Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why I like Holland America Line

"We were the first cruise ship to be allowed to stop at St Lucia. These poor people were really hit hard from hurricane Tomas. They get all their drinking water by using their desalinazation plant. That plant was down completely. Well, HAL decided to help out.

"They had the head of the island come to the ship where our ship gave them blankets, HAL's ship reserve of supplies. They told us they were giving them water. I naturally thought they meant bottled water. NO, the man in charge of HAL's desalinazation methods on the ship found a way to take the water and pipe it into water trucks.

"I personally saw 8 or 9 huge tanker trucks filled with water leaving our dock. We were late leaving by an hour because the Captain said if we stayed he could pump something like 20,000 gallons more for these people, and he said he would make up the time so we would not be late to our next port. Our water went to the hospitals and other emergency places.

"Now, that was really nice, but wait it gets better. The children from the local orphanage came to the ship to eat pizza, hotdogs and ice cream and play in the kids area. You know they had to think they were in heaven. The orphanage received around 2 thousand dollars that was collected just for them. The Sister we are told was in tears and extremely appreciative.

"I was proud of the crew and those passengers on board that donated money." (Ship's Message Board.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Ilegal Alien Relatives

Am I proud that some of my relatives are illegal aliens? Does it bother me when I learned they never became citizens? I guess it happens to us at one time or another; at least to some of us. They came here, settled, nobody asked any questions and kept to themselves. It was an accepted thing in 1639.

At what point, I wonder, did they become “legal”? Well, not the first ones, of course, since there was no USA in those days. But 137 years later, the country finally came unto itself and you either moved to Canada or stayed with the States United. It’s those 137 years I wonder about.

They missed the Mayflower and the Speedwell, those of the Vail family, but I don’t know how they got here. My brother has the book compiled in 1908, or something, that shows how Jeremiah the first begot Jeremiah the second, who begot Jeremiah the third. At that point, they decided three generations with the same name was enough.

They settled in Orient (“east”), out on the north fork of Long Island. The very tip of the north fork, within feet of the Atlantic Ocean. No further east could one venture.

Was there a point at which one was officially “American,” a citizen of the US of A? Maybe a census established this? Am I the twelfth generation of illegals and, therefore, illegal myself? I do have a passport, so that establishes some sort of citizenship. But do they know my ancestors never went through Ellis Island?

Friday, October 29, 2010

More Notes From All Over

Paid obituary in the New York Times.
H. Butt Herr. Consummate New Yorker, photographer extraordinaire, computer guru. A lover of fine food, fine wine and fine women. A man’s man, an urban cowboy, erudite, well read and intellectually curious. He leaves behind [relatives] and friends in most time zones. Complex and flawed, he will always be with us.

The original bag of hammers.
A local high school coach has been let go when his contract runs out. In that time, his team has gone 9-22, including 0-10 this year. “I never got a straight answer from anyone,” he said. “They never called me in to talk about anything or what was going wrong. I hate to go out 0-10. I would have liked to give it one more shot just to see.”

The television movie of the year?
Betty Dickinson passed away recently. She traveled to every continent on earth, including Antarctica. She also obtained her private pilot certificate in her fifties, reasoning, “If something happened to your pilot, how dumb would you feel flying around, waiting to run out of gas? It’s so stupid not to be able to do something.”

She and her husband were pictured on the front page of the New York Times in October 1980, along with other survivors of the burning and sinking of the M.V. Prinsendam off the coast of Alaska. Betty recalled the scene aboard the doomed liner: “It was just like what you’d see in a B-movie. The only person missing was Tallulah Bankhead.” (New York Times)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Report From The Nuns' Boarding School

I went to two boarding schools and neither one could completely contain me. I never got caught, but the good Sisters had their suspicions. I also had outside contacts for such things as getting letters to boyfriends mailed ( writing to any male other than family was strictly verboten) and getting contraband food into the building.

That included a bottle of wine that I shared with a good buddy, (now a nun who runs a grammar school in Manchester NH.) She and I got our hands on empty cough syrup bottles and filled them and had them in our refectory table drawer along with our plate, cup and silver ware ... not unlike a penitentiary, or cloistered convent.

The others at our table never caught on, but were some what curious as to why we had such a hilarious time at dinner.

My dad would occasionally let me drive the car back to school after the monthly weekend home. Well, the good sisters didn't have a car, and the closest city was Berlin, Any one that needed to see a doctor or dentist or get any thing for the school that couldn't be delivered, had to go there.

When I had the car I became the designated chauffeur, and consequently the elected one to mail letters, get soda, magazines, and other contraband stuff. The nuns pretended they didn't notice and I pretended to be a model student. Later this education in "getting around" came in handy. (From an Internet friend)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Genius Who Invented Stairs

Normally, when we ask, “Who was the genius who…,” it’s in a sarcastic tone. As in, “Who was the genius who left the car windows open when rain was forecast?”

But who was the genius who invented stairs? I think of my grandparents’ house which had an embankment in front of it. In the Olde Days, people probably just scrambled up things like that. Then someone came along, looked it over and said, “I’ve got an idea; let’s cut little flat spots in it.”

They looked over his plan and said, “This guy’s just another liberal leftist and out to change our way of life. Let him be with his new ideas and we will continue to climb to our houses as God and Nature intended. Besides, they look so out of place and disgrace the natural flow of the landscape."

And so did the summer turn into fall and the fall into winter. The winds roared and the snow fell; it fell all day and it fell all night. The genius came out and did shovel his stairs for easier ingress and egress to his house. The others, attempting to attain entrance to their homes, did slide on their feet and land on their rears.

This did they approach the genius begging floor plans for this marvelous device which seemed liberal and leftist no longer. “The ground is frozen and hard to dig, dear neighbors, but I will draw it for you and you may use pick and shovel to carve it out. As they turned around and left, he placed his thumb on his nose and waggled his fingers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm Hunting Wabbits

Just about every night, when I go over to the newspaper to pick up what I need for the next day's radio program, there is a bunny rabbit on the edge of our property next to the parking lot. It just sits there as if it's waiting for me to show up. When I do, it watches as I come down the sidewalk and turn around it; it hops along with me.

The rabbit keeps its distance, but that’s not much. Probably measured in a few yards, maybe three. There is no fear. Does it recognize me? That would be nice, not that we would exchange Christmas cards or sit down for tea. It’s just knowing one of another species is comfortable around me.

We have finches who work the lawn around our house, apparently feeding on seeds and insects. They, too, seem at ease around me. In one place, I am within just a couple yards of them with no problem. Someone said it’s because I walk slowly when I see the birds and don’t scare them. But I have another agenda.

I keep a salt shaker with me. If you put salt on a bird’s tail, you can capture it and that’s no fairy tale; try it for yourself and see how easy it is. After all, if you can get close enough to put salt on its tail, you are also close enough to catch it. One of these days, I will have to sneak up on a finch or two and try it out.

I keep an elephant lure around, just in case, but no luck so far. We do have a hawk that has kept our rabbit population down to just my friend.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Months Till

Till when? Till Baby Jesus comes down the chimney with a pack on his back? Isn’t that how it goes? Or is it one month until Santa Claus wraps up the Macy’s Thanksgiving All-Commercial Parade? Or is it eight months until my annual cruise ends in Boston? A friend of mine passed away on the twenty fifth of October.

Beware the Ides of March? Watch out for the twenty-and-fifth of the month, dear Julius. Be it good or be it unfortunate, it’s the day of happenings.

Of course, take any number and you will find coincidence. My school mailbox number used to be 1611, or something like that. I began seeing variations of that all over town. 1161, 1611, 6111; things you would not notice if your box number were 1478. My current address is a combination that suddenly appears everywhere I look.

People die in threes, as the saying goes. But your threes aren’t my threes. You and I share person #1; you know person #2, but mine is someone entirely different; same with #3. Yet we seem to ignore that we may also know one or two more. We stop at 3 because that’s the magic number.

In the Bible, “666” was a code number for the emperor Nero; the early Christians didn’t dare write his name for fear the Romans might capture the writings. But now, some of the super-religious get all upset when those numbers appear anywhere and declare the devil itself is present. In my old car, which had PKY-666 on its license plate.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Soon It's Hot Chocolate Time

There is a time and place for everything. Not only that, but it must be the right time and the right place. Nothing else will do.

The time for special tea is when I am relaxed and can appreciate it. Tea from the mysterious lands around the eastern Mediterranean, which I sip occasionally so it will last. Spiced teas, apple cinnamon, things like that. They deserve their own time, their own place and not at the work desk.

Floor sweepings (anything less than Lipton) are suitable for when I am on the air, for when I am prepping my show, for supper, for sitting around with friends. I am not paying very much attention to it at that time and, while I take much care in its preparation, it’s not the main focus of my attention.

Hot chocolate fits in just between a well-brewed Lipton and some special blend. One should make it right, but there is no particular fuss. It is to be enjoyed on a cool to cold day, possibly in the evening. I like it when I can see the rain or snow, or people all bundled up against the weather.

People talk about “good sleeping weather,” whatever that is; my meds make any day good sleeping weather. I talk about “good hot chocolate weather.” It’s just about at that point now: rainy and cool. A few degrees lower and the choc comes out. I might just put a thin blanket around me just for the image.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Let's Have A Reunion!

Not for me, thanks; I hated my high school with a disgust that measures a thousand on a scale of 1-100. I know; it’s been fifty years and get over it. Not very likely.

But on my radio program I read announcements of reunions from about 1970 backwards to the last survivor. A very few offer rides for classmates who can’t get there by themselves; they tend to be in the late 1930’s. Some from the ‘40s, more from the ‘50s, many from the ‘60s.

“You haven’t changed a bit!”
“I looked this bad when I was a teenager?”

“Remember the time when…”
“No, I don’t and neither do you.”

“That Jill Martin sure was uggers.”
“She matured, got beautiful and I married her.”

“Sister Mary Joseph was a hottie.”
“She was only 18; left the convent and posed for Playboy.”

“Seen Fr. Jack lately?”
“Married Sister Mary, runs ‘Girls Gone Wild.’”

Friday, October 22, 2010

On The Road To West Nanticoke

Can’t figure this one out.

We have a fairly wide road on the West Side, variously named but from the Canadian Border to points south it’s Route 11. Lovely ride, generally two lanes, with speed variations from 25 (strictly observed in tiny, narrow, twisted Shickshinny) to 45 (never observed in open-range Jenkins Township).

But when you pass the K-Mart in Edwardsville, heading south, all that changes. The two lanes merge into one and stay that way for a good many miles. The speeds are good, mind you, and generally you can lope right along. But it’s just one lane and impatient people can only go as fast as whoever is in front of them. There is no passing.

Here’s what I can’t figure out: As you enter this one-lane section, there always seems to be someone zooming up beside you to get ahead of the last one or two cars – vehicles already traveling at road speed. Ah, they’ve done it; they are ahead of you. To what profit? They can’t pass anyone for miles. They are stuck.

I don’t see the gain, unless someone is so full of testosterone he just has to beat out the last couple of cars to show he is the man, he is the conqueror.

I watch him go by, gently, listening to the radio, thinking, “Well, Mr. Big Man, you’re ahead of me and, by darn, staying there for the next ten miles. Enjoy the victory.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's Not Even Hallowe'en Yet

I saw my first Christmas commercial today, several days before the Ghosts & Goblins got their broomsticks warmed up. Frank Perdue is still thinking about getting his turkeys ready for the end of next month (does he do turkeys, or just chickens?) The Catholic pre-Christmas season of Advent is still aways off.

So, let me be the first to wish you… Nah; I’ll wait. There’s already a radio station in South Bend, Indiana, playing Christmas music.

“Back in the day,” as us older folk like to say when we fondly reminisce about days when younger squirts weren’t around and can’t correct our memories, back in the day the Christmas shopping season didn’t start until the big Macy’s Department Store parade had finished. Santa came along and it was “ready, set, go.”

The last time I watched the parade, it featured all sorts of actors pushing their particular shows and products. Including some bearded gent singing his part (I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General) from the current Broadway hit, “Pirates of Penzance. That did it for me; no more big commercial parades hawking goods for this guy.

Once, when sales were poor, I did see a sign across what passed for Main Street down in Freeland PA, “Season’s Greetings,” at the end of September. I really think we should have a starting gate for the holidays; at least, Christmas. No sooner than Thanksgiving afternoon. Let the turkey settle, then start with the shopping.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You Call Your City . . .

Half Mile High City: Quinter KS
The Mile-High City: Prescott AZ
Mile-and-a-Quarter-High City: Flagstaff AZ

Cow Chip Capital of Kansas: Russell Springs KS
Cow Chip Capital of the World: Beaver OK

Swedish Capital of Nebraska: Oakland
Nebraska's Irish Capital: O’Neill

Covered Dish Capital of the World: Windom KS
The Protestant Vatican: Nashville TN
Good People Surrounded by Badlands: Glendive MT
Cows, Colleges and Contentment: Northfield MN
Our name speaks for itself: Talent OR

Drunk Driving Capital of America: Gallup NM
Torture Town: Fayetteville NC
Underwear Capital of the World: Knoxville TN
Everything's Better in Metter: Metter GA
First Town in the First State: Lewes DE

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You're A What?

If you’re from Arizona, a “Sand Cutter.”
Colorado: a Rover.
Delaware: a Blue Hen’s Chicken.
Florida: a Fly-Up-The-Creek or a Cracker.
Georgia: a Goober-Grabber or a Sand-Hiller.

Illinois: a Sand-Hiller (same as Georgia!).
Kansas: a Jayhawker.
Maine: a Mainiac, Fox, Lumberjack, Pine Tree.
Massachusetts: a Masshole, Chowderhead.
Michigan: a Michaganese, Yooper (Upper Peninsula).

Missouri: a Bushwacker.
New Hampshire: a Granite Boy.
New Mexico: a Nuevomexicano.
North Carolina: a Tar Boiler.
Tennessee: a Big Bender, a Butternut.

Texas: A Texian, a Tex.
West Virginian: a Mountaineer.
Wisconsin: a Cheesehead.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Un-Appreciated Units Of Measurement

In the Zork series of games, the bloit is defined as the distance the king's favorite pet could run in one hour.

In MAD Magazine, the potrzebie = the thickness of issue 26, or 2.2633 mm. (carried out to 21 decimal places).

The beard-second is a unit of length inspired by the light-year, but used for extremely short distances such as those in nuclear physics. The beard-second is defined as the length an average beard grows in one second.

The smoot is a unit of length, defined as the height of Oliver Smoot. The unit is used to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge. In 1958 when Smoot was a frat pledge at MIT, the bridge was measured to be 364.4 smoots, plus or minus one ear, using Mr. Smoot himself as a ruler.

The Sheppy is a measure of distance equal to about 7⁄8 of a mile (1.4 km), defined as the closest distance at which sheep remain picturesque.

The Rictus Scale: Mag. 0-3: Small articles in local papers. Mag. 3-5: Lead story locally; mentioned on network news. Mag 5-6.5: Wire-servce photos in national papers, governor visits scene. Mag 6.5-7.5 Network correspondents sent; president visits; t-shirts made up; 7.5-up: news weekly mags, network specials, “instant books.” (Idea sent by reader Mike Rudolf)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Feast Of The Leaves, Part 2

Suddenly out of nowhere, I heard them again, the geese were V’ing in from all directions, flying low which meant that they would soon be landing. High flying geese are on a mission, the low flying ones have obtained their goal and their mission is accomplished.

It is 3:00. Geese know when it is 3:00 just as cows know when it is 5:00.

This is early season for them but at rush hour on this lake it is like a wall-to-wall rug of white. My cup was empty and as I got up I shot a glance at the floating flock just in time to see them lit up as though there was a spotlight aimed at them from the heavens and they were as white and bright as could be and the waters were a blue-blue of blue.

The advent of their arrival is announced by the sounds of honking, and we shall hear them well before we see them. For us up here the sound of geese, like the Sound of Music, will make you stop dead in your tracks so as not to miss a beat. The only difference between the two is that for the geese all heads are turned skyward and the applause is noted by the beauty of the smiles on all of those faces.

Of course next spring the smiling applause will be much more apparent. Right now, the Feast of the Leaves, an annual event held at my son’s yard in St-Charles-de-Bellechasse, is celebrated by my son Jacques and myself – along with the geese in the front yard.

Over a hundred thousand leaves await me, have to go.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Feast Of The Leaves, Part 1

Yesterday was the Feast of the Leaves, an annual event held at my son’s yard. The ceremony consists of the gathering of this year’s gifts of the many maples, truly Nature’s Fallen Angels. I noticed hundreds of snow geese out on the lake. It was a grey morning, and the sun was doing its best to pop out occasionally as the autumn winds whisked the clouds to another county.

For some undetermined reason one of the geese decides that it is time to go, and up they go with a ruckus and noise beyond belief. They circle the lake and off they go to fields afar. It was a time to lean on my rake and nod to the beauty of this ascendance of the gaggle and their disappearance.

As I toiled with leaves, I could stop at any moment and the view around, be it the lake, the maples or even the stand of balsams out back across the road, would be ever changing. Grey clouds scudding by, and suddenly, a ray of sun lighting up the yellows of the trees across the lake, just for a minute you know, not much longer. A red roof lit up, another colourful building that I had not previously seen, a sort of coming out in the spotlight of the sun’s rays.

I went in and built a pot of coffee. Got my mug and went out to sit by the lakeside and partake of one of those moments where life stops and we wish that it would remain as such for the rest of the day. The lake was a mirror, the geese grouped in the middle and the lily pads at the end of the dock began boogieing in the garbled water. (by Jim Carten, Quebec, Canada.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Half Of A Mayflower Got Rammed

“…As long as a football field … As big as a 747 airplane … Hail the size of golf balls …” I wonder how we would describe things if these measurements didn’t exist?

How about “Half a Mayflower”? The Costa Classica cruise ship got rammed by a bulk carrier the other day and sustained damage half the length of the Mayflower. About sixty feet, from an estimated size of that little ship whose length is figured as being 113 feet. Nobody really knows, but it’s a professional guess.

Or, as my shipyard-employed brother put it in a note he sent, “Lots of overtime there for the welders and such!” Everyone has their own view: “The collision opened about a 60-foot gash, and passengers say water washed into the ship's lower decks through broken portholes.” No thought of overtime. (Cruise News Daily)

So let’s measure shipping accidents in “Mayflowers” shall we? The Costa Classica had a torn hole one-half a Mayflower long. The Titanic, although it really sank by having its bottom torn out, also had the mythical, and nearly impossible, 300’ hull fracture. So the Titanic had a 5-Mayflower “hole” ripped in its hull.

My favorite cruise ship, Holland America Line’s “Maasdam,” has a passenger capacity of 12.4 Mayflowers. This assumes you use the generally-accepted passenger manifest of those days, and not today’s families who proudly note parentage on what must have been a 10,000 passenger ship.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Sun Goes To Bed Earlier

Back some years, I lived with a fellow from Kenya (this, after having dormed with a Ugandan). Both countries are speared through by the Equator.

One characteristic of that fact is the sun rises and sets at the same time every day. Another is there is none of that long, lingering twilight we enjoy. The third is the north and south movement of the sun through the seasons. Of course, the seasons barely, if ever, change, unlike up here where it’s hot or cold during the year.

Back to our story. One of those fellows suddenly realized in the late fall that the sun was setting far to the south and became somewhat alarmed – as if there might be some action we could take to correct the situation. All during the summer he had become accustomed to it being more or less northerly, setting fairly late in the evening.

“You live on the Equator,” I reminded him. “The sun is overhead from morning to night, from January to December. It’s a little different up here at 42 degrees north latitude. As the earth spins around, we go through seasons and the sun apparently moves from north to south and going down around 8:30. That ship has sailed.”

That seemed to make sense, at least for the moment. “Around the end of December, the sun sets about 4:30, then it starts moving north again until the end of June and 8:30.” It’s fun explaining things to people who never moved around much, like Americans who think the whole world is like New York or Chicago. (True story.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Overheard In New York


Guy to girl: All I know about your baby is that as long as it's in your stomach, it's not gonna be underfed. I wouldn't be surprised if it came out with a chicken wing in its mouth.

Gentleman on train: You know why they invented daylight savings, don't you? It's because of Halloween, a lot of congressmen wanted kids to have an extra hour to go trick or treating. That's why we have daylight savings.

Black man, waving around CDs: Excuse me, miss, would you like to buy one of my CDs?
Asian girl with boyfriend: Sorry! I'm broke!
Black man: I'm allergic to broke people. Have a good day.

20-something dude: I don't get why a tourist would spend their whole day trying to spot an actor. I could see myself going to some real hot actresses' usual spots.
Man: You mean like stalking? I'm a cop.
Dude: Don't worry, officer, I only intend on stalking Natalie Portman.
Cop: You wanna go for a ride?
Dude: Like around in your car?
Cop: To the station.
Dude: I'll shut up.
Cop: Thatta boy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Is Your Cat Gray?" "No, It's Brown"

Two of my friends say I’m color blind, or at least partially. I disagree, as I can see the entire spectrum, same as they do. Red is red, blue is blue and, apparently, gray is brown.

Huh? One friend has had two gray cats, one after the other. I said I like that color in a cat but she informed me the cats are brown. No, they’re gray. Brown. Gray. What do you mean they’re brown? She held up a shirt; “what color is this?” “Blue.” “No it’s not; it’s green. The blanket on the sofa is green.” “No, it’s blue.”

Maybe that explains my choice of colors when I dress.

I still say I’m not color blind, but there does seem to be a color shift which others have mentioned. If it were only one person disagreeing with my opinion, it would be a “he says, she says.” But when two people independently bring it up, there’s something going on. Maybe if I say I’ve got the blues, it’s really the greens, what say?

If they are right, and I’m not convinced, maybe I just shift colors a little bit. I know each eye sees tints a bit differently, but that’s not unusual. So, just what is the color on those bricks I see on the building across the street? Why, they’re brick colored, of course! They’ve always been brick colored to me and that’s just fine.

New York just came out with retro license plates. They are colored … well, sometimes I think they are yellow, maybe orange, possibly a light shade of red.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"My Brother George"

I remember Liberace from the black-and-white days of television. No “Mr. Showmanship” at that time; just a piano, a candelabra, a smile into the camera and “my brother George” playing the violin. “He wasn’t really a great pianist,” my music teacher said years ago, “but he brought great music to many people.”

Folks, it is officially all over. The Las Vegas Liberace museum has shut down. It is the end of the line for the idol of the Strip after thirty years. The gaudy man in the outrageous costumes, some of which took more than a year to construct, finally went out of style. It once drew 450,000 visitors a year; now it pulls only 50,000.

In his prime years, said foundation president Jack Rappaport, "Walter" Valentino Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the world, with the highest flamboyance factor to boot. He was a man who, in the midst of a battle with HIV, sold out New York's Radio City Music Hall so fast that his record still stands.

“Walter”? Actually, Wladziu. Also known as Walter Busterkeys, Walter Liberace, Lee Liberace, Liberace Chefroach, The Glitter Man, Mr Showmanship, The King of Bling.

Liberace set up a foundation to provide scholarship money to students of the arts. It has given more than $6 million to more than 2,700 students. The museum's collection includes more than 60 of Liberace's intricate eye-popping costumes, his 9-foot mirrored Baldwin grand piano and his 7-foot rhinestone studded Baldwin grand.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Era Is About To Be Over

The decrepit 8th Street Bridge is about to be replaced. I'm going to miss it. Sure, on a safety scale of 0-100 it is rated at 2; the lanes are so narrow you really wonder if you and the approaching car will still have outside mirrors when you pass each other; a friend keeps her sun roof open in case it collapses under her.

But it’s time. The new bridge is almost complete and while it’s not vehicle-ready yet, you could walk across it with ease. Everything seems to be ready for the last stages of work. Due date is sometime in November and the builder says it’s on schedule. After it’s opened, maybe I won’t feel so nostalgic.

After all, the Carey Avenue Bridge was a pleasant bridge, even though it had holes in it and you could see river water. It’s still the Carey Avenue Bridge, by the way, even though it no longer connects with Carey Avenue and has been renamed “1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery Pennsylvania Army National Guard Bridge.”

At least the Eighth Street Bridge still connects with 8th Street and is barely twenty feet south of the bridge Where Most People Pray.

I often wonder about bridges. They are made of concrete – you know, sand and cement stuff and maybe some rocks inside; maybe some rebar strengthening rods. All supplied and built by the lowest bidders. Occasionally I wonder what kind of job they did, how much care they put into constructing the bridge.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

We Don't Want To Go Home

When I worked in a college dorm, I used to tell the students at Christmas break that they would wish they were back in school about January 2.

They laughed me to scorn. “Ha, ha,” they laughed in scorn. “We are so out of here and so not wanting to come back you wouldn’t believe it.” I said, “You wait. Just remember what I said, laugh all you want and circle January 2 on your calendars because that’s the day you will wish you were back.” Scorn, scorn, they laughed.

A month later, they returned with smiles of relief on their collective faces. “It’s really nice to be back,” they said in a chorus of unison. “So nice to be back, really.” I smiled, the smug smile of someone who has been there and also has seen it all before. “Do any of you recall what I told you before the break, huh? Huh?

“Let’s compare and contrast. Do your parents allow you to keep girls in your room with the door closed until two in the morning? Anyone? Nobody is raising their hand. Ok; how about sneaking alcohol into your room? Can you get away with that? I take your silence as meaning ‘no.’ Sleep till noon? Guess not.

“How about staying out all night without telling them where you are going? I guess you find this place a lot more liberal than living at home. Next time you complain about all the rules the college imposes on you, we will gladly give you a couple of weeks off to contemplate the wonders of freedom living with your parents.”

Friday, October 08, 2010

An Illegal Gets Legal Just In Time

People rant and rave about so-called “anchor babies,” the tots who are born in the U.S. by illegal immigrants and supposedly help the parents stay in this country but actually don’t do them any good at all. The babies, if they actually want to be anchor babies, must wait 18 years, then their parents must wait another 10 years to become citizens.

30 years is as nothing for one woman. Eulalia Garcia Maturey was kind of an anchor baby, coming across the border on a boat back when nobody really cared too much about that sort of thing. People did it all the time and if there were border guards, they were more interested in drug runners that folks who were visiting or coming across for jobs.

She may have been all of three months old and the family stayed here. "I want to spend the rest of my days in this life living legally in the United States," she said. "I was raised here, and I want to die here." Just before the start of World War II, Maturey received a "Certificate of Lawful Entry" card issued to her on April 4, 1941.

Then in 2008, the US started requiring everyone to show a passport when crossing the border. Maturey knew she couldn't take any more chances. So Maturey pulled out that 69-year-old "Lawful Entry" card. With that document, government officials were able to find her Legal Permanent Resident documents in the archives in Washington.

The LPR saved the day and her chance to become a citizen. Everything worked out and this 101-year-old lady can rest in peace when her American days are finally over.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

In An Octopus' Garden

I was just listening to Pandora, my Internet music service, when I heard this cute song which somehow missed me. It’s by Ringo Starr, from the Beatles’ 1969 “Abbey Road” album. A quirky little thing, but given the trash that comes to our radio station, this is a lot of innocent fun:

I'd like to be / under the sea
In an octopus's garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus's garden in the shade
I'd ask my friends / to come and see
In an octopus's garden with me
I'd like to be / under the sea
In an octopus's garden in the shade

We would be warm / below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves
Resting our head / on the sea bed
In an octopus's garden near a cave
We would sing and dance around
because we know we can't be found
I'd like to be / under the sea
In an octopus's garden in the shade

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What Comes Around, Goes Around

It rained for a couple of days. On and off, but never completely dry for any length of time. It just never seemed to let up and we didn’t know if we should carry an umbrella, a rain hat or sunglasses. People from southern parts of the country couldn’t understand the weather patterns we have up here.

I checked, my Doppler radar map, and behold! The system was circular and we were pretty much just far enough from the center that the wet and dry areas were visiting us in dismal regularity. Around and around the storm went and it never moved in any forward direction; stuck over our area.

What goes around, comes around. What went around is coming around again in a few hours. It was sunny for a bit earlier today, maybe tomorrow will be the same.

As you get down south, Florida, the Caribbean, the showers and storms tend to move quickly. They are strong, of course, and not just a soft rain like here, but at least when they are over, they are over. A few minutes, maybe half an hour. Not at all like these rainy days that may last for two or three.

Rainy days are good for getting things done. We aren’t tempted to hang out in the backyard sunning ourselves, or sleeping in a comfortable chair on the piazza. We’re inside, it’s cool and wet out there, so we might as well get some stuff done in here. Like, catching up on this blog.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Mrs. Hopalong Cassidy

Grace Bradley Boyd passed away recently on her 97th birthday, the widow of the movie star with whom she had a schoolgirl crush. A mutual friend in Hollywood, where she was an actress, told William Boyd, "There's a girl you should meet." Hopalong Cassidy (as he was later to be known) was 45 and she was 23. It lasted 35 years.

She initially studied to be a concert pianist and at 15 played Carnegie Hall. She went on to act, sing, and dance on the Broadway stage. While performing at the Paradise nightclub in Manhattan in 1933, the dancer was discovered by a Paramount Pictures director and signed for films.

She was a petite and extremely lovely blonde film actress who crossed paths with Bill Boyd, who became (literally) her Prince Charming on a big white horse. Three days after their first date, Boyd asked her to marry him. ‘He said, “I would have proposed the first night except I was afraid I'd scare you to death,”’ she recalled.”

When Hoppy married Grace, he acquired a new white stallion. He asked his wife to name the horse. Grace was reading a series of books called 'Topper.' Thus, Grace asked Bill to name the horse after her favorite book, and that's how Topper got his name!

She stayed in the background during his career, but when his young fans asked who she was (since “Hopalong” supposedly had no wife or family), she would respond, “I’m Hoppy’s mother." (Info from Internet sources.)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mailing May

One of the oddest parcel post packages ever sent was "mailed" from Grangeville to Lewiston, Idaho on February 19, 1914. The 48 1/2 pound package was just short of the 50 pound limit. The name of the package was May Pierstorff, four years old.

May's parents decided to send their daughter for a visit with her grandparents, but were reluctant to pay the train fare. There were no provisions in the parcel post regulations concerning sending a person through the mails, so they decided to "mail" their daughter.

A ticket would have cost her parents a full day’s pay. The postage, 53-cents in parcel post stamps, was attached to May's coat. He presented his daughter at the station post office as a package he's mailing to Lewiston. The good-natured postmaster checked May in as poultry ("biggest baby chick on record"), with cousin Leonard who worked in the mail car.

This little girl traveled the entire distance to Lewiston, 75 miles, in the train's mail compartment and was delivered to her grandmother's home.

A comment by “Johnny Cat” says, “I don't know about her, but if that happened to me as a kid, I would have loved every minute of it.” "A heartwarming period piece based on a true incident, lovingly told, " raved The New York Times Book Review.

May, born in 1908, passed away in 1987. A book is available, “Mailing May,” which tells the story of her trip.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

"It's Like Three Massagers In One"

They were advertised in the early 1900’s in women’s magazines and even in the Sears catalog. (The Sears catalog!) They were, of course, “relaxation aids.” The new ads, or what we probably think are new ads, COUGHsexualCOUGH historian Rachel Maines says, “They come very close to telling you what it is good for” without quite doing so.

You see, in Connecticut back when I worked in a drugstore, certain items used only by men during times of manly and womanly intimacy, otherwise known as “banging her ears off,” were illegal. They could be used only to prevent disease. So customers would ask the pharmacist, rather than us kids. “May I see the pharmacist” meant “gimme a rubber.”

Anyway, the current ads for little buzzers, which leave your hands free for driving the car or making tea or helping pass the time during a boring class, are not really mentioning whatever they are. “Has life got you stressed out? Want to have some fun? Side effects may include screams of ecstasy and intense waves of pleasure.”

No Fun Allowed: Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas and Virginia. Better not get caught buying a Double-A battery at your local RadioShack store and mentioning your husband/boyfriend is out of town for the week. You can marry your sister in some of those states, but you can’t use a Tri-Phoria.

“Ma’am, I see you are alone and smiling. That is probable cause in this state that you are up to something illegal. You have the right to remain smiling … uh, silent…”

Saturday, October 02, 2010

I Keep Dreaming Of The Ship

Without trying to be Dr. Freud, is it the ship, or an allegory? Then, again, he did say, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Sometimes a dream is just a dream.

I’m always on the cruise ship, before check-in, and never seem to have gone through the process myself. No tickets, no passport, no door card – how that ever happened is beyond me and it is during the dream. But I’m there. I’m onboard and all is fine with the world. My world, as well.

There is a great sense of peace, knowing that I am there; pretty much how I feel when I go up the gangplank to board the Maasdam for my yearly cruise up the New England coast to Canada. I’m aboard and everything will be taken care of, from meals to cabin service to safe navigation.

But it’s a recurring dream. One is nothing, but a series is an issue.

Is the ship a “heaven” allegory? Peacefulness, calmness, no need for entrance documents. I sometimes wonder.

Or maybe I just dream about the cruise ships because I’m happy to be on them and waiting for the next one.

After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Friday, October 01, 2010

100 Years Of "What's Next?"

Wilda Vail’s yearbook inscription, beneath her picture, had the prophetic verse, “Come and trip it as ye go, On the light fantastic toe.” Whoever put that under Mom’s 1928 yearbook had no idea just how right that would turn out to be.

In the poem L'Allegro by John Milton, published in 1645, a similar phrase appears, which seemingly refers to the dance-like gracefulness of the goddess Mirth:

"Come, and trip it as ye go, On the light fantastick toe.
And in thy right hand lead with thee, The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty."

The term trip in this passage means to step lightly or nimbly. The adjectives light and fantastick (as Milton spelled it) refer to the movement of the feet (toe, or dance step). (Yahoo Answers.)

She would have been 100 today and I, at least, fully expected her to be here with us, but it was not to be. As a teen, her girlfriend bet her she would not go up in a barnstormer’s plane at a penny-a-pound spin around the airport. Nobody does that and gets away with it; she told her mother only later. This would have been around 1925.

She started teaching me how to drive when I was about 12 – on the open road. And one time this so-called open road was a narrow causeway leading out across the swamp. I do hope she is laughing at this as I write it. I sure am. Happy birthday, Mom, and billions more.