Monday, April 30, 2012

My favorite vanity tag is still LB SAND (think about it)

If you leave Maryland (why would you?) and drive south, you'll be in Virginia before you know it.  As a matter of fact, at the very first McDonald's you come to off I-95, you'll start to hear the soft accents of the Southland.  It's a different sort of place, the state that Rick Sanders calls home, and seven years ago, Mr Sanders applied for and got vanity tags reading           F OSAMA from the Virginia Dept of Cars.

Well, sir, someone down in VA put their ham and biscuit sandwich down long enough to review the files and has now determined that              F OSAMA - which could mean Fight Osama, or Find Osama, which is trickier than ever now - is not an acceptable tag, so they pulled it and sent Mr Sanders a new tag.

666 8UP.

I am not making that up.

666 = sign of the devil.  8 = ate. 

666 8UP - the devil ate you up.

Someone at the  Virginia Dept. of Driving is trying to tell you something, Mr Sanders!

And I hope that no one decides to take away my tag: F MURRAY ABRAHAM.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday rerun: What's My Line?

(I wrote this in 2010, thinking that retirement was much farther away than it turned out to be.  I'm still sifting through Career Opportunities.  I watch it at least once a week.)

With retirement not exactly staring me in the face just yet, but kind of noticing me edge nearer every day, I from time to time mull over post-retirement job options. Just thinking about what I would like to do with my time once those sweet monthly checks start rolling in...

I don't think that I could do nothing. I can't not do anything. Even though the greatest icons of my youth (Ozzie Nelson, Uncle Joe from Petticoat Junction, and Fred Mertz) were basically guys who hung around the house all day hitching up their pants, I still figure that unless I become the sad victim of diminished capacity, I would want to have something on the daily schedule beyond watching Regis and Kelly and taking a four-hour nap.

Here's where my thinking has me so far.

a) Waiter. I love food and love to serve food. I do understand that many restaurant patrons love to heckle their waitperson, complaining about how the food is, as if that person had anything to do with the taste of it, its preparation, its warmth, or the saltiness of the borscht. I don't foresee a long career in this field; restaurants traditionally frown upon their waiters dumping a plate of pancakes down the front of some goof's shirt while hollering, "See? They aren't as cold as you thought, are they?"

b) A public educator for Lea & Perrins. I could go around the country teaching people how to pronounce the word "Worcestershire" in a saucy manner. ("WUR-ster-sher")

c) I think I could stand being a cab driver, but only in safe neighborhoods and I'd only transport passengers who were sober, non-stinky, fairly well-read, current on the news, and good tippers. In fact, there might be a quiz: "e.e. cummings ,or T.S. Eliot: whom do you prefer, and why?" "Sorry - next cab, please!"

d) I have offered to become a greeter, WalMart -style, in the lobby of our Credit Union. I would have to refrain from my natural inclination to refer to all incoming depositors as "Big Money Man!" and be a little discreet, but this line of work intrigues me.

e) If anyone hears of an opening, I would love to be a member of the retinue of hangers-on with which pop stars, movie actors, and Steelers quarterbacks surround themselves. Just like in that "Entourage" show, I could enter nightclubs, sub shops, and Circuit Courtrooms ahead of Ben and make sure that the coast was clear for his usual merriment.

f) Keeping up with the legal theme, do you think my lack of a law degree would be an impediment to finding work as a judge? Schooled by years of exposure to Judges Judy, Mathis and Wapner, I could dispense justice along with pithy remarks just like they do, except without any legal bearing whatsoever. But maybe it's time to have a guy like me be the one that teenagers with the crazy loud rock and roll and the hopped-up cars and the hopped-up companions need to face. "Youth sentenced to Manilow on iPod" is a headline that we need to see in the Baltimore SUN.

g) What I really want to do is direct. My dreams of becoming a jockey at thoroughbred tracks long since vanished, but the second-easiest thing in the world to do, after sitting on a horse's back and holding on tight, is to be in a movie or TV studio and tell the actors that it's time to act. "You! You tell a joke here, Mr Sheen. Be all sexist and full of barely-suppressed rage, just like in your real life. And the rest of you, laugh when he's finished saying his line, ok? Action!"

Piece of cake, this retirement stuff.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday rerun: What would YOU be?

If I were a month I'd be November
If I were a day I'd be Saturday
If I were a time of day I'd be evening
If I were a font I'd be Gill Sans MT
If I were a sea animal I'd be a starfish
If I were a direction I'd be Northeast
If I were a piece of furniture I'd be a bookshelf
If I were a liquid I'd be Iced tea
If I were a gemstone I'd be an onyx
If I were a tree I'd be an willow
If I were a tool I'd be sandpaper
If I were a flower I'd be a black-eyed susan
If I were an element of weather I'd be a rainy day
If I were a musical instrument I'd be a drum
If I were a color I'd be orange
If I were an emotion I'd be laughter
If I were a fruit I'd be a lemon
If I were a sound I'd be the sound of happy laugh
If I were an element I'd be mercury
If I were a car I'd be a Camry
If I were a food I'd be roast beef
If I were a place I'd be my bed
If I were a material I'd be cotton
If I were a taste I'd be bread
If I were a scent I'd be gingerbread
If I were a body part I'd be a backbone
If I were a song I'd be "Don't She Look Good"
If I were a bird I'd be an oriole
If I were a gift I'd be heartfelt
If I were a city I'd be Cape May
If I were a door I'd be open for friends
If I were a pair of shoes I'd be Rockports
If I were a poem I'd be "America" by Allen Ginsberg

Friday, April 27, 2012

We all should live so long

He can't see anymore, doesn't hear too well, and is a man in a wheelchair.  But at the age of 101, Connie Marrero of Cuba is the oldest living former Major League ballplayer, so he's got that going for him.  What an honor!  You can read about it here

Conrado Eugenio Marrero Ramos was born on April 25, 2011, which makes him older than both Fenway Park and the Titanic.  He pitched for a long time in his native Cuba and did not make it to the American big leagues until he was 38.  He was one of those guys who threw "soft stuff" - curve balls, changeups and knucklers, and he did fairly well over five years with the Washington Senators before being released after the 1954 season. Marrero then returned to Cuba and was a coach for Cuban teams until he turned 80.

photos from "Newsday"
Now, at 101, he awaits a $20,000 payout that was granted to all the old time ballplayers who played before the pension system was set up.  But the money is being held up because of legal matters. Cuban banks don't allow for direct cash transfers, and the ballplayers' association won't allow giving the money to an intermediary.  But the association is working on getting the money to Marrero, who is living in the upstairs room of a relative's house. 

It says a lot about baseball's worldwide appeal that its oldest living former player is a Cuban who lives yet in Cuba.  I'm sure he could use that 20G and I hope it gets to him soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quick, call 911!

On the news the other morning came the news that there was a sonic boom out in Nevada, caused by a meteor shower.  I believe in meteor showers, because no one wants a dirty, stinky meteor hanging around.  Better they be clean before they reach earth.  But it made a large noise.  Boom! 

And so people called 911, flooding the lines and potentially making someone who had a legitimate emergency get a busy signal.

It's not just because I used to work there that I wonder why people call 911 for everything. I could tell you thousands of times people called for directions to a house for sale that they couldn't find out who was Andrew Johnson's vice president (no one) or to report hearing a lot of sirens in their ask if schools were closed because of the 1/16th inch of snow on the grass...

And then there would always be someone at the scene of a big crash who would call 911 to report it, and you could hear the sirens of arriving emergency vehicles as soon as the phone was answered, and you wonder, if you're there, and you hear sirens, don't you figure someone already called?

Look! Up in the sky!
911 is great for earthbound emergencies.  No municipality that I know of operates an Air Force, so why call 911 to report a sonic boom?  And I remember a Christmas day some years back when someone from the richest part of our county called because her neighbor had gotten a jet-pack as a gift and was flying around in the neighborhood.  She wanted the police to come out what?  He wasn't driving a vehicle.  I guess he was sort of a low-orbit space pedestrian, but we have no laws governing that.

So remember, call 911 when you want police, fire or EMS assistance.   On earth. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Full Moon Sign

Can someone explain horoscopes to me?  The word itself comes from the ancient Albanian:  "hor" - horse, "osco" - dung, and "pes" - dispenser, as in the modern candy toy, Pez.  So from the root of the word, we know that  "horoscopes" are "dispensers of horse dung."

Take the winners of that last lottery (and wouldn't you like to?)  How do we account for the fact that they all had people who had the same birthdays as they do, and those people didn't win doodly-squat?

Now here is something I found online for my sign, which happens to be Cancer, the Crab. (This is supposed to me that I am crusty on the outside while being adorably squishy underneath that hard shell.)

Here is how things are purported to be shaping up for me this month: 

Cancer Monthly Horoscope: April 2012

The news is not very good: Venus, the planet of love, will disappear in the shadow for approximately four months. It could be the sign of a sentimental disappointment, of some loss, loneliness or frustration. Or of some emotional addiction.

Maybe it's about the need to put love aside in order to dedicate yourself to family or to humor your parents, or to sacrifice a relationship from some imposed reasons.

There is also a possibility that this aspect signals the appearance of a secret relationship, a forbidden love or desired isolation, away from everybody's indiscreet eyes.

Regardless of the situation, your relational life will somehow remain burdensome or deprived of free choice. 

Gee whiz, I really had not noticed that Venus had gone behind a shadow, blighting my love life.  I just checked with Peggy on that, and she said, "So far, so good," so this can't apply to me.   I don't know about the part about humoring my parents, either.  My Dad used to laugh at a lot of my gags, but the sense of humor that he took with him to his grave was far more sophisticated than mine.  Where I have Jerry Lewis, Bill Murray and Howard Stern, Dad liked Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde and - for reasons I never fully understood - Morey Amsterdam and Sid Caesar.  I do humor my mother at every possible turn; just ask her.

And for the love of Pete, I have no interest in a secret relationship, a forbidden love or desired isolation.  I don't keep secrets from Peggy, she never forbids me anything, and I don't wanna be isolated. 

And another thing about horoscopes is that the same fatuous predictions are supposed to apply to every person who shares a birthday.  Well, hello there, Michael Phelps, Fantasia, Stanley Clarke, Mike Tyson and Vincent D'Onofrio: all of whom first saw the first light of day on the last day of June in various years.  I also share a height (6'5") and a high school (Towson) with Phelps, and, like him, I have been in a pool.  But that hardly means that my life will be like his or Fantasia's or certainly Mike Tyson's.

But our horoscopes say otherwise!  Whom to believe? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs" - Stephen King

Writing in Salon online, Mary Elizabeth Williams drops the bad news that the Associated Press stylebook is now accepting the improper use of the word "hopefully."

Well, you know how those of us who like correct grammar, spelling and pronunciation are reacting to that bomb.  We're the ones who stand there and mutter "and ME"  when someone says, "That DVD belongs to Connie and I."  Our eyebrows shoot skyward when someone sputters, "Who can I talk to about all this?"  We moan over misplaced modifiers, we mourn silently when someone says, "It's a mute point" and we grind our choppers upon hearing, "Splitting infinitives is something that is best to never do."  But the ne plus ultra of things that drive us to distraction is hearing someone let go with, "Hopefully, the pizzas will be here before the kids get home."

(You know what's fun?  Using hopefully correctly!  As in, "Hopefully, I went to the race track yesterday."  People will look at me, and say, "Well did you go, or didn't you?"  And I say, "I did. Hopefully!"  They walk away shaking their heads.)

Hopefully is an adverb, so it should only be used to describe the verb.  Pizzas do not arrive full of hope.  Full of cheese and pepperoni, sure.  You can say, "I hope the pizzas will be here before the kids get home."

Or, now, you can say it incorrectly, and still work for the Associated Press.  Hopefully.

Monday, April 23, 2012

RIP, my friend

I was in my late 20s when my maternal grandfather passed away.  And what was memorable, besides the thousand and one things he left me - tangible and otherwise - was that, the night before he went, he called me, and called my sister, and my mom and dad, and talked of this and that.  Then he went down to his basement on that cold February night to make sure that his notably balky furnace was working ok.  Then he said goodnight to my grandmother, and he went to bed and suffered a myocardial infarction from which there was no coming back.

I think of that a lot because it often happens that people seem to get some forewarning, a harbinger that leads them to call around or say goodbye after a fashion.  My good buddy Brian Carter passed away on Saturday night.  We found out the modern way; his brother Bennett posted the awful news on Facebook Sunday around lunchtime.  And as I chatted with his other friends about it, it turned out that he had been FB chatting with three or four other radio legends on Saturday evening, in effect saying goodbye without even knowing it.

I taught Brian at the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland back in '78, but any teacher will know what I'm talking about when I say that certain students require a lot less teaching than others.  BC was a natural in school and in the many stations and formats that he worked over the years since.  At the first station he worked for, he did a country music shift - called "Carter Country" after a then-popular TV show.  If you saw him posting songs on his page, you know he posted stuff by everyone from Tony! Toni! TonĂ©! to Tony Bennett, from Grandmaster Flash to Grand Funk, and he appreciated every kind of music.  In his career, he was on top stations in DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and was working at WBLS in New York when his life came to an end.  He achieved great things in his chosen line of work, but he did not allow that to swell his head. He was the same good-natured guy all along.

I'll miss him sharing music and knowledge, and he often had my back in the philosophical arguments that rage on the 'net.  Another friend said on the Facebook that, "No one ever said a bad word about BC, because there were no bad words to say about him."  To honor his memory, I am going to try to find even an extra measure of enjoyment out of every little thing in life, the way BC always did, and I am going to tell people that I love them even more often than I do now.

Because, I missed my last chance to tell him, and I wish I hadn't.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday rerun: I'm positive

Terri challenged her entire Facebook family to put nothing but positive posts on FB all day long today. I don't know if this is related to it being Friday the 13th, or if someone just decided that it was time to be upbeat and supportive.

Friday the 13th is one superstition that never has troubled me. I have my various little habits, such as always putting on my right sock and then the right shoe first. I can't tell you where that got started or what it would do to my day to start with the left foot. Probably, nothing, but who wants to take that chance?

It could never happen on the 13th of a month, but the department where I work has a policy. Every time there is a 5th Friday in a month...and it happens four times a year, like clockwork (or calendarwork)... we wear jeans and t shirts or sweat shirts and clean up the office, throw away old files, get rid of stuff that's been sitting around since we moved in (2002) and so forth. You might want to try it at your office. It's not only a great way to get junk disposed of regularly, it's also a morale booster to see what kind of t shirts your coworkers will show up wearing.

I should mention that I always thought Terri was a terrific coworker. We happened to be working together a lot when it came time for me to leave my previous department, and she wound up covering for me many times without complaint when I was leaving the workplace to go to Human Resources to fill out transfer paperwork and what-have-you. She was a great supervisor because she had been a great employee at the entry level position of 911 calltaker. Her excellence got her promoted and her excellence made her a compassionate boss, and I was proud to know her then and now.

So who knows? Maybe all this positivity will catch on. Like ions, maybe we'll get a charge out of it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday rerun: Mr Science Guy!

Science is our friend. Remember hearing that in school? Sure, the math teacher could always claim that you'd need to work with fractions at some point in your life, and a barely-rudimentary knowledge of history and geography has helped some people do well in their chosen fields, but the poor guy wearing the shabby lab coat had to work extra hard to convince a bunch of 7th-graders that there was any value in figuring out how much water a vessel would displace, or the wonders of photosynthesis. I do recall enjoying the lab sessions where we got to work it out with the bunsen burner.

But here's a guy who took science and made something we can all appreciate. Next time you're pouring a cold beer down your neck, how about a little shout out for Dr Raul Cano!

Some years ago, Cano figured out a way to extract DNA from an ancient Lebanese weevil entombed in amber, just like in Jurassic Park. This was the first evidence that really old DNA could be preserved and used, which must have excited lawyers who salivated over the chance at digging up old paternity suits from people long since departed.
He was just warming up, getting ready to do something really useful as the director of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

He found a yeast strain that is between 25 million and 45 million years old and makes beer with it! His company - a sideline that doesn't yet seem to threaten Anheuser-Busch in sales - is known as Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. A native Cuban, Cano recalls happy Havana days sipping his dad's cerveza and gets to relive those days by making his own microbrew.

That yeast is even older than some of the hot dog rolls at the ballpark. I offer them this free advertising slogan: "Let's stop off for an old one!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chin Chin Cheree

Vinny "The Chin" Gigante was a mobster in New York, and from everything that I ever heard, a nice enough man.  I certainly have no grudge against him...

But I thought of him the other day when I read that all of a sudden, the most popular form of plastic surgery in this nation is chin augmentation, in a nation which, to listen to certain people, is in the grips of the worst national economic depression since they lined up to sell apples in 1934.

They call them "chinplants" and they are just the thing for people who don't think that their current chins stick out far enough.  Aging baby boomers who see a jowly countenance in their morning mirrors and teenaged girls who demand a greater resemblance to Jennifer Aniston are lining up to take one on the chin.
Aging males who have always wanted to look like Nixon or Jay Leno can now have that desire become a reality.

What's the difference?
People are saying that they really need a more youthful jawline when they are on Skype, videochatting with their friends and former prom dates, and they realize they don't look quite chiseled enough.  New Jersey is leading the current revolution; chinplant procedures in the Garden State are up 71%.

New Jersey is also a great place to get cantaloupes and blueberries.

Saying that makes about as much sense as going to a plastic surgeon to get a new chin.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bully for him

Well sir, today is going to be a great day for some lucky Secret Serviceperson, probably one of the few who aren't busy settling their tabs with Colombian hookers.  Someone is going to draw the short straw and wind up having to fly to Ardmore, Oklahoma, where formerly-popular, camo-clad entertainer Ted Nugent will continue his downslide to oblivion by performing for some kids who wish to plunk down their hard-earned money to hear ancient songs such as "Wango Tango," "The Great White Buffalo," and "Cat Scratch Fever."

To tell you the truth, no one on the planet would give a sweet shot about Nugent, who has not been popular since about 1979 (the year the Shah fled Iran, most likely as a result of hearing "Yank Me, Crank Me" one time too many) except for his engaging habit of making a verbal patootie of himself.  He advocates clubbing a woman who worked for the Fund For Animals, calling her all sorts of vile names.  He once took up with a 17-year-old Hawaiian girl and inveigled her parents to make him her legal guardian, yuck.

But now the Not-So-Secret Service needs to talk to him because he told the Nat'l Rifle Ass'n last week that he would be "dead or in jail" next year if President Obama is re-elected in November.

Seeking an intelligent discourse, Nugent appeared on conservative radio host Glenn Beck's show on Wednesday, where he found no such thing.  But Beck did ask if he had heard from the Secret Service.

"We actually have heard from the Secret Service, and they have a duty, and I salute them. I support them and I'm looking forward to our meeting tomorrow," Nugent said.

At the gun-lovers' convention, Nugent spoke thus of the Obama Administration:

"We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November."

But on Beck's radio show, Nugent said he was not calling for violence.

"Every reference I made, whether it's a shot across the bow or targeting the enemy, it always ended the sentence with 'in November at the voter booth,'" Nugent told Beck.

Except that it didn't.

The Willard "Mitt" Romney for President campaign has been granted the coveted Ted Nugent endorsement.  One of Willard's sons, Tagg or Tapp or some other silly name, was all worked up because now his father has both Nugent and Kid Rock in his corner as he tries to be elected president in November.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

He just can't help himself

We talked about Luke Scott a couple of years ago, when he was still with the Orioles and was in the habit of saying really stupid things.  The gun totin' ballplayer insisted on bringing a gun to the locker room with him, and he insisted that our president was not really the president because he "does not represent America, nor does he represent anything that our forefathers stood for."

Such as slingin' guns and talkin' stupidly, we suppose.

Well, the Orioles wisely chose not to sign Luke to a new contract after last season, so he wound up in his native Florida playing for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Over the weekend, the Rays played in Boston as the Red Sox prepared for the centennial anniversary of Fenway Park, dedicated in 1912 and home to luminaries such as Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

The great writer John Updike described Fenway as a "lyric little bandbox of a ballpark."  Many other writers have been moved to wax similarly rhapsodic about the place.

Then along comes Jethro Bodine  Luke Scott, to say

he thinks Fenway is "a dump" as the Sox prepare to kick off their 100th season in the ballpark.
"As a baseball player, going there to work, it's a dump," said Scott. "I mean, it's old. It does have a great feel and nostalgia, but at the end of the day, I'd rather be at a good facility where I can get my work in. A place where I can go hit in the cage, where I have space and it's a little more comfortable to come to work."

"You're packed in like sardines there. It's hard to get your work in. ... You have to go to their weight room if you want to lift. From a fan's perspective, it's probably pretty cool to go see a game at a historic park. But from a player's point of view, it's not a place where you want to go to work."

It's a place that sells every seat for every game, and the fans love it there, and it's like a baseball shrine to most people who love the game, but let's feel sorry for Luke Scott, because he has to walk all the way over to the Red Sox weight room if he wants to do his bench presses.  

Oh well now, I mean really, with the sideburns
This is classic Luke Scott, a man blessed with a certain ability to hit a baseball (but not a lot when it comes to throwing one or catching one), a man who said this past February, "You don't have to worry about me unless you're a criminal or a communist."

Whoa Nellie! Somewhere, John Dillinger and Nikita Khrushchev are trembling in fear of the mighty mind of Luke Scott.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chippin' Away

Just when it didn't seem possible for American cuisine to be improved, along came what is technically known as "Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell"  - better known as "A taco, but the shell is like this giant Dorito, man!" in most sections of town.

America - first nation to put a person on the moon (Alice Kramden, 1955) and a scoop of ice cream in a glass of root beer is, of course, the birthplace of the BLT.  Bacon, lettuce and tomato.  I like 'em on toasted rye bread with a litttttttletinybit of mayonnaise, or manaise, as they say.  Along with a fried egg sammy, the BLT is the only sandwich that's good for all three meals every day.  It's got lettuce and tomato, important items from life's salad bar, and it enables us to continue our ongoing love affair with bacon, the versatile meat product that is so popular this year, it's even working overtime as a dessert ingredient.  All hail the Bacon Sundae!

But also, while we're hailing, can we give up a shout to the food techs at Lay's?  These hard-working individuals have come up with a potato chip that actually carries the flavors of toast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise right to your piehole.  Imagine eating a handful of these along with a BLT!

Especially during April, which we just found out is National BLT month, we give humble thanks for America's food engineers, who day by day slave over hot ovens to bring us the latest in food innovations.  These men and women are the cheese that binds us all as a nation.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Orange you glad you don't work there

Fourteen employees of the Elizabeth R. Wellborn Law Firm in Deerfield Beach FL were recently fired for the grievous sin of wearing orange shirts to work.

They say they wore the shirts so that when they hit the saloons after work for happy hour, they would be part of an identifiable group. 

The bosses say that the fired employees were protesting new office policies that forbade, among other things, going to get coffee while on the clock, and talking to each other over cubicle walls.  The bosses also aver that they heard rumblings that the support staff were donning orange as a protest against the strict new office rules, and that they wore orange because that is the color of the jumpsuits worn in Florida prisons.

Another attorney, Donna Ballman, has been hired to represent eight of the fourteen employees in their suit filed with the National Labor Relations Board.  She admits that some of the staffers were upset with the new rules, but adds, "Different people were wearing orange for different reasons that day, but the fact is it doesn't matter."

Now, Ms Wellborn herself is speaking up, saying that at first, the people fired claimed they were getting into these get-ups because they were going to happy hour after work, and now they say the shirts represented a protest.  And she goes on to say that the protest took the form of "efforts to harass, bully and intimidate the new office manager into quitting. Particularly upsetting is that supervisors were among those talking about the office manager using obscene and vulgar language, as well as encouraging others to disregard her instructions. Our office manager felt threatened and subsequently left the state."

I don't imagine that any of these people are old enough to remember The Monkees, who said "I don't wanna fight...I'm a little bit're a little bit right." 

Could we have Ms Wellborn and her top brass sit down with the Fired Fourteen and talk?  Maybe she'll ease up on some draconian rules, and the FF will start feeling like part of the firm and knock off the harassment? 

Or will we just see this case file grow huge day by day as it is dragged from courtroom to courtroom? 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Rerun: The importance of being Ernest

At the tender age of 16, I was toying with several career options: journalist, international playboy, radio DJ. We had an outstanding high school newspaper and a wonderful instructor/adviser, the splendid Clarinda Harriss, who taught me the first things I was ever to learn about beat poetry, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and poems that didn't rhyme or even scan evenly. Truly, she was an epochal figure in my life, and her thoughts, teachings and even personal attitudes are with me yet today, a scant 40+ years later.

It was just before the Summer of Love in '67 that I fell in love with traditional country music. Ms Harriss encouraged me to interview some of the country stars who came to town. I might not be so bold today as to ask Keith Urban to talk with me about his life for publication in a high school newspaper, but armed with BIC pens and a pad, teenage brashness and her encouragement, I took the #8 bus to the Baltimore Civic Center. I inveigled my way past the dozing security guard, who wouldn't have likely noticed had I walked past him carrying a machine gun, a Molotov cocktail and Judge Crater's robes, and knocked on the bus door of the great Ernest

Bus door. Because the country stars did not perform in the usual Las Vegas-New York- Los Angeles circuit, but, rather, the Conway, Arkansas - Chicamauga Falls, Georgia - Yazoo City, Mississippi circuit, and there were generally no airports at their ports of call. So they traveled with their bands in converted Greyhound buses.

Bus door. I knocked, someone answered, and I asked if I could speak to Mr Tubb. At length, the great man stepped off the bus and spoke to me then and there in the indoor parking area of the Civic Center, weaving the tales of his life and career and showing me his ring, with "E T " spelled out in diamonds. Again, he had no need for the sort of publicity that an article in the Towson High School Talisman would bring him, but he talked to me as if I were Walter Cronkite or something.

I wrote the article - can't say for sure that it was ever published - and cherished my fleeting brush with fame at his bus door. Mr Tubb was known as "ET" and "Ol' Ern, the Daddy of 'em all," in his day, and Lord, couldn't he sing! I mean it. He always said that the secret to his success lay in the fact that all over America, guys would drop coins in jukeboxes, punch up his records ( "Walkin' the Floor Over You", "Another Story","Waltz Across Texas" and "Thanks A Lot" among them) and tell their date, "I can sing better than that guy!"

"And 95% of the time, they were right!," Ernest would always confirm.

It's also very true that when I heard, in the early 80's that Steven Spielberg was producing a movie about ET, I got all worked up and couldn't wait. I was even at the stage of envisioning just whom to get to play the lead role, and it was down to George Hamilton or Rock Hudson, in my mind, when the bad news arrived. The film came out and it was about a little green space alien.

But Ern did play himself in "Coal Miner's Daughter," the biographical movie about his former duet partner Loretta Lynn. My friend Lisa tells me that it was at Loretta's insistence that the great ET, from Crisp, Texas, assayed his own role. Good for her. Country music radio has jettisoned all the Tubbs and Joneses and Wagoners for the Urbans and the Paisleys, two names that sound like pages from GQ's Fall Fashion Preview to me.

I'm quite certain that today's country stars don't stand around talking to kids, but Mr Tubb showed me a lot that evening about loving what you do for a living, wanting to get along with everyone, and one last thing:

ET always ended his show by turning over his guitar and sending his gratitude out for everyone like this:

and then he'd take his leave, always with this benediction - one that all of us should say when we end a day of work:
"Thanks again, and remember, be better to your neighbor and you'll have a better neighbor, doggone ya!"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday rerun: Those who are the hardest to love, need it the most

I'm always really impressed when I read about people who have been able to forgive others who have done them massive wrongs. I mean, if you can come to court and see the person who killed one of your loved ones and still look at them and say, "I forgive you," well, that's a wonderful thing to do. I read this quotation today:

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." - Lewis B. Smedes

It might be interesting to find out who Lewis B. Smedes was, I figured, so I googled him and found that he was a theologian who, along the way, wrote 15 books, one of which was entitled "Forgive and Forget." He died in 2002, falling off a ladder at the age of 81. And that last was a sentence that you don't see too often...most people in their 80s are not up on ladders. He must have been a remarkable man!

One of the tenets he puts forth is that, on a practical level, you're not doing any harm or any good by holding onto a grudge. Let's put aside the really big deals such as murdering one of your loved ones, conspiring to have you lose your job on falsified accusations, or moving your football team to Indianapolis...these kind of things might take a lot of forgiveness...and let's look at life's petty problems. Someone cuts you off in traffic, takes a cell phone call during a movie, or cuts you off in traffic while you're making a cell phone call on the way to the don't do that person one iota of harm to rail and inveigh against them. Trust me, they could not care less that you're steamed. So why waste time on it? Move along, put it in perspective, and resolve to shine your light a little more brightly when you get a chance.

It was that great American philosopher, Mr. Buddy Hackett, who taught us, "While you're holding grudges, they're out dancing!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Wizardry of Oz

Down in Miami, Fla, the owner of the Florida Marlins baseball team, Jeffrey Loria, came up with an idea to increase fan interest and attendance (and revenue)!  Let's change the name of the team to the MIAMI Marlins, let's build a stadium in the Little Havana section of town, and let's try to appeal to the many Cuban-Americans here, who love baseball.

Yes, they love baseball in Miami. And they hate Fidel Castro.

So Mr Loria gets the former mayor of Miami to back his plan for a taxpayer-supported stadium, which cost the mayor his job in the last election.  And he goes out and hires Ozzie Guillen as his manager.  Perfect fit, he figures.  48 years of age, a Venezuelan by birth, and the sort of colorful character that baseball loves.  A good manager, winner of a World Series with the White Sox a couple of years ago, and a box-office draw all at once.  Pay him 2.5 million a year, and watch the fans stream in!

So they opened the stadium last week. They played one game there, and then the Marlins went on the road, during which time both The NEW YORKER and TIME magazines ran articles about the new-look team, new name, new $634 million ballpark, new manager.  And TIME quotes Ozzie as saying he loves and respects Fidel Castro. “You know why?” he said. “A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last sixty years, but that son of a bitch is still here.”

Well, Oz, a lot of people have hated a lot of murderous dictators for a long time, but don't allow that hate to be confused with love or respect.  The upshot of it is, of course, a major controversy, mad apologies from Ozzie and the team, pickets, placards, the whole deal.  Ozzie gets suspended by the team for five games, and the owner, Loria, must be kicking himself all over home plate for spending so much money - his and the public's - to put on a big show, only to hire a big show-off to manage the team.

Since Ozzie does acknowledge no love for Hugo Chavez, the dictator of his native land, you have to wonder if he only said what he said just to have something to say, as when he made homophobic remarks about a sportswriter in Chi a few years back.  As in the lovely way he told his son that he planned to celebrate his wedding anniversary (I'll let you read that in the New Yorker so I don't have to quote such a distasteful remark.)

Yes, Ozzie likes to speak and talk and say things, and the press gathers around and records his every utterance like young seminarians clustering around a bishop.  And some in South Florida are questioning the need for punishment, saying that to punish Oz is to take away his freedom of speech, which is what Castro did to Cubans.

Ozzie, with mouth closed for once
To set the record straight:  every person in this country has the absolute right to free speech.  Smart people in this country realize that when you are being paid two and half million a year to promote a product, the one thing you cannot do is extol the virtues of the one thing that is anathema to the potential users of the product.

It's like being hired as a spokesperson for McDonald's and showing up with a Whopper. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pick a winner

Several weeks ago, all of Maryland and most of the rest of the nation was in a high state of consternation when a woman named Mirlande Wilson claimed to have a winning ticket in the 640 million dollar lottery, but then she said she left the ticket at the McDonald's where she worked and then she said she lost it and then a lot of people with whom she used to work said, Say what?

It seems that she never did have the winning ticket or anything like it.  A few days into all this silliness, she called a press conference at the office of an attorney in Baltimore, the purpose of the meeting being to bring all the media together so that she could ask the media to leave her alone.

The media pretty much leaves me alone, except for the guy who sells subscriptions to the Sunpaper from a little kiosk at the Giant Food store.  He never seems to want to take my word for it when I tell him I already get the paper delivered.  If I don't look like a newspaper subscriber, well, who does?  But my point is, no reporters chase after me, nor do camera crews camp out on my lawn waiting for me to make an early morning appearance.  That's because I don't call the New York POST and claim to have won a lottery that I didn't win. 

So Ms Wilson fades back into the oblivion of obscurity, soon to inherit that nether region between yesterday's news and the inevitable "where are they now?" story in a couple of years.

In the meantime, the real winners came forward, and it turns out that they were chortling all along at Ms Wilson, since they had the winning ducat all along.
Matter of fact, the money will be split among three Maryland educators (who have requested anonymity).  Each of them will wind up stashing 35 million post-tax dollars in their bank accounts.  The trio, two women and a man calling themselves "The Three Amigos" are a special education teacher, an elementary school teacher and a school administrator who all worked multiple jobs to cover their bills.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Lottery said they
planned to buy new homes, travel to Europe and help their own children pay for college, but they couldn't stand to leave their schools. "They were so clearly committed to their kids," he said of the teachers. "They both said, 'Yes, I can't give up my kids.'"

One lottery, and so many different stories.  The woman who claimed to win never returned to her job at McDonald's and was, in fact, barred from the restaurant when she showed up (media in tow!) to "search for the winning ticket inside."  She never had the winner any more than you or I did.  Meanwhile, the three who did pool their money and happen to buy the winning ticket met with advisors and financial planners before showing up at the lottery offices.  And they said they are keeping their jobs.

It's interesting to think what we all would have done. I don't think I know anyone who would claim to have the winner while not having it, but I wonder how many of us love our jobs so much that 35 million bucks wouldn't be enough to make us leave them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What, me worry?

We were just leaving my sister's house on Easter Sunday, after a lovely family gathering, and Peggy and I were taking Mom back to the retirement palace when Mom said, "Watch out for deer running out of the woods! That's all I worry about."

OK.  A, that's not ALL she worries about by a country mile.  As a child of the Great Depression in this country, Mom can take a forecast of "20% chance of showers on Sunday evening" and turn that into "They said it's going to rain all weekend."  And as someone who was around as I roared through adolescence, she never knew which teacher or school administrator was going to be on the phone next, complaining of some transgression that was totally not my fault, if you'd just stop and look at the whole picture.

And B, I learned something a long time ago. (Not in school.)  It was from that Dr Wayne Dyer guy, who wrote a book called, as I recall, "Don't Worry About It" (or something close to that) and has since shuffled the words of that first best-seller a couple of dozen times to produce other books, called, it seems to me, "I Wouldn't Worry About It If I Were You," "Don't Even Worry About It At All," and "About It, Don't Worry."  Dr Dyer has this one message that he brings home every time he rewrites his book or appears on public tv during beg-a-thons, wearing beach apparel and sandals:  Worry changes nothing, does no good, and is worthless.

He asks one simple question, and here it is:  Can you name a time that sitting around fretting about something actually helped?

Of course not. If you know it's going to rain, why sit and worry about the rain getting in the windows? Just get up and close the windows! Instead of worrying about running out of gas on the way home, stop and get some gas.  Do what you can do about things, and then, don't worry.

I found out all about this just over a year ago.  On my way home from the x-ray place, I was sitting in my truck, stopped at a red light.  My seat belt was on. I was not on the cell phone. I was paying full attention to the task of driving.  And then a guy with low blood sugar ran smack dab into a woman sitting in a Honda, who ran into a woman ahead of her, also waiting for the light to change in a Toyota.  Who rammed into me, totaling my truck and ruining my day.

So all the worrying in the world would not have prevented this happening.  My advice would be, if you're driving, always do your best, keep an eye out for deer, and still expect to be crashulated by a fool. There is nothing you can do about it, and only a fool would  worry about it in advance.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I feel waffle about it all

I happen to love it when two great cultural forces join forces to bring double greatness to the nation.

Here's news from Georgia, from the AP:

Shots fired in Facebook fight at Ga. Waffle House

The Associated Press
10:31 a.m. Friday, April 6, 2012 AUGUSTA, Ga. — Authorities say an argument over a Facebook posting led to gunfire as two groups of women clashed at a Waffle House in Georgia. No injuries were reported.

Investigators tell WRDW-TV ( they took one woman into custody after they say she fired four shots in the air outside the restaurant in Augusta around 5 a.m. Friday.

Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene. They said one group was inside the restaurant when another group approached and started an argument. They say the verbal fight was carried outside where one woman fired with a handgun.

Investigators say they think the argument stemmed from a post on Facebook that involved someone's relationship status. There were no more details.

Several hundred years from now, in a world we can scarcely imagine, a young person will find this story in an old discarded thumb drive and demand that one of his parental units define the terms "waffle" and "Facebook."

Let us hope that the mom or dad is wise enough to tell their child of a long-ago world where people had nothing better to do at 5 o'clock in the morning than to fire pistol shots skyward because someone said something about someone else's hookup.

I've been around long enough to dispense this advice: unless you work the midnight or very early morning shift, you should be in (your own) bed at 5 in the morning, not shooting your pistol outside a Waffle House.  Try it for 30 days, and see if your life doesn't feel better!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oh what a tangled web

OK, here we go.  From the wires of the Associated Press:
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Bobby Petrino's image of perfection has come to a sudden and surprising end at Arkansas.

The Razorbacks coach was put on paid administrative leave Thursday night less than seven hours after his boss, athletic director Jeff Long, learned Petrino had failed to disclose he had been riding with a female employee half his age when his motorcycle skidded off the road over the weekend.

Petrino said he had been concerned about protecting his family and keeping an "inappropriate relationship from becoming public."

It was a stunning revelation for a highly successful coach who prides himself on complete control and intense privacy in his personal life. Petrino will now wait out his fate while Long conducts a review.

"I will fully cooperate with the university throughout this process and my hope is to repair my relationships with my family, my athletic director, the Razorback Nation and remain the head coach of the Razorbacks," he said in a statement issued by the university.

Long announced the decision to put Petrino on leave at a late-night news conference, one that was reminiscent of when the former Atlanta Falcons coach was hired by the Razorbacks on Dec. 11, 2007. Long said he had no timeline in determining Petrino's future with the Razorbacks.

In other words: blustery football coach is caught with his hands in the nookie jar, and now he hopes to repair his relationships with his wife, his kids, his supervisors, and anyone else who might raise an opprobrious eyebrow at a man caught lying about being with a woman less than 1/2 his age (I did the math.)

Yeah, she looks right for him
He's described as an experienced motorcycle rider, but the state police blame the wreck, which left the coach with four broken ribs, a cracked neck vertebra, and what's sure to be a really angry wife, on "sun" and "wind."  Whatever it was that he told the wife he was going to do on Saturday, he seems to have forgotten to mention his friend Jessica Dorrell, a former volleyball player at the university who - how about this? - just got hired on Mar. 28 as an employee of the football program.

How convenient!

Look, Petrino is not the first man entering middle age to find the need to make an ass of himself over a young woman, so he treats her to an afternoon of maladroit motorcycling and goes flying off the road.  When he spun the yarn for his bosses and the police, he said there was no other person involved, and that a woman had happened to come along to wave down a passing vehicle for help.

He didn't mention that she happened to come along because she had just been on the motorcycle with him.

For all we know, they are just friends; he and his wife like the young lady and welcome her to the U of Arkansas athletic department, and look forward to many more nights of fun together making fudge, popping corn, and playing Sorry!

Tell the truth and it will set you free, coach. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Rerun: I'm Private Practical, not Capt. Bringdown

Last summer, Peggy and I were going to visit a friend at a hospital located outside of Ellicott City, MD, which is one of those towns that just oozes quaintness and tiny stores and coffee shops and "divine" bakeries.  Off the main street (Main Street) we turned left and went up a hill, on serpentine roads around a wistful vista that wound back and forth and went all over the place, much like John Boehner's tax reduction policies.  There were dozens of houses located up there along the road leading to the hospital, and Peggy was so taken with the picturesque setting and the wonderfulness of being so close to the old mill town.  In a word, she was enchanted with the area.

Not to be Captain Bringdown, but I had to point out that residents along that long and winding road would be well-served to follow a strict program of fire prevention, because I think the local fire company would really play hell getting a ladder truck up that path, not to mention how hard it would be getting in or out of that neighborhood following a big blizzard like the one we had two of last winter.

Maybe that's why Peggy and I blend so well.  She sees the pure beauty of people feeding birds and squirrels; I envision the squirrel's second cousins, the rats and mice, chowing down at a public trough.  She sees someone's lovely front yard full of maples and oaks in a gracefully sloping sylvan wonderland; I wonder how long it takes to plow the long curving 45° angle driveway.  And my heavens, how my wonderful Peggy loves seeing deer along the road or in a distant field!  I see deer as large heavy objects that are always running out of the woods, crashing into cars and trucks. 

Peggy sees the lilting, tedious melodies of Enya and Yanni as the pinnacle of musical accomplishment, and yet she can't understand my devotion to Frank Zappa's songs.  And her favorite poems usually read like this:

The Swan  by Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Whereas, my kind of poetry reads and looks like a poem, instead of an unpunctuated essay:

The Boy and His Nuts  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The boy stood on the burning deck,
Eating peanuts by the peck.
His mother called; he would not go,
because he loved those peanuts so.

No one is right or wrong, and I love the differences.  But if you had to guess which one of us giggles and guffaws over words such as, say, "Wadsworth" and "Longfellow,"  whom would you pick?


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Here we go!

Baltimore Orioles baseball season opened yesterday, and I'm writing this yesterday (see how that works?) so as I type, I have no idea how the game came out.  There will be 161 more games between now and the end of the season.

Chances are, the O's will lose more than 1/2 of those games... a lot more than 1/2.

Now, I enjoy winning as much as anyone, which is why the results of the last presidential election were so pleasing to me.  But when it comes to baseball, I am an Oriole rooter and a fan of the game itself. Football is more reliant on speed and physical brutality (especially in New Orleans), basketball has more to do with height than strategy, and hockey is all about the ability to slam a guy in the face with a stick while simultaneously ice skating.  Baseball is a game of thought and nuance, to me.

Again, I'd like it if the Orioles won more games, but as someone who had to learn to live without a pro football team for a long time, I would rather have a not-so-great team to root for than a team that moved to Indianapolis or something.

It pains me to see people, or, more specifically, hear people who proclaim that they would know better how to perform if they found themselves in another box: either the batter's box or the owner's.  Relax, let these people do what they do, and enjoy the game!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Master of the Souse

As Alton Benes
If you remember the Seinfeld episode called "The Jacket" (Jerry has a "fabulous" new suede jacket; he's wearing it when he and George meet up with Elaine and her father Alton Benes for dinner...) then you remember the tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney, who played Alton.

As Sam Wild in Born to Kill
Lawrence Tierney (1919-2002) was a Brooklyn-born actor who was either too busy playing the tough guy for real in his real life to make his career work out, or maybe he couldn't separate the gangster thug roles he played from reality.  The difference is, in the movies he was in, such as "Born To Kill" and "The Devil Thumbs A Ride," when he got locked up, the director hollered "CUT" and they opened the cell door right away.  In real life, in the jails he was in, it didn't happen that easily.  Tierney was arrested over a dozen times, for fighting and/or drunkenness, and he didn't give up the booze until 1992, following a stroke.

The cast and crew of "Seinfeld" said that Tierney certainly would have been brought back for further appearances as Elaine's gruff Dad, but the cast and crew were scared of him.  He tried to steal a kitchen knife from Seinfeld's apartment set.

As Don Brodka
He was also on "The Simpsons" as security guard Don Brodka, who caught Bart trying to rip off a copy of the video game "Bonestorm" from the Try-N-Save discount store.  Reports are that he intimidated and threatened people at the recording of that episode (called "Marge Be Not Proud" from December, 1995.)

The thing is, we saw that "Jacket" episode the other night.  George kept singing bits from that "Master of the House" song and Alton told him to "knock it off, chorus boy" and then on his way back home (to Maryland - remember, Elaine was from Towson!) old Alton couldn't get that "M of the H" song out of his mind.

And now, neither can I.

Master of the house
Doling out the charm
Ready with a handshake
And an open palm...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How it all works out

Baseball fans, please pop the name "Brien Taylor" into your personal Google and see if you remember this man.

In 1991, the Yankees, who suck, had the first pick in the major league draft, and they used it to hire Brien Taylor, 19, out of Beaufort, NC, to throw baseballs for them.  He was a great high-school pitcher, and scout after scout was sure that he would have an outstanding career after some seasoning in the minor leagues.

He had finished his second minor-league season and was seemingly bound for glory when, in December 1993, he got into a fight with the brother of a girl that his brother was dating.  And then, when Brien Taylor went to throw a haymaker at his opponent, he missed him, and the can't-miss prospect was standing there with a damaged left arm - the arm that he used to throw baseballs.  Medically, it would have been better for that punch to land.  As his left arm sailed through the night, connecting with nothing but air, a capsule and a labrum were torn, and the best orthopedic surgeons in the world could not put him together again, not, at least, well enough to throw baseballs at 99 mph anymore.

We've heard similar stories, and that business about Taylor was the last I heard about him, except for the inevitable release from the Yankees, who really do suck, and fruitless tryouts with the Mariners and Indians.

So it was a little sad this week to see that Brien Taylor, who still lives at home with his parents and works with his Dad as a mason, his dreams of glory long since faded into dust, has been involved in the drug trade, so authorities say.  You can see it here in the Jacksonville NC Daily News online. His apparent descent into crime was even bigger news down there than "Man Charged With Having Sex With Dog."

They don't even mention what he was supposed to make of his life.  That's the tough part - it isn't what you might do, or what you are given the talent to do.

It's what you do that counts.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When EF5 speaks...people don't listen

Here in mid-Atlantic coastal Maryland, we don't deal with too many tornadoes (although one could be too many, I understand.)  It's not at the top of our weather problem list.  Thunderstorms with lightning, hailstorms, blizzards and floods are ahead of it.

In the midwest, tornadoes are not to be messed with, which is why every prudent resident owns and operates a weather emergency radio.  These devices are tuned to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio system, which is capable of emitting tones that cause the radios to wail and yelp as a warning when severe weather is about to strike.

Ah, you say. Wise homeowner goes to bed, radio is set, and then when the alert comes, tones  are broadcast to alert him, his wife, their kids and Uncle Glenn, who is bunking in the spare room until he can settle things down with Aunt Edna, to run for cover.  Head to the basement, or at least get under a sturdy door frame in the center of the house, or go to your designated safe place!  And then, the storm can come along and do what it will, but the wise homeowner and his kith and kin are safe, and that's all that matters, right?

Oh, if only.  Because, what they are finding out is that people don't respond to terminology.  Even people who have lived in Tornado Alley forever don't get the connection between "EF5 tornado" and "Run for your life!"  They hear the alert, shrug, and roll over. So the weather people have a new plan, and they will test it in Kansas and Missouri, where people like to be shown things anyway.

The new system will not use codes such as "EF5" to warn the populace.  Instead, they will use plain English to tell people to run for it. "Mass devastation," "unsurvivable" and "catastrophic" will be at the top of the list.

They don't say what they will use for the less-troubling storms.  "Troublesome" might do for the medium kind of storm, and getting down to the least of all, they might broadcast that the storm bearing down on your neighborhood is going to be "annoying."

I'm all for anything that helps people deal with emergencies.  Perhaps they could come on every so often and remind folks to stock up on flashlight batteries, meals-ready-to eat,  and drinkable water - before the storms of summer bear down on us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I TOLD you, homeboy!

Last Friday, the nation paused from celebrating Lotto fever to sing 50 Happy Birthdays to Stanley Kirk Burrell, who is better known as MC Hammer.

As a youth growing up in Oakland CA, young Stanley hung around the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, befriending members of the Oakland A's, and selling stray baseballs and dancing for money on the parking lot.  The owner of the A's, Charles O. Finley, one of those men to whom the tag "colorful" is invariably applied, hired young Stan as a batboy, clubhouse assistant and "pipeline."  As "pipeline," his job was to stay on the phone with the Chicago-based owner and give him a play-by-play rundown on the progress of the ballgames.

Because he looked like the young Hank Aaron, the slugger whose nickname was "Hammering Hank," the players started calling Stan "Little Hammer," or just plain "Hammer."

Because he often served as master of ceremonies at local events, Stan added "M.C." to "Hammer," and a show-biz identity was born.  After high school, he joined the Navy, and came out of the service to record such tender ballads as "U Can't Touch This" from the album "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em."

And roughly 77% of the stop signs in the greater Baltimore area bear the postscript seen above.

There came a time that Mr Hammer and I were standing side by side.  In 1996, I went to an Orioles/A's game at Kramden Yards, and Hammer was there to root for his team.  The City police, not knowing that his star had long since faded right after people stopped wearing Zubaz pants, surrounded him with a security delegation rivaling the size of the one that the president takes to the UN.  I was wondering what all the buzz was, and then all of a sudden, the cops stopped forming a human wedge around Hammer when the realization that he was not about to be mobbed by anyone dawned on them like the time Bush figured out he got us into the wrong war! And while the police argued among themselves (no gunplay) as to what the next move was to be in order to guard this visiting dignitary, the man himself was standing next to me, so I said, "Whaddya say, Hammer?" and received a "Glad to see ya" in return.

I'm pretty sure he wouldn't remember our brief encounter, but I've got my memories, and no one can touch them.  Break it down!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Rerun: What Makes Peggy Laugh

From 2008:

In my private life, I often tell a joke that is, in all modesty, hilarious. No need for me even to be modest about it...I got the joke from Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling, former gagwriter for Howard Stern. I have been asked not to tell the joke at certain events requiring an element of gravitas: funerals, felony trials, the opening of a new Angelina Jolie thriller. But, here's the joke, and you will have to picture me with my google-eyed comic delivery and fake Cockney accent:

A guy is hitchhiking...he has three eyes, no arms, and one leg. Picture that...three eyes, no arms, one leg. Anyway, an Englishman pulls up next to him in his little sports car...the hitchhiker is standing there balanced on his leg, hitchhiking...the Englishman has the plaid wool scarf and one of those newsboy caps...he looks the hitchhiker up and down and says, "Ay ay ay! You look 'armless! 'op in!"

Killer stuff. It never fails to make me laugh like Dick Cheney at a peace rally, although for different reasons. Of course, come 2009, I will be celebrating 35 years of happy laughing at "Hi, this is Jerry Ford, Sales Manager at Dick Nixon Ford! Dick's gone crazy, and he's making deals like you never saw before!" That was on the National Lampoon Radio Hour right after Nixon resigned, and yet I laugh even still.

Peggy, on the other hand, registers no expression at either of these mirth-makers, except for a slight furrowing of the brow (indicating wonder), a barely perceptible shake of the head (indicating exasperation) and a tiny tiny sigh (indicating 35 years of agony.) From time to time, she will fetch my oxygen, if either of these gags lives up to its literal name. But laugh? Nah.

We found ourselves in Wegman's not long ago, in search of chipotle sauce. (Enough of that on a turkey burger makes you forget it's a turkey burger.) Wegman's is a grocery store like M & T Bank Stadium is a vacant lot where kids play pickup football. They don't have aisle numbers; they have zip codes. It's huge. It could beat the crap out of Rhode Island in a war (sorry, little tribute to Arthur
the movie there). (I like Rhode Island.) The young woman who works at Wegmans as the Mayor of Cheesetown told us to look in the Mexican section and pointed 25- 30 miles from where she stood, surrounded by Gruyere, Emmenthaler and Royal Blue Stilton. I saw a sign lettered "Latin American" and pointed it out to Peggy, who immediately found herself seized by such violent paroxysms of laughter that one of the fullsize medic units that prowl the aisles of Wegman's was dispatched to her aid. All she could manage to say was that she found the term "Latin American" a bit old-stuffy. It does conjure the image of Cesar Romero in a guayabera shirt with a ceiling fan going oh-so-slowly as Katy Jurado insinuates her way across the cafe floor. When Peggy regained consciousness, we agreed that 'Hispanic' would be more appropriate nowadays.

It's been days. I swear to you, I just called out, "Hey Peggy! 'Latin American'! " and she is doubled over, gasping for air.

Anyone who can explain this will be given his or her own space in this blog!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Check the calendar

Sunday, the first of April, 2012:

What makes a good April Fool's joke?  As a young man, I did some groundbreaking work in the field of switching the salt and the sugar in my parents' kitchen, which resulted in getting hollered at and having to switch them back.

In high school, I was that guy who would sign his name "Dick Hertz" on the class roster for a substitute teacher, as well as getting other guys to roll me up in a wrestling mat so that I could be secreted into the girls' locker room.

Later in life, doing an entire DJ show using the names of other DJs seemed to fill the bill.  And when the computer age came along, well, I don't know how to explain this, or how someone ever discovered it, but typing C C H #  on a certain computer system caused the unsuspecting user to log him or herself off with the very next key stroke.

But over the years, people have become far more cunning in their use of practical jokes in the furtherance of hi-jinx.   Take Rick S., from Pennsylvania, who goes around telling people that the existence of birth control measures makes people think about having sex! 

When we all know that the existence of air and water and sunshine make people think about having sex.

Then there are the movie theaters selling stale popcorn for more per ounce than filet mignon is going for down at Beefsteak O'Hoolahan's, and the modern version of the old wallet-on-a-string gag: brand name aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

The best pranks used to be the goodnatured stuff we pulled on each other.  Nowadays, it's the big corporations pulling stuff on us, and I do wish they would let go!