Friday, April 30, 2010

You think it's butter, but it's not. It's Siobhan!

I like everything about Season Top 6 American Idol contestant Siobhan Magnus except the fact that she got the boot the other night.

I'm not a fashion expert, but I always liked the way she dressed in an eclectic manner. You never knew from week to week what she would be sporting when she started in to sing, and didn't she sing like an angel!?! And I am pretty sure that if you look back at the weeks gone by, you'd see that she wore her hair in a different style every time you saw her. As someone who tends to wear his hair in the same style every day, I appreciate a little tonsorial creativity like that.

But Siobhan - I even like the sound of her name*, for crying out loud! - really took over in my popularity poll when she sang. She could do any kind of song - slow or fast, pop, country, western, rock and/or roll - and do it well.

But the judges seemed to like to pick on her. She didn't let it bother her, she who was voted "Most Individual" in high school a couple of years ago, that if she did a song more or less in the style of the original recording, she was told, "Dawg! You need to change things up there, knowwhatI'msayin?" and if she added original touches to someone else's song, she heard, "I don't recognize this changed it all around!"

And receiving fashion critique from a man whose wardrobe seems to consist of several dozen tight T-shirts with V-necks (maybe that's why they call it "TV') is as preposterous as receiving marriage counseling from Jesse James. Either one of them.

So let's see: pretty, great singer, sweet personality, interesting choice of clothes. Goodbye, Siobhan! See you for the finale, when I fully expect that Pants On The Ground guy to win it all.

*It means "God is Gracious," in Gaelic.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Are you ready to meet your Crater?

One of the standard gags in sitcoms, skits and humorous essays was the disappearance of Judge Joseph Force Crater, a justice of the State Supreme Court in New York who left his courtroom one hot August afternoon in 1930, went to dinner at a chop house and walked off from there into the pages of history. There was a memorable episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show in which Rob and Laura had a flashback scene with a justice of the peace named "Judge Cratah," to whom Rob said, "A lot of people have been looking for you!" And, there is a Judge Crater's Restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama, where the only thing that disappears is probably the waiter or the guy with the water refill pitcher.

But after that red-hot August night, the judge never came home again. Chorus girls and courtesans all over the city were forced to cut back on their spending once they lost his steady patronage.

And, speaking of spending money, His Honor had only earlier that spring withdrawn 20 thousand semolians out of his bank acct. to pay for his judgeship; the deal in those days in New York was, you paid the organization a sum equal to your first year's salary for a good job. You might say this was poor economics on his part, to shell out 20 big ones for a job that paid...20 big ones. But it was also a job in which he was able to be appointed to a position of receivership in the sale of an old hotel in Gotham. He and his associates paid 75 big ones for the hotel, and then when it was condemned for a road-widening project, they were willing to sell it to the city for the low, low price of 3 and a half million dollars.

And so you're saying to yourself, "I shoulda gone to judge school!"

But, while his wife finished a vacation in Maine, hizzoner came back to New York City, got some legal papers (what other kind would he have?) out of his office, and went to a joint called Billy Haas's Chop House for what was likely the last dinner he ever ate.

Ten days later (!) his wife reported him missing, and the investigation was on. This was August of 1930. The New York Police Department applied all their skills and training to the case, and it was finally closed just a short time later, in 1995, when they finally gave up looking.

Two interesting other aspects to the Judge Crater case:

A: One of the people rumored to have had knowledge of what happened to the extinguished jurist was one Abraham Reles. You hear that name, and you think he was, what, a law school professor? A colleague on the Supreme Bench? A doctor who had recently treated Crater for dystopia? No. Criminologists remember Dishonest Abe by his nickname Kid Twist. KT was the number one hit man for an old, very prominent firm known as Murder, Incorporated, and his nickname derived from his ability to make someone very dead by twisting their head until a cerebral hemorrhage was induced. This is reported to be even more painful that having someone talk your ear off.

2: A quote from his eminence, the ol' Judge:

"The best way to get ahead is to go into politics."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let's play the Lightning Round

With our little corner of the world getting its annual spring deluges, it was nice to enjoy the first thunderstorm of the season on Sunday evening.

You know I am a nut about the weather, and you could just as easily leave off those last three words. I like rain and wind and cold and snow and howling blizzards. But a thunderstorm can be one of the great spectator events, and the price is absofreely lute.

It helps that we have a covered front porch. Standing underneath a tree or umbrella is not recommended, nor is flying a kite during an electrical storm. Even if you have bet someone a stack of Benjamins that you won't get zapped , it's still a risky business, and then you won't get to be around to see the next one if one should strike you or your fancy.

As soon as I hear the first distant rumble and can say with certainty that it's not the icemaker dropping another dozen cubes, or the garage door opener, or some other household device, I'm out there on the porch. I'll usually grab a transistor radio to take with me. Tuned to AM, a transistor radio is like a lightning crackle-meter. As the storm moves in closer, the annoying braying of ideologues on AM is mercifully drowned out by worthwhile energy. Used to be the Orioles ballgames were on an AM station, but now that they're on FM, I take the radio out on the porch with me, but you don't hear the storm coming on FM. Perhaps some station could arrange to augment their usual evening offerings with the recorded sounds of lightning coming down.

Storms usually happen in the evening, making them the perfect post-dinner entertainment in the sky. I think it's because after a long day of heat and humidity, the meteorological conditions become just right for sparkin' up a thunderation. Another reason is that Heaven wants to put their really good shows on during prime time. There are times that the storm comes along after bedtime, and it's got to be a major deal to wake me from that dream I keep having. You know, the one where dream interpretation turns out to be a really valid scientific field, and psychics come to rule the earth.

As the thunder becomes louder and closer, look around and you won't see any birds or other critters in the yard. This is because Nature, in all her infinite wisdom, has given them the sense to come in out of the rain before the rain even begins. So a stark stillness accentuates the gaps between peals of thunder. And the air - the sweet, sweet ozone - smells as crisp and fresh as any air freshener you could buy.

Everyone has to get out of the various pools, creeks and filled quarries, lest lightning hit the water. If you're near a pool, kids are standing around in flip flops, with giant towels wrapped around themselves, waiting it out.

Meanwhile, back in the neighborhood, someone will always come out on the street and say,"It's gonna pass over!" This expression means it's gonna pass us by, not pass over us, because passing over us is just what the storm does when it finally hits, and blinding sheets of rain, none of them fitted or ironed, start issuing forth from the sky. If it's dark enough, the entire sky will be illuminated like the beaming visage of Keith Richards as lightning bolts are tossed by Thor in Norse mythology.

Hey, if you had to lift those heavy lightning bolts and throw them around, you'd be Thor, too!

Two more things you can bet on happening in every storm:

1 - Some guy up the street will choose the exact moment that the heavens open up to dash into his car and leave for an errand. He will return in five minutes, soaked to the gills, bearing a lime Slurpee and a slightly ashamed look.

2 - Someone will say, "It's good for the farmers." Without fail, every time, someone will say this.

In just a few minutes, it's all over, and it's back to the La-Z-Boy recliner and the remote and last week's New Yorker and a glass of iced tea. Man, I gotta tell you, that is something like livin', huh? And it's all free! No charge! So to speak.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

She Got Me for a Song

Saturday night, we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner...and Peggy thought that the last remaining bit of cheese had finally fallen off of my cracker.

First of all, I will admit to talking to people all the time. I love people and everything about them. As Bill Murray said in "Stripes," it's the STORIES! I love to hear peoples' STORIES! And usually with a few words and a smile, you can wind up passing words and smiles back and forth, even with someone you don't even know.

And I will also admit to having a base of knowledge that is wide-spread and far-flung. Most people think I fling it, and not far enough, either. What I'm saying is not that I am so doggone smart, but I have a lot going on up here in the old melon, most of it of absolutely no value to anyone at all.

And it's a problem, because maybe the reason why I can't learn new facts is that my cranium is already full of information such as Chuck Estrada's 1960 won-loss record and ERA (18-11, 3.58) and the name of the actor who supplied the voice for Mr Ed (Alan "Rocky" Lane). Therefore I cannot figure out how to do anything new or assemble anything Swedish.

So you understand why my jokes are all old and so are the songs I reference. Good thing, because when the waitress for Cracker Barrel drew near, I saw her name on her apron. It was Lena. You don't meet a Lena every day. I might go months and months til I meet another Lena, so I figured I should make my move.

"Did you ever hear the song called 'Bald-Headed Lena' ?" I asked.

She allowed as how she hadn't so I began telling her the opening verses of this old Lovin' Spoonful number, and the look she gave me was one of wonderment, mirth, and no small amount of confusion.

"Bald -headed Lena
Has anybody seen-uh?
Cute as she can be!
She got a cue-ball head
that's hard as lead
But she's alright with me!

Bald -headed Lena
Has anybody seen-uh?
Cute as she can be!
She can't wear no wig
Cause her head's too big
But she's alright with me!

Sloppy Gertie, she's so dirty
Skinny Minnie, she's too lean
Racy Tracy's out of place
And Joanie's downright mean..."

Our Lena, who I hasten to point out is blessed with a full head of lovely, vibrant, healthy, lustrous hair, smiled, said she never heard of the song before, and did not indicate that she desired another hearing of it. Ever. She departed for the kitchen area.

Peggy, stunned, said, "What the hell is the matter with you?"

(This is a question that has come up before over the course of our marriage and my life. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.)

I said nothing was the matter with me and I thought that as a Lena, the waitress would like to hear the song. Peggy said, "Is her name Lena?" and I said of course. I certainly wouldn't have told her the lyrics to "Bald-Headed Lena" had her name been Louise, for the love of Pete. I would then have recited the lyrics to "Every Little Breeze Seems To Whisper Louise."

Once again we stood at the great divide, pitting my brash, flamboyant garrulousness with Peggy's classy, elegant dignity. One key difference is when we go to a restaurant for a birthday. For years, Peggy would have died rather than have the waitstaff encircle her and sing "Happy Birthday" and I would have died if they didn't!

Peggy wonders why I would say such dumb things, and wonders if I had hurt Lena's feelings. I don't think Lena was put out by the song at all. She brought me some extra butter for my grits with a big happy smile.

And that night, she went home with a bigger tip than even our usual 21%, "just because."

I just hope she told her whole family that there's a song about her. It's cool to have that sort of thing going on. If there were a song called "Bald-Headed Mark," I would sing it all day long.

And I just might anyway.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Extort Reform

My cell contact list reminds me of one of George W. Bush's report cards. There are many "D"s.

Doctor Connolly*. Doctor Gredlein. Doctor Jacobs. Doctor Lemma. Doctor Parris. Doctor Rastogi.

(* - the greatest eye doctor in the whole wide world!)

The list goes on and on.

Dr Rastogi is a man who went to so many schools and training courses in the field of medicine that he knows just exactly where to insert needles into the nerve masses surrounding my spine.

Trust me, there are many more enjoyable things to do while horizontal than to have that done, but it's what we are trying to do to obviate surgery. Results are yet to be seen, but all the people involved are making great efforts to help, and I appreciate it.

And as I always like to do, I appreciate getting to meet so many new people in this medical endeavor. So the other day while I was in the holding cell I mean pre-op suite at the Spine Center, I got to talking to a fellow patient. It turns out that Peggy was out in the reception area talking to his wife all the while. Their story is that he was hit broadside by another car last October and he has not been able to work since. He has lost his job, they have had to dip into their savings to scoop out money to live on, and he is in constant pain. They have kids and tuition payments and car payments and a mortgage and only one paycheck coming in.

The car that hit him drove right through a STOP sign to do so, so the fault lies clearly in the hands of the other motorist. Still, the guy says he feels bad for her and what this might do to her financially - except, as he put it, when he is lying on that gurney and the doctor is spiking needles into his back. Then, the pity ebbs away faster than Cheney supporters at a gun-control rally.

The fella told me that he has engaged an attorney and just hopes to recoup the losses he has sustained...he needs a new truck, and his lost wages, and he deserves to be made whole for the money they have put out from savings and investments. He previously did work that involved lots of lifting and moving around; he has been told he can not go back to that sort of work, so he will need occupational therapy and training for a whole new career.

My takeaway from all this, besides the fact that people really need to stop for stop signs, is to contrast his real pain and suffering with the crazy lawsuits that you read about all the time...people who burn their tongue on coffee, get hit in the face with a hot dog tossed to them by a ballpark vendor, people who get scared during a theater performance and then need a hundred million dollars to soothe their souls, now that they have lost their libidos to this incident and are unable to carry on in their accustomed connubial manner. People will break their necks to get into court over just about any silly suits like those. How about a just recompense for someone who was just trying to get to work one morning and a careless fellow citizen just about broke his neck?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

...and the other half on Sunday

Part Two!

33. Who are you going to be with tonight?
Peggy Peggy Peggy!

34. Are you too forgiving?
I tend to be very forgiving once, and then, having been burned twice, I will close the door for good. Perhaps I should aim for the center a bit more...

35. Ever been in love?
Yes for years and years now

36. What is your best (good) friend(s) doing tomorrow?
Everyone is working!

37. Ever have cream puffs?
Yes, and they have had me.

38. Last time you cried?
One day when the windows were open and the pollen was a-flyin'. That's the only way I cry, from allergies. Otherwise, my tear ducts are closed for business.

39. What was the last question you asked?
Is the garage door locked?

40. Favorite time of the year?

41. Do you have any tattoos?
No, but I want "Heaven Doesn't Want Me and Hell's Afraid I'll Take Over" on my right bicep. Or "Love Forever Changes" on my left bicep.

42. Are you sarcastic?

43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect?
Seen it? I invented it!

44. Ever walked into a wall?
No. A tree in the mall, yes.

45. Favorite color?

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
Men don't slap. We pummel.

47. Is your hair curly?
If it grows out

48. What was the last CD you bought?
Hank Snow's train songs collected on one CD called "Snow on the Tracks"

49. Do looks matter?
I get a lot of dirty looks and they don't matter

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?
Nope. Sorry. It's not going to be an issue for me, but I could not move past that. Sorry.

51. Is your phone bill sky high?
No, even though Peggy sends about 127 texts per day...oh wait, I do that. Never mind! But we have a great cell plan, since we have been with the same provider since Cellini invented the cell phone. A service rep once told me on the phone, "Dude! I would kill for your plan!"

52. Do you like your life right now?
Love it all

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
No, just a t-shirt and boxer shorts

54. Can you handle the truth?
Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

Uh, what was the question again?

55. Do you have good eyesight?
Through the miracle of cataract surgery/lens implants, I can clearly now; the rain has gone.

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
Disapprove of many actions or principles, but don't hate.

57. How often do you talk on the phone?
Texting saves many a convo.

58. The last person you held hands with?
My Peggy

59. What are you wearing?
tshirt and gym shorts

60.What is your favorite animal?
The horse you rode in on.

61. Where was your profile picture taken at?
Bertucci's when we were there with Kaiden and his mommy.

62. Can you hula hoop?
No way. I'd disengage my sacroiliac.

63. Do you have a job?
Yes and I love it!

64. What was the most recent thing you bought?
Probably gas or something that gave me gas

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?
Crawled, and jumped, and climbed in and out. Not once with my pants in my hands, I'm proud to add.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'll do half of the quiz on Saturday...

Random Questions You've Probably Never Been Asked

1. First thing you wash in the shower?
My hair. It doesn't take long to do!

2. What color is your favorite hoodie?
Chocolate brown. For a guy who is no lover of chocolate, I sure love that color.

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again.

4. Do you plan outfits?
The night before, I choose a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. If that's "planning an outfit," then yes, I do.

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?
Emotionally wonderful.

6. What's the closest thing to you that's red?
My socks! Always, the socks.

7. Tell me about the last dream you remember having:
I was in charge of some sort of lottery and in going through the receipts I found an envelope full of money that had not been turned in and I took it back to the people in charge and they cast wondering glances my way, as if to say, why didn't you just keep the loot and shut up?

8. Did you meet anybody new today?
Not yet but I bet I will!

9. What are you craving right now?
A hug from Peggy

10. Do you floss daily?
YES! With an almost-monklike devotion. I use those wooden picks and floss holders and thin floss and ribbon floss. Got to stay in practice; corn season is coming up!

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?
"Whatever happens when shredded cabbage is mixed with mayonnaise, will always happen"
----- Cole'sLaw

12. Are you emotional?
Yes sir. Yes ma'am.

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?
I got about halfway through and said, well, it's right so far...

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?

15. Do you like your hair?
What's to like or dislike? It's short and gray and cleaned daily.

16. Do you like yourself?
Yeah, we get along fine.

17. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush?
Oh yeah...any time. Laura and the twins can come along for the fun. I would take one bite of the appetizer and then show up in a flight suit and claim, "Mission Accomplished!" It would be fun.

18. What are you listening to right now?
A fan and distant chatter.

19. Are your parents strict?
My mom was/is. My dad was. They both claimed I had relationship issues, but they didn't know me very well.

20. Would you go sky diving?

21. Do you like cottage cheese?
Yes, topped with apple butter!

22. Have you ever met a celebrity?
Yes and they are people just like you and me. Well, just like you, I should say. I knew one person before she became a celebrity; that's weird to say.

23. Do you rent movies often?
We PPV a lot!

24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?
My Elvis mini-statue; the King is wearing a little gold lamé suit.

25. How many countries have you visited?

26. Have you made a prank phone call?
Yes, looking for people by the names of Richard E. Normus or Hugh Janus.

27. Ever been on a train?

28. Brown or white eggs?
It's all the same once the shell is discarded. Same thing with bananas. You peel 'em, throw the bone away, and whaddya got?

29.Do you have a cell-phone?
Yes. Is this a quiz from 1994 or something?

30. Do you use chap stick?
Only if there's no catsup.

31. Do you own a gun?
It's best that I don't. I know too much.

32. Can you use chop sticks?
Only to prop up weak house plants.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mr Fixit

There are so many problems confronting mankind at this very moment, and so few solutions are available. I would like to volunteer to solve a few of them, and rest assured, you need send no money, nor shout hosannas, nor strew my path with rose petals. You could put out some nachos and a can of beer, for crying out loud.

Problem 1 - Earth's resources rapidly dwindling. Might not be enough oil to last another hundred years.

Solution- If you're driving your car to the movies, stay home and watch stuff on the pay-per-view. At least, in your home, the only people annoying you with their conversation, ring tones and stanky food are your own family, and you can always tell them to cut it out without fear of getting shot or stabbed. Usually.

Problem 2 - Financial crisis. Money tight, credit shrinking, trusted financial institutions stand accused of swindling thousands out of millions.

Solution - watch free old movies on Turner Classic Movies. Attempt to explain to your chatty, phone ringing, stanky-food chomping family why everyone smoked all the time in the 1940s, why people said, "Why, Agnes, that's a splendid idea!" and, "Say, Herbert, have you an extra cigarette? And may I present my niece Thelma, here?" and just why Victor Mature was able to say, late in his life, "I can't act, and I have 146 movies to prove it!"

Problem 3 - Kids in poor physical condition.

Solution - Space out the school bus stops a little so that they might walk more than ten feet to be chauffeured to school. And instead of calling them bus "stops," call them bus "slowdowns," and allow the kids to develop their dexterity by leaping onto a passing yellow jitney.

Problem 4 - Kids graduate from high school with poor math, grammar and science skills, and a woeful sense of history.

Solution - Teach them to read something other than text messages. There is a universe full of information out there, all for pretty much free in musty old books. And let's have the schools pay a little more attention to math, grammar and science, and worry less about selling dollar candy bars to buy better gram scales for the Science club. I submit here, exhibit 'A', an email from someone who signed himself as "John." This is taken directly from a website that discusses the educational system:

you are f------g (Redaction mine) retarded, School is redundent cause most kids aren't intrested, and you mostly forget 90% of what you learn afterwards, I beieve School should be optional, because mindless yakking is no substitue for life experiances

This erudite individual is a product of some school in America. The topic under discussion was homework, and clearly "John," the writer of the above, has rich life experiences to share with us all. No mindless yacker, he.

Problem 5: How do you know that the doctor you are going to see this very afternoon has not forgotten 90% of what he or she learned in medical school?

Solution: Take "John" with you to the appointment and see how they do with him.

This country can solve most any problem if we put our heads together. There was a time when people used to smoke, but once we got Manny from the Pep Boys to put those stogies away, everyone else gave it up, too!

Say, did anyone else have a grandfather who showed them the Pep Boys matches trick? I sure did!

Problem 6: Nothing to talk about at lunch in eighth grade?
Solution: Why, see above!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea

I am purely a law and order kind of a guy. I'm not one to advocate picking and choosing which laws to follow and which ones to break with impudent impunity. So, if you were heading to the bank to deposit some extra money that you have just lying around because of the newfound economic prosperity afoot in the land and saw some crooks who just robbed it, running out and hopping into a Ford sedan with vanity tags "BNKRBBR," you would call the police and report this felony. Same if you saw Goldman Sachs set up some patsies to take a loss in the mortgage scam, with some of their favored fatcats scooping up the money the patsies lost, and you saw some of the crooks running along and hopping into a Rolls-Royce, you would call the Securities and Exchange Commission and report that you saw some bad guys in really nice suits hopping into a car with the vanity tag "INVSTMNTFRAUD."

Most of us remember seeing Gomer Pyle running down Main Street in Mayberry, shrieking "Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!" upon seeing Barney Fife make an illegal u-turn. (Gomer feared no retaliation; he knew he was about to enlist in the Marines anyway.) Spurred by this selfless example of good citizenship, I now turn over information about a crime committed by a dangerous criminal.

This is big. We're talking Federal charges here, to wit, violation of
US Code Title 36, Chapter 10.

§176. Respect for flag

No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

* (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. * (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise. * (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. * (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. (emphasis mine)

Ladies and gentlemen, justice seekers of all ages, here
is the criminal: Round her up!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Plain Talkin'

I thought this trend had peaked, but as always when it comes to trend-measuring, I was wrong. Talking about this deal where people will be talking to you normally in a regular even tone of voice and suddenly, when in their speech there comes a word of foreign derivation...

And they go wailing away with the accent! Examples:

..."You know what's really tasty? You take some tomatoes, slice 'em up, toss 'em with some oil and vinegar, and top the dish off with some fresh basil and MOZZZZARELLLLLLLLLLLLLA!"

..."We had a marvelous time the other night over at the O'Hoolahans'! Her old college roommate was there, a girl named FRANCIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISCA RODRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGUEZ."

..."And then Earl said he didn't want pancakes for breakfast; he wanted CREPPPPPPPPPPPPPPES SUZETTTTTTTTTTTEahhhhhh!"

All in the appropriate accent, if you will.

I really doubt that in the streets of Madrid, Paris or Rome, if you would hear Spaniards, Frenchmen or Italians speaking in their native tongue and then come up on a word of English derivation, that they would suddenly sound like Jim Varney in the middle of their sentence.

My Spanish V teacher in high school used to delight us all with his spot-on impersonations of Johnny Cash, the kid from the Shake 'n' Bake commercial, and any American kid reciting a Spanish dialogue. He was trying to be funny, or at least regain the attention of the class away from me, my impersonation of Milton Berle and my sideline football-betting pool. But people who feel the need to suddenly give voice to their inner Sylvia Poggioli, Fernando Valenzuela or Jacques Costeau are only trying to be earnest.

Or, sometimes, Ernest.

Know what I mean, Vern?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Get Defunct Outta My Face

We were talking the other day about The New Journalism, and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood was an excellent example. Capote saw an article in LIFE magazine about a couple of losers who thought they had a sure bonanza in robbing Kansas farmer Herb Clutter. Just like in some Dragnet episode, they got to his house, tied up his family and then found out that Mr Clutter did all his financials with checks and had hardly any cash on hand around the place anyway. So, they killed the entire family.

Capote, inspired by the small article in LIFE, went to Kansas, which must have been a terrific shock to the Jayhawk state, and wrote the story in a if it were a detective novel. Capote was a wonderfully gifted writer, so much so that I and many other fans of Jack Kerouac were willing to overlook the snippy comment he made about Kerouac's stream of consciousness style ("That's not writing; that's typing.") In Cold Blood is one of those books that I will pick up from time to time and read all the way through again; the writing is that good. Even though I know how everything is going to come out, I like his writing.

Another far more spontaneous example of The New Journalism, which was simply a way of writing non-fiction in a creatively fictional style, was turned in by Tom Wolfe. A feature reporter for the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune, he was sent to write a story about a teenage culture exposition in Southern California, where there was surf music, dancing, slot-car racing and custom cars. Wolfe did all the research and interviews, and when it came time to write the final story, he couldn't find the handle that would please his editors and still make sense. With a deadline approaching, the editor gave up and told Wolfe to just type up his notes and send them in, for some rewrite guy to...rewrite. The editor took the letter Wolfe sent, cut out "Dear Byron," from the top, and let it run just as it was.

This was 1963, and by then Capote was working on In Cold Blood, but not had published it yet.

I love colorful, vivid writing, and pizza. More on pizza later!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I did not study for this quiz

Do you remember your dreams?
I woke up from a nap yesterday and remembered a dream in which the entire family was down the ocean and when I woke up I was disappointed that I was not about to swim in the ocean

How many times have you gotten detention in school?
In my junior year it got to the point where I had to carry a pocket calendar to book my detention appointments! I had it every day for weeks on end.

Did you wake up before 8am this morning?

Do you wear eyeliner?
No, and I wouldn't, even if I were entering the American Idol competition.

What's something that bothers you?
People being left out of things.

Were you smiling in the last picture taken of you?
I usually cheese bigtime, so yes.

What were you doing at 3am?
Sleeping and needing to visit Tinkletown.

What's something you really want right now, be honest?
Blueberry pie a la mode...but I'm not gonna get it!

Is there anybody you wish you could be spending time with right now?
No, because I'm with Peggy, so that's all I need.

Have your friends ever randomly stopped by your house?
At all hours of the day and night. We'll leave a light on for you.

Did you sleep in past noon today?
I have to be deathly ill to consider sleeping past 0600.

Have you ever cried yourself to sleep?
No no no.

How many different colors are you wearing right now?
Blue+ orange +green + white = 4.

Do you want someone back in your life?
Nope, everyone is present and accounted for.

How is the weather right now?
dark and kinda chilly.

What are you doing besides this?

What's the first thing you did when you woke up?
Turned off the alarm, visited the bathroom, went down and got a cup of tea

What made you happy today?
We went to Friendly Farm, and Peggy was happy that I trimmed the hedge - always fun on one leg!

Would you date someone twenty years older than you?
She would be 78 yoa and would probably fall asleep in the middle of her salad!

Are you listening to music right now?
Right this second it's Andy Williams singing "My Coloring Book." I'm second only to Nelson Muntz in my devotion to the aging crooner from Wall Lake, Iowa.

If you could move out of the house right now, would you?
We moved into this house so there would be more room for my junk and Peggy's treasures. I ain't leaving til it's time to report to Sunset Acres.

Do you think you can last in a relationship for 6 months?
No. 37 years, yeah, but not six months.

What are you looking forward to?
The promise of every new day, the Orioles getting their stuff together, the BIM reunion, vacation...

Do you have strange dreams?
There's one that keeps recurring... an ill-informed shrill squawker from Alaska is elected to higher office than anyone dreamed possible.

Do you have a reason to smile right now?
I liked that my young friend Lauren, from whom I steal these quizzes with great impunity, said there is never a time that she doesn't have reason to smile. I feel the same way. I grin all the time. Even when posing for a driver's license photo, I'm making with the full piano keyboard. One time the lady at a drive-thru bank asked if she could show my license to the other women in the bank because "no one else smiles like that!"

Whose car were you in last?

Do you like fruity or minty gum?
No gum, no mints, yecch. A friend insisted that I try some watermelon gum not long ago and it took several hours to rid my mouth of the lingering bad taste.

Do you think anyone likes you?
Got to figure someone does! Some might even love me.

Do you look people in the eye when you talk to them?
From the vantage point of being 6'5", my usual vista is the top of their head, but yes I go for eye contact.

What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
Coffee. Taster's Choice. Decaf.

Do you have any piercings? Which ones and how many?
Does a knee replacement count? if so, one.

Do you have any pepto bismol in your house?
The tablets, yes. I can't stand the taste of the pink liquid.

Do you have a favorite flavor of vodka?

Is your backyard big enough to fit a trampoline?
Yes and it would be so cool to put it behind and beneath the deck so I could save all those steps - just jump down or up, depending. Got to look into this!

When was the last time you had eggs?
Weekend breakfasts, always. With bacon and grits.

How often do you blow dry your hair? What color is your blow dryer?
My la-z-boy hair cut means it gets shampooed right after I wash my face in the shower and I keep going north. It gets dried with the towel and then I'm good. I think the last time I had a hair drier in my hands it was to remove old wallpaper.

Have you ever gone to bed later than 3 AM?
Used to work midnight shift - so yeah!

Have you been to a surprise party before?
Yes! Surprised?

Would you ever buy someone one of those singing birthday cards?
You mean the kind where they open it and hear a snippet of an old song? No, because Dollar Tree doesn't have that kind of card.

Are you good at wrapping presents?
If I really take my time, I can do a presentable job.

What is your least favorite month?
July because it's TFH and we go on vacay in August!

Have you ever gone to see a movie the day it came out?
I think yes, and it was probably Red Hot Swedish Exchange Student Nurses II, a real classic down at the Earle Theatre.

Are you aware that CD’s come out on Tuesdays and movies come out on Fridays?
Yes because they make a big deal out of in the Best Buy ads. I buy music online now just to avoid the Tuesday rush for the new Lil' Wayne CD.

Do you know anyone that has not completed high school when they should have?
Anyone who has not completed high school should have.

Have you ever listened to The Lonely Island?
Yes, he did the overnights on that smooth jazz station a couple of years ago, didn't he?

Do you like movies/books about drugs? Why?
At my age, the only acid I have to worry about is acid reflux, so no.

Do you have scrap paper by your computer desk?
scrap? One of those note cubes is right here.

Do you make your own money?
Yes but I think the Treasury Dept is getting wise. Plus it's hard to get just the right color of green ink.

Have you ever kept a bag from a store because you liked it?
No, but I love the way Ollie's Bargain Outlet buys bags from stores that went out of business or something, so you get to tote your purchases home in a bag advertising a hardware store in Brattleboro, VT.

Have you ever burnt yourself so that it left a scar?
Yes. Our pizza stone has made my hands look

Was the last thing you drank carbonated?
Beer. Cold, sweet beer, which asks for so little and yet gives so much.

Do you own any yellow clothing?
A couple of shirts. I wore a yellow polo yesterday. But no one asked me to play polo.

Who has the longest hair in your family?
Peggy, of course.

When was the last time you ate a pickle?
From the relish tray at Friendly Farm! Love 'em!

Was the last thing you drank a Coke or Pepsi product?
Never drink soda.

Do you need a smoke break right now?
No, I gave it up years ago.

Have you ever had a pet bird?
We had a parakeet when I was a kid. There was a parrot in front of the Crease bar in Towson. I used to walk by on my lunch hour and teach him to say "Reagan lied! Reagan lied!"

Would you rather have ice cream, freeze pops or popsicles in the Summertime?
I like those coconut frozen fruit bars.

Would you rather wear necklaces, bracelets, rings or earrings?
I wear my wedding ring and nothing else from the jewelry aisle. I'm not flashy.

Do you ever just randomly drive around when you're upset about something?
When I was too young to drive, I looked forward to doing just such a thing. Then once I could drive, it had no appeal. There are too many gozzleheads on the roads today to make driving anything like an enjoyable activity.

A trip to California, the Bahamas, New York, Wisconsin, Utah or Canada. Which do you choose?
Cooperstown, New York, to see the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Do you like the way your hair looks right now?
Yes, I frequently receive flirtatious glances from supermodels because of it. They seem to be enchanted by its sheen and lustre.

Play guitar, sims, keytar, xbox, drums, sing or take a dance class:
I'd love to play drums.

Are you in a hurry to grow up?
What the hell for? So I can get all agitated and join the Tea Party and be surrounded by agitated adults?

Who's pool did you last swim in?
The pool of good grammar, that's whose pool I visited.

Do your parents allow smoking inside your home?
Does anyone really smoke inside their house? Even the guy down the street from here has to stand out on the porch to hoove a Lucky, and it's his house!

If I came to your house, could I find any chocolate?
No, you would be SOL there, sorry.

Would you rather frolic through a field of daisies, sunflowers or daffodils?
Even as childlike as I am at times, I do not frolic, nor do I cavort or gambol. Prancing is also out.

What was the last thing that you charged?

Have plans for summer? If so, what?
August vacay in Cape May! Can't wait!

Are you avoiding anyone right now?
Billy Ray Cyrus. He wants to come over and sing that Achy-Breaky song some more.

What was the last song you had on repeat for a good while?
"A Month of Sundays" by Ernest Tubb.

What was the last thing you couldn't believe?
That hippopotami are vegetarians.

What scares you the most in life?
Dick Cheney.

When was the last time you tried not to cry?
Every day this spring, the pollen is making me cry.

Did you succeed?
Just call me "Mr Drippy"!

What do you hear?
Bing Crosby, "I Found a Million Dollar Baby"

Did you learn anything new today? If so, what?
That 90% of the tea partiers dislike the president but they all deny that there could be any racism in that.

What was the last movie you watched?
"Something Wild" with Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith.

Who or what caused you to be in the mood you're in now?
I'm generally happy and it's my responsibility to be so.

Ever wanted to tell someone something, but couldn't?
Oh heavens yes!

Do you believe in karma?
There's a lot of it going around!

When was the last time you felt like you were going to pass out?
It must have been when they doped me up for the colonoscopy.

What's the longest time you've held your breath?
January 20, 2001 - January 20, 2009.

What's your favorite type of donut?
I used to love Bavarian Cream, but no more donuts for this boy!

What was the last non-alcoholic beverage you consumed?

What color are your headphones?

How do you make money?
I work for the County.

How many people have you ever had oral sex with?
I love talking about sex!

What color is your wallet?
Brown leather. Cobwebs inside.

What's your favorite t.v show?
Family Guy.

Are you in love? With who?
Peggy since the first time I saw her.

What's your job title?
Public Information Specialist

Is the light on in the room you're in?
One lamp.

Favorite fruit:

Where is the person you dislike the most?
At an undisclosed location, preparing to go hunting.

How about the person you have feelings for?
Brushing her teeth!

Do you prefer glass or plastic cups?
It only matters for beer, and then I like a frozen glass glass.

Is your house big or small?
Pretty big for two people to rattle around in!

Can you whistle?
Yes but I wish I could do the finger-in-mouth type. So cool!

Has anybody ever been obsessed with you?
I wouldn't think so. I am not crush-worthy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I'm starting to see a conspiracy. It wasn't all that long ago that I spotted a screw that had nestled itself in Peggy's left front tire.

The other night I saw another screw - it might have been from the same family as the one Peggy ran afoul of - sticking out of the left front tire of my truck.

(George Carlin: "Did you ever have chicken for lunch and chicken for dinner and wonder if the two chickens knew each other?")

As I do for all things automotive, I scooted up to the fantastic Jones Toyota and let them work their wizardry. This one, alas, was a little deeper than the first. The car doc came out and told me that surgery was indicated, and the cost of the patch 'n' plug would be 45 bucks.

But I had bought the tire there! So the repair was free!

Of course, while I waited for the patient to be wheeled out to me, I wandered over and looked over the new cars and trucks. I am caught between conflicting emotions. It's not a dilemma, per se, because a dilemma is a choice between two unpleasant alternatives. The new vehicles are cool as a moose, no question, but a new Camry and a new Tacoma ( I want the full dual cab this time!) will be around 55 thousand semolians.

And on the other hand, the service guys tell me that the car and the truck will run forever. So why get rid of them, when a little routine maintenance will keep them on the road?

Since I like some of the features on these new cars, I guess I will eventually weaken... if nature keeps shoving screws into the tires and I spend enough time at the dealership, who knows?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Alice will help you, so go Cialis

Last weekend, the TODAY show interviewed some 18-year old who has just been elected mayor of Spoonlick, Wisconsin, or some other similarly-named burg. Jenna Wolfe interviewed him, and I had a bet going on with Peggy that at any moment the kid was going to answer her question with "Hyuk-hyuk!" or something else Stoogeworthy. For 18, he acted about 14, and a touch of sophistication is becoming to an elected official, for my money. Even for a little town out in middle of flyover country, you have to figure there is something important for the mayor to do, if it's only showing up at barn fires to hand out donuts to firefighters.

Do you remember the episode of Barney Miller in which Det. Harris went on vacation and brought Barney one of those corny bolo ties from Wyoming? And then Wojo is hypnotized to help him remember details of a case and starts going on about how "Harris brought one of those corny bolo ties and gave it to Barney as a joke! But Barney didn't know it was a joke, so he started wearin' it!"

I think it's much the same here. Not so long ago in Minnesota, a group of people thought they would send a significant message of their disdain with politics by voting for blockhead wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura to be governor of their state. Had just a couple of thousand people from the Great State of Minnesota voted for the burly grappler, perhaps everyone would have said, "Oh ha ha, that's funny; people voted for a wrestler for governor!" But no one organized the protest, and far too many people got in on the joke, and the entire state had to suffer through a term of his dunderheaded hamfisted rule until they wised up. Toward the end of his four-year reign, Ventura considered resignation so that his lieutenant governor, one Mae Schunk, could serve for a while, showing just how seriously the onetime member of the Mongols motorcycle club took his position. Next election, there were no gag candidates to be seen on the ballot, and order was restored.

I hope the good citizens of Earthworm WI are satisfied with a mayor who isn't old enough to drink with Jesse Ventura or join the police force, even if he does wear a bolo tie. Elections are serious business. Don't throw your vote away on some goofball, and be sure to call your doctor in case of an election lasting over four hours.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Voices Carry 'til Tuesday

When you were a kid, did your mom frequently have to remind you to "use your indoor voice"? Mine did not, but only because I tended not to come indoors unless the weather turned terribly inclement, and even then I enjoyed the out-of-doors from behind the door of my shed.

But at length I became accustomed to the ways of civilized living, in the fashion of The Wild Men of Borneo. And now that I spend that third of my day that I don't spend sleeping or reading in an office, I have come to comment on an odd way that some people choose to behave in an office setting.

And that is, they bellow and caterwaul and scream and bawl and roar and, sometimes, they yelp. They yak and yammer and ululate, howl and whoop. Now, I know that from time to time we all raise our voices in song, or protest, or exultation. (The appearance of Adam Lambert on a tv screen might bring on all three of these, and more.)

But if you work in an office, unless it's the office of a one-person lighthouse, you probably have encountered Mr or Ms Loudtalker. I know you've eaten dinner with them from time to time, not necessarily at the same table, but at the same diner. There just seems to be a law that people who feel the whole world is hanging on to hear their next anecdote about the time Aunt Charlene dropped the jello mold at Thanksgiving and how Duke lapped it up, so they entertain the grateful masses in the dining area.

Maybe that's why in all those old prison movies, there was a big sign that said "SILENCE" on the dining hall wall. No one wanted to hear crime stories as they spooned up their gruel.

Same at the office, but you will notice that in the office stories, instead of being the perpetrator of an offense, the loudspeaker is always the VICTIM of the offense, and will go on and on about how they work SO HARD for the benefit of SO MANY, only to be scorned and tossed aside like junk mail. Or they will tell how they give and give and give love to some unworthy mate, only to have horrid rejection tossed back at them.

And after all they've done for (him) (her) (them).

When I worked at 911, I would watch these Emergency Rescue 911 Squad shows on the tv, and was always interested to see that calltakers and dispatchers all over the country had their work areas pretty much looking like ours. It seemed like some sort of regulation to have each console outfitted with the remaining 1/8th of a roll of paper towels, a couple of map books, a drink in a Spil-Prufe container, and one of those "inspirational motivational" posters, usually showing a kitten in a tree with the slogan "Hang In There, Baby."

Workplace behavior is pretty much standardized. Would you like to see a system in which the Loudtalkers are traded like big-league outfielders? At least then, we'd all get to hear the story of Aunt Charlene's mold. And of Duke, who we all hope is a dog, and not her husband.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Horehound cough drops!

On the one hand, I am so grown up that I can but shake my graying head in bemused detachment as people heap scorn on the balding head of Oriole manager Dave Trembley. I hear them on these sports talk radio shows, and Ron From Perry Hall and Howie From Arbutus question Trembley's intelligence and baseball knowledge. Well, Ron and Howie, the chances are that Dave From Lake Placid might know a thing or two about how the game ought to be played. I dunno for sure, but when the Orioles were hiring a manager the last time, did anyone from the front office call 411 to get the listing for Ron From Perry Hall or Howie From Arbutus to offer one of them the top spot in the O's dugout?

And you could look it up, but I'm fairly certain there is a rule that says the manager has to stay on or near the bench, and is not allowed out on the field to throw pitches, swing a bat or field balls batted by the other team. RFPH and HFA might wish to direct a certain portion of their vitriol toward the people in orange and black who are being paid a whole bundle of semolians to pitch, hit and field that old baseball.

Advice for Mr Trembley: look into existentialism. You are only responsible for your own actions. Mr Millwood threw a ball that someone hit over the fence. Mr Tejada failed to field a ball that someone hit toward third base. The entire team scored two (2) runs total in two (2) games this past Sat and Sun. None of this is the manager's fault. But it must be fun to call a radio show and vent.

On the other hand, now that I have demonstrated the mature, reasoned approach that (almost) three-score years on this earth have given me, I throw some yang on my yin long enough to direct the curious to a website that is known as a free online dictionary of English pronunciation. I refer to it often to avoid those embarrassing mistakes of pronunciation - when you use a word such as ''demimonde,'' it's crucial to say it properly - and, yes, I like to click on words not normally used in polite company just to hear the disembodied mechanical voice say them for me. You know that the announcer had to record all these one day, and you wonder how many takes it took for him to get a good recording of how to say "poophead."

Go ahead and click on it. You know you want to!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

If u can rd ths u can gt a gud job

As I was saying, I like long sentences, long words and a full expression of thought. For example, a lesser writer might possibly have come up with the idea to take a real-life story and write it in the style of a work of fiction, which is what Truman Capote did when he helped found the New Journalism with the publication of In Cold Blood in 1965. But a lesser writer would have written something like:

"Dry and flat, western Kansas has a lot of wheat farms and wheat farmers."

Whereas Capote captivates the reader with his opening paragraphs:

"THE village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

Holcomb, too, can be seen from great distances. Not that there is much to see--simply an aimless congregation of buildings divided in the center by the main-line tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad, a haphazard hamlet bounded on the south by a brown stretch of the Arkansas (pronounced "Ar-kan-sas") River, on the north by a highway, Route 50, and on the east and west by prairie lands and wheat fields. After rain, or when snowfalls thaw, the streets, unnamed, unshaded, unpaved, turn from the thickest dust into the direst mud. At one end of the town stands a stark old stucco structure, the roof of which supports an electric sign--DANCE--but the dancing has ceased and the advertisement has been dark for several years. Nearby is another building with an irrelevant sign, this one in flaking gold on a dirty window--HOLCOMB BANK. The bank closed in 1933, and its former counting rooms have been converted into apartments. It is one of the town's two "apartment houses," the second being a ramshackle mansion known, because a good part of the local school's faculty lives there, as the Teacherage. But the majority of Holcomb's homes are one-story frame affairs, with front porches.

Down by the depot, the postmistress, a gaunt woman who wears a rawhide jacket and denims and cowboy boots, presides over a falling-apart post office. The depot itself, with its peeling sulphur-colored paint, is equally melancholy; the Chief, the Super-Chief, the El Capitan go by every day, but these celebrated expresses never pause there. No passenger trains do--only an occasional freight. Up on the highway, there are two filling stations, one of which doubles as a meagerly supplied grocery store, while the other does extra duty as a café--Hartman's Café, where Mrs. Hartman, the proprietress, dispenses sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and 3.2 beer. (Holcomb, like all the rest of Kansas, is "dry.") "

Unbound by any constraint, Capote carved a career of florid and descriptive writing that will be enjoyed as long as there is paper or even a computer screen from which to read it.

Bound by constraint, no one can compose anything better than a bloated haiku in the consarned form of text messages. 160 characters! Tom Wolfe used that many characters just as an onomatopoetic background for many of his essays:

"Not bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, but bama bampa barama bam bammity bam bam bammity barampa FIRE! was the first thing she thought of because nobody ever banged on your apartment door in a building like this nobody would be so impolite as to even rap on your door with his knuckles unannounced in a building like this much less bang on it with both fists for this was not one fist pounding on the door but both fists bama barampa bam bam bammity barampa bam bam—"

That's from Wolfe's 2007 essay "The Pirate Pose," concerning the hedge fund manager culture. Vivid and descriptive, am I wrong?

I got off on this tangent because, sitting in the hospital yesterday waiting for nerve conductivity tests, I idly passed time erasing old text messages from my cell...and someone said life is not fulfilling and enriching? And then my thoughts turned to Lincoln. And what about if he were alive today? For one thing, he'd be very very old, and for another, he would not be traveling from DC to Gettysburg by train. He'd jet up there in Air Force One, so there would be no time to find an old envelope and scrawl:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

And we would be a poorer nation for that, because Abe of Today would text:

"4 skor & 7 yrs ago our fathers brot 4th on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty & dedicated to the prop that all men r cre8ed =.Now we r engaged"

and that's 160 characters, and Abe would be out of space, and someone would think he was getting married again!

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's on the Best Cell-er List

I have a bizarre fascination with prison life, mainly centered on making sure I never have to live it. I'm reasonably certain that I would not be a model inmate, and so I don't want to be any sort of inmate at all. When those iron doors clang behind you, it must be the worst kind of feeling. Isn't that right, Kiefer?

A woman named Piper Kerman (can you not just picture her, having a Tom Collins after a tough tennis match with someone named Muffy?) got mixed up with drug lords as she left college, and worked with them as a money laundress. By the time the Feds caught up with her, she had already moved on past that career and had begun another. Perhaps she should have begun career #2 in some foreign land without an extradition treaty with the US, because she was easy to find in San Francisco, and went to the Iron Bar Hilton for a stay.

OK, it happens a lot. People go wrong for a variety of reasons, and she went off to the calaboose and did her time, and has now written a book about it all. Ah, another story of American redemption. But as I read the review of the book in "Entertainment Weekly," which is, I know, like looking for baseball standings in the Congressional Record, I see that while Ms Kerman was cooling her well-shod heels in the hoosegow, her grandmother died. That had to be tough, but as not tough as reading that she was "unable to penetrate the faceless bureaucracy to obtain a furlough."

Now. I have no children, but I do know that it's an ineffective punishment to send little Egbert or Ursula up to their room for two hours of reflective penitence, only to call them back down in fifteen minutes because there's a new episode of "iCarly" that they really ought to see. You do the crime, you do the time, as the expression goes. So, what kind of prison system is it that allows inmates to get out for a few days to attend the funeral of a relative? You're in prison. You did something bad. You are being deprived of your liberty to come and go as you see fit so that you can be taught a lesson. Sorry about your grandmother, and you could have gone to her funeral had you not committed felonies.

The review goes on to say that the horrible tedious humdrum life of a prisoner was occasionally broken for Ms Kerman when her fellow inmates made her prison cheesecake and prison enchiladas. Whatever happened to the old time prisons that we saw in movies with George Raft in them, where the silent prisoners walked through a cafeteria line and were given a ladle's worth of gruel, a piece of bread and coffee in a tin cup? And on nights when the gruel was not quite up to snuff, some con would stand and holler, "I ain't eatin' this slop" shortly before being bastinadoed by 127 guards.
I guess that in the modern slammer, an Inmate Grievance Committee would get text messages from some fish who thought the halibut not flaky enough tonight, and the coffee weak.

I guess this vignette hits a note with me because my father lost both his father and then later, his mother, while he was away fighting in World War II. And neither time was he allowed to come home to mourn.
I know it's comparing apples and baseball gloves, and it might surprise some to find me taking an illiberal stance, but prison furloughs don't appeal to someone wordy as I am, who is so fond of long sentences.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lyric Theatre 4/11/10

Today in the Lyric Theatre we salute Billy Joe Shaver and his great song "Georgia on a Fast Train."

In other news, Billy Joe himself had a bit of a close shave this week, but in the end, Texas justice prevailed, and he was acquitted on that little ol' charge of shooting some other guy in a bar in Waco. Read the story though, so you can see how it is in the lives of people who bicker in bars, shoot at people, and then hope to become friends with the victim, following a trial which numbered Willie Nelson among the courtroom spectators.

You know how they say the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation? "They," in this case, means Thoreau, Henry David, and you have to figure that if he were around today he would probably have built his hut in Austin TX to get a foothold in the world of country ballad writing. Mr Shaver rejects that life of quiet desperation as well, preferring the loud report of a .22 in the palm of his hand to a more reasoned approach.

But he can write a song, I want to tell you. Lyrics to "Georgia on a Fast Train":

On a rainy Wednesday morning that's the day that I was born on
In that old sharecropper's one room country shack
They say my mammy left me, same day that she had me
Said she hit the road and never once looked back

And I just thought I'd mention, my Grandma's old age pension
Is the reason why I'm standing here today
I got all my country learning, living and a churning
Pickin' cotton, raisin' hell, and bailin' hay

I've been to Georgia on a fast train honey
I wasn't born no yesterday
Got a good Christian raisin' and an eighth grade education
Ain't no need in y'all a treatin' me this way

And now sweet Carolina, I don't guess I'll ever find
Another woman put together like you all
With your wiggle and your walkin', and your big city talkin'
Your brand new shiny Plymouth rag-top car

Yeah it's hurry up and wait, in this world of give and take
Seems like haste it makes for waste every time
And I pray to my soul, when you hear those ages roll
You better know I'm gonna get my share of mine

I've been to Georgia on a fast train honey
I wasn't born no yesterday
Got a good Christian raisin' and an eighth grade education
Ain't no need in y'all a treatin' me this way

So, just because someone seems backward and unsophisticated, there's no justification for picking on them. You never know who knows what!

I sure don't.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Smokin' in the Boys' Room

News Item:

DENVER -- An envoy from Qatar who authorities said grabbed a surreptitious smoke in a jetliner's bathroom and then joked about lighting his shoe on fire, sparking a bomb scare and the scrambling of military jets, has been released from custody.

No explosives were found on the Washington-to-Denver flight. Authorities speaking on condition of anonymity said they don't think the envoy was trying to hurt anyone during Wednesday's scare and he will not be criminally charged.

Brown Lloyd James, a law firm representing the Qatar embassy, said Thursday morning that the diplomat, Mohammed Al-Madadi, had been released by authorities after questioning and was on his way back to Washington. The firm said Al-Madadi is the embassy's third secretary.

Say, Moe...listen. There is nothing worse than forced humor, with the possible exception of sticking cloves in a ham. And from what I heard today, you are on the way back home to Qatar. Causing a big commotion on an American jet plane and making a joke about it is not what we want to laugh at.

What we want to laugh at is a new episode of "Modern Family," but there wasn't one this week. Maybe Moh figured he would step up and fill the void with his knee-cracking side-splitter about making it look like he was trying to set off a shoe bomb while sucking the nicotine out of a Marlboro in a jetliner restroom.

A few years ago, Moh was probably the guy hanging around the ticket line and pretending to see a friend across the way, hollering, "Hi, Jack!" I tell you, that's a surefire laugh-getter.

He's also the kind of guy who asks tall people,"How's the weather up there?" and asks bald guys to wear a hat to cut down on the glare and says "What can I do you for?" and "Are you working hard, or hardly working?" and need I go on? Many of us know this guy, many of us work with him, and in some cases, people we know are so unlucky as to sleep one pillow away from him.

Music is the universal language. Dumb jokes are the universal tool of the middling intellect. I imagine old Moh is getting big yuks back home today as he spins the tale of engendering fear and panic over the American midwest.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Wrong number - I mean to dial 9 - 1 - 2 !"

Man oh man, did I have a great time the other day! After work, some of the old gang from when I worked at 911 was having a little meetup at the Firehouse Tavern over near our place. So many of the old gang have retired, and I would have joined them already, except for a mathematical error. The error was, I forgot to figure that if I wanted to retire in my 50's, I would have to start a 30-year career in my 20's, and of course, I spent the greater part of that decade playing Conway Twitty records on the radio, stocking grocery shelves with ginger ale, Vienna sausage and Fig Newtons, and taking part in scientific research exploring the amount of Budweiser® beer than could be poured down one's neck before one began singing Faron Young's "It's Four in the Morning" over and over at two in the morning.

As I sat in the tavern, belting back bottled water (!) my mind drifted back as we spun tale after tale. One of the greatest parts of swappin' yarns with these guys and gals is that no one has to make anything up or even exaggerate the facts of the stories. And no matter how many times we hear it, the tales of the people who thought there were real live (?) ghosts in the closet, or the women who called with abdominal cramps and denied being pregnant, only to have a baby's head present itself during the call, or the people who called at quarter til midnight just to see if 911 was "still open," the tales spin themselves, and we are caught up in the weave of the yarn.

But now as we unravel it all, there's more of a sense of pride in looking back over a career of accomplishment. All the hassles, the red tape, the blizzards and thunderstorms, the power outages, the petty rules ("no coats on the backs of chairs," "no non-work-related art work on the walls") seem to drift off with the other flotsam of life, and the important thing is the fellowship, the friendship, the stuff you can't get in any other way but through years and years of camaraderie.

Some of the gang are still working. Some of the retirees are taking it easy, some have taken other work, and some are doing different things altogether. One of the women and her wife have taken in a niece whose family life came unraveled a year or so ago, and after literally being on the streets for a year, this young lady has come to live with them. Are there issues; are there problems? You bet there are, and not easy ones, either. Helping a teenager reach adulthood prepared for life is challenging under the best conditions, and surely, dealing with someone who was tossed into the air to see where she would land is a parlous undertaking.

But you can bet I'm gonna bet on them to make it work out fine. The young lady is sweet and charming, and when one of the women helping to prepare her for adulthood is someone who dealt with three decades of fires, shootings, stabbings, lost children, parking complaints, traffic wrecks and life wrecks, you know that nothing is going to slow her down.

I spent an hour with people who have been part of my life for almost three decades. Of course, when I finished my bottle of water and headed home, people knew that it was because if I'm not with Peggy, I'm trying to be. Bless us all, old friends and new, and sweet, sweet love.