Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Burns Me Up

Here is the original Scottish version of what they'll all be singing tonight...courtesy of Mr Robt. Burns...

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And days o’ lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear 
For auld lang syne, 
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet 
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes, 
And pu’d the gowans fine, 
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot 
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’t in the burn 
Frae morning sun till dine, 
But seas between us braid hae roar’d 
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere, 
And gie’s a hand o’ thine, 
And we’ll tak a right guid willie-waught 
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye’ll be your pint’ stoup, 
And surely I’ll be mine! 
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet 
For auld lang syne!

And here it is in contemporary English...

Times Gone By

Should old acquaintances be forgotten, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should old acquaintances be forgotten, 
And days of long ago!

For times gone by, my dear 
For times gone by, 
We will take a cup of kindness yet 
For times gone by.

We two have run about the hillsides 
And pulled the daisies fine, 
But we have wandered many a weary foot 
For times gone by.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream 
From noon until dinner time, 
But seas between us broad have roared 
Since times gone by.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend, 
And give us a hand of yours, 
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale) 
For times gone by!

And surely you will pay for your pint, 
And surely I will pay for mine! 
And we will take a cup of kindness yet 
For times gone by

In any language...from me to you...thanks for another great year together, and Happy 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

All I can say is, "Wow."

I always catch hell from my friends and readers who support business owners and call them "job creators" when they put their own profits and comfort ahead of the working class that made them what they are.  Which is often not much, granted.

But what about when they are "job removers"? Two days before Christmas, one of the Chicago locations of some chain sub shop called "Snarf's" (what an appetizing name!  How could there be a worse name for a place to get a sandwich?) decided that it was time to close the place down to "reconcept" it.  So all the people who worked there got fired by this email:

1. Due to increased competition and losses, ownership has decided to consider remodeling and reconcepting the store at 600 West Chicago Ave.
2. The store is closing, effective tomorrow, December 23, 2013 for an unknown period of time for this remodeling and reconcepting.
3. All staff is terminated, effective Monday, December 23, 2013.
4. All staff may apply for unemployment, if eligible.
5. Return any keys and Company property to Will Ravert at 600 West Chicago Avenue on Monday, December 23, 2014 during normal business hours.
6. Payroll will be processed as usual this week and paid on Friday, December 27, 2013.
7. Keep an eye out for the grand opening of the new store.
8. Ownership appreciates your service and wish you well in your new endeavors.
Doug Besant
Director of Operations
Doug Besant (right) leaves
the office 
Nice, Doug.  Very kind of you to wish everyone well, albeit ungrammatically.  Go ahead and file for unemployment, you devoted former employees, he says.

And people wonder why there is no loyalty.

Tell you something that old Dougie "Niedermayer" Besant might be wondering about, and that is, where are all the keys and all the company property?  And then maybe someone else who still works for him will tell him that this email says those items are to be returned by December 23, 2014.

Have a nice year waiting!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Rerun: Where there's a will.i.am

To everything there is a season, and a time unto every purpose.  Not that Peggy and I have immediate plans to depart this vale of tears, but you never know, the way some people drive.  And I would hate to pass away and leave no will, leaving the bereaved survivors to scramble and squabble, enduring decade-long legal battles over an estate that may very well total in the six figures (if you count the figures on the right of the decimal point.)

I read that the term for dying without a will is to die "intestate."

Similarly, to die by being crushed between two behemoth tractor-trailers on I-95 is to die "interstate."

I'd prefer to do neither, to tell you the truth.

But, beyond the vast financial legacy that my clever investing will yield (I was among the first to buy stock in BetaMax VCRs, New Coke and Colgate Beef-Flavored Toothpaste) there is also a fortune in memories down in the basement.  I think it's best to specify clearly which lucky legatee will wind up with all my old records, so that there is no fighting over the original vinyl of 1964's "Jerry Lee Lewis: The Greatest LIVE Show On Earth!" or the 45 of Bobby Helms's "He Thought He'd Die Laughing (And He Did)" from '67.  There are several thousand albums and a gazillion 45's down in the basement, and some lucky music lover is going to be able to say, "Oh, Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadors?  I've got lots of their stuff on vinyl.  I've been into them for years! I inherited all this when my crazy uncle fell into the vat during the brewery tour."

Also residing in the basement are Bill and Hillary Clinton, Elvis, Bart Simpson and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  No, not the real people, but life-size cardboard stand-up cut-outs.  Besides giving me someone to talk to while I'm down there on the exer-cycle, they provide amusement for those unaware guests whom I ask to step down to the pantry and "bring up a bottle of catsup."  Whoa! Do they get scared, to think that the secretary of state is standing right by my hoarded canned goods!

Books, magazines, pamphlets, fliers, ephemera: all are down in the basement in a hundred or so boxes.  I have several hundred old LIFE magazines, so someone will enjoy, as do I, photo essays on country doctors who deliver calves and babies with equal skill and get paid in rhubarb pies, and hard-hitting looks at juvenile delinquency, modern kitchen designs, and redneck sheriffs chawing on Red Man tobacco while the world changed riotously around them.  Books? Max Shulman, Ring Lardner, Tom Wolfe, Thomas Wolfe, all here ready to read.  If your taste runs to Robert Ludlum or Danielle Steel, you'll be sadly disappointed.  In fact, there is very little fiction, except for a mint copy of Ronald Reagan's autobiography.

Hand tools that date back to the Paleolithic era are down there, too.  I got a lot of them from my dad and my grandfather.  I tell you, they don't make tools like this anymore, screwdrivers with wooden handles and crosscut saws that you can cut a 2 x 4 with in the afternoon and play a waltz in 4/4 time on that evening.  In fact, this type of performance is where the expression "I saw it on the radio" came from a long time ago.  Here's another example of guy playing the musical saw: click here for your birthday greeting!

Upstairs in the den are more books and a lot of baseball memorabilia, a veritable treasure trove for the discerning fan.  

Frankly, I think I'll look into this "you can't take it with you" rule.  I want my stuff with me when I'm up on my cloud, rolling around heaven* all day with my angel Peggy. If someone gets one tenth of one percent of the amount of joy that I've gotten from all my stuff, though, that will make me happy too.  

* I'm counting on getting a pass because Peggy's sure to be there!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, December 28, 2013

 I don't know.  I thought you would want to see what 1.6 million in American dollars looks like.  Yes, this is tip money to LeBron and Peyton, but to you and me, why, it's still all about the Benjamins.

 Take a look at this fellow.  He could be a tire salesman or he could be a brain surgeon or he could be a vagabond.  What he is, is with us no longer.  His name was Robert Wilson, and he was among the first of the hedge fund traders, a man who built up a fortune of 800 million American dollars, gave it all away to charity, and then jumped off a roof in New York two days before Christmas.  I refer you to a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson...
This is the Lex Castle, in Sweden.  It was built in 1298.  Not 1928, but 1298.  That was a very remarkable feat, since the first Home Depot was not opened in Sweden until 1299.
Just so's you know, Castles Made of Sand will be open on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, for all your timewasting needs.  Happy New Year!  Here's to a great 2014 for all of us.

Friday, December 27, 2013

In the scheme of things

I'm not always on what they call an "even keel" (whatever that means) myself, but now and then I like to introduce a note of perspective to the proceedings.

Yesterday morning I woke up just a tad early - 0458 - and going back to sleep for fifteen minutes seemed crazy, so I got up, made myself a cup of tea and watched the post-Christmas edition of the early morning news.

I learned that citizens from Palm Beach to
Puyallup were vexed and miffed because the nut log that Cousin Mel from Houston had sent has not arrived yet, and there was frustration for those awaiting the combination printer-scanner-food dehydrator they were getting from Aunt Lottie in Twitty, Arkansas.  So many presents were late for Christmas because so many people sent their gifts via UPS or FedEx, and like any other system, if it's overloaded, the American delivery networks will not operate efficiently.

Those packages will arrive soon enough!  The note of perspective I wanted to introduce is this story from Massachusetts, where a volunteer firefighter did what volunteers all over do.  He responded to a car crash and was extricating the driver from a mangled SUV when he realized that the patient was his own daughter, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Now that is a Christmas tragedy, to lose a loved one.  A lost package, a delayed delivery, not quite the same.

And this brings back to me the story of a guy I knew in my radio days.  He took a job at a station on the Eastern Shore, and went to do the news one day, violating the cardinal rule of rip-and-read newscasting, which is to at least read the copy over first before going on live with it.  He didn't do that, and soon found himself reading a story about two elderly people being killed in a crash that afternoon in Lutherville.

His grandparents.

Somehow he held it together and went on.  But things can always be worse, so let's give thanks for things as they are!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Ins and Outs of Real Estate

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and that the warm glow of the holiday lit the world for all.

And if you happen to be selling your house, this might be a good time to think about what's up when you're not there.

Up in New Jersey, there's finally something they can't blame on Chris Christie.  These two real estate sales people who apparently were hot to get horizontal came up with a plan that was much cheaper than the closest Motel 6:  take a listing on a nice house, list it for far more than any fool would pay for it, and then, when no one comes around with bothersome notions of, you know, looking around the house and possibly buying it, do the hibbidy-dibbidy all over the place.

But of course, these two lovers were so desperate to do it that they failed to remember that everything is on video these days.  When the owner of the house saw people with flashlights (how romantic!) on the security feed, she alerted the police, who went to the house and - believe it or not - were lied to by the male agent.  Pulling up his pants and then his zipper, he said that he was there to prepare the house for an open house.

We now know two things for sure:  A) people will take any opportunity to mingle limbs, and 2) you can find a nice house for less than $650,000 in Wayne, NJ.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

PIctures to Enjoy for a Christmas Eve

 You see this sort of thing all over Maryland...Crabshell Santa!
 Someday at Christmas...our lights will be covered in snow, too!  Just not this year.
 This is the typical Baltimore home as festooned with Christmas lights.
 The Ravens' Cheerleaders always get in on the seasonal spirit.
 This had to be the winner of the Christmas sweater contest...it even has a mantel and a Santa.
Told to wear something dorky for the party, Katy Perry certainly obliged.  She wore John Mayer.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A good bad guy

An old expression holds that there is "no honor among thieves," but here's a story about a thief in Spain who did a good thing while doing a bad thing.

In Jaen, in Southern Spain, a guy broke into a house and got away with some electric appliances and an old video camera with some old video tapes.

The homeowner, a 64-year old male soccer coach, reported to police that someone had broken into his house and stolen some electric appliances.  He did not report the theft of the camera and tapes.

Shortly thereafter, the police got another call.  This time, it was the thief, calling to say that they should look under a parked car at a location he named for an envelope with some interesting contents.

"I've had the misfortune that these tapes have fallen into my hands and I feel obligated to turn them in so that you can do your job and put that (expletive) in prison for life," he wrote in a note, before not writing his name or phone number.

Map of Spain showing where Jaen is
The tapes show scenes of a man committing sexual atrocities on boys.  Police went back to the man's house, and searched it, and found more tapes with similar disgusting content.

The police are back to searching for the burglar, but they already have the real bad guy in custody.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday rerun: Feline, Ursine, Summertime

Am I the only one who notices that as summer rears its hot head and sensible people head inside, to get out of the sun, the sensibilities of the nation, if there are any, are being taken over by cats and bears?

If you're on Facebook, you see the veritable plethora of cat photos all day long.  You won't hear me complaining about that! I love cats.  If there is anything cuter than a little tabby cat prancing around like the King or Queen of Sh'Boom, I don't know what it would be.  Cat photos!  All day!  Cats being cute.  Cats outwitting dogs (always an easy matter.) Cats riding surfboards, cats hanging around seafood restaurants, cats looking haughty.  Cats dressed as doctors, cats napping, cats serving as governor of Arizona.

And then, if you get off Facebook for a minute to watch the news, even the nightly network newscasts are featuring video of bears running around.  These videos would normally be the exclusive province of the chatty morning shows, but now that everyone carries video equipment in their pocket, there is more video of bears to be shared than can fit into a two-hour morning show, since they have to make room for Tyler Perry, Katy Perry, Steve Perry and periwinkle shoes.

It's bear mania all across the US of A! Bears eating campers' lunches!  Bears swimming in peoples' pools! Bears chasing each other around, bears disrupting graduation exercises outside in early June, bears sticking their snouts into cars at Jellystone Park and asking for chow.  Last night the news showed a baby bear locked in a garage, climbing all over the rail for the door opener, and the bear's mom opening the bay door with one swipe of her paw, and coming to the cub's rescue.

And of course, now that bears are almost as domesticated as dogs, you will see them sitting at the picnic table, waiting for the burgers 'n' franks to come off the grill.  You can ask this one, but I don't think he will take his elbows off the table.

Wouldn't it be funny as all-get-out if these weren't really bears, but wacky Tea Party stalwarts playing another practical joke on a nation starved for humor? I mean, they're not getting much attention walking around waving misspelled protest signs and pistols, so why not dress up like a bear and be seen on Good Morning, America?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show 12 21 13

Please forgive me a moment of self-indulgence. Today's Picture Show is all some pictures from our annual trip to Baltimore's colorful, picturesque Hampden section.  We meet up with our niece Laura and the amazing kids Preslee, Mason and Finley, and then we meet our friend Marissa down in the city for dinner at the Cafe Hon and a stroll down 34th Street, where the entire neighborhood goes nuts with the Christmas decorations.  It's one of our favorite holiday traditions!
 This is a house on Falls Rd, not even in Hampden just yet, but fully decked out!
 Servers take the best family photos!
 And here we go, seeing what we saw!
 And I'm taking pictures of the scene and I go, hey!  I know this nice lady!
 Sara is one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable and hard-working Public Health Nurses with whom I worked, back in the day.  She was with her runners' group...they RAN to see the lights...and then they RAN back home!  It was so good to see her...and so Baltimore to see her at The Lights, hon!
 This house is all about the records!
 After a while, the wonderfulness of all the happiness just fills your soul.

You have to be from Baltimore to know these two.  She is the symbol for Utz Potato Chips, and he is the logo for National Beer.  You couldn't ask for more representative Baltimore figures, unless you had a John Waters lighted statue!  We had a great time at The Lights of 34th Street - see you next year!

Merry Christmas from me and Peggy!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Like the Dickens

The high school class of 1966, for the most, comprised people born in 1948.  Those people are now 65 and either retired or thinking about being so - or, in some cases, just getting their second wind and not even looking toward the couch-and-cardigan days.

You know what else happened in 1948?  Little Jimmy Dickens joined the Grand Ole Opry, the country music radio show that is the home of nearly every legend in that field.  And he turned 93 years of age yesterday, so our star spotlight shines brightly upon him today.

LJD came from a farm in West Virginia, one of 13 children, so he knows what he's talking about when he sings “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed,” “Out Behind the Barn,” and “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait).”  The first describes what happened when kinfolk came for a visit and a dozen or so kids wound up "wrassling for covers" on a cold cold night. "Out Behind the Barn" tells of lessons learned, good and bad, in the shade behind the barn, and "Tater" is all about how it is to be one of 13, reaching for the platter at dinnertime.

It's not enough to say that he is the master of novelty/comedy songs, because Little Jimmy is also the best at breaking your heart with a ballad such as "(Our Love Is Just) Another Bridge to Burn."

Jimmy has traveled the world to entertain the world, and has done the same for plenty of soldiers in wars dating back to Korea.

James Cecil Dickens
I know that country music has changed and that Little Jimmy Dickens represents the old school, with the garish bespangled suits and corny humor.  But he's 93, and the people down at the Opry call him "Our Treasure." Brad Paisley, his fellow West Virginian, reveres him and features him often in concerts and TV shows. It's good to know that Jimmy gets the respect he deserves.  It wouldn't be fair to mention any particular other performer, but I feel that the New Country singers would do well to remember that Little Jimmy says you have to spent a lot of time at the south end of a northbound mule before you can really sing country.

I wish him 93,000 more years of singing and laughing!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Domo Arigato

Everyone was raising hobs about the Detroit Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson, a man said to be so mighty that he could catch a football and thunder to the goal line, no matter the opposition.  That was until this past Monday night, when Johnson, or "Megatron," as he likes to be called, dropped more balls than a clumsy urologist when the Lions lost to the six field goals made by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, henceforth known as "Legatron."

So of course, all this got me to thinking about robots, which at one time were rumored to be taking over the world, but have seemingly lost interest in doing that.  My dream of having a robot mow the lawn, rake the leaves and fetch the newspaper seems fated never to come true, and while it's true that a robot spot-welded your new Ford Exploder together on some factory production line, robots have not made inroads into everyday America as we were told.

Of course, the same people who told us that also presaged an era in which paper would not be found in the home or office. Everything was going to be stored on computer hard drives, remember?  So now, everyone saves their recipes, tax returns, and pictures of Dick Cheney wearing a propellor beanie to their A: drive and also prints all that out, filing one copy, tacking another on their corkboard, and sending a third paper printout to Ernie down in Accounts Receivable.

So while some are pining to have robot lumberjacks cutting down all the trees we need for these printouts (you saw that one coming, didn't you?), that's not a job on the list I saw of jobs that robots can handle.

If you still have your Mr Machine, he is more than willing to augment the family income by working in the search-and-rescue field, becoming a TSA inspector, teaching children with autism or caring for the elderly and the disabled.

And on his days off, he can come over and shovel snow for me.  I will give him cocoa - not too hot, though. Don't want to melt him!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When I Grew Up

We had some sort of after school activity that sunny afternoon, so my mom had to get in the Plymouth and drive to Towsontown Junior High School to pick up her 8th-grader.  I clearly remember that the Beach Boys song "When I Grow Up To Be A Man" was playing on WCAO on the way home.  

It was the fall of 1964, and in the spring of that year, I was supposed to die.  Not at the hands of an irate teacher or some greasers on Ameche's parking lot, you understand, but from some mystery virus that had me sicker than Peter Graves in "Airplane," minus the flatulence.  No one knew why I got sick, but a priest was kind enough to come in and give me the Last Rites.  "Father, I'm not Catholic," I pointed out.

"My son, it can't hurt," he countered.  And then he sat with me and talked about how I might be going to another place, another experience, and asked if I were ready for that.

I was 13! So there were lots of things I hadn't done yet that I have often enjoyed doing since, since I'm on borrowed time.  A week after my conversation with the priest, I was back in school.  Two months later, I was ill again, but this time, no priests came to see me.  I did crush on a nurse named Miss Payne (for real) but I guess she married Dr Kildare or someone because I never heard from her again.

And then whatever virus or -osis I had never came back, but again, that fall, the Beach Boys were singing about how it would be, when I grew up to be a man.  And so far, so good.

"When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)"  By Brian Wilson and Mike Love

When I grow up to be a man
Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid?
Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn't done what I did?
Will I joke around and still dig those sounds
When I grow up to be a man?
Will I look for the same things in a woman that I dig in a girl?
(fourteen fifteen)
Will I settle down fast or will I first wanna travel the world?
(sixteen seventeen)
Now I'm young and free, but how will it be
When I grow up to be a man?
Oooooo Ooooooo Oooooooo
Will my kids be proud or think their old man is really a square?
(eighteen nineteen)
When they're out having fun yeah, will I still wanna have my share?
(twenty twenty-one)
Will I love my wife for the rest of my life
When I grow up to be a man?
What will I be when I grow up to be a man?
(twenty-two twenty-three)
Won't last forever
(twenty-four twenty-five)
It's kind of sad
(twenty-six twenty-seven)
Won't last forever
(twenty-eight twenty-nine)
It's kind of sad
(thirty thirty-one)
Won't last forever
(thirty-two . . .)
Checking the scorecard, yes, I still do dig the same things that turned me on as a kid.  All men still laugh at what they laughed at in 5th grade!  I can say that for the most part I don't wish I hadn't done what I did.  I mean, sure, egrets, I've had a few, but then again...always with hot sauce.
Snowy egret

As you can see, I still joke around and I still dig the same
sounds - including this very record!  And I stopped looking for things in a woman less than a decade after this song came along, having found the girl of my dreams in 1973.  I settled down fast, having no inclination to travel the world.  We never were to be blessed with kids, but for the kids and kin I know and love, I hope they don't think I'm a square.  I'm not Justin Timberlake or anything, but then again, I'm not Dick Cheney, for crying out loud.

And finally, yes, I still have my share of fun, although cherry bombs and hitchhiking have very little role in it anymore.  And of course I love my wife, for the rest of my life.

That's why I have all this fun!

So I figure I did all right.  In a few short months, that song will be fifty years old.  I guess it's time to sing it again!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Stamp Act

I like to watch the CBS This Morning show because it's the best way to start off the day with a little bit of Charlie Rose and his down-home grits-and-gravy sensibility...such as the way he introduces the "Eye-Opener" as "Your world in naaaahhhnty sehcons..."

And you get the News As Oprah Would See It delivered by Her Best Friend Gayle King, and the stunning Norah O'Donnell, whose laugh can cheer the mirthless, whose smile can heal the lame and halt, and who can control the weather by her very whim and caprice.

I learned something there the other morning.  There was a report about what's happening in New Jersey.  It seems that when you get a traffic ticket in the Garden State, attorneys comb the public record and send you letters offering to represent you in court.  Some lawyers spend their days routinely asking for the name and address of any and all people who receive citations so as to send them letters, thereby profiting from the public record.

As we all know, anyone can go online and find out how many arrests and tickets their neighbor, boss, or ne'er-do-well brother in law have racked up, as well as the addresses, birthdates and legal status of all involved.  This, to me, is a part of our democratic system that involves a risky tightrope walk between people being kept in the dark about information that they ought to have and people knowing too doggone much about stuff, but greater minds than mine (of which there are billions) will have to solve that.  I'm busy.

But, my favorite part of the report was when a reporter went to the office of one of these ambulance chasers to ask how it's right to send these letters to some guy who got a ticket on the New Jersey Turnpike for an unsafe lane change and failure to bring Chris Christie a Caramel Nut Roll from Dairy Queen. The attorney got this "excuuuuuuuuuuse me?" look all up in there and said, "After all, I have 46¢ invested in this!"

There you have it.  If he punched you in the mouth, he would then sue you hurting his knuckle. I mean, really.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Giving the devil his due

I've never been a fan of the 43rd president, George W Bush, for reasons that I just won't go into here.

But on the grounds that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, I have to salute the former prez for a classy thing he did.

As you know, Alabama football fans the world over were heartbroken when the Crimson Tide lost to stupid stupid Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl game last month.

As crestfallen supporters watched Auburn run back a missed field goal for a victory that knocked 'Bama out of contention for a third straight national title, they recalled that during the game, place kicker Cade Foster missed two field goal tries and had a third blocked, leading coach Nick Saban to use freshman kicker Adam Griffith to try that 57-yard field goal to win the game, a try that fell short, allowing Auburn's Chris Davis, Jr, to run the ball all the way down my heart.

Unkind fans blamed Foster, who wore uniform #43, and have besieged him with unpleasantness.  They apparently missed all the other chances that the Tide had to win the game.  But no!

Anyhow, here comes a letter to Foster from none other than old little Bush the other day, saying:
“Dear Cade (#43), life has its setbacks. I know! However, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43, George Bush”
Bush's father, who also rose to high political office, was known for sending thank-you notes and letters of encouragement such as this.  I just think this is great.

I wish he had not had cause to write it, though.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Rerun: Bridge Club

I like to keep abreast of the latest developments involving our beloved celebrities, so I always scan the fronts of the gossip rags at the Try 'N' Save.  Why, just the other day, I learned that Mariah Carey does not care to know what time it is, and will not wear a watch.  She's probably not alone, judging from the American propensity for showing up late, if at all.  

I guess when you're Mariah Carey, you can show up whenever you want to.  It's sort of like being the bride, to be a big shot like that.  The bride can be as late as she wants to her own wedding, and who's going to start the marryin' without her being up at the altar?  Same with the star of the show.  No Mariah Carey concert can begin without Ms Carey ready to sing.  The guy who plays the saxophone: he'd better be there on time or else!

But it was sort of interesting to have digested this information about Mariah's disinterest in what time of day it is and then go watch the show on Maryland Public TV about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  For those who read this and have never been to Maryland, if you will please check the map to the left, you'll notice a jagged tear that almost separates us into two states. That's the Chesapeake Bay, and until 1952, the only ways to get from one side of it to the other were either to poke along on a ferry or drive through Delaware, the state that invented radar traps.  So, they built a bridge in 1952.  Approximately fifteen minutes after the bridge was open, a car bearing a load of revelers, a cooler full of National Bohemian beer and three fried chickens broke down at the toll plaza, causing a traffic backup which has lasted to this very day!  Amazing, but true!  

And I could also talk about how, in 1967, the voters of Maryland realized that there needed to be another bridge, the better to get truckloads of corn moving east to west and carloads of teenagers moving west to east to their destinations more rapidly.  The voters voted and mandated that another bridge be built, but not parallel to the existing bridge.  The voters voted to have the other bridge be further north, to allow residents of North East Maryland easier access to the fabled bingo parlors of Upper Delaware.  One look at the picture to the right will show how that mandate was carried out to the very letter. 

The takeaway from the show about building the bridge was that the steel sections were built in other places and brought to the site of the bridge on giant barges, and were then riveted into place.  All of this assembly had to be built to within 1/2 of an inch so that it would all fit together correctly.  They did not have the luxury of saying, "Ah, that's close enough."  And unlike most home repair projects, you can't just hammer a 60' bridge section into a 59' 9" opening.

And the riveters: three men made up a crew.  One guy heated the rivets over an open flame, and then, when the rivets were glowing hot like cherries, he would grab them one at a time with tongs and toss them to a guy who caught them in what looked like a leather bag the size of a lunch sack.  That guy would tong the rivet over to the dude working the riveter, the giant air gun that hammered the rivets in place.  A wild job - and remember, this all took place a couple of hundred feet in the air.  

Which is a place where you have to be sort of exact.  But the world needs all types of people: technically-inclined folks to build the bridges, Mariah Carey-types to sing the National Anthem at the ribbon cutting ceremonies, and you and me to drive over the new bridge and shell out the toll money.  All types.  Hop in!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, December 14, 2013

 Here we see a young polar bear hitching a ride with his/her mommy.  Being a more advanced society, polar bears do not have seat belt laws, nor do they have support groups, state legislatures or federal circuit appeals courts.
 What we have here is a bottle of champagne from a 200-year old shipwreck in the Baltic Sea.  My guess is that they were christening the ship with the bottle of champagne, but it failed to break over the bow of the early version of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the boat sank.  Who knew they had champagne 200 years ago?  They didn't have cable tv, though.
 My first car was a stick, and once you learn how to drive one, you never forget.  I borrowed a truck from a buddy once, some 17 years after I had last tromped on a clutch pedal with my left foot, and it all came back to me in the first block I drove.  But - this is very nice, for this driver to advise people behind of possible stall-outs.
 For extra credit in Biology, forward this picture to your teacher and write 500 words on tadpole life as we know it.
I am always fascinated by paint spills on the roadway, but it's usually the result of a gallon of Kem-Tone falling out of the bed of some painter's pickup.  While the police and the crowd sort out this accident on some faraway street, look how cool the street looks!  Frame it!

Friday, December 13, 2013

This tragedy could be avoided

Zookeepers and others involved in the care and feeding of brass monkeys all across the Eastern United States are reporting that there are hardly any new ones being born!

Brass monkeys are traditional adornments for the well-to-do and the well-done, for the hale and hearty, the lean, the lank, the content, the querulous, in their swanky mansions and spare huts.  They are said to bring good luck to those who display them, and good fortune to all those who gaze upon them in the course of their daily meanderings.

And they just look so nice out on the porch, gazing beneficently on all who pass by!

But scientists and fanciers of metal animal replicas are all concerned by the recent, huge, decline in the birth rate of the primates in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia orichalcum - the common brass monkey, so beloved of American decorators and the locals of the United Brass Workers International.

Renowned expert Adel Vice, reached at his office high on a hill, pointed out that it's believed that the tendency of many Americans to leave their brass monkeys outside on nights like last night is to blame.

"People know good and well what happens when a brass monkey is left out in sub-freezing temperatures," he said in a phone interview that I just made up.  "It doesn't have to happen this way.  When you hear two 'thuds' on the porch in the middle of the night, it's already too late."

Don't let this happen to you!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Be You

My friend Julie McDonnell - I once had the honor of working in the same building as she, although many floors lower - has an excellent blog that I recommend to those in search of uplifting reading.  Yesterday she asked readers to finish these sentences.   So here I go.  Remember, Julie's is the uplifting blog!

 Be You
One sentence for each statement.

Ready.  Set.  Go.

i was:  a radio DJ when i was 20 and I appreciate being able to achieve a childhood dream/goal.

i am:  in awe of how lucky I have been every day of my life and I hope I show my gratitude

i think:  that if only people would realize how little time others spent thinking about them, they would spend much less time worrying about what others think of them.

i wonder:  if it's possible for this Paul Ryan guy to appear in public without a self-satisfied
sardonic smirk on his mug.  Lower the eyebrows, dude.

i wish:  I had learned ventriloquism instead of whatever it is I did learn.

i save:  things that will bring back happy memories in the future

i always:  give thanks to God for all that I have.  I happen to think that He is a very good guy with like the ultimate sense of humor!

i can't imagine:  living anywhere but right here.  What I read about other parts of this country scares me 1/2 to death.

i believe: that things are always going to work out for the best

i promise:  to be the best husband I can be, to vote in every election, and to be myself at all times.  The ability of so many people to so protean as to change personalities depending on the circumstance is beyond my reach as an actor, since I have no ability in that field (and many others.)

i love: Peggy, laughter, reading, television, radio, music, football, baseball, writing, learning, The New Yorker, Jack Kerouac, Joseph Mitchell and traditional twangy country music.

i scrap:  I save everything that ought to be in a scrapbook. Just haven't gotten around to pasting it in.

i never: have voted for anyone other than members of my own party and I will never do otherwise.

Your turn.  Link back to me with your "Be You" statements.

Don't linger on your answers.  Jot down the first thing that pops in your brain.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We meet a braying jackass

Every so often, Peggy will look at me and say, "You're going to write about this, aren't you?"

We were getting sandwiches for lunch the other day at a popular cheese shop in Williamsburg.  It's a place where you place your sandwich order and then join a small eddying mob waiting to hear your name called, meanwhile envying every "Tom" "Dick" and "Harry" whose ham on rye is served up while you wait.

It wasn't that long a wait, and in truth, how long would you wait for the perfect corned beef on rye with grainy mustard? Me too!  And hats off to me and Peggy for ignoring the heavily-salted snack chips and slices of carrot cake and other temptibles that line the waiting area.

What no one could ignore was the man I came to call "Perry Masonite."  He was waiting for his tongue
All I could see
sammy with his teenaged son.  His phone rang, and he took less than .3 seconds to let the rest of us know he is an attorney, and a damned important one at that!

He said things such as, "We're on deadline here" and "Send that file over to me as an attachment and I will look it over" and "We have to make sure there is no cross-contamination, going forward" and my favorite, "We'll have Jackie draft a memo back at the office....that should satisfy the subpoena."

Mind you, I don't care if he is a lawyer.  He has every right to practice his trade, but this is why they have law offices, so that people such as he can ply their craft behind closed doors, and the rest of us don't have to hear about it.  No.  He fairly bellowed all the while, strutting about the waiting area in that curious walk of a man with one hand up to his ear and the other operating a finger pointing at nothing in particular. There was no way to avoid his law practice.  We were all held captive to his colossal ego as he wrote another chapter in the oh-so-important case of O'Hoolahan v. Shufflebottom, and skillfully prepared to satisfy a subpoena (a performance which really ought to be presented on YouTube.)

I am currently seeking an attorney willing to work pro bono (meaning they are partial to the music of Sonny Bono) who will help me sue for damages, namely:  Past and future physical pain/ mental suffering/loss of enjoyment of life/ disfigurement/ physical impairment/ inconvenience/ grief/ anxiety/ humiliation/emotional distress [insert other damages].

It was so nice outside that day.  He should have been the same: nice, and outside.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tune in

I love radio, especially the way radio used to be, with real live DJs playing records and talking about them, instead of people reading from what they call promo cards about your chance to vie with every other citizen in the nation for a twenty dollar car wash gift certificate coming up in just minutes here on Q102!

In fact, one of the nicest compliments I can recall from my days of being a DJ was when a man told me that he used to like listening to my station because it was like sitting around with a friend, sharing a record collection and chatting.  When you talk with a friend, you say, "Maybe in a little while we could call for a pizza, huh?" You don't say, "Your chance to get a two-topping special coming up in just minutes!"  like they do in the big city radio.

Curiously, small town radio still has a lot of the folksiness and friendliness that the big stations used to have before they became corporate cash calves.   And I get to hear a lot of those small town stations whenever the Mrs and I go on vacation, because our destinations are always places such as Cape May NJ, Lancaster PA and Williamsburg VA...none of which can be called burgeoning metropolises.

Why any metropolis would want to "burgeon" is beyond me.

Give me the kind of radio where the DJ plays a record and then ad-libs a live commercial for a local dry-cleaner or body-and-fender shop and then plays "The Christmas Guest" by Grandpa Jones and I'll be happy...and listening on the internets!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sad ending

I was in the line at the WalMart the other night (please!) and a young couple were behind me in the line, pawing through the US Star People magazines, all of which are, this week, dedicated to the memory of actor Paul Walker, who died in a car crash last weekend.

The guy said he had been talking to someone at work who had never heard of Walker.  He was flabbergasted at this revelation, as much as if he had met a man who never heard of Henry Ford, Christopher Columbus or George Washington Carver.

"I mean, that dude's got to be like, living under a rock."

I remained under the rock 'neath which I dwell, not saying anything.  I had never heard of Paul Walker until the reports of his death lit up the internet a week ago, but then again, I'm not interested in movies about people driving too fast.

And I'm not knocking those who do like those movies.  Heaven and Hollywood know, there are millions of people who wanted to see yet another Fast and Furious movie, but now will not, because one of the stars of the series is dead.

I don't really want to appear to be criticizing the man.  At 40, though, he should have been old enough to realize that the streets of Santa Clarita, California are not the place to be running around at 90 mph in a fast car driven by his friend (who also died in the wreck).  He had been at a charity event for the foundation he formed which was raising money for the victims of the recent Typhoon Haiyan.  That's what I mean - the yin and the yang of this man were so disparate as to make me shake my head.

A charitable man, dedicated to helping others.  Yet, how many people were he and his friend endangering by turning a public street into a private raceway?  A good father to his 15-year old daughter, yet he now will be absent from her life from now on.

Not how a ride around the block should end.
The more of these things I see, the more I figure that life has a way of sending examples to us.  It's a shame that this fellow, with so much to live for and such a nice life, had all that curtailed by reckless actions.  He was not driving, no, but perhaps he could have told his friend to knock off the speeding.  Perhaps people might realize that high-performance speedy cars are wonderful things in the proper place, which is a race course, not a street shared with people in their sedans.

The lesson is that life is a precious gift, not to be discarded on the altar of fast thrills.  I hope that the people leaving messages such as "Gone to race in Heaven" will get that point at some point.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

40 years ago today

Mr Garrison Keillor was talking about a couple who had been married for a long time.  "First, people didn't think it would ever last, and now they don't think it's ever going to end!" he said, as only he can.

Well, as only we can, Peggy and I have been married 40 years as of today, and here we are, on the way to together forever.

That figures out to 14,600 days of waking up with love in my heart.  And here's where the old man in me starts in.  I talk to young people getting married or otherwise embarking on relationships, and I think it's important to go into things knowing that waking up every day with love in your heart does not mean that you also won't wake up with your boss climbing up your trellis about something that is/isn't your fault, or waking up with bills to pay and not enough pay to pay them all.  Being in love doesn't mean that your fair share of bad stuff will hide around the corner, but it does mean that you have someone you love to help you figure out what to do.

And that's all you need.

Freshly married on December 8, 1973, we headed off to a honeymoon in Williamsburg VA, and we went back there this week for a few days.  As I packed up the rolling hotel cart after we checked in, I had to stop and figure that we didn't even own that much stuff 40 years ago.  And now we have a lot of stuff, but that's not what really matters.  

It was at some point during the week's hoopla in the old colonial capital that we were laughing at something one of us said that I realized that in 40 years, we haven't become rich, but that Kardashian girl is really rich, and her marriage lasted 72 days.  We became rich in what matters by simply loving each other through the broken dishes and broken hopes, and by enjoying together the new dishes and new hopes.  And by laughing through it all, because, buddy, if you ain't laughin', you ain't livin'.

So, if today is your wedding day and you want to know how to stay married for 40 years, my first piece of advice would be to make sure you marry an angel, as I did.  And then, stay there. Just as the key to giving up cigarettes is not lighting any cigarettes, if you want to stay married, stay married.  

But be sure to marry an angel.  I did!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, December 7, 2013

 Sure, the quality of the picture is not great.  But, it was taken in 1840.  And it is the first picture ever taken of Canada.  Of course, this is Niagara Falls.  Do you think the guy down there on the bottom left knows he was being a part of history?
 Puns are said to be the lowest form of humor.  A friend told me that just the other day.  I never knew she had a dental implant until it came out in conversation.
 As of last night, the Weather Service and the television meteorologists were all worked up about the chance of our fall weather taking a decidedly wintry turn on Sunday morning.We shall see.  It doesn't mean doodly to a retired couple, as you know!
The greatest packaging idea of all time.  The two most vital items in any handyperson's bag o' tricks, together for your pleasure. Brilliant!  You know, another friend of mine lost his job with the Highways Dept.  They accused him of stealing. I should have known it was coming...last time I stopped by his house, all the signs were there.