Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Letter From Diane

”Letters from Diane” just never made it as a series or a column. Here is an example of a girl in college writing to her boyfriend back on the farm.

* * *

Hey, you’d like this. My niece said to me, “What’s your birthday’s name?”

I took a guess at what she meant. I was going to say it was April, but I got a great idea. “My birthday’s name is flowers,” I said. “Daffodils and little buds on trees. My birthday’s name is showers that come from nowhere. Can you guess what it is?”

She thought for a while and said, “Your birthday’s name is April.”

“You’re right,” I replied, “My birthday’s name is new spring dresses and hats and shoes.”

I hadn’t thought about my birthday’s name. It was always just sort of there and I never thought of it having a personality and a name of its own.

Her birthday’s name is haying-time and hot days, fire-crackers, picnics and hotdogs. You can guess when that is.

The format was an excerpt from “Letters,” with one topic worked into a pretend second page. I did three.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Broadcasting Was Full Of Pranks

John Martin was about to do the late evening news; Jack Laurence made a tape recording of a car skidding into a horrible crash; I changed the paper tab on John’s small control board so the newsroom tape machine would look as if were turned all the way down.

At one point, John paused for breath. I said, “NOW!” while Jack rolled the tape and the disastrous crash went out over the air. John, ever the professional, paused for just a moment while he took all this in, then continued with the next story: “The New Haven Railroad ended its financial tottering today…” and couldn’t go on.

Meanwhile, years later in Boston, a news anchor had made himself supremely disliked by the rest of the crew. It was Easter and he was talking into a video about how not all was Easter joy and in Palestine there was an exchange of dead soldiers. As he looked into the camera, the audio guy played, “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it.”

Then there was the Blue Bananas stunt, lost on the younger set in broadcasting. The old television cameras had to be set up before each broadcast and it took a little time to get the colors right. They used a bowl of fruit to get the right tints.

One night it didn’t work. All the colors were off and to get the oranges and apples right, the bananas were blue. To get the bananas yellow, the oranges and apples were way out. Finally, an engineer went out to the set and found some joker had painted the bananas blue just to mess him up. It was a classic in the business.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


When I’m on my yearly cruise, I don’t want to know how much time I have left (nor, particularly, how long the cruise is). I just want to be there and enjoy it. When I’m at my job doing radio, all I want to know is “how much time is left?”

We deal only partially in “how long is the piece?” for purposes of filling time and doing it properly: we don’t want it to run over and need to cut it off early. If we have 90 seconds and it runs 100 seconds, that’s bad; we have 60 and it runs 45, that’s good.

But during a well-running show, all I want to know is: what’s left? Can I enjoy a nice sip of tea in the time remaining? Do I have the opportunity to edit some copy that’s coming up in the next twenty minutes? Will this coming insert last longer than two minutes and fifteen seconds?

(2:15 minutes? Distance to the nearest bathroom, do the job and get back to the studio in two minutes and five seconds. Timing is everything in this job.)

And, just as importantly, can I time out the program so I join the network at the right moment? “The right moment” is the point at which the audience never even notices the transition: not a second early and not a half-second late. You might think of it in terms of the trapeze artist leaving his bar and connecting with his catcher.

In eternity, the radio people won’t have that “how long?” worry.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hot Enough For You?

It’s been an odd winter, but all in all, Mother Nature let us know exactly what season it was and we waited for spring.

Spring is here and the temps did rise, mightily. Rise they did, into the 90’s, banishing our coats to the back of the closet (at least, temporarily for a few days when said temps took a day off). Very warm days and warm nights; what we had been looking for.

“It’s too hot,” said one ungrateful fool, who had been begging for just this, as a squirrel begs at the window for just one more peanut.

92 degrees in late April is hot, but one day a heat wave maketh not. The weatherpeople on tv, all of whom work outside (don’t trust a weatherfolk who knows not to come in out of the rain) told us there would be a hot day. This was not a surprise; the sun did not suddenly expand at the end of its days to eat the earth.

What happened two days later? Some people were wearing jackets if they left for work early. It’s April, Mother Nature’s month to surprise us. Friends had their son from Alaska come visiting this past weekend; someone else came up from Florida. My questions were, “Hot enough / Cold enough for you?”

Q: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May- flowers bring?
A: Pilgrims.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This Little Piggie Went To The Hospital

Wash your hands before you eat; use a few drops of Purell if possible. Keep your fingers out of your eyes, nose and mouth.

Actually, this is the preferred way of eliminating most forms of illness, be it piggy, the mis-named stomach flu (Norovirus), or most other things you can think of.

Maybe you keep a small bottle of Purell with you and, before you eat, you do a little hand wash with the stuff and suddenly you realize everybody else seems to get all those little illnesses that don’t bother you anymore.

I could be wrong, but I rather suspect this is the illness-du-jour, an outbreak that’s hardly a fart in a hurricane. The biggest scare tonight is in Canada: six mild cases in the entire country of four million square miles.

If cases start popping up around here? I’ll get a bottle of Purell and make sure I’ve washed up before I eat.

Will I worry? Only that people will go ape-sh*t and start instituting rules that make no medical sense.

Oh – chicken soup. Good for whatever ails you. Jewish Penicillin, they always called it, and a can of it a day at lunch will cure anything.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jolly Joe And The Chicken Dance

Local polka star Jolly Joe (son of Lefty and his Accordion) passed away recently. His band was the first to have recorded The Chicken Dance. For what that’s worth. He was a great guy, willing to help anyone get started in the business, whose word was as good as a handshake. Not an enemy in the world.

However, an animal-rights group has taken up the cause of the Chicken Dance, attacking it with vigor. The case in point seems to be NASCAR fans doing said dance, apparently during races.

The group, as I understand it and may go so far as to quote whatever source I found online, “has not gone so far as to say the dance offends chickens, though a couple of trips to wedding receptions might prove otherwise.”

They are in a high dudgeon [“a fit or state of indignation”] over a race which may have already been held yesterday at the Talladega Speedway in which only NASCARians at Talladega would even think of doing: Setting a record by getting 125,000 fans to (gasp!) do the Chicken Dance at once.

Them what’s in the High Dudgeon wants the Guinness World Records book people “to ignore all the fingers, wing flapping, hip shaking and clapping.”

“Our feelings do go out for the man or woman forced to verify this achievement.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stopping Convenience Store Robberies

We had a mayor here a few years ago who had ideas. Lots of ideas, some good and the other 99 percent were pretty much out there somewhere. One of them, to curb robberies at one or more fast-food restaurants, was to have some sort of connection at a booth where the cops could work on their reports and either send them to hq, or just file on their laptops. I’m not sure if this ever went into practice.

We had, I think, one such joint in the city. Even McDonald’s never came to Wilkes-Barre until fairly late in the game (after billions and billions of hamburgers had been sold).

Neither he, nor the places most held up, ever realized the brilliancy of my plan to cut down on robberies of opportunity. Will I live to see it put into action? Probably not, as they would have to pay me a suitable royalty, which would go into my cruise fund.

Every convenience store, every donut shop, every fast-food place should offer free coffee to on-duty cops at any time of the day or night. People who might be tempted to knock over the joint equally might be dissuaded from doing so by the chance that an Officer Of The Law could drop by at any time without warning.

Come by once for coffee in Establishment A, then an hour later visit Establishment B to relieve oneself of the water segment of said coffee. That’s one visit each to a couple of convenience stores; all the better for safety.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gallons Of Rubber Cement

My love affair with rubber cement began when I started in the newsroom at WICC. We went through the stuff at a fairly steady rate, pasting up versions of stories from the AP and UPI newswires, as well as drafts of our own take, ready to be used on the air.

Much later, when I started work as a columnist for the Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice, we were still using typewriters and copy paper for a few years, which meant more rubber cement to keep the sheets together.

Between WICC and the Voice, I started our radio reading service for the blind and my need for the sticky glue went through the roof as we pasted up each item onto the back of used 8.5x11 paper to make it easier to read over the air.

I’d go to the local stationery supply store and walk up to the counter with two gallons of the stuff and not bat an eye. The owner did; I didn’t. He gave me “the look” and I asked “how much.” That was the first time; the second time I got The Look and I just smiled.

After they dropped it, as did most stores (not many people use gallons), I bought it from Staples wholesale but they finally said I was their only customer and they also dropped it. Now I deal with a fellow who supplies small school districts with supplies you’d think went out of style decades ago. “No,” he told me, “there are places where conditions are still fairly primitive and they aren’t even up to mimeograph machines yet. I provide all those outdated materials, including your rubber cement.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Reefer Man

Drug lyrics in our songs; no wonder kids grow up the way they do. Just check out the stuff in this song from the late 1920’s. (Did he say the 1920’s? Yeah; lots of drug songs back then, including “Chant of the Weed.) “Reefer Man” is a pretty blatant, drug song. How much more obvious can you get with lyrics like:

“If he trades you dimes for nickels
and calls watermelons pickles,
then you know you’re talkin’ to that reefer man.”

“If he said he swam to china,
and he sell you South Carolina,
then you know your talkin’ to that reefer man.”

How did we ever grow up to be respectable citizens with music like that all around us?

Libby Holman (get the vapors ready for Auntie) sang, “Fill my heart with flaming desire.” Clunk. Auntie just hit the floor in a dead faint. Back then you just didn’t say that, or pretended you didn’t, or you read it in one of those bodice-rippers with the pirate on the cover. Yo-ho-ho and a fair maiden.

Benny Goodman did “Popcorn Man,” but it was pulled from stores in one day when The Authorities realized the popcorn man was a slang term for a drug dealer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Occupational ... Glasses?

My nose has become accustomed to pushing my glasses up high enough for me to see the recording machine in front of me – in front, but just above the trifocal range I need. The normal, distant-vision, lens doesn’t work two feet away. So I’m a nose-pusher and eye-squinter. An optometrist can see me coming halfway across the parking lot.

While I sit at his desk and role-play what it’s like to be on the air with various forms of audio equipment left, right and ahead of me, not to mention the control board at my fingertips in front of me. So he has me show him how my eyes have to dart around while I’m doing my show and says, “Your regular lenses are close enough, but for what you are doing, you really need occupational glasses.”

Th’ heck are “occupational glasses”? Do you wear a different pair of work?

Well, the doc says, yeah. In my case, I need the trifocal lens as an entire prescription. That will keep me from squinting and pushing my glasses up and down to see things while I am on the air. It also means I leave them in the studio; they are way too powerful for driving, walking, or doing most anything else except being on the radio.

This should be great. I’ll check back in when I get them next week and let you know how I do with what are also known as “computer glasses.” I can’t wait, because it’s hard looking at all this stuff and not being able to see it clearly or having to move my head instead of my eyes. So we shall see.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Arrr, Matey! We be pirates!

Back when radio started, there were no rules. You wanted to put a station on the air, you did it; anything went and nobody could complain. Except, perhaps, for finding your antenna on the ground in the morning, chopped into little pieces.

Later, the Feds took all the fun out of things when it issued a set of rules. Did I say, “took all the fun out”? Well, most of it. Pirate stations began popping up here and there, low-power operations with no-license operators.

Putting them out of business was akin to ridding your home of cockroaches: step on one and two would appear. Try to find where they lived and you came up empty. Even now, in New York City the pirates pop up in speaking their own language, antennas hidden from the FCC, on and off the air with a schedule apparently known only to their listeners.

During the twenties and thirties, listening was great. Doc Brinkley was selling his goat gland operations (Viagara was in the future) with studios on one side of the Rio Grande and “border blaster” transmitters on the other side, covering the entire U.S. and parts of the planet, as well. He wasn’t quite a pirate, but people in Washington were grinding their teeth and saying some bad words.

The evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson moved her station around to whatever frequency she felt would be better to spread God’s word. When notified she could not do this, she berated the Commission and said she had God’s permission.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Music Of Your Life

Thirty years ago, I was visiting this radio station near the place where I began my career in Bridgeport, Conn. It was an odd place, presided over by what I felt was an odd sort of fellow. It was also new and appeared to be trying out a format which would later come together under the name “The Music of Your Life.”

As I stood there (I don’t think there were any chairs) in this rather stark (nor were there any shelves for the records) operation, I had the feeling I might be Present At The Creation. At the creation of what, well, I wasn’t sure.

“MOYL,” as it became known in the business, also quickly became known as “Music of Your Death,” because many stations just did not program it properly. Rather than use their own dj’s as announcers, as it should have been done, they simply let the tapes run in mind-numbing repetition.

Lately, the local public radio station added another channel to its signal, the HD Radio Technology. (Just as an aside, the trademarked name “HD Radio” has no particular meaning, although the company once referred to it as “Hybrid Digital”).

Their HD-2 channel is my old friend, “Music of Your Life,” the format I knew when it was a zygote, yet to be named, hardly formed.

It’s grown a lot in 30 years, done well for itself.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Never Get Sick; Isn't That Nice?

Well, it was nice, up until now. I just don't have whatever it takes to do my favorite thing: write. But I'm getting better and I will catch up as quickly as possible.

Then, watch out. These pages will come at you with devastating speed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Candle In My Window

I’ve always felt the peace of light and the people it represents.

In our church, we use candles a lot as representations of ourselves (light a candle to take our place when we can’t stay), as well as to indicate the presence of God.

In our homes, a softly-burning scented candle brings a calmness to our personal space, the enclosure in which we live.

A candle in the window has always meant “someone’s home, someone’s here, there is life in these walls.”

I’m at the top of our hill, in a small apartment house where the only lighting is on the street and from various windows around us. But in my second-story perch, I have a round porthole, finished in white, where an electric candle will fit nicely with its lamp just one-third up.

There are no buildings within a 180-degree range to block it, except for a dorm residence some hundred or so feet away. It is ideally placed to say, “Here is life, here is someone; never think you are alone.”

It reminds me of the aids to navigation we relied on when on the water. “Here is safety; here are lights to bring you home safely.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To Be 16 On The 16th

Frank Sinatra spoke of his life in terms of various time-frames as in: “It was a very good year.”

Sixteen. It was a very good year for becoming a licensed driver. “Licensed” is the operative word here, as my brother had me behind the wheel of our ’53 Plymouth (I think) something like a year before then. It was a very good year for living out beyond where the cops generally patrolled and you could teach your brother how to drive without worrying that you might get caught.

Sixteen. It was also a good year for getting my working papers. I don’t know where I got them, but they made me legal for working at the drugstore, after two years of being an illegal at the tiny grocery store next door. I was now the idol of Lordship, one of the very few soda jerks out there. Also, keeper of the secrets of the men who came in and whispered, “I’d like to see the pharmacist,” which meant, “I want to buy a box of rubbers” (we never heard the word “condom” in those days, as they were forbidden in the State of Connecticut, under a never-enforced law).

Sixteen. It was a very good year for starting my writing career at the Bridgeport Post, a little bit here and a little bit there. Writing and re-writing, trying hard to get it right, reading what other people wrote and realizing the Reader’s Digest was literary mush.

It was a forgettable bad year, too. Best forgotten.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Happy Day For Cruise Ship Companies

Bad day for us, good day for the cruise business.

Well, actually, not that bad at all, when you think of it. What we are doing today is paying for our interstate highways, federal programs and funding, defense and other things we say “Washington should take care of.”

“Washington,” of course, is spelled, “us,” as in “you and I.” Sometimes even “you and me,” depending on how the sentence is made up.

We’re lucky on one point: The television set tax. England likes to make money off your telly. And how, forsooth, are they able to pull this off without violating either a man’s or woman’s home being their castle and the drawbridge is up over the alligator-filled moat?

They use mobile, roaming, snoop units detecting the low-level re-radiation emitted by all tv sets. The t-voyeurs get their jollies when they pick up a signal from an address where no taxed tv is registered – or two signals from a one-taxed set home.

So it’s April 15 and the cruise lines, from presidents and CEO’s to Captains, face the D of C, plant their thumbs on their collective noses, wiggle their remaining fingers, stick out their tongues and sound off the ol’ raspberry. Their offices might be here, but their citizenship is a few folders in a file cabinet in some friendly country. Taxes? Oh, come ON. April 15 comes and goes with hardly a ripple on the water’s surface.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our Tendency Toward Improvements

When you see order, improvements, a sense of arrangement, then you know someone lives here. The island is populated, this part of the state is not the sole habitat of primal monkeys, it’s not a bombing range.

Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Family Robinson, Boy Scouts on camping trips all began by making improvements. Probably the first was building a fire; the second was an outhouse, the third was protection from the weather.

I’ve moved a lot of times. First thing, take measure of the apartment. Literally. Before I move in, I measure the place, the location of windows, heating elements, electrical outlets, etc. Then I use my drafting skills to make a set of drawings that accurately reflect the lay-out of the place. Into that diagram go miniature cut-outs of my furniture, which I move around to find the best fit.

(One time, the movers insisted a desk would not fit in the space assigned. I said, “It will fit and with an inch between it and the bookshelf on its left.” Don’t mess.)

We add bushes to our yard, pimp our cars so Detroit would never know them, get Sunsetter awnings for the back terrace. We make life more convenient than just living under a tree, nursing our young and getting boinked by the old man.

Cell phones, texting – improvements, yes or no?

Monday, April 13, 2009

6:27a.m., St Barnabas Hospital

Every year, on April 13, I’d call my mother and wish her a happy Labor Day. And each year, on April 13, she said I was no problem at all; I just sort of slid out, no problem, and I don’t remember her ever talking about labor pains.

You see, I was pretty much a preemie in those days. Not on the dangerous side, but definitely early and small. These days, it would not be any problem at all, but back then Mom called the M.D. and said she was delivering. He said, “Nonsense; you’re not due for a while yet.” She replied, “I’ve had a child before and I know I’m delivering.”

Mothers, of course, are always right. Ask them.

So it’s early Monday morning, and some guy is going to work on the bus. Approx 6:27, he passes a hospital where my mother is busy delivering her latest.

I know this because 31 years later he and I are doing a radio show together, without knowing each other. In our subsequent 30-year friendship, this incident comes out much to our mutual surprise. It was more of a surprise when, just a few years ago, he passed away one day after my birthday.

So, it’s April 13; the original day was 1942; both were on a Monday. George Rihan was the fellow on the bus, who later co-wrote a music column with me for 23 years. My brother and I both had a brother.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This Is Entirely Inappropriate

Several of us were at the ship’s tendering portal, waiting for one of their power launches to bring us over to Martha’s Vineyard. The water was fairly rough, as often happens there, and as I watched the boats bobbing up and down against the platform, I thought, “I know I can make it in there, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has lived more than a half-mile from the sea.”

About that point, the Captain announced we were not going to make our stop at this port, due to the rough and dangerous seas. “Smart move,” I said. “This is no place for anybody who hasn’t spent their formative years bailing out a boat, taking water over the bow or taking a pee off the front of the boat while your father shouts, 'WITH the wind, WITH the wind.'” Sorry, dad; kids don’t realize that.

A gent of my approx age went all disgusted. I don’t deal with those people; odd thing about my feet: they just turn around and walk away.

“This is entirely unacceptable!” he disgusted.

Kept inside, by a remarkable act of discretion, I wanted to say, “You think that’s entirely inappropriate? How about finding your @ in the harbor when you miss your step?”

“Tell me, sir, just what would be appropriate? Jesus walking across the water, holding us by the hand and leading us safely to shore?”

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Thirteen weeks: April 11 to July 11 and I step onto the gangplank of the m/s Maasdam for my yearly cruise from Boston to points north (and, ultimately, south again to Boston).

I find this weekly countdown helps a lot to keep me focused on when the trip is coming up, as well as eliminating the wait of (x) months to go. Weeks seem more manageable than months to me.

So we are down to 13w. Tomorrow it will be 12w, 6d. No, I don’t keep looking at the calendar; that would make things drag. But ticking off the Saturdays – yeah; I get a big kick out of that. One down, a few more to go.

Two weeks from Monday is the final payment for the “up” trip, and a week later, for the “down” trip. My bank account won’t know what hit it. Actually, I think it happens to occur in two Visa billing periods, so it won’t be so bad. It’s like getting hit over the head with a 2x4, but instead of twice in a row, it’s a month apart.

I don’t know if the cruise line has changed any of the ports since last year, but it makes no difference to me; the ship is the destination. You’d be surprised at how many people have that attitude. Many are on the cruise for the ports, but quite a few are there just to be on the ship.

It’s getting time to pack; just 13 weeks to sailing time.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Weekend

This is the season of hope for us Christians, the time of year when we hear again the stories of how we have been promised a life that continues after this one. I can buy it; what we read was not written by crazy people – you can tell that by the way they put their words and thoughts together.

I just don’t know if this “afterlife” is a reward for living here, or if it’s the way we are supposed to exist and this place we’re in is the first gear, the pre-school, the minors. Do your best here, be a decent sort of chap, and after a relatively few years you are admitted in to whatever grand and glorious future awaits us.

What’s really neat is that it doesn’t end. We don’t look at a calendar and say, “Gee, only ten years left of this happiness and it’s all over.” There aren’t any lingering good-bye’s as people slip off into nothingness.

We’re home forever and we’re safe forever. And there’s my parents talking with their parents; it’s a family reunion going back thirty or forty generations. I'm being waved over as the latest member of the clan.

There is a feeling within us: This is the place we should be, the place we were meant to be. We don’t want our friends to be mourning us now.

Hope springs eternally.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bringing Kitty Some Salmon

You can't buy their love, but maybe I can rent it for a few minutes. You see, cats are pretty much the most independent creatures on earth, if not elsewhere, as well. You call for them, they tell you to leave a message and they will get back to you; that sort of thing.

So when I visit my stepcat, I either bring some fish with me, or use the stash I keep in my friend’s fridge. It’s not clear to me if the cat is mine for those precious few minutes, or if it merely tolerates my presence because it can’t get to the fish all by itself.

But at least for a few moments, the two of us become … two. What did you expect, gratitude? Although, I must say, it does like to be held upside down in my arms, something its MamaCat can’t do.

When told I am on my way, usually just before I arrive, kitty will go to the dining room window and sit there waiting for me. I pull into the driveway a couple minutes later and see a round furry head with two pointy ears sticking up and I know I’m being welcomed. How does it know? My friend says, “Tom’s coming,” and the cat heads for the table next to the window.

I should feel honored, at least from the cat’s point of view. It could be thinking, “And exactly how is that supposed to concern me?” Maybe it’s the fish or, quite possibly, it’s just me; I don’t always show up with the goods. When we all get to the Next Life, when cats can, and will, talk, I’ll have to ask.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My Lightbulb Will Outlive Me

Picked up one of those lightbulbs which are supposed to last until the Second Coming. Which, I guess, depends on when Jesus shows up and does his Porky Pig imitation: “T-t-t-that’s all, folks.”

It says here the bulb will last five years asterisk. (Asterisk: Guaranteed to last 5 years based on rated life aat 4 hours consumer use per day at 120v.)

If this blog lasts another five years, I’ll have to let you know. If I remember and if you care, neither of which is likely to happen.

“Lamp Contains Mercury,” it says here in fairly large print. “Manage in Accord with Disposal Laws.” If I remember correctly, when our thermometers (outdoors as well as under-the-tongue) went south, we just tossed them in the garbage. Now I feel vaguely responsible for dozens of sea gulls flying in circles and eventually crashing to earth and an early death. We poisoned the town dump with them.

So this is a 13-watt bulb which lights the same as a 60-watt bulb. We are to believe that the angels or someone provide the extra 47 watts from a heavenly storehouse of wattage. I don’t think so; there has to be some funny stuff going on here.

On hot days, maybe the mercury climbs and we get more watts; on cold days, as the mercury drops, it’s not so bright. Maybe?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My Drug Dependency

Don't worry; they are prescription and non-addictive. Still, I gotta have them twice daily. This blog isn’t meant to say “I’m all alone in this boat,” but “I wonder how many other people are in it with me.” Maybe a fleet of cruise ships worth of people (how many are in the water now? 160? More?)

So many of us are dependent on pills of varied shapes, sizes and colors. They aren’t the type which lead us to rob our grandmothers, our parents or little old ladies in hospital beds. But we better have them or bad things will happen.

As I told someone on my favorite cruise ship message board: Keep your meds in your pocket when you are flying. On the slightest chance you need to evacuate via the slides, you want your best friends with you when you get down at the bottom.

I’m not saying meds are better friends than my real-life friends and relatives, but they do come in handy when it’s a matter of keeping me healthy and alive. My F’s & R’s can’t get into my brain and keep my neurons happy.

Of course, neither can my meds go out for tea and English muffins. Each has its place, its job to do.

I’d hate to see what my liver looks like after all these years.

Monday, April 06, 2009

If It's Secret And Elite . . .

Some things need to be secret: how to build a major bomb, for instance. Things your friend told you in confidence, for another instance.

But lots of other things don’t need to be secret and often we keep them that way just so we can have power over others. It makes us the elite, the keepers of knowledge which we share with no one else.

I think of people who withhold information which they could easily share, but they hold onto it until the last possible moment. Ever watch how the Vatican announces the appointment of bishops, in dioceses large and small? The information is secret, held by the elite only, until the subjects are allowed to find out.

I used to belong to a club (I let my membership lapse for unrelated reasons) which ran ok on the surface, but formed within it was an elite group which privately ran the group after the meeting in a bar.

When I watched the movie “Skull” on tv this evening, one character said that if it’s secret and elite, it’s bad. That makes a lot of sense to me.

I don’t think it’s bad every time in every case, but it seems to me you can pretty much count on it. There are things which need to be kept secret, but we have to ask ourselves why. Is the reason to make us the elite?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My New Lincoln Town Car

…which exists only in my imagination. But ever since Mom and I were taken to the airport in NYC in one, several times, I have lusted after these lovely vehicles as being just glamorous enough without an excess of ostentation.

Loaded, of course.

I can see myself, cruising the highways in comfort, music coming from the cd player, smooth as can be. Trips to anywhere, all at a moment’s notice.

The fact that I am severely limited in how far I can drive (25 minutes or so) doesn’t make the slightest difference: it’s all imagination and I am freed from whatever. I sail along the highways, at ease along the byways, at one with my beloved car.

Then I leave my apartment and get into my elderly Chevy Cavalier. It gets me where I am going, and gets me back home – reliably, I must say. I’ll never get pulled over for speeding uphill and won’t sweat in the winter until the engine temperature finally decides to rise. But it’s my pal and we work together well.

Had a VW Karman Ghia, bought off a guy’s driveway for $450. It wasn’t in the best of shape, but it just loved to be driven, especially by someone who knew just how to drive it. And that someone was me. We drove over the hills and we drove thru the dales and loved each other.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Quotes I Found On The Internet

I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.

When I said 'death' before 'dishonor,' I meant alphabetically.

Hurricanes are like women: when they come, they're wet and wild, but when they leave they take your house and car.

I am going to call my kids Ctrl, Alt and Delete. Then if they muck up I will just hit them all at once.

If a wolf can take down a deer from either flank, does that make him bambidextrous?

Before you insult a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you insult him, you'll be a mile away, and have his shoes.

The reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

This girl rang me up one time, she says, "Come over, nobody is home." I went over, no one was home.

Coffee just isn't my cup of tea.

Friday, April 03, 2009

"Billy Mays Here For ..." Whatever

Our out-of-country readers may not be familiar with tv pitchman Billy Mays. For that, thank the deity of your choice for deliverance from this train wreck which, like the real thing, you don’t want to watch happening but it has a certain eerie fascination.

So there is Billy, shouting at you as he hawks whatever product happens to be the latest in a long line of unusual products: “The spectacular window cleaner, one application lasts an entire decade!” Or: “Put this on your false teeth and never worry about stains for the rest of your life!” Or: “Wear these eyeglasses and watch those pre-cancerous tumors disappear overnight!”

In the olden days, you’d find him next to a horse and wagon, with his products spread out on a table, cane in hand as he tapped each one, tapped the table, pointed it at the audience. “Yes, SIR, this will cure whatever ails you. My own grandfather took this for a month and amazed the doctors when he never needed a hysterectomy. Step right up! See for yourselves! Grandma’s prostate cleared up in days!”

If you check his products on a search engine (Google, for instance), you’ll see they work perfectly well, but there are others on the market that work fine and at less cost. It’s the pitchman effect that keeps him working and sells these products.

And, to my mind, he’s worth the price of admission. I may be one of the few people who actually watch this guy, but he’s pretty good. I like him.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Never been a betting person, but if I were ever to put money on anything, it would be on the probability that any given person would look at a rainbow. I know a few self-important people who might not; after all, they are the center of the universe. But for the vast majority of humanity, a rainbow is a magical sort of thing, an early childhood experience we never lose.

While my family and I were celebrating a very important event in my life, we were at a restaurant in the north end of Stratford, across the street from the helicopter factory where I once worked. Someone (Mom?) pointed out the window and said, “Look! A double rainbow! That’s special for you!” I don’t see doubles all that much, so perhaps she was right. I’ll have to ask Later On.

Some years ago, I was on the Provincial 20, approaching St.-Jean Chrysostome, somewhat across the river and southeast of Quebec City. We were tired from the long trip, it had been raining hard, and then before us was the most brilliant rainbow I have ever seen. It only went up part-way, but what was there just shone in the brightest colors against the gray background.

I thought, “If this is what rainbows are like in Quebec, I’m moving up here just for them.” I’d pay for it with the immense pot of gold I’d find there.

God’s gift after the storm passes.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Tail-Dragger

“Tail-Draggers” were those airplanes whose third wheel was not at the nose, as is the case these days, but under the tail. The plane’s tail rode low and did not rise until the craft neared take-off speed. You see them in old movies and war films.

Once in a while you might see a film which shows a DC-3, the greatest airplane of its time. 10,655 were built, starting in 1935, with over 400 still in use. They were referred to as “a collection of parts flying in loose formation.” Pretty good formation, I’d say, given as how so many are flying more than seventy years later.

I was thinking of my disc jockey days and remembered that Charlie Barnet’s band had a big hit in 1944 with “Skyliner,” the only song I’ve ever heard about an airplane. Which airplane? The DC-3, of course. Laugh, you may, but it sold a lot of records and is still a powerful big band piece. By the way, when was the last time you had a popular song about, say, the Boeing 787, or the Airbus?

Many years ago, when hanging out at airports was a lot more fun than now (I was up in the control tower, for instance), I had a chance to get inside one of those freight tail-draggers. It was a “Three” and, as a little kid, I remembered it as being somewhat like climbing a hill as I went from the rear loading door up to the cockpit.

It flew low; you could pilot it with your window open.