Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ten Bucks For A Quarter

When you live in a city, it’s become traditional that you will slip coins into the erectile open-mouthed, all-seeing, pole-sitting, time-counting meter at the curb. If you don’t, or if the all-seeing closes its eyes, the Meter Maids (female or male) will come by with their fresh violation books.

Ten bucks because you forgot a quarter.

Question #1: Why do we pay to park our car on the side of the road? Not everybody has to do this; only those for whom the city decides parking is a premium. Own the city, pass a law, make money. Simple as that.

Question #2: Suppose we all rose up and said, “Mayor Leighton, Tear Down These Meters!” Would he do it? Or would the loss in revenue have him tell us to take a walk?

Question #3: I know when some meters around town get their once- or twice-over. But the meters near the colleges seem to attract the Meter Cops like ants at a picnic.

Question #4: Around this college, we have to plow the streets (five of them) ourselves, or there’ll still be snow in late-March. That being the case, and our $52m budget which goes, in large measure, locally, you’d think we’d get a pass from the Ticket People.

Ten bucks to a quarter. 40-1 are lousy odds.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nothing, Thanks

One philosopher asked, “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” We are so used to having something (God, the universe, space) that I find it hard to imagine there being nothing. No universe, no space, no time, no anything.

Ever since I quoted this on Wednesday, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the concept of nothing.

We can imagine it when it’s the reciprocal of what should be there: a ream of paper which is now empty, an empty room in a new house which will soon be filled and occupied.

But to have an eternal nothingness: There never was anything, isn’t now and never will be, I can’t imagine. Where is this nothing located? What’s in it? How can there be nothing at all?

Maybe when I get to the other side I will be able to ponder this question and come up with an answer. Of course, there will be something there: God, other people, whatever makes up heaven. But the concept is what I am after and that might be made clear to me.

I wonder occasionally if Hell is nothingness. You are there without a body, without an identity, a past or a future. There is nothing around you. You are at the lowest level of existence and will be that way for eternity.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spay And Neuter Your Pets

Hey, all you “spay and neuter” people: What would have happened if your four grandparents decided to have their kids spayed and neutered. Where would you be now, hey? Well?

If we all got spayed and neutered, that would mean the end of the human race in no more than about 108 or 110 years. By then, we’d have time to end the line of cats and dogs (thus also ending “it’s raining c’s and d’s”).

There are a few people I know who I wish their parents had been neutered. Would have saved the human race a lot of problems and raised the maturity level a few points. There are also a few people who I wish would be neutered before they start the process of having children; end the damage before they can pass it on.

There are a few tv commentators I’d like to have neutered. Or, at least, their voice boxes. Wouldn’t it be really nice to flip through the channels and see their mouths flapping but no noise coming out?

I don’t know if the cat and dog churches (if there are such) have an opinion on this matter. The human churches certainly do, as far as it affects them, but the Church of Kitty and the Church of Fido haven’t checked in with their thoughts yet.

“Spay” comes from a word meaning “sword.” Ouch.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Last One Died

We have a feeling that an era never ends until the last of the originals is gone. The ragtime era, the original days, supposedly came to a stop around 1917 or so when it fell out of favor and did so very quickly. But it actually stayed alive until 1983’s passing of Eubie Blake at the age of 101, the last of the original composers and performers who was active almost up to the end.

The era of the Titanic’s disaster lives on from 1912 until Millvina Dean finally passes; she is the last survivor of the shipwreck. At that point, and only then, the story will be finished. The last few words have yet to be written. [UPDATE: They’ve been written; Millvina passed away May 31, 2009.]

World War One is still open with these reported survivors: American Frank Buckles, Canadian Jack Babcock, British Harry Patch and Henry Allingham. With ages ranging from 108-112, we will see this book closed in the very near future.

The Pep Boys (Manny, Moe and Jack) are gone, as they were veterans of World War One. Real people: Emanuel "Manny" Rosenfeld, Maurice “Moe” Strauss, Graham "Jack" Jackson and Moe Radavitz at Pep Auto Supplies.

The original Sammy Kaye Orchestra has only one surviving member, Ed “Bailey” Beiley, his star trumpeter. Ed is also one of only two people left from the original Les Brown and his Band of Renown.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Certain Late-Night Thoughts

Sometimes I walk along and ponder the mysteries of the universe; often, it just happens while I am at my desk. There are, indeed, a universe of mysteries that are out there just waiting to be pondered and they don’t always, or ever, fit into our economic-driven plan. They may well just be there for the pondering.

One philosopher asked, “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” We are so used to having something (God, the universe, space) that I find it hard to imagine there being nothing. No universe, no space, no time, no anything. Try it.

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s passing from this life to the next, from this world to the next. I wonder what she looks like now? She was 86+change at the time and sort of resembled the Queen of England if you looked real quick. Is she 21? That was a very good year, to quote Frank Sinatra.

We seem to be all related in one way: people have their eyes and noses up front. So do fish and dogs and cats and whales. Airplanes, dirigibles, cars, trucks and helicopters are this way, too. All the living things, that I can see. But did we design our autos and aircraft to be the same as us?

I wonder if God really takes organized religion seriously? It makes rules that tell you you’re going to Hell, depending on which church you belong to: if you can eat meat, go to the theater, have sex. Is any of it in the Bible?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

They Slowed Behind Me As I Turned

Some mothers’ children do things I just don’t understand. They boggle my mind and I am not that easily boggled [a word whose origin is unknown, in case you wondered]. I am not able to ask these Children of God because we are both driving and it’s really not possible, short of following them home.

I often drive along a road which drops down into an S-curve, near the end of which is a separate tight right turn. That’s where I am going. The curve continues on its way and has plenty of room for at least two more cars than mine, as I am way over on the berm, turn signal on, brake light on, speed decreasing.

The car behind me often stays behind me, speed decreasing, pretty much on my tail but with no intention of taking that sharp right. Obviously, it’s going to continue on the main drag and, just as obviously, I’m bailing out. As the airline pilots prepare to land, I also am at “flaps 40” in full landing configuration.

35, 30, 25, 23. Finally, it dawns on the moron behind me that I mean it: Extreme right lane, turn signal, brake lights, slowing from 50 to 23. “By golly, I better pass him.” Let me point out there is far more room for said moron to pass than said idiot needs. Two cars could pass easily.

At last, courage overcomes stark fear and the vehicle passes – as I am crawling to make the sharp turn to my street. 10 mph.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Then The Cockroach Cut One

On the average of every 15 minutes. Little pops, bigger bangs, cellar-clearing blow-outs.

My brother and I are jealous, as are most guys. Scientists who have all the luck and apparently not enough time on their hands have set up a sort of “cockroach fart research center” to see just how much breakage of wind these little critters can do.

As I said, too much time, too little to do.

Turns out, when a cockroach lifts its hind leg a bit and smiles, the silent-but-deadly is part of the estimated 20% of all methane emissions produced by these little rude creatures. And they can get away with it, too, because the American Cockroach can scoot away at speeds approaching two mph – pretty fast for someone who doesn’t have to run too far for cover.

Termites do their best, also, to make the planet hot (and smelly) along with major offenders cows and goats. As gross as guys get, they hardly show up on the scale. Sorry, guys; you just don’t cut it. (Sorry for the pun.)

So the next time you feel that familiar pressure building up and it gets to the point where you just know it’s Apocalypse Now, after the dust settles and your best beloved comes out of hiding, tell her that it could be a lot worse. Over the farms in the Sacramento Valley rises a brown cloud that permeates everything.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Have You Met My Twin?

A good many years ago, and I mean a good many, someone told me we have an identical “twin” somewhere in the world. A person who looks exactly like us. Could have been my mother, passing on a tidbit of information she learned as a child, back when there were far fewer people on this planet.

Anyway, for a short while, I thought I had found him, right in our small village. For a year or two, Rick Pelligrino (or was it Pelligrini?) and I could barely be told apart. But that doesn’t seem to match the “somewhere there’s a twin” theory.

I can eliminate obvious places with racial differences: China, for instance, with its 1.3 billion people; North and South Korea’s 70 million; Japan’s 128 million; most of Africa, as well as several other entities.

Maybe Rick wasn’t such a bad guess after all; wouldn’t it be ironic if my worldwide “twin” lived just four streets away?

So, my brother supposedly has a twin out there walking around the planet. That’s two of us. Maybe I can find someone who is a dead ringer for our parents. Line ‘em up and make a family portrait; better still, line up all eight of us in varying positions.

Moms, Dads, Jims, Toms. -- Mom, Dad, Jim, Tom, Tom, Jim, Dad, Mom. – By height, highest at the ends, smallest in the middle.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No Clock, No Speedometer

Stop me if I've told you this before, but it's about how I travel when I'm in a hurry and often when there is a time when I absolutely have to be somewhere.

One: I don’t look at the speedometer if there are cars ahead of me. I can’t go over them, under them or around them. If they are going below the limit (or just at it), there is nothing I can do so I might as well sit back and relax.

Two: I don’t look at the clock. I’ll get there when I get there. If I’m alone on the road, I’ll do the limit “and change.” If it’s 40mph, I’ll do up to 45 max, but nothing more. I’m not going to race and cause problems, either for other drivers or for my wallet.

Three: I relax. Getting all tense and grabbing at the steering wheel will not get me there any faster, will not clear the road ahead of me, but will only give me a headache and make me snarky. Sit back, relax, listen to music on the radio and be glad you’re not walking. You’re climate-controlled and comfortable.

If you’re late, what’s the worst thing they can do to you? Yell at you? Tell them that’s not nice. Give you the cold shoulder? Tell them you don’t care to be ignored and walk out. Go for an ice cream cone and leisurely drive home.

If you can, take the back roads, the two-lane with the worn-out center lines. The interstates are faster, but these are more enjoyable.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ship Happens

Speaking of travel docs, there is a phrase among experienced cruisers: "Ship Happens." That is, things don't always go as expected; put up with it.

A good principle for life, says I; we could do a lot worse.

On the ship, we have to put up with weather conditions that force us to miss ports, or do them in reverse order. It’s possible the entire itinerary may be changed without warning. Sometimes the kitchen runs out of things near the end of the cruise, from ice cream to the lobster you really, really want.

In life, it can rain on the day you had set for a picnic in the park. Somebody got sick at the most inconvenient moment. Your television broke down at the start of a long weekend. These, and other disasters, don’t happen at planned moments.

Ship Happens. You learn to adjust your expectations so they are more in line with the existing conditions. As much as I’d love to be the center of the universe, my desires paramount, it’s not going to happen. There are too many billions of other people with the same idea and there are also too many things that just go wrong.

When I got to the age where I realized the world does not revolve around me, life became more understandable. Things made sense. Ship Happens not only to me, but also to everyone else in the world.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Docs Came

Not the physician docs, not the "What's Up, Doc?", but the travel docs -documents- I need for my trip.

For the cruiser, whether novice or experienced, the cruise documents’ arrival is celebrated on the message boards as “Doing the doc dance.” Well, perhaps by everybody else; I am not quite that enthusiastic. Probably the New England Yankee in me.

About three years ago, mine came and I called my travel agent over across the river. Seems as how I thought I had booked one particular cruise, but instead was going on some other sailing. She laughed; “You mean you didn’t know until two days before sailing where you were going?”

No, I didn’t, nor did it make the slightest bit of difference to me. As long as it was a Holland America Line ship and the cruise was more than ten days, I was happy. The fact that I booked the “wrong” cruise meant I would be seeing some new ports, that’s all. To my mind, there’s no such thing as the wrong cruise.

The ship is the destination. I unpack when I get aboard and then I check to see where we are going and when we get there. This time, I found out we are not going to Portland, Maine; I thought so, as we had been there before, but Bar Harbor is the Maine stop.

I guess I should stop here and check the docs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

So I Got A Call From My Travel Agent

“Hi, Tom; this is Marilyn. I booked a cruise for you, next June, going to New England and Canada, back-to-back from Boston. Inside cabin, K-category, share, insurance. Give me a call.” beep

News to me. Now, before you start thinking, “Just who does she think she is?” let me tell you who I think she is: The perfect travel agent. She knows where I like to go, when I like to take the trip and how I like to do it. She even has my Visa card.

Usually, I pick up the phone and say, “New England and Canada, July 11, thanks.” And that’s that. Why waste her valuable time?

You don’t get that kind of personal relationship with a dot-com.

My first experience with “As You Wish” dining, when you are seated at a random table each evening, happened to include a drunk. A fairly happy guy with fewer stories to tell than I had time to hear them; thus, they repeated often. One of the topics which came around now and then was, “How much did you pay for this trip?”

“None of your ###ing business,” was floating around in my head. What came out of my mouth was more like, “Oh, I don’t know; my TA books the trip and bills me later.” I never did run into him again. Had he asked, I might have said, “My TA is Olivia’s and I recommend you travel with them.” That’s a cruise joke.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The 2010 Federal Budget Will Buy You:

Everything produced in Italy in 2008.

A refund for everyone defrauded by Bernie Madoff.

The International Space Station.

An electric car for Every 16- and 17- year old in the US
and all the oil in Saudi Arabia,
the Big Dig, Boston’s money pit tunnel,
and funding for the $4b human brain map.
All the tea in China, plus,
the treasures of King Tut’s tomb and
an Upper East-Side Condo on 94th St.

An MP3 download from iTunes for everyone in the US ~and~
the Holy Grail of baseball cards: a mint condition 1909 Honus Wagner.

All this, and even more, for the coming year’s Federal budget (more than your household’s) of $3,550,000,000,000. (credit: Newsweek)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Demons That Chased Bob

The co-author of an upcoming biography about Bob Crane, best known for his work in “Hogan’s Heroes,” interviewed me at length this evening.

Bob and I worked at the same radio station in Bridgeport, although not at the same time. Close enough so that his style influenced me greatly, and I wish we had been together as I was starting my career in broadcasting.

Bob had his demons, as do we all. Most of us keep them under control and, fortunately, they are minor and do little damage. His were great and eventually led to his tragic murder and subsequent smearing of his name and reputation.

The authors want to show the complete picture and have tentatively titled their book “Flipside,” the other side of Bob Crane.

We knew him as a devoted husband and father. A genuinely devoted person who struggled with an addiction he tried to overcome many times. It wasn’t until he was playing a show at a venue which was owned by a person who was also an ordained minister that he confessed the dark side of his life.

He told of his struggles to escape the sex-and-porn and desperately wanted to turn his life around. The minister advised him where to seek treatment, but his current partner (angry over the breakup?) killed him before he got there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Write Your Own Poem

by Will Stanton.

There is a land to all men known
Where nothing ever stands alone.
Where things are always “something and”
Connected by an ampersand.

Cup & saucer, north & _ _ _ _ _
Dun & Bradstreet, hoof & _ _ _ _ _
Rough & ready, curds & _ _ _ _
Bag & baggage, Bob & _ _ _

Off & running, neck &_ _ _
Black & Decker, hunt &_ _ _ _
Cloak & dagger, bill &_ _ _
Fair & warmer, me &_ _ _

High & mighty, push &_ _ _ _
Lea & Perrins, cock &_ _ _ _

One & only, pick &_ _ _ _ _ _
Horse & buggy, P’s &_ _ _
Come & get it, touch &_ _
Up & at ‘em, yes &_ _

Toil & trouble, ways &_ _ _ _ _
Tar & feathers, pork &_ _ _ _ _
Bread & butter, love &_ _ _ _ _ _
Drunk & disorderly, Mr. &_ _ _

Trial & error, heaven &_ _ _ _
Death & taxes, hail &_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Sneeze Didn't Quite Happen

You’re all set for a good, healthy sneeze. Like the shot, it will be one heard ‘round the world. The kind that propels your body backward a few inches.

You open your mouth on the air intake, feel your nose tingle and … nothing happens. A misfire, a dud, mission aborted. You were all set for the nasal orgasm of the day and someone punctured the balloon; the air pump stopped working.

The weather map showed thunderstorms all around us, to the north and south; it showed thunderstorms in a line heading right toward us. It was the Big Sneeze about to happen.

The skies darkened, the rain started to come, the wind picked up, you could see lightning on the horizon. Mother Nature took a deep, quick intake ready to sneeze it all out … and it all fizzled. Stuff went north, went south, fell apart, failed to mesh.

The looked-for mighty thunderstorm, the air-clearing, humidity-dropping, crop-watering Mother, Father, Sister and Brother of all storms just didn’t work out. Oh, sure; it rained all right. There was some lightning on the horizon. Biiiiig deal. I wanted a light show, I wanted kettledrums of audio, radios filled with static.

What did I get for all this anticipation? An erectile dysfunction of a storm that couldn’t keep it up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another One From Grammar School

It’s “another one is gone” time. Or, perhaps, you might say, it’s “the clock is ticking” time. Another one of my classmates from St. James Grammar School has passed on to glory. That makes three in a little over a year. All girls (yes, girls: that’s how I remember them; it’s been 53 years, but they are frozen as girls).

Lorna Bosses just showed up in the newspaper. She made her mark in the medical field and found her peace.

Mary Lou Dinan, the cutest girl, passed away some months back. When we were in the upper grades, someone had one of those little plastic things with an image at the other end; you peeked through to see what it was. Well, it was an image of a shapely nude woman. “That’s what Mary Lou will look like when she grows up,” he said.

Mary Ethel Bowe lost her battle to breast cancer a couple years ago. Beloved by one and all, the neighbors around her New Hampshire cottage named the area “Mary’s Cove” in her honor. She and I were boy- and girl-friends very early on. I think our parents made that decision pretty nearly at birth, but it didn’t stick only a few years.

(In our class were Mary Ethel, Mary Lou, Mary Ann and I think one other Mary-something. It was a good year for “Mary” but a bad year for keeping them separate. So they included their middle names. “I know if anyone calls me ‘Mary Ethel,’ they knew me from St. James,” Mary Bowe said much later in life.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Driving To Connecticut On A Steamroller

When my mind gets in a certain mood, I wonder what it would be like to travel back to Connecticut (200 miles, almost to the inch) on a given piece of construction equipment or farm gear. I’ll see something and imagine what the trip would be like if it were street legal and I had plenty of time. I mean, PLENTY of time.

A steamroller, for instance. Going back to where home used to be, took about three hours and forty five minutes the way I drove (the limit plus five, max). Let’s say your average ‘roller goes one mph tops; figure a 200 mile trip and that’s two hundred hours, or 8.3 days. At that rate, you don’t have to figure in lunch breaks.

At one point in my life, I drove a vehicle that pushed airplanes away from the gate. They went a little faster, but not much and, like the steamrollers, had no springs to protect you from bumps. Hard on the bones. I’d estimate three days for the trip.

I also drove a farm tractor, something not known for speed or comfort. The seat did, however, was spring-loaded – just enough to keep you bouncing all day. When we waved at the city folk passing by, it meant, “Hey, wanna trade places? This is fun!” Travel time back home? Same as the plane pusher, most likely.

Somehow, I don’t think the asphalt spreader would be a particularly good choice. Those things really crawl, perhaps slower than a steamroller, and I’d be surprised if I made it home in less than nine or ten days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Chocolate Cake And The Cook

You see, there was this chocolate cake. Now, I like chocolate cake as much as the next person, especially if it’s made just right, and this one was. For one thing, there was no flour in it; I don’t know what takes its place, even though I just read a recipe. Nor can I figure why peanut butter tastes so good as a side with a cheese omelet.

So, anyway, our cook whips up this delight: flourless chocolate cake in several layers with as much frosting between them as you’d find mortar in a brick wall. On top, a thicker layer. Then….

Then the cook took mine, laid it on its side and spread thick chocolate syrup. “Happy now?” he asked. Yes, happy.

Now to enjoy this in the proper manner:

Cut the cake with my fork, a small piece and squarely done. Slowly chew, letting each taste bud experience the fullness of the chocolate decadence. Then another piece; swallow; repeat.

Fully enjoying a rich chocolate cake is far more than getting it into your tummy. That is not only the least important thing, but it doesn’t count at all. The taste buds are how we get all the flavor and joy of our food; therefore, the small bites and the cake (or whatever) will give us the greatest enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Electric Transformer On The Pole

We lived near a Protestant church, the old New England style with the tall steeple. Folks around us said it would protect from lightning, but the “cone of protection” only goes so far; after that, the strokes look for something else. A tree works just fine, maybe a chimney, possibly an electric wire on a pole (but not a tv antenna, generally).

We had a pole outside our house with a transformer on it, one of those sturdy cans that, on occasion, will blow up with a mighty blast and a wondrous flash of light making you think Jesus has come again right there on your street.

The transformer, thus described, is heavily grounded and makes a wonderful target for Mr. Lightning Bolt. We should all have one of these outside our residence, as they will protect us from Things That Go *Bang* In The Night (or day). I say, let the transformer take the blow; it’s outer covering is made just for that purpose.

There’s one just outside my apartment; actually, I think there are three on the pole. They are just begging to be hit during a storm and I am likewise quite willing to have them take the bullet for us. They can handle it; I can’t.

The alternative is to have some tall, well-grounded trees around the yard. No pines, or such with very shallow roots. Good, sturdy stock that digs in and spreads its roots far and deep. When a storm comes along, you might have to replace the tree, but it’s safer and happier than replacing your house.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Up Power, Down Power

Many radio stations have to increase or decrease power depending on what time the sun comes up or goes down. Has to do with signal skip and interference to other stations off in the far distance. The time changes as we cycle through the year and you can almost hear your listeners drop off at night, as much as the sound of them coming aboard at the far edges as you powered up.

On the program and transmitter logs you would find: “4:30 Lower Power.” That was the earliest for our latitude; you might get away with a later time if you were more to the south. During the height of the summer, you’d be on high power until 8:30 up here.

Bad as that was, it was better than having to sign off, which many stations did. One maximum-power station in Rhode Island pulled the switch at the same time as their smaller brothers just reduced wattage. Can you imagine that? Fifty thousand watts dies the death each day at sundown, and I almost worked there.

Sometimes (I won’t confess to ever doing this; oh, no, not me) if we had a local kid’s sports game on the air and it ran past sundown, we would keep the power up and mark the low-power readings in the transmitter log. Keep the parents happy who might not be able to hear us after we dumped.

A girl friend taped my late-night signoff announcement: “Good night, and don’t forget to turn your radio off.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We're Not As Crooked As Them

We have two openings for judges after a couple of them ended up in the slammer for some pretty awful judgements against unrepresented juveniles. Guess what all their platforms are: “We are not crooks” ... “You can trust us,” ... "The bad days are over.”

One hopeful’s signs say, “For the people.” I certainly hope so; if he’s against the people, we’re in big trouble. He wants to replace someone who was for the children and received millions in kickbacks for tossing as many as he could into the juvie prison his friends owned. Crimes? Shoving someone in school would do.

Another wannabe had a well-known and equally beloved mother in the Courthouse. His campaign has been low-pressure, but the first tv ad went on about Mom and her qualities, making us wonder if they dug her up and got her name on the ballot.

Then there is the woman who bears a striking resemblance to Sarah Palin. There she is, on her billboards, Sarah glasses and all, same cheerfully-clueless smile on her face.

Another fellow has the same name as a leading crime family. He’s probably related, as several Mafia dons live around here. The Gambino family, the suspected (alleged) DeNaples operation, the Buffalino gang and another, whose name I forget.

Seventeen people want those two spots. Vote for me.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Popping Up Like Moving Mushrooms

I've been watching, main map, click on Pennsylvania, click on "show animation - loop" and there are thunderstorms coming out of nowhere today. Watch for one in your neighborhood.

Go to the site, then add /National/Radar and click on the US map. If the left-hand state listings show up, run it up to “United States” and then click on the area of your choice.

This is my main source of information on where the weather currently is, where it is going and if/when it will hit Our Fair City. Oddly enough, it looks an awful lot like what I see on the local tv station’s Super Duper Radar.

Once you get used to it, you can zoom in on various parts of the country (that is: where you live, where your friends or relatives live) and see what’s going on with the folks.

I use it to warn an on-the-road friend when I see a snow squall or a line of bad thunderstorms approaching where she is currently working or will be driving. It can make a big difference in how she plans her movements.

It’s also good when I wonder “umbrella: yes or no” before heading out of the house. It can be very cloudy but with no real storm showing up. Or, I can see something coming that doesn’t appear in the sky yet.

Friday, May 08, 2009

I Got To Thinking About Names

We don’t have much choice over how we’re called, unless we are in the entertainment industry and, even then, film studios or the Screen Actors’ Guild may have a say over things. The first doesn’t like your name and the second may already have a member with the same and you have to change yours.

So you are stuck with what your parents wanted. Maybe after you reach 18 you can change it if the folks really got foolish.

Friend of mine was named Durward. “My father was in the waiting room when the doctor came in and asked what he wanted to name me. The tv was on and some guy named Durward Kirby was on the screen. That was it.”

A local woman is a fan of a tv cartoon and named her twins “Pebbles” and “Bam-Bam.” She did. I’m sort of hoping the father will get a name change order.

Penn (Penn & Teller, magicians) named his girl Moxie CrimeFighter. Some celebs came up with the brilliant idea of naming their kid Pilot Inspektor. Nicholas Cage is the proud father of one Kal-El Coppola.

I don’t mind children having their old-country names, but they should realize it will be hard for us to get it right; same with American parents who give their kids alternate spellings for common names.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

300,000 Text Messages In One Month

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A Sacramento County teenager is bragging about a big accomplishment. She logged more than 300,000 text messages in one month.

"Thank goodness for free texting," said her mother, Jacki Wiski, who just bought the iPhone for her daughter a month ago.

"I get cramps," Crystal said of her habit. Needless to say, it didn't take long for her to get used to it.

Her mother is amazed by the number of texts. "That's unbelievable," Jacki said. "She must text while she's sleeping."

"I am popular. I can't help it," Crystal added.

To put 303,000 text messages into perspective: that's more than 10,000 text messages a day, 421 messages an hour and seven texts a minute. KCRA-TV news even timed her.

Jacki said despite her daughter's addiction, it doesn't stop her from holding down a full-time job. It also has not affected her grades: "She has a 40-hour-a-week job and straight A's," Jacki said.

Anyone besides me think the girl needs a life?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I Thought Writing A Column Was Easy

Until I became a newspaper columnist, that is.

Hey, what’s a column? You rattle one off and then go to the nearest watering hole to tell people just how to run the world. Couldn’t be easier; a great way to make a living.

Then I became one. Actually, many; the local newspaper went out on strike and the new publication –destined to last just a few months-- has lasted now these thirty years. Early on, they needed some people to write feature columns and I supported the effort. Over time, I was one or another “name” in various sections with the easy job.

Or so I thought. Cranking out columns, of whatever sort, wasn’t that easy after all. You needed a topic, you needed to fill just so many inches (none over, none under), you needed fresh, clear writing with no clichés. Since everybody has written about everything by now, you needed a new approach.

Darn, this is hard.

So there you are, tapping your pencil and looking off into the far reaches of the universe, wondering how the syndicated columnists do it. Your plans to be the next Dave Barry have long since gone out the window; the titles you wrote down suddenly mean nothing.

Maybe winter crab fishing in Alaska would be easier.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Day I Switched To Soft Cones

It wasn’t a pretty story, at least the way Gail Shipp told it. She was older than me, perhaps four years older which, when you are four or five, makes her a wealth of grown-up information.

She wanted to warn me about the standard ice cream cone – the tall tapered kind which was pretty much all I knew. I had seen the soft waffle cones, but never paid much attention to them.

Until, that is, the dread secret came out.

“They put worms in the bottom of the cones,” she said.

Ahhhhhhhhh. Yukkkkkkk. Worms in the bottom of the hard cones and I couldn’t see for sure because the ice cream was packed down. I had to go as far as I dared and hope the worm was further down than I had bitten off.

You have no idea how long that affected me. Even today, I don’t use hard cones, but it’s not because of Gail’s lying misinformation. The waffle cones don’t break very easily, unlike the stiff long cones and, if I’m doing the packing, I can get quite a bit of ice cream or yogurt way down in the bottom of them.

Gail is a high school athletic coach, in the CT Basketball Hall of Fame.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Parts Department

My brother just came home with a new knee. At least, I hope it’s new; there’s no sense in walking around with something used which, when you think about it, is what another person didn’t want anymore.

That goes for cars, electronic devices and spouses. People get rid of them for a reason and maybe you’d be better off with something new.

Anyway, Jim limped in like a beggar in India; guys in white coats and face masks did whatever they do (did Jesus wear a white coat and a face mask, I wonder?) and he came out healed. That’s the short version.

To learn more than you really want to know in a blog of this type, go to Google and type in “knee replacement surgery” and choose “knee replacement surgery – WebMD.” If you’d rather not, then stop here, make yourself a mug of tea, and continue.

All set? Sip, swallow, relax, repeat. Life is good.

Jim is a woodsman and heats his house with logs. The best type is, in French, “bois de lune,” and he carefully culls it from the available deadwood. With his new knee, it will be possible to once again be out there in the forests stocking up on this well-burning tree.

A good book, some coffee and a new knee is great.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Got A Light?

Traffic lights; not bad things to have around. You stop cars on one street while making it safe for those on a cross street to move without fear of having company at an unexpected moment.

When I go down Market Street in Kingston, all but one are “demand” lights and there is so little side street traffic that I can roll right along without a care in the world.

The Market Street Bridge has no traffic lights on it. Not any more, at least; but it wasn’t always that way. That’s because a guy came to town, after he sold iceboxes to Eskimos and pigs to Muslims, with a truck filled with traffic lights and plans to put every last one of them on the bridge, needed or not.

The bridge isn’t that long, as bridges go. I never measured just how many tenths of a mile (one or two), but there’s only a small to average river under it. And traffic lights over it, all five lanes: two each lanes and a separate turning lane coming into the city.

Seventy-four lights. Yes, 74: approx 15 per lane which, the fast-talking salesman insisted, was the minimum needed to keep the bridge free of catastrophic, widow-making front-page, rolling off the edge, car crashes.

They were taken down, collisions never did take off and we have a lot of spare traffic lights – yours for the asking.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Another Letter From Diane

The second, and last, of the series that never made it.

Well it’s getting a bit late. It’s also Saturday night, the time when my grandfather would announce that it was time to “feed the clock,” as he got up from his chair to wind it. I never forgot that. Some things stay with you over the years and his habit of feeding the clock was one of them. I guess if you don’t, then it rolls over and dies, or something like that. Or its hands hang down limp.

One of the profs I have at college told me all energy comes from the sun. No matter what we’ve got, from the sun it came. And I think of that occasionally when I see the hay growing, or the tractor running, or people walking along the roads going out to the fields. All the energy in the growing and the combustion and the walking came from the sun.

So I’m going to take some of that energy and pass it on to the clock. I guess that collection of hands, springs, screws and wood doesn’t realize it – doesn’t really feel a hunger or become aware of a fullness. But it would be nice, when we’re all safe and comfortable in heaven, to have all our pets and animals there with us sharing a higher consciousness, to be able to talk to the hay and the trees, and to chat with the clocks we fed every week.

I guess when it gets this late at night, I start sounding silly. But before I get all rational in the morning, I think I really should feed the clock.

Friday, May 01, 2009

More Bars In More Places

Yeah, that’s for sure. Bars and churches slugging it out for scarce real estate in a little burg across the river best known for fights, stabbings and gunfire. The bars usually win out over the churches.

When you go uphill on the main drag, counting the bars will give you tennis neck as you look first to the left, then to the right. Well, there is one less.

The Glass Bar got a little arson in the booze. There was a fight there, a little lead made its way from the party of the first part’s “equalizer” (as those things are known) into the innards of the party of the second part.

Nobody knew nothing, and them that did know weren’t talking. Eventually, the perp was located and is currently a guest of the county. The bar went up for sale but, a while later, it went up in a pretty good blaze, aided and abetted by a suitable amount of gas.

The owner was distraught, but that wasn’t anything compared to just how distraught when the Feds slapped a pair of cuffs on his wrists and read him his Miranda rights. (“You have the right not to dig yourself into a bigger hole than you’re already in…”)

The police chief says things are no different there than anywhere else around here, and maybe he’s right. But, darn it all to heck, there sure is a lot of action over there and I keep thinking, “More bars in more places; not good.”