Thursday, December 31, 2009



Well, here's a warning to motorists and pedestrians alike: be careful for the next few days in the vicinity of health spas and gymnasia. People all over will wake up, rue the seemingly interminable consumption of Christmas cookies, egg nog, coconut cakes,
Pfeffernüsse cookies, ham, cheese, beer, pudding, pie, cheesecake, sausage, au gratin potatoes and gravy that has gone on since the night before Thanksgiving, and they'll all head for the workout place.

There won't be a recumbent bike or elliptical machine available til who knows when, and then everyone will calm down and tell their inner Matthew McConnaughey or Katherine Heigl that there's plenty of time before the beach or pool opens.

New Year's is sort of tough day to make a resolution to stick to, you know, because the holidays are winding up, there are over 18,000 bowl games on TV, and you're busy anyway putting your new socks and ties away. For many, the night before was a bacchanalian revel unseen since the days of Caligula, and others turned in early, only to be awakened at midnight by the sound of pots and pans clanging together out on the front porch. I never knew whether the point of that noisemaking was to welcome in the new year or scare away the old one.

Old year or new, I wish you the best all through 2010, and thanks for being with me through '09.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's all coming back to me now

Many years ago, as Peggy and I strolled along the beach in scenic Ocean City, Maryland, one of the flip-flops I was wearing was rudely yanked off my left foot by a surging tide that seemed not to care what it churned up as it rolled majestically landward. (Sorry for the dramatics; I gave Peggy a book of Truman Capote's short stories and I guess I was paying him tribute there.) (Yes, he did just roll over in his grave.) Anyway, to get back to the story, I figured that would be the last I would see of that flip-flop. We continued walking, Peggy with her usual grace, and me in the sort of ducky gait that only a man wearing one flip-flop can manage, and at length we turned back. It was dark - really dark - and for once I was carrying no flashlight. When we got back up to where we had started walking, I almost tripped over something on the beach. It was my flip-flop, recently returned from Davy Jones's locker (too big for the diminutive Monkee.)

The Saturday before last, when I had to report to work for the snow emergency, I, as usual, packed just a little less than Hannibal did when preparing for his alpine journey - and I had no elephant to carry my gear! I put extras of this and that into a huge bag and off I went. When I came home, I was putting the equipment - hats, gloves, flashlight, cans of soup, the usual emergency gear - away, and I came up short by one glove. Then for the next 10 days, I had to deal with the issue of the remaining glove. Having searched the truck and other places it might have been, I was about to toss out the odd glove. Then on Monday, coming home from work, I found the glove frozen on the tundra that is currently our front yard, right where a huge pile of snow had been. I reckon I dropped it getting out of the truck when I came home that day, and it was covered by snow for all this time, and now that the snow piles are gone, here's that frozen leather glove.

Which reminds me of the Blizzard of '03, when I crazily put out a blue bag of recycling - bottles, cans, plastics. That bag was covered in February by a snowpile the approximate size of Brattleboro, Vermont, and when I next saw it, it was just around Opening Day for baseball. I felt like the archeologists who found that frozen guy Ötzi in a glacier. Except that Ötzi left behind no empty National Bohemian cans or Skippy jars. Most scholars agree that he was in fact on a B double E double R UN.

And here's the strangest one of them all, and yet it totally lacks veracity. Not long after we were married, Peggy and I went fishing at Loch Raven, and somehow the diamond came out of her ring and fell into the water. Well, we fished (!) around as much as could, looking for the precious stone, only to give up as both nightfall and the game warden descended. For weeks and weeks, Peggy was disconsolate, and finally, to cheer her up, I said, "Let's go out for a nice dinner." We went to a local beanery and Peggy ordered fish, and when she cut into that fish, what do you think was inside of it?

Bones!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The ABCs of MKC

Ralph tagged me! So it must be time for an update:


A - Age: ... 58
B - Bed size: Queen, I guess. Have to ask Peggy!
C - Chore you hate:... straightening up office or workshop
D - Dog's name: ... never had one but I love Charley and Heidi
E - Essential start your day item: morning sugar from Peggy
F - Favorite color: Brown
G - Gold or Silver or platinum:...Platinum
H - Height: ...6'4"
I - Instrument played ... radio, iPod
J - Job title: ... Public Information Specialist
K - Kid(s): ... I love 'em all
L - Living arrangements ... Married to Peggy since Hector was a pup
M - Mom's name: ... Beverly
N - Nicknames: . . . Marky Mark (formally: Mark E. Mark)
O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: I was supposed to die when I was 13 (twice) and no one ever figured out what was up - meningitis, encephalitis, who knows? And my knee replacement surgery in '00
P - Pet Peeve: People feeling left out
Q - Quote from a movie: "And another thing...I want you to sit on that zoo fraternity of yours..I don't want no drunken riots in my town" (Mayor dePasto, Animal House)
R - Right or left handed: Left
S - Siblings: Robin
T - Time you wake up: ... 4:55
U- Underwear: ... "Something in a lo-rise bikini...mesh, if possible" (Stripes)
V - Vegetable you dislike: Brussels Sprouts, a/k/a Nature's Death Balls
W - Ways you run late: I don't
X - X-rays you've had: knees and mouth
Y - Yummy food you make: Apple pie
Z- Zoo favorite: Prairie Dogs

Monday, December 28, 2009

Turning the Tables

You're looking at the happy new owner of a Model ITUT-201SVR USB Turntable.Well, you're not really looking at me; I don't have one of those Skype devices that would allow you to look in on me sitting here, typing and sipping iced tea like some sort of I don't know what. But with this device, I can take the approximately 12,000 record albums and 45s that linger even now in my basement, and put them on my computer as mp3s, the better to stock my iPod with more old music. And even though most of those records have bold black print bearing various forms of the warning RADIO STATION COPY - - NOT FOR SALE, they still play just the same as if I had plunked down money at KMart, Murphy's Mart or Woolworths to buy the record, except I didn't have the money to buy records, since I was working at radio stations. I guess heisting promo copies of Hank Snow albums was all part of the pay package after all!

But I do have to give a big round of boo to the tech writers who complied the manual for this device. I did finally get it to work, and solved the many problems that came with it, after several hours of false starts and yelps. But I used the old tried and true system of trying things that are usually true, feeling my way around, because the writers of the handbook assume that all of us to whom Santa delivered this little box o' joy have advanced degrees in audio engineering and computer programming, or so it would seem.

Remember when everyone sort of shook their heads about the geeks and nerds in high school? The brainiacs from the math club - the ones who had tiny slide rules for ties - are now your accountants and tax attorneys. The dudes from the biology club are your physicians, probing you every which - a - way and putting you on diets that Bobby Sands would have envied. The guys who did well in auto shop are now tuning your Toyota, the model rocketeers are sending lunar probes to find water on Mars, and the metal shop guys are now plumbers whom you call when you find water on your bathroom floor. And all these Bill Gateses are writing manuals with a slightly mocking tone.

I just put Steve Lawrence on my iPod singing "A Room Without Windows." Somebody from the Future Carpenters Club is going to call me about installing some Anderson Windowalls for $3600 each. I can't hear anything else.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fur Real

Wikipedia says: Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Examples include animals and plants and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse.

Or, it could be a guy in a tiger suit shoveling snow. It's a flexible world. This picture cracks me up! Enjoy a happy Sunday!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In these times...

Not to bring you down right after Christmas, but, why did this happen?
(from the Associated Press)

The body of a Maryland girl who authorities say was abducted by a registered sex offender was found Friday in a wooded area near the Delaware state line after thousands of volunteers spent Christmas searching for her.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said the body of 11-year-old Sarah H. Foxwell was discovered about 4 p.m. near the Delaware state line. He offered few other details. Thomas J. Leggs Jr., 30, was arrested Wednesday and charged in her kidnapping.

Wicomico County State's Attorney Davis R. Ruark said authorities remain focused on Leggs as they investigate the killing.

"There's no indication of involvement of any other individuals at this point," he told The Associated Press.

Leggs is a former boyfriend of the girl's aunt, who is her legal guardian. A public defender representing him has not returned a phone call.

"This is not the way we wanted to find our young lady on Christmas, but at the very least we've given closure to the family," Ruark said at the news conference.

Lewis said Sarah was last seen Tuesday night at her home on Maryland's Eastern Shore. A relative discovered she was missing early Wednesday while checking on Sarah and her 6-year-old sister. A charging document says Leggs was the last person seen with Sarah.

A "juvenile witness" awoke during the night Tuesday and saw Sarah leave the bedroom with "Tommy," and said he was wearing blue jeans, an orange jacket and white sneakers, the charging document says.

Sarah lived with her aunt, Amy Fothergill, who told police the child's toothbrush was missing from the home, according to the statement of probable cause.

Deputies said they found a green toothbrush and a lollipop in a truck Leggs admitted driving. Leggs said he had been wearing jeans and white sneakers the previous night — the same clothes he was wearing when police questioned him.

The sheriff said Leggs has been uncooperative and "of no assistance to our investigators."

Leggs is listed on the Maryland and Delaware sex offender registries. The Maryland listing notes that he is a child sex offender, but does not give details about his conviction.

Lewis said Leggs has been convicted of sex offense in Wicomico County and was charged Oct. 29 with fourth-degree burglary.

In 2001, Leggs was convicted in Delaware of rape involving a victim who was 16 or 17, according to the Delaware registry. The registry describes his risk level as "high" and notes he is unemployed.

Leggs, who has been convicted of assault several times, also is awaiting trial on charges of burglary and destruction of property in Ocean City.

Thousands of volunteers had gathered at a stadium in Salisbury early Friday morning and fanned out to search for her.


Now here's my question, and it's just like a fire prevention thing. You know that spontaneous combustion might occur from storing oily rags in the basement or garage, so you don't do that. You don't encourage a child to stick a fork in an electric outlet, nor do you light a match to see how much gas is left in the can. You're wise to take precautions against trouble or injury.

So will someone please tell me why a man who raped a teenaged girl in 2001 is out committing more crimes - apparently a murder - in 2009. We really don't expect that guys like this learn their lessons in the big house, and just as we don't use frayed, worn electric cords, we shouldn't expect the frayed and worn mind of a man like Leggs to function normally here among us in society.

So someone now can tell me why he was out walking around among us. I thought rape was the sort of thing that earned a long stretch in the pen.

I was talking to a guy once who told me that prison was not an effective way of treating a criminal, that counseling and understanding were the paths to rehabilitation. How about, I don't care if guys like Leggs ever become rehabilitated? Let them serve their time, and then if they come out and commit another crime, it's back in IronBar TimeOut for them. Oh, there will be a huge hue and cry, and he will be prosecuted and there will then be back-patting and congratulations and assurance that Justice Has Been Served.

What am I missing? What is all the world missing, beside a helpless 11-year old girl? Shame on all of us.

Friday, December 25, 2009

One Solitary Life

This poem is often attributed to Rev. James Allan Francis, although some list it as author unknown. The author maybe unknown but the message is undeniably known throughout the world. May you and yours enjoy a Merry Christmas today and every day!


One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never traveled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas when I was a boy

Dad would always haul in the yule log on the back of Old Paint, the pinto stallion who had served us so well for so many years, especially when it came to stump-pullin' and plow-haulin'. Paint consistently faded in the homestretch at Pimlico, so he wasn't of much use there, but as Zeke, one of the hired hands we kept on hand used to say, "They ain't but two kinds of hosses in the world, and he's one of 'em." And none of us could say him nay. Or neigh, for that matter.

Well, Christmas Eve would come around, and we'd all sent our letters to Santa, in hopes that he'd land on our roof with toys and whatnot. No underwear; we had plenty of those snap-front boxer shorts and it would be many years before society took the wraps off the discussion of what sort of underwear to sport while watching "Commando." Popguns, Hopalong Cassidy lunchboxes, Erector Sets, x-ray specs and baseball equipment - now, that's what we had in mind. Dad would go trap a peasant for dinner, and then there was always a row in the kitchen because Mom had specifically told him she wanted to roast a "pheasant." But really, look how close he came! Dinner would be sumptuous and to top it off, we'd have either a figgy pudding or a figgy newton, depending on what kind of year it had been at the Lazy 'C' Ranch. Zeke used to say, "They ain't but two kinds of years...reg'lar, and leap!" And with that, he would jump up as high as he could go, click his worn boot-heels together, do a sort of buck-and-wing dance around the barn, and then land right back in his stupor.

After dinner, why, that was the one night Mom had no trouble getting us to go to bed, because it was Christmas Eve, and we knew that a special man from up north was coming our way - Guy Lombardo. No, that was New Year's Eve. Santa Claus was able to slide down our chimney once he had his flue shot, and he would bring treats, and then in the morning, soon as the milking was done and the hogs were slopped and the hosses were groomed and the eggs were candled and the screen door was patched and the beefsteak was pounded and the barnyard was raked and fences were mended and the well was dug and the haystacks were stacked and the swords were beaten into plowshares, why it was time for bed, so we'd get our presents later the next day. Zeke used to say the only difference between December 25 and December 26 was that everything went on sale real cheap early in the morning on December 26, and it was to be many years before I figured out just what the hell he was talking about.

Mom had some cousins who lived in little Sicily, down in the seagoing part of our town. Their surname was Braggadocio, and they always boasted about everything. But we'd troop down to their house one night during the holidays and hear about their Christmas in Balamer, MarioLanza.

Of course, we all forgot about school for the entire two weeks of Christmas break. Even if President Roosevelt had come on the radio urging us to study hard and learn about the new world yet to come in his third term, we would have switched over and listened to The Great Gildersleeve or something. History was a lot easier to learn then, as there was much less of it. Spanish, we could learn from the two Mexican farmers who had a place in nearby Tortilla Flats. Their names were Señor Center and Don Cornelius. Biology, of course, we learned from hanging around the stockpens. All the girls took Home Economics and knew a hundred ways to use old flour sacks to make dresses, napkins, tablecloths, and, if they had enough of them, even new flour sacks! We guys took shop classes where we learned to short-circuit an electric fence, mend fences, heal broken hearts and reunite the disenchanted. The shop teacher was unusually enlightened. Grammar was, of course, hardly important to us; as long as we could remember to always split infinitives, we'd be fine. The grammar teacher also taught cooking, so she taught us a lot about dangling participles while she prepared an omelet. I can still remember writing this sentence in my diary: "Hurrying to finish lunch, Mrs O'Hoolahan's frying pan overheated."

And of course, in Geometry, we already knew all the angles.

Now and again, I like to think back on those carefree days. If you ask my favorite memory, well, it would have to be that snowy Christmas morning when I was about 8. I was hanging around under the window of the town miser when he suddenly threw open his window and asked if I had seen the goose in the A&P window. I said yes, and I knew the butcher had gotten in trouble for it, too. But the miser said that sleeping on a goose-feather pillow always made him feel down.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Little Different Drummer Boy

Every now and again I receive incontrovertible proof that I don't think like most other people. The continuing popularity of gluing oneself to a tv screen or metal bleacher seat in Talladega, Alabama, in order to watch other people drive automobiles, the willingness of so many to listen to right-wing demagoguery on radio and tv, and America's continuing fascination with wine snobbery ("One wine is softer, subtler and more approachable, and the other is tight and lean with concentrated fruit character and oak to age" is something I just copied and pasted from a wine review site, and I beg you to remember they are talking about fermented grape juice here!) ("approachable," for crying out loud!) are all mysteries to me, yet I'm in a tiny minority here. It's ok. I just need to remember to be a little subtle and not reveal my incongruence with most of the world. Maybe I am the only one in the neighborhood who worries about the efficacy of an eyeglass operation in the shopping center up at the corner - the sign says "Professonal Vision" and I worry about how good they can be with one "i" missing.

Take the other day, for instance. I was nuking my lunch in the staff break room - a truly delicious Lite Gourmet Salmon Mediterranean - and Family Feud was blaring out of the tv. "Name something that people are always running out of during a party!" cried the host,
who used to be Mr Peterman on Seinfeld and before that was Dr Grainger on Young & Restless. Now he's a quizmaster, and he asked a good question. Others in the kitchen hollered out their answers ("Beer!" "Ice!" "Plastic cups!") and then when I gave my answer, I got the slightly-raised eyebrow, head tilted askance glance because my response to what people are always running out of at a party is "The back door." It was pointed out to me that perhaps I attend the wrong kind of party.

As previously noted, I wear red sox every day and I love to wear stocking caps in cold weather. Would I be more properly attired in dark sox? Why would anyone be looking at my ankles? And the stocking cap keeps my ears warm. A fedora will not do that, since all it does for your ears is keep them in the shade. But Justin Timberlake struts around in a fedora and everyone is breaking their neck to get one atop their head. At least it's not a beret, which covers nothing but the crown of the melon, doesn't shade your eyes or even warm your ears, but Frenchmen, beatnik artists and soldiers wear them all the time.

As long as I'm doing a cheapo version of GQ here, attention young men who wear their pants down around their kneecaps: this is not an original look. Say hi to Grand Ole Opry legend David "Stringbean" Akeman:


Now, out of all the young men who dress like that, how many of them do you think would enjoy String's blend of good old mountain music? I like it, although he's been gone since 1973, but when I try to tell young guys about The Bean, they give me that same look I got in the lunchroom.

Now I'm wondering if the name of the guy above who supports car #3 in its efforts to encircle a track 500 times is "Harry Bachman." These are the things I keep in mind.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2 out of 3 is bad enough

On Sunday evening, we were surprised to see a Facebook friend had joined a group called Brittany Murphy RIP. We googled it right fast and found that sure enough, 32-year-old actress Brittany had died in Los Angeles. Not long ago, there was something in the paper about her being fired from a job for being not quite up to the part, and now this. You hate to see someone so young and talented lose their life, no matter what the cause.

Then on Saturday, actress Jennifer Jones, who represented Old Hollywood (multiple marriages, affairs, married really rich guy, lived in seclusion to the age of 90) also passed away.

By the way, just how does one get to "live in seclusion"? I mean, I know if you were married to Norton Simon and David O. Selznick as was Ms Jones, you probably have a few bucks in your sock drawer and can afford to have people around to run to the Buy-So-Low for you, but "seclusion" implies sitting in a dark house with dim lights and no one bugging you to buy raffle tickets. Delightful. Might just sign up.

Anyway, two Hollywood deaths are enough to get a lot of people all worked up about who will be the third celebrity to be taken - since "it always happens in threes." I dunno. I'm thinking more about a birth this week, one that took place a long time ago in a manger in Bethlehem.

Monday, December 21, 2009

To the Victor

I know I keep talking about this movie, but only once in a generation does there come a cinematic experience that is at once to transform a generation, yea, all of mankind. And of course, that movie is Jackass.

Whoops! I did it again. No, that singular film experience is Point of No Return. And there is a part in that story for Harvey Keitel, who plays "Victor the Cleaner" (not to be confused with "Victor the Newman" from Young and Restless). Bridget Fonda and one of her colleagues have a little trouble trying to do a job on this one guy, and when things get botched up, the big shots call in The Cleaner.

Now, I know that there is a huge gap between real life and what we see in the movies, except that I'll be doggoned if a lot of people I see in movies don't remind me a lot of a lot of people I see at the movies. But how great would it be if we all had a backup guy like Harvey Keitel who, with just one phone call, would show up with gallon jugs of who-knows-what, more weaponry that Khaddafi, and the cold-blooded sang froid (is there any other kind, really?) to just come in, take control of the situation, and worry about taking down names later? And how great would it be to have that job?

Just remember what Maggie (Ms Fonda) said all the time:" I never did mind about the little things." Good advice! If you heed it, you won't need the cleaner. Stay happy. Nothing is as huge tomorrow as it seemed yesterday.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Don't Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

It's not without precedent to be named "Speck"...there was a major league pitcher named Francis Joseph "Spec" Shea, who was nicked that way because he had freckles. He was also called "The Naugatuck Nugget," but there seems to be no evidence that John "Cougar" Mellencamp named any of his children "Nugget." But I wouldn't bet heavily against it.

Mellencamp named his son "Speck," and now the young man, at 14, has made a wager with his father. If Speck can get one million people to join a Facebook group exhorting the senior Mellencamp to quit smoking, the singer-composer of "Hurts So Good" will give up smoking. Known to go through four packs o' smokes per day prior to his 1994 heart attack, and still an avid consumer of at least a pack a day ever since, Mellencamp gave up drugs and alcohol, but still loves to smoke.

I smoked for years. You never met the man who loved a nice smoke break as much as I did, and then one day, in one of the spontaneous bursts of spontaneity that have dotted my life like olives in a sandwich, I quit cold turkey twenty-one years ago. And I did it because I wanted to live to be an old curmudgeon and crank out a daily cranky blog, even though Al Gore had yet to invent the internet in 1988. I wanted to quit, I was ready to quit, and there seemed no good reason to keep on smoking. It was about that time that my workplace became non-smoking, forcing smokers to huddle together in a crude, poorly-ventilated area of Stygian gloom in order to light up. When smoking became inconvenient, that added to the appeal of giving it up. But the deal is, smokers only quit when they WANT to. No amount of public service announcements, cajoling, pleading, hinting or trickery has ever been as effective as the person just doggone decidin' this is it and tossing those butts away.

So, I wish young Mellencamp good luck with his campaign, and I wish old Mellencamp (my age exactly!) sense enough to decide to try a new vice before everything around him comes tumblin' down.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One's too many, a hundred's not enough

Far be it from me to pile on Tiger Woods here, although I will be able to take my unblemished record of marital fidelity to the bank when it comes time to cross the bar. No brag, just fact. It's quite likely that he has many good qualities that we just aren't hearing about right now, although I do have to say that he seems to have that golfer's thing of demanding absolute silence as he concentrates on hitting a ball that isn't even moving. And we could probably get a good discussion going with the topic being, are golfers really athletes, since all sorts of non-athletic types in all sorts of conditions play golf...maybe not as well as Tiger and his PGA friends, but still...

...I've heard this from several people, and it's interesting that all of them have been women and wives, thereby giving them a standing in this debate. The statement is, "Well, I could see forgiving Tiger if he had just been running around with one woman, but when it turned out to be a dozen or so, then no, that's messed up." Or words to that effect.

The "One's too many..." quote above comes from the movie "The Dirty Dozen," and...no. JUST kiddin'. It comes from "The Lost Weekend," an old (1945) Ray Milland movie about alcoholism. This was before Ray Milland's greatest turn in the movies, that being "Love Story," where he managed to look all the way down the end of his nose at Ryan O'Neal while asking, "Have you gotten this girl in trouble?" while reaching for his checkbook to write a check to get her out of trouble, although no check in the world was going to help her out of the trouble she was in. And then there was the horror movie, "The Thing With Two Heads," where he was a second head attached to the body of Rosie Grier in what must have represented the perigee of the careers of Milland, Grier, and the guy who swept up the theater that it played in.

Another notable cornball line from "Love Story" had Milland, as Oliver Barrett III, saying, "If you marry her now, I'll not give you the time of day!" To which Oliver IV (O'Neal) replied, "Father, you don't know the time of day!" They just don't write movie dialogue like that any more, and for that we can all be grateful.

I guess those of us who are married can be grateful if our spouses have remained faithful, have not canoodled with 13 floozeballs, and have not come home with Ray Milland suddenly and permanently surgically attached. Two heads are not always better than one, and a hundred heads is just out of the question.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Face the Predestination

Every now and again, I drive down Old Harford Rd and pass the scene where a county police, on his way to work in October, was killed on his motorcycle. Officer Jeffrey Neral was cruising along southbound when a woman, 26 years of age, pulled out of a church parking lot on his right and cut him off. Despite the heroic efforts of paramedics, he died a short time later.

And every time I drive that stretch of road now, I think about what he was thinking as he rode along that day. Getting to work...what sort of calls would he have that night...what's for dinner...somebody's birthday coming up...Ravens play today...leaves are changing and it's so pretty outside...and then, nothing.

On Wednesday around lunchtime, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was embroiled in some sort of domestic dispute with his girlfriend. She got in a pickup truck and raced off down the road, but not before Chris jumped into the bed of the pickup. And then, as the police report put it, at some point he came out of the truck bed and struck the roadway. He lived until Thursday morning and died at dawn at 26 years of age.

Chris Henry was a troubled soul in earlier days who had been arrested almost ten times over the years for various offenses, but he had seemingly turned things around this season. It was reported that he came to training camp in the best condition ever, had worked hard all season long and had done well, only to have his season end in November when he broke his arm during a game with the Ravens. His life has ended here in December in a tragic traffic accident.

Officer Neral upheld the law for 17 years in Baltimore County with an unblemished service record, only to have his life end in a tragic traffic accident.

Chris Henry. Jeffrey Neral. Both dead in the same autumn, although neither of them ought to have been considered to be in the autumn of their lives. It comes for us all, sometimes with no warning - quite often with no warning - and if we take anything from these two losses, we might surmise that fate doesn't care who you are or how much fame or money you have. Please be careful this holiday season. I don't want to lose you too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'll have the double Roethlisberger with everything

Yesterday morning as I sallied forth ( got to look up and see where that expression came from!) across the avenue on the way to work, an eastbound motorist blew his horn and gave me a sort of goggle-eyed look as we passed. At first I thought he was trying to tell me that my lights weren't on, since it's fairly dark at 0710 these days, but no, I was beaming like Adam Lambert with a new tub of hair goo, so that wasn't it. And I was following not only every motor vehicle law of the great State of Maryland but also the laws of every neighboring state, except that one regulation in Pennsylvania requiring the "operator of any and all motor vehicle(s) to mount and maintain on the hindmost section of said machine a photograph of a bottle of Heinz ketchup and an authentic hex sign of no less than 24" in diameter, to ward off evil spirits." This is, of course, known as the Heinz/Ward rule.

I should have 86'ed that whole joke, but anyway...The affable driver of the other car was trying to warn me of radar ahead. Used to be, a flash or two of the old high beams was the universal warning signal. In fact, police will tell you that their supervisors would drive by and flash the beams at them back in the day, which was their signal to go set up a radar trap er speed enforcement zone somewhere.

So, I guess the secret about the radar zone is out, but at least other people are kind enough to let me know that there might be a traffic hazard ahead, what with all those cars sitting there idling, all occupied by drivers with guilty looks, pained expressions and stories ready to spin. There is no more conspicuous feeling than sitting there on the side of the road, waiting for the cop to come back with your ticket all written out. It's like report card day for those over 18. Or over 40, in a 30-mph zone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bop when it stopped

So after yesterday's entry about The Twelve Days of Christmas, Cindy wrote to say, "Thank you for clearing that up for me. I have much more respect for the song now... but can you now tell me what the hell the song is about the spinning toy that went bop when it stopped and so on.. it's quite baffling to me!!! hahahahah!!"

Well, all right. I need to say that of the four best-known versions of "The Marvelous Toy," the original by the author, Tom Paxton, is the best, followed by the version done by the Chad Mitchell Trio and then the version done by a former member of the Chad Mitchell Trio, the late John Denver (born Henry John Deutschendorf.)

So of course, the version most often heard on the radio at this time of year is the least effective rendition, namely, the corny, over-affected, way-cute version by Peter, Paul and Mary. Not content to just sing the doggone song, they zipppppppppppedboppppppppppppppppppped and whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrred just likeYippi or whatever his name is, that children's entertainer that you know must just hate to hear the alarm sound in the morning, meaning another day of talking like Barney and singing like...well, like Peter, Paul and Mary. Oh, yeah, Raffi, that's the guy's name. Raffi Palmeiro? Nah.

Another thing about this song...they always drag it out at Christmas, but notice that nowhere in the lyrics does the singer say that the Marvelous Toy was a Christmas gift. He just says that his father showed up with it one day. I always had the feeling that old Pop came home from work with it, so that meant unless he had to work on Christmas Day, it might as well have been an Arbor Day gift. We'll never know, though. But at least I planted that seed...(brummmmmmp.)

We know this much..the Marvelous Toy is multi-colored, with two big buttons underneath that look like big green eyes. You can twist the thing's lid, and you can also make it a) march or b) chug. So, you can compare the lyrics to The Marvelous Toy to the lyrics to The Thing and see if you don't see similarities:

The Marvelous Toy

Words and Music by Tom Paxton

When I was just a wee little lad full of health and joy,
My father homeward came one night and gave to me a toy.
A wonder to behold, it was, with many colors bright,
And the moment I laid eyes on it it became my heart's delight.

[Chorus:]
It went "zip" when it moved and "bop" when it stopped,
And "whirr" when it stood still.
I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.

The first time that I picked it up, I had a big surprise,
For right on its bottom were two big buttons that,
Looked like big green eyes.
I first pushed one and then the other, and then I twisted its lid,
And when I set it down again, this is what it did:

[Chorus:]

It first marched left and then marched right,
And then marched under a chair.
And when l looked where it had gone, it wasn't even there.
I started to sob and my daddy laughed, for he knew that I would find,
When l turned around, my marvelous toy, chugging from behind.

[Chorus:]

Well, the years have gone by too quickly, it seems,
I have my own little boy.
And yesterday I gave to him my marvelous little toy.
His eyes nearly popped right out of his head,
And he gave a squeal of glee.
Neither one of us knows just what it is,
but he loves it, just like me.

It still goes "zip" when it moves, "bop" when it stops,
And "whirr" when it stands still.
I never knew just what it was,
And I guess I never will.
I never knew just what it was,
And I guess I never will.


"The Thing" by Phil Harris

While I was walking down the beach one bright and sunny day
I saw a great big wooden box a-floatin’ in the bay
I pulled it in and opened it up and much to my surprise
Ooh, I discovered a boom-boom-boom, right before my eyes
Oh, I discovered a boom-boom-boom, right before my eyes

I picked it up and ran to town as happy as a king
I took it to a guy I knew who’d buy most any thing
But this is what he hollered at me as I walked in his shop
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom, before I call a cop
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom before I call a cop

I turned around and got right out, a-runnin’ for my life
And than I took it home with me to give it to my wife
But this is what she hollered at me as I walked in the door
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom, and don’t come back no more
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom, and don’t come back no more

I wandered all around the town until I chanced to meet
A hobo who was looking for a hand-out on the street
He said he’d take most any old thing, he was a desperate man
But when I showed him the boom-boom-boom, he turned around and ran
Oh, when I showed him the boom-boom-boom, he turned around and ran

I wandered on for many years, a victim of my fate
Until one day I came upon St. Peter at the gate
And when I tried to take it inside, he told me where to go
Get outta here with that boom-boom-boom and take it down below
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom and take it down below

The moral of this story is if you’re out on the beach
And you should see a great big box and it’s within your reach
Don’t ever stop and open it up, that’s my advice to you
‘Cause you’ll never get rid of the boom-boom-boom, no matter what you do
Oh, you’ll never get rid of the boom-boom-boom, no matter what you do


Phil Harris recorded The Thing back in the early 50's and The Marvelous Toy came along about a decade later. They were considered novelty songs, songs that became hits because of some oddity about them or about the performer. Nowadays, most every song has some oddity or another about it.

I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Partridge family

It's Guest Editor day - because I got this information about one of my favorite carols from a friend online, so I thought I'd pass it along...while you read what Pat sent to me, click on this link and you can see/hear the 12 Days of Christmas on Y0uTube!

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.
What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were
not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone
during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning
plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
Again, this is all new to me - hope you liked it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

True Grits

All through our fabled marriage, I have amused Peggy with my "witty" bons mots, "snappy" rejoinders and "hilarious" stories involving people walking into bars, and so forth. I can honestly say that we have not had all the riches one man can claim, Peggy is not swimming in diamonds (or even a pool) and neither of us are in danger of being selected to the High Rollers club.

But, doggone it, we have had more than our share of laughter over the years, and it's been great. And I can still remember 'way back when, shortly after we met, I asked Peggy if she made her hominy from scratch or just opened a can.

She looked at me, not for the last time ever in almost total bewilderment, and then asked me what hominy was. And it was then that I realized that the world, as is so often the case, is easily divisible into two groups: those who love hominy and those who don't. For the longest time, I figured that those who had not yet HAD hominy would convert to hominyphiles just as soon as they tried it. Such was not to be the case.

For the record, hominy is the result of taking dried corn for a bath in lye, until the hulls are removed. The result is a porridge that can't be beaten for taste, especially when you heat it up in the pan with some sage sausage. Grits is the result of grinding up the dried corn into sand-size pellets, which you then cook up with water and some salt and serve with eggs and bacon. These were staples of my boyhood diet, although they are traditionally Southern foods. In my boyish enthusiasm, I used to envision a world in which hominy would be served at almost every table, that there would be a Hominy Bowl football every New Year's Day (following the Hominy Parade overseen by the newly-coronated Hominy Queen, chains of Hominy King or Mr Grits drive-in restaurants, the inevitable Hominy Invitational Golf Tournament, and, when the time was right, the replacement of french fried potatoes with a heapin' helping of grits at all lunch counters and diners.

Then, I had Peggy try some of my mom's homemade hominy. Nothing. I bought a can of Manning's Hominy for her. Her eyebrows went up and her fork went down. In desperation, I whomped up a mess of grits and she said, to use the vernacular, "Yuck." My dreams of universal hominification dashed, I turned instead to solace in a bowl of Manning's finest. Please join me in a bowl of hominy someday, won't you?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Are You Sirius?

So yesterday, I had to run into Barnes & Noble to pick up a couple of items. It's Saturday, right, less than 14 days til Christmas, but I played an ace that I keep in my jeans pocket. I'm not about to try to park at the gargantuan Towson Town Center, formerly Towsontowne Centre, and before that, Towson Plaza. Even in the middle of the afternoon, people looked like rats on crack vying to win a horrible game of musical chairs for the few open spaces in the 57,000*-space parking garage. My clever ploy is to park down at the Sheraton Hotel, which is about as empty on weekends as Tiger Woods's plans with his wife, and then sashay through the lobby, up one flight and onto the skywalk connecting the virtually empty hotel with the virtually full mall. Then, it's just a matter of taking the escalator up two flights, hanging a right and walking through Macy's, and you're through to Barnes & Noble! Off you go!

By the way, the mall seems to be setting a record for Mall Accosters this year - the Dead Sea Scrolls people, the We Make Good Scents people and the Thing Containing Buckeyes That You Nuke And Wrap Around Your Sore, Aching Shoulders people are all out in full force, blocking your path and mine with their in-your-face questions. The Buckeye people are even offering a "free sample," but you and I both know just how free that little pillow is going to wind up being, the time you by the Deluxe Gift Set for Uncle Earl back home (it's got to be good for his lumbago.)

But I can deal with The Mall Accosters because I know how to sidestep them. I simply sidestep them. What really threw me was, when I went to go into Barnes & Noble, at the completion of my hike, a woman was walking her dog right outside of the store, and then she picked up the dog - a cocker spaniel sort of pooch - and CARRIED HIM INTO the store. A dude was sitting by the door ready to autograph his book for any takers and I asked him if he knew was up with that. He said it was the first dog he had seen come in yesterday, but that another woman, earlier, had brought in an owl. Clearly a wise move. Maybe she wanted a job at Hooters** (two miles east.)

So come on and tell me why people would bring animals - except for service animals, obviously - into a book store. We might hear from a lot of "love me, love my dog" types, but I need to have this answered, please! Thank you.

*estimated.
**not that I've ever been there.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Numbers Game

The other morning on the TODAY show, there was a panel discussion of the relevant topics of the day. There was a man who hosts an early morning talk show, a woman psychologist, and a woman who is a numerologist.

Now, you have to figure that a guy who does a talk show on MSNBC is, at least, up on the issues, and surely a psychologist brings a lot to any discussion of why we do what we do. To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure what the main topic was. It might have been TV's entire Salahi family being discussed, for all I know.

The point is, it so stunned me that people were including the viewpoints of someone who analyzes people by the amount of letters in their names in a serious discussion of anything, that I couldn't focus on what was being said by the two people on the panel whose opinions might have mattered.

Numerology, like its cousin astrology, is based on data flawed by too much extrapolation. For instance, consult this handy chart:
_______________________________________________________________
NAME BIRTHDAY AMOUNT OF LETTERS IN NAME AMOUNT OF FACIAL TATTOOS

Mike Tyson June 30 5 1
Mark Clark June 30 5 0
_______________________________________________________________

I quickly Googled numerology, and there's a sentence that would have had you sent off for observation 20 years ago! Here are my scores, courtesy of www.circle-of-light.com :

Name number - 5 (Relates to how I express myself in the many outer experiences of my life.)
And my score means: expansion, change, adventure, speculation, visions, growing, evolution, curious, active, resourceful, struggle against limits, steady growth, a foundation.

Destiny number - 7 (Also known as "Life Path" or "Birth Path", this number remains constant in my life (doesn't change with marriage, initiation, etc.). It tells a lot about why I am here on Earth and what I am meant to accomplish.) And my score means: philosophical, quiet, analytical, introspective, understanding, intuitive, inspirational, reclusive, knowledge, awareness, studious, meditating.


Personality number 11 (This number is derived from the consonants in my name and relates to the practical side of my life, such as career and personal relationships.) And my score means mass communication, group effort, intuition, cooperation, impersonality, higher spiritual plane, intuitive, illumination, idealist, a dreamer.

Soul urge 3 (This number is derived from the vowels in my name and relates to the subjective, inner aspects of my life.) And my score means intelligent, communicative, social, learned, creative, diversified, dramatic, expressive.

And I'm not about to sit here and be called any of those names! I'm too busy trying to cheer up my soul urge, which is disconsolate over receiving such a low score!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wiz Bang Diz Bang

I know that I'll be raising the hackles of certain readers (and perhaps they shouldn't be so certain, anyway!) by saying this about Sarah Palin, but she really ought to get over herself in a big hurry.

First came the news that either Sarah, or whoever wrote her book for her, attributed a quote from the book to the wrong individual. This to me is even funnier than when people confuse Jerry
Lewis with Jerry Lee Lewis or Congressman Jerry Lewis, (R., Ca.)

Can you just imagine being Congressman Jerry Lewis (R., Ca)? Could you ever overcome the temptation to speak in the hallowed halls of Congress in the persona of Buddy
Love?

Anyway - this is what is really funny - let's say you plunked down 25 clams to buy Sarah's book.

Now let's say you believe she would be capable of governing our nation.

And finally, let's say you start reading the book, ignoring the 127 more enlightening sources within easy reach. Let's say you turn to chapter 3 and read this quote:

"Our land is everything to us. . . . I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it -- with their lives."

Sarah, the Wizardess of Wasilla, attributes this quote to John Wooden, the longtime UCLA basketball coach known as The Wizard Of Westwood. But let's also say that you're real smart and also read the Huffington Post, where Geoffrey Dunn reports that the quote was originally spoken by John Wooden Legs, a Native American activist. He was talking about the Cheyennes losing to Custer:

"Our land is everything to us. It is the only place in the world where Cheyennes talk the Cheyenne language to each other. It is the only place where Cheyennes remember the same things together. I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it -- with their life. My people and the Sioux defeated General Custer at the Little Bighorn."

But I'm just glad that Sarah and/or whoever wrote this book for her didn't confuse the Wizard of Westwood with the Wizards of Waverly Place. Boy, That would have been, dumb, ya know?

And also, her staff accidentally released their rules for a Sarah appearance at the Mall of America. Two of the rules were: no foreign-speaking press was allowed, and Sarah was to be called 'governor' even though she quit that job.

Sarah! Sarah! Sarah! Leggo your ego!



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Crying Time Again

I love football: I don't care who's playing, from some high school all-star game on cable to the NFL, it's all good for me. College football has a certain special quality about it, since, hypothetically, no one is getting paid and so you've got guys out there busting hump for the love of the game (and, all right, for a chance at a fat NFL contract down the line, but still...) College football gives you the pageantry and the hoopla. Pro teams have their bands and cheerleaders, except for the Steelers, and still they don't have anything to compete with seeing a Florida State kid dressed in Seminole warrior gear riding a pinto pony out to the 50-yard-line and planting a burning spear in the ground. Or a member of the Ohio State marching band being selected to dot the I.

But the other night, after watching Alabama take the SouthEast Conference title game at the expense of heavily-favored Florida, I was nonplussed at the sight of Tim Tebow's tears.


Look, son, we've all wanted things that eluded our grasp. "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp - or what's a heaven for?," said Robert "Bobby B" Browning, who would have been a pretty fair wide receiver for London College a couple of centuries ago, had football been invented at the time. But, Tim, really. You lost a football game. Does this call for crying?

I recall a pro basketball player being asked if it was a pressure situation to have a game come down to him making a shot or not. The ballplayer replied that a single mom trying to feed, clothe and house a family was pressure, not a basketball game. Same with Tebow, for my money. Yes he had a pretty good college career and has been mentioned as a likely Heisman Trophy contender, although there are many who claim that he lacks the skills to be effective in the NFL. I leave predictions to the prognosticators, but I recommend to young Tebow that he spend a little time out in the real real world this summer before he tries to lift the fortunes of whichever hapless franchise drafts him to be their savior. Life is filled with victories and loss, and let's turn again to a great English poet whose works must have been read in countless Poetry Appreciation classes down in Florida - this is Rudyard Kipling, from "If":

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

...you'll be a Man, my son!

I have known some people who didn't start to triumph until they had a chance to deal with disaster. Best advice I can offer anyone is to learn from mistakes and move on confidently. And cry over lost love or departed loved ones or sad events or a kid who'll never have a chance to walk proudly or any way at all. But a football game? Nah.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

12/8/73: Where Were You?

He had long blond hair and a remarkably low-paying job as a radio DJ on the Eastern Shore. She had beautiful long chestnut-colored hair and a nice job as a legal assistant in Baltimore. They had a mutual friend whose birthday was that Friday night, June 22, 1973, so the friend's girlfriend fixed them up to go to the party together, since everyone was tired of him showing up to functions with ill-bred young women. The other couple arranged for a trial date for the night before, always a good idea since he takes a little getting-used to. So, he showed up at the girl's house with his buddy the night before, took one step into the kitchen, saw her, and like Michael Corleone, found himself struck by the thunderbolt of love. (Another way in which he is like Michael is that he will come visit you in the hospital, and bring his friend Enzo to help out.) He stood there among the pots and pans and knew that this was the woman he was to marry and love forever. But with the cool, calm self-possession that has long been his hallmark, he thought it best not to blurt that out...right away.

Thunderbolts of lightning, not very very frightening. The guy fell into love just as easily as he fell in love, and the party date went well. Returning to his fabulous bachelor apartment in the fashionable Bordertown section of Delmar ("Where Delaware and Maryland meet!") he worked Saturday and Sunday night until midnight, playing Conway Twitty ("Hello Darling") and Wynn Stewart ("In Love") records that only accentuated his deep, deep feelings. By 3 AM Monday, still unable to sleep, so in love was he, he called the girl on the phone and asked her to marry him.

And they were married on this day in 1973 and to this day, every time he sees her, he hears birds chirping and Wynn Stewart singing and feels the earth crumbling beneath his Rockports. He tries every day to tell her how much he loves her, but there's no way to express such love except to live it, he figures.
Hello, Darling!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm stupid, so help me

From WBAL.com...

Gunfire broke out early Sunday morning during a birthday party at a downtown Baltimore hotel and three people were critically injured, police said.

A police spokesman says a person of interest in the shooting is now in custody.

Officers were called to the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel around 3:15 a.m. after a fight erupted inside the party and someone began shooting. Shortly after police arrived, they found an Uzi submachine gun in a room where the party was held.

One person was shot in the head and another one was shot in the torso, both of them were taken to the University of Maryland Medical Center's Shock Trauma Center, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. The center's nursing coordinator, Henry Paje, said the two were in critical condition.

Guglielmi said a third person had "facial lacerations" and was in critical condition, but he did not know where that person was being treated.

So, I'm dumb. I need to have it explained to me why someone is carrying around a Uzi submachine gun at all, much less taking one to a holiday party in the city.


And just for the sake of the discussion, if I say that I'd be willing to come out in favor of people being able to own guns for hunting and whatnot (and I'm only saying that for the sake of engendering a discussion with a gun proponent) would one of you Hestonites who so love the NRA and totin' pistols, long rifles and Uzis be willing to say maybe we could ban submachine guns on the streets of a great city?


That might be a start, but I don't think I'll find any takers. Believers in guns seem to think it their birthright to possess any sort of weapon under the sun to blow holes in anything they wish to see perforated, and they hide behind a poorly-worded passage in the Constitution that does mention membership in a well-regulated militia, but never mind that.


So come on and tell me why people should be carrying this sort of insane weaponry around in the streets. Please. Maybe I'm missing some vital reason.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

It always snows on December 5

Two fun things in one fun day! Yesterday, greatnephew Alex


had his birthday party..he turns 4 on 12/10. Spiderman - the real one - appeared at the party and so Alex dressed in tribute. The chow was terrific, the house was decorated perfectly, and Jamie even arranged for the perfect touch for a December party -


SNOW! which I lovingly photographed on the front porch here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch after we got home and after we had a nap but before Tim Tebow became so lachrymose. It's just a game, son, and you didn't play so well. Move along and congratulate Alabama. Roll Tide!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cold Front

I may have told you this before, but it would appear that I have seasonal affective disorder - in reverse. Whereas some people are bummed and saddened when they days grow short and gray and cold ( e.g. December), I view these days with alacrity! I love a gray rainy day; throw in some snow and temps around 30° and I am happy. The shortest day of the year - December 22 - is a big thrill for me.

They sell special sunlamps for people who hate the short days, so that on December 22 they can pretend it's August 1. What do they sell for me to use on August 1 so I can fake like it's December 22? Oh yeah - the walk-in cooler over at Buy - n - Guzzle Liquors! But they look at me funny when I wear a knit stocking cap and wool scarf. It's August, after all.

You give me a day when I can wear my Carhartt® Blanket-Lined Chore Coat, a stocking cap, wool sox and leather gloves, and I won't ask for more. I do understand that it's not to everyone's liking to have weather like that. Judging from the amount of disbelieving stares I get when I ramble on about how I love the chill, I might be the only American who feels this way.

But I have to ask...how come, if everyone likes it so hot, everyone turns on the Chillsworth Inc. Air Conditioner the second the temp passes 70° in springtime?

Friday, December 4, 2009

"And so I say to you, Commencement is more than blah blah blah..."

I know we've discussed this before, but I have to say once again, attention High School Kids - cheer up! It's going to be all right!

If I drive a certain path to work at just the right times, I see elementary school kids, then middle school kids, and finally, high school kids eddying about at bus stops. Now I do understand that this might not give me an accurate demographic breakdown of scholastic America, because it does not take into account the following groups:

- - kids being driven to school by chauffeurs (very unlikely in our end of town)
- - kids who are cutting school that day to go on impromptu self-guided field trips to Civil War battlegrounds (I can account for my whereabouts that day)
- - kids who drive to school themselves (we had a 16-year-old driver in 7th grade, until he dropped out)
- - kids who walk to school
- - kids who attend home school
- - kids who walk to home school

But anyhow, doggone it, here's my message to the youth of America again. Cheer the hell up! I see you in those knots of youth at the bus stops, and it seems the older the student, the more disconsolate the visage. Your elementary school kids seem as happy as lightning bugs with new batteries. And why not? They're looking forward to a whole day of Chutes and Ladders, cut and paste, and brown and serve. They might have to do some rudimentary arithmetic, but it's pretty easy once you've learned your timeses and guzinthas.

Middle school has more angst per square mile than an Albee play. Whereas, in high school everything SEEMS like a big deal, in middle school it IS a big deal whether Jason punches you or Emma rebuffs your churlish advances or Porter rips off your lunch. (Note for readers of my generation: please substitute the names "Robert," "Jane", and "Stacy" in the preceding.) I love talking to people, and there are few verbal founts as reliable as a middle school student or a middle school teacher when you wish to find out how things are in middle school. Those first couple of years past puberty can be rough, and those going through it need to be regarded with patience and understanding while being allowed to flourish without a lot of overbearing vigilance. And that's why I tell the teenagers to give their teachers a break; it's tough enough being in one's early post-adolescence without having to stand in front of a class of raging hormones and talk about the Pelopennesian War!

And for those who have heard the Big Lie that says, "High school days are the happiest days of your life," well, please bear in mind that this statement was likely generated by people who peaked in high school by being selected to the Audio-visual crew or Lost & Found club. High school days are not the happiest days of your life, and if you'd refrain from paying any attention whatsoever to that ridiculous old saw, you could relax, take a deep breath, and figure the following are indeed true:

a) Someone somewhere will love you and partner up with you if that's what you wish for. (Just don't go messing it up and then have to leave hurried hushed voicemails asking the woman/man with whom you've been carrying on/"transgressing" to take her/his name off her/his phone because your wife/husband went through yours. You might have the appetite of a Tiger, but I don't want to see you lost in the Woods.)

b) Out in the real world, there is no homework, no term papers, book reports or semester projects. We do all this as part of the regular working day so we can be available after work to sell and deliver candy, peanut brittle, wrapping paper, Joe Corbi pizza and raffle tickets.

c) Whether or not you know the dates, names of participants and/or outcome of the Pelopennesian War will ever matter much once you pass this stupid History test next Wednesday. You will be regarded as an office curiosity for even bringing up this 5th-Century Greek conflict, but you'll smile inside when you mention the Diet of Worms
and someone thinks you're talking about bird food.

d) Although, it wouldn't hurt some of you to spend a little time learning the differences between "your" and "you're," "it's" and "its," and "there," "their" and "they're." Yeah, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and learn those grammar basics; that'd be great, yeah.

e) No one in the real world ever solves for "x" and never has. Algebra does not exist.

f) Similarly, no one will ever ask you to figure out what time the train from Chicago will pass the train from Louisville, unless you work for Amtrak, and then you'd have it on a computer which will break down regularly and be fixed by a guy who was in the Audio-Visual club, or you'll misplace it and get it back from the guy who was in the Lost and Found Club.

Circle of Life. Hakuna Matata.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Those aren't pillows!!

The other night, just because the times they are a-changin', we went to the large hall at the Sheraton in Towson to hear a presentation about our doctor. We happen to have a really good, fair, honest, learned, patient and well-trained doctor in Dr DeLoskey, and it was with some trepidation that we went to the meeting, because it was about a change in his practice. We were afraid that he was going to switch over to one of those boutique practices where you pay an annual retainer to the doc for the right to be one of his few patients, and then you have greater access, more thorough exams and visits, and other benefits. Nice, if you're Bill Gates, which I clearly am not. And that's how we wound up with Dr DeLoskey, when our previous doctor went to that system. Turned out that Dr D is going for a modified version of that plan; you can go for the big deal or stay one of his regular patients. I told you the man was fair, didn't I? So that's not even what I wanted to write about.

The doctor has hooked up with a company that arranges for practices of this kind. Not a bad idea; why should he add business management to his daily list of chores, the rest of which tend to be more in the medical end of things? But the people who accompanied him to the dais, and the man who runs the company and spoke at great length about the virtues of this plan, that's what is on my mind.

I know that this sort of thing would appeal to many people, going from town to town, every night another hotel room and every evening another hotel ballroom, selling products. This is a perfectly legitimate operation; I'm not saying there is anything even remotely shady about it all. But I thrive on consistency, and I am the King of all Homebodies. Not for me the travel, the highways, the hotels, the chain restaurants for three meals a day. And not to spend evenings here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch with Peggy, hooting at the news, hollering at the ballgames, having fun at dinner, hoofing around the neighborhood, would be too big a price to pay for that sort of work.

If you can do it and you like it and it's congruent with your life, it's all yours! Not putting it down. I just couldn't do it. No Del Griffith, I.