Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Signs of the times

Junk has been piling up in the basement, and it seems certain that the kids are no longer going to be able to wear any of the clothes they wore to third grade, now that they're in seventh.  The old VCR is not getting much use, the one Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots robot lost his head in heated combat in 1967, and the rolled-up Bay City Rollers posters haven't seen the light of day for many an S-A-T-U-R DAY!

So it's time for a Yard Sale.  They are great and an excellent way to find amazing bargains at low-low prices.  Had it not been for a yard sale I chanced upon down near the mall one long-ago Saturday, I would not today be the proud second owner of a copy of a "Bing Sings While Bregman Swings" phonograph album, and then I wouldn't have known the glory of hearing der Bingle boo-boo-boo his way through "Jeeper Creepers," "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "They All Laughed."  Not to mention the amazing "Mountain Greenery."

I just mentioned it, didn't I?
I got that album for a dollar.   But that happened because I just happened to drive up on the yard sale that sunny Saturday.   And boy were they mad that I drove up on it, preferring that I park on the sidewalk.  

But if they wanted to draw a bigger crowd, they would have needed to advertise.  Not by buying spots in the Super Bowl, or even on local tv or radio.  Most yard sales are advertised on homemade signs that are stapled to telephone poles.  The thing is, people letter them with Magic Markers on tagboard, and they look great at the kitchen table, but when folks are whizzing by in their driving machines, the skinny writing might not show up all that well.
 And yard sales are one thing, but lately I see homemade signs that say things like LEROY BUYS HOUSES  443 555 3827.

Really?  You would call the number on a sign you saw that someone made in their kitchen and then tacked up on the pole down by the intersection and allow Leroy to purchase your house, thereby relieving you of that pesky underwater mortgage and giving you ready bucks to spend on who knows what-all?  

My advice, for what it's worth ($0.00): remember to use a thick magic marker for making your own signs, and if you read homemade signs from Leroy, you might want to forget what you read!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Me, a name I call myself

Nephew Jay and Niece Jamie were recently blessed with the arrival of their third child, a cute little tacker named Zachary.  So I got to thinking about how names become popular, since there was not a single Zachary in my schooldays.  

The good people over at babynames.com were kind enough to provide a list of popular names for kids, and the list shows names as they increase (#2, Noah, and #1, Charlotte) and decrease (#3, Aiden and #5, Ava).  Names making their first appearance ever, or a return appearance, are also pointed out (#86 Ezra is on the list for the first time since shoes required buttonhooks, and how long has it been since you met a little girl named Hazel - #99?)

Coming in at #50, Zachary joins his brother Alexander (#9) and sister Isabella #17.

Over in the other side of the family, our nephew Drew and wife Laura have three kids: the twins Preslee and Mason and little sister Finley, none of whose names are on the list yet, but you wait - they'll be there soon.  And I have to wonder why there are so few Elvises among the young of today.  May I ask what all you young parents are waiting for?  "Elvis" is currently #858 on the US charts of baby names, having peaked at #312 in 1957.  It is ahead of "Newt," though (#958). "Mitt" is not on the list, nor should it be.

My own name?  Well, little-known fact, I was christened "Marky Mark" by the Funky Bunch, but I just go by Mark, and I'm at #154 and planning to move up again really soon.   Newborn Marks can take their names from Wahlberg the actor, Twain the writer, McGwire the steroid-assisted slugger, Ruffalo the actor and Foley, the congressman who loved reading so much that he just couldn't stop turning over pages.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two Sad Outcomes

Last Sunday afternoon,  Beverly Moore, 68, who lived on Bourbon Court not too far from us in the Seven Courts development, was still with us in this vale.  But on Sunday evening, not long after the Ravens finished their game in New England, Mrs Moore, a widow, was crossing Seven Courts Drive, having left the Weis Supermarket with some groceries.  A driver stopped to allow her to cross the busy street.  Another driver, as yet unidentified, swerved around that other car and struck Mrs Moore, who died on the scene.  According to the Perry Hall Patch, the vehicle that hit her was a light colored four-door Ford 500 sedan, with damage to the right front bumper, the right headlight and possibly the hood and right front panel.  

Of course, the first thing you think is, it was right after the football game ended, and maybe this person had a few pops and should not have been driving anyway.  But who knows that for sure?  The only thing we know with certainty is that someone hit this poor lady and then did not stop, or turn themselves in since.

And I wonder, how do you live with that on your mind?  On one level, do you stay at home behind drawn curtains, flinching every time a car drives up your street?  Do you recoil in fear when you see a police car or a plain Ford sedan?  Does your heart flip when the phone rings?  Have you awakened every morning since Monday saying, today could be the day?  You know the cops will be coming for you.  It's not if, but when.   

Or could it be that a person who would drive off from such a thing has no conscience to bother him or her?

And Mrs Moore was but the first person killed in traffic this week in Baltimore County, but the circumstances of the second fatality were far different.  On Tuesday, a man reported that two burglars had run out of his house in the north County.  Police spotted them and were following along.  At Jarrettsville Pike and Merrymans Mill Rd, the driver stopped to let his passenger (and presumed fellow burglar) Jenard Toliver out of the car.  

(Can you imagine that conversation, as they rocketed through the streets of Jacksonville?  "You can just let me out here, dude....yeah...this is fine...just slow down to 60 and I'll just roll right out...see ya...")

Remains of stolen Honda
Without his passenger, the driver, later identified as Aaron Nathaniel McCoy, Jr, careered down the Pike in a stolen Honda, and stayed on the same road as it became Dulaney Valley Rd. (We do that a lot with our streets here for the convenience of felons: stay on the same road and it changes names as you proceed.)  McCoy's life ended at 20 as he evaded police, clipped a Jeep Cherokee near Ivy Church Rd and hit a pole straight on.  There was also a large pickup truck involved in the pileup, but fortunately no one was seriously injured.  McCoy, whose criminal career began at 16 and included escapades with firearms and armed robberies, died on the scene. 

Two dead in Baltimore County traffic accidents. Both preventable, both memorable, both sad. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men

I’m not here to ruffle any feathers or upset apple carts, but then again, I’m not here to remain silent on an issue that bothers me quite a lot.  In fact, it’s people remaining silent about issues that should have bothered them quite a lot that really has me going.

Sandusky and Paterno
It’s about Joe Paterno and his legacy, the image of his life that is being discussed so much these days.  You know the deal. He had an assistant coach who allegedly was buggering, fondling, showering and engaging in horseplay with young boys in the Penn State football building.  A young assistant coach saw a young man being raped in the shower one night, the story goes, and reported it to Coach Paterno.

Coach Paterno did something about it, all right.  He immediately went to his higher-ups (as if he had any) and suggested that they might want to be aware of this ineffable enormity going on in the football building.  But hey, guys, let’s not make a big thing of this, what with the road trip to play Wisconsin this weekend, and of course, we don’t want to mess up our chance to get invited to the Chili Bowl in January.  Team comes first, right?

I am always reminded of something I did in high school.  At our school bus stop, there was a house with a garage, and the neighbors allowed us to hang out in the garage on rainy days to keep us and our cigarettes dry for school.  One time we were in that garage on a snowy morning and the bus came along.  The bus didn’t see us at the stop so the driver slowed down and looked.  To our collective shame, we just sort of looked around and whispered, “Wait! Stop!” so that we could go home and claim that the bus left us behind - even though we said “Wait! Stop!”  That’s how much emphasis old Paterno apparently put into going to the big wigs at Penn State, when he knew this awfulness was going on. 

So the awfulness continued to go on for years.  We always hear that sins will be found out.  While Paterno and his football team won game after game, young man after young man was forced to submit to the Satanic iniquities of coach Sandusky.   And not until just after Paterno set the record for most wins by a coach at a major college last fall did the terrible truth come out. He stood there on the sidelines, or sat there in the press box as he wound up doing in his final games, coaching the team, knowing full well that he had had a violent predator on his staff, and he did nothing but smile and pretend nothing was wrong.

After all that went on in that damned building came to light, the school did the only thing they could do about a man who saw evil and played it off lightly.  They fired him, which enraged that segment of the student body and the team’s fans that could not differentiate between right and wrong and how to report the latter.  A mature individual with a functioning moral compass sees a young man being raped by a football coach, and hollers loud and long until someone makes it stop. For Paterno to report it in such a desultory manner and then continue to walk onfield every week and coach a team in the name of Penn State was to ignore the tragedy that occurred in his domain – a tragedy that he could have stopped.

A week before his death, Paterno gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he tried to clear up his image by playing ‘dumb old man.’ To the Post, he claimed that he had never seen anything like this before: “And then I called my superiors and I said: ‘Hey, we got a problem, I think. Would you guys look into it?’ Cause I didn’t know, you know. We never had, until that point, 58 years I think, I had never had to deal with something like that. And I didn’t feel adequate.”

Hey, we got a problem, I think.

“And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best.”

Joe Paterno, known as “JoePa,” presented that paternal image that people found so adorable.  He had three sons and a daughter.  Do you kind of think that maybe if he had seen one of his kids being violated in a shower that he might have, you know, known what to do or how to feel?  Did he really think that doing nothing was acceptable?

Anyway, that’s his story, and I wouldn’t even still be talking about him except for this.  People were talking about him on the news the other night as they gathered for his funeral, and one former player said how old JoePa cared more about what kind of men his players were than what kind of players his men were.

And yet his actions would not seem to bear that out.  It seemed that winning football games meant more to him than the physical and mental wellbeing of Sandusky’s victims.

One final thing: the night that Paterno was given a message to call the vice-chairman of trustees for Penn State and when he did so, he got the news that in the best interests of the university, he had been fired.

And then his wife picked up the phone, called that vice-chairman herself, and said, “After 61 years, he deserved better.”

So did those young men.  So did those young men.  Joe should have done better by them. He had one final chance in that Post interview to say that, but he stuck with his "I don't know, you know?" stance til the end.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seal test

There's something I don't understand concerning our national adoration of celebrities, however minor.  We just can't get enough of their glamorous lives in our lives, and that seems to make us feel like part of their lives.

The most recent example that comes to mind is the widespread disbelief about the breakup of the marriage of Heidi Klum and Seal.  When I say minor celebrity, that definition fits these two perfectly, because I am certain that either of them could walk through most malls without drawing a huge crowd.  I mean, look at them: a couple of handsome people, but we've all seen people who look just like them, have we not?

This is Brad

This is I
Brad Pitt was on Fresh Air the other day and so I decided to give him a good listening-to, what with people always saying that I look so much like him and all. One point he made is that he and Angelina Jolie cannot just hop into the Studebaker and run down to Dairy Queen and JC Penney's for a root beer float and a new suit.  He said they have to plan ahead when they leave their house and have security arrangements in place before they open the front door.  And you have to figure, he can't go out and get the paper in the morning clad only in boxer shorts and a torn t-shirt.   He also said that he accepts these limitations on his freedom as being part of the life he chose, that of a celebrity. He's a very famous guy, very recognizable in public, even though he can't just stroll along with the rest of us.

But anyway, when Heidi Klum and Seal announced they were getting a divorce, they made with the usual Hollywood nonsense about how they still loved each other so very very deeply and planned to remain friends and involved in each other's lives forever.  That must be one of the advantages of being famous, because most divorced couples that I know are not exactly going off to Branson for a weekend at Mel Tillis's country music showcase or anything.  What they are doing is wondering when the ex-husband will be back with the kids, or why his mother has to butt into everything all the time. 

Here's what really puzzles me, is all the people on tv and at the Buy-Sum-Mor standing around talking about what a shock this is that these two people have decided that eight years together is more enjoyment than they can stand.  "They seemed so great together!" say people who have never been within a hundred miles of them together.  "He really loves her!" say people who can't accurately make that assessment. "She really loves him!" say their cousins. 

I understand that we "know" famous people and love the idea of having them in our lives, however distantly, but I can't figure out how we come to feel that we know them well enough to say how they feel about things.  Maybe I should call someone famous and see what they know about me!

"Hello, Newt?"


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flying off the handle

Dad of Rand
Now, I'm trying to be very objective about this, but I don't fly on airplanes very often.  In fact, if you define "not very often" as "not since 1982," then it's true. I don't fly in an airplane, and not so much because I fear falling out of the sky and landing in a cornfield in Iowa.  I fear being at the airport and being in line behind a jackanapes like this Rand Paul, son of prospector Ron Paul.

It was all over the paper the other night, how Rand was in line at the airport to go to Washington to speak at a pro-life rally (and he's a libertarian, of sorts) when he was pulled out of the line because the airport screener said there was some sort of anomaly when he went through the scanner.

Hats off to the screener for not recognizing Paul, who clearly likes to be recognized. 

Anyway, instead of following the lawful directions of the airport security people, who are in place to prevent more 9/11-style hijackings, Rand Paul threw a little hissy fit and refused to be patted down. 

He refused to follow the law.

What's interesting is that he is one of the 100 people who are proud to call themselves US Senators, a group of people who fly to Washington DC and write laws.

Now, again, this is why I don't fly, because I don't want to be involved with this fool, who said that if he had been a senator in 1964 he would have had problems with Title II of the Civil Rights Act.  He thinks that if you own a bar or restaurant or oil-change drive-through, you ought to be allowed to refuse to serve people of races you find objectionable.

These Are Your Tea Party Members, folks.

But back in the day when people protested the Viet Nam war, all the "old people" over 30 took the protestors aside and wisely advised them to "change the laws first, don't break the laws!" 

Now this ophthalmologist/senator/Wallace throwback advocates breaking the laws.  And he's one of the ones we sent to DC to write them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The moon is about love & Werewolves, also Poe
Poe is about looking at the moon from the sun
or else the graveyard

Allan Ginsberg, from "Is About" (1996)

The story here in Baltimore is that the Poe Toaster did not show up again this year, apparently putting to rest the tradition of saluting Edgar Allan Poe on his birthday in January.  For years, someone showed up at his grave in downtown Baltimore every January 19 and left a bottle of cognac and three roses, but the last time this happened was 2009, the two-hundredth anniversary of the poet's birth. 

But, as long as there is eighth-grade English being taught, there will be students all across the nation reading "The Raven":

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more." 

So, that part of the tradition will live on.  There is another section of Baltimore called Fells Point, a waterfront area where saloons prosper.  Go figure!  Fells Point is named for William Fell, a Quaker from England who began a shipbuilding business in that area in the 1700s.  If you remember the tv show "Homicide," which showed the seamier side of Bmore for several years, then you'll recall the building where the detectives worked...that's the Fells Point Recreation Pier, which dates back almost a century.  And there is a saloon called The Horse You Came In On right there, which is rumored to be the last place in which Poe tipped a bottle before dying in the streets of some combination of  (per Wikepedia) "alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents."

His was not a happy life; his were not happy poems and stories. The Baltimore Ravens football team salutes him: their three mascots in giant black bird outfits are named Edgar, Allan and Poe.

And they're not so happy these days either.  But life goes on!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

James's Bond

I just finished reading the book "Destiny Of The Republic" by Candice Millard; the New Yorker and NPR liked it so I gave it a shot and I'm glad I did.  James A. Garfield, the subject of the book, was the 20th president of the United States, and, chiefly because his term was only of 200 days' duration, he is today not one of the presidents whose name is on the lips of the electorate.  I mean, he really didn't have chance to do very much in that short a time.  

We talked about him another time because of the circumstances of his assassination at the hands of "disappointed office seeker Charles Guiteau."  Guiteau might be better known today than Garfield, come to think of it: there have been far fewer assassins than presidents, thank Heaven.  But Garfield was an interesting guy, once you read more about him.  He didn't even want to be president, and went to the Republican convention in 1880 to make the nominating speech in support of General Sherman, who had such a hot time in Atlanta.  Next thing you know, it was Sherman's turn to be all burned up, because Garfield made such a great speech about Sherman, the crowd went nuts and nominated Garfield instead.

That is sort of like being Cyrano for a friend and going to ask a girl to marry that friend and then she says, "No, but you'll do!" 

So, long story short, Garfield gets elected and then Guiteau does his dastardly deed, and Garfield might have lived anyway but the doctors refused to practice antiseptic treatment in those days and so they infected him with fatal sepsis while trying to remove the bullet that Guiteau put in him. 

What I really found interesting about the man was that he was a self-made man.  His father died when JAG was but a tad, and he had to make it on his own.  He was self-educated, and spoke very formally, like this:

Territory is but the body of a nation. The people who inhabit its hills and valleys are its soul, its spirit, its life.

A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.

If wrinkles must be written on our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old. 
James A. Garfield
So, clearly he was an introspective, thoughtful man, old Garfield.  Ms Millard brings out the fact that when he married his wife, Lucretia, he wasn't that into her for many years, and the marriage was hardly the stuff of romance novels.  Then he had an affair with a woman who was a news reporter in Washington, and when Lucretia found out, he not only begged her forgiveness, but fell deeply in love with his wife because she was so cool about it all.  According to the book, here is what he said to his wife:

"I here record the most deliberate conviction of my soul.  Were every tie that binds me to the men and women of the world severed, and I free to choose out of all the world the sharer of my heart and home and life, I would fly to you and ask you to be mine as you are."

This is all the more remarkable when we consider that he said it fifty years before the Wright Brothers' first flight, so history cannot account for how exactly he planned to "fly" to his wife.  Perhaps he had reservations on Air Tran.

I also feel deeply that the average philanderer of today would never be able to speak in such a flowery manner to his aggrieved wife.  The best that today's Newts could come up with would be, "Hey, it was only once or twice, and she tricked me into it anyway, ya know whattamean?"

Note to 21st-Century guys who think this might be a nice way to have a little somethin'-somethin' and get away with it: this only worked in 1863.  After all, he didn't have to worry about YouTube and TMZ.  Neither will you, if you just bring it on home!

Monday, January 23, 2012

You gotta know how to Pony like Bony Maronie

Photo from the Aegis
I'm writing this on Saturday morning, so by the time you are seeing this (and thank you for doing so!) the ballgame between the Ravens and the Patriots will be in the history books.  I really think that for a lot of folks around here, the buildup to big Ravens games is almost as exciting as the game itself.  Everyone is wearing purple in some form, it seems, and jerseys of favorites replace dress shirts for me and dresses for women.  Gorgeous cheerleaders are all over town stirring support, and the Ravens band is playing stirring music.  I heard them on TV playing "Land of 1000 Dances."

Now, you might say, what song is that?  And then I might say, you might know that song as "Na Na Na Na NAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" because the phrase "Land of 1000 Dances" is not mentioned in the lyrics.  And there are but 16 dances mentioned, according to Wikipedia: the Pony, the Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the Alligator, the Watusi, the Twist, the Fly, the Jerk, the Tango, the Yo-Yo, the Sweet Pea, the Hand jive, the Slop, the Bop, the Fish, and the Popeye. 

The dance formerly known as "The Italian Cruise Liner Captain" is now known as "The Jerk."

C & the H's
"Land of 1000 Dances" was first done in 1962 by Chris Kenner, who is also remembered for his other hits "I Like It Like That" and "Something You Got." Kenner wrote it, along with Antoine "Fats" Domino. But when Cannibal And The Headhunters recorded it in 1965, lead singer Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia forgot a couple of lines, substituting "Na na na na naaaaaaa" and vaulting into history in the process.  No one talks about the Chris Kenner version so much, but the Cannibal version and the Wilson "Wicked" Pickett version from '66 were staples at every teen center and swimming pool dance in the 60s.

So the Ravens Marching Band is doing that song and that's why the Ravens won the Battle of the Bands..and more...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"It says here..."

I thought it was sort of odd that a number of websites were posting the news of Joe Paterno's death last night.  Odd, in that it hasn't happened.  I guess we can expect it soon; an 84-year-old with lung cancer, dispirited from recent events, probably does not have a long time ahead.  But how does it happen that someone decides to post information that is not 100% accurate?  If a reporter hears secondhand that a nurse came out of the coach's hospital room claiming that Paterno had passed, is that enough to go on and put out a bulletin?

Obviously not.

And the other day I got one of those web essays that are always going around.  This one was called "Bill Cosby Is Tired" and it listed some of things that purportedly are vexatious to the comic.  When you read it, it seems perfectly real, and written in that Cosby manner - slightly preachy, slightly funny - but when you go to Cosby's website, you see his denial of the whole thing.  You can't blame people for passing it along, but you have to wonder.  Deep at the heart of all this, someone is sitting somewhere at a keyboard, and they say, "Hmmm.  OK.  Let's see..we did Bill Gates's 'Advice To The Graduates' and George Carlin's '10 Ways that Soccer and Lacrosse Are Different' and Andy Rooney's 'Did You Ever Notice That Everything Tastes Better With Gravy On It?' " So what can I make up today?

I'm guessing there's an element of sadness in the creation of something falsely attributed to someone more famous...or an element of envy.  To the persons who create this fiction, I say, why not put it out under your own name and let it stand on its own merits?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday rerun: I Still Have my Nametag

Everyone drove Mustangs to the A & P
In the spring of my senior year, just before my graduation from the exclusive Towson High School (admission by zip code only!) I went to work for The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, also known as the "A & P," and that's pronounced "Ann P" around these parts.  I had hoped to start out as District Manager or Vice-President of Sales, Grocery Division, but it seemed that the only openings they had were for "clerk," so I took that, figuring on biding my time for the inevitable promotions that never came.

Rat Fink t-shirt decal
Some interesting facts about that job: we had to wear a white shirt and tie and pants that could be any color but could not be jeans of any fabric.  We got around the shirt thing by wearing t-shirts underneath with various slogans and depictions of cartoon characters.

My starting salary was a whopping $2.15 per hour, not bad when my classmates worked at Gino's or McDonald's for fifty cents.  In fact, top pay on the clerk scale was $3, and there were full time guys there, working 40 hours, grossing $120/wk, and raising families and buying houses, cars and cheap beer on that pay. We wore red aprons and name tags. The store sold all the national brands, of course, but we had our own - in fact, the tea bags were called "Our Own" tea bags - brands, such as Jane Parker baked goods and Ann Page canned foods.  I used to wonder about the people who worked in the packaging end.  Working the early shift, I would be stocking the bread aisle and found it endlessly humorous that Jane Parker's Old-Fashioned Home-Style Bread carried the description "A hearty, firm-type loaf."  And one of my best buddies on the crew, Charlie (known as "Cholly" in BalMoreEse) had a younger brother whose detestation of cole slaw was so thickly ingrained in his diet that he carried the sobriquet "Slaws-A-Balls."

Please don't try to understand that nickname unless you are 18 and male.  That's the only way it's funny.

Tool of the trade
We would set this to 2/69¢!
I didn't usually work a cash register, so it was not to be my fate to have experiences like John Updike wrote about in his short story "A&P," but I would never have acted like the guy in that story anyway.  We had our share of pretty girls parading through the store in various states of deshabille and decolletage, and there was lots of ogling going on in the time-honored manner of adolescent males.  I spent a lot of time unloading freight trucks and placing items on the shelves for sale, so I always had one of those box-cutter knives and a Garvey price kerchunker ready for business.

Sometimes in the evenings, taking the trash out, or having a smoke break, we would see two cars pull up and park, and then a woman would get into a car driven by a man, and they would drive away, casting furtive looks as they left.  Of course, as major-league suburban sophisticates, we knew something was up.  We just didn't know what, to tell you the truth.  And in the apartments behind the store - now torn down and replaced with apartments - I don't know why either - there lived a woman who was quite uninhibited in her manner of dressing, which is to say that she paraded around naked and stood in the bathroom window, providing endless amusement for the easily amused.  We don't know where she got her groceries, because she did not come into our store.  We did know that she got her clothes at the same place The Emperor did!

So that part of my career lasted through my college days and then I took a cut in pay to go into radio, but I am writing today because the A&P chain is done in Baltimore as of today.  All the stores are closed; some will reopen as Shoppers' Food Warehouses, and some as Shop-Rites, and some will remain empty, corpses of a company that shot itself in the foot time and again changing its name from A&P to WEO ("Where Economy Originates" - snappy, huh?) and then SuperFresh, where they tried to be all things to all people.  Gourmet foods? Sure! Cheapie no-name brands?  Aisle 5, I think! Sit awhile and have some pizza and a soda?  Steam that shrimp for you?  Power tools, aisle 16!

Back in the day, we addressed customers as 'Sir' and 'Ma'am' and we thanked them for shopping with us and the acceptable answer to any question about where an item was shelved was never, "Gee, I don't know!"   But I heard that a lot lately in SuperFresh, and while I am sad to see them go, I can tell you this about Baltimore:  we like to eat food,  and you have to be pretty lousy at running a food store to drive people away like this chain did.

Shame, too.  They did have tasty cheese rolls.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Science Project

Well, my new hero is young Samantha Garvey, who was all over the papers, blogs and tv shows last week.  She's the Long Island high school senior whose work in marine biology over the past several years has made her a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.  She has done a thorough study of what happens to ribbed mussels in the presence of predators.

Her project is titled, "The Effects of Physical Environment and Predators on Phenotypic Plasticity in Geukensia demissa." As that clearly states, it's all about  how ribbed mussels -- which is what non-scientists call Geukensia demissa -- adjust their characteristics, or phenotypes, when predators and the whole world at large come crashing all around them.

When I was her age, the only study I did concerning the field of marine biology took place along the banks of Loch Raven Reservoir, where my scientific colleagues Joe, Mike and Steve investigated what would happen when four minors drank Boone's Farm and fished for trout. The predators in our study were the game wardens, and the mosquitoes. It's my recollection that none of us changed our phenotypes, but I might be wrong.  We were more than happy to change our jeans, I do remember that.

Here is what makes young Samantha so special:  when the news of her hard work came along, she and her family were living in a homeless shelter - and not for the first time.  Her parents have had their troubles, and now some help has come along and a rent-subsidized home has been found.  

Samantha is the president of her local National Honor Society.  I'm proud to say that I, too, knew people who were in the National Honor Society, although I was a stranger to their selection committee.  She has a 3.9 GPA, and I did about 3.9 % of my homework.  She, unlike me, wants to attend Brown or Yale, because as you'll see in the video, she wants better for herself and her family in the future, and she realizes that if she works for it, she can achieve it.

I love the way she is such a good young lady, hard-working and doing her best while being respectful to her family and to others.  I feel that she is one of those people who will beat the odds and find success.  I wish her well.

Now where did I leave my fishing rod...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What I Learned in Grade Three

Because I don't really care for most of the comics in the newspaper today - I refuse to start my day thinking about something called "Zits" -  I get classic comics delivered to my email every day. 

Oh, that Marmaduke.

But it was actually the "Peanuts" cartoon from the other day that led me to a memory...

I've mentioned before how lucky I feel to have been with the same core group of other kids from first grade through twelfth.  Sure, people came and went, but there were dozens of guys 'n' gals decked out in maroon and white on graduation night that I could remember in those early days at Hampton Elementary (which began in the Lutherville school building for the 1st 1/2 of 1st grade).

Our teacher in third grade, one Margaret van Breeman, was not typical, as third-grade teachers go.  For one thing, she was not softhearted and kind. For another, she taught us all sort of ridiculous notions ("people from down South talk like that because it's so hot down there and they are tired all the time") and even had us singing songs that today are not permitted within ten miles of an eight-year-old ("Mammy's little baby loves short-nin' bread"). I can see her in that classroom, explaining why certain words were to be sung in certain ways, as in "Put on da skillet, put on da lead" being the way to say "put on the skillet, put on the lid" when one was really tired from the heat.

All right, I suppose that a lot of odd, eccentric, racist notions were expounded upon in a lot of 1950s classrooms.  That's just the most memorable part of Miss Van Breeman.

The other thing I can't forget about her was her temper!  Man, did she have a temper!  Hardly a day went by that she didn't start SCREAMING about something.  Even a simple request to use the lavatory could result in a tirade that rivalled some of the best set-tos between Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin.

And these contretemps were not only about things that happened in her classroom.  We were down on the lower floor of that lovely school on Charmuth Road, and woe betide any kids from any other classes who dared to make noise in that hallway.  She was out there hollering in a jiffy, bellowing about their hooliganism.

This was in our quiet, little Dulaney Valley town, and there was not a lot of hollering to be heard on our winding streets and byways. But Lord, how she jarred that quiet. Every day, something else to shriek of.

All I can remember about her is that she said she came from a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD, and that she recognized the patriotic deeds of Reuben, who was a custodian at the school who had been a paratrooper in the Army.  Beyond that, we knew nothing that I can recall.

In fourth grade, our teacher was Mrs Rennie, who was more the grandmotherly type.  Strict, but fair, and encouraging to those of us who had a little trouble with our timeses and guzinthas. 

One day, she made an English composition exercise out of writing letters to Miss Van Breeman, who was conspicuously absent from the faculty that next year.  We thought it was a nice idea and we wrote the letters, which Mrs Rennie said she would have mailed to our former teacher.

It wasn't until many years later that a couple of us started to wonder just what happened to Miss VB, and if she had been...you know...fired? hospitalized? promoted to chief of disciplinary services? 

We shall never know, on this earth.  But one day I fully expect to be walking through those fabled pearly gates and hear, "Mark!  Get back there and pick up that cafeteria tray!  This isn't the Plaza Hotel, you know!" being barked out in a familiar Southern MD accent.  Then I'll know I'm right where I need to be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Haley's Comet

When the outgoing governor of Mississippi, the honorable Republican Haley Barbour, was leaving the office the other day, he apparently packed up all personal belongings, all that stuff that collects in a desk over the years, and failed to check the new calendar on the wall.

He just totally LOOKS like the governor of Mississippi!
In the apparent belief that this is the year 1812, Mr Barbour let loose upon this land some 200 of the finest that his famed penitentiaries have to offer.  Murderers, thieves, probably a rapist or two, who knows?  "But nobody on death row!" he proudly proclaimed. 

Here's the part that makes me wonder what year it is in Mississippi:
"The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote," Barbour said.

So, setting aside our wondering about what sort of "professional" organizations will grant licenses to convicted felons, are we just to understand that food is so hard to come by in the greater Hattiesburg area that, rather than just send them to the Buy-So-Lo, we give rifles to murderers in hopes they will come back with the pickup full of venison?

Among those getting early outs from the Walled Off Astoria was the brother of former Packer/Falcon/Jet/Viking quarterback and Southern Miss college star Brett Favre. Earnest Scott Favre had his record cleared in the 1996 death of his best friend, Mark Haverty. Favre had driven in front of a train in Pass Christian while drunk, pleaded guilty in 1997, and was sentenced to a year of house arrest followed by two years' probation.  All this happened 15 years ago, and he was still in the Big House?  Just for spelling his first name wrong?

Karen Irby also packed up her troubles in her old kit bag and headed home, presumably to Jackson, where she was a socialite before a DUI crash killed two doctors. 

In 1996, South African Azikiwe Kambule was sent up as a teen in the carjacking and murder of a Jackson woman.  Today, it's like that never even happened.  He's headed home.

I did mention Mr Barbour's party affiliation, did I not?  Lest anyone think he's one of those liberals, soft on crime,  and willing to spring forth a veritable phalanx of Willie Hortons on an unprotected populace...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Come Fry With Me

In my ongoing effort to provide up-to-the-minute cultural information for today's with-it generation, all of whom I outrank in seniority by several scores, I now bring to your attention what some are calling the "vocal fry." I call it the "spoken sizzle," and it's that way some people have of letting the end of their sentence trail off in a guttural sound like this.

I think it was the late 90s when the uptalk phenomenon swept the country, much like the current fascination for following the lunatic pronouncements of Newton Leroy Gingrich (who said, "A mere 40 years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning. No bureaucrat would have invented it, and that's what freedom is all about” in 1996) and all those crazy rumors about Fonzie being killed in a car wreck.  People started talking like THIS.  The end of every sentence ended on an UP NOTE.  And simple declarative sentences sounded like QUESTIONS?  I'm sure you REMEMBER!

And then there was that trend, mercifully relegated to the past now, of people who dealt with children talking in a sing-song even when they weren't talking to children.  I can understand that, in order to cajole little Eggington to stop sticking the tines of his fork into the electric socket, it was effective to say, "Now, EGGY, you know that UPSETS Mommy when you BLOW OUT all the CIRCUITS in the house with your FORK so please knock it the hell OFF already."  But then that person would stop at the deli on her way home and say, "I need a QUARTER pound of HORMEL spiced ham sliced THIN please and a LARGE tub o' SLAW."  That sort of SPEECH cadence can be absolutely RIVETING, can it not?

But.  The sizzle, the fry.  A lot of singers trail off with it (remember Britney Spears, the way she growled "Oh Babbbbbbbbbby Babbbbbbbbbbby"?), and of course it's a staple when you hear the likes of Paris Hilton soliloquizing. It's almost as if Paris and her friends, when you hear them chattering in a cluster, run out of energy as each sentence trails off.  That's why their conversations sound like this:

"I like wanted to get that dress in like five different colors because I don't know what color boutonniere Chad will be WEARinggggggggggggggggggggg"

"Like Oh my Godddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd"

So please be on the lookout for this trend in your home, and do you all can to nip it in the buddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd.  See you tomorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Picture Show

You'd have had to know my grandfather, that's all I can say.  The man was amazing in his interests and abilities.  When I make a movie about my life, his part will be played by Edward G Robinson, see?  

He was always coming up with some sort of gag gift or other, and one time he gave me a hat that said "Don't Go Away Mad - Just Go Away" and I wish I still had that hat.  Not that I feel that way about most people, but it cracks me up, and every time I hear that Mötley Crüe song of the same name, it makes me smile to think of my grandfather and Tommy Lee << in the same context.

I think about that hat and the hundreds of other little gifts I got from my grandfather, many of which came in the form of jokes I still use (Pep Boys matches, Land O'Lakes butter cartons) when I think about my childhood, which took place during the years in which Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower wore baggy pants to play golf with Dick "Dick" Nixon.  I often wish that I were a kid again and know what I know now, but then again, who hasn't made that wish?  

Ike 'n' Dick
During my 911 days, I was fortunate enough to make friends with a nice co-worker named Hazel, who had a little baby named Ashlee.  Ashlee had a baby four months ago, a wonderful little angel named Cole, and yesterday in the mail, here came an envelope addressed to me and Peggy bearing a card that said "Love" and a picture of the baby inside. 

Just a photo of a lovely little baby boy, sweet and pure, and it brings so much joy to Peggy and me to see him smiling and happy in that picture, which took a place of honor on our refrigerator near the Ring Lardner quote ("They gave each other a smile with a future in it") and photos of other people we love.  I wish him sunny days and happy nights and lots of love and laughs.  When he gets to be my age (the year will be 2061!) he will know that you need to have plenty of both,  and I have a feeling he does.

Thank you Ashlee.  We love the picture, and we love all of you!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday rerun: Bad to the Bone

Quite humerus
Some nights, when I go to type my blog entry, I can hardly wait to sit down at the old keyboard. I have something on my mind to write about and it's just a matter of how quickly I can type. And then there are times like this, when there is no specific topic on my mind, nothing that really strikes my fancy. And where is my fancy, by the way? I imagine it is located somewhere near the funny bone. That's what we say when something amuses us, right? It "tickled my funny bone." I decided to look into this, since nothing else was on my mind. I called the medical examiner's office and the anatomy department at the School of Medicine, but both places said that recent budget cuts had left them short-handed. In other words, they were working with a skeleton crew.

Well, look at old skinny  here, and there is the old soupbone, the upper part of the arm. It's really called the "humerus," so it would appear that some wag lost in the history of anatomy was the first to call it the funny bone, since it was so humorous.

So what would happen if the anatomy texts taught tomorrow's doctors to use the common colloquial terms that we use for body parts? If you were being treated for a scalp laceration, wouldn't you feel better about a doctor who said, "Let's have a look at the old melon here..."? The podiatrist would tell you, "No matter your dogs are barking so loudly!" and the optometrist would really say, "Jeepers creepers! Where'd you get those peepers?"

I enjoy skeletons, and plan to do so, right up until the day I become one myself. I'm here to tell you, I'm bad to the bone.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I can understand the feeling that this fellow Morris out in Arizona gets, having lost his wife, because there would be no "me" without my beloved Peggy.

But Morris lost his wife in the Gabby Giffords slaughter down there in the Cactus State and, as much as I sympathize and empathize with his losing a wife, I am repulsed by the stupid things he is saying.  You can click on the link and read them right out of the Arizona Republic; I won't give them the light of day.

A few facts: This nation was built upon the free exchange of ideas.  Former Marine Morris and his wife had every right to go to that Safeway that Saturday and meet their congresswoman, whose love of public service led her to schedule the open forum for all.  (As opposed to the congressman in the next district over from us, who schedules his "open meetings" by sending texts to his loyal supporters just before the meeting, thereby keeping pesky reporters and Democrats at bay.) Yes, they went to the meeting, and of course, this maniac Loughner killed and injured people who were only trying to exchange ideas.  Which is why Morris was there.  He wanted to tell Rep. Giffords that she is too liberal for his tastes, but he didn't get the chance to say this before the bullets ruined so much.

We are responsible for our actions, which is why Loughner now awaits both sanity and a trial. Morris is blaming Rep. Giffords's husband for not providing security for her, although he fails to point the same finger at himself for not doing the same for his spouse.   Perhaps he feels guilt because he survived and his wife did not.  That is understandable, but why express it with such venom toward another victim?

Morris refused a visit from the president when Mr Obama flew down to AZ to meet the survivors and mourn the lost.  That's called disrespect to the commander in chief, which is something that no good Marine would ever display.  He shows disrespect again by calling Gifford's's husband, Mark Kelly, "our dear captain astronaut."  The whole Marine ethos is built on unflinching, automatic adherence to rules and policies.  There's no room in their rulebook for someone who expresses his negative regard toward persons of higher rank. Feel it all you want!  Think it, let it settle in the old brainpan and stay for good, but keep it to yourself! 

Morris says that his wife worried that he would offend people with his talk of liberal politicians leading the country down the tubes when all along, a man who really cares about his wife's feelings would not embarrass her in social situations with his rants about how the liberals are taking the country down the tubes.   There are ways to disagree politely, ways to let your feelings be known without getting the askance looks from your neighbors, but Mr Morris does not seem to be a man who would seek that middle ground.

Writing on a blog called Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann says this whole thing is just  "tremendously sad." Morris is "challenging anyone who says the lesson from the attack is that there needs to be more civility in politics," she writes. "Either he's focusing his anger over his wife's murder on Giffords or he's truly so partisan that he can't look past the fact that he disagrees with her politically—or perhaps it's a mix of both."

It's a sad day in America when people can't meet in civil congress, as it were, on a shopping center parking lot in Arizona to discuss our various approaches to what's best for America.  What really annoys me about this man - and again, I ascribe most of his uncalled-for remarks to the awful tragedy he survived - is that he is of that generation and social stripe - retired, conservative, ex-military - that would normally eschew such behavior.  Morris calls himself an ultraconservative.  Tell me, what is so conservative about being so obstreperously disrespectful to high government officials?  If a left-leaning liberal were in his shoes, and a guy like Bush were back in the White House, the O'Limbaughs would be in barely-controlled snits of rage.  "How DARE he ignore the POTUS?  And a former Marine, to boot!  What is this world coming to, that he would display such contempt?"

What is this world coming to, indeed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wherefore Art thou, Art?

Was it not the great legal scholar Oliver Wendell Douglas who sagely advised that your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins?  I think so.  

What's the first rule we learn when we commence attending school, or dating?  Keep your hands to yourself!

Learning to respect the rights of others seems a quaint, old-fashioned notion in these hurly-burly times, when people are dashing around faster than Mrs Gingrich at a buy -one-get one FREE hairspray sale.

Now, I'm all for artistic expression!  Heaven knows, I'm the first to salute anyone who hangs a velvet Elvis or wide-eyed kid painting in their family room.  Under my sobriquet "Phil S. Styne," I donate such art to the needy families of Newport, Rhode Island, Malibu, California, and Palm Beach, Florida. 

But help me to understand why people are defending kids who go around with their spray paint and their b.a. Sharpies and leave their graffiti on cars, houses, buildings and slow-moving pedestrians.  

Here's what I'm talking about, specifically.  According to the Perry Hall PATCH, one of our local Vincent vandal Goghs was caught at 0250 hours the other morning spray-painting the building at Pete's Cycle shop on Belair Rd.  We assume that this redecoration was not done under the auspices, supervision or permission of the proprietors of Pete's, but the post-pubescent Picasso, while under interrogation down at the station house, gave it up, naming two other places that had come under his decorative touch.  

OK, let's stop right there.  You got a kid, 18, caught vandalizing the property of another person.  There's hardly a need for a trial, since he was caught in the act in the middle of the night.  So does he:

a) admit his act, say he was "just foolin' around and all," and await his chance to do useful Community Service hours, removing the handiwork of others?

b) clam up, tell the cops, "You ain't got nothing on me, see, copper?" and refuse to talk anymore "without my mouthpiece, see?"

c) claim that this is his "way of expressing (his) artistic side"?

You've taken quizzes like this before, so you know we stack the right answer on the bottom.  Yes, the youth said that.  His "tag" is "Toe" or "Toenail," so we know there is trouble afoot when he kneels and says, "Let us spray."

So, we know he needs some more education, which we can hope will be meted out to him by a wise and wonderful judge.

But as usual, that's not the worst part of the story.  

The article in the PATCH engendered a lively debate, and when you read down to the bottom of the page, you are treated to the views of fellow adults who say things such as,"No, he did not commit a "white collar crime", (which are usually worse by the way...) but somebody giving away their art for free."
I'm not even going to comment on the syntactic struggles of that sentence.  This is a woman, trying to tell us that spray-painted graffiti on SOMEONE ELSE'S PROPERTY should not be considered a crime, but a gift of art. And she goes on with a whole new theory: "...the pre-frontal cortex (risk assessment, decision making) is not developed until around 25yo. He can go to war, but not drink... so, not totally an adult in terms of the law."

Attention attorneys everywhere!  A brand-new defense has just been offered by a woman who goes on to say "maybe I've been involved in education too long."  In her view, no one under the age of 25 really knows how to assess risk or make a good decision, so we can't hold their actions against them.

To you 18-year-olds who work full or part time, go to school, have a car and a social life and no time for damaging the property of others at ten minutes til three in the morning, I am sorry, but this woman feels that your brain stems have not borne ripe fruit just yet, and so she discounts everything you say, do, touch or feel.  

She has no respect for your accomplishments, though they are many and varied, as she is too busy defending the misguided actions of a guy who is most assuredly representative of but a tiny fraction of your number.

And now you know the worst part of the story.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dated comments

I'm a bit of a dumpster diver, I'll admit it.  And I'm always on the lookout for boxes to use for recycling, so I snag 'em from the recycling area at work to take home and fill up with used newspapers and beer cans.  

So today I was over there in Papertown and I saw a 2001 calendar that someone had gotten rid of.  It was striking, to see that.  It reminded me of when you see a rusted, junky hulk of an old car on the side of the road, steam spewing out of its snout like a Gingrich tantrum, and you think of the day some happy family got that Delta 88 when it was brand new, and how they all piled into that Oldsmobile for a ride over to Cousin Al's and then a stop at Scoops, the ice cream parlor.  For the first few weeks, until Dad spilled egg foo young all over the front seat, no one was allowed to eat in the car.  Ah, the memories!

When this calendar was printed up in late 2000, the world had been through its Y2K crisis and everything seemed to be OK, but a few hanging chads later, things changed.   Still, there was nothing about Tuesday, September 11, 2001 that seemed to augur anything evil.  Just by looking at the calendar, it was going to be another Tuesday, that was all.

I have framed in our garage a work schedule that my father made up for the last three months of 1941.  I keep it around because it is an early example of the perfect calligraphy that he used every time he wrote anything.  From a formally done wedding commemoration, to the face on the grandfather clock he made us, to a note to an adolescent me reminding me to change the oil in the Plymouth, cut the grass and sweep out the workshop, everything he wrote was a work of art.  So I figure it was during the summer of 1941 that he laid out the calendar for the final quarter, and you can look at this chart and see who was working at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company in his department on that Sunday morning, December 7, "a day which will live in infamy."

They're all just dates on a calendar, 365 per year, except this year when we will have 366.  Until something happens that makes a day of memorable happiness or one of memorable enormity, we never know. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012: The Year in Weird

So here we are in the year 2012 and that means it's an election year (you might have heard some commotion in Iowa and New Hampshire of late) and it's time for another Olympics.  This is the one for which Baltimore actually put in a rather strong bid a few years ago, and had we been awarded the Summer Games, you may be sure that I would have spent my Summer some other place.  Like I need tourists clogging up the roadway early in the morning, trying to get to the water polo venue when I need to get motorvatin' over the hill.  Plus, it would have been a financial pleasure to rent out the house to a family of Latvians, in town for the Games. 

That'll be $20,000 there, Ludvigs.  Thank you.  Enjoy the games. 

I've never been much for the Olympics anyway.  Track and field events leave me shaking my head.  I mean, if you dig the broad jump and the pole vault and the discus throw and that crazy stuff where you ride a bike 50 miles, swim 50 miles, and shoot a mechanical duck, go for it!  Just leave me to baseball and football, and I'm fine.

It goes without saying that you can't have an Olympics without a really weird mascot.  Baseball has the Oriole Bird, the San Diego Chicken, the Phillie Phanatic, and Yogi Berra - all wholesome and fun symbols of the great game.  The Olympics seem bent on causing nightmares in children and impressionable adults with Wenlock and Mandeville here:

I mean, you decide if these monocular puzzle pieces are anything you want your children to dress as this Halloween.

It's never too late to persuade them to go as the King!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I don't like dreamin'

Sunday morning at 2:38 AM (but who's counting?) I was awakened from a hitherto wonderful sleep by a nightmare.  

Forces beyond my control force-fed to my thumpin' and mumpin'  brain images of deer, wolves and other wild four-leggers, injured, wounded and charging at me with hooves flying and manes tossing and growling and howling going on.  The scene of this nightmare was my grandparents' house, not too far from where I work now, but a house I have not visited for over thirty years, what with my grandparents both being gone.  Somehow I drove a car into their back yard, having been sent there to check on the animals, and this dreadful scene unreeled before my sleeping eyes. 

Now, I'm not much of a dreamer, and hardly a night has ever gone by that found me involved in a nightmare, unless you'd apply the term to that dream in which Sarah Palin shoots me with a deer rifle, drags me to her shed and spreads an unpleasant ointment on my forearms. I guess I dream, like everyone else, but I don't seem to remember any of them when I wake up, and as I have told Peggy a thousand times, nothing I say between 11 PM and 5 AM is to be taken as anything but the ramblings of a sleepyhead. 

I used to follow a blog called Pepperoni Dreams but it disappeared, and now that name has been taken over by a guy who chronicles his hegira across Charlotte, NC, looking for that town's best slice o' pizza.  The old blog by that name was written by a group of people who would deliberately gulp down spicy pizza right before bed or nap and then wake up to write about the disturbing images that danced across their somnolent brainpan.  Some PRETTY weird stuff went on there, I tell you.  

And by the way, the dinner before the crazy animal dream was stuffed shrimp and salmon, and the only spice on that was lemon, so who knows?  And I had eaten seven hours before hitting the old sackaroo.

Peggy is fond of dream interpretation.  I think that ranks up there with horoscopes as an example of science gone horribly awry.  My problem with astrology centers around my sharing a birthday with boxer Mike Tyson, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, tv hostess Nancy Dussault and swimmer Michael Phelps.  How can my fate be tied to any of theirs just because we share a birthday?  And we are all Cancer the Crabs - moonchildren - supposedly crusty outside and warm and soft inside.  Uh, yeah.

Peggy has dozens of books and pamphlets that interpret dreams while you wait.  So she'll come down and say, "I dreamed I was driving a Pontiac" and look it up in the book, to be told that "driving" means you want to go somewhere and "Pontiac" means you are so desperate to go that you will drive a Pontiac to get there. 

I don't understand.

Maybe I should look that up!