Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tufts Stuff: No Visible Sex In Dorms

[Student slowly wakes up.] “Huh? What’s that noise I hear in the lower bunk?” [Noise of giggling and soft moans.] “What the…” [Male voice: Oh, ****, he’s waking up. You got to get out of here.] “What the **** are you guys doing? That’s gross. Can’t you go somewhere else? Go to a motel.”

CNN reports: A new policy at Tufts University prohibits students in dorms from having sex while their roommate is in the room. The university's formal rule also bars so-called "sexiling" -- exiling a roommate from the room so the other roommate can engage in sexual activity.

(That’s nothing new. When I was in college, stud and studette just put a piece of paper in the room’s number plate, which meant “Keep out; procreation in progress.”)

Callie Morton, a freshman at Tufts, told WHDH-TV, "If someone is going to go and have sex while their roommate is in the room, I mean I think that's kind of gross.” The new guidelines for students hosting overnight guests say, "You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.”

I always thought of that activity was kind of private. Not that near-strangers should be banging each other like rabbits, which they should not, but even if they think of sex as not much more than a recreational activity, it’s not supposed to be a spectator sport. As people often are heard to say: “Get a room.” And not your roommate’s.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Life In Amateur Radio

Well, 73% of it. I passed my first ham radio license back in 1960 on this day, which is a great chunk of the time I have spent rotating the sun. And a fun way to do it.

I started as a dots & dashes person and, while I did talk to people in the standard definition of “talking,” I probably spent more time dotting and dashing. When you are running low power and want to talk around the world, those little dits and dahs carry a lot further and clearer than a voice ever can.

So I got into the game, did my first year as a Novice class licensee, dropped out for a short while and got back in with the standard-brand license. Then, when there was an incentive to upgrade (the Feds took away lots of frequencies and gave them to hams who upgraded their licenses) I got the books, studied hard and ended up on top.

“Incentive Licensing” was the red-hot lightning rod of the day. You studied and upgraded or you lost big amounts of the frequency bands you once treasured. I studied; I went up two grades to the highest license and proudly came home with it in my hand. I rate it among my great achievements, along with my commercial engineering license.

There is an “Old Timers’ Club,” sort of, for 20-year hams; I have to see if there still exists an “Old Old Timers’ Club” (OOTC), merely a certificate, for the 40’s. I certainly qualify. In the early days, I lacked the confidence to do much of anything, but I climbed Everest: I have the highest and most difficult class of license. I’m proud of it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Light Was Shining Right In My Face

Am I the only one, or are lots of people like this? I can’t stay awake if there is a light shining in my face, especially at night when I’m in bed and the table lamp is on.

One of my friends who lived with me in school said it amazed him that the sun could be shining right on me and I’d be dead to the world. I sort of answered, “Yeah? And your point is?” He seemed to feel that a bright light pointed right at me would be a bother, enough to bring me back to life.

Puts me to sleep, that’s what it does. I don’t know if it’s all lights (fluorescent may not do so well) or just your standard, going-out-of –style incandescent. But if I want to get to sleep quickly, I just turn on a light and let it shine on my face. It’s zzzz time faster than you can read a bedtime story to me.

It’s not as if I need a night-light or anything; I can sleep in the dark just as well. But I go to dreamland a lot quicker the other way. Any shrinks out there who can provide an answer? Or is it just a “thing” that some people have and others don’t? I have a friend who lives in a house and needs to have his bedroom door locked, or can’t sleep.

What strange people we are! I put my socks on left-right and my shoes right-left. I often eat meals left-handed and dessert right-handed (or the opposite). I write leftie sitting down and rightie standing at a blackboard. Left ear for the telephone and right ear for my radio earphones. Maybe I’ll turn the light on and get a quick nap.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Have To Get Over To Ollie's

Something about a chain restaurant disturbs me. Maybe it’s the fake cheerfulness of the buildings and decor, or the idea that they are alike everywhere: building, menu, uniforms. The gimmicks, especially in the tv ads, that try to make you think that their kind of protein is better than someone else’s kind of protein.

We have a little place here, “Ollie’s American Restaurant.” Used to be just “Ollie’s,” or maybe “Ollie’s Family Restaurant.” I don’t know where the “American” came in, or why, but the joint looks the same (plain) and the menu is the same (lots of good stuff and it arrives looking good on the plate). There are no gimmicks.

There are lots of “Ollie’s” restaurants around the country, all very separate and independently owned. Seems as how the original chain went out of business and, I suppose, who wants to buy a new sign when what’s up there is perfectly good? I think the original place was a spin-off of Perkins.

It is my practice to buy local whenever possible. Chain restaurants return 14% to the local economy; mom & pops return 47%. Chains don’t ever impress me with any kind of personal service; they’re working at the place until something better comes along. At the local Mom & Pop, you tend to see everyone around for years with dedication.

A local, long-retired, celebrity of sorts passed away recently. His favorite waitress at Ollie’s went to the nursing home nearly every day to see how he was.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Overnight Into Saturday

Saturday morning, the wee small hours, in Our Fair City. The city, unlike New York, that never wakes up.

Item: A line of cops came screaming by (except they weren’t screaming; just going as fast as they could, with their lights flashing) on the cross street a few yards up from where I live. It was Adrenaline City for a little while. When I turned on the scanner, I heard they were chasing some miscreant who had crossed over the river.

Item: Some days you’re lucky. I can often travel down Market Street in Kingston at night and hit all the greens. They are “demand” lights and, late at night, there just isn’t any demand from the side streets. You can also see the other side turning yellow and if you time it right, keep going and hit the green just before you violate.

Item: Someone came down the hill where I live, running, and said something about a rat. We don’t have rats here, but this child of whatever city he’s from probably doesn’t know a rat from a raccoon, which it was. We’ve possum, as well, and I saw a bear wandering around minding his own business one day.

Item: There are two newspapers in this city. One, for which I write, is excellent. The other, for which I don’t write, is good for toilet paper. Anyway, their trucks roll by starting about midnight and heading off to the sticks, filled with bundles that will be dropped off at paperboys’ houses. As was done with me many years ago.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reading The Advice Columns

Duh. Same stuff over and over: Husband beats me but I love him to death (maybe literally) … daughter is marrying an idiot … I can’t stand my parents … neighbors … my boss, co-workers, harassment … and so on. It’s just a matter of SSDD. Let’s call it “Same Stuff, Different Day.” Or “Same ****, Different Day.”

People do need advice, but maybe some of them need to be hit upside the head. If they read the advice columns, they should be able to see themselves in others’ problems.

I sometimes wonder how many people need to be beaten by their husbands (who most likely are banging like rabbits around town) before they realize they’ve read about this in Dear Abby. Does it ever occur to them that maybe they are in the same situation and need to get out of it? Or will they write the next letter?

Every time I see one start with, “I have the most wonderful, caring, loving husband and/or wife, blah blah,” I wonder what’s coming next. Usually it’s something rather small and manageable: Mr. Sent By God doesn’t put the seat down; Mrs. SBG drives too slowly; we’re thinking of getting a divorce over this.

I’d rather see an advice column that lays it on the line. “Look, honey, you didn’t marry Jesus Christ; your hubby seems like a great guy, so get over it.” “Gal, shoot your controlling husband; you’ll get 15 years in the slammer, but when you get out, he’ll still be dead. Try again and marry rich.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Long Term Committment

I’m for sale or rent, which sounds much like Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”: Writer for sale or rent, write your stuff, fifty cent.

But let’s refer to it by a higher calling: I’m a freelance writer. Send me the money, tell me what you want written and it’s deal. I’ll do my best to make an article which reflects the standards of your publication in exchange for a 2.5 x 6” signed piece of paper which can be exchanged for a green equivalent with a dead president on the front.

No, I’m not your ordinary ho’ but someone who delights in adapting his abilities to the challenge of writing in different styles. One time, I was a controversial columnist in one publication, under the same penname but three ways of writing; someone broke the code and declared there were actually three people writing under one name. Ha!

Writing for varying publications keeps me from becoming stale. If it’s for a national Amateur Radio monthly, I’d do it differently from a piece I once wrote for the New York Times. A broadcasting trade publication, Radio World, receives one treatment while my Big Band column in the local newspaper gets another.

I love it. Under my own name, or ghostwriting for others, gives me a big kick. As a teen, I found I could do it; I read everything, saw how people put words together (and still do), then decided to start sending stuff out. Nobody knew it was a kid, only that this person looked promising. As I hope I still do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Does This Button Do?

That’s the question. The answer is, “Stop!”

There was a story about a lady on the Andrea Doria, which had the bad luck to be t-boned one night by the ice-breaker-equipped Stockholm in the Atlantic. The Doria is at the bottom of the ocean; the Stockholm sails on to this day as the cruise ship Athena.

Anyway, the lady in question was poking around in her closet when she noticed a button, or switch, she hadn’t seen before. “What does this button do?” she might have asked. So she pushed it. And the ship lurched, rolled a bit on its side and came to a sudden stop. As a steward flew down the corridor, she tried to tell him what she had done.

“I just pushed this button,” she said. “It was only this button.” But nobody would listen to this dear old gal. It was just this button, just this button. But they wouldn’t listen.

Another story, another time: The late afternoon of November 9, 1965. A boy is walking home holding a stick. Norman Rockwell picture all over again: Small New England town, boy, stick, telephone pole that needs a gentle whack with the stick. So he whacks it and all the lights in town go out.

He runs home, scared that he is responsible and hears all the lights went out in the Northeast. It’s not really his fault after all; daddy and mommy aren’t mad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rules Of Life, For September 22

These rules have been very helpful to me as I have made my way through life. Perhaps they will be of value to you, as well:

The Right-of-Way, #1.
The right-of-way is something the other driver gives you. If he doesn’t give it to you, you don’t have it.

The Right-of-Way, #2.
Never argue the right-of-way with a vehicle that has more wheels than you.

Railroad Crossings.
Part A: If you beat the train to the crossing, you win.
Part B: If the train beats you to the crossing, you lose.
Part C: If it’s a tie, you lose.
Conclusion: Don’t try to beat a train to the crossing. The odds are 2:1 in the train’s favor.

Otherwise known as, “That which makes us infallible.” It may come as a surprise to many, but it does not make you funnier, smarter, stronger or more attractive.

The best rule: Just be yourself. Don’t imitate anyone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh, Mammy; You Is My Mammy Dear

Tony B (Babino) is heading to Toronto for a few performances that have been highly praised everywhere he has appeared. He does a spot-on Al Jolson imitation and I have heard one of his songs; you can’t tell them apart. The press has pretty much gone bonkers for this fellow and I wish he would come here.

Today, only white supremacists and Klan members would attend a blackface minstrel show (and Tony B does not do Jolson this way). But for a while, it was very popular and, after people got their heads on straight, it began to become distasteful. That took a while; the “negroes” with their big white lips were pretty funny at first.

I remember seeing my first photo of Al Jolson without his darkened face and was surprised that he went around without the make-up. I thought he always wore it. Some of the minstrel people said they felt out of place without the burnt cork on their face, almost like a mask for a Kabuki actor.

I did research once on the Elk’s Club; what turned up but their original name, “The Jolly Corks.” Corks? Burnt corks, like blackface? Nope; a coincidence.

Tambourine on one end, bones on the other; Mr. Interlocutor in the middle. While I have heard a recording of a “white” minstrel show, I doubt we could get away with staging one. Someone out there would surely form a protest group and show on tv the old-time photos, rather than what the new people would like to do.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Those Dollars Can Add Up

Seniors, ten percent off. This Tuesday, save fifteen percent. Get a five dollar rebate with this coupon. Shoppers, register roulette can give you twenty percent off your bill.

Not bad. You know, that ten percent for seniors isn’t really that much when you are thinking of garbage stickers for your bags at $125 for the collection period. But it’s still money. Five bucks off a $100 product is chicken feed, but the feed is green and has pictures of dead presidents on it; grab and run.

Instead of just spending this, why not put it in a safe place marked “This Is A Safe Place” and draw from it only once or twice a year? It’s quite possible you will be surprised at how much could be in there. No cheating; let it grow and you could go to a really nice restaurant once in a while, or even something better.

Little bits of money tend to add up. I told one graduating couple that if they made “x” amount of income, to live as if they made a certain amount less. Then bank the difference. Make out your annual, monthly and weekly budget on this slightly reduced amount and you won’t get into financial trouble.

I did the shopping for a group of people, avoiding junk and choosing store brands; watching others’ baskets, I figured I was getting out of the place at about 40% cheaper than they. Even ignoring their pure junk food, I was still way ahead by choosing store brands; they are put up by the majors, anyway.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Babe Ruth Is Even More My Hero

Steroids? Nah. HGH? Nah. As the signs in the bleachers put it: “Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer.” I don’t follow sports much (that is, zero) but I think all “records” by people who used any kind of body-building drugs and such should be erased. Nothing stronger than hot dogs and beer should count.

Guy grabs a bat, stands at the plate; pitcher throws a ball; guy with a bat hits the ball as far as he can. Nothing injected or swallowed. Man with bat vs. man with ball.

I was too young to know much about Babe Ruth, but I did realize he was a great force with the Yankees. In 1947, probably around Babe Ruth Day at The Stadium (is there really any other?), I remember the big deal about him. I even wrote his name in my attic room where I was residing at the time.

The picture of him pointing to where he was going to (and did) hit a homerun was, as he later pointed out, a pure coincidence. He was as surprised as anyone: “I just wanted to show that I was going to hit a homer,” to paraphrase his words. “I never thought it would go right where I was pointing.”

The “Curse”? Never mentioned in print until 1986, it was based on the sale of Ruth from Boston to NY to finance the play, “My Lady Friends,” later to become the musical, “No, No, Nanette.” It wasn’t until 2004 that “the curse” was broken; during that time, the musical has played to packed houses every time it was revived.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It All Started With One Judge

We had a crooked, corrupt judge around here. Lots of people knew it but nobody with any power lifted a finger (or a warrant) to actually take action. Rumor had it that the other judges and lawyers in the Courthouse used to joke about it. Whatever. But it was common enough knowledge that somebody could have taken action.

Finally, somebody did. I forget who, but slowly, very slowly, things began to unravel and we, on the sidelines, began to wave flags and cheer.

It was like pulling out a tree stump. First the judge was pulled out, then others connected to him began to appear. After that, hardly a day passed that warrants weren’t issued for an increasing number of people (read: crooks) in the Courthouse who were mixed up, directly or otherwise, in the corruption.

As the stump continued to be extracted, the roots spread even further. Now there were lawyers, then school board members; word is out that a County Commissioner is about to be nailed, as well as a former Commish. Twenty-two more people are said to be on The List and we’re waiting to see who might be in the next layer.

It didn’t take me long after I got here to realize this was a most corrupt county. I just didn’t realize how really bad and how really deep it was. You expect a little stuff here and there, but you never expect the cancer to spread this far and still have a surviving patient. Is the dog catcher next? Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jews Toss Their Sins In The Water

On the Jewish New Year, Jews traditionally go to the ocean or a stream or river to pray and throw bread crumbs into the water. Symbolically, the fish devour their sins. Here are suggestions for breads which may be most appropriate for specific sins:

For ordinary sins: White Bread
For complex sins: Multigrain
For twisted sins: Pretzels
For sins of indecision: Waffles
For sins of chutzpah: Fresh Bread
For timidity/cowardice: Milk Toast
For ill-temperedness: Sourdough
For silliness, eccentricity: Nut Bread
For war-mongering: Kaiser Rolls
For jingoism, chauvinism: Yankee Doodles
For excessive irony: Rye Bread
For erotic sins: French Bread
For particularly dark sins: Pumpernickel
For dressing immodestly: Tarts
For causing injury to others: Tortes
For abrasiveness: Grits
For dropping in without notice: Popovers
For overeating: Stuffing

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From Ireland, At The Speed Of Light

You sailed from Ireland to the New World in weeks, assuming a storm did not sink your boat, nor a whale swallow you alive. That was, of course, in the days when monsters ruled the waves and you could fall off the edge of the world. Maybe you were beyond that, but still it was a long and seasick trip.

If you needed to send a message back home, it was another three weeks (we’re up to six now) and yet another three for a reply (now it’s nine weeks).

Whatever you wanted to say had better not be vitally important. “Did I leave the water running in my sink?” Followed by the response, “I heard something; where did you leave the house key?” “Under the dog house.” There’s twelve weeks already and the house has long since floated out to sea. There’s got to be a better way.

There is, but it took a while to get it rolling. Better than the trans-Atlantic cable; better than an expensive international telephone call; better (or worse) than anything invented by God, people or the devil: the Internet and all that goes with it. E-mail, web pages and blogs – of which this is one of perhaps millions.

I just received a note from a friend in Ireland, arriving within seconds of leaving her fair country. She composes and hits the “send” key, waits a few seconds for me to receive it; I hit “reply” and send it back. But that’s too slow! Let’s do it on IM, in real-time typing. “Check my house.” “Where’s the key?” “Under the doghouse.” “Ok.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Black And White Photos

So there we were, in the finality of closing the house. The new owners stated it was to be “broom clean,” which means “every last piece of dust.” Every last piece of memories.

Here’s the small tea kettle with the slight dent in it I used so often; taking that with me. There’s the cigar box labeled “pieces of string too small to save”; guess we can finally get rid of that, as well. And here are some 78 rpm records. Didn’t know these were here. A little worse for wear, but I think they should play.

Bing Crosby … “White Christmas.” I’ve got that on a long-playing album now, but I’d love to hear the swishing sound of the 78 again. Here’s a Spike Jones and his City Slickers. I saw them in Bridgeport when I was about six years old; what a sight. My parents got me a little Spike Jones drum set a year later for Christmas.

These are the old “photos” of years past. I can remember hearing the Crosby record on that old, but modern for 1948, plastic Victrola in my grandparents’ house I’ve mentioned before. Good machine and we had some nice records. I even remember where it was in the room and the one-play needles we used over and over.

The memories are better than any photos because I am not only in them, but I can remember the details even after all these years. The Spike Jones likewise takes me back to memories of the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport, the excitement of that evening when this famous band played the city.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do You Feel A Chill?

There has been the slightest change in the temperature lately. Not enough to worry about a new Ice Age, or that we should watch out for Woolly Mammoths when we go out to the Back Mountain. But just the bit of a chill to remind us of the earth’s tilt as it spins around the sun in such a way as to cool one hemisphere while warming another.

Fall is another eight days off and “God’s Gift to Poland” (what, over here, we call “Indian Summer,” while the Brits call it “St. Martin’s Summer”) will give us a few days of glorious happiness after we enter into the sure knowledge that winter is coming and we will be socked in until the Groundhog lets us know.

We have two of those critters in Pennsylvania. Punxatawney Phil, who cometh forth on Groundhog Day, and Gus the Lottery Groundhog, on tv nightly.

It’s useless to staple leaves back onto the trees and pretend all is well; they are turning brown and spiraling downward like so many migrating geese hit by lightning. Well, maybe I should say, “like brown snowflakes falling from heaven.” Or just: leaves falling off trees onto the ground.

Pretty soon, the Born-Again hunters will be out with their rifles, conflicted, wanting to shoot a few geese but mindful of their bumper stickers which proclaim: “Honk If You Love Jesus.” Overhead pass large flocks of geese honking as if their salvation (or their butts) depended on it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Do You Take Each Other? We Do.

So there I am in church, not that far down the aisle, and the homily is just over. The priest announces a couple who are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and they want to have the anniversary blessing. He calls them up to the front and they face the congregation. So far, so good.

He announces that the husband is wearing a hearing aid. “This has been a marriage made in heaven,” he says. “The wife can talk all she wants (she nods her head vigorously) and he can’t hear a word she says (he shakes his head just as hard). No wonder they made it all these years.”

The congregation laughed quite a bit at that line. But I rather think they laughed knowingly. It’s good not to hear each other now and again.

I was chatting with a close family friend on the phone one day. He and his wife had been married 65 years at that point. I said, “Do you think your marriage is going to last?” He said, “Wellllll, I don’t know.” In the background, his wife shouted, “Don’t bet on it!” Eighty-four years old and still able to laugh.

Used to be a 50th anniversary was a big deal; my grandparents’ was an item in the newspaper. Now they’re just tossed in with all the other 50’s, 60’s and even 65’s. No big deal at this point; we’re living longer. Marriages only lasted 25 years in 1900 before a spouse died; 12 years when Jesus was walking around.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'll Lie Down On The Couch For A Bit

Cat Duty. My friend was away at the other part of the state visiting family and someone had to take care of kitty. Guess who won the Feline Lottery? One guess.

The second, or evening, trip was late and He Who Is was waiting on the window perch for me to come and provide the only thing lacking in his life: the ability to open a new can of cat food. For everything else, I am pretty much useless; open the can and get out of the way.

When I enter the house, Sitka Rollover is waiting at the door. “Sitka” is his first name; “Rollover” is a reference to his favorite habit when you meet him: brush him on one side and he rolls over so you can do the other; repeat until he is satisfied. He can roll over five or six times before he feels he is properly brushed.

Then comes the windows. The sun porch? There is an open screened window with a stool, upon which he can either smell the smells or curl-up sleeping, or a nearby rug-covered table for closed-window but larger-space snoozing. His choice, as is everything he does. Plus the extended garden window in the kitchen for gazing.

So I lie down on the couch for a few minutes during those late hours, just for a few minutes. It might be after the late news, a few minutes into David Letterman until midnight when I go to the newspaper and pick up the early copies. I wake up and it’s 2:00 am. Cat’s sound asleep next to me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Was In Halifax

I was checking something out in the Internet room when a passenger walked by, quickly, and mentioned something about an airplane and a building. The manager and I tried CNN but it did not load; I tried BBC, same thing. Then some other site and it showed some airplane which didn’t look like much at a distance.

The Captain came on, made a terse announcement and said all public televisions would be switched to CNN. I ran to the movie theater to see what was up.

If you have ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death,” you will know how I felt at the time. Here we were, safe and sound, while the world around us was falling apart – or so it seemed. We ate and drank, although without the scheduled entertainment, waiters served us, all went the same.

Until the e-mails began arriving. Some of us, me included, learned there was one less person in our lives that morning; others were not sure and would not know for a day or more; a few people we lucky to hear from their children or family members that loved ones had escaped. The “Red Death” had reached the ship.

As we went up the St. Lawrence River toward either Quebec City or Montreal, I heard a train whistle in the distance. At that point, I wished I were back home in the worst way. The Canadians could not have been nicer toward us in the days following; they knew we were devastated and did what they could.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The World's Shortest-Held Record

Normally, you hold the record for a number of years, or a season, or some reasonable length of time. Gertrude Baines held it from January until mid-September of this year when she passed it on to Kama Chinen by the simple matter of passing on. She was the oldest person in the world after Maria de Jesus died in Portugal.

Nobody expects Ms. Kama to hold on to the title, if, in fact, she can hold onto anything at her age, very long. The best we’ve done around here is a 108-year-old woman who put down a can of Coor’s Light every day; her family gave her a case of the stuff for her birthday that year and she polished it off before she died a few months later.

Can you imagine if the family of the Oldest Person had to ship the certificate to the Next Oldest when the current holder passed on to meet the Eternally Oldest Person In the Next Life? That piece of paper might arrive just minutes after the recipient had also gone on to newspaper-item glory. You don’t get bragging rights too long at 115.

“So, what did Mrs. Baines die of?”
“She was 115.”
“Yes, but what did she die of?”
“I just told you: She was 115. At that age, what does it matter?”

I think at 115 (or anything over 90) you should be able to die of whatever you want. Heart, stroke, impotence, whatever; it’s your business at that point.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Children's Hour On WNBC

The early days of television could be amazing. Unless shows were on film, they were live: absolutely, you were watching what was going on at that instant somewhere in a studio. Kids’ shows were everywhere. Puppets and marionettes were cheap and took up little studio space, so you could put up a permanent set in any odd corner.

Then there was the live children’s show, the Horn and Hardart’s “Children’s Hour,” a New York City program every Sunday morning from 10:30 to 11:30.

They sang, they danced, some girl came out and played “The Hot Canary” on her violin. Two girls came out with sashes that read “Brooklyn” and “Bronx,” then traded insults while reading off cue cards next to the camera. Predictable, but good; the kids were no talentless-mall award winners.

At 11:00 came the heart-rendering “Less work for mother; let’s lend her a hand. Less work for mother so she’ll understand. She’s your greatest treasure; Let’s make her life a pleasure. Less work for mother dear.” It was H&H’s Automat theme and not aimed at the kids, but their parents who might watch along with the tykes.

Some of kids on there were Frankie Avalon, Rosemary Clooney, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis, Kitty Kallen, Arnold Stang, Bea Wain, Buddy DeFranco and radio’s original Henry Aldrich, Ezra Stone. They had to be good, as things went wrong often and you had to be on your toes or you weren’t back again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Never Was I So Right

This little guy knew something bad when he saw it. I was right in 1947, I was right in 1956 and I was right again in 1971. School sucks.

Mom and I were driving to kindergarten at the nuns’ school and I can distinctly remember saying I didn’t want to go there. No wiser words were ever mentioned. Had I known what “school” meant, I would have escaped from that car and joined the circus. For the next nine years, I was trapped in a classroom.

It wasn’t a bad existence, actually. The nuns were great ant not at all the way I’ve heard others talk about theirs; we had a lot of fun together. The school was too poor to have a library, but the local joint was just across the street and I haunted it. In second grade, I realized how easy I had it in first; reflection came early.

Our classrooms were on the lower floor and I had the impression the nuns lived on the upper floors. Not sure if that’s accurate, but the set-up was definitely cramped at the start. There were two classes ahead of me but I don’t remember much about them; it seemed as if we had all started at the same time.

So it was bearable and in many ways a lot of fun. High school was unbearable and I never saw any reason to go back or maintain any communication with it. College was pretty much fun and, as a late-comer, I never took it too seriously; I graduated in the top 5% of the class. Grad school was a whole different professional level.

Monday, September 07, 2009

If Animals Ate In Restaurants

Thus far, as the world judges things, animal restaurants are anywhere the big and speedy take down the slow and vulnerable. They have their piscatorial (fish) menus, vegetarian, carnivore and avian: the basic food groups for the basic consumers. Eat where you shop, occasionally but not often, in the company of your friends.

The unfeathered bipeds (that’s us) carefully shaped our digestive systems over the course of evolution and much later more or less dietary fads. The other creatures of God just go about their business and eat whatever is in front of them. Seems not to have hurt them any, although elephants do get stiff on fermented fruit.

So let’s pretend we have a restaurant for animals. A place where they can come and dine in safety; a neutral spot for companionship.

A lion comes in, asks for a regular coffee and looks on the menu. There is a good roast of zebra sandwich that catches his eye. Then a giraffe enters and sees some treetops that look delicious; he orders the salad with just a little bit of fruit dressing. The hyena comes in, laughing, and says he’ll have whatever the lion is having.

A tiger comes in, traveling through from India. Later, an Asian elephant drops by and sees an African elephant; they chat about things and possible cousins. A camel puts his nose through the door and is told he can come in if he promises to be nice; he just wants a sand-wich and a few gallons of water.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

You Can't Fall Up

Although it would be interesting if we could try. I wonder how we would get around if we could fall up? Would the wooly mammoths have existed, given their size and the difficulty they would have had in just expending the necessary energy to remain on, or near, the earth’s surface.

Maybe we might have been equipped with suction-cup feet, similar to the Dahl’s Sheep who leap from tiny ledge to tiny ledge on cliff sides in Alaska.

Whatever, life would be so immensely different that we could barely imagine it, even as much as we try. The more literal and rational of us might stop right here and say, “That’s impossible; gravity blah blah; the universe; blah blah; physics, blah blah. Look, this is a Dr. Seuss post where anything can happen. Why not?

But, in the real world, gravity is so predictable. You fall off a ladder and you land on your @. If “a,” then “b.” Simple. Drop a piece of toast and it lands on the floor, most likely butter-side down. Drop a cat and it lands on the floor, most likely feet-side down. Still simple, for both examples.

Up until now, we’ve thought there are gravity waves which pull things to a larger object. Now there is a school of thought that the Dark Matter (dark = don’t know what it is) which makes up much of the universe actually pushes things until you run into an object that pushes you down. Think about that as you fall off the ladder.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The New Sheriff

The new sheriff came to town and, apparently, had several agenda items already packed in his briefcase even before he arrived. I’d have thought he would scope out the area and see what needed to be done, what could be put off and what could not wait. Not so.

Right off, he identified four trouble spots (in his mind and nobody else’s) which he felt needed to be put on notice. Everybody’s reaction was, basically, “Are you crazy? You don’t even know what’s happening here and you are shooting from the hip at things you know nothing about.”

His mind was made up. He never investigated, never talked to the owners; his gut feeling was “something’s gotta be wrong here and let’s take action.”

The row officers under him never saw the guy again. He stayed in a separate office and communicated only through notes – which became increasingly strident and indicated he had spies everywhere in his jurisdiction. If you held a meeting, he would then barge in, announce only he was in charge, yell at you and stomp out.

Thus did our new bishop act toward our four Catholic universities, the diocesan priests, the media and everyone who tried to talk with him. Six years into his appointment, and twelve years before retirement age, he was dismissed from his post. Our dysfunctional diocese can now begin to heal.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Passed On At 94, With 500 Descendants

(Vernon, Texas) -- Gregoria Martinez, 94, might seem like your typical grandma. Except the Texas grandma didn't have just a handful of grandchildren when she died Tuesday. She had nearly 300. Ninety-eight were grandchildren; 164 were great-grandchildren and 16 were great-great-grandchildren — all descendants of her own 11 offspring.

That's without counting her three stepchildren or any of their descendants — or the three great-great grandchildren currently on the way. The family purposely underestimated the total count, but felt it could be as high as 500.

Martinez's survivors packed the 500-seat St. Mary's Church. The woman, "could fill up our elementary school in with all the great-grandchildren and the great-great-grandchildren," son-in-law Jesse Jalamo said. And she knew practically all of them.

She didn't preach about the benefits of large families, but did believe she was brought into the world to multiply. "You know Catholics," said daughter Elva Jaloma.

"They had 11 kids, and raised 14, and not one time did (they) draw a food stamp, a welfare check, or an unemployment check," Jaloma said of his in-laws. "They didn't believe in that. They said, 'If you want something, you work for it.'"

(By Ann Work,
Wichita Falls “Times Record News”)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

VISA, Mom's Charge Accounts, And Me

When I was a little kid, I never understood why Mom kept charge accounts all over town. We certainly had enough money floating around to pay cash for whatever we wanted.

"Always keep a balance in as many stores as possible,” she said. "You never know when you might need to use it. Once your credit is established and you keep it active, you have a back-up in case things get tight and you need to ‘borrow’ money from the merchants. It’s good to have it there ready to use.”

For a while, things did get bad and her wisdom saved us. We could borrow money (which is what a charge account really comes down to) from here and there to cover what we did not have at the moment. What’s due this week is paid and what comes due next month will be taken care of later on.

Eventually, it all worked out and I learned how to work the system: have a safety net in place and pay off the debt when it is due. If the time comes when you really need to lean on it, the “bank” is there for the essentials – and only for the essentials. It’s an emergency loan based on the trust between you and the merchants.

I don’t know if we have such these days. Plastic has replaced the individual agreements we had between people and you can bet Visa will not be that understanding. Sure, you can make a partial payment, but it will cost you. You can’t go to the manager and ask for another week until the bonus comes in.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

35 Years Reading Newspapers

Things fall together in odd ways. Or, as the saying goes, God writes with crooked lines. Whatever, a friend was reading a supermarket tabloid at the time I was looking for an easy way to knock off a bunch of credits for my final semester in college. God never wrote as crooked as that day. Nor was I as crooked.

The tab had a true (wow!) story about some students in NJ who were reading the newspaper over the radio on weekends. I thought that was a nice thing to do and, with my radio background plus experience in working with the blind, could be my meal ticket to “nine hours, nine credits.”

My concept of a radio newspaper for the blind was somewhat different. We have a large elderly population here and many people would benefit from this service. Flat-out blind, visually impaired, homebound, elderly (especially the lonely) who might benefit from a “home visit” via radio.

Only a dozen such services were on the air at the time and all of them required special radios, for which you had to “come out of the closet” to qualify. Ours would be out in the open, on the college’s FM station. Anyone could listen in the privacy of their homes and not admit their vision wasn’t what it used to be.

And so began the venture that was supposed to last two semesters, but is still going strong after 35 years. God’s crooked line wrote well that day.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Seagulls, My Brother, And Disappearing

As a kid who was raised on the water, sea gulls were a daily affair and we never did pay much attention to them. Except for upcoming weather breeding, or when we were fishing and those herring gulls would indicate to us the whereabouts of bait fish.

But why do we never see young gulls, or where did they disappear to during bad weather? I learned they would hide in the rocks of breakwaters and on small islands when storms came through, and am now getting a full night’s sleep.

Last week, I spent a night on a small island, inhabited by cormorants and seagulls. I saw a few species of gulls that were new to me, one of a brownish colour. Turns out these browns are young seagulls, and as the mother nests in cracks & crannies on the rocky shores, the babies blend in with the local environment.

This one I watched had adopted a rock; it would stand there and seem to be bewildered about the world around it, sort of like a young child who just realized that there is more than its backyard out there.

Now they do not have many predators but I was surprised to see that one of the few predators are….other gulls! I saw two adult gulls kill and devour a young one. As I walked among the rocks near the shore I discovered many seagull skeletons, many. I had not previously known that they were carnivorous specie.
>Written by my brother Jim Carten