Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hees the man

It's a shame that somehow my tastes outgrew "the great taste of McDonald's" because now, after 40 years of tormenting customers with bitter, vinegary Heinz catsup, they are changing suppliers and they plan to carry other brands.  If I still ate there, I would hope they would go with Hunt's catsup, but I just checked the messages and the HBFIC (Head Burger Flipper in Charge) had not called me for an opinion as of last night.

It's fun to read that all this came about, not because suddenly people came to the realization that Heinz makes a pretty poor catsup, but because some dude who used to run Burger King, one Bernardo Hees, now runs Heinz.  He got tossed out on his crown at the King and jumped over to be CEO at Heinz when the catsup and pickle giant was bought by Warren Buffett.

You knew that his name was going to play into all this, didn't you?  There is a snowball stand around the corner from me which might be the last business in the country into which Buffett has not bought, but they re-open in March, so let's see what happens then.

My grandmother made her own catsup - and I say and spell it that way in honor of Arthur Spooner, who also said it that way -
- and she told me that the big catsup makers purchased rotten, squished or pockmarked tomatoes to make their burger sauce.  That has stuck with me, and I like to think that the good people at Hunt's, who were kind enough to sponsor "My Three Sons" for years, are out there first thing in the morning in the vast tomato fields of Southern California, wiping droplets of dew off each and every Box Car Willie tomato and getting it ready for the burgers and fries I can't touch anymore.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap

I'm going to let you read this story for yourself and then, let's talk about what went on out there in America's heartland: 

A 20-year-old waiter provided exemplary service at an Overland Park Italian restaurant, but his anti-gay customers refused to tip him because of his sexual orientation.
The man works at the Carrabba's Italian Grill near 107th Street and Metcalf Avenue. His mother also works as a hostess and she was very upset by what was written on the back of the check earlier this week after he waited on a couple. As word has spread through social media, other customers are coming in to offer words of encouragement and tip the young server extra.
"Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. (Homosexual slur) do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours," the customer wrote. "We hope you will see the tip your (homosexual slur) choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for GOD's love, but none shall be spared for (homosexual slur). May GOD have mercy on you."
The server and his mother declined to answer questions on camera, referring questions to restaurant management.
Carrabas said in a statement that the company does not tolerate discrimination from either employees or guests.
"We embrace diversity and believe in treating everyone with respect," the company said.
However, Carrabas officials would not say what action if any would be taken if the anti-gay couple returned.
The anti-gay message has galvanized support for the server on social media with a campaign underway to flood the restaurant on Friday. Dr. Marvin Baker and his partner had lunch at the restaurant on Thursday and asked to be seated in the server's section.
"I was angry. I said this is not Christian as I know it," Baker said. 
Coincidentally enough, the hostess who led them to their seats was the server's proud mother.
"I said, 'We are here to meet your celebrity. The one who was mistreated.' She said, 'That's my son. Would you like a table or booth?' I said, 'Wherever he's serving,'" Baker explained.
Baker served as a pastor for many years and currently leads a Bible study group for LGBT members. He said the couple's behavior was ungodly. 
"This does not represent Christianity. I called them Pharisees," he said. "God really loves us. And God does not advertise or promote hate. That is not love."
Baker said the server indicated to him that he appreciated the support. They agreed that gays experience too much rejection and hurt, and that "it is nice to know that someone cares."
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved

What say you?  I'm sure there are people who regard this action as being the right thing to do in the name of God.  I have received many heavenly messages in my time, and not a one of them ever said "Go around telling everyone how to live their lives, and whom to love."
And I also feel that "that being said" is just a way to say, well, here comes the probe.  Please prepare for it.
I have eaten in many a restaurant in my day, and I think it's fair to say Peggy and I are fair tippers.  But I have seen a lot - a whole big lot - of people who look for ANY reason to get cheap at tip time.  
"There was too much ice in my ice water!  No tip for her!"

"They put yellow salad mustard on my Rhinoburger and I wanted Dijon!  Why should I leave a tip for the guy who brought me what the chef cooked?"

"These servers, they have it made.  Just bring someone a plate of food, plop down a soda, and I should pay their salary? Hah!"

I therefore conclude that this whole Carrabba's commotion certainly resulted from the guy and his wife just being too damned stingy to leave a tip. Because, surely, no real Christian, no one who has known the mercy of a loving God, would then use his religion as a cudgel, a club, a way to punish others.  


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Eye Eye Eye

Our favorite eye doctor is featured in this news story on Channel 2 in Baltimore, concerning the fad of wearing fake contact lenses to make it appear that one has no pupils (the all-white eyeball) and the cat-eye lenses (like Michael Jackson in the Thriller video).

For reasons I have told over and over, Dr. Melissa Connolly is my favorite doctor of all time; she even edges out Dr Delanois, the man who made things all right with my left knee, and Dr Pham, King of All Local Dermatologists.  I've been itching to call him that.

Dr Connolly gives nothing but good advice, and when she says don't put illegal non-prescription non-medically-approved lenses in your eyes, you should listen.  I know, it's the cool thing at Halloween to look like you just got dug up from a crypt, but how about just going out tricking and treating as Punky Brewster, like you useta?

Here's something you can help me figure out.  How come so many people shudder at the thought of eating red meat, recoil in horror if someone fails to spend 12 hours a day exercising, and gobble quinoa even if they can't pronounce it - and then will light up a Lucky Strike while sticking a piece of plastic of spurious provenance onto their eyeball?

Moderation in all things, including moderation.  But no fake lenses, please. There's a lot happening, and you want to be able to see it!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Texas Priorities

If you drop a few drops of hydochloric acid and spill them on your shirt, your shirt will soon resemble Swiss cheese, being all hole-y and all.

If you drop those drops into a 55-gallon drum of water, the potency of the acid will be diluted to a point of ineffectiveness, and you'll have to find other ways to put holes in your shirt.

It's like that with other things too, even beyond the field of organic chemistry, of which I know next to nothing.

I'm thinking about the parents of the football players at Western Hills High School down in Texas, where high school football is like a religion, only with better attendance, and a marching band.  Their redoubtable Cougars football team recently took on Aledo High School down in Fort Worth, losing in a photo finish, 91-0.


There's a great scene in the movie "The Last Picture Show," also set in Texas, when the local 11 get shellacked, and the next morning, the adults are hectoring some of the players, saying "Y'all ever heard of blocking and tackling?"  And one guy, when another spectator says he'd like to be proud of his hometown team, says, "Be easier if you had a better home town."

I set out to write about this, because those football parents in Western Hills actually filed charges of bullying against the team that beat their inept sons, 91-0.  "How dare they be better than Jim Bob and Donnie Jeff?" they fumed, as they went online to send in the formal complaint, which was soon found groundless by authorities.  I was all set to write about how this dilutes real cases of bullying, in which some kids are real true victims of sociopathic behavior from their classmates, many times with tragic consequences.  When a 12-year-old girl is harassed to the point at which suicide seems her only way out, that's bullying, and that's horrible.

Losing a football game?  It happens. It isn't bullying.

And here's what makes me want to file charges against Mr and Mrs Outraged Texans.  Google "Western Hills High School" and you come up with this story from 2011, when two baseball players from that august school were accused of killing baby chicks in some bizarre ritual intended to help them play baseball better through voodoo.

There is no record of outraged parents being thoroughly fed up and filing reports of bullying against the ballplayers. I mean, killing baby chicks?  No problem in Texas.  But don't you dare score more touchdowns than Cletus, Beauford and Wrangler Slim did.

'Cause we'll file papers on ya, consarn it!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday rerun: Darn Old Duck

Heaven knows, I don't know the secrets of how to be attractive, but I think most men would agree that there's one sure way to be un-attractive in the female division.

That would be to pose for pictures with that duck face on your kisser.

I see this all the time now, and Facebook is awash in pictures of pretty women making this mallard-face.  Viz:

On the right we see a with-it young fun couple.  He is posing in the modern young man manner, which is to say he has plucked his eyebrows, applied "product" to his hair and lip gloss to his snout, and wants to be mistaken for that The Situation guy from that Jersey Shore.  His girlfriend has a bit of a situation going on too; we can't tell what she is trying to accomplish with those pursed and pushed lips.


To quote the great Phil Dunphy, "WTF: Why The Face?"

And here's ten bucks that says, what if someone had gone up to all these young ladies and said, someone is  going to take your picture for a worldwide social networking site, but instead of smiling when they snap the picture, would you consider wrenching up your lips so that you look like the grille on a '65 Pontiac LeMans?

I don't think so.

Now here's an old picture of a young lady, taken before this quacky-face fad got underway.  She's no longer with us, but the lovely Sandra Dee smiled in the old fashioned way, and she didn't have to change her name to make herself well known.  Good thing she did, though.  It wouldn't have sounded right in "Grease" to have Rizzo sing "Look at Me, I'm Alexandra Zuck."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, October 26, 2013

I enjoyed the October photo challenge so much, I went out and looked up the November version.  Come on and play along!

If you don't like autumn pictures, please stop at the box office on your way out because the whole Picture Show is all autumnal all day today!
Imagine pedaling along a lane like this, and being all the happier because it's not up to you to do the raking!
I'm pretty sure this is going to be my new wallpaper on the pc.
They even have autumn in Russia!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Picture This

 When the cell phone was invented, people thought, "Oh, how nice!  This way, I can always stay in contact with friends and family, and the kids can reach me if they need to, and if I'm going to be late because of a wreck on the road ahead I can call Jim and Sally and tell them to keep dinner warm!"

And then there were those who thought, "Put a camera on that phone and I can take dirty pictures with it!"

In the amazing pantheon of Marylanders In The News, make room for Dr John Yacoub, a gynecologist from my home town of Towson.  Dr Yacoub is in deep trouble.  His medical license was suspended earlier this month because a) he had pictures of female genitalia on his cell  b) there are allegations that he used and distributed illicit drugs   and c) he distributed some of that dope to a woman with whom he has been enjoying unsanctified congresses (doin' the Hibbidy-Dibbidy!) At least, that's what the authorities allege, although, as lawyers, they refrain from calling it the Hibbidy-Dibbidy.

His lawyers about broke their necks getting to the news with breathless announcements that no one need worry about the pictures.  They were medical pictures, you understand, taken for purely clinical reasons.

Well, let's see if that pans out. There is a precedent in this case. When a group of my fellow classmates in fifth grade were found to possess a photograph of Busty Russell in her bosomy glory, our claim that it was merely preparation for future anatomy classes fell on deaf ears.  And Ms Russell's ears were the last thing we were looking at, I'll tell you that.

Notice how I initially claimed not to be part of the ogling mob and then admitted it.  I should have gone into law.

And here's another noteworthy Marylander!  Say hey to Adam Bartsch, a TSA agent who was sitting on a plane, dipping his cell camera way down low to take pictures up the skirts of female passengers. And a grandpa from Tennessee grabbed that phone and Bartsch ran off, only to be grabbed by police. He admitted that he was taking pervy photos, apparently failing to remember to claim that they were medical pictures intended for purely clinical use.

I am reminded of the words of the great Tony Hendra from the National Lampoon:

Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rock Heads

I've known people who were Scout leaders.  Most of them were in it for the right reasons, such as showing young people a good way to live, passing along survival tips and woodland lore and the like.

Several of them were in it for the wrong reasons, and you can just imagine what I mean by that.  

But in any group of people set up to do good things, you will always find a few participants for whom seeming to be doing a good thing makes an excellent cover for what they're really up to.

Which brings us to the three butteheads from Utah who went to the Goblin Valley State Park and toppled rock formations that had stood for 200 million years, until they showed up. Think about it.  These rocks had stood unmolested through wars, American westward expansion, and the popularity of Madonna, and then along came David Hall, Glenn Taylor and his son, and boom!  Down went the rocks, along with a little more of our national intelligence.

Me smart.  Me destroy nature.
Their claim of preventing a tragedy by moving precariously-placed boulders holds about as much truth as a Rand Paul campaign speech, but these louts, these clodhoppers, are standing behind the Boy Scout uniform, saying that, “Some little kid was about to walk down here and die, and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way.”

By the same logic, I once averted a bank holdup by not going into a bank and asking for a lot of money in a takeout bag, and only my quick thinking prevented a fire at the gas station the other day when I cleverly failed to shove a lighted flare into my gas tank. 

Gleeful idiocy
The gleeful idiocy with which they topple the rock and then dance about merrily makes me shake my head, fearing for the future of a country in which knuckleheaded galoots are advisors to young people.  And now, deducing that this crime might result in his loss of his cherished green uniform and Smokey Bear hat, Taylor laments, “I wish we would have been smart enough to go get a ranger, ‘cause it was wrong of us to be vigilantes, and I’m sorry I did that. If you’re a felon, you can’t be a Scouter and that would break my heart. But I did the crime.”

And I hope he also does the time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Otis Redding was one of about a thousand people who did the old song "You Don't Miss Your Water" ('Til the Well Runs Dry)." It's true!

As I write this, there is no running water running into the house.  A big water main break a couple of miles away has left us high and dry, and that's when you appreciate the face that we have progressed past the frontier days when getting water meant going out to the pump and giving the handle a workout. Then, you had to haul the water inside and heat it on the stove if you wanted it hot.  No wonder the Wild West was so full of ornery people, ready to shoot each other in gunfights or hang people or drag them behind wild horses.

But the least we modern townspeople can do is to be prepared, which is why I keep three or four cases of bottled water around for drinking and washing up, and then I keep old gallon milk bottles down in the basement for doing the dishes and what-all else.   I don't expect the outage to be in effect all day, anyway. By this evening, we'll be taking big sudsy bubble baths or long steamy luxuriant showers and just letting that water run and run and run.

For now, though, water is liquid gold.  Better store some away for the winter!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I still miss Kerouac

I am often surprised that there is little interest among the younger set in the life and work of Jack Kerouac, who died on this date in 1969.  Kerouac was an American poet and author from Lowell, MA, most well known for writing "On The Road," the account of his travels across the country, often in the company of Neal Cassady and other progenitors of the "Beat" movement.  To write that book, Kerouac taped together long sheets of paper into a 120-foot scroll, and began typing from his notes and rough sketches.  Having the continuous sheet of paper freed Jack, a noted speed typist, from having to change paper every five minutes.

Among the critics, Truman Capote said that Jack's writing "wasn't writing, but typing."  Capote missed the point.  Kerouac led the movement that saw writing as a free-form exercise, and his works reflect a stream of consciousness that sounds
more like someone is talking with you than writing at you.  And, several years ago, the word-for-word version of the original scroll was published, and comparing that to the published editions shows pruning and editing done by his publishers, people who had no experience with a writer of his magnitude.  They just didn't understand what he was doing, and that is often the price of genius.

I was a college freshman the year Kerouac died, and his death marked one of the first times that I dealt with the passing of a hero.  He was 47 when he died, and of course, at 18, I thought, well, he had a rich and full life, living that long.  I was soon to learn that he had become rather dissolute in later years, a querulous, somewhat cranky old man, actually rather conservative in his outlook.

Of course, now that I have zoomed past the "47" mile marker on Life's Highway (and am desperately searching for a rest stop) I realize that Jack left all too soon.  And of course, I have come to respect that he was the first to go out and among “the only people for me... the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars” and then write about it.

As opposed to writers such as J. K. Rowling, unless there really is a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry somewhere.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hoosier Buddy?

Back when the Colts played in Baltimore, I used to go to their summer training camps to watch them get ready for gridiron glory (or ignominy.)  For a couple of years, there was a goofy-looking ball boy stumbling around the sidelines, doing menial chores and generally looking about as useful as Jerry Lewis at a brain surgery.

"That's the owner's son," someone sighed, and that was to be the first look at I ever had at the bumptious oaf named Jim Irsay.

Jim Irsay

  Irsay, son of Bob Irsay, a man who went to his reward in 1997 and left the Colts (since moved to Indianapolis, in case you missed the story) to Sonny Jim.  Bob Irsay was the plumbing and heating contractor who traded the Rams for the Colts with Carroll Rosenbloom, a man so anxious to move in higher circles that he became the sixth husband of a former showgirl named Georgia.  Rosenbloom moved to LA with his trophy wife and drowned seven years later under circumstances not entirely clear, and it was to be some fifteen months until Georgia found solace in the arms of Dominic Frontiere, who was her steadfast companion until he went to jail for scalping Super Bowl tickets.  When Dominic walked out of the Walled-Off Astoria, Georgia dumped him, but gave up on marriage after only seven tries, and became the companion, for nineteen years, of a man named Earle Weatherwax.

And you think YOUR family is screwy?

But Robert "Bob" Irsay, whose hand I personally shook as he, drunk as a lemur, staggered through the stands at Memorial Stadium during a game in 1978, is the man whose own elderly widowed mother called him "the devil on earth."  

That had to sting.

Kerouac and scroll
Anyway, the thing is, Bob kicked the bucket and left the team to Jimbo, who is the owner of the original scroll on which Jack Kerouac typed his first draft of "On The Road"  and George Harrison's guitar.  So he is a preserver of our pop culture as well as being almost as big a jackass as his father, because, having run quarterback Peyton Manning out of town several years ago, now decided this past week to trash all that Manning, quite possibly the best ever to play his position after Johnny Unitas, did for him while wearing a horseshoe helmet.

Peyton Manning
Looking back on Manning's 14 years in Indy, Jim said, "You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times.  It leaves you frustrated."

So, you only won the Super Bowl once, and you're gone. You filled the seats, got the Colts a new stadium with the fan support of your play, and you've moved on to a new job. It was not a sporting, or pleasant, or warranted slap at the memory of a man who actually went out and accomplished something in his life.  Jim Irsay became the owner of the Colts because he was his father's son.  

And that is really too bad.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday rerun: Arrhythmia of the night

The election is over, and I won.

All right; don't panic.  I'm not going to be president or anything.  But the annual Philistine convention, meeting in secret congress, overwhelmingly voted me the least cultured individual on earth.  I narrowly edged out Gary Busey, and observers attribute my victory to my adamant refusal to enjoy "The Phantom of the Opera."

We go back a long time, this musical and I.  In 1988, Peggy dragged accompanied me to New York to see it on Broadway.  I remember walking around the fabled streets of Gotham, having an authentic slice o' pizza and then shuffling into the Majestic Theatre for a matinee.

And the next thing I knew, some candelabra was plunging toward us all.  Having always associated overly baroque lighting with Liberace, I was stunned at first, so I woke up confused.  The legendary showman had passed away the previous year, and yet here was this shimmering stalactite, swaying six inches from my face.

Down below a pretty woman was wading through what appeared to be a sewer, or the River Styx.  A man with a horrible case of goiter was darting after her.

And there was also a play, right on the stage.  People were singing.  As a matter of fact, playgoers really got a lot for their money, because the lady, the ogre and the guy in a tuxedo were all three singing different songs!  But the crowd really roared with applause when they sang "The Music Of The Night."  And do you know how they sang that show-stopper!


And Gently.

Oh Lord, how slowly.  It seemed to take the rest of the afternoon.

The man in the hat sang

Night time shahpens, heightens each sensation
Dockness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses

And so I abandoned mine. Speaking of abandoned mines, this whole sorry episode blew up in my face again on Sunday evening, when channel surfing led me to Public Television's broadcast of this dreadful event. Here's a little taste of what I saw, in case you missed it.

So all right, I prefer Stripes to A River Runs Through It, and the only Iron Lady I recall seeing was a woman at the State Fair who caught a cannonball in her plush solar plexus.  I can't be the only person who doesn't see the deal with POTO.

Can I?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, October 19, 2013

 So you want to decorate the yard for Halloween, but the budget is a little tight, huh?  Well, take that orange traffic cone that the paving crew threw into the ravine two years ago and paint it to look like a giant candy corn!  And there you go!
 This is a plant that, as the caption says, was grown from a seed that had been frozen for 32,000 years.  The seed came from a roll packed for the lunch of the young Abe Vigoda, and he was kind enough to turn it over to the proper authorities.
 This week's free wallpaper from Castles Made of Sand is of a corn field.  I don't know where this is, but it's pretty!  And nice to see.
 We don't always give children credit for their innate intelligence.  This is the schoolwork of an 8-year-old who, it's plain to see, is being raised quite well.  Instead of forming a committee to prevent further playground violence, or filing a class action suit to benefit all those who have ever fallen off a Teeter-Totter, this kid knows his soup.  Get up and deal with it.  Would that we all knew how.
Just because John Gross asked for more pictures, here is #5 for this week.  A lone tree by a field by some woods.  What could be more wonderful?

Friday, October 18, 2013

One For the Books

A friend, in her blog, posted a quiz that's all about books and the books we love.  One of the questions was to name my favorite book.

I could no more do that than pick my favorite fish from the sea, although I will answer the question somehow.

What my favorite book is at any given moment will depend on what I am interested in at that moment, although it is safe to say that my tastes run out of the bounds of what's most popular.  So, no James Patterson, no John Grisham, not even J.K. Rowling, thanks.

I have always been a book reader, a magazine reader, a cereal box reader.  Even as a kid, I would read books about the presidents, baseball, the Civil War (yes, it was over by then.) And for sure, a newspaper reader, and that seems to be a fading habit for many.

Emily Dickinson said, "There is no frigate like a book, to take us worlds away."  And she said this in a poem, which was in a book.

Not to speak for Ms Dickinson, but her point is that you can read about everything in a book.  Not all of us have the werewithal, the time or the opportunity to travel around the world, but anyone can get a book and read about people, places and things far away and near.  And library cards are free, and books can be borrowed, taken home and enjoyed for free!

I've known people who love not to read, but I couldn't imagine life without it.

Thank you for reading this!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Believe It or Else

I just took a deep breath as I reached for the keyboard.  I am about to talk about two things that caress every aspect of American life, the length and breadth of the nation, concepts that define us, strengthen us, inform our souls, balm our sorrows and heighten our joys.

I'm going to talk about religion and Oprah Winfrey.

The well-off television performer recently sat down on her television show on her television channel and told a woman who says she is an atheist that she is wrong about that.

The woman is Diana Nyad, the distance swimmer who recently swam from Cuba to Florida.  She was on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday show on Oprah's Oprah Winfrey Network and said she is a person filled with awe at the the things of nature.  She said,  “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt and suffered. So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

But she does not believe in religion, or God.  She does say she is inspired by what she sees around her.

On the other hand, I don't see why Diana Nyad hasn't the right to feel as she does, but Oprah Winfrey stuck her down that if she feels that way, she can't be an atheist.  Oprah said, “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, that that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

So, you tell Oprah how you feel, and she defines you in her own terms.  Gee.

Nyad and Winfrey
I have a good friend who is an atheist and we certainly differ on religion.  I am a Christian, but I don't see any right given to me to tell others how to feel or how to label their beliefs.  If someone wants to call themselves an Oldsmobile, that's their privilege. (But I will insist that you get an annual emissions inspection.)

What is it about some people that fills them with this desire, this need, to tell other people how to feel, how to live, how to live, what to do, where to do and how to pray?  It's all I can do to keep up with raking the leaves around here these days.  You all are on your own about religion.  I'll tell you about mine if you ask.

Only if you ask.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mummies invented wrap music

My mother moved into the senior high rise in Towson on the day Tim Russert died, June 13, 2008, and spent three years in the Independent Living section.  That's a tower full of nice apartments; people are free to come and go as they please.  All they have to do is check out if they leave to go shopping or to hang with the family or something. And there are little niceties about that place, such as, if you don't do something by 10 AM to show the motion detectors in your apt. that you're up and about, security will call to make sure you're ok.  

She had three pretty good years there until her health declined to a point where it was necessary to move to the Assisted Living section, which took place on the day of the East Coast earthquake, August 23, 2011.  I was there, helping to move her furniture, clothing and I don't know what-all else when the earthquake made the building as shaky as John Boehner's grasp of history at 1:51 PM that day.  (Interesting: the staff and visitors were all like, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?" and the residents were all like "When's dinner?" while terra firma got less firm for that minute.  And the people who work in the office building across the street filed out like kids in a fire drill, lest the building collapse on them...and then stood there at arms' length from the building, lest the sun get on them.)

Of late, Mom's dementia has gotten to where she becomes agitated and goes rolling off in her wheelchair, and several times she was found at places in the giant building other than her own area, so it became necessary for her to move again, this time to a section where one needs to enter a code and push open a heavy door to exit.  All day Monday, as Peggy and my sister and I relocated her belongings, I waited for something major to happen.  Nothing earth-shaking this time, but there is an activity at 10 AM and 2 PM every day for the residents, and not just Parcheesi or a blurry movie on a VCR.  They have musicians and other entertainers, speakers, and lessons in history.  And Mom is fairly happy and totally safe, which is the best we could hope for.

Walking by the activity room, I overheard a woman telling the assemblage that the Nile River froze in 829 AD and 1010 AD. I mean, the Nile, in Egypt, Africa, is not in an area where parkas are generally required.  But this all took place before things warmed up. I looked this up.  A cooling period began at about the same time as the Roman Empire formed, and it lasted until about 900 AD.   We can only suppose that the 1010 Freeze came about as the result of a very chilly day.

I'm picturing two Egyptians carrying Starbucks cups with hieroglyphics on them, on their way to work building pyramids, and complaining about how cold it was the night before.  I will visit Egypt the next time the Nile freezes over, as I wish to ice skate while wrapped up as a mummy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

He who steals...

Some folks I used to work with were talking the other night.  One of them went to eat her lunch at work and it was gone, ripped off by someone.

The kind of job these folks do is not the sort of job where one can disappear for an hour, driving down to McWendy's for a Pound-and-a-Halfer with fries.  They get half an hour for lunch, so you pretty much have to bring it and hope it's there when it's your turn to gobble.

I've always been interested in theft and how people rationalize it.  I know someone who is planning to cheat the government with a scheme, and this person's rationale is "I should have that money."

We have all seen stories about people who hold up delicatessens, break into desks or hold up fruit stands to steal money, merchandise, or what-have-you.  And that's the key phrase - what-have-you.

As in, I have a roast beef sammy and a bag of chips and an apple,  and YOU feel you're entitled to some or all of my lunch?  Without asking, you would just steal it and shove it all down your neck and not even wonder what I would eat?

I just don't get that sort of thinking.  We have gotten to a point where that Robin Hood mentality invades our more conscientious thought.  "Hey, you're a rich guy and I'm not, so I'm stealing your car / cell / sandwich."  And I worked with a woman once who would get her teenaged daughter up early on weekends.  Why?  "So she can sneak upstairs and steal the neighbor's newspaper."

And maybe some people don't even stop to think or rationalize, but, rather, see things and just rip them off with no remorse at all.

But either way, when something gets stolen, someone gets stolen from, and it's wrong.

I'm sorry I even have to mention it!  And I didn't steal this blog, either.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cool story

You've seen this fellow Andrew McCutchen if you watched the recent National League playoffs.  He plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that, like our Orioles, lingered around the bottom of their league for many years.  Last year, the Orioles finally put things together and got to the playoffs, and this year, the Pirates did the same, giving fresh hope to baseball fans in two great cities.

McCutchen just turned 27, and yet somehow he has acquired wisdom and grace that usually go with being much older.  He grew up in Fort Meade, Florida and was playing high school baseball - and batting .591 - when he was in 8th grade.  He's a naturally great ballplayer.

One of the things I love about kids in America is how they learn to earn what they want.  Down in McCutchen's hometown, there is a group of 12-year-old girls who have a softball team, the Mulberry Lady Panthers.  Doing the traditional money-raising things, such as bake sales and car washes, the young ladies raised $2,000 for new uniforms and sent the money off to a company here in Maryland (to our shame).  They did not receive any uniforms for their money. I can't find a story that says what happened, but the bottom line was, the girls were out the money and had nothing to show for it.

In a move that flies up against the many who say that today's athletes are spoiled selfish oafs, Andrew McCutchen worked with the Nike people to get uniforms for the team on his dime.
Here's what he said:

I was once in that position as a kid who had to find ways financially to be able to play baseball. These girls worked hard to raise what they needed, and then it was swept out from under them. Hopefully they can recover their money from that company, but I contacted my rep at Nike and we decided we were going to take care of their uniforms. It's the right thing to do. These girls are supposed to be on a field having fun, not worrying about if they can play or not because they don't have uniforms.
This is where I grew up. My hometown is just down the road from them. One of these girls attended my clinic in Fort Meade last year. It's hard to hear of a story like this happening to anyone, and this one really hit home.

Sure, he's a big baseball star making millions, but he hasn't lost his place in the lines we all wait in, no matter how rich or poor.  I love the fact that the most down-and-out among us are entitled to one vote each, same as the fat cats. And I love it when someone who could just as easily say nothing speaks up.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday rerun: Dress Down Day

At a legal function the other day, I saw a young family in attendance. The father was wearing an oxford dress shirt and blue jeans, with the tails of the shirt rakishly blowing in the breeze, had there been one.  

I, good old hidebound traditionalist that I am, raised an eyebrow in opprobrium. I don't think that dressing as if one is heading out to sweep out the garage is the proper mode of apparel for interacting with the justice system. 

This is hardly the first time I have been reducing to headshaking this way.  Not that many years ago, I had to wonder about a guy who showed up in District Court on theft charges, and thought it would set a nice tone for the trial by going through his extensive t-shirt wardrobe and choosing one with the slogan "Don't wait up for the shrimp boats; I'm coming home with the crabs" neatly emblazoned on it.

And just two days ago at the grocery store, I encountered a woman who betrayed no sense of irony while wearing a t-shirt that read "You know your from Kentucky when..."

It was over thirty years ago that my very foundation was rocked by seeing a guy show up for a wedding wearing a flannel shirt.  And these days, if you get married anywhere between April and November, count on seeing guests who look like they just got dropped off on their way home from the beach.  

My point is that it shows a certain amount of respect for the law, for the church, for the deceased and for the other guests to wear a tie and jacket or dressy clothes to court, preaching, funerals and weddings.  Shirttails a-flappin' are perfectly fine for casual events such as going to the mall or unloading freight trucks. Legal and solemn events are not casual, and we undermine our dignity by treating them as if they were.

Yes, I'm old fashioned, but it feels nice to know that I cared enough to leave the bib overalls home for a day. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, October 12, 2013

I love to see recycling in action.  This fellow has a fortune in plastic right there...There used to be an aluminum recycling truck at the Giant grocery store on Joppa Rd.  One winter I took a notion to save beer cans and soda cans, smash them all flat, and get enough money to take a nice vacation.  So I saved and I scrounged, brought cans home from work and did my best to keep the National Bohemian brewery working on overtime.  I mashed 'em and bagged 'em and took a whole lawn and leaf bag full of squashed cans to the truck and handed it over to the attendant.  As I stood there and envisioned trips to the Bahamas, London or Paris, the attendant came back and handed me my new fortune...$8.61. A whole winter for this?
I love the way the clouds seem to be trying to fill the branches, which just lost their leaves.
Don't you love it when a lake is so still as to resemble a mirror?  Wait a minute and enjoy this pastoral scene, and then comes a guy driving a waterskier around, zooming about like Captain Titanic.  Never fails.
But it SAID to use the stairs!

Friday, October 11, 2013

They run and hide their heads

As I sit here typing on a Thursday afternoon, I am enjoying hearing an old Jack Benny radio show in which Jack is talking about his trip to Scotland, and also enjoying hearing the soft sweet sounds of rain on the roof.

I once met a man from Scotland, a soccer player here to play for the Blast, and he told me that in his hometown of Edinburgh, it rained every day.  Not all day, of course, but even on the sunny days, you could count on it raining at some point.

"O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!'' -
Robert Burns
This might account for why Scotland is awash in verdant green lush landscapes.  It rains.  It has to rain for plant life to survive.  We all know that, but yet...

 Cocoa doormat
It doesn't seem like it has rained around here since right after the Fourth of July.  By late September, it had been a month since the guy who cuts our lawn had cut our lawn.  Speaking of our lawn, I was thinking of cutting it into rectangles and selling it for doormats - the kind that you can scrape your shoes off with.

We got a little bitty storm the other day; the weather people had called for a good amount of rain but we only had an hour's worth.  But last night a cold front came in and brought with it breezes, chilly air, and rain. Glorious rain.  Sweet, wet, life-giving rain, the gift of Heaven.  You could hear the lawns gulping it up, the reservoirs filling up and the late summer crops (Swiss chard -the kind with holes in it - kale and broccoli) enjoying the shower.

That Mayhem jerk
So, of course I turned on the morning TV news so I could hear the traffic reporter say there were so many accidents that she couldn't even think of mentioning them all.  This is because of the legions of people who only drive when it rains, and then they drive like that Mayhem jerk in the commercials.  Bang zoom.

Rainy Day Anchor Face
And then came the complaints!  The anchor teams have to put on the sad puppy faces and deliver the bad news.  Yes, folks, the unspeakable has happened, and you might just have to dust off the umbrellas before venturing out into the mean mean world.  They give you the sad eyes and then the weather guy comes out and finalizes the tragedy by saying it might rain tomorrow, too.  In the news segment, we see pistols and cyanide tablets being distributed for the convenience of those who just cannot face another day of clear liquid hell.

Somewhere along the way, after we came to this new land and settled it, winning battles against invaders, wild animals and disease, we became so wussified that just a little rain throws us into an unbeatable tailspin.

Let's see if we can't all face this new watery world with a minimum of moaning.  After all, wasn't it Little Awful Annie who sang, "The sun'll come out the day after tomorrow, or Sunday at the latest!" ?


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Don't read all about it

There was a time when every family on every street subscribed to at least one newspaper, and often they took more than one. And the people would watch Huntley and Brinkley or Walter Cronkite do the nightly news on the network of their choice.

One of my favorite childhood memories was running into the living room at 7 PM to watch Douglas Edwards, the immediate predecessor to Cronkite, do the CBS evening news.  During the commercials, I would read the Baltimore Evening Sun, having finished the Morning Sun over breakfast.

So, naturally, as I "grew up" and met other adults in conversation around water coolers and balky office printers, I would often try to get a convo started by mentioning some news item that had caught my attention.  Imagine my shock when a woman I worked with - a college graduate - had no idea what was going on as Operation Desert Storm got underway a couple of decades ago.

"Oh, we don't watch the news or read a paper," she said. "I really don't want to know what's going on in the world - it's just too crazy."

 At first, I figured her for the only person I knew who deliberately shut herself off from the events of the world, which continued to unfold around her despite her benightedness.  But I was wrong, and now this story tells me that more and more, people care less and less to know what's happening in Hong Kong, Baluchistan or Nome. 

According to the Pew Research Organization, “News organizations have been confronting the problem of a shrinking audience for more than a decade, but trends strongly suggest that these difficulties may only worsen over time.”  And the story goes on to say that today's young hipsters watch/read less news than their parents, who in their day were reading/watching less than their parents.

A news story about people spending less of their time becoming acquainted with news stories.  It's sad that people willingly choose not to know what's going on, but that makes it easier to fool them when the "newscasters" can't tell a fake story from a real one. I can only assume that this fool Anna Kooiman was raised in one of those nescient homes.

It makes me think of the chefs on the Titanic.  Did they pass out a dinner menu as the great boat continued filling with seawater?  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where have you gone, Harry Caray?

I've been watching baseball on television and listening on the radio since I was knee high to a fungo bat, and I've always loved the game broadcasts a lot.  In fact, I prefer it to going to the ball park, not because I am cheap, but because every time I go to the ballgame in person, we always wind up sitting between the beer guy and his best customer, and right behind a guy who is out on his first date with a woman whom he wishes to impress by trotting out his deep and wide knowledge of everything about the game.

"Uh yeah...that's called the hit-and-run...the pitcher hit the batter with the ball so the batter gets to run to first base..."

"This guy's gonna bunt right down the first base line."  (Need I tell you where the home run he hits winds up?)

Anyway...that was a great game on Monday night, when the Tampa Bay Rays pulled ahead of the Red Sox, the Red Sox tied it up in the top of the ninth, and the Rays won it with a two-out walkoff homer off Sox closer Koji Uehara in the bottom of the ninth.   That's why baseball will always be a game for the heart and the mind.

So, in the morning, I was flipping around with the remote and saw a statistic on the crawl on the bottom of the ESPN screen:


How to hit a splitter
How to hold
a splitter
Uehara, a Japanese national who came to the Orioles in 2009 after nine years with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan (and who was traded to the Rangers in exchange for pitcher Tommy Hunter and home run champion Chris Davis in 2011), is a relief pitcher whose best pitch is the split-fingered fastball.  That's a pitch made with the ball tucked between the index and middle finger.  When thrown well, the pitch tends suddenly to drop down a few inches, as the batter swings at where the ball would have gone if not for the drop, and hits nothing but ozone. When thrown not so well, the ball winds up in the bleachers for a home run, and that's what happened the other night.  But some Figure Filbert plowed through the last four years of box scores and game reports to tell us that ol' Koji had not lost a game under these circumstances since the early days of H1N1 flu.

I suppose it's because the age of the computer has taken over baseball broadcasting - all sports broadcasting - because back in the day, the announcers did not have access to such arcane data, either during or after the game.  The most insight you would hear would be something such as "Old Lefty usually throws a curve on a 2-0 count" or "Wilmer has three mules on his farm back in Morrisville, MO."

I think I liked hearing about Wilmer's mules better.  The devil is in the details.