Monday, May 31, 2010

Survey Says! m - z

Magazine: The New Yorker
Mall: Harford
Man: Garrison Keillor
Meal: Weekend breakfast
Meat: rare beef
Memory: 6/21/73, meeting my beloved
Metal: Mötley Crüe
Milk: 2%
Month: December
Mountain: Firstthereisa
Movie: Wedding Crashers
Number: 8
Occupation: Public Information
Ocean: Atlantic
Park: Memorial Stadium
Perfume: Britney Spears
Pet: cat
Phone: 800 588 2300
Phrase: "Are you being served?"
Place: Right here, right now
Planet: Earth
Plant: Robert
President: Carter
Quote: "They gave each other a smile with a future in it" - Ring Lardner
Relative: not opening this can of worms!
Restaurant: Friendly Farm
Rollercoaster: Gwynn Oak
School: U of Alabama
Season: Fall
Shampoo: whatever I wash my face with
Shape: kidney
Shirt: T
Show: Life Unexpected
Sibling: Robin
Smell: pit beef
Soda: none
Song: "Don't She Look Good" - Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours
Sport: Baseball
State: New Jersey
Station: WYPR
Stone: Keith Richards
Store: Dollar Tree
Street: Beach Drive, Cape May NJ
Subject: English Lit
Superhero: Wonder Woman
Taste: Bacon
Teacher: Mr Kotter
Team: Ravens
Tree: Dollar
Truck: My Tacoma
Uncle: Sam
Vacation: Cape May or Williamsburg
Vegetable: Kale
Vehicle: Ides of March
Weapon: Unfound WMDs
Weather: 39°, chilly, rainy, windy
Website: Facebook
Wine: Boone's Farm
Woman: duh
Word: douchebag
Year: 2013
Zodiac: Moonchild
Zoo: Cape May County

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Survey Says! A-L

Actor: Bruce Willis
Actress: Traylor Howard
Alcohol: Beer
Animal: Lambchop
Apple: Granny Smith
Artist: Norman Rockwell
Athlete: Johnny Unitas
Aunt: Auntie Em
Baby: she knows who
Ball: base
Band: Love
Beach: Cape May
Beer: Boh Ice
Book: Catcher in the Rye
Boys Name: Elvis
Brand: Lazy 'C' Ranch
Candy: none
Car: Camry
Cartoon: Woody Woodpecker
Catalog: LL Bean or Ed E. Bauer
Cereal: Homemade granola
Channel: 45
Church: Towson UMC
City: Lake Wobegon
College: U of Alabama
Cologne: English Leather (aftershave)
Color: Brown
Comedy: Jackass
Costume: south end of a two-person horse
Country: old skool twang
Cousin: Minnie Pearl
Day: Satur
Dinosaur: Dick Cheney
Dog: Marmaduke
Electronic: iPod
Flower: black-eyed Susan
Food: waffles
Friend: Peggy!
Fruit: lemon
Game: crazy 8's
Girls Name: Mildred
Hobby: reading old LIFE magazines
Holiday: Christmas
Ice Cream: Haagen-Dazs
IM Service: Comcast
Insect: Walking Stick
Jewelry: wedding band
Job: personal assistant to Ms Spears
Juice: cider
Kid: Rock
Lake: Wobegon
Language: English

more tomorrow!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

As I ponder, weak and weary

Will you pardon me for just having a couple of spiritual moments here? I know that I am self-expository to a degree that would cause Freud to shake his beard from side to side, but I consider my readers friends and my friends, readers, so I tend to share my thoughts here. Peggy, on the other hand, writes in her non-online journal every night, purely for self-expression. She looks back over the older entries from time to time, but I have never ever so much as touched one of her journals, which date back to like 1847. It's the difference between her and me, that she is private with her thoughts, which, I can assure you, are far more profound that my erratic ravings.

I'll pause while you leap to my defense.



I've just come off a very uncomfortable 48 hours of waiting for some news about a friend who slipped off the radar the other night, after some unpleasantness with someone else. I am not a patient person when it comes to the welfare of others, so I fretted and knit my brows and imagined dozens of horrible scenarios and prayed a lot. I just saw a slogan that someone posted that said "God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no." Well, God heard my entreaties and finally decided to have someone get in touch with me and let me know what was going on. That person told me the latest updates; no need to go into detail here, but here's the funny thing. The messenger that God chose to hip me to this whole thing turned out to be someone whose loyalty I previously questioned, and here they are, the one link that I could count on, after all.

And then tonight I got the official death notice for another friend, a fellow who served in the county Fire Department for the length of a fine career and retired to be a local handyman kind of guy. Gosh, what a happy soul he was. He spent all his days and nights trying to help other people, whether in putting out the fire in their living room or rewiring the lamp in the foyer. He was a devout Christian, and he didn't mind sharing that with people either. But he had a series of strokes recently and was removed from life support.

So, this weekend I am dealing with a life that's been saved and a life that has ended, and of course the backdrop for the weekend is Memorial Day, and all that means to all of us. My mom was engaged to a man during WWII; he was killed in action when the plane he was flying was shot down. When my sister and I were kids, she spoke of him and his death, but in that way that people who have lived through a war have of nobly rising above the individual pain and mourning en masse. She had other friends who lost boyfriends, and she knew other guys who went to fight for freedom and never came back.

Death. Life. Second chances. How does it work out that I have been given so much in life, and have I told you how much I appreciate you for being in my life? Because, I do, the reason I bring it all up.

Friday, May 28, 2010

LL Cool Jail

Since no one else will do it, I am going to step up to the plate here and say a few words in support of someone whose embattled status has made them an object of scorn, and I don't know why all this had to happen.
Speaking of Lindsay Lohan here. I happen to think that she is a very talented actress, and I base that on seeing her in two movies and around ten thousand celebrity-based "news" shows, websites and YouTube extravaganzas. In her day, she was an exceptionally lovely young lady, and those good looks, coupled with the ability to assume a different persona as an actress, should have led her to a successful career, with professional advancement and personal contentment.

But no. Didn't happen. Young Lindsay was a child model and actress, and her first starring role as a movie actress was in the remake of "The Parent Trap," a new version of a movie that I saw as a kid myself, with Hayley Mills in the lead. Lindsay was amazing in that film, and I was not the only person who felt that she surpassed Ms Mills in playing the twin roles as separate kids, not just two kids with different accents. The fact that she was cute as a bug when she was little, and so charming in the movie, led moviegoers (and cheapskates such as I, who watched it on Encore years later) to feel that LL had a bright career path ahead.

Next time I saw her was in the movies, and Peggy and I actually went to a theater to see what I call "Mr Keillor's movie," the film version of "A Prairie Home Companion," the radio show that 90%** of the world listens to on Saturday evenings from 6 to 8 pm on a public station near you. Mr Keillor is Garrison Keillor, and he hired Lindsay to play Lola Johnson, daughter of Meryl Streep, for the movie. LL sang a great version of "Frankie and Johnnie" in the picture. Mr Keillor said that he was not really aware that she was a tabloid media sensation at the time of the filming, and said she showed up on time, knew her lines, sang her song live and got it right on the first take, and was no problem on the set at all. Ms Streep, who for all her greatness does occasionally fall back on the arcane jargon of her trade, was quoted as saying, "She's in command of the art form" and "completely, visibly living in front of the camera." Which is like having Jimi Hendrix say that you can play a guitar pretty well, or Bing Crosby attesting to your singing ability.

Maybe Lindsay should spend more time in front of movie cameras and less in front of snappin' paparazzi, because her talent is really wasted lately. Let's be honest: it appears that she became a drug and alcohol abuser , and those wondering why need look no further than her mixed-up family life. Her mother is a former Rockette who pushed her kids into show business, her father has substance abuse and criminal problems of his own, and Lindsay was probably the grown-up of the family by the time she turned 11. Seems to me that a kid can only handle so much of that pressure before they crack under it, and so many times you see kids living in an all-adult world making money in a year that most adults won't make in a career, and they are pushed from all sides until they finally come out, broken and messy. It would appear that LL broke, fell in with fast companions, partied it up til Tuesday, and now this. She failed to attend enough of the alcohol diversion classes she was sent to by the court following a DWI arrest, and so she was hauled into court. Except, she failed to appear in court and sent her mouthpiece to the hearing with a lame excuse about LL's passport being stolen, and she's stuck in France. And then Saturday, whoops, here's the passport, here comes Lindsey home, and she goes to the hearing and pitches a fit because she will have to wear a secure continuous remote alcohol monitor, better known as a SCRAM anklet. And her attorney tries to tell the judge that LL is making a movie and having to wear the unsightly monitor will hold up production, especially on those shots where camera lovingly pans the ankles of the star. And of course, if she can't drink without the telltale tale-teller strapped to her ankle...

Lindsay. You don't know me, but I like your acting and I think you still have something to offer to the world. And the great part of writing this is knowing that you're about as likely to see it as I am about to see any of the SAW movies, but I send this thought to you across the miles...Look down at that monitor. It's on your ankle, right above your Achilles heel, and for you, that should serve as reminder of the many figurative Achilles heels that are sending you to hell on earth right now. Forget the family weirdness, the fake friends, the booze, the drugs, the all-night lifestyle. Be the actress you were born to be. If there's a Prairie Home Companion II or a Parent Trap, Junior, I will be there and so will Peggy, and there's your comeback ticket.

The great philosopher Mr Lou Diamond Phillips said, "Stars don't fall from the sky." Prove it!

**rough estimate based on what I wish was true.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Drop It Low

We've all heard of flying squirrels, which are just squirrels with a capelike flap from their front paws to their torsos, which enables them to glide from a tree branch to wherever.

We've all heard of flying fish, those fish who jump out of the water and dive right back in, so they don't "fly" in the technical sense of the word, either.

The Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship in maritime lore, which is supposedly doomed to sail the seas forever. Sail, not fly.

What we often call a fruit bat is known as a flying fox in far-flung outposts such as Australia. At least these guys fly!

What brings up all this flying talk is the preponderance of television commercials for restaurants in which food is just flying through the air. Chili's, TGI Friday's, Wendy's, Red Lobster, no matter whose spot you see, there are pieces of sliced red pepper or french fries or breaded soon-to-be-fried chunks o'chicken just plummeting earthward, bouncing out of fry vats and onto plates brought to you by people who look like they're never even BEEN in a chain eatery, let alone work in one.

And how many of us have eaten a crispy, batter-coated fried green bean? But here they come, falling from somewhere up above, landing on the plate, being dunked into dip and consumed by a happy bunch of people who are really having the time of their lives at Friday's!

Next time you're watching tv, check and see how much food there is dropping and bouncing and getting merry like Thanksgiving. We were with friends once, waiting for a booth at Chili's, and it took about an hour or so, as we sat there in the tiny anteroom that serves as a holding pen for the Great Unseated and Unserved. The only things that were dropping out there in the foyer were starving, unfed, would-be patrons. I was so hungry, I even would have eaten a fried string bean.

Or not.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paul Bearer

Two weeks ago, most of us would have been stumped by the question, "Who is Rand Paul?"

(I would have guessed that he was the compiler of atlases, along with his partner McNally.)

But he's the Teabag Party Republican winner of the Kentucky senatorial primary election, vying for the honor of replacing Jim Bunning, widely regarded as the worst senator in captivity. He's also the son of Ron Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas who describes himself as "America's leading voice for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies." I wanna party with you, cowboy. He's also a man who opposed a resolution saluting the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, widely regarded as one of the great laws given us by Congress, except that Rep. Paul and his son wish to reserve the right of business owners to be racist. Rand says he abhors racial discrimination, but isn't so sure that the government has the right to tell bar owners that they have to allow everyone in their saloons.

And then Rand came up with this quote: "I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen" to remind us that we shouldn't get so doggone mad at BP for spoiling the Gulf of Mexico.

And then he got exhausted. He just won this primary a few days ago, and he cancelled a scheduled appearance on this past Sunday's "Meet The Press" on NBC - just the third person in six decades to cancel on that show - because he's just so tired. And, "MTP" host David Gregory cited additional comments by Mr. Paul that he had decided to cut back on television appearances "to avoid the liberal bias of the media."

Son. You're running for the Senate, you tell us you're not so sure that the Civil Rights Act was fair to rednecks, you're quick to defend oil companies as the "black gold Texas tea" keeps spewing into the Gulf, and you're tired already?

Oh, and did I mention that he's an ophthalmologist? Maybe he could take a few minutes and open up his own eyes. After he catches up on his rest, you understand.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some time in Penn's Sylvania

It was off to Pennsylvania for your faithful correspondent and his lovely wife last week. We took a spring vacation in Lancaster, PA, home of the Amish community.

It's maybe 60 miles from our house, the Lazy 'C' Ranch, but in many ways, it's like 6,000 miles away. For one thing, it's exceedingly rare to see a horse and buggy clomping along a street in Baltimore County. In fact, I'd say it hasn't happened for many years here. If there was one on our streets, the logical supposition would be that someone stole the rig from Lancaster and clopped all the way home with it. But in Lancaster County, people just live together nicely. Sometimes you get stuck behind a horse carriage, and so what? You're in such a rush already? The Amish people are very nice; they just mainly would prefer to be left alone to live their lives as they wish.

And you've never seen so many clotheslines in your life! You can drive around our town from sunup to sundown and not see clothes hanging on a line. I suppose this is for two reasons, the first being that our air is not quite so clean and pure as it is in the non-industrial farm area. If you hang some nice white sheets out at 10 am, you might find them a tad dingy by 4, tainted with smog, smoke and fog. And also, let's be honest here. If you hang out a week's worth of laundry in the morning and leave the house to go to work or the Try 'n' Buy, you might just come home to find yourself short a couple of pairs of shorts. Everybody's talking about that "Pants on the Ground" guy - you might find your pants on the guy two blocks down. For these reasons, we tend to dry our duds in the Maytag, and envy those who can use clotheslines for that natural outdoorsy scent that no amount of chemically-saturated polyester Bounce® towelettes can add.

It's an interesting environment. Besides the Amish lifestyle tourist spots, the local crafts, bakeries and antique shops, there are giant outlet malls right on the main highway. These malls attract busloads of people coming from all over to load up on Calvin Klein and DKNY and I don't know what-all else at discount prices. The cultural juxtaposition of seeing Vinnie Barbarino from da Bronx being waited on by Rebecca Faith Holtzapple, and realizing that we are certainly a diverse salad of people and folkways, is endlessly fascinating to me.

Lancaster County is a tad bit north of us, but from the looks of things, they have the worst weather in the world, because every ten feet you see a school bus shelter where the kids can huddle together to fend off the gales, the tornadoes and the typhoons that must come through every morning. You never see these things around here, and I can only attribute their presence in PA to a heightened concern for the well-being of the kids, and their absence here to concerns that who knows what the local youths would be up to or down to inside a shelter. Chances are that many of them would tunnel their way to freedom from the shelter floor. I certainly would have.

But all kids have their ways. In the Amish culture, when a child turns 16, male or female, they are allowed to go on a "rumspringa." The German word means "running around," and that's what they get to do - drink a beer, smoke a Marlboro
, ride around in a car, wear jeans and t-shirts, and see if they like that worldly life. If they wish to stay gone, that's it; they leave their church and family and go do whatever. If they come back and join the church, they are there for life or face "shunning" if they violate church tenets later. Most likely, they will come back and remain in their faith for a lifetime.

To tell you the truth, the more I see of our modern technology-enriched, crime-ridden, Gulf-ruining world, the more value I see in theirs. Young Amish, my advice would be, come visit and then go back where it's gentler.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Yes, I steal these surveys

Do you think your ex still wants to be with you?
I'll tell you what, let's call her up down at the old folks home and ask her!

Has a girlfriend ever put alcohol/drugs before you?
There were a couple who needed to be pretty shahfazzed to go out with me, but otherwise, no.

Do you honestly have feelings for someone at the moment?
Yes I do. Hi, Peggy!

Do you like when people call you things like "baby", "sweetie", "hun", etc?
It just means they can't remember my real name, buddy!

Let's say you had a baby with the last person you kissed?
I would need to call a certain urologist and see how long the warranty is on his vasectomies.

Will this Friday be a good one?
No. Good Friday takes place right before Easter. Next Friday will be a splendid one, though.

What's wrong with you right now?
If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that question. What's wrong with you??? asked parents, teachers, friends, wife, the guy at the body-and-fender repair shop...

Have you been a happy, angry, or sad person lately?
I am happy. I don't see any point in being otherwise. I figure, if you're not enjoying this life, when are you going to start?

Are you wasting your time on someone?
Time spent with people one cares about is never wasted.

What's the most important part of a relationship, in your opinion?
As a successful contestant in a 37-year marriage, I have to say there are many things that make for a good relationship, but the presence of trust and the absence of jealousy have to be at the top.

Where do you wish you were right now?
See, now here's the thing. Too much wishing, not enough fishing. As the great sage Marv Levy, former coach of the Buffalo Bills, put it, "Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?" Enjoy what you're doing, plan to do new things in new places if that's what you want, but don't spend too much time in "A" wishing you were at "B," be my advice.

When's the last time you cried yourself to sleep?
It never happened.

Is it okay to kiss people when you're single?
OK, well there are kisses and there are kisses, and there are hugs and there are hugs. The first kind of either is fine. And you know the difference right in your heart.

Have you ever broken anyone's heart?
Yes, but it was because I stayed, not because I left.

Have you ever been in a perfect relationship?
The one that began in June, 1973, seems to be doing pretty well, yes!

Is there a person that will always have a place in your heart?
Many people and the list can always grow.

Are you trying to avoid liking somebody at the moment?
I am not in control of my emotions to a point where I can tell myself not to like someone I like, or not to dislike someone I find loathsome.

Does someone like you right now?
Yes. Peggy has indicated a certain depth of affection that bids fair to last for several centuries.

Do you know anyone that smokes pot?
This being the USA in the year 2010, why not just say, "Do you know anyone?" Of course I know some heads, but I let them go do their thing without me. A lot of the time, they're just blowing smoke.

Are you nice to the people you dislike?
I can be civil. Is that OK? Civil and professional as required, I can do that, but I am the worst actor in the world, save Jim Belushi, so I can't fake anything.

Do you have someone you can spill your heart out to?

What are you excited for?
Every single moment of every single day!

Are you and the last person you kissed in a relationship or just friends?
Married to her.

Honestly, what's on your mind?
All right, since you asked...I was wondering why my favorite band, Love, from the 60's never reached greater success or commercial appeal. They did everything well, but perhaps the eccentricities and criminal tendencies of their leader, Arthur Lee, did them in.

Your ex shows up randomly at your house, what do you say?
"Do you need a ride back to the home?"

Is there anyone you wish was still in your life?
Sure, we all miss people who have left our lives in various ways. But I like to think of how their lives enriched mine, and figure we'll meet again someday somewhere.

Is there a person that you would do absolutely anything and everything for?
Many. If you're reading this, you may very well be one of them.

Have you ever really been in love?
Since 6/21/73.

Would you rather date someone who is extremely protective or not protective at all?
Protective is good, but some people step right over the line from protective to possessive and jealous, and then it's time to scram.

Are you a jealous person?
I sure try not to be, and I don't think I am.

Have you ever fallen asleep on someone?
Literally on someone? Couldn't give you a bigger 'no' on that one.

What's something you really want right now?
A suede jacket with fringe, and an autographed picture of Randolph Mantooth.

What was the first thing you did this morning?
And then I got dressed and went to get us some breakfast.

Who ya 'tappin'?
The shoulder of the person ahead of me in the line at the MVA. That's what you meant, right?

What is the highlight of your year so far?
It's a tie among all the times that Peggy has smiled at me.

Are relationships ever worth it?
Yes, I think they are. I find that it's amazing to strike up a friendship with someone you have known for many years, and the same goes for someone you just met. I love people; I guess it shows.

So, doing much tonight?
Watched the O's....cooked dinner...filled out a survey...

Whats your last text message say? Who's it from?
Talking to a police friend about a new dispatcher and asking him to keep an ear out for her on the radio, since she's also a friend.

So you're at a party, and some random grabs your ass. You react by..?
Turning around and saying, "Hey! Some dude just grabbed Dick Cheney!"

Are you single?
No siree Bob!

Because I took one look at Peggy and the thunderclap from heaven told me to marry her as quickly as possible.

Do you like that?
It's the best thing I have ever done.

Do you like where you live?
Uh yeah, we chose to live here. I was a little nervous one day because the new guy moving in down the street looked a lot like Bill Cowher, and I thought, great, there goes the neighborhood.

What's the first thing you thought about the person you like?
Gee, what a pretty girl.

Your best friend's name?

Sunrise or Sunset?
I like either one, but please don't try to interest me in driving someplace to see either one in person.

Coke or pepsi?
I gave up soda for water, but I was quite the avid Coke consumer.

Ever been in a verbal fight?
I am a man of obdurate stubbornness when opinions are being tossed around, so I'll go a round or two.

What about physical?
Yes but not for many years. That sort of thing loses its appeal past one's teen years, unless one is Mel Gibson or some other jackass.

Ever been in trouble with the police?
"Ever been convicted of a felony?"
"Convicted? No."

You lost your virginity in what year?
Yes, I did. You should have been there. Maybe you were. Are you blond, with sort of a lisp and a giggle?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

So THAT'S what his problem is!

(Ed. Note: This is a rerun from March, 2009. Seems like long ago, but not really!)

from Wikipedia: (because I'm not clever enough to make this up!)
Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri-Marie Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio. Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in Florentine art, especially at the Uffizi, dating from the early 19th century on, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence. The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982[citation needed]. The term is often used when describing the reactions of audiences to music of the Romantic period.

Sorry, but the following persons, places, things or concepts will cause me to be overcome , resulting in disorientation, dizziness, palpitations, and sweating, with symptoms lasting two to eight days...

Peggy, Britney Spears, Alexis Grace, the new prosecutor on Law & Order, a whole-wheat crust veggie pizza with the lo-fat cheese melted just ever so, a really well-constructed BLT, TBS, CNN, The Simpsons, Family Guy, the music of Elvis, the wit and wisdom of Keith Olbermann, walking around Harford Mall, Mila Kunis, The New Yorker, the smell of Old Bay seasoning, the taste of Old Bay seasoning, a look of love from a little child, walking the bayside Promenade at Havre de Grace, poems by John Updike, novels by Jack Kerouac, nonfiction by Tom Wolfe, my iPod, the first ten minutes of "Wedding Crashers", giving gifts, riding around looking at Christmas lights, diner food, the music of LOVE, Daedalus Books, my cup of coffee after dinner, visiting Williamsburg, dinner by candlelight, the very concept of Kid Rock, my old skool country, Ring Lardner and Jennifer Love Hewitt. And Peggy some more.

Oh well, now, at least there's a name for it!

"I'm gonna be silly for a while"!
"OK, I guess it's that doggone Stendahl Syndrome actin' up again!"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Profiles in Courage

On my reading shelf these days, you'll find Jonathan Eig's "Opening Day," the story of Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball with the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers.

I believe that more people should read about and know the Jackie Robinson story. He was an Army officer during WWII and played college football and ran track at UCLA. Jackie was a tremendous athlete in many sports, and probably would have played pro football, had the NFL not been a far distant second in popularity to baseball in those days. He was signed by the Dodgers and given a year of on-the-job training in the minor leagues and then given the first base position for the '47 season.

And you would have thought that it was 1847, not 1947, the way people reacted. Some teams threatened to boycott Dodger games. Fans in several cities, most notably Philadelphia, reacted vehemently in the stands, raining down vile verbal abuse, but in Philly, they were only following the lead of their manager, Ben Chapman, who had to be reprimanded by the commissioner of baseball for his behavior. Death threats, sent in the anonymity that often cloaks cowardice, were delivered almost daily. Every time Jackie leaned over to take a throw from another infielder, every time he strode to the plate, he had to wonder if this would be the day some nut would shoot him from the stands.

Robinson's "welcome" wasn't really much better among his own teammates. "He was the loneliest man I've even seen," said one of them who observed Jackie riding alone on trains, dining alone, and often being sent off to other hotels while the other members of the team stayed together in another.

And all this because he was a black guy.

The Dodgers chose Jackie for this onerous task because they wanted, not a man who was not strong enough to fight back, but a man who was strong enough not to fight back. It's a huge difference. But because he was strong enough to bear the indignities, both verbal and physical, heaped upon him, the entire nation progressed along with him.

Now, some 63 years later, we find ourselves watching another man break the same barriers, and still he is ill-treated, his right to be where he is is questioned, and he is the subject of vile abuse, by people who fear him for no other reason than the color of his skin. Just as in Jackie's day, they couch their hatred, wrapping it in other vestments, but it's the same thing. They said Jackie would be lazy and undisciplined, and he hustled the Dodgers right into the World Series.

But we wouldn't do that kind of thing anymore, would we? After all, this is 2010, and we're all enlightened now, right?

Cincinnati OH 1947 Hagerstown MD 2009

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, as they say in sunny France. The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Leading in all the poles

It's May, so once again it's time for the annual "scandal" involving "scantily-clad" beauty contestants. Salon has an article online about Rima Fakih, who won the Miss USA title/crown /tiara/chance to be affiliated with Donald Trump's hair/ this past Sunday evening.

Well sir! You read the article and you find out that Ms Fakih participated in some radio station's stripper pole contest three years ago! Oh, the humanity! How are we to survive as a nation, yea, as a civilization, if a young woman does such a horrible thing? Imagine, cavorting around like that.

Many people will imagine it for months.

Last week during one of the medical tests that I go for as often as Trump goes for a cut 'n' rinse, the doctor asked me to step down off the exam table and walk down the hallway, while I was rakishly clad in gym shorts and red socks and nothing else. He needed to examine my gait as I strutted around. The doctor said, "Oh, don't worry; there's plenty of privacy. All of the staff are up front." I ambled to and fro in the hallway, innocent of any concern. Anyone wishing to see my unclad torso is welcome to come to the beach at Cape May later this summer. Rub a little Sea and Ski back there while you're looking, will you please?

It's as if no one ever saw a woman in a small bikini, and then they get all worked up when they see a picture of a woman in sheer lingerie. What I see at the beach every summer certainly shows a lot of epidermis, and I can't say that I find it horrifying. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," said John "Johnny the 'K' Keats, who was the overnight deejay for several Romantic stations back in the day. I support the right of anyone wishing to do so to be pretty and attractive, and I just as fervently back those who wish to cover themselves in sackcloth.

It's a free country! A young Muslim girl can be Miss USA, and the only hue and cry being hued and cried is about her doing stripper pole stuff. As Yogi Berra pointed out upon hearing that Dublin, Ireland, had elected a Jewish mayor, "Only in America!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Still, you gotta love the suit

Everyone say "Hey!" to Nathan B. Stubblefield, pictured here with the wireless telephone he invented a long time ago, back in the days when men wore ties without a wedding to attend.

You've heard the old song and expression "Everybody's talkin' 'bout the seventh son", right? Well. Nathan was the second son of seven born to
William "Capt. Billy" Jefferson Stubblefield (1830-1874), which is my entry for today in the Coolest Name in the World contest, which is not being held.

Old Nate grew to be a melon farmer and inventor, and there are claims made that he, not Marconi and Tesla, was the true father of radio. I worked on the radio long enough to tell you that no one should be in too big of a hurry to claim parentage for what passes as radio today, the broadcast bleatings of the ill-informed
to the unschooled ears of the uninformed.

Be that as it may, Nathan is credited with doing some early work on wireless telephones. There's no way he foresaw a day when people would text each other 127 times an hour. And look at the "cell" he posed with! Do you think it folded up and fit neatly into his vest pocket?

He also made some prophetic statements about how, one day, radio would be "capable of sending simultaneous messages from a central distributing station over a very wide territory. For instance, anyone having a receiving instrument, which would consist merely of a telephone receiver and a signaling gong, could, upon being signalled by a transmitting station in Washington, or nearer, if advisable, be informed of weather news. My apparatus is capable of sending out a gong signal, as well as voice messages. Eventually, it will be used for the general transmission of news of every description".

And this led directly to the day that a coworker of mine, coming to work the 3-11 shift, told me that the news was out that "Bill Clinton had Vince Foster killed because Hillary was pregnant with Foster's child." I asked if this was truly the "news" or someone's false claim, and with the blessed assurance that only ignorance can bring, he said, "Oh no, it's the news. It was on the radio." Pressing further, I asked which news agency - CNN, AP, NBC, CBS - was reporting this as news, and the answer came back, "A guy called in to Rush Limbaugh and said so."

At the age of 68, Nathan Stubblefield starved himself to death, living as a hermit in Kentucky. Perhaps he knew more than we realized, then and now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grave Concerns

Knowing that there are certain things that happen in Baltimore that don't tend to happen all across the nation (e.g. sauerkraut with Thanksgiving dinner, pit beef stands dotting the roadways, door screens painted with waterfall scenes), I have to ask if every other big town has a problem with murderers dumping their victims in parks.

From WBAL radio today, this story:

State Police Identify Body Found At State Park

State Police have identified the body of a man found over the weekend at a state park. Two fishermen found the partly decomposed remains in a shallow grave at Patapsco Valley State Park. The victim was identified overnight as 31 year old Matthew Martin of Baltimore. He was reported missing last month. The Medical Examiner's office ruled that the man was murdered. Positive identification was made with fingerprints. State Police are asking anyone with information about Martin to contact them at the Glen Burnie barracks. All calls remain confidential.

For many years, the tradition of dumping the recently-deceased at Leakin Park in Baltimore City has been observed. For a while there, it got so bad that one could hardly enjoy the sylvan wonderland without tripping over the permanently-recumbent form of someone who Knew Too Much or somehow Got In The Way.

Granted, the murder rate in the City remains sky-high, and so, as Sir Isaac Newton so wisely postulated, "Everybody's gotta be somewhere!" But you don't want to find yourself in Leakin Park without a ride home.

I am very sorry for the man whose body was found by the fishermen, and mourn him along with his friends and family. I have to wonder how callous a person can be to kill someone and just dump him someplace. How did we ever change from being sensitive little kids to people who will kill another human being like this?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eaty Gourmet

We went to the Macaroni Grill with a friend the other night. It was Saturday, so we got there around 5 to beat the rush.

No need to worry. The rush did not materialize.

Perhaps it was because everyone was either at the Preakness or home watching the Preakness, but by the time we left, the race was long over and the help was still hanging around the starting gate, jockeying for pole position in case any new diners came up on the outside.

She was only a jockey's daughter, but all the horsemen knew her.

Or maybe it was because the service there is not nearly as great as the food, and the management ought to realize that people have a lot of choices when it comes to dining out. You want noodles, there are plenty of noodle houses around. Same with Asian places and beefy places and chicken places and vegetarian places and hi-class places where they serve tiny bits of food on a giant square plate, with dribs and drabs of sauce around it, and one asparagus stalk.

In fact, there is a whole subgroup of restaurants that sell the sizzle more than the steak, by which I mean they sell their atmosphere more than the food. You can easily spot these places; they give them Irish names and make it sound like you'll have the time of your life here at O'Hoolahan's, where you get a three-course meal for $12.99 and have a rollicking good time while doing so!

Anyway, back to my unsolicited review of the Macaroni Grill. We were promptly seated and then allowed to read the menu in peace for quite some time. We could have read most of War and Peace in the time that it took to have our waitperson present herself. First, a man in a red tie, who seemed to be in charge of whatever, came over and asked if anyone had come around to see to us. When we said no, he turned and strolled away, and eventually a young lady named Ashlee came over and promised to "take care of us." No apology for the lengthy delay, by the way. The first step in "taking care of us" was writing her name upside down on the paper that covered the tablecloth that covered the table. I must admit, she did pretty well at this, writing her name upside down while standing at a table. Her name is more legible in that form of penpersonship than mine would be if I were sitting here writing this for you, which is why I am typing.

When we mentioned that our friend shared a first name with her, she acted like it was not the first time she had met someone else with her name. "Huh!" she exclaimed. She chose not to discuss the coincidence any further.

I would have to say that the food was excellent, but the service was perfunctory, verging on desultory. Peggy and I had lasagna, and our friend had fettucine alfredo with chicken, and the salads and the antipasti were all tasty, but, again, delivered with the same zest and exuberance that you experience when the clerk at the motor vehicle administration hands you your new license.

One of the other big noodle chains makes a big deal of saying, "When you're here, you're family," but the more I think of it, the more it seems that the Macaroni Grill people are more like very distant relatives who show up for a wedding and crash at your house and then turn their noses up at the breakfast you a pleasant way, but not friendly.

So, maybe it's a good idea to go to the MG when you just want to be left alone. They're good at that...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eat Me

You just have to wonder how does it come that people go into politics or some other public-profile occupation and can't resist the lovely taste of their own shoe?

How else do we explain this news item from Slate:

After announcing this week that New Zealand would not respect a centuries-old treaty and turn land over to the country's Maori tribes, Prime Minister John Key didn't do himself any favors by joking that the Tuhoe tribe was likely to eat him in retaliation. Discussing the affair at a tourism conference, Key quipped, "The good news was that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been the dinner, which wouldn't have been quite so attractive." According to the Guardian, while Maori tribes were known to indulge in "cannibal feasts" in the days before the British showed up, the practice vanished in the 19th century and has since become a running joke in New Zealand. Responding to Key's comment, Maori politician Te Ururoa Flavell remarked, "Well, the first thing to say is it's probably correct, and the second thing is probably not wise in the current climate."

I knew as a New Yorker-reading kid that there were only about three dozen scenarios for magazine cartoons...guy lying on couch in psychiatrist's office, long-haired guy with a sign foretelling the end of the world, traffic cop on motorcycle pulling over motorist, and cannibals standing around a big boiling cauldron among them. But that was the old days, and we've all moved along, have we not, Mr. Key? Sure, maybe there used to be cannibals who would boil 'n' serve people seeking to bring them enlightenment, but that is precisely why employment agencies had a hard time finding people interested in taking missionary positions.

I really should apologize for that one, but can you wait until I finish chortling?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I guess that's lunch!

If you work in an office, and there are more people than just you working in that office, chances are you have some sort of lunchroom, with a shared refrigerator and microwave. Sometimes, you might see a toaster oven in the mix.

It's not a problem where I work, from all that I hear, but there are plenty of offices where people steal food from the lunchroom. Just Google (don't Bing, unless you want to hear Mr Crosby groan a number for you) "office lunchroom stolen food" and you will see 49,500 entries on the topic. Theft prevention tips always range from putting a coating of really hot pepper sauce on the food and leaving it in an inviting position in the Kelvinator. For this, you would want to use a Scotch bonnet pepper sauce. I have a bottle at home of something called "Smokin' Tonsils" hot sauce, and I am here to tell you, one drop on a porkchop will make your eyes water and your mouth sizzle and the top of your head commence to twitchin'. I love it! But that's one way to go. There are other adulterants that can be added to food for fun effect, and then other people suggest microcameras and booby traps to catch the thief.

And then there is the problem, not of people taking stuff out of the 'frig, but of people putting stuff in there and leaving it there until the milk turns to cheese and a peach starts to look like a mongoose. A very hairy mongoose, at that.

And then there is always the guy who takes all the ice out of the ice tray, and then puts the empty ice tray back in the freezer. So along comes someone who needs to ice down his Fresca, and there's no ice.

You may be certain that the people who do this sort of stuff at work are the people who will try to make a right turn from the center lane on their way home from work, and try to butt up ahead of you at the deli counter at the Shop 'n' Bag, and blow smoke in your face as you walk past the designated smoking area.

You want to get angry, but I go with pity - they have to live with themselves, and that can't be fun!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

High-End Low

Here's a perfect example of that New York mentality that we down here find so quaint. A story appeared in the New York Times the other day, and here is the gist of it: a guy was having dinner in a "high-end" restaurant on a Saturday night, when the chef came out of the kitchen to holler at one of the waiters. So disturbing and annoying was the chef's scolding that the guy (who happens to be a writer for the Times) got up, went into the kitchen, and told the chef that he found the outburst to be disturbing and annoying. And then he went back to his seat.

And then the chef came out and told him he thought it was time for the man and his wife and the other couple with whom they were dining to hit the bricks. Vamoose. Scram.

And then the guy called the chef the following Monday and told him he was going to write about it all in the New York Times, and what did the chef have to say for himself? Here it is, right from the Times:

(He) said that I had scolded him like a child on Saturday night. “First and foremost, you came into my kitchen and spoke to me very disrespectfully in front of my cooks,” he said. “The kitchen is a sacred space.” He told me that my reply to his attempts to explain why he was yelling, while I was in the kitchen was, “We’re not interested.” That sounds about right, since we hadn’t come to the restaurant to listen to him yell repeatedly at his staff about whatever it was that he thought they were doing wrong.

That wasn’t what got us kicked out though. He claimed that he didn’t decide to ask us to leave until he explained to us tableside that his yelling was all in the interest of making everything perfect. “Well you aren’t,” he remembers me saying. “And then,” he continued, “you waved a hand in my direction as if I was an annoying bug. Someone who acts like that in my restaurant, I would never serve.”

Now, then. Let's look this thing over before the fists start flying. The kitchen is a "sacred space"? It's a place where the profane, the impure, the fallen dare not tread? Perhaps that's why the chef chose to berate the waiter out on the dining room floor, so as not to sully someone's omelet or curdle a souffle with his rancor. And, while I'll admit that my taste in restaurants runs more to the diner than to places named for the chef himself, I have been served plenty of eats in my day that had nothing sacred about their origin, I'll tell you that right now.

But not even the grave offense of telling the chef to cool it in front of his prep chefs, as they busily filleted parsley for a chiffonade, was enough to get the boot. No, that came because he made a dismissive hand gesture to the chef. Can you just picture it? The fully extended arm, hand up, and then the fingers quickly point down...that same gesture that Billy Crystal used to describe how his grandfather would tell customers at his clothing store, "We're closed, gawdammit! Get outta heah, you stupid baaaaaaaastid!"

Oh, New York. They say that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But here's this guy who won't even make dinner for you if you tell him to knock off the pre-meal hollering! And here's this writer who runs into the kitchen to make that knock-it-off complaint!

I don't want to be a part of it, New York, New York. It's up to you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The future isn't what it used to be

A fascinating story was told the other night on NBC Nightly News. As of this Friday, if you take 20 dollars into your local Walgreens, you can walk out with a lot more than the usual rubbing alcohol, acetaminophen and cookies in a tin. You will be able to get a genetic profile test from the good people over at Pathway Genomics. Imagine! You will know if you are genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer, diabetes and other ailments. "The test also claims to offer a window into the chances of becoming obese, developing psoriasis and going blind. For those thinking of starting a family, it could alert them to their risk of having a baby with cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs and other genetic disorders," according to the Washington Post.

Predictably enough, debates are already stirring among the people involved with debating ethics for our nation. Both of them are troubled. Points made range from a possible increase in abortions, people making ill-informed decisions about their futures based on misinterpreted data, and of course the very real possibility of a merry mixup when you get the results intended for someone from Kentucky with the same name as you.

Don't even tell me that can't happen!

I would not be interested. Half the time, I can't get my family gathering photographs developed on time at the drugstore, and now they want me to shell out money for a look at my future?

And also...can you imagine the buzzkill for your weekend if you get the results in the mail on a Friday? Eat, drink and be merry, buddy boy! You just found out you're going to come up a little short on your three-score-and ten years? Well, that's rough, but TGI Friday's has that three-course dinner for $12.99!

That ought to even things out nicely, huh?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

'Cause you know, sometimes words have two meanings

I stumbled across something the other day while perusing the dictionary, which is something that I do for fun.

Mr. Laughs, they call me.

Anyway - you know the word "decimate," the word that we use to say "destroy, level, ruin." As in, "The entire block was decimated by the fire, which apparently had burned for several hours before early-rising neighbors called 911."

Or, "The Orioles' hopes of winning the pennant were decimated when the team got off to such a horrible start, but still, true baseball fans stayed loyal and followed the club out of love for the game."

It's a heavy-handed writer who inserts his opinions into ostensibly neutral language examples, but that's how I roll.

If you look at the word decimate, what root word do you see? "Mate," right? No, we're talking about "deci-", meaning related to the word ten. As in December, the twelfth month. (We are no longer counting June and July.)

No one ever said this made any sense, did they?

Here's what Merriam-Webster wants us to know about decimation:

Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem tenDate: 1660

1 : to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
2 : to exact a tax of 10 percent from decimated Cavalier — John Dryden>
3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number decimated the population> b : to cause great destruction or harm to decimated the city> decimated by recession>

If you look a little deeper into all this, it turns out that back in the Roman Empire days, if the army brass got word that there were stirrings of mutiny in the troops, they would line up the soldiers and kill every tenth man by random chance, reducing the size of the group by ten percent.

This is a very effective means of reducing stirrings of mutiny, and at the same time, a real morale-killer. I bet that if your boss had an idea like this, you'd be...decimated.

But I hope not!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Greece is the word

They're having their troubles over in Greece these days, aren't they? I happen to know a woman with relatives in Athens, and she told me years ago that if you move to another house or apartment in that ancient city, you get in touch with the phone company for a new installation and then prepare to wait. And if you've ever been told that the phone company or the cable guy will be to your place "between noon and 5 pm," and it's 4:30 and you're pacing the floor, imagine how you feel in Greece when you're pacing the floor and can't even call anyone to tell them about it because your phone isn't there yet. My friend tells me it can take up to TWO YEARS to get a phone installed in Athens.

Aristotle is still waiting for his conference call with Plato and Socrates! And, to steal a joke from the great Woody Allen, they wanted to meet with Isosceles, who had an idea for a new triangle.

(I don't often steal jokes, but when I do, I rip off the best!)

We all studied the oldtime Greek civilization in school, and it's a pity to see that great nation torn by economic crisis, rioting in the streets, civil unrest and out-of-control crime and corruption. In fact, there was a movement afoot in the Greek parliament to rename Athens "Little Philadelphia."

There are so many aspects of Greek culture that we have taken as our own. The latest is Greek yogurt, which is just loaded with cultures. As are art, music, cuisine, philosophy and the running of marathon races, which, according to legend, were begun to commemorate the run (speaking of movements afoot) of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. That's a distance of 26 miles, 385 yards, and that's why our marathons are the same length, although the winner is rarely named

Now, everyone in Europe is concerned about the Greek monetary system and how it is crumbling. A massive infusion of money - $157.5 billion, which roughly approximates Oprah's shoe budget - has not stanched the flow of economic woe. Economists the world over are predicting that Greece is tottering on the abyss of debt default.

I don't have the slightest idea what will happen to the European economy, or the American. That makes me the one blogger who will admit that he can't predict the future, which is really the only thing that is predictable. Except for this: I guarantee you, if you watch CNBC and the other business channels, at one point in the next few days, on the topic of Greek insolvency, someone will say, "It is what it is."

And that, my friends, is a tautological pleonasm. The term 'tautology' comes from two Greek words meaning "It says this." As much as to say, it already says this; why say it again? A perfect example of this sort of redundancy is the now-popular expression "It is what it is." Just as multiplying any number by one leaves the number unchanged, and just as "a rose is a rose," why even bother saying such things? "I wanted a ham sandwich but they gave me roast beef. I guess it is what it is." I guess it's a roast beef sandwich. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, the guy who lives down the street who practices his Sousaphone at 3 a.m. is a nuisance, but his neighbors say, "He says he can't sleep and that's the only time he has to devote to his music. It is what it is." What do those five words add to any discussion?

It's all Greek to me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All Aboard for 1876!

Peggy and I used vacation time yesterday to take a day and just chill. Is that still cool, to say "chill"? Is it still cool to say "cool"? However you want me to say it, we took the day and had a nice leisurely breakfast here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch, and then we rode out to the NCR walking path.

This is the roadbed of the old Northern Central Railroad, which used to run from the central part of Baltimore County on up into Pennsylvania. Somehow, some way, after the railroad went out of business many years ago, the land where the tracks were once laid became park land.

It seems like a great idea. The path is wide enough for people to walk, jog, ride a bike, and even push one of those jogging strollers out in front. Yesterday the air was crisp and clean, the sky was the same sort of Cerulean blue that Vin Scully talks about over Dodger Stadium, and we had the time of our lives walking along, talking about the future, looking back over the past, and enjoying the happy feeling that comes from having your best friend also be someone you love.

But to think, when you're on the path, you're walking along the path that was ridden by people on trains over a hundred years ago, and the setting - thick woods along the Gunpowder River - is more or less unchanged since then. Sure, a few yards away, cars go racing by, some of them with heavy audio amplification systems that make an SUV sound like an oooompah band passing by.

And about a mile down the road there is a mall, excuse me, a Towne Centre, and big office buildings filled with people staring at computers. Some of them are making big business deals which will affect millions of lives, and some of them are making Facebook status changes which will affect far fewer.

Do you think they ever stop to think that just a mile away, there's a place where they could change into some Rockports and spend their lunch hour in another time zone...another whole zone entirely?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Old Quizmaster

I am... happiest when I can make others happy
I know...a lot of people that I really love
I love it when...the soi-disant elite take a pratfall
I am known for...relentless joking
The nickname I'm embarrassed of is...Hugh Janus
People think I am a little...eccentric
I wish I never...would have to see the people I love suffer

My friends wish...that I would tell the joke about the British hitchhiker more often
My favorite place to shop is...Dollar Tree
My favorite place to hang out living room
My favorite band is...Love (Arthur Lee)
Last time I got in trouble...was so long ago, the statute of limitations has run out
My family...must be seen and heard to be believed
If you met my must be in Heaven
I get embarrassed when...I am completely unembarrassable
I want to get Peggy again for our 50th anniversary in 2023
My favorite food is...from the sea
I would like to have....enough moolah to retire
I don't mind thoughts and ideas
If I won the lottery I would...keep working until the time seemed right to leave
I think Obahma is ...a damned poor way to spell the president's name
I love it when people...use correct spelling and grammar
I've learned that...what is to be, will be, and what ain't to be just might happen
People love me because...I love them
I would kill someone if...they ever hurt Peggy
I think us all His love and wants us to be happy with it
I wish I would have never...been asked what I regret about the past, because that's the definition of a waste of time
When I am mad...I let it out instead of keeping it bottled up
When I am sad...I can count on Peggy to cheer me up
I think I am good looking smile is genuine
My best my wife and always will be
When I die...I'm going to expect a lot of laughter at the funeral
What I love most marriage
My life is...more than half finished
I think the world would be a better place if...people knew more and relied less on demagogues
If I could change...a twenty for two fives, I'd be glad to
I gag when I think of...eating beets and Brussels sprouts
I need a...decision on what the surgeon is going to do for my back
My favorite tv show is...Countdown with Keith Olbermann
My favorite Movie is...Seems Like Old Times
I don't deserve...all this happiness
I wish I could make money doing...a newspaper column
My job...allows my creative side to flourish
School is...a good place for a kid to be
I think the government should...govern
If more people thought like me the world would...move ahead peacefully
The best year of my life...was 1973
I miss...the days when American Idol had worthy contestants
I think the war...was cooked up to satisfy Bush's lusts
If I could live would be a lot colder outside my window
My favorite car is...a truck!
I think drugs are... wonderful for therapeutic purposes but a poor use of time for recreation

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What the Hell

I'm writing this early on Saturday morning, so by the time I post it, the funeral for Yeardley Love will be over.

I wish I could say that the plans for that "Church" to come to the services for Ms Love did not come true, and that they did not show up with their abhorrent signs, but they say they are going to be there, and I guess that means they will.

By now you are familiar with this group of people and what they stand for. They believe that because America gives freedom to people to love whom they wish, that America is doomed by a vengeful God, and we will all pay a hellish price for disobeying Him.

I don't support this way of thinking. But as the English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
(This quote often is attributed to Voltaire, and he would probably defend Ms Hall's right to say what she said.)

It's a hell of a thing, freedom and liberty and your Constitutional guarantee of free speech. You need look no farther than our Constitution to see this in the Bill of Rights:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So, it's just like one of those deals where to get this, you also have to take that. There are magazines, books, and radio talk shows around with the type of content that literally turns the stomachs of most people. But we cannot deny them their right of printing or saying what they wish. A few years ago, some group of people put out a newspaper here in town, and someone went around late at night, placing the papers on porches, just as countless pizza shops, maid services, lawn guys and home security businesses do. I can't recall for sure what the point these folks were trying to get across was...racism, hatred of this or that, whatever. It was wrong-headed, whatever it was, but so were the actions of the local cops, who sent squad cars around neighborhoods to go porch-to-porch and pick up the papers. One of the greatest things about our country is, if you have a computer and a printer, you may write to your heart's content and print out the contents of your heart's content and go hand out your printouts to your heart's content.

Try that in Iraq.

American ingenuity being the finest in all the world, some Americans came up with the idea of forming a group called the Patriot Guard Riders, guys and gals who show up where the WBC protesters are going, to serve as a shield so that the bereaved might see less of these repellent activities. Their website does not list them as planning to attend Ms Love's funeral to help out, but maybe someone else will.

It's tough to say this, and we all wish there were another way to have freedom, but the very notion of limiting one group or one person, no matter how repugnant, would also mean that tomorrow, your group or your church or you yourself might have the right of free speech clipped. You want to read Shakespeare, and Larry Flynt gets to publish what he wants to as well.

Just consider the source when you see this type of protest, and think about what sort of mind-crippling, soul-reducing malady these people came down with at some point.

And the next time you drink a nice cool glass of ice water, think about how much these people are really going to want one just like it someday!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Murder, I said

What a shame, what a horrible loss of a promising life, what a tragedy is the loss of the young lady Yeardley Love, the University of VA lacrosse player who went to high school at the prep school right off Providence Rd where I was raised. All evidence indicates that she was killed by her erstwhile boyfriend, one George Huguely V, who is from the DC area where his family operates a lumber yard and sent him to a high school with a tuition tab of $28,000 per year. He is not, therefore, a scrappy tough kid from the mean streets for whom violence was the only way out.

He is, however, someone who chooses violence as a means of self-expression, it would seem. Two years ago, drunk as a lemur at some fratboy party, he was lurching into traffic and taken into custody to protect himself from himself by the police in Lexington, Va. Instead of cooperating with the police at that point, he fought them, threatening, "I'll kill all you bitches" to a female officer, and was tasered into the submission to which he would have been wise to enter in the first place.

Now, no one is perfect, with the exception of my great-niece Finley (possible bias!), but I think I have a better idea for the courts here. And while to some I am cast as the archetypal liberal, I take a most illiberal stance on the topic of crime and punishment. I happen to be against the former and for the latter.

Young Huguely V has been quoted on this topic before. The Washington Post printed his thoughts in 2006, when some of his former prep-school teammates were embroiled in the matter of the Duke lacrosse team and the allegations of abuse, later disproved, at a party. Said George V at that time, "In this country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty."

Might just hold you to that, George.

You get a smart-guy rich punk like this Huguely V, who has been raised to think that whatever in the world he can't have by buying it, he can beat it up, and when he threatens to kill a police officer, you put him in jail for six months or so and see how tough he is then. And not a suburban jail with a gym and a library and a sitting room. No, you send him to federal pound-me-in-the-assets prison, where he will find out that what passes for tough on the lacrosse field does not threaten the men of surly mien who will be his cellmates. His attorney, Francis Lawrence, who surely has spent more time in bigtime boardrooms negotiating deals than he has in courtrooms defending murderers, nonetheless uttered this about the death of that fine young lady:"We are confident that Ms. Love's death was not intended, but an accident with a tragic outcome."

No, Francis. An accident is when you cut your hand while slicing a bagel, or back your car into another car on the Credit Union parking lot, or drop your ice cream cone at the zoo. What your client did was to bash repeatedly the young lady's head into the wall of her apartment, ALLEGEDLY, causing her to die. ALLEGEDLY.

How in blazes is it an "accident" when you grab someone's head and ALLEGEDLY bang it into a wall until that someone ALLEGEDLY dies at your hands?

Prepare yourselves now for the defense, which will roll out all sorts of evidence saying that young Huguely V has anger-management issues that will surely be cleared up after a six-month stint at a minimum-security penal campus and some chats with a counselor. Oh, the parade of character witnesses will resemble the gathering at a Trump wedding in sheer scope of size. They will bring back the nannies who raised him, the people who worked for his father, George IV, at the lumberyard, and his fellow athletes. To a man, and woman, they will all agree that this was an isolated incident.

So was Pearl Harbor, son. See you at the big house. Allegedly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Don't Throw a Hissy Fit!

I really shouldn't do these things, what with my back and all, but do you have any idea how much it would cost to have a guy come over and clean out the rain gutter over the garage door that always clogs up every spring with whatever nature blows down on us? I think that if I heard how much the local handyman wanted to come over and handle the chore, I might throw out my back even worse, jumping around in violent protest.

So, out on the driveway with the extension ladder and up there with the hose. Funny, but when you get up there and look into the drainpipe, the rotting vegetation floating in there looks for all the world like a long skinny pot full of spinach. Which makes me think of Popeye, which makes me think of Popeye's. So there I am, a-perchin' on the ladder, squirting hydraulic force into the clog, dreaming of a nice plate of Popeye's. Love that chicken
from Popeye's!

And along comes a neighbor with interesting news - he saw a blacksnake
in his yard the other day. OK. I'm not Steve Irwin or one of those other TV animal nuts, but way back when I was an itty-bitty barefoot boy with cheek of tan, my dad worked shift work, and I got to go along with him to several houses in the neighborhood where the lady of the house had a snake problem and had called my mom, shrieking, "Is Ross home? There is a ten-foot snake in the basement!!" And we would go and find a ten-inch garter snake, which we'd pick up and return to the woods. So I learned to handle snakes as a child, and if I see this black snake slithering around in the yard, I will not turn and run, my hands waving frantically in the air. Snakes don't bother me...unless the snake is also a dentist, and has a drill in his hand. Then, I run.

To each his own. If you live near me and you see the snake, give me a yell. I think I hear talk of the neighbors setting up some sort of vigilante posse committee to round up this varmint and chop his head off or something. That's way harsh. He just wants to live his life, without being forced to show he belongs here on the court.

I mean, what is this, Arizona or something?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lincoln, Lincoln bo Bincoln Bonana fanna fo Fincoln

Out our way, there was, and maybe there still is, a family by the name of Simpson. I used to pass their mailbox all the time; it said "The Simpsons" in clear handwriting. And the reason I say they might still live here and they might not is that they had to change to a plain mailbox after The Simpsons became a big hit TV show. Souvenir hunters, target shooters, and crowds of teenaged boys packed into ten-year-old Pontiacs laid waste to the original.

As someone with the same name as a famous person - several of them, in fact - I know what it's like to have false name recognition. You have to be a pretty old timer to know much about the World War II general whose name I bear. The Black Panther activist killed in bed by Chicago police, and the major league pitcher, both of whom share my moniker, are hardly household words outside of their own households, and those households with an interest in the 1960's or the Cleveland Indians/Texas Rangers/Chicago Cubs/New York Mets pitching staffs of the 1990s.

So there are two ways for this to happen:

1 - You are born, walk around with your name for years and years, and then all of a sudden, someone with the same name becomes famous. I mean, there have to be people named Bart Simpson or Stewie Griffin who were well into their 40s by the time office jokesters began regaling the lunchroom crowd with imitations of "their" cartoon voices. There are bound to be a few George Clooneys on the Medicare rolls, and when you found out that the last name of Hillary down at the Bag 'n' Save was "Clinton", how did you refrain from sidling up to her and doing your Bill impersonation? "I feel yuh pain..." Trust me...not the first time she heard that one!

2 - You are named for someone famous. The most noteworthy example of this, of course, would be my splendid great-niece Preslee, whose name checks both The King and Preslee's Mom's maiden name. So cool! And her middle name, Grace, evokes The King's home in fashionable Memphis, TN. I guess there are other examples. I've mentioned before the amount of men in the Baltimore area now pushing 50 whose parents named them after Baltimore Colts (that was a legendary football team, vestiges of which now reside in stinky Indianapolis, Indiana, where the locals don't know much about Manning up when times get tough.) This is why you might meet a guy around here who will introduce himself as "Alan Ameche O'Hoolahan" or "Johnny Unitas Jones" without the least touch of self-consciousness. And I have for years and years lobbied young parents-to-be to name their male offspring "Elvis," without any success whatsoever. But it only takes one time!

I guess there is also a third category of having a famous name, and that's when marriage brings together two unremarkable names to form a union that makes me smirk every time. So, hats off to Ferdinand and Adelaide Wright. I'm glad those two found each other! Am I smirking just to think about them right now? F. & A. Wright I am!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

“For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.”

It's not as if he gave a fig what I have to say, but Isaac Newton missed out on part of the laws of nature. Sure, he said that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Then he and his cousin Wayne mixed ammonia and bleach and ran off laughing like crazy.*

But I like to think that for every action, there was a lot of action behind the scenes. It's nice to go to a nice wedding reception, bull roast or retirement gathering, isn't it? You waltz in, hang up your coat, head for the cheese table and grab a pitcher o' suds, and you're ready for a big time. Just remember, a lot of planning goes into these things, not the least of which is figuring who is to be seated at which table. Somebody has to sit there next to that woman from Accounting who will fill her purse with silverware, salt and pepper shakers, the centerpiece, a huge end slice of lasagna in a cleverly concealed Ziploc bag, and the Purell dispenser from the ladies' room wall, if she can yank it down.

And leading up to all these events, there are bands to hire, menus to choose, photographers to've been there. You know what I mean. It's one of my secret Mental Jotto things to do, figuring out the logistics behind what comes off so artfully simple.

It would be nice
just to see something and say, how nice that is, and go on to the next thing. I just have to figure out the "how" behind the "how cool!"

And so it is that, on my way to work this morning on busily-traveled, still-rural Cromwell Bridge Road, I saw that some romantic had painted a rather well-represented heart right on the road. You know, not a drawing of a real heart, but one of these
things that we use to represent the ol' ticker.

We know that this artwork was accomplished late at night, because there is a rather steady stream of vehicles on that road all day and into the night. In my imaginary scenario ("imaginario"?) some dude is telling his girl he really really really loves her.

[It should be noted that Cromwell Bridge Road leads to the Loch Raven watershed area, where young couples have parked for years to enjoy the submarine races.]

But she balks, right? She's not so sure he loves her, not after the way he was leering at Ursula the other night. So what can he do? He can't carve their initials into a tree, if only because if you're caught carrying a jackknife with you these days you are deemed to be a potential terrorist. He's not about to spring for a tattoo, because that costs a couple of hundred semolians, and he needs parental permission anyway. Sky writing might do the trick, but it can't be seen at night. Radio stations don't take requests any more, and his last alternative - a text reading "I <3 U Mildred" would scarcely stand out among the 127 other texts she is receiving at that very second.

So he
pulls over, stops the car, and gets out, shaking a can of Krylon. As Mildred watches in rapt adoration, he makes his heart sign on the blacktop in vivid Antique White, all the better to show his enduring love for her.

And the bonus is that every guy who drives over Cromwell Bridge Road for the next few days can tell his special squeeze that HE did it, just for her. Go ahead and say it! I'll never tell.

* Don't try this at home. Running off like crazy OR mixing a base with an alkali!