Friday, October 31, 2008

Suppose Fish Farted

Well, suppose they did? There’s a lot of methane in the ocean and it had to come from somewhere. I mean, 15% of the methane in our atmosphere comes from cow and goat farts.

Suppose paperclips reproduced? That’s not as crazy an idea as you might think. Put one clip in your desk drawer and, after a month, there is still one; put in two and you still have two. But, like carrier pigeons which only reproduce in flocks, have five or ten and after a while you have twenty, then thirty, then fifty.

Can snowflakes speak? I think so. Go outside on a perfectly still night when snow is falling and listen. Just listen, very quietly. You can hear the snow coming down before it reaches the ground and that sound is the flakes talking to each other. It helps if you live in the sticks, or there’s no noise in the suburbs.

Do rocks walk? I bet they do, but only at night when nobody is watching. Notice where they are in the daytime and then see which ones have moved. It won’t be every one, and it may not be far, but they will change places as if they were chess pieces.

Can the earth go bald? I think of trees as the earth’s hair. There are places where it never had any; just water or ice; there are locations where it was thick and luxurious but are now deserts. Elsewhere, we have used a watery restorative to bring back some greenery and a little bit of growth.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pinks & Blues, Who Lasts, And Obits

Perhaps someone here who knows stats and the human race better than I (which is most everybody) can tell me this:

How come we usually have about eleven or so obituaries in the daily paper? Sure, there are days when there might be only eight, or sometimes twenty-plus; but generally you can count on somewhere around eleven to fourteen. Never just one, never fifty.

Generally, when you get to very old age, there are 107 women to 100 men. The figure holds up pretty well. And while there are more boys born than girls, it’s pretty close to 1:1 – how does Mother Nature arrange that balance?

I would guess that when kids are conceived, it would be random; you might have dozens of boys and a few girls. Or a few boys and loads of girls. But not guys and gals all over the place producing like unto themselves in such an orderly way.

And, at the other end, people tend to get their wings (or their asbestos underwear) at a fairly consistent rate. That’s natural death, by the way, and not as a result of gang battles, war or jumbo jets on fire crashing into huge cruise ships.

Why do kids enter puberty in the hours before sunrise? Why not at 11:30am, or 7:15pm, or any other time? When I pass over and meet Mother Nature (aka, God), I’ll have to remember that I wondered about these.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Senators McBama Bring Relief

The event we’ve all been waiting for is just about here: The momentous date of November 5, 2008. Never have so many people waited so anxiously for a presidential event of this magnitude.

(Huh? I thought the election was November 4?)
(-It is. Tuesday the 4th.)
(Then what’s all this noise about Wednesday the 5th?)
(-There’s no more mud-slinging; that’s what.)

Whether it’s for president or some local political office, I’ve gotten sick of hearing, “I’m xxx, and I approve this message.” You REALLY approved that message? Honest to goodness, you approved a message calling your opponent a tax-dodger, someone in bed with a convicted felon, a person who did everything but molest little boys?

At least, you will shut up on the 5th. Or, as the polls close on the 4th. We can go back to the regular commercials, clever or stupid as they may be. At least they aren’t throwing mud on the competition.

The two presidential candidates speak, although guardedly, of how much esteem they hold the other and how they hope to work with each other after the election. I don’t think so; forgiveness for lies is one thing, but while you forgive the hot stove burner, you learn to keep your hand away from it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mr. Blackwell Reviews Angels' Robes

Mr. Blackwell, best known for his “worst-dressed list,” succumbed to a massive sarcasm attack this Sunday. Self-described as “…razor-tongued as Noel Coward, volcanic as Vesuvius erupting, wickedly controversial as Paris in the ‘20s,” he knew nobody in the fashion world took his lists very seriously.

Except, perhaps, his targets:

He likened Elizabeth Taylor to a dirigible. Called Julia Roberts “Godfather III in drag.” Diana Ross was “a Martian meter maid,” Martha Stewart "dressed like a centerfold from the Farmer’s Almanac,” and Ann-Margret was “Marlon Brando in a G-string.”

Ah, how the art of fashion criticism has now left us.

He signed his checks “Richard Sylvan Selzer,” but was renamed “Richard Blackwell” by Howard Hughes when he was signed to a movie contract; he then changed his first name to “Mr.,” which it remained for the rest of his life.

He was, actually, a pretty nice guy, especially when it came to designing for women of poor dimensions. He had a good grasp of how to shape clothing for plus-size ladies and those of height to accent the feminine curves. A buyer from San Antonio said, “When he designs a dress, he keeps in mind how a woman wants to look across a table.” But his best-dressed list? Nobody ever read it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Fourth Of July Feast

Funny time to be thinking of Independence Day, but I was just watching an old tape that was kicking around my room and, among other things, it had part of a National Geographic program about food.

Hot dogs, to be exact. Fifty million of them, enough to go along both coastlines of the U.S., all gone on the Fourth. If things keep up, we’ll need a longer coastline or, perhaps, use Hawaii.

In a person’s lifetime (not mine; I stay away from those who-knows ingredients things), we go through 5,442 dogs and about as many rolls. That surprises me, the equal number of rolls, as you often see people having hotdogs and beans on a plate – unless they use the rolls for something else.

Anyway, between hotdogs and sausages, we willingly part with six billion bucks. The figures aren’t in yet for mustard, ketchup and relish.

Burgers? 47 billion last year. I think in your lifetime, you eat your car’s weight in burgers and put 12,000 buns around them. Lettuce, tomato and pickle extra.

When the first McDonald’s opened in Bridgeport (around 1958), I think dogs were 15 cents and burgers were 25 cents. Being cheap even then, I went for the obvious. Hey, two burgers or three dogs with a nickel left over.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

But What Can You Do?

Ok, if you listen to the political ads, Senator Obama is an inexperienced Marxist Muslim candidate for a presidency he can’t handle.

On the other hand, Senator McCain is a third term for the most incompetent president we’ve seen in ages and will carry on his bias for the rich.

So we know pretty much what the candidates can’t do, aren’t able to accomplish, have done in their past lives – all from the other candidate’s headquarters.

I really don’t give a rat’s ass. What I want to know is: What can they do; what can you do? You can’t even have a run for office locally without hearing how incompetent your opposition is. So? So what can you do? Tell me.

These end-of-campaign ads have made me aware of just how much I don’t like people distracting me by pointing out how others are idiots. Yes, some people *are* idiots; there’s no getting away from that. As a friend used to say, “There are more horses’ asses in this world than there are horses.”

But I really don’t want to know how bad people are. If you are running for office, just tell me what you bring to the table. If all you bring is mud, that’s pretty much all I think I can expect from you after you start work. If you bring me past accomplishments to show future promise, that’s great. Tell me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two Cars Passed Through Each Other

Look at it this way: When you have at atom, there is a central core of sorts, with electrons in orbit around it. If you could expand it, the electrons would have enough room as bees in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. There is that much empty space in an atom. Or, conversely, the vast majority of an atom is empty space.

So you have a huge amount of atoms in an auto, which amounts to an awful lot of empty space, really. Someone’s not looking where they are going and their awful lot of empty space meets your awful lot of empty space.

Why don’t they just pass through each other? It’s not as if there is a great amount of density in there; we’ve already described how far the atom’s electrons are from the core.

Why can’t we put ten, twenty people in one airplane seat? Unless there is a chance their atoms might get mixed up with each other, Uncle Ed getting on the plane will still be Uncle Ed getting off. It’s just that he shared the seat with Fritzi Olmbecker, Joe Brizt, Bambi Friday, Esther Fesstah, Gloria Snockers and 14 other people. (Bambi Friday is a real person who lives near me.)

Apparently, these atoms all get together in some sort of club called “The Molecules,” which has a stronger attraction than either the Mafia or Aunt Sarah’s Thursday Night Gossip and Card Club. You can’t break through any of them and, therefore, when we run into someone, we run into them and not through them.

Friday, October 24, 2008


REALLY?? Yeah, really. 900 posts to this blog without missing a day, except during vacations. I never thought there were nine hundred things I could talk about, but apparently there have been.

I can’t talk about my time at Notre Dame football games, during three years in grad school there, because I never went. The one time I actually entered the stadium was when I visited the ABC facilities as they set up to televise a game; for me, that was the exciting moment – not any ND touchdowns. It was actually the day before the game.

Wonder if I ever mentioned my VW Karman Ghia? The car that couldn’t do over 70mph if you pushed it off the Empire State Building.

Then there’s the question of why cars crash when they hit each other. If you know anything about atoms, that’s a real question and something worth talking about. Or, at least, bringing up in a daily blog to show you why.

Everybody has a story.
Eric Boyden, of the Toronto area, died recently.
"...He collected aluminum storm doors, insulation, and never lost his love of trips to the dump. He could build, fix or dismantle anything. During his last days, Eric talked of his early basketball playing and trips on the Queen car to Eaton's. A last request was to visit a hardware store. He was generous to many, but not all."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'd Like To...

I’d like to do a lot of things that just aren’t going to happen. But I can dream about them, imagine them, fantasize about them and be happy with living them over and over in my mind. After all, it’s my mind and I can use those odds & ends of spare minutes as I wish.

I’d like to free-fall from the highest altitude possible and, if I could somehow work it, have some sort of paraglider which I could use to catch the updrafts and stay aloft for as long as possible.

Really, really, I’d like to travel the universe at so far beyond the speed of light it means I could go to distant galaxies almost as fast as I could think of it. I’d like to see the galactic clusters, to look at the edge of the universe.

I think I’d like to hang out in the Amazon jungles, watching the birds, the animals and the bugs underneath the giant trees. They would not fear me, nor would I fear them; it would be the Peaceable Kingdom, symbolized by Edward Hicks’ famous painting.

I’d love to fly. Not with an airplane, but just by myself; just being able to will myself to rise up in the air and go anywhere I want. Fly along, zip up over the trees, down along the meadows, across the ponds. That would be great fun.

I’d like to go out doing something good. A drive-by shooting is such a waste, but dropping over while helping somebody – way to go!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Inherited A Few Things

...much to my surprise.

I inherited a last name, which brings with it the plusses and minuses of being related to others with that name in my town. There are some of the former and many of the latter. But it came with my creation and I had nothing to do with it.

A certain ethnicity, as well. On my mother’s side, straight New England Yankee back to 1639, then a hop across the Atlantic to England. On my father’s side, an ancestry that reflects warm June nights in the backseats of buggies all through England, France and ending up with an Irish name.

I inherited life, as well. That was the first thing. Came from nothingness into being, and still here – with my religion telling me that when my body finally falls apart (or gets in the way of something), I will continue living in another place, without end. I hope I get the right place, sunny and warm but not ferociously hot.

Speaking of getting to the right place, I also inherited a belief system (religion), of the Catholic denomination. Some people take their religion to the Customer Service desk and either get cash back or a different product; I’m comfortable in mine, even if I think it needs a lot of fixing.

I inherited a gender. A height. Inherent abilities.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Cash Register Never Stops Ringing

In 1951, Jack Narz narrated the opening episode of “Superman.” At the end of the show, with his voice crescendoing, he said, “Join us every week for the adventures of Superman!” He was paid $150. Almost every year thereafter he received a residual royalty check of $1.98.

It’s not a bad way to live, if your checks are large enough. Jack’s were not, of course, but now they are welcome envelopes in the mail.

Residual payments were good for six broadcasts, much later changed to no limits for repeats. Before I put this blog together, I wrote to the Writers Guild of America, West, to see if M*A*S*H began in time for its actors to benefit from this “forever” clause. Since the show has never stopped being broadcast, they could stand to make a good piece of change every year: 20% of the rerun costs go toward residuals.

Many actors in commercials can earn four times their salary from residuals, so let those commercials run and run.

It’s not unlike a composer’s royalties for each time (figured on average stats) songs are played, distributed from the license fee “bank” paid into by broadcasters, entertainment spots, and such. You can have a handy six- or seven-figure income just from the songs you wrote any number of years ago. Be a George Gershwin, a Cole Porter, a Beatle and you are set for life, as are your heirs and theirs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Portables With No Batteries

Long before you could use computers anywhere there were wireless “hot spots,” there were typewriters you could carry with you with ease and use anywhere.

They were called, appropriately, portables. Small, relatively light, easy to carry around; the ideal writing instrument for people who needed a typewriter, but not one of those monster Royals or Underwoods you found in newsrooms or offices. Can you imagine lugging one of those onto a train or bus?

Compact was the word; miniaturization hit them long before there were transistor radios, desktop computers or anything else that could be made smaller. They were also remarkably sturdy: you could drop it off the roof of your house and the only repairs would be to your yard.

The touch was, well, different. I always prided myself on being able to use portable, desk, and computer keyboards. It was something akin to being able to drive a stick-shift truck, a stick car and an automatic transmission.

The striking keys themselves would stick together more than on a desk model, as they were so close, so you had to be careful that your fingers were not on two letters at once, as well as not typing faster than the machine could handle.

They were the laptops of the time, but their time is now gone.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't Spin The Dial!

From the late 1940s’ BR (before remote) days until we got rid of the rotary tv dial, the constant admonition to kids was, “Don’t spin the dial!” Supposedly it was going to do something to the channel selector; when I became a radio-tv engineer, I realized it did nothing but polish the contacts – actually a good thing.

Rotary dials, for channels 2 through 13; when the mandatory all-channel tuners came in, you had another for 14 through 83. Did anyone really think we weren’t going to spin through nearly 70 UHF channels?

And that mysterious channel 1 – what lies there? Ages ago, someone told me it was an FBI or CIA channel. Actually, there used to be a channel 1, but no channel 2; that space was a pre-existing Amateur Radio band, which the FCC moved to what had been channel 1. No mystery, no conspiracy – just the ham radio ops.

There’s enough room (on over-the-air tv) between channels 4 and 5 to fit in another channel. It’s used for all sorts of two-way radio stuff. There is just loads and loads of room between channels 6 and 7. You wouldn’t believe how much real estate lies between channels 13 and 14; you could drive three buses, side by side, through it.

Technically, television in the U.S. hasn’t changed since 1941. That’s like driving a car that runs on 67-year-old standards; you want a ’41 Chevy? In February, that all changes and we almost update to the 21st century.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dot-5 "N"

That’s the Braille description for the word “name.” You don’t want to use four cells if you can get away with two; a single function dot (dot five) in front of the first letter (n) is the simplest way to form this particular word.

Name. Everybody has one, every object has one, every procedure has one. It helps us nail things down quickly: “I’m Tom Carten” (understood: Carten family in general, member name Tom).

What was your work? I played records over the radio. In other words, a disc jockey by name. You? A teacher, a lawyer, a short-order cook. All names for professions.

Suppose we didn’t use names. Cop pulls us over and asks, “What’s your name?” I say, “I don’t have one.” He goes, “You gotta have a name.” I reply, “I am who I am, just a person and I don’t happen to have been named.”

Celebrities change their names, sometimes legally: Joe Doakes is now John Smith, in real life as well as in public. Others may use a stage name, but keep their own: former entertainer Garry Moore was known as such only during his tv show; in his home town he was Thomas Garrison Morfit to friends and neighbors.

We name our pets, our boats, hurricanes and branded products. We try to make our products household names (Xerox), and then fight like crazy to keep them from being so familiar (xerox copy) that it loses its protection.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Tag, You're It" No More

The wusses have won. “Tag” is now improper, incorrect and damaging to Our Little Ones’ fragile psyches. It causes emotional instability, serial killings and harms the liver. (Ok, I just made that up, but you can be sure there exists somewhere a list of supposed ill effects this ancient playground game causes.)

Didn’t do me any harm; I got to run a lot, change direction on a moment’s notice, laugh and make contact with the girls (we were a mixed group and not a “girls are icky, boys have cooties” bunch of friends). Well, I think one guy did have cooties.

Anyway, somebody had to lose and now that’s frowned upon because Those Who Have Nothing To Do But Find Problems feel it might cause problems. I think competition is good; isn’t that what we do in the business world? In pro sports?

At home, we used to play baseball in the street without keeping score, but that was different; the object was to have fun and nobody cared about balls and strikes, homeruns and who did the best. Even the baselines weren’t uniform: home to first might have been “x” feet, to second would be “x+” feet and to third maybe “x-“ feet. Back to home would take care of itself.

But “tag” ended when the recess bell rang. You went back to the classroom and the competition stayed out on the playground. There would be something else the next day, whatever it would be, and nobody cared. Until now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Oldest Written Joke

As is my daily practice, I checked out “Believe It Or Not” in the newspaper and saw where “the oldest joke ever written down was about marriage – carved in 1,900 BC by a Sumerian.”

I bet he slept on their equivalent of the couch for a long time.

This sounds like something my brother would tell: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."

Egyptians poked fun at pharaoh King Snofru back in 1,600 BC with this cracker: "How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish."

Now we go to the Anglo-Saxons stand-up comics, back in the 10th century, with this bit of off-color humor: "What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key."


These showed up on various Internet sites a few months ago, which is probably where Believe It Or Not found the material. It just illustrates a principle that a cartoonist once told me: “There’s nothing like a good fart joke.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last One Left From April 15, 1912

“They built the ship Titanic, To sail the ocean blue. They thought they built a ship, That the water can’t go through. But Lord Almighty Hands, Said the ship will never land. It was sad when the big ship went down.”

Elizabeth Gladys “Millvina” Dean, now 96, was only two months old when the big ship went down, so she remembers none of it --- and never knew she was on the Titanic until she was eight.

She found the 1958 film, “A Night to Remember,” so upsetting she never watched any others about the sinking. She did take part in an A&E documentary about the ship, along with a few other survivors.

Now, she is the last one.

Some 2,200 people were on the great ship; maybe 750 survived the sinking. The last American, Lillian Asplund, died two years ago at 99.

Millvina is our last link to the disaster, the only memory (so to speak), the sole living person who once occupied a cabin.

One of these days she will be gone and at that point the Titanic will be history. Right now, it is still, in some way, a current event.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So, Which Matus News Stand?

In the years not too far back, there was a Matus news stand on three corners of Public Square. Not always right on the corner, but close by. Three of them.

Leo figured the foot traffic (and possibly car movements) went only one way. If you were on the South Main side, you would not want to go across to the east store; likewise, if you were on the western side, you might not care to cross two streets on the Square, or head over to the South Main side.

All three prospered and it’s quite likely customers to one never saw the inside of another. We’re like that; we have our paths and our stores which may never vary in a lifetime.

I’ve just never seen a concentration of news stands like that. It might also have been the bus parking spots: each route had its spot on the Square and, except for one side, you were within a few yards of a store.

For whatever reason, there’s only one left. Or, only one Matus news stand; there always was another, literally a stone’s throw from two of Leo’s places.

The other was a good place to get zip paper, bongs, scales and all the things you need except “the product” itself. The owners play innocent, but City Council finally blew up and started talking plainly about what they were selling and said all that stuff wasn’t so you could enjoy your cigarettes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Major And Minor Vendettas

Oh, these are fun.

In days of olde, when knights were bold… You might have (a) someone who’s in your way as you rise to power, or (b) someone you absolutely hate with all your being. You need to get rid of both, but want to do it the right way.

I was reading about this a long, long time ago. Finally, I found backing for my memory (actually tonight) and wish to present it to you. Read, but do not imitate; it violates several laws and society’s norms.

The Minor Vendetta:
Some guy is between you and whatever throne you want. You have no hard feelings against him, but he’s gotta go. “Nothing personal, guy.” So, in those supposedly religious days, you waited until he had been to confession and communion; on the way out of church, you dropped out of a tree and stabbed him to death. He goes to heaven, you get the position he held and all is well.

The Major Vendetta:
You can probably see this one coming. You hate the guy; you hate him here on earth and you will hate him in the hereafter. So you wait until you are sure he is in mortal sin and then you kill him so he’s not only dead, but he is currently roasting in the flames of Hell. Of course, you will probably end up there, too, for doing this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Don't Think It's A Timex

I tried to buy a wind-up Timex watch once. I’m not even sure self-winding watches are still around. Anyway, here is a real exchange I had with a high-end (highest-end) dealer in New York City.

To: Cellini, Hotel Waldorf-Astoria
From: Tom Carten
I am a subscriber to the New York Times and saw an advertisement for the RM 020 in its advertising supplement this week. While Richard Mille’s watches are somewhat above my resources, I am curious about the price in the lower right-hand corner of the page. It reads, “From 450,000 USD.” Am I to presume this watch sells for $450,000? Just curious. Envious, but curious.

To: Tom Carten
From: Cellini, Hotel Waldorf-Astoria
You are correct. It retails for $450,000

To: Cellini, Hotel Waldorf-Astoria
From: Tom Carten
Thank you for your prompt reply. All I can do is dream. And change the battery in my Timex.

(I wonder if they discount for quantity? I’m not going to ask.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Church As Politics As Church

I rather suspect it was because some European countries combined the Church (i.e.: Roman) and the State (i.e.: Spain, Italy, etc.) that our ancestors came over here and gradually formed a country which separated the two. After, of course, they persecuted everyone who did not hold to their own religious beliefs.

But after that, we figured that, while a general belief in God or not was ok, there would be no state church, no forced religion. It might affect how you saw your country’s running, but they were to remain, henceforth and forever, separate.

Until recently. Our bishop mandated his “how to vote” letter be read in every church last Sunday. Ok; it didn’t really mention a certain candidate by name, but neither is eat sh*t and die really a bad phrase; it’s missing a vital letter and could be “eat shot and die,” as in “birdshot.”

It was starkly political, in church. The sitting president is starkly religious, in the White House. That bothers me. At least in my tradition, we should hear the principles that inform our conscience to later elect the best candidate; they should not be rammed down our throats with just the name obviously left out.

Likewise the President; we are a country of many religious beliefs and not all are his. He presides over the USA wearing a suit and tie, not vestments and on a throne. I don’t go to his church and don’t want to hear about it from his office.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I just noticed that it’s 10/10/08. Ten-Ten. Reminded me of 10-10 WINS Radio in New York City. Not only the home of rock & roll, but its cradle, its birthplace. Alan Freed was its father and its mother was of mixed ancestry: rhythm & blues, country & western, the skiffle sound from England, some of the backbeat black sound.

“Ten-ten WINS New York” was the constant station identification and it had some of the best dj’s on the air, all matched to the dayparts. Freed was on at night when the teens would be home; jazz from Birdland later in the evening for the cool set (I must have been one of the cool listeners), and others.

But WINS was a dump. Lots of stations are; not all, but you’d be surprised at the conditions under which dj’s sometimes work, even in the major markets. I told my communications students the only thing that mattered was what came out of the radio speakers. People don’t care how dirty the studio is, what kind of junk you are using, how the place looks; just sound excited.

And WINS was excited. There was Alan Freed, shouting and beating a phone book while ringing a cow bell. The Big Beat was blaring out in our homes and our cars. It was the San Francisco earthquake on the radio.

Then WINS got sold. The last dj, after the last record, said, “More music right after the news.” Newsradio began in 1965 and never stopped.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Life Became Too Much

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

A young man, enthusiastic, energetic, filled with life and friends, was watching a movie with his fellow college students, sharing popcorn and laughing the other night.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

Nobody knew he had his own demons fighting within him. His girlfriend said, “He had such a zest for life and such a positive attitude. That’s why this is so inconceivable.” But some battles are kept so far inside that nobody sees them and nobody saw the gun he used on the Market Street Bridge railing as he fell into the river.

So we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread:
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Passed My Grandparents' House

Overnight, I was dreaming that I was walking along on lower California Street in Stratford, where I lived with my grandparents.

First, we passed Dr. Stone’s house, which I commented on, then approached our place on the left side of the street. I asked my friend if she wanted to go inside; I did not. “I want to remember it the way it was when I lived there.” She declined. After all, it’s been since 1949 that we built our own place, and since 1956 that they moved out. I was an in-and-out resident up until that time, being cared for after an illness and hoping to prevent it from coming back.

Haven’t the faintest idea why that scene would come back to me after 52 years and I rather doubt there’s any real solid reason.

Some years ago, I did go by the house and, if anyone was out front, I would have told them I once lived there. It was in our family, owned by one couple for 43 years, from the time the last shingle went on the roof in 1913 until we sold it in 1956. My grandmother bought it without telling her husband; my grandfather stayed there until his final (and probably only) illness.

Our own house in nearby Lordship? We moved in when the last shingle went on the roof in 1949, moved out when Mom left us in 1997 after 48 years and I’m gone 11 more, now with 59 years of memories.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Why Not?

If our family had a coat of arms, the motto would be: “Why Not?” That seems to have been the way we went through life.

Most people seem to approach situations asking, “Why (should we do this)?” Ours tended to be, “Why not (do this)?”

So I was a teenager in high school and wanted to work in the news department of the largest radio station in the area. No experience. I don’t think I’d ever been inside a radio station before, but I wanted to do this. “Why not?” was what I heard from my parents. Thus did it all start at WICC.

My brother (8) and I (4) were going to Vermont on the train, with our parents to follow by car a day or two later. Why not? We were certainly old enough to travel alone and I still remember the trip. “Put them off in Brattleboro,” I remember one of my parents saying, and so the conductor did.

I’ve already told you about being on the beach in the eye of a hurricane. It wasn’t my idea; our parents thought it would be a good idea, so why not? We knew enough when to get back home and all the wusses were still inside, so we had the beach to ourselves.

Go out into this huge gut (a type of swamp) and hunt fiddler crabs for bait? Climb trees to string radio antennas? Why not?

Monday, October 06, 2008

My Life Is Like Squeezing Jell-O

Ever try it? You can get most of it in your hand, but then a glob comes through your fingers; contain that amount and it pops out somewhere else.

When I can keep my blog current, then I get behind on putting my cd’s away after listening to them (the machine holds five). If I have a newspaper column due and laundry, several loads, to do then the blog suffers – and this one is being written on Tuesday, despite what the header says. My radio show has to be prepped every day, but that might mean I need an extension on the column, the laundry and the blog.

Normally, I don’t unpack from a cruise for several weeks. This time, I did it the next day, but I had someone else doing my radio show for two days after I returned.

At least it’s better than sitting around bored, flipping through the channels to see what’s on tv and is less dull than whatever else is on. You can slowly strangle your brain that way and become a dull, gray person.

But the squeezing Jell-O ends when I go on vacation, on a cruise. I know that some people love to cram lots of activities into their time onboard and when on shore excursions, but I find it great to just hang out in the Lido buffet restaurant with a mug of tea, something to read and a pair of binoculars.

There is nothing like leaving the Jell-O at home.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

How I Learned About Sex

Why do we call it “the birds and the bees”? Why not “the flowers and the trees”? Or “the he’s and the she’s”?

And, for that matter, why do we often learn about it in the playground or on the streets rather than from the people who did it to make us?

I asked my mother how she learned what we carefully call “the facts of life.” She laughed and said, “All my mother told me was, ‘Don’t let any boys touch you.’ That was it; nothing else, ever.”

What did she teach me? Some pamphlet she had hidden in a kitchen cabinet above the washing machine and, somewhere, another one I ran across that was more Catholic than the Pope, more repressed than an emotionally-retarded, guilt-ridden little girl who once got caught making herself feel nice at the age of four.

I remember, at the Jesuit prep school, being outside at lunch and someone explaining to me, “…so, when you screw a whore…” I was 14 at the time and he was telling me about VD or some such. If only the Catholic pamphlets would say things in clear language, we’d have no problems. But when it’s “pray to keep your Baptismal purity,” I want to ask, “Huh? What’s that all about?”

Maybe get a friend to give our kids The Chat.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Now Is The Time To Buy A New House

I was reading the New York Times Sunday Magazine section. Specifically, the full-page ads and, in this case, even more specifically the opening three-page spread and the following double and single page spreads.

Seven properties. “Gracious living spaces,” it says, letting us know these are not your typical refrigerator boxes in some slum alley. “Homes for those who value luxury, quality and integrity.” They also promises there will be no barriers due to the usual race, color, religion, sex, handicap and now, yes now, “familial status.” I’m sure they don’t mean single parents by that one.

Ok, who gets in?

“Ariel East & West”: $2m to $4m.
“The Rushmore”: $1.5m to over $7m.
“The Lucida”: $2.5m to over $6m

“535 West End Avenue, the finest pre-war ever built”: $8.5m to over $25m

“995 Fifth Avenue, half and full-floor residences”:
$10.5m to over $47m.

These are, obviously, marketed to people for whom the recent financial downturn is merely an interesting item in the newspaper.

Friday, October 03, 2008



Know where the rest rooms are. (Hint: When desperate, go to the basement level; you’ll always find one there.)

Check the memorial cards or plaque when you enter a funeral home parlor. It might not be the person you think.

Remember people have heard every joke about their line of work.

Keep in mind that what you say about someone will get back to them.

Let people into traffic, or cut across; do to them as you would have them do to you.

Keep your word.

Forget stupid things people did.

Notice things others have done and say a sincere nice word about it.

Spend your waiting time, in stores or behind the wheel, looking around and really seeing what’s out there that you’ve missed.

Thursday, October 02, 2008



Sass a cop. Or your barber.

Sneeze when you have to take a poop.

Argue the right-of-way with a vehicle that has more wheels than yours.

Marry a person who tends to say, “Watch this!”

Think you can outfox the IRS.

Hit on a girl whose boyfriend is a bouncer.

Get some weird haircut a week before your yearbook portrait.

Think you are really funny after you’ve downed a few.

Demand your rights, when you don’t know what your rights are.

Complain by saying you are friends or relatives with the head of the organization, the police chief or the mayor.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Somewhere In the Universe They Wonder

Out there, in the vastness of space, are people with telescopes looking here and there. Well, certainly there and maybe they’ve even looked here. An astronomer notes in his diary: “Medium sized planet rotating around medium sized star, far out from center of galaxy. Planet has too much water and not enough dry surface to sustain life. Further, planet is tilted on its axis so the northern and southern parts have different seasons at the same time, thus limiting crop growth.”

So much for us. We appear to be uninhabitable to people on another planet and, if my thoughts on the matter are correct, they have made the same mistake as we.

That other-planet astronomer we mentioned in the first paragraph is looking for life as he knows it; the only kind of life he has experienced. Therefore, the only kind he can imagine would be able to exist elsewhere.

So, as we gaze through the Hubble Space Telescope, we also make the same mistake: a planet like unto ourselves. Another Earth, another water planet with the same air mixture we breathe. Surprise, surprise! The Creator of the universe had some of His own ideas and they don’t always match our science.

What’s out there? Could be just about anything or anybody. It could be a Dr. Seuss book come alive with the most outlandish (for us) characters. We are life as we know it; they are life as it exists elsewhere.