Sunday, November 30, 2008


That’s it for November, folks. End Of Month, as the accountants say. “Novem,” the Latin word for “nine,” as this was the ninth month in the Olde Days, but I’m not exactly sure why. I do know that January and February did not exist in the ancient days; there was a long, miserable period that was best left un-named and March 1 was New Year’s Day.

Not a bad idea, when you think of it. Just don’t give those two Jan & Feb a name and maybe they will go away. I remember working in a gas station and February was our worst month, so we waited for those 28 or so days to pass and the repair business would get better.

Down Under, it’s quite the thing for guys (no, I’m not being sexist; read on) to grow a mustache during November. Up Over, if I may refer to the United States this way, and perhaps the Aussies do, there is an observance I’ve never heard of, “No Shave November,” which sounds fine to me: let it go and have a full beard.

Except I always suspect guys with full beards are hiding behind them.

On a much better note, it’s also Pancreatic Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and Lung Cancer Awareness Month; American Diabetes Month; National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. In the Catholic Church, we remember those who have gone on before us. Sure beats letting hair grow out of your face.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

They Came Not In Cars, But In Droves

Droves. “They arrived at the stores in droves this morning.” Yes, they certainly did. But who drives the droves? And how many people to a drove? Is it like an old-fashioned carriage, or a bus?

Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Otherwise known as Regus Patoff, the world’s most creative inventor, because his name is on so many things. “Pat Pen” was, I used to think, a pen where pats were kept; little did I know it actually meant “patent pending.”

Ped Xing is a yellow traffic sign that makes sense to us. But what would people in another country think? Is this one of those regional things, proper to the U.S., that makes no sense anywhere else?

Do Not Pass. Ok, means keep in a single lane and do not overtake any vehicles. Well, that’s in the United States of USA. But in the Kingdom that is United it means, “Go no further.” That could cause big problems for drivers in the other country.

Keep An Eye On Things, and other idioms, are confusing to foreign speakers of English. I know; I had a Chinese student aide who spoke perfect English, but did not know idioms and looked at me funny when I said, "I'm going to hit the road; please keep an eye on things." It wasn’t until someone translated the Dead Sea Scrolls that we realized the ancients also had their idioms and we were taking literally what they meant as sayings. …Did we really hit roads?

Friday, November 28, 2008

If You Don't Play The Game . . .

Now for this week’s edition of: “If you don’t play the game, you don’t make the rules.”

The Dalai Lama, exiled Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, said sex spells fleeting satisfaction and trouble later, while chastity offered a better life. "Sexual pressure, sexual desire, actually I think is short period satisfaction and often, that leads to more complication," the Dalai Lama told reporters.

"Naturally as a human being ... some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence to make comprehension that those couples always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide, murder cases," the Dalai Lama said. "Too much attachment towards your children, towards your partner," was "one of the obstacle or hindrance of peace of mind," he said.

Thoughts: (1) If his parents had followed this advice, we would not be able to hear him tell us how to use the equipment God (apparently wrongly) gave us. (2) If you have to justify your abstinence from anything by persuading others to join you, maybe you have trouble believing in it yourself. (3) If you don’t play the game, you can’t make the rules.

Suggestions: Sex is great if you follow my rules of (1) Appropriate, (2) Consensual and (3) Fun. Bang like rabbits if you want; go easy if that’s what you like. But only two people belong in the bedroom and the clergy belong in church.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks? For What?

Well, lots of things. Sure, the economy is down the hole and we don’t know when those crazies will attack us again … and worse. But there are other things.

I’m thankful for recorded music. Aside from the fact it put me on the radio for so many years and in so many stations, it’s nice to have in the house and in the car. I’ve listened to many big bands that I barely remember from years past, and many more I never heard.

A friend and I just had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant out in the Back Mountain. It was not expensive at all and we had enough. I think they cut back just a bit on the stuffing, but it always seemed like too much and I still needed a bag.

I’ve heard people complaining that we have no more rights in this country. Oh? I can travel anywhere I want without asking an official. I can vote and have it count, use the phone, go to the store at 3:00 a.m. without a cop stopping me, express my very negative opinion about the current president, and so on. Elsewhere, I’d get shot.

We have “Valley Santa” to help needy kids get toys at Christmas and I’m thankful I can make a donation at the local bank to help out. I can also read the newspaper over the radio for the visually impaired, elderly and homebound – because I’m not one of them.

Speaking of newspapers, we have two in this city and they can print whatever they want because the government can’t interfere. I’m grateful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Harvest Home Holiday

And, behold, didst they travel, each unto his or her own parental unit, called by that force of nature that each year on the Fourth Thursday of November by Proclamation Presidential and Turkey Pardoned.

Clogged were the roads, fulfilling that poem of olde, “A Child’s Thanksgiving”: “Over the hills / and through the woods / to grandmother’s house we go.” And, to finish it in 2008: “The Interstates, / oh so boring, / and I’m afraid of snow.”

Mom and Dad, now Grandma and Grandpa, as we have taken over their role with children of our own. Our sisters and brothers, all equally drawn to the homestead which we remember as being larger with younger neighbors.

What did happen to Jessie? Oh, she has Alzheimer’s; too bad. Where is Peg? Gone now; pity. How about the Monsignor? Retired a few years ago; some new fellow is there now. Little Richie? He’s flying DC-10’s. Junie? In Florida, last I heard; not sure if he’s still with us.

But we still have the turkey-plus, the pumpkin pie, all the things we used to do. Eventually, we will be the “top generation” and the family will flock to our house for the traditional stuff.

Every generation changes what it does, but Harvest Home remains.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Please Drink Responsibly

The ads for alcohol seem to be stressing “Drink Responsibly” more than I recall in the past. There always seemed to be a little barely-visible reminder down near the bottom of the screen, but now it appears in a more prominent location and the announcer is also stressing it more than before. Which is not a bad idea.

Maybe we should put the warning on condom boxes, as well. “Boink Responsibly” isn’t quite the image I’d want to present, but some sort of warning would be in order. You don’t just hook up like dogs in the front yard, or monkeys on the National Geographic Channel. Nor do you go to Lover’s Lane (we’ve got one locally, nicknamed “The Baby Road”) and bang away.

“Complain Responsibly” is another great idea. Instead of coming on with all guns blazing, bayonets fixed, grenades flying, why not just approach whoever and quietly point out what appears to be the problem? You get a lot further that way and, if there is a next time, the people will be more willing to work with you.

Speak Responsibly. If it’s not true, don’t say it; if you’re not sure, wait until you are. If it’s bad, forget it; if it’s good, spread it. Don’t think an accusation is proof; it’s not and the plural of “rumor” is not “fact.”

Don’t say, “They did it because I’m (fill in the space).” They probably didn’t. It almost certainly was your fault and not your race, gender or anything else.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Monkey

“Another Monkey,” he calls himself; at least, that’s what he calls his blog and it’s on this very same site, Blogspot. Well, Another Monkey has accomplished something Things At King’s has not: A nice full-page article in the local newspaper.

We are going through a lot of church closings around these parts and A.M. feels it might be a good idea to photograph the stained-glass windows because they show themselves only from the inside. There has to be light coming through them to be illuminated and you have to be up close to see all the detail – which is not possible from the street of a closed church. Or anywhere, if the place gets blown up.

Our blogger friend is trying to preserve the images in those windows, a difficult thing to do if you can’t get up really close to get detail and risk overexposing due to the sunlight coming through the lighter parts of the glass.

Stained-glass windows generally tell a story, or illustrate something we already know. Some do this better than others. We had a church near my grandparents’ house, which had the richest colored stained glass I have ever seen. Those apostles were dressed as if they shopped at Neiman-Marcus, and not the bargain basement. At a young age, I was greatly impressed with what I saw each Sunday.

I recommend you try and see what our friend is trying to do. It’s a good attempt to save these images.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The General Store

We called it “the drugstore,” but it really was more of a General Store, something you would find out in the sticks. Which, in a way, we were. We were the sticks in a little village on what Mother Nature had created as an island, since filled in with silt from the river and fill for the nearby airport. Up until a dozen years before we moved out there, it really had been an island, nearly half a mile offshore, linked by the swamp and river silt.

So there was the drugstore. It was also a Fourth Class Post Office; there are plenty of Post Office people who don’t realize there exists something smaller than a Third Class Post Office. This one was located in various parts of the store. The scale for letters was just above the drawer that contained Dr. Scholl’s foot products. A larger scale was over by some OTC products and the largest was down in the corner. Stamps were in a drawer behind the watch display.

The single delivery was stuck between old prescription files in the pharmacy section for the postal customer to pick up; he lived way down in the swamp and it was easier for all involved to do it this way.

There was a soda fountain and a card section; now you can buy eats, some clothing and probably still the school supplies it always carried. And, of course, a telephone booth in the corner. We even had the daily weather report from the Coast Guard and, of course, the seasonal tide tables for the benefit of beachgoers. All that’s missing is a reunion of all the kids who worked there over the years.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

*WHAT* Did You Say??

So these three coons walk into a bar…

Before you call the NAACP, the ACLU or start throwing rocks at my house, allow me to say that coons are farmers. It’s a shortened form of “raccoons,” which is what farmers used to be called a century and change ago. I don’t know why; they just were.

They were also called “jays,” a shortened form of blue jays; like raccoons, never found in the cities, but only out in the sticks. These farmers, or jays, would cross streets any way they wanted and the city folk called it “jay walking,” or walking like jays.

The term “jays” only exists now in “jaywalking,” which will get you a ticket from a cop. “Coon,” which referred to farmworkers black or white, has become a nasty word for black people in the last 75-100 years and is not, or should not, be used.

Words change their meaning over time. I did research for an article and, in the process, saw an ad from a Boston newspaper, circa 1820, looking for a “lusty Indian woman” who had stolen a quilt. “Lusty,” in those days, was pretty close to what we would call “big boned” now; she was not coming on like Mae West.

People used to make love in city parks all the time, back when that meant nothing more than romancing; Bing Crosby had an early recording, “Gay Love,” which had nothing to do with gays. Anyway, these 'coons were jaywalking…

Friday, November 21, 2008

At The Scene Of The Accident

I was probably 16 or 17, maybe coming back from the tv station with my friend Ray Rackiewicz, along the twisting River Road from Shelton to Stratford, in Connecticut. As we came around a curve, there was a garbage truck flipped over on the river side of the road.

It’s been many years, but I seem to recall he was in great distress and kept saying, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.” A black fellow of some size and I’m not sure if there was a fire at the scene. But it was bad.

Ray and I did not want to just stop, gawk and leave. We felt we should be there, helpless but present. You just don’t leave someone while waiting for an ambulance to show up, which one did in due time.

On the lower corner of next day’s paper was a piece about the man, who did not make it. He was a prominent member of his church community and of his ethnic community. A good guy who took care of people and should have gone in a better manner than next to a garbage truck lying on its side.

Everybody has a story.
Jockey Frank Hayes had a fatal heart attack in the middle of a 1923 race. Legend has it his nag went on to cross the finish line first. If true, that would make him the only dead jockey to ever win a horse race.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Loved Being A Late-Night Disc Jockey

There’s something magical about being on the radio and, no matter which daypart you work, each d.j. finds the spell.

For me, it was being on the air late in the evening. On AM radio, you don’t know where your signal may be going. If you work on a 50,000-watt station (called, in the business, a “flamethrower”), you might be heard all over the country, or pretty close to it. If you are stuck in a little teakettle of an operation, you are lucky to reach the county line but, if conditions are right, someone driving along in their car a couple hundred miles away might be in just the right place to hear your show. You just never know.

As the evening wears on and it becomes very late, you know your audience has grown smaller. Yes, you know it; you can feel it. So you get more intimate, you speak with more of a one-to-one feeling, you are with friends, the people of the night. You are more willing to put phone calls on the air and you can trust your callers enough not to use a delay; they won’t say anything that will get you in trouble.

So there you are, on the right side or the wrong side of midnight. The music is soft and swinging, you are close-talking the mic with a quiet, low-pitched voice. You know how it sounds on the other side, coming out of the speaker: cool and neat, the late-night sound from the guy on the radio who’s in tune with the universe.

The lights are low in the studio, the music plays and I’m on the air.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Last Leaf Fell From The Tree

My brother sent a copy of the family Labor Day photo, taken when he was about three. I think this was a yearly event and, at least this time, everybody lined up left to right, front to back.

There are the patriarch and step-matriarch, the seven adult children, the tribe of grandchildren (I’m not there and Mom doesn’t seem to be showing). If Jim was four, then maybe I’m being tended by my grandmother back home.

Quiet, peaceful Aunt Bea is off to the right. I never knew much about her and she sort of disappeared from our lives. But she was my favourite in those early days and I think of her often.

Frail Aunt Ethel is closer to the center, in front of her Downeast Maine husband Ross. She will become increasingly slim and frail as her life went on. Everybody knew she would be the first to go.

Ethel was the bookkeeper for the family business, the Carten Sand & Gravel Company. We suspected this dear little lady could juggle books better than a circus performer could handle bowling pins. Her brothers and sisters waited her out.

Even the strongest went down as, one by one, they died off. Lastly, Ethel took her secrets with her. The last leaf fell from the Carten family tree.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

27 Snowflakes, By Count

It snowed this morning. Well, let’s say there were a few flakes, nothing much happened and the event didn’t last long.

Have you noticed when we get the weather report, that things are “events” now? There are snow events, rain events, etc. “We had a slight earthquake event this morning, which wiped out half the city, followed by a fire event and we expect the dam will burst, giving us a flood event later this evening.”

Twenty-seven flakes, I counted. Twenty-seven. Maybe a few more, but it didn’t seem to be. More or less like the calling cards the proper ladies carried with them in the fashionable circles of Old New York. When you paid a visit and your intended target was not at home, or perhaps indisposed, you left the card with the butler or maid, and turned up or down one or another of the corners. Each of those little folds silently indicated a message: came in person, condolences, etc.

The little snow shower we had this morning was Mother Nature’s calling card and the corner she left turned down was that which signified, “Dropped by, wish to tell you there’s more where this came from. Be back later. Watch the weather on tv. Ma.”

“The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow, / And what will poor robin do then, poor thing? / He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm / and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

The National Braille Association

The NBA’s quarterly publication just arrived today; I am a life member and have been active in the field of blindness, low vision and suchlike since 1974, perhaps earlier around 1970. But 1974 is my major starting date, when a lot of things started happening.

When I joined the NBA, I already had completed the 5,000-hour volunteer service requirement for the Distinguished Service Award. I never looked at it that way; it was just service I could give to people in need. Apparently, I hit the ground running as far as the NBA was concerned. Then, in five year intervals, I received Continuing Service Certificates.

Time passes when you are busy with projects. There was Braille transcribing, a print magazine I recorded and distributed every month, another that fell into my lap, the Radio Reading Service I started back when, odds and ends of things. You just do them and don’t think of looking at the calendar.

Today, as I said, the NBA’s bulletin arrived and there is my name under the heading, “Thirty Years,” after the five year initial award. 35 years, one day at a time, one project at a time. It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t know what’s ahead of you.

Had I known what was to come, I’d have said, “No, thanks.” Not knowing it, I just grew with the challenges of being a one-man band, juggling a life, a career, piles of cassette taped magazines and a lot of Braille dots.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On A Scale Of 1 To 17

The 8th Street Bridge, on a safety scale of 1-100, rates a 2. It’s ready to collapse and we cross it wondering if, perhaps, our number might be up. But suppose we used a different scale? Why just 1-100 or 1-10? How about measuring it on a scale of 1-87 … or a scale of 14-121.

My college calls its alumni once a year to make pledges. People send $25, $50, $100 and more. I usually donate $42.53 or $47.81 or even $51.67. There is, to my mind, nothing magic about zeros after the initial number. It also leaves people wondering what’s up with this guy. I wonder, too, so they’re in good company.

Has anyone ever seen a speed limit sign that indicates, as an example, 27mph? How about Interstate 95.3?

Speaking of odd numbers, some of the younger set want to vote for President and VP. Why not? I think it would be a good idea to have voting rights for kids 10-17 and have a special sort of president who would be in charge of children’s affairs. One person, with maybe a vice prez, whose job is to keep an eye out for matters that affect them.

I wonder if the one-cent piece has a future. At one time, it had value; these days, it’s just an accountant’s tool. While we’re at it, how about ditching the nickel as well. What with the prices of things these days, five cents one way or the other is hardly worth figuring. Make the dime our basic unit of money.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Brother Brings Back Memories

He came by this weekend and gave me a calendar for 2009: twelve months of outhouse photos. I think it will go well in my radio studio.

You see, we had an outhouse back home. Well, not quite behind our residence, but down at the marina where we kept our boat. And I’m not sure “marina” is the right word; that makes me think of people in white with fine boats and dining on their yachts. This place was for people who owned small working craft and their version of fine dining was hauling out a beer. The men’s and ladies’ rooms were contained in the single outhouse just up from the boats.

That’s life when you are near the water.

Sure, there are really nice marinas with the higher class of people and their better yachts. They know how to lunch and what to wear for each part of the day. But you don’t dare bring a grain of sand aboard.

Our boat had a coffee can for bailing the water that came in over the bow on a rough day. There was usually some sand in the bottom. The men’s room was over the side, with the wind, and such as to avoid others in the boat.

I think we used the last outhouse in Lordship. I don’t remember any others, unless the other “marina” had one. It was a great place.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Home For The Night

Also known as my bed.

It’s queen size, I think; at any rate, it’s fairly wide and I can stretch out, pretty much face down (but not so much that I can’t breathe) and stretch out. That’s a nice feeling, after being upright all day.

I bed down with the covers over my head, at the beginning. First, the sheet as far as it will go. Then the blanket, ditto; lastly, the bedspread. I probably look like something in a morgue by this time. I lie like that for a little bit, bedside lamp still on, radio softly playing classical music.

Then my head peeks out, just enough to breathe, and my arm just enough to turn the light out. The radio plays softly through the night.

A turn to the right, arms straight out and, eventually, a rollover facing the radio, arms still out. Then I’m out. Like a light.

Should I need to get up, either in the morning or during the night, I hook my heels against the side of the mattress and use them to pull myself off to the side of the bed. When I get to the edge, just before I fall over and out, I stand up. Easier that way, I’ve found.

Getting back in: Full-body stretch to the end and out like a light again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Various And Sundry

More than 158 billion text messages were sent in this country in 2006, says USA Today. More than a trillion were sent worldwide.

Don’t feel sorry for your cellphone provider; those messages cost something like a dime apiece. 158 billion, times ten cents so your kids can chat with each other instead of picking up the phone. I won’t even try to figure the cost of a trillion.

A controversial billboard will likely be popping up in a neighborhood near you, just in time for the holidays. The billboard is paid for by a Colorado atheist group. The message sits against a blue sky backdrop and says, "Don't believe in God? You're not alone."

The whole idea of a reasonable religion is to let you know that, in fact, you are not alone; there is a Somebody who made you, watches over you and wants you to hang out together for time without end. My money says there is that Somebody.

A South Carolina Catholic priest told parishioners they should refrain from receiving Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because he supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil." He said parishioners are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.

I have heard “No man is more dangerous than the one who is convinced he is right.” Or, “There are more horses’ asses in this world than there are horses.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things I Love

Warm chocolate chip cookies, for one.

While we’re on the subject of chocolate, hot chocolate on cold, wet and dreary days, especially with a marshmallow floating in it.

My radio show when it goes without a hitch, flows easily and ends right on the dot.

Keeping up to date with my blog, my newspaper column and any free-lance writing assignments I have pending.

The New York Times on Sunday. Any day, really, but Sunday is the best. I had a great aunt who was a little dotty and got put away. Someone gave her a subscription to the Sunday Times. She kept the news section out and put the others away. Each day, she had another section to read during the week. And she was nuts?

Going another day without a seizure.

Being in church on Saturday or Sunday with others who also are sometimes trying hard to make something of their lives. They give me encouragement.

Sharp pencils. Tea made properly, with boiling water into a pre-heated mug. Any Holland America Line cruise ship going anywhere.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Things I Can't Stand

Dining situations where people say, “Oh, you must try this.” That’s what *you* think; just because it’s your favourite special recipe doesn’t mean I’m going to like it, or even be able to keep it down. But thanks anyway.

People who come onto a main road, with traffic-controlled side street lights. You are sailing along very nicely when you spot someone making a right on red two blocks away and you just know you will have to stop. Rats.

Religious people who say, “Talk the talk and walk the walk.” I was hoping that would go out with the Sixties or Seventies, whenever it was first popular. But, no, people are still using it as if it really has any kind of deep meaning.

Small print, especially when it refers to a price up higher. I saw a $99 price for an air fare, but after adding in this fee, that fee and the next fee (“Convenience Fee, $10”), it came out to be something like $120.

Flashing commercials, and/or show openers. One or two percent of us have a problem with flickering things – bad neon signs, strobe lights and fast-cut tv pictures. We condemn to the lower depths those who use them

Tv commercials that make the user look like an idiot. That user is us, and I don’t like to watch “myself” being played off as a fool. It just isn’t funny.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Beware Of Messing With Dragons

J.R.R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien), best-known for his "Lord of the Rings," was friends with writer C.S. Lewis (Clive Staples Lewis). Apparently, people in those days used initials, rather than their given names and, in the case of C. S., not even their given names; his friends called him Jack.

Tolkien, a devout Catholic, and Lewis, an agnostic at the time, frequently debated religion and the role of mythology. Unlike Lewis, who tended to dismiss myths and fairy tales, Tolkien firmly believed that they have moral and spiritual value.

Perhaps this is why, in “Lord of the Rings,” he advises us: “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”

Of course, slightly demented and imaginative people with a sense of humor soon latched onto that one and came up with a different version: “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crispy and taste good with ketchup.”

"Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer"

"Do not meddle in the affairs of professors, for they are subtle and quick to flunk you"

"Do not meddle in the affairs of the Drug Enforcement Agency, for they are morally certain and quick to use asset forfeiture."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I Think It Would Be A Lot More Fun

If football games lasted 60 minutes. Once they start, the clock keeps running. Ok, we can allow a half-time, but there would be a non-stop half, then the break, then another half. No stopping the clock, no time-outs.

If DUI’s who killed someone had to attend the funeral and go to the cemetery for the burial service. Then be required to attend one DUI funeral each year for at least ten years. Your victim is still dead; you should realize it.

If we had National Silly Day and we would not have to act our age. If we wanted to bring in a teddy bear to work, that’s ok. If we want to wear a funny hat, great. If we wanted to run thru the parking lot at lunch, go for it.

If people just enjoyed the moment, made themselves a mug of hot chocolate, looked out the window at the clouds and did not think of the coming minutes or those just passed. Only now, just like a very mini-vacation.

If people bought a photo that showed the Hubble telescope’s view of a hundred galaxies with their 30 trillion stars, just to remind us that the created universe is so vast (there may be 300 billion galaxies) and our differences are so small.

If we would take others’ anger with some measure of humor and not let it get us angry. There’s nothing quite like blowing the other person off this way.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Big Apple

It's New York City. One presumes everybody knows that, 'cuz it's been used for so long -- and much longer by entertainers.

Musicians, and people in entertainment, refer to a city as an "apple." Why? I don't know, and I spent years in the business.

A "big apple" is a large city; take your pick. Any of the big ones will do. It's a major coup to get a gig in a big apple.

But to make it in The Big Apple -- ah, you are now at the top of the heap, no matter what part of the business you are in.

As to why an “apple,” simple as such, big or The Big, Wikipedia, take it or leave it, has this explanation: “The Big Apple” was first popularized as a reference to New York City by John J. Fitz Gerald in a number of New York Morning Telegraph articles in the 1920s in reference to New York horse-racing. The earliest of these was a casual reference on May 3, 1921. (Could be of African-American origin, the article goes on to say.)

What other “Bigs”? The Big Easy, New Orleans (commonly used); Big D, Dallas TX (you may remember the song); The Big Peach, Atlanta GA; The Big Apricot, Metropolis (in the comics); The Big Onion, Chicago; The Big Banana, Stockholm; The Big Orange, Tel Aviv; and The Little Apple, for Manhattan, Kansas.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What's In Your ... Well, Not Wallet

Capital One credit cards wants to know “what’s in your wallet?” Well, not much in mine; I keep it fairly slim, carrying only what I need on a daily basis. I see guys who seem to have their whole lives in their hip pocket.

I also go to viewings at funeral homes and occasionally see caskets piled high with the lives of the deceased, presumably to accompany them to the Promised Land. Or, at least, to keep their body happy while they go to the happiness assured us.

Me? The cheapest way out. I’m not there anymore and don’t need a fancy box, good clothes or trinkets. Whatever is the least the law requires is fine; I’m not an Egyptian who needs things send along to keep me happy and in funds.

I saw one fellow who was going with two bottles of whiskey, along with a dozen other trinkets. Another was in his sports outfit, from cap to spiked shoes. Someone else had his eternal bed so filled with things it looked more like a tag sale than a respectful Last Resting Place.

I wouldn’t mind if mine were decorated for the occasion. Well, maybe a table next to it with significant objects on it that described my life: My broadcast engineer’s license, some photos of me at various radio stations, a few cruise ship mementoes, some things representative of my current employment and so on. A rosary in my hands? I’m RC, but maybe an old cruise ticket would be better.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Rwanda In Wilkes-Barre

I have living with me an educator from Rwanda. He didn’t really plan on moving here; it was more like he escaped before the other tribe hacked him to death. They’re having some tribal warfare over there and the two are bent on destroying each other. Only one will be left, one person, and he will consider his tribe the winner. I guess.

This fellow teaches African Studies and, among other things, mentioned that he lives just three degrees south of the Equator. That means the sun comes up at 6:00am and sets at 6:00pm; up in the east and down in the west. It does not vary in time or direction by season, as you will find up here (or down there, if you are in South America).

Rwanda is this little bit of a country, somewhat to the west of Lake Victoria. That is the place where anthropologists have wondered if human life began. That would make, ha ha, all those white supremacists choke: we are all Africans in our origin. God’s little joke on those filled with hatred for people of dark color.

Uganda is just above it, where crazy Idi Amin ruled and ruined for far too long. I think he’s under the protection of another such, Mohmmar Qadaffi. Kenya is east of Uganda (northeast of Rwanda); when things get hot in either place, people slip across the border until it’s safe to return home. Or, at least, safer.

I’ve lived with people from all those countries, except Libya; we have it so good here and don’t appreciate our real safety and conveniences.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

He Told Us How To Vote

Our bishop, as did a few around the country, made the thinnest of veiled orders as to whom we should be voting for in this election.

Ok, he didn’t actually say the words “Senator John McCain” in the letter that was read in every church; you don’t have to be that obvious and, if you want to skirt the IRS and keep your tax exemption, you’d better watch your step.

But it was there, the elephant in the pulpit we dare not mention.

You should also stop receiving Communion if you voted for a pro-abortion candidate, regardless of his stance on other important issues.

Well, the two largest counties in the diocese went for Senator Barack Obama. I don’t think it was a nose-thumb at the bishop, as people aren’t that way around here. It’s just that our nation’s issues and the candidates’ responses were more important than the church trying to run the state.

It didn’t work in Europe in years past, and our Founding Parents didn’t want to even think about it over here. Wise people. That’s why we hang their portraits in our classrooms and note their birthdays.

There are big moral issues; we will weigh them ourselves.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Our First Hawaiian President

So this person, Barack Obama, who was born on an island in the Pacific Ocean, halfway out in the middle of nowhere, just became the head of the executive branch of the U.S. Government. In other words, the President. The island was barely a state at the time.

He beat a guy, John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, not quite in the middle of nowhere, but certainly halfway between the Americas, north and south. He later moved to Arizona. The last person from Arizona who ran for President, Barry Goldwater, was born there when it was still a territory, not yet a state.

Two people that I know of have run for high office from Alaska: Mike Gravel, a resident of the state before it was a state, and vp candidate; and Sarah Palin, of recent memory, who was better looking and perhaps easier to get along with. Her family moved there when she was practically a newborn just five years after it joined the union.

You have to be born in the United States of USA if you want to be Prez or VPrez, but any of our territories will do just as well. I suppose you could be from Pago Pago (just on our side of the International Date Line), the Northern Mariana Islands (just east of the Philippines) or the U.S. Virgin Islands (in the Caribbean Sea’s Lesser Antilles).

Even Little Diomede Island; it’s within sight of Russia’s Big Diomede Island, which is barely across the International Date Line. They’re just two miles and one day apart, which means you can see yesterday or tomorrow, depending.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Mail Chick

A female acquaintance of mine is a mailman. Or mailwoman. Maybe letter carrier is the current word of choice. Anyhow, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Vicious dogs to the contrary notwithstanding.

I noticed a comely, relatively small, woman interviewing burly, relatively large football players after a game the other day. I don’t know if there are many female reporters in the profession, but I’ve heard color commentators on radio baseball coverage.

Women in broadcast engineering are a rare breed, but occasionally you will see one working on a transmitter or an audio console – much to the surprise of visitors.

We have had our doubts as to whether a woman can be president of these United States. Ask anyone and they can line up the reasons, the same reasons, quickly. Tell that to the citizens of all the countries where women have been leaders and they will probably look at you with a “huh??” expression on their faces.

My church confidently assures us that women can’t be leaders due to laws somehow having been handed down directly by God. Maybe so; maybe not. We’ll never know because, while we’ve found it’s really not so, we can’t question the guys' decision. Some day, maybe…

Sunday, November 02, 2008

12 1/2 Million Cheez-Its A Day

The guy at the Cheez-It factory makes 12.5 million per day. Where do you store 12-plus million today, when you have another similar pile coming out tomorrow? In just two days, you have 25 million little crackers sitting around ready to take over the world.

Apparently, he is trying to keep up with the demand and, since there have been no newspaper articles about huge piles of Cheez-Its taking over the town and driving residents to the outskirts, it's working.

- - -

If the moon is made of green cheese, is the Leaning Tower of Pisa filled with spaghetti sauce? Some company which makes the stuff says they make enough in one year to fill the Tower twice. Perhaps we can tap it, like Canadians tap maple trees, and see if anything comes out. Wouldn’t it be funny if something did?

- - -

Nobody yet has claimed their popcorn output would fill a football stadium. Let’s assume they mean when it is finally popped in your kitchen, not kernels as sold in the store. What’s the area of a typical stadium? Then how much popcorn would it take to fill it? Then, how much popcorn does Jolly Time make in a year? Or how much is made by all companies in our country in a year?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Waiting To Fall Back

I once worked at a radio station which was on the edge of the Eastern and Central time zones.

So far, so good.

The state did not observe Daylight Savings Time, so for six months we were, effectively, on Eastern time and for six months we were on Central time.

Ok, still pretty good.

But Michigan was three miles above us and it was Eastern time and observed the Daylight change.

Not so good.

I had to announce things like, “The Boston Symphony Orchestra will be heard tomorrow evening at 8pm Eastern Standard time, 8pm Central Daylight time, 9pm Eastern Daylight time.”

It became touchy when the Metropolitan Opera changed its start time, as this was a Really Big Thing with our audience. We had to get it right, or our @ was grass, and they had a lawnmower. Don’t mess with opera lovers.