Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Rerun: In Russia, they call it One Steppe Beyond

I'm writing this on Saturday night, and tomorrow, I will be awakened by the sound of Madness.

And not the kind you think!  This is the 80's British group Madness and their great hit "One Step Beyond" which you can see by clicking the words above!

Madness (l)  was one of those groups of guys running around doing all sorts of goofy senseless things and making music at the same time: sort of like the Republican Party with saxophones!  Their music was defined as "pop/ska," which I understand half of.  Ska, so they say, was a precursor to reggae.  It's all that Caribbean sound to me. I am not musically sophisticated enough to be able to say, "Oh, that's ska!" or "Love that cha-cha sound" or "You've got to know, that's good reggae!"  So I don't know Bob Marley from Jacob Marley; I'm happy with what I hear.

But I like to be thorough, so I looked up Madness and found they were influenced by a guy born Cecil Bustamente Campbell, but better known to his legions of fans in his native Jamaica and all across the British Empire as "Prince Buster."(r)  Buster is highly regarded by Madness; they call him "The man who set the beat." (In the days when I was so good at fixing a balky TV by smacking it with my open palm, I was known as "The man who beat the set," but that has nothing to do with anything here.)  Here is Buster's version of One Step Beyond; check it out and see what you think.

Which version do you want me to wake up to on Monday?  Vote early, and often.  If you don't want me to awaken at all on Monday, please don't vote. Harrumph.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, August 24, 2019

 An early 50s magazine cover shows a travel agent with her office all decked out with posters for places I would never go. I'd rather look at the back yards of all those apartments in winter.
 "OK Kids, let's have fun!" Go all around the beach and see what rocks you can find while I take a nap, and then you can arrange them! Sound like fun? Be back in two hours!"
 It's hard to get rid of old electronics. This is a guy in Northern Virginia who made a cap, as it were, out of an old monitor, and every night he was going around leaving old TVs and monitors and PC towers on porches in NoVa. We don't know why.
 If you shuddered at first and went, "Ewwwww gross!" come back in the room now, unless you can't stand to see a turtle enjoy a berry.
 This is out west somewhere, and it makes me want to saddle up and ride, or maybe take a nap. I'm all over the place today.
 This is an old mill that's been shut down since the 1830s. 1830s. The vegetation that overtook it is impressive, but don't you think SOMEone would have wanted this building for some other purpose in the last 184 years?
 I love seeing old signs painted directly on old brick walls. You don't see this sort of artistry anymore.
This is a map of the world breaking down all its nations into two categories: green, where people are obligated to remove their shoes when entering a home, and blue, where you can just parade right on into the parlor with your clodhoppers on, no problem. For the information of one "D.T. from D.C.," Greenland is in blue.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Forget Hansel and Gretel

I grew up (so to speak) in the days before helicopter parenting became the rage. My parents had the nutty notion that I was a human being and could figure things out.  This background gets me in a passel of trouble when the talk turns to kids today, especially when I hear parents say they won't let little Abercrombie or Hildegarde ride the school bus with those awful kids from "THAT neighborhood," or walk anywhere without a ride and a backup ride and air support.

But that's for another day. Today, I wish to shock the helicopter out of you by telling you what they do in the Netherlands.

The unfailing New York Times had an article about a summer tradition among the Dutch. They call it "dropping."  Here's what it entails, and please make sure you're sitting down when you read that Dutch pre-teens, out in summer camps, are dropped off in the woods at night and told to find their way back to camp. Just to make it more like real life, some parents will blindfold the kids on the ride to the new destination.

Pia de Jong is a novelist currently living in New Jersey, but she was born and raised in Amsterdam, and she reports that, "You just drop your kids into the world. Of course, you make sure they don't die, but other than that, they have to find their own way."

And no, the kids don't get to take their phones and find their way back with GPS. They do wear hi-vis vests and have maps and compasses, and a team leader has a cell phone just in case.

And in a few hours, they're back, and they have gained independence, confidence in their ability to live on their own, and some teamwork experience as well.

A woman named Lara wrote this to the Times; she was an exchange student in the Netherlands in the 1980s and participated along with her host's family:

"His parents blindfolded us and then dropped us off in groups of 3 or 4, several miles from their house. Maybe we had some sort of map — definitely no GPS — and we walked through farm land, country roads and some wooded areas in random patterns until things eventually started to look a bit familiar, and somehow found our way home. Each group made it back within a few hours. It was a really fun adventure and a nice little group competition and team bonding experience. At the time I took this to be a creative party game my friend's parents contrived for us; how fun to know it was a beloved Dutch tradition!"

Other commenters pointed out that Dutch "woods" are really just very large parks, so it's not like being in the Great Dismal Swamp with the Jersey Devil at your heels, to mix some similes.

Others pointed out that the droppings they experienced weren't nearly as ominous and scary as they sound.

"Droppings are still fun, but it's nowhere near being dropped 'in the middle of nowhere' There is no middle of nowhere in the Netherlands. Usually it a little bit of hiking in a dark piece of forest to make it exciting, and the rest is just following small country roads/ paths," said someone on Reddit.

This might be something for Americans to consider. Right now, the most treacherous trek I see a lot of kids taking is the ten steps from Mom's minivan to the front door of the school.

Let the kids fledge!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Open wide

I have been through surgery four times, and every time they ask if I can remove my wedding ring, and every time, they give up and cover it up with tape or silly putty or something like that.

I don't have dentures, but I would want to remove them if I had a fifth surgery.
It only makes sense.

Here's why:  a 72-year-old British man had his partial dentures get stuck in his throat during surgery.  AND no one figured it out for eight days, not even the edentulous victim of this negligence.

After eight days of having trouble swallowing, and coughing up blood, the man figured maybe he should go to the emergency room and let someone have a look-see down there.

Eight days.

ER Docs ordered up a chest X-ray, called it pneumonia, and sent him on his merry way with antibiotics and steroids.

Then he went to another (better) hospital for another X-ray. That showed his dentures — a metal roof plate and three false teeth — stuck at the top of this throat.

You really have to look very, very closely to see what's wrong in this throat.
This was good news to the man, because he thought the hospital where he had the surgery in the first place had lost his false choppers.

Dr. Mary Dale Peterson, an anesthesiologist at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, says putting a tube in a patient’s airway can have the result of putting things where they don’t belong.

And she went to medical school to learn that!

Back in Britain, the poor man still had a couple of rounds of bleeding and needed more surgery before he was all better. No one is naming the man, the hospitals, or the doctors (Dr Howard, Dr Fine, Dr Howard) so that they can all try to get better without having people laugh at them on the streets.

Doctors recommend telling your surgeon what's going in your mouth, if anything.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Is that a bottle of catsup or are you just glad it's lunchtime?

First of all, I still call it catsup, but that's not important now.

What matters is that someone who wanted to live life in the fast lane pulled the biggest heist of her life, ripping off a bottle of Heinz from a Perkins Restaurant in New Jersey.

People who work in restaurants are used to this sort of thing.  There are millions of Americans who are only dimly aware that Equal, Splenda, and Sweet 'N Low are available for purchase in grocery stores. They just load on the little pink or blue packets when they hunker down to the diner to tie on the feedbag.
And people steal salt and pepper shakers right and left, and stacks of napkins.

But I guess people will stick condiment bottles and jars under their tunics and steal away. That's what the Jersey bandit got away with, but she didn't get far.

Here is her letter of apology:

Someone smashed into her (getaway) car, and life itself was going down the dumper, so she went to WalMart, bought two big bottles of Heinz tomato topping and brought them back with this note (above).

Notice the turn of phrase she included with her remorse: "Again, I'm really sorry if I inconvenienced you the same way my life has been inconveniencing me. I'm sorry :( From, an awful person."

We are left to conclude that it was only after someone smashed her Subaru and other parts of her life turned fecal that she realized that theft is a crime, punishable by incarceration and/or fine.

Marie DiLeo is the franchise owner of the Perkins pancake house. Her manager found the bag with the catsup and the note and turned it over to her, and this is what DiLeo told the local news:

"I really felt bad. She's got to be 17, 18, 19. I really did feel bad."

Kindly, Ms DiLeo posted a picture of the bottles and note on Facebook "just to say, 'You're forgiven.'"

And because a) doing the right thing often brings unforeseen rewards and b) large corporations occasionally pause from their soul-crushing days of snaking across the world, relentlessly seeking profit above all, and crushing the competition to seize upon a public relations coup.  The good people at Heinz are appreciative, and will help to pay for some of the damages to the woman's car.

Good ketchup karma, indeed. Just as an aside, I feel that the person seeking a better bottle of catsup hunts for...Hunt's.  Just sayin'.

And DiLeo, who said no one even knew someone stole anything in the first place, said, "I do believe in karma," she said. "But not over a ketchup bottle."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


We spend a lot of time worrying about if things are clean and sanitary and telling ourselves that we won't get too many cooties at the Try 'N' Save if we wipe down the handles of our grocery cart as we set out to shop.

We feel really great that the person in the deli is wearing gloves when they handle the pickle and pimento loaf. Of course, who know where that glove-clad hand was two minutes ago, but anyhow...

We tend to think that germs are only in the bathroom, but that ain't necessarily so...

It turns out, the inside of your car (and surely mine) is BacteriaLand, where germs go to hide.

An insurance company called Netquote sent investigators, CSI types, to check out the germification level in cars like Uber sends for you, or taxis you hail, or sedans you rent at the airport.  They found that seat belts are dirtier than window buttons or door handles, which is a good thing, in one way, proving that people are using seat belts, but a bad thing, when you realize that their grubby mitts are dragging dirt from all over into that Impala.

They found that - get this - toilet seats contain fewer microorganisms than rideshares vehicles and rental cars.

“It all comes down to the frequency of cleaning. All surfaces that are touched regularly by numerous people will be germy. That’s why we clean them,” says Jason Tetro, microbiologist and author of The Germ Files. “Taxis are required to keep their cars clean, meaning they may be using cleaners and disinfectants that will aerosolize onto the belts and help keep the microbial numbers low. Another thing to think about is how often people who jump in a cab use the seat belt versus those who are in ride sharing. I’ve been in some cars where even in the back seat the seat belt is required. This could lead to a huge difference in the usage, which will reflect the germ levels.”
This is NOT my car!

So what he's saying is, that orange car from Rabid Cab is cleaner than the beater the guy around the corner drives for Uber. Makes sense.

Mr Tetro says the mnemonic device EWW will help you remember how to clean your seatbelts at home:

Extend: Pull the seat belt out all the way.
Wash: Scrub that belt with cleaner and disinfectant thoroughly.
Wipe: Wipe the fluids off with a towel to make sure the belt is all cleaned up.

I expect all of us to do this by the end of today. (Pause for laughter.)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Put your pencils down!

Just back from vacation, so I'll ease back into it with a little quiz. Please pass your papers forward when you're finished.

1. Do you like blue cheese?  I love it and it's always a surprise to find that many do not! It's my favorite salad dressing.
2. Coke or Pepsi?  Coke back in the day, but I have not had soda since 2005. Seltzer, please!
3. Do you own a gun? My great-great-grandfather's Civil War pistol. No bullets. And I'm afraid to find out what side he fought for.
4. What flavor of Kool-Aid? They still make Kool-Aid? I'll pass.
5. Hot dogs? Yes. Used to get Esskay Orioles franks but they stopped making them. So we switched to Nathan's and they are better than Esskay ever was!
6. Favorite TV show? For comedy: The Andy Griffith Show   For Drama: Law and Order (the one with Jerry Orbach as Lennie Briscoe). For news and commentary: Keith Olbermann.
7. Do you believe in ghosts? Absolutely not. Balderdash, I say.
8. What do you drink in the morning? Hot tea and seltzer.
9. Can you do a push-up?  Yes.
10.Favorite jewelry? My wedding ring and my watch. Wouldn't go around without either.
11.My favorite Hobby? Writing my blog and collecting music
12. Do you have ADHD? Quite likely.
13. Do you wear glasses? I only need them for reading now, but it's easier to wear glasses all the time rather than run around looking for those halfies.
14. Favorite cartoon character? Top Cat >>>>>
15. Three things you did today? Laundry (twice), read, watched the Orioles
16. Drinks you drink all the time?  Iced Tea, Hot Tea and Seltzer
17. Current worries? ???
18. Do you believe in magic? As performed by stage "magicians," no. It's just sleight of hand. But what angels can do, yes!
19. Favorite place to be? At home with Peggy and the cats.
20. How did you bring in the New Year? Same as always - early dinner out and back home before the drunks come out. Watched the ball drop. Woke up and went to bed.
21. Where would you like to visit? Baseball Hall of Fame, Graceland, Grand Ole Opry.
22. Name four people that will most likely play this? ??
23. Favorite movie? Animal House, Caddyshack or Stripes.
24. Favorite color? Brown
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Never tried them.
26. Can you whistle? Yes but I cannot figure out how to fingerwhistle :(
27. Where are you now? In my den.
28. Where would you want to be right now? I always only want to be exactly where I am.
29. Favorite food? Roast beef
30. What’s in your pocket? Nothing!
31. Last thing that made you laugh?  Howard Wolowitz
32. Favorite animal? Take a wild guess!
33. Name a weird item you’ve just purchased. A cup holder for my Yeti that is also a three-way flashlight.
34. How many TV’s are in your house? 4
35. Worst pain ever? Waking up from knee replacement surgery
36. Do you like to dance?  No way
37. Favorite number? 8
38. Do you enjoy camping? Who am I, Daniel Boone?

Feel free to copy, paste, and post!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday rerun: from 2010: Let's Play The Lightning Round

With our little corner of the world getting its annual spring deluges, it was nice to enjoy the first thunderstorm of the season on Sunday evening.

You know I am a nut about the weather, and you could just as easily leave off those last three words. I like rain and wind and cold and snow and howling blizzards. But a thunderstorm can be one of the great spectator events, and the price is absofreely lute.

It helps that we have a covered front porch. Standing underneath a tree or umbrella is not recommended, nor is flying a kite  during an electrical storm. Even if you have bet someone a stack of Benjamins  that you won't get zapped , it's still a risky business, and then you won't get to be around to see the next one if one should strike you or your fancy.

As soon as I hear the first distant rumble and can say with certainty that it's not the icemaker dropping another dozen cubes, or the garage door opener, or some other household device, I'm out there on the porch. I'll usually grab a transistor radio to take with me. Tuned to AM, a transistor radio is like a lightning crackle-meter. As the storm moves in closer, the annoying braying of ideologues on AM is mercifully drowned out by worthwhile energy. Used to be the Orioles ballgames were on an AM station, but now that they're on FM, I take the radio out on the porch with me, but you don't hear the storm coming on FM. Perhaps some station could arrange to augment their usual evening offerings with the recorded sounds of lightning coming down.

Storms  usually happen in the evening, making them the perfect post-dinner entertainment in the sky. I think it's because after a long day of heat and humidity, the meteorological conditions become just right for sparkin' up a thunderation. Another reason is that Heaven wants to put their really good shows on during prime time. There are times that the storm comes along after bedtime, and it's got to be a major deal to wake me from that dream I keep having. You know, the one where dream interpretation turns out to be a really valid scientific field, and psychics come to rule the earth.

As the thunder becomes louder and closer, look around and you won't see any birds or other critters in the yard. This is because Nature, in all her infinite wisdom, has given them the sense to come in out of the rain before the rain even begins. So a stark stillness accentuates the gaps between peals of thunder. And the air - the sweet, sweet ozone - smells as crisp and fresh as any air freshener you could buy.

Everyone has to get out of the various pools, creeks and filled quarries, lest lightning hit the water. If you're near a pool, kids are standing around in flip flops, with giant towels wrapped around themselves, waiting it out.

Meanwhile, back in the neighborhood, someone will always come out on the street and say,"It's gonna pass over!" This expression means it's gonna pass us by, not pass over us, because passing over us is just what the storm does when it finally hits, and blinding sheets of rain, none of them fitted or ironed, start issuing forth from the sky. If it's dark enough, the entire sky will be illuminated like the beaming visage of Keith Richards as lightning bolts are tossed by Thor in Norse mythology.

Hey, if you had to lift those heavy lightning bolts and throw them around, you'd be Thor, too!

Two more things you can bet on happening in every storm:

1 - Some guy up the street will choose the exact moment that the heavens open up to dash into his car and leave for an errand. He will return in five minutes, soaked to the gills, bearing a lime Slurpee and a slightly ashamed look.

2 - Someone will say, "It's good for the farmers." Without fail, every time, someone will say this.

In just a few minutes, it's all over, and it's back to the La-Z-Boy recliner and the remote and last week's New Yorker and a glass of iced tea. Man, I gotta tell you, that is something like livin', huh? And it's all free! No charge! So to speak.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show Rerun, from October 29, 2016

From an old LIFE Magazine, this picture of the Colts' Steve Myrha kicking off in a game at the old, beloved Baltimore Memorial Stadium. What I paid for a ticket to a game there ($6) wouldn't get you a hotdog at the new football palace downtown.
Not too far from us is this deli, called Ravage Deli, because you are supposed to get your sandwich there and just crazy go nuts eating it.  Their cheesesteak was voted Baltimore's Best, and I need to investigate it fully.  I'll report here later.
That marvelous moment when fall meets winter in Vermont.
I don't know where this happened, but someone crashed their Toyota Camry into a tree and left it there for a while, so local art lovers showed up with gold spray paint and turned a wreck into a show piece.
I've known a lot of people who worked as X-ray technicians, and all of them could see right through all of us.
The people at Hibbing High School in Minnesota are justly proud of their 1959 graduate Robt. Zimmerman, who, apparently, went off like a rolling stone and wrote some stuff and earned the Nobel Prize.  How does it feel?
These are people of the Baggio ethnic group. They live in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Although some of them have moved to the land, a significant portion of their population still lives on the water full time, coming ashore only to sell the fish and lobsters they catch (that's their primary source of income), get potable water, and bury relatives.  They have no internet or television, but they do have all the seafood they want to eat and they don't know nothin' from nothin' about elections, turmoil, and worldwide crises.  I hear you nodding.
Softly, as we leave each other...

Friday, August 16, 2019

1/8/35 - 8/16/77

From the New Yorker, December 6, 1999

Image result for elvis


Twenty years after the death, St. Paul

was sending the first of his epistles,

and bits of myth or faithful memory -

multitudes fed on scraps, the dead small girl

told "Talitha, cumi" - were self-assembling

as proto-Gospels.  Twenty years since pills

and chiliburgers did another in,

they gather at Graceland, the simple believers,

the turnpike pilgrims from the sere Midwest,

mother and daughter bleached to look alike,

Marys and Lazaruses, you and me,

brains riddled with song, with hand-tinted visions

of a lovely young man, reckless and cool

as a lily.  He lives. We live. He lives.

                                           John Updike

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thursday Rerun: C_H_E_A_T_E_R_

From the Associated Press:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of the top young Scrabble players in the country has been kicked out of the game’s national championship tournament in Florida after he was caught hiding blank letter tiles, organizers said Tuesday.

John D. Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association, said that a male player was ejected from the 350-player event in Round 24 of the 28-round event.

The cheating was spotted by a player at a nearby table, who noticed the ejected player conceal a pair of blank tiles by dropping them on the floor. Blank tiles can be used as wild card letters. When confronted by the tournament director, he admitted to it, organizers said.

Williams, who has served as executive director for 25 years and co-authored a book on the popular Hasbro board game in 1993, said this was the first incident of cheating at a national tournament. However, he said it’s been known to occur at smaller, regional events.

“It does happen no matter what. People will try to do this,” he said. “It’s the first time it’s happened in a venue this big though. It’s unfortunate. The Scrabble world is abuzz. The Internet is abuzz.”

Williams would not identify the player by name or age because he’s a minor. 

So, this bozo decides he's going to cheat at Scrabble.  You know, that is a sure sign of a society in decline, when even teenaged wonks try to get ahead in a board game by cheating, and do so in a feckless manner.

You get the feeling that the young unnamed man here was some sort of genius right out of the crib: probably read a lot, knew a lot of words, and shouldn't that have been enough?  No.  You also get the feeling (at least, you do if you are I) that his parents encouraged him to go into the high-pressure world of competitive scrabble, where the top prize of $10,000 looms like a huge carrot in front of frenzied contestants.  And maybe, his mom and dad told him that it's ok to get an edge in life.  After all, son, it's ok to cheat on your taxes, so long as you don't get caught.  And if mom "forgets" to pay for the 100-lb sack of Dog-B-Fed down at the Food Clown, well, so Rover eats for free.  What could be wrong?

I might be all wet here; it could be that the parents of this misguided youth guided him as well as any parents ever, and he got off track all on his own.  Maybe.  But I do know that somewhere he got the idea that cheating is right. And that is so wrong. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday Rerun: Oh THAT Wib Davenport!

Down in Virginia, if you want to drive away from a certain Chevrolet dealer, you should know this: they really drive a hard bargain!

Danny Sawyer, 40, bought a black Chevy Traverse from Priority Chevrolet back in May, but woke up the next day wishing he had bought a blue one.  He drove back to the dealership and found a blue one that caught his fancy, and that's where things go crazy.

The blue one must have had some optional equipment that the black SUV lacked, because after Sawyer swapped cars, went on vacation and came home, he came home to many frantic messages from the car lot and its sales manager, whose name is Wib Davenport.  We've all known someone named "Wib," haven't we?  The car Sawyer wound up with cost $5,600 more than the original one, and how would he like to pay for that, was the point of all the messages.

All this turmoil over this?
He wouldn't like to pay for that.  Sawyer says no one told him that the blue car cost more, and even though the dealership says they told him that it did, there still seems to be a matter of him not signing anything additional to attest to the switcheroo.

Completely disregarding the basic tenet of good customer service (Never have your customers thrown in jail, since it's hard to buy a car from there) the dealership called the local cops, who mistook a civil matter for a crime, and ushered Sawyer into a cell for four hours.

Dennis Ellmer, president of Priority Chevrolet, has decided to be adorable about the whole thing and says Sawyer can keep the blue car for the price of the black one, and hey!  How about a free tire rotation, buddy boy?

Ironically enough, Sawyer rotated those tires himself, driving over to the office of a lawyer, upon whose sage advice he has filed two lawsuits against the dealer, accusing the business of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process. He'll need a total of $2.2 million in damages, plus attorney fees before he feels better about the whole doggone thing.

We used to have a Chevy dealer in Baltimore who advertised that his dealership, at the corner of York and Bellona, was "the best place to become a Chevrolet ownah!"

Priority Chevrolet can now claim proudly that they offer a car buyer the chance to "come on down and get a Chevy on sale - and if we don't like you, we'll throw you in jail!"

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tuesday 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.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Monday Rerun: Looking for a Safe Way to shop

We talked the other day about how busboys (and it's always a busBOY - why do restaurants not have women doing this? I'm sure they would be too smart to) keep taking plates away from diners who aren't finished their meals.  Our conclusion seemed to be that we should blame the whole thing on some sort of national plate shortage.

And then something else came to mind, and it must be attributed to a shortage of time.  I'm going to ask a question here:

What's the big rush in the grocery store?  Why, when I am trying to load my groceries on the belt and get everything packed and carted and ready to take on home, do people keep shoving their carts into my achin' anklebones?  Here's the deal...I'll be putting ginger ale, fig newtons or burrito wraps on the belt and then wham! Earl and Marge, next in line, shove their cart up to me. Excuse me, but neither one says, "excuse me."  And then - since as a veteran A&P register operator/ bagger I know enough to put the stop that goes on top of the bags at the end of the line - Earl starts wedging his bottled prune juice, flank steak and Metamucil right up against my light bulbs, hippie bread and eggs.  Do they even think about using one of those plastic logs as a divider?  They do not.

It just so happens that I love shopping for, cooking, and consuming groceries.  As a young man, I looked forward to a trip to the A&P on Joppa Rd, which closed down years ago and became the home of a Dodge dealership, but then times got hard and people couldn't afford new American cars, so the Dodge people left and now it's about to become a BMW agency.  But when it was an A&P, my mom would take me there, and then and there I began my lifelong love affair with aisles crammed with Realemon, Snap-E-Tom, Bisquick, Reddi Wip, TastyKakes and Ugli Fruit.

It does not go unnoticed that grocery manufacturers do not hold to my devotion to good spelling.  But I love to peruse the aisles of a good supermarket.  It's not until I go to check out that the assault begins.

It's often my luck to be behind a veteran shopper who wants to break the cashier's cashews over the current price of food, how many items to place in a bag (paper inside plastic of course), and why he or she won't accept this 7¢ coupon on Parkay margarine clipped from the December 5, 1972 issue of LIFE magazine.  While I wait, hoping to avoid seeing my loaf get smashed, Marge and Earl are noodging their cart ever closer to my ankles, and I can only wonder why?  Daring to take my eyes away from my lower appendages for a quick look at my watch, I see that it's 2:43 on a Saturday afternoon.  So what's the rush?

If I find out why everyone is suddenly in a hurry to get out of the BagUrSelf every Saturday afternoon, I might join the rush.  Until then, I'll be in aisle 10, wearing ankle braces.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Rerun: When In Rome

I always thought the Spanish Steps were what you did to dance the Flamenco, so that shows what I know.

Somewhere in this picture you will see a guy
with a pencil and sketchpad.
He is drawing a crowd.
The Spanish Steps are a stairway over Via Condotti, a swanky street in the fashion district of Rome. They were built in 1725, back in the days when you get really could get marble work done for a pittance.  Today, it would cost you a few million zucchini to get the same steps put in your back yard.

But you would get the same result.  All over the world, where you and I see stairs as a way to get up or get down, some people see a place to park their carcasses and "set" a spell.

So, with these marble steps being polished by so many glutei over the centuries, and so many people spilling their pizzas and vino all over the place, the marble steps, once shiny and bright, got to looking a tad crummy.

The good people at Bulgari (they say they are a luxury jewelry firm, but that means nothing to me, a guy who shops for jewels at Walmarti) spent $1.7 million to restore the Steps. It has taken a year, but finally the Spanish Steps look just like they did in 1725, when Betty White was there to cut the ribbon on Opening Day.

The problem is that Paolo Bulgari, who, in an amazing coincidence is both the chairman of the jewelry firm AND the nephew of its founder, wants to protect his investment.  

"Restorers have done a great and difficult job. The steps were coated with anything from coffee, wine, chewing gum," he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"But now I am worried. If we don't set strict rules, the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians," the billionaire reportedly said, adding that a gate or a Plexiglas barrier "doesn't seem like an impossible task."


There it is.

I don't know how they do things in Italy, having never traveled any further east that the boardwalks at several Atlantic Ocean resorts, but I can't see an American businessperson spending private bucks for public good and then calling the public "galoots," "heathens" or "brutes."  It's bad for public relations.  People don't like being called names or being accused of wrongdoing as part of a whole group lumped together in vain. I hope I'm not being too subtle here.

Bulgari clearly did not live in Baltimore in the heyday of Royal Parker (born Royal Pollokoff) who passed away earlier this year but could host newscasts, kiddie cartoon shows and bowling shows with equal skill and zest.

And commercials!  Millions of them.  The most memorable of them, for clear slipcovers, showed kids bouncing up and down on some cheesy living room sofa and chair, while we heard Royal holler, "Hey, kids, get off that furniture, what are you trying to do, ruin it?"

This very sentence was known for years in our town as the only way to greet Mr Parker when we saw him at the ballpark or the mall.  He was always a good guy about it, and if he were still with us on this mortal coil, he would likely tell Bulgari that encasing the priceless stairs in some hi-grade see-thru vinyl could keep the marble shiny while keeping food, wine and tracked-in shoedirt off!

The whole world would be a better place if everyone had grown up in Baltimore.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, August 10, 2019

I know lots of people like the game of soccer, but I also know for sure that many games have been held up while referees and fellow players try to awaken a midfielder or goalie who has fallen dead asleep out of sheer boredom.

Now to a great game, our national pastime, baseball. On Sunday, 4,000 young men and women from Great Britain came to town after being at a jamboree in West Virginia. They enjoyed an afternoon of baseball at Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where their left field seats put them in proximity with Orioles left fielder Anthony Santander, and there began a lovefest between an athlete from Venezuela and the thousands of British kids, who cheered like mad for his every move, to an extent that he began tossing spare balls to them as they chanted his name.  Had there been a doubleheader, Santander would probably be a Member of Parliament or a Duke. Baltimore already had an Earl.
I have no way to prove this isn't the result of a really great dye job, but man oh man, does this dog look like Salvador Dali!
I had to look it up to find that this is a Yellow Heron, but the thing I liked about him was the intent look in his eye as he guzzled some lake water.
For a while, people were having fun by opening two dictionaries at once and randomly pointing to one word in each, and then putting both words in a sentence. This would be the result if your words were "sumo wrestler" and "Sunflower field."
It looks like a picture of grains of sand magnified 134,000 times, but this is sea glass. I assume these all began with bottles of wine broken (or guzzled) at sea 200 years ago, tossed about on angry seas until it gets tumbled and lands on the beach.
"Rusty barb wire with cobwebs" sounds like a minimalist meal at a New American restaurant.
I don't like to go with black and white photos; I like to make the picture show both snarky AND colorful, but this is just too good to pass by.

Friday, August 9, 2019

His cash ain't nothing but trash

I found a great story in the New York POST!

If you are in search of just one honest person, I have one for you.

Actually, a few. They are people who work at the Recology plant in Humboldt County, California, a recycling outfit that handles the rubbish from the town in Oregon where the luckiest man in Oregon lives.

Last week, a man in Ashland, Oregon, for reasons best known to the demon called carelessness, tossed out a shoebox in the recycling. 

His life savings - $23,000 - was in the box.  Big whoopsie.

Once he realized what he had done, he called his local trash authorities, who told him his box o'loot was taking a trip to Cali. 

He got on the phone to Recology.  They handle the tossaways from over a million locations in the Pacific Northwest.  It's probably best that they didn't tell the hapless man that.  They told him they'd keep an eye out for the box, and they did.

“We take quite a bit of material every day, so the odds of finding that are not much better than a needle in a haystack,” Linda Wise, general manager of the Samoa Resource Recovery Center operated by Recology, told the local paper out west.

And she went on to say they kept a lookout, and then..."The box showed up and came down the sorting line, and we were all excited to see it,” says Wise.

Somewhere between Oregon and Humboldt County, $320 was missing from the box, but all the rest of the money was there.  The man and his family drove five hours to get it all back.

“Everyone who was on the sorting line was beaming this morning,” Wise said. “And now this gentleman will get to have a great weekend.”

And now, so will we!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

OU Kid

Education never ends. We don't stop learning just because our days sleeping sitting in classrooms come to an end.

Donell Cooper used to a) attend Ohio University and b) play basketball for OU. He did not find employment in the NBA here, so he's been playing pro basketball in Greece and Monte Carlo for a living.

Up until now, that is. He's currently suspended from European basketball. He did coach the Bosnian national team, and has applied for citizenship in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But, he needed to pass a urine test to keep playing or coaching over there, so he dutifully supplied a sample.

Of his girlfriend's urine.

And that's where the learning came in! When the test results came back, Cooper learned a) you can't get away with passing off someone else's urine as your own and b) his girlfriend is pregnant.

The tinklewater that he provided showed positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG.  That's a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy.

I know a great joke along these lines and if you ever worked with me, you've heard it. I'm trying to figure out how to retell it now and work the phrase "Hanging With Mr Cooper" into it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Where No Man Had Gone

We've been talking a lot, in this summer of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, about the American/Russian space race and what led to it.

Two huge events occurred on Friday, October 4, 1957. It was on that afternoon that the Soviet Union put Sputnik I into orbit.  It was the world's first artificial satellite, just about 23 inches in diameter, and it spent 98 minutes orbiting the earth.  And by the time schools opened on Monday the 6th, the nationwide cry of "Why can't our kids be good in math and science like them Russians?" was heard in every PTA, supermarket and bar & grill in the land.  We just had to get up in space right away!

Also that night, 10/4/57, it only took 30 minutes for ABC-TV to show the first ever episode of "Leave It To Beaver" ("Beaver Gets 'Spelled"). The series was to end in 1963, 234 episodes later.

So if history has taught us anything, it shows that it took longer for Americans to get to the moon than it did for Wally Cleaver to finish high school and Beaver to be graduated from 8th grade.

Along the way, brave men like John Glenn paved the way for the steps on the moon of 1969. Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, took off on the Friendship Seven on February 20, 1962, circling the planet three times in five hours as every schoolkid tried to watch it on a 12" black and white TV in the auditorium.

We talked the other night about fireflies, and on that day, Glenn was talking about them as well! As he made his second lap around Earth, he looked out the window of Friendship Seven and saw many many tiny glowing lights!  In fact, his report to Mission Control said he was "in a big mass of thousands of very small particles that are brilliantly lit up like they're luminescent." They were yellowish-green, he said, and went on to say that each of them was like "a firefly on a real dark night."

Well, even in those early days of space travel, science guys and ladies knew that even Baltimore fireflies are not meant to be up there among the stars. Glenn said it was some sort of miraculous apparition, but the slide-rule folks down at NASA eventually figured it out:

Glenn's spaceship had a vent system that removed his bodily fluids - you know, like perspiration and tinkle - and shot them into space. At that altitude, liquids freeze at once, and light from the craft made each little teeny frozen pellet light up like a lightning bug.

So there you have it.

Tomorrow, we'll look at another Mystery Of Science: why people fail to wipe down gym equipment after they sweat all over it. And here on Earth, that doesn't make anything miraculous.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


One of the greatest things about having a job is that you get insurance coverage. Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to know that if we fall down go boom on the patio, the hospital and doctor bills will be covered and we won't have to take on a paper route forever to pay them ourselves.

By the way, did you ever wonder why it's expensive to have trees removed or trimmed back? The guy who did some tree work here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch a couple years ago told me his daily insurance nut is $750. It's pretty steep to cover people who work at some pretty steep heights.

When the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins - took a business trip of 238,900 miles, rocket-propelled at thousands of miles per hour, the trip was so parlous that the president of the United States already had his speech prepared to read to the nation in case everything went wrong on the moon and Armstrong, Aldrin, and Colloins were to be marooned there, fated for death.

It's not hard to figure why NASA was not in a position to offer them a nice life insurance package. They had an insurance plan, sure, but it “originally did not cover astronauts when flying—it was considered high risk and experimental,” says Brandi Dean, a spokesperson for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. All three men had families, but they had to find their own way to offer security for the wives and kids.  After all, just two years before, three astronauts had died in a flash fire on the launch pad in Florida.

They really did come up with a great way to rack up some coin just in case. As the launch day approached, they spent their hours of pre-flight quarantine autographing hundreds of envelopes that had been made up with a special design commemorating their mission and Apollo postage stamp. The plan was to have the envelopes postmarked, either on the day of the the launch or the day of the Moonwalk, and then those envelopes would be very valuable to autograph collectors and history buffs.

Howard C. Weinberger, an expert on all things Apollo, says, “It was driven by the fact that, given the nature of the astronauts’ livelihood, they were not able to secure much life insurance.”  He figures that there were between 500 and 1000 signed envelopes.

Stamp collecting was a very big deal at the time, and the families banked a bit of money after the men all came home to heroes' welcomes. Other crews continued the practice, which came to an abrupt halt when the crew of Apollo 15 came up with the idea of taking the envelopes to the moon with them, thereby putting the value of each out of this world.  So to speak.

The value of these "insurance covers," as they are known to philatelists, goes up every day, and why not? These men took huge risks to take us to that new frontier, and letting their family prosper is only fair.