Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rushing the season

I would like to know, if it's not too much trouble, just what the heck is going on around here.

Last Sunday, the stillness of the air surrounding our luxurious suburban home, as opposed to the luxurious urban home which we do not own, was shattered by a sound that's all too familiar from April through November, but we don't generally hear it in January.

A guy who lives in the development behind us (Painan Acres) was out there cutting his lawn. This is the guy - there is one in every nine-digit zip code - whose yard resembles nothing quite so much as a claw machine. All over the yard there are little garden gnomes, fake waterfalls, purple flamingos, solar-powered lights, moist grottoes, dry patches, bendovers, corny cutout silhouettes, sedimentary rock formations, and also some goofy stuff.

So he's cutting frozen grass in January. What th'?

Then came Wednesday, and Peggy and I are headed to the supermarket, and right around the corner, here comes a neighbor on his Yard Boss mini tractor. He had a look of devotion to duty, or fixation on some distant point. I think he was just riding around the yard, rather than cutting grass, but what is going on with all these lawn mowers in use in the middle of the winter?

Of course, we could always go buy a house in the city, but that's a whole 'nother bunch of problems. Let me stay here and figure this one out. Meanwhile, can I get some Pam® for my snow shovel?

And doesn't January seem like one of those months that should only have 30 days?

Photo for a Sunday Morning



A really cheery kitchen!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

About Sam Levenson

Good morning - I am working today, so I couldn't stay up late last night so I hope you don't mind a rerun from 2008!

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

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

Time Tested Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Throw me a bone here

Some nights, when I go to type my blog entry, I can hardly wait to sit down at the old keyboard. I have something on my mind to write about and it's just a matter of how quickly I can type. And then there are times like this, when there is no specific topic on my mind, nothing that really strikes my fancy. And where is my fancy, by the way? I imagine it is located somewhere near the funny bone. That's what we say when something amuses us, right? It "tickled my funny bone." I decided to look into this, since nothing else was on my mind. I called the medical examiner's office and the anatomy department at the School of Medicine, but both places said that recent budget cuts had left them short-handed. In other words, they were working with a skeleton crew.

Well, look at old skinny here, and there is the old soupbone, the upper part of the arm. It's really called the "humerus," so it would appear that some wag lost in the history of anatomy was the first to call it the funny bone, since it was so humorous.

So what would happen if the anatomy texts taught tomorrow's doctors to use the common colloquial terms that we use for body parts? If you were being treated for a scalp laceration, wouldn't you feel better about a doctor who said, "Let's have a look at the old melon here..."? The podiatrist would tell you, "No matter your dogs are barking so loudly!" and the optometrist would really say, "Jeepers creepers! Where'd you get those peepers?"

I enjoy skeletons, and plan to do so, right up until the day I become one myself. I'm here to tell you, I'm bad to the bone.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Those who can, teach, so that others can too!

Having once again attended a training session given by someone who acted as if he had been bound with barbed wire, dragged into the seminar and forced to speak about a topic he mainly knows as a hobby, more than a profession, I once again marvel at the people who deduce that anyone can teach.

Wrong.

For one thing, look at baseball managers. Baseball is the one remaining sport in which one need not appear to be one of the Brobdingnagians from Gulliver's Travels to succeed. There is a former NFL player who is affiliated with my work group - a member of the BALTIMORE Colts at one time, he was - and he looks pretty much like anyone else you might see on the street...just in slightly better condition. But he doesn't have the 27" neck and 68 XL suit jacket measurement of today's gridiron heroes. Baseball players are more or less normally-sized, and it says here that there is more thinking in the game of baseball than in any other big time sport.

However, being able to play the game very well does not always translate to being able to teach others or coach others in how to play it very well. The game's history is full of Hall of Famers who came back to manage big league clubs and ...uh...struck out. In most cases, it was because their idea of coaching was telling some guy, "Go up there and hit a double, then steal third and get ready to come home on a squeeze bunt like I used to do." Telling someone to do something is not the same as making them able to do it. Isn't that right, Pete Rose, Jr?

To get back to the ill-presented training class, let me share something with you that I learned a long time ago from a man who ran a trade school, teaching automotive mechanics. This may just come in handy if you're ever called upon to teach someone how to do something. (The exception would be if you're ever called upon to teach a teenaged family member how to drive a car. Then, all bets are off!)

The teaching method this man advocated used three simple steps:

  1. Tell them what you're going to tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you told them.
Now I know it sounds remarkably pedantic and simplistic, but it works. One of the main problems this fellow had who tried to lecture to our group the other day, only to be met with stares, glares, and slamming Frigidaires, is that he just launched into his lesson about halfway into it, as if he were teaching you how to make a sandwich, and started off by saying, "Well, of course, after you decide where to put the condiments, then you..." No wonder people were knitting their brows like Brezhnev.

If you want to teach someone to do something, you need to engage their interest, so you might start your lesson off with a lighthearted joke or humorous anecdote. Did you hear the one about the two guys out in a boat who had three cigarettes and no matches? How did they smoke? They threw one cigarette overboard...that made the boat a cigarette lighter!

Or, you could choose a funny one. It's up to you. But after the opening niceties, you need to say, "Today, we are going to learn to make a sandwich." And then here you could talk about why they are here to learn to make a sammy, or mention that most people have experience in this line and their own background in sandwich preparation, but the goal here is to make sure that everyone knows why they are sitting there and why you are standing there.

Then you tell them how to make a sandwich. Be sure to let them get up and make a sandwich, or at least get their hands on some cold cuts and tomatoes, because there is no learning like doing. I know that not every lesson is the sort of lesson that lends itself to hands-on involvement, but in any event, you have to get the class into it somehow, even if they are pantomiming the process. After all, you wouldn't want your tooth being filled by someone who had sat through I don't care how many years of lectures in dental school: you want someone who has actually done this sort of thing before!

Then you wrap it up (the lesson, not the sandwich) by going over why they came, what they learned, and how it will fit into their lives or work. If there was a list of steps or a procedure, this is the time to repeat it for them and review it one more time...or twice if there are questions.

And trust me, this works well! A lot of people who ought to be using it, aren't. It's the key to teaching, in my opinion. The man who demonstrated this method all those years ago put a raw hot dog in the middle of a car's electrical system, and showed how the spark stayed hot by showing us a hot dog getting cooked as he lectured. It's a lesson that has stayed with me for many a year, and that's the point, whatever you teach.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This really blows

Monday morning, the wind was blowing. I should have been singing that old song by The Association, the one about how "Windy has stormy eyes that flash at the sound of lies...", "and who's bending down to give me a rainbow...Everyone knows it's Windy..."

Well, everyone knows that it did feel as if Mother Nature was bending down to see how much wind it would take to knock a large man to the ground, or, more precisely, to the driveway between the parking garage at my doctor's office and the office building itself. Friends, I have been treading this earth for nigh onto 59 years now, and I have never been in wind like that. Tastefully clad in my big old crimson "Alabama" jacket, I must have made an inviting target to the guy driving a big old blue Buick. I think he didn't know what to do. Surely, one of the options that darted through his mind was to run me over, but he settled on sitting there, watching me with the curiosity normally paid to a runaway tiger in the streets of Sri Lanka. Had he been an Auburn fan, I might be writing this from the emergency room, or worse.

Nothing bad happened. I held my stance and waited a few seconds, and then the gust that once bid fair to elevate me 1/2way across the county went somewhere else to bedevil someone else, and I, dignity intact, (laughter) finished my walk and went to the doctor.

Still, it was one of those moments that you want to remember. The same wind and rain storm that swept through our town that morning knocked trees down onto cars, and lifted some guy's entire shed out of his yard and onto the road in front. Had flying monkeys soared past me, I would not have been surprised at all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sasha pretty girl, but she's not Cohen to the Olympics

Hello, and welcome to "I Don't Know What I'm Talking About," the show inspired by the Don and Mike Show's review of movies they hadn't seen. Today's topic is Ice Skating. Figure Skating. You know, with the spangly sequined outfits and all the eye makeup and rouge. And so do the women.

But, I think that Sasha Cohen is cute as a newt, so I think she should be on the Olympics team if she so desires. And so she desired, but she was judged to be not as great as three other women who competed, and I don't know why.

Apparently, they don't throw in points for newt cuteness, so being cute as button did not work in Ms Cohen's favor. But tell me, what are the standards? How is it that we have a sport in which the winner is determined by people sitting on the sideline with score sheets? How about if the Colts and Jets game winner had been determined by beer-bellied judges up in the press box, where they might not see all the subtle nuances? Or even hear them.

I believe that figure skating could be made more popular for the masses, which is to say the people who purchase beer and pick-up trucks and chain saws, by the addition of these simple elements:

a) People always toss teddy bears onto the ice AFTER a performance. Let's spice things up a little by encouraging fan to toss teddy bears onto the ice DURING a performance. Not at the skaters, but toss 'em onto the recently-Zamboni'ed surface, so the bladed ones have to do their triple spins around the toys.

2) Hold the Olympics trials at a neighborhood IceLand some Saturday night, and have the skaters do their thing in amongst packs of bratty kids "cracking the whip," playing pickup hockey and tag, and generally making 12-yr-old nuisances of themselves (pardon the redundancy). Also out there on the ice: couples on a first date - and he's never skated so the girl is teaching him, couples so deeply in love that they fairly glide over the ice, their skates scarcely touching the rink, and the manager of the place, a highly-irritated moonlighting phys ed teacher chasing after the kid who just broke the Slushee machine over at the Snak Brrrrr. Now! get out there and do your routine!

iii.) Put mics on the skaters so you can hear what they say. Listen here to hear one of America's most beloved athletes excoriating a rookie teammate, in case you missed the subtle link above.

IV) That's it! Give everyone a free IV with a caffeine drip so they don't fall asleep during the Triple Axel.

As soon as we can have two figure skaters out there at once, with a system of scoring points by placing a ball into some sort of goal while skating, then you'll have a ratings winner. Just like Jay Leno at 10 o'clock.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Your ad here at low, low rates

Wasn't it Sir Edmund Hillary, who, when asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, replied, "Because that's where the money is!"? Or was it Willie Sutton who said, "Because it's there!" when asked why he was going to Oakland?

But somewhere I need to come up with 44 million semolians to pay Conan O'Brien not to be on tv any more. It makes me wonder how much they would have to pay Matt Lauer to stay home. Except that on the Today show, no one "stays home." They "take some time off." They don't "go" places; they "make their way" or "trek" to different locales. And when they finish a story about a farmer who composes sonnets while riding his tractor, and then go to one about a bored coroner who became a mass murderer because things were too slow to suit him at work, they "switch gears now," as if we couldn't grasp the difference in gravity between the stories. And of course, the greatest thing about the Today gang is the way they go to a commercial by saying, "We're back right after this."

Dude. Think Charles Jefferson in "Fast Times" when Spicoli wrecks Jefferson's brother's Camaro, and Charles says his brother is gonna kill them both and then he's gonna poop (euphemism mine). Sagely, Spicoli asks, "Make up your mind, dude, is he gonna poop or is he gonna kill us?" So, Today Show, when you say you're back but you're really leaving, make up your mind, dudes!

And how does NBC come up with 44 million clams? That's a lot of bananas! One way is to sell advertising, which I have considered for this blog, choosing not to for two reasons:

a) no one would buy any ads here

b) Sugar Smacks cereal ads would scare the living h-e-double toothpicks out of anyone:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sue tagged me! I tag Sue!

Six names you go by
1. Mark
2. Marky
3. Marky Mark
4. Mark E. Mark
5. Beverly's son
6. Peggy's husband (my favorite thing to be)

Three things you are wearing right now
1. Red socks
2. sweat shirt
3. sweat pants

Three things you want very badly at the moment
1. The president's critics to shut the hell up for a minute
2. My sciatica to go away please
3. An autographed photo of Randolph Mantooth

Three People who will definitely fill this out (don't disappoint me now!)
1. Peggy
2. Mary-Lynn
3. Anne Marie

Two things you did last night
1. Dinner at the diner, nothing could be finer
2. Than to have your hams and eggs in Carolina

Two things you ate today
1. cup of tea
2. acetaminophen

Two people you last talked to on the phone
1. Peggy
2. The sweet lady at Comcast who told me how to take the unwanted closed captioning off the cable box in the family room. It somehow got turned on during an electrical surge, and for days afterward, whenever I talked to someone, I expected a little box to appear near their sternum, with words, e.g. WAITRESS: SO THAT'S THE BREAKFAST SPECIAL WITH BACON AND SAUSAGE,PANCAKES, AND THE EGGS OVER EASY?
It about drove me nuts.

Two things you are going to do tonight
1. Birthday party for the twins, Mason and Preslee!
2. Watch a bit more of "Bye Bye Birdie" on Encore. Put on a happy face!


Two things you like to drink
1. Hot tea
2. Iced tea

Two of the scariest people around
1. Dick
2. Cheney

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Clothes-Captioned

Oh, you're just gonna think of me as an old fogey fuddy-duddy, but I have to say one thing about performers of today.

They often look like they were on their way out to the garage to bundle up the recycling when someone ran up to them, handed them a guitar and asked them to do one of their big famous songs.


Hank Snow wrote in his autobiography that he always considered it his duty to show up on stage looking a little special, dressed up nicely.

Ernest Tubb preached that a performer should always dress better than his audience - but should never THINK he's better than his audience.

Porter Wagoner used to get the word "Hi!" embroidered on the inner lining of his suit jacket so he could flap it open as Grand Ole Opry fans flashed their Kodak Instamatic cameras.


So, Neil Young, as much as I love your politics, your lilting melodies and your sweet soprano, could you maybe, I don't know, spruce it up just a little bit on the job?

Friday, January 22, 2010

A dozen roses and a cask of Amontillado, please!


Well, the buzz around Baltimore the past couple of days is all about the disappearance of the "Poe Toaster." Dissolute poet Edgar Allan Poe, favorite of eighth-graders all across the land for his haunting, lugubrious stanzas, is buried in downtown Baltimore at Westminster Hall, at Fayette and Greene Streets.

For over 50 years, the Poe Toaster showed up every January 19 and left a tribute of cognac and roses, along with the occasional note. This year was the first time since 1949 that no one showed up at the Edgar Allan Poe House Museum to pay tribute, thus ending a literary tradition almost as long as the undying popularity of Willa Cather.

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House, (yes, we treat our legends with respect! We had a Cal Ripken Museum, there's one saluting the Colts, Orioles and Ravens history, and the people of Czechoslovakia have donated to our fair city a statue of Frank Zappa, which the mayor promises to have placed in a prominent location very very soon) says that maybe the guy who usually shows up with booze and flowers (does that sound like he's on his way to a date in some '50's movie starring Rosalind Russell?) might have had the flu, or car trouble. Or, maybe he just got tired of doing the same thing every January 19 and went to Bingo World instead.

The identity of the Toaster has never been revealed, and we can only suppose he lives the rest of the year in an undisclosed location, next bunker over from Dick Cheney. Now watch - any number of people will come forth, claiming to have been the PT and wondering who will play the lead when they make a movie about it. I say, either Frank Langella or Scott Baio.

Maybe the guy just got too, I dunno, weak and weary of the whole thing? You know what would be cool...if Sunbeam or GE would make a real Poe Toaster, the kind that once your English muffin is just ever so, would make a "CAW! CAW!" sound instead of the boring old 'Ding!", and utter "Nevermore" when you unplug it. Go to it, inventors!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No Static At All

It's the night after the Tuesday Night Surprise from Massachusetts.

Doggone it, I always liked Tuesday when it was Taco Night.

This time, it was the Democrats getting shelled. ¡Ay Caramba!

But again, here I sit, the night after the votes came in and changed the alignment of chairs in Congress. And I'm not going to take sides, point the finger, make judgements or lay the blame. Massachusetts had to choose between two people to replace the great late Senator Edward Moore Kennedy. On the red side, they had a handsome state senator who once posed for Cosmopolitan, who offered to hook his daughters up on the podium while making his victory speech, who offers pro-choice, pro-Second Amendment, strong defense and anti-health care reform as his planks. The Blues trotted out their state attorney general who did not know which team Red Sox hero Curt Schilling played for, a woman who took a long vacation in the middle of a campaign that her party desperately needed to win. A woman who admitted that she didn't really care for running for office.

Not exactly the menu that the founding fathers planned to offer, is it?

But I'm listening to NPR - a radio show called "On Point." Fascinating concept for a political discussion: they have informed people, from both sides of the political divide, speaking in historical perspective, lacing their talk with facts and reasonable opinion and prognostication. No one is calling anyone else a communist, a fascist, an idiot, unpatriotic, or stupid. I mean, just off the top of their heads, the panel discussed the first year of the Obama Administration vis-a-vis the first years for Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It's informative and compelling.

And then again, the other day on one of the local AM blowtorches, I heard a discussion of the health care matter in which the host and a caller hollered over each other for a couple of minutes. It became possible, at length, to discern that both of these well-read Americans were on the same side of the matter, and could not chance having the other person seem to be more against the president than they. Hence the hollering. The entire matter, at last, was summed up with great celerity and perspicacity by the caller, who stated, in a voice coarsened by years of hollering, "It's all a bunch of bullcrap!"

Hear well his words and pay heed. Then go listen to NPR and learn something.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fittingly enough

I like it when things fit together nicely, as they used to say on The A-Team. As in, if you aspire to a career playing professional basketball, it would really help if you were well over six feet tall. They say that one of the reasons for Michael Phelps's success in swimming is that he has the perfect body for slicing through the H²O, even down to his large hands, so useful for scooping gallons of water as he sluices his way along.

Similarly, if you go into the field of installing cove base molding in new houses, being short is going to come in handy for you - you'll be so much closer to the work. And of course, models have to be tall and thin so they will look just like the people who will later wear those clothes being modeled!

How about if your name seems to suggest a line of work? Baltimore once had a school commissioner named Dr Brain. I remember seeing him on "What's My Line?" along with a guy named Mr Fillerup, who ran a gas station out west somewhere.

And I read that country singer John Rich, of the noted "Big and Rich" duo, and his wife just welcomed a new little country singer to the world...and they named him "Cash." Cash Rich. Thank Heaven they didn't name him anything he might get teased over later, ya know? And, little Cash joins the world of the late Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Dollar. And Bill Anderson.

This is all coming to mind now as I read up on the illustrious life and times of Sarah H. Palin, widely regarded as the next president of something or other. Back in the days when she was governing Alaska, she pressured the public safety commissioner to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper who had divorced Palin's sister. When that commissioner failed to go along with Mrs Palin's orders, he soon found himself on the outside looking in, being replaced by one Chuck Kopp, former chief of police in thriving Kenai, Alaska.

Police Chief Kopp. If only there had been a guy in town named Joe Phirephyghter...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No kick coming

First let me say that we are all, from time to time, guilty of this. I more than anyone, probably. And I feel bad about it right now more than usual, because of the perspective that the Haitian nightmares lend to it.

I'm talking about complaining. I and all of us tend to do too much of it. Now, I happen to love my job and everything about it, and heaven knows I am head over heels about Peggy. I love my house, my truck, many members of my family (just kiiiiddddding!!!) and, honestly, most every aspect of my life. You will hear me grumbling about ignorance, pain, insensitivity, and Sean Hannity, to be redundant.

But we all take our turns at bat in the game. Whaaa, I have to go to work. Booo, they didn't have the right kind of cinnamon sprinkles at JoJo Starbuck's. Hooo, that nasty cop gave me a ticket for going 85 mph in a school zone.

I look at the Haitian people night after night, and they would give anything - and most already have - for a drink of water, even if it were warm. They wouldn't gripe at all if offered a baloney sandwich on Holsum white bread. They would love to find their kinfolk, their lives, their futures, in the rubble of what once was their world.

I'd like to suggest that we challenge ourselves to go a full day - 24 hours - during which, any time we are tempted to carp about our situation, we would say, "If I were a resident of Haiti's earthquake zone, would this be enough to move me to griping?"

I'm going to try, today and every day. Let's see how we do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Poop on Gourmet Coffee

This.Is.True.
Next time you run over to Java The Hut for a cuppa' joe, why not order a nice steaming (!) cup of Civet coffee? Sounds great, huh? Make mine strong, please, and plenty of half and half.

In fact, if you're pouring mine, just give me a cup of half and half and hold the civet coffee. As you'll see here, it's pretty daggone expensive stuff. But, you say, coffee is an essential part of my lifestyle, so what does it matter if the price is a little steep? Bring it on, and how about an almond biscotti with that?

Civet coffee is the new rage among the coffee drinkers who really want to be on the cutting edge of the new coffee rage. What it is, is coffee berries that have been eaten whole and then allowed to pass undigested through the digestive system of the civet cat. Then someone who really really hates his or her job a thousand times more than you could possibly despise yours has to pick the berries out and roast them.

Then someone packs the beans in a bag and charges you 25 or 40 dollars a pound for it.
And you ask why I stick with Lipton Tea?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Are you sure there IS an Indiana? Have you ever been there?

Gotta tell you, I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon, before we leave for Finley's birthday party. Of course, no matter what, we will be home in time to see the Ravens/Colts playoff game tonight.

Last night, on Friday, we were in WalMart and I ran into a woman from work who was purchasing for her infant son a Peyton Manning jersey. I reacted with shock and dismay, and she said, "Well, I like Peyton Manning. I'll still root for the Ravens, but Peyton Manning is funny!"

I can't hold it against Peyton Manning that the Colts left Baltimore in 1984, sneaking out of town in the middle of snowy night like deadbeat hoboes skipping out on their bill at a cheap motel where the "art" is screwed to the wall, as are many of the guests. It broke my heart, but that was a long time before a lot of people were even born, and what the heck do they care?

Nor can I really hold it against James "Jimbo" Irsay, owner of the team, who inherited the business from his bumptious father, Bob "Poophead" Irsay, about whom his own mother once said that he was the Devil On Earth. And a poophead. But Jimbo was just a kid when all this went on.

You have to look at this from the perspective of someone who had his young heart ripped out and stomped on, and then looks down the street one day twenty-six years later and sees his wife walking down the street with her fifth husband, Mr Peyton Manning. Don't punch him in the nose; she didn't leave you for him!

But she left you, and it still hurts. If you can't understand that, it must mean that you've never had that sort of hurt in your heart, and I'm happy for you.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

You Said It!

Yesterday at work, I guess most of the people went to the Ravens pep rally (note to Pittsburgh residents and fans: these are gatherings of fans whose teams are still in the playoffs after the regular season ends) and it was deathly quiet around the office around lunchtime. I guess that's why George said, "It's quiet as a morgue in here."

And then someone else said, "Actually, I've been to the morgue, and it's not all that quiet in there, especially on a Saturday night downtown."

I have no real desire to get to the morgue before I really have to get to the morgue, if you follow me. But why is everyone throwing the word 'actually' into every sentence now? You hear it all the time!

..."Actually, I'm here looking for an all-wool topcoat" is the reply I heard in the men's department at a fashionable department store (I know I don't belong there; I was cutting through to the parking lot!) to the question, "May I help you, sir?" Notice the clerk did not say, Are you looking for a nylon topcoat? or an all-wool belt?

..."I'm actually working today until 8 PM" is another one I heard somewhere. I doubt that there had been any question concerning staying past 7:45, so why the clarification?

..."This is actually the best way to get to the playoffs" was something I heard on tv, in an apparent attempt to settle a dispute about the many ways of getting into the playoffs (uh, winning enough games, and the other ways would be...?)

It's just one of those figures of speech that have swept the nation. A few years ago it was "basically" and now it's "actually." We figure they will go away, but sometimes, these verbal habits become entrenched. "She's all..." and "then he goes..." had their time in the sun as off ways of saying "She said..." and "then he said..." but the dreaded "So I'm like, I'm not riding with him and I told Hildegarde that and she's like 'But you like have to ride with him or he'll like get lost.'" (Name changed to protect the innocent.)

Actually, I'm like tired of the whole deal, like. And speaking of expressions: "Madder than a wet hen"? Really? I don't know about wet hens. I was pecked on the knee as a boy by a totally dry rooster. I can't imagine how much worse it could have been had the fowl in question been dripping wet. Time to run to KFC. Say, did you ever have chicken for lunch and chicken for dinner and then wonder if the two chickens knew each other?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Snow Flakes

You have to love Baltimore, where there is a well-known law commanding television meteorologists to use the term “the white stuff” in place of the word “snow” at least once per forecast from November through July. We love white stuff here – love to fret about it, stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper in anticipation of it, and shovel it off the driveway so that we can not drive anywhere in it. Folks living in town houses and other areas with limited parking have their own little thing goin’ on: they shovel out their parking spot and then, like a sodbuster staking a claim in the old West, they demarcate that spot for the SceniCruiser with chaise longues, upended trash cans, or even sometimes saw horses. People from out of town say they’ve never seen such, but there’s a lot you ain’t seen til you’ve been to B’more, hon!

The snow they were calling for this Sunday has been taken off the forecast, replaced by dumb old rain and sleet. What could make for a better weekend at the Try ‘N’ Shop supermarket than the twin marketing opportunities of a Ravens playoff game against the stinky Indianapolis Colts, who once called this town home before slinking out of town like a two-bit floozy leaving with a traveling dry goods salesman from Kankakee following a lusty second-rate unsanctified congress in a third-rate motel along the lost highway, PLUS a snowfall predicted for the next morning?!

But really, the white stuff we just can’t get enough of is salt. Rock salt. Halite. It’s so thick on some parking lots that it looks like snow, but seasoned (pause for laughter) pedestrians know the difference between the crunch of salt under their Weejuns and the crunch of snow. Snow goes away, and salt stays until it rains, at which point it gets dumped into the bay through the tributary storm drain system and we get nice salty oysters and pre-seasoned blue crabs. We don’t care. We know there is plenty of salt left in the curiously-constructed salt domes along the highways in the salty side of town. Hang the expense! If it’s a–gonna snow, we want the roads to be “pre-treated,” a handy way to say, “putting salt down even before it starts to snow.” Then come back while it snows, and after it snows, and salt everything down ‘til all the world looks like a snow globe or a big pretzel or a salt lick. It must be what we want; heaven forbid we should drive on a road with any snow on it! All motorists foolish enough to do so slide off the edge of the earth, never to be heard from again!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And remember -it's the Democratic Party, not the "Democrat" Party.

I saw this bumper sticker stuck on a car bumper yesterday on my way to work. It said, "Democrats Hate America."

We've talked about generalizations before, and this one is a doozy. There are millions of Democrats in the nation, and to make such a sweeping statement is just a bit of a reach. When I googled that first sticker, to see more about who would be selling such a thing, I noticed that the same company would also be glad to send to you, in exchange for five American dollars, a sticker reading "I Don't Hate America - I Hate the People Who Do Hateful Things in the Name of America."

Fascinating, but a reminder that no matter how you feel about things, there is always someone ready to make a buck off of it. Hey, that's capitalism! What could be more American?

I remember a group of protesters who regularly marched around the entrance to an abortion clinic near us some years ago. You had to love the fact that we live in a country in which one is free to speak out and express feelings. No matter which side of the abortion fence you come down on, I think you'd agree it's a good thing to have that free speech.

I know who else did - that was the hot dog guy who set up his cart right behind the moiling protesters. Business was brisk! He knew that walking in circles in the warm midday sun would make people thirsty, so he sold ice-cold soda and water. And they'd be hungry as well, so he sold hot dogs slathered in condiments, relish, kraut and chili, and did what used to be called a "land-office business" (whatever the heck a land-office is!)

And then right behind him, for real, were the PETA protesters admonishing people against eating meat.

Norman Rockwell, you left us too soon. That tableau would have made a great cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The kids need us

Last week, a 14-year old girl from down Middle River way was killed when she was struck by the Amtrak train. She and a friend were walking to school, obviously not in an approved path, when the train came up on them. Her friend was able to jump to safety; young Anna was not.

The railroad tracks down this way are near Martin State Airport and also by Geresbeck's, the great grocery store on our East side. Consequently, I have been down that way, cruising along Eastern Avenue, and suddenly with a terrific whoooooooosh, here's the train. They go fast and they run pretty quietly and this young lady was not the first person killed by them.

But now comes the debate.

Our state just lost a 12-year old girl down in Salisbury; her body was found on Christmas Day, just days after she was kidnapped, apparently by her custodial aunt's ex-boyfriend, a man who was listed as a child sex abuser in two states, and who had raped another young woman in 2001 and was, beyond belief, out walking around doing more ineffable deeds. There is, and rightly so, a hue and cry to overhaul the laws that allow such individuals to be paroled after serving fractions of their sentences. Too late for this young lady down on the Eastern shore, but perhaps her loss is a signal to us all that certain people need - deserve - to be locked away from the rest of us for a good long while. I don't care if they're being rehabilitated; just keep them away from us!

Some are saying that we have to look at the death of the 14-year-old in much the same way, that we need to build more fences, higher fences, so that no one will cut across the tracks. There are fences there, but there will always be those who cut down the fences to make a shortcut, or vault 12 feet over an 11 foot fence to save a few minutes. There are signs and there is also a great need for parents and other influential people to teach the kids that cutting across the tracks has fatal consequences.

We can't build impenetrable walls around railroad tracks and highways and every other place where a pedestrian faces danger. At some point we have to assume a certain risk in life. But a sweet little 12-year old should never be at risk while sleeping in her own bed, and we can do something about the sort of people who would prey on her and others like her.

I mourn both losses, and pray for their families to find peace. As a society, do you think we might spend a little less time worrying about how many women some golfer slept with and think a little more about how to keep the children safe?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Certain Calibre of Individual

This is from an article by Peter Hermann in the Baltimore SUN of January 8. It tells of people who traditionally ring in the new year by firing guns in the air, paying no heed to where the bullets just might come down:


Robert M. Booze Sr. is a 68-year-old retired bakery worker who said he bought his Derringer about 25 years ago from a gun store on Broadway in Fells Point to "protect my home."

He hardly fits the stereotype of a Baltimore gunman, and the Derringer is hardly the gun of choice on the city's drug corners, though the company's Web page describes the gun as having "long stood as the ultimate full power concealable firearm." The site notes it is "the best little shooting iron to ride out of Texas."

Booze, released on bail, answered the door in sagging white painter's pants and no shirt. He was busy fixing the back door to his rowhouse on Norfolk Avenue, off Reisterstown Road in lower Park Heights, kicked in by police after they saw people fire guns in the backyard and run inside.

"We were just shooting in the air," Booze said, adding that he didn't think it was such a big deal that it required a half-dozen cops to raid his house.

"We were just celebrating the new year. It's how we do it in Baltimore." The house had pictures of grandchildren on the walls and plastic toys scattered about.

There were children home when the foursome began firing off their guns, Booze said, explaining, "They were inside. We were outside." Police said they found the Derringer in Booze's pants pocket, the .38 Rossi in a book bag, the Mossburg in a carry case and the 9 mm in a basement utility room.


In Baltimore, this is how we protect our homes. Just around midnight on New Year's Eve, we fire bullets indiscriminately to ...? I don't know why. It might be a hint that part of the thrill of gun ownership is the big bang theory - they like the noise.

But in the past I have railed about the folly of private gun ownership, only to be told by Second Amendment misinterpreters that we all have the right to own guns and nothing should be done until someone commits a crime with them.

So today I have to wonder why we, as a nation, spend billions of dollars, and more important, thousands of young lives chasing after people with "weapons of mass destruction." Aren't we supposed to wait until we're sure that one of these WMDs is going to be used in a crime? Don't get me wrong; I'm all for protecting this country..from without and from within! Who can oppose a plan to remove all these handguns from our streets? After all, they're only going to cause heartbreak somewhere.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Game of the Name

If someone named J. Wellingford Wisenby gave you some advice, you'd likely be more apt to accept it than had it come from one named "Snake Eyes" McHan. While it may be true that all generalizations are specious, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

Names - and the people that go with them - just fascinate the heck out of me. Did you ever wonder why a parent would deliberately name a baby in such a manner that will someday force that infant to become an expert in physical or verbal judo? Mr and Mrs Close - when you named your daughter 'Glenn,' did you not figure that she would spend a significant amount of time explaining to people who wore whistles and lanyards around their neck that she did NOT belong in Coach Cleats's 3rd-period Boys Phys Ed class? And Maury Povich's father was an estimable sports writer in DC for some fifty years, but how many times do you think he got a letter from some disgruntled Redskins fan (that's the only kinda fan they have) addressed to Mrs Shirley Povich?

Johnny Cash "sang" it - and Sheldon "Shel" Silverstein wrote it - "My name is Sue! How do you do?"

So all right, we have that settled. We aim to keep the peace by naming the children by gender-appropriate names; it's only fair.

And while we're on the subject, another piece of advice would be to avoid first names such as "Peter," "Richard" or "Johnson" if your last name is a representation of size, etc.
And nicknames seem to be going the way of the Hula Hoop and 15¢ hamburger. There was a time that every elementary school was filled with boys named "Flip," "Sparky," and "Buzz." You don't see that so often any more. And, were you to ask Flip, Sparky or Buzz where those names came from, you would have likely gotten a shrug and an "Idunno" for asking. Sometimes there was no need to ask. Just as J. Wellingford Wisenby III would usually be called "Trey," Roscoe "Snake Eyes" McHan II would answer to Junior. Those were givens.

Do you remember baseball great Jim "Catfish" Hunter? The great pitcher came out of Hertford, NC, to join the Kansas City Athletics, signed to a big contract by flamboyant A's owner Charles O. Finley. Finley, a shrewd promoter, figured he would make up all sorts of tales about this young man from "Noth Calina," so he hung the "Catfish" nickname on him, the better to suit the stories that Finley planned to weave about how Hunter would rather fish than eat, and whomp up a big mess of sausage and gravy for supper and so forth. Well, Hunter turned out to be such a great pitcher that he did not need press-agent puffery, but to the end (he passed away at 53 from ALS) he kept saying, "My name is Jim Hunter, not Catfish Hunter."

These things, nicknames, have to spring forth naturally. I see guys try to start them for themselves and it's sad. If no one else ever called you "Cornbread," "B-Rob" or "Diamond Jim," it's better to wait until they do.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Something in a Black Velvet medium

Continuing our Elvis weekend theme, check out the King As Art!
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122368051

Big thanks to Roberta, a true fan of E.A.P!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Happy birthday, Elvis: You’ve never left the building By Leslie Gray Streeter

Ed. Note - I'm sharing with you this great list from the Palm beach Post about why the King still rules. Thanks to Ms Streeter for filling my blog in today while I continue to recuperate from sciatica!


Thankyouverymuch, King!

Seventy-five years ago today, one Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and it’s hard to imagine pop culture — music, movies, fashion, velvet paintings — without him.

So on what would have been his birthday, we offer 75 reasons why Elvis has never really left the building.

1. He didn’t invent rock-n-roll. But he certainly helped bring it to the masses.

2. Most of his 31 movies were really awful, but Hollywood kept forgiving him. It wouldn’t do that for Ben Affleck, and he’s got an Oscar!

3. Who else could make “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” sexy? NOBODY!

4. Kanye, we’re gonna let you finish, but “Jailhouse Rock” was one of the greatest music videos of all time!

5. Speaking of “Jailhouse Rock”: Elvis managed to make a song about a dance party in an all-male cell block sound exciting, uber-masculine, and not like a very special episode of OZ.

6. He sang “Viva Las Vegas,” which kicks so much over-the-top butt that we don’t even blame it for inspiring those God-awful “Viva Viagra” commercials. And we hate those commercials.

7. Nobody ever looked better in muttonchops.

8. Without Elvis, there’s no Crybaby, one of Johnny Depp’s best early movies.

9. Even though El Vez, the Mexican Elvis, is pretty much a one-joke comedian, it’s a very funny joke. I mean, the dude claims to live in Graciasland. Y’all know that’s comedy.

10. “In The Ghetto”: Embarrassingly over-earnest or wonderfully campy? Discuss.

11. Not only is Elvis’ original “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” one of the most beautiful wedding songs ever recorded, but it spawned UB40’s excellent 1994 cover from the Sliver soundtrack, which is the only reason to ever mention Sliver.

12. Without Elvis going into the Army, there’s no need for Bye Bye Birdie to spoof the subject, which means that film doesn’t become a hit, and its star Ann-Margret doesn’t then star in Viva Las Vegas … with Elvis!

13. Two words: Rhinestone jumpsuits.

14. Without Elvis, who would perform all the weddings in Las Vegas? Because, for some reason, there aren’t any Wayne Newton impersonators.

15. Two more words: Jungle room.

16. He may not have been the first teen heartthrob, but he might as well have been.

17. Man jewelry.

18. In “A Little Less Conversation,” coined the phrase “satisfactioning.”

19. Because peanut butter and banana sandwiches are actually quite delicious.

20. Bill Clinton’s appearance playing “Heartbreak Hotel” on sax on The Arsenio Hall Show.

21. More than a million people voted on whether to put Young Elvis or Jumpsuit Elvis on a U.S. postal stamp in 1992 (Young Elvis won!)

22. Never has a pair of hips freaked people out more.

23. His 1968 TV special remains rock’s most successful comeback.

24. He helped put Memphis’ now-iconic Sun Records on the map.

25. Look at Twilight’s Rob Pattinson. Check the dreamy hair. The pouty lips. The general bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold demeanor. Gee. Look familiar?

26. His connection to Svengali manager Col. Tom Parker is a cautionary tale that every up-and-coming singer should know about before they sign anything.

27. Morrissey copied his pompadour, hook, line and pomade. And it was awesome.

28. He became an international icon, yet never performed anywhere outside the U.S. besides Canada.

29. In 1955, he was rejected from Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, sort of the American Idol of its day. Guess he didn’t need it.

30. He was so successful that his career survived singing “Hound Dog” to a hound dog on The Steve Allen Show.

31. No Elvis, no Adam Lambert.

32. Carl Perkins sang the song first, but Elvis made blue suede shoes a fashion must-have, even though, in retrospect, they’re sort of tacky.

33. Played an inner-city doctor smitten with a do-gooder nun played by Mary Tyler Moore in his last movie, Change of Habit, and managed to escape with his dignity. This is not easy.

34. He bought Graceland for his parents and grandma to live in. (Awww!)

35. He made the G.I. buzz cut look good.

36. Elvis was a black belt in karate, which makes those karate chop stances during the Jumpsuit Years a little less cheesy.

37. He threw sweaty scarves at his audiences, and they liked it.

38. Preceded Tupac as the dead celebrity most likely sighted despite, you know, being dead.

40. “Suspicious Minds” is, for our money, the most rocking anthem about a dysfunctional relationship we’ve ever heard.

41. Beat this, Oprah: Elvis created the pop culture car giveaway, doling out reportedly 200 Cadillacs during his lifetime.

42. Speaking of vehicle giveaways, Elvis bought the Potomac, the yacht of late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and eventually donated it to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

43. And while we’re on the subject, Elvis was a committed fund raiser for various charities, supporting everything from cancer funds to the building of the memorial for the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor.

44. Preceded Steven Seagal as a celebrity cop by becoming a “Special Deputy Sheriff” in Shelby County, Tenn., and then charmed a federal drug agent badge from Richard Nixon.

45. He became the first dead person to headline a concert tour, when “Elvis The Concert,” featuring recordings of his performances accompanied by live musicians, hit the road.

46. “If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been a Beatles” — John Lennon. ’nuff said.

47. Here’s one for irony: The man whose blatant sexuality scandalized a nation also had hit gospel albums.

48. To thank Memphis’s Mayor William Ingram for instituting “Elvis Presley Day,” Elvis names one of his horses Mare Ingram.

49. And yet even two more words: Black leather.

50. Elvis meets President Nixon: The most deliciously surreal pop culture meeting ever? Discuss.

51. Capes! Glorious capes!

52. “Burning Love” was used to wake up astronauts on one of the missions of the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

53. Considers, but ultimately does not do, Barbra Streisand’s remake of A Star Is Born, which was probably a good thing for Elvis. Because that was a bad movie.

54. He overcame a self-admitted case of stage fright.

55. Future fellow Las Vegas icon Frank Sinatra said that Elvis’ music “fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” The young people probably couldn’t hear that because they were screaming so loud.

56. Was name-checked in Marc Cohn’s hit “Walking In Memphis,” which includes the line “There’s a pretty little thing waiting for the King, down in the Jungle Room.”

57. Had 149 songs hit the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Chart.

58. There is an actual Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, which has a “Burning Love” suite and a “Graceland” suite with its own Jungle Room den. Yes. We can not get over that Jungle Room thing.

59. Leonard Bernstein called Elvis “the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century.” And this is from the man who scored West Side Story.

60. Brought the phrase “Hunka hunka” into the English lexicon.

61. Without Elvis’ outre stage sexuality and rocked-up blues, there are no Rolling Stones.

62. The Flying Elvises. Or is that Elvi?

63. The inspiration for this line — “Elvis, Elvis, let me be! Keep that pelvis far from me!” (From Grease’s “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee”.

64. Because even in the pantheon of his cheesiest movies, Jailhouse Rock is pretty compelling, and Elvis is really good in it.

65. Not only did he have a hit concert tour while dead, he had a hit single, “A Little Less Conversation,” in 2001, after it was featured on the Ocean’s 11 soundtrack (It also became the theme for NBC’s Las Vegas..)

66. He made tinted aviator glasses cool.

67. The Honeymoon In Vegas soundtrack, which is all Elvis, all the time.

68. “Are You Lonesome Tonight” is three minutes of melodrama, Shakespearean reference, soul-inspired spoken word interlude and slightly obsessive borderline stalking. And we really like it.

69. Sam Kinison’s mock-serious version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” – great singing, finer screaming.

70. His relationship with wife Priscilla apparently inspired Depeche Mode’s song “Personal Jesus,” according to songwriter Martin Gore.

71. Elvis starring Kurt Russell.

72. Without Elvis, we’d have a rock star named Declan MacManus (look it up).

73. There is a Graceland cam on Elvis.com.

74. A young Barry White, in jail for stealing tires, heard Elvis’ “It’s Now Or Never” and was so moved he turned his life around and became a singer.

75. Because 32 years after his death, he’s still important enough for us to be writing this list.

Friday, January 8, 2010

1/8/35

Looks like a little snow coming in for the long Elvis weekend.
The King is 75 today.
Also, Roll Tide!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Peanuts Envy

One can always learn something from a book, with the sole exception of calculus textbooks. But I'm glad and sad about having finished Schultz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. Glad, because I loved Peanuts in its golden heydays of the 50s and 60s, but sad because it turns out that, at least in the eye of the biographer, Charles Schulz, the genius who gave us 17,000+ daily and Sunday Peanuts strips, also was a bit of an odd duck. He was one of those people who demanded a lot of approval and sought it by downgrading himself, so that others would rush to fill the emotional vacuum with words of praise. He was also very harsh in criticizing other cartoonists, and even took Lynn Johnston to task for having her "For Better or For Worse" age its characters and have a beloved family dog die. For someone who preached clean living and so forth, he had several affairs with young women before the breakup of his first marriage.

And he did not like children...his own (5) or anyone else's. It wasn't like he went around throwing things at kids or anything; he just felt uncomfortable around them and found it difficult to converse with them. This, from a guy who, again, cranked out 17,000 and some-odd cartoons populated entirely by kids. You would think that he would be just like a big kid himself, but no! He was like a big adult who lost himself in his art and relived certain aspects of his childhood that he wished could have gone better.

Parenthetically, does anyone else remember seeing this in Parade magazine in early 1986?


L.A. of B'more got all confused. That was the same year that someone wrote to Parade magazine to ask how the Smothers Brothers could get away with calling Ronald Reagan "a known heterosexual" on TV. No wonder Stewie disdains Parade magazine.

Schulz was a genius, I feel, in that he changed comic strips from the cheap laffs and sight gags and made them far more cerebral than The Katzenjammer Kids, say. Whatever turmoil existed within him is more his business than mine; that's why I sort of wish I hadn't read the book. Perhaps I should have gone with an anthology of the strip itself, in which the reader will find gems like this one from October, 1969:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Ache of Cakes


Just to look at my trim, svelte, boyish corpulence (pause for laughter) you would never know this, but you ain't seen the man who loves cupcakes as much as I do. Even more than cake itself! Maybe the packaging efficiency appeals to me, because what's more of a drag than slicing a cake and having some ectomorph holler, "Whoa! That's WAAAAAAAY too much for me!" ? OK, Twiggy. We got it. Cupcakes, you hand someone a cupcake and they eat it, and in all my years of avid consumption I have yet to see someone bite into half a cupcake and leave the other half.

And I have said a million times how ironic it was that I, lover of all things served in paper cups, wound up with a June 30th birthday. All through elementary school, at least in the lower grades, there would be a little party for Bob or Jane or John or Susan on their birthday, and someone's mom would show up with a couple of dozen cupcakes and there'd be good times a-plenty. But being born two weeks after school let out meant that none of those fĂȘtes were mine.

But don't even worry about that part! I more than made up for it as the years went by! And, truth to tell, I had my fun all through school. I was often invited by teachers to spend some quality time writing "I will learn the difference between a classroom and a nightclub" a thousand times, or to stay after school to get an in-depth look at the science of putting chairs atop desks and washing blackboards.

What's really got my mixer on "blend" was seeing this from a nice friend, who wrote on Facebook that she "baked 3 dozen cupcakes to take to school for (her son's) birthday today only to find out that all baked goods must be store bought and inspected by the school nurse due to allergy concerns :-( "

Oh well now, I mean, really! Let's study this thing for a second. Everyone with sense, and possibly Sean Hannity, knows better than to use any peanut product in a school environment. I'm quite certain that my friend did not use peanut butter or any other substance liable to cause anaphylaxis in a child. Are we to assume that the baker at the Try 'N' Save down at the shopping center is similarly careful? How many times have we heard stories of mislabeled food, such as the times that the food contained peanuts but the label failed to reflect this? Therefore, it might be foolish, with that history, to count on total accuracy from someone who writes things with a squeeze bag:

And then they drag the school nurse into it! Even if the nurse is an RN, is he/she also a certified food inspector or registered sanitarian? Doubtful. And doesn't the nurse have other things to tend to, from that colicky Collins kid in 3rd grade to little Willie, who won't stop sticking his hand into the soda machine in the cafeteria, trying for a free Dr Pepper?

True fact from my past: In my high school, the nurse was named Nurse Payne. For real. I thought it would be cool to have a Driver's Ed teacher named Rex Carr.

But no one else did.

This cupcake thing at school still bugs me. If the school can't trust the moms of its own students to bring wholesome snackage to the classroom, then what's next?

Let's open the floor to the defenders of hypersafety-ism and see how they feel. Please be careful when stepping up to the microphone! Say what you want; just bring me a cupcake.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who's Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?

I'm not a fan of drive-thru windows (nor of "thru" being used in place of "through" in a non-ironic sense) but sometimes, it's definitely the way to go. Take today, when we left the doctor's office with enough samples of his handwriting to start a website. Prescriptions for drugs, prescriptions for physical therapy, rules on how to bend what and when and how, and so forth. I took 'em to my Walgreens pharmacy and spoke to the on-duty pharmacist, and told him that I was on a cane (even held it up for evidence) and would appreciate getting the prescription (" 'scrip") in a bit of a hurry (" 'urry") because, as enchanting as the prospect of browsing through Walgreens' stock of half-price unsold Christmas cosmetic packages (Can you believe it; there are bottles of McGraw cologne priced to sell for that man in your life who wants to smell like Tim McGraw smells!), suppositories, first aid supplies and family planning products normally would be on a chilly Monday afternoon, I needed to get home and give my sciatica a rest. The clerk pointed out that they were really backed up and I would have to wait at least a half an hour, at which time I opted to go home and come back later.

I remember stuff, like the friend who worked at Wendy's and told me that today's unsold hamburgers were tomorrow's chili, and the pharmacy clerk who confided that the twenty-minute rule was inviolate in the store where she worked. No matter how slow things were, all patrons dropping off prescriptions were to be told that their pills/potions/creams/lotions would be ready in 20 minutes, meaning that the customer would roam the store for that length of time, making all sorts of impulse purchases - usually a big bag of Mr Chips cookies or something equally necessary.

I came home and went back out to the store and got in the drive-through this time to avoid parking and having to walk past the display of beef jerky and granola. And there it was that I saw a sight that enraged me and saddened me all at once, almost to the degree that seeing people from Indiana wearing Baltimore Colts uniforms does.

In the next lane over at the drive-threw (!) was a maroon car. The driver of the car was a frowsy harridan of late middle age. Her hair had been tastefully dyed to match the color of the car, but her grooming was the last thing on my mind. She seemed unacquainted with the procedure. She had parked about five feet away from the mic/speaker and vacuum tube terminal, so instead of re-docking her PT Cruiser, she chose to lean out of the car and howl at the cashier from twenty feet away, without benefit of amplification. I was therefore privy to her plans for "gettin' them pills and takin' 'em on home," as well as to her side comments about how "friggin' cold" it was. But, once her colloquy with the clerk was over, she closed her door.

And she lit up a cigarette, joining a younger woman whom I took to be her daughter in the time-honored tradition. Hey, free country, and if you both wanna smoke 'em up in your own car, enjoy yourselves, hon.

And how I wish I had not craned my neck 10 more degrees to the east, but I thought I saw a deer in the field by the drugstore. No deer, but when I looked in the back of the termagant's car, there was a little bitty baby girl, all dolled up in a pink blanket in a pink car seat with a little pink knit hat on her head and a sweet little pink face with a teeny pink mouth and nose breathing in the foul gray smoke these lovely ladies were spewing.

Ruined my day.

Monday, January 4, 2010

It only took 10 years!

All through 2000 - 2009, I didn't know what to call the entire decade. "The Aughts" was too precious, "The Naughties" even more so, and "The O's" made it seem like we were talkin' baseball, hon.

So now - too late - I see on a comic strip review blog that some guy named "Messy" (anyone self-identifying as "Messy" is either a male or a female I don't wanna know) says the decade was called "The 00ze."

Thanks, "Messy." Where were you on 12/31/99? Who else remembers the Y2K hysteria? We didn't know if the world was going to keep going on, and if it did, whether or not there would be water, electricity, or any semblance of societal order.

Ten years later, we're still settling for two out of three.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The nerve of it all

If you see me walking around these days, why, you must live here at 742 Evergreen Terrace! And you might notice that my steps are supported by a rakish cane, which was issued to me after knee-replacement surgery years ago. I figured I ought to keep it handy, on the grounds that You Never Can Tell.

It's not lost on me, the irony that, had I stayed home after work Wednesday and guzzled a beer while watching an old movie, I would be better off now. Somehow, working out at the gym, I came down with a case of sciatica. The word alone sounds like a tasty Italian noodle dish, or a grunge band from Seattle, but it's best defined here by Stephen Hochschuler, M.D:

The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness that travels from the low back through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.

The vast majority of people who experience sciatica get better with time (usually a few weeks or months) and find pain relief with non-surgical sciatica treatment. For others, however, sciatica can be severe and debilitating.

What's odd is, it's not as if I was working out and suddenly cried out, "Oh, my sciatic nerve!" It was a normal workout, made a lot more enjoyable by having just the day before downloaded a ton of Hank Snow and Wynn Stewart songs onto my iPod, which now bulges with songs that hardly anyone else wants to hear - but when you want to hear Cowboy Copas sing "Alabam", or Hawkshaw Hawkins do "LOnesome 7-7203," let me know. I did my various exercises, came home and made a few preparations for the coming snowstorm, and then, when I walked into the kitchen, I said, "Ow."

A lot of people say "Ow" in our kitchen, many of them while walking out. I'm the cook, you see.

But that was Wednesday night, and it didn't seem so bad, and then came Thursday morning, and I couldn't put on my sox. I mean, I would even have donned sox in a color other than red just to get to work, but I just couldn't move around so well, and so I had to take a sick day and a lot of ibuprofen. I was very happy when our neighbor with the snowblower came around to blow the snow.

So that was Thursday, and I'm writing this on Saturday, and still no improvement in the pain that begins at my buttock -maybe THAT'S where that expression comes from! - and runs down to my knee. It sort of feels like some bad kid with a Sawzall is cutting into my left side. This condition scoffs at ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin, and laughs when the internet recommends ice! no, heat! ok, try heat, then ice, then more heat!

I know that there are many things far worse that can befall a person, so don't mistake my carping about being housebound during a weekend of my favorite outdoor weather for grumbling. But being a lover of irony means I appreciate learning that sometimes, the best fitness regime is no sweat at all.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

'Til Death do us thwart

Happy New Year! Let's start off the new year with a pop quiz. Please tell me what Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich all have in common...besides enchanting personalities, exquisite vocal presentations, and the sort of looks that just make people flock to them.

(Insert Jeopardy theme here, or just hum it if you don't know the words.)

The answer is twofold: they are all three big believers in traditional family values and the sanctity of Christian marriage and opponents of same-sex marriage.

AND they are all divorced.

Say hello to the formerly happy (we assume) Roves. Karl once referred to "5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage" as his justification for not approving of same-sex couples to be married, as if same-sex couples need his OK to do whatever they want.

But they did for 8 years, because this man among men was the big brain behind the curtain, the puppetmaster who controlled Howdy Doody in the White House. And so, knowing that the Bush base contains a lot of people who don't mind if Joe marries Ann after breaking his marriage vows to Jane, Barbara, Rebecca, Susan, Kimberly, Sarah, Anita and some other Ann, as long as he never ever ever walks down the aisle with Bob, Rove fought long and hard all across the nation to keep this country safe from the scourge of two people in love proclaiming so publicly and legally.

"What God hath joined together, let no man rent asunder." Seems we've heard that somewhere before. It also would seem that permanence and bindingness, if there is such a word, would be part of the traditional Christian values held in such great esteem by so many, and yet flouted when Karl tires of Darby. Listen. I think people should have a right to get a divorce if that's what they want. It's not what I want, nor would it ever be. But I do understand that many times people get married to one person who then becomes quite another person, or they grow apart, or canoodle with 13 different cocktail waitresses, or whatever. But please notice those five words, "if that's what they want." As we used to say, that's a "noneya," as in "noneya damn beeswax" who gets married, stays married, marries someone outside the traditional.

A quick survey of the first 15 females I encountered today showed that a stunning 0.00% percent of them would be interested in being the third Mrs. Rove. Given the choice between marrying Rove and living at the bottom of a well shaft in rural Wyoming, all 15 immediately visited www.getmetoWyomingfast.com.

I was amused to see that the news of this trip to Splitsville was brought to us by illustrious, tawny-maned, easily-flummoxed former Bush White House spokesperson Dana Perino, who recently told fair-and-balanced Sean Hannity, "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."

9/11/2001. Never forget. She already did.

Hannity chose not to question her on that point. Guess he forgot too. He's not a very patriotic American.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010



Happy New Year!

I'm going to think of this barn...it was not built in a day; it took time to build it properly, but look at the beauty of it all.

We can make resolutions and vow to change things, but let's not forget to treat ourselves kindly. And each other as well!

Happy New Year!