Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dinner Surprise!

Yesterday, to celebrate my impending return to work, Peggy treated me to dinner at the wonderful Friendly Farm.  We took the loooooooong way to get there - went about 45 miles out of the way - just to see the beautiful fall foliage.  This is probably the peak weekend for leaf-peepers in our area, because I predict that by next weekend, the winds will blow a lot of the leaves into nice neat piles all over yards, just ready to be picked up and bagulated.  It was such a pleasure to ride along and see God's handiwork in action. Fall is such a great time of year, and of course it leads to the best season, winter!

Well, two great things happened at dinner.  For one thing, our wonderful waitress Mary Pat brought me out special a scoop of Hershey's Almond Joy Ice Cream, which is the ne plus ultra of ice creams, all chock full of coconut, almond bits and chocolate chips.  Man, that is a lot like living, scooping into that ice cream.

And then, toward the end of our chowin' down, I looked up to see a party of three edging into the rather full restaurant.  I said to myself, "That man looks like Fred Manfra." 

Then I said to myself, "As soon as he asks someone to pass the salt, I'll know if it is in fact he, because there is no mistaking that marvelous voice."

I have these conversations all the time, and even more so since I have been hanging around the house all alone for a month and a half, with no one to talk to but the tv, which doesn't always answer back.

But it WAS the great Fred Manfra, the Orioles' radio play by play guy who forms, along with Joe Angel, the most intelligent and informative AND entertaining baseball radio tandem I have ever heard.  I prefer to listen to the Orioles on the radio, truth to tell.  A lot of this is because I can get other things done, strutting around with my Walkman on tuned to 105.7, then I can sitting in the recliner watching the games on tv. And frankly, I like the call of the game better on the radio than on tv, where they always have to have some old big-leaguer rattling on about how they played the game when HE was around.  Hello!  Let's talk about tonight's game!

So, as we left, I went over to Fred, and said I did not wish to intrude, but I wanted to thank him for making so many summer nights so enjoyable.  The fact that the Orioles have had 11 straight losing seasons is lost on neither of us, but Fred was so nice - and that's why he makes a ballgame fun, even when the O's are getting the stuffing kicked out of them.  He said he was looking forward to a much better team this year, and we chatted for a second about the new manager and the spark that Buck Showalter has given the club.  Then we left, but what a nice man Fred is.  I hope he and his wife and mother enjoyed their meal.

I know, I know.  I'm such a fan! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Root Root Root

We see these people in the stands every football Sunday, and sometimes I have to wonder why anyone would do this.

  Now, I am not about to say people shouldn't do these things.  It's a free country, and you can adorn yourself with as many chains, masks, tubes of greasepaint and makeshift crowns as you wish.  Whatever it takes to make yourself feel like an NFL extreme fan, go for it!

But I would just like a chance to talk a couple of these people.

I always look for The Rest of
The Story, as Paul Harvey
would say.  My questions
would be:

 - - Did you wake up one morning and decide
"OK, today is the day I become an extreme fan!" and then head out to the novelty shop and start stocking up on extreme pompoms, wigs, and personalized license tags?  Do you tell your wife (99% of these people seem to be male) of your plan, and ask for tips on how to apply makeup? 

- - Suppose the place where you work transfers you to Ashtabula.  Is it your first move to grab an atlas and check to see which NFL team is closest to to your new home?  (Sorry to tell you this, but it looks like it's Cleveland.)  And then, before departing for your new seat, do you bequeath all your doo-dads, what-nots and gim-cracks to someone else, to have the tradition continue?  Of course, if your ersatz headwear is made of something perishable, like the Watermelon Ram Man pictured here, last week's hat is this week's dumpsterfill.

  - - Does your cell ever ring during the game, and it's your wife asking you to stop at the BuySumMore and pick up rye bread for dinner?  When you pull up to the store, do young children, hanging around out by the front door where the free magazines listing cars for sale and apartments for rent are displayed by the fire engine ride, flee in terror as your visage looms into
view?  Do the cashiers
suddenly "go on break" as
you approach their
register, purchases in hand?  Do other shoppers
down by the peanut butter
shelf suddenly stop talking
as you draw near?

Do you wonder why?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Signs of the Times

We talked the other day about that guy who got caught in Anne Arundel County, allegedly tearing down signs that had been paid for and put up by proponents of a measure that would allow slot machine gambling at a certain mall.

The commercials are on all the time, and as Peggy pointed out to me, sometimes you'll be watching the news and there will be a pro-slot commercial and then an anti-slot commercial right afterwards, followed by the two men vying for the governor's mansion.  In the NFL, they say the penalties offset, so if all candidates would just agree to refrain from running tv spots, we would be able to enjoy our regular commercials, with car dealers getting dunked in bozo booths while burbling out their slogans, and free Thanksgiving turkeys if you spend enough on groceries at the Bi-So-Lo.

And please, diction, people, diction!  There is one announcer who does not enunciate all that well on a radio ad, and I keep hearing him say that we should all oppose "sluts at the mall." 

I should say so! They take up all the good parking spots!

But here's something from the SUN about the guy who was arrested for ripping down pro-slot signs:

With a Glen Burnie resident charged with stealing dozens of pro-slots signs last weekend, each side in the slots question says it has lost countless signs to vandals in the tight ballot fight over whether to allow a slots parlor by Arundel Mills mall. Experts say emotions rarely run high over ballot questions.

David Scott Corrigan, 50, who told court officials that he is a $160,000-a-year manager with Northrop Grumman in Glen Burnie, is not affiliated with No Slots at the Mall, the group against slots at the shopping mecca, or similar interests, according to his lawyer, the organization and the Maryland Jockey Club, which hopes to steer the project to the
Laurel Park race course.
Corrigan was released on personal recognizance Saturday by a District Court commissioner after Anne Arundel County police charged him with property destruction and theft of between $1,000 and $10,000. No trial date has been set and police said the investigation is continuing.

"Apparently, he is about as low-key and mainstream as people come," said Corrigan's attorney, Byron L. Warnken.

"I know that he is a religious man, and I can tell you he is not supportive of gambling," said the University of Baltimore law professor, who also is in private practice. His client "would never do something that he thought was illegal," Warnken said.

David Jones, chairman of the No Slots at the Mall Coalition, said at least 4,000 of his group's signs have vanished in the past two months. Todd Lamb, campaign manager of the Jobs & Revenue groups, said they are out 700 signs in the past few weeks, which prompted them to put a camera on their property. The video that was captured, which is on
YouTube, purports to show Corrigan's arrest.

"It's rare that you will get somebody so energized about an issue that they will tear down the signs," said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.

In court documents, police said that shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday they saw a man who at first look could have been taken for a State Highway Administration worker, outfitted in a reflective shirt and yellow hard hat, by the headquarters of Jobs & Revenue Corp. on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park.

They saw the person cutting a "Vote for Question A" from a wood frame, charging documents said. When asked what he was doing, "he then answered, 'I am taking down the sign,'" according to the documents. Asked why, "he stated because I am against it," police wrote.

They also wrote that they returned 70 signs from the suspect's Toyota Tacoma to Jobs & Revenue.

A Northrop Grumman spokesman said the company had no comment.
Now I'm not saying the man is guilty, and I could not care any less about the outcome of this vote down in AA Co, but I have about as much interest in going to a slots parlor as I would going to see a musical based on the life of Jeffrey Dahmer. There are plenty of sanctimonious types who a) don't want to play slot machines themselves  and b) have decided that you shouldn't - and can't - play them either.   
But I pointed this out because this statement from his lawyer  - his client "would never do something that he thought was illegal" - what the hill of beans does that mean?  Are we setting him up for an insanity defense here?  Does the attorney really wish for us to understand that his client sees no problem in stealing other people's property because he is "against" what the signs say?

Uh...what if I decided that I oppose everything about cigarettes: their manufacture, sale or possession...  Could I just dart around smashing cigarette machines and 7-Eleven cash register areas and any other place where smokes might be sold? 

Are we becoming a society that will be ruled by those with the heaviest sledge hammers and cardboard cutters?

Sometimes I just really have to wonder.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting a bit Randy in his old age

This Randy Quaid fellow...interesting man.  He first came to attention in the movie The Last Picture Show, playing a goofball who got to escort Cybill Shepherd around because his family was rich.  After that he continued to play parts in movies, never reaching what you might call huge big major jumbo movie star status, the type of celebrity enjoyed by the likes of Denzel Washington, George Clooney, Mr and Mrs Brad Pitt, and, of course, Mr Johnny Knoxville. 

I liked him a lot as Cousin Eddie in the National Lampoon Vacation movies.  But they don't seem to be making them any longer, and even if they did, Randy is unavailable for the nonce, because he and his wife Evi, in a horribly deluded estimation of his importance, have fled to Canada, seeking asylum.  Evi Quaid is a Canadian, and so they are staying put up north in the land of Canadian bacon and maple syrup.

Frequently misunderestimated
The "misunderestimation" took place when old Randy decided to vamoose, scoot, take it on the lam, because there is a mysterious clan that they believe murdered actors Heath Ledger and David Carradine. Ledger OD'd two years ago, and last year Carradine bought it in a hotel room in Thailand, making himself the victim of autoerotic asphyxiation. Please don't ask me for details on that.  But  most people would not see the death of a troubled young man like Ledger, who was suspected of having drug habits, and Carradine, who, in his old age, should have found another means of self-gratification, as having anything to do with a mysterious cabal seeking to off our glorious movie gods and goddesses.  I mean, who's next: the guy who played Larry on Three's Company?  Alex Karras?

Perhaps, and I'm engaged in speculation here, but just maybe the Quaids scooted up to the Land o' the Mounties because they ALLEGEDLY skipped out on a $10,000 hotel bill and then last month - and this is something that could only happen in Los Angeles - they were caught living in a guest house on property that he USED to own, according to the LAPD, which must deal with this lunacy on a regular basis.  They just sort of set up housekeeping in a house they didn't own, and stand accused of doing $5,000 worth of damage to the house.  Packing in a hurry will cause that sort of thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Look At Her

1944 - 2005

I saw her photo and my heart stood still.

It shouldn't really happen after all these years, but there she was, smiling that smile that made young Me fall deep into my first crush.  I was about 10 and she was 17 at the time, but in the time-honored manner of young love, I vowed not to let her advanced age be an impediment to true love.  True love it was, with only the one problem. Well, two.

One, she didn't know me from Adam: Carolla, Curry or Sandler, Jones or Jones.

And two, she was Sandra Dee.

Yes, my own Gidget, and how I Jonesed on her.  Like a young scholar learning all about pre-Raphaelite art, I learned all I could about my future bride.  Born Alexandra Zuck in fashionable Bayonne, New Jersey, she changed her name to begin modeling at age four. She got into the movies in the late 50's, playing Gidget and Tammy and a reluctant debutante.  To be honest about it, I didn't get to many movies with her in them, because my choice in movies to invest my 50 cents in at the Towson Theater ran more to The Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis, but I would hang around grocery stores and newsstands until closing time, scoping out pictures of her in Photoplay, Modern Screen, Movieland, and other magazines of the day which also featured ads for itch relief and marital aids.

She married Bobby Darin (né Walden R. Cassotto) but I figured he was just a flashy placeholder until I was old enough to get my fake ID.  The marriage did not last, nor did her career.  And as has been well-documented here and elsewhere, I fell even more madly in love with a woman who was actually in the same room with me (and showed no inclination to flee into the night!), so that was the true love, and Peggy and I were married in December of 1973.  Twelve days after that, Darin died.  And I spent a lot less time in my Sandra infatuation, even when the movie "Grease" came out, with the song "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" as performed by Stockard Channing with a reprise by Olivia Newton-John.

Because every road has a link back to Baltimore, the story came full circle when a good friend moved to Los Angeles and called me one day for my pork loin recipe.  She was having some company over for dinner, and had borrowed a blender from her neighbor in the next apartment down the hall, a woman she described as a broken-down, pixilated former actress who was always smashing her old Rolls-Royce into the dumpster in the apartment parking lot.  Do I even have to finish this paragraph?  Didn't think so.

I checked Miss Dee out a little more after that, just out of sad curiosity.  I found that by 1990, Sandra was living on soup, crackers, and a quart and a half of vodka per day.  By then, even the roles in tv shows that had replaced the roles in beach movies were not coming her way, and by 2005 her final TV appearance came when Brian Williams told us that she had passed.  A life fronted by beauty but also populated with a family of substance abusers and sexual abuse (her stepfather) had come to an end.

Sometimes, all the beauty just gets tired of covering all the sad and ugly.  But when I saw her face on a DVD box the other day, I had pleasant memories of a childhood crush.  And they can't take that away from me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Out at the Lazy 'C' Ranch

We put cracked corn (why has no sharp-witted marketer sold this under the brand name "Jimmy's Cracked Corn?) and peanuts and the occasional leftover popcorn or grainy bread out on the deck for the dining and dancing pleasure of the squirrels, birds, chipmunks and other members of the animal kingdom who hang around our yard waiting for a handout.  At breakfast time, it's a lot of fun to see the cardinals, blue jays, grackles and other birds land on the deck and vie with the squirrels, several of whom seem to be all hopped up at that early hour, for the chow.

On Sunday morning, this little fellow kept coming back to filch another peanut.  I ID'ed him as a red-headed woodpecker:
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Melanerpes
Species: erythrocephalus
and also checked him for wants and warrants.  He came back clean, or "negative," in the official parlance. 

But for those who find the myriad differences between me and my wonderful wife Peggy to be endlessly fascinating, here you go:  Peggy got out the many books she owns on the topic of animal symbolism and lore, and wove for me many tales of what it means to see a woodpecker peckin' away at one's tree, or peanuts, as it were.  She was totally in her element, gleefully turning page after page of book after book and relating to me many interesting stories of people and their interactions with Erythrocephalus. 

I sat around performing the Woody Woodpecker song in several ways...whistling, humming, tapping on hollow cheeks. (Of my face.)  For an hour or two, I happily paraded around the house in my curious gait, tapping my cane and cackling like Woody. 

I'm the way I am and Peggy is the way she is and we love each other for it.  If it's culture and taste you seek, call on Peggy.  But if you want the link to the video where Quagmire runs around doing the Woody theme, I'm your boy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

I see ya!

We are living in a world where just about every action, everything anyone does, is being seen by cameras and recorded digitally.  You see this on the news all the time: some armed holdup or bank caper occurs, and police have award-winning-quality video of the entire event.  They even have close-ups of the crook's face, enabling the jury to determine his state of mind just before the dye-pack blew up.

We talked before about how Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is all worked up over the debate about whether to put a slot machine parlor in a mall parking lot.  My heavens, say the opponents, we can't have gamblers and their ilk mixing with the children who congregate in the mall!

Of course we can't!  By the time the children are finished robbing the gamblers at gunpoint in the parking lot, there'll be no money to go dump into a slot machine!

But one of the men opposed to this bill decided to take matters into his own hands ALLEGEDLY.  So he dressed in a reflective vest and hard hat and went out at 4 in the morning, ALLEGEDLY tearing down the signs posted by the proponents of the bill.

He looked really great in the surveillance video, too.  You see the police car roll up, the cop hops out, and after a short exchange of pleasantries, the officer fits the man for a nice set of handcuffs.  Watch it here, as part of our new feature "You Be The Jury!"

From here on in, just figure on everything you do being available for widespread public viewing enjoyment!  And don't relax: they're working on showing what you're THINKING next!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And justice for all

I am writing this entry last Thursday, so by now, the verdict in this case might very well have come back.  Just wanted you to know that's where things stand as I type this: the jury has deliberated for 2 ½ days  and is still out. 

The case involves a man and his wife from here in our county.  They married but it didn't work out.  Everyone said they argued all the time, and, in fact, at the trial all sorts of audio tapes have been played by the prosecution, recordings of arguments on the phone between the two.  (Her employer records all phone lines.) 

She is missing, and has been for many years: five, I think.  She was last seen on video leaving a drugstore, on the way to a Mötley Crüe concert down near DC. Her car was found in a motel parking lot on the way to DC. Not a trace of her since.  Her family blames the husband, and there is reason to believe that he was not the greatest husband in the world.

But he is on trial now, and the charge is not "Failure to be the greatest husband in the world."  The charge is murder, and for the first time, our county is prosecuting someone for a murder in which no one can prove at all that a murder took place. 

The trial has been interesting. It turns out that the wife had taken up with another guy during the course of the marriage, which was a point of contention between her and her husband.  The guy she was seeing turned up dead from an overdose earlier this year.  No one is accusing the husband of being involved in that death, but they are trying him for a crime that no one can say really happened.

I wonder how this defense would work out, for the attorney for the husband to say, "Prove that she's not in California! Or Hong Kong, Baluchistan or Nome!" I just don't know how to punish someone for something that maybe no one did. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Love Ballot

Less than two weeks before the November 2 elections, and the commercials continue to play over and over.  This guy is no good, but vote for this guy and everything will be better within minutes of his taking office.  Vote against slots at the mall, so they'll have to put them at the racetrack.  Even though there can't be slots at the racetrack.  On and on they go, as unending as the verbal barrage of Judge Judy. (I wonder if she ever had to run for office.)

But could I pose just one question? This was a stunner to me, to see that the big governor's race (gubernatorial) in Maryland is like 47% to 43%, with 4% voting for fringe candidates who have no better chance of winning than I have of escorting Lindsay Lohan to the Rehab Reunion....and 6% undecided!

Could someone tell me how it feels to be undecided, two weeks away from the election?  I mean, if you just moved here from Brattleboro, I can see that you'd need a little more time to form an opinion about the candidates.  But if you've been here for any length of time, you have to know which guy you like in this, and all the other ballot choices, this fall. 

Is it that when the pollsters ask how people are going to going to vote, some people just feel more comfortable saying, "Oh, I really don't know yet!" 

But the puzzler is that, when you go to vote - and I hope you will - you are handed fliers and pamphlets and buttons promoting one candidate or the other as you try to make your way from your car to the polls. Now, if you are walking in to where you vote and you don't yet know how you'll vote, please let me know how that feels!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Carry me back to OLD Virginia!

All of a sudden, Virginia is in the news.  First, the state of Virginia, where a new textbook for elementary school kids teaches those unsuspecting youths that "Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson."

That would be the Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee's right-hand man, killed by his own troops in 1863. (The war had two more years to go.)

Historically inaccurate by any measure, that statement brings up the question of how many enslaved people would be willing to go to war to support the rights of their enslavers.  And how many slaves were handed guns and told to go fight as part of their slavish tasks?  And how great is the statement from the state's school spokesman, Charles Pyle? "Clearly they overlooked something here," Pyle said.

The book (pictured here)  is the work of author Joy Masoff, who was quick to point out that she is not a historian.  I mean, why would you want a historian to write a history book?  They'd just stuff it full of history! She has written other books, though, so it's not as if she just rolled in here on a head of cabbage. Among her other works:

Oh, Yikes!: History's Grossest Moments 

Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty  
 The Boo Boo Book

In other Virginia news, can you imagine how breakfast went at the fashionable home of Clarence and Virginia Thomas yesterday?  Can you just hear Clarence saying, "Honey, why'd you have to go and stir up all that Anita Hill trouble again?"

Demonstrating her remarkable grace with our beloved language, Ginni offered this statement:

"I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed [sic] what happened so long ago. That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same."

If you're scoring at home, that's two sentences, one spelling error and one grammar boo-boo, since she misused a comma where a semicolon was called for. I guess she's been too busy making phone calls to remember how to write correctly.
And worst of all, as reported by Brian Williams on NBC last night: Professor Hill's students at Brandeis, startled by the media blitz of reporters and cameras following her around, had no idea that she was famous, or why.  Yikes. Yuck.  Boo Boo.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

E = Mc Rib²

Well, it's time for hunting again, and as always, I can't wait.  I am ready to go.  I have my maps, my special clothes, my boots, and the other supplies necessary for the annual quest.

No, I am not about to go traipsing across wooded acres and recently-deshocked corn fields in search of deer or squirrel.  My bounty is that rarest of culinary treats: the elusive McRib ®.   

NPR had a story about it and it sparked the old fire within me to go huntin' fer the tastiest sammy this side of a WaWa Shorti ®.  The story brought me the best news since the CW renewed "Life Unexpected" - the McRib will be available at ALL McDonald's for six weeks beginning November 2.

"It's not a real slab o' ribs, ya know.  It's flaked and formed pork and pork by-product, pressed into the approximate shape of spare ribs."  Hey, no kidding. I also know that ribs don't come off the hog, slathered in bar-b-q sauce, topped with onions and a pickle, and slid between the yawning maws of a bifurcated sesame roll.

I just know that I love McRibs and I am sorry for those who have never dwelt in the rapturous state that eating one can induce.  I read in this article about people who will drive ten hours to a McD's that has the McR on their McMenu, as they all tend to do from time to time.

And what is wrong with that?  People stand in line for three days to see a Star Wars movie about a google-eyed spaceman.  And in that amount of time, look at how many McRibs they could be eating!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ginni Takes a Ride

Hop into the time machine a second, will ya?  We're going back to 1991 - about this time of year -when the entire nation was gripped by the Senate confirmation hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to be a Supreme Court justice.

Professor Hill
One thing stood in the way of a breezy passing vote - his onetime aide at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Anita Hill, had come forward with tales alleging sexual harassment she claimed to have suffered in his presence. She claimed that Thomas had told her that he was equipped similarly to the British porn star Long Dong Silver, and that he had constantly referenced porno movies.  Her testimony included this fascinating quote:

"He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes....On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess." Hill also said that the following incident occurred later after they had both moved to new jobs at the EEOC: "Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'."
Well, now. At the time I was still a regular Coke drinker, and for months after this, I insisted on thoroughly washing and all containers of cola before I would open them.

For his part, Clarence fought back with this memorable denial:

"This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree."

Kitty M.
Both Anita and Clarence (I can use first names because it seems unlikely that I will enroll in any law classes at Brandeis, where she is a law professor, or appear before the Supreme Court, where he is one of nine berobed people) had people testify in support of both of their sides, so I never did know who was fibbin' and who was straight up.  I did quibble with his improper use of the word "deign," however, where he clearly meant to use "dare."  Deign means to do something one considers beneath one's station, as in "Kitty Montgomery does not deign to answer the phone or the door, as long as a servant is on duty."  However, in a rare display of self-restraint, I did not write to Justice Thomas and point this out, feeling that he already had enough trouble.  And he surely would have been unlikely to deign to reply, anyway.

He was confirmed, 52 - 48, the closest Supreme confirmation vote since Cindy Birdsong replaced Florence Ballard in 1967.

But now, 19 years later, Thomas's wife, the contentious conservative Ginni Thomas, called Anita's office phone and left this bizarre message:

“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas.  I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.”
Everyone looks better in a tux
After all these years, she starts this up again?  If you can tell me why, I can answer this part of it: she made this call to Ms Hill's office at 7:30 AM.  On a Saturday (October 9.)  Man oh man, if there is ever a time to make a call when you absolutely positively want to make sure the person you're really afraid to speak to will not answer, but you can leave a message, 0730 on a Saturday is about the best time for you to dial.

I say, why dredge up old grudges, or grudge up old dredges?  1991. Jeez.  Let it go.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Something real to worry about

Late last Saturday evening, a Baltimore Police detective and his buddy were trying to park near a club in the Canton area of town.  You probably have a part of town like this where you live - formerly industrial, where old factories are transformed into condominia and old bakeries and pickle processing plants become bars and row houses that sold for $7,000 now go for $370,000, sold to people who want to live near these bars and condos and vie with others for parking spots.

The cop and his friend somehow, according to police officials, became embroiled in an argument over a parking spot with a man who, this past July, was arrested and freed on bail. Court records show he was charged in July with attempted rape, third-degree sex offense, assault and false imprisonment. He was released in mid-September on $150,000 bond. The alleging record also shows that in late July, he was ordered to stay away from a woman who had filed her second protective order against him in a span of four months.

So, allegedly, on Saturday night, he was trying to pull into a parking spot in which the detective had just parked, and he allegedly registered his displeasure by picking up a fist-sized piece of concrete and throwing it, hitting the officer in the head, killing him.

And then the man and his girlfriend parked somewhere else, and were arrested at another downtown club.  That's what gets me.  To him, it was as if he swatted a fly or squished a mosquito and then continued on his merry way.  Allegedly.

We've become a society like that.  Instead of throwing figurative rocks over where the president was born or who's a socialist or if it's ok for two men to be in love or where that guy working next door was born, how about you T. Partiers start worrying about a world in which people throw real rocks at each other's heads over a damned parking space? I think that's a bigger problem, allegedly.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What IS it with me??

I talked about this before, my eerie penchant for thinking about people just before they check out and shuffle off to Buffalo.

It happened again, and it's scaring me.

Turner Classic Movies is my daytime buddy these days, as I sit and recuperate.  I can't stand to watch a show with commercials, and I'm too cheap to pay for HBO and all those swanky premium channels, so I watch TCM with the sort of appreciation that a guy marooned on an island would give to a CARE package with chow, a cell phone and an inflatatable raft.

92 minutes I'll never get back
The other day I watched Henry Fonda star in "The Wrong Man," a rather forgettable fact-based movie about a musician in New York who is framed for a series of armed robberies because he bears a strong resemblance to the actual crook.  Fonda, who won many awards for acting over the years, should not have expected any for this picture, in which he appears to be looking around all the time to make sure none of his Hollywood buddies sees him in this black 'n' white classic.

His character, Manny, played the bass in the band at the Stork Club, which was (is?) a ritzy niteclub in Manhattan.  At the end of the movie, a notice appeared on the screen thanking Sherman Billingsley, owner of the Stork Club, for his kind permission in allowing the scenes of Manny playing the upright bass to be filmed there.

And since I know more about this sort of stuff than I really ought to, I recalled that Sherman Billingsley, once king of the club circuit in the Big Apple, was an uncle-by-marriage to Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played Beaver's mom.(You know what else? Her grand-nephew is Peter Billingsley, the kid who starred in A Christmas Story!)

"I wonder how Barbara Billingsley is doing?" I asked myself on Friday.

She taught us how to speak jive
On Saturday came the sad news that Ms Billingsley had passed away that morning.

So, with the best of intentions in my heart, I am going to sit here and think real hard about how ole' Charlie Manson is feeling! And Mark David Chapman - how's he doing?  Sirhan B. Sirhan, what up?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I just can't pass an auto graveyard - one of those acreages with hundreds of smashed, flattened old Family Trucksters piled up everywhere - without thinking of the day the first owner bought each of those vehicles, and came home to show it to family and friends, and Pooch and Edna from down the street and everyone went to Dairy Queen to show it off.

What happened after that day, between purchase and smashola, is a different story for each car.  You might call them autobiographies, but you'd be using a very old, very corny joke.

But I saw this picture online.  Look at this old house - a veritable mansion.  Think of the work that went into building it, and all the grand parties and events that must have taken place underneath this now-tattered roof.  Think of some rich kid coping with life just as you and I did, only with more money.  Think of how it must have been when the last of the clan that lived here finally moved out, and let the manse fall into disrepair and dereliction. 

While you think about that, also consider why this is:  Peggy took me to the mall yesterday so I could stretch my leg and back muscles.  Plus I had to drop off Girl Scout cookie money.  But how does it come that each and every 14-year-old boy who sauntered by me, snickering at my cane, back brace, and slow gait, all looked like Jake on Two and A Half Men?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Honey Don't (Saturday Rerun)

I have sustained far fewer lacerations in the area of my carotid artery of late, since I make it a habit to listen to NPR while shaving, instead of AM talk, which tends to focus on the uninformed hollering at the malinformed about the actions of the misinformed. All those constant references to the president being an illegal alien from Mars, from people whose version of "Q.E.D." is "It's all a bunch o' garbage, and that's all I gotta say!" led to many a slip of the razor, and we can't have that, can we, now?

Yesterday, NPR had a story about a scientist named Brian Hocking, who figured out a way to measure bee miles-per-gallon. He fed honey to a bee, tethered the bee to some sort of pole, and talked the bee into flying around until she (the bee) was too pooped to fly any longer. Then, calculations were made, and it was clear from all scientific evidence that, on a gallon of honey, a bee could fly 4,704,280 miles.

The point of this was to show counterpoint to Volkswagen's trumpeting the 170-miles-per-gallon efficiency of its new model, the cleverly-named "L1". This is a car that only weighs 837 pounds, mind you, so while it will be quite unsafe to drive it any further than the end of your own driveway, it will provide lots of mirth and merriment for testosterone-y athletes looking for something new to lift.

I'm a big fan of the late author Studs
Terkel, who also wore red socks. Studs would interview people of all sorts of backgrounds and transcribe their words into great reading on sorts of topics. You might find his book "Working" to be fun to read if you enjoy hearing about other people's jobs. It will likely make you appreciate your own situation a lot more, too! But just picture this scientist fellow, Hocking, taking off his white lab coat and going home to his wife.

"Hi darling! How was work today?"

"Oh, the usual. Fed honey to a bee and tethered him to a pole to see how many miles he would fly per gallon."

"That's nice, Brian. Hurry and get cleaned up - Lord and Lady Fingers are coming over for dinner."

And then, of course, the bee comes home to the buzzing hive:

"Hi, honey!" (Editor's note: I figure bees have great sense of humor and make wry statements like this all the time. They probably ask each other, "What's the buzz?")

"Hello, Bertha. Man, I am beat. What's for dinner?"

"A nice clover salad. Did you have a nice day at the office?"

"Well, I would have, but that jerk Hocking tied me up in that stupid harness thing again and made me fly around a pole. Dammitall, I should have gotten that promotion that Buzzy got. He sits around all day long listening to Sting CDs and flapping his wings."

See? No matter how tough your job is, at least you don't have to listen to Sting
all day long! There ya go!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just A Remote Chance

This nice computer that I'm typing to you on is protected against viruses, spam and malware by the good people at Norton.


No, not Ed Norton.

The Norton Symantec people. 

And so it was that they sent me an email the other day telling me that there were updates available to this online protection.  There was a yellow button that said "click here."  So I clicked there, and I was led down a rabbithole of words and directions, none of which meant a thing to me.

Now, in terms of computer knowledge, I'm kind of in between George Bush and Bill Gates. Which is to say, I didn't invent the operating system, but I am able to work one while eating pretzels without endangering my life.  But I gave up and went online to the Norton Help Center, and after a brief wait of about half an hour, a guy named Arijit greeted me via text and asked permission to take remote control of my machine.  I sat back, leafing through a book about football, and somewhere in India a guy took my cursor, worked my PC, and updated my security system.

How great would it be if someone could do that for other things?  You're cooking dinner and the soufflé is saggier than Mel Gibson's box office.  You just punch some codes on your oven and Rachael Ray whips that bad boy back into a fluffy delight!  You're at the kitchen table, watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" and working on your tax returns, and you just don't know whether your new Armani suit is credible as a deduction, since your work involves putting out fires.  You enter the right numbers on your Casio XKD-4500 cal-q-lator, and you get advice from both H. and R. Block!

Or let's say you're running for Senate from Delaware and you aren't sure about how to broach the topic of your days dabbling in witchcraft.  Simply stir up the old cauldron and poof! Samantha Stevens will help you out.

York - Darren #1
Sargent - Darren #2
Now there's only one choice for you to make: Dick Sargent or Dick York?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

He wrote a song called "You Can't Wynn, Stewart"

There was considerable excitement (at least with me) during the Ravens game the other afternoon when a new Volkswagen Jetta commercial came on, and the music in the commercial was the great Wynn Stewart singing his great hit "Another Day, Another Dollar," which he recorded in 1962.  You can see the commercial here.

I am going to try to find some way to write to the ad executive from VW - someone who, I'm pretty sure, was born after 1962 - and thank them for saluting one of the best country singers ever.  I hope his family gets a nice payday from this, because Wynn (born Winford Lindsey Stewart in Morrisville, MO, in 1934) never quite got the big payday he deserved.  By the time he reached his teens, his family had moved to California, and young Wynn did the usual route - smalltown radio shows, talent contests, small-label record deal - until he signed with Capitol Records in 1956.  That big break didn't pan out, so he went with Challenge Records for a few years and cut hit after rockabilly hit there.  This was the genesis of what's called the Bakersfield Sound, a grittier sound for Country music than what was coming out of Nashville.  Nashville was veering more toward what they called a "country-politan sound," meaning that they wanted city folks to buy country music. If only they had realized that we city folks would be happy to buy any real country sound, such as what Wynn Stewart, Buck Owens and others were making out west.

One of the others was a former jailbird named Merle Haggard, who showed up looking for work and was hired to play bass in Wynn's band.  Always more generous with others than with himself, Wynn wrote Merle a sad song to sing.  It was called "Sing A Sad Song," and it became the first of Haggard's several hundred country hits, while Wynn had to wait a while for his ship to come in.

Ironically, that ship docked when Wynn moved his sound more to the east.

I'm sorry, but the online radio station to which I am listening - KYMN in Northfield, MN - just did a PSA for an all-you-can-eat waffle breakfast at St Anne's Church this Saturday.  If ever two phrases blended in perfect harmony - "all you can eat" and "waffle breakfast," those are the two best, I'd say.  Sorry for the interruption.

Pardon me.  Wynn Stewart moved his sound more to the east - a little more country-politan, if you will - and hit with the Record Of The Year in 1967 with "It's Such A Pretty World Today," which was used in a K-Mart commercial a few years back.  After that came a few more hits, but as the 70s came along, more and more country artists were doing the rougher-hewn style that Wynn had pioneered twenty years earlier, and Wynn, Buck Owens and others were relegated to cast-off status, prophets without honor in their own hometown, as it were.  He only lived to be 51, dying of a heart attack in the middle of an attempted comeback in 1985.  I saw him perform here in Baltimore in the late 60's  and he was great.  I'm glad you get to hear him now.  Please, go buy a Volkswagen, would you?  Tell 'em Wynn sent you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pop Aye

I like popcorn.  Always have.  When I worked the midnight shift, we were quite the little popcorn gourmets with our various poppers and oils and flavorings and imported sea salts from the Mediterranean.  Then we'd stuff popcorn down our necks like kids at the Bijou on a Saturday afternoon Stooge-a-thon.

So, popcorn is good for you, being whole grain.  What's bad for you is all the salt and fake butter flavor they add in the factories.

About that fake butter flavor:  I'm sure you read "Chemically Speaking," the online newsletter of the U of Florida's Pesticide Information Office.  I know I do.  And so you surely saw this: 

 As mentioned before in Chemically Speaking, imitation butter flavoring has proven hazardous to those people working with it in an occupational setting.  Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been cornpetitioned to enact an emergency temporary standard to prevent worker fatalities related to fake butter flavoring.  In a letter to the OSHA’s director, Elaine Chao, 40 occupational health physicians and scientists asked for a standard to protect workers from diacetyl, a chemical with butter-flavor characteristics that is used in many foods.  The group that sent the letter has contended that OSHA has done nothing to remedy the problem, even though lung diseases caused by diacetyl have been known for over four years.  (Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News, 7/31/06).  

Poppin' Fresh!
Well, then. Maybe it's better to skip the diacetyl and add your own real butter or melted cheese or whatever else you might like that comes out of a cow, not a test tube.  And that, my friends, is the beauty of this, my favorite method of poppin' them kernels, the vaunted Presto 04820 PopLite Hot Air Popper.  It even has a little measuring cup for the corn, and you can use that cup to melt you some butter whilst the corn's a-poppin'!  Or not.  You make the call on that. 
The beauty part of all this is, you can't find plain natural microwave popcorn.  Even the ones that say they are "natural" are about as natural as William Shatner's hair.  So take it from me, popcorn lovers.  Drop 18 semolians on this device, get some nice Orville Redenbacher corn, and get ready to snack.

May I have some of that, please?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reach Out in the Darkness and You May Find a Friend

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?” -  Robert Browning

It's a oft-repeated quote from the 19th Century English poet who went on to invent a new way to pan-fry meats before stewing (which was named in his honor).  Browning, while he was in the kitchen anyway, should also have invented the reacher-grabber, but I guess his mind was elsewhere.

For those of us who are on the BLT restriction (no bending, lifting or twisting) the reacher-grabber that you see here is the ideal tool.  The very tip is magnetic, so when you drop something metallic, it all comes back to you in a jiffy.  All other items up to and including things the size of the Sunday newspaper are fair game for the "jaw that grabs all."

The nice lady here was kind enough to drop her TV remote and show how one retrieves this unspeakably invaluable tool by using "der reachengrabberstein," as they say in Munich.  Perhaps one of my neighbors could snap a photo of me as I lumber outside at 0530 and schoop up the Morning SUN with mine.  And that's only one of a hundred uses I find for it every day.  I get cooking implements, books, DVDs, the cell phone and I don't know what-all else with this handy doodad all the livelong day.  And, when I drop the grabber on the living room floor, what to do, but go upstairs and get the upstairs "grabbeur," as they say in Paris.

Problem is, when my mobility is restored and I can damwell bend over and get things unaided, will I want to, or will I become so happy with "el grabbo" (Mexico) that I will get some sort of holster for my belt and tote it with me wherever I go?

We shall see.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Letter of the Week

Again, with the people who have more time on their hands to express their opinions than they ought to.  A guy from Baltimore sent the following letter to the editor of the Baltimore SUN and they printed it.  The writer would want me to mention his name.  Here's the letter:

Today, there are going to be major traffic delays in Baltimore County for the funeral procession for a Baltimore City police officer who was killed in a traffic accident. My heart cries out to his family. Every day he and his fellow officers put their lives on the line to protect us from harm and keep us safe. I couldn't respect these public servants any more than I already do, but I think it's ridiculous to paralyze a portion of the beltway as well as other roads causing havoc to drivers. 

It sounds cold hearted and cruel, but I bet the officer being buried would not want us to be inconvenienced this way. How does making the public suffer like this help the deceased officer and his family and the police department? I understand it's a way of showing respect, but why should this be forced on us and make us wait hours until the procession clears?

I have to figure that this is a young man, writing this letter, and for the funeral procession to jam him up as he attempts to career around the Beltway is just too doggone bad, isn't it.  I figure he's involved in some profession that involves schmoozing people into doing things...hence the faint praise ("I couldn't respect these public servants any more than I already do") before the zinger comes out ("how does making the public suffer like this help the deceased officer...").  Which is like saying, look, this guy is gone, now clear up this traffic and let me get on with my important life.

Son, this procession, this show of support in big numbers, helps the officer's family, and his extended family of public safety professionals, deal with their grief and their loss.  We are truly sorry that you might have suffered the loss of your valuable time.  Perhaps you might have spent that time sitting in your car, thinking about a man who spent his life being a cop for 31 years and was on his way to a training class to learn more about how to help both grateful citizens and ungrateful citizens such as yourself when he was killed in a wreck. 

It's not just that it SOUNDS cold hearted and cruel.  It IS cold hearted and cruel.  Picking on a police funeral.  What's next, going down to the VA hospital and insulting the wounded there?

And please don't presume to speak for what the officer would want.  Just go speak about something else for a while, please.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Come Outside

Stolen from Marissa Leigh! And I have to say, it is uncanny how often this works out to be funny!

I. Put your iTunes on shuffle.
II.For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

1.) If someone says, “Is this Okay?” you say…"Something to Brag About" - Willie Nelson and Mary Kay Place

2.) What would best describe your personality? "Cool Night" - Paul Davis

3.) What do you like in a guy/girl? "Breathless" - Jerry Lee Lewis

4.) How do you feel today?  "Reminiscing" - Buddy Holly

5.) What is your life’s purpose? "Chasin' Pirates" - Norah Jones

6.) What is your motto?  "Out Go The Lights" - Pat Travers Band

7.) What do you think of your parents?  "Lightnin' Strikes" - Lou Christie

8.) What do you think about very often?  "She'd Rather Be With Me" - The Turtles

9.) What is 2+2?  "Show Me" - Joe Tex

10.) What do you think of your best friend?  "It's a Beautiful Day" - Wynn Stewart

11.) What do you think of the person you like?  "If I Had No Loot" - Tony! Toni! Tone!

12.) What is your life’s story? "I Told You So" - Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis

13.) What do you want to be when you grow up?  "Seduced" - Leon Redbone

14.) What do you think when you see the person you like?  "If My Friends Could See Me Now" - Sammy Davis, Jr.

15.) What do your parents think of you?  "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" - Motley Crue

16.) What will you dance to at your wedding?  "Thanks A Lot"(Live) - Ernest Tubb

17.) What will they play at your funeral?  "Do It Again" - Beach Boys

18.) What is your hobby/interest?  "Strawberry Letter #23" - Brothers Johnson

19.) What is your biggest secret?  "The Lord Knows I'm Drinking" - Cal Smith

20.) What do you think of your friends? "What Do You Want From Life?" - The Tubes

21) What's the worst thing that could happen?  "The Orange County Lumber Truck" - Mothers of Invention

22.) How will you die?  "Pistol Packin' Mama" - Bing Crosby

23.) Does anyone like you?  "Giving It Up for Your Love" - Delbert McClinton

24.) If you could go back in time, what would you change?  "Ain't Wasting Time No More" - Allman Brothers Band

25.) What hurts right now? "All Night Long" - Rainbow

26.) What will you post this as? "Come Outside" - Mike Sarne and Wendy Richard

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Another pleasurable dining experience

For those seeking a new thrill in their dining experience, FOX45 recommends that we all scoot down to a place in the Inner Harbor called Dick's Last Resort.  

The review doesn't say anything about how good the chow is, or not.  This is one of those restaurants where the atmosphere is the king.  The bit is, the servers insult the diners. 

This is recycling a form of service that has been in use for decades in New York City delicatessens and every Wendy's I've even been in, but those people are the kings and queens of putting you down while they put your food down in a bag.  The staff at D's LR seem sort of tentative about it, and they are told that there are some people who just don't want to play along.  I guess in that case, give 'em their fish and chips for $14.99 and send 'em on their way. 

But you get a table full of live wires and away you go!  Four or five guys who work together and razz each other mercilessly would be the ideal table for a practiced insulter.  Their intelligence, their height, their sexual proclivities, the faithfulness of their spouses, the provenance of their children, all grist for the mill.

Another popular feature is, the server makes a paper hat for a customer with some sort of slanderous slogan written on it.  Who could not enjoy wearing something like a hat that calls them a slut?

I can see this going bad in many ways.  Add alcohol to any mix of people, and the ship is gonna hit the sand. Someone is going to be wearing onion ring earrings, and not by their own choice.  And it might break into a fracas among the staff and the diners.  Who knows?

I like to go to the diner over near us.  The parking is free and no one is hurling insults or putdowns.  They bring your food after exchanging pleasantries, and you eat your food, and you pay the nice lady at the door on your way out. 

I had to know, so I contacted the company to find out which Dick owns the joint.  I have a hunch.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Whatcha watchin'?

I've spent a lot of time with my googly eyes glued to Turner Classic Movies of late, and any time there is one of those gangster movies on, I'm as good as hooked. There was one I saw the other day called "Gun Crazy," and it was all about a man and his womanfriend who just couldn't get enough gunplay.  They even quit their jobs (she was an Annie Oakley-type sharpshooter in a carnival; he was an Army and reform-school product with no marketable skills other than shooting guns) in order to find more opportunities to shoot people while robbing them.  Of course, they died by being shot - big surprise, eh?

So I was half-dozing the other morning and came out of it just in time to hear a grey-haired tough guy on the screen threatening another guy.  "I'll take you out, buddy!" he was hollering.

"Oh, you're gonna take me out, huh?  How?" came the reply.

"Watch!" hissed the tough guy.

Geo. Raft (born George Ranft)
"Is that George Raft?" I asked, hitting the 'info' button on my well-worn remote.

He advocates housing the disadvantaged in prison!
Well, another surprise!  'Twas not George Raft or Humphrey Bogart or even Ronald Reagan, but the Today Show interviewing wealthy Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, who is running for governor of New York in order to "serve da people." He was all bent out of shape because a newspaper had sent a reporter around to interview the child that he and a woman other than his wife enjoyed giving birth to ten years ago.  He was threatening to send a goon squad around to get this reporter, see?  'Cause the newspaperman was a wise guy, see? Snoopin' around and askin' questions and stickin' his nose in where it ought not be, see?

The pride of Delaware
This perfectly illustrates just how far as a nation we have come, when we can't even tell our would-be politicians from movie mobsters or sitcom witches.

Mrs Kravitz's neighbor
Now back to our regularly scheduled feature presentation, "It Came From Annapolis."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time to Dine!

My dad used to tell me that any food combination was ok as long as you could handle any of the parts by itself.  Therefore, ice cream and steamed crabs, milk and pizza, peanut butter and anchovies: all fair game.  Dad didn't eat stuff like that, you understand, but it seemed that back in our day we heard playground rumors about "this kid from another school who ate marshmallows with ravioli and died from a stomach disease."  Ah, the great allure of food myths.  Like the guy who "got a four-piece chicken box and one of the pieces was a fried rat."  That story, with appropriate local embellishing details, probably went through every school in the country at one time.  And remember this old saw?  "Just drop an aspirin in a bottle of coke and get a girl to drink it and she'll do anything you want her to." A bunch of us asked our chemistry teacher about that, real confidential-like, and he said there was no reason for that to be true and we shouldn't pay any attention to rumors.  So naturally, we said either he didn't know what he was talking about OR he knew what we asked was right but he didn't want us to corrupt any girls so he told us it didn't work.

If you're fifteen and reading this, it doesn't work.  Word. (I was going to say "Word to your mother" but she would be on my side anyway).

Needs meatballs
This all comes to mind because I saw this article in the New York Times that describes the popularity of a concoction known as spaghetti tacos, which is a culinary affectation beloved by viewers of the "iCarly" TV show.  You have to love the Italo-Mexican partnership that brought these two tastes together.  Hey, if you like this sort of thing, who's to tell you not to eat it?

And for what meal, for that matter?  I know people who eat soup, or frozen turkey dinners for breakfast, and some people look at them askance, as if they were committing a major sin.  And I am a long-time crusader on the topic of breakfast foods for dinner and will keep on advocating for that cause. 

We can all agree that it's more important what we eat than when we eat it!  Brussels sprouts and oatmeal, coming right up!