Monday, December 31, 2007

Harvey Wallbanger Slept Here

George Bednar passed away in December. He was a local fellow who played for the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals. He also created and launched the “Harvey Wallbanger” mixed drink, with its ad slogan, “My name is Harvey Wallbanger and I can be made.”

Well, it can be made, but it’s hard to find it these days; the thing went out of style some years back. It’s also hard to substantiate the story that George invented it because, as we all know, success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. I found at least four inventors in three locations, with two stories as to how the name came about.

Let’s stick with “local boy makes good.”

Michael Milne passed away in November. Also a local, this Vietnam War veteran testified before Congress about the effect of Agent Orange on solders and established the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc., which now has eighty chapters nationwide. He worked for the benefit of all veterans since the age of 35, despite 100% disability from the effects of Agent Orange and died at 63.

Lee Vincent also went to glory in December. He started his first band at age eleven and was still active in the business pretty near his passing at the age of 91. The orchestra for which he was best-known formed in 1946 and was recognized by the American Federation of Musicians as Top Regional Band. The group even played at the New York Stock Market and he requested a live combo at his wake. That’s class.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tom's Helpful Hints When Driving

Carma: The automotive equivalent of Karma. What you do unto others will eventually be done unto you. I firmly believe that aggressive drivers get their bumpers handed to them on a platter. Ex.: Friend of mine was on the Interstate when snow dictated she go 35; SUV’s were passing her at posted speed. She called me twice, once to report the incidents and again to tell me said vehicles were in the median, either skidded off or wheels-up.

Getting the green: Some places have “automatic green” for ambulances. Around here, they can change reds to greens to help them get to the hospital quicker. Fall in behind them and take advantage of modern technology. Also, people will get out of your way.

Speaking of the yellow and green: There is an unlimited supply of them. Really. I’ve learned that life is so much better when you don’t try to beat an old yellow, because the driver to your side might be wanting to beat a yet-to-be-born green. That can be (a) painful and/or (b) expensive. Remember, the turtle beat the rabbit.

Somebody tailgating you? Don’t play games; let them pass. Put on your turn signal, pull over to the right, slow down and let the idiot go. Driving isn’t a game you need to win and the roads aren’t racetracks where the person in front wins. See “Carma,” above; you may find them in a ditch or on the business end of flashing blue and red lights. Don’t beep your horn and wave as you go by; just gloat to yourself.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Front Runner

I used to play a game of sorts when I was waiting for an elevator when there were two or more cars in a building or on a cruise ship: which would be the first to arrive at my floor?

You need indicators, of course, and then the fun begins. It helps pass the waiting time and, if you are a gambling person and meet another such creature, might turn a little coin for one of you.

You’re on the main floor and you push the “up” button. The cars are on floors 8 and 7 going up and down, respectively. You know, from experience, that it’s the least likely car at any particular moment which will reach you. Right now, 8 is it. So 7 comes down to floor 5; 8 goes up to 9 and shoots down to 4. Then 5 drops to 3, while 4 goes to 2. Now 3 goes to B and 2 stays where it is. They both arrive at the main floor together and all bets are off.

It’s even more fun when there are four cars in a cruise ship and they can stay stuck on a floor for what seems like several minutes. They shoot past your floor, they stay at the floor above or below you, then the car down in the crew quarters comes express right to your floor and goes express to where you are going.

As I said, it’s fun. It’s not a cure for anything, it doesn’t advance world peace, you don’t learn anything useful. But it beats pressing the button over and over.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oh -- I Know You

One of the benefits of being a radio news anchor is the ability to disappear when you are out in public. Just keep your mouth shut.

The tv anchors, locally famous as they are, can’t go anywhere without being recognized. That can be nice, or it can be nasty. It can also get in the way when you just want to be who you are and everyone feels like waving at you and stopping you on the street.

So you are the voice on the radio, never seen and whose face and general appearance depend on the imagination of the listener. Am I tall, medium, short? Do I remind you of someone you know? If we put a bunch of people in a line-up, would you be able to pick me out?

“I’d like to get a duplicate key made,” I told the young lady in the locksmith shop. She looked at me and said, “I recognize your voice. You’re the guy on the radio in the morning, doing the news.” Ten seconds earlier, I was just another customer; now, I’m the guy on the radio. That’s all it takes us unseen broadcasters to be known.

I’m not that good at doing voices, although I can imitate some people fairly well. My mother once said I sounded more like my brother than he does and I used to surprise her by coming home and walking into the house speaking his accented English. I also scared her (she was frightened of physicians) by imitating hers. He had another kind of accent and I picked up on it quickly.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"An Implement For Writing" (14th Century)

Also known as a pencil.

I have before me my current favorite. It has a solid piece of graphite inside which sharpens easily and without any problem, thanks to a good shank of wood. The paint is of good quality and the eraser is well-bonded to the body. It feels good in the hand.

There is an art to sharpening a pencil. An art? Or is it a science? I will go with a science that, at the end, turns into an art.

First, start cranking the pencil sharpener. Yes, cranking; you do not use one of those horrible electric things that just chomp away. Sharpening is, as I said, an art; a fine art. First you get the blades going properly and then you insert the pencil until you feel the shaving begin.

At this point, you start revolving the pencil into the action of the blades, pushing it slightly into the sharpener. When you can feel that it’s done, remove the pencil and then stop cranking the handle.

Blow the residue off the pencil point. The pencil is not officially and completely sharpened until you have blown a puff of air at the point to remove any leftover wood or graphite shavings. I prefer two short puffs, one to loosen and the other to actually blow the residue away. Do what you feel is best for you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wasn't It Just Christmas?

Someone sure got it right: There’s nothing that’s as over as Christmas. WLNP, “Your official Christmas station” went back to its usual format faster than you can turn off a light bulb. A few years ago, I happened to be in a department store The Day After and noticed Valentine’s Day cards already on display.

Talk about a guillotine coming down and severing the Christmas season from the rest of the year, what’s left of it. Zeeeeeuuuuu. Chunk. WLNP, “Your official Valentine station, all Valentine music, all the time.” Or something like that.

What distressed me, when I found out, was learning that the “across the country” New Year’s Eve celebrations on ABC or somewhere were actually taped in advance. That’s like learning there ain’t no Santy Claus.

So, we’re in the second day of Kwanzaa, a time of reflection for people of African heritage, and equally good for all of us. It ends on New Year’s Eve and is an excellent preparation for realistic resolutions for the new year. It’s a celebration of family, community and culture; the seven principles include Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, Faith. Check it out at “”

Celebrate Christmas, reflect on ourselves and our community, then look forward to the new year; a good combination.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Somebody Hear Reindeer Last Night?

This is the second of three “catch up” posts for this busy Christmas season.

The earlier post was written with Frank Sinatra in the background. This one, to fill in for Christmas Day, was done on the 26th and the Will Bradley-Ray McKinley Orchestra is playing. The first piece is “Celery Stalks At Midnight,” with a single five-word vocal: someone, shouting in falsetto, “Celery stalks along de highway!”

Christmas Day: Mass early, for me, in the morning. Ok, 9:30 isn’t early for a lot of people, but it’s plenty early for me. Also, an early buffet (11:30) at a nice hotel restaurant nearby, “Wildflowers.” It was the only time available, as I had waited too long before calling. Next year, I’ll plan better; with the calendars already in hand, I can make a notation now. It’s real nice place, unlike the other hotel nearby which, although its buffet price is the same, is a third-rate place trying hard to be second-rate, in my opinion. Or second-rate trying hard to stay second-rate.

Then I go back my place while my “non-a a sister” (see yesterday) goes home to finish fixing things. I have a radio show to prep, for the visually impaired and homebound. I’ll be on the air later, but want to get it ready now. After that, we open the things I mentioned before, one of hers being a re-caning of a chair she likes; it came from Mom’s home and you can’t sit on it anymore.

I do my show, come back and fall asleep on the couch with visions of sugarplums.

Monday, December 24, 2007

T'was The Night Before

This is the first of three postings in “catch up” mode during an unusually busy Christmas season.

Frank Sinatra is playing in the background and, despite the date up above (24th), it’s actually the afternoon of December 26. I’m making a mug of tea, the room is a bit cool, but the tea and some warm homemade apple pie (not by me) will bring back that old Christmas cheer. Nothing quite like good music, good tea and pie. Turning up the heat a few degrees doesn’t hurt any, either.

My religious faith means a lot to me; it has sustained me through some serious illnesses, a few hard times and added to the joyous times. That means a lot of time inside church in years when Christmas is on a Tuesday. Mass on Saturday or Sunday, the Christmas Vigil service, then Christmas Day.

This year, a reprieve from one task: our “non-adopted adopted sister” and I will not be wrapping presents. Sometimes we do, sometimes we just put them in two bags and stick our hands in to see what’s there. Among other things, I pulled out three calendars: trains, lighthouses and outer space galaxies. The fourth, which I’m buying for myself, is one only a radio announcer would like: an antenna calendar. Each month, there is a different radio station’s transmitter site and, yes, we can often tell stations apart just by looking at their antenna locations. You’d have to be in the business to understand.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Time To Get The Newspapers

It’s a little after midnight – 12:23, to be exact. Time to go over to the newspaper where I write a weekly music column and pick up the Sunday edition. I use the paper every day for my radio program that reaches the visually impaired and homebound in this area.

It’s always some sort of orchestrated zoo over there at night when the press is running and the mailroom is processing the insert machines, bundling the papers and getting them out to the garage where the contract carriers. I’ve mentioned this before.

Saturday nights, with Sunday’s papers, is a little more raucous, a little bigger zoo, but still just as orchestrated. Everybody knows exactly what to do and it gets done.

The papers have been larger lately, what with the Christmas advertising, and the Sunday editions, large anyway, have been bloated on some weekends with the standard pre-printed insert bundles sometimes going out in doubles the day before. Good for the newspaper, hard on the carriers.

We also distribute the Sunday New York Times which, luckily, has no special inserts for this area. I used to have an edition which weighed, if I remember correctly, something like 7.75 pounds.

Ours will go out, the Times will hit the road about 4:00 a.m. and the place will have been swept clean by then. Everybody will be home and in bed and the joint will be quiet.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Three Teenage Newspapers

As early as I can remember, I always wanted to know everything about everything. Nothing was beyond my desire. In grammar school, the local library had a “junior” section for us kids and I was devouring books at a massive rate. One day, the old lady librarians called me over to the desk and told me I was no longer restricted to that section; I could take out any book in the place.

I have always credited the Stratford Library Association with helping, in great deal, with making me who I am today.

Later, when I was a few years older and attending high school, I began reading two newspapers a day: the Bridgeport Post, pretty much in its entirety, and the New York Daily News, because it was easily available. Couple of years later, I added the New York Times.

After that came shortwave news stations and U.S. news magazines. Then nobody on the school bus wanted to talk to me because we had nothing in common. They wanted to talk about the ball game and I wanted to talk about the African colonial regime collapsing and the new nationalism movement. I was in radio news by that time and the split between me and the other students was pretty much complete.

My grandfather felt that the educated person should have the best dictionary and the best atlas. I used them and have inherited them. Of course, I’ve updated, but they were my start.

Friday, December 21, 2007

One Good Thing About Christmas

We stop hearing Christmas music day and night from “Your Official Christmas Station” (Who appointed them?) By 6 pm on Christmas day, they’ll be back to their usual soft-rock format and nobody will realize the Christmas season has just begun.

We’ll also stop hearing people who like dissing all this Christian “Merry Christmas” stuff. They don’t diss the day off with pay, so maybe they should stay on the job.

Stores will open at a decent hour, and the help can go back to a normal life. I never will understand why we feel it’s necessary to observe the annual ritual of Christ’s birth by getting in line around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. to buy something that will be (a) out of style, (b) outmoded or (c) forgotten this time next year.

No, I’m not any sort of grinch. I just don’t see Christmas as the time when merchants tote up their fourth quarter sales and percent increases. If we want to give presents on the occasion of the Winter Solstice, that’s fine with me. I’ll make a list and leave it on the kitchen table; do your best and, if money’s an issue, home-made chocolate chip cookies will make me yours forever.

But the origin for all this projection of sales, for the ads showing cars with bows on them, cute young gals in abbreviated (!) Santa suits is, oddly enough, a person in my religion who came to show us a better way to live, to give and teach forgiveness, to lead us to eternal life. Hard to hear with all those cash registers ringing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good Night, Sweet Prince

We are a people of rituals. Ask people who don’t like going to church and they might say it’s because of all those rituals, hogwash each one, and not at all relevant to our lives. Then have an outsider look at our own personal rituals and we’ll soon find that it’s a part of how we go through life.

My left sock first, then right; after that, my right shoe first, then left. Any reason? Nah; none that I know of. Just the way I do it, a personal ritual that started sometime.

Bedding down for the night: this is one that takes a little time and preparation. First I slide ‘neath the sheet, then I pull it up over my head and make it nice and tight. Then the next layer (a blanket right now), similarly over my head and tight, then the bedspread. And I lie there for a while like, well, like someone in a morgue I guess. When I get around to it, I turn the bedside lamp off, roll over face down and drift off to the lovely classical music from our public radio station.

It’s almost time for that ritual now. See you tomorrow.

Everybody has a story.
Sally Hurley Finley, a Connecticut resident, passed away this week. “She was an independent young lady and woman, always ahead of her time. As a young girl, she made the newspapers after punching a relative of the then Secretary of the State because the boy criticized her father who was then running for Governor.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some Odd News Of The World

ROME, Italy -- An Italian court ordered Tweety, along with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and his girlfriend Daisy, to testify in a counterfeiting case. In what lawyers believe was a clerical error worthy of a Looney Tunes cartoon, a court in Naples sent a summons to the characters ordering them to appear. Instead of naming only the companies and their legal representatives, clerks also wrote in the witness list the names of the cartoons that decorated the toys and gadgets the man had reproduced, said Disney Company Italia.

NEW YORK -- Here comes the bride, all dressed in white ... two-ply, extra soft toilet paper. Jennifer Cannon and Doy Nichols plan to get hitched Wednesday in a public restroom. She'll be wearing a gown fashioned from glue, tape and Charmin Ultra Soft and Ultra Strong toilet tissue. The intricately detailed dress was designed by Hanah Kim, winner of the 2007 Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest. The wedding ceremony will take place in Times Square at the Charmin Restrooms — temporary, free public restrooms.

ROME -- An Italian court has ruled that a couple could not name their son "Friday." The tribunal said it believed the name would hinder him from developing "serene interpersonal relationships." It recalled the servile savage in Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe and because superstitious Italians consider Friday an unlucky day.

SINGAPORE -- A serviceman who sashayed into a lift early one morning wearing only a pink bikini has been handed a day's jail and fine. He admitted to "outraging the modesty" of the woman who shared the lift with him and "possession of women's underwear."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Great Non-Christmas Songs

I looked up “Jingle Bells” on the Internet and, sure enough, it’s not a Christmas song at all. It was originally written for Thanksgiving The author and composer was a minister, James Pierpoint who composed it in 1857 for children celebrating his Boston Sunday School Thanksgiving. The song was so popular that it was repeated at Christmas. When you look at the lyrics, by golly, there is nothing in there even remotely connected to Christmas. It’s all about a sleigh ride in the winter, with a girl friend mentioned in the third verse.

Then there’s that other Christmas favorite, “Frosty the Snowman” Uh, Christmas? Where does it say “Christmas”? Song writers Jack Nelson and Steve Rollins decided to write a silly, catchy song doing variations on an icon of Christmas. It took them months to decide on a living snowman as their subject. Gene Autry recorded it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Sleigh Ride” is another great Christmas favorite, written by Leroy Anderson during a heat wave in August of 1946, about “sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting tingling too.” But where does it say “Christmas”? Same as the others, it’s just not there. The only celebration mentioned is, “There’s a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.”

Hmmmm; let’s try another traditional Christmas song, “Winter Wonderland.” The lyrics of Winter Wonderland have undoubtedly contributed to the magical vision of snow at Christmas together with the tradition of building snowmen. Except it’s another winter song, with nary a mention of the holyday.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Sister Says..."

The little old nun behind me in line at the Post Office wished me a Merry Christmas. I kindly did the same to her, then added, “And happy holidays, of which there are many at this time of year.”

Her lips tightened. “Merry Christmas.”

I said, “Yes, and a Happy Hanukkah; did you celebrate it? That holy season existed before Christmas.”

Teeth tightened, lips tightened. “Merry Christmas.”

I said, “And the Catholic New Year was in November.”

At this point, she was no longer looking at me. I guess we are supposed to note only the season of Christmas. Too bad; there are several holidays/holydays around this time of year and “Merry Christmas” only covers one of them. I really can’t see omitting (or ignoring) all the others and there certainly is room for “Happy Holidays” when you figure we are in the season of holidays.

Later in the day, I was woman of darker skin than mine. Of African heritage? Jamaican? Cape Verdean? She wished me a happy something and I wished her a happy whatever she celebrated. We bowed slightly and parted smiling. Tough stuff, Sister.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

There's Always Books, You Know

My brother and I were chatting on Instant Messenger this evening when he asked me if we had much of a snow/sleet storm down here.

“Sure did,” I replied. “Two tv towers up on the mountain collapsed from the ice and winds. We lost ABC and PBS. When the local ABC station’s tower fell, it snapped the power line going to the CBS and NBC affiliates.”

Since our cable company is the first one, from 1947 or ’48, this area has something like 90 percent penetration; not that many people pick their signals up from antennas. All the stations need to do is hook a direct line from the studio to the various carriers and they can serve the majority of the market.

But if you are in that ten percent, what to do? Well, you can always enjoy the art of conversation; you can read something (a book or a good magazine comes to mind), or you can bundle up and take a walk down the street. Even if all the stations were off the air for one reason or another, you will still survive; your grandparents did, as theirs before them.

There is no good time for your 800’ tower to come down. I’ve never heard a station manager say, “Well, the bright side is that it’s (fill in season or programming schedule).” But when the winter is starting to kick in, you can be sure it’s a bad time. I can’t imagine any tower installers wanting to put up that much steel on a windy mountain in January. One station has a backup; the other might co-op with another station.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Well, They Tried

Went to Mass this afternoon. Sometimes I go on Saturday, sometimes on Sunday; regardless, I hear the same organist but on Saturday she also leads the music from the loft of the small church.

Today it was pretty awful. Turns out to be a replacement for the regular gal; aside from one real whiff on the first chord, she played the machine ok, but couldn’t sing worth anything. Give her a bucket, she couldn’t carry a tune in it. Organs are somewhat mechanical: hit a middle-C and that’s what comes out. No guessing, no “close enough,” no “little bit flat there, lady.”

Alfred Fuller, long gone now, tried to sell brushes door-to-door. He set a standard for failure. Knew how to do it, but just couldn’t do it himself. So he set up a company and taught others how to peddle. And thus he made his millions. You can have a great idea, you can teach others how to do it, all the while being unable to handle the job yourself.

One famous comedian admitted she did not know how to write jokes. It just wasn’t something she had a talent for. But delivering them? She was tops.

Everybody Has A Story.
Leo Cotter was a local fellow who passed away this week. While in the Air Force, his unit participated in seven atomic bomb tests and received the Presidential Unit Citation in 1953 for discovering Russia had the hydrogen bomb.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Movin' On, Movin' Out

Nah, not me; a friend of mine who lives in a mobile home. They aren’t large places, but you’d be surprised a just how much they can hold. Closet here, closet there, shelving in various spots. Trips from one house to another, .8 of a mile. But whether it’s .8 or 100, you still have to pack, load and unload. Then turn around and make another trip.


Now it’s too dark. Now it’s raining too hard. Now it’s snowing too hard. But we get it done, while the new owner-to-be keeps asking, “Can I move in tomorrow?” Ha! He doesn’t know what he’s in for. He just can’t move all his stuff in one day, but we won’t tell him that. Maybe he does know, because he just wants to move his stuff, but not himself at this point.

I told my friend to under-promise and over-deliver. Tell him it will be next Saturday, then let him know he can move in Tuesday. I think that makes good business sense. Tell people you can deliver the product in two days, then let them know it can come the next day; the word will get out that you are quick.

All she has to do now is clean the place, which is already is good shape, call the guy, exchange keys for money and legal documents, and walk away. It’s the first “home” she’s owned, but the place she’s in now is a real house and a nice place. Now to get a new kitty, as hers went to Cat Heaven a little over a month ago, and all will be complete.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Last Gig

A local bandleader passed away yesterday; he was 91 and started his first band when he was 11. The group for which he was best known, the Lee Vincent Orchestra, began in 1946 and played its last gig at his wake. At least, I think it was his group there.

But at his wake? Yeah, at his request. He wanted live music during the visiting hours.

This is a fellow who once played before Russian Marshall Gregori Zhukov, U.S. General Mark Clark and King Leopold of Belgium. He also played at the New York Stock Exchange (I remember an old song called, “Money, Money, Money,” but I’m not sure if it was the tune that day).

When singers came to town, local musicians provide the music. In this case, the call always went out for Lee and his orchestra. He backed Nat King Cole and, later, Natalie Cole; Frank Sinatra, Jr., Bobby Rydell, Danny Thomas, George Burns, Eddy Arnold, Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Johnny Mathis, The Temptations, the Four Aces, Marie Osmond, Rosemary Clooney and Aretha Franklin.

Along with (big secret) The Dorseys and Glenn Miller. Few bands travel as a unit; most of them bring their key players, the “book” and uniforms. Next time the Boston Pops comes to a concert hall near you, wave to your friends on the bandstand. Do the same with just about any big band; if someone up there looks like the local professional trumpet teacher, chances are he is. Lee Vincent’s group was there with the best of them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bread & Milk, Bread & Milk, Bread & Milk

Snow’s coming, lots of it. Four to eight inches of fairly heavy stuff is what the weather people are telling us. That’s enough to cripple the city for, let’s see, maybe a day. Schools closed, some stores closed, businesses either closed or closing early. Nothing’s going to be moving around here except for people going to the ski slopes the Poconos are famous for.

Supermarkets, of course, have the traditional “Bread and Milk” day, which is just before the storm hits. This is one tradition all those immigrants from down south can’t stop: when you hear of snow, run to the store and get lots of bread and milk. Enough to last for the better part of a week; you just never know. People die in eight inches of snow, not to be found until the spring thaw.

Doesn’t matter that most (all?) white bread is crap, nutritionally worthless and actually bad for us. Doesn’t matter that our body’s ability to digest milk lessens radically at age two, when Mother Nature figures it’s time to stop nursing. It’s an American custom to stock up on empty Wonder Bread and milk made for calves.

But that’s part of the ritual, and fun, of an approaching snow storm. We have our rituals for everything, if we examine them closely, and this is just one. We still like some fairly tall guy with a deep voice to tell us what has happened in the world that day, and for him to tell us right after supper. Supper, news, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune.

Actually, I do have to get some milk, but it’s only a few steps away and it’s for my tea.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Doing The Doc Dance

No, I don’t really dance; it’s a saying on a cruise ship message board people use when their travel documents arrive. I’m fairly relaxed about the whole thing and don’t post a thread on the board with multiple exclamation points and capital letters.

However, I do take great pleasure when Marilyn, my travel agent, calls and says, “Your documents are in.” It’s the unofficial start of the journey, the time to start looking over what I’ll wear, make a list and check it twice for what I’ll need to bring.

But no matter how many times you have sailed, you still sit down with a cup of your favorite hot beverage, take the document pack and look over everything. Even the bag tags. I don’t know why; they are just tags with the ship’s name on them and a place to put yours and your cabin number. But it’s part of the ritual. Then you look at the cruise ticket itself, which is partway through a booklet of ritualistic boilerplate printed ticket-size pages; it’s nice to see your name, the ship’s name, and the sailing date. Then there are all the other things you will throw out before you even get close to leaving.

Now where did I put those golf shirts with my radio station’s logo? Got to have them; I am a radio person, after all, and I don’t want some goofy manufacturer’s name. I don’t buy my stuff to advertise the company that made them. Passport; that’s in my “Next Cruise” drawer. Ditto with my small-size deck of cards. Express Boarding Pass … a bit of a joke, as most people on the ship have those, taken care of online. Well, it makes us feel special, if nothing else. We get our own line, but it’s just as long as the other.

Monday, December 10, 2007


What the ****??!! What do you mean, I don’t have enough in the bank to back up the check I wrote? And it’s the final payment for the cruise I’m taking in less than seven weeks from now. My credit card company’s gonna dump me, my cruise ship line will cancel me, the bank will disown me and the feds will get me on a felony misappropriation charge.

The kindly lady at the bank was much calmer than I. Of course, she doesn’t face 2-5 years in the slammer.

Turned out to be a simple error, easily corrected in my register, that was a misunderstanding. And, no, there will be no charges filed, no action taken by the bank inspectors, nothing in the newspapers. The cruise line was already paid, the credit card company was paid; it’s all between the bank and I.

Plus, of course, they make a little on the side. That might explain why they’re so laid back about the whole thing.

Anyway, while I was trying to cover my face with anything handy and avoid the photographers, a local entrepreneur I know came by. During the conversation, he mentioned that the chairman of the bank’s board is a local businessman who is widely suspected of having ties with a Certain Organization that may or may not have an interest in the casino he just opened despite an investigation he had gotten delayed until the license was issued.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Anybody Can Be Shot Out Of A Cannon

But how many people can make the Guinness Book of World Records for having traveled through the air for 118 feet after being hit by a car? And one going 70 mph, at that.

Our guy was by the side of the road when the car hit him. Off he went, up he went, away he went; Superman without a cape. Eventually, he came down and what bones weren’t broken in the initial impact got their turn when he hit the ground. Actually, for what happened, I think he made out pretty much ok with relatively little damage.

I knew a woman who fell down her cellar stairs and met Jesus at the bottom; this guy get hit by a speeding car, flies down the street and lives to tell about it. There just ain’t no justice. Or, some people are just tremendously lucky in extreme circumstances, while those in ordinary accidents cash in their chips and nobody notices.

I wonder what the guy thought as he sailed through the air? “Wow! I can see my house from here!” Or, maybe, “If I hold my arms the right way, I might be able to land in that pile of hay instead of that truckload of cement blocks.” He could have been thinking, “This is not what I planned when I got up this morning.”

Of course, there are a lot of things that happen to us which we had not planned on. I was in a record shop back in the ‘50s when the Mouseketeers all piled in. Why they showed up, I haven’t the faintest idea; all I remember was how nice Annette (my age) looked. The others were far too young to be interesting.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Licking Ol' Blue Eyes' Butt

I see where Frank Sinatra will have his own postage stamp. Well, ring-a-ding-ding, as "The Voice" would say.

When this came out in the newspaper, I used it on my radio show with one of the other announcers. He read the headline and I played about fifteen seconds of Sinatra singing, “If you turn me down once more, I’ll join the French Foreign Legion.” Then he continued with the piece and, at the end, I played the last fifteen or sixteen seconds of the song. Sounded good and worked well, especially since I don’t think many people know that song. You shouldn’t, in my opinion, use a big hit when you have an article about a singer. Do something different.

There are fewer things nicer than having your face on a postage stamp. That’s the good part. The bad part? You have to be pushing up daisies. For those intractable “Elvis Is Alive” people, they have the former without the latter, but I think they may be in a minority. Of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy (I think) have had stamps and we all know they are being kept in hiding somewhere on our planet.

While I greatly admire his singing, I never really thought too highly of the guy. Too hot a temper, too many cronies who did his dirty work for him, too many coincidental underworld connections.

So, if I buy his stamp, at least it will be one of those press-on types and I won’t have to lick his @. That would be the ultimate indignity for me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Time To Decorate For Christmas

Well, everywhere but at our house as we were growing up. We started on the afternoon of December 24. That’s when the white candles went in the windows, the tree came in from the back terrace to be strung with lights, and things started to happen.

Until then, it was Advent, a season of its own in our church, and Christmas would come in its own time. When it did come, it lasted until Epiphany as it should. Then, and only then, did we take the lights off the tree, the tree out of the living room and the candles out of the windows.

Our church (RC) sees things differently from the secular celebrations. It’s not a battle, a “we’re right and you’re wrong,” but just a different view. Secular: start the celebration early and wrap it up the day after. As we say, nothing is as over as Christmas. Religious: prepare with a special season, then celebrate for eight days afterwards.

I’m not sure how the Wise Men from the East (aka, the Three Kings) would view their symbolic gifts with a 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. store opening on one of the three big Christmas sales days. Two women got into a fight locally a few years ago over a Cabbage Patch doll; definitely not following the tradition of the Magi.

Up the line a bit, one church has (or had) the tradition of Baby Jesus zipping down a wire from the choir loft into the manger in the sanctuary at the stroke of midnight. I’m sure, as they say, it’s worth the price of admission. No offense, Bambino.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

If You're Gonna Do It, Do It Big

Item: A pedestrian in California (had to be California) was talking on his cell phone when he came to a railroad track. The gate was down, which generally means “train’s coming, don’t cross,” so he kept talking and walked around the gate, crossed the tracks –well, halfway across the tracks- and got pancaked by an Amtrak train. “The number you have dialed is no longer a working number.”

Item: There are some big asteroids out there. Most of them have already hit whatever they are going to hit. The moon, for instance; us, for another instance. But every so often one of a certain size flies by and, in case you haven’t anything to worry about today, we often can’t tell they are near us until after they’ve passed. Sort of, “Wow! What was that?”

One such will be passing our way around 2012 (oddly enough, the year the Mayan calendar runs out) and it’s going to be a close call. If another asteroid bumps it, the occasion might be closer than we really want. Anyway, its next pass will be on the day I turn 87, assuming I last that long: April 13, 2029. It will come so close it will be passing between us and our communications satellites. Unless, of course, it gets bumped a bit and does a direct hit; that could easily be all she wrote.

Item: I still want to be shot by a deranged pope. It’s the only way I can see that I will end up on the front page of the New York Times, which is a secret goal of mine. If anyone has other ideas, let me know; my way isn’t very likely.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Let's Pop A Cool One

Today is the anniversary of Repeal. For those who don’t realize it, Utah (of all states!) cast the deciding vote to repeal the Prohibition Amendment which, for a while, made us a “dry” country.

Well, sort of. Kinda. Like, a wink-wink, nudge-nudge dry country, if’n ya know what I mean.

The Noble Experiment is what Prohibition was called, although it was anything but noble. People often went blind from bootleg; others flat-out died. The better stuff went to the speakeasies in the larger cities and, apparently, stuff of some quality came to the two we had right on the street where I reside.

Then, again, if it weren’t for Prohibition and bootleggers, we’d never have NASCAR, as that’s how it began. Good ole guys outrunning the revenuers in souped-up cars, lights off, tearing through country roads. The cops would get better cars and the country boys would rebuild theirs to just a bit higher standards.

On their days off, they’d race each other. That is, the bootleggers would race each other, not the good ole boys vs the revenuers. Although, now that I think of it, that would be neat to see. Let them be enemies on the job, but friendly competitors on the oval.

I don’t think those days are over; guys in the deep woods are still turning the stuff out. Others are trying to catch them.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"...But I Didn't Look..."

Local political appointee went to a conference in Las Vegas, all on the up & up. But it seems he spent $57 of the county’s money (read: “our money”) at a strip joint and then said he went in for a drink with friends but didn’t look.


Having mistakenly used the county’s debit card instead of his own credit card (“they look almost identical”) he paid it back, but not before the lip-smacking news made the newspapers and tv. What happened in Vegas, apparently, didn’t stay in Vegas.

I’m of the opinion that no matter where you go, someone’s going to recognize you. Or, no matter which peep show you take in, or suchlike, the people back home will get wind of it. Not because of the Internet age and lack of privacy; it’s just because things get around. They always have. The nuns in grammar school warned us of talking about others; “It always gets back,” they said.

They should have warned people that, no matter where you are, it’s gonna get back. One way or another, your indiscretions will be on the next plane. I don’t know if it always pays to be good, but it sure does pay not to be bad.

I don’t know if the gent in question is married or, if so, how tolerant his wife is. Maybe she’s ok if he reads the menu out there as long as he has supper at home.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Happy Holidays -- Uh, Christmas, Or Something

Merry (christmas?) uh, Holidays? Happy Holidays? No, it’s Christmas and we’re all Christians, even if the percentage who actually see the inside of a church is less than 50%. The Eastern branch of the Catholic Church celebrates on what we call Epiphany.

But we are going to celebrate Hanukkah starting tomorrow night, so Happy Hanukkah; after all, we are religiously descended from the Jews.

Then, again, the Christian New Year was December 2 (happy new year, Christians) and everybody else celebrates it on January 1. Well, the Jews kept it the evening of September 12 this year; the Muslims on January 10 of 2008.

Let’s not forget Kwanzaa, a cultural African-American holiday, which is not connected with Christmas or the New Year’s celebrations.

So I’m never sure exactly what to say. I guess if you don’t know the person, then “Happy Holidays” fits pretty well, as there are several which we all celebrate in common. If it’s a Jewish friend, Hanukkah and the civil new year’s will work. Most Catholics don’t realize that their new year is the first Sunday in Advent, so fool them with “Happy Catholic New Year” and watch the reaction.

Maybe it’s time we realize our country is filled with different cultures and “Merry Christmas” just isn’t the only thing going on at this time of year.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So This Guy Was Driving An '08 Beemer...

. . . and he was going down I-81 at what we might imagine was a decent rate of speed. The big truck ahead of him was also going down 81, but not quite at the same decent rate of speed. So the ’08 BMW ended up kissing the arse end of the truck rather hard, ripping off the hood and sending the Hoodless Horsepower off into the median strip like you see in the movies.

Rule Of The Road #1: Never argue the right-of-way with a vehicle that has more wheels than yours.

ROTR #2: You have the R-O-W if the other guy gives it to you. If he doesn’t give it to you, you haven’t got it.

ROTR #3: No matter how much $$ you have, no matter what you are driving, you do not have some sort of right that allows you to drive into the back end of an 18-wheeler and think you can get away with it.

Of course, it’s hard to see where you are going when your head is up your @.

It reminds me of the guy who ran into a stopped city bus a couple years ago. “It’s all my fault,” he said. “I was talking on a cell phone and I didn’t even see a bus!” He was amazed at how distracted he could be. Maybe the fellow who owns what used to be a BMW just couldn’t see a tractor-trailer in front of him. One wonders.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Don't Know What It Is? Just Shoot It

Deer season opened here, a good time to stay away from the woods, the fields and anywhere you see people with hunting permits on their hats.

Lots of things look like deer. One guy shot up a yellow backhoe the other day and hit the driver. I’m still trying to figure out the resemblance and would love to ask the hunter just how many points a backhoe has and how he would mount it on his den.

Lady in Maine was hanging the wash on her back porch when a hunter picked her off. The judge said it was her fault; she was wearing white mittens and so she resembled a white-tailed deer. You’d be amazed how many white-tailed deer stand on their hind legs while hanging the wash on people’s backyard porches.

Not long ago, someone was walking through the woods; a hunter said he heard a noise, thought it was a bear, wheeled around and nailed the guy. Shot first, identified later. He should wear a sign saying, “I shot a 150-pound bear wearing a green shirt, slacks, shoes and whistling while it walked along, wearing a baseball cap. Made a mistake; my bad.”

I think there should be a law during hunting season: “Violation, mandatory minimum two years in jail, plus fine, for injuries; second-degree murder charge for death. No shooting of anything that walks on two feet. No shooting of anything that wears clothing. There will be no excuses accepted for shooting of another human being; you have lived among them all your life and are perfectly able to recognize them.”