Monday, January 31, 2011

Where's Charlie? How's Charlie? When's Charlie Coming Back?

I bet her name isn't Kasey at all
Carlos Irvin Estevez, known and loved as Charlie Sheen, is in a rehabilitation facility as we sit reading this, or so we presume.  Just by googling his stage name, we are transported to a make-believe land where cocaine is consumed by the briefcase-full, porn stars with "stage" names such as Kasey Jordan reveal that before spending the night at one of Charlie's all-nighters, she once hung with beloved entertainer Kevin Federline and was given the task of watching Britney Spears's kids while Kevin was off doing whatever it is that he does, and the uncles of sitcom stars express their concern for their nephews by trying to usurp their sitcom roles.

Let's look things over for a second.  

America loves to laugh, and its favorite sitcom is Two and a Half Men, in which Jon Cryer plays the schlamezel younger brother, Angus T. Jones plays the underachieving nephew, and Sheen himself takes on the daunting role of Charlie Sheen.  On screen, the character hardly works, yet earns beacoup dólares, he abuses substances, mounts women in an astonishingly cavalier manner, and conducts his personal affairs in a tattered fashion.

I hate to say it, but except for the "hardly works" part, the show could just as easily be called "Bill Clinton in Hollywood."  Bill and Charlie represent that guy who is in our family, our workplace, sometimes even our home, whose rascally vagabondish ways earn him nothing more than a "tsk-tsk" and a head shaking as it chuckles, "Oh, that Charlie..."

When you're a kid, you can carouse all night, get wasted all the time, fool around and fall in love, and get up for work in the morning with nothing more than a smile.  That's when you're a kid.  Charlie turned 45 last September, and we all hope he will be around to blow out 46 candles, but for that to happen, it seems that he will have to extinguish some other fires within himself between now and then.   

He's heard it from everyone.  His co-star Cryer goes on TV to say that he needs to watch TMZ to get his Charlie status updates.  This should not be. 

Nor should it be that Charlie's uncle Joe Estevez, who has tried to become an actor and director for years now, wrote to the producer of 2.5 Men and suggested that he be hired to assay the role of "Charlie's uncle" for a while while Charlie heads off to rehab. "The show must go on," he figures, "and why not have me starring in it for a while?"

Charlie should look at how his uncle is ready to hop into his recliner the minute he gets up a second for seconds, and think about slowing down the merry-go-round for good.  And now this: Lindsay Lohan is concerned about his condition.  That's the Hollywood we know, when someone's press agent sees your trouble as his client's promotional opportunity.

Listen, Charlie, how about you tell all your coke-smokin' pals and girlie girls who star in movies like "The Porn Identity" that you want to join the rest of us in scorning them?  Tell 'em it's been fun, but you want to grow up now.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Watch this space

The president made a reference to a "Sputnik moment" the other night, and many people, including comedian Sarah Palin, did not know what he was talking about at first.

I had only been in the first grade for a month when October 4, 1957, rolled around, and it was on that day that Russia - the dreaded Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - launched the first artificial (man-made) satellite to orbit the Earth.  OMG!  cried the Democrats and the GOP, and PDQ, the rest of the USA said we have to have our our own satellites flying around ASAP! This was discussed at the PTA, the FFA, and on TWA! LOL (which, in those days, meant "Look out, Lucy!" which was a running gag on a long-running CBS gagfest.) But at first, things went SNAFU and it looked as if Americans just didn't have the technical know-how to get that thing up in the sky.  Our rockets, the initial attempts at least, tended not to go very far into the sky. 

It was in all the papers.
So, when the fingers of our national leaders weren't busy following the trajectories of heavenly-bound satellites, they got pointed at the school system, and all of a sudden, it was "We need more scientists!  Mathematicians!  Johnny can't read!  Or add!"  

Johnny could multiply, as even a casual glance at population figures will tell you.

But it got really serious there, all this Algebra and Trigonometry and Calculus and I don't know what-all else.  Once it became apparent that I would remain a stranger to the astronaut selection committee, I was allowed to finish first grade quietly and resume my lackluster academic career.  We did find some guys and women who were handy with a slide rule and they did a lot of figgerin' and sent unmanned spaceships into orbit, and then sent manned spaceships, and finally, in July, 1969, just after I was graduated from the exclusive Towson High School, we had several Americans joined in a moonwalk while one other American joined Marilu Henner in an unsanctified congress in a shower.   

To this day, whenever someone talks about Sputnik, I think of how columnist Herb Caen took that word to describe the way-out poets and libertines of San Francisco as "beatniks." And when someone mentions the Apollo moon mission, I feel like watching a "Taxi" rerun.  

And that's why I was left off the NASA employment rolls.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baltimore snowfalls are:

If you live here, you know what this is all about!
  • the most insane shopping rush you will ever see.  People have to get to the Bag 'N' Save for bread, milk and toilet paper.  And kitty litter, Halite and rock salt. And when there is no kitty litter, Halite or rock salt to be found, they will buy Morton Salt in the blue box and spread that on their sidewalks.  True.
  •  the woman up the street upbraiding the "plow truck" driver for not plowing the street to her exact specifications, wishes, wants, desires and timing.
  • people calling plows "plow trucks" in the same inexplicable way we call ATMs "ATM Machines," which is really saying "Automatic Teller Machine Machines."  From the Department of Redundancy Department.
  • Motorists doing "the weave."  This is the zipper-like conflation of multiple lanes of traffic  - e.g. people who thought they were going to go south on Charles Street  - into two lanes of cars forced to make a left turn they did not wish to make, because the police blocked the intersection off due to icing. Etiquette dictates that every car in the existing line will allow one and only one - no more, no less - car from the line of people whose plans were just knocked into a cocked hat.  Ahem.
  • People wearing cocked hats.  What's more, you'll see any old thing pressed into service as a hat when the sleet starts hitting the caps, stocking caps, hoodie hoods, shopping bags, sauce pans.
  • Conservatives taking liberal leave.  It just doesn't follow and should not be allowed.
  • Wild-eyed meteorologists gesticulating wildly, as if their prediction mentioned giant meteors the size of Rex Ryan landing by the hundreds all across our area.  There's one guy - I won't mention his name, but it rhymes with "Marty Bass" - who actually seems to assume the persona of a hellfire and brimstone Alabama preacher, giving an altar call on a sticky humid Birmingham August evening.  "I tell ya - it's coming! And when it gits here, whoa Nellie, Katie bar the door!  We're gonna be a-shovelin' til Tuesday!  It's coming, I can feel it, I toleja all about it, and you know we're ready to face it!"  Is he talking about some snow here, or the Wrath of the Lamb?   
  • People marking "their" personal parking spots on the street with chaises lonques (locally known as "Chaiyze lounges,") plastic deck chairs, upended trash cans and makeshift flags, such as a dish towel stapled to a yardstick.  It's understandable that after two hours of digging the Biscayne out, one would want to park in that cleared-off spot after work, but how's one gonna stop it when the boyfriend of the girl next door, the surly kid with the loud stereo and the boom-boom-boom, parks his machine there?  Block off your spot, Bunky!  Mark it and claim it!
  •  The annual vow of the worn-out shovelers that THIS will be the last year they handle a winter without a snowblower.  This is usually followed by an April rationalization that says, "The very time I buy a snowblower, it won't snow worth doodly anymore."  So they don't, and it does.
  • People clunking around the office in their big ol' Timberlands or LL Bean Duck Shoes or CAT boots or whatever.  Clodhoppers and Waffle Stompers leave their salty soggy trails from locker rooms to board rooms, and the patent leather dancing pumps are left at home to dance on their own.
  • People abandoning cars on interstate highways, and then, two days later, calling the State Police, mad as hornets because their Hornet got towed away.  When they see the tow and storage charges, they won't be one bit happier.
  • Times when people study pictures like this on their ginormous tv screens more carefully than Gen. Eisenhower examined pictures of the Normandy coast in the spring of 1944.  And with about as much fear and worry!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Peanut Butter and Traffic Jam

Wow, is all we could say.  On Wednesday, the Baltimore area had a once-in-a-lifetime weather and traffic mess, which will give us something to chatter about in malls, office lunchrooms, hair "saloons" and small claims courts for years to come.

The day dawned with a couple of inches of snow dappling our landscape, and if you haven't had your landscape dappled lately, let me tell you, you're missing out.  The weather people had been saying that it would start to rain overnight and rain like all get-out during the day, so it snowed instead and then the sky turned rather pouty and rainy.  Then the weather people said it would start to snow just about the time everyone left to go home from work, but we took a wait-and-see attitude  toward that.  I get off at 3:30, and when I headed home it was raining sort of hard.  I stopped for gas on the way, and the wind kept blowing my hood off my hooded chore jacket, and then by the time I got back to the Lazy 'C' Ranch here, it was sleeting.

Peggy and I enjoyed a nice dinner and, unable to take our usual 20-minute after dinner walk on the court we live on, we took walks around the house we live in.  I was going up and down stairs for exercise, walking through the house, and had the odd experience of running into Peggy as she left the dining room.  "Hi there, " I said, with an amiable nod.  No, we're not insane.  Really.

So, with nothing on TV, I was idly thumbing through Facebook and started seeing messages from people who were stuck in huge traffic jams on the beltway and other highways.  I mean, it was like 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock, quarter to ten, and they had left their work at 4, 4:30, 5!  Seven hours became the commute home for many people, and no, they were not cheered to think that on another night - most ANY other night - they could have shuffled off to Buffalo in that much time!

What happened was the perfect storm, the one with no Geo. Clooney.  The snow got fierce just as the traffic did, and how are you gonna get a snow plow through to plow the snow off streets already clogged with SUVs? Reports of people waiting two hours on a Beltway exit ramp surfaced.  Our favorite traffic reporter Candace Dold reported that it took her 7 1/2 hours to get to work - a normal 30-minute ride.  Highways were shut down, cars were abandoned, people slept in hotel lobbies.  And one person decided to go the wrong way on a major highway.

And then later, the streets were clear!  Zipadeedoodah!

This seems like a good time to remind one and all living in areas prone to snow of several things. First, sneak out of work early when a big snow is headed your way! (Not applicable to public safety personnel, news reporters, and grocery store cashiers!) Second, in the winter time, keep the car full of gas as much as you can - lots of people ran out of gas on the beltway. And it's a good idea to keep some granola bars, peanut butter doodads and bottles of water in the car just in case.

And also - an empty water bottle.  You'll see why!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

O, What's New?

OK, be honest - how many of you were hoping that Oprah's secret was going to turn out to be something a lot, well, juicier than her mother had another daughter of whom Ope knew nothing?

Me too.

You know I go back a long way with Ms Winfrey, back to when she did local news here on Channel 13, and her poor grammar moved me to call the station once to beg them to have her stop using it.  What also rankles me is the way she switches personae to meet the situation.  Maybe that's her acting ability that shows up.  She'll be one way talking to the audience when she first comes out and then she'll sit down and be so ponderous!  Anyway, she's done well for herself without my support, so what the hey.

Last Friday, always the master of self-promotion, she said that she had a huge announcement to make on Monday.  Earth-moving, shattering news.  A walloping hearty meatloaf of a story.  There were hints of a family reunion, and all weekend long the speculation ran wild as to what was up.  Some were betting on "Stedman and I have been married for 20 years" and some went with "I'm adopting Tom Cruise."  Money changed hands, for sure.

Then on Monday the bombshell hit the fan.  We met Patricia. Oprah's mom Vernita gave birth to Patricia but gave her up before even naming her.  And when the baby was adopted, she was given the name Patricia. (Oprah's mother had another daughter named Patricia, who later passed away.) Unknown to anyone in the family for all these years, Patricia wanted to find her birth mom, and made the connection through the social service agency, only to find that her mom had no interest in a reunion.  And then Patricia's son saw a news story in which Vernita mentioned having given up a baby, and when all the puzzle pieces fit together, Patricia figured out her parentage in 2007 and bided her time.

Now, another question.  How many of us, having learned that we are the half-sister to the richest woman in the world, would have immediately shown up at her door, asking what time to be ready for supper?  Or at least, wanting a tv show of our own.  Patricia did none of that.  She did send an email to the Oprah show in '07 to let O know that she had a 1/2 sister, but understandably got no answer.  You have to figure that Oprah gets some rather off-the-wall email, from people claiming to be kin, asking for a loan til payday, or wanting to go on the show to share their discovery of a new aluminum foil hat.  

Eventually, O got clued in, and they had a nice-to-meetcha at Thanksgiving, and are now working toward reshaping the family to include a new member.  Oprah really appreciated the way Patricia did not sell her story to People, US, National Enquirer or the Parade magazine, even.  This reminded me of the first Godfather movie, and the scene where Michael goes to visit his father in the hospital, only to find that the security was a sham and the bad guys are coming after the Don. Enzo the Baker shows up with a floral tribute, and Michael gets him to stand around looking armed and tough, and after the arriving hoods drive away, Enzo is rewarded with a lifetime job (in the olive oil trade.)  Oprah did not want "the media" to play up this story, so that it could be played up on the Oprah show, which I guess is still sort of the media, ain't it?

But, commerce aside, let's all wish them well.  And if any one of you who read these words has any intention of claiming membership in my family, please do so soon.  What with all the marriages taking place and kids being born, it's about all I can do to keep up at reunions.  It's always safe to call a man "Buddy BOY!" and punch him in the shoulder by way of greeting, but women deserve a name more definite than "Darlin' !"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Channel guide

Well, one by one they are leaving the television  - Oprah's daily show will end this fall, Larry King finally gave up his nightly CNN show, Regis Philbin is leaving his morning gabfest by year's end, and Keith Olbermann got his hat handed to him the other night, although leaving in the middle of a four-year, $30 million contract is not exactly like being shoved out the back door of the factory by a couple of beefy security guards, is it?

I was working midnights when Larry King's overnight talk show on the old Mutual Radio Network was on.  Some of the most fascinating people in the world are up and about and heating up water for instant coffee at three in the morning, and it made for some interesting conversations.  One of them was a guy King called "Numbers Man."  This was a fellow who would call and say, for instance, "The Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 4-1 last night, and in the Fourth Chapter of Leviticus, Verse 1, it says..." and then he'd go into some after-the-fact explanation of a current event.  In other words, 41 people were sickened by eating tainted banana bread in Peru, and the Mariners' win over the Rangers had presaged that.  He would never give predictions in advance, however, no matter how much King begged him to.

Not Larry's best day
Larry was an inveterate name-dropper, and he loved his connections to the showbiz and bizbiz bigshots.  For years, upon request, he would spin the tale of how he and his high-school buddies drove a hundred miles to a Carvel Ice Cream place that featured dozens of exotic flavors, and then when they got there, the guy who had raved about the place ordered vanilla.  Da hook in da story was dat one-a da Brooklyn guys who made da trip wit young Larry was Sanford "Sandy" Koufax, who later went on to great fame with the Dodgers.  King told that anecdote over and over until finally a reporter asked Koufax about it, and Koufax said he did not know Larry King, never traveled for ice cream, and had no idea what the reporter was talking about.  

Whoops.  He did it again.  It made me sorry for Larry that he had to claim to be friends with people who did not know him, but I guess it was insecurity.  At least, that's what Bill Gates and Warren Buffett told me at lunch the other day.

Oprah, of course, has gone on to operate her OWN cable channel, and anyone who wants in on the Wide World of Oprah can tune to channel 41 and watch it 24-7.  A lot of FOOs - Friends Of Oprah - have their OWN shows now, such as Gayle King and Suze Orman.  

One of the stories going around was that Regis was asked to take a pay cut and he retired, instead.  The guy is what, 70-some, and he still needs to work, with all the loot he has?  I mean, he's still as good as he ever was, but to me, one of the reasons to work is to build up a nest egg to retire with, to enjoy life a little before being tagged out at home plate.  

Different story with Keith Olbermann, who is just into his fifties.  He was just too much of a loose cannon rolling around the deck of MSNBC, so they say.  I expect he'll be back after sitting out a no-compete clause in his buyout, which is the technical way to say MSNBC has to pay him off and part of that is, he can't be on any other TV show for a certain period of time.

That Dr Phil guy is still on, though, and doing very well.  I guess plenty of people feel that the best way to cure a psychological problem is to appear on a nationally-syndicated show, be browbeaten and humiliated ("What part of 'cheating on your wife with her sister is WRONG' don't you underSTAND?") and then subjected to scorn and shame from a live studio audience.   I hereby offer NOT to watch Dr Phil for the rest of my life, in return for a cash buyout.

I'm also making this offer to the producers of "Sesame Street" and "The Big Bang Theory."  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bob on you

We preach tolerance.  We like the idea of tolerance, of being allowed to do as we wish, within the law, of course.  We don't tolerate crooked jobbers or bank robbers or highway speeders or crime repeaters, but other than criminals, most of us pride ourselves on letting each other live as we all wish.  

Frankly, I don't know how some people find the time and energy to be the air traffic controllers of so many lives, telling everyone how much to eat or drink or what shows to watch or listen to and which shows to avoid and where to go for vacation and what to do about those annoying wrinkles and age spots and where to go to church and what deity to worship...and how.
We don't do that, right?   I mean, we have Brotherhood Week and collect coins for Unicef and have canned food drives at the holidays and we wouldn't dream of not letting that foreign family down the street join the country club, right?

Well, won't you come with me to Alabamy, where they're fryin' eggs and boilin' hammy?  Here's something for you from the Birmingham NEWS:  

MONTGOMERY -- Gov.-elect Robert Bentley in a speech at a Baptist church Monday afternoon said he plans to be the governor of all Alabamians and be color-blind, but he also said people who aren't ''saved" Christians aren't his brothers and sisters.
  Bentley told a big crowd at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once was pastor, that he believed it was important for Alabamians ''that we love and care for each other."
  ''I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind," Bentley said in a short speech given about an hour after he took the oath of office as governor.
  Then Bentley, who for years has been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, gave what sounded like an altar call.
  "There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said. ''But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister."
  Bentley added, ''Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
  Asked later if he meant to be insulting to people of other faiths, Bentley replied, ''We're not trying to insult anybody."
  Bentley's communications director, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, when asked about Bentley's comments said, ''He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike."
  Bentley then said he would work to help Alabamians whether they live in Wilcox County, where many poor blacks live, or Mountain Brook, where many upper-income whites live.
  ''You know, (for) a lot of people, it's hard to trust a Republican governor," Bentley said. ''Let me tell you. I want to tell you today that I promise you that I'm going to do everything I can for everybody in this state."
 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Yes, friends, we love and care for each other, but if you don't worship exactly the same way I do, you're not my brother!

You're off to a really great start down there, Bob.  

When I was in high school, there was a popular country song by popular country singer Roy Clark called "Do You Believe This Town?" 

The woman next door has gone to the PTA
And stopped to see her best friend's husband on the way
The folks down the street have a different faith
So everybody's putting them down
Do you believe this town?

Deacon Jones preaches brotherly love every Sunday
And forecloses loans on widow's homes every Monday
But the smart guys say it's the only way 
To keep the economy sound
Do you believe this town?

Do you believe they voted this town dry?
Well you won't believe it when I tell you why
The mayor and his cousin and the chief of police
have got the bootlegging all nailed down
Do you believe this town?

Do you believe they burned a house down yesterday 
You won't believe the reason that they gave
If the folks who lived there had known their place
They could still be hanging around
Do you believe this town?

Do you believe this town? 

That song was around in 1968. Since then, we have walked on the moon, developed amazing technologies in fields ranging from medicine to entertainment, and cured many people of awful diseases.

Apparently, we're still working on the disease of prejudice and exclusionism.

UPDATE!  Live, local, latebreaking!  The Governor said the other day, "I did not mean to offend anyone with my comments there," to a group of Jewish leaders. He went on to claim that when he made the comments to the church audience, he assumed he was speaking as a private citizen and not as the Governor of Alabama.  And he made those comments one hour after he took the oath of office to be governor of the great state of Alabama.  Roll Tide!

He has four years left in office.  As Flounder said, this is gonna be great!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Issa Issa Baby

You just never know where the next genius is going to come from, but it appears that we may have found him in this Darrell Issa, the (R) congressman from California whose net worth hovers around the $250 million mark.  He knows everything, and there are even some things he knows about and does not talk about.

Speaking of talking, remember that annoying voice saying "Step away from the car!" when you got within ten yards of an auto with a Viper brand car alarm?  That was the voice of Darrell Issa (say "ICE-uh,") who was the chief executive of  Directed Electronics Inc, manufacturers of that irritating appliance.  He took the fortune he made from that company and went into politics, and lookie here, all of a sudden he is in his sixth term and has been elected chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, meaning that he is one of the people who will hector President Obama on every little thing that the president does from now til Obama leaves office in 2016. After the elections of this past November, Issa sent a letter to 150 bigshot corporations and associations asking them which of the president's regulations Congress ought to go after, and Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings, who serves on that Oversight committee, pointed out that what Issa did is simply “inviting businesses to tell us what they want us to do as opposed to protecting the American people.”

Which is why we broke away from England all those years ago, to make things better for rich businessmen, right?

Vanilla Issa
Meanwhile, Issa voted against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation.  Himself a proud descendant of Lebanese grandparents, Issa nonetheless votes against members of other minority groups in this time-honored fashion.

Darrell Issa, while in the Army on a bomb-inspection detail, claims to have provided security for President Richard Nixon at the 1971 Orioles-Pirates World Series, sweeping the ballparks for bombs.  Nixon didn't go to any of the World Series games that year, though; that was the only hitch in that story.  But hey, I once fixed a five-course dinner for Princess Grace, although she didn't show up to eat it.  And the letter that I got in the mail yesterday was the seventeenth letter in a row that I have not gotten from Britney Spears!  Maybe the eighteenth.

Issa and his brother, who later served three years in the Ironbar Hilton for car theft, were once arrested for car theft, but hey, haven't we all driven away in a red Maserati from a showroom? And when Issa was popped for driving a yellow Volkswagen the wrong way down a one-way street in 1972, and the cops found a Colt pistol, 44 rounds of ammo, and a tear-gas gun with two rounds for it in the glove box, well, he told them that he had the right to carry arms to protect his property.  44 bullets and a tear-gas gun should have been enough to protect himself if Canada had suddenly declared war on him and him alone.

But hey. Youthful indiscretions, right?  I mean, haven't we ALL been indicted on grand theft charges and been caught riding in stolen vehicles with our brother before he went up for a three-year bid?  I mean, this Issa is a genius.  Here's why - and you can read all this in the New Yorker, if you could just give FOX News a rest for a second:

Issa bought the car alarm and electronics company in February, 1982.  That very September, the place burned down!  Electrical in nature, the firefighters said, and Issa blames the blue flames that burned into the California night on the fire department's failure to shut off a gas line, so never mind that the St Paul Insurance Company's report a month later said that the fire was incendiary, with evidence of a flammable liquid being poured over a stack of cardboard boxes, and two sources of ignition.

And just after the fire, one of his associates in the business told the investigators that right before the fire, Issa had moved the computer out of the office, with all the discs and equipment for an early pc, and had moved important files and designs from filing cabinets into a fire safe and had "increased his insurance from a hundred thousand dollars to four hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars."

The man just knew it was time to move valuables out of the building right before the building burned down, and had a hunch that the time was right to buy more fire insurance.  This makes him the greatest prognosticator of our day.  Hats off to Darrell Issa, who now is free to hassle Obama.  Surely the ability to forget his past leaves him plenty of brainspace to see the future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

I used to do this, and I am going to do it again.  I had a watch with about ten alarm settings, more than I needed, and I set one to go off at a certain time every day.  When the alarm went off, as I reached my left hand to stop the right wristwatch from beeping, I would think of something to be grateful for.  And I restricted myself to thinking of something new every day, because, as easy as it would be to just say "Oh I give thanks for Peggy for how she looks after me and does so much for me and us and my Mom, and always with a smile, too" but I could say that every day and the goal is to vary my gratitude.

Maybe I'll decide to do it every morning as I lumber outside to retrieve the Sunpaper from wherever it wound up. I feel good when I do this, and I don't know why I stopped.

Will you join me?  It's simple - it's low-calorie, non-fat, slightly addictive, carries with it no unpleasant side effects, but plenty of pleasant ones.

Here's the one I'm going to start with: "I'm grateful that I am even here to give thanks!"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gettin' to know youse

 Quiz time, all you quizmasters!  Let's go - please turn your papers over when you are through.  You may read quietly at your desks until Leon over in the last row is all finished.

What color are your socks right now?
Red - they are always red!  What an easy question!
What are you listening to right now?
 WBJC-FM 91.5   Maryland's Classical Music Station.  It soothes my day!
What was the last thing you ate?
Cream cheese and lox on hippie bread
Can you drive a stick shift?
Can I?  Sure?  Do I want to? NO!
Last person you spoke to on the phone?
It must have been someone at work yesterday...I get more texts than calls anymore...more FB messages than texts....and that saves my parched throat
Do you like the person who sent this to you?
love that Deana
How old are you today?
59!  In five months I will be a sexogenarian!  Yay!
What is your favorite sport to watch on TV
football  - Ravens and Alabama, then baseball
What is your
favorite drink
iced tea
Have you ever dyed your hair?
Nature is doing it for me...I used to be blond, then I went all brown, now brown turns to grey
Favorite food?
What is the last movie you watched?
The Hospital with Geo. C. Scott
Favorite day of the year?
How do you vent?
open a vent
What was your favorite toy as a child?
Howdy Doody puppet.  I had no idea he would wind up being president from 2001-2009
What is your favorite season
Cherries or Blueberries?
Do you want your friends to e-mail you back?
Who is the most likely to respond?
Who is least likely to respond?
BaBa Booie
Living situation?
With Peggy in a big house full of love
When was the last time you cried?
1994.  Tears don't wash away pain for me.
What is on the floor of your closet right now?
Shoes, boxes of red socks, haircut equipment and tools
Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending to?  
Dick Cheney
What did you do last night?
watched "Blue Bloods," had nice dinner, off to bed
What are you most afraid of?
See # 24
Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers?
turkey burger, no cheese
Favorite dog breed?
Favorite day of the week?
How many
 states have you lived in?
Just Maryland, although I once lived a literal stone's throw from the Delaware line.  I threw plenty of stones at it, too, I wanna tell ya.
Diamonds or pearls?
Baseball diamonds
What is your favorite flower?                                  
Black-Eyed Susans

Friday, January 21, 2011

Greater Love

It happened a long time ago, back in my 911 days.  I was working the desk one midnight shift when a senior senior citizen called - a lady in her late 90s, she had fallen out of bed, and lying on the floor of her bedroom, needed help to get back in bed.  As luck had it, she fell close enough to be able to reach the phone on the bedside table, so she was able to call, and the 911 operator switched her over to me for a solution.

I found out that there were no close relatives with a key to the house and that her son had put in all sorts of bars and locks to keep her safe in her house, so I sent the fire department on the way over to her and stayed on the line chatting with her so she could stay awake and engaged, and to provide a little companionship.  It was actually she who did most of the talking as the firefighters did their work to get a door off the hinges to help her out.  She told me tales of Towson in her childhood, which was just after the turn of the century - the one before the Y2K - and how they would ride in horse-drawn sleighs, how the farmers came to town on Saturday afternoons for a haircut and supplies and stayed to watch a movie and have a beer or two, and how they would picnic on the courthouse grounds on sunny summer Sundays.  It was all fascinating.

Her son must have hired the people who did security for Donald Trump's casinos, because it seemed to take forever to get into that house without busting things all to heck.  The lady was getting chilly and tired as she related the stories to me on the phone, and then at one point, with just the slightest pause, she said, "Do you think the firemen have given up on getting in here?"

All I could think to say was, "Ma'am, you must not know any firefighters.  They will not give up on getting to you."

FF Falkenhan
It's always been that way, and so it was the night before last in Hillendale - which, when my lady friend was a child was really a hilly dale and is now an area dense with townhouses and apartments - when 911 got a call for a fire at one of those apartments.  It was, literally, a hell of a fire.  It went to four alarms, and it was so intense that when the fire department first arrived they were not able to enter the building to check for people in need of rescue.  As soon as they got the fire knocked down a little, in they went, and as Firefighter Mark Falkenhan of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company and a partner searched the third floor of the apartment building, a flashover occurred.  This is the result of incomplete combustion, which leaves easily-combustible gases in the air, and when those gases ignite, a whole new fire springs up out of the detritus of the old one.  The other firefighter was able to get out by jumping out a window.  Firefighter Falkenhan was trapped inside and killed.

Whether it's as a career, paid firefighter, which Falkenhan was before he left the County to work for the Secret Service, or as a volunteer, his current capacity,  firefighters have always gone, and will always go to great risk to protect the lives of others.  It's what they do.  It's an American concept all the way, people volunteering in their neighborhood to help with fires and other emergencies, and it dates all the way back to Benjamin Franklin.  It's a harrowing business, fighting fires, and yet those men and women who today are preparing to take Mark Falkenhan to his rest are ready to do the same tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crime, me, and war

So, we were up at Harford Mall on Monday, getting a birthday gift for Peggy and strutting around the mall for exercise.  Of course, I had my Rockports on - "Rockports, the leader in mallwalker footwear since 1993!"

But it was what happened when we walked OUT of the mall that troubled me.  Young couple, typically dressed for 19 or so.  She had long hair in several different colors, and he had an Oriole cap, but it was not only on backwards, it sat at a 45° angle on top of his head, only covering up part of his red neck.

When we first saw them, they were walking ahead of us toward the parking area.  He was gesticulating wildly and she was arguing her side of the matter with earnest remonstrance.  I believe he pushed her and/or grabbed her about the midsection, although I didn't see him literally smack her. Then they went alongside of their car, and when we passed, he was on the ground on his knees, either a) vomiting or 2) trying to pick his way into a car.  She was hollering that they had to go, and he replied that they effing would have gone by effing now, if she had not effing fallen down on effing purpose.

Now here is where I have either become mature enough to remove myself from a situation in which I clearly have no defined role, or have become pusillanimous and deserving of contempt.  Yes, I know people get into fights all the time, and demonstrate a severe lack of breeding by having their fracases on mall parking lots.

But I was worried for the young girl's safety.  The look in her eyes showed misery and pain that, only guessing now, did not just arrive there on that day.  And there was a time when I would have made it my business to lumber over to the combatants and just stand there wordlessly, all 6' 5" of me looming like a volunteer moral force. These days, you really have to wonder before you do things of that sort.  This kid looked like a complete stranger to the Bachelor's Cotillion selection committee, and while I'm not saying he was a soulless monster like Meursault in "The Stranger," who's to say he wouldn't have pulled some cheap handgun out of the saggy waistband of his jeans and made a statistic of me?  Had the young lady asked for help, without question I would have stepped in, offered her shelter and called BelAir town law or the real force: Mall Cops.

But she didn't and I didn't.  And while I was probably wise not to butt in, still I wonder if she's all right tonight.  You have to wonder about everything these days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Go on, Goon!

Calvin and Hobbes, the 1985 - 1995 comic strip that is still available online was a daily wonder to me.  I wondered how its creator and artist Bill Watterson was able to come up with so many (3,160!) dead-on satires of daily life in America, our schools, our love of TV over most everything else, and the senseless limits that we place on a child's creativity.  

The old strips might as well have been drawn yesterday.  The past few weeks, we have enjoyed seeing young Calvin and his friend Hobbes battling a battalion of Snow Goons that have taken over their neighborhood.  Funny stuff! Some of the best cartoons that Watterson ever did were about snowmen and Calvin out there playing in the snow and making his own snowpeople.

But when I think of Snow Goons, I think of:

  • The person who tailgated me all the way down Stevenson Lane yesterday morning.  For the benefit of my many readers in Gila Bend, AZ, we had snow on Monday night, followed by freezing rain on Tuesday morning.  It made all the world look like a gigantic Honey-Dipt Donut, and when I left for work, it was still an even freezin' 32°, and the roads were icy in spots.  Stevenson Lane is downhill with a hard right turn at the bottom of the hill, and the speed limit there is 25, which means you go 25 in the best of conditions, which were not the conditions yesterday morning.  So, to the man or woman driving a tan SUV right on my back bumper all the way down the hill - please don't force me to go buy a set of Yosemite Sam mud flaps! 
  • People who shovel the snow and slush from their driveway out into the middle of the road for the rest of us to steer around.  Please don't force me to go buy a Yosemite Sam snow shovel!
  • Shopowners who rip the public off at the very thought of snow and ice, jacking up the prices of rock salt, car window scrapers, mud flaps, and snow shovels.  I know capitalism means following the laws of supply and demand, but gouging is illegal and immoral and unethical.  Don't make me come to court, represented by Yosemite Sam, Esq!
Snow Goons, you have been warned!  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pop Tops

Good old George "Hannibal" Peppard on The A Team used to exult, "I love it when a plan comes together!"

I was thinking of that quote while sliding down Perring Parkway on the way to work in the morning.  At the time, I was listening to Elvis sing "Suspicious Minds," and it struck me that when people work together, they can really pull off some wondrous things.

It was between 4 and 7 on the morning of January 23, 1969 when a group of musicians gathered with The King in Chips Moman's American Sound Studios in Memphis, TN to cut this record.  Since I am not Marilu Henner, I can't tell you exactly where I was during those hours, but since I was a senior in high school at the time, I can pretty well state with certainty that I was not engaged in any form of studying.  It was a Thursday morning, and I was probably resting up in preparation for a big weekend of hanging around the firehouse.  Down on Elvis Presley Boulevard, E was in the midst of a nice career recovery at the time; the month before, his '68 Comeback special had been on TV and we all got to see that he had not forsaken his music for the sake of dumb movies where he played playboys and cowboys and Indians.  The single was released in the fall of '69, following "In The Ghetto" on the Billboard charts, and it was E's final #1 record during his lifetime.  The followup was "Don't Cry Daddy."

The producer of "Suspicious Minds" was Felton Jarvis, and he came up with an idea that was to confound disc jockeys the world over.  At 3:33 of the song, the instrumentals and voices fade out, leading half-awake jocks to spin around, grab their headphones and prepare to do a time-and-temp check, only to realize that the song had another minute to play.  This is the second most popular way to fool a disc jockey, the first, of course, being to call on the phone and promise to bring a sub and some snackage down to the station, and then not to do so.  That one never gets old.

If you will, go here and listen to the song and enjoy all of its many aspects.  What I was saying about when a plan comes together is that:  all those horn players, guitarists, drummers, others in the session were once kids whose parents sent them off to horn, guitar, drum or whatever lessons.  All that practice, all those years of playing scales and earning scale paid off early in the morning almost 42 years ago.

Same for the vocalists.  That plaintive female voice backing the King?  Her name was Donna Jean Godchaux, and she went on to become a member of the Grateful Dead.  It's only right that she went from singing for Elvis to singing for the Dead, since Elvis was hip before there were hippies.  

On the other hand, in 1965 the Beach Boys released their version of Bobby Freeman's hit "Do You Wanna Dance?" Curiously, Brian Wilson, leader of the group, allowed his brother Dennis, the drummer, to sing lead on this song, but it's hardly a masterpiece of production.  Dennis's vocals sound a little thin, and then when the chorus comes up, it's a sonic wash of texture - led by Brian, who produced it.  On the second verse, Dennis goes to sing, "Do you wanna dance, under the moonlight, kiss me kiss me all through the night..." but momentarily mixes up and thinks it's the verse where he's to sing "...squeeze me squeeze me" so it comes out "...skiss me kiss me."  And Brian left it that way!  Was Brian attempting to show up his younger brother, who was the only surfer in the family, a popular athlete who was regarded as being way cooler than Brian? After all, Dennis had to go to their mom and have her force Brian to let him in the group in the first place! Listen here and tell me what you think. 

I sure can read a lot into pop tunes from the 1960's, but man, don't they all sound sweet?