Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's a big building, full of sick people

I like to store every phone number of everyone I know in my cell phone so that when I get a call on it, I know right off who's calling. Getting a call when only a number I don't know displays is rarely a good thing. I was outside of the office yesterday, helping a friend carry something to her car, when the phone sounded off.

When the first thing you hear is, "This the medical staff at your mother's facility...," you know they're not calling to tell you that they've begun offering a new line of lo-sodium lunch alternatives.

It seems that Mom had a mini-stroke, the handy appellation for trans-ischemic attack or TIA. Can't say for sure, because not all the tests have been performed. But the early symptoms - droopy left eye, dizziness, double vision - have abated, so they will run these tests today and see where we are.

But how about some big ups for the people who work at the hospital? From her doctor on down to a guy who was corraling dirty laundry and medical waste, they were all unfailingly helpful and friendly.

Mom's physician specializes in medicine for the aging. He told me - without complaining, just mentioned - that he always works 12 hours per day at least, and that he has not had a day off for 19 days.

The nurses and techs - outstanding! And from each one, as I would compliment them on their dedication, kindness, and helpfulness, came the same response: a big friendly grin, and, "oh, this is just what I love to do, helping people."

The guy who was emptying the waste was down near where Mom's room was after she left the emergency department, and he saw our confusion as Peggy and I tried to follow the labyrinthine pathway back to the parking garage. Instead of just going on about his beeswax, he stepped up and offered us completely clear directions on how to hit the fresh air.

Having a loved one in the hospital is never easy, but having people who care enough to offer friendly help and care makes it much easier. Thanks to the men and women of Greater Baltimore Medical Center!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hoosier Smile For ?

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is restricting glasses, hats, scarves -- and even smiles -- in driver's license photographs.The new rules imposed last month were deemed necessary so that facial recognition software can spot fraudulent license applications, said BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough.

The software compares applicants' new photographs with old photographs on file to protect them from identity fraud, said BMV commissioner Ron Stiver."We take very seriously our responsibility to help protect the personal identity of Hoosiers, and the employment of this innovative technology is yet another important step forward in doing just that," Stiver said.

The new technology represents an advancement of what the BMV already was doing, Rosebrough said. BMV employees always have looked at the old photo of a person to see if it looked like the person seeking a new license."The way our technology works, overnight, it would do a complete database search," Rosebrough said. "If there was an issue, it would pop up on a report that would be followed up on the next day."Indiana is one of about 20 states using the facial recognition technology, he said, and other states have similar restrictions on driver's license photographs."We believe it's our responsibility to assure all Hoosiers the credentials we issue ... are as accurate as possible," Rosebrough said.BMV officials want driver's license photographs to accurately show people's permanent facial features. That means that glasses need to be removed. And if a person has hair hanging their face, it should be swept aside. Smiling is also restricted because it can distort facial features measured by the software, Rosebrough said."Anything that would obstruct that permanent physical feature would then diminish the reliability and effectiveness of the technology," he said.

There's little doubt how important it is for the state of Indiana, still reeling from the John Dillinger
crime spree of the 1930s and the 1984 arrival of the Irsay family, to keep track of their citizenry. Still, you have to wonder how a smile can upset their efforts at comparing one's facial features of today with how things looked four years ago. Unless it's one of those really sinister smiles, which distorts all the goodness in one's otherwise cherubic countenance.

I always give my license photo the full cheese. In fact, one time, at a drive-in bank, the teller asked me if she could take the license, which I had sent to her through the magic of pneumatic pressure, and show it to the other women behind the counter. "I've never seen anyone smile so much on their license!," she exclaimed. "If you're not happy now, when do you plan to start?," I explained.

So that makes two
reasons why I can't move to Indiana.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cawfee Tawk

At Wegman's - world's greatest grocery store - we stopped on Saturday and got a cup of coffee. I went with what they call their "Original Donut Shop Blend." Peggy used about 2/3 of her cup for that, and topped it off with some Hazelnut.

That coffee was gooooooooooooood! as Andy Griffith would have said. Good to the last drop! (So that's where they came up with that expression!)

Then, for dinner on Saturday, we went to the Hibachi Grill, which replaced my beloved Old Country Buffet just a couple of weeks ago.
Two hearty thumbs up! Fine family fare! You can go to the grill area and load up a plate with whatever you want, hand the plate to the man working the grill, and then watch him do his magic with the stir-fry and the flying spatulas and the oils and it's just great! We'll be back - it was so good to be back in the same building where Peggy and I have had so many happy meals over the years.

But on the way out, we stopped at the Original Donut Shop - rhymes with Funkin' Phone-Nuts - and got a cuppa java to go. And it wasn't as good as the grocery store version of donut shop coffee.

I don't know if that was important, but I thought it ought to be told. Not all of these blog entries are of transcending importance. In fact, doggone few of them are, but I'm having the time of my life sharing my life!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

By special request!

My amazing dancing chicken!

Thinking about Thinking

I have a friend, about my age, who is one of those guys who always has excelled in so many things. All A's in school, advanced degrees, professional success: wonderful things dot his life like walnuts on a sundae.

Except, when there is something he can't do all that perfectly, all the toppings fall off of that sundae.

You know the old saying that old Will Rogers always said: "Everybody's dumb, just in different subjects ." I mean, there's only been one perfect person to ever walk this earth, and the rest of us fall far, far short of His standards all the time.

But when you can do so many things so well, why should you care that you don't know how to overhaul your transmission? Especially when there are so many people trained to overhaul your transmission!

And why get all pee-oh'ed and throw things, just because your efforts at calligraphy look more like the crayon scrawlings of Miss Van Breeman's 3rd grade class? (That was the real name of my 3rd grade teacher, Hampton Elementary School.)

Maybe it's the drive to excel that made him so successful in so many areas, but why not cut back on expectations and enjoy a shortcoming or two?

And perhaps Will, the old cowboy philosopher himself, might have also opined that everyone's brilliant, only in different areas.

There was a guy in my crowd whose grades were consistently underwater (below C-level). As a matter of fact, I recall him showing me a high school report card that reported that he had failed every single class for that term. What a card! He just wasn't cut out for scholastic success. But he had a business sense, and he was always involved in some entrepreneurial venture. I remember my Dad saying that "Mr X" was not smart enough to know that he was not smart enough to succeed at things, so he just went ahead and succeeded.

Later on, I heard he was involved somehow in a grocery store. I thought, well, maybe he's the freight-truck unloader or cart-bringer-inner or something. (Both honorable jobs! I've done them!) No, he owned the shopping center, with a large grocery store and a dozen or so other stores.

Maybe smart people aren't the only ones with good brains. Or maybe the best brains aren't owned by smart people.

I'm not smart enough to know the difference.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dab a little KY on that there, Jimbo

From the Los Angeles Times:

(US Senator Jim) Bunning (R, KY) probably hurt his own case with an outrageous comment that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead within “nine months.” In the course of explaining his support for conservative judges to a crowd at the Lincoln Day Dinner at the Old State Theater in Hardin County, Ky., Bunning said that a fight over a new Supreme Court justice would start “very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg...has cancer...bad cancer...the kind you don't get better from."

The 75-year-old Ginsburg returned to work at the Supreme Court today with a report from her doctors that her tumor had turned out to be benign and had not spread.

Bunning, a retired Hall of Fame pitcher, has been known for wild verbal excesses before.

During the 2004 election, he said his opponent -- state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo -- looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. And he accused Mongiardo's staff of roughing up the senator's wife. He also upped his security detail, telling a Paducah TV station, "There may be strangers among us."

and this from TIME magazine:

Back in 2006, Time named the 10 best and 5 worst US Senators. On the "worst" list, each entry noted that the bad Senator was at least "well-liked" or "affable." Except for Bunning!

In addition to being hostile to staff members on the Hill and occasionally even other Senators, Bunning shows little interest in policy unless it involves baseball, according to congressional experts and colleagues. When asked, they struggle to recall any legislation Bunning has worked on, although he did join Arizona Senator John McCain last spring in demanding tougher punishments for steroid use in professional sports.

Of course, today the distinguished senator, who was heretofore not known to be a medical expert, and who is widely considered the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate, issued his apology, saying he apologized IF Justice Ginsberg (sic) was offended.

Oh Jim! How nice to think that someone MIGHT be offended by your prediction of their imminent death! And how about learning to spell the justice's name: it's Ginsburg, but your press release spelled it wrong twice. Back in your baseball days, you'd have called that going oh-for-2. And the official scorer would charge an E-1, bad play by the pitcher.

I see retirement and disgrace in your immediate future, along with a photograph showing just how big a hump you are:

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Face and the Coward

“Men are most apt to believe what they least understand.” —Michel de Montaigne

Just to be able to write this blog, I tuned in to Rush Limbaugh for a couple of afternoons this past week. President Obama has only been in office for a month now, and he inherited a mountain of difficulties unlike anything seen by a new president since Franklin Roosevelt, but nonetheless, former top 40 DJ Jeff Christie -now known as El Rushbo to his hordes of parrots - sees fit to criticize him in vile terms, even going so far as resort to the old gossip column trick of reading something factual and then questioning its veracity.

For instance, conservative talk hosts all have their knickers in a knot over their fear that the Pelosi-Obama-Biden team - those people who have seized control over "their" government - will soon reinstitute some version of the Fairness Doctrine, which would purportedly require crackpot rightwing broadcast outlets to present an intelligently-stated opposing viewpoint! Since these people detest opposing points of view like Limbaugh hates salads, this becomes a call to arms! Even though there's nothing to it!

The first sign I had that this sort of crazed broadcasting would be dangerous to our society came about 15 years ago, at the very onset of the Clinton years, (you remember, that was when the government actually ran up a surplus and we had eight years of unprecedented peacetime and economic growth) when a guy I worked with came in and breathlessly reported, "I just heard it on the radio - Bill Clinton had Vince Foster killed because Hillary was pregnant by him." Now, this man was not exactly what you'd call well-read or well-spoken, so I just had to ask what reliable news outlet had broadcast this story. "Oh, a man called Rush with the story - it's big news!," he said, conflating the maniacal rantings of some dufus with actual news. Yes, save for the fact that it wasn't news, or true, or big, it sure was...something.

That was the first time for me, but there have been plenty of examples since. People listening to the radio or watching Fox "News" on TV hear some rumor, some made-up fable being used to explain what some can't understand (same reason for Greek mythology), and they believe it to be factual, since they heard it on the radio or TV. Along the same lines, we see our fellow citizens claiming something must be true because "it was in the paper" and the paper they refer to is the National Enquirer or some other checkout rag.

Anyway, the point that avid drug consumer Limbaugh
(nice mugshot!) kept hammering away at (and none too subtly; his audience seems to require insistent repetition in order to grasp his - soon to be their - tenets) was, "I am presenting to you the information that the LEFT doesn't want you to hear."

Folks, I am part of the left, and I warrant to you that we don't care to censor what anyone wants to say. Unlike those people who carry on and demand that people be fired or prosecuted or waterboarded or forced to go hunting with Dick Cheney, we have nothing to lose by letting anyone and everyone be exposed to anything and everything in the field of political discourse.

If you ever get chance to see the movie "A Face
In The Crowd," check it out. I won't wreck it for those who don't know the story, but it presents a cautionary tale about those who get on the radio and bellow insincerely. You must understand that smokeblower Limbaugh believes very little of the claptrap he seems to espouse. He is far too intelligent to do so. He was smart enough to parlay his gift of bloviation and self-promotion into this multi-million dollar enterprise. He plays a part on a radio show. He is an actor, a performer, a tool of the real brains over there - i.e. the Roves and the Cheneys, the script writers who send out the talking points for the Rushes and the O'Reillys.

Every radio has an on-off button and channel changer. I used mine to go back to NPR.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I need some money - let me hit the 24-hour cashew machine

Here it is, just past the middle of February, and still in every heart there beats the promise of a new day. Pitchers and catchers reported last weekend, and then the rest of the baseball teams are rounding into shape, as they do every year about this time. Everyone here is looking forward to the Orioles opening their season against the New York Yankees, featuring their star third baseman, Alex "Human Growth Hormone" Rodriguez. But out west, they are awaiting April 9, opening day in the Class A California League for my favorite minor-league nine, the Modesto Nuts. Pictured here is the Nuts' mascot, Wing Nut, meeting his traditional rival, a B-A Elephant who seeks to crush and devour him. I tell you, they play for keeps out there in California.

Nothing to do with that, but in my first radio job, the town where I worked was just, well, nuts, about softball . They had a softball talk show, and one night a guy came running in to give me the latest scores to read. One of the teams - a women's team, no less, was nicknamed "the Ball-Busters." No one else thought it was funny but I, a scenario that has repeated over and over, over the years.

National Lampoon's radio show once ran an all-California show, and they had a skit in which Hunter S. Thompson was riding around the state, listening to the radios. One of the commercials he hears - and this was in late '74 - started off "Hi! This is Gerry Ford, sales manager for Dick Nixon Ford! Dick's gone crazy, and he's making deals like you've never seen before!" What's this, 35 years later, and still, to think of it is to laugh like a Modesto ballplayer.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

They call it "anthropomorphism" but you can just say "oddball"

Fairly prominent in my family lore were stories of my maternal grandfather's brother Ed, who was the wanderlust of the family and eventually moved to California to pursue his various schemes and plans. My grandfather stuck around here in Baltimore to pursue the pot of gold he saw at the end of every rainbow. Eventually he wound up purchasing some houses and mercantile establishments, which meant that he was busy on the first of every month running around collecting rent checks, which left him the other 29 days to write letters back and forth to Ed out in Death Valley, CA., so they could chase moneymaking pipe dreams at a time when there was no money to be made.

Two cautionary tales came to issue about the Uncle Ed legend. One, of course, was not to pull up stakes and move 3,000 miles away to the Golden State. This had a tremendous impression on me. Every chance I got, I acquired more and more stakes and drove them into the ground, ready to pull them up at a moment's notice. But I stayed here, just to be obstinate about it all.

The other bit of wisdom was "don't get a monkey." Time was when a family could own a monkey. Shopping malls and centers had them on display to lure kids and their parents - here's a latter-day depiction of what Monkey Town looked like at Edmondson Village shopping center.
Monkeys were available for sale at pet stores, and sure, we heard the stories about flung dung and tossed tinkle, but our fellow primates were so doggone cute with their monkeyshines, we'd gladly don a raincoat and hat just to see them swing from pillar to post. Uncle Ed had a little simian monkey named "Babe", who entertained the family in those pre-cable days by darting about the house and tipping the little hat he wore.

Another animal "don't," repeatedly annually, is "Please don't bring your dog to the Towsontown Festival." That's the street fair,
the kind they have all over, held every May in our county seat, with the beer gardens and the craft tables and the beef and hot dog stands and public affection for the military units, fire equipment and police recruiters standing by. But year after year, some people ignore the fiat and bring their dogs along to the festival. Sometimes the rationale is, "Everyone loves Sluggo" and then there's always this one - I have heard people say,"I don't go anyplace where my dog is not welcome."

Let's add "don't give your 200-lb 15-year old chimpanzee human food and medications and expect him to act like a human." No time to get into Darwin and Scopes and all that history here, but - this may come as a major surprise to a Connecticut woman. Quoting directly from the BBC (note British spellings!):

A pet chimpanzee which violently attacked a woman visiting his owner was shot dead by a police officer "cornered" in his vehicle by the 200lb ape, the BBC reports.

Travis, 15, mauled the woman as she got out of her car in Stamford, Connecticut. His owner, Sandra Herold, first "wrestled" with the animal then returned to her house to call the police.

Captain Richard Conklin told AP: "She retrieved a large butcher knife and stabbed her longtime pet numerous times in an effort to save her friend, who was really being brutally attacked."

Paramedics, protected by officers, arrived at the scene, but Travis turned on them. An officer shot the chimp in self defence as it attempted to enter his car.

The reason for Travis's loss of control is unknown, but AP noted he was "ill with Lyme disease and had been on medication".

Conklin said: "He's been raised almost like a child by this family. He rides in a car every day, he opens doors, he's a very unique animal in that aspect. We have no indication of what provoked this behaviour at all."

Two police officers were injured in the incident, while the unnamed female visitor was hospitalised in a "very serious" condition after suffering "serious blood loss" from facial injuries.

Travis, who'd appeared in TV commercials, had in 2003 escaped from a car and spent two hours "at large" in Stamford, the BBC concludes.

No idea what provoked the attack? Did you see the woman on TV, saying she slept with the chimp, fed and clothed him as if he were her child, and "lived for him"? No one likes to be a 15-year old, not even a 15-year-old chimpanzee. It's not fair to take an animal like that out of his natural habitat and force him to prance around like a human child.

Nor is it such a great idea to take your dog to the Towsontown Festival, where, instead of the sylvan greens where the pooch yearns to play, he or she is led around on the hot paved streets and teased with hot dogs, pit beef, barbequed chicken and dozens of other foods. That would be why, some years ago, a dog lunged at and mauled a little girl who was at the Festival eating beef sandwiches with her family.

Being forced to act in an unnatural fashion likely would explain why this Travis attacked a woman the other night.

In his dotage, Babe started nipping at people's noses (they should have named him Jack Frost) and ears. Uncle Ed wound up having to give him away.

But here's one call for some sense in all this. Howzabout we leave animals to animal things and spend some time uplifting our fellow humans? Do we need to have our dominion over the lesser animals expressed as ownership and domination?

Doggone if I know why.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marriage: Then and Now

We got married in 1973, shortly after the end of the Pleistocene Era, comparatively. Peggy was a blushing bride of 19, and I, the cause of the blushing, was a worldly 22 with a lot of hair and and a 32" waist, both of which have seen some change in the intervening years. But we were right in the midst of how these things were done back in the day. We were kids and we had nothing but love and some argyle socks and a complete collection of the first three years of National Lampoon magazine.

I often think about another couple we met on our honeymoon in Colonial Williamsburg. We were parading around the main drag of the town, Duke of Gloucester Street, and spotted five 20-dollar bills wadded up on the curb. I looked around with my patented furtive look, suspecting at first that it was some sort of "Candid Camera" setup. But, we picked up the loot and called the police, who sent a town cop right over.

He must have spent his off hours watching "Kojak," because he did all he could to assume the affect of a jaded big city police officer. "This found currency WILL be held at our main headquarters for a period of 30 days, after which time you MAY apply for possession thereof, should the rightful owner not be found by that time," he exclaimed, as he took our contact information and rode off, adjusting his hat.

A day went by and no call came from the police, and then, after dinner on the second day, we came home to a flashing red light on the motel phone. The message was from the town police. "The money has been claimed by a young couple on their honeymoon; request permission to divulge your information to them so they can contact you directly," barked the desk sergeant. Sure thing we said; send 'em on over. In just a few minutes, a scared-looking couple of kids, about our age, showed up at the room. We talked for a few minutes; they were from New Jersey, my second-favorite state of them all, and the guy told us how it happened that he dropped five double sawbucks on the street. It seems that someone in the know told him to stash the twenties in his shoes. I remember the shoes. They were butter-colored, and had thick soles and high heels, the sort of thing that David Cassidy was often seen wearing while prancing about concert halls and tv shows. Ultra-70's. But many's the time I have wondered how things have gone for that couple from the Garden State Parkway State. How is their marriage going? Did they have kids? What have been the highs and lows and whatnot? Why, I'd pay a hundred bucks today to get to see them and hear their story. They were, as I say, just a couple of crazy kids who loved each other. I hope that did not change.

Now, people wait until they have a little time on their life resumes before they walk down the aisle. It's not at all uncommon for people to wait until they are around 30 before they even think about settling down. That way, they have established themselves in a profession, and often times are training for another, by the time they become Mr and Mrs. I know a young woman who is getting married this spring, and just thinking about the early days of our marriage makes me so full of happy thoughts -and best wishes for Rachael and Chad. She is one of the best people I have ever met. She came to work with me right before I transferred to my current job, and she has moved on up the ladder of professional accomplishment - and is planning her next steps, as well as getting married. I am so proud of her, and it's easy to see that she is entering marriage with a made-up mind and a together life. Nothing brings me more happiness at this stage of life than seeing people find happiness and plan their lives together. I wish them the very best of love and luck, together forever!

I've done a lot of things over the course of this American life, and I have had varying degrees of success in them all, but I surely got lucky when I fell in love. As anyone who knows me can verify, Peggy is a saint, the most patient person on earth, and definitely the sweetest. I say this all the time, and it's true so true, but she still makes my heart get all skittery just to see her edging near. If you're getting married this spring or this century, I can't wish you anything better than that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Relief Pitcher

Peggy's childhood was the stuff of storybooks, the only problem being that these books were written by Charles Dickens. There are but few artifacts from her childhood - some beat-up old snapshots, one or two items around the kitchen. All the rest of her childhood things wound up in the hands of her brothers Pecksniff and Skimpole, her sister Miss Mowcher, and her mother, Mrs Micawber. (I told you it was Dickensian!)

Peggy lets things go, so she doesn't fuss about the past. But for many years, she has remembered a certain pitcher that the family used in their kitchen for iced tea and water. Peggy also does not obsess, so she has kept an eye out for a similar pitcher, but she never turned it into a lifequest, with the scouring of antique shops, eBay surfing and frenzy that consume so many lives. She just kept figuring that the pitcher would show up some day.

On Sunday (you know where this is going!) we went up the road to see our nephew and niece's new house under construction. Just slightly smaller than the Pentagon, it promises to be the sort of place in which happy family members gather to guzzle iced tea merrily. Then, we drove along to an antique store in BelAir. We like antiques and find they add a homey atmosphere, which is perfect for me, since I think that the Cracker Barrel stores and eateries that dot the nation's highways represent the pinnacle of hi-class decoration. So, we were only there for a few minutes, when along came Peggy back to where I was idly idling through some old LIFE magazines ("Country Doctor Heals Family, Horses; Takes Pay in Biscuits, Ham"). She found the pitcher!
VoilĂ ! The untrammeled bliss in Peggy's eyes - priceless! I can't describe how happy it made me to see her so happy!

Now, to many, this was just luck. I say it's divine intervention for someone who gives so much to others all the time. Peggy takes care of me all the time, and even more when I am sick, and then she does a million things for the rest of the family, for our friends, for her work gang... I say, Somebody bigger than you and I put that pitcher in her path to say "Well's a little something for you."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ring the bell; I'm there

I tried, I tried. Heaven above knows I tried. I tried to remove myself from contact with the sinful temptation, and still, here I am.

Addicted to American Idol.


And they even made it easier NOT to like it this year, with this new judge, Kara DioGuardi
. Something about her...she's like the girl in school who was a cheerleader and Student Council president and Glee Club captain and yet no one liked her. But, she seems to like herself enough to make up for it.

And if anyone worked with Paula Abdul
since last year's season finale, in hopes of making her comments seem at least a teeny bit rooted in earthly reality, well, that fell far short too.

Really, you have to sit through the words of three judges before you hear from the one who speaks truth. And even though Simon has a nasty streak about him, he doesn't offer false encouragement or call everyone "dawg" or stand up and dance at just any mundane vocal performance.

Still and all, I thought I might be able to break the bonds that week after week, year after year, have led me to tune in Fox two or three nights a week when I could be doing so many other things. But again, all it takes is that siren call of Ryan Seacrest
crooning "THIS! AMERICAN IDOL!!!!!!!" and it's like a Pavlovian response from me, without the bells ringing and the drooling.

And oh money is on Ms Alexis Grace this year:

Let's just see where all this winds up!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Age of Realism

Cornell University did a study about how people look at themselves. Researcher Jeff Hancock - and wouldn't we all like to see his signature - got 80 single people together, 40 of each gender, and had them fill out forms detailing their height, weight, and age.

Then Hancock, who, one suspects, runs a website named "", did a complete and objective assessment of each.

How many of the participants lied about something, you wonder? Oh, just 90% of them.

All of the women who lied about their weight claimed to be lighter than they are.
Average : 6 lbs. Negligible.

Men who lied about their height exaggerated it upwards.
Average: 1/3 of an inch. Sounds like a show-stopping tune from the musical "Why Bother?"

Both genders knocked off five months in age, if they chose to be inaccurate about it.
"No, baby, I'm not 36! I'm 35 1/2!"

Well, what a surprise. People fibbing about vital stats. These were single people, remember, so let's say they are in the habit of putting their best face forward when asked, to make themselves more attractive. That's understandable.

Although, I have known people who got into a relationship based on a lie about age, and then as the relationship progressed, they had to figure out how to break it to their sigoth that they weren't really 25, or 17, or 39, or whatever they claimed to be.

What I don't understand is the reluctance to disclose one's age. I know several people who would sooner show you their private parts than tell you how old they are.

Either you look your age, and are therefore doing fine, or you look a lot older than you are, and therefore have a lot longer to be around than it would appear, or you look remarkably young for your years, and are therefore the object of admiration from many. It's got to be one of these three!

How old would you be if no one asked?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Child is father to the man

When the Grammy Awards came on TV the other night, it represented a personal milestone for me. Of all the songs nominated as "Song Of The Year," I knew not one of them. That comes from not listening to current music on the radio, I guess. My radio listening is confined to oldies stations and, of course, that Latvian folk ballad outlet that comes in late at night and causes me to say, "Ar Labu nakti" as I doze off. (The internets tell me that means "good night" in Latvian. I devoutly hope that's true.)

Truth to tell, I didn't really mind not knowing the songs of today. I don't want to come of as one of those old crackpots who sits around in his vest sweater mumbling about "you kids and this crazy music." You kids are fine and your music is just as you like it to be. And I don't want to be one of those old guys who dresses and dances like people 1/2 his age. Creepiness is to be avoided at any age at any cost.

No, what's on my post-Grammy mind is this whole Chris Brown -Rihanna
deal. They are bigshot performers, they are reportedly a couple, and he is accused of assaulting her late last Saturday night. They both missed the Grammy show, and that's where I come in. I read about it.

I know who young Brown is because of a young woman who worked as a temp in our building. She spoke of him in the highest terms, about what a great singer and dancer he is, and how he is beloved by so many...same thing that's been said of thousands of entertainers since rock music was invented by The Flintstones. Rihanna, of course, is known to anyone who watches TV, for having the sort of pretty face loved by makeup companies. I see her in commercials all the time while waiting for the news to come back on the air.

I don't have any idea what happened, and it seems unlikely that California will call me to serve on a jury, should one be convened for all this. But I did read one telling story, one said that Brown had been the victim of childhood abuse and lived in a home where violence was the normal accepted way of life.

I'm no celebrity, and I'd make a damned poor one if I were, but you know those days we all have where everyone wants something all at the same time and you can't turn sideways without something else getting in your way and you wish you could have like ten seconds to catch your breath? Not trying to defend anyone here, but just take those ten seconds now to think about what the life of a young pop idol must be like. The pressure, the dozens of people wanting you to do this and say that and smile now and sing this, and the temptations of lurid excesses, and the crushing crush of humanity, and pretty soon, things build up. People raised in an atmosphere in which a punch to the face is the kneejerk reflex are just naturally going to respond in kind, unless they get some help.

Chris Brown, I have seen your face and still I don't think I could pick you out of a crowd. I don't know anything about your songs, never heard you sing, and probably never will. But, man, if these allegations are true, get some help. Not the legal kind, although you need that for the nonce, but the long-lasting emotional counseling that you seem to need. Because, when all the fame and fortune ebb away, as they will, you're going to need someone to love, and you have to know how to love lovingly.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nine syllables that express one thought

By which I mean, can it still be Valentine's Day every day? Why limit special acts of love to just February 14? Just a thought...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Here comes your 13th Nervous Breakdown

Did you notice a lower-than-normal amount of Friday the 13th commotion yesterday, which was one? Maybe the children of today have bigger things to worry about - the crushing trillions of dollars of debt into which our capitalists have led us, or Dick Cheney shooting them in the face - and what's another number in an all-digital age? Everyone afflicted with Friday the 13th mania darts about skittishly, looking up for falling pianos or down for open sidewalk grates. Meanwhile,the former vice president of the United States, injured in a tragic moving accident, rolls along merrily. We hope.

The actual fear of F the 13th is known as paraskavedekatriaphobia. I looked it up, and was informed that that word is a concatenation of the Greek words for Friday, fear and thirteen. While I had my Funk & Wagnalls cracked and ready for business, I was also informed that concatenation comes from the words con (meaning crook), cat (meaning feline) and nation (meaning all of us.) I'm not going to keep reading a dictionary that tells me that all cats in this country belong in jail, for the love of Pete! But I felt a little better to read that this whole fear of Friday the 13th is a form of triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of Triscuits. They're just no good without cheese.

When I think of Friday, I think of elementary school lunches on that day that almost always featured tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I think that ties the whole thing together nicely, and here it is Valentine's Day already. Have a happy one. Love is all around!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A little help, please?

In radio, you don't start out at a big station, and really, you shouldn't, anyway. It's working in the small town radio stations that helps build the skills to carry one to a larger market station. In fact, I knew a guy when we were starting out in the "biz" who got his first job as the overnight DJ at a Baltimore station, through a unique set of circumstances, and he envied those of us who went to work in the tiny stations where you got to do it all: play the records, read the news, empty the trash, be the engineer, sell some ads, mop the floor, all that.

Not going into too much detail here, but in 1972 I got my first job at a small station in Southern Maryland. The station had been built into an old hermit's abandoned house out in the middle of a huge field off the main road. I was 20 and, like all 20-year-olds, did not know nearly as much as I thought I knew. So when the station manager, who just happened to be the son-in-law of the owner, decided to take his wife on a six-week trip to the deserts of New Mexico in search of greater mind expansion (make of that what you will) six months after I started out, it seemed altogether fitting and proper to me that he would put me in charge of the whole operation before leaving to get in touch with Native American shamans. (Shamen?)

Things went well for the first little while. I guess it was 45 minutes before DJs started not showing up, bill collectors started calling, repossessors started repossessing, and then it got worse. Another station in the area, sensing that we had a real wise hand at the wheel, started some business trouble for us. And I needed advice on other topics too. It really was a good thing that I was too dumb to know I was not quite ready to have the keys turned over to me.

But I had friends up the road. Chris - whom I had known since Sunday School and grade school, and whose entry into radio encouraged me to go for it as well - and Dennis, with whose cousin I had gone to high school - were both great guys, working for a great station in Annapolis, which was sort of competition for us, in the way that Joe's Burgers and Subs is competition for the McDonald's chain. I called them for help several times. They could have laughed and said "Sink or swim, kid." But they didn't. They came through, helped me handle every problem and coached me on a lot of areas.

Again, no details here, but I see both of these fellows on Facebook now and I want to share this with them. I want them to know that all these years later, I have tried to remember how helpful they were. I read in a book of essays by Bob Greene about a female DJ who was being harrassed by hangup callers, and how it affected her work, and Dennis, her boss at the time, was mentioned by Greene in the story for how helpful he tried to be.

There was a first for everyone. The first time Dr Ben Carson operated on someone's brain, you can bet that a trusted advisor was right there with him. If you think I am comparing myself to Dr Carson, perhaps you should call him and get a noodle check. No, what I'm saying is, I learned from those two fine gentlemen that every beginner deserves a fair shake, good guidance, and hearty encouragement. My career path took me away from radio, but along the road I've walked, I've been a supervisor to many people, and any time I might have even thought of not being as patient as I ought to, the image of a skinny longhaired kid drowning in FCC citations, screaming phone calls and complaints about jingles getting help from two mentors always brought me around.

I'm trying to thank people who have meant a lot to me. Thank you, Dennis and Chris.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hey ! See D.C.!

Readers of the Luann comic strip are currently reading of a school trip to Washington, D.C. I am more interested in the unlikely romance between Luann's goofy brother Brad and the hottest comic character since Nancy. I'm talking about Toni Daytona here! And just like on the tv sitcom King of Queens, the writers give 1/2-assed men the hope that they, too, can wind up with a beautiful woman just by being awkward jackanapes.

But, again, they're letting that romance simmer on the back burner while Luann and her school mates and parents go to DC to see the sights.

We who live in Baltimore are just a hop-skip-and jump from these sights and yet it's safe to say that without the third-and-eighth-grade class trips down the Baltimore Washington Parkway, most of them would be sights unseen for most of us.

I'll tell you about the last time we went there, almost 15 years ago. We had dropped friends off at the Baltimore-Washington Airport early one morning, and since it was so early, I said to Peggy, "Let's head on down to DC and hit the Smithsonian and see the famous cultural relics, such as Dick Clark's dais, Fonzie's leather jacket and Archie Bunker's easy chair." Always accommodating, Peggy was up for it, and so we soon found ourselves as just one of over 27 million cars all headed for our nation's capital at sunrise.

Arriving just past 2 PM (joke - it took about an hour, tops) we immediately got lost. I recently wove that story into another entry, but after we got away from the neighborhood in which we first landed, an area that appeared to be in the running for the Dresden look-alike finals, we miraculously found a spot at a parking meter right in front of the Smithsonian. We passed a pleasant-enough day in the museum and headed home in the early afternoon. Wishing to avoid another delay by getting lost on the banks of the Styx, we asked a man riding shotgun in a DC police car for directions to I-95. He gave us such good directions that we were out of DC faster than Dick Cheney three weeks ago! And it was to be several months before I saw that police officer again. The next time, a flattering likeness of him appeared in the Washington POST under the headline "DC POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL." I hope he got a job with AAA - he was really great at directions.

But for most of us in Baltimore, they might as well build a moat around DC. When the Colts were stolen from us by a thief in the night, people from out of town said, "Well, you have a pretty good team 40 miles down the road. Why not become Redskin fans?"

Uh, no. It just can't happen.

The price of living in DC is so crazy that many people with jobs in DC are reverse-commuting - living in Baltimore and commuting morning and night. These people sure have time to enjoy the best of Baltimore, by crackey! They have to be on the road by no later than 6 AM to even have a shot at being in DC by 8, and I guess they leave Washington around 5 and get back home here by 8, just in time to hit the hay and get ready to do it all over again.

I wish Luann and her posse a whole lot of fun in DC. There is a lot to see, and sometimes I feel bad for living so close to a major ocean and the center of the free world, while farm children in Blue Earth, MN, hold bake sales to try to get here to see an ocean or an unindicted bigshot. But then I think of that traffic and I am content with the wonders of Baltimore, where peaceful waters flow.

My solution: live in Baltimore. Work in Baltimore. Love Baltimore. We love you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Sick" semper tyrannis

Last night, an odd thing occurred. There was a good show on PBS and no one asked for money! It was about the Lincoln Assassination, and John Wilkes Booth's bumbling escape plan. Any time you plan to commit such a heinous crime, don't let an actor be part of your getaway scheme. They rarely do well without outside direction.

But that's not what I'm yammering about today, and I only made the horrible pun in the title (Booth, a showman to the end, hollered "Sic semper tyrannis" (Thus ever to tyrants) after shooting Lincoln and jumping to the stage of Ford's Theater, breaking his leg in what must have been the most awkward stage entrance ever until the day Frank Sinatra brought Dean Martin onto the Jerry Lewis telethon) because when one is SICK, there is never anything good on television.

Why, when we were young, we loved snow days and sick days because in that horrible pre-VCR world, we got to see what the housebound enjoyed every day: Art Linkletter's "House Party," Mike Douglas, and Password, starring Allen Ludden
("The password is 'naptime'...... 'To Nipsey Brett Somers Klugman....and to you at home...' ").

No more, although if you can hang on 'til three o'clock, Ellen DeGeneres puts on a pretty good show, and then comes Oprah with her collection of doctors.

And fans of jurisprudence - let's hear it for the judges and defense attorneys who work so hard to keep our criminals out of jail and on the streets! -can get their fill all day long. For crying out loud, there's Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mills Lane, The People's Court, Judge Mathis, Divorce Court, Judge Hatchett,and Texas Justice. Now we know why so many crimes are being committed! All the judges in the nation are busy appearing on syndicated television shows, and have precious little time to bang down the gavel on the murdering thieving fingers of a repeat felon in downtown Baltimore when there are momentous cases involving someone's ex-girlfriend and the $753 bill for the fender she banged up on the Sonata, pulling out of that strip club parking lot the other night.
Hizzoner Larry Joe Doherty

And to the makers of Texas Justice: the show where people from deep in the heart of come on to settle their feudin' and rustlin' and divinin' rod issues: why are all these people wearing cowboy hats indoors? The coach of the Houston Oilers, Mr Bum "Bum" Phillips, refused to wear his 20-gallon Stetson inside the Astrodome! And these Cletuses (Cletii?) are standing around jawjacking in a court of law wearing hats.

There ought to be a judge show in which judges judge judges. And their wardrobes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Dreams I Walk With You...

For the spiffy new picture up over top of these words that aren't nearly as beautiful, a big shout-out to our friends Rob and Carol down in Destin, FL. Carol was nice enough to write today, see how I was feeling, invite us to swing by for a visit someday, and attach this and another picture from that lovely Gulf Shore area. I think that's is the Gulf of Mexico. I noticed that Rob took this particular photo in March of 2004, which was one month before we went down to Pensacola for my nephew's wedding, an event that the locals down there must still be talking about as When The Yankees Came To Town and The Big Guy Driving A Rental Van Drove Onto a Side Street and Got Buried Up To The Axles in Sand. And then one of the 3,000 friendly locals we encountered on that epic voyage (1,050 miles in each direction: me, Peggy, Mom, one Ford Freestar Van, 27 Cracker Barrels, unlimited grits: you do the math) actually pulled over, jumped out of his pickup, and with gigantic shovel-sized hands, helped me dig the van out of the sand, and off we went.

Another trip highlight was Gary's Bar-B-Cue in Kannapolis, NC, where I was served more dinner than I could eat. Friends, that just does not happen up here.

But thanks, Rob and Carol. Still kind of beat, so I am going to bat out a quick thought here and surrender myself to the kind of sleep that two Tylenol PMs can bring a man.

Yesterday, after the weird night of sleep I had, broken as it was sporadically for trips to the salon de bath, I told Peggy about the bizarre dreams I had. One of them involved seeing a snowy egret at Loch Raven, a reservoir near my boyhood home with lots of woods nearby. So many wooded acres, it would seem, that it affords a home for a leopard. That's what I saw in the dream. Egrets (I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention) (sorry) and then a leopard standing there as if he belonged there. And my late father appeared in this dream; he was talking to Peggy about the egrets while I tried to point out that they should turn around and look at - and not be eaten by - the leopard.

And then I dreamed that one of my nephews - not going to say which one but he is the older of the two and the reason for the trip to P'cola - had abandoned his previous enterprises and bought a defunct Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Baltimore. I mean to tell you, it was so real. Peggy and I were down there helping them set it up, and he even had these little license tags to hang below his regular license tags, the little tags meant to identify him as a proud DUNKIN' DONUTS FRANCHISE HOLDER. You'd have to know my family to appreciate the incongruity of this. If Drew (looks like I named him after all) consumes a gram of sugar per month, that's a heavy month. He eats and lives cautiously, and for him to sell java and sinkers would be akin to seeing Billy Graham signing up to play guitar and do backup vocals for Kid Rock.

The dream really became odd when I asked how come the previous owner had shuttered the donut shack up, and Drew said,"He thought it was a bad location," and I looked out to see that what was causing the shadow on the front of the sugaratorium as nightfall approached was the facade of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. That meant, of course, that we were right in the childhood stomping (literally) grounds of Babe Ruth, for whom coffee and donuts were rarely on the bill of fare.

Now then. I related the dreams, ascribed them to either what Scrooge called an undigested bit of cheese or temporary virus lunacy, and Peggy rushed to bring out the 47 different books she has collected over the years on the arcane topic of dream analysis. The leopard means you are self confident! Or, that I dreamed about a leopard, to my way of seeing it. Seeing your father meant you need to communicate something to him! Or, that I saw my father!

I don't know how you stand on dream analysis. I can't see how it can come from anyplace real. How can seeing an animal in a dream mean something concrete? I remember a website called Pepperoni Dreams, in which people would deliberately consume spicy foods right before taking a nap, so they could wake up and write down their crazy dreams. At least, these people get a nice snack for their reward and dream about it later.

And that's a dream we can all analyze, right, Sigmund?

Monday, February 9, 2009


The best thing for my diet - get sick! I have not eaten one thing since last night's dinner, and that meal did not stay with me for long.

But speaking of last night's dinner...we went to an Italian place (rhymes with ''Farrabba's'') and the most annoying thing was going on. We went with friends for the very last of Peggy's birthday celebrations. Part of the "charm" of this place is that the cooking is done right out there in the open, so diners are regularly treated to momentary flareups as hot oil meets hot pan. I'm sure that the guys back behind the bar, cooking, ham it up a little bit, tossing pans and ingredients in the manner of a Tom Cruise bartender movie. Then, once the meals are "plated", they are given a last-minute inspection and garnish by a woman in a maroon shirt.

Apparently, she is a big fan of US Marine movies, because, after the food passes her rigorous once-over, she gives it to "food runners" who then walk (!) it to the tables of waiting customers, who have already gnawed through an entire loaf of crusty, yeasty bread. BUT! To get the attention of the food runners, she hollers - bellows - SCREAMS! things such as "Food runners! Hot food here! Come on! We have 16 runners tonight; where are you guys?"

To which the runners slide back to her position in the desultory manner of teenagers since time began.

Could this woman not ring a bell or something to get their attention? Where are they anyway; either they should be occupied with handing people their chow or waiting for the next plate of manicotti to dispense.

One goes to a restaurant for a pleasant dining experience and winds up hearing this shrieking fishwife barking at her staff. I could have stayed home and watched The View if I wanted that.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

We got your number

Inveterate TV and movie watchers (and even some veterate watchers, for all I know) are used to scenes in which someone gives their phone number to someone else. Of course, that person always had a crisp pad of paper right there, along with a sharp pencil at the ready. But the number, back in the days before all-digital dialing, would be KLondike 5 – 1234 or something like that, which of course became the 555- blah blah blah blah that we’re used to now. The phone companies just reserved the KL5- or 555- exchanges for people making movies with Victor Mature in them.

In the early 80’s, one-hit rock group Tommy Tutone came out with a catchy song called “867-5309 (Jenny).” In that war-torn summer of 1982, our national morale was being tested as Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British colony, resulting in both the Falklands War, and glorious victory parades, as the war ended with a British win. By Jove, England had provoked a stupid little war over nothing, movie actor Ronald Reagan had butted us into it for the sake of our national pride, and we rolled up our sleeves and started looking for a part in a war often described as “two bald men fighting over a comb." Generals and Majors always seem so unhappy 'less they got a war, as XTC sang.

All across the length and, especially, the breadth of America, school kids could be heard singing “There Will Always Be An England,” “We’ll Meet Again,” and “867-5309 (Jenny).”

To this day, when we hear that song, our thoughts go back to the Falklands War. Or of calling 867-5309 in every area code known to Ma Bell. Check this guy’s blog.

You talk about having free time to call all these numbers looking for Jenny!

And now comes word that some disc jockey – not the cool, radio sort of disc jockey, but the one that shows up at weddings to play music from a computer – had the 867-5309 number in his local calling area and wishes to sell it. How cool it would be if someone named “Lenny” or “Henny” or “Penny” bought it, so they would get calls like this:

Caller: “Hello, Jenny?”

Person who owns phone number: “Nah, this is Lenny.”

And just where do we go from there?