Saturday, March 31, 2007

There Are Worse Places To Be

-Behind the last car to make it through a long traffic light.
-In a raid of an underage beer party when you’re 17.
-Going down Giant’s Despair road and having your brakes fail.
-Spousal “busy” when one of your children walks in.

But it doesn’t seem so at the time.

-Still, I wouldn’t want to be taking a shortcut across a railroad bridge when a train comes around a curve.
-Nor would I want to be seen walking along a dock at night as two shady characters dump a body over the side.
-It would be to my best advantage not to get snarky with a cop who has just pulled me over, or to play lawyer when I’ve had a couple of beers.

These are situations you probably won’t get out of.

Everybody has a story.
Michael Sokol, 50, passed away back where I used to live. “He acquired six undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in mechanical, electrical and systems engineering, physics, optics and math in addition to two doctorate degrees, one in engineering and one in math. He used to complain how difficult and time consuming the process for obtaining a doctorate degree was, but said his third doctorate would be in theology.”

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Odometer Rolls Over

Sixteen, you can drive; at eighteen, you can, well, you’re legal; at twenty-one, you can get yourself a beer, at fifty, you can join AARP. At that point, things get nebulous; various senior memberships and entitlements start kicking in at different times: Social Security at 62 is but one, while others start at 55, 60, and whenever. Depends on the club, the business, the membership.

Two weeks from today, I hit one of the landmark ages – possibly the last before you turn 100 and get your picture in the paper. It’s the official Senior Citizen mark when you know you qualify for everything. You don’t have to feel it; you just have to be it. My money says in the old days, you felt it; at least, those who reached it felt it.

Old folks, they were. Gramps and Gram, taken out for a ride once a week. He had lumbago; she wore a corset and smelled like a can of Vick’s Medicated Rub. He said, “Eh? Eh?” a lot and she said, “You deef old fool, use your ear horn.”

You don’t see much of that anymore.

Everybody has a story.
Jack Golden passed away up in Scranton. He was flying his 27th mission in a B-24 Liberator bomber when he was shot down over Hungary. The survivors were captured by the Germans and held in various prison camps in Hungary and Germany, mostly in Stalag 4, near the Baltic Sea. American forces freed the camp April 1945.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Last Woman's Club

Charlotte Barry Winters died the other day at 109. She was the oldest female military veteran, as well as the last female World War I veteran. That leaves four surviving U.S. vets from the War To End All Wars.

She argued her case in favor of women with Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels. He did not admit she influenced his decision, but he’s also the guy who said radio made a surprise attack in the Pacific impossible. He may not have admitted to that, either.

Charlotte became yeoman 3rd class (F), for female and, after the war, joined the American Legion in 1919 -- the year it was founded -- and was a member for the next 88 years.

My grandfather was also a vet, he of the Spanish-American War. He served proudly, belonged to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and wore his cap in all parades. As I understand it, the war ended before he left the training camp in Connecticut. That made little difference to him; however small his contribution to the war effort, he made it to the best of his ability. He was linked to Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders on San Juan Hill; he helped Remember The Maine.

Everybody has a story.
Theodore Pawlowski passed away recently. He was a teacher locally for 42 years. During WW2, he was captured and imprisoned in Schubin, Poland. While imprisoned, he helped organize several escape attempts before being freed by the allies.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where The Sun Don't Shine

We’ve had some delightful temperatures here in the last week or two. Although the river went over its banks one day (we have dikes that protect us against flooding), the lower temps at night have kept snow melt under control and the river has not gone much higher than 16 feet since then.

It’s a bright day now and not only are the curbs clear (which we never would have imagined just a few weeks ago), but there’s no hint of the two storms – one very bad and the other just your usual winter snow.

Except where the sun don’t shine. There are places on our street which are always in the shade; there are places on our street where the city and the college dumped large piles of the snow/ice mixture. Not surprisingly, there are places on our street with three-foot solid piles of something thick enough to sink the Titanic. Assuming, of course, you could get the Titanic up North Franklin Street.

Around the city, you can still see piles large and small; at this time of year, the sun never reaches those locations. As it comes northward, they will be basking-places for dogs, cats, squirrels and any other of God’s creatures. College students included.

My brother says it’s nice that we don’t get snow in August, because it’s too hot to shovel. But these days, there are people in t-shirts picking the stuff up and it does look rather odd, a little out of place. Usually, they’re all bundled up, not looking as if they are on their way to the athletic fields to practice baseball.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Word "Gullible" Is Not In The Dictionary

I heard an ad for the Wellness Belt. Wear it and lose weight; according to the people who have done just that, it’s the easiest way to drop lots and lots of pounds. No diet, no exercise; just wear this heavy belt and your bathroom scale won’t know you.

Reminds me of the magnetic bracelet and/or backwrap. The magnets were supposed to cure something; I’m not sure exactly what. But, by darn, they worked if you thought they did. I’m not against anything that makes us feel better, as long as it’s legal, doesn’t cost too much, and causes no harm. But when you measure the amount of the earth’s magnetic field and realize that these magnets only add about one millionth, at best, you might entertain a few doubts about what they can do.

Copper bracelets were all the rage and were supposed to cure or prevent one or more bad things. I know that they left a green band around your wrist; whatever else that happened has, at least in my mind, been lost in what we call the mists of history.

The water cure is back. An M.D. living locally (an import from, I think, India) has dug it up and is pushing it – not on any medical or scientific grounds, but because he thinks it’s a good thing. He has a local auto parts dealer convinced and the gent is running ads in the local newspaper quoting the good doctor as how drinking enough water will cure just about every disease known to us. This, along with the electric cure, comes and goes.

People can’t seem to get enough of these things. A belt that makes you lose lots of weight, a few magnets or some copper around your wrist, drinking water. …ok.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Because That's Where The Money Is

Those are the most famous words bank robber Willie Sutton never said. Someone figured he would have, if he did, and since he should have, then he did.

Oddly enough, you don’t make money robbing banks. It may be where the money is, but it’s not where the pickings are. The chances of getting caught are too close to 100% to try, but try they do. Then it blows up in their face – literally. The money wrap they are given is loaded with dye and a timer. Just about the time you exit the bank, it explodes and you look like the loser in a paintball contest.

Most of them are caught, red-handed (no joke) or not in less than an hour. Others take a bit longer. Eventually, they end up wearing stripes and spending two-to-five thinking about the foolishness of it all. Their cellmate could have told them earlier.

Everybody has a story.
John Ripley, from back home, died Sunday. “As a youngster, he brought home ‘pet’ seals from Boston Harbor for a swim in the family bathtub. He flew from the black cinder runways of East Boston Airport, known today as Logan. John began instructing British Royal Air Force cadets in how to fly those big yellow Stearman biplanes. He survived numerous crashes by the young cadets, some involving embarrassing landings with the wheels pointing heavenward. John moved to Stratford CT, just a few hundred yards from the town dump. He assured his family that imminent conversion of the dump to a park would eliminate the awful smell and transform the area into a recreational paradise. He was right - 35 years later.”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The General Store

You live in a fairly isolated village, you have a general store. They didn’t stop existing just because towns got bigger, roads became better and we all became modern. We lived on what Mother Nature originally created as an island, a half-mile offshore. That a river’s silt, and our need to fill in the resulting swamp, turned it into a tenuous peninsula meant little: we are still offshore in emotion and, occasionally, in fact.

The general store started as a few small operations. Hymie’s hardware store, smaller and more crowded than outsiders could imagine, but with anything you would ever need. Freddie’s snack shop, general merchandise and, most importantly, gambling front. The market, the barber shop and its wind-up pole outside. The tiny deli where very underage (14 y/o) kids sold beer to anyone, including a local state cop who didn’t care. And the drugstore, with its 4th class post office, soda fountain, real phone booth, magazine rack (reading ok for regular kid customers) which the owner bought, and eventually sold, on the basis of a handshake.

Eventually, it all wound up in the (drug)store, after the pharmacy closed and there was but one store left in the village. Except for the hardware and gambling, you could still get most everything you needed right there. And, knowing the new owner, we’re not all that sure the gambling went away.

I think there is nothing quite like growing up in a place that people think exists only in old magazines. Some visitors asked where the mall was; I said, “There’s the general store; that’s it. Nearest mall is on the mainland, about four miles away.”

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Those *%$*# Illegal Immigrants

We’re having another big deal about illegal immigrants. This is the second time we’ve had an influx of these newcomers, separated by 150 or so years. First time around, we quietly welcomed them with open arms; this time, we can’t chase them out fast enough.

Time writes history; history makes or breaks. The first time, it made.

While today’s “illegals” arrive in cars, yesterday’s arrived via railroad; the Underground Railroad, to be exact. “Follow the North Star” changed to “Take I-81 North.” They both came in hopes of a new and better life, knowing their new home was tenuous at best and they were subject to arrest and deportation.

The lucky ones fit in and, eventually, became citizens. Their attempts were as hard as gaining a toehold on a wet river bank, where you might make ten slippery steps trying to get just one firm catch on your way up. They had their own sections of town, their own churches and holidays and even their own linguistic expressions. They still do around here.

We’re better off accepting this new bunch, teaching them the language, looking the other way when the issue of documentation comes up. Get them ready for citizenship and help them join our society.

It was done once before; it can be done again. As the lawyers say, there is precedent.

Don't Mess With A 'Phant

Continuing the tradition begun yesterday, this was also posted after midnight, and is actually Friday’s entry.

Jeff Corwin, who has a nature show on the Animal Planet channel, was helping bathe an elephant the other night on Anderson Cooper’s CNN program, “360.” Elephants are gentle animals but, as is the case for all animals, occasionally they get a little un-gentle at times.

This was one of those times. Our long-nosed friend took Jeff in its mouth, shook him like a rag doll and flung him aside. Jeff could have been on the obit page of the next day’s New York Times, but he survived with hardly any injuries at all. That, in itself, is amazing.

When people suddenly go wild, we say they have snapped, or the defense lawyers say it was temporary insanity. When animals do it, they are just reverting to their natural state. Which animals? All of them.

Watch when you are fooling around with your cat. The usual playful stuff you do every day, but then the cat’s eyes change, its ears go back and you suddenly realize Mother Nature has clicked something on and you’d better back off fast. Put three friendly dogs together and you have the start of a vicious pack that will revert to what appears to be something akin to a bunch of wolves in the wilderness. You begin to wonder if you can even trust your cute little pet bunny.

Friday, March 23, 2007

We're Next To River Street

This is Thursday’s blog, late overnight.

Yep, we’re right next to River Street. Beautiful view of the wandering, fairly low-level waterway that meanders from somewhere in, I guess, New York State down to the Chesapeake Bay. You need to be up a few floors to get the best location for looking up and down, as we are right at a bend; it’s beautiful.

The other day, as the snow melted upstream, the river rose to 24 feet. That’s, uh, let’s see … two feet above the river bank. Not a good idea, especially for people who live on, or near, River Street. Fortunately, we have a dike system that protects us to about 41 feet. All we have to worry about are the earthen dikes holding against the pressure of the water, especially right around here where there are two major bends in the river.

A few years ago, the dike broke in two of those bends; one of them was at a cemetery and people found caskets while cleaning out their flooded homes.

Anyway, the river has been running at 2 feet for the longest time, then rose to 4 feet for a while. Then, practically overnight (perhaps in two days), it rose to 24 feet. Over the course of the next few days, it gradually dropped to eight feet, but looking at the graph tonight (the gage is very close to us), I notice that it’s started to rise sharply.

My house is one block from River Street, but up enough of a hill so we will sleep tonight unless we see pairs of animals...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FL 350

Friend of mine records his thoughts over at, the home of “Cathedral Voices”:

Just saw the International Space Station fly overhead our house, he writes. It looked like a bright star traveling across the heavens … viewed thousands of miles up from our little street! It's quite hard to imagine that astronauts from different parts of the globe are conducting scientific tests; probably at this very moment.

Lots of times I see airplanes headed for Europe. They are passing by at 35,000 feet, known as Flight Level 350 or just FL 350. I look up at them and wonder what’s going on up there: snack cart being wheeled down the aisle? People reading the inflight magazine? Anybody thinking of who might be 35,000 feet below them looking up?

I wonder if anyone has checked the spark plugs lately, or tightened the bolts that hold the wings on. You can’t just land in the Atlantic Ocean to check some strange noise halfway across. It’s a long way from New York to London, or Paris, or Rome. It’s also a long way from 35,000 feet to zero feet.

I was listening to the pilot talking to Air Traffic Control on a United flight, where earphone audio 9 or 10 is their comm channel. At one point, I told my mother I was going to the rest room. “Don’t really have to go much,” I said, “but the pilot just got permission to climb and this may be the only time I get to take a leak at 42,000 feet.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In The Higher El's

We had a little snow this afternoon. Well, a little here in the lower part of the Valley; “about a quarter inch in drifts,” I told a friend. She, living just a bit higher, said there was between half an inch and an inch – “enough to sweep off my porch and steps.” That’s how it goes around this area: Down by the river, we get just so much snow; go a bit higher, which you can do without thinking about it, and you have twice as much. A bit higher means just that: You can gain a little altitude here just by going up a street.

“Five inches in the Valley, with ten or twelve inches in the higher el’s,” the tv people tell us. We know just where those higher el’s –elevations— are: Mountaintop (which does not exist), the Back Mountain (originally Back of the Mountain) and most of I-81 and 115 as they head south.

Mountaintop, for those who wonder, exists only as a small post office and its building on one of the higher settled points around here. It’s the agreed-upon designation for two or three otherwise named townships and a school district. It makes sense locally, like the San Souci Parkway. Anywhere in the world, that would be spoken as the “San Sousee,” but around here it’s “San Souee,” as if you were calling pigs.

It’s hard to forecast the weather around here because of all these hills and valleys. You get 5” of snow here, but the winds over there blow their snow to the next place; go through the Rock Cut on 309 and, as you climb that half-mile or mile, you leave rain and enter hard snow. “Maybe an inch or two in the Valley, but in the higher el’s…”

Monday, March 19, 2007

Getting Mooned

Today is the New Moon, which should actually be called the “No Moon,” because it’s the day when we can’t see it at all. On this day, it lies between the earth and the sun; the sun sees the bright side and we see the dark side. As it slowly becomes visible, we begin seeing the thinnest sliver of a crescent moon.

If they asked me, which nobody did, I’d say that the New Moon would be the first thin crescent that is visible after what is called the Dark Moon. Something you can’t see isn’t new; the first thing you can see is new. That’s what I say.

Sigmund Romberg wrote a very popular operetta in 1928, called “The New Moon.” The billboard for it showed a fetching young thing sitting on a dock in a very abbreviated pirate (piratesse?) outfit looking out to sea where there is a galleon with a near-new moon behind it. “The New Moon,” unfortunately, is not about a bright thing in the sky; it’s the name of a seagoing vessel on which the hero is to be deported to France.

The real New Moon is the start of the month in the Islamic, Jewish and Wiccan religions, as well in China and Iran.

Nobody has this story.
The obituary reads: “Lewis Jones died Wednesday as the result of injuries sustained at a home on East North Street.” Correct as written, but there are a few other facts. He, and another convicted murderer, were fighting over a bottle of whiskey when he was beaten to death.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Somewhere, It's Midnight

The “Jeopardy!” post, just below, was supposed to be posted on Saturday, but ended up early Sunday morning. I didn’t want to break my record of posting every day (except for my vacation).

Then constant reader Ruth sent a note: “The day/date showing on the blog page has nothing whatsoever to do with what ‘day’ it was posted. A ‘day’ begins when you get out of bed and ends when you climb back into bed. The time showing on the clock has nothing! to do with it.”

My day begins at 9:45 a.m. (wait just a moment before you get envious) and ends at 2:00 a.m., maybe a bit later. Generally, about 7 ½ hours of sleep, just on a different time line than most people.

When I’d be visiting my parents, I’d get up fairly early for me and find mom and my brother playing cards at the kitchen table. Their day began much earlier, but also ended much earlier. My brother retires about four hours earlier than me and that’s how his clock works.

Mom used to go out side and wake up the birds. You’d hear, “chirp chirp #%&*% chirp” and know she had just knocked them out of their nests. Next, the squirrels, to which she would say, “You got a problem with that?”

What time is it? Depends on who you ask.

"Cars for $200, Alex." "These Save Lives."

“What are seat belts?”

Jim Burke is a friend of the college; his son works in NYC, big enough job to rate being driven in a limo. He was in the back seat when they went around a bend at highway speed and into a stopped vehicle – from the back seat he went through the windshield and onto the expressway. Luckily, or amazingly, he survived.

I was in the treatment part of a hospital’s emergency room taking in the sights when two teens were brought in. Gender undetermined, even though they were pretty much in their birthday suits as they were being worked on. Bad car accident, no seat belts. Turned out to be girls, who I visited later and who would never have their before-crash beauty without a lot of plastic surgery.

Couple of people I know spun out yesterday on I-90 near Erie PA. They hit a snowstorm and, however it happened, suddenly found themselves going in various directions. In one spin, they rammed their front end into another car; after they jumped out of their vehicle, it got rammed in the back by a big double-bottom UPS truck. Luckily, or amazingly, they walked away. They were wearing seat belts and, possibly, had air bag deployment. At this point, they don’t remember a whole lot. But they are still around to talk about it.

I’ve heard just about every reason people can come up with for not wearing seat belts. I’ve even seen a guy who will put it across him, but not snap it shut. Maybe I should print this blog and send it to them. Seat belts save lives. Repeat it out loud.

Friday, March 16, 2007

St Valentine's Day & St Patrick's Day

Well! We’ve had a number of warm days and nights and it’s been nice around here for a while. All those large piles of St. Valentine’s Day snow have pretty much melted down, if not away, and you can pull right up to the curb, or close enough. There were some very large piles in the street which are still there, although in fairly miniature mode now, where the front-end loaders had to dump them. We are just watching the warmer temperatures and bright sunlight take them away.

Oh, kee-rap … the National Weather Service has just issued a winter storm warning. “X” marks the spot, and “X” is sitting on the Wyoming Valley in Northeastern PA. Or, to put it another way, on us. We’re at the edge of something, and the edge isn’t good. We could get ten inches, or we could get fourteen-plus. That means we could be in doo-doo or we could be in deep doo-doo. In another day, we could have piles of new white stuff saying to the piles of old dirty stuff, “Hi! We’re your new neighbors for St. Patrick’s Day. Understand you’ve been here for just over two months now. Hope we can grow old together.”

Everybody has a story.
Rachanee Oeller and Arthur Gregory were married at Frances Slocum State Park in a medieval-themed wedding. Most of the wedding party dressed as medieval royalty while some dressed as pirates and barbarians. The flower girl dressed as a sunflower fairy princess with hair adorned with sunflowers and barefoot. She carried a giant leaf as her flower basket. A court jester entertained by juggling and swallowing fire while guests drank honey mead wine and dined on large turkey drumsticks and a roasted pig.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

There Might Be Static On The Radio Tonight

It’s one of my favorite sounds. One reason might be that it reminds me of all those late nights listening to the radio and trying to pick out distant stations from the garble of interference and distant electrical storms. Anytime in the spring, summer and fall there would be static crashes, weak or strong, in the background and I would strain to hear the stations’ call signs. Check off another weak signal on the list of stations, send them enough information to prove you heard them, and wait for the confirmation reply.

I have a small box full of such replies. Lots of listening and lots of static are represented in those letters and cards. Lots of triumphs, too; ever try listening to some little teakettle of a station on a frequency crowded with dozens and dozens of other equally weak stations? You are trying to keep your ear on just one of them, pick out a couple of ads, a call sign, a location – all this between the ever-present static from a storm that might be a hundred or more miles away.

And your tape recorder is going all the time. What? Did the station jingle come out with “KCJB in Minot”? Check the tape. Yeah; a 1,000 watt station, maybe less at night, all the way from North Dakota. Keep that tape, send it to the station. They will like to know they made it all the way to Connecticut and I’d like proof of that via a confirmation card.

Everybody has a name.
John Paul, Jr., or, as I prefer to know him, John Paul II, died Sunday in Texas. He had been a local resident. I wonder if I’m the only person to notice this name thing?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alfred Hitchcock Slept Here

When I stepped out on my way to the radio station this morning, I could almost see Tippi Hedren and cast on the street, running in sheer panic. There were birds all around me. I heard a crow or two high up in a tree; lower down, a woodpecker; hither and yon, whatever other birds happened to be in the neighborhood.

Feathered bipeds. As opposed to us, unfeathered bipeds.

Full-fledged birds, from “fledge,” to do with feathers. Actually, if you go back far enough, “fledge” means “capable of flying,” but later “to cover with feathers.” I rather suspect this does not include the Revolutionary-era practice of tarring and feathering people who had fallen into disfavor.

Once you are a full-fledged something, you have all your feathers for the job and can fly on your own. If you are a fledgling whatever, you are still being trained. If you are Alfred Hitchcock, you can take a flock of these sweet little chirpers and scare the kee-rap out of everybody in some small town.

Everybody has a story.
Patrick Butler went to his reward last week. Born in Ireland, he lived in Syracuse NY, but as owner of the Butler Academy of Traditional Irish Dancing, had one of his studios here in Wilkes-Barre. He was the North American Irish Dance Champion, who came from a family of Irish dance champions. He performed before President John Kennedy, Carmel Quinn [remember her?] and the Queen of England.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Dream Of An Invention

It seemed like a good idea at the time: You put coins in the parking meter and, if you changed your mind about parking there, you pushed a button (like on a pay phone) and your coins were returned as the meter reset to zero. When I woke up, I realized that if you didn’t want to park there, you just would not put coins in.

I do remember walking down this dream street and pushing the buttons, collecting coins from various meters, lots of coins, and doing the same with pay phones. Made a lot of money before my alarm clock went off.

Note to those who have taken an Intro to Psych course, or read a magazine article on the Interpretation of Dreams: Forget it. I dream about a lot of things; we all do. They mean little, if anything.

I get the disc jockey’s dream: We arrive at the studio and can’t find anything, or the equipment is new and we don’t know how to work it, or we can’t find any records. All of us have this dream and maybe those in other lines of work also do. It’s scary.

Everybody has a story.
Marie Koplish, a former local resident, passed away last week. “She was an accomplished musician, earning her first dollar playing violin in her father’s band. She was offered a position as a nanny in New York City. She worked for a couple who were talent agents for the Folies Bergeres and met many famous people through them.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Radio Station And The Parking Lot

Many years ago (has it been 38 years already?) I was in charge of a restaurant’s small parking lot one summer. It had 19 spaces and I managed to put 21 cars in it, the final two parked by myself.

All the years I’ve been in radio, I’ve been a demon for timing and for running a nice tight show. As one broadcaster put it, “You must run your board (control board) tighter than a rat’s ass.” Indeed, I always have. Half-second cuts in and out of the network were common; timing a show’s precise finish from thirty minutes out was the standard.

So there were 21 cars in a lot that could not possibly hold more than 19 cars. You drive your cars as tightly as you run your control board: learn just how close you can get and how to use the outside mirrors so you can use, literally, every inch of space between cars, how to steer for maximum turning in narrow spaces, and the value of backing cars in.

It’s an art. In this case, you don’t want the owners watching the artist because they don’t always understand you know that an inch between cars is plenty of room.

Many people have this story.
Local residents Holly Judge and Mark Warunek changed their wedding date to July 7, 2007. He said, “With three 7's, I’ll never forget our anniversary.” She said, “All the things we got engraved already just look so cool with 7-7-7 on them.” An estimated 31,000 other couples in the U.S. also chose to get married on July 7, deeming the three 7's as lucky.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Halifax And We Are In The Atlantic Time Zone

When we are on the ship, there comes a point when a discreet little card appears on our beds reminding us that we will be crossing over from the Eastern to the Atlantic Time zone. That means the ship will also be making the change and we are to turn our clocks ahead one hour. Immediate result: Lose an hour of sleep. Ultimate result: See a new part of the world, the Maritimes in Canada. Reaction: Well worth it.

Today, we turned our clocks ahead an hour, three weeks earlier than usual. I’m not sure of the reason, but I’m sure the excuse is Homeland Security, Border Protection or God Bless America. Something like that. Immediate result: Lose an hour of sleep. Ultimate result: Wake up in the same old Wilkes-Barre. Reaction: Whose idea was this??

To look on the bright side of things, we can imagine that we have not turned out clocks ahead, but simply joined the Atlantic Time Zone. Here we are, at one with our brothers and sisters in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We are again in Sidney, NS. We are about to visit Cape Breton. Doesn’t that sound nicer? Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA, as it’s called locally) is now enjoying the benefits, an earlier sunrise for one, of those we met on our trips to the Maritimes. It’s all so glorious, all so fresh and Canadian, so windblown and seagoing. And here comes Anne of Green Gables, fresh from the coal mines.

Everybody has a story.
George Gutch passed on a couple days ago. His obituary mentions that “when he was 18, he participated as an umpire in a record-setting sandlot softball game that lasted 242 innings.”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Snack Of Champions

I’m making some porridge-plus as my mid-afternoon repast.

Starts with Quaker Oats, then after it’s cooked for a minute, I add dried fruit from various packages of Welch’s products: Pineapple, mango and papaya (from “Tropical Sensation"), pineapple, apricots, cherries, apples and raisins (“Mixed Fruit”), blueberries, cherries, cranberries and golden raisins (“Berry Medley”), dried cherries and raisins.

The liquid is water; I cook it until it has the consistency of wallpaper paste and there is never any sweetener added.

To my mind, there are fewer satisfying things to have than this. Especially when accompanied by a well-brewed mug of tea and some fine music in the background.

The style of music is up to you and will vary. Right now, I am listening to some Benny Goodman discs that had never been released until he donated them to the Yale University Library. They were in-person concerts, saved from oblivion and now entertaining the likes of me.

Now the porridge is finished, my mug of tea needs a quick 30-seconds in the microwave and I have to continue prepping my radio program. But, as Wheaties is the Breakfast of Champions, my porridge concoction is certainly the Snack of Champions.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Real People Sold You Things On Television

They didn’t have any fancy graphics in those days, no flashy “ten pictures per second” spurts of video. You just had someone tell you about the product. It was so simple then.

The guy, in this case Hugh Conover, sat in a regular living room chair and talked to us about Skippy peanut butter. I don’t know how long he went on, but he looked at us, talked about the qualities of Skippy and I bought the stuff for years. It’s still my favorite, if for no other reason than Hugh Conover knew how to sell peanut butter.

I never could figure out how Buffalo Bob could split the Three Musketeers bar into three pieces so easily. Still can’t. It did not appear as if someone had cut it ahead of time, but with the pictures we saw on the tv sets of the time, they may have. But Bob was another person who could easily and conversationally sell iceboxes to Eskimos, or candy bars to kids. All he had to do was look at you and talk about how great they were.

Everybody has a story
E. Louise Howells passed on to glory the other day locally. From her obituary: “She loved art, writing, writing poetry, travel and was amazing on the dance floor. She loved good coffee, well-mixed Manhattans, ice-cold beer and preparing food. She could shoot a rifle with extreme accuracy, jitterbug like there was no tomorrow and cook up a storm. She believed in America, freedom of speech, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I Was Born In 1907

Genworth Financial has been running a series of ads on tv, all in black & white, showing people who are 100 years old. One fellow plays trumpet at some nightspot every week (and drives himself there), another lady continues the world travels she and her late husband started many years ago, a third person said she never thought she’d live to be a hundred.

Do any of us? We never think we’d make it that far, but we’ve never died before and don't really think of it happening. Every year, our personal odometer rolls over and, as today’s cars are built better and now have six-digit odometers, we are cared for better and ours also have increased, from two figures to three.

When Jesus was teaching, a marriage might last twelve years before a spouse died; in 1900, it might last twenty-five years. Now sixty years is not at all that unusual. We had an obituary for a woman who retired at 93 and probably spend her remaining two years bored.

Everybody thinks they have a story.
John Drury was charged with DUI after a two-car crash in which he was visibly intoxicated, had an alcohol odor on his breath and blew a .144 (intox here is .08). He claimed he had not been drinking, but that his Red Man Select chewing tobacco contained whiskey, hence the odor. He says he will challenge the arrest and wants the tobacco’s alcohol content tested. The company reports its chewing tobacco contains no alcohol. Drury was not available for comment.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Barbarian Week On The History Channel

Well, at this point, the Saxons have busted some other group and the bodies are laying all over the countryside in various states of disrepair. Fridays are set aside for dogfights in various air wars where pilots blow other pilots (and their planes) out of the sky.

Maybe if I were in a war, I would feel differently about it. But right now, I don’t know how I would live with myself knowing that I took someone’s life. I’d rather not ask any vets, in case they have spent the intervening years trying to put it out of their minds.

If in a war, I'd prefer to take any position that did not require shooting another person. Maybe, if I had a family back home, I would feel differently about killing someone, rather than being sent to meet my Maker earlier than expected.

If it weren’t such a big issue, it would not be ten percent of the Commandments. It’s right up there with no strange gods, no adultery and the others. You just don’t kill people.

Yeah, I know: Hitler and his pals; bad guys who we had to fight. But I don’t see any other wars, conflicts, police actions and such in the 20th or 21st century that had much of any justification for wiping out each other. We invented them and sent our people to kill the other side’s people for what were probably more economic than defensive reasons.

I think I’d rather be judged for being shot at, than for shooting.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Birds Are Working The Church Lawn

It’s 18 degrees out and a flock of birds are pecking away at the church lawn just around the corner from us, wearing nothing more than the feathers Mother Nature gave them. I don’t know what they’ve found, but you often see that: lots of birds, a lawn, a meal fit for a feathered biped.

What would be out in this temperature? Certainly not some sunbathing morsel and most likely not grubs. I don’t think they hang out on lawns, churchly or otherwise. Seeds that were blown into the snow and just now available after our forty and fifty degree melting weather?

The birds have disappeared now, possibly into the underbrush or people’s hedges, picking their beaks and burping, having an after-dinner cigar and some cognac. Or maybe they have found another lawn worth scavenging, methodically working. Like a balanced diet, going from the Presby parish to the Methodist, then the RC’s, a side of Lutheran and topping it off with the Fundies up Main Street.

Wherever it may be, whatever the temps are, you never hear their mothers saying, “For heaven’s sake, wear a scarf. It’s 18 degrees out there. And put a sweater on under that coat or you’ll catch your death of a cold.”

Doesn’t happen in Bird Land. They just fly out of their trees (I am assuming they are too old to have nests) every morning and head to work at the nearest lawn-office.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Looking For Blacks, Looking For Coloreds

When you are a mother, sometimes you run out of ideas to keep your children busy and entertained. Especially in the days before television and a lot of the gadgets that pass for babysitters these days.

What’s a mom to do? Well, if you live on a moderately busy street, you can have the kids count cars. Not just any cars, mind you. The older brother can count black cars and the younger gets the colored cars. In those days, they were pretty much equal, so neither could run up the score. I remember the day we did it and, sure enough, we had abut the same number when it was over.

Some day, when I am bored out of my mind, I might make up a sheet with colors already noted and sit up at the top of our hill where there is a busy street and note how many of which color go by. Just glancing out the window now, I don’t notice any black cars at all.

There used to be a lot of two-toned cars. We had a wonderful ’55 Chevy, white over red. Classy piece of metal on wheels. I don’t notice any of those now and there aren’t any going by. One year, Chrysler had a three-toned car and it resembled a birthday cake.

Anybody see whitewalls anymore? From my perch here, I haven’t seen one go by. They were big, they were tiny and there were even fake pieces of plastic you could add on later. Nobody seems to have skirts over the rear wheels, either; does anyone even remember what they were?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Be Nice To Us, Elmira

I think they had a few days of warm weather up in Elmira. Apparently, it’s been cold there and, aside from the warm period, back to cold again. That’s just a guess from checking the river gage down by the courthouse.

We’ve all had a lot of snow, but the river stayed around two feet, even dropping a few inches late last week. It started going up, fast, Saturday. Not a lot, but fast. Up from two feet to thirteen, then down to seven. That indicates some warm weather in the southern tier of New York State two days ago.

The natural riverbank (“flood stage”) is 22 feet; the dikes protect us to 41 feet and anything above that turns River Street into, well, a river. One day, the river was just about at the top of the dike, within a foot and maybe closer. I remarked that if one more person in the southern tier flushed their toilet, we’d have a flood here.

I’ve been here for a few “up to the top,” as well as a lot of “kinda close to the top” river events. For two of the near-misses, everybody who didn’t live on a hill had to get out until it dropped down.

It’s not always an overflow, as much as the dikes might break, as has happened before. You don’t need that much water with that much strength suddenly breaking through a dike. It happened before, in 1972, and took a cemetery with it. People were finding caskets in their homes when they returned to clean up the mess and get on with life. You don’t need that.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

It Looks Like A Billiard Ball In The Sky

We had a total lunar eclipse this evening, hidden behind clouds tho it might have been. I saw one a few years ago while sailing in the North Atlantic Ocean, away from the bright lights of the big city.

As it went into the earth’s shadow, the moon slowly turned a dark red. Then, in the blackness of the ocean sky, it appeared like a white bowling ball or (as I saw it) a cue ball. Not really white, with a tinge of red, hanging there in the sky with just enough light reflecting off so it stands out, ever so faintly, against the blackness.

It’s a strange sight. You’re out there in the middle of nowhere; the moon starts to disappear and all you can see are a galaxy full of stars and this looming circle of near-darkness up above you. It goes through a few faint changes of color and then starts to come back very slowly until you once again have a full moon.

It’s even better through a pair of binoculars, a fairly strong set. You can see more of the subtle color changes, perhaps caused by the earth’s atmosphere as the sun’s light passes through it and the moon, in turn, also goes in and out of that shadow.

Everybody has a story.
Ray Evans died Friday. You know the saying, “That guy couldn’t get elected as dog catcher.” Well, Ray not only could, but did; he was the first dog catcher for the SPCA of Luzerne County. He also participated in all Wilkes-Barre City parades, showcasing his antique military vehicles.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Park Anywhere

We had a big basketball game here last night and people were parking anyplace they could: in all the lots and on all the streets. Except for one person who didn’t park on the street as much as he parked in in the street.

You just wonder where people’s heads are. This one’s seemed to be up his tailpipe. Parked at somewhat of an angle, with the front wheels illegally far from the curb, back end far out onto the street. Far out enough so that the investigating cop could not get by and had to go around the block. So did the tow truck.

That’s going to be expensive for Mr. Ford Escapade. But, rightly or wrongly, I have my theories about people who drive SUVs and large cars in general. Theory: They own the road and everyone else is dog food – not even a good brand, at that. Just my opinion and aimed at nobody in particular, but I do see a lot of people in those kinds of vehicles going too fast on wintry highways and tailgating me on urban streets. When you look in your mirror and all you see is a hunk of metal and a license plate, you know it’s bigger than you and the driver would like you to move.

Everybody has a story:
Jessie Whitworth Mallinson Tweedy, a former local resident, passed away at 94. A resident of England, she met her California husband there and made a perilous sea voyage back to the USA during WW2. Later, they moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, then to Amman, Jordan, later to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, then New York City and later to Khartoum, The Sudan. They retired to California.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thus Far And No Further

Joe: “Seems like it was only yesterday, but it’s almost fifty years now since we had that big frat blow-out party and the cops busted us for underage. At least we only spent a night in the slammer and they let us go with some dinky fine.”

Bob: “You were lucky. I managed to stay out of trouble. Well, a DUI on New Year’s Eve once, but I pleaded “no contest” and we fixed the whole thing up.”

Joe: “Here we are, Toronto straight ahead. Hardly any line; just get our passports and should be there in no time at all.”

Border: “Sir, the two of you have records in the States. Canadian law says you are inadmissible to our country. I have an arrest for you in Iowa from 1960 on underage drinking and you, sir, for DUI in Michigan in 1980. You’ll have to turn back; you can’t enter Canada if you have anything on your record.”

The law’s been around, but now with US-Canadian cooperation, they can access our information better than any US cop does during a traffic stop. If you have anything on your record since the age of 18 other than a speeding ticket, you aren’t going to see a Molson in its native habitat.