Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Forgot To Get My Car Inspected

For legitimate reasons, I have a bad memory. Well, I don’t know how legitimate the reasons are, but they are medication-related and there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. Part of the difficulty means time flies by and I don’t mean to put things off (this blog, for instance) but I slip up on it.

My car’s registration, for one. We get two months here in the land where bingo originated (down the block at St. Nick’s Church), HBO began (365 subscribers) and the nation’s first cable system set up shop in 1947. But that has nothing to do with why I let the car’s reg sit idle on my desk for 2.5 months.

Finally, I realized that I better get it done. All the usual excuses had long since been used up: The duck ate it, I sent it in weeks ago, I was busy playing bingo while watching HBO on the cable. It wasn’t that bad, really. Fill in the odometer reading, the insurance company’s name and number, sign it and enclose the check.

I forgot to get it inspected! Friday was a snow emergency; Saturday we still couldn’t drive until the afternoon when the place isn’t open, Sunday the garage is closed.

I decided that, since I drive almost exclusively at night, there’s little chance the cops will catch me and I can put it off until Tuesday. Which I do. In Massachusetts, on the statewide inspection days, the Registry cops practically wet their pants standing by the roadside picking off offenders. The locals here aren’t that worried.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27; three days left in the month

Here I am, doing the radio show and checking my book of dates to see what happened on this day in history. The usual stuff: people born, people died, things invented.

It’s a normal day, this February 27. Nothing remarkable about it and tomorrow I’ll be reading the events of the 28th and reminding people it’s the end of the month. Only difference is I have two more pages in the book: the expected 29th and the unexpected 30th of February. Thirty Days Hath February? When did that come about?

I don’t know. But I do know it ended about 130 b.c. Or b.c.e. (I guess that means either Before Christ or Before the Common Era – nice try, heathens.) Someone was greedy and that someone’s initials were Caesar Augustus. Now, I personally don’t give a rat’s arse about a day here or there, nor about C.A. and robbing February to pay August.

But that sort of messes up my radio program, especially at the start when I read the events of the day. How can I say, “This is the day when…” if the day doesn’t exist? It did when the event happened, but that day was moved six months down the line and I really don’t think the event moved with it.

“Out in the world of what was, sometime in the middle of the stroke of midnight, some stuff happened on an ephemeral day in history. A day that lives on in the Twilight Zone. A day held sacred in heaven alone. When we reach that blessed abode, we can visit there. But right now, it’s somewhere in calendarial limbo.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Then The Church's Alarm Went Off

We had a normal church service going; nothing particularly remarkable until partway through the homily and the alarm system went off.

Was it the Fires of Hell? Could it be the Devil sneaking in and being snared by Michael the Archangel? Had lightning struck the bell tower as in one of Stephen King’s movies? Whatever happened, it happened loudly and we all figured that was the end of whatever the priest was planning on saying that day.

I got sent down to the basement hall to check for the eternal punishment just waiting for the greater sinners among us, but found nothing but stacks of chairs, tables from the last bake sale and two restrooms. No smoke, no flames, no devils lurking about trying to snatch our immortal souls to his parlor of horrors.

Meanwhile, back at the main floor, the reader was trying to reset the circuit breaker and the communion minister was trying to remember the re-set code. If this was a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the 12 Apostles were portrayed by the Three Stooges, the Pep Boys, the Marx Brothers and the American Idol judges.

Finally someone found the right circuit breaker and things calmed down. After Mass, the sexton said the alarm system had been disconnected years ago and maybe the recent snow made an electrical connection between two wires. I still think someone wanted to leave early without being caught sneaking out the door.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Then Came The Snow

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” said one friend. The “they” in this case was the weatherman on a local tv station, someone who had taken a course in the subject and had AccuWeather as a backup. In other words, the guy did indeed know what he was talking about, at least in this case.

He was talking about ten inches. Ten inches he talked about and ten inches we got. All white, all fluffy and all cold.

You see, there had been three storms earlier in the season, all of which slipped by to the south and went up to the two News: Jersey and York. What did we get out of them? About an inch, maybe two. One of them was a dusting and I’ve seen more dust on the top of this machine than was on my sidewalk.

“Expect six to ten inches overnight,” said the man on the screen. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said the man on the couch next to me. I just sat there, confident in what I had seen on the Doppler radar map, showing a snow storm heading our way, just entering the county. “We shall see,” I said to myself.

Came the morning, all ten inches of it. Just yesterday, people were in full riot gear as they stormed the stores grabbing at more bread and milk than they needed for a week. The streets would be cleared by the next day, but you can’t have too much bread and milk; it’s a primeval need throwback to our cavepeople past.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ten Months Until Christmas Eve!

My first experience with Christmas stuff well in advance of Baby Jesus coming down the chimney with a pack on his back: doing radio in Gloucester MA and running into a “Christmas In July” promotion in the city. “Christmas in July?” I wondered. “Whatever is a Christmas in July thing?” It’s a sales boost, I soon figured.

Long time since Xmas, long time till Xmas; no real sales holidays between Memorial Day (start of summer) and Labor Day (start of school). Even Cinco de Fako, that American-made supposedly-Mexican selling spree brought to you by Corona beer and some greeting card company doesn’t quite sell enough yet.

January has its whites sales and Christmas leftovers; February is Presidents Day cars; March, I don’t remember (maybe getting drunk and blaming it on some Irish bishop); April, who knows; May is the aforementioned not celebrated in Mexico day; June and August are beaches; July is hotdogs and beer, and so on.

I’ve seen Christmas promotions early as late September in some backwater town near here and really should check the ads to see what’s the earliest these days.

Maybe a blog later this year would be a good time to examine it. “The First Xmas Ad This Year,” or something that would fit in the few characters I have in the headline. With the economy as it is, I would not be surprised if the start date might be sometime in late September, if not mid-month. Join me then.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Gay Apparel

“…Now we don our gay apparel, fa la la la la, la la, la la.”

Maybe you; not me. Oh, you don’t mean that lavender stuff, but the stuff of festival-time. Ok; that’s fine. I can trip the light fantastic with the best of them. When we are harking to the sounds of herald angels singing, who amongst us can keep from donning whatever apparel is of the Yuletide gayest? With a fa la la to boot.

No, this is not another late Christmas blog entry. I happened to hear it on my internet (Pandora) music service. Why that song on this day? Beats me. But I like it, regardless of the day or season; perhaps Ray Conniff’s group did it and I will listen to anything he did, season in or season out.

We don’t have enough of that “gay apparel” stuff, or the “who cares” to wear it. One time during a cruise, there was a short guy who wore a pink suit and matching top hat on formal nights. He looked great. I wouldn’t be caught at an LSD party in it, but there are combinations I would like to try out. Always with a top hat, of course.

Errol Flynn had a pretty snappy outfit in one of his pirate movies. Loose white shirt, tight at the cuffs, the usual stuff you would expect of his pirate style. Probably make real pirates laugh like crazy, but it fit “in like Flynn” rather well.

Interesting story about his nickname, by the way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Forget President(')s(') Day

President’s Day. Presidents’ Day. Presidents Day. Two with apostrophes, one without, and not a single one of them having any meaning at all. Let’s buy a car.

Washington’s Birthday used to be the big weekend for selling cars. I don’t know why; all he did was throw a silver dollar across a river, chop down a tree and not lie about it when caught. Oh, yeah: father of our county and “slept here.” Up in New England, pretty near every old house had a sign, “George Washington Slept Here.”

If GW slept in all those houses, there is little wonder he was called “the father of our country.” After all, not all those Revolutionary-era women looked or dressed quite as bad as we have been led to believe. George was, after all, a tall and handsome fellow, someday to have his face not only on the quarter, but on the dollar bill.

So we ended up with the unofficial Presidents Day, apostrophize as you wish or not wish. It’s a lame attempt to link Washington and Lincoln together, as well as any other such dignitaries you would like to admit are, were, or will be Commanders-in-Chief. Someone probably meant well, but that doesn’t cut it.

The official holiday is Washington’s Birthday. New cars or not, this is the day that counts. Jefferson’s a nice guy, got his face on the nickel and the $2 bill, but he didn’t want his presidency listed at his grave’s memorial site. So there’s no reason to have the annual Jefferson’s Birthday Drapery Blow-Out Sale.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

On Examining The Fern

I have a small fern branch on my desk. It used to be on someone’s front lawn, hanging over the sidewalk and passersby needed to brush it out of the way. No more.

It’s a delicate little thing, made up of a dozen or so hairs that come out of what appear to be pods, dozens of which are on each slim little branch of which there might be two or three dozen on a major branch. These, in turn, might be part of maybe another dozen branches which make up one part of the fern.

It curls, starting about two inches up from the major branch’s starting-point. As it gets closer to the end, the curling intensifies until it reaches 180 degrees; now it starts winding up like a spring. If you try to pull it apart, this tender and delicate little flower turns out to have quite a bit of strength: all those little branches work together rather well.

It’s hardy, as well. Flowers come and go, especially during this snowy season, but the slight, airy, fern hangs in there. The snow which is coming will take down power lines, scatter tree branches, lock car wheels – but the little fern will still be there days after the winds have subsided and when the snow finally melts.

I don’t know much about these little things. From what I see on a ferns website, their reproduction is quite unlike what I’ve seen on farms (you know, horses and cows, sheep and pigs). Pollen from another flower makes its way over, or even pollen from one part makes a move on another part, as in, “Go **** yourself.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Few Weeks, But Not To The Galaxies

Why can't I cruise to the Andromeda Galaxy instead of New England and Canada? Well, for one thing, it’s too far away. Boston, where the ship leaves in 17 weeks, is but a six+ hour ride on the bus and a leisurely (and I mean leisurely) two days on a luxury cruise ship to Canada. Even the bus isn’t really all that bad.

The Andromeda Galaxy, fairly close to us as intergalactic distances go, is 2 million light-years away. That is, if one of their stars blows up, the light from the explosion would take two million years to show up on the end of my telescope. We don’t travel that fast, so showing up there is just impossible.

Still, I’d like to take a trip there. Maybe after I unpack and get settled in heaven I can ask for a trip around the universe at some sort of warp speed. As a living person on earth, w.s. 10 would be insufficient for this trip: The Andromeda Galaxy would be very close, but still 655 years away, too long for us. A lightyear would be 2 ¾ hours in that case.

At 3000 times the speed of light, we are really moving. But on my imagined trip, this would still be quite a long time. Of course, in the afterlife we have all eternity, which is endless. Pack a lunch, take off for a thousand years and still be on time for supper. I could presumably visit some of the galaxies on the very edge of the universe.

Would I run into Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein out there? Could we make arrangements to meet on some distant galaxy for a mug of tea and crumpets?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fridays At Ollie's

Ollie’s … it was a chain, it’s not a chain, but it looks like a chain. Let me explain the restaurants that never changed their names.

The place across the river is my favorite dining-out spot; it’s that for a lot of people and it’s hard not to find someone I know. A family restaurant, clean, with good food and a nice atmosphere, locally owned and well-run with a big menu and people who have worked there for years.

That’s this Ollie’s. But there are many across the country, totally unconnected, linked only by their names. They each bought out the local Ollie’s franchised restaurants when the places went under. Why buy new signs? Why change a known name? Let’s just keep going, fix up the menu, adapt to what we think will work and sail ahead.

Chain restaurants are reliable: you know exactly what you will get, right down to the last pickle. Mom & Pop operations are different; they know what the locals like and while there are regular dishes that don’t change, M&P can change in a moment without asking permission from headquarters out in Some Faraway City.

Chain restaurants return 14% of their income to the local area; mom & pops return 47% to the local economy. That’s the biggest reason I choose Ollie’s across the river. But it’s a nice place, it’s comfortable, and it’s far from the Interstate. Maybe someday I might find another of these and see how its owners have worked their place.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

65,038,810 -to- 2. The Last Man's Club

Fare thee well, Canadian WW1 soldier Jack Babcock (died Feb. 18). From over 65 million of you, but 2 remain and at 109 years of age, the era will soon be over.

In my opinion a given era is not over until the last person is no longer with us. The Titanic era will be, or possibly is, over when the last survivor leaves us; the Ragtime era ended with the passing of its last original composer, Eubie Blake. WW1 is still an open book until Claude Choules (England) and Frank Buckles (USA) pass on.

World War One was not a nice place to be and Mustard Gas was a reason: “The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful and most soldiers had to be strapped to their beds. It usually took a person four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Quoted in Wikipedia)

“One nurse, Vera Brittain, wrote: ‘I wish those people who talk about going on with this war whatever it costs could see the soldiers suffering from mustard gas poisoning. Great mustard-coloured blisters, blind eyes, all sticky and stuck together, always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke.’"

We toss the word “hero” around so easily these days. Read again what Vera said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shake Your Ashes

It’s Ash Wednesday in the Christian church: “Your must repent of your sins. If you have already repented, ignore this notice.”

So, here we are at the start of forty days of what we hope will be a time of repentance, reforming our lives, a winter period of self-denial.

Or, as Omar Khayyam put it so well in his Rubaiyat:
“Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly – and Lo! The Bird is on the Wing.”

In other words, to misquote Auntie Mame, “We need a little Easter, right this very moment." Ash Wednesday starts off very piously: we get ashes on our foreheads, much as the ancient Israelites did (except they had ashes dumped over their heads and covered their cattle with them, occasionally sitting on dung heaps).

Then the novelty wears off about the first Monday. The Ash Wednesday fast was ok; we felt like martyrs. The first Friday abstaining from meat also went fine, as mac & cheese go down well. But then things can get a little weary.

But if we hang in there, we’ll feel better at the other end.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Way Down South In New Orleans

Hey, chick, want some beads??

We are a prudish country, perhaps the most on our planet. If not the most, then we are pretty much up there on the “Oh, how awful!” scale.

During a televised football game, Janet Jackson accidentally showed a very small part of what God gave her for 9/16th of a second and the FCC fined CBS a half million dollars. Other countries hooted at us for the way our government reacted.

Down in New Orleans, if the girls want to have Mardi Gras parade beads thrown at them from the floats, they do the same thing, for a longer period of time, and go home with a lot of swag. Mustn’t see the milk glands or the spot where said milk comes out.

In the African country of the Ivory Coast, it’s not an issue; nobody thinks twice about it. But if a woman appears in public with her legs showing – it’s a big deal. A mighty big deal. Call the police, cover them up, take her off to jail for indecent exposure.

What? You let people see your shoulders? This is the Vatican and it’s an affront to God, Jesus, his mother and the Pope of Rome.

Don’t you dare show your face, Muslim lady. That is forbidden by the law; some man may see it and get all excited. Who knows what may happen then?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mardi Monday Grass

Ok, so it’s really Mardi Gras and Mardi is French for Tuesday. But it’s Monday and we’re starting to get rid of the leftover desserts today, which we will do tomorrow, too.

We don’t have the floats and the gaiety up here. The best we can offer is the occasional parades with the local Shrine Mummers strutting around with their feathers and banjos. Actually, I haven’t seen that for quite a while. Maybe it’s molting season and the plumage just isn’t out right now.

Or do the Mummers come out this time of year? I do know, down in NOLA, as the New Orleaners like to call their fair city, what’s left of it, there are mostly floats with hardly a feather and banjo in sight. At least, as far as I can tell. Never been there myself, but I think they are out around Thanksgiving time. Maybe someone can tell me.

Meanwhile, the cakes and pies are disappearing from our fridge. I’m sure the donuts will remain, if just out of habit. I wouldn’t eat one of those for anything; once I saw the ingredients (fat, saturated fat, flour, fat, sugar, fat, sugar), I made up my mind it wasn’t worth what it did to my innards and outards.

We have two days to live it up before we put on the cloak of repentance. Yes, it is a fairly comfortable cloak in our religion these days and the next person to starve will be the first. But if nothing else, we can pack away all those nice things before the next forty days and maybe even be the healthier for it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I (Heart) St. Valentine's Day

He comes out of his house, sees people kissing, and we get six more weeks of love. Isn't that how it works? Lots better than that groundhog stuff.

Valentine, the saint of which there seems to have been many. Or, at least, many people with that name or that reputation, one of which has been held up for our emulation (pretty much what canonization, sainthood, means). Exactly what did he do? Take your pick from all the stories, because they tend to be lovely.

We didn’t know much about them in grammar school. The nuns set time apart for us to distribute the cards during class time and it was nice to get them. I seem to remember that Mary Lou Dinan (rest in peace) picked up a few more than the others. Of course, Mary Lou had a lot more going for her, especially where it counted.

Even I, always the loner, picked up an appropriate pile. I think Peggy Snow always had one for me and it may have been more than just “Be My Valentine.” More than that, but less than “Let’s Go Behind The Barn.” I don’t recall having any for the nuns; they were not the “Let’s Be Valentines Together” type. You didn’t make a move on nuns.

The girls often used their middle names. Mary Ethel, Mary Ann, Mary Lou, Mary somebody else. Too many Mary’s so the middle name came in handy. The first one mentioned here said she always knew when someone remembered her from grammar school, as others knew her simply as Mary and not Mary Ethel. She, too, is R.I.P.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's Saturday, Time For The Opera

I’ve got my earphones plugged into the network line, listening to what’s going on at the Metropolitan Opera House as the technicians finish testing the equipment. Then the microphone tests: stage mics, audience mics, announcer mic, orchestra mics. I’m reading the upcoming arts notices for our area, then the weather.

The clock is sweeping off the seconds, literally seconds, before the opera starts at 2:00. I’m coming in four seconds short, so I do the extended weather. Then I make the jump from one trapeze to the other and hope I’ve timed it right: I absolutely can’t be a half-second late and should not be a second early.

I start the talk-up: “And now, broadcasting live from the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City [the line is live and the crowd noise starts coming in] this is public radio for Western Indiana, Southern Michigan and Eastern Illinois, WSND-FM.” And Peter Allen comes in with “Texaco presents the Metropolitan Opera!”

I have somehow squirmed out of my shoes in the last thirty seconds. Those shoes were tied, I might point out.

Three years on the Met network and I never blew a join. But there was an occasion one week when Peter Allen decided to pull a joke on all of us in the hinterlands. All of us down the line had our ‘phones on while they checked the equipment and we heard (softly) “mic check? (loudly) “Texaco presents! Ha! Ha! Fooled you!”

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Disaster To Which We Responded

Radio and television stations are cut-throat competitors, grasping for every ratings point in an effort to attract advertiser dollars. It’s a rough business.

Until your competitor calls up and says, “We’ve had a fire,” or “our tower fell,” or some other disaster. Then all you hear is, “What do you need? How can we help? We’ll send our guys over. Make a list and the other stations will give you what you need, as well.” That’s how it goes in the business. Your turn today, their turn next time.

The local public radio and tv stations’ transmitting building burned down the other day; total loss. A competing tv station loaned a spare transmitter, a spare channel and a spare tower and antenna to help it get back on the air in days. We are heavy into cable and satellite here, so it wasn’t that much of a loss; 10%, perhaps.

FM was different. Our college station, not far away on the dial, offered the entire station 23 hours a day (we needed one hour for our radio reading service). The PBS outlet could broadcast through it nearly full-time. We were within an hour or so of doing it when their engineer located a small transmitter and got the station on the air locally.

From smoldering toast to apparent full operation in a matter of four days – you can’t beat that. It’s not really full op’s yet, but at least there’s a signal and the college station remains available if things go bad when a better back-up FM transmitter arrives. Yes, we all really do cooperate behind the scenes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

But Wait!

I wake up; the television is still on and it’s 2:00 in the morning. There’s an ad for some product that most likely doesn’t work, costs a fortune for “shipping and handling” and you couldn’t return it if your family name was Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But you can get a super low price if you call within the next thirty minutes.

Wasn’t this the same ad I saw last night with the same thirty-minute offer? Suppose I call in fifteen minutes? Will I still get the discount?

But wait! If I call within the next ten minutes, they will include, FREE, a set of solid gold eggbeaters, seven sterling silver knives, three platinum serving dishes and a roll of quarters that were found in a farmers barn out somewhere in Indiana and worth an incredible amount of money. Call now! This offer ends today!

Or tomorrow. Maybe next week. How long will those operators stand by? And do they work only for this company? Or is there a way they can identify which product someone is calling for and, then, be working for a dozen or so different outfits? So you call for six commercials and get the same lady with the same accent.

Television stations don’t get paid for running these ads or the infomercials. Instead, they get a cut of any sales, upwards of 40% in some cases (which is what I was offered by a record company). They get paid “per inquiry,” which we call “P.I” ads. You run them when you have unsold commercial time; what’s to lose?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Time In Baseball

Yes, baseball. Never knew that, did you? There are lots of things about me people don’t know, especially when it comes to my days in sports.

I spent some time in the park, glorying in the days of summer, those never-to-be-forgotten days when I held the unique position of bat boy for a local merchants’ league. These many years later, I can’t recall its name, but the word “Lordship,” for the little village where I lived, was in it. “Lordship Merchants,” perhaps.

Most likely, the players picked me because I was somewhat of an outsider, a real introvert whose favorite sport was reading books under a tree. “Let’s include Tom and give him something to do,” seemed to be the general feeling, as I took it. So I ended up as the team’s batboy.

But not for long. I don’t know how far into the season I lasted, but it seems I never made it for any length of time. However you don’t make it as a batboy, that’s how I didn’t make it. I just sat there on the sidelines, picking up bats, not making any noise, nor cheering on the batters or fielders. Just sitting and watching.

Participant sports were not made for people such as I. To my mind, the batboy just hung out and picked up bats, stray balls and stray items that might be in the way. But cheering and waving my arms? That’s too demonstrative. If a bridge fell in and I had to warn people, that would be different. So I got canned and went back to the books.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Then There Was The Penquin

That's how the Penquin Food Store was spelled. I don’t know why and the owners at the time never knew, either. They thought the previous owner made a mistake with the sign.

It was a small grocery store. Small. When three people came in, that was pretty close to capacity; four was a crowd. Two of us behind the counter got in each other’s way. We knew how to stock the place, and we knew just about how much to keep on hand; never too much, never too little.

Except for the Fatima and Embassy cigarettes. They were still in the rack, harder than a brick, waiting for someone to come in and ask for a pack. As far as I know, and this is from 1956, they might still be there, harder than steel, harder than diamonds, beyond the scope even of the universal solvent.

We sold a lot of bread and a lot of beer. The legal age for selling and buying beer was 21. We carefully checked i.d.’s but this 14-year-old sold the stuff as casually as a loaf of bread. Even to the state cop who came in twice a week for a couple quarts of Piels beer. He didn’t care; he just wanted his beer (“Thank you, sir.” “Thanks, kid.”)

We had a sign on the scale:
“This is the Three Wonder Store. You wonder if we have it. You wonder where it is. You wonder how we find it. But if it is made, we can have it for you within 24 hours.” One way or another, we could and did at the Penquin.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I'd Like A Flight To Alaska

Sure, you can land. Here are instructions from a pilots’ guide for airports in the U.S.:

ANAKTUVUK PASS: Buildings close to runway, local vehicle traffic uses runway.

CHIGNIK: Potholes in center of runway, loose rocks up to 4” on runway surface.

CLEAR: Gravel and dirt portion may be unusable in spring thaw; runway rutted and has 10-degree dogleg; 90’-wide clear path thru trees with 5’ high brush within 20’ of runway centerline.

GULKANA: Trees, wires, moose and birds in vicinity.

McKINLEY PARK: Canyons at each runway end cause sudden severe up/down drafts; active landing alert siren system on 122.8 for people and moose in vicinity.

PILOT POINT: Large rocks entire length; airport reported abandoned.

SHEEP MOUNTAIN: Barrels mark runway.

YAKUTAT: Located in heavy timber.

LIGNITE: Runway overgrown with brush up to 4’ high; reported unusable.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Jesus Liked The Children; The Guy Didn't

A friend of mine was in church last week, with his wife and three children – one of them just two years old. The youngest was a bit itchy that day and, despite the parents’ best efforts, fussed during the first part of Mass. This particular parish did not have a crying room (which they didn’t have when I was a kid, either).

So the readings are going on, the priest is delivering the homily and the two-year-old is fussing. Not a good scene for devoted and devout parents.

But a worse scene for someone who wants to put his own devotion before that of the ordinary, sometimes stressed, but observant parents.

“He comes in the pew behind us and puts his hand on her shoulder and says something to the effect that this is a church not a playground. Notice that he bypassed me and went right for the woman (that coward). I give him a dirty stare and tell him we are trying our hardest and he finally leaves, but not after saying ‘Well, you should try harder.’

“We decide we have to leave after the sermon. Before leaving I go downstairs and find the man. I told him that he upset my wife so much that we had to leave, that he ought to be glad that we bring our kids to church, and that he ought to mind his own damn business. I don’t really regret getting angry and hollering at him.

“I know in the long run he’ll stay an asshole, I didn’t want him to just get away with it.”

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Here's How Things Have Been Going

Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far this year:

Forgotten my New Year’s Resolution(s). Actually, I’m not sure I made any because I generally forget them around the first of February. Sometimes I make twelve of them, one per month, but then I forget to put them on my calendar.

Put a phone in my studio. I had one in the old place, but we moved and I thought there would not be a jack for it in the new place. Well, a friend of mine in the maintenance department asked if I’d like a phone and a computer line. “Sure, what the heck,” I replied. So he ran a line down to my place and I located the phone I had earlier.

Bought a car vac. I haven’t found any treasures underneath the leaves, dirt and crumbs, but I’m not finished yet. Hope springs eternal. Neither have I found any insects, rodents or other critters feasting on the aforementioned crumbs.

Found a blue sweater my mother knitted and which was in the back of my closet. Must have ended up there a couple of winters ago. It’s the Final Solution to a cold winter night when I go over to the newspaper to pick up the first edition. When that goes on, and I have a jacked over it, I’m warm. She did it right.

Of course, there’s the printer next to my machine. That has come in quite handy with my radio work, although it gets used only once a day, maybe twice or three times.

Friday, February 05, 2010

That's -0- For -2-

I hear they had a snowstorm south and east of us. Big one. Two feet of snow, maybe more in some parts. We had a dusting in the Valley, slightly more in the Higher El’s.

Normally, the southern cities (relative to us) hardly get anything. Well, they get it, but it’s two inches, three inches, and everyone goes apes**t, they buy enough bread and milk for the next month and people huddle in their homes waiting for the wooly mammoths to appear from the northern woods.

Up here, it’s a bother. One year, we had 93” of the stuff. Not at the same time, of course, but over the winter and then the record-setting snowfall turned into a record-setting river level when it melted upstream. Snow in Binghamton + warm days = water into river = high tide in Wilkes-Barre. Riverbank 24’; levees 42’.

The snowmelt here bothers the people downstream and, eventually, Our Esteemed Leaders in Harrisburg. Speaking of which, the dimwits who designed the county’s emergency communications center put it in the Courthouse sub-basement, just yards away from the river. The river rises, what gets flooded first? 911. It’s been moved.

The Groundhog not withstanding, this has been a mild winter for us. We hope it will continue that way, but you just never know. It is certainly not due to global warming; you measure that over many decades, not just one season. Besides, the ultimate G.W. comes when the sun blows up several billion years from now. Take pictures.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hey! Watch This!

A 62-year-old Michigan man was severely burned when a homemade rocket strapped on his back exploded while he slid down a snowy hill on a sled, authorities said this week.

The rocket stunt was the grand finale on Saturday during the man's annual sledding party at his Oakland County, Michigan, home, according to the sheriff's department. "He is known for doing 'crazy things' at his parties," as reported in the Oakland County sheriff's department statement.

"On this date, after consuming an unknown quantity of alcohol, he constructed a device out of a motorcycle muffler and pipe." Inside the makeshift rocket, the victim placed gunpowder, heads from matches and gasoline. He donned a helmet and took a sled to the top of a snowy embankment.

"He asked another person to light a wick and then began to sled down a hill. At some point during the ride downhill, the device exploded. The results of the explosion were second-degree burns to the victim's face," the sheriff's department statement said. No one else was injured during the incident.

The man, whose identity is not yet known, was hospitalized with significant damage to one of his eyes and could face criminal charges, authorities said.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010


NIMBY: Not in my backyard. Yeah, I know it’s important; sure, we need it; I signed a petition and voted for a tax increase to fund it. But Not In My Backyard.

BANANA: The town needs these important things, but the only solution is “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.” Then they’ll scream when it’s far away.

Where should we put the new firehouse? NIMBY. But what if your house catches fire? Three minutes can make a big difference … five minutes, maybe the fire doubles in size. Your neighbor’s house goes up and it spreads to yours; wouldn’t you want a firehouse right nearby? Five minutes is a long time to wait for the smoke eaters.

You want the convenience of whatever, but you don’t want it near you. Your Economics 101 course, if you didn’t sleep through it, told you that there is a cost for everything. The cost of quick access to the highway is having to live near it. Of fast fire and ambulance protection is being near the barn. Can’t separate them.

Can’t have BANANA and expect instant service.

I never liked looking at a cell phone tower until I got a phone; now I think they are beautiful. And, no, they don’t cause cancer. Take it from a broadcast engineer and repeat after me: cell phone towers don’t cause cancer and neither do the phones. Still worried? Keep the phones an inch away from your ears.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

Who believes in that claptrap anyway? Me. Yeah, really. When Phil pokes his nose out of the ground, I hope it’s overcast and he doesn’t see his shadow.

Sure, it’s not real and groundhogs don’t predict the next six weeks of winter and/or the early arrival of Spring. But it’s sort of been imprinted in us that a particular rodent in one part of a state has that ability. So, we sort of go along with it and make a big deal on tv as to whether the little fellow did or did not see its shadow.

Has to do with the animal indicating the appearance of spring, or not, and has been celebrated in Pennsylvania since the 1700’s. Over in Europe, ancient weather lore has a badger or bear doing the prognosticating. Pagans celebrated Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar and predicts the weather.

No animal were harmed in the making of this legend. One animal-rights group wants to have a robot groundhog used, since it claims the ‘hog is in hibernation and attempts to wake it up disturb the wintry slumber and/or other groundhoggery functions. Or, to put it another way, supposedly, “We are not amused.”

But those who know groundhogs say they are often up & about during the winter, especially during this period, and the wise handlers know which ones are best for the celebration which, at least in Pennsylvania, attract upwards of 40,000 and, I suspect, stick around for more than a glance at Phil. One for Phil, one for the road.

Monday, February 01, 2010

February In The Gas Station

Didn't know I worked in one? Sure did, and here's a story or two about it.

First, the most forlorn month of the year is February. Hardly anybody gets their cars fixed during that month, so you do one of two things: hang around waiting for the two little bells to go “ding-ding,” or clean the place up. A dirty, cluttered service station (not what you have these days) is a busy place and a good one.

Second, there is nothing like an oil change during the cold months to make a grease monkey happy. When the warm oil is pouring down to the catch funnel, you just let your hands luxuriate in it. After pumping gas for a while, it’s great to be assigned to a grease-and-oil. You’d like to bathe in it, but that’s not going to happen.

Third, you run into people who have used STP oil treatment, which comes out in white streaks when you change the oil. Useless junk which only makes owner and racecar driver Andy Granitelli rich. If you drive your car 100mph for five hours straight, it can be good; otherwise, we told people to forget it.

Then there was the extended Chevy.

Someone brought one in, a nice big boat. When you lifted the hood, there was at least a foot of empty space in front. No reason for it; just a façade to make it look longer than it needed to be. Your price included twelve inches of air.