Thursday, December 31, 2009

Marijuana Pepsi

Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer is a college academic counselor, not a mind-enhancer. She has no idea why her parents came up with that name. Tahiti Starship is another, and neither of these are celebrity parents, who tend to have the worst taste when it comes to burdening their kids with crappy names they carry all their lives.

Yellow Light Breem got his because of the morning light. Tygerlilly is a little girl who likes hers, thank goodness, but I don’t know about Cupcake. Crystal Sunshine Turpin Lemons hasn’t checked in yet, but Crystal Lemons probably won’t be that bad after she marries the right surnamed guy.

Mr. Morrow named his kid Tu. He should be taken out and shot. So should Mr. Wood, whose daughter is Drift and son is Timber. You like celebrities? Fine, but you shouldn’t have named your kids Lexus or Armani. Mighty Fine may grow up to be, we hope. You like sports, fine, but maybe your kid, Espn, will not. King Fender, bad choice.

Tyranny, there’s a rotten choice; what if he takes it to heart and decides to become one with his name, after the kids start impressing him with how bad he can be? Hellion is another one: Let’s see just how bad I can be in living up to my name, especially if my teachers rag on it. Devious; there’s another dumb choice.

In my church, you get to choose your confirmation name (at least, if your parents don’t force their favorite). It’s your chance to pick the name you always wanted to have.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Did The Squirrel Cross The Road?

Because he felt like it. Does he need a motivation? The question is: how did he cross a busy road without becoming part of it? It’s a squirrel trick.

I live at the corner of a busy street. It’s bad now, but it used to be worse before two roads met and shook hands courtesy of a bridge slightly upstream. PennDOT came through. (Q: What is orange and sleeps three? A: A PennDOT truck.) Ok, enough of this hilarity; let’s get back to our furry friends and their street walking.

I don’t know which was the first squirrel to discover this, but it might have been after the last squirrel to be pancaked on the street. Following the memorial service, one of that species looked up to heaven, beseeching the Squirrel God for eternal life and saw a telephone wire. “Huh,” he thought, “that looks like a squirrel road.”

The next day, he tried it. Traffic flowed radiator to tailpipe under him while he hopped leisurely from one side to the other like Blondin over Niagara Falls. Squirrels on either side cheered him on. No sooner had he finished than phone, tv and electric lines filled with these tail-flicking furballs.

No more did birds stand by the side of the road, napkins around their necks, knives and forks under their wings, waiting for the next unlucky road-crossing car hit. While far above them, the squirrels made their little mocking sounds, flicked their tails and tossed nuts down on the carrion-consuming birds.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Car-Texting vs Hitting An 18-Wheeler

You really can do both, but only once. I've got the picture and you can get it from me on request; unfortunately, I don’t know how to post it here. Anyway, it’s a close-up photo of a smallish car whose driver was busy texting a friend when he drifted across the center line and straight into the front of a Freightliner truck. Truck: 1. Car: 0.

The truck ended up in the back seat of the car; the front half is completely crushed. The recovery photos were too gruesome for me to save and I never forwarded them. Let’s just say the driver was in two equal pieces, top and bottom. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, etc.

Christian theology talks about Original Sin, which I don’t believe in. What I do think about it is this: O.S. is our failure to learn from the mistakes and sins of those who have gone before us. Texting while driving, for instance. We’ve all heard of terrible accidents involving this, but will they make a difference? Nah; O.S. kicks in.

Everybody has to learn the hard way and only then do they get the point. “I wish I had listened” is the common phrase when people have been told not to do something by a person who did and regretted it. The tv shows and lecture circuits are filled with people who relate their bad decisions to an audience which goes out and repeats it.

Kids still stick their tongues on frozen light poles, adults still talk on cell phones while missing red lights, people will still text and hit cars, trucks and whatever.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Calendars, Left And Right

And not just any calendars, mind you. It’s like this: Specialized calendars for some places in my apartment, with others for specialized needs. Clear?

I need (want, perhaps, but close to need) an astronomy calendar next to my bed. I really like to see the vastness of creation, to the extent a photograph can show it. It’s impossible, of course, but at least I can see a few, or a few hundred, galaxies and meditate on their distance from each other: at least two million light years apart.

It also carries my medication “get” or “runs out” information.

Over my sink is a railroad calendar with specific appointments. Likewise, on my door is one of a lighthouse on which are other “keep in mind” items. Next to my recording desk is yet another lighthouse calendar with notes about my radio show and it’s positioned just so, because I can’t see any others when I am seated there.

In my radio studio can be anything. This past year, my brother sent down twelve months worth of outhouses. Currently, it’s lighthouses. Why the emphasis on these buildings? Because we grew up down the street from one and it’s part of our lives. We were on the water a lot and they guided us safely to shore or around dangerous rocks.

I have a plain old 9x14” (open) appointment book hard-taped to the corner of my regular desk on which I keep everything, but I find it much easier to have separate calendars.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yellowstone Is Going To Blow Up

Yeah, it’s true: Yellowstone National Park is pretty ripe for one huge mother of a volcanic explosion, such as has not been seen in 640 million years.

There is a lot of molten magma (“a lot” = “you wouldn’t believe it”) underneath the ground and it’s getting ready to blow. A lot of signs are pointing toward this huge event which is already 40 thousand years late and could happen any time now. If I were you, I’d think seriously about where I would vacation in the near future.

Mars might be a good idea. Our country would pretty much be wiped out, or at least made uninhabitable for quite some time to come. The planet itself is not going to be in the best of shape when Yelly decides to wake up, stretch and burp. It’s not just a volcano, but a super-volcano: atom bomb compared to a firecracker.

Our Fair Planet has been around for 4.5 billion years and things haven’t quite settled down yet. That’s how it is in geological terms. The center of the earth is still hotter than hot because, after all those years, it still hasn’t cooled yet. It’s not like a cake you take out of the oven and some time later it’s ready to eat.

Offhand, I don’t know just how hot it is, but the inside is nickel and the stuff is all liquid. That’s hot. We’re living on top of a very hot planet, on a rather thin crust. It shatters and we can forget about our plans for tomorrow. Our plans for today include falling into the world’s hottest furnace for an instant. Or less.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Internet Friend Passed On

Back in the day, there used to be a thrust on pen pals. I had one and he lived in England somewhere; we corresponded for a while, but it didn’t play out. One day, he innocently asked me about the atomic plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and my father put an end to it, saying he was a spy and wanted me to give him secret information.

Maybe we still have pen pals and I hope so, as it still sounds like a good idea, regardless of whether I have secret atomic plans for some 12-year-old English spy.

Now it’s internet friends. I’ve never felt comfortable linking those two words; I think it should be more like “internet acquaintances,” as we really don’t know each other. It’s only the persona we show online, the words we type onto a screen, the bits of ourselves we allow others to see. Much like pen pals.

But you do get a feeling about someone and when they pass, there is a certain loss in your life. One of mine did just that the other day. Although we spoke on the phone once, we never met and never would; his world was far from mine in many ways and I never even knew his full name until two days ago.

It’s a matter of how much each of you invests in each other. He shared this problem, that joy, another disaster, yet a further accomplishment. There was an openness of sorts, of sorts, behind the veil. I did likewise, behind my own veil. Who is completely open with a stranger? He’s gone now, but I have every expectation of meeting him again some day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Main Meal: Jesus. Dessert: Santa.

Let’s see if I can remember what the priest said at Mass. This is, after all, one of the bigger religious holydays in the Christian church, so let’s try.

Those who tend not to be religious can skip to the next entry; those who tend not to read religious blogs can also keep going. I can’t take attendance and, besides, I’m not all that hot into writing about this stuff. But the guy kept me awake which, in itself, it a pretty good thing. I could fall asleep during the Second Coming.

Anyway, he got talking about Santa Claus because there were a lot of kids in the crowd and that’s not the time to tell them that, basically, the old guy was re-invented decades ago in his present form to sell Coca-Cola. St. Nick was the original guy who dumped money into girls’ homes, but that was to keep them from being whores. Hey.

So there he was, walking the tightrope without a net, telling us Jesus is the main meal at this holiday time, coming into our lives to pre-forgive our sins. None of this sloppy “Jesus is the reason for the season” stuff, but simply that we need him to make it through life and to know we will make it at the end.

Then the Santa stuff: He gives us the immediate reward, once yearly, of toys and all sorts of things we need. It’s dessert. It’s fluff. It’s a nice little treat for good little girls and boys, good little husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. Just be sure you don’t wake up and find coal in your stocking.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

T'was The Night Before

Some years, I’d be lucky. I’d close up the radio station after the midnight news, then hop in the car for the three hour drive to my parents’ house. Santa would be winging by overhead as I went down the highway. When that happened, I wondered why they called an obese man a “jolly old elf.” Fattest elf I ever saw in my life.

Years I have been lucky were when I did not have to work Christmas Day, the most dreary and boring day in radio. I could have skipped the Eve, as well, but at least I’d be home on The Day Itself. But having to leave the folks just to get back for a three-to-midnight shift, in itself a dog, was one of radio’s bad sides.

Other years, other radio stations … the party at WICC where the water flowed like alcohol. I still can’t understand why people could do their shifts. I think I wrote the news that evening as the token designated copywriter. I probably should have been in the studio spinning records as the last man standing.

Of course, that was pretty much standard at that place. Guys drinking hard stuff during their air shifts, things like that. It’s the book I could write.

The Night Before, when I was an altar boy, meant opening one gift when I got back from Midnight Mass. The Night Before, when I lived with my grandparents, was being allowed to stay up all night until 10:00, which was about the time I fell asleep; little kids never can make it until Santa shows up.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Can We Just Slow Down The World A Bit?

It’s going a bit too fast. I guess everyone says that at one time or another. But things just seem to be piling up and, despite my best efforts, it’s like squeezing Jell-O: Do it hard enough and it pops out this way or the other. When you get the recliner cleaned off (it just sucks in magazines and junk mail) the laundry doesn’t get done, and so on.

My radio show goes really well, maybe better than ever, but that takes a lot of energy; I’m deeply involved in church work (not excessively, mind you – there are limits even with my plans for eternal life), but add the undone laundry to these, the constant fatigue from some strong meds I take and I really need some time off.

About a year would be right. Yeah, maybe a year. Stick me on a cruise ship for a while, then on another with a different destination. Cool the jets for 12 months. Yeah.

I’ve taken to sleeping in that recliner at night. I love sleeping in different places. Unlike many people, not only can I sleep in unfamiliar locations, but I actually like it. When I was a kid and couldn’t fall asleep, I’d switch to my absent brother’s bed, or just turn around and sleep backwards on my own. Always worked.

Maybe I could just sail off the edge of the earth in a hot-air balloon. When I was just about old enough to read, I thought there was an edge to the world. You could go beyond it and a hot-air balloon was just the right way to propel yourself. That would be a neat way to spend a day, floating up there beyond the edge. Neat idea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Deep Thoughts, sent by Jim Carten
I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

There is great need for a sarcasm font.

Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

Bad decisions make good stories.

I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet, on any given Friday or Saturday night, more kisses begin with Bud Light than with a Kay jewelry product.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Not Dreaming Of A White Christmas

I used to, when I was a kid pulling a sled. It was fine when we went out caroling and came home to hot chocolate. Lovely when we went to bed on Christmas Eve with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. Before, that is, I had to drive to church, to a restaurant for a nice brunch, before I lived in a valley with roads going up and down.

When I lived in a flat village, all was well. We walked to church, we walked to the general store, we walked to the diner down at the beach.

When I moved here, all was not well. I am at the top of a hill and the only safe way to get down is an opposing one-way street. The other two allowable ways cross main roads which are controlled by traffic lights; one usually has a thin stream of water crossing it, on a good day, and ice on a bad day. Winters are bad days.

I don’t mind having trouble getting back up to my place; there are places to ditch the car and walk up the hill. That’s no problem and little more than an inconvenience. But going down, with the potential of sliding through those intersections … that’s a whole ‘nother situation. These are steep hills.

Locomotives have sanders just ahead of their driving wheels. For them, it’s a way to get traction and prevent wheel slip as they start up. But for us, it might be a good way to keep from slipping as we approach a red light or travel down a hill on a slick road. Anyone want to share patent rights with me?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

1,304 And Where Did The Time Go?

One thousand, three hundred and four. That’s a lot of posts in this meandering blog which has no central theme running through it, except it is meant to meander with no central theme. To that extent, it fulfills its purpose. No politics, no rants, just a walk down a country lane chatting about whatever comes up.

Each entry starts with a blank page, topic unknown until I put my fingers on the keyboard. To remind me of what my topic is, when I fall behind, I give it a title and a sentence or two; for you, it’s a teaser and for me it’s a reminder. I’ve been falling behind a lot recently, but my meds just make me more tired than usual.

When will all this end? I don’t know; my radio program for the blind was supposed to last only two semesters when I was a student; it’s been going for just over 35 years. Watch what you start, because you don’t know when, or if, it will ever end. Some things take on a life of their own.

I am proud that this collection of thoughts has been going on since something like April 6, 2006 without interruption (except when I’m on vacation). Each one is 5” long in Times Roman 12-point type as originally composed on a Word document. When I say it’s five inches, I mean just that. Exactly. How it measures on the blog may differ.

1,304. Have I started to run out of ideas? Or is it possible to run out? My mother taught me to look at the tiny things, because we can miss so much. I continue to look.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Skrep Took The Dough And Bit The Dust

We had a county commissioner locally who came into office with promises of a clean sweep. He was popular, looked good and we put our trust in him.

After a while, things began to look bad. Not really awful bad, but just little hints here and there; a little gray around the edges of what had been lily white. It kept moving inward until the buzz started about “things” not going right. Then the admission of his possible wrongdoing, followed by a full-blown confession and resignation.

All for a small peanuts bribe. In all the vast corruption probe here in Luzerne County, the take has been anywhere from five to seven figures. Nobody goes down for four, but he did. Desperate because of a family situation? Got swept up in the vast evil which existed in the Courthouse? Figured it was how things were done here?

I’ve yet to meet anyone, anyone, who doesn’t have a checkered past. This fellow got caught, that’s all. When the mythical Recording Angel posts the inside dope on what we’ve all done in our lifetimes, it should be interesting to see who did what, to whom, how many times and how they got away with it.

The story goes that some guy in Ireland or England got his jollies by hiding behind a pillar and running out at random, going up to people he didn’t know and whispering, “Your secret is known.” They would react in a panic, wondering how he knew. Aren’t you glad your secret really isn’t known?

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Week Until...

Just one week until I can surprise someone with a few well-chosen presents. That’s a lot different from years back when I was waiting for people to surprise me with a few well-chosen presents. It takes a while to learn that it can be a lot more fun to give than receive at this time of year.

Although, it’s not that bad to receive.

Ah, here are a few CD’s I know are favorites. Not only that, but I can get them on the cheap from Amazon’s used merchants. All the better.

And the FakeTV device, just great for people who are away for a day, a weekend or a vacation. It has LED’s which pop on and off, with different colors, fade in and out just like a real tv set. It’s very small and uses less electricity than a night light. But from the outside it looks just like a tv to a burglar.

A Holland America Line robe: something I’d never wear, but long enough for a short person who can use it to keep warm while curled up on the couch, especially under a blanket with a cat on her lap, popcorn at the ready. Re-gifting is what they call it and she won’t care; it’s something she would love.

What do I need? Really, nothing. I live a fairly simple life with few wants. Maybe marry a rich widow with a bad heart and cruise the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Proceed To Checkout

We’d shop, whether it was Mom and I, or currently alone and/or with whatever friend is with me. Look through the stores, see what’s there, what we discover as we walk through the shops, the surprises of finding items we thought were not made. Laden down, we head for the nearest check-out site and lay it out.

It’s been that way since I was old enough to walk. Before then, I don’t remember a thing. But I grew up wandering around stores, carefully noting the stock and finding this or that gadget, some other foodstuff. You just can’t beat wandering, as long as you keep a little balance in your head and don’t grab at anything.

Now, “Proceed To Checkout” has a new meaning. You don’t walk to it, you click on it. I look up an item on an Internet site (Amazon being my favorite), gather up what’s on my list, then without wandering around any further in the stacks, I proceed to checkout. Click, click, click. Very efficient. Not at all like Barnes & Noble’s store at the mall.

Not nearly as much fun, either. I can spend an hour or two up there just walking around, seeing what’s out, what books might be in my field of interest (and even not in it, but still worth reading). Normally, I leave the store with three books and often not those I would have chosen beforehand. It pays to wander.

Amazon may be wonderfully efficient, but you can’t stroll through the stacks. The magic of a bookstore is gone. Proceed to checkout. Click.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Visions Of Howland's In Their Heads

Howland’s, my first and favorite department store. There was another, maybe two more, but that was the one I liked; maybe it was the name which appealed to me, or just something about it. The place was an anchor on Main Street in Bridgeport and, for us, THE place to go when we went.

Department stores always fascinated me. They were quiet, respectable places where clerks waited on you and knew everything about their products. The soft, muffled bells rang occasionally and I still don’t know what they were for; it just added to the mystery of the place, as did the vacuum payment and change containers.

“Whoooosh,” they went, up the metal tubes, swishing around the store to an office somewhere. Then “Whoooosh, clunk,” as it returned. How did it know to find us? Did we have our own steel tube going to that office in the sky? Inquiring little boys’ minds want to know.

Then Mom and I would go to another store, a cafeteria of sorts, as I recall, for lunch. Just the two of us. She told me, years later, she did that because she wanted to learn who we were, my brother and I. A one-on-one was the best way to see who we were becoming, to hear us, our interests, our ideas.

One of my ideas was to go up to the elevated railroad station and wait for a train to go by, hopefully to stop. That was the best time of all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Vacuum Cleaner Dust

I empty my vacuum cleaner weekly. This will come as a surprise to people who have been in my room a lot, one which, if ransacked, I’d never know.

Two apartments share this K-Mart machine and it works well; one day a week for both. Then I empty it. I suppose I could let it go for several weeks, but I don’t like the dirt container to start filling up. I don’t know; it just doesn’t seem like a good thing. Cuts down on the suction maybe; or perhaps just me.

Then I take a small paint brush and work on the filter up top. I don’t know how this thing works, but apparently the dirt and junk is sucked up to it and only the air passes through. That’s how it seems to work. I should check it out some day when I’m not trying to catch up on these blogs. If that ever happens.

So there is a lot of stuff, dry wispy stuff, sticking to the filter. It’s sort of caked there in layers and I think the suction would work much better without it. After all, as noted above, this was sold at K-Mart and not at some industrial supply company. You get what you pay for and I didn’t pay much.

The small and gentle paint brush does a good job. I clean the filter down to its surface, carefully taking all the mysterious floor sweepings off. “What are these and why do they stick together like some insect’s web?” I wonder. It looks like a close-up nature film of a nesting place. I wonder if a sharp photo would win me a prize?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Holidays! (Or, Happy Christmas?)

I hear people getting REALLY bent out of shape over “Happy Holidays.” Someone here recently bought a present and when the clerk wished him “Happy Holidays,” he returned it on the spot.

Listen: I am a Roman Catholic and I say, “Happy Holidays.” If you are a Christian, then I will say, “Merry Christmas,” either alone or with the foregoing. If Jewish, then “Have a Happy Hanukkah.” For the Latinos, who are celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe with parades in the streets, I wish them a happy feast day.

There are many holidays; Christmas, which is actually way behind Easter in its churchly importance, is but one of many. It was barely celebrated until fairly recently.

Kwanzaa, a seven-day period of reflection and renewal observed by some in the African-American community, ends with the New Year. It is not a holiday, but a time to renew certain principles of life. I say, “If you celebrate Kwanzaa, may it be fruitful.” All of us could benefit from its seven principles.

Hanukkah is also a fairly recent development; like Cinco de Mayo, a minor event which has been pushed up the ladder to become a major celebration. The former, perhaps because of Christmas; the latter due mostly to Corona beer and a few other products.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Good Kwanzaa.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

“Actually, it's the dessert that keeps on eating. More on this later.”

(When I write these little teasers, they are actually meant to remind me what I want to talk about. Well, I struck out this time. I don’t have the faintest idea. Let’s see what I can come up with in a desperate attempt to fill this space.)

Jell-O, the ads say: “There’s always room for Jell-O.” That’s true enough; there always is. The stuff is light and has a nice flavor. Unfortunately, there’s always room for a piece of chocolate cake, as well. The room for Jello-O can hold other stuff, as well.

Diet desserts are my downfall. When I’m on the ship and they have the dessert extravaganza (Huh? Isn’t that every night?), there is a table with low-cal and/or no sugar added delights. So I take two. Or three. During the week, I visit the ice cream and yogurt bar and get a plain yogurt (smart choice) then pour everything on it (bad choice).

Sometimes a cook will make the chocolate chip cookies rather small. I like that. I rather prefer them small because, admit it, I can have two or three smaller rather than one large. Soothes the conscience if not the scales.

What I don’t, and never will, understand are people who are trying to lose weight by eating all sorts of junk, then drinking Diet Coke. It’s not going to help, folks; you have to start by avoiding the greasy hamburgers with the cheese. And Boston Cream Pie.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Jollytown PA, nowhere near Little Hope, as far as I know; at least, I hope so. Can you imagine “Leaving Jollytown; entering Little Hope.” Are we there yet?

Then there is Titusville, known to the locals without the “u” in the pronunciation.

A woman on my cruise said she was from Reno, “The only one in the country.” Pardon, Ma’am, but there’s one in Pennsy. It’s right above Cranberry, northeast of Pecan and south of Cherry Tree. We also have a Nectarine out there somewhere.

There’s Eighty Four, nowhere near Interstate 84. We’ve got a Distant, a Laboratory, an Energy and a Torpedo in Our Fair Commonwealth.

Not all areas are big into football, but South Bend is just west of Indiana (city) in the county of Indiana.

Whiskerville makes me think of Gabby Hayes and other old codgers in the westerns, if not some of the local street people or elderly grandparents who have let themselves go.

I’m not sure if Lynch is a family name or a command. Let’s move on.

Keisters; another family name from the Old Country? Or did people have a habit of landing on theirs all the time? We’ll never know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Do The Deceased Need Flowers?

Not really. We have loads of them in funeral homes, for whatever reason; maybe they symbolize the life to come, the life that just went by, or a nice decoration.

But the Dearly Departed aren’t going to sit up after visiting hours and start smelling the roses. Nor will they come up after dark in the cemeteries to check out the displays. The flowers exist for us, as one of the few expressions we can make for either the beloved or the person’s families. It indicates compassion.

But when the funeral director is cleaning up after the viewing, most of those expressions have to go somewhere, and it’s usually out the back door. Except, for the longest time, here in Wilkes-Barre where even the deceased flowers are raised up to a religious second life for the edification of the religious.

We have a shrine up on West North Street, somewhat oval, fitting into a rock backing. It’s pretty much wasted land, of no use to anyone except for a person who saw a future shrine. There might be too many statues in there and perhaps it could be scaled down a bit. But flowers? All over the place.

Funeral directors found a decent place to leave their decorations and help the shrine at the same time. Up until recently, when the folks aged out and could not care for the flowers, the place looked like a garden. One loss was the gardener who had a fatal coronary in the middle of arranging the flowers, leaving us doing what he loved.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Desire, Panic, Hooker

Is this the short-form tale about the downfall of a formerly innocent girl? No such luck; it’s just an area of Pennsylvania.

Out westward of here lies the tiny little burg of Desire; it would be nice if the “Welcome To” sign had little hearts on it and maybe some nice small flowers. Regardless, it’s Desire. On the next marked road is “Panic,” which easily comes after a little too much desire. If you wanted Desire, but went too far, you might well Panic.

Keep going and you will end up in Hooker. After too much desire, which led to panic when you were “late,” you had to raise some quick cash and that’s where hooker came in. Or so I suppose. Odd that these three jussssst happen to be in the same general area; especially Desire and Panic. Hooker comes a bit later.

Pennsylvania has a lot of rather oddly-named little burgs. I use that terms because we have only one town: Bloomsburg. All the rest are cities, municipalities, boroughs or large backyards. We have one place that doesn’t even exist (Mountaintop) that’s just a post office and its ZIP Code serving two or three townships and a school district.

I’ve never seen an area with so many strange names, some funny (Hooker), some odd (Panic, Desire), and some you just wonder about (Shantytown). Maybe one of these days I’ll look at the state map, correctly called the Commonwealth map, and entertain you with some of them. First, I have to catch up with my blogging.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We Got Hit By Another Planet

A long time ago, sort of like a few billion years ago, planet earth took a glancing blow from another planet. Not quite a head-on smasher, but it would have been bad enough to knock any animals into the middle of the next billion years. Luckily, there weren’t any animals around to be so treated.

It was a time before anything was around; Our Fair Planet was still in the process of getting its act together and figuring out just what was going on when this other planet, with nary a "pardon me" came along and rammed into us. Hard. Bad enough to knock itself right out of planetary existence and send part of us into orbit.

“Part of us” = what we now call the moon. Given the size of our satellite, I’d love to have a front-row seat and a bag of popcorn so I could have been there for this action.

“On the right, ladies and gentleman, we have planet earth. Approaching on the left, as you can see, is another planet aimed at earth just like a cue ball which will hit earth on an angle designed to knock a lot of rock crust off it and into its own orbit. Here it comes; put your hands over your ears and be ready to duck.”

California is getting ready for The Big One; Yellowstone National Park, when it blows up, may end much of life on earth as we know it; Vesuvius could wipe out part of Italy at any time. But you ain’t seen anything, folks. That planetary kiss way back then was the biggest bang of them all.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Now It's Down To Business

The second snow isn't going to be that pretty. Nor will the third and following. Maybe in the Bing Crosby movies set in Vermont they are, but not really. I lived there.

The “Holiday Inn” (where Wilson Clemmons got his motel name from) and “White Christmas” films were lovely, set in that New England state which simply shouts “snow” and old-fashioned winters. But when I lived there, we were up to our noses in cold, damp snow and the tourists only stayed for a short while.

It gets dreary after a while: the trees appear starkly black against the white snow, everywhere you look. Sure, we had evergreens, but not all over the place. There were no horse-drawn sleighs with farmers covered in blankets. Pickup trucks are the norm there, conversations are brief, punctuated with “ayuh.”

I heard my mother on the phone one day and almost every word she said was, “ayuh.” Honest. She went nearly the whole call with just that one word, ending with “bye.” Why waste your breath? I think she got it from either her mother or her father, the latter none too generous with his speech, either.

Now that I think of it, I think I may have lost that particular New Englandism over the years. Or maybe not; perhaps I slip into it without thinking now and again. It could be something I use when the snow flies, when I pass a particular build of house which reminds me of days gone by when I drove those pickups.

Monday, December 07, 2009

What Happened To The City's Theaters?

Wilkes-Barre, home of theaters here, theaters there, movies all over the place. Vaudeville houses where everybody played the city. So what happened to them, all the old folks ask? According to all the local natives, they were scattered all the way down South Main Street and every little borough had its own.

They were small little movie houses, most of them, while others were elegant palaces with fine lobbies and superb auditoriums. The smaller burgs made do with whatever they could put together. In later years, some of the larger houses simply cut up their space into doubles and triples

People here, many of whom are stuck in the past, often moan and groan to me about how great the city was when you couldn’t walk down the street without falling over a movie theater. I point out to them we now have fourteen; did we then? Maybe there were a bunch in the greater Wyoming Valley, but that was before we could travel at night.

Fourteen. The theater is even named “Movies 14.” It’s a pretty nice place, with the latest in sound, in ambience and everything else you would want.

What’s missing would be the live shows: vaudeville. Ok, so it went out of style years ago, maybe around the time radio got big and tv was coming aboard. Too bad I missed it; the shows must have been a lot of fun and there were no re-takes. What they did on stage was what you got, live and right in front of you.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Feast Of St. Nicholas

Santa Claus, he ain't. Nikky was a bishop who went around saving young girls from having to become street walkers. The story goes that he tossed socks, or something, full of money through their windows to support them. Maybe it was down the chimney. Anyway, the kids could put away their fishnet stockings.

If I tried something like that, the chicks would be calling 911 before I got out of their yard. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and a bishop tossing money through bedroom windows, no matter the reason, certainly rates being arrested, tried and convicted of being a good guy.

Judge: “Bishop Nicholas, are you aware of the charges? Throwing bags of money through the windows of underage girls?” Bishop: “Nothing wrong with that; they were headed for a life of sin.” Judge: “And that money was for bus fare to get them there?” Bishop: “The bus doesn’t stop at my house; nobody’s home, so to speak.”

This one never advertised Coca-Cola, one of the best campaigns ever for the soft drink; was not obese, did not wear a red suit with an oversized belt (see the part about obese), or fly through the air pulled by reindeer. When the bishop changed into Santa, he smoked one of the longest pipes I’ve ever seen.

So now we have Santa kneeling in front of the manger holding Baby Jesus. Given who Santa really was, I’m sure he really did.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Season's First Snow

Light & Fluffy, just the right kind for Christmas cards. If you take the photos right, nobody can see the roads were never covered, but every branch takes on the kind of frosting that Hallmark loves. It’s a great time to go out caroling: lots of snow falling, but it’s still relatively warm and not at all windy.

The first snow of the season. How delightful! But the smart money (my brother, who lives in the snow capital of Quebec Province) indicates that the next one will stick and we won’t like it. I think what he’s saying is the first snow is the free introductory offer, while the second has all the small print at the bottom, small print we didn’t notice.

Around here (that is, on our small street) the city makes one sweep with the plow and then that’s it. The fact that we’re on a hill makes little difference, except to maybe the parking meter guy. You’d think they would not have meters on any street they do not plow clear of snow. Not a chance.

Oxygen and hydrogen at a specific temperature can land you on your butt if you don’t watch your step. It can cause your car to skid out of control.

Depends on the temperature. Oxygen and hydrogen at one temperature ran the engines on the Titanic; at another temperature, it kept the ship afloat; at yet another temperature, it cut a hole in the ship and, at the second temperature, filled it and caused it to sink. The third temperature froze people in their life jackets.

Friday, December 04, 2009

In 3 Weeks It's A Year To Next Christmas

And don't think Santa's elves aren't planning for it. I rather suspect the think-tank for Christmas future goes on well in advance – a year? Two years?

Santa’s workshop doesn’t just start operating in June to make toys for the little ones this upcoming December 25th. I’m willing to bet his elves are out there snooping around the grammar schools and those of higher levels to see what the buzz is all about, looking for future trends. Santa has to know what to plan for in the year ahead.

I’d love to sit in on a marketing strategy meeting at some large retail operations to see how they plan for the Christmas following. Does it start the August before? The January of? The previous June? What board games seem to be hot? Which ones are moving up? Are the old favorites (Candyland, Monopoly) still holding on?

If you buy a thousand dozen of some product and it’s a bust, where can you get rid of it for more than you paid? Let’s suppose it’s now an embarrassment, like you bought a thousand Tiger Woods figures with a pledge to “play clean” and his stuff just tanked; will they sell in the Caribbean where nobody cares?

That must-have doll; you opened at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday and some mother ended up in the ICU at 4:05 thanks to fifteen people who literally trampled her. Should you hire guards? Open earlier, later? Give guarantee slips ahead of time and tell them to sleep in? Or just find another line of work that’s less stressful?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust

Corrupt Luzerne County has just lost another judge to the jailhouse. That's three so far; collect the entire set. The FBI sure is.

Late word has it the feds want to talk with 70 lawyers and I don’t think the conversation will be about whether the Yankees will win the Series this coming year. Since I wrote that teaser title, I think another person got nailed and a county commissioner has waffled in an interview and said he might be involved in something.

When you are unsure, during a rambling chat with the media, about your involvement in matters Courthouse, one has to wonder just what the (blank) is going on in your life. Sort of, “Well, I don’t really know what they want … maybe I did something … they want to talk with me … maybe I might do time …” Sounds innocent to me; yeah.

We are down three judges and a fourth was removed because of her bad attitude in the court room. She may, or may not, have been a B-word, but at least she has never been found to be corrupt. She seems to be clean, seems to be honest, apparently above board. Isn’t that an awful thing to say around here?

“She hasn’t been found to be corrupt.” It has become so ordinary in this most corrupt of counties, with judges going to jail, other public officials being prisoned, fined, fired, nailed to crosses while vultures pick their bones cleaned. I’m sure she will be looked at, just pro forma, as have been all the other supposedly-honest.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I Got My Job Done

I took on a job, a free-lance writing assignment, which was not due until November 29, which is why I began in late August and worried about finishing in time. It was a package of 22 short pieces, about 7.5”, single-spaced, themed and had to grab the reader from the first sentence. This, in addition to everything else I do.

Many years ago, I used to think columnists like the New York Times’ Russell Baker used to sit back in his desk chair, puff on his pipe and calmly consider the issues of the day as he cranked out his three pieces a week for the Old Gray Lady. When I became one for the local paper, I wondered how he did it.

My deadline is Tuesday, but I often stretch it to Wednesday morning and cross my fingers when I ask for a six-hour extension from even there. Fortunately, it’s always the same size, so my editor (who also makes up her own pages) knows she can leave a hole for me and I’ll fill it in perfectly.

Long time ago, about maybe 25 years, I had a boss who was pretty busy and trusted my writing instincts. He trusted them enough to give me some ideas, a very rough draft of what he wanted and I would return the piece in his style, right down to the commas and semi-colons. You couldn’t tell the difference. I liked that.

I still like editing other people’s stuff so they can’t tell what I did. That’s a lot of fun. I call it “moving commas and periods” and keep what I did a secret.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December 2009

It’s the beginning of the end: The first day of the last month of the year and time for a little reflecting: Just what have I accomplished these previous eleven months?

Time's running out for anything I've left undone, all those resolutions I made. They seemed so deliciously challenging in those heady days of early January when the low temperatures, the hot chocolate and the new calendars brought out the determination to renew our spirits. This year will be different!

Then comes February and the snow isn’t so pretty any more; the trees are bleak and the weather is just plain lousy. We don’t have the energy even to think of what our resolutions are, if we can even remember them. April comes and with it the delightful thought of dancing in the sun. Resolutions? Ha.

We have enough time for them, whatever they were. There are eight months left in the year to lose weight, stop smoking, clean the cellar, get our life in order. Right now, be happy my soul, for you have survived the bad months – so bad, this January and February, that the Romans didn’t even give them names. They just existed.

So here it is, the beginning of the end and maybe you’re the same person now as you were at the end of the beginning. You’re still an overweight smoker with a cluttered cellar and a disordered life. Maybe these next four weeks will be a good practice period to change all that: get a head start now and begin all over again on January 1. (Note: I don't smoke.)