Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Sittin’ Here La La…

 

 

ONE THING I’VE ALWAYS WANTED on a car was a Remote Starter so I could start the car and get it toasty warm and defrosted before I stepped outside. And that is what I’m doing today. I am down at the Toyota dealer getting the Remote Starter Gizmo installed. I’m a happy boy.

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Vin Scully: The Man, The Legend, The X-File

vin-scully

ACCORDING TO MY CALENDAR, the Julian calendar, the Aztec calendar, the Hebrew and the Chinese calendars it is not long until Baseball Spring Training begins. It will be a time of magic, creation and resurrection. The rhythmic smack of horsehide on leather will begin and of beautifully lathed Ash and Maple bats diving through the warm air and lifting the ball into the clouds. And Vin Scully will be taken from his hermetically sealed vault, rethatched his personal shade of orange, and propped up before a live microphone.

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Dodging A Bullet

 

 

THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE weekend all I saw and heard on my TV was that there was a monster winter storm coming. The talking heads on The Tube were using terms like, “Storm of the Century,” and “Once in a Lifetime Storm.” They were showing pictures from the “Blizzard of 1978.” That was the one that sent me scampering off to snow-free California.

Uh – oh. Brace yourself.

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A Visit To My Alternate Universe

 

 

I HAVE OPTED TO SKIP my usual visit today to the Chapel at St. Arbucks in favor of going to the “other place” in my neighborhood.

With the impossibly cute name of Java Haute, (we’re in Terre Haute and they serve coffee – AKA Java.  Get it? Get it? Clever, huh???) it is a hangout/study area for students from the nearby engineering college. Ergo: this joint has a higher geek population than most places this side of your local Best Buy store.

I’m here because I got an email from them announcing that this week at Java Haute was “San Francisco Week.”

Whatever.

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Larry – The Stooge In The Middle

 

WHILE YOU ARE READING THIS on Tuesday the 27th of January, I am typing it on the previous Saturday, the 24th. I mention this just to avoid confusion.

I was looking at Facebook earlier this morning and I saw that today, January 24th, is the anniversary of the death of Larry Fine of The Three Stooges. Larry was the Stooge in the middle – the man with the impossibly frizzy hair who was a trained violinist, but made his living being slapped, poked, and cream-pied. He was the outsider in what was a family act that ran for decades, from burlesque, to vaudeville, the movies and into a renaissance on television.

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Is My Chained Being Yanked or Is My Leg Being Pulled?

 

AS I’VE STATED BEFORE – I am a baseball fan – and I have just a passing interest in football (no pun intended. Well, yes it is intended, kinda.) but with all of the hoo-haw of the last week I just can’t ignore it.

Because I live in Indiana, about an hour outside of Indianapolis, most people will assume that what I say is flavored with sour grapes.

It ain’t so.

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Colleges Across The South Abandoned

 

I SAW THE FOLLOWING news item yesterday and I thought that it might have repercussions beyond just traffic problems.

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Authorities closed all southbound lanes of Interstate 95 north of Rocky Mount early Wednesday after a tractor-trailer carrying ramen noodles wrecked near N.C. Highway 4.

No other information about the wreck has been released, but boxes of noodles were spilled over a larger portion of the highway.

The state Department of Transportation said the closure could last all morning. Lanes are expected to reopen by 3:30 p.m.”

I thought that when the word of this crash got out all hell would break loose.

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My Wife Thinks I’m Hairy

Yeti

 

I KNOW THAT A STATEMENT like the title of this posting can lead to mental imagery that has me appearing as a cross between Chewbacca and an Old English Sheep Dog. Just let that image go. Let me explain.

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My Brain Is Officially Up On Blocks

 

 

THIS MORNING I AM VISITING The Chapel of St. Arbucks of the Field in Bloomington, Indiana. Dawn and I like to come to Bloomington to just get away from it all for a few days. We come here two or three times a year, put our brains up on blocks and just relax. Actually, we lax first and then we relax. It seems to work better that way.

While we are here we sleep in, visit the bookstores, and try not to do anything that goes beyond maintaining basic life signs.

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OK, So I’m Not A Poet

 

 

I’VE BEEN CREATING STORIES since I was a kid. I remember writing a cowboys and Indians epic and showing it to my teacher, Sister Mary Something-or-Other. She was not impressed.

When I got to high school I signed up for all of the creative writing and journalism classes I could. My teachers told me that I could really spin a yarn, but…

No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I studied The Greats, no matter how much I practiced – I just couldn’t write poetry worth a damn.

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Millennium? What Millennium?

Y2K

 I WAS SITTING IN MY PEW at the Chapel of St. Arbucks yesterday, staring into my coffee, when a rogue thought crawled across my consciousness: Was it fifteen years ago when millions of people were all bent out of shape about the new millennium?

 

In the late 1990s fear of the new millennium became quite an industry. Catalogues of products and books were available that were designed to nurture fears and then to offer solutions, all at steep prices, with financing available.

For those of you under 25 years of age I will explain. Pay attention, take notes. This will be on the test.

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Fly, My Dove! Fly!

magician

 

EVERY PERFORMER HOPES to “kill ‘em” while on stage, but it is inevitable that some nights they will “die.” EVERY performer dies at some time. Those that say they have never died onstage, are liars. This is about a particularly lethal night onstage.  Let me explain.

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Comedy and Steroids Don’t Mix

John Matuszak

 

THE WORLD OF STAND-UP COMEDY can take you to places and situations you never would have dreamed of – while sober.

In the late 1980s I was doing a lot of performing in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was not unusual to be able to get stage time in four or five places a night. Some of those venues were very nice, others were not. Some places paid performers in cash while others…ahem…did not. I preferred cash. Some performers accepted drugs, a place to sleep, food or even close personal, albeit temporary, relationships in payment.

I always sought out those places that paid in American legal tender – cash – preferably in small, unmarked bills. Never take a check. I’m still owed money by some producers who have since died. I think some of them kicked the bucket to just avoid paying the comedians.

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Game Show Number Three – Gimme The Money

Win_Ben_Steins_Money

THE THIRD AND FINAL game show that I invaded was my favorite – “Win Ben Stein’s Money” on the Comedy Channel.

It was 1998, during the show’s second season. I was in LA for a few days and arranged for a tryout. Compared to the Jeopardy quiz this audition was more like asking someone out on a date. I chatted with about five staffers and we sat around cracking jokes. They liked that I had just put out a small book called the “Joy of Revenge,” and was pretty much a sarcastic SOB. After all, this was on the Comedy Channel.

Two months later, at about ten o’clock at night I got a call from them asking me if I could come to LA the next day to be on the show.  It was kind of last-minute, but I said, “Sure, no problem.” So what if it was a 450 mile drive, did I care? Well, yes I did, but this show had one very attractive feature: you played for cash. I didn’t need any more rice.

In contrast to the Jeopardy shoot, “Ben Stein’s Money” had the feeling of a “Wayne’s World” episode. The set looked like somebody’s basement rec room.

My fellow contestants were a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and an LA lawyer. After the first round the lawyer was history. I was in first place. The reporter dude was in second and Ben would be joining the game.

In the second round my brain kicked into overdrive and I smoked both Ben and the reporter. That meant that, after a short break, it would be Ben and me, one-on-one, mano-a-mano, winner take all – $5000 and no parting gifts.

During the break Ben and I sat down on the edge of the stage and chatted. He was very nice and at ease. He asked me how I prepared for the show. He was taken aback when I told him that I had been called less than 24 hours ago.

For the final challenge Ben and I were sequestered in our own private “Isolation Booths.” His had an easy chair, Art on the walls, and a cooling beverage on a small table. My booth looked like the inside of a plywood shipping container: one bare light bulb hanging down, a wooden stool, and sitting in the corner a half empty box of cheese crackers.

My theory on shows like this is that, “You either know this crap, or you don’t.” You really can’t study for it.

Jimmy Kimmel asked me ten questions about all sorts of things. I got 7 out of 10 correct. Dumb luck. He happened to ask me about stuff I knew.

He then asked Ben Stein the same ten questions. He got only five correct.

I WON!

A ton of confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling and Ben congratulated me, shaking my hand. He told me that only about 1 out of 10 contestants bested him. I beat him like a rented mule.

About two weeks later I got a check for $5000 in the mail – no dishes, no Zenith televisions, and no rice. Just money, lucre, scratch, geetus, dead presidents, moolah.

About half of it went to taxes and a healthy portion of the rest went into a new, state of the art, computer and printer.

The television industry limits people to three game show opportunities. They don’t want people to make it into a career. Trust me – given my track record on game shows, it would make a lousy career. Not a lot of money, but at least there would be something to cook up for lunch.

Game Show Number Two – The Big Time

jeopardy cheers

 

IN AN EFFORT TO FULFILL my citizenship requirements in California I applied to become a contestant on Jeopardy – or as they insist on calling it “Jeopardy!”

The tryout for the show is a two-parter. First you take a written test of about 60 questions – with a ten minute time limit. Not multiple choice, you have to know the answers. The day I took the test, in LA, on the Jeopardy! set, I was one of about 80 people scribbling madly. There were a lot of tweed jackets with elbow patches there.

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Thanks For Playing Our Game – Part One

jim-lange

I LIVED IN CALIFORNIA for 25 years.

It may a law out there that, if you are going to live in The Golden State, you must appear on at least one Game Show.  I did three of them. I swear.

Today I will tell you about Game Show Number One.

Back in the mid 1980s, while I was heavy into both stand-up and nightclub comedy Improv, the word got out that a new game show wanted comedians to apply to be contestants. Somehow I got on.

The host was Jim Lange of The Dating Game fame. I honestly don’t remember the name of the show. I don’t even know if the thing ever aired. I know I wouldn’t have watched it. It sucked.

The “Celebrity Panel” on this turkey consisted of two second tier actors from “Three’s Company,” and June Lockhart – Lassie’s Mom, from the iconic hit show of the 1950s, and “Lost in Space.”

The format was some kind of word game, but was so nonsensical it just confused the heck out of everyone. At the end of “Regulation Play” the score was 0 – 0. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Squat.  We then went into “Overtime” better known as a “Dumb-Off.” The producers stopped taping twice to confer with Lange about what to do. The “Celebrity Panel” wanted out of there. They could see their “Q – Ratings” tanking. They were yelling at the people in the control room. I can’t blame them.

One thing that surprised me about June Lockhart – the woman had a real potty mouth on her. She could create strings of obscenities that would make the Navy blush. The editors must have had to work overtime to make it viewable anyplace outside of HBO at midnight.

Through some quirk of TV fate, I was declared the winner of the game and sent home with a list of the prizes I would be receiving: a new Zenith television, a set of dinnerware from somebody or other, and with the knowledge that I had watched Jim Lange sweat. I’ll bet he never sweated doing The Dating Game.

I didn’t know why I was selected to be on that show. I didn’t understand how to play the game, and I didn’t know how or why I was “the winner.” All I understood was that I was getting a new TV and some dishes. The best prize was that nobody I knew ever saw the show. My reputation was saved.

Tomorrow: Game Show Number Two – the Big Time.

I’m No Longer Ready For Some Football

football muddy

 

I ADMIT IT – I’M A BASEBALL FAN, but this weekend was all football, all the time. There were four NFL Playoff games on the tube and, given the crappy weather, I sat there and watched most of them. My brain is now feeling like a clump of trodden sod.

The first game was the Baltimore Ravens vs. the New England Patriots. I was nominally rooting for Baltimore for two reasons: The Ravens used to be the Cleveland Browns and, by winning, the Ravens’ victory might remotely rub off on the Browns memory. Nah, not really, but the last time a Cleveland sports team won a championship was in 1964, I think. They must feel bad.

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Free To A Good Home

Free Stuff by curb

THE OTHER NIGHT Dawn and I had dinner with a couple of friends. While I nibbled at my eggs and hash browns, (I know, it was dinner, but I had breakfast.) a conversation began about death, heaven, hell and biblical interpretation. It is not often that “Cremation vs. Burial” comes up over dinner. When it does I usually limit my contribution to, “How about them Cubbies?”

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How NOT To Go To College

College Radio SITTING HERE IN THE CHAPEL at St. Arbucks I am eavesdropping on a conversation taking place at a nearby table. The content is mundane, but one of the men has a voice (and a face) made for radio – baritone with great enunciation and good breath control. It puts me in a reminiscing mood. Let me explain.

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The Last Biscuit Protocol

last biscuit

 

BY AND LARGE we are a polite society. Of course, the exceptions to that are loud, obnoxious, and to be avoided at all costs – particularly around dinner time.

Whenever the family gathers, like at Christmastime, or other major events, we can have a considerable number around the table. And, for the most part, they are members of that polite society. But that politeness can lead to some interesting observations. Let me explain.

Around our table food can vanish quickly. Platters are moving clockwise at a dizzying speed and serving forks and tablespoons are dueling. But, when that part of the action stops and the serious eating begins, one observation can be made – nobody has taken the last biscuit. Sitting all by itself is one solitary biscuit, probably feeling like the last kid to be selected for the touch football game.

It might be that biscuit, or a slice of bacon, or last spoonful of that green bean casserole, but no one will finish it off. Why, I ask myself? Does everyone think that they have been playing Russian Roulette with the food and they have lucked out, leaving the loaded biscuit behind?

Perhaps they are so self-conscious, not wanting to be seen as being so hungry that they would actually snatch that last biscuit away from someone else.

I can’t believe that everyone’s appetites have been completely sated just one bite shy of an empty casserole dish.

Come on! I’ve seen this group go through a potluck supper like Sherman’s Army through Georgia. I have seen people around the table looking longingly at the last slice of pie, resisting the urge to pounce on it like a leopard on a wounded gazelle. If eyes could drool the tablecloth would be wet, but “The Last Biscuit Protocol” takes precedent and the pie remains, alone and abandoned.

I do know that before the evening is over that last slice will miraculously vanish from the refrigerator, leaving an empty pan behind. I’m thinking we should set up one of those cameras that zoologists use to count wolves or Yetis in the wild. Then we would be able to find out who scarfs down that remaining pie, or sausage link or biscuit.

All in the name of science, of course.

I’m sure that this phenomenon happens in other families, around other tables, and around the world. I’m sure that in Sweden there is “The Last Lutefisk Protocol,” and “The Last Monkey Brain Protocol,” holds forth in some remote Asian or African village. I do doubt, however, that there is a “Last Taco Bell Breakfast Menu Item Protocol,” anywhere, at any time. I have no proof of that. It is just a gut feeling – that feeling being a cramping sensation tinged with a need to escape.

I’m sure that we will continue to be polite and that the last biscuit will continue to die a lonely death on the plate. There is nothing I can do about it, and don’t expect me to be the culture-buster who reaches out and snatches it away with everyone else watching in horror. They already look at me funny as it is. I don’t need the pressure – and I sure don’t need the biscuit.

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