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 – 2020

Archive for the month “September, 2020”

My Childhood In The Distant Past

Reluctant as I am to say so I must admit something: I am an old man. My youth was in a Post-World War Two 1940s and 1950s.

I was born in 1946 in Cleveland and raised in a small town in the hills of Western Pennsylvania and, in many ways, I lived a childhood rooted in the 19th century. Whenever I tell someone of my daily life they react as if I was telling them a story about an earlier time. They find it hard to believe when I tell them that my mother bought her fruits and vegetables from a man with a horse drawn wagon, we had bearded hobos knocking on our door for a handout, and quarantine signs on our front door whenever a kid got one of the many childhood diseases.

When I moved from The Valley to go to college in The Big City people were amazed and amused when I told them about The Pony Man.

There were few times more exciting for the neighborhood kids than those days when the old wooden wagon piled high with fruits and vegetables and pulled by a pinto pony came down the street. The Pony Man’s name was Carmine and the pony was Tony. My mother would make her selections and drop her money into the basket that sat on the seat next to Carmine. Business concluded Tony would move on to their next stop. Tony knew the route by heart.

A remnant of the Great Depression were the Hobos who “Rode the rails” from coast to coast looking for work. Many of them had been wandering for decades unable to leave the life on “The Road.” Our house was just two blocks up from the river and the main railroad tracks that carried passengers and

freight up and down the Valley. It was not unusual for a Bearded Hobo to knock on our back door looking for a handout and/or an odd job. My mother was a soft touch and handed out a lot of sandwiches. I once found this symbol scrawled on a tree near the house. It meant that a nice lady lived there.

There were also “Tinkerers” who would walk through the neighborhood shouting out “Knives sharpened! Pots Fixed!” Tinkerers were itinerant repairmen, the original “Jack of all trades” workers. They would help the neighborhood Mothers by pounding out dents in their pots and pans and grinding the kitchen knives sharp again. Those were not throw-away items.

Given recent events in our world most people are seeing the word “Quarantine” for the first time. I grew up seeing that word a dozen times a year.

In the 1950s there were a number of highly contagious diseases that were often called “Childhood diseases.” Measles (3 different versions), Mumps, Chicken Pox, and others would sweep through every

year and the local Board of Health would try to control the diseases by posting “Quarantine” signs on our front door. It meant that no one got in or out of that house until the disease had run its course. My father had several bouts of staying in local motels while I and my brother were sick.

In the Summertime the Quarantine was sometimes violated on purpose. When the word got around that a kid had measles or whatever the neighborhood mothers would throw a “Measles Party” to deliberately expose their kids to the disease just to get it over with before school started again in September. It was somewhat perilous, but effective.

A child’s life in those days in my small town was certainly different. It was a much simpler time in many ways than today. However, it also had its own terrors that no longer exist. Every Summer there was the looming fear of another epidemic of Polio, a disease that is rare today thanks to two men names Salk and Sabin.

I could tell you more stories of my childhood in the time-warp Valley where the modern world collided with earlier days when everyone knew everyone else, your child’s milk came to your door in glass bottles and three cents would send a letter across the country.

Perhaps I will. Let me know what you think I should do.

Throwback Day After Thursday From 2015 – Let’s Play, “Spot The Flaw In This!”

What with all of the Fooferaw lately about the Postal Service  it brought to mind a Blog Post from 2015 about an old friend of mine. So, here is an encore posting of:

“Let’s Play ‘Spot The Flaw In This’.”

inverted JennyABOUT EVERY SIX MONTHS or so we get a piece of mail from the Postal Service touting their “Stamps by Mail” service.

This Postal Service program supposedly can save us time and gasoline by sending postage stamps directly to our mailbox on the front porch. There would be no need for us to get out of our jammies and drive all the way (four blocks) to the Post Office to buy stamps.

OK, I get the concept, but with the advent of the internet there are now millions of people paying their bills online, communicating with friends and family online, and sending birthday cards, etc. online. Currently I write an average of two checks per month that require me to use postage stamps.

I’d wager that since the demise of the Columbia Record Club (look it up) that the number of stamp bearing mail items has diminished greatly. Almost all of the mail that we get is catalogs and other pointless junk mail – and virtually all of that is metered mail with no stamps at all.

We still get the “Stamps by Mail” advertising thing, but let me tell you the real reason we don’t bother signing up.

About a year ago an old friend told me this story and I believe him.

He runs a small business and thought that the “Stamps by Mail” thing might be a good time saver for him. So- he signed up and anxiously awaited the delivery of his first load of postage stamps from Benjamin Franklin’s favorite government service.

A week or so later when my friend toddled out to his mailbox he discovered one of those little pink slips of paper telling him that there was a parcel waiting for him to pick up down at the Post Office.

He told me that this was not unusual, so he got out of his jammies, put on some adult clothing and fired up his car to go get his parcel.

Of course, when he got there he had to wait in line behind the usual collection of people sending sweaters to their grandchildren in Florida and manuscripts off to publishers who will never read them or will just slide them under a table leg to take care of that annoying wobble.

He had to wait about fifteen minutes to get to the head of the line. He presented the pink slip to the clerk who then disappeared into “The Back” for another five minutes. When the Postal Service clerk returned he handed my friend an envelope which would have easily fit inside the mailbox at his home. He took the envelope over to the empty counter out by the P.O. Boxes and tore it open. Inside was another envelope proudly announcing that it contained his delivery of “Stamps by Mail!”

What a time saver.

When my friend first told me about this I too was skeptical. It was just too – too – Post Office for even the Post Office to do.

He swears that it is a true story and as time passes and I read of other Masterpieces of Governmental Ineptitude my skepticism fades into a head-shaking “I’m surprised they didn’t send it to him “postage due.”

And The Beat Goes On

 

While most of the world has been staying home this year we decided to not let it all tie us down to one place. We are, by nature, people who love to, want to, need to, travel. We are not going to let reality get in the way.

I can’t prove it, but there were rumors in the family that somewhere in the obscure and leafy branches of the Family Tree there were Gypsies. Gypsies who came and went leaving behind the gene responsible for Wanderlust.

It is Wanderlust that has people moving from one part of the world to another. It had some of my ancestors leaving Lithuania and ending up in Cleveland. Wanderlust did that and the fact that my grandfather was a deserter from the Czar’s Army. The Czar frowned on things like that in the 1890s. He didn’t like it when you stole his horse on the way out of town.

I was born with a double dose of Wanderlust and it has had me on the move all my life – and I never stole anyone’s horse (Don’t believe the rumors!).

Dawn’s ancestors must also have had a genetic run-in with those Gypsies somewhere along the line because she can match me Wanderlust for Wanderlust.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the world being a true mess, traveling is not easily done. My wife, the lovely and also Wanderlusty, Dawn and I like to travel a lot. We get to visit family in Texas several times a year and other trips both in the States and abroad have me frequently filling out those “Hold Our Mail” cards at the Post Office.

Not this year. This year we are forced to take mythical vacations.

I know that I posted a blog back a few months ago about this, but we have not slowed down. Our Pilgrimage has continued.

For example: In our minds and online we have traveled to china, Japan, Russia, France, England, and just about everywhere else. I think the only continent we haven’t been to is Antarctica and that’s too cold for me. Don’t believe me? Well, we have pictures to prove it.

Here is a picture of us in London visiting the Royal Family.

And the Pope. He has a nice view from his balcony.

Earlier this year we even managed to visit the International Space Station. It has the best views of anyplace.

This doggone Covid-19 virus has brought about some profound changes in our day to day lives. We have all had to make adaptations and this is the one that we have chosen. Putting these pictures together has required itinerary planning, Selecting the right clothing, and scheduling time to take our photos.

As our Around The World Journey has continued we had met some interesting people and seen some glorious sights. It was just a week or so ago when we were  in Italy and checked out the Leaning Tower. Its still leaning and so am I at the end of a long day on my feet.

Just the other day we flew off to Argentina because we had the urge to dance the night away and what dance could be better for that than the TANGO!

Can we dance or what?

Who dares to tell me that I have two left feet?

 

 

 

Summer is turning into Autumn but that is not stopping us. We have taken a short breather at the request of some magazine publishers. We are going to appear on a number of popular magazines. That one up at the top, the National Geographic, is pretty nifty looking. Don’t you agree?

Why have we done this? Why have we cut ourselves loose from the insanity around us? Why have we insisted on our Freedom? Here is why. The words of Sojourner Truth.

 

Murphy’s Law Theater

There is a well known aphorism called Murphy’s Law that warns “If something can go wrong it will go wrong.” We’ve all had times when it seemed that Murphy’s Law was the ruling force in our daily life – even more so if you ever worked in Theater.

A couple of weeks ago while deeply stuck in the morass of Virus Isolation and in desperate need of video entertainment (other than aged sit-com reruns) to keep me from doing something I might regret later I started plowing through our Cable TV listings.

Old movies and Australian Cooking Contests weren’t going to do it for me. I thought I might have a winner when I located those Pro Corn Hole Matches on ESPN, but I couldn’t handle the suspense. I needed something that combined Serious Culture along with a sizable dollop of Goofiness. That meant that I needed to head toward Cable TV’s Red Carpet – the BBC.

Downton Abbey may have had a good chunk of Culture about it, but it sure didn’t have enough Goofiness to satisfy me. I needed more. I needed a combination of Masterpiece Theater and the Three Stooges. I kept looking.

I thought I had a winner when I was on time for the BBC World News, but then they went and did the European Weather with all of the temperatures in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. They lost me with that. I did not want to have to do math. I wanted entertainment – good solid and mindless entertainment.

Then I found it.

“The Goes Wrong Show” is perhaps the funniest thing I have seen in a Sunth of Mondays! (Work with me here.)

The IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) describes the show as “A series of brand new, handcrafted, half hours of theatrical catastrophes as The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society undertakes more (overly) ambitious endeavours.”

I would simplify that to read, “Imagine the worst Community Theater production you have ever seen then multiply it by ten.”

Doing Live Theater is “Murphy’s Law” with better lighting. It is not a case of IF something will go wrong, but WHEN. “The Goes Wrong Show” takes all of those “WHEN” moments and crams them into thirty minutes of insanity before a live audience.

There are only six episodes available now but that is enough to give you a rollicking evening of television and possibly a hernia from laughing until you pass out. I’m sure that more will be coming. More better be in the offing or I may have to drive to London and raise holy Hades.

My favorite episode was entitled “90 Degrees”. The title referred to the temperature in the sultry American South where the action takes place, but the Technical Crew thought it was an instruction and they built part of the set at a 90 degree angle from the floor.

Chaos ensues.

There is a Christmas Special Show where Santa gets roaring drunk, a magical Snowman ends up in his undies, and an Elf gets stuck in the chimney. A Christmas Carol it ain’t.

I don’t usually review or endorse TV shows or movies, but “The Goes Wrong Show” is wilder and cleverer than anything I have seen in a long time. It may take you a bit of sleuthing to find it with your local cable TV outfit, but, trust me, you will not be disappointed…unless you’re a humorless sourpuss who thinks there is nothing funny in the world.

Bah, Humbug!

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