clavicle and then say, 'Well, no one warned me not to!'" And so now we see the commercial for McDonald's:

We viewers are to believe that these attractive people have nothing better to do than to collect a lot of free Coca-Cola glasses from McDonald's by purchasing certain meals, and then run home, place the glasses on a table, and turn the glasses into a rhythmic glockenspiel. OK, they're having fun, but almost at the end of the spot a warning flashes on the screen

G L A S S E S . A R E . B R E A K A B L E.

"Well, cut off my legs and call me 'Shorty' ! Turns out, glass is breakable, Elviry! Guess we oughtn't to smash 'em together too hard, lest shards of tinted Coca-Cola advertising pierce a major artery, leading to an untimely exsanguination !"

Next thing you know, you'll see warnings posted against leaping from tall tree branches, trying to cross a busy street with your eyes closed (unless some hotshot commercial photographer is snapping pictures of you at the time), and discussing theater in a crowded firehouse. But the warnings that ought to be posted, never are! Such as "Do not vote for drug-addled playboys" or "Do not expect Alex Rodriguez to be a faithful husband"...and so on, and so forth. Heed the unwritten signs, too!