Friday, April 30, 2010

E. O. M.

So here we are, end of month. EOQ, for that matter: end of quarter. We are 25% through 2010 and I am just beginning to grasp the meaning of life: don’t put it off.

We had someone working here for a year, name of Carlotta. She wanted to get her picture taken in front of a billboard for the local Car-lotta auto credit agency. But the time was never right; tomorrow, maybe, perhaps next week. She finally finished up here and the photo shot never took place. It would have been a nice thing to have.

I’ve another friend who had the means to take a cruise but needed a little prodding. He kept coming up with one excuse after another, while it was obvious that he really did want to go. He lives in a nursing home now, unable to do much of anything; his best days, most of his days, are behind him.

Someday I’m going to have to do this; yes, that’s a good idea and when the time is right I’ll get around to doing it. Maybe we can think about this some other time, but not today. The time is never right, the opportunity passes by and we never see it again. What was a good idea is gone and all we can do is regret our hesitancy.

Have an opportunity? Grab it; try anything once. Don’t say, “It’s foolishness.” How many times do you have the chance to ride in the cab of a locomotive? Don’t laugh; I did once on a local switching job and spent the better part of an hour riding around with a string of coal cars behind me. Go for the gold.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Was In Canada For The First Time

In a church, to be exact. My brother and his girlfriend were also there, kneeling at the altar rail, starting a trip I would never know. They were about to commit matrimony.

His new wife’s first significant words on that, her 21st birthday, were the French equivalent of “I do.” My brother, who knew as much French as the King of Tibet, said something legal enough to make it work for 49 years on this day. The story of their lives together will be published in the Land Beyond when we sit and tell stories.

Mom once told me, “I want to be a good mother-in-law, as well as a good mother. I may not agree with everything they do or with everything that happens, but I’m going to keep my mouth shut. I will never interfere with their marriage.” You make yourself always welcome with that attitude; welcome and never feared.

There’s been a lot of water down the St. Lawrence River since that day near Quebec City. Nobody knew what was ahead; I saw two people separated by nationality, culture, language and upbringing, willing to take a chance. It was as if they decided to take a jump off the Montmorency Falls and hope someone down below would catch them.

So there we sat, on the beach in the eye of a hurricane, 14 and 10 years old. Would we laugh at the suggestion of what was to come in our lives? 1952 was so safe, even in the very eye of a hurricane; now it’s 2010, unimaginable years later, with two lives spun off in vastly different directions. You just never know.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We've Got It, But Can We Play It?

There probably still is a lot of good music on 78rpm records, but (as the new talk says) we can’t access it very easily. The average person couldn’t play a 78 if the Holy Family appeared in his living room, pulled up chairs and asked to hear some old Bing Crosby Christmas carol. Pity; your big chance and you blew it.

I have some information on floppy discs. I don’t have a computer that will read them and allow me to transfer the stuff to some other format.

Some yearbook companies are putting high school and college books out on one or another type of disc which, if I am right, will not be readable by the time a significant reunion year rolls around. “Anybody got a DVD player?” might be answered by, “Wow, I haven’t seen one of them in decades.”

That’s why I like paper dictionaries over online. Well, that’s just one reason; I also like the feeling of pages under my fingers and the ability to instantly go from one word to another, which you don’t really get online. The same with an atlas: there is a quality of having the print in front of you, actual print on actual paper.

Paper is a format that does not change very often. We had tablets a long time ago, then scrolls, then flat paper. I can still read Noah Webster’s first dictionary, which I have in facsimile form, from 1828. I don’t need out-of-date software to access the information. But the yearbook discs may well be useless in the next-generation data storage.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Favorite Things

Musical things, that is.

“Beat Me, Daddy, Eight To The Bar.” It’s a Will Bradley / Ray McKinley piece, suggesting (eight to the bar) a boogie-woogie style. “Daddy” most likely refers to the girl’s sugar daddy. I love the long version, which most of this blog’s readers most likely haven’t heard. It just goes on and on.

“The Java Jive,” sometimes thought of as “I love coffee, I love tea, I love the java jive and it loves me.” My favorite lyric: “Waiter, waiter, percolator.”

“Celery Stalks At Midnight” is another great Bradley/McKinley piece and the only lyric, said only once during a break, is “Celery stalks along the highway!”

“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” by Fats Waller and His Rhythm. Zutty Singleton has a very nice drum “solo,” if you can call it that. Smooth interlude, almost like the smoothest bridge you’d like to see between one chorus and another.

Anything by violinist Stephane Grappelli. I can tell it’s him from the first stroke of his bow: long and loving. Nobody does it quite like that.

Likewise, anything by Ray Conniff. I still have his Christmas albums in my Pandora online music service during the summer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Important! Read This! Important!

I often wonder what makes people important. This week, we got a new bishop, a local fellow and a very good person; he is just what we need at this point. The last bishop was Important, as well as being a total disaster: never spoke to anyone, never gave interviews, stayed holed up in his room and finally was moved.

The new person is not important. His first meal was at the local soup kitchen, where he arrived unannounced. I rather suspect he will visit each parish and chat with people, see how they are doing. He will keep the dignity of the office, of course, but not by walking over anyone or parading his rank.

We had some Important people at the courthouse, about 37 of them, now either in jail or heading there. They were corrupt, every single one of them; judges, row officers, all kinds of people. So Important that they could get away with shaking people down, accepting kickbacks and bribes.

Do we make people feel as if they are Important? Or are people important because they need to be, part of their work, and when they leave and go home they are happy to be the same regular people as the rest of us. Big difference; capital-I people make it known all the time and regular-i people just use their power to help people in need.

One of the important people in my life was the local barber; he taught me things about life. My grandfather was another. Neither one lorded it over anybody.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A New York Minute

“The smallest measurable amount of time in the universe. Approximately equal to the time between a traffic light turning green in New York City and the person behind you honking his horn.” (

Wilkes-Barre is a fairly low-pressure place; when you need to get onto a street, or make a turn, you’re likely to get waved through. There’s a bridge with a light at the end and it’s pretty much customary that two more cars will go through the red. There are streets where people often pass on the right.

A twenty-some or thirty-some gal behind me violated our easy-going rule today. As the light changed, she hit her horn; I glanced at the mirror to see what the problem was. Next light, same thing. I usually don’t hang out deciding if they’ve been green long enough; light turns, I’m outta there. But Hilda Hornblower feels differently.

At the next stop, she’s in the left turn lane, so I can’t see if she’s going to do it again, and there aren’t any cars ahead of her. I’m no fan of road rage, but there must be something I could do which would express my feelings without getting shot.

I could always stick my hand out the window and hold up all five fingers. While she’s trying to figure out what that means, I’d be well on my way. Next light, same thing: light turns, she honks, I give five fingers, she thinks “huh?” and we continue along. It could be fun.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting The Chair

I bought a chair today. We will now pause for ten seconds while our readers say, “Big deal.” But this one is special: it’s new.

A new chair. I can’t remember when last that has happened – if, indeed, it ever has. I usually end up with someone’s goods that are no longer wanted, often because they have been run over by a bus. So my desk chair started listing forward and somewhat to the starboard, much like the Titanic.

So when it began to make scary noises, as if the shaft was about to break, I got rid of it and found another chair around here that someone threw out. It was in better shape, but would not crank up and I spent a few weeks close to the floor. Other than that, and some stains, it was a pretty nice piece of furniture. Nice enough, anyway.

So I went from a dangerous chair to a safe, if inoperable, chair. Finally, I got into the car (which I hate driving – not just this one, but any car) and went all the way up to the Mall, about a mile away, to the Gold Standard of Exquisite Executive Furniture: OfficeMax. The choices were vast: This chair, or its identical twin.

They had better: Two rows of Managerial Chairs with tall backs, quite unsuited for my room. If I’m going to spend that kind of money, I want people to see me. I want to sit there and have my underlings grovel in fear. You just can’t do that with an ordinary standard-back desk chair, no matter how new it is.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Early Days Of Television

It was “Six-Gun Playhouse,” on New York City’s WPIX-TV, channel 11. The first television program I ever saw and, probably on the only tv set on the street. Paul Swanson invited me over, around 1948 or early 1949, to view this marvel. I think maybe his father was a doctor, so they could afford one.

The next program I saw was on our own tv, maybe on October 13, 1949, when we moved into our own, new, house. It was on a giant 19” RCA floor model tv. You have to remember that 19” was pretty good for the day; one of my friends on the next street had a magnifier over a much smaller screen and, of course, the father sat right in front.

My first show was “Howdy Doody,” or some such program. Maybe it was Gabby Hayes hosting some cowboy movie right before Howdy came on.

Not much later, I took my first of what I think were two NBC tours. It’s not like today, when you get a quick walk-through of a vacant studio or two. We saw actual working studios where evening dramatic shows were in various stages of rehearsal. From an upper booth, we looked down on the heroes of live black & white tv.

Those programs showed up during the week. One was the same night, the others followed. They were real, they were live and we could see the action of an actual rehearsal in progress. There was no videotape in those days; what happened in these studios during the week was what you saw at the same moment at home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Invented Their Electronic Toys

I lived before there were compact discs, long-playing records, automatic transmission cars and McDonald’s. So, you say, “big deal; lots of people have.”

Of my many jobs, one is at a college where none of the students and fewer of the employees fit the above categories. How many people are on campus who were born before 1948, when the record albums came out? McDonald’s got moving when Ray Kroc took over in 1956; we have employees who weren’t around then.

I remain amazed at the constant newness of people. Which, of course, means the constant oldness of me. I played 78rpm records on the radio and students don’t even remember record albums; even compact discs are 28 years old. We didn’t have K-Mart, but did have its father, the S. S. Kresge stores (remember them?).

All our first-year students were born in 1992; assuming they don’t become conscious of the world around them until they are about eight, that means they don’t know very much about the last century; 19-whatever is ancient history. If it happened before 2000, don’t even bother.

When you appear to become irrelevant, let the kids know your generation invented the personal computers, the computer games, all the electronic toys, the take-it-with-you music gadgets. Then ask them what they will invent for the next generation. Tell them who was president when you were born and why he made a difference.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Earth Stretches And Burps

God is punishing the world for our sins. No, says one religious leader, it’s because of the way women dress. Maybe it’s those liberals and the liberal media. Maybe….

Maybe it’s just the earth being alive and, occasionally, stretching and burping. God did not give us a solid hunk of rock to increase, multiply and fill the earth. Although, now that I think of it, that multiplying action isn’t such a bad thing after all. Volcanoes blow their stack occasionally, plates move, earthquakes happen. Nothing new.

We’re living on a planet where there used to be only one continent and, over the course of a few years (geological time) it began to split apart and move. In that same time frame, it’s still happening. Continents are still moving, mountains are still being pushed up, magma expands and gets to a point where it blows its top.

Yellowstone explodes fairly regularly every 600k years; we’re ready for one any day now (any day = oh, a thousand years, give or take). It’s 40,000 years overdue, so it may rip North America to pieces tonight or maybe two thousand years from now. Stay tuned; eventually it should be quite a show, although you really don’t want to be around.

The “Ring of Fire” is responsible for a great many earthquakes; it’s generally the area all around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. Has nothing to do with God, women’s clothing or our sins; it’s just tectonic plate movement. And that movement makes for some mighty big quakes. Don’t pray to God; just move inland a long way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hundreds Of Grocery Bags

Want some grocery bags? I’ve got some; more than some, I’ve got maybe close to a thousand as far as I can guess. All cleanly and tightly packed and put away.

The only difference between me and people on the “Hoarders” tv show is that I am not collecting any more, I use them daily as my wastebasket liners (going through two or three) and they were free from the newspaper where I am employed part-time as a music columnist. And there hangs a tale.

Seems a how OfficeMax wanted the paper to insert what we would call grocery bags into the newspapers with special offers printed on the outside. Naturally, they sent more than we needed – way more. Like, a thousand more and don’t bother sending them back. So they were sitting near the pressroom door, dangerously close to the dumpster.

I saw them, said, “Where are these going?” and someone replied, “In your car, if you want.” I did, as these were better than the plastic grocery bags I had been using. In the trunk, in the back seat, in the front seat, on the back and front floors; anywhere I could fit them. The same went for my room: they had to be out of the way, yet handy.

OfficeMax has since done another insert, but I had no intention of packing away another thousand bags. That’s the difference between me and a hoarder; I know when to stop and what my limit is. Although the pile of bags has gone down since I grabbed them, there are plenty for whatever future is to come.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Universe On Discovery Channel

Written on Sunday, April 25.

Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist, is taking us on a tour of the universe this evening on The Discovery Channel. It’s my favorite place and I’d love to have a trip through it, either on my way to heaven, or if I can come back, a leisurely trip through the entire place for as long as it takes.

It’s a big place, this huge creation in which we live. There may be 300 billion galaxies, each containing an average of 300 billion stars, many of which have their own planets, some or all of which have moons. The distance between galaxies is simply vast and it takes light two million years to travel between the closest two.

How big? If a star on the outer edge of what we can see blew up, the light would not reach us for some 13 billion years. We’re not talking about zipping through the universe on some Star Trek rocket; even warp speed won’t get you very far.

The joint we live in is beyond vast. That’s why I want to take a trip through it sometime, even if it takes me a hundred or a thousand years. In the light of eternity, what’s a thousand years, more or less? It doesn’t even count; I’d be back before supper.

Not that long ago, astronomers just discovered two million more galaxies.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Hope This Makes My Butt Look Too Big

One of my younger friends and I were talking about bustles. For those of you who tuned in late, these were the latest fashion all through the 1800’s, designed to make the lady’s backside enormously large. These days, we admire women who make their frontsides enormously large; styles actually change little, with just the location differing.

Anyway, I told him what they were and how to search for them. He was amazed. I was not, as I’ve been pictures of them most of my life. But not in real life.

Wisconsinhistory(dot)org has some examples, including a sketch showing the construction of a frame for supporting heavy winter clothing. Honest, it looks like a section of bridge. You go through the hole in the top and the supporting mechanism attaches, and is pressed against, your back.

All in the name of fashion. This, of course, was the high-fashion model. There were others, depending on where you were going that day or evening. Elaborate or plain, way out or closer to the body, quite decorative or somewhat plain: take your choice. You are the woman of fashion and can dress as you wish.

The bustle went out of fashion about 120 years ago and I really don’t think it’s coming back. But, you know that someone will try to resurrect this retro style and we will see the young, and old, ladies getting fixed up for the evening saying, “Honey, I hope this makes my butt look too big.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

When Pigs Fly

Maybe I’ve been watching The Discovery Channel too much lately, but when it shows how whales once walked the earth (or was it how elephants swam the seas?) the idea of pigs flying doesn’t seem that remote after all. We get only four limbs, divided among arms, legs and wings. But here’s how others express the concept.

In Spanish, the reference is to St. John at the Last Supper, where his index finger is raised: “When St. John bends his finger,” or “When frogs grow hair.”

In French, they say, “When hens have teeth.” Portuguese say, “When snakes smoke,” or, “On St. Never’s Day in the afternoon,” while Brazilians show their disbelief by saying, “Not even if a cow coughs,” or, “In February 31.”

The Dutch don’t worry about pigs flying, but say, “Yeah, when Easter and Pentecost are on the same day.” Similarly, in Sweden, it’s “Two Thursdays in the same week,” or “Two Sundays in the same week.”

In Latvia, they say, “When the stone (or rock) won’t sink.” Over in Malay, their “When pigs fly” expression is “Wait for the cats to grow horns.”

Turks have their own way: “When fish climb up a cottonwood." In Servian or Croation, it’s “When grapes grow on a willow.” Russia expresses its skepticism by saying, “When the crawfish whistles on the mountain.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Certain Tiredness Came Over Me

A fatigue, perhaps. A little more napping than usual, although with all the meds I take, much of that is to be expected. Of course, I’m not 67 anymore; as of Tuesday, the odometer turned over and I have to adjust to an entirely new age and all that comes with it. I don’t need wonder what the kids mean when they say, “Hey, pops!”

Wine, women and song. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, so that’s out as a cause of my tiredness. Women? The ones who would have me are all grandmothers. Song? Well, I do like to sing along with recordings, but they tend to be, like myself, from the early 1940’s. I played newer stuff on the radio, but they didn’t pay me to listen to it.

Was it drugs? Oh, my yes. I did drugs consistently and I’m sure the major companies are grateful I’m around. My pharmacist and his wholesaler thank me for my loyalty. The guys on the corner can jump off the bridge, or get shot. Not fatally; just in an embarrassing place, like their reproductive organs. (“Hey, I’ve got a soft-on.”)

My med containers have more red labels than the standard white. “Do not drive while using this med”; “Do not operate machinery while taking this med”; “Do not drink alcohol”; “Do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect $200”; “If you experience a period of awakeness for more than four hours, this stuff is not strong enough.”

It’s compounded by the fact that my cruise is coming in just over nine weeks. Bye, bye radio show, toodle-oo blog, hasta la vista Wilkes-Barre. I feel better already.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Like A Lion

And out like an ice cube. What happened to the lamb? It was inside by the fireplace, rubbing its hooves together, trying to get warm. That’s where it was.

Even though I’m writing this blog late (actual typing date 4-18), trying to catch up, it was still only 45 this morning. In our long-running corruption investigation, the perps are being escorted to court in heavy jackets – no doubt concealing the tens of thousands of dollars they have denied stealing from the public.

In warmer weather, they’d be in light suits and the judges would carry the loot. Except for one thing: too many judges have already been caught themselves. Trials are now being heard by the blind statue holding the scales of justice who hasn’t realized yet that her scales should balance, but don’t. Hmmmm. Is she next?

Anyway, back to the weather. When I really need the car to heat up fast (“winter”) it doesn’t happen for about six minutes. Or, until I get to two specific landmarks, depending on where I am going. When I don’t, then the heater is there, smiling and ready, in just a couple of minutes. “But where were you last winter?” I ask.

The river is just down the hill from here. “Down the hill” is the operative phrase, as water seldom goes uphill. We are half a block from River Street, but that’s quite a hike for your average molecule of water already headed south. We get deer up here sometimes, but never has a fish gotten lost and knocked on our door for directions.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Used To Wish Her A Happy Labor Day

Labor Day, 1942, came on April 13 that year. Not the official holiday we all know and love, but the day of labor for my Mother. As she said, when I wished her a happy labor day years later, “You were no problem at all; you just slid out.” I’m glad for that; I’d hate for her first memories of me to be negative.

So here we are, 68 years later. A lot of people back in Lordship, Connecticut, know a lot of things about me, but either they have graciously short memories, or are deceased. But when I went back 31 years ago having been promoted to an SIP (Somewhat Important Person), nobody mentioned stuff I did as a kid. I’ll always be grateful.

A friend sent me a really funny birthday card. It had two bananas on the front: One fresh and new, the other a day later, all black and splotchy. “Being one day older only matters if you’re a banana.” I woke up the same person I was yesterday, and even if the odometer turns over significantly (40-50-60), it’s still only one day.

What’s the difference between Tommy in grammar school and Tom post retirement age? I’m a better writer, I can read deeper stuff, I realize why reality shows and Yogi Berra’s sayings need to be scripted and edited. Long ago, I thought all the answers were easy; people think I’m a liberal simply because I now know they aren’t.

When I was a kid, born and brought up a Roman Catholic, I used to worship the church. I don’t anymore and probably never will. But, what the heck, it’s home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ding, Dong; The Coroner's Dead

He’s really most sincerely dead. Munchkin Meinhardt Raabe passed away last week at 95 under happier circumstances: he lived to see thousands of fans practically adore him, he rode thousands of miles, thirty years, in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, and he was a wartime pilot (did he sit on phone books??).

Raabe became a regular visitor to the annual OzFest in Chittenango, N.Y. “Meinhardt wrote us a letter and said, 'You know I'm a Munchkin. I was in this movie. Would you ever be interested in having me come?' Of course, after we stopped screaming ...," organizer Barbara Evans said in 1998.

Raabe, no dummy, held degrees in accounting and an MBA, later working for Oscar Meyer. Then he saw the notice from MGM. He had been a barker at a sort of sideshow and he felt this helped him get the coroner’s job in “Oz.” Of 124 Munchkin actors, only nine had speaking parts.

Later he joined the Civil Air Patrol, became a skilled test pilot and spent the war years as the smallest uniformed pilot in U.S. history. He served as a ground instructor, teaching combat pilots meteorology and navigation. Even though his size prevented him from seeing combat, he became the smallest licensed pilot to fly during wartime.

So there he was, the once and future Oscar Meyer Little Chef, all dressed up in his coroner’s outfit, officially pronouncing the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflections From The Short Bus

It’s not the “short bus” people usually speak of, but the shorter buses we used to have many years ago, when General Motors made two sizes: the regular large and a smaller model. Out where I lived, the Gray Line sent a bus around from Bridgeport about once an hour, the larger type. End-of-run was at the edge of the swamp.

When we left grammar school each afternoon, they sent a shorter bus down from some location, maybe Stratford Center, and it, too, seemed to end up at the swamp.

This one was livelier. Four girls would stand down in the steps by the front door and rehearse a song or two, then they would go up and serenade the bus driver. I’d usually be standing next to the driver chatting with him. The “Operator cannot move bus when anyone is ahead of the white line” sign was simply ignored.

Then there was the other, much newer, short bus which took us from central Bridgeport up to the high school a few miles away. Chestnut Hill Bus Company. One of the drivers was a real looker, according to the girls. Another was an old crippled guy who kept his cane next to the driver’s seat.

One day, waiting at a downhill stop sign, some woman ahead of us just sat there. He blew his horn, waited, then released the brakes a bit and tapped her bumper. She stuck out her hand, gave him the finger and shot off. Those were the days when you settled your own disagreements without calling a lawyer.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Things Worth Pondering

Australia's national anthem is called "Advance Australia Fair."

Author Robert May considered the names of Reginald and Rollo before he settled on "Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer."

Bernd Eilts, a German artist, turns dried cow manure into wall clocks and small sculptures. He is now expanding his business to include cow dung wrist watches.

The colours yellow, red, and orange are used in fast food restaraunts because those are the colours that stimulate hunger.

The phrase "Often a bridesmaid, but never a bride," actually originates from an advertisement for Listerine mouthwash from 1924.

There are 158 verses in the Greek National Anthem.

There was no punctuation until the 15th century.

In the 1700's you could purchase insurance against going to hell, in London England.

The famous Citgo sign near Fenway Park in Boston is maintained not by Citgo, but by Boston's historical society.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Things Worth Pondering

Sgt. Friday never said, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Stan Freberg added the “ma’am” in his parody of the show.

Adults produce half a liter of flatulence gas per day, resulting in about 14 incidents of, uh, flatulence.

Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

A “jiffy” is 1/100th of a second.

Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger has a son, Tony jr, and a daughter Antoinette, who were used in early ad commercials.

Michelangelo’s full name is Michelangelo di Lodovico di Lionardo di Buonarroto Simoni.

Q-Tip cotton swabs were originally called Baby Gays.

Male goats will urinate on each other in order to attract mates.

A turtle can breathe through its butt.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

It Keeps Going, for $20,000

One of the original four Energizer Bunnies will be sold at Heritage Auction Galleries, Beverly Hills. It comes with the original custom made cases for both the Bunny and the three controllers. It is expected to bring $20,000+.

The pink bunny with sunglasses, a drum and blue and black flip-flops became instantly recognizable to consumers since the minute it was introduced in 1989.

The bunny still runs as it did in its heyday, which means that you would need three people to operate it in its full glory: the head is on a gimbal, allowing for full range of the motion for the head; the arms bang the drum and move up over its head; drumsticks spin in its hands; his ears move backwards and forwards, the feet march and it moves in all directions, and spins on its axis, on tracks.

In fact, the consignor is in the process of getting the bunny back in shape so that it is every bit as nimble and energetic as collectors – and consumers – would expect it to be. “It still works perfectly well,” Norwine said. “It just hasn’t been charged up and run for several years. It won’t take long, though, to have running exactly as it was before.”

The Energizer Bunny became digital in commercials about five years ago before the company re-commissioned the mechanical bunnies for a new round of commercials within the last year. As far as the original examples go, however, collectors aren’t likely to get another chance any time soon.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Reluctant Traveler

“Reluctant” isn’t the word for it; I hate traveling. There’s a cottage at a lake nearby, a 26-minute trip, and I’ve never taken advantage of my friends’ offer. Luckily, they know of my aversion to actually going anywhere. I’d rather walk to church than ride, but it’s too far; so’s my physician and dentist.

A friend said, “You say you hate to travel, but you are on a cruise ship for 14 days each year. It doesn’t stand still. Exactly how to do you intend to get yourself out of that?”

Simple, I replied. Once you are on the ship, you are in your hotel: put away your stuff and you are set. For the next 14 days, you do not have to drive anywhere or wait for a bus; there is no need to find a motel; the restaurant is just up or down a few decks; every type of entertainment you want is available at night.

When you wake up in the morning, you are in a different city. The weather did not affect you, nor did traffic or road construction. Not matter how far you went, nobody got tired behind the wheel, no nerves were frayed, not a bit of road rage, no cops to look out for because you fell behind your schedule. No schedule, actually.

I think I’ll wander to the library and take out a book; maybe go to the buffet and get a mug of tea. That exercise room at the front of the ship looks good. What city do we visit next? Halifax, Nova Scotia? Great place; they have a free bus, runs all day, to take us around the city. I love “not traveling” this way.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Go To Church, Win A Car

Bay Area Fellowship gave away millions of dollars worth of prizes, including 16 cars, at its Easter services from Thursday through Sunday. Pastor Bil Cornelius' plan to attract potential new members worked -- more than 23,500 attended services at Bay Area's main campus in Corpus Christi or its six other branches.

Cynthia Garcia’s won a gray 2002 Volkswagen Jetta. She said, "I've never had so much fun in church." "It's pretty awesome," Sylest Candelaria, 6, said of her new purple bike.

The multimillion dollar giveaway attracted nationwide attention, not all of it positive. The church was criticized for bribing people to come to church. The church gave away 15,000 prize packs with coupons for free goods and services such as a night's stay for dogs at the Pooch Pad.

Eva Rodgers said she doesn't understand the criticism the church has received. "Clubs do this kind of thing, why not a church?" she said. "His message is to get them in here and get them saved, not get them in here and get them wasted. Several people protested outside the church during a Sunday morning service, Jessica Cornelius said. "We took them doughnuts and water, so I guess we killed them with kindness," she said with a smile.

"I have yet to see a hearse pulling a U-Haul, guys," Cornelius said. "You can't take this stuff with you.” (From the Caller-Times, Corpus Christi, Texas.)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sing A Song Of Spring

Winter is over, as is the Christian penitential season of Lent.

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.
-- (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam)

It was a perfectly lovely day and a perfectly lovely evening. The kind of day we often wish would last year-round, but know we would be bored if it did. We need the contrast of the seasons, just as much as we need the contrast of these black letters on the white background. Without the cold winter or the hot summer, spring would be common.

Trees are budding, with that faint green of new life which, inevitably, will be come the darker color of older leaves. It’s almost as if the light green is the tree’s imitation of the New Year’s baby, all fresh and ready to take on the world. Soon enough, fall will come and the leaves will wither and fall. But that’s many months from now.

I suppose, in the woods on each side of this valley city, animals are being born in time to take advantage of the good weather and grow up before the season changes after the fall. We don’t have that problem; people propagate any old time of the year and the babies are pampered inside the house, only to emerge in the spring.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

It's Only The Photo I Dread

It’s four years again; time for the trip down Main Street to the Motor Vehicle Dept. and get my driver’s license renewed. The wait’s a little longer this time around, they say.

I have time this afternoon, so maybe I’ll bring a book with me, or perhaps a pillow. Hey, how about some dark glasses and a white cane? I bet that would really freak them. “Are you blind, sir?” “Well, I wasn’t last time and there is no test to renew, so just sign me up.” “Did you drive down here?” “Yeah; I remembered the way.”

I think I’ll take my high school photo with me and have them scan it into the license. That’s when I looked my best; life has not been that good to me, apparently, because one of my old friends from 1964 didn’t recognize me when we met a few years ago. Not even when I introduced myself.

Maybe I’ll practice in front of a mirror tomorrow. Various smiles, happy faces, scowls, mean faces. If a cop pulls me over, I want him to know he is dealing with one bad mean-face dude. But one of my intrigued happy-smile faces might cause him to let me off. Maybe a quizzical face, as in, “Did I do something wrong, officer?”

When I show my license and cruise ship i.d. card returning to the ship, I tell them the photo was taken when I was much older. Some get it right away, some have to stop and think; I’m afraid others never catch on. “Why look at my photo, when you can look at me? See me? That’s me. Ok?”

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Once, Squirrels Could Cross The Country

...and do it without touching the ground. Well, at least they could make it to the Mighty Miss; I don’t recall and trees with branches long enough to help them across the Father and Mother of Rivers.

The forest canopy in the yet-to-be US was thick enough to allow these rodents safe passage from any point designated “A” to any other point designated “B.” Which is amazing, when you remember squirrels can’t read, much less follow a map. I also think they are territorial and much prefer to stay close to home and even hang out in their own neighborhoods.

Aside from those little difficulties, we now have (children, look away) denuded the landscape, as well as put in a number of treeless Interstate highways which the aforementioned animals can’t cross on the no longer existing trees. Given the amount of traffic, its speed and the squirrels maximum forward motion, the chances they will make it across are pretty low.

Around here, on busy West North Street, just outside my window, they use the telephone or electric wires to make the crossing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a funeral procession for one of these critters, so they seem to have caught on quick. There is a saying about “the quick and the dead,” but “quick” in this case means “alive” and not “moving like crazy.”

Maybe these days it would be possible for squirrels from the east side of town (Missouri) to cross over to the west side (Kansas) by using, as their own personal roadway, some of the power lines which go from one side of the river to the other. It would be quite a climb, but if they really wanted to visit Great-Aunt Anna, that might be the only way. We’ll keep you posted.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Day To Ponder Upon Ourselves

Everybody needs time off. Some call it a vacation, but most religions call it a day (or season) of atonement, repentance; a time of soul-searching, a quiet period when we can see where we are going. The fact that all religions have this means they see an importance in this practice.

Where are we eventually headed, amid all the important and frivolous activities of the day? Do we have time to make sense of our lives, to make up for the hurts we have caused others, to repent of the evil we have done?

When we look back a photos of ourselves as children, do we wonder what went wrong? Do we wish we had not become so hardened as we are now? Or do we say, “That’s the way the world works: kill or be killed, step on or be stepped on, it’s the law of the jungle out there.”

You never see an armored car at a burial service. When a person dies, they can’t take any of their toys with them. All they have is who they are, for better or worse; and you want it for better.

I’ve never met a true atheist; I’ve met people who are mad at God, for whatever reason they have cooked up, I’ve met people who are mad at their church, I’ve met people who thought they are the pinnacle of creation. But we all believe and we all need our periods of reflection, of repentance. Today is Good Friday for Christians, one of those days.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Best April Fools' Joke Ever

The Spaghetti Tree. Hands down; nothing has ever beat it, in my opinion. People were taken in, and maybe still are, by the sheer beauty of how this was done. Check it out for yourself, then come back.

http:// www . (or just go to youtube and enter “spaghetti tree” to click on “Panorama – April Fool’s Day Hoax”). The Brits really know how to do it right.

I’ve done that sort of thing on the radio, but never with the brilliance of this particular filmed bit of foolery. One time, I announced that a local major bridge was operating normally after being stuck in the “open” position earlier that day. Except the bridge was a fixed span and did not open.

One of our less-brainy part-timers came in after I did that and warned me that people might not take the bridge if they knew it had been stuck open. I said, “First, people know the bridge does not open and never did. Second, I said it had happened earlier in the day and everything was working well. Third, most people in this country know it’s April 1.”

During the period when militant Indians were taking over places around the country, for one reason or another, I announced they had taken over the (non-existent) toll booth on the same bridge, but were forced to leave when they discovered it did not have a rest room. I had a lot of fun on those days.