Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

And then, I decided to speak out against the gun lovers.

I haven't been this upset about something I saw online for quite a while.  The other day, on the first anniversary of the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a friend - someone whom I, frankly, have always had enormous respect and good feelings toward, chose to mark the occasion by putting on a status update so egregiously distasteful and disrespectful to the senator's memory that I, who have seen so many repugnant things in my day, was shocked and revolted.  

The status update made mocking reference to the disease that killed Mr. Kennedy, to his publicly acknowledged and long-ago-victorious battle with alcoholism, and here was the payoff:

"I'll be keeping my second ammendment (sic) freedoms, pal."

The man who wrote this is a young man, perhaps too young to remember when the senator's older brothers, President John Kennedy and presidential candidate, Senator and former Attorney General Robert Kennedy were killed by guns.  Not to mention his other older brother Joe, who was killed fighting for his country in World War II.  Surely had he known of the tragedies suffered by the Kennedy family, he never would have written such hurtful words.

And - here's the part that always stirs this pot - while I wait to see which well-regulated militia my friend plans to join in order to take full advantage of his Second Amendment rights,  I will inform him that, of all the Democrats who have served so nobly in our Congress, the name of Edward Moore Kennedy is certainly high on any list of solons who were willing to reach across party lines and compromise with the Republicans.  When he died last August, Teddy was eulogized fondly by countless Republicans who spoke glowingly of his willingness to stand for his principles while respecting those of others, and his love of people that enabled him to befriend any member of any political stance.

Even someone who would use such ungracious words, he would still have called a friend. 

And to think, all this rancor, this unseemly incivility, over a damned gun.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Paris Up

There comes a time in everyone's life.  And I think that time has come for Paris Hilton.

You might have heard that the favorite of photographers, the hotel heiress, the actress who doesn't even bother to act, was popped in Las Vegas the other morning.  The cops thought someone in the car she and her boyfriend were driving was smoking pot, and during the routine check, old Paris pulled a lip gloss out of her purse, causing a vial of suspected cocaine to fall earthward.

The boyfriend, one Cy Waits, had an interesting week. He is a security bigshot for the Wynn people in Las Vegas, and earlier in the week he subdued and held for police a knife-wielding subject who had broken into Paris's home. This made him a hero. Then came the arrest, and that made him unemployed.  Fired. Canned. He might have to crash with Paris for a while.

It's none of my concern if Paris Hilton and her boyfriend want to roll spliffs the size of vuvuzelas (remember them from last month?) or snort cocaine by the wheelbarrow load AS LONG AS THEY'RE NOT OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE at the time.  That's dangerous to others.  But in the privacy of their own abode, who cares what they do?  If they wish to live dissolute lifestyles, the best formula for that is plenty of money + little or no direction / fame and celebrity status x no work to do = uselessness.

On the other hand...it just so happens that several significant people in my life are women born in 1981, as was Ms Hilton. One of them is a doctor of physical therapy, working with kids at the world-famous Kennedy Krieger Institute, and a highly-skilled musician of local note, and a partner in a meaningful relationship with a really good guy. Another is a college professor, counseling therapist and wife and mom. And she gets extra credit for once having been a tenant in a building I managed, which meant that I would often drop in between her client visits to share my unique worldview.   So, between those two women, that makes what, seven worthwhile ways that Cyndi and Jen have found to spend their days and share their manifold talents with us.  While Paris spends her early mornings cruising the Las Vegas strip, consuming drugs and contributing nothing.

So this would be a good time for Paris, what with her 30th birthday coming up next February 17, to decide on a direction for her life.  Because, she can't count on looking this good in mugshots forever:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stop! Hammer Time!

Yesterday, we were getting ready to go to my greatniece's second birthday party, and while I munched a lunch, I turned on C-SPAN to hear the wacky morning disc jockey Mr Beck bloviate about how holy he is and how the entire nation is in deep, deep trouble and can only be saved by his unctuous nattering and how we deeply need to have our honor restored. We got trouble, my friends...

Do you remember the play and movie "The Music Man," in which Robert Preston played "Professor" Harold Hill, a fast-talking salesman whose racket it was to go from town to town in 1912 Iowa, selling people on the idea of forming a boys' band? He would sell you the instruments and the uniforms and teach the boys to play, don't you see? All you have to do is sign here, ma'am.

Well, before those Iowans were going to open the purse to hand over hard-earned money for all this, they needed to be convinced of the urgent need of having a boys' band in their town. That's when the good Professor went to work. He found that, in one case, the town of River City had just gotten a pool table for the local pool hall, and he told the citizenry that a pool table represented all that was awful in the world. Here are the lyrics to "Ya Got Trouble," which might have been the first rap song on Broadway. It's a little chant that he used to spellbind the locals into opening those purses:

A pool table, don't you understand?
Well, either you're closing your eyes to a situation you do now wish to acknowledge

Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Why sure I'm a billiard player,
Certainly mighty proud I say
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With a cue in my hand are golden.
Help you cultivate horse sense
And a cool head and a keen eye.
Ya ever take and try to give
An iron-clad leave to yourself
From a three-rail billiard shot?

But just as I say, it takes judgement, brains, and maturity to score in a balkline game,
I say that any boob can take and shove a ball in a pocket.
And I call that sloth.
The first big step on the road
To the depths of deg-ra-Day--
I say, first, medicinal wine from a teaspoon,
Then beer from a bottle.
An' the next thing ya know, your son is playin' for money in a pinch-back suit.
And list'nin to some big out-a-town Jasper
Hearin' him tell about horse-race gamblin'.
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no!
But a race where they set down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey-boy
Sittin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say. Friends, lemme tell you what I mean. Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table.
Pockets that mark the diff'rence between a gentlemen and a bum, with a capital 'B,' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for pool!
And all week long your River City youth'll be fritterin' away, I say your young men'll be fritterin'!
Fritterin' away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too! Get the ball in the pocket, never mind gittin' dandelions pulled or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded.
Never mind pumpin' any water 'til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty on a Saturday night and that's trouble, Oh, yes we got lots and lots a' trouble.
I'm thinkin' of the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school, look, folks! Right here in River City. Trouble with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that

stands for pool!
Now, I know all you folks are the right kinda parents.
I'm gonna be perfectly frank. Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes on while they're loafin' around that Hall?
They'll be tryin' out Bevo, tryin' out Cubebs,
Tryin' out Tailor-Mades like Cigarette Fiends!
And braggin' all about how they're gonna cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen. One fine night, they leave the pool hall, headin' for the dance at the Arm'ry! Libertine men and Scarlet women! And Rag-time, shameless music that'll grab your son and your daughter with the arms of a jungle animal instinct! Mass-staria! Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground!

Trouble, oh we got trouble, Right here in River City!
With a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for Pool! That stands for pool.
We've surely got trouble! Right here in River City,
Right here! Gotta figure out a way to keep the young ones moral after school!

Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble...

Mothers of River City! Heed this warning before it's too late! Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption! The moment your son leaves the house, does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee? Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corn crib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Capt.
Billy's Whiz Bang? Are certain words creeping into his conversation? Words like 'swell?' And 'so's your old man?' Well, if so my friends, Ya got trouble, Right here in River city! With a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P'
and that stands for Pool. We've surely got trouble! Right here in River City! Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!

And then, I forgot all about Professor Beck and his calculated speech, calculated to inflame the worries of people who have wonderful lives and shouldn't fret so much about the presence of a pool table in their town. We met as family and friends and kin and had a wonderful time celebrating the second birthday of a little angel, and I say if you live in a country where you can do that, you should not get all in a spin because a disc jockey tells you to. The disc jockey at the party told us to do the hokey pokey and the chicken
dance and not to let any beach balls drop during "You Can't Touch This." I liked that disc jockey better.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hate Hate

I tell you, it's never what you worry about that comes around to get ya.  I used to think, oh my God, this country is in danger of crumbling due to dunderheaded stupidity and all-around dumbness.  I would see the addlepated watching the uninformed and listening to the obtuse and regurgitating their ill-chosen words, and I would fret about it.
But now I see that stupidity is not the big fad that I feared.  Its second cousin once removed, hatred, has come to town.

ITEM, from the Baltimore SUN:  The 19-year-old Baltimore man charged with killing a Hispanic man early Saturday in what has been classified as a hate crime was being treated for schizophrenia and just a month earlier had been committed to a hospital for treatment, according to police and court records. Jermaine R. Holley told police he beat 51-year-old Martin Reyes with a board because he hated "Mexicans." Police have said the suspect may have stopped taking his medications at the time of the attack.  Saturday's killing in the 200 block of N. Kenwood Ave. was the latest in a string of attacks against Hispanics in East Baltimore. Police officers and neighborhood volunteers walked through the largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood Saturday urging residents to cooperate with police.

ITEM from the Huffington Post:  A college student who did volunteer work in Afghanistan was charged Wednesday with slashing a taxi driver's neck and face after the driver said he's Muslim.  A criminal complaint alleges Michael Enright uttered an Arabic greeting and told the driver, "Consider this a checkpoint," before the brutal bias attack occurred Tuesday night inside the yellow cab on Manhattan's East Side. Police say Enright was drunk at the time.

ITEM from WBAL-TV Baltimore:  Baltimore city police are investigating several cases of car vandalism in the northwest section of the city that they've deemed to be hate crimes. Some residents in the predominantly Jewish Park Heights area said they woke up Saturday morning to find anti-Semitic words and symbols spray painted on their vehicles.

It really doesn't seem to take a whole lot to stir up hatred.  Which brings us to today, Saturday, August 28.  

On this date in 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC and proclaimed, "I have a dream!"  

Today, 47 years later, Glenn Beck and cable television entertainer Sarah B. Palin
I think she had her teeth whitened for this
will stand on the same steps and address a crowd, which has been advised to bring neither signs nor firearms, on the topic of restoring our national honor. Since we are always told that the only way to have a peaceful society is to have everyone toting their sidearms around, why are attendees suddenly being told NOT to bring handguns to this event?  Surely the organizers are not caving in to the anti-gun crowd...

And surely wacky former morning DJ Glenn Beck was kidding when he said that he was "divinely inspired" to choose this date for his rally.  It can't really be true that God Almighty has taken time from His busy schedule to check his day planner and whisper in the ear of Beck that coordinating his day of self-adulation with the date held so dearly by those in favor of human rights would be the way to go.

And for you Beckites: here are the words of your leader:

I believe in divine providence. It was not my intention to select 8-28 because of the Martin Luther King tie. It is the day he made that speech. I had no idea until I announced it and I walked off stage and my researchers said, New York Times has already just published that this is Martin Luther — and I said, oh, geez. We were going to use 9-12 but 9-12 is a Sunday. I’m not going to ask anyone to work on the Sabbath. I’m not going to ask anybody to honor God on a Sunday.

"I'm not going to ask anybody to honor God on a Sunday."  Glenn Beck.

"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."  The Ten Commandments.

You decide.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

What was the name of that Bruce Springsteen song some years ago, "40 channels (and nothing to watch)"?  Something like that.  It's a wonder no smart producer has decided to have a reality show where people sit around on warm summer nights with no baseball game on TV and try to find something watchable. 

We have a couple of hundred channels on our digital Comfinity (formerly X-cast) cable, most of them devoted to purchasing, storing, cooking, and digesting food.  Some of the other channels are there to bring us shows and movies that no one in their right mind
would want to watch
and old shows and movies that no one watched the first 17 times they had the chance to.  

After a few rounds spinning the remote the other night, I wound up on the MGM movie channel. They were showing "Madhouse," a 1990 movie starring John Larroquette, Kirstie Alley, John Diehl and the inimitable Alison LaPlaca, who I always felt had the chance to become the Eve Arden of the 1990s, until everyone figured the original Eve Arden would have to do.

In 1990, when everyone else was out buying acidwash jeans and those goofy Zubaz pants, I was home watching this movie over and over again on Cinemax. I thought it pretty much represented the apex of comedy, with Larroquette and Diehl doing their crazy pantomime dance to "Bernadette" and the young, funny Ms Alley, fresh off her success in "Summer School".

But re-watching the movie the other night brought to mind the words of another person who forced his way into the public zeitgeist in 1990: Mr Bart Simpson, who pointed out that he never knew that something could both suck and blow at the same time.

What had seemed so doggone funny a mere 20 years ago now seemed forced and banal.  Sure, Alison LaPlaza strutting around with in that brash persona of hers still amuses, and Kirstie can still wring more laughs out of one raised eyebrow than anything that Kathy Griffin can raise, but the movie just simply was not funny or interesting or compelling or anything else.  So I went and tried to figure out which of the 1,915 songs on my iPod had to go to make room for more Ke$ha.

I told my movie-lovin' friend Lisa about all this and she said she had the same experience with re-viewing "St Elmo's Fire" 25 years after it broke out.  Ridiculous characterizations, improbable plot lines, friends who would not even be acquaintances in real life, stuff that never happened to anyone for real: these are the things that made St Elmo now as hard to see as St Vitus's Dance. 

And that was the name of Sonny
Crockett's boat. Guess I won't be watching any Miami Vice reruns either.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Majority Cools

I'm going to try my best to be a little diplomatic when I drop this, but the time has come in our great national turmoil to say one thing that people tend to forget:

The majority doesn't always rule.
Now, I know, it does during elections and referendums and voting for Homecoming King and Queen
You know he hates that crown!

and even on the Supreme
Super Supremes
Court.  But not in everyday life.  

You'd need an attorney making a lot more per hour than I do to tell you the legal terms behind all this, but what I'm talking about is our basic human rights.  The majority of people might feel that 55 mph is just too slow to drive on the interstate, but try using that as a legal defense.  Go ahead.  I've seen worse.  I was in court once and saw a guy claim that he had to leave the scene of an accident he was involved in because he "suffered an act of involuntary defecation."  The judge thought that was a pretty crappy reason to split, and told the man so.

More examples: if six men working in an office or warehouse or wherever decide that the one woman who works there really needs to be a good sport about their off-color jokes, licentious photographs and leering sexual harassment, they cannot stand on "the majority rules!" and expect to continue that behavior.  And with good reason!  That's a perfect example of why the majority just does not always get to rule.

I've used this before but it's still valid.  Imagine being in a fifth-grade public school classroom full of a "majority" of Christian kids - nothing wrong with that - except that you happen to be a follower of Islam, or Baha'i Faith, or Judaism, or Atheism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Rastafarianism or Scientology.  Or the reverse, in which a Christian kid might suddenly find himself in a Shinto neighborhood.  There are 100 million adherents of Shintoism around the world - 75 to 90% of the population of Japan among them - and that's a lot of people.  Should the rights of any single person in a crowd be overtaken by the majority? In a public school, taxpayer-supported, the answer is no.  If you want prayer and religious education, that's certainly your right, so you can go to a private school for that.

How would it feel to be alone in the crowd with your principles, but be forced into another form of worship because "there's just one of you, and so many of us!"?

Majority rules when a bunch of friends are deciding which bad movie to see at the MultiPlex 17.  

It doesn't rule when the size of the crowd can be used to mash down one person, or several persons. 

And that's one of the many things I love about living here!  Every person a king, but no one person a ruler.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Whine and Dine

I have always enjoyed the way people talk and write about wine, as if it were more than squished up grapes and the product of the resultant fermentation.  Just listen to the wine review shows on the radio or read one of the 87 oenophile magazines in the wooden racks at Barnes & Noble, and you start to wonder what the deal is, why people are so moved to rapturous language when discussing something that the people at Welch's make a billion bottles of every year, only they sell it fresh.  

I mean, here's one at random, literally the first wine review I Googled up:

Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla Valley (Washington) “Pentad” 2006 ($50)
 To make this wine, the winery vinifies six different grapes and chooses the best five wines (hence “Pentad”), which means that the blend of grapes changes from year to year.  It’s always based on Cabernet Sauvignon, and in 2006 that grape represents 65% of the final blend.  Unusually in 2006, however, the wine contains no Merlot, and does have 7% Cabernet Franc (along with 7% each of Carmenère and Malbec and 14% Petit Verdot).  It’s a wonderfully graceful, finessed wine with fairly delicate aromas and flavors of dark fruits, cedar, mint and eucalyptus. Harmony is the name of the game here more than power.  Food-friendliness goes with the territory.

Well now. I think I dropped a sawbuck on a horse named Pentad once.  Now they want 50 smackers for a bottle of wine with the same name.  And   "Vinifies" ? It sounds like they didn't have enough grapes to make a lot of wine, so they dumped whatever they had into a Mulligatawny Stew of wine.  And who gets to decide which five of the six grapes make the cut? But I like "vinify" as a word, if it exists.  And the phrase " a wonderfully graceful, finessed wine with fairly delicate aromas and flavors of dark fruits, cedar, mint and eucalyptus."  How many times did Joe, Steve, Mike and I say that as we sat on the banks of the reservoir as teens, passing bottles of Boone's Farm back and forth?  Even then we knew that food-friendliness went with the territory, so we would each wolf down a whole pizzaburger
Wouldn't this taste good..right now?
sub from Maria's of Taylor and Oakleigh.  (They would put pizza sauce and cheese on an opened-up sub roll and stick that in the oven while they fried three hamburger patties, which, when cooked, were graciously piled into the roll.  The whole thing was then wrapped in virgin aluminum foil, or "wrapified." I remember Steve pointing out that the hamburger patties had "fairly delicate aromas and flavors of cow.")

I'm only harshing the wine critics because their lingo is spreading.  Just the other day, the SUN paper had a review of some pizza palazzo in SoWeBa (Southwest Baltimore, about a hundred miles from our NoEaBa) and the review said the pizza was "unpretentious."  Here's how Google defines "pretentious," and while reading this, make sure that the next pizza you get has none of this going on:
  • making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction; "a pretentious country house"; "a pretentious fraud"; "a pretentious scholarly edition"
  • ostentatious: intended to attract notice and impress others; "an ostentatious sable coat"
  • ostentatious: (of a display) tawdry or vulgar
Man oh Manischewitz, I cannot stand it when they slide a pizza down in front of me and it seems tawdry. Or vulgar. Or intends to attract notice or create an appearance of often undeserved importance or distinction.  Bill Clinton was right to agree with Freud that sometimes, a pizza is just a pizza.  

Unless it becomes...pretentious.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Got to give this guy his props

I should stop and take a picture of this some morning, but I'll try to describe it, and you tell me what you think.  Right around the corner from work there is a house with a deck attached to the rear.  It's a fairly high deck, and the thing you might notice about it is that the owner, for his or her own reasons, has propped up one end of the deck with a 2 x 4.

That's right.  I guess someone felt some dipping or swaying at that end of the deck one day when the entire family was out there grilling and saluting Uncle Albert for his birthday.  So the owner says, "Ah!  I'll get a 2 x 4 and stick that underneath of the wobbly end of the deck.  That oughta solve it!"

I could be wrong, and I sure hope I am.  It could be that the pillars supporting the deck are strong and unyielding, their mighty beams glistening in the noonday sun like the giant arms of an NFL lineman, and they just added the 2 x 4 because they wanted a place to make little notches to measure the growing heights of the twins, Ernest and Abel.  

On the other hand, if we hear a story on the news that begins, "What began as a day of family fun ended in mayhem today as the deck of a North Baltimore home collapsed during a cookout..." then we'll know what happened.

Not to be pedantic, but wooden beams can only take so much stress. I see parties of what appears to be dozens of people on decks, porches and balconies, and I think of the awful consequences of an overload.

Here is a picture of another clever use of a 2 x 4 - until the crutch tip dry-rots and falls away and the 2 x 4 gives way and someone gets clomped on the melon by a window air conditioner.  More ersatz repair jobs available at this site.

Play it smart, be my advice. Have things professionally maintained.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wood You Believe

We had a great time at the beach last week, about which more anon, but one thing that is very interesting about the Jersey Shore (Snooki-free variety) is that they don't have pit beef stands along the road as we do here in Bmore. 

They have a lot of campgrounds, you see, and all along the roads leading to Cape May you will see little piles of  firewood. And it's interesting to note, as noteworthy camper Vin Scully would say, that everywhere you look, every stack of lumber is always the same price.  5 bucks.  It's as if everyone in South Jersey had agreed that the price will be cinco semolians.  It's been that way for the many years that we've been going there.  5 dollars, pile of wood. I guess it's self-service honor-system, which would not work out too well here in the land of pit beef stands. Leaving the beef, rolls and horseradish sauce out on the honor system would not end up well at all. But, I guess the deal is, you're heading to the campground so you stop by someone's yard, grab a stack o' lumber and off you go, down to build your fire.
The very tip is Cape May!

I can only hope that the wood is treated with some substance to keep the mosquitoes away.  They have mosquitoes up there the size of helicopters.

Or maybe you buy the pieces of wood to throw at the mosquitoes!  Now I get it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Amazing Talent

The name of Andy Griffith keeps popping up in my life, and that's not a bad thing at all. 

A couple of New Yorker magazines back, there was an article, a profile of country singer Brad Paisley, a man so devoted to the Andy Griffith Show reruns that he measures time in units he calls "Griffiths" - as in, how many Andy Griffith reruns on DVD can we watch in how much time?  He somehow talked Andy, who is retired and living on the coast of North Carolina, into being in one of his videos.

Then I saw that my buddy Brian Carter posted a link to the great Andy Griffith movie "A Face In The Crowd."  Here is the clip that Brian posted.  Something about that movie reminds me of things that go in the country today.  There is guy just like Lonesome Rhodes who wields weird influence over a large amount of people, but now I can't think of his name.  It's just not at my BECK and call.

And it was just three years after that 1957 movie when the Andy Griffith Show debuted on CBS, giving us over 150 worthwhile "Griffiths" to pass the time and learn from.

The first time most people saw or heard of Andy, he was doing standup comedy, with bits like this one about going to a football game.  Sure, he was from a small town a lot like his fictional Mayberry, but he had been to the U of North Carolina Chapel Hill and was a teacher and musician before becoming a comedian and actor.

Along the way, Andy took time to sing some songs, teach some lessons and entertain us mightily.  He's retired now, but as long as there are tapes and DVDs and CDs, we can still enjoy the messages he had for us.

If you want to know what I think, I think there is too much Blackberry
and not enough Mayberry
in our country today.  Course, that's just me.  Thanks for reading. I appreciate it!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hurting Each Other

This happened a long, long time ago.  I was a child.  It was just after the last dinosaur had lumbered off into the petroleum pits. 

I was a regular at Sunday School in those days; it was all part of our lives to be there for Sunday School and regular church services and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) on Sunday evenings.  We belonged to a small church right in our small community, and there was a succession of preachers.  One, I remember in particular.  He joined the volunteer fire company and drove the engine like a bat out of hello, there he was out on the bay on the old tugboat that he bought, and there he was cruising the roads in his old Dodge.  He set aside a portion of every church service to preach a special lesson to the children of the congregation, and there were lots of children to be preached to.  You could hear the baby boom very clearly in our town.

But this happened before the Rev. Archibald came along.  It was at a Sunday School Christmas party, and the teachers had all gotten together nice little stockings full of small gifts for the kids in their classes.  A very nice thing to do, but as so often happens, the best of intentions still can lead to trouble.

It was after the little party had ended and the parents were coming in to round up the broods.  There was a little girl whose attendance had been sporadic at Sunday School, and she had come to the party and the teacher had not planned on her being there.  I don't know what went wrong. Maybe the little girl's mom was supposed to have indicated her plan to bring her to the party. Maybe the teacher could have planned for this sort of thing and had an extra stocking or two.  All I know is, we were all playing with the little toys and gizmos that we got and the little girl's mother asked her where her stuff was. 

And the little girl burst into tears and said, "I didn't get a stocking!"

And I felt so horrible for her.  I still do.

A couple of years later, into our classroom full of Roberts, Johns, Stevens, Barbaras, Janes and Susans there came a young man named "Herman".  "Herman" was a new kid, which is a tough thing to be in school, and he was Jewish.  While a team of guidance counselors tried to prepare the young man for his new situation, our teacher calmly explained that "Herman" would not be taking part in our pre-lunch prayer. 

Way to set the boy up, ma'am.

The worst things were the things she didn't say... such as not pointing out to a flock of early-60s whitebread Ozzie and Harriet kids that to be Jewish was not a crime, not anything wrong.  It might have been nice had she pointed out that Judaism was one of the leading religions of the world, practiced by millions and millions of people the world over.  It was easier to let the class know-it-alls pipe up with "They don't believe in Jesus!" and not give some elementary education about the Judeo-Christian tradition.

So, for this and a couple of thousand other reasons, I am for the underdog and very interested in the rights of others.  If you can just imagine how it felt to be a minority, how it felt when you and your entire family were marginalized, minimalized and rejected, then you can imagine how those kids felt.  I'm not noble or a freedom fighter or anything special at all, but I am a sentient human who sees people being hurt for such trivial reasons and I wish it would stop.

Of course, the latest is this damning of the president of the United States by the grudging admissions of putative religious leaders that "I GUESS he's a Christian, but you know he was born a Muslim."  No, he wasn't.  He was born of an atheist mother and an atheist father and he has embraced Christianity.  You remember when the haters were all in a spin over the minister of his church, Rev. Wright, and things the preacher had said or done.  But that wasn't enough proof for some that Barack Obama is a Christian.

I've lived long enough to have seen people treated like second-class citizens because of the color of their skin or where they live or where their ancestors came from or any one of a host of reasons that people trot out to justify their prejudice.  It is about time to stop hurting people's feelings over their personal choices.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everywhere A Sign

Funny, the stuff you see. As Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by just watching." So on my way home, I see a sign in this wacky deli that no one I know ever goes to, the sign reading ''Brazil - The Only Country Run by a Gangster."

Huh! I did not know this. I have to wonder, is it a real gangster, one of those guys with the blue pinstripe suit and a fedora, looking and talking like Edward
Edward G. Robinson

G. Robinson? Does he attend summit meetings with other foreign dignitaries (pause for laughter) and slap them around, mumbling threats, saying "yeaahhhhhhh see?"

My mind a blur of activity, I thought it best to wikipedia the whole thing and here's what we found about the president of Brazil. First of all, he seems like a doggone nice guy by the name of Luiz
His nickname is "Lula"
Inàcio da Silva. He seems to have one of those cheery smiles, and that sash sets off everything nicely. Really, reading the entry about the man online, nothing seems to suggest that he's anything other than just another politician who climbed to the top.  Fact is, most people don't know much about Brazil. We're proud to be able to say that we know they speak Portugese there, not Spanish, as is the case in the rest of Latin America. Other than knowing full well that their economy depends almost wholly on regular exports of Brazil nuts,
we don't know too much about them, all 169,872,855 of them (2000 Census.)  But I did read that voting is compulsory there, and that sort of gives you that "uh-oh" feeling like it's a place where everyone's always telling you what to do. Which brings me back to the sign in the window. I don't know whose sign it is, but whoever he or she is, I bet that they have lived in a country of oppression and a ban on free speech. And I bet they appreciate being able to hang that sign on their window without worrying about someone knocking on the door in the middle of the night and hauling them off to parts unknown.  I know I do!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why do you want Beef and Broccoli now?

There's an episode of "King of Queens" in which Doug becomes nonplussed at the very thought of having a brick pizza oven installed in his house. Nice touch, but for me, I'd like a grill like the one at the Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, the successor to the late, lamented Old Country Buffet in our neighborhood.

When you dine there, you get to wait for a little while, which just adds to the fun. It's people-watching at its finest, and helps to build your appetite. Plus, there's an indoor fish pond with a big aquarium right next to it, so you have the fun of wondering if the fish in either habitat envy their neighbors in the other  accommodations.

Then, when the magic time comes that your number is called (I liken it to the Pearly Gates, but Peggy says I'm overly dramatic or theological, or both) you are whisked to a seat and then set loose upon the buffet. They might not offer fried yak or butterfly eyelashes, but they pretty much put out everything else for you here. I always go for a plate of cold shrimp just to get the old jawbone limbered up. The real attraction for me is the grill itself. You take an empty plate, go to a salad bar sort of area, and pile upon that plate what you wish to have stir-fried. Veggies, sure, and then shrimp, chicken, pork, beef: you name it. Really, go ahead and name it "perfection" and add that you also get a show along with your chow. I've seen the grill man working as many as seven piles of food at a time on his grill. You just hand him your plate and he dumps it on the grill, and then gets a huge spatula in each hand and beats out a rhythm that Sheila E. would love to copy. In between tossing, flipping and chopping, he darts around refilling the huge tureens of bean sprouts, pea pods, rice, broccoli, and meats to meet the demands of the burgeoning line - and nothing ever burns or gets overcooked. I don't know how he multitasks all this cooking and replenishing at once. On a slow day, he could probably pull out the floor buffer and add a little sheen to the tiles, but that's just conjecture, because this place doesn't have any slow days.

But if you care to go, and you're not a Ravens fan, well then, judging from the amount of purple and black garb on display last night, dining there during a Ravens game might be the best time to go!

I always mean to take a picture of my finished stir-fry meal for you, but I never seem to get around to it. Unlike the more sedate restaurants we frequent, this place is not the kind of place where you feel like whipping out the camera to snap a shot. This is the kind of place with food that Must Be Eaten. Now!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From my Old Farmer's Almanac

Truth to tell, I love almanacs and generally get a couple of them every year.  Peggy buys me the Old Farmer's Almanac and the Hagerstown Almanac, and I mooch a copy of the almanac that the Johnson Funeral Home on Loch Raven Bl hands out every autumn.  I'm usually there, anyway.

Now, I don't go for the weather predictions.  I mean, right now I'm sure the 2011 almanacs are printed up and are being shipped to the newsstands, lunch counters and magazine racks of America, all with a forecast for the weather for next July 4th weekend.  Meteorology being the science of educated speculation, it's enough for the local TV weather caster to be right about today and tomorrow.  Anything further down the line than that, and you can expect wide variance between what was called for (A) and what really occurs (B).  Then next week, they can call for B and you get A.  Or, vice versa.

Fig. A - what they call for

Fig B - What We Get                     

Again, this is NOT an exact science.  Do not blame your meteorologist if things don't come out just as she or he said they would! And if the 5-day forecast is so hard to get right, why in blue blazes would you figure that an almanac printed 305 days before the day you want to go to the beach with the O'Hoolahan family would get it right?  

The almanacs also show you when the sun will come up and go down on any given day - always helpful to know if you're planning to go fishing or repossess cars in the morning.

The great thing about the almanacs, to me, are the ads and the household tips. The recipes are always for something you wish your granny still made -  homemade root beer, pickle relish, pickles, mayonnaise, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it. 

The ads are for trusses and learn-to-throw-your-voice classes by mail and creams to make dogs stop scratching and folksy stuff like that.  Cigarettes, whisky, Volvos - all these exotic items wouldn't dream of advertising there.

But I wanted to share this with you... 
It's great advice from last month for anyone who wants to walk around all day and have people asking "Are you eating a banana?"  How many people are willing to schmear banana goo all over their shoes and "buff with a soft cloth"?  

That many, huh?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stix Hix Palin Bailin' Mayor Dare

Well, Palin-family fans, the news just got better for you, now that Levi Johnston has announced his plans to run for mayor of Wasilla.  There is no way that this is any kind of publicity stunt.  If the young man wanted publicity, he would have signed up to do some sort of reality show.

OK. So he's going to do a reality show.  Does that mean that he's not qualified to be mayor of a major US metropolis, a great teeming city in the 49th state that served as springboard for the populist popularity of his almost-mother-in-law, the former 1/2 governor of the whole darned state? Shoot!  Surely he is at least a high school graduate, as he seeks high elective office out there on the Klondike, doggone it!

OK. He's going for his GED.  That information about Alaska being the 49th state might be on the GED test, so he's got that going for him.  He'll be a splendid mayor; it says so right here.  Look at who else has had that job.  You don't have to be a dad-blamed Phi Beta Blocker to do it, you betcha!

According to the Washington Post, Levi showed up at the Teen Choice Awards the other night on the arm of extremely famous singer Brittani Senser, who certainly needs not to resort to publicity stunts, what with being a household name all across her household. 

When the Rosanne Show was on tv in the late 1980's, it was hailed as a big cultural breakthrough, because, instead of a show showing wholesome handsome witty actors playing ordinary people who just happen to have witty rejoinders for everything anyone says, Rosanne Barr presented a show with people who were not particularly attractive in any way doing rather ordinary things, just like that new family down the street.  Average everyday people are everywhere. I'm one.  Will Rogers said, "The Lord must have loved the common people...He made so many of them." 

Many politicians go for that open-collar, been-working-so-hard look.  Young Johnston is going for the "been-partying-so-hard" image that is sure to catch the eye of many Alaskans. And of course you already know Brittani Senser (right).
Clearly, it's in young Levi's genes to strive for higher office.  I don't know much about his parents, except that his mother went down on a drug-distribution charge, but I will go to any length for a bad pun.  Just like Levi, I know it's amazing how far one can go with a smile and a good sense of determination. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

1/8/35 - 8/16/77

From the New Yorker, December 6, 1999


Twenty years after the death, St. Paul
was sending the first of his epistles,
and bits of myth or faithful memory - 
multitudes fed on scraps, the dead small girl
told "Talitha, cumi" - were self-assembling
as proto-Gospels.  Twenty years since pills
and chiliburgers did another in,
they gather at Graceland, the simple believers,
the turnpike pilgrims from the sere Midwest,
mother and daughter bleached to look alike,
Marys and Lazaruses, you and me,
brains riddled with song, with hand-tinted visions
of a lovely young man, reckless and cool
as a lily.  He lives. We live. He lives.

                                           John Updike

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Red Zone

I was driving behind one of those blue Corollas the other morning and when we got to the red light at The Alameda and Walker Av, the guy sort of pulled up, looked around, and drove right through the red light.

Now I know it's ok to turn right on a red light, but not left.  So either this dude is one of those people who don't know their left from their right, or he is one of those people who just plain don't care to follow the law.

I would hate to think it's the latter, but I don't know.  If the statement "Laws are made to be broken" is itself a law of sorts, then you would break that law by following the law.

And then you'd have to walk around like John Travolta, holding your head in both hands, and bellowing, "I'm so CONFUSED!"

I see a large trend of people just doing what pleases them.  To heck with the law, civil, criminal or societal.  It starts out with deliberately using "your" in place of "you're," and it goes on from there.  Next thing you know, you have a mean dog who runs free about the neighborhood, snipping and yipping. ("Everybody LOVES Scrappy!") And then it's just a short leap to stealing cars, mugging pedestrians and news vendors, and...well, I'm kidding, but seriously, I feel we are becoming a nation of convenience.  And if it's not CONVENIENT to stop at a light, well then, by all means, you just scoot on through there, Sunshine.  Hope no one is coming through the other way!

I keep wanting to go back to 1966 but no one wants to join me.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I'm So ....

Sitting in a college classroom the day after the Kent State massacre, I listened in on a conversation among four students.  The point of the conversation was  to determine which of them was the most offended by the killings of four people at a college in Ohio.  

"I've been a radical since Viet Nam!" cried one.

"I've been a radical since BEFORE Viet Nam!" another put in.

"I've been a communist for many years," said a third, playing the trump card.  All nodded in homage.

I remember thinking, just saying you are something doesn't really equate with doing something, right?  But I was still but a youth at the time, a weejun-wearing boy with cheek of tan.

Today is August 14, the 75th anniversary of the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which has made a nice life possible for tens of millions of our seniors. 

Social Security, or "Soshacurity" as we say in B'more, is a nice crouton to toss on the salad of your conversations.  Soon as you do, someone will claim that by the time we get to claiming our slice, there won't be any pie left.  I don't know about that. I have confidence the checks will come again! I have confidence in the future, and in the government, and in sunshine, and rain, and most of all in me!  And just ask those who claim SS is "creepin' socialism" if they plan to file for it the day they become eligible.  You betcha!

But, whenever you get someone talking about how the government has gone "socialist," be sure to ask him (it's always a guy) how their Aunt Thelma would like it had there been no Social Security and she had been obliged to live out her days in cousin Norman's back room, her meager belongings piled up near the daybed and the raucous laughter of Norman's daughter and her boyfriend causing the house to shake, rattle and droll.  

I see an ad for some guy running for some office locally.  I wouldn't mention his name, but I don't remember it anyway.  But the thrust of his commercials is that he is:

a) conservative

b) not a career politician

OK.  I'm not conservative on most issues, except on crime and education, where I am totally old skool, but I wouldn't be too impressed if someone ran for office and his whole platform was, "Hey! I am very liberal!"  I need to flesh out that bare-boned resume a little bit.  Tell me what you can do.  Tell me what you have done.  Tell me your plans.  Tell me how you will work your plan.  Tell me you love me. 

Ooops. I did it again.  Wrong pledge.

And the "I'm not a career politician" stance - the way to appeal to the "Throw them all out!" crowd...remember the movie Doc Hollywood where young doc Michael J Fox runs up against crusty old doc Barnard
Hughes and his folksy, Old-Farmer's-Almanac, rub-some-liniment-on-it brand of medicine?   "We might have to use real medicine this time!" says the younger M.D.

I don't think that "career politician" is necessarily a pejorative term.  If you want brain surgery done, you would want it performed by a career neurosurgeon, wouldn't you?  Not someone who had been selling life insurance for ten years and then decided to try being a doctor.  

If you were driving down some road in Montana and there were two bridges to use to cross the Potomac River, you would choose the one built by a career bridge builder, right?  Not the one engineered by someone who had never built a bridge before...

...and you would want to consult with a career geographer and cartographer as well, to help you put them the Potomac River back where it belongs. 

In summary, I'd just like to say that Barnard Hughes almost always played someone crusty.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's Catching On

The next-to-last thing I ever want to do is turn this blog into a sports commentary blog. I love sports - baseball and football chief among them - but there are already plenty of people plowing that field.

The last thing I want to do is to figure out a way to be there when they read my will. There are going to be some surprised faces in that room, I wanna tell ya. For one thing, I want to make sure to remember Christina Crawford in my will. I don't think she was treated very well in the past. Although, to this day, I avoid wire hangers at all costs.

But let's talk baseball for a second. Baltimore's Orioles have hired a new manager, and the same team that played like the Bad News Bears up until last week has all of a sudden found a way to win 8 of the 10 games that Buck Showalter, the new head man, has managed. It's fun to watch. The players are actually acting like they like to play baseball. I tell you, earlier this year I almost gave up watching the games, because some of the countenances on some of the players wore that look like, "All right, you can force me to play, but I'm not going to enjoy myself!" I have seen this look on countless men forced to dance at wedding receptions.

But now, there is zip and zest on the local nine as they race around the bases, tear across the outfield making acrobatic catches, and throw balls past batters who, just weeks ago, were knocking the horsehide off the old apple, slamming circuit clouts and round-trippers and grand salamis...these are old sportswriter terms for, respectively, the baseball itself, home runs, and grand slams. Those old-time sportswriters used to amuse the well! out of me. They would call football games "grid tilts" without batting an eyelash.

However, there are a couple of points to ponder, and no one should be printing World Series 2011 tickets for Oriole Park just yet. Some fans are grousing because, if we don't finish this season with the worst record in the major leagues, we won't get first dibs in the draft to select a future star. And there was this quote from catcher Matt

"Any time you get a change of manager and the new guy is going to be here for a while, a little bit of excitement comes with it. It might have helped the guys a little bit. Especially to pick them up this time of year."

This seems to be Wieters's way of saying that he and the rest of the O's were not exactly hustling their butts off earlier, since it was clear to the world that both of the previous managers at the helm this season, Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel, had a less-than-firm grip on the position for the long term. I don't know. I'm just glad that the second-year catcher out of Charleston SC, with the $400,000 that he is earning this year that is keeping company with the $6,000,000 signing bonus he was given three years ago, has found that little lift of excitement that having a full-time manager with a long-time contract can give.

As for me, the interest on the 6 million semolians would thrill me beyond all measure, but hey, if Matt Wieters finds joy in consistent leadership, then we all can breathe the sweet air of contentment.

Let's go, O's!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crime In Punishment

I need someone knowledgeable in both the law and in the field of common sense to help me with something here.  

Why do we allow technicalities to get in the way of crime and punishment?

And no, I'm not talking about going back to the days when cops could kick down the door and make bogus arrests based on trumped-up charges.  The Bill of Rights is quite clear on all that.

I'm talking about a case in which the arrest is fair and equitable and the case against the accused proceeds through the courts without a huge problem, only to be overturned later because no one told the defense attorney that there was coffee and bagels in the judge's chambers.  

OK. Facetious.  Coffee and danish.

In the home version of this scenario, Mom catches Junior cutting school, hanging around the go-kart track with that O'Hoolahan boy from around the corner that Mom kept saying was nothing but trouble, just look at his parents, the cheap dyed hair, too much cologne, skimpy clothing, loitering in barrooms  like I don't know what, and the mother's just as bad.  

Mom calls Dad at work, and she's really steamed about the way the receptionist put her on hold. She blows her top about everything, and by the time Dad gets home, the house is rockin' with domestic problems, as Cheap Trick would say. Dad says this truancy had just naturally got to stop, and he sentences Junior to a week of grounding, and also makes him listen to NPR.  

Junior points out that Mom is not supposed to be calling Dad at work, and therefore, the call reporting his misbehavior should not have taken place, and therefore, the punishment cannot be levied.  Mom points out that she can do as she pleases.  Dad points out that Mom is just like her own mother, and lists several colorful examples, and suddenly go-kart tracks and snippy receptionists hardly seem to matter anymore.

OK.  That's a joke. But this is damned serious. How does it come that people who have been arrested, tried and found guilty, and then sentenced to long sentences, can get out on technicalities - mistakes made by others.  So your attorney didn't tell you about something?  Well, too bad, Junior!  Next time, pick a better attorney!  It seems to make the rest of us in society the ones who have to pay.

Imagine being the victim of some hellish crime, and many years later, you find the courage somewhere to come forward and tell the law about it.  They round up the guy who did it and toss him in the Ironbar Hilton for a long time - life in prison, sometimes with no chance of parole.  

And you, the victim, can go on with your life, taking the kids to soccer, going to the mall, stopping off at the Pump 'N' Go to fill up with hi-test, and working, knowing that you did your part for law and order.

Until the Saturday when you pick up your newspaper and find out that somewhere along the line, the guy you helped put away had hired an incompetent lawyer, and so some judge wants to let the guy out because, I mean, after all.  

He is still guilty. Doesn't matter that the attorney was a big-talkin' showboat who wanted to drag out the trial on the teeny chance that some jury felt like letting him out, just to be a little more famous of a lawyer.  Guilty is guilty, and nothing changes that.  Nothing changes the agony of the victims who have to relive that horror every time they close their eyes, and who now get to worry that the criminal will again walk among us.

And so I need someone versed in the law to tell me why a mistake made by some attorney should mean that he might be released, when we were told that couldn't happen.

Try explaining this to me.  Go ahead; take forever if you need to.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On The Phone

Well, wasn't everyone all worked up the other day when they glanced at the calendar and saw that the date was 8/9/10?  Haven't seen that much calendar-based excitement since 7/8/09!

But, I got to thinking about something else when I was watching a King of Queens rerun, one of 14 episodes in which Carrie refuses any more of Doug's amorous advances unless he starts doing something or stops doing something; I can't remember which.  I loved that show the most when Arthur, the wacky father of Carrie, would emerge from the basement where he had just had his four-hour nap, and get into one of his loony adventures.  I plan to be a lot like him someday.

On one of the outside scenes in the show, there was a sign for a store where they sold phone cards.  Remember all that?  Around 1990, suddenly everyone in this nation was consumed with an urge to call friends and kin in far-flung outposts, and so we turned to phone cards.  Phone cards were the size of credit cards, and had imprinted on them a simple 127-digit code number.  When you got the urge to call your buddy Pat McButoks in North Dakota, you went to a pay phone, picked up the handset that contained no fewer than 127 bacteria, flu germs and cold-causing contaminants, entered that code number, and then heard a beeping tone telling you that you had entered an invalid code.

You didn't get to make your call, but you did catch a case of whooping cough.

Pay phones?  Remember them?  Now you walk through hotel lobbies, mall food courts and detention center waiting areas and see nothing but phone jacks, still on the wall, but without anything plugged into them.  Go to court or some other gathering, and when someone comes out and reminds everyone to make sure their cells are on vibrate, every man, woman and child reaches for the Samsung and kills the noise.  Except for one dozing individual, who is shortly to become the center of barely-suppressed tittering when his phone rings and his ringtone is that "I Like Big Butts And I Will Not Lie" song.  But later, no one needs a pay phone except for that guy (the bailiff confiscated his) to call their friends and tell about what happened in court.   

Eva Savealot
And the 8/9/10 part reminded me of those deals where you called 1-800-10-10-10-10 or something and got long distance at really cheap rates.  What happened to all the people - Alyssa Milano among them - who worked for these companies?  Now that all cells have free long distance and you can call your friends Bill Loney or Ty Malone, what are we doing with the money we used to spend on long distance calls?

Because, I got to tell you, everyone is on the phone with someone all the time.  Grocery shopping, driving, walking along, those Blueteeth are biting into important conversations. Now, the woman in front of me in line at the Buy 'N' Pay the other day was apparently tired of the conversation she was having.

The only thing she kept saying was "Shut up!"  "Shut UP!"  "SHUT! UP!"  But still her friend went on talking.  I headed home for my four-hour nap.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

National Velvet

Somehow I will have to make sure that Peggy does not pick up the book I am reading these days and start reading it.  

Just the right thickness for a wobbly chair leg

It's the autobiography of the noted actor, raconteur, Hollywood swinger and tanmaster George Hamilton.  "Don't Mind If I Do" tells the tale of the life of a man chiefly famous for being famous...sort of the male version of the Gabor sisters, without all that acting talent.  I picked this book up at Barnes & Noble on their reduced rack for $5.98, because I was interested in reading about just how it is that he became an actor, and also because the book looked so lonesome, sitting there atop a gigantic stack of other copies of itself. 

And I'm not even that far into it, to tell you the truth. I've read up the part where his mother, having left his father, supports herself by striking up friendships with Hollywood notables such as Hoagy Carmichael.  

I am telling you, there is a world out there in which people do such things.  Then again, there is a world out there in which people used to be able to spend their vacation at Twitty City, the Hendersonville TN home of country music legend Conway
Conway Twitty (1933 - 1993)
Twitty.  And after paying the admission charge, fans were able to roam the grounds and visit the mansion wherein dwelt the man born Harold Lloyd Jenkins.  Fans could even enter his house and walk around in there.  Sure, there were velvet ropes set up to keep people from entering the bathroom while the great man loofahed his back, but they say that one could actually stand right outside the dining area and watch Conway spooning Shredded Wheat down his neck in the morning.  

And people planned their vacations to be in Twitty City for this.

George Hamilton IV
You ask how in the world does Conway Twitty have anything to do with George Hamilton, and you might think I am confusing Hamilton with George
Hamilton IV, the country singer from North Carolina who had such a big hit with "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" in 1956.  But no.  Here's the angle:

Hamilton had an older brother Bill who was interested in decorating and had a real flair for design.  His mother let Bill decorate their apartment in New York, and Bill got the idea to put one of those velvet ropes in front of the door to a rarely-used closet.  People walking by were to get the impression that the door led to another whole area of the apartment, but it was currently closed for renovation: hence the velvet rope.

I'm not kidding you.  There are people who actually think like that, deceiving people into thinking there is more to   them than the eye can see at first glance. And the velvet rope is all that stands between them and reality. Then there are people who will cluster on the east side of a velvet rope while Conway Twitty goes about his life on the west side.  

I just don't think that Conway would have fronted in any way.  He seemed like a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy.  Hamilton comes from that there-must-be-more-to-see-than-just-this school of thought.  

I think I prefer the Conway.