Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving fun fotos

When I carve, I wear surgical gloves. Not one oz. of turkey escapes my finely honed scalpel.



In tribute to Garrison Keillor and Studs Terkel, I wear red socks every day. Sometimes when I'm taking pictures of the family small fry from the angle of a recliner, the socks get in the picture. I did coordinate with Mason's pjs!


Hope you had a great Thanksgiving -we have so much for which to give thanks!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coroner and Ives

Jean Shepherd wrote years ago, in “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”, about how we see newsreel footage of tribal customs, folkways and local celebrations and rites from all over the world, and find them alternately quaint, charming, revolting or mystifying.



Shep went on to say how a turnabout might be interesting, to have villagers from some remote “backward” civilization (meaning: no Panera, no cable, limited access to all the great advances of American society) see footage depicting Western courtship rituals. You know the story - nervous young man drapes necktie around neck to Make A Good Impression On The Parents, and we're off to the dance.



I think about Shep whenever I see a story like this come across the wires:



NEW YORK -- Police say a Wal-Mart worker has died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers shortly after the Long Island store opened Friday.



Nassau County police say the 34-year-old worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened. The cause of death was not immediately known.



A police statement says a throng of shoppers "physically broke down the doors, knocking him to the ground." Police also say a 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation.



Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in Bentonville, Ark., would not confirm the reports of a stampede during the day-after-Thanksgiving bargain hunting, but said a "medical emergency" caused them to close the store.



Now I mean, really, people. Fact is, I remember when they opened the WalMart near us about a dozen years ago, and I had just gotten to work at 6 AM the day after Thanksgiving that November when the store manager called 911 to report that the mob thronging outside his store was coming close to breaking down windows and doors in an effort to lay their hands on the merchandise that they simply HAD to have that Christmas. I’m guessing they had their hearts set on Hanson CDs, VHS tapes of Rainman and Big Mouth Billy Bass, the singing fish all mounted for display.



Anyway, it was rather harrowing to hear pure undiluted fear in that guy’s voice. He lowered his volume, apparently hoping that the doorbangers would then lower theirs, but the only effect was the creation of an eerie, portentous telephone sound. He said he saw the front windows actually “breathing” in and out as the crowd surged. We wound up suggesting that he simply open the doors a few minutes early, rather than let the crowd break them down.



But look at the news story. Have we really become a nation in which people are so fervid to demonstrate their love for their deity that they will trample store personnel while purchasing gifts to hand out in celebration of the deity’s arrival date?



Turn that around, as Shepherd did, and wonder if we told the story to the inhabitants of the most remote village on earth –a village so remote that their coupons expire before they ever get chance to get to Sears, a village so far away that radio signals announcing Lindbergh’s safe arrival are just getting to them, a place so distant that they don’t have a Home Depot because there was no store to go to for the building supplies to build one – and ask yourself if even those benighted denizens of Faroffia would wonder what the hell we are doing over here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tribute to a friend


Not this Buddy!

My friend Jim down Florida way sent me some sad news tonight. His dog, a greyhound named Buddy, passed away last week, aged 14. Of course, since I relate to virtually event life event through a Simpsons vignette, I recall how Bart came to be the human companion for his ex-greyhound racer named Santa's Little Helper. SLH is not exactly Einstein in fur. But, my buddy's buddy Buddy was one of those canine companions who did more than sit around the front porch like the hound on Hee-Haw. Turns out that Buddy was a dog who would go with Jimbo to nursing homes to cheer the lame and halt, the dispirited, the lonely. Previously, Buddy had gone as a pet therapy dog, and had done a lot of good for people in need of psychotherapy. I guess that Buddy approached all these duties with dogged devotion, I dunno.



I've never been much on having pets around the house, for no reason greater than to avoid the grief Jimbo is currently experiencing. Casting about for ways to help balm his soul, I think of the obvious, which is to remind him that his life was all the better for having taken Buddy in and sharing him with the afflicted, the despondent, the lonesome. Better to have loved and lost, I know. But dang, it's gotta hurt. I am sorry, Jimbo. Godspeed, Buddy. We can hope your soul comes back as a new companion for Jim.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

I just bet myself I could list ten things for which I am thankful without even stopping to think.

Here I go:


1 - Peggy

2 - family

3 - friends

4 - having a meaningful and enjoyable job

5 - seeing young people fall in love

6 - my love of music

7 - my love of humor

8 - there are still good things to eat even when on a diet

9 - there is always something else good to read

10 - Peggy (she counts double)


H A P P Y
T H A N K S G I V I N G !

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You have to be cool to wear a hat like this.


For our message of inspiration today, we turn to the words of Mr Robert J Ritchie of Romeo, Michigan, better known to his loyal fans as Kid Rock. He might just as well call himself Kid Hard rock Southern rock Rap rock Heavy metal Country rock Blues rock Hip hop and ballad country rock, but that would hardly fit on a tshirt. He is a versatile performer, and I think that's why I like his music so much. I mean, I have home-burned CDs where I'm all over the board: crooners, twangers, classical and headbangers. And..Kid Rock.


KR is quoted in Entertainment Weekly, saying, "I've never tried to be anything except who I am. It's gotten me in trouble, it's gotten me accolades, it's made me money, got me sued, made me fall in love, made he hate women, it's made me everything you can think of. And I'm the last person you're gonna hear complain."



Finally! Someone who appreciates where they are and how they got there! And no complaints!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"33"



Any listing of the greatest American inventions would be lengthy, and would open up many a debate. From air conditioning (Willis Carrier, 1902) to the zipper (Whitcomb L. Judson, 1893), the list covers great American advances in many fields: in science (Polaroid cameras), medicine (defibrillator), food service (Jell-O), communication (typewriter), agriculture (tractor), shooting each other for no reason (revolver) and golden-years dating (Viagra).



From Miami to Seattle, from Bangor to Bakersfield, from New York to San Francisco, whenever and wherever a need has existed, it's been our way - the American way - to step up and solve the problem. Without the combined efforts of Carrier and Judson, we'd be walking around with our whatsises exposed to all sorts of heat and cold. Thanks to Henry Ford, we can drive to the Toyota dealership.



And now, once again America has solved a longtime need: How to guzzle five cups o'draft at once. Working in tandem with hydraulics engineers from the Schlitz Institute, this fellow has shown that the two-handed approach still works best:


For Discussion:

...do you think he wore that shirt to work, or stopped home to change before going out?

...the look of frank admiration on the blond at the bar: will it lead to even more stacking?

Monday, November 24, 2008

In the Field of Office Politics...

This has probably happened where you work or go to school or hang out...someone gets transferred, demoted, the whole gawdam Hickenlooper deal goes bad and someone has to walk the plank, someone takes the rap. That happens...just add water, stir and there you are: instant pariah!




In an office setting, He-Or-She-Who-Is-To-Hang-From-The-Yardarm
is suddenly He-Or-She-Who-Is-Not-Spoken-To. People avoid their desk, cubicle or booth like the Olsen Twins avoid mashed potatoes. Waiting for their furniture to be moved, the deposed one finds great interest in counting just how many paper clips come in a box, or working online Sudoku puzzles. It's crappy, it's unfair, but it happens.



How would you like to have it happen to you in front of 70,000 partial witnesses? The Philadelphia Eagles, surprised at their offensive ineptitude against the Ravens yesterday, benched longtime quarterback Donovan McNabb after halftime, in order to let a second-year guy who was REALLY inept wing the old pigskin around, most often to Ravens.



What struck me about it all was how poor McNabb, banished to the sidelines, stood all alone, bundled up in a hoodie, and no one - no coach, player or waterboy - came over and had his back. He just stood there, his job gone, his pride gone with it, all alone, without a friend to call his own.



It just would have been SO cool if he had pulled out a handheld Sudoku game and stood there working on that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The kind of tie Donovan McNabb understands

The whole of society can easily be broken down into two groups:

Those who will go around wearing a skinny scarf with a sports jacket or suit...and those who will not.

The list of those who will would include Boz Scaggs and that Adam Levine guy from Maroon 5 .


The list of those who don't would include me, and, I'm guessing, John Madden and Brian Williams. Dr. Phil strikes me as the kind of guy who would go for that look, if he felt daring enough.


Was having lunch with Peggy, Laura and the twins when in walked a guy so dripping with coolness that he sported this look along with an ill-fitting suit, which I am assured is all the rage. He swaggered through the (coffee) beanery with a cockiness atypical for such a young man. All Hail the King of Paneraland!



I'd like to report just what he chose for his midday meal, but I lost interest in his haberdashery when Mason and Preslee started talking to me. "Mark Sandwich!," hollered Preslee, skillfully conflating my name and her luncheon order. Mason was intently playing with her drawing toy, reveling in taking off her teeny shoes, and taking teeny bites of a grilled cheese sandwich.


Oh! the important thing here is to wear no tie! And that's what John Roberts
on the CNN early morning news has been doing for the last several days. I don't know that I want to take my news from a man on tv without a tie. Even in the days when our local news had a guy do the weather, sponsored by a chain of gas stations, he wore the complete gas station dress outfit - including a leather bow tie.

I haven't been wearing a tie to work very often this year, but then again I'm not on TV in millions of homes. I just keep wondering if Roberts slopped oatmeal down his front day after day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is there a neologism meaning "a new word"?


I hope they show the time where they traded guns to the Indians for
corn, and then the Indians shot them and took the corn.
-- Bart Simpson, watching "Young Jebediah Springfield"


So the Collins Dictionary has decided to include the word "meh" in its forthcoming edition. "Meh", which sounds vaguely Yiddish to me, has its roots in a Simpsons episode. It's an interjection ("What's wrong?" "Meh. Nothin' really") or an adjective (turnout for the McCainFest was sort of meh) - the written equivalent of a shoulder shrug.


The writers of the Simpsons have been spackled with glory before. Now that the word "cromulent" is so prominent in our everyday parlance, it's interesting to recall that it didn't even exist before the Lisa the Iconoclast episode (1996). The students are watching a film about the glory days of their hometown's founder, Jebediah Springfield, and we hear this:


Jebediah: [on film] A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.


to which Bart's teacher, Ms Krabapple, says:


Edna: Embiggens? I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield



Ms.Hoover: I don't know why. It's a perfectly cromulent word.


(It should be noted that the teachers are smoking cigarettes in the classroom while the kids watch the glorified adventures of their town's namesake.)


So from that spark arose the flame, and now the word cromulent is in several dictionaries, meaning valid or acceptable. And of course, that means that cromulent isn't really cromulent!


Listen, it's just not the Joes (Six-Pack and Plumber) out there realizing that The Simpsons have not only helped to form our culture, but our language, as well. Mark Liberman, director of the Linguistic Data Consortium, says, "The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture's greatest source of idioms, catchphrases and sundry other textual allusions."

I ripped off that quote from Wikipedia, but don't have a cow, man!

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's a Marshmallow World

It happened a little early this year, and the old-timers sat and shook their shaggy heads and thought of seasons past, times remembered.



There was a time when it always came into our lives by Veterans’ Day, and we accepted our fates, trudging along back to our meager huts in the lengthening shadows. Just as back-to-school pants purchased for adolescents in August are ankle-revealers by November, we accepted the inevitable. When it came, mothers held the young ones just a little tighter, and fathers donned the extra apparel required and headed out to face the enemy, the little muscles in their jaws rippling as they girded their loins.



And heaven knows we can’t have an ungirded loin around here, can we now?



Times changed and we grew up, and it seemed as though the seasons changed with us. Oh, we had joy, and we had fun, and we had seasons in the sun, just like in the song, only not quite so carefree, because we always had one eye looking over our shoulder and the other tuned to channel 62.



The Weather Channel.



Soundgarden did that song called “Black Hole Sun.”



We are speaking of White Hell Snow, as Baltimore regards it.



We have a curious relationship with snow. Why, just the other day, I was watching a televised football match from Pittsburgh, a gritty industrial city hard by a river, and there was snow coming down on the fans and the players alike, and yet there was no sign of people leaving the stadium once the first flakes wafted earthward. Here in Charm City, why, we have our tv news reporters standing alongside all major highways and atop key bridges (bad pun alert!) the day BEFORE snow might begin falling; I guess this is to give us a baseline measurement of non-snow-clogged traffic, against which to gauge the next day.



Of course, traffic reports on television news are only good if you happen to be driving a car while watching television, and if that’s the case, you’re probably going to be ON the traffic report before too long.



Yesterday, we had some snowflakes fall on us, and one could hear the cry, the muttering, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (is there anything else gnashable besides teeth?) that rings throughout our town all winter long: B.M.T!



BMT can mean so many things elsewhere – Behavior Management Therapy, Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit, Bilateral Myringotomy Tympanostomy (heaven forbid!), Big Mothereffin’ Truck (again!) –but here, it’s sort of a code, meaning "got to get down to the Try ‘N’ Save and stock up on BREAD, MILK and TOILET PAPER!"



According to local lore, back in the day, a sudden snowstorm came along and no one was able to get out to the U-Bag-It for days and days. Children were forced to eat peanut butter and jelly right out of the jar and drink Hi-C Orange, Almond Smash, NeHi Grape and other revolting soda pops, resulting in a collective sugar high that was not resolved until the good people at Boone’s Farm brought their fruit-flavored goodness along.



And as for TP – well, they had the Mongomery Wards catalog back then. I don’t know what we’d use now. I mean, Sunday and Thursday we have the Examiner, but that leaves five days a week…Better head to the Pay-No-More.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Welcome to the Club!

So times have changed. Whereas once, astronauts were named Gus Grissom and Deke Slayton, today we read that they have names like Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, a crew member on the International Space Station, and so, they can even be female! Holy rocketships! Next they'll want to vote...drive cars...own property...


It is a pleasure to welcome a new member to the inept fix-it-club. I earned my stripes for chewing up the extension cord for my hedge trimmer. I used the hedge trimmer to do it, which is sort of like biting yourself in the elbow. Ms Stefanyshyn-Piper had the lousy luck to step outside the ISS and try to use her tool kit to clean out a gummed-up joint. Once out there, tethered to the spacecraft, high above the heavens, a good twenty miles from the nearest Panera, she discovered that her grease gun, inside her tool bag, had schqueeeezed out all over the place. She tried to clean up the mess. As she did, the tool bag left her hand. Had this taken place here on terra firma, the tool bag would have landed on the kitchen floor, or wherever. But this is outer space, so the tool bag and all the tools left her to go on a weightless trip into outer space. Who knows - maybe they'll clomp some Martian right on the melon or something! But I can totally see myself doing that! In or out of outer space!


And don't even think of telling me that The Simpsons didn't foresee all this, in their 1994 episode "Deep Space Homer." That's the one in which Homer confuses President Zachary "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor with old lazy singer James "Old Lazy Singer" Taylor . But why couldn't they have predicted flying tools in outer space? Truth really is funnier than fiction.

UPDATE: Live. local. legbreaking!
The toolbag that fluttered off was valued at $100,000. I thought I had seen Heidemarie in line in front of me at Home Depot!



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There's a New Age Coming!

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage-
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
-and any wave signs on the dotted line

or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn-valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude-and march denounces april as a saboteur


then we'll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind(and not until)

e e cummings


Well, mr cummings had an idea when he wrote this one, didn't he? In three quatrains and a couplet, he describes a world we don't know - a world in which nature starts acting nutty - the way people do!


I got to thinking about this one earlier today. Last Friday, I stopped at Barnes & Noble and bought the new Enya
CD for Peggy. She reported this morning, with no small amount of exasperation, that her car’s CD player spit the CD out every time she tried to insert it.


Heh heh - he said “insert.“


Now, in the interest of honesty, I must point out that Enya’s is not the sort of music I care for. In fact, I bought the CD with a certain trepidation - not that I didn’t want Peggy to have this CD that she so wanted, but because of my fear that I might be truckjacked on my way home, and then in tomorrow morning’s Baltimore SUN there would be an entry in the Police Blotter that said, in part:
“…the police reported that the victim was robbed at gunpoint of his Toyota pick-up-truck, red in color but in need of a good waxing, his lunch bag, his work bag, and an Enya CD.”



Heh heh - he said "Enya."


How does one explain that? I’d as soon not be a victim of crime, if that’s how this works.


But what if cummings was on to something? You know how they always claim - “they” - that nature has bred a breed of super rats who are impervious to all of our poisons, who scoff at our traps, whose only known weakness is watching all those CSI shows?


What if we are developing a type of CD player that refuses, on purely aesthetic grounds, to play New Age music?


How about a toaster oven that refuses to brown any Thomas Corn Toast-R-Cakes, since they taste like a mouthful of sugar with a kernel of corn?


A TV that won’t show Fox News?



A glass that won’t hold Dr Pepper?


Musk cologne for men that won’t come out of the bottle, thereby sparing hundreds an olfactory assault?


I’m assured by operatives over at Best Buy that we now have a setting on DVD players that will eject, with maximum prejudice, any disc containing “acting” by Jim Belushi.




Thanks for the idea, e e
!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's it to you?


The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms.

- Justice William O. Douglas


Got home last night and watched the local news, and there was a rally downtown against California's passage of Proposition 8, which seeks to end gay marriage. This being 3,000 miles from California, it must be that people are realizing that a threat to their freedom from far away can become much closer if action is not taken. Much as I love several people in California, we must remember that many people out there thought that sending Sonny Bono to the US Congress was also a good idea.


One of the rally participants was a woman I used to work with, who has been with her partner for years and years. They are as solid a couple as any I have known, and they ought to have the right to live legally as a married couple, enjoying all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto. Lee and Michele went to Vermont and were married (or participated in a civil union, whatever the term is legally) when that state realized that people had the right to choose whom to pair up with.


I care so much about this topic that I am not even going to try to noodle out how to end the preceding sentence without a preposition at the end. Hell, I might even split an infinitive when I really get to frantically type about this.


See what I made me do?


I know that you can find in the Bible a passage about it being an abomination for a man to lie with a man. While you're thumbing through your copy to find that verse, I'll show you the one about Thou Shalt Not Kill, and ask if you supported this Iraqi genocide, and then we'll lose sight of the original argument.


There are people who believe that a woman could be president of the United States, but can't be the preacher down at the little church on the corner, because the Bible tells that men are in charge of everything, and woman shall cleave unto a man, and where does all this cleaving leave us?


I really doubt that there is much on which I will agree with Caribou Barbie here,

because she represents that narrow-minded stoniness that has kept so many people so miserable for so many years. But she has the right to her own opinions and actions, and what's it to me where she goes to church or how she raises her kids or how many times she trots out that tired old "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" line? It's only when people wish to take their opinions and be sworn into public office with an agenda of suppression that I have to raise my hand.


You know I love that good old classic country music...like Faron Young's song from 1960 "A World So Full of Love (With Not Enough To Go Around)." It could be a world full of love for everyone who wants some love, if we could just learn to let people love whom they wish.


Oh no! cry the nay-sayers! We don't care if they're together, y'unnerstan', but they can't get married because, well, a marriage is between one man and one woman. Or, between David Duchovny and a veritable phalanx of arousal sources, or between Madonna and her next one, or Britney Spears in some Vegas Hillbilly high school boyfriend hotel weekend package marriage. How many straights hide behind marriage to cover infidelity, spousal assault and other forms of abuse, and who's calling them out on that?


Think of it this way - why should two people who commit to each other not be able to cover one another under insurance, sign for each other's surgery in a hospital, and have other family values just because they don't happen to be of opposite genders?


Think of this, too, when you watch Humphrey Bogart valiantly struggle against both juvenile crime and excess sibilance in "Knock On Any Door" - drive down the street in your neighborhood - or yours - or yours - and what do you think is going on behind closed doors? You don't know, because the people behind those doors have a right to privacy. As Oscar Wilde said it, as long as they aren't scaring the horses in the street, who cares who does what with their lover?


If you really have the time to worry about someone else's sex life, I say you have time that you could use elsewhere. Go volunteer someplace and quit worrying about others.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christening

It takes a lot for something to be cooler than Jerry Lewis on Labor Day, but the little handful of cuteness that you see pictured below, greatniece Isabella, arrived here the first Monday of this past September and upstaged the great comic without so much as one "Hey Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaady!"

(Did I ever mention the time that my parents went with Peggy and me to see Jerry in "Damn Yankees" at Baltimore's Lyric Theater? Early in the first act came a puff of smoke, an abra-cadabra moment, and when the smoke cleared, there he stood, Mephisto in Maryland. The crowd rose to its feet as one, and then I turned out to be almost the last one standing applauding the man, his philanthropy and his legacy of performance. At length, my father, seated, bade me to do the same. It was Dad who, looking over the Playbill for that show, pointed out that only a towering ego such as Jerry could write his own autobio and not mention Dean Martin, which was sort of like Stephen Hawking writing his thumbnail sketch and leaving out theoretical physics.)

But Labor Day brought us Izzy, and what a sweet bundle of hugs she is. We had a great time at the christening, and then at the party afterward. Here she is, held by her Mom, Jamie, with her Dad, my nephew Jay, in the suit behind her. Godparents are one of Jamie's brothers, David, and one of her sisters, Gabrielle.








It was a fun day for family and friends, which, when you think about it, is all that really counts. Next to join the family lineup will be baby Finley, daughter of Jay's brother Drew and his wife Laura. She is due to arrive after the holidays. Watch this space for more photos!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tell Me a Story!

I'm asked the same questions over and over.


..how tall are you, anyway? (6' 5")




..have you really been happily married for 35 years? (as Paul Harvey would say, on our way to together forever!)




..why do you wear shorts in the winter? (my legs do not get cold.)



..what's the matter with you, you think you're such a wise guy? (mild neurosis, a smattering of OCD, an unfettered sense of humor)



...where do you come up with the stories you spin on this blog?




To that one, I can only reply that, unlike the fables of Larry King, my stories are true. It still cheeses me quite a bit to know that the stories that King used to ramble on with, on his overnight radio show, were 99% balloon oil. For instance, the Carvel ice cream story, the one that he would tell only by special request for some insomniac calling from Dubuque, features a long trip to get ice cream for some rough 'n' ready Brooklyn boys, one of whom is supposed to be Sanford "Sandy" Koufax , but is not. Maybe Larry thought that "Sonny" Koufax from "Big Daddy" was in that car with him, except that "Big Daddy" didn't come out until 1999, by which time Larry was busy hauling his 8th wife (if you're scoring at home, and you have to wonder if Larry is) off to a much nicer ice cream place. What could be sadder than claiming to be friends with someone who later says he never even met you? Next time we have the Cheneys over dinner, Dick and I will discuss this at length.



Ahem. I will now tell the absolutely true New York story, which concerns my friend named John.



Come back with me to the early 1960's, when the New York Giants football team actually played in New York. My buddy and his date and another couple went up to Fun City to see the Colts play the Giants.

After the game, they all went to "21" or some other such hoity-toity Manhattan hot spot for dinner. They went in and saw a thin guy leaning up against the maître d's station, wearing a tuxedo and smoking a cigarette in that languid fashion so popular among the ultra-cool.

(In my mind's eye, I have always seen this character being portrayed by Joseph Campanella.)

So here they are, four Baltimore youngsters in the Big Town, looking for a Big Time, and the guys, having seen dozens of Adolphe Menjou films, know the surest way to get around a surly NY maître d' is to slip him a finsky. You know, a five-spot, a half a sawbuck. "My eyes start to blinkin' when I flash on some Lincoln," said Little Richard, and we can only pray that he was talking about the five-dollar bill, and not the 16th president.



So my buddy's buddy buddies up to the tux and backhands him a folded-up fiver.



The guy looks at the bill, sneeringly, pockets it, draws deeply on his Winston and exhales both smoke and words that, even now, echo through the ages:



"I don't work here, you stooopid baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaastid!"


And that's the way it was.


Friday, November 14, 2008

You Never Know

I have the greatest assistant in the world.


Without going into a lot of details about our work, let's just say that it involves building and facilities maintenance, supplies, shipping, stocking and security.

No one person can reasonably be expected to know everything, but Beth does. She is on top of everything. Nothing surprises her or gets past her. I never hear her say, "Oh I forgot to do something that was due last week..."

Beth is always courteous with people on the phone or in person, she represents our department and bureau flawlessly, and no detail escapes her, so nothing is ever left undone.

When I forget to do something, she invariably reminds me, but in the most kind and gentle way. Instead of saying, "Hey! You forgot to send in the credit card report!" she will say something like "I guess today's a good day to send in that report; do you agree?"

And of course, she labors under the additional handicap of having me one office away, meaning that she is often subjected to my bursts of song snippets (featuring tributes to Mario Lanza and Bob Dylan), lame jokes, arcane pop culture references*, tired limericks, oft-repeated anecdotes, half-witted rejoinders and donkey-like guffaws.

(* My former boss grew up in Philadelphia and his assistant coach in high school football was one Freddie Cocozza, who changed his name and soared to fame as Mario Lanza, the masculine form of his mother's maiden name, Maria Lanza. If Beth has heard this story once, she's heard it a thousand times! Which is how many times she has heard me sing the largo from "The Loveliest Night of the Year"!)

Because she is the way she is, everyone likes her a lot, and because the people we deal with know that she is straightforward, they take her at her word for things, and so she can deal with issues in my absence without a seam.

I could go on all day long about what a great co-worker Beth is, but right now she is in a lot of pain from some sort of back/nerve/leg thing. Such is her dedication that she even came in today to help me make sure the payroll was done right, and that was about all she could take. Her husband came and took her home, and I hope that the doctor she is going to see soon will be able to fix her up good as new.

Now we're going to find out how very true my saying is: "Do you want to speak to the man in charge or the woman who knows what's going on?"

I'll be doing all the 1,001 daily tasks she performs so flawlessly for a while, and that's a good thing, because it reminds me of how many tasks it takes to get our job done right.

Beth, you are the best, and we all miss you. Get well soon, and please come back to us when you can!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

There's a certain intersection on my way home from the wellness workout place; there's a Wendy's, a couple of car repair places, a big old house that someone turned into a big old real estate office, and a shopping center with a grocery store and my bank. I call it 'my bank' because, well, it's where Peggy and I have what we laughingly call "our savings." For those interested in food delivered by tiny model railroad cars, right where this shopping center sprawls across the land, there used to be a restaurant called "Hamburger Junction." The cook would load your bacon cheeseburger onto a flatcar back in the kitchen, the chow would travel through the beanery on model railroad tracks, and some sort of routing system made the flatcar stop right in front of you. Baltimore is always on the cusp of new methods of food presentation. Although Hamburger Junction closed down decades ago, we now have some sort of Brazilian steakhouse downtown where the food is brought out to you on the tip of a sword, and carved to your order with a dagger. We haven't ventured down there to eat because, well, it's downtown! and plus, it would cost about fifty Brazilian dollars to eat there.


But anyway, back to the intersection where Hamburger Junction used to be, for some reason, every time I try to get through the light there, some meathead(s) is (are) gridlocking the intersection. Here's what I don't get about their modus operandi : they sit at the light, seeing that traffic is still backed up at the next light (the main drag, Harford Rd) and then, right before their light turns red (and mine turns green) they decide to pull into the intersection, knowing damn well they aren't going any further.

Then, the Appropriate Thing To Do, as outlined in the Poor Driver's Almanac, is to sit and stare straight ahead, not once turning your head askance to see the looks of approbation being aimed your way like pepperoni raining down on a 14 incher at Papa Chubby's Pizzeria. Looks, and the occasional digital salute, and every now and then a salty member of the immobilized driving public will offer a suggestion for a really novel method of self-gratification.

But hey, gridlockers! It's your world; we're just driving in it! Or not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

That's LIFE

Among my favorite reading material, you'll find dozens of boxes of old LIFE magazines. I started collecting them maybe 20 years ago, and just like most things, I set up perimeters (such as the one forbidding me to use the word parameter except when describing an independent variable used to express the coordinates of a variable point and its functions) and so I don't collect any post-1969 copies. And, no Beatles albums past "Help!"

What I like most about LIFE is the old ads, to tell you the truth. The articles, mainly photo essays, are good, but they reflect an America and a world that never really existed, as time has borne out. Yes, they covered World War II very well, and then they were a little late to the dance on the social and political upheavals of the 50's and 60's. But the ads! Doctors telling you what kind of cigarette is actually GOOD FOR YOU to smoke! Refrigerators that actually held more than a rib roast and a package of sausage - and frost-free, no less! Teach yourself how to be a tree surgeon in the privacy of your own back yard! "Dog nearly scratches self to death!" Call long distance to let the folks know you got home safely - it's only $3.15 for three minutes after 6 pm!

So, I enjoy reading the old magazines, and of course buying them in antique shops means that every so often you find a little bonus in there - Aunt Maddie's priceless heirloom recipe for pecan divinity fudge written in the margin of an article about the quiz show scandals, or a bill from a haberdashery tucked in between the two-page spread on Jerry Lewis's dream house in Hollywood.


All the haberdasheries had to be torn down to make room for men's clothing stores.

The price has gone up a bit - I used to find them for two or three bucks, and now people want ten or more in a lot of places, which is why my collection is not exactly growing exponentially.

Until today!

We were at an antique store in North East (the name of a town in Northeastern Maryland) and I found the usual display source of old LIFEs - a wooden crate. Even though the magazines were all marked $10, $12, some as high as $18 - there was a sign on the front of the box that said "All magazines 50¢ each." Feeling much like a rabbinical student who just stumbled upon the long-rumored but as-yet-unlocated carbon copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I scooted back to the cashier, a man who only moments ago had been loudly enjoying his lunch, to get verification of the price. He said he'd come and check, and went back with me, and at first I thought that life was once again hoisting the "too good to be true" flag because he said, "Now, here's another sign - all items 50% off - so, all these magazines are a quarter." He said he didn't know why, but the owner just wanted to get rid of them, he supposed.

You know how they can sell a single Honus Wagner baseball card for millions of dollars? Did you ever stop to think that somewhere back around 1906 or whenever it was that some tobacco company printed those cards, only to be told to knock it off by the nonsmoking Wagner, some guy - a whole lot of guys, probably - got those cards with their smokes and then tossed out a fortune? All these copies of LIFE that I bought today sold for a dime or 15 cents at newsstands back in the day.


The total price, had I paid the marked asking price, was $304.

I paid $6.15.

Life is freakin' sweet!



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You really don't

This is the kind of house your salary affords you when you're Don Geronimo (please see the final of the four things on my mind in that entry.) Or, when you were Don Geronimo.





The lovely house with privacy gates and wooded surroundings was the dream home of radio's Donnie G, who along with sidekick Mike O'Meara brought the Don and Mike Show home to weary afternoon commuters and guys who got home before their wives for over 20 years. This is a doggone fine and fancy house - notice the tanning bed room, the game room, the outdoor fireplace and so forth. It's how you can live when you're making well over a million semolians a year by cracking wise on the radio.











It's where Don and his beloved wife Frida lived, along with their son Bart.



But Frida died in July of 2005 in a stupid senseless head-on car crash not far from their weekend house in Ocean City MD. A young man was in a hurry so he pulled out to pass on a two-lane highway, running right into Frida's SUV. And Don, for all he was worth, stopped living then too.






He tried to go on with the show - the witty banter, the rants about people who talked in movie theaters and his birth mother who gave him up for adoption, the pranks and silliness that made sitting in traffic or mowing the lawn or layering a lasagna a little less bothersome - but he never really could get back in the groove. And so he found he couldn't live in that house any longer either: too many memories of Frida.




So, he walked away from the radio show and drove to Ocean City, where he lives today, probably living only as Mike Sorce (his real name) and not so much as wiseacre Don Geronimo.



Don Geronimo as he left the radio show. Notice the picture in his copy book.





I thought of all this over the weekend, first when I saw the real estate listing for his and Frida's dream home, and then when I saw this story on the tv news, I saw a parallel. A woman and her son are dead, and her husband is in critical condition; their other son was released from the hospital. I wasn't there; I didn't see what caused the accident and even though witnesses reported that the man driving the Jeep was driving on the shoulder of the road in an apparent hurry, I can't lay blame. This all took place just up the road in BelAir; here is a picture from the scene:








I do know that life is short enough already. Why we risk shortening it even more is something we can discuss when we get up to Heaven, where Frida surely is now.



By the way, she was an animal lover, and so Don directed the mourning listeners of his afternoon show to send money to the Worcester County Humane Society, where Frida's love is perpetuated in better care for four-legged critters.






Please, do me two favors if you read this: slow down when you drive, and when you do get to where you love someone and they love you back, please tell them so. You just never know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ah. Baltimore in Autumn. Could there be a lovelier place to be? Oh sure, there probably are lovelier places to be, but I don't want to be there. Not when I can see sights like this, about 3 minutes from our house, right after the Ravens won a game:



This is some sort of horse boarding and recreation area. So lovely, to be with Peggy, enjoying the crisp fresh air, watching these hosses in their corral. I think I bet on the one on the right at Pimlico a few years ago.



Then, just a little further up the road, we saw this recently plowed-under cornfield, with the trees so pretty behind it.



Then we came home to a chicken and sweet potato dinner, watched more football, and found a dozen more things to be grateful for. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I'd better get started giving thanks, because I have a lot for which to give thanks.



Including my gratitude to you, gentle reader!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We've all done it, and had it done to us, and I don't know which hurts the worst.




I'm thinking of busted friendships, when you've been tight with someone, and then something happens.


Sometimes it happens over a long period of time, and then it's like when someone at work loses a lot of weight, but you don't notice it because you see him/her every day. It can be a gradual process.


Or it can be one single act from a veritable cornucopia of friendship-killers. No need to give further details or examples.




And I'm not even thinking about a specific story here; I saw this picture


and it led to this one, a reminder that in all things, all we can hope for is plenty of this all around:




Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Cheap Fake iPod

I had a real iPod once for a week; got it for Christmas and it wouldn't work for nuthin'. Wouldn't load songs, battery wouldn't take a charge, and so forth. I took it back, exchanged it for a digital camera, and then figured what the heck, who needs an MP3 player.




Well, I do. I re-enrolled at the wellness center of the physical therapy place where they have worked on my achin' knees and back in the past. You might find this hard to believe, unless you know me, but in the past, rather than actually getting on the machines and doing actual exercises, I would tend to entertain the multitudes with my offcolor stories, risque double entendres and salacious poetry.



This time around, I am much more serious about conditioning, so I knew that I needed a blindfold for my ears, if you will. I got a cheapie fake iPod from Walgreens for 20 bucks and then another one from Ollie's for even less (Ollie asked me not to mention the price; he was embarrassed to be selling stuff so cheap.)



I loaded that thang up with my bizarre mix of songs old and new, and now I show up to the clinic twice a week after work, with a very serious-looking gym bag on my shoulder and a grim look of determination in my eyes. I like everyone who works there; they are helpful even beyond the norm. After exchanging brief! pleasantries, I get onto the ellipitical machne, the first of many mechanical sweat-producers to which I shall subject myself. But before I even start, I crank up the tunage, and I was wondering tonight how the people who work there would feel if they had any idea what I was listening to!




I wager that I am the proprietor of the only fakey iPod in the world where one's shuffling ears can hear "Shake Your Money Maker" by George Thorogood right after "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts' by Merv Griffin, and before "Midnight in Moscow" by Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen.


How about a medley of "Pretty Vacant" by the Sex Pistols, "The Loveliest Night of the Year" by Mario Lanza and "Drag 'Em Off the Interstate, Sock It To 'Em J. P Blues by Dick Curless? "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie (On the King of Rock 'n' Roll)" by Long John Baldry is always good to hear, and then when Marie Osmond's "Paper Roses" and "Waffle Stomp" by Joe Walsh come roaring on in, that means I dial it up another notch on the Stair-Stepper.


The great thing about paying Ollie $13.99 for an iPod knockoff that works even better than the one someone paid a couple of yards for is all the sweeter when I realize, if I get thrown off the recumbent bike and land on the thing and break it, I'm out $13.99, not two or three hundred.


Did I say "IF" I get tossed off the bike by the sheer impetus of my arduous labor? That's a "WHEN," friend.


Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Grounded

I don't spend much time on airplanes. What traveling we do is usually done in the car or the truck, or for super-long road trips we'll rent a mini-van or an oxcart. Airport horror stories around the holidays are usually enough to remind me that no matter what my lot in life, there's no reason to go to Milwaukee.



But you have to love those tv news stories about people stranded in long lines at the airport. They always show someone stretched out across two plastic seats, sawing logs as the intercom drones on and the camera tilts up and down to show all the CANCELLED flights that won't get off the ground because it rained in Iowa.



But what if you had been on this flight? I just read about some woman, apparently drunk, who broke bad on a flight from Puerto Rico to Chicago, slapping people on the butt, yanking their hair and grabbing other passengers. The plane landed in North Carolina so that the woman could be safely delivered into the hands of the authorities. She was all packaged and ready for shipment: the flight crew and two passengers bound her to a seat with duct tape to prevent her from totally freaking out.


And I bet she is also one of those people who always sit at the next table over from us at a restaurant. I don't care if the restaurant has four gold stars in the Michelin Guide, or two golden arches, no matter where I eat, there is always someone who insists that everyone in attendance wishes to hear what they have to say about a) their trip to Rochester last summer b) the fading fortunes of their 401-K plans c) how the flank steak seems a bit, I don't know, overdone or d) the eternal ingratitude of their daughter-in-law ("And we all tried to tell Frank she was wrong for him!")



Why do people holler in restaurants? Why didn't Frank realize she was just looking for a father for little Brattleboro, and she never really cared for him at all? How cool would it be to duct-tape some contumacious drunk to an airline seat?



These are the questions that confront us all.