Friday, July 31, 2009

Mad About Me

No, it's not self-infatuation; I guess it would be closer to say I am mad at me. Or myself, whichever.

Like everyone else, I have my share of physical problems. Some of them are self-inflicted. Some are just my tough noogies.

But there is a young fella who comes to the physical therapy place where I try to work off some of the self-inflicted excess avoirdupois, and he's just a little, little guy. His life is in a wheelchair, except for when they take him to the p.t. place and he works with a physical therapist in the pool. I don't know the details of of his situation, and they are both not important here and also none of my business.

I see him being wheeled in and out as I work on the elliptical machines or the treadmill or the recumbent bike or the cable weight column or the stair-stepper, and it makes me so sad to think. This boy will never get to play baseball with his friends in some elementary school playground on a lazy hot July afternoon. Will he get to fall in love, will he get to be cool? The questions Neil Young raises are valid.

Another question: why on earth do I grumble over a gallbladder, complain about cartilage, beef about my back, fuss over my feet, kick about my kidneys, moan about my mandible, repine about my rotator cuff, sulk about my shoulder, wail about my wrist, or yammer about my yawning? I should not squawk about anything that life brings my way. I feel bad just thinking of times I did so, unfairly.

I see the boy's parents and I realize that God in his wisdom chose them carefully to take care of this child. It's plain to see that their lives pretty much revolve around him and always will. How inspiring to see that kind of love!

I'd like to tell them all I am sorry for their pain and trouble, but I have a feeling that they don't see it that way. Would that we all could show such forbearance in the face of obstacles one millionth the size of theirs.

If you think some football player or race car driver or movie actor is a hero, join me after work one day and I'll show you some heroes.

Remember the poem that was recited at Princess Diana's funeral?

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in our own.

I feel sorry that it takes something like this to change my perspective, but I'm trying. Thanks for listening. Our regularly scheduled show, "Pickin' on Palin," will return at this time tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Voice Maul

It's fooled me twice, and I wish it hadn't.

It's a business contact whom I have to phone every now and then. Well, it's her phone.

You see, when she is there at her desk, she answers the phone, "Mildred Shlabotnick...*," and we have our business conversation and away we go.

But when she's not at her desk, wherever it is she works, her voice mail comes on, answers on the second ring, "Mildred Schlabotnick...*" and I go "Hi, Mildred, listen, about those blah blah blah " because just then you hear that universal nasal operator-y recorded voice saying..."is not in. Please leave a message for (space) Mildred Schlabotnick (pause) at the tone. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!"

Another thing about these new-fangled answerin' machines..ever notice how often people sound, when they record their name for the outgoing message, as if this is the first time they have ever said their name aloud? It's always like "MILdred SchlaBOTnick?!"

And of course I'm totally thrown off stride and I leave a message that, when Mildred gets back from Panera, she hears and immediately questions my sanity, the point of the message I had wanted to leave having been subsumed in the verbal equivalent of a man knocked off his feet.

Maybe I'll just quit leaving messages, because as we all have been told
, one can do even more by quitting than by doing the job one was chosen to do.

Click here for message:

* not her real name. Nor hers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tony! Tony! Tony!

People don't necessarily notify the Chamber of Commerce when Anthony Bourdain shows up for a meal. As a chef, they say he is about the sharpest knife in the drawer, although you have to wonder if his sauces are still exquisite, now that he has crossed over that big divide between working, sweating chef and globetrotting, book writing TV-starring Famous Chef. I can't say. He works, or did work, for a swanky French joint in New York called Brasserie Les Halles (literally, "food with sauce all over it and you don't have a say-so in the matter so just sit there and eat it!") As someone who greatly and loudly prefers Brasserie Le Diner, and grits over couscous, and pulled pork over Chateaubriand, suffice it so say that old Anthony and I are in different culinary leagues.

I enjoyed his first book, "Kitchen Confidential," quite a lot. I have always enjoyed reading about different jobs, and talking to people about their jobs, and hearing how things get done. If you're picky about how your food is cooked - what happens between the farm and your restaurant plate - I don't recommend the book, but for those willing to accept a little extra flavor on their pommes frites (literally, Frito pomade), you should be OK.

But Bourdain has had to slowly climb down from the petard on which he found himself hoist when he picked on Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray for becoming celebrities. He became quite the celebrity chef for damning others for becoming...celebrity chefs.


Tony the Celebrity showed up in Baltimore last January to film a segment for his show on the Travel Channel. Temporarily eschewing his standard diet of bull testicles and tiger innards (I think it's offal to eat like that!), he showed off the foods upon which we here in this aging Rust Belt city (he lumped us in with Detroit and Buffalo, for crying out loud) like to chow down. The show showed up on cable the other night, and it sure made me wish it was January again, when it's cold and rainy here, not hot and humid.

Bourdain is catching the dickens for the shallowness of his Cook's tour of Baltimore - hey, that's where that expression comes from, maybe?! David Zurawick at the Sun paper says Bourdain fit his preconceived notions about life in B'more into the show by having as his docents a couple of people who were involved in the TV show The Wire - one cop turned actor, one crook turned actress. Doesn't bother me at all. And you have to like this sort of least the first and third places they went!

Chaps Pit Beef is over on Pulaski Highway, the section of US 40 on Baltimore's east side named after the Polish soldier of fortune who saved George Washington's life during the Revolutionary War (ours.) You could look that up; it happened! Many a motorist bound between DC and points northeast has gotten off I-95 in this area and wound up at Chaps - the place where Tony met the Tiger Sauce® - eating sandwiches that look like this:

You just have to think that at least a dozen or so of those travellers said, "The heck with going back to Boston! Let's live here and eat like this forever! Who needs baked beans and chowder? Why stay there and get scrod all the time?"

I am really sorry about that last one.

Indeed. AB and sidekick then headed to the Northwestern part of the city - right across from the Northwestern police precinct house, and you can't get much more Northwestern than that around here. Here, in an erstwhile Burger Chef® building, Lake Trout is served. We call it Lake Trout for the same reason we call Larry King Larry King... we know he ain't the King; it's only a temporary, honorary title, like Queen Latifah or Governor Palin. Lake Trout is not trout, but whiting, and the only lake it ever sees would occur when the delivery truck takes a shortcut around Lake Montebello on the way to the place where they bread and deep fry all but the head of the whiting. And, since it's whiting, they serve it on white bread, with greens on the side. And macaroni and cheese, and that's good eating.

These are items not found outside of BallTEEmore, hon, and you can bet that when we go to New Jersey in a couple of weeks, I'll be like paraphrasing Chuck Berry: "lookin' hard for a beef stand, searching for a corner fish joint."

I had a friend who cried when she moved to Kentucky and could not find TastyKakes, Utz's Chips or Old Bay in the Piggly Wiggly. Baltimore gets in your belly and stays there.

Thanks for stopping by, Tony!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rated X

Mr Letterman, when speaking of letters, will tell you that words with the letter 'k' are funnier than those without it; hence "Kenny" is his go-to name for laughs, more so than "Horace."

I have an aversion to words with the "x" in them, except, of course for S-E-X. Jinxed, hexed,vexed,exhausted...all are things that I wish not to be. Using "X" words tends to bring me bad luck.

So I hope I'm not putting the old whammy on myself when I say the longer I live on my street, the more I appreciate my neighbors, when I read about what goes on where other people live.

No one on our street sees fit to raise pythons, breed pit bulls, operate motor vehicles like

Bigfoot , have parties with the same attendance and sound level as Woodstock, bang on my door at all hours asking that I purchase raffle tickets for their kid's soccer team / drum & bugle corps / senior trip to Graceland, have their Cousin Eddie park his RV on the street and empty the septic system into the storm drain, have dogs that howl like coyotes all night long, fail to shovel their portion of the sidewalk after a snowfall, or allow their yard to become overgrown and resemble the Serengeti, complete with wildebeests.
This is no Hoax! Oh no.
Thanks, neighbors. The more I watch the news, the more I love you all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chitty Chitty Bang-bang

In Baltimore, where the hills are often alive with the crackling sound of gunfire, and veterans lately back from the war-torn mideast feel like they're back in Baghdad from the sound of things, it's hardly a surprise to turn on the news and hear stories that go like this: "A young man was gunned down today at the corner of Martin and Lewis. Police report the victim was shot 23 times about the head and chest, and that dozens of glassine envelopes and a roll of bills totaling $1300 surrounded the body. Police suspect foul play in the death, and hint that narcotics might be involved."

Then, within the next few days, as long as you can keep the multitudinous street killings straight in your mind, you’ll hear that a suspect has been rounded up and brought in for arraignment on the charges. His attorney will address the media outside the great gray courthouse downtown and let us all know that the young man grew up in a tough neighborhood without a great deal of love in his life. Then, a reporter, brandishing computer printouts, will detail the lengthy arrest and conviction record of the young man whose life has taken so many tragic turns.

What’s always missing is the piece in which a representative from the National Rifle Association, great defenders of arms long and short, speaks up and decries the easy availability of handguns on the nation’s streets and highways. Even the most fervent defenders of their right to own a .22 to (choose one) a) protect their family from communists or bears b) plink tin cans or c) go a-huntin’ with Zeke and Big Shirtless Ron have no comment on the death toll brought to bear on the nation by the proliferation of handguns.

Now this from the New York Times, reporting that a measure that would have allowed proud gun owners to strut about from state to state while proudly toting their substitutes ooops I mean guns has failed in the Senate. The outcry will be uproarious! If this were one of those TV talent shows where they put the applause-o-meter on the screen to show who hollers most loudly for whom, the shouting of the spurned would enlittle (opposite of embiggen) the soulful suffering of the shot.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just crossed that line!

As Stewie would say: heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere we go. Because... I just crossed another line. My feet are planted firmly in Stodgyville. I am clearly part of that population born before 1980, meaning that I am in the minority, age-wise. I'm so old, if I go to an antiques auction, people bid on me. So old, undertakers tell me it's hardly worth it to go home. The first rainbow I saw was black and white, my birth certificate is in Roman numerals, I have an autographed Bible.

Because... I don't get this thing with people dancing their way into their wedding ceremony. It's the latest viral video and it's making me a little viral. No one asked me, and it's a free country, but to my mind, if you get married in a church, you do so because you wish to lend a certain holy solemnity to the occasion. A house is not a home, stone walls do not a prison make, and a church is not a discotheque.

And I like to see people dance. Most tragically, I am not able to dance due to a horrible industrial accident involving a freight roller, a quart of Pennzoil and a foolish bet, but I love to see people who can really cut a rug get out there and cut one. (Pause for cheap laugh.) We've been to weddings at which the bridal party dances into the reception, and loved it! That's where the dancing should take place, unless you're also going to have a martini fountain and a huge lasagna at the church vestibule.

I dunno; that's just my take on it. I have to go listen to The Great Gildersleeve anyway.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Aztecs did NOT invent the vacation

That silver-haired Daddy of mine certainly was a wise man. He gave me all sorts of advice that, in many cases, has worked like one of those time-capsule cold tablets. Which is to say, at first, it put me to sleep, but as time went on it has proven to have had a salubrious effect.

One of his oft-repeated phrases was "measure twice, cut once," and it turned out that he was referring to not just wood but also words when he said that. An exacting man, when he asked for a 2 x 4 and I'd reply, "How long did you want it?" he never replied, "Well, I want to keep it." No, he did not truck in cheap gags and snappy retorts. He would say that he wanted the 2 x 4 to be 3'7" (that's 43 inches, if you're scoring at home) and by that he meant not around 43 inches or like 43 inches or 43 1/2" or 42 3/4". He dealt in specifics and made sure of measured wood and measured words.

So you have to wonder what he would think if he were still with us...or if he just popped in for a visit. What if he had been hanging around the house the other night while I watched "Commando" the other night? What if I had told him that the Austrian meatloaf, painted up in black-and-green camo, chasing an evil dictator who played his part as if they had told him "The character is a cross between Henry Rollins and Freddie Mercury," had now become the governor of California?

How to explain that a talented and polished performer like Jay Leno had been replaced by a self-conscious, nervous but not funny-nervous-like-Don Knotts guy named Conan?

And most staggering, how to tell him that the collective intelligence level of the plebiscite had fallen to a point where a significant portion of voters are willing to believe that the duly-elected president is not really president because he "wasn't born here"? The fact that Mr Obama was born in Hawaii, and the fact that, against all odds, and even though you can't get in the Chevy and drive there, Hawaii is so a state, would make him a natural-born citizen of the United States.

I don't know what makes me sadder: either that, again, a significant amount of people fall for this balderdash - it's not just the few who also sit with aluminum foil covering their heads to protect themselves from the Martian gamma rays - or that the Daughter Of Cheney and others of her ilk who seem bent on spinning this yarn into whole cloth, even though they know it's a lie and they know it can't be true, keep on weaving it because they know that a certain amount of people will buy into it, and that this will hurt the president and his chances of getting us out of the morass into which other members of the Cheney family led the nation.

Willie Nelson wrote a song called "I Never Cared for You" using the same model: the repetition of ridiculous statements to prove the point that if A, B, and C are stated to be true, then surely D must be so. Willie wrote:

The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all

The sky was never blue,

The stars are raindrops searching for a place to fall,

And I never cared for you.

Four wrongs still don't make a right, and four left turns bring us right back to where we started. I say, let's get over this nonsense about where the president came from and get on with where he is taking us.

We're doing OK down here, Dad, but jeeeeeeeesh! Sometimes, I wonder how.

PS Today's title about the Aztecs came from the Firesign Theatre's brilliant album "Everything You Know Is Wrong." It's great! I know it is. Uh-oh!

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the Valley of the Jolly Ho Ho Hos

There is a show on pay cable; I think it's called Mad Men or some such. Since there are so many comedies on tv for free already (King of Queens, Rules of Engagement and The O'Reilly Factor among them) I don't pay to watch comedies or drama on pay purview.

But the point of the show is the advertising business in the Golden Age of Madison Avenue: in the early 60's, having an ad agency and a few successful accounts was a license to print money. Look at all the slogans and images we can recall even now from those halcyon days:

"We try harder," "The Pepsi generation," "Please don't squeeze the Charmin", "Ring around the collar," "Let Hertz put you in the driver's seat," "I want my Maypo," "Take it off... take it all off with Noxzema Medicated Shave," "Ajax cleans like a white tornado!", " In the valley of the jolly (ho ho ho) Green Giant," "Ajax Laundry Detergent is stronger than dirt."

Ah, yes. Words that ring true, even today. The beauty of a great slogan is in its simplicity. You'll find no Winston Churchills among the men and women who sell Winston cigarettes and Churchill luggage. The last thing they want to do is overload their message with ponderous prose and turgid treatises, no matter how attractively alliterate or coyly clever. Nope. "I want my MTV!" were just four words that worked because they recalled our youthful cry of "I want my Maypo!" No need to write sonnets for a 30-second spot about hemorrhoid medications. Just sell the product and have another martini.

Which is why I am bringing to your attention a slogan which makes up for in honesty what it lacks in comfort. The good people at
Saddleback Leather sell what looks like a fine line of durable goods...wallets, messenger bags, pouches, satchels and what-all. They seem to have two slogans:

"Quality Built to Last"


"They'll Fight Over It When You're Dead"

Now that second one just sings to you, doesn't it? The very thought... the image... of the kids...Jim Bob and Lurleen...bickering bitterly over poor departed Uncle Nabob's leather valise is the stuff of Norman Rockwell, Jr., if there had been one.

But when you reach the mid-August of your years, you do think about such things. I like to tell the story of the ophthalmologist who told my terminally-ill father that he was developing the early warning signs of glaucoma and would likely need treatment for it in 6 to 8 years. This was like 6 to 8 months before Dad crossed the bar, so he was able to tell the young doctor that it wouldn't be a problem.

If you're 87 and you buy a new Buick, do you gamble on the extended warranty? Even if you realize that Jim Bob and Lurleen will be packing your valise to go to Twitty City on a vacation in your Buick which outlived you because you didn't get the extended warranty on your hypothalamus?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trash Talkin'

I am totally serious when I say this. At this time of year, there are people at work for you every day, and their work, never much fun to begin with, is only harder when the temperature and the humidity soar like stinky eagles.

I'm talking about the refuse collectors who come to your street and haul away the trash and the recycling. This is not a sweet gig, but it's honest work; can you recall ever seeing a trash truck come down your street without the crew hustling to your driveway or sidewalk, grabbing the cans and bags and bundles, tossing them into the great yawning maw of the diesel-belching truck, and then signaling to the driver to pull up to the next house? While they walk to the next can or bag or bundle. All day long, and in the heat, not much fun.

My buddy did this job one summer between semesters in college. The other summers, he worked in a photo lab - and by the way, he wanted you to know that when you send your "special, private" photos to a photo lab, people who work in the photo lab make five or six copies of your special, private pictures of your special privates and trade them around like kids with a pack of Jose Canseco rookie cards. The one summer he couldn't get that job, things just didn't develop for him and he wasn't in the picture. So he worked in DC for a trash hauler in swanky Georgetown, where he was obliged to go into the backyard of these richguy joints and haul the trash around, thereby saving that good-for-nothing Von Snobsworth boy from having to get up and do something besides being corpulent all summer. My friend told me that, usually by 2 pm every day, he was used to the rotten stench and foul miasma of waste.

The people we think are important - the A-Rods, the Johnny Depps, the Simon Cowells of the world...if they all packed it in and stopped working, somehow, life would go on. And quite frankly, if Jon & Kate were to sell their mansion and move back to Oblivion, we'd all be better off. But ask anyone who's been in New York City during a sanitation strike, as the potato peelin's, banana skins, steak leavin's, and chicken bones pile up and shimmer in the summer sun, and they will tell you that the smell is not quite like walking through Lavender Fields.

Right about now, you might be asking yourself, why is he making this point? I'm just saying, there are far worse things in life than to have the local trash guys on your side, and one of the wise investments I make every so often is to get a cheap styrofoam cooler, ice down a six pack of something cold and refreshing, toss in a chaser and leave it for the guys. (Wintertime alternative: a little "toddy for the body.") Then, when you want to get rid of something that might be a little bulky or large or otherwise just outside the guidelines, you sleep tight because you took care of the guys who take care of you!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Peggy said she already knew I would call this one "Louis, Louis"

Last Saturday, after a small delegation of women told me that I had to do this, I went to buy a new suit. Normally, I can do all of my clothes shopping through the online and 1-800 services of Messrs. Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean, but to sell you a suit, the clothing dealers can invoke the law of habeas corpus: they have to have your body right there to poke and prod at, as if you were a prize Turkey and it's two days until Thanksgiving, and of course so that later they can goof on your socks. Mashed potatoes! Gravy! and cranberry sauce!

Tutti frutti? All rootie!

So the deal was struck, and I will be decked out in a fine blue pinstriped suit (the suit is blue, the pinstripes are white) (could you get a blue suit with blue stripes?) for baby Finley's christening in September. I am not a suit kind of guy; I think it's readily apparent to anyone who has been in my company for upwards of 13 seconds that I am strictly polo shirts, khakis, Rockports (Rockports: The Leader in Mall-Walker Foot Technology since 1988!) and red socks, unless great duress is brought to bear. But as adorable as Finley is, she deserves a great-uncle who does not look like he just rode in on a turnip truck.

I was just glad to get away from the clothing store. I do not like to be in a clothing store. People there are way too involved with clothing. To me, clothing is something you buy in bulk every couple of years or so - a few pairs of pants and jeans, some shirts, underwear, red socks, done. This aversion to haberdasheries is in no small measure part of the reason why I am habitually left off the list of Best-Dressed Men.

Peggy has had a huge urge to go to the Louis Vuitton store that opened in Towson Plaza...Towsontown Center...Towson Towne Centre...whatever they call it this week, they opened a luxury wing that is sure to separate the big rollers from their big rolls. This Frenchman, Vuitton, died many years ago, but it would seem that he had the ability to see into the future. He foresaw a day when people would gladly part with $1250 American for a purse in which to carry around the rest of their money.

Twelve hundred and fifty semolians, children.

While Peggy roamed around the store, I sauntered over by the rack of ties, where ties can be purchased for just $195. It all started to remind me of that scene from "Trains, Planes and Automobiles" in which Steve Martin is trying to get a cab to the airport, and winds up outbidding a Prickly New Yorker type only after the PNY says "Anyone who would 50 dollars for a cab would gladly pay 75."

This tie - even though 'tis spun of the finest imported Italian silk and is lined with 100% virgin wool (I usually settle for 66% virgin wool; who am I to judge?) couldn't cost more than 30 bucks to weave and spin. The rest of the money, at least a good chunk of it, goes to pay two dudes to wear black suits and ties and shoes and white shirts, looking like I don't know what, either Will Smith and Tommy L. Jones in that one movie, or Geek Squad On a Date. These guys size you up when you walk in and then keep an eye on your every move while you're in the store, lest someone be tempted to remove their wallet, cell, eye makeup, fourteen lip glosses, Nora Roberts novel and keys from their purse and stuff same into one of those $1250 Louies. You can go to jail for that.

But, as the song says, Brother, you can't go to jail for what you're thinking, and what I'm thinking is, if you are spending twelve and a half yards on a pockybook (Baltimore lexicon) and almost 200 clams on a tie, unless you are Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or something, dude, you're getting hosed! Think of what you could be doing with those bucks! Why not get a nice sturdy purse someplace else and give the rest to someone down on their luck and/or love?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Write Stuff

Tom Wolfe has a brilliant piece in Sunday's New York Times about the problem NASA had of peaking too soon. Reading his essay, one is taken back to the heady Space Race days, which began in October, 1957, when the Russians fired Sputnik into space, and ended 40 years ago when Americans ankled about on the moon. We won the space race! Yet, as Wolfe points out, there was joy and dancing in the streets and unconfined national pride in 1962 when John Glenn went for a five-hour orbital ride, and then the moon landing in 1969, and then... I don't remember the same excitement about subsequent flights. It seemed that, having arrived on the moon, Americans then said, "Oh, boy! We're back on the moon! Let's go again and again and again!" and so we did, and for what purpose?

We all knew guys who were into model rocketeering. I remember the company that sold stuff to some neighbors who were into it: Estes. They're still around, selling rocket stuff and now they have added radio control airplanes and other items to the inventory. This is not a bad way for young people to spend their time; it certainly beats sitting in front of a video game for hours on end, committing Grand Theft Auto to memory.

In the same way that "-gate" has been appended to countless words in the long-lasting wake of Watergate to denote scandal, lying and coverup, "-nik" was added onto words after the Russians got their first satellite up there, and that's how Herb Caen, a columnist in San Francisco, came up with "beatnik" for a term to describe those people who had previously been called "bohemians." In Baltimore, of course, we were not satisfied with having local Bohemians. We insisted on National Bohemians.

So...argue back if you will...but I once asked a scientifically-oriented co-worker to identify just what, as a nation, we had derived after spending 10 gazillion dollars to send people to the moon ahead of Alice Kramden.

"All sorts of things, " came the reply. "Digital watches, Corning Ware and Tang, just to name three!"

Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty! Assuming that, absent a need for digital watches aboard a spacecraft, someone else would have invented such timepieces if only to give America a car dashboard clock that actually worked, I think that Corning Ware might not be quite worth that much money, seeing as how it is so readily available at every yard sale, Good Will and Salvation Army store you see. Tang - the powdered imitation orangeade - just makes me think of when Bart Simpson went to Kamp Krusty, only to be served Krusty Brand® imitation gruel.

I know that it was a Democrat (JFK) who committed America to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and I just have to think he had other benefits in mind besides a watch, cookware, and fake juice. Maybe we should spend a bit more time taking care of things here on this earth for a while. As for now, if you have more than one commode where you live, just're better off than the 13 people currently aboard the International Space Station, who are all wondering why NASA failed to send along a digital toilet plunger for this mission.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Just in case you run out of things to fret about...

Here ya go, right off the wire:

Lawsuit: dentist dropped tools down man's throat

Sun Jul 19, 8:39 AM EDT

A Florida dentist is being sued for allegedly dropping tools down the throat of an elderly patient — twice. Relatives of 90-year-old Charles Gaal Jr. recently filed the suit in circuit court accusing Dr. Wesley Meyers of negligence. An answering message at Meyers' office in Winter Park said Saturday that he was on vacation. He did not reply to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The lawsuit says the doctor dropped an "implant screwdriver tool" in 2006 and a "mini-wrench" in 2007.

The suit also says Gaal underwent several medical procedures to remove the tools but never fully recovered. He died in 2007.

Meyers was fined $17,000 by the state a year later. The dentist was found negligent in a settlement.


Information from: Orlando Sentinel,

Gee, do you think we could get an appointment with Dr. Wesley "Butterfingers" Meyers any time soon? Of course, this could all be balderdash - made-up nonsense filed by an overly avid attorney to try to wring money out of an honest, hard-working dentist!

Uh-oh! Now you have to worry about lawyers! Where does all this end, I ask you? Now, where's my mini-wrench?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Importance of Being Ernest

At the tender age of 16, I was toying with several career options: journalist, international playboy, radio DJ. We had an outstanding high school newspaper and a wonderful instructor/adviser, the splendid Clarinda Harriss, who taught me the first things I was ever to learn about beat poetry, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and poems that didn't rhyme or even scan evenly. Truly, she was an epochal figure in my life, and her thoughts, teachings and even personal attitudes are with me yet today, a scant 40+ years later.

It was just before the Summer of Love in '67 that I fell in love with traditional country music. Ms Harriss encouraged me to interview some of the country stars who came to town. I might not be so bold today as to ask Keith Urban to talk with me about his life for publication in a high school newspaper, but armed with BIC pens and a pad, teenage brashness and her encouragement, I took the #8 bus to the Baltimore Civic Center. I inveigled my way past the dozing security guard, who wouldn't have likely noticed had I walked past him carrying a machine gun, a Molotov cocktail and Judge Crater's robes, and knocked on the bus door of the great Ernest

Bus door. Because the country stars did not perform in the usual Las Vegas-New York- Los Angeles circuit, but, rather, the Conway, Arkansas - Chicamauga Falls, Georgia - Yazoo City, Mississippi circuit, and there were generally no airports at their ports of call. So they traveled with their bands in converted Greyhound buses.

Bus door. I knocked, someone answered, and I asked if I could speak to Mr Tubb. At length, the great man stepped off the bus and spoke to me then and there in the indoor parking area of the Civic Center, weaving the tales of his life and career and showing me his ring, with "E T " spelled out in diamonds. Again, he had no need for the sort of publicity that an article in the Towson High School Talisman would bring him, but he talked to me as if I were Walter Cronkite or something.

I wrote the article - can't say for sure that it was ever published - and cherished my fleeting brush with fame at his bus door. Mr Tubb was known as "ET" and "Ol' Ern, the Daddy of 'em all," in his day, and Lord, couldn't he sing! I mean it. He always said that the secret to his success lay in the fact that all over America, guys would drop coins in jukeboxes, punch up his records ( "Walkin' the Floor Over You", "I've Got All the Heartaches I Can Handle","Waltz Across Texas" and "Do You What You Do Do Well" among them) and tell date, "I can sing better than that guy!"

"And 95% of the time, they were right!," Ernest would always confirm.

It's also very true that when I heard, in the early 80's that Steven Spielberg was producing a movie about ET, I got all worked up and couldn't wait. I was even at the stage of envisioning just whom to get to play the lead role, and it was down to George Hamilton or Rock Hudson, in my mind, when the bad news arrived. The film came out and it was about a little green space alien.

But Ern did play himself in "Coal Miner's Daughter," the biographical movie about his former duet partner Loretta Lynn. My friend Lisa tells me that it was at Loretta's insistence that the great ET, from Crisp, Texas, assayed his own role. Good for her. Country music radio has jettisoned all the Tubbs and Joneses and Wagoners for the Urbans and the Paisleys, two names that sound like pages from GQ's Fall Fashion Preview to me.

I'm quite certain that today's country stars don't stand around talking to kids, but Mr Tubb showed me a lot that evening about loving what you do for a living, wanting to get along with everyone, and one last thing:

ET always ended his show by turning over his guitar and sending his gratitude out for everyone like this:

and then he'd take his leave, always with this benediction - one that all of us should say when we end a day of work:
"Thanks again, and remember, be better to your neighbor and you'll have a better neighbor, doggone ya!"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And you thought Diana Ross was the Supreme leader!

Yesterday, Iranians were breaking their necks to get to the Dollar Palm Tree and get cards to wish a big old Happy Birthday to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, born in Mashhad, Iran (1939).

I bet Mashhad is really pretty at this time of the year. That was my first thought when I read that it was his birthday- actually, heard Mr Keillor talk about it. It was hardly shocking news a month or so ago when the rigged elections in Iran turned into street riots. People will only stand for so much oppression before they will rebel. *cough 11/4/08 USA * cough* But for crying out loud, I heard of an American woman who was injured in those fracases, and the news report indicated that she was "on vacation in Iran." Now, I don't know how to say this without sounding provincial, jingoistic and so hopelessly middle-class, but can anyone tell me any good reason for going to a corner of the globe that is usually identified as "war-torn" for a vacation? I just do not understand. My idea of vacations is all about surf 'n' sun, also surf 'n' turf and surf 'n' suds. We like the ocean, and relaxing around in Cape May, and reading out-of-town newspapers (me) and arcane Eastern philosophical books (not me.) But vacation in Iran? Help me understand.

Mr Keillor went on to say about this Grand Ayatollah (which sounds like a sporty Hyundai to me) that it is against the law to criticize him in Iran. Well, there's another reason for me to avoid vacationing there and stick with the kind of resort town where college kids bring you stacks of golden pancakes, all steaming right off the griddle, the sunlight dappled off the rich maple syrup tapped right out of a tree by a guy wearing one of those wool red-and-black plaid baseball hats with ear flaps, and with butter - great scoops of dairy-rich creamery butter, melting sweetly and forming little rivulets as it runs down the side. Down the side of the stack of pancakes, that is, not the hat with flaps.

I have always enjoyed having the freedom to speak my mind, what there is of it, and would be vexed, miffed and peeved to find that I no longer had the right to do so. What's more, even though I heap disdain on fellow Americans such as George Bush 43, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly and others, I cherish the right to do so, I respect their right to vehemently disagree with me (and oh Lord, do they ever!), and I would never willingly relinquish their right to free speech, nor mine.

Years ago I met a couple of friends who had an interesting habit. Any time they found themselves criticizing a person, they turned to each other and made it a point to say something good about that person. In that vein, there is something that I learned from reading about Bush 41 - George H.W. Bush, the "older" Bush. He made it a regular part of his day to carry around little note cards and dash off quick thank-you notes to people who had been especially helpful, or kind, or had just done something that called for a little pat on the shoulder. I think that's great. No one ever got vexed, miffed or irked because someone else sent them a thank-you note, and to be commended for being commendable is just a good thing all around.

And, one good thing about Bush 43 is, he never tried to talk me into vacationing in Iran. There you go!

Friday, July 17, 2009

You Take the High Road

One of the great pleasures of my pleasure-filled life is LIFE itself. I love to get those old magazines from the 40's and 50's and just delve into a day when things were so different.

You might think, oh, the world was a better place back then, but then you pick up a LIFE from, say 1943, when World War II was not going so well for the Allied Forces, and it makes you a little sad. There were millions of families torn asunder by war, and fear, and loss.

You can always judge a lot about a society by looking at the advertisements in these magazines. For example, most of American industry was changed over to producing vital supplies for the war. So, Ford was not making sedans in those days, but their plants were retooled to making machines for the Army. You name the industry - from airplanes to fountain pens - and the ads were all about how they were working like the dickens to make enough for the service, and looked forward to the brighter tomorrow after the war, when things would be available again for all.

But, even though the times were tough, the people were good and stalwart defenders of the nation. It's just that one needs to bear in mind the historical context of the times when seeing some of these old ads. By today's standards, some of the images are quite racist and sexist and a lot of other bad "-ists."

Talk about perpetuating stereotypes! I was flipping through a 1949 LIFE the other night while waiting for sleep to take me, and there in postwar America were advertising images showing women as totally dependent on men when it came to complicated he-men stuff like buying tires for the Studebaker or cooking beef the way His Majesty liked it. Men are depicted as lunkheads who would have trouble remembering to pick up a Whitman's Sampler and an anniversary card without a string tied to their index finger. All these images...

The one that almost made me fall out of bed, hurting my head, showed a television on sale for the low, low price of $239.95. And this is a day when 240 semolians was way beyond what GI Joe Home Again earned in a week...maybe a month. So having a tv around was a major investment. In order to show that this particular tv set was a thrifty buy, the manufacturer had a cartoon of a Scottish guy beaming his approval. You could tell he was a Scottish guy; he had a big bushy beard and a long thin pipe and one of those Tam O' Shanter hats and a set of bagpipes and a plaid kilt. Clearly, an expert on thrift! How stilted, how stereotypical. And I'm willing to bet that there are jillions of Scots who are not thrifty, googobs of Germans who are not industrious, a veritable phalanx of Mexicans who wouldn't dream of taking a siesta while wearing a see what I'm driving at. These old ethnic slurs are so dumb, and we are glad that they are thing of our past.

Not so fast. In case you haven't seen this, click here for a link to a look at crackpot Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK) - a man who is both a medical doctor and an opponent of controls over handguns and tobacco - as he does a disgusting, racist, stupid Ricky Ricardo impersonation at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who, I am willing to bet, really wishes that the rest of the country would get past the 1940 stage in our LIFE.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bull Split

Not only was this past Tuesday Bastille Day in France, but just down the Iberian Peninsula a tad, in Pamplona, Spain, the annual San Fermin Festival wrapped up with the traditional running of the bulls.

Ernest Hemingway, later to gain fame in those "Know what I mean, Vern?" commercials, brought this Spanish silliness to worldwide attention in his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, or Look Homeward, Angel. (He was quite indecisive.)

You see it every year: it's like a worldwide convention of drunks and daredevils, rakehells and ne'er-do-wells, all soused up and ready to run rampant while quite possibly being rammed in the pants. Not to be gore-y. It is dumb, but people show up for it every year, just like a Bret Favre comeback.

And so the world's photojournalists have to spend precious dollars sending precious reporters and hard-bitten camerapersons to this small Spanish town up in the north of Spain, far from the rainy plain.

And heaven knows they are busy at this time of year! Somewhere - like lately in Dallas and Phoenix - there is an extended heat wave every summer, and that means the deployment of still more cameras and journalists as they vie for the new angle on polar bears looking miserable in zoos until some kind zoologist tosses in a gigantic iceball with frozen fish in it for the burned-up bruin, and then of course they have to cover the people frying eggs on the hoods of their cars or their sidewalks, kids opening up fire hydrants in the streets of the city as firefighters fret over lowered water pressure, and guys working as tar-spreading roofers or asphalt-pouring roadway builders.

My solution? Just keep using the same video, year after year! I mean, who the heck will know the difference anyway? Polar bear clothing styles never change: it's always a porkpie hat and a tie, collar optional.

You're welcome, CNN. Got to keep Anderson
Cooper home and prepared for his street-sign hanging-onto-during tropical storm schedule. Man, I hope not, too!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Say "la même chose!" Go on - I dare you!

What with it being the anniversary of the French Revolution (1789), I celebrated Bastille Day as most of us do around these parts. I had French toast and a Napoleon for breakfast, put on a Lacoste shirt and a beret and headed out for the day, and paused for lunch (Beef Bourguignon dipped in French’s mustard.) For dinner, we enjoyed French dip sandwiches with a side of haricots verts amandine and, of course, pie à la mode. I decided to skip the escargots…they give me the crepes.

Man, that was a long way to go for a cheap plaisanterie, no?

But…the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille annually on this date, and it’s sort of hard to imagine a huge revolution taking place over two hundred years ago, before people had mass media pundits (aka “pundints”) to tell 'em where to direct their outrage. And it really mattered not that there were only seven people being held in the French prison, which had once held many political prisoners, when the time for action arrived. Actually, the Bastille held people of explosive thought, held for being enemies of the monarchy, as well as large caches of ammunition and battle supplies. During that tumultuous summer, King Louis XVI (best known for the biographical song "Brother Louie" by Stories) had convened an assembly to listen to the citizens and better understand their pleas for democracy and an end to the monarchy. One group – members of the Third Estate (peasants, the lower working class bourgeoisie, and vodka drinkers) - took what became known as the Tennis Court Oath that 20th day of June, when they vowed to see the revolution through to its end because they loved to see what the King would serve up next and what sort of net profits they could win from all this volleying.)

The people arose as one, many minds with a single purpose. Just storming the Bastille (so named because when they ordered construction material, the French contractors made sure to use the bastille they could buy) would have been enough, but they got a little too worked up and beheaded the guy who ran the joint, which really made for a lot of hard feelings later on that summer.

To celebrate the first anniversary of Bastille Day a year later, the French decided, why not just make it all official? And so they threw a huge party known as the Fête de la Fédération (literally, Feet Federated, a popular dance troupe.) There were fireworks, plenty of wine, and naked crowds line-dancing in the streets.

In Baltimore, this is known as Fells Point on a Friday Night. Vive le revolution!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pistol-ed Off

Oh, my. They were talking on the AM radio th' other day about somewhere down South where the town fathers have decided it would be a great idea for people to carry their weapons in the city parks and recreational areas.

Obviously, the idea has merit. How else can you handle it when someone takes their turn ahead of you on the teeter-totter? And what better method to demonstrate to the kids that this butting up in line for the water cooler simply will NOT be tolerated. Shoot first and teach manners later! That can be the rallying cry of the new generation.

I didn't hear one sensible person call in and try to point out that maybe turning City Park into Dodge City might not be the way to go. It was a chorus of men, all lusting over the very idea of strutting through the parking lot, onto the walkway, and down to the softball diamond or pool or playground with that big iron on their hips. It was almost lascivious, the way they were becoming aroused at the very come don't buy that phallic substitute thing for one second, do you? 'Cause if you do, it'll just backfire on you. I mean, sure as shootin', you're gonna miss the bullseye with that sort of thinking. What a load.

I heard the host telling the listeners that it would be sooooo nice to know that if he were at the park and something started to go down, he would be able to "take care of the situation." Clearly, in our ever-Palinized society, what we need, in lieu of the trained police who have sworn on their lives to protect us, instead of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, clearly, without cavil, what this country needs is radio talk show hosts armed to the teeth, on patrol in our parks.

Gone are the days when it was a nice little treat on a pretty day to take a pizza and a Colt 45 to the park. It means something altogether different now, not nearly as fun.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hey, what's your name, again?

I went Googlin' because I had a feeling there was some research indicating that we do indeed have automatic responses to the names of other people. Here is a snippet of something I ran across, because I wasn't watching where I was going...

Previous data have indicated that the left anterior temporal lobe contributes to the retrieval of familiar people's names, and that the extended network including the bilateral anterior temporal lobe plays an important role in the retrieval of newly learned people's names. However, there has been no direct evidence for time-dependent change in brain activation in face-name associations. In addition, previous studies have demonstrated that emotional information such as emotional faces may contribute to the organization of long-lasting episodic memory. In the present study, we investigated the activations related to the recognition of people's names in the context of emotional and neutral face-name associative learning. Before fMRI scanning, subjects learned face-name associations that included emotionally positive and neutral facial expressions. In immediate (5 min later) and delayed (2 weeks later) recognition with fMRI scanning, subjects were presented with studied faces with two names, and were asked to choose the correct associative name learned previously. Recognition-related activations were identified in the anterior part of bilateral temporal lobe for immediate recognition and only in the left temporal lobe for delayed recognition. Further analysis confirmed the time-dependent change in activation of the right anterior temporal lobe. Activation related to the processing of faces with positive expressions were observed in the left periamygdaloid area and temporal pole, although emotional information did not have an influence on task performance in this study. These findings suggest that the neural network involving the bilateral temporal lobe contributes to the retrieval of newly learned people's names, and that the left temporal lobe has a crucial and stable role in retrieval of people's names from faces, whereas the role of the right temporal lobe in retrieval of people's names may decrease with the time course.

I'm sure you recognize this as being from the world-famous treatise, Time-dependent neural activations related to recognition of people's names in emotional and neutral face-name associative learning:: an fMRI study by Takashi Tsukiura , Masayuki Namiki, Toshikatsu Fujii and Toshio Iijima. You know these guys better, of course, as "The Four Seasons." They sang "Sherry" and "Dawn" and "Rag Doll." They don't explain why I would remember your name more easily if I had met you twenty years ago. Guys named "Glen" whom I meet today are "Buddy-boy" tomorrow!

I guess I could dig a little deeper into the Googleopolis and find out more about people's impressions of certain names. I know I heard about such a survey somewhere along the line. "Mark" is regarded as a spoiled kind of guy, and nothing could be further from the truth, and if anyone thinks so, well they just can't come to my fabulous yacht party next week, because in actuality, "Mark" is the name for the kind of guy who sits around wondering why a word that looks like it would be pronounced "YACH-'ed" is said like "yot." And he wonders why the framers of our language, all those weeks ago, didn't say "What's a word for a fancy boat? A YOT?!?! Y-O-T! perfect!"

You meet a guy named "J. Worthington Stufflebore III" and you know he will not be wearing a NASCAR T-shirt. You meet "Jimmie Earl," and you know he has a favorite driver. Not to stereotype, but some things do fall in line. You wouldn't want to have brain surgery performed by someone known to his friends as "Poopferbrains" any more than you would expect to get a good transmission overhaul by a guy in a spotless white linen suit.

Down to cases: I never met a Donna or a Christie (Kristie, Cristi, Kristi, Kristy) that I didn't like a lot...someone named Rhonda will always be helpful...any "Abby" is always dear..."Dawn" is an early riser and you can always meet "Barbara Ann" by learning to dance.

And one final thing about names: please...if you are in the position of naming a young 'un...and your last name is size-related in any way, e.g. Short, Little, Long....please do your son-to-be a "big" favor and don't name him Richard, or Peter, or Johnson. Trust me. I have been in 5th grade and it's not getting any easier.

In case you're going to have a daughter, whatever you name her...if she complains about it at 14 (and she will), tell her the original plan was to name her "Ophelia," and she will feel much much better.

Furthermore, my left anterior temporal lobe is NOT bilateral, I'll have you know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

All-Star Time

So..after today's game, the Orioles will have three days off for the All-Star break. How would you like it if, where you work, almost everyone got three days off, while the best performers from your office or firehouse or school or restaurant competed in some sort of competition?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Road to Oblivion

The woman that you see here was named Dorothy Lamour when she was in the movies. She was named Mary Dorothy Slaton when she was born way down yonder in New Orleans in 1914. Her parents broke up when she was just a wee one. Fortunately for her, her mother remarried a man by the name of Lambour, which was a name easy to change to something that sounds just like the French word for love ("l'amour.") Following the route to stardom taken by so many good-looking people over the years, she won a beauty contest and hit the road to the big time, a road that took her through Chicago (the Windy City), New York (The Big Apple), Hollywood (Land of Dreams) and finally, my boyhood neighborhood (Land of Landed Gentry.)

You can read all about it here, how she married a local businessman and moved in down the street a bit and off the main road, to Huntsman Rd. At 12 or whatever I was, her presence in the 'hood hardly caused the stir with me and my posse that would have ensued had, say, Sandra Dee moved in. Ms Lamour's younger stepson was in my grade at junior high, and he was far from a popular lad, owing mainly to his annoying speech habit of starting every sentence with, "Well, my stepmother is Dorothy Lamour and she..." Bang Zoom! A kid in my class, fella named King ( for real! first name! oh it was a regal neighborhood!) popped him right on the beezer after a couple of weeks, and after that he become more like one of us, just with a sore nose.

The local papers got all into the frenzy for a minute, with articles about Hollywood Royalty Moving In and pictures of her chomping on a hot dog while riding in the aging Studebaker of her older stepson, Ridge, who joined the local fire company for a spell.

The times being as they were, the daily activities of current, future and former movie stars, television performers, musicians, singers, and carnival sideshow attractions were not chronicled on fourteen daily 30-minute shows, as we enjoy now. It was actually possible to be still thought of as a pretty big deal in "the biz," although, if you've finished reading the Wikipedia article and have rejoined us, already in progress, you see a ten-year gap when Tinseltown was not hoisting her name on too many marquees. Besides occasional glimpses of riding in automobiles, my main memory of living in proximity with a woman who wore a sarong (and what sarong with that?) in movies with Bob
Hope and Der Bingle was walking in to the Food Fair at Towson Plaza on that freezing day in 1966 when Walt Disney "drew" his last breath. Ms Lamour was on the pay phone in the Food Fair, making a long distance call to the Coast to try to get in touch with someone who would accept her condolences on the passing of the creator of Mickey Mouse. Had some film producer been on hand to see her emote that day, right there by the rental rug shampooers and free-for-nothing sales pamphlets, she would have once again starred a movie and my little neighborhood would have been bereft of the glitz and glamour in which most of us didn't even know we were luxuriating.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sorry seems to be the word I heard

So there's this car ahead of me yesterday morning, all festooned with bumper stickers such as "You Can't Blame Bush Anymore", "1/20/13," and some nonsensical acronym for O B A M A. Clever, except you CAN blame Bush for a lot of things. His culpability didn't end when he swaggered out of the White House that cold day this past January. I'm going to turn to involuntary guest columnist

Paul Cummins from the Huffington Post for his list of things for which you CAN blame Bush, and take note: this list was compiled while the ol' bronco buster from Yale had three years left in office!

The Emerging Bush Legacy

The following list is, in my opinion, the Bush legacy. It is offered without footnotes, without elaboration or argument, but simply as a list. Perhaps by gathering together these twenty disparate (yet, I believe, related) items, the legacy will be seen for the mean-spirited, unenlightened, arrogant, plutocratic-cronyistic agenda that it is. Never in American history, I believe, has such a disastrous set of principles been enacted. Each of the twenty has far reaching, negative consequences.
1. Tax cuts leading to massive, unprecedented deficits
2. Preemptive wars against non-aggressive nations
3. Sanctioning of torture
4. De-regulation of environment protections
5. Weakening of the separation of church and state
6. Exempting the gun industry from lawsuits
7. Weakening of individual privacy protections
8. Rejection of international organizations - U.N., World Court, etc.
9. Increased hatred of the U.S.A. in Islamic countries
10. Increase in terrorist attacks since 9/11
11. Neglect of poverty in the U.S.A. and abroad
12. Shifting the tax burden from wealthy corporations and individuals to wage earners
13. Reducing (hoping to abolish) estate taxes thus creating "a permanent aristocracy" in America
14. Furthering anti-intellectualism - a president who admittedly does not read and is embarrassingly inarticulate
15. Increased military spending; hostility to spending for social services
16. Increased number of Americans without health care
17. Rejection of minimum wage increases - five consecutive years
18. Applying the principle of awarding lucrative contracts to crony companies without competitive bidding
19. Attempts to privatize Social Security
20. Four consecutive years of increases in the percentage of Americans living in poverty

And he doesn't even mention the horrific death toll - our side and others - of these insane wars and incursions and invasions of sovereign foreign nations. You'd be plenty steamed if Afghan marines landed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, but Bush sent our troops to invade other countries over less than nothing. He was going to have his war, by Crackey. Or, by Cheney.

To me, this whole thing of "my responsibility is over when I walk out of here" is pure nonsense. It's like the old thing where someone is an utter bore, or boar, or just a nasty old offensive, foul, hateful, contemptible, unpleasant fool. They do something like toss a punch bowl at the host, throw food at a ball game, throw invectives in a food store, or I don't know what-all else, and their friends will always say, "Well, that's just the way Percy is. You gotta take him as he is." No, you don't. I mean, take that to its extreme. Berlin. Spring of '45. "You must follow...that's just the way Adolf is!" Nein.

And I'm sorry, but "I'm sorry" isn't always good enough right away. "Uh, sorry I busted your punch bowl/retirement savings/heart. I didn't mean it. Huh." does not make it all better. Yes, we forgive, but not right away. And not Bush, not yet.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Crimestoppers' Textbook

A couple of weeks ago, we purchased a new pc from WalMart. It was defective...something to do with the motherboard. What would Freud have said about that term???....hmmmm. Anyway, we packed the stupid thing right back in its original box...discretion forbids me from telling you the name of the manufacturer, but his initials are HP....and took it back to the store, where they were quite glad to swap it for another, better machine, which works fine and is made by the fine folks at Dell (Dell: the leader in home computing since 1989). But things took an interesting turn when the person at Customer Service had to call for someone from Electronics to come and inspect the computer we were returning. I mean, if someone at the Highly Problematic firm had checked over the machine that carefully in the first place, I would not have had to return it.

The Customer Service lady told us that people were ripping off WalMart by buying a new computer, then going home and putting their old junky computer in the new computer's box and bundling it all back up, then coming in for a refund by saying "This computer is no good!" Of course it's no good! It's like 9 years old and riddled with viruses from all the porn sites you surf! But, without checking these returned machines over, the WalMartians were getting burned.

Reminds me of another scam that a guy pulled when I worked at the A&P. This guy was actually one of my high school classmates and he should be ashamed of having stolen from the Tea Company, but here's what he did. Thanksgiving time, he's running a register, and he'd see a woman approaching his register with a turkey in her cart. He (let's call him "Bob," for that was his name) would tell the lady to just leave that heavy old bird right in the cart. Then he'd ring up the order, bag it all, and just as he finished loading up the cart again, he'd say "Oh! Forgot to charge you for the turkey...what's that price on there (leaning over, all gallant)..ok, that's $10.29" or whatever. The customer then would hand him money and he would ring up "No Sale", tender the loot, make change, and bid them a good day. Then when he balanced out, whatever he was over was his pure profit, his ill-gotten gain.

He got caught when a lady brought her bad turkey back right after the holiday, said it was awful and the manager cheerfully offered a cheerful refund. He just cheerfully needed to see her receipt. "Funny thing about that," she said, "when he rang it up, he rang up a no sale. There was no receipt." Nor cheerfulness, any longer.

The boss, who had been around the fairgrounds a time or two in his years with A&P, knew at once what the deal was. He had the lady point out the crooked cashier, who was summarily fired on the spot...turned in his red apron and name badge and banished. Gone.

I've heard more than one cop tell me that if only crooks, blessed as they are with inventive minds, organizational skills and the ability to act like they're right while they're wrong, would try functioning in the lawful segment of society, they would likely do well, because of their abilities and talent. Maybe they like the thrill of being bad.

But how do they sleep?