Sunday, February 28, 2010


I pay so much attention to language, it's not funny. So I try to make it funny, and sometimes that works out and sometimes, it does not.

But one thing I have learned over the years of paying attention to how we speak and write is that words and expressions come into being and then sweep across the nation like crazy.

I believe that "actually" might be on the wane now. This shorthand for the dreaded "it is what it is" is simply an amplifier, to lend added credence to our words.

No, not that Creedence! The kind that some people seem to want, so as to make their sentences seem more worthwhile or something. As in:

Diner: "Do you have creamed spinach?''
Waitperson: "Actually, we are all out of creamed spinach. A busload of vegetarians was just here."

And all he had to say was, "No, sorry, all out!"

Wag that I am, I enjoy using "hopefully" in its proper employment, which is as an adverb, meaning to do something with hope. So, whereas it is wrong to say, "Hopefully, Rush Limbaugh will shut the hell up while he still has a shred of dignity" it is correct to say,"Hopefully, I went to my medical appointment the other day."

It sounds crazy, but it just might work!

So here I am with another prediction: the new catchphrase to sweep the nation is "moving forward" or other forms of it. As in, "Moving forward, we see prospects for a brighter tomorrow" or the slightly less elegiac," as we move forward in our relationship, I promise to stop throwing garbage in your yard..."

Moving forward. The only way to go. It reminds me of getting on the elevator in the ground floor of the courthouse one day, and a lady got on, asked me if we were on the ground floor, and then said, "Does this car go up?" It's an elevator, not a lateralator!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh my achin' bursa

So, my spine surgeon has decided to focus, not on the chipped off piece of my disc that is floating around in the nerve root of my whatsis, but on a course of sticking gigantic needles into my bursa, and then, into my spine itself. That procedure will be covered in a forthcoming blog entry entitled "OWWWWWWWWWW!"

The bursa! That's where you get your bursitis, you understand. The needle, which was so long that the doctor had to stand in the next room, I'm tellin' ya, was full of cortisone and a pain-numbing solution which has yet to work but I know it's in there trying to.

Bursitis? Doesn't that sound horribly old-fashioned and uncool, like pellagra or the croupe or the grippe or rheumatism? "Yeah, sorry, can't make the party Saturday; my bursitis is acting up again. Guess I'll just stay home, take a couple of Anacin, and break out the heating pad."

I'll tell you what WAS cool, and that was the delightful breeze across my posterior region, brought on by the teeny surgical gown (rear view not available)
that they tossed me. There must have been a mixup that led them to believe that someone the size of Tinkerbelle was the next patient.

It was also a good thing that, as I dressed for work yesterday morning, Peggy reminded me to wear decent underwear. I chose a delightful boxer, maroon with conservative white stripes, from the WalMart collection of fine foundation garments the active male, and rounded that off with the orange T displayed above, with an orange tattersall oxford shirt. Red socks and Timberlands rounded out the ensemble, in case fashion critics are taking notes at home.

Truth to tell, I think it's better to try all these palliative measures instead of grabbin' the scalpel and operating willy-nilly. The doctor and his staff were completely amiable, and they were more than willing to explain everything to Peggy, who sat with me taking notes, and to me, who sat there with his hind quarters flapping in the breeze, glad that I had not worn my, shall we say, well-broken-in underwear.

At my age, it becomes more and more likely that someone wearing some sort of medical garb is going to see those boxer shorts on any given day. Best to keep them well-tended.

Friday, February 26, 2010


You would think that, having actually lived through two blizzards in four days earlier this month, the Baltimore area would be a little less like 'fraidy-cats about the possibility of another snow storm, but such is not the case. In offices, car repair shops, physical therapy suites and grocery stores all around our town the past couple of days, very little actual work has been done (except for me, and you!) because of all the chitter-chatter about The Next Big One.

As late as Wednesday night, when I fell into bed with visions of salt trucks dancing in my head, the meteorologists (all the tv anchors are just saying "meterologists" now, saving that extra "O" for singing the National Anthem at O-riole games) were falling all over themselves to cover any and all possible scenarios as the Monster Storm came in from the west and then Gathered Strength off the seacoast and Barreled Up The Atlantic, headed for the I-95 corridor...

That's the new thing that they're all saying now, that the storms will "scoot up the I-95 corridor" as if the storm gets on the interstate and uses the fast lane to accelerate. They should remember that here in B'more, most citizens call every road that is wider than the back alley "The Beltway." The Beltway is one of those circular highways, engirdling the city and its suburbs and making it possible to get from the northeast area, where we live, to the southwest side, in a matter of minutes. As long as the minutes are between the hours of 3 and 4 AM.

I-95. on the other hand, is a north-and-southbound interstate that takes one from New England, where they boil lobsters under grey skies and eat themselves silly, to the deep South, where they broil themselves silly in the sun and eat grits. Many people from this area, the mid-Atlantic, take 95 down to Florida for the winter, to escape the dire forecasts we live through, and also to get big steamin' bowls full o' grits .

And that's what I mean: the forecasts around here in wintertime are tougher to deal with than the weather!

But if you're in the business of supplying stock footage to tv news crews and moviemakers, you will need lots of film of:
  • dumptrucks being filled with road salt
  • hapless motorists sliding on icy roads
  • someone walking on a downtown street with their hat blowing off
  • schoolkids sliding down snowy hills on cafeteria trays
  • homeowners shoveling driveways and sidewalks (include scraping sounds and sighs)
  • people flocking to grocery stores for bread, milk and toilet paper
  • displays of shovels, rock salt, and snowblowers for sale at Home Depot
Wednesday night's dire predictions bore no fruit, and as I scribble this, early on Thursday, they are telling us that the storm just might hit us again on its way out to sea. We'll see. Stay calm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In The Paint

It takes a certain amount of wonderment to read and listen to the tale of Tiger Woods. And let's leave for others the discussion about whether his flagrant penchant for being caught in flagrante delicto is just between him and his wife, or the proper fodder for all those shows that come on between 7 and 8 PM with Breathless Billy Bush.

No, I'm just hung up on his use of the term entitlement, as in "I am entitled to have meaningless sex with a veritable plethora of hoydens...because I've worked hard all my life and learned to hit a little ball a long way." Good to hear that he's back in therapy, getting the help he needs. Whether or not his wife cares to resume this "sham of a marriage," to quote Victor Newman, is also between the two of them. It sure seems like there is a lot between them, and yet not so much of it involves love.

ANY way...this entitlement theme came to my mind today on the way to work. One of those big greenish ugly roadside electric transformers now bears the stupid spray-painted logo of a "tagger." (Ironically, in pure Baltimorese, the name of the professional baseball team from DEE-troit is the "Taggers.") I don't know why it is so important for people to deface the property of others just so as to display their handiwork to the motoring public. Perhaps it has something to do with recognition, wanting to be seen, to be noticed.

But the older I get, the more I realize that if these guys really wanted recognition and proper attention, they would get more of it, and it would be more genuine, if they first worked and earned the money to buy the property to spray paint all over. In other words, work hard, buy yourself a nice building at some high-visibility intersection, and then write your name and slogan all over it in a rainbow of air-propelled colors. What gives people the sense that they are entitled to spray their bizarre tags all over the property of other people is the same confused perception that had Mr Woods playing hole-in-one with cocktail waitresses all across this great spray-painted land of ours.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This one time? At work? Like seven years ago?

Inveterate Andy of Mayberry watchers (as well as many of the invertebrate ones) will recall the episode (episode #10, aired 12/26/60) in which, per Wikipedia, "Ed Sawyer, a mysterious stranger, arrives in Mayberry and disrupts the lives of the townspeople because he appears to know everyone's name, intimate details about their lives, and other startling facts about them."

Well, just call me Andy, or Barney, or something. Maybe even Opie - this is a photo of yours truly back in my rural youth. And it's not as if this is disrupting my life at all. But...

At work, a mysterious stranger keeps showing up in my path, and he/she (I won't get specific here!) knows my name, where I used to work (same agency, different assignment), noteworthy things about my flamboyant work history (but not The Floor Buffer Incident) and so forth. For example, "This must be just like over at the storeroom when the air conditioner drainpipe broke and liked to flood out the floor below!"

Now, mind you, I have no clue who this person is, where she/he works, beyond the greater scope of the entire department, and if you put me on the witness stand and asked me to name this individual, well, your honor, I can't help.

And there is nothing offensive about the person at all. None of the things said are derogatory in any sense, and I do not feel weirded out at all by this. In fact, it's sort of a compliment, making me feel that people pass along stories of my derring-do (and occasional derring-don't!)

Remember, it was the same way on Andy Griffith. Ed Sawyer was just a guy who so wanted to fit into Mayberry society that he took a subscription to the Mayberry Gazette (not the Mayberry Sun, the scandal sheet that Opie and Howie Pruitt ran briefly) so he would know all the whos and whats and wherefores and whys of America's favorite little town. My life is an open book; I write about it online every day, for crying out loud, so welcome to it, stranger.

Did I ever tell you about the night of the blizzard when we slept in the Jury Assembly room in the courthouse, and who snored and who was a sleepwalker? And what did you say your name was, again?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And don't even get me started on jockeys!

I know I'm going to catch heat on this one from certain quarters, but I just have to say it.

If what you do for your country's Winter Olympic effort is to be one of the people riding in the back of the bobsled
it doesn't really make you an athlete. A participant, yes, and certainly a person with lots of intestinal fortitude, but an athlete, I don't see it that way.

If what you do to bring home glory to your home country is to be on the curling
team, and you get out on the ice, wearing shoes, and sweep a broom to make a slick path for a 40-pound oblate stone to get to a goal, that's admirable and noteworthy and probably pretty doggone cool. But athletic? Sweeping? I can sweep, and these days I can't hardly walk, what with my back.

Now here's the one that's gonna cause people all over to hit the 'comment' button. How is it that FOX Sports covers NASCAR races? I mean, I can drive, usually better than this
and although I'll admit that I like the way these guys make nothing but LEFT turns, and that it takes a whole lot of courage to drive at 200 mph in a car that advertises laundry detergent all over it, it's still driving. Just a little bit faster than the Baltimore Beltway at rush hour, but no more dangerous.

Whereas, even the 25th man on any major league baseball team - heck, any minor-league baseball team - was always the greatest athlete in his family, neighborhood, school, college or athletic association, by far. Even a roly-poly third-string catcher with severe buttular splinterization from watching 150 games per year from the bullpen has athletic gifts and strength and power and grace to a sublime degree.

I know there will be a lot of people who take issue with all this, and I invite you to reply with your thoughts! Just send them, along with $5 cash to cover shipping and handling, to Mr. I. Con O'Clast, c/o Battle Creek, MI.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meredith sent it - I filled it out!

Welcome to the new 2010 edition of getting to know your family and friends. Here is what you are supposed to do, and try not to be lame and spoil the fun.

Change all the answers so that they apply to you.

Then send this to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. Some of you may get this several times. The easiest way to do it is to hit 'forward' so you can change the answers or copy and paste. Have fun and be truthful!

2. What color are your socks right now?

3. What are you listening to right now? Jack Benny radio show on "The Big Broadcast," WAMU-88.5 FM. I'm all worked up - after Jack, it's time for Phil Harris!

4. What was the last thing you ate? Ham, potato, kale: Sunday dinner!

5. Can you drive a stick? Yes

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? A disgruntled citizen.

7. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Very very very much!

8. How old are you today? 58, or 2x Meredith

9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Football

10. What is your favorite drink? Non-alcoholic - Iced Tea

11. Have you ever dyed your hair? No!

12. Favorite food? Roast beef (rare)

13. What is the last movie you watched? We saw "Extract" on ppv. Anything with Mila Kunis is fine by me.

14. Favorite day of the year? June 21st - the day I met Peggy.

15. How do you vent anger? I do let it out - either by hollering or speaking back. I do not swallow it and let it chew me up from inside.

16. What was your favorite toy as a child? My bike; it was an English racer so I raced English people all over town

17. What is your favorite season? Winter - especially this one!

18. Cherries or Blueberries? Cherries

19. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back? Yes

20. Who is the most likely to respond? Sen. Scott Brown (R, MA). He seems to have plenty of time to fool around.

21. Who is least likely to respond? Dick Cheney.

22. Living situation? Me and the missus in a house full o' love

23. When was the last time you cried? I don't cry

24. What is on the floor of your closet right now? Shoes and slippers and a box o' sox

25.. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending to?????

26. What did you do last night? We went to Friendly Farm for dinner and then up to the Super WalMart for groceries. Life is wonderful!

27. What are you afraid of most? Elevators and being buried alive - it's a tie

28. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers? Cheese

29. Favorite dog breed? Miniature pinschers

30. Favorite day of the week? Saturday

31. How many states have you lived in? I have only lived in Maryland and I like it that way

32. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds

33. What is your favorite flower? Black-eyed Susans

34. Did you happen to notice there was no question number one? yes

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meet Joe Stack

Next time someone puts together one of those internet pass-alongs about how confused America is because it's the only country where we throw out food while millions starve and on and on, please remember to add that Joe Stack, the nutball who flew his plane into the IRS office building in Austin Texas so he could make his final stupid statement about how horrible it is to have to pay taxes and all, had homes in Austin and San Marcos, Texas. And a plane, for crying out loud.

Man, you talk about the oppression of the underprivileged. Two homes and an airplane, and he gripes about some 1986 tax law that makes it tough to be a self-employed computer guy.

Oh, the humanity.

He burned down his house, leaving his now-widowed wife and his daughter without a place to live, and then he flew his plane into the IRS office, killing one person and injuring others.

All over his taxes.

And so of course, leave it to brand-new Senator Scott Brown (R, MA), upon whose office door the paint has not even dried yet, to come up with the stupidest statement since "Mission Accomplished." FOX News trotted him out on the afternoon of this copycat kamikaze attack, and for once, Scotty did not offer his daughters up for any would-be swains out there in cableland. He didn't have time, since he had to say this about the Stack attack:

"Well it's certainly tragic and I feel for the families obviously being affected by it," Brown began.

And I don't know if it's related, but I can just sense not only in my election, but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated. They want transparency, they want their elected officials to be accountable and open and talk about the things that are affecting their daily lives. So I'm not sure that there's a connection, I certainly hope not. But we need to do things better.

FOX host Neil Cavuto: Um, you know invariably people are going to look at this and say, well, that's where some of this populist rage gets you. [At this point, footage of the building IRS building in Austin appears on the right of the screen.] Isn't that a bit extreme?

Brown: Well, yeah, of course it's extreme. You don't know anything about the individual. He could have had other issues, certainly. No one likes paying taxes, obviously. But the way we're trying to deal with things and have been in the past, at least until I got here is, there's such a logjam in Washington. And people want us to do better. They want us to help solve the problems that are affecting Americans in a very real way. [Here, the display zooms back to just Cavuto and Brown.] And I think we, I'm hopeful that we can do that, with a lot of the things that are coming forward. At least what I'm hearing through, and speaking with my colleagues this seems to be a diff... feel there's kind of a message that was sent with my election, the fact that I was elected by a substantial margin taking the former Ted Kennedy's seat. They want difference up here and I'm hopeful that's going to happen.

You really have to hand it to this joker Brown. At least, you have to hope he's joking. Yes, here he is, taking "the former Ted Kennedy's seat." Well-spoken, clean-favored and imperially slim. Rationalizing that the actions of this sad madman in Texas might reflect the sense of even some of the people is almost that sad.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jog your memory

I can't help but wish for the good old days when a car was just a machine to take us from place to place, instead of becoming a sleeve onto which to pin our hearts. Just like everyone else, I've had friends and loved ones depart this earth, but, I don't know, I just don't want to be reminded of their birth and death dates every time I get into the truck, so I haven't ordered any decals yet to commemorate anyone's life automotively.

But I'm just saying, that's my choice. What I really don't get is people who go around trying to tell others what to do and what not to do, what to say and not to say, feel and not feel. This takes me to a place where people scream about "political correctness." "Oh, don't say anything about to be politically correct!" they holler, in defense of their right to be as incorrect (and ungracious) as they can be. I'm still steamed about the people who toted around signs that made the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy something over which to rejoice. Many of these signs, well, a few, even had things spelled correctly.

You don't see so many "Baby On Board"
signs these days. I always wondered what people thought when they stuck those suction cups on the window of their Saabs...were they thinking that other drivers who normally would have plowed their Biscaynes and Galaxies right into their cars would now think twice, heeding the warning on a yellow sign? And I'm still stuck on "Show Dogs On Board." Not just dogs, y'unnerstan', but SHOW dogs, for crying out loud!

One more thing, and I'll let you go. Joggers, runners, speedwalkers, recumbent have a right to be proud. For one thing, you're in very good shape. For another, you can pride yourselves on spending more money on the togs for your particular sport than the average NFL team spends to equip its linebackers. I really like those special biking pants with the buttpads and the shirts with the kangaroo pockets. And the helmet with the dentist's mirrors sticking out so you can get a good look at the Rage Rover (misspelling intentional) that's headed your way from behind you. And the $300 shoes and the teeny shorts and all the guys are a walking (or running or pedaling) sporting goods exhibition as you go by.

But, could you smile for once?
Could you load a little Cheech and Chong into your iPod and laugh a bit? These looks, these serious looks, as you all thunder past, just make me want to offer you a ride to the nearest TGI O'Hoolahan's for a cup of cheer!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dr Howard, Dr Fine, Dr Howard!

As much fun as the MRI was last week, the fun is just beginning. My doctor called me today and said that my nerve root is severely compromised because of a broken-off chip from my L4 disc. Chances of getting past this without surgery are about the same as Sarah Palin getting to the final round of Jeopardy - the real version, not the celebrity version - without getting to write crib notes on her greasy palm.

So next week I have to go meet the doc and have the sawbones take a look at the MRI films with me and see what we're gonna do about this thing. I will be glad to post the date of surgery well in advance so that any floor nurses at Good Samaritan Hospital can arrange their schedules accordingly. They might want to be off for however long Mr Rings-For-The-Nurse is going to be there.

Meanwhile, I'm getting good at an old favorite:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take a breath and try to hold on!

The recent round of blizzards here in Baltimore, hon, have left their mark on society, mainly in the form of Titanic-sized parking lot icebergs that are seriously being considered for their own zip codes. I mean, these huggers are huge, and with the temps hanging around the freezing point all week, there's not much thawing going on yet.

A note to all you news anchors who gaze wistfully at the meteorologists and ask for the temps to warm up to about 70° - I'm glad that you don't really affect the weather. In 1996 we had one blizzard and then a fast warmup, and then we had flooding like Noah had to deal with, just about.

But I am starting to see the little signs of our emotional fabric being rent. Things like honking horns, extended middle fingers and shouted curses are sure signs that a certain few of us are getting nervous in the service. I guess it all comes down to this: the roads are narrow, the intersections are blocked by boulders the size of Delaware, and once one reaches one's destination, forget about parking. Most of the spots are being used to park snow until, maybe, August.

I see the City went and hired a Snow Dragon from Canada - some sort of mechanical super melter, turning snow into water. This must be the reverse of those machines that turn water into snow for the ski slopes. Maybe that's why so many of us are agitated: we never want what we have.

Bruce said it best. The man who said, "There's nothing sadder than an aging hipster..I'm 34 and already I can't relate to Fabian" also said that one generation works hard to get the money to buy rubber boots for their kids, and their kids dig running barefoot in the mud. There's snow on the ground, and it's cold outside, and no amount of caterwauling will change the scenario. So let's enjoy what we have when we have it, and let old Mother Nature have her way.

But I do have to say that I'm pretty sure I can see Russia from my kitchen window. How's that reading-all-the-newspapers and magazines thing
working out for ya?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Owe Peggy $100,000

It seemed like a safe bet at the time. I know, a lot of people have said that a lot of times...and Gee Whiz, didn't the Indy Mannings seem like a really sure thing a couple of weeks ago, and then there are those who scoot around in Toyotas...

But, I found a great old English pop song called "Come Outside" on the YouTube the other day, and it's one of those songs that just stick in the old noggin. The main cockney vocal is done by Mike Sarne, who I gather is sort of the English version of Micky Dolenz..a bit of an actor, a bit of a singer. "Come Outside" tells of the time-honored problem faced by every eager young swain. He and his inamorata are at a dance, it's getting late, he promised her father they'd be home by half-past ten...(Half-past ten? Who's her father, Edward G. Robinson or something?) He wants her to step outside the dance hall for a few minutes so he can pull up on her a little bit, or whatever it is they say, they who have to do their pulling up in darkened parking lots as minivans cruise by and streetlights flicker in the distance. She plays it kinda coy, the female who takes a part in the song, and "she" is the late, great Wendy Richard, who played Miss Brahms in "Are You Being Served?," which was as good a reason to sit through PBS pledge breaks as anything else.

She passed away just about a year ago, from breast cancer, and she was not related to Keith Richards, whose real surname is "Richard." Wendy's real last name was Emerton. I take time to look these things up, time I should be spending looking in sofa cushions for loose change.

So, fool that I am, I told Peggy I would give her a hundred thousand semolians if she were able to name the female on the record. Sure, I gave her a few hints (she's not primarily a singer, you liked her, she has passed on) but Peggy said, "Ohh! That's Miss Brahms!"

Check it out here on the 'Tube.

The next video that anyone will see on there will be titled "Man takes all sorts of menial jobs to come up with the 100G's he owes to his wife." But hey, I figure Burger King would pay me, what, 7 - 8 dollars an hour to start, if I agree to work closing shift. And then I could race home, get an hour and a half of sleep, and then go to work.

How much does a Lotto ticket cost?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Going Batty

I must have written a couple of million times about how much I hate exaggeration, so with 87 feet of snow on the ground here in Baltimore, no wonder my thoughts turn to baseball.

One of the givens about life here as "old man winter" starts drawing his last breaths is that, in mid-February, some chuckling sportscaster will ALWAYS come on, right after a weather forecast calling for snow, and chuckle about how many more days it is until pitchers and catchers report for spring training down in Fla. This is as unavoidable as people saying they would buy a snow blower, but that would only mean that it would never snow again enough to use it.

But as we shoveled our way to freedom the other day, I kept thinking about baseball ("What, and miss my turn at bat?") because the weather people were also calling for a couple of inches of "the white stuff" next week. This forecast for additional white hell did not induce panic in the streets, as it would have prior to the introduction of two blizzards in four days, as we enjoyed this past week.

Just as baseball players swing weighted bats in the on-deck circle, making their real lumber seem lighter once they finally get up to the plate, shoveling several tons of snow from one's driveway and front walk and deck makes a couple of inches of snow seem like nuttin',

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Super Boller

Reading about Valentine's Day (also known as "Valentime's Day") I found this old English superstition:

If a woman sees a robin flying over head on Valentines Day she will marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she will marry a poor man, but be happy. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire.

You might remember a guy named Kyle Boller, who played quarterback for the Ravens. An earnest young man of good intentions, he nonetheless spent most of his time chasing after footballs he had just fumbled, tripping over his own feet, and throwing balls to people wearing jerseys unlike his.

But now, Kyle, content in a backup role for the hapless St Louis Rams, is all set to marry the lovely Carrie Prejean, the de-tiara-ed beauty contest winner who started such a commotion with her rants against the rights of others to marry whom they damn well pleased. Even though she wouldn't want you to marry a same-sex partner, let's all wish these two a happy Valentine's Day. And Carrie, watch him walking down the aisle. He's a bit clumsy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Smart Thinking

I see someone posting this daffy-nition of an intellectual:

"Someone who takes too much time to say more than he knows."

Now I have to wonder about the rise of anti-intellectualism in America. It seems to me that to be an intellectual - to be possessed of a superior mind - would be something to admire. But here is the definition of this movement from historian Richard Hofstadter: "Anti-intellectualism is a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it, and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life."

I have seen snobbery and reverse snobbery in action all of my life. Yes, I know people who look down on "service workers" and I know "service workers" who sneer at every echelon of society they consider to be above them. It doesn't make sense to me. If everyone showed a little more respect for everyone else, we might not have these stratifications.

For instance, there are people who look down on the guy who repairs things - until they need something repaired! At a big banquet hall, when some waiter drops a tray of roast beef/twice baked potato and green beans almondine dinners, someone has to come along and clean up the mess, or no one is going to have a very good time.

There is some new TV show called Undercover Boss or My Boss Can't Do My Job or something along those lines. The preposterous point of the show is to have the big head cheese of some giant company come out of the boardroom and down to the operating area. In the installment of the show that came on after the Indianapolis Professional Football Team went down to defeat in the Super Bowl, much to the chagrin of their petulant quarterback, the CEO of the world's largest trash hauling firm was given goggles, a safety vest and gloves, and showed up on the sorting line, where, of course, he was shown to be inept, thus making others feel better. It's this man's job to run the company, which does not make him a better person than the person sorting bottles and cans on a conveyor belt. That's my point: I think it would be a good idea to show respect up and down the ladder.

To quote from The Breakfast Club:

Brian Johnson: I'm a %$@*)^! idiot because I can't make a lamp?
John Bender: No. You're a genius because you can't make a lamp.

Remember that scene? The scholarly lad was upset because he was getting the first failing grade of his life in shop class because the lamp he made did not work, and he regarded lampmaking as an insignificant calling. The subtle beauty of John Hughes, who wrote that screenplay, was in using a device of illumination to...illuminate a point. Which was, to me, that we need lampmakers and lamp fixers and people who sit by lamps reading great books and non-great books. To hate someone for being intellectual is tantamount to hating someone for not being intellectual. As soon as we all figure that everyone has his or her own niche, and we all show a little respect for everyone in that niche, my, what a better world we can all inhabit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A possible future grown-up

Hard to believe this John Mayer fellow is 32 years of age. He's a guitarist, sings songs, writes songs, and from what I can tell from picking up the gossip mags at medical waiting rooms, he pretty much dates every woman in show business. I never see him pictured anywhere that he isn't wearing the self-satisfied smirk he will now share with us again:

But in the past few days, he's all over the computer. First there was some interview in which he boasted of his sexual prowess, even stating that he's just as happy with any form of gratification, as long as he can think of the many young women with whom he has enjoyed congress, sanctified or otherwise. But he got a little too hip and used some unacceptable language in his boast. You might have seen this on Facebook; he has done a Playboy interview and now he is pre-apologizing for what he said in the forthcoming issue of Hef's skin mag.

Here is what he said on the concert stage on Wednesday night:

"It's been difficult because in my quest to be clever... in the quest to be clever and try to slither out of what I perceived to be constant persecution or somebody trying to pin me, which may or may not ever really be happening, but I think that it is a lot of the time when it's actually not. In the quest to be clever, I completely forgot about the people that I love and that love me. And as I have begun to do a whirlpool of selfishness, and greediness and arrogance...and thinking if I just continue to be speedy and witty and pull together as many fast words and phrases as I could, that I would be clever enough to buy myself another day without anybody pinning me down and saying 'you're a creep'. And when I should have just given that up and played the guitar... so I decided i would try to be as clever as possible all the time. And I did that at the expense of people that I love and that feels absolutely terrible. It feels worse than any headline I thought i could get my way out of. And I think it's important that you know that everybody on this stage is here playing with me not because they condone what I say in any interview... they are not on this stage because they support what I said, they're on this stage because they support myself as a possible future grown-up. And maybe they see something that I don't... so maybe I need to take a break from trying to be clever and spend a little time looking at what they see. Cause they've done an unbelievable thing standing on this stage and standing by my side tonight. It's just not worth being clever.... I'm out .... just wanna play my guitar ... "

Yes, the people that he pays to play backup guitar, drums, piano, glockenspiel and what-all else did a truly marvelous thing in coming to work. That's what they are paid to do, son. They don't have to like the fact that just like a 14-year-old who just got his noodle wet the first time, you can't stop talking about it. They probably even have THEIR OWN LIVES and really don't concern themselves with how foolishly you behave.

That's your job.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Statue of Limitations

Smithsonian Magazine always gives the reader something interesting in return for his or her time. This month's issue has articles about the Venus Flytrap - that crazy plant that traps insects for dinner - as well as how a section of a Woolworth's lunch counter from Greensboro, NC, site of a famous civil rights sit-in 50 years ago, was brought to the museum for posterity, and also some fascinating words about the Sphinx.
Egyptians didn't record history, which makes them by far the favorite ancient civilization among young history students today. That lack also makes them a bit of a riddle in many ways. What was the deal with a recumbent lion figure with a human head? We don't know. We don't even know why they built the doggone thing, but the leading supposition among contemporary historians is that the Pharaoh had a lot of limestone left over from a dam-building project, and a committee was formed to erect a small statue of some sort, and look where that led.

There are people who have devoted their entire lives to studying this Sphinx, which is the true riddle to me. But, I found it interesting that we now know that over the years, the Sphinx was painted red, blue and yellow. Imagine the paperwork, or papyrus work, that must have gone into that, and then the phone call to Nile Painters, Inc., asking for an estimate on painting a large lionman out in the middle of the desert. "Hello? How much? How about if you skip the primer? Hello?"

A fellow named Edgar Cayce suffered from visions, one of which was that the "lost island of Atlantis", a Plato fiction, actually existed around 9600 BC. Furthermore, Cayce convinced himself and a small, rag-tag (really small and amazingly rag-tag) band of followers that the residents of Atlantis, ostensibly while on a vacation in Egypt, had buried lists of their secrets in a hall of records beneath the Sphinx, and that all of this documentation would be discovered before the end of the 20th Century. People still buy books to see what else Cayce was wrong about.

The final fact about the Sphinx that I garnered was that "in 1817, a Genoese adventurer, Capt. Giovanni Battista Caviglia, led 160 men in the first modern attempt to dig out the Sphinx. They could not hold back the sand, which poured into their excavation pits nearly as fast as they could dig it out."

Captain Caviglia, I will be thinking of you today as we dig out our driveway and sidewalk, into which another couple of feet of snow have drifted. I have to go now, for I believe I am having a vision that buried underneath all of this snow is a truck, containing modern-day "records" (CDs, as it were) of ancient country musicians singing songs of loss and train wrecks.

Seriously, Edgar.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Totally Tubular

Hi, and welcome back to "Mark Undergoes the Rigors of Modern Medicine." When last we met, I was headed for a MRI to find out what the devil is bedeviling my lumbar region.

Yesterday morning, bright and early, Peggy took me to the place. I'm going to mention their name - America Radiology in Timonium, MD - because they are about the friendliest bunch of people you could ever hope to meet. Really! We got there well ahead of time, as they said to do, so that I could fill out the paperwork before I intoxicated myself with magic pills to buzz away the anxiety. I popped a couple of Hydrocodones and sat back, waiting to enjoy the Rush. (!) I sat with Peggy, she reading a magazine, I flipping through my iPod like a nut, and then, when I came back from a bathroom break, a young woman was standing there next to Peggy, and I knew. "Is it time?" I asked, and she nodded in assent. I had to walk that green mile (actually it was sort of beige) alone with her - they didn't allow spouses back in the Big Magnet Room.

Apparently, I was not the first patient that this woman had dealt with. She looked me over for metal, but I had cleverly worn sweats with non-metallic eyelets and so all I had to take off was my watch, and turn my iPod over to the tech. I set it to play My 25 Most Played, and during the test, I enjoyed these songs:
  • "Getting to Know You" - Bing Crosby
  • "Hallelujah Day" - Jackson 5
  • "Cleveland Rocks" - The Presidents of the United States
  • "As Long As You Love Me" - Backstreet Boys
  • "Jazz: Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold" - Bonzo Dog Band
  • "Do What You Gotta Do" - Tom Jones
  • "Don't She Look Good" - Ernest Tubb
  • "Wild Weekend" - Bill Anderson
  • "Mountain Greenery" - Bing Crosby
  • "Just Between You and Me" - Charley Pride
  • "Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden
I couldn't help but wonder if the staff were enjoying the music. They had to jack my 'pod into their audio chain, which also contained a way for the tech to talk to me in the headphones they stuck on my melon.

Anyway. Supine, all stretched out, pillows under knees, and they back me into the tube in a way reminiscent of the old sawmill I used to go visit as a rural youth, out at the end of Providence Rd near Loch Raven Drive. I got in there and it was like whoa, Nellie, get me outta here! Claustrophobia, plus having the ceiling of this tube about an inch from the tip of my nose, meant instant anxiety. Again, I could tell this was not the first time they had dealt with this issue, and the tech said "How about a blindfold?" and I said sure, let's try it. Had I been my usual self, I surely would have replied, "OK, but then how will you be able to see the controls?" But I wasn't my usual self, to the relief of all, and with my blackout gear
in place, I was ready to re-enter the tube of gloom.

Well, that was the ticket, because I rationalized that without seeing the beige plastic and steel trap that had me captive, I couldn't tell how close it was to me. Blindfolded, for all I knew, I was on my back atop a massage table in an area the size of an airplane hangar. This blindfold thing really works to diminish the
perceptions of one's surroundings and overall zeitgeist - the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation, as Wikipedia defines it. As I lay there, I deduced that somehow, Sarah Palin has thrown a gigantic blindfold across thousands of eyes. That must be how she's got 'em bamboozled.

So, with all that buildup and drama, the test itself was less exciting than the preamble. I heard my tunes, I was given a squeeze bulb signalling device to be used in case I just HAD to bail, and from time to time the tech came on the headphones, her sweet voice mixing with that of Ernest or Bing or whomever, and telling me how we were doing, and how long the next test would take. In half an hour,
the pills had kicked in nicely, the tests were completed, and I walked out a free and happy man. Well, I should say that I walked out with the peculiar rolling gait that I have adopted of late, but now that the doctors have these pictures of my spine, I'm sure we're going to get to the bottom of it all, so to speak.

But I have to say something about the tech at American Radiology. She sees dozens of patients in a week, and it would be easy for her to become hardened and unfeeling to the human needs of those entubed. But, she doesn't. In fact, she made a point of going to the other end of the MRI machine and touching my shoulder, saying that she'd be right there for me all throughout the tests. And then when she talked to me on the headphones during the procedure, she said "You're doing great!" I think about this sort of thing all the time, how just a few words or a kind gesture can mean so much to another. I was predisposed to liking her; her name was Laura, and it's that way with a lot of my favorite people. Thanks, Laura. You're doing great, too!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sweet Irony of Life

It's quite possible that at exactly the moment you are reading this, I am being stuffed into a metal tube.

"At last!" came the cry from the many who have longed to see me encapsulated and shipped off to parts unknown. And perhaps this will stir memories of the time I Trojan-Horsed my way into the Girls' Locker Room by having some of the guys in my gym class in senior year roll me into a wrestling mat which was to be stored in the hallway leading to the Girls' Locker Room...but that's another story for another hearing.

Today is MRI Day and I am somewhat apprehensive, being claustrophobic and all. So last night, enjoying a nice dinner with The Amazing Peggy, we were watching the beloved sitcom "King of Queens,"
and it just so happened that Doug was forced to undergo an MRI, and as he was rolled into the metal cylinder, the noises started up and he howled like Limbaugh at a vegan-only banquet.
This is not I. But isn't it good to know these things are made by GE? I've always been a big fan of their light bulbs.

You have to like that sort of irony. And now I'm thinking...maybe it will take TWO techs to get me into that Horrible named Hansel, the other, Gretel.

More tomorrow!

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Did You Expect?

I like Taylor Swift a whole great big lot. Not that she needs my approval, but I think she is charming, cute, talented, and she certainly seems pleasant and amiable, without all the "I'm famous" conceit that I can't stand in famous people. She is also quite the songwriter, and from what I can see, a lot of young women agree on that point and feel that she writes from their emotional standpoint.

Stevie Nicks has been a singer for a long time, and she is in Peggy's Top 5 for sure. Very popular with Peggy, is Stevie.

The other night on the Grammy Awards show, those two sang duets of each other's songs, and all week long I read in the paper and all over the "internets" that one or both of them hit flat notes during the performance.

Crappy Australian "actor" Mel Gibson (photo not available), who shows no respect for his wife, marriage, people of faiths other than his own, the honor of the police, or just about anything worthwhile, just had another movie come out to stinko reviews and non-boffo box office. In order to bolster his sagging public image and put some customers in theatre seats, his handlers arranged for him to do those remote interviews where the "star" sits in front of a camera and is interviewed by journalists lucky enough to be elsewhere. Gibson got into a tussle with a reporter of the Jewish faith over aid to Israel, as if that had anything to do with his movie, and called another reporter, on WGN TV, an "@$$hole." During a live interview.

That's nice, Mel.

Two different situations here, both with a show-biz background, but really, who's surprised? First of all, Gibson, under arrest for DUI in 2006, went on an anti-Semitic rampage while in custody, pausing only in his tirade to coin a filthy nickname for a female police. He hasn't been in a movie since 2002, and given the lackluster business for this new flopola, it's a safe bet that you'll see him guesting on "Fringe" or "Beverly Hills 90210" pretty soon. I'm fairly certain that I can go the rest of my life without needing to see his 1/2-cocked hammy acting on any screen of any size.

Ms Swift, I am crazy about your songs, but you'd probably concur that you aren't exactly Karen Carpenter when it comes to tone and pitch control. However, you are a better singer than the carpenter who will build your $20 million house sometime soon, so don't fret about being a touch off key. It certainly hasn't hurt your partner of the other evening, Ms Nicks, whose appeal, as far as I could see, had a lot more to do with her attitude, her swirling skirts and drapy scarves and clattery tambourine than sounding perfectly tonal.

But - what do we expect? To put Taylor 'n' Stevie up on the stage, and you expect, what, two operatic divas? To allow a loose cannon like this Gibson behind the wheel of a car or a live microphone, and expect genteel behavior?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stubborn as a Rahm

Like everyone else, I have my sensitive side (I might well up at the conclusion of "Rocky" and "Old Yeller", I pine for a return to the simpler days of the early Beatles, and I am of course moved beyond words by the beauty of a simple Grecian urn.*

Like everyone else, I guess I have my insensitive side, because I am not always swayed by sob stories that really shouldn't be so sobby ("You need to pity me because I am but a helpless victim of my own irresistible urge to self-flagellate.") And, try as I might, I can't appreciate the haunting melodies of Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute. It always looks like people playing the pan flute are eating a big rack of ribs, to me. Mime, ballet, opera (except for Grand Ole Opry), impressionistic paintings, cubism, modern art, jazz-hand dancing, and movies in which Julia Roberts chortles, chuckles, and/or guffaws: all beyond my reach.

So, I'm neither on the Arts Commission nor a member of Murder, Incorporated. But there is one thing that a lot of people do that, I believe, they wouldn't, if they stopped a second and thought it over. I'm talking about the use of the "r" word to denote a person who is cognitively or developmentally challenged. I believe people who face that challenge have enough going against them, and don't need the off-handed slam that people use at times, such as when someone can't remember where they parked or drops their Big Gulp® or forgets to bring their cell phone. Someone is always quick to say,"What are you, a r------ or sumpin?"

Sorry to bowdlerize, but I will not use that word, even as a negative demonstration.

It's demeaning, and nasty, and the thing of it is I really believe that most people would not do it if they gave it a nanosecond of thought. To hear that Rahm Emanuel uses language such as "f-----g re-----d" is a major disappointment to those of us who believed that the Obama Administration would be free of such insensitivity,
of which we had plenty from 2001- 2009. How sincere are his apologies? How sensitive could he be, if he talked that way in the first place?

* AS IF I knew the difference between a Grecian urn and a Tupperware
® pitcher!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's a Marshmallow World

This is yesterday's page from the Old Farmer's Almanac calendar, which we Old Farmers read with avid interest:

Now I ask you, when you have 27,000,000,000 snowflakes all turning back and saying "good-by" to the dear clouds, don'cha have to figure that would be kind of noisy? The only reason we can't hear this cumulonimbus cacophony is, we're all down here with The Weather Channel turned up, hald expecting to see Jim Cantore standing in our driveway!

And Mary Mapes, unless you're driving a Dodge Ram with 4-wheel drive, you might as well just sit tight, too.

And hey! Be careful out there!

Friday, February 5, 2010

'Snow Use

For those of you reading this in Phoenix, San Luis Obispo, and Key West, today's entry will mean very little to you.

So what's new, you say?

Time to talk about what to do with the car or truck or minivan or SUV - hereinafter referred to as "vehicle" (in Baltimorese, VEE-hickle) - when it snows.

You'll have to turn to other columns for advice on how to drive your vehicle during a snow, as I can't even explain why you should turn your wheel in the direction of the skid when you feel that "whoa there goes the back of the car" feeling in the middle of a major intersection. You're heading for a drugstore, so you're supposed to steer TOWARD the drugstore? In a world where you multiply two negative numbers and get a positive answer, it must be right, I dunno.

No, we're here to talk about what to do with the car instead of driving it. Let's say you're in your neighborhood, first of all, because people who do extensive winter travel tell me that Baltimore is somehow the world's capital for people abandoning their cards during a winter storm. Even though they're 15 miles from home still, if they can't get up that hill, they just park it and start anklin' home. Or maybe they go to a nearby home and ask for help. Or call a cab. But ask any cop, and you'll find it's true - the plows go crazy, because there are cars just sitting all over the place...even the interstates!

Your car doesn't like spending the night out in inclement weather any more than you do, when you think about it. Peggy and I would almost have enough room in the garage for her pre-recall Camry - with non-sticking gas pedal - and my pick-'em up, except for the collection of Elvis memorabilia, recycling boxes and I don't know what-all else filling the garage. So, most nights, the truck sits outside, and on nights when it's going to snow or sleet, I cover its windshield wipers with plastic newspaper bags and its windshield with a tarpaulin (in Baltimore, tar-POLE-eon.) In the morning, peel away that big blue tarp, pull the newspaper bags off the wipers, and away you go, as countless hapless others scrape til they're blue in the knuckle. I see people who stick their wipers straight out, perpendicular to the windshield, but then they still have to scrape ice off the blades. Cover the stick with some latex or something. This is good advice for many other similar applications. If you catch my drift.

It's always amusing to set out for work the next day and see cars parked along major roads, cars that have really gotten the old splasheroo from plows and salt trucks. As the ice formations along their metallic flanks take on that salty, icy hue, these vehicles sort of resemble the inside of a glass that contains a half of an ice-cream soda. Sometimes it's the only place people can park, I understand, but I wonder how long it takes to get all that gunk off.

Then there is always that great big silver duct-tape colored car cover. I see more of them these days, covering entire vehicles, and I'm sure they work well, as long as you don't mind other people thinking that your Sebring is underneath the world's largest shower cap.

But, according to most surveys, the best place to stash your car when it's fixin' to snow in Baltimore is Phoenix, San Luis Obispo, or Key West. With yourself in it!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Peggy!

I'd like to suspend all the jocularity and bon-vivance that normally flows from this blog like cocktail sauce at an oyster roast to salute the birthday of the finest person I shall ever meet. It's my wonderful wife, Peggy. She might attend your oyster roast, but she's allergic to seafood, but she never complains about it. Nor anything else.

If you have been in my company for more than five minutes, you have likely heard our story of meeting on a blind date on a Thursday night, and my suave, debonair call at 3 AM the following Monday morning to ask her to marry me. All that took place before Nixon even left office - in fact, it was during the summer of '73, the height of the Watergate investigation, and it banished that high-water point in American history to second place for that year for me. That means we are coming up on 37 years together this summer! 37 years! 13,505 days that I awoke with a song in my heart and my socks in my hands, so happy to be in love with such a kind woman. 13,505 sunsets later, we still get a big boot out of seeing how the sky lights up at night, and King of Queens reruns, and all sorts of little things.

And oh, how she loves it when I have a cold - what we men know as the Death Grippe - and I lie in the dark bedroom until Peggy comes in, and I say, in a wan, yet manly voice, "Peggy, is that you?" She finds that enchanting, every time!

This winter I have been dealing with some lower back issues and resultant sciatica (be sure to see this space next week when I describe, in lurid detail that only my fellow claustrophobics will appreciate, the half hour - 1,800 seconds - I will spend in a MRI tube.) Of course, Peggy will take me to this appointment, and I promise you, I will be sitting in the recliner until she draws near, and I will say, "Is it time?" the way they used to do in prison movies. To try to make me feel better, Peggy has massaged my back morning and night, made sure I took all my various meds, and encouraged me every step of the way. Not to mention getting out there with a snow shovel and pitching in by pitching snow with me. Not to mention making sure my heating pad was always there for me. Not to mention that she works hard, full time, to help us afford the semi-opulent lifestyle in which we flourish. Not to mention how hard she works to help take care of my Mom's groceries, bills and finances. Oh, I could go on, but you know what? Whatever it is that needs to be done to make everyone around her happy and taken-care-of, that's what Peggy does, and never anything less!

If you know her, then you know why I love her so much. There is no question that she is the kindest person around, and how she wound up with such an oafish galoot as I is a favorite topic of family discussions. If you don't know her, I wish you did.

Because then you would understand why the rest of us love her like we do.

Happy Birthday, Peggy! I love you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Heard a Rumor

Got another one in the inbox the other day. This time, it was all about how Starbucks refused to give free coffee to some Marine who was about to go fight in the war. People pass these things around, and everyone gets all in a lather, and very few people take the time to go to and check out the story. I have got that story about five times in the last month. It's almost as popular as the one that shows that members of Congress have a collective arrest record that would put awe in the hearts of Ma Barker and her gang. Or the one that claims that within 4, or 31, depending, days, the giant megacorporations are going to be handed a giant list of everyone's cell numbers so you'll be getting sales calls on your Samsung while watching the late news. Or the one that says that Nancy Pelosi demands to be ferried home twice a week to San Francisco on a 200-seat Air Force jet, or the Wright Brothers' plane, depending. Or the free Applebee's gift certificate. Or the dumb legend about Oliver North and his prescient fears of Osama Bin Laden, so cruelly scorned by none other than...Al Gore!

Well, if you do check out the Starbucks/Marine tale, it turns out that the Marine heard this story from a friend, leading him to write the email before he checked anything for veracity. And he was wrong. But what's that old saying about lies speed around the world faster than the truth can walk, or something like that?

A common theme in these pass-arounds is how some giant corporation is just nailing us every which-a-way, and here's how we'll get 'em back! We won't buy their coffee! Or we'll xerox their chocolate chip cookie recipe and pass it around to everyone with an oven from here to Eternity, Kansas! Or we'll scan in one coupon and put it online, so everyone will get it and print it and go to the store and get all cheesed when they don't get a free large fries, coca-cola and Dub-L-Burger. Notice, they get mad at the 14-year old kid behind the counter, sparing the wrath that should be deployed toward the friend who passed them the bogus coupon in the first place.

We are a nation full of bright, well-educated people. We have cured polio, put men on the moon, righted many wrongs, invented the pot pie. But let's see if we can't stop jumping for every email, and start giving due consideration to the likelihood that most of these things are as reliable as a sundial in a snowstorm.

Speaking of which...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Soupy Sails

We had leftover rotisserie chicken from Sunday, and heating it up again was only going to make it even more dry. (I am not a huge fan of chicken breast meat for that reason.)

So I remembered what our friend Gail said to do, and I made Kwik 'N' E-Z chicken soup!

I diced an onion and several carrots and sizzled 'em in the bottom of the big stock pot. Then I added a package of stir-fry vegetables and stirred that in with the frying onion and carrot. When the veggies were nicely done, I tossed in a couple of cans of lo-sodium chicken broth and let it come to a boil, along with some water and spices (herbs de Provence, which my sister brought us from France, and parsley, from the Dollar Tree, along with a pinch of this and a dash of that from the spice rack).

When everything was bubbling away, I tossed in the diced-up chicken and a package of bow-tie noodles...sort of a salute to Pee Wee Herman. Back to boiling for 15 minutes, then I let it simmer while I tossed some Jiffy® Corn Muffins into the silicone muffin pan we bought at Tuesday Morning one Sunday Afternoon. When the muffins were done to a golden brown turn, I served the soup to the tumultuous applause of my lovely bride of 36 years, whose birthday draws near.

Which reminds me of the two sage pieces of advice offered to me by my late father, who was my polar opposite in demeanor, since he rarely spoke, and when he did, it was always something profound and meaningful. He told me the following great maxims:

- - Never get involved with a community improvement association

- -Never give your wife a gift of something that has an electric cord

He also told me that the first time I would feel old would be the first time a police officer called me sir. It happened when I was maybe 36, sitting in front of K-Mart while Peggy ran in and got something, and a cop wanted me to move my truck out of the front of the store, but he said, "Can I get you to move along, sir?"

I immediately went home, sent for information about the AARP, and scheduled a colonoscopy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bird of Pray

I read that Baltimore City plans to close Chinquapin Middle School, which is in the northeast corridor of the city in one of those areas that has a wide mix of citizens and affluence. Baltimore is unlike most other towns in that you can be driving down a street and to your right see fantastic mansions, spacious acreage and well-heeled people strolling about. And a look to your left from the same street will show you run-down houses, litter everywhere, and people with that look of anger and cynicism so often characteristic of those whom hope has left behind. And then, stay on the same road, and 10 miles farther out you will see offices, apartments, shopping centers and busy commercial districts...and blink your eye and you're in Farmville. We love Baltimore. It's always something different.

So...Chinquapin. When I was a little baby boy, we lived up the street from there. It was known as Woodbourne Junior High School at that time, and some years after we moved out (see my autobiography, "Little House on the Prairie") the school became famous world wide.

You see, it was in that very school that a young man named Bill Murray (no, not that one!) was forced to recite morning prayers along with the Pledge of Allegiance in homeroom, and his mother, Madalyn Murray, did not care for this practice. She didn't care for it all the way to the Supreme Court, which agreed with her, and banned prayer in public school, except on exam days.

They changed the name of the school.
Madalyn Murray left Baltimore in 1963, shortly after the Court decision came down. Some city police came to her house to find a runaway, a girlfriend of Bill's who was allegedly hiding in the Murray house. Madalyn assaulted the five cops and headed out of town, later marrying a Marine named O'Hair. She was named "America's most hated woman" in 1964 and was murdered in 1995, shortly after handing over her mythical "most-hated" crown to Tonya Harding.

Bill J. Murray became a devout Christian.

The Other William J. Murray went on to star in "Stripes," the cinematic triumph universally regarded as The Greatest Movie Ever Made.

The school's mission of educating adolescents is about to come to a fitful end, but it's important to look back on another day in Baltimore history. The debate over school prayer is still going on, and as much as I'd like to share my thoughts about the issue, I notice that I just ran out of internet.