Monday, August 31, 2009

Talking To Terri

The setting is Sunday evening; I am in my apartment sipping a steaming mug of tea, listening to music service and writing a piece for one of my freelance jobs.

The e-mail incoming tone sounds and it’s from a friend in Rhode Island who knows my taste in music and radio stations. She is listening, the note says, to George Jonescu on AM740 from Toronto. It’s a real flamethrower of a station, heard in two Provinces and a whole pile of States. She wants me to listen to the radio or online.

“Your friend Terri Blaine is being interviewed,” she says. “It’s really good.” Well, an endorsement like that is something not to be overlooked. If it’s good enough for Ruth, then it’s worth my time. Besides, I own a whole stack of Terri’s recordings and her stuff is quite good. I might even do my music column on her this week.

I turn it on just before a break, as she says something about a person who could be listening, some “Tom in the Poconos.” Huh. There have to be a whole bunch of people named Tom who live in the Poconos. Couldn’t be me. Or could it? I’ll have to give her a call after the show and ask.

So I call and we have a delightful chat. As she was doing a phone-in interview, she had no idea how it sounded, so I assured her it was great and a wonderful job. We hadn’t talked on the phone for ages and traded news about mutual friends and stuff like that. I never did ask about this Tom in the Poconos.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday: Get Holy, Get A Newspaper

Where did you get the Sunday newspapers back in the day? In front of the church; at least the Catholic church, in my RC experience. Maybe the Protestants, for all I know.

There was a strange working relationship between pastors and newspaper vendors which I always found disturbing, even in my younger days. People standing there with tables loaded down with newspapers waiting for the end of Mass so the parishioners could pick up their choice of the Sunday sheets.

The biggest selection seemed to be up in Stratford at St. James Church, the largest in town. Business was jumping there even before the closing hymn. Out where we lived, things were pretty virginal and pristine until, years after I had left, I went back and there were the hawkers.

I told the pastor we should concentrate on providing religious services and let the drugstore three streets away concentrate on providing the newspaper. I really did not care a whole lot about the people standing there making a living from the blessed of God; that’s not the place nor the time.

He did get rid of them and we went back to being a simple, weather-beaten plain church out on the end of nowhere. I don’t see much of that anymore and maybe it’s gone out of favor. The pastors may have told the convenience stores: “We don’t sell papers; you don’t provide religious services.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stratford Center

Stratford Center… pretty much as far north as I ever got when I lived in the town and it was way far north when I moved out to Lordship, surrounded by water and swamps.

The business district was fairly complete, if small. But the smallness meant everybody knew you and there was never a stupid clerk who said, “I don’t know,” when you asked about anything. The clerks knew the stock and knew how best to get what you needed. The stores were quiet and peaceful with no loudspeakers blaring.

Further north was Paradise Green, a place I almost never visited. I guess it had its share of stores, but I could not tell you if tortured beyond belief. There was a small restaurant Mom took me to not that long ago for a delicious Greek salad, two plates thank you. But that was for people who lived up in central Stratford. Snooty, I thought.

Further up was Boothe Memorial Park, and area with, as I recall, no stores and no center at all. Just some crazy windmill and other things that always amazed me; it’s a sort of museum. I don’t know where the people locally get their eats from, but it certainly is the ritzy part of town, not at all like Stratford Center.

The Center had one of the country’s oldest hardware stores: Lovell’s. It started before our country was born and lasted up until just a few years ago. The huge chain stores had more, but Harold Lovell had the intimate service and knowledge, the personality and the wooden floor that creaked comfortably.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Nights At WICC And WJZZ-FM

WICC had a sister station, WJZZ-FM; true to its call sign, it had a jazz format and what we called “Phase II” of its second-year operation was live broadcasting from some watering hole in downtown Bridgeport. The “Pink Elephant Lounge” in the Hotel Barnum, if memory serves.

WJZZ was located in what could have been a janitor’s closet at the WICC complex in Fairfield, Connecticut. A large closet, certainly, but the entire operation was in just that one small studio, into which were three turntables and two large Ampex studio tape machines the size of an apartment washing machine. Plus a control board.

So we did this remote broadcast from the Pink Elephant. I don’t know why the announcer there didn’t have a radio so he could hear us giving him his cue, but he didn’t. He was in a phone booth instead, and I was on the other end, in the WICC newsroom. Then the fun began, with FM’s studio door open.

When Dave Brubeck’s show ended, the FM announcer shouted “GO!” and I’d hit the “press-to-talk” switch on the phone, tell the Pink Elephant announcer “GO” and he’d start talking on his mic, hang up the phone and walk across the stage, introducing the act with the only mic assigned to the show.

Meanwhile, on the AM side between the FM studio and the newsroom, the hits just kept rolling. Everything sounded so smooth on both sides.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

60,000 Hood Ornaments A Year

“I see you’re from Pennsylvania. You have some of those pretty useless deer whistles on your front bumper (which also work equally well for scaring elephants away) and I heard you bagged an 8-pointer with your last car. That big Freightliner 18-wheeler picked off two in a row last week; guy said it’s not safe for him to swerve.”

Unless and until we loose packs of wolves and hyenas into the woods of William Penn, the deer will keep doing what deer do naturally. Don’t mistake it for some sort of Walt Disney nature film. “Bambi Does Northeast Pennsylvania” isn’t so much a guide book as a memoir originally titled, “Bucks for Bucks.”

We knock them a-hole over teakettle at the rate of 60,000 a year in Our Fair Commonwealth. The exceptions are the Old Order Amish, downstate, whose buggies never get to ramming speed. Generally, the deer power down and pace the horses, chatting with them as they clop along the dusty roads.

60k a year and we still have hunting season. One would think we’re wiping out the beasts, yet they keep sipping wine in the candlelight after dropping Cialis.

The first day of hunting season is a holiday around here for the school kids. They aren’t going to show up anyway, so why bother? Many of them grew up with hunting rifles and are out in the woods earlier than they usually get up for school (huh) and with less fuss (again, huh). Amendment 2a: Arm the deer, even it up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Left The Light On For You

One night, no night in particular, I decided it was time someone around here let all those drivers passing by in the night know there was life on the corner of this street. I wasn’t going to sleep on the roof of the porch below me and have a spotlight in my face, but somehow it seemed good to keep a light in the window. A candle.

A friend down the street does the same thing, but you can see his only as you are walking by, or by the occasional driver. It’s on the first floor and lower in altitude. I’m up at the top of the hill on the second floor and visible from the highly-trafficked road which passes by. It can be seen and, perhaps, recognized for what it is.

It’s life. It’s a fellow person signaling his presence. You are not alone. Candles symbolically represent life and the unseen presence of others.

So I leave the light on for them. Somebody is home, there is life here on North Franklin; it’s not just another place you pass in the darkness. Even the worst of us are still social beings and yearn for others to be around. Who can tell what value a light in the window has for those who have cut themselves off from others.

Tom Bodett, who started making the Motel 6 commercials, just offhand ad-libbed the “We’ll leave the light on for you” when he finished cutting the first one. It worked; it was the perfect ending for the spot. It was a comforting thing to remember when you were thinking of a motel late at night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Don't Dare Look In The Stores

It’s August 25; Labor Day is coming and it’s time for the usual end-of-summer picnics and the start of school. What this has to do with labour disputes in Canada and labor disputes in the US of America seems to have been lost in time. Labor Leader Peter McGuire saw a festival in Toronto, came back and started one here.

But we’re a bit too busy putting out the Hallowe’en displays. At least in the stores; if I remember, I’ll post when I see the first such set-up outside someone’s house.

I was down in Freeland, near Hazleton, one year and saw some subtle hint that the downtown merchants would appreciate your business. A nod toward Christmas and here it was, the end of September. I got to thinking how, although this was Main Street, it was way off the beaten path; only the locals would see it.

I could see a town where Route 66 passed through and tourists might want to drop a little coin at the souvenir shop. But Freeland? No offense to this small borough, but it’s at the end of nowhere and the only cash the merchants will generate comes from its own residents. It’s like living in Anatevka; you need outside $$.

So now I’m on the lookout at the local stores to see what’s being set up. Anything for Labor Day? Or is that taken down? How about Hallowe’en? Thanksgiving? Maybe hints of Christmas? I’ll keep an eye open and let you know what I see. Reader contributions are welcome; just hit the “comments” button any day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time To Clean My Tea Mug

It’s that time of the month when I really should get around to cleaning my tea mug. The sure indicator is when the cat sniffs at it, turns around and tries to cover it up.

“Just toss some water and Clorox into it and wait a few minutes,” well-meaning friends say. “Easiest way to do it. Why use Comet cleanser and a paper towel? That’s so dirty and messy. I’ll admit they do have a point: this lazy person would like nothing better than to let nature take care of it with all my stained mugs.

“But!” I exclaim (thus the exclamation point), “But! When was the last time Clorox ever cleaned something? I mean, really cleaned something? As far as I can see, all it does is cover up what’s there. Stains from tea’s tannin are still there, but have been turned white. You still have a filthy mug, but it’s a filthy white mug.”

IMHO, you need to remove the stuff: Comet cleanser, a little water, brisk application of a paper towel and complete removal of the brown tannin. That is what you (or, at least I) call perfectly clean. Anything else is just whitewashing a dirty wall; all the junk is still there, hidden beneath successive layers of white stuff.

Clorox has its place, of course; I would never demean the stuff. People might lose their jobs if too many followers of this blog suddenly realize their mugs, cutting boards and such aren’t really clean, just sanitized. But to get all that stuff out of your tea or coffee mug, ain’t nothing like Ajax or Comet and the paper towel of your choice.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's Been A Lovely Summer

The weather people said this would be a mild summer and they nailed it. The last really hot weather was in April and, except for a few days maybe two weeks ago, that’s been about it. Other than that, things have been pleasant and enjoyable; I don’t know if we’ve had a season like this in a long time.

People will argue for and against global warming and one cool summer does not a theory destroy. But it does make people happy.

It was a perfectly lovely day today: the sun was out, the temps were fine, there were some puffy clouds in the sky. Birds were chirping, squirrels were crossing the street on telephone wires and the next street over was closed because of a gas leak in the Blue Cross building. Well, I guess you can’t have everything go right.

It’s a good day at the beach, except the beach is at least a two-hour drive away, minimum. It’s a good day just for the backyard, no cell phones allowed; pop whatever kind of cold drink you like, lay back in the hammock and chat with your family and any friends who might drop by. It’s summer.

Don’t put off enjoying the season. So the lawn needs cutting; it will still need it tomorrow and what’s one more day? You need a few things from the store? Many of them are open late at night, if not all night; the sun isn’t. Soon the earth’s tilt will bring cooler and colder weather. Take advantage of what you have now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Astraphobia: The Angels Are Bowling

Otherwise known as thunderstorms, but the first explanation was to calm us kids down. It sure didn’t work with me. I didn’t care if, as someone put it, “the really loud ones are strikes, the bumping or short ones are spares, and the really long low rumbles are gutter balls.” I was scared silly up into my teen years.

I’ve heard that the sight of a fast, bright light may trigger some kind of reaction. Exactly what kind, I’m not sure. Maybe for some people the reaction is what the nursing homes call “Code Brown” (not for me) or “Code Yellow” (still not for me). I was just flat-out scared.

Sometimes, even now, I think the close hits will vaporize me and I’ll be shaking hands with St. Peter and asking what my chances are of getting through the Pearly Gates. Those are the close hits and, yes, they do bother me. Stuff I see further away, nah; I enjoy the show and count the seconds to estimate the distance.

When I was much younger, it was Panicville: Any lightning at all, no matter how far, even heat lightning, would scare every cell in my body. As long as I didn’t see it, all was fine. But any sighting, even out of the corner of my supposedly-hidden eye, was the end of my confidence that God was watching out for me.

I don’t know anyone who was struck, never saw a house that was hit, and had no reason for my fear. I’ve long been over it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Hedges Grow Wild

The house across the street could be a bit rowdy at times, but they kept it inside and it never was a problem. They were part of the city’s rugby team and you know what rugby players are like: they prefer their meat raw and, if possible, still on the cow. Their drink of choice came in a keg, rolling into the house on a fairly regular basis.

Other than that, they seemed ok and the owner was a good guy. He kept the place up, at least on the outside, and was a good neighbor. A few other who hung out there never seemed to fit the profile of athletes. Chuggers, yes, and possibly more. But they kept it to themselves and bothered nobody.

Until the day when the driver of an 18-wheeler showed up with his cab (only). He seemed to hang around in the thing for some time, then we’d find just the cab and apparently he would be in the house. Strange guy, strange place to park the front part of your truck. Just a bit odd.

Then came the day that some weird resident of the cellar came out screaming and running around. The cops followed, then the ambulance. The owner, who had been taking pain pills for an injury, went over the edge on them. Or them and something else. It was all over for 201 North Franklin and its odd assortment of boarders and visitors.

The house is deserted and the owner, the deceased’s father, has done nothing. The hedges grow wild.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Little Village And Its Sections

I remember asking Mom how many people lived in Lordship when we first moved “out there,” as people referred to the village somewhat removed from South Stratford, supposedly the end of the line except for this little squiggly road and another one coming out from Bridgeport, both of which were subject to flooding at high water.

“About 500,” she said. I could believe it. The volunteer fire department issued the telephone book, maybe 5x7 with a hole in the corner so you could hang it by the phone. There was lots of stuff in it, in addition to the listings (alphabetically and by street), which made it look fairly impressive.

If laid out in standard phone book format, even at the greatest population we ever had, it would have been one side of one page. Small we were, but proud. Not only proud, but we had our sections, as well. You’d think anything this size would be fairly uniform, but it just never worked out that way.

There was “The Bricks,” an area of maybe twenty built of brick, including one road that never was paved and dipped down – appropriately called Valley Road.

The “Old Section,” where we lived, perhaps ten blocks wide, not to be confused with the “New Section,” which came later on both sides of us. Also, the place, about ten houses wide, where the rich people lived; Long Beach and its cottages; Short Beach and its cottages. “The Corner,” two small buildings with smaller stores in them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hurricane Bill

The ocean is a moody neighbor and when I lived one street away from it, we learned to know those moods: when to be joyful with it, when to avoid the anger and the times when it was uneasy. An angry sea is not something you would want to mess with, but an uneasy sea is worrisome and lets you know of danger.

On joyful days, the sun sparkled off the gentle little bits of waves; people swam near the shore and weekend sailors went out further to fish or just putter around. Deep-hole fires were started and marshmallows gave themselves up in sacrifice.

When the sea was angry, people might still be on the beach, but it would be cool, the water would be too rough for swimming and the only vessels out there would be tugs, cargo ships and oyster trawlers. Plus one or two stupid weekend sailors.

If the sea was uneasy, it was time to check and see if you had enough food to take you through three days of being stuck out where we were, because the causeway would be cut off and the other road would be underwater. A hurricane was coming and the ocean knew it. Forget the tv weathermen; pay attention to the sea.

The whole attitude of the sea changed into long-period swells, taller as time went on and the storm became closer. The waves breaking on shore became slower but louder, more powerful. Our beach was steep, yet the waves came higher, broke further in, and started carving a new sort of beach. Another day or two and it would hit.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spending Eternity With Marilyn Monroe

A widow is selling her husband's burial spot directly above film legend Marilyn Monroe so that she can pay off her mortgage. Elsie Poncher has put a listing on eBay to auction off the tomb in Los Angeles. Poncher said she hoped to raise enough money to pay off the $1.6 million mortgage on her Beverly Hills home.

Playboy's Hugh Hefner bought the crypt beside Monroe in 1992. "Spending Eternity next to Marilyn Monroe is too sweet to pass up," he said recently, and has reserved his place in eternity next to her.

“Here is a once in a lifetime and into eternity opportunity to spend your eternal days directly above Marilyn Monroe,” Poncher noted in her eBay listing. “This crypt in the famous Westwood Cemetery in West Los Angeles currently occupied above Marilyn Monroe is being vacated so as to make room for a new resident. The lucky bidder will be deeded a piece of real estate that he or she will make their last address. And below you will be Marilyn Monroe.”

Who’s in your neighborhood? Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Don Knotts, Bob Crane, Frank Zappa, George C. Scott, Fanny Brice, Carroll O’Connor, Walter Matthau, Jim Backus, Farrah Fawcett, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Burt Lancaster, Rodney Dangerfield, Merv Griffin, Eve Arden.

The going bid today is $4.5m; less than five days to go.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Going Through A Phrase

“Slogan,” from earlier slogorn, a war cry; a brief attention-getting phrase; a word used to express a goal to be achieved.

I ran into just that yesterday. Seems as how “Cotton on Kids,” a New Zealand clothing chain, has (or, rather, had as of today) a line of infants’ t-shirt slogans for the innocent little tots. Things like: “I’m Living Proof My Mum Is Easy.” Or, if you want something less tasteful: “Mummy Likes it on Top,” or even “The Condom Broke.”

I ran into something disturbing in Port Jefferson, Long Island NY, some years back. I was waiting for the ferry to Bridgeport CT and there was a young girl, perhaps five or six, with a t-shirt lettered: “Leave ME Alone,” one word over the other, the “me” emphasized and the meaning quite clear.

Disturbing: She was alone. Nobody remotely near her who I could identify as a parent or older brother/sister. I would have taken her to the police station, or called 911 for her own good, but if she had that t-shirt on, she probably had drilled into her about strangers doing harm (and probably not about strangers helping her). So I left her alone.

One of my friends had a t-shirt with her name on it in Braille, but she made the mistake of having the Braille on her chest. All the ill-mannered guys who thought they had just thought up the joke wanted to feel the dots. When I made up a Braille shirt for a friend, I had her name put on the back.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Judging The Real City Limits

The real city limits? Not when you see “Leaving Podunk,” or “Thank you for visiting us.” You change from city to neighborhood when you run out of parking meters. When it’s ok to park without paying a tax to the city for what it considers a privilege but you consider a right. When the police won’t tow your car from in front of your house.

The parking meter was invented in 1935 by Carl Magee in Oklahoma City. He had no idea it would get him in trouble with, of all people, God. It’s not that The Supreme Being, Creator Of The Universe, Uncreated And Eternal Father Of All happened to leave his heavenly chariot at an expired meter. Nothing so simple.

It seems that the very first parking meter ticket resulted in the first court challenge to metered parking enforcement. Rev. C.H. North of Oklahoma's City's Third Pentecostal Holiness Church had his citation dismissed when he claimed he had gone to a grocery store to get change for the meter. [Wikipedia]

In theory, meters are not supposed to produce revenue for the cities which use them. The idea is to keep valuable parking spaces in constant availability for vehicles on a short-term basis. That does not convince people at our two colleges who accurately notice the parking enforcement folks spending more time there than elsewhere.

Parking meters are so ingrained, like lower-back pain, that we just live with them as part of life. Have residents of any city voted them out of existence?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mirror, Mirror, On The Glass...

My father was a truck driver at one point in his life and knew how to get from anywhere “here” to anywhere “there.” He taught me how to use power and telephone lines to judge which road will get you to civilization. But most of all, he said I should always know who is around me at all times while I am driving.


To what extent did he impress this on me? I’ve practically worn out car mirrors just by looking at them (through them?) to see what’s behind me. Main mirror, side mirror, occasionally right-side mirror: who’s there, where are they going and what sort of cushion room do I have in case something happens.

I was traveling south on 315 one fine day when someone going north lost their entire right-side wheel. It took off, bounced off a rocky cliff wall and headed over in my direction – actually, toward my car. There wasn’t time to check the mirrors, but since I already had, I knew I owned the road and could swerve to avoid disaster.

It’s good for when I am backing into a parking space with a car on my left. As long as I can see one inch of space in the outside mirror, I know we’re not going to “kiss.” People standing around watching don’t always share that opinion, but when I reverse the front wheels, swing the car around the straighten it out, I smile with contentment. Another backing-in park job with my favorite mirror.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Saint Bronx Mowgli

In the Catholic Church, it’s one of our traditions to name children after saints – more or less to have the blessed ones look over us through our lives. Not a bad idea, when you think of it, and I would be honored to be the heavenly guardian for a friend’s child when I hit the hereafter and look around for a job.

But we all know that’s not what happens. My parents wanted to do that, but the saint’s day they chose for my intended birth didn’t work; a borderline preemie, I landed on a perfectly holy African person’s day with a name never heard outside that continent. They meant well and chose two best friends’ names instead.

I wonder if Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz meant well when they named their child Bronx Mowgli Wentz. Bronx might be from the NYC Borough (named for “The Bronck’s,” who owned a farm long ago) and Mowgli is well-known from Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” and means “frog” only in the stories’ jungle language.

Nicholas Cage and Alice Kim went with Kal-el Coppola. “Kal-el” was Superman’s maiden name, meaning “Star Child,” and maybe that explains the choice.

But where did Shannyn Sossaman and Dallas Clayton ever come up with “Audio Science” for their child? First day of school: “Hi, I’m Mike Clayton.”

Zowie Bowie, David’s kid. Speck Wildhorse, John Mellencamp’s. Really?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

They Met, Shook Hands And It Got Ugly

Something happened in Our Fair City yesterday which, just that idea alone, is pretty amazing. It wasn’t nice, but I haven’t seen it happen before and if only for that reason it merits mention here.

A strong storm system from the northwest came rolling in, meeting with an equally strong and formidable opponent from the east. Where did they lay down the gauntlet? Pretty much over Public Square, according to the Intellicast radar map.

As I watched this happen, one thought popped up: This is going to be an interesting late afternoon. It was a train wreck, a fireworks factory going up, Fundies running around waving their Bibles and shouting, “We told you so; the Lord Jeeeesus is coming!”

It rained as if a firehose were aimed at us. It sure put out my fire and, although I had a large umbrella when I had to go out, I still was fairly damp and/or wet when I returned. Luckily, I could take off my shirt and pants, dump them in the dryer and wait just a few minutes for the electric company to do its work.

Seems to me this happened only once before, when I was at my first radio station. A couple storms met, shook hands and took out a transformer three hundred feet below our transmitting antennas. You think they would hit the towers, but they had eyes only for the can on the phone pole. Who knows?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just Who Are You, If I May Ask

I don’t want to know what you do for a living; that’s just how you support yourself. Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief – they aren’t you.

Nor do I particularly care what nationality you are; it only indicates who was ruling the part of this planet when your ancestors were living there.

Color? Whitish, blackish, brownish, yellowish, whatever, tells me nothing except, perhaps, your attitude toward the others. It really does not tell me who you are.

Nor does the language you speak, the style of clothes you wear, political leanings, your religion and belief in its supremacy over all others. Your address, town, state or country are meaningless as to your identity; they will only tell me where you get your mail.

So now we’ve stripped you of all that identifies you in terms of the Census Bureau, polls and the social greeting, “So, what do you do?”

We, all of us, are sharers in life, called from nothingness to exist. That’s an enormously basic fact. We never were, and now we are; we are created beings. We are people with talents, who should never dismiss that fact; we are independent, but brought here to learn how to love and share. To denigrate others negates that whole plan.

We are given a name, a set of tools, a few basic rules of life and told not to screw it up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Being A Newspaper Columnist

A Newspaper Columnist, I am. I have regular space in the newspaper each Sunday morning, a title for that space and my considered opinion inside the amount of space which is granted for my thoughts, wise ponderings and suchlike. There is nothing quite like having people say, “I read your column the other day.”

Before all this came along, I used to think my fellow practitioners in this great segment of journalism had the easiest jobs in the business. They had the luxury of doing two columns a week and one on Sunday. Then I started mine and the learning curve was quick: These things don’t drop down from Heaven like manna for the Jews.

Me? I have a day job and do my piece after work. Printed on Sunday, it is due Tuesday. Meanwhile, I have all those other concerns which people who don’t have a desk in a newspaper office need to address: Doing a piece outside of regular working hours which cuts into my writing and research time. And Tuesday is coming.

Then there is this Little Matter Of An Idea: What the [blank] will I write about this week? This is an issue which I should address on Wednesday, six days before the next deadline. Somehow, I manage to (a) forget, (b) put off, (c) ignore the matter until sometime Tuesday morning, when I’m reminded time is getting short.

I seem to work best with a deadline staring me in the face. Do I research or just whip off a head piece? This week was a head piece; next week, I’ll do better.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Barefoot In The Sand

You see, we could outrun any mainlander on our turf: beach sand. This came in handy when we saw one of these tenderfeet* encroaching on our territory, the land that belonged to the people of the sea. They had no right to be here, so we could put a thumb on our nose, wiggle our fingers and get away with it.

*Tenderfeet (noun, plural: Idiots from the mainland who wore shoes during the summer and, thus, had feet as sensitive as children. Also, similar idiots who couldn’t take hot sand.)

“Ha, ha,” we would sneer; “a little hot for you fairies? Stones a little rough for your feet, wimps?” Waggle, waggle went the fingers and run, run went the feet. Across the sand we went, as graceful and nearly as fast as sandpipers.

With the balls of our feet digging into the back edge of previous footprints, we can easily outrun the flatlanders who are putting their heels into flat, virgin sand. Meanwhile, we are chasing seagulls out of the way, gaining distance, thankful of our heritage as seagoing people, beach-dwellers.

We can have fun, too, at night when the few paths up to the road are almost invisible through the thick, impenetrable scrub. Do almost anything you want to those people and only you know the quick way out of there. Hide in the scrub and they’ll never find you. Oh, it’s fun being beach people.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Restricting Your Freedom On Airplanes

Ok, folks; here is the latest list of what Big Person (I don’t want to offend the ladies by saying “Big Brother” and it sounds silly to say “Big Sister”) at the TSA arbitrarily forbids you to bring onto an airplane. It’s an update from a list we ran some time back but some of these, such as “Realistic Replicas of Explosives” might be new.

Let’s see: They don’t look kindly on your bringing dynamite in your carry-on, nor can you have hand grenades or plastic explosives in there. That makes a lot of sense; should the plane make a hard landing, you wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for it being on the 11:00 o’clock news around the world.

Meat cleavers are another item they’d prefer you leave at home, along with your favorite Louisville Slugger and ice picks. Coming back from the farm? Don’t bring the latest model cattle prod. Going to the city? UPS the stun gun and the brass knuckles; ship them some other way.

You can’t bring your favorite bow and arrow set as carry-on, but you can check it and hope someone’s 90-pound souvenir anvil isn’t sitting on top of it. Same goes for your ski poles. Since there are no sand traps or ponds in the aisle, you can stick your golf clubs in the freight bay.

Snow globes with, perhaps, a snowman or a little village in them, little innocent snow globes? Leave them home, because you can’t get on the plane with them.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

DHMO And Your Children's Health

DHMO, also known as Dihydrogen Monoxide, is a basic ingredient in battery acid and yet the FDA has never blocked its use as an additive in baby food. When nuclear power plants were built, scientists began testing DHMO to control the radiation; it has been used as an industrial solvent and will accelerate corrosion and rusting.

Yet, the FDA allows it to be in products containing milk – cows and mothers’. In supermarket testing, where sprays were used to keep produce fresh and green, large amounts of DHMO were found that remained even after vigorous washing. It’s also used as an additive in liquid junk-food products.

Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest, and recently California.

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." We taxpayers have been paying for an unseen, underground distribution system.

The common name of Dihydrogen Monoxide is “water."

Friday, August 07, 2009

I Went To The Supermarket

I’m from a small village. The post office (buy stamps and mail packages only) was in a corner of the drugstore near some patent medicines. Only one person had mail delivery there, between some old prescription boxes; his address, 1 Fifth Avenue, was a cottage down in the swamp. Next door was the grocery store, one aisle, which had about three of anything you might want; underage kids (me) sold beer to a local state cop and bread was just inside the door. Curly, sticky fly catchers hung from the ceiling.

Later in life, I ran out of bread and went to a real supermarket. Life had changed.

Inside, to the left was a bank. “Bread? I don’t know, sir. But would you like to open an account?” No; I would like to open a loaf of bread. Behind it was a florist shop. “Bread? Sorry; we just sell flowers.” Flowers; I need flours. Up further, a specialty deli with little chunks of cheese for the tasting and a chalkboard with specials. Don’t even bother; they are wearing brown aprons, not white like my grandmother.

Ah! Bread! Right handy in the back of this giant store. I’m off Wonder Bread now, but a nice rye would do. Hmmm. Six-grain; twelve-grain; wheat with cod liver oil; organically-grown oat fertilized with local goat manure; rice with ingredients provided on request. Uh, this doesn’t look good.

On the way home, I pass Mrs. Jones’ Homemade Pies and Breads. “One rye.” “Here you are, sonny.” “Thank you and have a nice day.”

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Song Of The Rumble Seat

Where was I? Prince Edward Island? There was an old car there with a rumble seat and two young’uns sitting in it.

[Rumble Seat: (1912). A folding seat in the back of an automobile (as in a coupe or roadster) not covered by the top. Merriam-Webster]

[Their popularity was further diminished by the frequent injuries, including decapitation that sometimes occurred in accidents. It is possible that the last American-built car with a rumble seat was the 1939 Ford convertible coupe. Wikipedia]

I only saw one before this, a multitude of years, yea, a multitude of decades ago, in Stratford Center (the center, business district, small as it was, in Connecticut). I assume this one would have been driven slowly so the girls were safe. Still, I’m not that sure I would be comfortable riding in one (see above).

Yet, the wind whistles through your hair, you are in an unusual position, actually outside the car in what was earlier called the mother-in-law seat. It must have been exciting and, let’s imagine, a little bit romantic if being driven down a quiet, evening shady lane. It’s safe enough, and all you can do would be done by your hands.

My regret is not asking to be taken for a spin around the parking lot just so I could say I had done it. Maybe with one of the girls next to me for the record.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"My Garages Runneth Over"

“I don’t want pie in the sky, bye and bye, when I die,” the Reverend Ike shouted to his congregation. “I want my pie right now, with ice cream on top.”

He got it. Or, as he used to say, “My garages runneth over.” Among those who followed him were his many believers, the IRS and the Postal Service. I rather suspect the latter two were not among the devoted followers mentioned first.

The Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter preached a gospel of material prosperity (the material man, not to be confused with Madonna’s material woman). “Close your eyes and see green. Money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool.”

He followed his own advice, selling some sort of sacred [talcum] power to be flushed down toilets, prayer cloths and ties. He prayed for and preyed on the superstitious Caribbean people (more pre- than pra-). Wilson Mizner’s Alaskan gambling line, “Never give a sucker an even break,” sure applies here.

So, the Reverend Ike died on the 28th, fated to meet his Maker. He got his pie, not in the sky, but on earth and with ice cream on top, as he wished. One can only wonder what the conversation was like on that day.

God: “Got what you wanted.” Ike: “Oh, sh*t.”

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Straight & Narrow Gets You Nowhere

“Keep on the straight and narrow and you shall find your salvation,” said the nuns back in grade school. They, obviously, didn’t live in Our Fair City where keeping your car on the S&N will cause a streetload of busted doors, fenders, front and back ends, baaaad language and specific fingers raised on high in The Salute.

Going from my house to my dentist means I turn left at the Courthouse and take the left lane only, because the right lane will land me on the bridge two blocks away, even though I want to be on the right lane two blocks away.

So I pass the bridge in the left lane but have to pull over to the right because the left lane now is restricted to dumping me downtown. That is, until I get another half block and must decide if I want to go straight or right; I choose straight and I better still be in the right hand lane for a straight approach.

Further down, there is a left turn, but it’s not really a left turn even though it’s at a 90-degree angle. Around here, we call that going straight and even though the road *seems* to continue straight, that’s actually a right-hand turn. Stick with me. It gets better.

Down by the dentist, two main roads intersect with traffic lights, which never vary from yellow flashers. There are traffic islands: about seven intersections by a school and a hospital protected with nothing but a bunch of flashing yellow lights and a pile of stop signs. You’d never believe it: There are never any accidents here!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Spinning Newspapers In The Movies

So you’re watching some old drama from the 30’s or 40’s, and the director wants to use a newspaper headline to reinforce or introduce some bit of the action. Usually they don’t just show the paper in a sidewalk rack; generally it’s not in someone’s hands with an over-the-shoulder shot.

No, it spins. Round and round it goes, spinning wildly and moving toward us, until it finally stops and we read: MURDER MOST FOUL! Or, MAYOR SHOT DEAD WITH MISTRESS. Or some such transitional bit of plot movement. I’m surprised Jay Leno never used it on his “Headlines” segment (or did he? I’ll have to check).

The mysterious warning over the phone is something I’ve never understood. It rings, the guy answers, looks shocked, indicates the caller has hung up on him. Then he looks at the handset, as if that is going to make any difference in his life, says, “Hello! Hello!” and clicks the button several times while saying, “Operator … Operator!”

I’ve long been used to the stagecoach wheels going backwards. It didn’t take me too long to realize it was some sort of illusion, although I still wonder all these years later. But why is it that five bad guys on horses can ride faster than one good guy on a horse? Does their speed increase with numbers?

And if you’re being chased, why stop on a hill and look back to see where they are? I’d just keep running like crazy and turn my head around.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Asteroid Collided With Jupiter

Pilots will tell you that there are always several causes for airplane crashes and they have to be present or it won’t happen. Each incident will have its own particular set, but they must line up like the holes in swiss cheese.

Each safety device which is developed after a crash eliminates a direct line of holes and makes it more difficult for an incident to happen again. That’s why we have so very few of them in this country.

There is no such learning curve in the universe. Asteroids and other such rocks roaming the solar system tend to find their own pathways and the rules of the road are what they make them to be. If a planet gets in the way, so be it.

Jupiter got in the way a few years ago and the Shoemaker-Levy comet dove right into it without a care in the world. For what might have been the first time, people watched it on live television in the lab and nearly-live on the evening news.

I didn’t say “collided,” as Jupiter is a gas giant. It was as if your car collided with a fog bank, which became thicker as you drove into it, eventually becoming so thick you can hardly make your way. At that point, you find you can almost walk on it without sinking.

As you keep walking, you are on something like Jell-O, then it’s thicker. There’s no real surface, just “solid gas,” and you never actually did collide.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Let's See; Which One's The Wife?

I've been to plenty of wakes where the chief mourner isn't always the person to whom the Guest of Honor pledged to be faithful for life.

Went to one where the presumed wife was at the head of the casket, terribly upset. I mentioned that fact to someone in the family and he said, “That’s not his wife; she’s over there, partway down the room chatting with people. The woman you see is his mistress.”

Where were the children? Down near the entrance, hanging out with friends and chatting with visitors.

At another, this time a funeral, the Other Woman had the good sense, or something, to stay out of sight and way in the back of the church. She stayed there until everyone else had left and were safely in their cars for the trip to the cemetery.

The arrangement comes with a few built-in problems. You can’t be buried with your lover, just as one example. I’ve never seen a cemetery plot with a stone engraved “James Jones, Mary Jones, Jezebel VaVoom.” Your second-choice best beloved can forget about any legal benefits, as well; the law doesn’t recognize Ms. VaVoom.

For some reason, you seldom (if ever) hear about the Other Man. If I have heard, then no examples pop into my mind right at the moment. If anybody has examples, let me know in the comments section. Thanks.