Monday, March 31, 2008

25% Off

It’s the end of March and we have finished the first three months of the year. One-quarter of 2008 is already gone and honestly could not tell you where it went.

I had a cruise in January, the radio show I do for the blind ran every day (with me as host, except for when I was on that cruise). My other work has also kept me busy.

But 25%. We’re using up the year quicker than I expected, or planned. As my brother says, life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer you are to the end, the faster it unrolls. When you are very young, you measure time in much smaller amounts. Years+months, for instance; you are 8 years and 5 months. When you are an infant, you are 14 months old, or 25 months old. A year and three months. Summer vacation is all the time in the world.

When next month ends, it will be one-third of the year used up. 25% changes to 33.3% in just a month’s time.

We have to quickly take stock of what we intended to do and get down to doing it. I just took care of some radio-related work that’s been kicking around until I “got around to it.” Well, I decided to get around to it. My onboard reading is undated clippings from the New York Times and I had piles of papers around my room; they are almost all gone now and the clip envelopes are filling up in anticipation of this fall’s trip.

I’ll be on the ship when two-thirds of the year has passed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Simple Home Remedies

My brother Jim sent these along. I’ve never tried them out, but if some of our faithful readers have, would you post your comments for the good of all? Thanks a bunch.

1. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold while you chop.

2. Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the shower.

3. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

4. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

5. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives, then you will be afraid to cough.

6. You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and Duct Tape:
If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40.
If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

Daily Thought: Some people are like Slinkies. They're not really good for anything but they bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Satellites Roaming The Streets

Back in my younger, more carefree, days we’d be riding around the streets of Stratford in the calm state of Connecticut. These were the times when Russia had launched its first two orbital show-offs and the U.S. was about to, or already had, put up some sort of functioning object that rotated ‘round and ‘round the earth for whatever reason. Probably just to show we could do it, too.

Anyway, back to us front-seat and back-seat daters. Whenever we’d see a car with a front headlight out, we’d shout “Satellite!” and it was good for one kiss. You’d get them anyway you could; at the time, this worked.

Many years later, I still think of this when I see a car coming toward me with one or another of its headlights out. I wanted to shout it at a cop last night when I noticed his patrol car was missing a light, but discretion won out over memories.

I’ve also heard that you can tell the state of the economy by the non-working car headlights. When things are tough, people will drive with a burnt-out light rather than spend the $$ to replace it. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve seen a lot of that lately and we sure are slipping into bad times. One never knows.

No longer do we have one, or two, or three satellites up in the sky; the real estate there is getting pretty crowded. But you can still revive the “see a one-light car and get a kiss” practice with your Best Beloved.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Party's Over

Guy runs a religious shrine across the street, just loaded with statues. It fulfills its purpose for many people who want to pause for a few minutes of reflection and prayer, even in the wee small hours of the morning as they leave work. For that alone, it deserves praise.

Couple of days ago, he let us in on a secret which I feel obliged to pass along to the faithful readers of this blog: The world will come to an end in October. When you see Jesus going across the sky on a big white horse, carrying a banner which says “Hallelujah!” just remember you heard it here first.

October is the second time around; some religious author back in, perhaps, 1988 said we don’t know the day nor the hour, but the Bible doesn’t say we can’t figure out the month and the year. So he said he’d be surprised if we saw October 1 of that year. Just for the record, he was surprised and said he’d have to check his calculations again.

The Mayan calendar ends in 2012. I think they just ran out of space on their big calendar stone, but others think they have a handle on the whole business and we should pay attention to it. Right about that time, coincidence or not, there is some big asteroid that’s supposed to cut it closer than Sal “the Barber” Maglie. For those who don’t remember 40’s and 50’s baseball, Sal got his nickname for pitching inside so close to the batters that he, figuratively, “shaved” them with the baseball.

The signs are ripe – as they have been before and will be again.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Those Odd And Winding Streets

Zerby Avenue, a short sort of street, but long enough to contain five churches, a funeral home and a bar. Plus a few houses and a factory of sorts. It also starts in Kingston and ends in Edwardsville. That’s a lot of work for something which is only about three blocks long, maybe four at most.

Kennedy Street, if I’m thinking of the right place, is just filled with funeral homes: two out of every three. That is, of the three houses on the street, two of them are undertakers’ parlors.

Franklin Street, poor thing, you can’t get from here to there. The street runs the whole length of the city, but there are gaps for this and that (one of them for a cliff with two cemeteries and a large factory behind it).

Behee Street used to be a driveway for a local lawyer, ex-DA, who lived next door. Later, it was a parking lot (right in the middle, as there was no berm) for people who worked locally. Nobody, but nobody, ever used it as a street, nor was it ever maintained by the city or given a street sign. It is now used as the entrance to a parking lot, still un-signed and un-maintained.

Railroad Avenue, across the river, is two streets away from the tracks. Why they couldn’t have put it closer is beyond me. It appears the tracks are where they’ve always been, but there could have been a spur track years ago.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To And 'fro

Saw my first current Afro the other day. It wasn’t the big, puffy style we knew the first time around, but a smaller style and, possibly, growing larger. We’ll have more on this as time goes by.

The first Afros were more a style statement than any kind of ancestral ‘do. I say this because when I was in grad school, I shared my living space with three Ugandans. I also cut hair on the side, as some students will, to make pizza and gas money. When I asked them how they’d like theirs styled, thinking of the Afro’d Americans on campus, they started to laugh.

“Just cut it short,” the first one said. “Run the clippers over it. We don’t have those in Africa; they’re too hot. We cut our hair as short as we can.”

A few years ago, the style around here was to have a cut that looked as if someone had put a bowl over the kid’s head and started cutting around it. Not the kind of thing you want your kids to find in the yearbook when they find it hidden away.

Or the long, long sideburns that went down like muttonchops. Not as bad as President van Buren, but heading that way.

I tell the students to get a conservative cut for their photos. It’s not what you wore in school, but it always comes back into style.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Yesterday’s post was #700. That’s a lot of “one a day, every day” for the past two years. Vacations excluded, because this fellow doesn’t blog during those sacred times.

April 4, 2006, first blog: “Everybody Has A Story.” I wondered if I would have enough stories to last very long; someone said daily bloggers usually last a few weeks or a couple of months, then they go down the drain. I’d also heard that most blogs are read by the person who writes them and nobody else; that is, I am happy to say, not the case here. I don’t have a counter, nor do I want one, but I do hear from the troops out there and maybe someday might ask for a show of hands.

Seven hundred times we’ve taken a slow, casual walk down a country lane, not knowing what we’ll talk about when we leave the house.

When I’m on a cruise, I keep a thread going on the main cruise ship message board. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see how many people check in to see what I write during the trip. Sure, I’m fairly humorous and write well, but I remain truly amazed to find 1,200 or 1,300 views per day. I never know what I’ll be writing about and sometimes wonder what others find so interesting.

How long will “Things At King’s” keep going? Well, similar to the high view count of my cruise thread, maybe I’ll have a high content count here. I never thought of 700 posts and am not particularly thinking of 1,000. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 24, 2008

On Finding A Dead Mouse

Most likely, I was not the youngest person to own a typewriter, in my case one of those old, boxy Underwoods. I think it cost me $5 back in the 1950’s, if anyone here can remember that far back; if not, check with the next person you see looking through the steering wheel of their car.

Anyway, I used a typewriter before then, but it was a great day when I hauled this one home and could have my own. How old? Beats me; I do know I was a pretty good “hunt and peck” before taking lessons in high school and I think I was out of grammar school.

There’s not much to say about the workings of a typewriter. Occasionally you might get a jam when two keys go up at pretty much the same time, or the carriage might need a spot of sewing machine oil. Other than that, it was simplicity with a return bell.

It’s not the same anymore. You can’t jam the keys on a computer, of course, but you also can’t stick your fingers around the innards to fix whatever needs fixing. When you get a jam these days, they call it by some name, maybe a screen freeze or some such geek term like that.

My mouse has had a tendency to die on me. Everything else worked fine, but the mouse and the cursor just died on screen, neither moving nor breathing. I went through all the computer CPR to get it going again, but it happened so often that I tracked it down to the wire connection. And got a new mouse.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Above All, Hope

The twice-a-year Catholics showed up again, this time for Easter. As this movable feast moved quickly in 2008, it was only three months ago they were crowding the church for Christmas. Seems as how those are the only two days us regulars have a hard time finding a seat, unless we show up real early and stake out a spot. Up front is always the best pickings, as in any denomination.

As one of the regulars, I am strangely heartened by the appearance of the occasionals. They represent that hanging-on of hope which never goes away. Even if they don’t join their neighbors in worship services the rest of the year, there’s still the importance of the birth and resurrection that has become ingrained in us.

When I’m sitting there with all the familiar faces around me, I get a feeling that I can go on for another week. These are the people who are struggling just like me, good times and bad, hanging in. If they can make it, so can I; maybe they see me and think the same thing.

But when others come out of the woodwork only rarely, I look at them and think, “They’ve been away, but they know where to come when they want to express their hope. Too bad they can’t be here more often, but at least they haven’t forgotten where the place is and they still recognize what we are here for."

So we move in a bit and make room for the stranger.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nine Years To Retirement

Not for me, but for the kids I had during the brief time I worked in a high school. I haven’t seen them since graduation and now they are 56 years old. Would I recognize any of them if we tripped over each other on a cruise ship?

They are frozen in time, these teenagers. They are forever their yearbook pictures. How will I react if someday I meet them? Will I accept the fact that they are now a little beyond middle-aged, or will I resent the fact that they are no longer the little kids I still remember?

College and university alumni are like that. They take a mental photograph of their (as in “ownership”) school when they graduate. When reunion time comes, many are happy, if not downright enthusiastic, to see how the school has grown; the new buildings, renovations to the older structures, how the students are doing. Others are disappointed, resentful, even angry over the changes; they thought everything was perfect when they were students and can’t be told that schools are alive just as they are.

I’m doing some of the same things I did as a teen: writing and radio, sort of sticking around the entertainment field. But one phrase I don’t want to hear is, “You haven’t changed a bit.” I want to have become a much better writer (and to become better in the future), as well as have matured as a broadcaster.

Likewise, I want my grammar school and colleges (night and day) to change, improve and grow. Stagnant water attracts flies.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Week In The Christian Church

Today is Good Friday, one of the holiest, most sacred days in the Christian calendar. Easter is another, along with Holy Thursday. Christmas? Nope; hardly a blip on the radar. That ringing you hear isn’t angelic bells but cash registers.

I hear noise being made by those who decry the delivery of mail on Good Friday, which was not done in the Old Days. The tiny little delicatessen where I worked was closed from noon until three so the owners and the help could attended services in our church down the street. The idea of being basically a Christian nation spilled over into our daily lives and people pretty much accepted it.

Times, as they do, change. It’s no longer a day off, unless the boss wants to give it. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor religious holidays, keep the mailman from his (now hers, as well) appointed rounds. A lot of people, including such luminaries as me, wish the country could stop for one day and reflect on what happened. But many of those folks also realize (a) we have other religions which don’t get the same shake and (b) not too many Christians excused from work will actually show up in church.

It becomes much like the Sunday work/sales events: What happened to the piety and sacred character of the day? Well, instead of someone mandating you spend the day at rest, or meditating on what happened at the start of your religion, you have to be self-starting. The stores are open? Ok; don’t go there. Lawn needs mowing? Wait a day. Be responsible for your own beliefs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here's A Problem To Solve. The Givens Are:

Problem: Life, living it from birth to natural death.
“Living it”: Growing up, functioning, doing all the things a body does, all the things a human does.

Our Given: A functioning body which we need think about almost never.

Isn’t that amazing? We didn’t have to form our brain, that marvelously complex thinking machine between our ears and on top of our mouth. There was no need to design and build plumbing, a waste removal system, a circulation pattern that would feel all the cells, the reproductive stuff, mobility, eyesight. Then to have some of these continue working while we sleep.

Listening to some people, you’d think they designed and built their looks all by themselves, without benefit of their parents’ contribution, their ancestors’ DNA, or any of the factors that go into making us attractive. In the musical “1776,” Ben Franklin sings, “I invented myself.” He’s the only one.

In my second-year high school geometry course, we had a couple of givens for each problem. In our bodies, almost everything is given; all we have to do is take care of it and our difficulties will be few. Sure, things will mess up (been there, etc.), but as I sit here typing, my fingers obey the instructions my mind tells them to do, itself in obedience to my thoughts. I keep breathing without thinking about it, my heart keeps beating, my stomach processes the tea next to me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Always Four Years Older Than Me

My brother came down, accompanied by his wife, to spend two days (and change) here. This gives me two+ days to brush up on my Canadian French and successfully say, “You’re looking good,” without accidentally coming out with, “Your wife resembles a fire hydrant.” It’s good to be careful when speaking another language.

He brought two cd’s of photos he has taken and, with luck on my side, the IITS people (formerly known as the Geek Squad) fixed the cd drive in my computer the day after they arrived. I’ve still got an odd cd icon down on the bottom of my screen, but I’m hoping everything will work ok. He does good work with a still camera, while I seem to be the videographer of the family.

But it’s lousy blogging weather, so to speak. We’re doing a little running around, but mostly just hanging around chatting and not looking at clocks. In the evening, we pre-record the radio show. I get my Sunday newspaper column in on time.

So that’s basically the news from North Franklin very early on this Friday morning. Don’t be concerned that the date stamp says “Wednesday,” because I’m backdating blog entries to catch up to reality.

When you have company from another country, reality is what you make it at any given moment. Right now, for this radio announcer who times his show to the second, there are no clocks in his reality.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Am *SO* Popular

I live in Pennsylvania, home of the delegates … lots of them.

A candidate was here for the big St. Patrick’s Day parade in Scranton (and it really is big; the third-largest in the country). Her daughter came to the other college in town to speak with the students and her husband is due tomorrow.

Another candidate came on St. Patrick’s Day and, oddly enough, claims to have some Irish in his background. Through his mother, I’m sure. They don’t have any Irish where his father comes from, and you can take that to the bank.

Candidate Three says he has to show up, as the other two have been here, along with daughter and husband.

Mel Brooks, in one of his movies, said, “It’s good to be the king.” Us’n around these here parts say, “It’s good to be from a big state with a lot of delegates.” You don’t see this sort of action in North or South Overshoe. Candidate A goes to the best pizza joint in Old Forge, where one of my former writing students sits next to her and gets the interview; Candidate B drops in at a local watering hole and chats with the local blue-collar crowd. Candidate C will be left with Andy’s Diner up on River Road in Plains.

Fawn over us, ye seekers of office. Have a slice of our Old Forge style pizza. March in our parade as if you are home, because your family did come from here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Yankee Doodles

Good news: We now have the Yankees tv network on our cable service.

Good news for those who like the Yankees and want to cheer them on to yet another pennant and Series win.

Good news for those who hope the Yankees should only fall on their bats and die slowly and in great agony, so they can watch the carnage on live tv.

Either way, we win. VH-1 gets bumped up a bit and the YES network now occupies dial setting 37, just above the NFL and below the Country Music channels.

I’ve always liked the Yankees, but I don’t know why, as I don’t follow sports and have no interest in them. Some one of these days I’ll have to figure it out.

Everybody has a story.
Joseph Palumbo of Bridgeport CT passed away Friday. He was one of the original liberators of the Dachau Nazi Concentration Camp. An ardent Baltimore Orioles fan, Joe was well loved by the Oriole players. Tom Boswell, the famous Baltimore Sun sports writer, wrote, “Spring training does not officially begin for the Orioles until Joe Palumbo arrives in Florida.” When the Orioles were purchased by Edward Bennett Williams, he attempted to throw Joe out of Spring training, but the team refused to practice until Joe was allowed back.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

That's Odd

You have a better chance, according to the National Safety Institute, of dying after your pajamas catch fire than you do at winning the Powerball jackpot. The odds of death by toasty PJs is 42 million to 1; of winning the Powerball is 146 million to 1.

The odds that:
A celebrity marriage will last a lifetime: 3 to 1

You will be killed by lightning: 2,320,000 to 1
Or drown in your bathtub: 685,000 to 1
Even of being killed on a 5-mile bus trip: 500,000,000 to 1

How about catching a ball at a major league ballgame? 563 to 1
Striking it rich on Antiques Roadshow? 60,000 to 1

A meteor landing on your house: 182,138,880,000,000 to 1
Dying from parts falling off an airplane: 1 in 10,000,000

It’s 1 out of 4,615 being injured opening a plastic "clamshell" package.
And 1 out of 10,000 getting injured by a toilet.
But only 1 out of 4,745 that you will die falling out of bed.

Ok, so they are odd odds. But stranger things have happened.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Santa, Cleared 3,000, Heading 1-2-0 On Final

Some noise is being made south of us about a proposed cargo airport. It’s about the potential noise. The airplane people are for it, the homeowners are against it, and nobody is surprised how the sides line up.

East Union Township supervisors, where the winged monsters will land (actually, a controlled collision with a planet) and take off, have drafted an ordinance prohibits such activity. They use words like “ascent, descent, ingress, egress and regress.” The only thing missing is “crash and burn.”

They exempt Santa and the Easter bunny. But, the fat guy in the red suit and Mr. Floppy Ears must obtain a permit ten days in advance. No joke.

“At least ten days prior to the scheduled arrival or departure of [these or other mythical persons or animals of established folklore], those responsible therefore or in custody of said mythical persons or animals shall apply to the board for a written permit.”

“It’s not a joke,” the board chairman said (see paragraph 3, above). Someone might want to fly them in on helicopters. So, this way, the township can cover all bases.

Generally, whoever is in the hot bunny suit, wearing a skimmer and holding a cane (hardly any resemblance to the rabbit as an ancient symbol of Christ coming out of the tomb in the spring) walks. Only Santa flies in his sleigh. Cleared for landing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Not Really Dumb As Bricks

Bricks have a purpose and fulfill it. “Dumber than bricks” might be a better term.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla-- Two would-be teen-age thieves picked the one place guaranteed to have police protection -- the police station at Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 14-year-old also was charged with violating his probation. Hiding one hand in his jacket as if he held a gun, the 12-year-old ordered an aide behind a glass enclosure to put up her hands and hand over all her money. Within minutes, a half-dozen officers, some with guns drawn, burst into the lobby and arrested the boys. Police spokesman Rob Vega says the kids were laughing and remarked, "We'll be famous now."

They may or may not have been famous that night, but they sure were sleeping in juvie, and might be for the next few nights or weeks. Three hots and a cot, as the saying goes. The 12-y/o was lucky the “gun” was just a finger under his coat; if he pointed one, real or fake, at a cop, a description of his young life might be on today’s obituary page.

Speaking of being dumb as dirt (which also has a purpose and fulfills it), couple of young guys held up a function room during an event. They did this despite a collection of motorcycles outside. The bikers in the adjacent room heard the commotion and came in, carrying tables, chairs and “anything that wasn’t bolted down,” according to the owner. The perps were pretty beaten up before the cops arrived; one ended up being hogtied in electrical wire and I forget what happened to the other. The getaway driver showed his loyalty by taking off as fast as the car would go. Figures.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Love Only What Can Love You Back

The Four Aces or Four Lads are singing “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” on my favorite station as I write this.

A friend said, “Don’t love anything that can’t love you back.”

Do we love our possessions? Our careers? Our high-end vehicles? Our for-the-moment trophy spouses and/or Significant Others?

The first three can’t love us back and the last one may well be questionable. Does this S.O. really love you, or is it a hook-up of convenience? Sometimes you have to wonder.

Two famous persons committed matrimony until death did them part, but they’re still alive after their 55-hour marriage fell apart. I think we can safely assume love was not part of the equation; whatever drew them together wasn’t significant enough to make a widow or widower of the would-have-been survivor.

Pity. We keep our cars longer than that and they can’t love us back. We admire them, we take care of them, but in the end they are just a collection of steel, wires, plastic and glass which end up in Honest John’s Used Car Lot, later at Joe’s Scrap Yard and, finally, recycled into bicycles, airplane serving carts and nails.

If it doesn’t love you even more after 50 years, forget it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thoughts In No Particular Order

Eliot Spitzer became Governor of New York on the promise to eliminate corruption in government. He did that today by resigning. He’s been a success; let’s give him a medal.

The local cops were running a little operation on the Market Street Bridge, also known as “The Indy 500 East.” It’s posted for 35 and there’s a stop light at the end. As I listened on the scanner, they were stopping people left and right, but only for doing over 50 (up to 61). The local tv station’s car got it for going 55, but it didn’t make the late-night news.

My thread on the Holland America Line section of the leading cruise ship message board has received far more views than I ever thought was possible. Most people get one, two or three thousand if they are really cooking. I’ve done 7,500 my first year, 10,000 next and then 15,000; this year, it’s up to 20,500 and I am truly amazed. You never know what’s going to be very popular.

The river went up to flood stage the other day, and later started dropping and, a day or two later went up to the riverbank again. We are protected from flood stage (22’) up to the top of the dikes (43’), so it wasn’t a big deal. But you do think about it, especially when you live on River Street.

Our city, with the best of intentions, wanted to issue permits for demonstrations. The only problem was with the $20 fee; you can’t do that. In researching the issue, I learned that St. Patrick’s Day parades are demonstrations, same as protesting a candidate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Gandy Dancers, And Other Section Gangs

My brother sent me some photos he took of a train approaching, then going through, a road crossing up his way. Then he put them together in a dissolving slide show, even better.

Sometimes a locomotive will hit a plowed road just right. You know how your driveway looks when a snowplow has gone by and what it’s like for you to back out of it. Imagine a few 130-ton locomotives with a mile-long train behind them hitting the same type of snow ridge at speed. You’ve got quite a bit of weight and a lot of momentum there; it’s not going to skid and stop when it hits a pile of snow.

I’ve seen photos where the snowbank literally exploded when the locomotive’s plow hit it. Trains magazine sometimes publishes these “right moment” pictures and you see white stuff flying everywhere. On one video I have of the Alaska Railroad, a train is off in the distance and it hit a snowdrift on the tracks. The snow flew up and across, twice as high as the train. It was much like a ship hitting a swell just the right (wrong?) way, with water flying.

Before we leave you: Track workers, as I understand it, used tools from the Gandy Manufacturing Company. As they spiked down the tracks, they would work opposite each other in choreographed motions, much like dancers. “Gandy dancers,” as they were called. “Oh, they dance on the ceilin', And they dance on the wall, At the Gandy Dancers' Ball. A Gandy Dancer is a railroad man, And his work is never done. With his pick and his shovel and his willin' hand, He makes the Railroad run.” (1952 song)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me

That was a couple of years ago, when I was sixty-four. Almost exactly one month from today, I’ll be sixty-six. I was reminded of that today, when a legal matter came up and the fact that I am 65 was part of the equation.

Retirement age. Senior discount age. Income tax “under the radar” range age. Social Security, AARP. Wearing a hat while I drive and leaving the turn signal on for ten miles.

Let’s see … in my religion (RC, unless things get worse than they are now), you attain the age of reason at 7. You are no longer a cute little kid around 12 or 13 (this has nothing to do with religion). You can drive at 16, as well as work legally (which I began doing without working papers are 14). You get a draft card at 18 and, in Connecticut, you drive to NY state with said draft card proving you are 18 and hit any bar you like. Or, at least, when NY’s legal age was 18. Also at 18, you can, uh, enjoy yourself with someone who is also at least 18 without going to jail.

At 21, you could vote back then. You didn’t believe anyone over 30. Women stopped having birthdays after 39, as did Jack Benny. Elderly women were properly identified as being “of a certain age.” Elderly men were just “old men.” If you made it to 100, your picture was in the paper and there was a party at the nursing home; they'd try to have you blow out the candles or, if necessary, remind you that it was your birthday and the old lady in front of you is your daughter, the middle-aged people are your grand-children and the 20-somes are your greats, with their own kids.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hey! Watch This!

>>The Florida Highway Patrol says a Winter Park teenager died while riding in a shopping cart being pulled by a sport utility vehicle. 18-year-old Cameron Bieberle was sitting in the cart and holding onto the Cadillac Escalade. The shopping cart overturned when it and the SUV went over a speed bump.<<

Another “Hey! Watch this!” moment that went wrong, as so many of them do.

Learning experience for the rest of us? Probably close to zero. We don’t learn from others’ stupidity; there are only so many ways to injure or kill us and we keep doing them over and over. If people have been killed being pulled by vehicles before, you’d think we might say, “Huh; that’s dangerous, real dangerous. I better not do that or I could end up in very unfortunate circumstances.”

Not only that, but when someone warns us away from a dangerous action, or one that’s potentially dangerous, we can get defensive and snarky. Try telling a smoker that 4,000 people die each year from the weed and see what happens. Try telling kids on the eve of their 21st birthday that doing 21 shots can kill them, or at least fry their brains, and see how much of a difference it makes.

Maybe the School of Hard Knocks really exists. We have to invent the wheel with every new generation. Every person needs to start from zero, make every mistake, get injured, maybe die. Those with brains survive. In the end, Darwin wins.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Snow

The first word I received was that it was pouring in nearby Nanticoke. We had some rain here, but barely enough to require an umbrella. On my way over to Exeter, a bit later, I saw some lightning fairly close by. Later, we had strong winds, followed by snow. The river, which had risen from five feet to riverbank level of 22’ in one day was on its way down, but at 15’ started rising again and today is heading toward flood stage again.

“This is an unusual weather day,” I said, mostly to myself and in slightly different terms to whoever happened to be nearby.

By this time, someone generally has come along to tell me that it’s a sign from God that we have to change our ways. At which statement I usually reply that God being the Supreme Being, he or she or whatever can probably do better than that in communicating with us. I never did much believe that our Creator sends hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods to punish people; I think it’s just forces of nature doing what forces of nature have always done.

Today, those forces of nature happened to be having a little harmless fun at our expense. A little rain, a little lightning, some snow, some wind, the river rising; none of that will hurt anybody and besides, March has to come in like a lion, all the better to go out like a lamb. Nothing much happened in the first eight days, so on Day Nine, we get it all.

Mother Nature likes to joke around just as much as we do.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Hardware Bar

Fellow is opening a watering hole downtown called, for whatever reason, “The Hardware Bar.” I’m pretty sure that’s the name. Maybe it’s because after the girls have had enough alcohol to blur their judgement, they will get nailed and/or screwed. Don’t know.

The owner wants to open it in time for St. Patrick’s Day. He has other places around the area and says that’s his way of operating: Open just before a major drinking holiday.

Oh? I know people get pretty blitzed on the feast of this French-Irish missionary, but I don’t see any tie in with beer and/or more effective beverages. He didn’t even drive the snakes out of Ireland; the glacial activity and landmass separation took care of that.

So, our guy is getting ready to dispense That Which Makes Us Infallible on the day we recall to mind the slave boy who became the missionary to the then-heathen Irish. Many who would trace their lineage to the Ould Sod will drink beer and speak of the bad days under the hated British, sing dreadful Irish songs that never saw the old country but did see Bing Crosby, and cry over how they treated their deceased mothers.

Oh, the humanity!

I’d love to know how the free-flowing suds ever became identified with Our Guy Pat. I’m also curious as to how all this will fit in with the solemn Holy Week in the Christian church: Can you really go out and get drunk if you are in any way religious?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Guy Who Spins Plates On Variety Shows

I may have mentioned this before, but there used to be a guy who would spin plates on these long sticks, on the Ed Sullivan variety tv show. Years ago, back when tv was a lot more fun and there were shows that the whole family could watch together and enjoy.

This fellow would get the plates (six of them, I think) spinning, and as the last one got going, the first would go into a death wobble. He’d get that one back to life, then the second or third would start oscillating. Never did he lose one; the guy had his act down well and I appreciated his skill.

Brings us to today. It’s Thursday’s blog, written in the wee small hours of Saturday morning. My blog plates are wobbling, but I’m up to date in ripping good articles from back issues of the NY Times. I use the undated articles as reading material on the cruise ships and, while I was keeping the blog plates spinning, the Times started to wobble. They were piling up all over my room. A pile here, a pile there, another two piles behind my recliner. It looked as if some pack rat was here.

Meanwhile, my clothes come out of the dryer, get folded and land in a sort of neat pile in my bedroom. Now that I have a handle on the Times and, hopefully, on this blog, they will be next. Or will the blog return to being a day late? Or the Times start piling up again?

My recliner is full of things that really should be somewhere else. Another wobbler.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Other Car Is . . .

My car, I tell people, has a sign on it saying: “This is not an abandoned vehicle.” I don’t know how the car feels about that, but it does get a laugh. Actually, and I’m sure the car knows this, there really isn’t any such sign. Nor is there a bumper sticker that reads: “My other car is even worse.”

I have a ten-year-old Cavalier (or, if you prefer the fancier French pronunciation, Ca-vah-lee-ay) that goes pretty well on flat roads, not so hot on upgrades and somewhat worse uphill with one or more passengers. In the last case, I usually turn on the four-ways and head for the breakdown lane to let horse-drawn Amish carriages pass me.

Years ago, I had a VW Karman Ghia with much the same problem. Looked great, but drove slow. After work at a radio station, I had to take a fly-over to get on the Interstate back home. I’d floor it as the entrance ramp pointed down and kept the pedal to the floor for about a mile or two until I finally reached 70mph. Never got a speeding ticket in that one.

Actually, never got a ticket in fifty years of driving. (Knock on wood.)

Everybody has a story.
Chef Tell, who was famous for his tv cooking shows and had his own PBS program, died a while back. “His German accent that some found unintelligible had been the inspiration for the Swedish Chef on ‘The Muppet Show.’” (NY Times obit.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Look At The Big Red Truck!

An ambulance went by my place the other day and, of course, I watched it pass. Not long ago, while I was walking over to the newspaper, a fire engine headed north and, just behind it, another. I stopped to watch them going up the street.

It’s not as if I’ve never seen an ambulance or a fire engine before; nor watching the action will somehow magically let me see the action once they arrive at their destination.

But we look. We also say, “There goes an ambulance,” or, “There go some fire trucks,” as if people around us are as dumb as dried cow pies.

There’s magic in them there sirens, them flashing lights, the low rumble of the trucks’ engines. Something that speaks to us and says, “How would you like to be behind the wheel of that? It’s big, it makes noise and it moves; just what guys like.”

This guy, anyway. I could manage it; I could roar down the main street of the village where I lived, sounding the horn, waving at my neighbors. I don’t know about the Dalmatian sitting next to me; I’m a cat person, myself.

Everybody has a story.
Naomi Fisher passed on a while ago. “Her creative imagination inspired her to synthesize a play-by-play account of a baseball game (Brooklyn Dodgers, of course) entirely with lines from Shakespeare.”

Monday, March 03, 2008


I just cut out, possibly for framing, a color photo from the New York Times, showing a young Asian woman recording a song. For some reason, they have a hard time, it says, trying to break into the hit category.

Not my interest. What grabbed my attention is the close-up of the microphone she is using: The classic RCA DX-77, which you can see as a prop on Larry King’s desk. It’s about ¾ size in this photo, closer to us than the singer. And it brings back lots and lots of memories. I have spoken into many and I also nearly knocked someone out with one.

The 77’s replaced the diamond-shaped RCA BX-44 mics, the ones you see in nostalgia books about radio, with “NBC” or “CBS” on the side. I used them, too, and you can just stop with the dinosaur cracks before you make them. The 44’s were good in their day, and the 77’s are so good they are still in use. Heavy buggers.

I was running an overhead mic boom one day many years ago for a panel show and, never having done this before, was having a bit of a time capturing everyone without being too low. One guy was a bit animated and I was trying to keep him on mic while he moved back and forth. He moved back; I panned the mic boom back. He suddenly moved forward; I was still panning back, just inches above his head. We almost lost a panelist.

I’ve used 77’s in good studios and bad. I’ve been a dj in front of one, a news reporter, a late-night quiet music host just an inch away from one. It’s been a great buddy.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tell Us, O Light, What's Up

I often drive fairly late at night and, going down one main drag across the river, face a long line of green traffic lights. They are “demand” lights and, as cross traffic is zilch after midnight, I just sail along, green after green. It’s a great feeling.

Sometimes I’ll see a yellow ahead, then red; knowing the timing, I won’t slow down because I know I’ll get the green by the time I get there.

There might be a red and white flashing light behind me, an ambulance rushing to the hospital across the bridge. Or a red and blue, a cop about to settle an argument that the people involved couldn’t handle for themselves. Maybe a combination of red/blue, red/white and yellow: Traffic accident with injuries requiring a two truck.

Years ago, in Our Fair City, the traffic lights in the affected area used to go 4-way flashing yellow when emergency vehicles were on the move. In one way, it was good; you were alerted to their presence. On the other hand, you also had drivers not knowing who was going to enter the intersection next. In a way, it was good those ambulances, cops and fire trucks were on the road, because you might need them right where you were.

Our traffic lights also went “through yellow” on both sides, whether going from red or going from green. There was a tendency for people to gun it to get through before the light turned red, as well as for people to anticipate the yet-to-happen green light when they had been stopped. Lots of work for body shops in those days.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Speaking Of Inspections

Yesterday’s entry got me to thinking.

In Connecticut, when I was first licensed, driving was a precarious dance between you and the state cops. Get a ticket and your license was suspended for a month, no fix; two stops and it’s two months; three and you’re off the road. Traffic fatalities went way down, as nobody wanted to be without wheels for a month or two, and those who got stopped once knew they had only one more chance; those with two knew they were dead next time.

Cars were a different matter. If it ran and could do so without dropping parts all over the road, you were legal. There were lots of things you did not need (turn indicators, for instance), but if you had them, they had to work. Ours pooped out, so we just unscrewed the lever so we “didn’t have it.” I would imagine inspections are better these days.

In Massachusetts, I worked in a garage where we did inspections. Not much to them in those days, but we did check for the essentials. Brakes, lights, wipers and a couple other things. Basically, could you operate the thing safely on the road? Cars we owned and leased out got their inspection at the gas pumps; we knew what we had.

In Pennsylvania, I don’t do inspections and I’m not sure what they look for. I know emissions are a big thing, but since I drive less than 5,000 miles per year, I am exempt from that bother. Seems to me that someone driving that little would have more of an emissions problem than someone who regularly blows their carbon out.