Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yeah, They Really Said This

"I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger

"What's Wal-Mart? Do they like make walls there?"
-Paris Hilton

"So, where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?" -Christina Aguilera

"All of a sudden you're like the Bin Laden of America. Osama bin Laden is the only one who knows what I'm going through." -R. Kelly, on charges of child porn.

"I think the 'Clueless' movie was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness."
-Alicia Silverstone. She was nominated for Britain's annual Foot in Mouth award, honoring the celebrity who makes the most baffling verbal statement.

"I get to go overseas places, like Canada.”
-Britney Spears, asked about the perks of fame

"Smoking kills. And if you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
-Brooke Shields, during interview for a federal anti-smoking campaign.

"I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."
-Shaquille O'Neal on whether he had visited the Parthenon during his visit to Greece.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

He Lived Through 19 Presidencies

Nobody was listening to war news on the radio when George Francis was born; there was no reason to even think about events leading up to the war, which would not start for another two years, during the president’s second term. Turn of the century? Anticipated, but still four years off. None of his relatives would be flying in for the occasion; even those closer by would not gather for lack of parking at the hospital.

There wasn’t any radio. The war was the Spanish-American, Grover Cleveland was in the second part of his interrupted two-term presidency. The Wright Brothers were selling bicycles and thinking of airplanes. Cars had not been invented.

Sacramento's George Rene Francis, officially recognized as the oldest living man in America and the joint second-oldest living man in the world, died this weekend at 112 years old. Born in New Orleans in 1896, he had lived through 19 presidencies and in all, or part of, three centuries. Fewer and fewer people can make that claim.

He said Louis Armstrong played on his front porch in the 7th Ward, in an interview last year, and Booker T. Washington, the civil rights pioneer, spoke to his third-grade class and told the pupils to treat everyone with respect. Mr. Francis said Armstrong used to roam the neighborhood and play in front of homes. "We'd talk about fishing -- trout, sheepshead, perch -- and we'd talk about baseball and the movies," Mr. Francis said.

He saw the expansion of everything we have.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I’ve only three days to get my New Year’s Resolutions done. Problem is, I can’t remember what I resolved twelve months ago.

If and when I bring them back to mind, do I have enough time to do them? Will 72 hours be enough for all I planned to do when 2008 rolled in?

Or maybe I didn’t make any; that happens occasionally. I just figure I won’t keep them, or will forget what I planned to do, so I let it slip for that year.

Some years back, the idea was to get (and keep) my room neat and clean. I’ve moved four times since then and there has been little, if any, change.

Maybe I can make a resolution to write down my resolutions and post them somewhere visible so I don’t forget through the year what I’ve resolved.

But that would make it easy for others to see the areas in which I am deficient. Facts which, I suppose, they already know and have known for a long time.

One per month. At the top of the calendar page will go the item for the following 30 or 31 days. For a month, I can do just about anything that would be unbearable or not workable for an entire year. Maybe, if I go at it for a month, I really can get my closet in shape, get my room reasonably orderly. Could work.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Going Gently To The Home

A friend of mine had to be put away recently. In a way, a sad way to live out your days, pretty much locked up in a nursing home; but she’s safe and will be taken care of.

Her husband passed away eighteen months ago and she never recovered from it. She wanted to dig him up and get him a decent meal so he would look better. He shows up at night in the garage. If she could get him some clothes and get him walking around, he would be fine. “My relatives think I’m nuts, but I’m not.”

The laws which protect people also do them great harm. You can’t be taken to a place of safety against your will until you have done something that may have already brought harm. Friends who have the knowledge, and are present, cannot overrule relatives who are alienated but suddenly want to make the decisions.

It’s odd who comes out of the woodwork when property will be going up for sale, when bank accounts will be examined, investments pored over. In one original plan, never put into action, I was supposed to be Executor of the estate, having done this before. It would have been interesting, in this case, to make sure the intentions of the deceased were carried out. The deceased, and not the beneficiaries or relatives.

So they put her away. She recognizes people occasionally and may know what season, what year it is. Perhaps not. Maybe her husband comes out of the cemetery at night to walk up to the nursing home and see how she is doing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hi! My Name Is ... Really!

My name is Bayne and I have a sister, Alaina. I will have to put up with stupid jokes all my life. My parents, Thomas and Lorraine, didn’t.

I’m McKenna … and I’m McKenna, too. We don’t know each other, but maybe our parents each thought they picked an original name. Well, they didn’t.

I’m Jordyn … and so am I. We’re one year apart and in the same school. Do our parents watch the same tv show with some big star named Jordyn?

I’m Breanna and that’s not unusual; just ask my sister Chenay. She's stuck with it for life.

I’m Cali Swan; my middle name is my grandmother Jenys Swan’s family name. My big brother, by one year, is Bode. He will take some stupid jokes, just like Bayne.

I’m Fallyn. I hope they don’t keep running that old commercial about the old lady who’s fallen and can’t get up. I’m in the eighth grade and it’s not funny anymore.

Everybody has a story.
In October, Laura Zuniga posed for photos. She wore the coveted crown of Miss Hispanic America. Just before Christmas, she again stood for photos, this time in handcuffs while police showed off the 9mm pistols, semi-automatic rifles and $53,000 in cash she had been caught with in drug trafficking, guns and money laundering.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sigmund Freud Was Bit By A Tiger

Or so you would think if you read a conversation quoted on “Overheard in New York” on that site (plus the usual dot com). It’s a wonderful place to learn all sorts of ditzy things people come up with.

Just to be on the safe side, I did a quick search for “Freud” and “Tiger,” coming up with nothing. Could be he was; you never know. But I found nothing. I do know he had quite a fascination for putting long round things in his mouth and you can make of that what you wish.

He definitely did not say, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Unlike the stogie, which he did himself, someone put this one in his mouth. Was it Yogi Berra who complained that, “A lot of things I said, I never said”?

Dr. Sigmund is supposed to have said that he would not have his dreams psychoanalyzed because, to paraphrase his words (that means I can’t find the exact quote), it would diminish his standing in the psychiatric community.

Ah! To know what the famous shrink dreamed about. His clients? Their deepest hang-ups? Where to find the perfect cigar? Possibly his fear of being bitten by a tiger? No; that last one existed only in the mind of a ditzy person here in the States and long after he left this world but not going to a better place (he was an atheist – lying there in the funeral parlor, all dressed up and no place to go).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Waes Haeil, All Over The Town

We know it as “Wassail,” but the title of today’s blog is the original Middle English and they both mean “be healthy.” The tradition grew up of toasting the good health of the apple trees that would bear the crop from which next year’s cider would be made.

“Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.”

We didn’t exactly wassail all over the town here at North Franklin Street, home of “Things At King’s,” but we did a few nice things to celebrate both the birth of Jesus Christ and the coming of Santa Claus down our rather slim chimney. (Exactly how did he pull that off, anyway? Santa, that is.)

I decided that the Christmas Vigil Mass and the Christmas Day Mass would be a fitting way to keep my focus. Santa usually occupies my focus later in the day, rather fully. I mean, my religious feelings are fine, but when it comes time to unwrap the presents, I’ll tell Mary to nurse the baby while I attend to the goodies.

We filled the time in between by dining at Wildflowers, the East Mountain Inn’s holiday brunch location. They put out a nice spread, the price is right and the atmosphere is good. Later in the evening, I fell asleep on the couch, like everyone else.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve In Our Small Village

You see, we never decorated our home for Christmas until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Not a thing; you’d think we were card-carrying members of the ACLU just returning from our annual “Find-A-Creche” on any square inch of public property.

No, it wasn’t that at all. We just felt, as Catholics, that the Christmas season began on Christmas Eve and lasted until the Epiphany. So the tree came in the house early that afternoon, the electric candles showed up in the front windows, tree lights were strung and all the implements of Christmas fell into place.

There to stay until the Wise Men came with their gifts.

Across the street, Santa’s sleigh and eight (8) tiny reindeer had been on the front lawn for at least a week or two. Lighted at night. Our next-door neighbor would be lit, as well, on Christmas morning; he, more than the tree.

We went caroling on Christmas Eve, I with my trumpet, Mom and a family friend on vocals. We’d pick up a few neighbors on the way. Playing a brass instrument in the cold is not the easiest way to make music, but it generally worked.

When we were finished, I would walk a block down to the beach and, with the evening breeze behind me, I’d do two or three Christmas carols on the trumpet, very loudly. Our village was small and I’m sure it could be heard by many.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Which Bible Page Will He Choose?

“With the polls showing an overwhelming majority of Americans convinced the country is on the wrong track Obama might hint at a back-to-basics message by doing what Woodrow Wilson did in 1913. During his first inaugural, Wilson opened the Bible to Psalm 119, which concludes ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.’”

I sort of wonder if Wilson was talking about bringing the government back to basics, or himself. It was widely understood that he was having a between-marriages affair with the woman who would become his second wife. One joke of the day had it that when he proposed to her, she was so surprised she fell out of bed.

You gotta watch those guys in their starched collars and pince-nez glasses. Underneath the pocket watch and its chain beats the heart of a red-blooded horny American male.

From again:
“Almost 220 years ago, in 1789, Washington opened the Bible to Genesis 49:13 – ‘Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for a haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.’ Was America's first president trying to send a deep, profound message? Not exactly. It turns out that, for the nation's first inaugural, the Bible was hastily opened to a completely random page. The same thing was done 72 years later when Lincoln was sworn in.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm A Religious Guy, But...

I think organized religion is the funniest thing next to a barrel of monkeys. Maybe funnier.

I am a religious person, a regular churchgoer, a believer and someone who thinks an ermine-lined mozzetta and a twenty-foot red cappa magna train, held by four attendants is just a *little* much. Even for the Pope of Rome. [ for Dec. 21] Can you imagine Jesus walking around, preaching the Word of God, wearing one of those? Well, can you?

I think it’s funnier than hell (well, actually, if hell is the worst possible place with the worst possible punishment, anything would be funnier than hell) that some guy in some little country on a medium-sized planet circling a medium-sized star out near the edge of an average galaxy of three hundred billion stars in a universe of maybe three hundred billion galaxies really believes he is Lord and Master of the whole enchilada.

It’s great how each religion condemns all the others to hell and they all say they are the One True Religion. How one religion’s go-to-hell sin isn’t that bad for another religion. How a saint in one church is a horrible sinner in another. How Billy Graham can say the wine Jesus used at the Last Supper was special and had no alcohol in it.

I think God is tremendous: just look at the universe and our tendency to watch out for the least in need. But how we run our religions? Where’s that barrel…

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jews, Catholics, Af-Am's And Islams

I almost got hurt tripping over all the holi- and holy-days at this time of year. A person can break something if they’re not careful.

The Christian New Year was observed on November 30 (the First Sunday of Advent), while the Jewish people had theirs back at the end of September. Hanukkah, the feast of the Rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, occurs this year the same week as the Christian feast of Christ’s birth and the secular celebration of Christmas.

Kwanzaa, a relatively new observance in the African-American community, consists of seven principles of life, family and community. It is a time of preparation which starts on December 26 and ends on January 1. Despite what others may think, it is not a “Black Christmas,” and its founders are trying mightily to keep it as a time of reflection and principles and not something commercial.

The Islamic New Year is on December 28 in 2008 and marks year 1430.

The annual Feast of Times Square is the evening of December 31, with people wearing funny glasses in Manhattan waiting for a glass ball to drop. Others watch mostly pre-recorded celebrations on tv. Many people get drunk, some die driving home.

The civil New Year is January 1; for Catholics, it used to be a holy day commemorating a minor infant male surgical procedure. Ouch.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rrrrrrround And Rrrrrrrround

We had snow on our hilly road. Specifically, I live at the top of a hill here in The Big City (to me) where there is a stop sign and you often have to wait half a minute or two, depending on cross traffic. There aren’t many cars that come up this way, but them that does finds the going a little touchy.

We hear the whine of tires slipping and engines delivering useless power to the wheels. I guess the feeling is: “Get the tires going fast and, eventually, you will start moving.” My feeling is: “Don’t come up this hill; there is another road you can take which is flat and will get you around the rise with no problem.” Or, back down to that other road.

Then it’s the turn for the next car. Oops; that one can’t move into position because it’s stuck, as well. Tires whine, engine revs up, car stays where it is. Third car, same.

What don’t people realize about (a) hill (b) plus snow (c) plus car (d) equals “you aren’t going anywhere”? And these aren’t strangers. If they had to park on North Franklin, they know enough to violate and back down the street; the cops won’t do anything because they’d get stuck, too. And the street is only a few houses long.

It’s not as if we never get snow in this burg; we live in the Poconos, after all. It’s a big ski area and, if it’s a big ski area, that sort of means it’s a big enough snow area, as well. You don’t need to be a weather scientist (rocket scientists build rockets) to figure out that uphill on snow is a crap shoot.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gamboling While Gambling

Deer can gambol in the woods, but can’t gamble at the Woods – the local nightspot formally known as the Woodlands. They probably would not be allowed into the Mohegan Sun Casino, either, unless they are over 18 or 21, whatever the legal age is.

Local company was digging a fairly deep trench when the sides caved in and a guy had to be, in the newspaper’s words, “extradited.” Makes one wonder if, perhaps, they needed a court order to “extricate” the fellow and if he dug so deep he made it to China.

I heard someone on the radio who meant to describe a large building as “cavernous,” but made it “carnivorous.” It’s the kind of place you really don’t want to go into if you value your life. Unless, of course, you are a vegetable.

A friend accidentally referred to a “Presbyterian crosswalk” and I was tempted to ask if it was in front of a “pedestrian church.” Another mistakenly called a group of congressmen as a “congregational delegation”; no doubt representing the Christian Right.

A woman wrote to the newspaper about how hard it is to wait for a school bus with two children. I wondered if she was waiting for a school bus, with two children by her side – or was she waiting for a bus carrying only two children: three would be too many, one not enough.

Thoughts while its snowing and sleeting; a day not fit for man, woman, nor beast.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Parents Gone Wild

“Girls Gone Wild” is taken, as you will note by ads for the videos on late-night Comedy Central shows.

But parents go wild, as well; especially when it comes from increasing, multiplying and filling the earth. They should have used protection – that is, someone to protect their children from the names given them.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose to name theirs Maddox, Zahara, Pax and Shiloh. Musician Jonathan Davis hit a bad note when he laid “Pirate” on his son. Magician Penn Jillette stupidly burdened his daughter “Moxie Crimefighter” (and we hope it’s as much of a joke as his act’s patter). Musician Bob Geldof has four daughters: Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, Pixie and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

We are in for, well, different names these days, reports (the online part of Parents Magazine). “Riley” is in 15th place for boys, 16th for girls. The popular singer, Aaliyah, who died in an airplane crash seven years ago, lives on in a name which is in 28th place. The borough of Brooklyn, home of the Dodgers, the Bridge, a major Jewish community and “Saturday Night Fever,” is the 41st most popular name for girls. There is no indication of anyone taking Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too.

Boys? Aiden, Jayden and Caden are in the top six and, perhaps, might make a good law firm someday. All the better to sue the girls’ parents.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ho No! -- Meter Maid Tickets Santa

New York City has landed itself squarely on Santa Claus' naughty list after a ticket agent gave jolly St. Nick a ticket for double parking while delivering gifts to children in Brooklyn. "The kids started crying: 'That's Santa's car! That's Santa's car!' But this grinch just went ahead and fined me anyways," Santa told the Daily News.

Chip Cafiero said he'll fight the $115 ticket he got in Brooklyn on Black Friday when he was dressed as Santa. The 60-year-old retired schoolteacher was riding a horse-drawn carriage and handing out toys and candy canes. A sport utility vehicle carrying the toys and protecting the horse from traffic was double parked next to him.

Santa said he yelled "Ho! Ho! Ho!" to get the traffic agent's attention because the SUV wasn't blocking traffic. But in his words, "This grinch just went ahead and fined me."
State Sen. Martin Golden, a former cop, called the parking ticket "ridiculous."

Comments posted on the site included things like this:
“I hate NY. This isn't the reason, but it shines a light on it.”
“Oh for crying out loud!!! Santa was there to drop off gifts, and he gets a ticket, come on!”
“You can't ticket Santa! Since Santa is supposed to be from the North Pole, he should have diplomatic immunity and therefore can't be ticketed.”

--From NBC New York News

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

She's Singing "Winter Wonderland"

…and it sort of is. Well, not quite a wonderland; that brings up visions of softly falling snow, horse-drawn sleighs and steaming mugs of hot chocolate at home.

Frozen rain, or something, is falling on top of a slight layer of snow and it’s hard to walk without ending up looking at the sky. It’s not the kind of night you want to walk or drive over to the newspaper and pick up copies for the next night’s radio program.

Amy Grant was the person singing that song, via my music list. She was, no doubt, in a nice warm studio in a lovely part of the country some time during the summer when these things are recorded. I’m here, in the winter, and I can’t just take my earphones off and walk outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

The hour-by-hour forecast on for our area says it’s going to be lousy all night, changing over to medium-rotten sometime around noon and then just gloomy the rest of the day.

New England, this ain’t. Norman Rockwell covers for the Saturday Evening Post, likewise. It’s weather for studs – the kind you put in tires. It’s the time when you separate those of us who know how to drive from those you find wheels-up in a ditch.

I work with a fellow from Rwanda. If you have a good world map, or an atlas, it’s in central Africa, about three degrees south of the Equator. He’s freezing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Cat Ever Joined A Band

So I’m sitting here, late at night, having some porridge with raisins, listening to my favorite music via and all is right with my world.

I’ve shared my new-found Internet music site with some friends who can leave their computers on without messing up the phone line and they like it, as well. But I can’t talk it up to Sitka the Cat; he’s not interested because, apparently, musical sounds and rhythms don’t come together for him.

Pity. He’s missing Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train,” as performed by Duke Ellington’s Orchestra. I’m hoping Eartha Kitt’s “Santa, Baby” will come up in rotation soon; it’s such a sexy letter to the fat man in the red suit, but alas, Sitka will miss it.

Cats and dogs just don’t get to appreciate music. It seems to be nothing more than random noise to them, sounds which they never can translate into interesting rhythms and cute little turns of notes. Maybe when their earthly lives are over and they live on with us in the Great Beyond we can sit around and talk composers and groups.

I’d like to introduce them to Cole Porter, Dave Brubeck, Les Brown, some of the better piano stylists. It would be great to see what their tastes are and to see what they liked in sounds on this planet that we never understood. You never know: they may have had their own music which we thought was nothing but random noise, but which fascinated and entertained them. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pandora's Box

Ah, Pandora: Be my life’s companion. Be in my room when I come home, be there to entertain me with music and allow me to choose what I want and then shuffle it as you will. Surprise me with music of the type I like.

All this at Choose the styles, the Broadway shows, the holiday music, the singers, whatever. Fill in the “stations” with what you like and, in my case, the “Quick Mix” so you never know what’s coming next.

I have put in Big Band / Swing and I’m listening to a song I never heard before by Tito Puente, who I’d probably never program. But I did ask for something in a general style, and Pandora did it for me. It’s a nice piece.

Before this was the cast recording of My Fair Lady’s “I Could Have Danced All Night,” followed by Al Martino and “Love Letters.” I programmed Eartha Kitt doing “Santa Baby,” in her sultry rendition.

I should put “Ray Conniff” in the search box and see if Pandora has any of his music. I once thought he could walk on water (in his mid-50’s and beyond style) and still do. [Ah, just checked and they do; I added him.]

I do listen to a couple of radio stations online, but it’s nice to program my own. As I did when I was a dj.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I've Got My Rights

I just read about someone who was involved in a motor vehicle crash. For some reason, I don’t think he survived. Or, if he did, he was pretty mashed up. The report said his air bag was disengaged and he was not wearing a seatbelt. Sounds to me like one of those people who are determined to live according to their rules only.

Pity. There is a collective wisdom among us bipeds which we have amassed over the last, oh, million years and codified into law. Or, at least, “things my parents told me.” But the School of Hard Knocks remains open, filled to capacity, year after year. What don’t we understand about “listen to those who have gone before you?”

I don’t believe in Original Sin, as taught; it’s nowhere in the Bible, but was invented much later to explain why we mess up and tend to do bad things. So, in that way, it’s a handy doctrine, even if we did send millions of unbaptized babies screaming into Hell to burn in unquenchable fire for all eternity. Tough luck, kids.

What I think it means, if My Favorite Church That Can’t Be Wrong will add a program and reboot, is simply we have the inability to learn from those who have gone before us. We are too proud to listen, unwilling to admit we don’t have all the answers and maybe Mom and Dad, along with the rest of civilization, might be right.

But we decide it’s our right not to use seatbelts, so we go flying through the air; we demand the right to smoke cancerous cigarettes and die. …sigh…

Friday, December 12, 2008

Looks Pretty Familiar To Me

Well, well … the OP (other paper, as we at my newspaper call it) has an excellent four-page advertisement which is the story of local priest Fr. Josef Murgas, a developer of radio and a true, if forgotten, giant in the early days. The insert was developed by a group who wants to save his parish church from closing.

The “well, well” is about one illustration, a postcard from 1906, which shows the church, rectory and his experimental radio towers behind it, with “Wireless Telegraphy Station, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.” on the front. It’s a neat card, not quite that neat in the original, but made so by your humble scribe.

Not that they gave me any credit. Sheesh. Oh, well; it’s the cause that matters.

The card needed some cleaning up and there was a blank message “cartridge” (as it was called a hundred years ago) on the front, with a message, which needed to be eliminated. The top of the towers had some marks on them, of which only the slightest dot remains. The wording was dropped down so members of the local Amateur Radio club could put their respective callsigns on the top. It was a pretty good job of taking something that wasn’t in the best of shape and making a new “antique” card. An excellent piece of work, if I do say so myself.

The print shop I used appreciated the business: they did my own personal cards free for having them print the others’ cards, thousands of them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Funny You Should Say That

I have a washer/dryer combination in my apartment and am currently using both. When I opened the door to the still-running dryer to see how things were going, the washer stopped. “That’s odd,” I thought, “there’s no connection between them.” As I was emptying the dryer, the washer started up again; it was just between cycles.

That reminded me of an old and, well, mayyyybe true story of an old lady who was on the Andrea Doria when it got T-boned by the Stockholm fifty-some years ago. She noticed a switch in her cabin and got curious as to what it did. So she turned it on and, bang!, the ship shuddered and stopped suddenly. As she went out into the corridor to find a steward, they were running all over the place. She tried, without success, to tell them it was just this switch in her cabin she turned on. Perhaps she went to her grave believing she was responsible for this disaster.

A story went around in 1965 that some kid in New Hampshire was walking home with a stick in his hand. For no reason at all, he whacked a power-line pole and all the lights in town went out. Petrified, he ran home and heard on a portable radio that all the electricity in the Northeast had failed. “It’s all my fault!” he thought. “Now what should I do?” Later, he would learn it was a coincidence.

Coincidence = an incident that happens at the same time as another, unrelated. Happens all the time. We say something bad and immediately bite our tongue; “God is punishing me.” We mention not having been caught speeding and there’s a cop.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is It A Boy, Or A Girl?

This bit of information is, of course, not for me. Neither I, nor any friends of the female persuasion, are expecting to increase, multiply and do our part to fill the earth. At least, not as far as I know; check here monthly.

Some people want to know if the bun in the oven is a pink or a blue; others are content to wait until baby pops out and they can then examine the fun parts to see.

An increasing number of people want to know who’s calling before they pick up the phone. Kind of stretching the analogy here, but I wonder how much. Do you want to be surprised, as I am? Of course, I don’t have a choice, as Caller ID is not available at my place. If it were, I wonder if I would want it.

There is a fascination with being surprised. Is it a friend you haven’t heard from in a while? Or a person you don’t care for? If the former, you can settle down for a nice chat; if the latter, then you have the challenge of trying to dump the person after a few minutes.

“Oh! I wonder who this can be?” we say, as we run to the phone. It’s like opening a standard-shaped box at Christmas. Is it something we asked for? A surprise? Or just a bunch of socks, a knit hat and three snot rags?

But with Caller ID, it’s like wrapping a bike; there’s no suspense.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

When You Live In A Small Isolated Village

Living in Lordship was great. It was very small, it was quite isolated and it had just about what you needed and not more.

There were four paperboys, of which I was one. Three soda jerks in the drugstore, of which I was also one. Maybe six altar boys at most in the Catholic church and, no surprise, I was also one of them.

There a downside to all that: everybody out there knew me. I couldn’t get away with anything and couldn’t get away with even thinking of getting away with anything. Somehow, they knew what was in my mind.

I might deliver papers to someone who also came to the drugstore. Maybe even a trifecta: newspaper, drugstore *and* they went to my church. You can bet I kept my hands off their daughter.

Normally, having a long, unlit beach a block down the street (we only had two major roads and a whole bunch of minor cross streets) is an invitation to make out like crazy. But we also had a very picturesque lighthouse which rotated a double beam every twenty seconds. You can hardly get to second base in twenty seconds without getting caught every time the light swept the beach. A homerun was out of the question.

The Catholic Church head usher chaired the Protestant Church steeple repair fundraiser.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Things My Mother Taught Me

We have been Connecticut Yankees for, well, let’s see now … pretty near 370 years. That does something to you, whether you realize it or not. Something genetic that changes your DNA and your outlook on life.

I always claimed her mother had a box in the kitchen drawer marked, “Pieces Of String Too Small To Save.” It wasn’t really so, but if you knew my grandmother, you would say that pretty much described her. I don’t recall Mom throwing much out, either.

The was an old show on tv, “Life Begins At Eighty.” She taught me the truth of that: Traveling for her began at 74, at a time when her neighbors were packing it in and looking through casket catalogs, putting undertakers on their speed dial and talking vaguely about “that dress” or “that suit.” When she was 83 and they were taking out only one-year renewals to magazines, she was flying to the Arctic (really).

She taught me how to keep a family together when things get to that point. There’s safety in numbers and a lot of problems can be solved simply by sticking together. You’re not always going to get what you want and life’s not always going to turn out the way you planned; that’s how things are and get used to it.

She taught me not to complain. It’s not that nobody gives a ****, which they don’t, but who wants to hang around a person who is moaning and groaning over how life has treated them? You don’t keep, or make, friends that way.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Things My Father Taught Me

We have been a maritime family since 1639, when Jeremiah Vail landed at, or on, Orient Point, the very tip of Long Island’s North Fork. Not quite as classy as the South Fork, home to the tip’s Montauk Point, the Village of Orient in its entirety is on the National Register of Historical Places. Stuff that in your Birkenstocks and mixed drinks, Montauk.

As far as I can remember, the first thing he taught me was not to take our boat – or any boat, for that matter – behind a tugboat. Two reasons: (1) The tug has a large and powerful wheel (for you inland folks, that’s a propeller) and the water it stirs up has an equally large and powerful force which can spin you around in either direction, completely out of control. (2) Tugs tow barges and if there is a ground haze, you might not see the barge which could easily be a quarter-mile behind the tug. Many boaters have come to grief for not knowing this.

The second teaching moment came when I was but a little boy and had to take a leak. We are miles offshore and so I whipped it out, bent over the side and heard my father shout, “With the wind! With the wind!” You are going maybe five or ten mph into a five or ten mph breeze; that means you are letting loose into a good bit of wind and the old man is sitting in the back of the boat, steering.

The classical music piece, “Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage,” is a contradiction. In the days of sail, calm seas meant there was no wind; you had a prosperous voyage when the wind was howling and the seas were running high. Just in case you wondered.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Eternal Life

A Saturday in June when the sun is out, the temperature is just right and there is no clock. The meadow is endless and any of my friends I want are there.

Endless curiosity about everything, with all the time I need to find the answers to my questions, and the ability to wonder about all that matters.

The ability to make friends quickly (not one of my talents here on earth) and remember who’s who (also lacking) so I can appreciate the vast range of talents, personalities and spirits that exist in the people who did, do and will populate the planet.

Quiet conversations with the people who made the world what it is today. The thinkers, the inventors, the philosophers. We will all be on an equal basis and need not fear approaching any of the major figures of the past.

Not having to worry that we will run out of time.

Knowing that I am home forever, I am safe forever, I am where I was destined to be and will never be separated from it and my Creator.

It would be nice, since there is a resurrection of the body, to have some creature comforts there. A hot mug of tea occasionally would be good; maybe vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and a cherry on top.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Then There Was The 2-Cent Stamp

A friend gave me something to read and I returned it in an envelope, carefully tucking in the flap. I don’t know why I did; just did. No particular reason. But it reminded me of the second-class letter. First class was three cents, sealed; second class was two cents, with the flap in, unsealed.

I haven’t thought about that in years. Second-class mail was common when I was a whole lot younger than I am now, and a penny was worth a whole lot more than it is now. It was slower than first-class and “got there when it got there,” but lots of mail wasn’t that important and, besides, you got two deliveries a day.

Two a day? Yeah; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The mailman came twice; at least, where we lived and I suspect elsewhere, as well. You could depend on the first-class being delivered overnight, if not the same day within the town, and the second-class caught up when its more important big brother cleared the Post Office.

Didn’t have a two-cent stamp? You could use four half-cent Franklins. I remember them: they were bright orange. Why anybody needed half-cent stamps is beyond me, but apparently they were hot stuff at one time.

Got something really important for someone? Special Delivery was the way to go. Airmail Special Delivery was so quick that someone even wrote a song with that name and if you wanted it sent by air, it cost more with a special stamp.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Honk If You Love What's-His-Name

It’s been a fairly quiet day here on North Franklin. The street’s named for John Franklin, I am told; I am not told if it’s the Arctic explorer or the Maryland politician. Or someone else entirely. But it’s not for Benj. Franklin, deceased.

A couple flights of geese came by overhead this afternoon. I lived along the shore years ago and learned at an early age not to look up at birds with my mouth open. I kept this in mind while viewing the honkers. I also recalled the bumper stickers, “Honk If You Love Jesus,” and marveled at the piety of these geese as they flew East, honking as if they could see the Second Coming from their height.

My stepcat needed some crunchy food and also some litter. I told my friend Brenda, whose store it is, that I needed “some in and out.” She didn’t quite get it at first. “Crunchy food is the ‘in’ and kitty litter is the ‘out’,” I said. “The cat goes in the middle.”

I look at my 11-year-old Cavalier and think how nice it would be to have a Lincoln Town Car. I could do with a Town Car, FM and satellite radio, CD player, maybe a GPS unit. Yes, I could be very happy with that. Only problem is, I never drive more than five miles from where I am sitting right now. One of my favorite pieces, “Scheherazade,” by Rimsky-Korsakov, is longer than anywhere I drive around here. I’ve never quite heard it in its entirety. Either I’ll have to drive slower, or take some back roads on my way home.

Other than that, it’s been a fairly quiet day on North Franklin.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Destroyed In Seconds"

I was watching this series on The Discovery Channel, a real guy thing: Buildings get blown up, speed boats disintegrate when they hit waves the wrong way, planes crash.

Earlier in the evening, someone who tends to be in the know told me that a noted person in the Valley had, years earlier, been somehow involved with underage, as well as of-age guys. This was quite some time ago.

As I sat here, wondering what to write about, the show’s title, “Destroyed In Seconds,” came to mind. I don’t know if the noted person’s name ever got out about his alleged transgressions, or if they were even true, but his reputation would have been shot if anyone said a word about them in public.

The supermarket tabloids do a good job at that. Any little rumor gets blown up, way out of proportion, and the victim has two choices: a) Ignore it and risk having your silence be affirmation or, b) Fight it and risk having your actions be taken as proof.

Backfence gossip, office gossip, both have the same danger of spreading poison that we haven’t verified. Saying, “Well, I’m just telling you what I heard,” is the common way of squirming out when caught.

So supposing it’s true? There are channels, and the watercooler is not one of them. Destroy others as you would have them destroy you.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Everybody, Somebody, Onebody

Everybody has a story.
Nick Juliano, a local resident, passed away recently. He played football for the New York Giants and later worked as a magician with David Copperfield.

Some people have a statue.
A bust of the late playwright Jason Miller was unveiled in Scranton on Monday. His friend, Bill McAndrew placed Jason’s ashes in an urn inside the hollow bronze bust. “Now if people want to stop by and say a prayer to him, or for him, they can,” McAndrew said.

Everybody has an obituary.
Many people have an obituary notice that starts off by telling us the deceased has gone to be with God, Jesus or their beloved spouse who preceded them in death. “Gaza Magyar, of Stratford, the beloved husband of Helen Volarics Magyar, went to be with man's best friend, his dog, ‘Baby.’" I guess God and/or Jesus will just have to wait in line.

Rich people have a private beach.
A bunch of rich newbie beachfront barstards put up “No Trespassing” signs on what they considered *their* private part of the beach. Us locals, when we weren’t trashing the signs, just walked along it as if we were there first – which we were. Well, we had an almighty storm recently and there ain’t no beach, just rocks. Ha Ha.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Hobo Jungle

My brother mentioned a hobo jungle in Bridgeport and I ran into this at “”:

The hobo jungle was a place to rest and repair while on the road. Some were more permanent than others, but all were a refuge, an out-of-the-way place where the hobo could eat, sleep, read a newspaper and wash himself before heading out again.

It was located near the railroad, close enough to get to and from the train yard or rail line but not so close as to attract attention; this is but one of the requirements for a good jungle. There should be plenty of water for cooking and bathing and wood enough to keep the pot boiling. If there is a general store nearby, so much the better. It is well that the jungles be not too far from a town, though far enough to escape the attention of the natives and officials.

In the jungle camp, especially a permanent camp, might be found pots or kettles, utensils of various kinds, a line strung on which to dry clothes or a mirror with which a man might more easily shave. Much in the tradition of the cowboy camp whose basic tenet is that you leave it as you found it, the jungle has certain rules designed to keep it functional and self-sustaining.

Men are supposed to use cooking cans for cooking only. After using, guests are expected to clean utensils, dry them, and keep the camp clean.