Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bill Me

Come October, we will be seeing new $100 bills in the United States.  Of course, some of us will be seeing more of them than others among us, but still...the bill will be ALL NEW!  Just like an episode of "Mike And Molly," or whatever it's called.

There will be blue ribbons woven into the fabric of these new C-notes, to cut down on counterfeiting.  It is hoped that this more visible way of identifying the real big bucks from the bogus will cut down on the spate of neck injuries suffered by convenience store clerks who tilt their heads back at the same angle as a football on a tee, and hold big bills up to the fly-specked ceiling lights, looking for the telltale ribbon that marks genuine US currency.  I have noticed that someone who looks like an original member of the Grateful Dead can walk into a store and pull a $100 out of a sour old wineskin, and the clerk will take it without quibble, whereas any money that I hand over has to pass a litmus test for authenticity.

Almost 80% of US currency is measured in $100 bills. There were more than 8.2 billion Ben Franklins changing hands out in the world as of now; it's the most popular bank note, by value, among the world’s major currencies.  People from here to Baluchistan prize a stack of American hundreds as safe and recognized anywhere.

Benjamin Franklin was once lampooned on a Firesign Theatre album as "the ONLY president of the United States who was NEVER president of the United States."  A lot of people think he was, because they see him on the money, and because, like Geo. W. Bush, he had plenty of time to experiment with science (Franklin discovered electricity; Bush discovered that you can't shove a dozen pretzels down your neck all at once.  We all work at our own capacity.)

I'll tell you who else was never president:  Mitt Romney, and Alexander Hamilton.  At least Hamilton got a ten dollar bill named for him.

So, here are the new American One-Yard notes.  No matter how good your Xerox machine is, I wouldn't try copying and printing these out.  Unless you look like Jerry Garcia or something.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Miss Witherspoon regrets

Once upon a time, in Hollywood USA, a golden blonde named Reese Witherspoon made a movie and a name for herself by starring as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde."

The years have come and gone, 12 of them all told, since that movie, and the glitter and gold seem to have worn off both Ms Witherspoon's hair and her career.  Once one of the top female stars at the box office, she is now making cheeseball independent movies in Atlanta, like her current film job in "The Good Lie."

Listen, no one has ever asked me to be in any kind of movie, except for a part as "Narrator" in several industrial training films a hundred years ago.  (I always had to voice-over lines such as "Let's review what we've learned.  Number one: work smarter, not harder...") So, I'm no position to judge Reese's position in the film industry, but if I were to make a training film with advice for her, it would contain lines such as "When a police officer tells you to remain in your car while he gives your drunken husband a field sobriety test, go park it already."

Yet, that's what happened to her the other night.  Her husband is Jim Toth, and he is an agent aged 42 years.  So you would think that in that amount of time, he would know better than to drive while drunk.  But, he did it, and the Atlanta cop who pulled him over into a Walgreen's parking lot (Man!  They have stores everywhere now!) was trying to test him for DUI and here comes old Reese out of the Ford sedan, butting into the whole deal.  

According to showbiz bible Variety:  Toth was pulled over  driving a silver 2013 Ford Focus, which the officer witnessed weaving across a double line on Atlanta’s Peachtree St. Toth appeared disheveled and his breath smelled of alcohol, according to the police report, prompting the officer to administer a sobriety test.

As Toth walked in the Walgreens parking lot where the officer instructed him to pull over to, Witherspoon became increasingly agitated from the vehicle, which prompted the officer to warn her to stay in the car for the sake of her own safety.

“Mrs. Witherspoon began to hang out the window and say that she did not believe that I was a real police officer,” according to the police report. “I told Mrs. Witherspoon to sit on her butt and be quiet.”

Once Toth was placed under arrest, Witherspoon exited the vehicle and was instructed to get back in the car. According to the report, she “stated that she was a ‘US citizen’ and that she was allowed to ‘stand on American ground.’”

The officer then detailed how she resisted as he grabbed her arms to arrest as Toth attempted to calm her down.

As the report details, “Mrs. Witherspoon asked, “Do you know my name?” I answered, “No, I don’t need to know your name.” 

Mrs. Witherspoon stated, “You’re about to find out who I am.”

The report also specified, “Mrs. Witherspoon also stated, ‘You are going to be on national news.’ I advised Mrs. Witherspoon that was fine.”

Though he told an officer he had only a single drink hours earlier, Toth blew a .139 on a Breathalyzer test administered at the scene. He also is facing a second charge for failure to maintain a lane while driving.

Witherspoon’s alleged violation, which is specified on the police report as “disorderly conduct (obstruction),” is a local municipal ordinance.

Oh well, Reese.  The old "Don't you know who I am?" line is so overdone.  Here in Baltimore County, we have a councilman who pleaded guilty of DUI the other day after a case in which he was arrested for driving with his lights out in more than one way, and followed up his arrest with a 3 AM phone call to the chief of police...a call which wisely went unanswered.

And then, right on schedule (as soon as her publicist could be rounded up and briefed on the situation) - along came the wholesome, heartfelt apology, directly from Ms Witherspoon's heart to you: "Out of respect for the ongoing legal situation, I cannot comment on everything that is being reported right now. But I do want to say, I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said," the statement says. 

She goes on: "It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. The words I used that night definitely do not reflect who I am. I have nothing but respect for the police and I'm very sorry for my behavior."
Too drunk to hold her head
up for the mugshot.  Way
to go, Reese. 

Just wait for the trial, when the husband's mouthpiece will stand in court, and say, "Your Honor, my client freely admits that he was in an impaired condition on the night of this unfortunate situation, and he wishes to thank Officer _________ for noticing this and removing him from the highway before tragedy ensued...."

Next up for Reese:  a Lifetime Movie Channel Movie Of The Week:  "Legally Blotto: The Reese Witherspoon Story."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Rerun: National Velvet

Somehow I will have to make sure that Peggy does not pick up the book I am reading these days and start reading it.  

Just the right thickness for a wobbly chair leg

It's the autobiography of the noted actor, raconteur, Hollywood swinger and tanmaster George Hamilton.  "Don't Mind If I Do" tells the tale of the life of a man chiefly famous for being famous...sort of the male version of the Gabor sisters, without all that acting talent.  I picked this book up at Barnes & Noble on their reduced rack for $5.98, because I was interested in reading about just how it is that he became an actor, and also because the book looked so lonesome, sitting there atop a gigantic stack of other copies of itself. 

And I'm not even that far into it, to tell you the truth. I've read up the part where his mother, having left his father, supports herself by striking up friendships with Hollywood notables such as Hoagy Carmichael.  

I am telling you, there is a world out there in which people do such things.  Then again, there is a world out there in which people used to be able to spend their vacation at Twitty City, the Hendersonville TN home of country music legend Conway
Conway Twitty (1933 - 1993)
Twitty.  And after paying the admission charge, fans were able to roam the grounds and visit the mansion wherein dwelt the man born Harold Lloyd Jenkins.  Fans could even enter his house and walk around in there.  Sure, there were velvet ropes set up to keep people from entering the bathroom while the great man loofahed his back, but they say that one could actually stand right outside the dining area and watch Conway spooning Shredded Wheat down his neck in the morning.  

And people planned their vacations to be in Twitty City for this.

George Hamilton IV
You ask how in the world does Conway Twitty have anything to do with George Hamilton, and you might think I am confusing Hamilton with George
Hamilton IV, the country singer from North Carolina who had such a big hit with "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" in 1956.  But no.  Here's the angle:

Hamilton had an older brother Bill who was interested in decorating and had a real flair for design.  His mother let Bill decorate their apartment in New York, and Bill got the idea to put one of those velvet ropes in front of the door to a rarely-used closet.  People walking by were to get the impression that the door led to another whole area of the apartment, but it was currently closed for renovation: hence the velvet rope.

I'm not kidding you.  There are people who actually think like that, deceiving people into thinking there is more to   them than the eye can see at first glance. And the velvet rope is all that stands between them and reality. Then there are people who will cluster on the east side of a velvet rope while Conway Twitty goes about his life on the west side.  

I just don't think that Conway would have fronted in any way.  He seemed like a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy.  Hamilton comes from that there-must-be-more-to-see-than-just-this school of thought.  

I think I prefer the Conway.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, 4/27/13

 This week, Peggy and I went to Lancaster, PA, to spend a few days with the Amish people.  Of course, I often wish that we had moved there many years ago, up where a crime wave is the theft of some grain or an outhouse being moved off its moorings.  But then we wouldn't have met many of you, so never mind.  I'm glad I'm here, and in my continuing series of Pictures Of My Food, please say hello to Grandma's Pancake Breakfast at Cracker Barrel.  Am I alone in thinking this would make a nice wallpaper?
 At many places around Amish Country, you can get into a horse-drawn buggy and take a guided tour.  They are not pushy about this at all.  They are not pushy about anything at all up there.  Notice the tour guide, sitting beneath the booth, reading.  If you want to take the tour, she will be glad to take you, but it's up to you.  She will not chase you across the parking lot or anything. This ain't New York, buddy.
 Having grown up near Cowpens Avenue in Towson, MD, and living not all that far from Cockeysville, MD, I guess I got used to street and town names that crack other people up.  Many people live and work and shop in Intercourse, PA and they don't giggle about it.  It's just down the road from Bird-In-Hand, PA, and a hoot and a holler from Blue Ball.
 I could've stared at this llama's bottom teeth all day, but there was shopping to do.  I kept thinking, he reminds me of someone I know, and don't you hate that when you can't figure out whom you're thinking of?  Well, it came to me.  He looks like that guy James William Bottomtooth III
from "Family Guy," the guy who worked at The New Yorker in the "Brian Goes Back to College" episode.  I had to look up what the condition is that makes JWB look that way. The Dentists among us will recognize a case of Pathologic mandibular prognathism when they see it.  That's the fancy term for a lower jaw whose choppers extend way out there.  I looked it up.
 I took tons of pictures like this and I can't tell you how great the views are all around Amish Country.  Their farms are so cool, and the people on them are as well.
Imagine, a sunset like this every night, with clear unsmoggy skies and no sirens, amplified mufflers or cars with stereos so loud that they vibrate the neighborhood as they prowl the neighborhood.  And you don't need air freshener for the car...Nature's own scent, fresh fertilizer, bathes the area in a pleasant aroma.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A slower way of life

Peggy and I had a wonderful little mini-vacay earlier this week, running up to Lancaster, PA - Amish Country.  As soon as you approach the towns we visit - Strasburg, Ronks, Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse - you see things that you don't see in the Baltimore area.  Laundry hangs out to dry on the line there, and here, there are community associations that forbid the horrible sight of dad's t-shirts and Junior's jeans flapping in the breeze.

Up there, Amish people move from place to place on horse-drawn buggies, leaving horse waste in their slow-moving wake. Many homeowners dart out to the road with a bucket and shovel, harvesting free fertilizer.

Down here, the clerk of the circuit court for the city of Baltimore writes a letter to the newspaper saying that he is sorry that his office has to have trials for kids in the city whose only crime is zipping through traffic at 87 mph on dirt bikes, terrifying motorists and pedestrians alike.

Down here, the city jail is under the control of the inmates, specifically one inmate who has managed to impregnate four of the female guards who are supposed to be holding him prisoner for an attempted murder conviction.  Two of the guards have his name tattooed on their bodies.  Meanwhile, the inmate is taking in as much as $16,000 per month on his jailhouse enterprises, selling dope, cell phones and alcohol to his fellow prisoners.

Up there, the people - men, women and children - are working their fields and farms from the rooster's first cry to beyond sundown, so there is not enough time to commit crimes to go to jail in the first place.

Down here, the comptroller of the State of Maryland puts out an annual listing of unclaimed property.  His office does this every year, but this year, his ego apparently unchecked, the comptroller put his face on the cover of the publication, describing himself as the most interesting man in the state.

In Los Angeles, actor Will Smith said in the paper that he and his wife, Baltimore's own Jada Pinkett Smith, have a non-punishment style of raising their children.  They believe that their kids are responsible for their own lives, which is true, but without the accountability of some punishment, how many children will choose the right path?

Up in Amish Country, the children are shown the right path and are advised of the consequences of deviating therefrom. 

Or course, they also get to live their lives without ever watching a "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" rerun, so look how lucky they are.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Irony and Steal Business

Everything went wrong in English in America when a Canadian, Alanis Morissette, came out with a song called "Ironic" in 1995. She misused the word "ironic" in the song, writing about a man of 98 years who won the lottery and then died the next day.  Or how she met the perfect man and then met his wife.  Or she took a smoke break and saw a No Smoking sign.

Not a single case of irony in her whole carload of coincidences and bad breaks.  Nor is there irony when you bid someone farewell with "See you tomorrow" but then see them when you both stop at the Bag 'N' Go after work.

The easy example to remember is that it is not ironic for a car to run into a billboard on the highway...except if it's a billboard promoting safe driving.

Or, in the movie Dr Strangelove, when two military types almost duked it out, and the president hollers, "You can't fight in here!  This is the War Room!"


Meanwhile, in Dagestan Russia, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the accused Boston Marathon bombers, keeps hollering that her sons are lily-white innocent and could not possibly have done the enormity that one died doing and the other will answer for in court.

I know you can see Russia from Alaska, but you can't see Boston from Russia, so, in legal terms, how in the hell does she know what her two creepy sons were up to?

Here's an irony you'll love: Mrs Tsarnaeva will find herself jammed up tight if she tries to come over here to America to continue her defense of her sons, because there is an open warrant for her in Natick, Massachusetts for shoplifting from a Lord & Taylor department store.  She had a court date of October 25, 2012 to answer charges, but she FTA'ed...court lingo for Failed To Appear.

So if she washes up on these shores to attend the older boy's funeral or defend the younger one, she will face arrest.  Just like Dzhokhar, who is also under arrest, on slightly more serious charges.

And how did the Boston police come to pinpoint the evil brothers in the first place?

Because of a security video from a department store right in front of where those two planted their lethal bombs.  A Lord & Taylor department store.

So stay the hell over in Russia, Zubeidat.  Maybe those two dunderheaded sons would have been better had they had a better mother.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rules for Beginners

I stumbled - figuratively - across an online article entitled "Ten Things to Never Say during Sex."  I quickly checked and so far, I am good.  You might want to finish reading this and then go over there and see how you and your sigoth are doing in that department.

(Your sigoth is your significant other; I read a couple of years ago that someone was trying to popularize that term.  So far, it has failed to gain a foothold in the American lexicon, but it's early in the game.)
The Irish guy at work, Mr O'Face
But just thinking about it, I came up with ten more.  Please remember, these phrases are guaranteed to make you sorry you ever said them.  Do not try this at home (yours or anyone else's)...

1 - Have you seen the remote?

2 - Have you seen the new neighbor down the street?

3 - When the pudding says Kozy Shack, do you feel comfortable eating it, knowing that they spelled 'cozy' wrong and feeling uncomfortable about any food prepared in a shack?

4 - Go ahead and start without me.

5 - I was reading an online survey and it looks like we are well below normal in several vital areas.

6 - The people at work always love hearing about this!

7 - I think I took the wrong pill.  Tylenol PMs are blue too, right?

8 - Should I just leave the money on the dresser?

9 - "And then, everyone hollered 'Jabroni!'"

10 - I think I hurt myself.

As always, contact your doctor.  Don't wait four hours; call now!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


It was Sunday morning and I was casting my internet to see what was going on in the world.  At about 7 AM there was a report of a fatal accident down on the east side, a couple of miles away on Rte 40.  Two people were dead and two were injured, taken to a hospital.  The make of car that was the same as the cars driven by two friends of mine who live down that way...

So I waited and fretted.  I mean, a zillion people drive Mustangs.  They've been making them since 1964, and they have been popular all along, so the odds that my young friends were involved were long, for sure.  Still...

When I saw my friend's sister post pictures of her wonderful baby boy, I knew that was not something that she would do if her family was involved, clearly.  So I felt better and wrote to her, a sort of "sigh" message to let her know I was thinking of them all.  Several other people had similarly checked in. 
The choral work Carmina Burana concerns
mystical forces that control the fates.

Some other family, some other sets of friends and loved ones were not so lucky.  Many lives have been altered, and two have been ended, because of this accident.  We've all lost friends in accidents and the like, and it is not easy to deal with.  I feel sorry for the people of the people in the wreck.  This time, the wheel came around and pointed to them.  It's a shame.

Worrying and fretting about the ones we love and care for does no good at all.  But sometimes, it's all you can do.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Another of my hangups

I thought I was the only one, so I didn't say anything.  I mean, it's embarrassing, and why bring it up?  But now that there is safety in numbers...now that some other fellow sufferer has stepped forward out of the darkness and into the light of day, I can say..

This guy who put his picture on Reddit is not the only person to suffer from CPS,  what experts call the heartbreak of Cargo Pants Syndrome.

Cargo pants and shorts were just made for guys such as I...guys who think nothing of carrying a small 40's era compendium of Ring Lardner's works to have company while sitting at Social Security offices...guys who carry a lot of keys, Purell® and Leatherman® tools...guys with a lot less sense than the average guy...guys such as I.

You don't see George Clooney wearing cargoes, because he is sleek and sophisticated, and can afford to have a man walking around carrying all that extra stuff that we lunks tote.

Only problem is, with all those flapdoodles and kangaroo pockets riding at the same height as knobs and drawer pulls, we also know the heartbreak of getting hung up by the cabinetry.

Of course, if we really get caught because we are wearing cargo pants, we probably have several tools in our pockets to use in freeing ourselves, because we are wearing cargo pants.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday rerun: Act Naturally

Worldly and sophisticated, I am certainly no stranger to the Seven Lively Arts (music, literature, drama, painting, dance, conversation and Fleming) but I remain as a child, in awe of the masters of each.  If I could write or perform music, write great books or plays, act in a movie or play, tap dance like Danny Effing Kaye, conduct colloquies with the likes of world leaders and those who should be, and remember to give my answer in the form of a question, I'd be one well-rounded citizen.  

And yet, given enough time, I could learn to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the harmonica, write some short story that might hold someone's interest for three minutes (Opening line: "Spring comes late to Carney."), smear some paint around in the impressionist manner, or talk with Obama or Castro.  But acting? No. Forget it. Couldn't do it.

We tend to forget that there is such a thing as acting; at least, I forget it.  We see stars such as, oh let's say, John Travolta.  We first saw him as Vinnie Barbarino on "Welcome Back, Kotter" and every role since has been sort of variation on that theme.  We had Greaser Vinnie in "Grease," Disco Vinnie in "Saturday Night Fever" and so on down the line, right up to Goon Vinnie in "Get Shorty" and Firefighter Vinnie in "Ladder 49."  And listen, people still want to see him in movies, so it's all good.

Old timers like Phil Silvers - cocky, strutting, wiseacre burlesque comics - were in movie after movie, always pretty much the same guy, too...a cocky, strutting wiseacre buddy with Victor Mature, or a cocky, strutting wiseacre Army sergeant. 

Lindsay, Lindsay, Lindsay!
On the other hand, I had always heard that Meryl Streep was a great actress, able to assume different personae in different movies.  Of course, you could have been handing out $100 bills to the audiences of "Sophie's Choice" or "Kramer vs Kramer" and I would still be without a $100 bill.  True, Peggy was able to inveigle me into seeing "The Bridges of Madison County," although I spent the entire movie hoping that Clint would suddenly turn into Dirty Harry and just go really Mad-ison, but no.  

Then, I went to see Garrison Keillor's movie "A Prairie Home Companion," and there she was, a New Jersey girl playing the part of a country singer from Minnesota! And then,  we watched "The Devil Wears Prada," and she was acting like a completely different human being!   I said, "Peggy, this shrewish harridan is nothing like Yolanda Johnson from Mr Keillor's movie!"

And Peggy, with the tenderness that we use to explain to children that Superman is just a made-up character, told me that she was able to appear to be different people by acting!

Phil Silvers! Phil Silvers! Phil Silvers!
Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty!  Here's to all those who can do this sort of thing!  I can't act like anyone other than myself, which some will be quick to point out is a tragic shortcoming.  Here's to Meryl Streep.  And Phil Silvers, too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show 4/20/13

 Of COURSE you have a job.  Being Kid Rock is most certainly a job, isn't it?
 I bring this up because My Giant plays some pretty great pop music on its Muzak.  If they think they can get me to buy more fig newtons by playing "Mmmm Bop"...they are right!
 Jane Goodall was the lady with the chimpanzees, right?  I like this image...it shows a path and we have choices on our paths.  I try to make a good difference.  I don't always, but St Peter has a notation for "he tried" on that big scorecard.  I hope.
Here's a picture of a pretty lady.  You see her every day if you own and operate a TV set.  I'll even tell you her name...it's Stephanie Courtney.  But you know her as someone else in a series of commercials that I, for one, find irritating.  Not as irritating as that local car dealer who has stuff landing on his head all the time as he and one of his men sit there guffawing like maniacs.  But anyhow..Ms Courtney, with way too much makeup, plays Flo, in those insurance commercials.  I like her better this way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Picture This

Tonight we are heading up to Friendly Farm with our friends the Duffs, Tim and Marlene, and their daughter Mallory, who is just coming off a serious back operation.  This will be her first time going out for a while, and I can't think of a better place to go for such a happy event!

Over the years, in the course of our many visits to the Farm, up in Northern Baltimore County, I have stunned other diners by pulling out my camera or cell phone and taking pictures of my food, just before I dive headlong into consuming it.

I love the idea of well-prepared and well-served food, so I take pictures.  And I certainly don't take time to set up the shot and arrange the lighting and defeat the shadows and all that.  I'm trying to eat!  So I snap a picture and away I go.  Here we see Peggy's chicken dinner and my seafood combo - the best crabcake in the world and six of the finest shrimp that ever bobbed around in the sea.  All up at the finest restaurant in the world, the splendid Friendly Farm.

I stumbled across this website lately, and you might enjoy it if you're as crazy as I am interested in photographs of food. It's called Pictures of Hipsters Taking Pictures of Food, and it bumps up the bet from my stark, unartistic snapshots by being pictures of people who are taking pictures of food.  So, in order for us to even get a picture on this site, I will need to inveigle Peggy into taking a picture of me as I take a picture of my chow.

This is not going to happen.  Peggy never does anything that would cause people at other tables to nudge each other's elbows and lean their heads in our direction, eyes rolling all the while.  She is classy and well-mannered.And yet, look at whom she married.

So, the next step in this progression will be to have someone taking a picture of someone who is taking a picture of me as I take a picture of a plate of seafood.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

King David

David Gregory, the host of NBC's Meet the Press, comes off as sort of a non-humble man.  I remember reading that Tim Russert, right before his unfortunate passing, had read Gregory the riot act because the two reporters were out to dinner in DC and Gregory scolded a waitress for getting his stupid dinner wrong.

And the word was that Gregory was humbled after Russert died and had gotten his ego under control.

Well, it appears that his ego broke off its chain last week.  He lives in Washington, DC.  It must be a very nice neighborhood, but parking is tight, as it tends to be in townhouse neighborhoods.

Let the Washington POST tell the story:

The “Meet the Press” host made a scene Tuesday when he lit into organizers of the D.C. Design House, located this year on Foxhall Road. The broadcaster was distressed that visitors to the show house had parked on a nearby street, some directly in front of his home, preventing easy access by his crew.

“There are a lot of people clogging up our streets,” Gregory told us late Tuesday.

It’s hard to miss the 6-foot-5 journalist under ordinary circumstances — harder yet when he’s waving his arms and complaining loud enough for everyone nearby to hear. This all went down on the front lawn of the show house, witnessed by several designers and guests at a media preview.

“You could hear all this with the doors closed,” said designer David Mitchell. “This was a very public and immature display. It’s a public street. You don’t get to live in a neighborhood and say who gets to park.”

Gregory said he wouldn’t describe the confrontation as “blowing up.” But, he acknowledged, “I did go over there to complain.” He said that he received no warning about the monthlong charity event (except for a large sign on the empty residence) and that he has contacted his local commissioner. “I’m not happy about it and I hope it gets resolved.”

The parking situation has been tough lately: The French ambassador, temporarily relocated to the neighborhood during embassy renovations, recently hosted a large party. But Gregory flatly denied warning the show-house folks that he “knows all the politicians in town,” as witnesses claim.
Show-house reps said they’ve done due diligence: posting signs, hiring guards, finding parking lots. 

Every time you see someone flipping out like this, you always look for the key word(s) that explain it all.  In this outburst, Gregory said, "There are a lot of people clogging up our streets" and do you know what?  They are everyone's streets.  You and I, had we nothing better to do, could drive to DC and park right in front of Casa Gregory.  Public streets belong to the public.

Again, the ego is running around the neighborhood, irritating people and making a nuisance of itself.  There are people like this all over, people who think that their needs supercede all others, and everyone else better just damned sight get out of their way when they want to park their car, dine at a restaurant, get on an elevator, or take 27 items through the express line.

I make it a practice to shun them, and their television shows.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm not saying I'm old, but my Social Security number is 187

Yesterday was the day I've worked toward since I was a senior in high school. I went to the Social Security office in Towson and signed up for benefits.  I'm eligible in June, so there I was yesterday morning, signing up.  I had envisioned a vast office, filled with people in shirtsleeves, each with a Burroughs adding machine on his/her desk and sleeve garters, punching numbers into the machine and then tearing off the printed tape, tossing it over the desk to the elated citizen.

But no!  I had made an appointment (I'm a busy retiree, and need to be home by 12:30 to see how those crazy honeymooners Victor and Nikki are doing) and after just a short time sitting on a metal folding chair reading Ring Lardner, I was taken to a small room for "the interview."  For those of you who worry that when your time comes for "the interview," some humorless official will tell you that there is no record of you, your SS #, or any deposits in your name...fear not!  The interview was actually done via remote teleconference hookup.  I sat and talked with a woman in Pittsburgh, but was able to see myself cheesing on my end in a smaller image on the screen.  In half an hour or so, she had asked me every question (no, I was not a Japanese internee during World War II, and no, I never worked outside the United States) and told me how much to plan on every month until the one when I'm placed on a slab.

I remembered my first job as I drove away from the parking lot. After considering numerous job offers - my parents offered to boot me out if I didn't get one - I settled on a position with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company - hereinafter referred to as "the A&P" - and was given the title of "Clerk, part time."

That first week, I took home the princely sum of $23.51, after spending several evenings unloading truckloads of Libby's Vienna Sausage, Cliquot Club Ginger Ale, and Nabisco Fig Newtons.  I earned ("grossed") more than that, but the government, well aware of my predilection for spending all my money on record albums by Hank Snow and the Rainbow Ranch Boys, Schlitz beer, Kool cigarettes and Italian cold cut submarine sandwiches, thought it best to deduct a certain amount of what I earned and set it aside for my old age.

And that was good, because if they hadn't set some loot up for me, I would not be getting Social Security payments as of this summer. Ironically, looking at what I am going to get now for not working, and comparing it to what I made for unloading truckloads of Ken-L-Ration Dog Food, Our Own Tea Bags and Jane Parker Spanish Bar Cakes, I'm doing better doing nothing.

There were other jobs in between the A&P days and the day that Baltimore County pensioned me off, but apparently old Uncle Sam took plenty along the way, and now it's payoff time.  I hope I live forever!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Living up to the name

A wooly mammoth (not near you)
People started using names as a way of differentiating one caveperson from another, and of getting the attention of someone who was about to be eaten by a wooly mammoth, as in, "Hey Og!  Watch out!  There's a wooly mammoth right behind you!"

As the population grew, there were far too many people named Og, so they started giving themselves last names.  Often, these surnames had to do with a person's occupation, so people who cut wood were named "Sawyer," people who brought home nets full of cod and herring were called "Fisher," and people who were absolutely useless to society were "Limbaughs."

Other names came from other sources:  John's son became "Johnson."  People who showed up with grass stain on their khaki pants were named "Green," and those who lived out there where the trees grew tall got the last name "Woods" or "Forrest."  Those capable of lifting great weights or riding bicycles for days on end saluted their sinew by being called "Armstrong," although one of them had to relinquish the name when it turned out he was untruthful about how many little chemical helpers he had taken, and was forced to call himself "Og Bad."

I think that delightful people should have names that reflect that quality, and no one we know is a better example of that than our friend Blyss, whom we are looking forward to seeing soon.  She moved away and is currently performing two of the toughest jobs there could be:  Army wife and Mom.  We love Blyss because her personality is expressed in her name.  Even as a teenager, she had wisdom and wit far beyond her years.  Blyss always has a laugh and a smile to give away, and she lives with a zest and zeal that are just so admirable!

She pointed out that everyone needed to look into a full-length mirror every now and again, and if they were wearing something that made them look bad - such as a crop top and skinny jeans on someone whose girth spilled over their belt - they should make appropriate changes.

And it was Blyss who first expressed to me a saying that I hear in my mind all the time: "Some people...if they don't have drama in their lives, they create it, just to have some."  

Blyss, I promise not to wear my skinny jeans or crop top when we see you, and the only drama will be in seeing who can stop laughing first about some of our good old times!  

Monday, April 15, 2013

You might be getting married if...

Jeff Foxworthy is not really my cup of Dr Pepper; I don't really care for comics whose entire act is built on one gag line ("You might be a redneck if...")

Well, you might be a game show host if people get tired of your standup routine.  Foxworthy used to host that "Are You As Smart As This Know-it-All Kid Over Here?" show and now, so they say, he is in charge of The American Bible Challenge on the Game Show Network.

"You might be Nebuchadnezzar if...?"

I've never seen that show.  It's on the Game Show Network, and I do like that channel for old reruns of Match Game, and the occasional Password from the olden days.

Booth Announcer: (sotto voce) "The password is TURGID"

Allen Ludden: (eyebrows raised) "To you, Jim Backus...to you, Betty White...and to you at home..." (outstretched hand)

Now they are going to have another religious game show on GSN.  They call this one "It Takes A Church," and the network says that church members will "compete to find a love interest for a single member of the congregation."

Somehow I think of church picnics in the far distant dim recesses of the memory.  Church members "competing" conjures three-legged races and passing a Lifesaver from a toothpick sticking out of your mouth to a toothpick likewise brandished by a fellow churchgoer.  And so is that how we are to find our new partners in life, on a game show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy?

I don't know what kind of games they are going to play to enable people to find that perfect Mr Wright or Miss Adventure. I'm not sure that love can be dealt out by antics on a game show.

I can suggest another name for the show:  "Marriage Made in Heaven."  And a theme song, from The Boxtops.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday rerun: I hope he gets out there and dances his Thessalonians off

Let me tell you something about people: we just can't seem to leave each other alone, yet we cry for individuality.

We stand at ballparks and sing about being the "land of the free and the home of the brave" and then we want to curtail the freedom of others.

We believe in compassion and fail to display any; we send our young people to fight for the rights of others and then suppress the rights of others while the fighting rages elsewhere.  We yammer endlessly about how our forefathers fought in the Big One to save the world for democracy, but we don't seem so wild about democracy here on our shores.

Here is the latest case in point:  Dancing With The Stars.

Now, in all honesty, I have never watched this show.  If there is nothing better to do at 8 o'clock than to watch Hines Ward or Bristol Palin stomping around, I'm apt to read a book.  That's my choice.

On the other foot, many Americans like to watch this show.  That's their choice.  And now, a group called One Million Moms has decided that including Chaz Bono as a contestant this year will bring down the level of America's mores to an unacceptable low.  Here's the pitch from their website, right next to the information about how you can send money to these self-righteous harridans:

Some families have already decided against watching Dancing with the Stars because of the skimpy costumes and provocative dance routines, but now they have gone too far! This year, not only are they casting Carson Kressley from Carson-Nation, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and How to Look Good Naked, but also transgender Chaz Bono- child to Sonny and Cher- from the documentary Becoming Chaz will be appearing in the show. Both are LGBT rights advocates and promote this destructive lifestyle. DWTS is helping them create visibility for the LGBT community.

This is completely unacceptable and Christians should not watch the show, no excuses! Kressley will be paired up with a female dancer, and since Chasity (sic), transformed to Chaz after her sex change in 2009, will also be paired with a female dancer.

I defy anyone, be they Christian, Druid, pagan, whatever, to read that last sentence and tell me it makes sense, syntactic or otherwise.  The next to the last sentence, you have to love for its no-holds-barred "Christians should not watch the show, no excuses!"  I love that sort of totalitarianism! That's what Grandpop fought for at Iwo Jima - the ability of a sub-group to tell the rest of the group what they can watch on television.  That's why great-grandpa sailed with Pershing to Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry, so one Christian could tell another Christian what's good for all Christians!  And history tells us that the battle cry in the Spanish-American War was not "Remember The Maine!" as some believe, but, rather, "You Can't Watch That!"

This whole issue comes down to two things, maybe three if you consider the possibility that ABC pays these dupes to stir up a tempest in a tea pot and publicize their show.  On a simple level, if these women can just for one damned minute stop thinking about Chaz's (left) right to be whatever the hell he wants to be, can someone predict that his dancing will be worth watching?  I have to figure - and I could be wrong - that his dancing will be much like mine in terms of grace, and the kindest description of my terpsichorean skills is that on the dance floor I look like the south end of a northbound horse.

But hear me, please, One Million Moms, you bitter haters, you:  if you don't want your kids to watch this show, that's your business, and later you can deal with how you warp your kids.  But who do you think you are to tell me what to do with my eyes?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, 4/13/13

 This picture was taken by someone in the passenger seat of a car that was on a highway during a snowstorm.  Activities that might have been better for this passenger to pursue, rather than taking a picture of the bleak vista outside, might have included suggesting that the driver pull over, and getting outside to clear the wipers a little.
Someone had time and talent enough to make a picture of Jimi Hendrix, using only guitar picks as a medium.  This kind of thing, to me, is cool as a moose.  Next project: a statue of Mitch McConnell made entirely of corn muffins!
 We like the clever use of things for doing other things - they call it "re-purposing."  In this photo, a member of the tight-knit knitting community is using screwdrivers to handcraft a scarf, while somewhere else in the house, someone is trying to tighten a hinge, using knitting needles because he can't find a screwdriver.
I have nothing to say about this picture except to ask you to look at this duck's eyes, which seem to be wordlessly saying, "What are YOU looking at?"  If he starts throwing things at you, you'd better duck.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A barrel full of monkeying around

The police know who he is, but I can assure you, the selection committees for MENSA and Phi Beta Kappa never heard of this guy.

"This guy" is the one who caused such a ruckus on Monday, walking around the property at a local elementary school with a rifle in his hand.

Not looking to turn this into a gun control debate!  I decided just the other day, we shouldn't talk about gun control or knife control or sharpened stick control or any other sort of control except for three:  mental health control, criminal control, and stupidity control.

I don't know what to think about mental health control, frankly.  It's easy to say that people prone to violent rages or sociopathic behavior should not have weapons available, but who is to make the call?  And who is to make sure that they don't have a gun, a knife, a sharp stick?

Criminal control, easy to figure.  People who hurt people, people who take other people's lives, people who murder, rob, rape and bludgeon should be in jail and far away from the rest of us.

But this fellow the other day seems to fall into the category of not being the brightest bulb on the tree.  It turns out, this was some antique rifle he was parading around with.  At the edge of an elementary school.  At dismissal time.  I suppose he hasn't been following the news lately, because he would have heard about why this was not such a great idea.

But no one is threatening to take the man's rifle away.  I happen to have a Civil War pistol that was carried and presumably shot in that conflict by some forebear.  I can't even tell you what side he was on or who he was.  But if I were foolish enough to brandish that weapon under the same circumstances as he did his rifle, I would expect to be dealing with some irate and scared parents, school administrators and police.

The Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.  Implicit in that is the responsibility to be smart about it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The manufacturers of the product I'm talking about here would want me to mention their name.

I had to see their commercial twice to believe I was seeing something so egregiously tasteless and passive-aggressive.  The scene takes place in a bathroom.  One woman says to another, "Where are your moist wipes?" as she disdainfully regards the roll of toilet paper hanging off the wall.

The woman whose hygiene supplies are in question here says she doesn't need them, believing as she does that toilet paper is quite enough.

The first woman can't let it go, and to make things worse she has one of those shrill squawky voices that could cut diamonds.  She uses this voice as she steps into the shower and reports that wiping one's behind with dry toilet paper is akin to taking a "shower" by wiping one's body with a dry towel.

To illustrate the point, she then takes a bath towel and rubs it all over her fully-clothed body.

Clearly agitated, the second woman steps up and turns the shower on, dousing the yakking harridan and - at long last - shutting her the hell up!

What did he say???
Again, I had to see this a couple of mornings in a row on the CBS Morning News, the show where you get to marvel at the charm of Norah O'Donnell while listening to Charlie Rose's stumbling mumbling drawl and hearing Gayle King explain the impact of every story on Oprah G. Winfrey, of television fame.  The first time, I thought it must be some sort of comic parody of a toilet paper commercial, but then I realized, this is CBS!  They don't have "Saturday Night Live," and they don't have too many comedy shows except for "Rules of Engagement" and "CSI:LA."

I'll not delve into the ins and outs of one's daily ablutions; we're all free to cleanse ourselves as we see fit.  Use tp, use moist wipes, use old catalogs or corn cobs as they used to in the outhouse era.  But truly, are there people out there who show up in their friends' bathrooms and grill them on what they use?

If there are, could someone get them to knock it off?  I'd be much obliged.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I don't know much, but here's part of it

Peggy surpasses me in intellect to a powerful extent; she is easily at home discussing modern poetry and free verse, picking her way through legal and financial documents important to us but as understandable as a Bulgarian bus schedule to me, and there are very few of the "worthwhile" movies and cable tv shows that she doesn't watch.  

So she reads Billy Collins and Louise Gl├╝ck while I giggle over bawdy burlesque limericks.  She's the one who handles our finances and re-finances our house purchases while I hang around the title company receptionist, talking her into giving me a free desk calendar.  And while she's watching "The Bible" and "Snow White and the Huntsman," I'm upstairs online, listening to The Great Gildersleeve.

I will, now and again, engage her in a discussion of the merits of modern free verse.  There are some poets (Ginsberg, Updike, Kerouac, Dan Rather) whose lyrics soar quite well without rhyme.  Allen Ginsberg's Howl is a perfect example; so is Jesus and Elvis by John Updike.  But if you take the first paragraph above and type it thus:

surpasses me in intellect to a powerful extent;
she is easily at home 
discussing modern poetry 
verse, picking her way 
through legal and financial documents important to us but 
as understandable as a Bulgarian bus schedule to me,
and there are very few of the "worthwhile" movies and cable tv shows that 
she doesn't watch. 

You get free verse. 

And what have you gained?  What, indeed?

I just want to stand up and say that I have learned two things recently that I to share, so that should I die of nepotism anytime soon, I can go to my heavenly reward (and earthly urn) knowing that I passed along these nuggets:

 - If you're like me and enjoy a nice tumbler full of iced tea, you know that sun tea tastes great.  Put a couple of those BA teabags in a tall pitcher of COLD water in the morning, and when you come home for dinner, there's the best tea in town to plunge into, you should pardon the expression.

But here's what I learned:  sprinkle just a tad bit (half a teaspoon or so) of baking soda in there with the water and BA tea bags, and the tea tastes better!  I don't know why, I don't know from chemistry, but it does.

 - Let's say you stopped at the Town Pump to fill the tank with Shell regular on the way home, and you walk into the house with a case of stankhand like you can't believe.  Someone is always getting gas all over the pump handle, and then you bring it home. Those stanky hands!  You try a bar of soap, you try the Palmolive dish soap, you even go to the laundry room and lather up with some Wisk.  And nothing works, and the family asks you to take your dinner out to the garage and share it with the dog.

But now there is hope for the stinky-fingered.  Just wash your hands with toothpaste!  A dab on the palm and some hot water and the whole family will love you again.   And the dog still won't care as long as you give him some kibble.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Foreword

Spring began on March 20, according to the calendar, but around here, we don't go by the calendar.  We really can't. Spring begins for real on the first day we can open windows and sliding doors and turn on some fans to get some AIR in here, for crying out loud!

That day was yesterday, when the temperature peaked at 77°. That was the warmest day of 2013, but April 8 shouldn't send out for any plaques to celebrate it, because it will lose the title today, when it's supposed to be in the low 80s, and then look here at Wednesday, when we might see the upper 80s.   As always, we go from 40° to 85° in a matter of days.

I try to keep this to myself, because people look at me askance for saying so, but give me a chilly 40° and a little bit o'drizzle. I know!  Everyone gets all worked up over sun and 70-something, but anyway.

This first day of warm weather is a sign to clean out the car and truck, so I remove the dozen or so jackets and scarves and 17 gloves (you notice the odd number, right?) that were stashed away "just in case" in fall and "winter," which is something we really don't get anymore.  I got the vacuum out yesterday and cleaned out the SUV, the floor of which was starting to resemble one of those bars with peanut shells and I don't know what-all else all over the floor.  I'll hit the free car wash today and that will be the extent of my car prep for the summer.

Open windows in the house remind us of all we miss during the months from October to April.  For one thing, Police, Fire and EMS units race across the big road a block away at a rate of five times an hour, or so it would seem.  Other things we get to hear: kids on Big Wheels, car stereos with highly powerful sound systems, and the neighborhood pooches:  Sir Barksalot and his son, Barky, Jr.

And of course, for those who deal with spring allergies, the amusing sensation that your eyelids are being glued shut by some demonic force and you can't do anything about it because you're too busy coughing and sneezing is always a lot of fun.  I know that others deal with a lot worse stuff, so I don't weep over the allergies.  But then again, I do.

The sweet fragrance of spring blossoms is augmented by the aroma of charcoal lighter fluid, followed by the delightful attar of a nice T-bone sizzling away.

It's spring!  You gotta love it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hey Jesse!

On the Diane Rehm show the other day, the talk turned to gun control, and the new, more restrictive laws just passed in Connecticut and Maryland.

Because Diane Rehm's show is carried by affiliates of NPR, the conversations on it tend to involve intelligent, well-informed individuals on both sides of all issues.  And I have no intention of turning this entry into a debate, pro or con, on gun control.  But a man called from rural Virginia and made a good point, saying that he lives 25 miles from the nearest police station and therefore has always kept a gun handy to protect himself and his family in the absence of civic authorities.

Fair enough, but he topped it off by claiming that "Jesse James got off eleven shots before he was killed" as a reason for having high-capacity bullet magazines at the ready should an invasion occur.  It all sounded good, except....

Within a few minutes, Susan Page, who was sitting in for Diane that day, reported that a flood of phone calls and emails had been coming in to WAMU, home base of the Rehm show.  Susan read a sampling of them, and almost every one of the respondents correctly advised that Jesse James, noted robber of the 19th Century, was shot by one single bullet to the back of his head as he had turned around to dust off a picture on the wall. The shooter was one of his gang, Robert Ford, who, along with his brother Charley was later indicted for murder, sentenced to hanging and pardoned by the governor of Missouri - all in a single day.

The only off-base person chiming in on the conversation was a guy from San Diego, who claimed that at a Confederate Soldier reunion in 1926, Jesse James was in attendance.  He went on, averring that facial recognition technology employed on a photo of the doddering old Rebels proves he was there, even though the robber's body was IDed as he lay mortally wounded.  Jesse had an incomplete middle finger on one hand, owing to a gun accident, and there seemed no question as to just who was placed in the grave marked with his name.

The San Diegan also said that there is only one picture extant of Jesse. Well, here are two.  There is only picture of Billy the Kid, however.  And, oddly enough, only one of Johnny Depp, too!

The only pic of Johnny the Kid

The only pic of Billy the Kid
And the whole incident proves to me that no matter how the facts are presented, there will always be someone out there with an embellished version of the facts and someone else with a screwy conspiracy theory.

It takes all kinds to run around the village being wrong about things!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday rerun: DIY NFW

Th' other day the Comcast website had a list of eight jobs that should be taken off the DIY list.

Do NOT try to do these by yourselves -  oil changes, electrical work, tax preparation, pricing heirlooms, representing yourself in court, tree removal, formal or large printing jobs, and getting rid of bugs - according to this article.

Well, it's been many a year since I crawled 'neath the Valiant to remove the old oil and replace it.  I can see where people who a) like doing this sort of thing and b) know what they are doing (not necessarily mutually inclusive groups) would enjoy saving money this way.  And the savings can be considerable.  Why blow 30 semolians at Lube-A-Rama when you can scoot out to AutoLand and get the oil and a filter for $25?  Your savings: 5 dollars, unless you count your time.  But if you enjoy rolling around on the JeepersCreeper, have fun.  Please don't wipe your hands on the kitchen towel, though.

The only sort of electrical work I will undertake is changing light bulbs.  Too many people I know have gotten the shock of their lives by assuming that that red wire is not "hot."  It is so hot! And when the electrician does come over to the house to repair your repair, get him to share all the other stories he has about guys and gals who thought they knew "watt" they were doing.

I have a real accountant friend do our taxes.  I like to tell people that I am heavily invested in pork belly futures, which, in all accuracy, means to say that we buy bacon every week.  But with my diverse portfolio (United Ointments, Amalgamated Vinegar Inc) and our real estate holdings (rental properties on the Boardwalk and Baltic Av) it is best to seek professional help.  Fact is, I just sign on the X, preferring not to know the precarious state of our finances.

My heirlooms are few and far between. I know that someone somewhere would want to purchase my jeans from 1970 with the Keep On Truckin' patch, or a fairly complete set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (just volume "K" is missing, probably propping up a coffee table someplace).  Any PC more than 6 weeks old is an antique, and we have one for the discriminating shopper.  It takes those floppy disks, for crying out loud.  Estimated retail price: Google it!

We all have that daydream where we are in court, defending ourselves against a lawsuit brought on by Donald Trump, who wanted to buy up our house to make room for a new gambling casino.  In the fantasy, Trump, his impressive legal team, the judge and all the jurors are reduced to tears of laughter, as time after time, our verbal parries fend off the sharp thrusts of the inquisitor.  In fact, the judge repeatedly bangs his gavel and hollers, "There will be order in this court!" but his heart's not really in it, as he is shaking with mirth and a jolly twinkle in his eye.  In one memorable scene, Trump's attorney asks why I am so sure that a spurious deed to my ranch he is proferring is not for real.  " I can spot fake things a mile away," I say, and then I look directly at The Donald and run my fingers through my hair while raising one eyebrow and pointing to his mane.   Pandemonium reigns, and after the trial, in my daydream, several of the jurors ask, as they file out, if it would be all right with me for them to name their firstborn male child after me.

Tree removal?  If it's like January 17th and you're dragging the red Blue Spruce out the front door, with about 17 needles and half a string of burned-out Christmas lights on it, that's the only kind of tree removal the average person ought to try.  Cutting down a tree is dangerous, and should be given over to Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. Any casual viewer of "America's Funniest Home Videos" has seen dozens of hapless men with chain saws in their hand and a 30-foot pine tree on their head.  Don't be that man.

Printing jobs are best left to the Department of the Treasury.  Most of us who would try to print our own make simple mistakes, such as putting Josh Hamilton instead of Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill.  Blame Google Image Search all you like, but these little slip-ups mean long-term problems, or just long terms.

Getting rid of bugs can be something that you might like to undertake personally, depending on your shoe size, but when the cicadas come back in 2021, they are going to be man-eating cicadas that time!  Up until now, the most prominent problem with the 17-year Locust has been their annoying hummmming sound, which for years was thought to be made by their hind legs rubbing together.  Recent entomological research has found that the locusts made that noise by listening to disco music and dancing to it.  When they come back and find no Donna Summer or Village People on the radio, they will be mad, and will eat you alive through the back of your neck.  Unless your iPod is playing "YMCA."  You decide.