Saturday, February 19, 2011


Thanks for walking with me for the past 1,615 days, give or take interruptions and vacations.

It's getting hard to keep this up, what with my involvements here at Kings and North Franklin Street. I don't like things to peter out, which actually is what's happening, so let's put this to rest and look back at what's been (in my estimation) a pretty good blog.

No rants, no politics, no snarkiness either on my part nor yours. Just a nice chat together through the eyes of one who ponders the mysteries of the universe and occasionally posts his findings here.

Again, thanks for your companionship.

See you via e-mail or in the life to come.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Of snow, snow men & snow women

We’ve had snow here in the great Northeast Pennsylvania. Not a whole lot, but enough little bits often to make our ups & downs (also known as hills and the Poconos) a bit difficult. It is our understanding, however, we have little to complain about, as others are up to their chimney tops and wolves are eating stranded peasants.

Students who are out of school because of the snowfall here (and live in the dorm) quickly put ski racks on their cars and head for Jack Frost and other slopes. They can’t make it across campus, but driving 30-45 minutes to the Pocono Mountains’ winter resort areas does not seem to be any problem at all.

I haven’t seen any snowmen that I can think of. Or snow women. Friends of mine made up an anatomically-correct snow gal one time, but a narrow-minded person did a mastectomy. I guessed someone has a problem with milk glands, even with a pile of snow wearing a hat and a few pieces of coal and sticks for arms.

The dangers of living on a hill means the three roads I can take out of here (North Street, North Franklin Street) all head down. We are at the peak of North, so it’s downhill to traffic lights both ways; North Franklin is one-way up but I’d take it down if necessary. I don’t like the idea of skidding through a red light; it’s bad luck.

The groundhog comes out of his hole pretty soon and we will learn all about the snow and the forecast for the next six weeks. Cross your fingers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Common Sense, part 1 (sent in)

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
Why the early bird gets the worm;
Life isn't always fair;
and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Common Sense, part 2 (sent in)

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Godfather's Wife

It’s really the 21st as I try to catch up. My cruise ship newsletter mentioned last night that the new Disney ship was christened the day before. Normally, the “godmother” knocks a bottle of champagne across the bow. These days, all she does is push a button and the thing flies across the dock; bottle meets ship and ship wins.

Not so Disney. This time, they hired a helicopter to swing the thing as it flew over the previously-unnamed Mouse of the Seas (actually the “Disney Dream” and, being in the water, no doubt a wet one). The menu consisted of Donald Duck a l’orange, Hot Goofy Dogs, a view of Pluto through the telescope and White Snow with brandy for dessert. Mice work if you can get it.

The newsletter did not mention if Godmother Jennifer Hudson was in the ‘copter releasing the aforementioned bubbly in the size worthy of a Disney extrav. You pays your money and you gots your choice, all named for Biblical figures small to large: Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Methuselah, Salmanazar, Balthazar and, just before you realize you need A.A., the Nebuchadnezzar at 120 glasses.

In my religion, the Godmother raises the kids in their tradition, but whose? Mr. and Mrs. Walt are gone but what church did they attend? Mickey and Minnie? They weren’t even married – Shame! Jennifer was a crew member on the Wonder in 2003 so maybe she should be a God-mother-aunt. Or a surrogate something-in-law. A Godfather would have been easier: Drop the bottle and have him shoot it when it reaches the deck.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jan. 13 or Jan. 20?

Well, this blog is being published on January the two and zero, despite any attempt of mine to have it honestly slugged as Thursday the Thirteenth.

Lots going on here at North Franklin that has (or is it “have”?) distracted me from the daily output of my fingers-on-keyboard action. Fun things, non-fun things, interesting things. Did you know, and/or do you care, about the fact of “On the Good Ship Lollipop” being inspired by songwriter Richard Whiting’s daughter, the late Margaret Whiting (or, as they originally put it, lately of this world).

That’s an interesting thing. A non-fun thing was my computer catching a cold – actually a virus. It happened the day before a big storm and the geek squad couldn’t get to it before the planet froze in a blanket of ice and the school closed the next day. Four files were corrupted and, I might add, not by me. Can’t imagine how that happened, but happen it did. After it was fixed, I couldn’t get on the internet, so it took another day.

Then there are the [choose your bad word for incompetents] at the Social Security office in another state. Well, maybe not incompetents; possibly overworked and closing the office a little too early in the day (4:00pm – bankers’ hours). They need to talk to me about something, so I called. “Office closed; it’s snowing.” Called back; “We’re busy, leave a message.” Waited for callback two days. Called back; “Closed for MLK day.” Called back; “We closed at 4:00.” Called back; “We’re busy, leave a message.” I want to do something bad to them that’s not illegal or sinful. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Driven To Distraction

Exactly where is “Distraction”? I’ve been driven there many times, but I just can’t locate it. Tried my National Geographic atlas, to no avail; ditto the Merriam-Webster Geographic dictionary. Even tried to see what they offered; again, zilch. It sounds like some forlorn miner’s camp in Alaska, like Coldfoot or Deadhorse.

What sort of a vehicle is a Dudegon? Especially a High Dudgeon? I’ve heard reports of people leaving in one, but never actually saw the thing out on the street.

I also wonder about what type of hole you would need to lower your expectations. Do you lower them into a pit, or something you have dug yourself?

My mother was a High Episcopalian, despite being of average height. Or, she went to such a church which, as I recall, wasn’t much taller than any other house of worship.

One of my relatives must have been hauling ice, because I heard he gave someone the cold shoulder. Or was it an icy stare?

Do you need to have an exceptionally long tongue to give someone a tongue-lashing?

How can you end up with egg on your face, when there is none in sight?

“You are a chicken” is a mis-identification, but “you are chicken” is an insult.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Your Call Isn't Important To Us."

“Hello. This is United Association of Associations.”
>>Hi. This is Tom Carten…
“Your call is very important to us. At the moment, all our representatives are busy with other customers. Please stay on the line and a customer service representative will be with you shortly.”
>>[Kenny G airport music.]

Time passes. The clock slowly moves ahead. Calendar pages flip. Trees blossom, leaves change color, people start to wear heavy coats. Kenny G music keeps playing.

“Thank you for waiting.”
>>Tom Carten here.
“We are sorry for the delay.”
>>I wanted to speak to someone…
“All our representatives are still busy. Please stay on the line.”

Babies are conceived and born, parents age and eventually pass on, presidents run for office and European governments fall. Kenny G music plays.

“This is Terri; may I help you?”
>>Hi Terri. This is Tom. It’s about my prescription plan.
“I’m sorry; that office closed fifteen minutes ago.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

You Never Know (by Jim Carten)

While driving through Ontario this week, I heard twice within an hour a song and the one phrase that remained in my mind over the years has been, “You never know how much you got ‘til it is gone.” So true! I spent the remainder of the afternoon going through my childhood, from my earliest moments in my memory until the day I left home to join the Navy.

It’s hard driving through tears; foreheads do not come equipped with wipers. I saw my entire life in front of my mind, not chronologically, nor in any pre-arranged sequence, just pop-ups. Basically they were mostly all good: good times, fond memories, family members and events which make up our personal history.

But each one had attached to it the love of a mother. The old saying, “only a mother could love” would be, in some instances concerning my personal history and events column, the only way to justify the tears which rolled on the highway 401.

Today I’d give anything to drop by 235 Victoria Lawn in Stratford, Connecticut and have a coffee with my Mom, spend an evening watching TV, and not even conversing, taking a walk down to the beach, watching her fall asleep after a swim and then dozing off myself.

Yesterday, on the 401 I was there mentally, a cheap substitute to be sure, but I thank God for my memory, even though sometimes it hurts to go back there. Do me a favour will you? Pass this on to your kids … your grandkids and let them know that you never know what you got until it’s gone.

Thanks for reading me…..Jim

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wolves Were Snapping At Their Feet

As I drove through the dense woods, I saw a pack of wolves in the distance, their heads down, gathered around something. It appeared they were feeding on some helpless animal who was unable to outrun them in the deep snow. I came closer, but only one looked up and that for a moment. They had a local peasant from the Back Mountain.

Pity, I thought. It’s been a rough winter for all of us and I guess what seemed like wolves, but were actually a pack consisting of a few Jack Russell terriers, three long-haired cats of no particular lineage, a rabbit and a sheep. I thought I spied a possum in there somewhere.

There I sat in my car, comforted by a hot steaming mug of tea connected to the cig lighter to keep it hot. Wow – almost burned my lips watching the peasant being devoured like a zebra on the National Geographic Channel. At least, I’m warm and safe; too bad about that guy walking alone out in the freezing cold.

It’s times like this I really appreciate the good things in life: an auto, hot tea, maybe something to snack on laying next to me on the seat. Yes, sir, the good life.

I wonder who took him down? The rabbit? Did the cats operate in a pack? I’m not sure how the Jack Russells work, but maybe the sheep could convince them to stop running around long enough to actually do some work. Nah. You have to watch those possum; they can play dead, then jump up and scare the daylights out of you.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Singing In My Baritone Voice

When I go over to the Citizens’ Voice newspaper at night to pick up my copies for the morning radio program I do for the visually impaired, I serenade the workers.

Specifically, I do selections from the great Broadway composers as would be performed by the best of singers. Thomas Hampson, for instance, the great bass-baritone whose Broadway disc I own. As I imitate his style, my voice grows ever stronger, more resonate and resounds throughout the room.

Pity they can’t hear me above the roar of the press. Even in the mailing room, where the papers are put together with their inserts whooshing into them as they are conveyed down a belt with alarm bells sounding and the general atmosphere of a boiler room and a three-alarm fire, I am little noticed nor long remembered.

Vastly unappreciated, I pick up my papers and leave, hoping that another night it will be quiet and they will be struck dumb by the sheer power of what comes forth from this famous (Rockport MA Community Chorus) section (first or second tenor, as required) experienced (two seasons) vocalist (they already had a pianist).

Yes, Virginia, there is a vocalist among us. A singer of power and might. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of newspaper printers and mailing room assemblers. Their progeny will say, “Who was that guy who moved his lips amid all the noise?”

Friday, January 07, 2011

It Happens Every Other Day

It’s the end of the world. It’s a sign of the end of the world. It’s God sending us a message. It’s aliens.

It happens, on the average, every two days: a massive kill-off of birds, fish, animals. Nothing more mysterious than that. But why now? Because it happened near a city with a tv station, newspapers and a lot of people who are online. Reindeer in the middle of the Tongass National Preserve in Alaska don’t make headlines.

The birds were scared out of their gizzards by fireworks on New Year’s Eve. They flew out of their nests and, not being night fliers, flew into anything that happened to be in their way. Sometimes a pack, a herd, a school (not kids) of something will catch a virus and a ranger will find them, feet in the air, with vultures dining to violin music.

Meanwhile, the people who concern themselves with this look up from their work and say, “Another kill-off. Interesting. And your problem with this is?” It would be nice, in the best of all possible worlds, not to have this happed. But we’re not in the best of anything; things go wrong and flocks of birds fly into bridges.

You hear of “cancer clusters,” which brings a bit of humor into the sad lives of oncologists. With over a hundred types of cancers, the so-called clusters turn out to be a random distribution of several kinds, quite unrelated, which happen to have occurred in a single location. No single cause; neither a cause for alarm; no such thing as a cluster.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I'm Grateful To...

My grandfather for teaching me, at a young age, not to turn car tires when the vehicle is stopped because it will wear out the rubber. Now, when I am backing or going forward, I turn the wheels only while moving, even at a very slow speed. Easier on the car, easier on me, as well. (My grandfather never drove a car in his life.)

My barber for teaching me, as a child, that all people are created equal and so we must treat them equally. When there is a line in the shop for haircuts, he took us in the order in which we arrived. This little kid may be ahead of the village councilman and that’s the way things went. Fifty-some years later, I still hold that lesson dear.

My father for teaching me to own up to things I did. The details are unimportant, but when he apologized, I never felt less of him. Nor of others who err mightily.

All the people who invented the things we use to make our lives more comfortable. Recliners, computers, highways, cars, toilets, domesticated cats, antacids, medications, traffic regulations, ice cream cones, dictionaries, cruise ships, the rockets’ red glare, music, radio and baked alaska.

My brother who taught me not to take the first swing in a fight. But make the second one count. He taught me there is much joy in traveling without a road map and not a particular destination in mind; I still don’t understand it and wouldn’t do it on a dare, but I see how much he loves it and I enjoy his stories. At home. With tea.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I Never Realized How Lucky I Am

You see, my grandparents were not at all affectionate. I lived with them for nearly eight years and never saw a hug, much less a kiss. No snuggling in front of the radio or tv; separate bedrooms, that sort of thing. I recently discovered that Mom was born nine months after New Year’s Eve eleven years into their marriage.

They only had one child. At least, only one brought to term; the family did not talk about such things, so there’s no way for me to find out much about her.

But that one child was the link between me typing this and not-me ever existing. If Grandma had one less child, my radio program for the visually impaired and homebound would not exist, nor would my day job of the past 30+ years. My brother would never have become the fine photographer he is now, nor the Lower-48 traveler.

Grandma’s child produced a person who kept the family together during a rough period of time, many miles of bad road. Through that single zygote inherited from her parents, she kept the line going and here I am today. What a tenuous line that is! One little genetic mistake, one little DNA mis-match and it’s all over.

But it’s not only how we got here that’s luck. How did you get your job? How did you stumble into your good friends? What led you to be where you are now? What would have happened if you had not met this or that person, accepted this or that job, took up one or another hobby?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Exactly What Do I Want To Copyright?

Oh, there's just dozens of things in the Public Domain. The copyright symbol, for one. I don’t see a copyright symbol after it, which leads me to believe it’s not legally protected. Think of how many times you see it and if I copyright it at a royalty of one cent per use, you are set for life. This life and the one to come.

The trademark symbol is another one. You never see a “TM” after the “TM” and so I can Trademark it with the standard royalty charge.

You know what’s available for the asking? Traffic lights, that’s what. There may be laws about the various colors (remember the white “walk” light at the bottom of the stack?) and how they are lined up, but I’ve never seen any protection note which says “unauthorized duplication of these lights prohibited by law.”

My advice to readers of this blog is to go around and copyright or trademark everything they see which is still in the public domain (P.D. = not otherwise claimed by anyone). File a TM on the center and side lines of every street in your town. Ka-CHING! Direct deposit to your bank, automatic payments to your favorite cruise line.

That’s my plan for a huge retirement account. Every time someone uses a symbol, then copyright or trademark the symbol. Your fortune is made and you can retire to your lakeside home, liquid refreshment of your choice in your hand, and enjoy the good life that came from reading this blog. (Copyright and TM 2011 by Tom Carten.)

Monday, January 03, 2011

We Did Prohibition One Better

What the feds couldn’t do eighty years ago, we did in one day: the speakeasy down the street disappeared in a blaze of glory and a bulldozer.

It hasn’t been active in many years, of course, but it was still there in all its glory just waiting for that law to raise its illogical head and show how the Noble Experiment never was that noble. Well, it may have been noble in concept, but the experiment fizzled mightily. How people voted for it is a mystery to me and possibly others, as well.

The house didn’t come down just because there was an ancient cash register there, along with all the other appurtenances which belongeth to a house of illegal spirits. Still echoing from the walls, if all is quiet and you listen closely, are the sounds of laughter, clinking glasses and the faint sounds of police sirens coming up the street.

North Franklin Street was a fairly comfortable address; middle and upper-middle class residences, one which stood out from others by its size and age. Our house of some repute was an average home, perfect for hiding What Shall Not Be Spoken Of. The back door led to an alleyway, Spencer Lane, and then to another slight street.

We have become too pure these days. The cops busted a barber shop for having a few slot machines in the back room; big deal, says I. What’s to be harmed in a small town without a little naughty? We had a front here on Main Street frequented by cops, lawyers, a district magistrate and a judge. A few bucks here and there, no problem.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

This Family Tree Is Long

The jellyfish has been around for 600 million years, which I just learned from the Discovery Channel a few minutes ago. That’s a long time, which you know.

My brother is the family genealogist and for anyone else who fills in the missing gaps in their ancestral line, you’d have a hard time going back more than, say, 15 generations. We can make it to 12, mostly due to a book which happens to list my mother’s side back to 1639. She missed being in it by about eight or ten years, but her parents made it.

I don’t expect there are jellyfish around today who have a record going back that far. In terms of the universe, 600 million years is little more than a tick of the clock; God’s great creation out there seems to be something like 13.5 billion years old, best we can figure, and six hundred million is merely a rounding error.

Us’n? We’re the new kids on the block, jellyfish-wise. Creation-wise, we haven’t even moved into the house yet. We’re still out on the front lawn with the moving truck bringing in the furniture. If ten million years is a tick of the clock in the universe timepiece, all of human history probably will never last even that long.

Just think: with all our gadgets, all of our life-extending abilities, we are such newcomers in the vastness of creation, while these transparent things floating in the water have been swimming around since dragons roamed the earth looking for fair maidens to devour. Maidens who would not exist for another 600 million years.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Arnie "Woo-Woo" Ginsburg

“Happy Woo Year,” we heard over the airwaves each New Years’ Eve, as the radio signal bounced our way from Boston’s WMEX. Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg was on the air and all was well with the world. At least, if you were under 20. Any age older than that, all bets were off.
is one good site for this guy.
is an interview.

Anyway, happy whatever year from the staff and management of Things At King’s. We’ve been a busy little bunch around here, writing a series of articles for national distribution and I couldn’t do that plus keep up with the blog. Blogging doesn’t pay the bills so, while I have integrity, I’m no fool, either.

I went to the world’s least exciting New Year’s Eve party: sparkling grape juice and chocolate chip cookies. Hey, this kid’s not going to pile into a telephone pole or another car on his way home. I’d rather grape juice than something harder and lose my judgement with a thousand pounds of steel under me.

And as far as “Click It Or Ticket” goes, I think it would be more effective as “Click It Or Go Through The Windshield.” Seen enough of that on the evening news. “Ejected from the vehicle” means there was no seatbelt and they cratered.

Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm B-a-a-a-a-k!

I just finished a long and difficult writing project which took all of my time (except for my regular newspaper column) and it's back to the blog. Tell all your friends and relatives that Things At King's will now continue on a regular basis.

Till tomorrow, we (?) wish you a good New Year, filled with excitement and may you investigate anything that piques your interest.

Yours in gentleness,

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I received a major writing assignment which has taken all my online time, at least as far as keeping up with a daily blog. I'll be back after Christmas. Promise.

Stay tuned.