Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You CANNOT say the word 'Waffle' without smiling

My love for waffles dates back over the decades. I blogged about the Waffles of Pensacola (makes 'em sound like a couple we met on a vacation, like the Whitecliffs of Dover !) once before, and my sister just gave me the ne plus ultra of waffle-related Christmas gifts...the Krups waffle maker, known to the trade as the waffliest of them all. It's got that feature upon which I rhapsodized so lovingly pour batter in, it cooks for a certain time, and then, upon a signal, you flip the wafflemaker over to finish off, and then a little piece of golden syrupy goodness is yours, as soon as you add syrup..

Looking back over the centuries of waffle lore, we learn that Roman legionnaires were protected from the truncheons of non-Roman legionnaires by a crude early version of a bulletproof vest made entirely of overdone waffles, fitted to the torso by skilled wafflerians.

Chuck Norris's earliest work in the field of martial arts came when, as a baby, he made an Asian throwing star by nibbling off from his waffle everything not star-shaped. From that point on, the Norris family had a terrible time keeping governesses on their staff.

Belgian waffles actually come from Holland, and may not be served in Belgium during the month of May, when Brussels Sprouts are harvested.

Roger Miller said it best, "Roses are red, violets are purple; sugar's sweet, and so is maple surple."

Waffles at our house on New Year's morning!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lame Duck

Laura Bush avers that throwing shoes at her husband is an assault, but she points out that since he is a natural athlete, he was able to duck the shoes successfully.

"The president laughed it off," she told the Associated Press. "He wasn't hurt. He's very quick. As you know, he's a natural athlete and ducked it. But on the other hand, it is an assault. And I think it should be treated that way. And I think people should think of it that way."

And now we know that George Bush missed his true calling. He certainly could have had a starring spot in the National ShoeDucking League. In fact, most any profession would have been better for him to have undertaken than politics.

On the other hand, she said the incident reflects change in Iraq.

"As bad as the incident is, in my view, it is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves," she said.

You go over to the region where you and you alone (well, you and Sancho Panza Cheney) are responsible for untold human misery, death and suffering, and people throw shoes at you, and your wife regards all this flying footwear as a sign of improved self-expression among the remaining Iraqis as yet unkilled by you.

How about if we go to a restaurant and order a meal that the waitperson regards as insufficiently nutritious? And how about if the waitron comes out of the kitchen and deliberately begins throwing steaming grits upon us? Would we celebrate his newfound ability to testify for the need for plenty of fibrous greens?

It all reminds me of the opening scene in "Wedding Crashers" in which battling divorce participants Dwight Yoakam
and Rebecca De Mornay are hissing back and forth across the settlement table about airline miles, which he earned "flying to Denver to meet his whore," she charges.

"At least she's not afraid to express herself sexually!", he retorts.

In time, maybe Chastity will feel free to toss loafers and TopSiders. I'll bet she is also "very quick."

Monday, December 29, 2008

About Sam Levenson

Sam Levenson (1911-1980) began life as a Jewish immigrant in New York's tough tenement district, and became a Spanish teacher after graduation from college. To supplement his income during summer breaks, he began performing at Catskills nightclubs, and soon became a well-known figure in comedy in clubs, radio and TV. He told stories of his upbringing, always crediting his parents with raising children in a tough setting with dignity, and while he never became as well-known as many other comics, he did leave a legacy of warm humor and wise advice. He did a lecture tour in 1966 to support his first memoir, "Everything But Money," and we saw him speak at a local college. I was impressed and began following his career (and as much of his advice as I could.)

This little compendium of advice is often attributed to Audrey Hepburn
, but Sam wrote it for his granddaughter. Audrey used to quote it all the time, often to people who thought she was Katharine Hepburn.

Time Tested Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.
The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!
That's the essence of Sam...modest, understated and wise.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stop that banging!

If you come down our street next Friday morning and take a notion to look inside our trash bag, you won't find anything too torn lingerie, spent bullet casings or hastily-pasted ransom notes (they go out with the paper recycling, next Monday). We live a quiet life on a quiet street, with our quiet hopes and aspirations.

But you will find the original keyboard that came with our new computer two years ago. It became such an object of scorn around here that it finally had to go. I don't know what happened to it, but one had almost to pound each key each time with a hammer in order to make words appear on the screen in front of one. And that was a situation up with which one would not put!

It only cost 20 semolians to get a whole new keyboard from WalMart. And look how fast I'm typing now!

Speaking of Walmart, I love 'em. I know, I know...they are snaking across the nation, squeezing the life out of local merchants. But Peggy gave me a Kid Rock CD and two Taylor Swift CDs for Christmas, and two of them had little free stickers entitling me to a free music download courtesy of WalMart. Eclectic to the end, I chose Queen's "It's Late" from News Of The World, and Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" from One Of The Boys. I'm getting sassy as the year slinks to a close.

Speaking of close, I am close to screaming about this. My Sears cordless drill died because both of its batteries did, and they would not stand a charge. So off to Sears I go, and after just a short wait while the clerk on duty in the tool department offered his girlfriend (I guess) on the phone a capsule summation of how smart he thought his boss is (not very) and how, pretty soon, he - the tool man - will be running the show IF someone will just learn to bow to his superiority, we talked business. There was certainly room to cast aspersions on SOMEONE'S chances of getting a letter from Mensa; he told me that it would cost 44 clams each to replace my batteries. I considered that for a while, out of loyalty to the old drill, which has been with me for many a trip to Guy Town, but when I found out that for far less that that - like 30 bucks less - I could get a new, better, more powerful drill,
with two batteries and a free worklight thrown in, the decision was easy to make.

My loyalty to the old drill can be found in the trash with the damned old keyboard. The drill itself, I will offer around at work, but the new one is working just fine.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Things I Learned From Andy Hardy movies

Today was a good day to relax, so after I went to physical therapy and burned off some ham and pie, Peggy and I had a nice dinner and enjoyed watching "The Courtship of Andy Hardy" on Turner Classic Movies.

This was the twelfth in the series of Hardy Family
movies, and I while I wouldn't recommend them to anyone seriously studying American mores and folkways of the 1930's and 40's, they are just swell for lolling away a lazy afternoon.

And what you can learn!

First of all, you get Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy, and life mirrors art as he struts his way through all sorts of trouble with the young ladies in his life. Rooney himself (born Joe Yule, Jr in 1920) is still around, and has been in show business since 1921, so even when he was making this particular movie in 1942, he had been performing for 21 years already. I think he has been married like seven times or something ridiculous. Andy/Mickey's jaunty bantam-rooster way of parading about uncannily reminds me a lot of a certain relative of mine, but discretion (what little I have) forbids me from mentioning any of Peggy's brothers.
So, you watch the guy, and you're seeing a ton of talent.

From the movie, we learn that Melodie
,played by the lovely Donna Reed, is considered a drip - a real "drizzle-puss" - by Andy and his school buddies. Melodie is so hideous that Andy, whose father, the judge, strongarms him to take this repulsive mess to the school dance, has to pay his friends to twirl her around the dance floor on their first date. Come the second date, and Melodie has learned a lesson. She simply puts her hair up and all of a sudden, all the guys realize she is quite pretty. Modern-day corollaries to this include sitcoms where some woman takes off her glasses, shakes out her hair, and suddenly, the handsome bachelor in the office goes, "Why, Miss Framingham! Without your glasses,'re...STUNNING!" And then they go and do it someplace.

Another common myth spun by Hollywood writers who have never lived among us but write about us as if they had is the legend of the Pretty Girl Who Sits Home On Saturday Night because everyone thinks she is all dated up and they don't even dare to dream to ask her out, so she sits at home with her hair up in italics, knocking back Diet Sprites and fudge. Son, that does not happen, and hookers don't have hearts of gold like in "Pretty Woman" and nobody participating in Roman chariot races wore a wristwatch like that one guy did in "Ben-Hur."

And, when Andy's know-it-all sister goes out on a date with a fellow who is known for being "fast" (he should have been known for being "loud"; he drove around in a car with a huge PA system so he could call out to people in houses and other cars - sort of like a pre-Nokia one-way cell phone) the guy gets shafahzed and Andy's dad throws the contents of a pitcher of water (which every kitchen always has sitting right there, right?) on the guy's melon, and of course he sobers right up and comes to his senses about this alcohol problem he's not going to allow to get the best of him.

The Hardys all dressed up big-time for dinner, at the dining room table with the solemn old judge carving and serving. Today, many families sit in their underwear, guzzling Coors Light and eating pizza, while watching "Deal Or No Deal." I am so worn out now, just from trying to get a visual on Judge Hardy tipping a Domino's guy, I think I'll put on my suit and fedora and go to bed.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You Can't Be Sad

We had some freezing rain this morning, and I am off, but was already planning to take Peggy to work today so that I could pick her up this afternoon, round up Mom, and head up to the family Christmas Eve gathering.

On the way home, I slid in one of my favorite home-burned CDs and heard Sly and The Family Stone doing "Life." Ever heard that one? It wasn't a hit, but the lyrics are so meaningful. Here's the last verse:

You're gonna be sad sometimes

You might wake up to find your pet is gone

But maybe he's tired of bein' alone

Dog gets hip, it has to go

And if you're lovin' you can't be sad no more

From this, I get the point that has so often been made: if you love someone, you've got to love them! And then you won't be "sad no more." So watch out in 2009 - I am going to try to find a thousand more ways to show those I love that I love them.

Mom's move to the senior living community means that for the first time since 1955, Christmas Eve will not be held at the old family manse. It will be just as merry to be at my sister's with all the family participants, but I will miss seeing Santa riding on the engine from Providence Volunteer Fire Company, where I spent so many days and nights as a bald-faced boy and young man. That's an annual tradition out there - been going on since the early '50's - and even though I won't be there in person, I will be there in thought.

Who knows? Maybe some new tradition will spring up in its place. Anyway, seeing the kids making merry and the chance to be together, enjoying each other's company, seeing baby Izzy experiencing her first Christmas, waiting for baby Finley to arrive in a couple of's all good.

To friends, and family, and friends I haven't met yet - Christmas love and cheer! 2009 is going to be wonderful - thanks for looking forward to it with me!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bob-bob-bobblin' along

I speak today of a huge gap in America's artistic ability.

Now I know what you're thinking, this Luddite, this philistine, how dare he assail the works of the great American artists: Jackson "Splatter" Pollock, Georgia "New Mexico" O'Keeffe, Ansel "B&W 8x10" Adams and Grandma "Grandma" Moses? Well, it's because I don't know anything about what I like; all I know is Art.

Art Fleming, Art Linkletter, Art Van De Lay: these people all deserve to have bobbleheads in their own images, the better to glorify their names and deeds.

But the people - dare we call them "artists"? - who create our bobbleheads have real problems in coming up with bobbleheads that even remotely look like the subject thereof.

Your honor, I submit this as Exhibit 'A.'
Lester Holt made a Hanukkah gift of this bobblehead, which purportedly looks like Barry Manilow, to his co-host on Sunday TODAY, the marvelous Jenna Wolfe. Look at the face here - you seein' Barry? Nor do I.

Someone has been hawking this one
in honor of Sammy Davis, Jr. It more closely resembles a tanned Robert Goulet. And I mean that, man.

The first bobbleheads I can remember seeing were in the football motif - I had a little pudgy BALTIMORE
Colt (is there any other kind?) - and here we see Mr Peyton Manning's little bobbler, the spitting image of Steve Carell. And the one of Tom Brady puts me in mind of none other than Don Ameche.

This artistic shortcoming also rears ugly heads when Americans turn to sculpture. Up the road in Aberdeen, our own sainted Cal Ripken, Jr., was honored with a statue of himself right alongside Rt. 40. It looked for all the world as if someone had a statue all made up to salute New York's diminutive Mayor Bloomberg, and when that order was canceled, they quickly sculpted a new head and grafted it onto the shoulders, the entire result bearing no more resemblance to Cal than it did to Owen Wilson.

And need I even mention the statue of Babe Ruth
at Oriole Park at Camden Yards - in the very shadow of the neighborhood where young Babe was adjudged "incorrigible" and remanded to the care of the orphanage where he learned to make shirts and play baseball - a statue which shows the Babe with a right-hander's glove? The Babe did everything left-handed - ask any chorus girl, bartender or any other sculptor.

I only bring this up because I fear America might lose its pre-eminent status among the art world's cognoscenti. Already, Mexico is challenging our global supremacy in the field of gunning each other down for no reason, and England has retaken the lead in the production of English muffins.

Let's not let some second-rate power top us in bobblehead glory. May I have the audacity
to hope for that much?

Monday, December 22, 2008

YouTube Freebies

Please gather the entire family around for the reading of our annual family tradition...but because we're a modern-type family, just enjoy the video version. Yes, friends, it's Robert Earl Keen, here to ask the musical question, "Merry Christmas From the Family." This certainly has nothing to do with my family, but we (Peggy and I ) love the everyman touch this Texan brings to the holiday.

Then, as long as you have your YouTube cranked up, I also recommend this one by Miley Cyrus. I bravely stand here risking all my adult credibility by liking this version of the old Brenda Lee holiday classic as done by a Disney pop star, but it's from the Rockefeller Center Christmas TV show, and I liked it! Hope you do too!

I got to run down to the Quik Sack for some fake snow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Keepin’ it real

Modern times demand modern attitudes, so we are now keeping it real, heeding the admonition of the same name.

Reality TV shows us rich people mingling with hoi polloi, irascible chefs humiliating novice cooks, people who can’t sing singing, and people choosing life partners from an assorted cast of casting-couch castoffs.

Fast food joints now post calorie and ingredient information about the arterial sludge they sling.

For a while, products proudly displayed a “real” logo if the cheese they used was in fact real cheese cheese and not fake cheese made from who knows what.

I think this all started with Bruce Boxleitner.

“Who, now?” I hear you asking.

You know, Bruce BOXleitner. He was in tv shows such as

“How the West Was Won '', ''Bring 'Em Back Alive'', ''Scarecrow and Mrs. King’’, and ''Babylon 5.''

He has appeared in made-for-TV movies, done voiceovers for science-fiction cartoons, written several science-fiction novels that were set in the Old West (?!) and is even a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, a “nonprofit, educational space advocacy organization founded by Dr. Wernher von Braun.”

And heaven knows, space needs its advocates.

Anyhow, Boxleitner, married since 1995 to Melissa “1/2 Pint” Gilbert, was the first actor I can remember to forego having a stage name and using his own unwieldy moniker for professional purposes. Before he took this bold stance, Hollywood would have forced him to take the name “Bryce Boxx” or something similarly fakey.

There was a day in show biz when Tula Finklea changed her name and rocketed to mid-level success as "Cyd Charisse," when Vera Jayne Palmer became "Jayne Mansfield," Maurice Micklewhite, "Michael Caine" and Aaron Chwatt, "Red Buttons."

Those days were numbered, and we ran out of numbers, so now the woman who might have been "Karen Chesterfield" reads the news on CNN under her real name, Kiran Chetry, and I guess we’ll have to get used to seeing Scarlett Johansson and Keanu Reeves in more movies instead of "Jo Scarlet" and "Reef Keene," which is what Tinseltown might have done to their names.

I just have this terrific urge to change my name to Chwatt. Aaron Chwatt.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A little slice of life

One song I have loved since the mid-70’s is David Bowie’s “Young Americans.” Wonderful lyrics! And they came partly true for me on Friday

But the freak, and his type, all for nothing
He misses a step and cuts his hand, but
Showing nothing, he swoops like a song
She cries "Where have all Papa's heroes gone?"

Do you remember, your President Nixon?

Do you remember, the bills you have to pay Or even yesterday?

Have you been an un-American?
Just you and your idol singing falsetto 'bout
Leather, leather everywhere,
Not a myth left from the ghetto
Well, well, well, would you carry a razor
In case, just in case of depression?

In my job, it’s to my benefit to carry a razor cutter

in a case to open boxes, cut strings and wires, trim loose flashings, and slice open the heel of my hand while attempting to do one of the above. It happened today for the same reason that almost every dumb injury occurs - I was not concentrating on what I was up to, and while opening a package, I finished opening the package and kept right on going.

Ever bang your head on an overhead joist and say, “Oh man, this is gonna hurt like hell in a second or two!”? Same deal - I saw the cut, made with almost surgical precision (I use sharp blades in that instrument, y’unnerstan’) and I knew I had a second or two to look around for a paper towel before the claret began to flow, as the boxing writers used to write.

I went downstairs to Health Care where two nice and well-trained people took care of me. Abby decided against the need for stitches, although she did recommend a tetanus shot sometime between tonight and the return of Halley’s Comet. She sized up the situation and decided I need not worry about bleeding to death. So, I got all patched up, they gave me the rest of the supplies in the kit so I can change the dressing over the weekend (I think I’ll try the Pepper Parmesan next time) and the cool thing is - there are little tools in the kit that I can reuse the next time I am looking at one thing and cutting another.

Thanks, Abby and Judy, for being good to me for at least the 47th time, and - you kids out there reading - don’t try this at home! I am a trained professional!

Friday, December 19, 2008

New York Giants

None of my business whom the governor of New York selects to succeed Hillary Clinton as US Senator, but it's interesting to me that Caroline Kennedy, who for all her life - until this year - has avoided politics like George Bush ducks flying shoes, suddenly wants to be a US Senator from New York. Qualifications? Well, she is a lawyer and the Senate does make laws. You'd have to rank her highly in the fields of name recognition and fund-raising ability. But what does she stand for; what does she represent, beyond a little return to that place for happy-ever-aftering known as Camelot?

But, still. When you heard 'Caroline Kennedy' and 'Senate' in the same sentence, it seemed to make sense, the way 'tomato' and 'salad' seem consonant.

Another notable NY woman has thrown her hat into the ring, as it were, and this time, it's more like whether "maple syrup" and "pepperoni pizza" flow nicely. It's TV's Fran Drescher,
she of the braying laugh and curious adenoidal diction. I loved her as "The Nanny." Could she bring anything meaningful to her role as "The Senator?"

History has shown us over and over how damaging it is to send show-biz second-raters
(face this: if they were still big in their original line of work, they would not have left it!) to elected office. And we've seen what can happen when someone confuses real-life public policy with a movie or TV role.

Think, Governor Paterson. Think!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And another thing...

Christmas is a week from tomorrow.

I'm busier than Dick Cheney at a scowling contest.

If you had asked me a week ago, I would have bet you anything that Slinging Sammy Baugh and Van Johnson had both shuffled off this mortal coil some time ago.

I obsess over Allen Ginsberg's America and read it often (listen to him read it too.)

I promise a better entry tomorrow. Look how late it is!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Walk a Thin Line

A local girl attending a local high school complains to the local paper that her local iPod was stolen.

Her story is that she left it in her backpack on a cafeteria table while she went to get in the line and get her food and when she came back to the table, nothing seemed amiss and then later she went to get it out of the backpack and guess what! It was GONE!

The local paper in question being a fishwrap shopper newspaper, the reporter told the story all wide-eyed and dewy, not in the true crime hardbitten style of, say, Mike Hammer. She ran down all the theft statistics for this particular high school and compared them to the other high schools in the county, and mentioned that the young lady really loved her iPod and that it was the one thing that helped her relieve stress.

I hate to lose things myself and I hate to feel like I'm picking on this young lady, but doggone it, why would you leave your valuable electronic gear unattended like that? How do you walk that thin line between teaching children that everyone deserves respect and is basically good at the core, and the sad truth that a certain amount of people steal stuff just to keep their hands busy? Perhaps this iPod was too full of mp3s by the likes of LarCENous and the 2 Steal Crew; if its owner had downloaded podcasts of Robert Frost, she might have heard the line "Good fences make good neighbors." I'm awfully sorry that she had to learn this life lesson at such a high price.

There's a thin line between cynic and victim, I'm afraid. It's more a matter of prevention being more valuable by the ounce. If you assume that someone will rip off your iPod if given half a chance, you won't give them that chance.

If you drive with the notion in the back of your hat that everyone else on the road is either blind drunk, crazy, or just plain trying to kill you, you will have fewer accidents because you will never assume that the Hyundai coming your way is really going to turn because it has its blinker on.

If you make it a point to have your fireplace and chimney swept, keep check on frayed cords and old outlets, and don't store flammable liquids "just for a few days," you won't get to know your local firefighters, at least on a professional basis.

If you don't stack a phone book on top of a rickety step ladder to get up on the eaves and unclog your rain gutter, you will only see your orthopedic surgeon at the golf course on Wednesday afternoons.

If you call 1-800-588-2300, people will show up at your house the NEXT DAY! and cover all the floors with carpeting!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Three Women With Messages

In the past week, three women – none of whom I really know from Eve – have spoken to me without even knowing it. I don’t wish to impose my beliefs on anyone; you may or may not believe in omens, harbingers and heavenly messengers, but I happen to. And I am sort of dense, in the loveable manner of a cartoon character, which is why I need all messengers to be direct and straightforward. Messages enshrouded in symbolism get lost in my foggy noggin.

Of course, I faked it through many an English class by claiming that the broken glass in some poem or movie or play “represented Man’s inhumanity to Man,” but that was all just guesswork. In fact, in any discussion of symbolism, I always found that to be a good all-purpose answer, sort of the duct tape in the literary toolbox. I see these movies where a guy is talking to a woman and then suddenly a train enters a tunnel and then people are running around the base of the Washington Monument, eating hot dogs and falling into crevices, and nothing registers with me beside a) the train entered a tunnel and b) everyone was in DC seeing the sights.

Anyway, here are the lessons from three women:

One was a woman who entered the Baltimore City Engine 45 firehouse just before Peggy and I did on our annual trip to see one of the best firehouse train gardens we’ve ever seen. We like to see the display; they change it every year in some aspects, but there are always traditional parts of it and always brand new ideas. There was a time that most bars, clubrooms and firehouses around here had very elaborate Christmas gardens with model trains running about, little villages, the whole deal. We spent a few minutes on each section and moved along. But this lady took her time; by the time we were leaving, she was only about ½ way through the path. The smile on her face! She was so happy to be there, enjoying the great work of the firefighters, who start putting the garden together in August every year. She was to remind me of the importance of taking time to enjoy life’s pleasures.

Second was a young lady in a wheelchair, most tragically confined there by cerebral palsy. She was at one of the 87 malls I have been to over the past several weeks, and she was enjoying the sights and sounds with a broad smile. She was to remind me to shut my piehole the next time I even DREAM of complaining about a cold or a hangnail or my achin’ feet.

Third was a woman in a shelter this morning, literally screaming with unabashed joy because she had found a job! It’s been a long time since I was out of work, and maybe it’s good to be reminded of what it feels like NOT to have a job and the joy that comes with having one. I have sometimes counseled people who are slacking off in their work to remember the alacrity with which they started the job. Be glad to have work, and work to be gladder! In this case, it means so much more than what she will earn financially. It’s a step back on the road to independent self-determination, and a way to feel like she belongs somewhere as part of a team.

I’m always on the prowl for more lessons to learn. Please make them readily accessible. As I say, I'm kinda dense.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I, for one, Laughed

Right on the heels of my 35th wedding anniversary, it's time for the 25th anniversary of the first time I recommended the movie "They All Laughed" to less than thundering approval.

I don't care. I first saw this movie on HBO on a long-ago day off and loved it. I taped it and began passing out copies of it to friends like a member of the Gideon Society passes out Bibles, but to much less satisfaction.

If you click on the link above, you get to see Vincent Canby's original review of this Peter Bogdanovich masterpiece in the New York Times from 1981; he says things such as ''They All Laughed'' is an immodest disaster. It's aggressive in its ineptitude. It grates on the nerves like a 78 rpm record played at 33 rpm" and "(John Russo) is played by Ben Gazzara in the way of someone who labors under the misapprehension that he is loaded with charm, nothing less than a combination of Bogart, Grant and Gable. However, Mr. Gazzara can't even smile convincingly in the many close-ups Mr. Bogdanovich has given him, perhaps in lieu of a character to act."

Listen, Vince, I liked the movie and I remain steadfast in my belief that someday, cinemaphiles will come to my side on this matter, crying, "How could we have been so blind as to ignore the compelling acting of Ben Gazzara, Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn's son Sean Ferrer, Dorothy Stratton
, John Ritter and Patti Hansen?"

Who will join me in this crusade? Must I wander lonely forever until I find someone who will sit with me and gaze in awe as Roy Acuff saws his way through the opening song, as Bogdanovich paints the screen with images enough to break a heart and heal a heart at once?

Peggy says the movie is dumb and I only like it because people run around making asses of themselves and every time I watch it, I get to point out that Patti Hansen is still married to Keith Richards

and he is alive, whereas Jim Fixx is not.

I have made a special arrangement with the folks at BlockBuster, Circuit City, Hollywood Video and NetFlix: if you buy this movie, this classic that speaks to a generation, no, speaks to all mankind, and you don't find yourself absolutely enchanted, well then, you just keep your DVD, and they will gladly keep your money. Now, I ask you, what could be more fair?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

American Sartorial Splendor - a look back

If you're into classic (pre-"Dave & Sugar") country music and you hear the term "Nudie Suit," you think of something entirely different from what the non -C&W fan thinks of. If you didn't know better, you'd think that "Nudie Suit" was an oxymoronic term - if you're wearing a suit, how in blazes are you nude?

I saw this picture
of Faron Young and it took me back to when country singers wore outfits this garish. Nowadays, it would seem they shop at the same Old Navy as you and I, but in the golden gilded era, they sported suits made by Nudie Cohn, born Nuta Kotlyarenko in Kiev, Ukraine (a city to which we already sent thanks for sending us Mila Kunis, who would look stunning in one of Cohn's get-ups!)

The fashion was for country singers to have suits made up, with lots o' sequins and flashy colors, and even to incorporate song lyrics -as Faron did above - or personal references, as Porter Wagoner did. His suits invariably showed some sort of wagon wheel leaning against a cactus or something.

Nudie prospered in this vineyard of high couture, and even now, almost 25 years since his passing, when we see pictures like this in the LIFE magazine archives, we can but gaze upon his work in awesome wonder:

(l-to-r) Webb "There Stands The Glass" Pierce, Faron "It's Four In The Morning" Young, "Little" Jimmy "Take An Old Cold Tater and Wait" Dickens, Carl "Good Deal, Lucille" Smith and Ray "Heartaches By The Number" Price cheese for you. Those were the days! (click on photo to enlarge)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A striking quote

Howard Cunnell is the name of a man who brought the original scroll manuscript of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" to book form. Kerouac wrote the book in a frenzied typefest in 1951, using a continuous roll of teletype paper in those pre-PC days so he wouldn't have to keep changing paper. There were to be plenty of edits and amendments over the years, and the book in which Cunnell presents the warts-and-all original (first line, as typed: "I first met met Neal not long after my father died.") contains essays and background information, all worth the reader's time.

Of course, I find it particularly galling that the now-crumbling original roll is owned by one Jim Irsay, about whose family,
the less said, the better.

I also found it upsetting that while Jack lived, he enjoyed little acclaim, and died in 1969 after what can be best be described as a dissolute ten or twelve years. Today, he is a revered literary figure. In re-reading the book today, I found this statement by Cunnell quite trenchant:

"Kerouac's clattering typewriter is folded in with Jackson Pollock's furious brushstrokes and Charlie Parker's escalating and spiraling alto saxophone choruses in a trinity representing the breakthrough of a new postwar counterculture seemingly built on sweat, immediacy, and instinct, rather than apprenticeship, craft and daring practice."

Truman Capote rather snippily dismissed Kerouac, claiming, "There's a difference between writing and typing." Carl Sandburg piled on with, "If you're going to be obscure, be obscure about something."

They were better writers than critics.

It says here, Jack honored life:

Too bad "here" is his gravestone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

You gotta be proud Dep't.

From the wires of the Associated Press:

Nicholas Montos Oldest Mass. inmate, 92

Nicholas Montos, the oldest prison inmate in Massachusetts and a career criminal who was the first person to make the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list twice, died Sunday of natural causes at a hospital. Montos was serving 33 to 40 years for robbery.

He made the FBI's Most Wanted list in 1952 after he and two other men pistol-whipped a 74-year-old man during a robbery in Georgia.

He was caught in 1954 but made the Most Wanted list again two years later when he used a hacksaw to escape from a Mississippi prison. Montos was captured 26 days later.

Montos was the only Massachusetts inmate in his 90s. The state Parole Board had turned down a request for parole earlier this year.

Even before his two stints on the wanted list, Montos was a veteran escape artist. He was 18 when he made his first escape from a Miami jail in the 1930s. He ran from a chain gang in Alabama in 1942 and escaped again in 1944.

Even as we mourn Mr. Montos's sad departure, you have to wonder if members of his family proudly point to his signal accomplishment - being the first guy ever to be on the Most Wanted list twice - as an honor of some sort. I think that being the oldest man in stir in the state is even more noteworthy, giving him seniority when it comes to jail vacation picks and a certain cachet. Surely, just before Lights Out In The Big House, he would weave tales both wonderful and wise for his young cellmates, talking of stool pigeons and yard bulls and so much more.

Certain words in combination give one pause. Considered separately, "chain", "gang", "Alabama" and "1942" connote four visions. Put 'em all together, and that had to be a helluva story. Swing low, sweet chariot.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's called three-dot journaling, and it goes like this...

My free video advice for the month: don't rent "Get Smart." We shot $2.50 to take it out of the library, and fifteen minutes in, we were sitting there staring at each other all goggle-eyed, as in "What the HELL is this?" Note to Dwayne Johnson: you can go back to calling yourself The Rock any time now...While an anxious nation awaits the arrival of next month's O the Oprah Magazine, with the cover story all about how our favorite media mogul has gained weight again, what really makes me sad is that Gayle King has to be introduced on tv shows as "Oprah's best friend Gayle King." Did everyone else stop ascribing superlative status to their BFF back in high school? And for Gayle, it's as if that is her total identity, same as Unindicted Co-conspirator Richard Nixon and Troubled Rocker Tommy Lee; can't she just be "GK" without the "O's BFF" nonsense?...I had hoped to be appointed US Senator from Illinois, replacing Mr Obama, and I have been in touch with the governor out there concerning my...whazzat? he did what? asked for money for the appointment? Forget it! You ain't gettin' 88 cents out of me!...I love to listen to oldtime radio shows while I pound on this keyboard, and one of my favorites has always been "The Great Gildersleeve". These whimsical tales of a blustery small-town water commissioner and his family and friends and girlfriends took place in the 40s and 50s, yet they're one and half times funnier than the sitcoms on tv today...Moment of Crystal Clarity Dep't: I always wondered why Andy Williams sang about "scary ghost stories" in "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," figuring that maybe some families rang in the holiday season by swapping tales of headless monsters or something. I asked Peggy, as I always do after puzzling something over something on my own for several decades, and she pointed out that the song refers to "A Christmas Carol." God bless us, every one!...Big news from Toledo: Joe the Plumber is not such a big fan of John McCain after all. From the AP wire: Joe Wurzelbacher, America's most famous plumber, is lashing out at the man he once supported for president. On Tuesday, he said he was appalled by former GOP presidential nominee John McCain's reasons for supporting the government's $700 billion bank bailout plan. "I was angry," Wurzelbacher said. "In fact, I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him." And remember, he might not be so good at choosing candidates for national office, but he's not really a plumber, and his real first name is not Joe...Big news from Carney, MD (home of ye editor): A Baltimore County man has pleaded guilty in the fatal shooting of his adult son on Father's Day. 57-year-old Harold Williams Sr. pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of his 38-year-old son Harold Williams Jr at his home on Harford Road in Carney. Williams was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Police say the two men had been drinking and arguing. The younger Williams was shot in the abdomen with a shotgun. We came home that evening to see a caravan of news vans driving away from the scene. Really, it's our proud legacy of gun use that makes internecine slaughter such a tradition...New pizza favorite: grilled fresh vegetables, sauce and cheese on a whole wheat shell...28° on Monday, 48° yesterday, 63° today and 39° tomorrow. Let's hope it gets cool and stays that way. I happen to know that Santa is bringing me a 1958 Baltimore Colts stocking cap just like the one that kept my melon warm as a youth. I hope to wear the cap a lot this winter, but it's no good to wear knit hats with temps in the 50s..I'm not a lawyer, but even I have to wonder how they can get a murder conviction on Casey Anthony when no one can even start the case by saying for certain that a murder took place. Not saying she's mother of the year, but why not find out what we're dealing with here before we start to deal?...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Overheard in JC Penney

For obvious reasons, I only tour the lingerie sections of department stores once a year. This is it: Christmas shopping time. The other twelve months of the year find me avoiding the unmentionables department like Artie Lange avoids salad bars. But today found us in JC Penney at the tony Christiana Mall in swanky Delaware (drive 60 miles, pay no sales tax! except for about a hundred dollars in tolls on I-95).

Listen, I'm not exactly Hugh Hefner, and what I was buying Peggy is hardly the satin-and-lace sorta thing. But I stood there, politely awaiting my turn, examining the signs and posters all around me (I found "the Ultimate Push-Up" interesting; apparently, it had nothing to do with the strength training exercise performed in a prone position, lying horizontal and face down, raising and lowering the body using the arms.)

But as I stood there, wondering what models who pose for these posters think about while the camera whirs and snaps, I started listening in on a conversation between the sales lady and a customer ahead of me.

The sales lady, in the same opprobrious tone she might have used to say, "Well, he showed up drunk at three AM and was doing it with his girlfriend right on the living room floor when the kids came down for breakfast in the morning", actually said, "He bought his wife a carpet steamer for Christmas."

Dead silence. Stunned looks all around. Eyes a-rolling, heads a-shakin', the ladies on both sides of the cash register mourned for the dignity of their slighted sister. At long last, one of them spoke up and said, "The really horrible thing is that she already HAS a carpet steamer, and he DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT!"

I feel sorry for this dude, whoever he is and however abysmal his misery. Had he been fortunate enough to know my dad, he would have learned the two vital lessons that Dad taught me that have saved my bacon a hundred times (and I am swiftly running out of places to store all that saved bacon):

1 - They can't make you do it, but they can make you wish you had. (Actually, this had nothing to do with marriage or male-female stuff at all, but, rather, was a gem learned from some guy whom Dad knew i
n the Navy, who really wished later that he had done as asked earlier.

1b - apropos of nothing, Dad also told me "the first time you will feel old will be the first time a police officer calls you "Sir." True! I was 35, and it still stings.

2 - (Here's the Advice For the Married Man) - Don't give her a gift that has an electric cord.

This advice is in effect until someone invents an electric diary.

The Holden In Me

We had a wonderful time on our 35th anniversary! We went to Friendly Farm and had the usual perfect meal in the usual perfect surroundings. We went there while we were still a young engaged couple, and now look at us, engaged in love more and more. I know, I don't deserve it, but whaddya gonna do?

No trip to the North County is complete without going across the Pennsylvania state line (into Penn-sa-VANE-ya) to see their Super WalMart, where they grudgingly stock a few Ravens items alongside the Eagles ware. We did a lot of Christmas shopping, and it was fun while in the toy aisle to be able to text friends and ask what kind of toys their kids had requested from Santa. Modern convenience meets ancient custom.

But on the way out to the car, I spotted one lonely glove left (dropped?) on the WalMart lot. The Holden Caulfield in me (even down to the greying temples!) felt immediate and deep sadness for the glove, which would have loved to be doing its job on a 26° night, but could not, and for its erstwhile owner, who was walking around with one damn cold hand, I'll tell you that right now. Just as Holden worried about the ducks in the lake and the kids falling off the edge of the field of rye, I worry about lost inaminate objects.

Peggy's Zen wisdom would tell me that at least the guy had ONE warm hand. But then again, I hate to have an odd number of anything.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I bless the day I found you

Cheesing at Wegman's yesterday.

Thursday, June 21, 1973. My friends Sam and Maura introduced me to Peggy so that I could show up for Sam's birthday party properly accompanied for once.

When I met Peggy that evening, I looked at her and said to myself, this is the woman I will marry. But, displaying the sangfroid that has made me the envy of nervous types on several continents, I wisely kept my own counsel on that for a while. After all, blurting out, "Will you marry me?" upon meeting someone seems so, I don't know, insane?

So we all hung out that night, and on Friday we went to the party, and on Saturday I went back to work as a radio DJ down on the Eastern Shore. On Sunday night, I got back to my tiny little apartment and could not sleep. As an inveterate watcher of the Andy Griffith Show, I knew what to do when you love someone ("the polite thing is to marry 'em right back!") so I called Peggy at 3 in the morning and asked her to marry me. She said, "Sure." So I figure, our blind date really has never ended.

Following a whirlwind courtship, (I had always wanted one of them, so we arranged with the Rent-A-Whirlwind people to lease one for five months) we were married on Saturday, December 8, 1973 - the date chosen, of course, to coincide with Sammy Davis, Jr.'s 48th birthday.

That makes today our 35th anniversary! And what a joy I feel to think about it. 35 years! People talk about the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, and we spent them together! The years have come and gone, but the love we felt 35 years ago grows stronger every single day.

We've never had one moment of "marital difficulty." Peggy forgave me for the time I ruined a kitchen countertop with one of those pre-microwave devices that you stuck in water to heat a cup
for tea, and after some soul-searching, I found a way to forgive Peggy for saying, in 1984, "Well, Reagan hasn't done THAT bad a job."

Truth to tell, I would as soon celebrate our anniversary on June 21, but that day is inevitably hot and humid and not too celebration-worthy because of the weather. Every December 8, I am almost tempted to rent another tuxedo and throw another wedding.

Peggy has many dozens of good qualities, and what's best about them all is how they complement my qualities. I love to shop for groceries
and Peggy seems to feel that grocery stores are just to go to in order to find and purchase groceries (go figure!). I love to cook. Peggy loves a clean, straight house and keeps ours neat as a pin. I don't have any other good qualities beyond cooking and being able to reach stuff on the top shelves, but Peggy doesn't mind. We have fun rooting through antiques (in antique stores or in my sock drawer) and we get a real boot this time of year from loading up the pick'em up truck with some Christmas CDs and riding around looking at people's outdoor light displays. You can't name a Christmas variety TV show that we won't watch and thoroughly enjoy together, and we each have our favorite TV giveaway show: "The Price Is Right" for me, and "Oprah" for her. And, for crying out loud, we both love anchovies!

Now and again, a young couple will ask us how our marriage has avoided the rocky shoals of breakup, separation, divorce and gunfire that have marked the relationships of so many others (Guy and Madonna, Jennifer and Brad, Kneel and Pray), and the first thing I tell them is to get rid of jealousy, as it is the most destructive force to any relationship, to my mind. The second thing I tell them is that "Rocky Shoals" was, coincidentally, one of my on-air names back in the day (as were "Oliver Clothesoff" and "Heywood Jahugmi.") At a conservative estimate, 90% of my friends are female, yet Peggy never ever worries that I am up to any out-of-house macking. (As IF!) And for those who say that others tell them not to rush into marriage ("Married in haste, repent at leisure" - William Congreve, 1693), I say, "The heart wants what the heart wants." (Woody Allen, 1993.)

My heart wants Peggy. We have laughed together for 35 years. Even after the briefest of times apart in malls, medical offices and family gatherings, my heart still skips that same old beat when I glimpse her again. We talk on the phone a couple of times per workday and look forward to time together every evening. I am not like most people - some will tell you that there ain't another like me this side of Bedlam - but I go to bed every night giving thanks to God for 35 years of a lovely love, and humbly asking for 35 million more.

I love you, Peggy. Thanks for loving me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I hoped for snow and what did I get? Bupkis!!!

Ah, the proverbial light dusting. Maybe next time?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

“You Know You’re From Baltimore when…” pt.5

Here's part 5 of of the list of 45 ways You Know You're From Baltimore!

37. The idea of crabs without Old Bay makes you sick. We hear that down in Florida, they steam these stone crabs and dip them in butter. Why not just add frosting and sprinkles?

38. You think living 45 minutes from the nation's capital, 1.5 hours from Philadelphia, and 3.5 hours from New York City is the greatest thing in the world. Even better, considering that we don’t go to any of these places.

39. You think HBO's "The Wire" isn't violent enough. They want verisimilitude, they need to keep the violence intact.

40. Your car has a bumper sticker that says "BLIEVE HON" Or “BEHAVE” or “BEEHIVE”.

41. The Washington Monument in your city is not a white obelisk. And it was built before the one in DC, and it’s where they have the tree lighting every Christmas season!

42. You go to The Fudgery at The Harborplace just to hear singing. We need entertainment with our sugary sweet treats.

43. You didn't realize that horses race at Preakness. Not only that, there are plenty of people who go to Oriole games without realizing that a major league baseball game is happening right in front of them!

44. You leave the U.S. and people ask you where you're from, you reply "near Washington" to avoid confusion. As if I’m leaving the U.S…

45. You love your city and share this group with all your friends from Baltimore. And with everyone else! Come on over, hons!

Friday, December 5, 2008

“You Know You’re From Baltimore when…” pt. 4

Here's part 4 of of the list of 45 ways You Know You're From Baltimore!

28. A Berger is not something you grill. A shortbread cookie with a pound of fudge sounds reasonable.

29. Your Senator's website features a recipe for crabcakes.

30. You can spot a Baltimore accent immediately. The standard is hearing someone say “downy ay-shun” for “down the ocean,” but to hear local sportscaster Keith Mills call the name of White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez is to hear the undiluted Balamer at its best, hon.

31. You watch a John Waters or Barry Levinson movie and recognize someone. I knew a guy named Ralph Tabakin. Levinson used him in all his movies for good luck. He played the TV salesman in “Diner.”

32. Artscape is the event of the season. It takes place in the heart of the city in the heat of the summer.

33. Five homicides is a good day for your town. And when it’s a young man with $766 dollars in his pocket, surrounded by hundreds of glassine packets and glass vials, the news always reports that drugs are a suspected cause.

34. Lacrosse ain't no city in Wisconsin. My mother’s cousin Charlie Ellinger is in the College Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

35. School is out when there's an inch of snow, but when you can't get out of your driveway you somehow have to go. It’s a stitch when people from Minnesota move here and see the panic in the streets when a flake or two come along. But the same people who thrill at staying home due to a two-inch snowfall are the same ones who HAVE to get out on the roads during a blizzard.

36. You know what Natty Boh is.

Tomorrow - the grand finale!