Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Blog Goes On Vacation

It's time to clean up the room, save the good stuff and empty the garbage. Laundry is kinda done, but I really haven't stored it properly. See you in a bit.

Things At King's

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On The Road With The Wolfman

I don’t remember cars always coming with a radio in them. I mean an AM radio, much less the not-yet-invented AM/FM radio. You turned it on, gave it time to warm up and in came the stations. Oddly enough, there were more stations on your car radio than on the house radio. Car radios had to be more sensitive.

You might be driving in areas where radio reception was not the best and you needed to pull the stations in out of the mud. Out on the open road, your home stations were audible for miles more than usual. My home station, WICC in Bridgeport, was audible for far more miles in the car than on any radio I might have.

They also ran on tubes, so if you were sitting with your Best Beloved, contemplating the trees in the woods, or the ships out at sea (or whatever else you were involved in), you had to be careful not to run the battery down. With today’s efficient radios, you and your beloved can go pretty far.

Although the “cold winter night” really makes no difference, rolling along at night and moving the tuning knob up and down the dial is great. Station after station roll in from places far and farther. WBT, Charlotte; KDKA, Pittsburgh; WOAI, San Antonio; KMOX, St. Louis, WBZ, Boston.

And those Mexican border-blasters just covered all of North America. We listened to the legendary Wolfman Jack (birthname: Bob Smith. More exciting name: The Wolfman).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Are Your Eggs Alright, Honey?

You see, it was like this: Stanley Neace didn’t like the way his wife cooked his breakfast. The eggs weren’t hot and that’s all the excuse he needed to shoot her and occupants of several others in the trailer park. After that, he took himself out.

Guns don’t kill people; cold eggs kill people.

Actually, a little perspective, some anger management courses and a sign reading: “STOP. Count to a hundred before you touch this gun” might have helped.

The big question in our lives is, “What justifies the action I am about to take?” Do cold eggs justify murder? Does a complaining kid justify whacking him? Does an argument with someone justify making up and spreading a lie?

Was it the cold eggs, or was it something that had been building up for a long time and finally exploded? We’ll never know, of course; the last bullet took care of that. And were the eggs really cold, or just not hot enough? And did it matter at all? Some people are just itching to pick a fight, regardless.

He was known for his bad temper and was facing eviction from the trailer park for just that reason. The landlord said he was unpredictable and little things would set him off. I guess so: eggs not cooked the way he liked them is not exactly marital infidelity. Given the state of the world, it doesn’t even count.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Relation To What?

Hell: A popular reference point. “Funny as hell,” we toss off. I don’t know about that; it’s hard to think of anything about hell that’s funny. “Funnier than hell” makes sense, as everything is. Being crucified, covered with pitch and set on fire while having your innards ripped out is certainly funnier than hell.

Cold: I was in the Caribbean a few years ago and a shopkeeper said it was cool that morning. As far as I could tell, that meant it was probably around 65 degrees. I told her we had an ice storm when I left home; no doubt she had no idea what that meant, as the only ice she’d seen was in a glass of hootch.

Speed: My piano teacher thought 40mph was about as fast as anyone ought to go, including on Interstate highways. And that was as fast as she went. She could play the “Minute Waltz” in thirty seconds flat, but that was the only time she would speed. It would be nice to stick her in an Indy car for a few spins around the oval.

Quiet: Best definition I’ve heard is a cat walking across a thick stuffed down blanket on a feather bed. You may have your own. I think on a decibel meter this would not register; even placed inches away, it would hardly move the needle. It makes moonrise sound like a cannon going off.

The Greatest: Very individual. Whatever comes along that matches our needs of the moment or a lifetime. A singer, a girl/boy friend, an excellent dinner.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Three Packs Of China A Day

Linfen, China, is said to be the most polluted city on earth. For instance, the article I read says if you put your laundry out to dry, it will turn black before it’s finished.

It’s located in China's coal belt, and the article’s photo gets foggy and blurry as the distance (not much of it) spreads out. Three million people are affected by Linfen’s coal and particulates pollution, in addition to residue from automobile and industrial emissions. Not a great place to life.

Spending one day in there is equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes. That’s just being there. If you do smoke three packs a day, then you’re up to six packs. Even one pack makes you a four-packer. I don’t know the average lifespan in the city, but I’d be willing to bet they don’t spend much on Social Security.

Then there is the Niger Delta. It has had more than 6,800 oil spills. The figures on that place are 300 spills a year, one spill a day, and 9 to 13 million barrels of oil spilled over 50 years; the Niger Delta remains one of the most oil-polluted locations on the planet. Ruptured pipelines and the presence of oil contaminates permanently damage rivers.

I remember seeing photos of the Pittsburgh area when you could hardly see anything. Smoke, dust, whatever kind of junk we could throw in the air – you wonder how people could live without seeing the sun, moon and stars. Now it’s wonderful and healthy. People are proud of the place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Lots of things do. It’s not the story of my life, but certainly it has to be a chapter in the book. At my judgement, I’ll just say: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Let’s take my little jaunt from our old house to what was becoming our new. My parents and brother were going to drive down there to take a look at the progress, but I was nowhere to be found. My grandparents said they’d keep an eye out for me and the folks took off. I showed up later and had what seemed like a good idea at the time.

I got on my tricycle, all of 7, and decided I was going to follow them. Nobody was going to leave me behind. The concept of crossing major roads and not really knowing the way was lost on me; I just knew I had to go south until I reached the water. I guess I got about a mile before the family car came screeching to a halt on its way back.

At that point, I started to realize it might not have been that good of an idea. I got a fairly good talking-to and my brother had to walk back with me.

Many years later, I was outside Quebec City where my brother lives. He, his wife, I and a friend were walking around when I realized finishing off that last cup of tea wasn’t such a good idea at the time, nor was missing the chance to take a leak before going out.

After a while, things got painful and I ended up standing close to someone’s hedge, taking care of matters, hoping nobody called the cops.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What's One Foot Between Friends?

What’s the difference between a 499’ radio tower and a 500’ radio tower? A lot of money to wire and install (much less maintain) an expensive bunch of tower lights.

ESPN Radio in NYC just put up a 3-tower array at 499 feet, no lights, with the FAA’s blessing. Since aircraft are not allowed to fly below 500’, there is no danger of one running into those towers. Theoretically. One foot higher, tower and airplane could presumably meet in a tangle of steel and cockpit.

Around here, for some reason, the magic number is 200’. Our radio tower tops out at 196’ and someone across the river wants to stick one in the ground at 199’. I know a guy whose towers were something like 205’ and he bulldozed dirt around the base so they were, sort of, like, 199’ so to speak. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Amtrak trains run at 79mph out west. Not 80, but 79. It has to do with signaling equipment in the locomotives, which would be expensive to upgrade for the usage they have in mind. So 79 it is. I’m not sure if it’s possible to cheat, but what with all the instrumentation on the choo-choos, the engineers probably don’t cheat.

The Fox Television Stations (did you notice neither I nor they said “network”?) stay under the radar of FCC’s network regulations because, by running fewer hours and covering a lower percentage of the country, they are exempt from certain regulations which would tie their financial hands. Clever as a Fox.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gazing Out The Bathroom Window

As I pull into the driveway to service Sitka Kitty, the first thing I hear is a “meow” from the bathroom window. Then I see two pointy ears and a pair of eyes.

Sure enough, there is Sitka Rollover waiting for me. He would like, if it’s not too much trouble, his evening meal and a brushing down. The brushing is done with my comb and he flops down on the floor while I do one side; then he rolls over while I do the other. Then flat on his back … one side … the other side. “Rollover” is a good last name.

He used to wait for me in the parlor window and still does when Cindy is home. But when I am the sole means of support (that is, I know how to open the fridge), he appears in the bathroom window as he would when she gets home. I guess I move up in rank from “parlor” to “bathroom,” with bathroom being a step up.

Then there is the leaving ritual. When Cindy is home, he blocks the door and knows just when to do it. She has to do all sorts of things so I can get out. When I’m there alone, it’s no problem: he just goes to his bed in the kitchen, flicks his tale and I leave. Some day I’ll have to figure that dynamic out.

The cat’s favorite spot? Anywhere it can lean up against something. Some clothes, a blanket, whatever. It’s fine stretching out on the floor, or lying there paws tucked under. But for a nap or sleeping, it’s gotta be leaning. No curl-up end-of-bed for this one. I have to go over for supper soon and will check the bathroom window.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Heat Wave Turned Cold

Yeah, the temps went from the mid-90’s down to the 50’s as if we fell off the top of the PNC Bank building. Except not as slowly. Florida to Alaska, non-stop.

“This heat is too much,” someone said. “We can take care of that,” the Gods of the Weather replied. Watch what you ask for; I would have mentioned wanting something around the mid-70’s. Well, we have another chance this week as it’s been up in the 90’s again with another cut-cables elevator drop due in a couple days.

Not only that, but there be a hurricane coming [this blog was actually written on September 2, not the date listed as the posting]. I notice Philly already has the far outskirts, according to the GOES satellite picture on the Internet. We won’t get anything more than some rain, but any ballgames in Boston will have to wait.

I’ve already told you about the time my brother (14) and I (10) went down to the beach to experience being in the eye of a hurricane. Our parents not only allowed it, but thought it up. That’s sort of thing we call a “once in a lifetime, and not everybody’s lifetime.” It taught me never to pass up an opportunity, because it might never happen again.

Mom and I did have the chance to visit Fairbanks AK, where we thought parkas would be the outfit of the day. Turns out the city can reach 88 degrees in the summer (minus 55 in the winter), and I’m not sure if there are any moderate days, or if the thermometer just dives overnight. Not going to find out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Radio & TV Schedules

Speaking of television (and, for that matter, radio), the newspapers used to run the schedules for both, but not quite the same as now.

The radio schedules showed each program on all the area stations, including the local dj’s, news, public affairs and such. There were network programs, same as today, but also a lot of local originations. I think nets and local morning shows were about 50-50, as each network had a strong following, but so did the independents.

Local tv listings included a substantial among of “Test Pattern” announcements. They ran during the daytime hours and the video had registration lines of various sorts with, for whatever reason, and Indian on top:

Back in those days, you didn’t just go to the tv store and take a set home; often it had to be aligned by your local dealer. The test pattern was the best way to do it and, at least up to the time I was hanging out at a station (1978), we still used one to set up the studio cameras. I think one of the local stations was still doing it here even later.

My mother said when the day came she couldn’t get up and change the channels by herself, it would be all over. Yeah, right. When she got a new tv with a remote, she said something like, “This is the life,” clicking away merrily from her recliner from across the room. I knew she would sell out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting Until The Dot Disappears

You see, in the Olde Days when television was in glorious black and white and took three minutes to warm up (and you could barely see it during the day unless the curtains were drawn), there was The Dot. It was like the end of a Looney Tunes cartoon, in a way, when at the end the film would quickly collapse into a little blip.

In this case, you turned the tv off and the picture would collapse into a little dot at the center of the tube where it would stay for a period of time. A minute? Two minutes? I forget how long. But sometimes we would stay there, staring at it until it finally disappeared. The last glimmering phosphorescent glow.

Then it was all over. The set was officially off, dead. The Dot was gone until the next time we turned it on for the three-minute warm-up.

Yes, boys and girls, there was no instant-on in those days; you actually waited and it was an accepted part of life. If a program started at 8:00, you turned it on at 7:55 and then you made such adjustments as needed after it warmed up. If it flipped, you adjusted the vertical hold, maybe the horizontal hold if it was laying over.

They don’t have those controls anymore. Nor do they have the Fine Tuning for when you switched from station to station, because stations are actually offset a bit to prevent interference with each other on the same channel miles away. Channel changers were on the set and you actually turned them to choose what you wanted.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ticking And Tocking

What has three hands and no legs? Clocks, of course. Or mutants. I’ll put my money on clocks, as there are no big radioactive sites around here, except for the nuke plant about an hour down the road.

I’ve got them scattered all around here, each for a different purpose. There’s one big round clock in the bathroom, aimed at the shower. When I get out, minus my glasses, I can see what time it is. A lot different from the old days when I hadn’t a clue. It was going to be thrown out because the second hand fell off.

My “official” clock is a RadioShack clock/timer, a square thing on my desk. I keep it accurate to the second every few weeks. It tends to run a bit off and I don’t like that a bit. I want to know what time it is, rather that what time it might sort of be. Too many years of doing radio, I guess.

People are split into two divisions: those who divide people into two divisions and those who don’t. But, also, those who are precise and those who make it up as they go along. “three o’clock” to the latter is anywhere between 2:30 and whenever; to the former, it’s anywhere between 2:59:55 and 3:00:05, preferably a bit more precise than that.

Don’t think we precisioners are obsessive; it’s just knowing where we are in this world of time and space. On my 95th birthday, for instance, we are due to come very close to a large rock hurtling through space. If its timing is off, just by seconds, we’re safe. If not, we’re toast. Big chunks of toast flying off in every direction.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don't Touch MLB's Money Machine

They pretty much have it tied up.

“The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity:

“Major League … Major League Baseball … MLB … the silhouetted batter logo … World Series … National League … American League … Division Series … League Championship Series … All-Star Game…

“And the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities … and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.”

It reminds me of the (secret, don’t show to anyone) contract newspaper photographers have with the World Wrestling Federation. Everything, the smallest possibility, each photo, either belong to the WWE or they aren’t responsible. A wrestler gets thrown out of the ring on top of you and you die, that’s your problem and not WWE’s. They set up the rigging wrong and you get killed, too bad.

Even the Super Bowl: If you are not a licensed sponsor, you can only call it “The Big Game.” Team names are forbidden, as well. All tied up nice and tight.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Traffic Jam Isn't That Bad -- A 60-mile traffic jam near the Chinese capital could last until mid-September, officials say. There, vehicles were inching along little more than a third of a mile a day. Zhang Minghai said he didn't expect the situation to return to normal until around Sept. 17 when road construction is scheduled to be finished.

That was a few days ago. Then, almost magically, the road cleared overnight. Literally, overnight. People woke up and vehicles were moving normally.

That area is so known for huge traffic jams nobody even notices them. Unless, of course, you are in one. Even then, it’s just part of life and nothing to be surprised at. What is to be surprised at is the unlocking of a three-month jam just overnight. That is what amazed the traffic people.

What happened to the ten-mile back-up? Did some magician make it disappear along with his beautiful stage assistant? Was their a giant sinkhole that took all the vehicles with it and then closed up again? Were the drivers so fed up they simply drove through peoples’ backyards to freedom?

We may never know. But in the dark of night, on the other side of the planet, in what we Westerners call “the inscrutable East,” something happened to instantly clear up one of the world’s worst traffic jams. I can’t think of any relevant ancient Chinese sayings to explain all of this, so let’s just quit while we’re ahead.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In The Locksmith's Shop

I trotted across the street to the local locksmith’s shop. A friend needed some keys made and it was easier for me to do the job, so I took a few minutes out and the smithy is a friend anyway who I haven’t seen in a while. It’s a comfortable place, laid back and not at all fancy. Just your neighborhood lock and repair business.

The back wall is, quite literally, covered with pegs filled with all sorts of key blanks. Any model of cars, door keys, padlocks, you name it.

I’ve no difficulty with that; my only question is: how do they find the blanks so fast? I came in with three different keys for house doors and the clerk pulled them as quick as you’d like. I realize, as a former disc jockey, they have the blanks organized in just such a manner as to make it very convenient.

After all, I could find my records by type, by artist, by album and even by which side the cut was on – and very quickly. You get to know this. The same goes for a locksmith: many blanks all look alike to us. Many people think all Ray Conniff songs sound alike, but we know the subtle differences which make his pieces different.

I am known for getting into places where I shouldn’t be. A life-long talent. At one time, I was fascinated by locksmithing and my dear mother, bless her heart and rest in peace, replied, when I mentioned it to her, said, “That’s for honest people.” My own mother, mind you. My own mother.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hit The Road, Jack (Part Two)

An incident that I remember clearly took place on the 91 north of Brattleboro, Vt.; one lane was closed, it was on Labor Day,the cottages were being closed and half the state of Connecticut was returning home. Again on 95 south in New Hampshire on yet another Labor Day, half the state of Massachusetts having shut down their camps and cottages in N.H. for the year blocked up the entire length of the highway within the New Hampshire territory....all seventeen miles of it.

Rush hour traffic is no big thing on the Quebec Bridge, but sometimes I'd get my coffee and my wooden replica of a cell phone that I made and take a ride over about 7:30 a.m.. I had a rusted out '95 Mazda pickup and that blonde with her glasses perched on top of her head driving a '04 Acura next to me would not even THINK of cutting me off.

I'd get the morning news on the radio, have a coffee, talk into my wooden cell phone and smile at frustrated folks who unlike me, are not retired. It takes a sadistic frame of mind to get me into such situation and drawing so much pleasure from it.

On the 175 between Quebec City and Chicoutimi they don't get too many, but when they do, watch out. It is usually a semi and one or more passenger cars or someone tried to mow down a moose. Folks were out sitting on the guard rail having a smoke or yakking and a few wandered off into the roadside brush for a bladder-stress relief job. We broke out a soda and had some old nachos which we found under the seat. It was a pretty good jam too. by Jim Carten, the traveler.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hit The Road, Jack (Part One)

As for all of you, I've hit some good traffic jams in my travels. Washington D.C. comes to mind, from Dale City north to 95 to Tyson’s Corners.

You will see cell phones, maps, cigarette butts being tossed out the window and then along comes a Harley on the shoulder all the way to the next exit. That riles some folks, but hey, isn’t that just one of the marginal benefits of a bike?

It is good when you are trapped in back of a truck in the middle lane. In a five-mile jam you can lose a couple of dozen places as the right laners cut in front of a slow starting truck, mostly none use their flashers.

You would be fascinated to learn all the information you can find on the back of a truck: if you want a job you can call a number, if you like his driving you can call another, or even if you don't like his driving too.

The licence plate is from North Carolina and he has mud flaps from some service area in Tucson, you know there is a certain romanticism here, miles of stories and truck stops hidden between the flaps and the plates.

If you are like me, I awaken from my child-like arm chair travels just in time to have two other cars cut in front of me, which tells me that the right lane is closed further on down the road. Thoughts by traveler Jim Carten.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Egg On Their Face

“How do you like your eggs, sir?” Well, not filled with salmonella, for sure. So we’ll get rid of half a billion eggs that are contaminated and come up with one that’s ok.

Half a billion eggs. Keep this in perspective: those cluckers produce 80 billion eggs a year, whether cooped up in cages or only slightly cooped up in cages (called “free range,” for people who have never visited and find they can’t really tell the difference).

Hillandale Farms of Iowa announced Friday it was recalling more than 170 million eggs. Another 380 million have been recalled by another Iowa producer, Wright County Egg. I wonder what you do with 170 or 380 million eggs? Can you feed them to pigs, if they are not bothered by salmonella?

Get half a billion poisoned eggs, feed them to (let’s say) pigs, eat the pigs safely. It’s like the Mafia laundering money. Except the pigs are the “laundry.”

One company owner admitted to 10 civil counts of animal cruelty in Maine after a nonprofit animal welfare group conducted an undercover video investigation. Then there were a few issues with doody all over the place, a few dead non-producers lying around and other stuff you really don’t want to know.

“How would you like your eggs, sir?”
“Inspected and cleared, honey.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They Want Their Church *Where*??

Yeah, I know, there’s a mosque… …in the Pentagon. Been there for years. There’s one in downtown Wilkes-Barre in a storefront where pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers hung out and the cops could do nothing about it. When the Muslims took over the store, all the problems disappeared; who needed all that coming and going?

Forty-Fort, a little borough across the river, wanted a Catholic church like New Yorkers want a mosque a few blocks from ground zero. The Forty-Forters pulled it off with nary a word in the papers. They have Stella Presbyterian Church, proudly situated on the best street location, but the Romans had to march to a welcoming borough.

People who sailed here from England (not quite on the Queen Mary, I might add) came in large measure for freedom of religion. Their religion and nobody else’s. Once here and freed from persecution, they then began persecuting those whose view of God and salvation was different from theirs.

Actually, it’s not that far from today. The folks who bow towards Rome have their own marching orders. It’s pretty much a statement of faith that non-Christians cannot be saved and, no matter how good and loving they may have been in this life, are condemned to burn forever in Hell. The persecuted become the persecutors.

Religion is strange; it has brought factions and murders, Popes dividing up the New World, Irish killing each other, people killing those they consider infidels.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fly The Friendly Skies

This is being written on the 22nd. Believe me, I’d rather be up-to-date, but things happen.

I had an incident at the Montreal airport. Stupid security inspectors, crabby customs people, bad scene all over. More power than brains. That was the last time I set foot in an airport or my rearside in an airplane seat. I just do not need to put up with that.

So now I cruise in such a way as to return to my port of embarkation. The boomerang voyage. I leave Boston, go where I wish, and return to Boston. No airport searches (empty your pockets, go through the gate, patdowns, or humiliating nude screenings).

No more “can’t take that half-empty bottle because it’s more than three ounces,” no more overkill under the notion that it’s going to keep us safe.

The result? Ok, I pay for a round-trip from Boston to Montreal and back to Boston. Pretty expensive way to avoid airports (and, for that matter, a city I can’t stand for other reasons than snotty airport people). But I learned that a round-trip cruise is far better than just seven days on the ship.

I don’t pay to bring a bag with me, to get an aisle seat, to get a preferred row in coach (I never thought there was such a thing) and several other fee-based services you never thought they’d come up with. On the ship? “Waiter!”

Monday, August 09, 2010

Eight, Nine, Ten

I’m surprised nobody has sent around an e-mail telling us this is the last time there will be an 8-9-10 date until whenever and there hasn’t been one since 1910. Someone is slipping. I wonder if there was any significance to 6-8-10? It’s in a recognizable sequence, meaning absolutely nothing.

When the new century rolled around, the New York Times had a banner headline saying nothing but “1-01-00.”

WLS, a Chicago radio station on 890, had ads which featured its dj’s inside the holes on the current rotary dial phones. The last three were 8-9-0. Clever, I thought.

A local undertaker bought his place from the phone company. As a favor, they gave him a sequential number (with the necessary “8” before it): 823-4567.

My internal school number used to be 811. I told people to think of it like 911 – we’ll get back to you, but just not as fast as the emergency people.

8 is a lucky number in China and a reporter for the New York Times has that, the numeral 8, as a middle name.

I can’t think of any lucky numbers we have here in the States, but we sure do avoid 13. No deck 13 on cruise ships and no room 13 in hospitals. Baaaad number.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

8-8, Just 8-8, Not 8-8-10.

Not eight-eight, but the infinity sign twice. It’s probably here on the keyboard somewhere, but I don’t know how to access it. So we have two infinities, if that is at all possible. One infinity is, well, infinite; can you possibly have two of them? “It’s infinitely infinite” is a strange way of expressing the concept.

Sometimes, when I am out on the deck of the m.s. Maasdam at night, cruising far out at sea and lying back on a deck chair, flat out facing up, I think about all the galaxies (300 billion of them) and the stars in each (+/-300 billion) and whether or not there are other universes we just don’t have contact with, or ever will. I think there are.

How many? I posit the lowest possible number of universes that could exist would be a googleplex to the power of a googleplex. God is infinite and would probably delight in creating as many people as possible to be with him eternally. So why not make a whole bunch of universes and populate them to live with him?

A googleplex is a pretty big number. Carl Sagan said writing the number would require more space than the known universe provides. Probably a trillion times. Taking the time to write this might be 10 to the 82nd power of the age of the universe. I want to raise this to the power of a googleplex as to the number of universes.

Well, why not? An infinite being can handle a number at least that large. And I think this is the minimum. Let’s check when we get there, ok?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Full Life, Indeed

Mary Cormier passed on to glory recently in Bridgeport, Conn. Here is part of her obituary. It certainly shows a full life and one which went in all directions at once.

“A self-taught pianist and organist, Mary was a student of German lieder, was fluent in Hungarian, and in her prime was known for her tasteful elegance, remarkable beauty and skilful and stunning oil paintings.

“She was an ‘Original’ who, later in life became a diehard fan of Turner Classic Movies and dreamed of emulating Joan Crawford and Betty Davis.

“A one-time professional ‘torch singer’ who, as Mari Carter, toured and performed in New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, Mary's varied employs included:

“Stints as a stenographer, real estate broker, practical nurse, astrologist, dental assistant, mixologist and especially restauranteur.

“She claimed to have dated Hollywood heart-throbs, fellow Bridgeporters, Robert Mitchum and Buster Crabbe.

“She would want to be remembered as that daring and darling little eighth grader who wrote a touching poem about Thomas Edison and which prompted, incredibly, a handwritten reply from the ‘Wizard of Menlo Park’ himself.”

Friday, August 06, 2010

"She's At Peace, And So Are We"

Obituary: Dolores Aguilar. [Vallejo, California, CA Times Herald on 8-16-08 and verified as true.]

“Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life.

“I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed, and there will be no lamenting over her passing. Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years.

“We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times, too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself.

“As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again. There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.”

[Daughter: We were kept “unfed, poorly clothed and completely terrorized.”]

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Silver Spike

Here begins the story of the silver spike, in its true and verified form. True by me and verified by my father. It has held my books open for, lo, these forty years.

When I lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts, I used to walk along the tracks of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The North Shore branch ran to, and dead-ended at, Rockport. The train was what I consider to be the highest form of whatever runs with steel wheels on steel rail: The RDC, Budd’s Rail Diesel Car, a self-contained beauty.

As I walked along the tracks one day, I found a spike next to the tracks laying there minding its own business. It was in excellent shape, except for a lot of rust. The next time my parents came by, I made up this story about almost being hit by the train and catching my shoe in the spike and pulling it up. They didn’t believe me.

My father asked for the spike; I tossed it to him and thought no more about it. The next time they visited, he handed me this “silver” spike. Turns out he had performed a little magic, pulled in a favor and produced what may be, if not one-of-a-kind, at least not-many-of-a-kind chrome-plated railroad spikes.

At his machine shop, he ground the rust off, then went down the street to a plating shop. They plated the iron with copper, then nickel, then chrome (copper will adhere to iron and nickel, but not to chrome; chrome will adhere to nickel but not to copper or iron). So now it holds books open and decorates my windowsill in the meantime.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I've Got Teeth!

Problem is, one and only one of them has been announcing its presence for the last few days. Like the student raising its hand, jumping up and down, “Teacher! Teacher!”

Ok, I hear you. You have something wrong, now shut up. We’ll visit my friend the dentist (locally pronounced “the denist”) in just a few days. Now stay out of the way of this Alleve pill as it heads down what Mom used to call “the little red lane” and in about twenty minutes you will fall asleep. And, thank goodness, so will I when it’s time to.

“Back in the day,” as they used to say back in the day (and still do), my dentist as a kid was a neighbor with a drinking problem. Not the greatest match in the world, but he seemed to be pretty much with-it during business hours. I had my doubts, even back then, but I also knew a dentist with epilepsy. I figured the drunk was a better choice.

We also had what we termed a “society dentist,” the type Mom described as having a good bedside manner. He looked good, had the right mannerisms, and sucked up to the old ladies who came to him. One of his kids turned out alright; the other busted himself up putting on a cape and jumping off the roof thinking he was Superman.

Anyway, I went to the denist (see above for pronunciation) and got the first problem fixed; I have to go back in a couple of weeks for the final work. It was on a 30-year-old crown done by a dentist on an island where I lived; obviously, he did a good job. Not every windswept, offshore DDS is someone who couldn’t make it on the mainland.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I Have Cat Duty

So I’m going blissfully along when my friend announces she’s going to visit her family six or seven hours away and would I see to the cat?

I hate being in a car, driver or passenger, for any length of time. This trip is fifteen minutes out, fifteen back, but I usually hang out over a mug of tea, something to read and a comfortable couch upon which I ponder the mysteries of the universe and make my report here. These are my thoughts for the day.

On the way over, I passed a sign which read: “Basement Garage Sale.” Apparently, the germ “garage sale” or “yard sale” has gone fairly generic and you can have one pretty much anywhere you’d like. In this case, the basement.

Reminds me a bit of when I heard a cop on the scanner coming in to hq to fill out “a non-reportable accident report.” Look, guys, if the participants in the demolition derby didn’t feel they needed to report it, why do you? They settled between themselves and left.

When I got to my friend’s house, there was a car next door with a bumper sticker telling us to “Boycott BP.” Well, that bothers me on two levels. (1) It only hurts your local gas station owner and (2) who are you to tell me what to do? Everybody in The Land Of The Free has a cause and that’s fine; just don’t think I care.

Now it’s time for me to get over there and feed the kitty.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Dictionary Of Non-Words - 2

Here is the second (and final) list of non-words collected by the Oxford English Dictionary people who save them just in case they could be used in future editions of the dictionary. I thought last time “Freegan” was in our dictionary, but not so.

Nonversation – a worthless conversation, wherein nothing is explained
Oninate – to overwhelm with post-dining breath
Optotoxical – a look that could kill, normally from a parent or spouse
Parrotise – a haven for exotic birds especially green ones
Peppier – a waiter whose sole job is to offer diners ground pepper, usually from a large pepper mill

Percuperate – to prepare for the possibility of being ill
Polkadodge – the dance that occurs when two people attempt to pass each other but move in the same direction
Pregreening – to creep forwards while waiting for a red light to change
Quackmire – the muddy edges of a duck pond
Spatulate – removing cake mixture from the side of a bowl with a spatula

Sprog – to go faster then a jog but slower then a sprint
Whinese – a term for the language spoken by children on lengthy trips
Wibble – the trembling of the lower lip just shy of actually crying
Wikism – a piece of information that claims to be true but is wildly inaccurate

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Dictionary Of Non-Words - 1

I just noticed the Oxford English Dictionary people have a list of non-words. They go back to the early 1900’s up to today. But the good folks save them just in case they could be used in future editions of the dictionary.

Accordionated – being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time
Blogish – a variety of English that uses a large number of initialisms, frequently used on blogs
Dringle – the watermark left on wood caused by a glass of liquid.
Earworm – a catchy tune that frequently gets stuck in your head
Espacular – something especially spectacular

Freegan – someone who rejects consumerism, usually by eating discarded food
Fumb – your large toe
Furgle – to feel in a pocket or bag for a small object such as a coin or key
Glocalization – running a business according to both local and global considerations

Griefer – someone who spends their online time harassing others
Headset jockey – a telephone call centre worker
Lexpionage – the sleuthing of words and phrases
Locavor – a person who tries to eat only locally grown or produced food
Museum head – feeling mentally exhausted and no longer able to take in information; usually following a trip to a museum.