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 – 2018

Archive for the category “Throwback Thursday”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – “Do We Need More Performance Art?”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – 

 

Do We Need More Performance Art?

I HAVE BEEN SURVEYING THE WORLD OF PERFORMANCE Aperformance art2RT.
It’s not hard to do –just look in your local newspaper for listings under “Live Entertainment and whenever you see something that boasts only one person doing the show, you’ve found it. But beware and tread carefully.

Most of the “Performance Art” solo performers that I’ve met over the years have been solo because nobody else in their right mind would get on a stage with them. Would YOU want to share the stage with a guy smearing ice cream all over his body? Not unless you brought the chocolate syrup and a spoon. But that would also call for a very low passable sense of culinary hygiene.

Read more…

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – “Hey, Butterball!”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 –

 

 

Hey, Butterball!

Brace yourself, America! It’s that time of year again when,a39f71f4-51bf-4f24-8b9e-4fe70b5801cb all across the country, people will be preparing Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners by the millions.

For most it will be a joyous chore to feed family and friends, but for many it will be a challenge comparable to trying to fly to the moon in a lawn chair powered by some helium balloons from the dollar store.

Despair not, help is available!

This year, as it has for the past 34 years, the fine folks at Butterball will be running their Turkey Hotline to answer questions and help salvage those Thanksgiving dinners for the less than expert chefs. Not everybody can be Julia Child – nor would you want to be – she’s dead.

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Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – 

 

Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Angry gifMY OFFICE IS CROWDED TODAY. Of course, “my office,” also doubles as a corner table in the Starbucks a few blocks from home. I can usually shut out the hubbub and foot traffic around me, but today, for some reason, it is all getting on my nerves.

Most of the people in here at this time of day are college students. This location sits almost exactly halfway between two schools. On most days they have their noses deeply buried in either textbooks or computers, but not today. Today must be a day after they have gotten their grades or test scores back. It sounds like they all did well.

Rather than studying the majority are socializing (read: putting the moves on somebody) and trying to look and sound like they can read and write in cursive. I’m seeing short hair being combed and patted to keep it in place and long hair being tossed and flipped, almost as punctuation marks.

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Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “What Am I Looking At?”

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “What Am I Looking At?”

What Am I Looking At?

eyechartSOME DAYS YOU HAVE TO GO OUT HUNTING for something to write about. Some other days it walks up and sits down in front of you. Today was one of the latter.

Let me preface this by saying that I have the utmost respect for and hold in high esteem the members of our Armed Forces, both present and past.

But this morning I witnessed something that just flat out bothered me.

I was finishing up my coffee down at St. Arbucks, chatting with a couple of the Usual Suspects when I noticed a tall fellow in Army garb crossing the parking lot. Trailing him by a few steps was a rather scruffy looking young man, arms dangling by his sides and his eyes cast downward.

I said out loud, “Here comes the Sergeant with a new recruit in tow.” I was joking, I didn’t even know if they were together, but – they were.

When they came through the door the Army guy led the younger man to a table near us, sat him down, and handed him a small bundle of papers and a pen.

“Here, fill these out. What are you drinking?”

I watched the young man look over the papers then take out a pair of glasses. When he put them on I could see that they were what we used to call, “Coke Bottle Glasses,” thick, heavy lenses in black frames.

Even with the glasses on he still had to bend over the papers until his nose almost brushed on the table. This did not bode well for his time on the firing range.

The kid (Anybody under forty is a kid to me) worked diligently filling in the blanks. His tongue stuck out periodically to help with the tough parts.

After a couple of very long minutes The Recruiter came back to the table carrying one short cup of hot coffee and one huge Frappuccino topped with whipped cream. As he passed by our corner he glanced at us and smiled. His smile spoke volumes. It said –

“Yes, this just what you think it is and I know that you know.”

He set the whipped cream drink in front of the young man, still busy with the paperwork. Then The Recruiter sat back and began to text away on his phone, smiling all the while.

I turned to my Partner Suspect and said, “This sucks. Would you want to be in a foxhole with that kid? He can’t see worth a darn.”

“Nope. Yup.”

When the new and unshaven Guardian of Freedom reached page three he paused. He lifted his head from the table and located the man sitting across the table from him.

“What does this mean?”

Not to let anything foul up his “Catch of the Day,” The Recruiter got up and, looking over the kid’s shoulder, took the pen and said, “Here, let me help you with that.”

Not surprisingly, the rest of the paperwork went quite quickly.

It took no more than two minutes for every blank to be filled in and every dotted line signed and dated before the two of them were heading out the door. The kid clutched his Frappuccino, but the small hot coffee sat where it was from the start. He had never touched it. It was strictly a prop.

I can’t see how this kid could ever pass the Army induction physical with eyesight like his. I doubt that he could read the big E on the top line of the eye chart.

I understand that the recruiters have quotas to fill, but really now – taking this kid into the Army isn’t doing anybody a favor – except Starbucks, if he keeps bringing his enlistees in to fill out the papers and slurp up the whipped cream.

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “More Questions Than Answers”

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 –

More Questions Than Answers

bear in carTODAY IS ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE POSTS about the strange behavior of the human animal. If you have already heard or read about this please feel free to talk amongst yourselves or go get a piece of cake.

The dateline on the news item, and I use the word “News” very loosely, was Yekaterinburg, Kazakhstan. We’re talking Central Asia here, a place where I might think that isolation from – everywhere else – can play practical jokes with your brain. The gist of this story was something that the AAA magazine would never have printed I am sure.

It seems that motorists hurrying on their way to other parts of Kazakhstan saw a guy driving down the road with a live bear sitting in the backseat of his car. Up at the start of this posting is a picture of the bear in question hanging out of the car window, possibly asking for directions to the nearest asylum for the Seriously Wacky. I have to admit that if I was driving along and saw a bear in the car in front of me I would also try to get a picture – just to give to the driver’s family, in case things didn’t end peacefully, and the bear had lawyered up.

To give due credit to the local Kazakhstanian police, they did pull the guy over. One peek into the backseat and I’m sure those cops were wishing that they were going up against terrorists, drug-crazed bank robbers or even Mary Kay Sales Reps instead.

Cut to several steps closer to the chase – the Kazakhstanian CHiPs sent the guy on his way, along with his bear, but without any kind of traffic citation ticket.

It seems, that according to Kazakhstanian Law it is perfectly legal to drive around with a live bear in your car – provided that the bear is wearing a seatbelt – and the bear in the backseat was, indeed, wearing his seatbelt.

This whole thing brings several questions to mind.

How in the heck did the guy get the bear buckled up without being mauled into an early grave?

 Since the bear allowed itself to be put in the backseat and properly belted in – I’m guessing that this was not the bear’s maiden voyage in a car. Just by the fact that the bear was in the backseat tells me that the guy wasn’t driving a Mini Cooper.

Was driver training next on the agenda?

Does this sort of thing go on in Kazakhstan often enough to warrant such safety conscious legislation?

Nowhere in the news item did it ever mention if anyone bothered to find out why the guy had the bear in the first place and where were they headed. I can’t imagine that there are too many spots one can go with your bear tagging along. I know that such places would be limited here, so I can imagine there would be fewer in, say, Yekaterinburg, Kazakhstan. At least I hope so.

In more local Terre Haute news (That’s French for “Bears under 100# must be in an approved car seat.”) bears have recently been spotted in northern Indiana. There is no word on whether or not these bears are émigrés from Kazakhstan or simply bears from the Detroit area looking for work.giphy

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “One Man’s Trash”

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 –

One Man’s Trash…

THE SUN IS SHINING, BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED. There is a chill in the air that is here to stay until springtime. This seems to happen every year about this time. Where do I go to lodge a formal complaint?

I know that complaining doesn’t do any good. It is what it is. There is also that AA prayer about changing things you can and not changing the things you can’t ending with, “…and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That is the tricky part.

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Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank”

I WAS CHATTING WITH THE USUAL SUSPECTS the other day when the topic of bank robbery came up. Sometimes they scare me. This bunch of Geezers couldn’t rob the Food Bank, let alone an actual – “Money in the vault, Can I see some ID, please,” type of bank. This group would be called the “Don’t forget to take your meds gang.” Even so, they would be a bigger threat than a person I once knew who really did try to rob a bank.

About ten years ago B.R. (Before Retirement) a female coworker whom I knew and liked working with, called in to her Supervisor one sunny morning. She said that she was going to be in a little late because she “Had some business to take care of.” Little did we all know that her “business” was knocking off a bank.

While I and everyone else at work were getting ready for another day on the job, she was out pulling into the parking lot at a local bank.

From later reports it went down something like this –

My coworker drove to the bank, checked her .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun to be sure it was loaded (it was), got out of the car and walked up to the front door of the bank. At this point things began to fall apart for her.

She pulled the handle to open the door – nothing. It wouldn’t budge. The door was locked. It was locked because, in an effort to rob the bank and still get to work, she got an early start to her day and arrived, fully loaded, before banking hours. The bank wouldn’t be open for another half hour.

There is an old adage that says, “Plan your work and work your plan.” My friend, the would-be bank robber, skimped on the first part of that. If this plan was to be as easy as 1 – 2 – 3 you can’t skip the 2 and go straight to 3.

So, there she is – standing at the front door of the bank, holding her shooting iron, and she can’t get the door to open. It was then that she made the decision to try again another day. Perhaps it was best to just go on to work like nothing had happened. No harm – No foul.

No way.

While she was standing there contemplating her “Plan B” the people who worked in the other bank, just across the street, witnessed this entire fiasco and had already called the Terre Haute Police Department. Terre Haute – that’s French for, “Mama don’t ‘low no bank robbin’ round here.”

Before she could get back to her car and go off to work, she found herself surrounded. It was not even 8 AM and her day was not going to get any better.

Since she never really robbed the bank, they couldn’t charge her with that crime, but they had a list of others to present her with.

It turned out, upon further investigation, that she had lied on her job application – in that part about “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” She had done some hard time a few years back for some other failed misadventure. This, of course, made her possession of the .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon a serious “No – No.” Added to that – she had no Concealed Carry permit for the gun – which was not registered anywhere. At least she did have a valid driver’s license – but the car wasn’t hers.

Fast Forward about three years –

I was tooling up and down the aisles of a store in town when I hear a voice behind me call out, “Hey, John!” This happens a lot to me. It is usually a former client or parent thereof – not this time. I turned around and there was our own local Bonnie Parker Wannabe.

“Hi, John. Remember me? We used to work together.”

Now this was one of those moments when you really don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, of course, the first words out of my mouth were,

“Sure, I remember you. Where you been keeping yourself?”

“Oh, I’ve been out of town for a while.”

Courtesy of the State of Indiana.

I really don’t remember the rest of the conversation.

I always enjoyed working with her. She was friendly, confident, and easy to get along with. Lucky for me she never needed an accomplice.

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Don’t Panic! OK, Go Ahead – Panic!!”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Don’t Panic! OK, Go Ahead – Panic!!”

 

THERE ARE SOME THINGS that Mankind should just not tinker with – Forces ofgiphy-6Nature that, if disturbed, can have cataclysmic repercussions. It is foolish to think that you can control the weather or the motion of the planets. We have tried to go against Nature with things like The Designated Hitter in Baseball or continuing to bankroll Adam Sandler movies and the results have been appalling.

This morning it happened again. I got up, abluted, dressed, made tea for my wife, the lovely and sound asleep, Dawn, and then I headed off to St. Arbucks. When the young barista handed me my coffee she said something that chilled my soul.

“The Power Company has to work on the transformer on the pole outside, so we are going to be without power. We will be closed for about a half hour.”

“When, for God’s sake? When?” I asked her calmly.

“In about three minutes.”

Why not just try to reverse the rotation of the earth like Superman or rewrite the first season of “Sherlock”? Empty the fish bowl and tell the goldfish to chill out for a half hour. Mess with Texas.

There are some things you just don’t do! Don’t spring things like that on me.

With no other choice I skulked back to the car. I sat there as the lights winked out and a poorly written sign was taped to the door. I sat there and sucked on my straw. It helped me to not hyperventilate.

I had my first coffee. I would survive as long as I didn’t panic-sip and “Empty the Venti.” But what about those other poor souls who didn’t get there on time? I sat there in the car and watched a procession of vehicles pull into the Drive-Thru Lane only to see another sign saying, “Closed. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

Well, maybe it just said, “Closed for thirty minutes. Sorry,” but after seeing the word “Closed” the rest of it must have looked like a death threat.

In just five minutes I saw about 40 cars and trucks pull in expectantly, and then leave looking dejected and desperate. It was more than I could take.

In an effort to save myself I took emergency measures – I went across the parking lot to Kroger’s and did some shopping. I needed some distraction. I took my coffee with me. I wasn’t going to leave it, visible and unguarded, in the car.

When I had made my pedometer click enough, I “self-checkout-ed” and slowly approached St. Arbucks from the rear. It had been thirty minutes at least. It felt like a week chained to a prison TV showing only Benny Hinn.

The lights were still out. “And darkness came over the whole land.” – Mark 15:33.

It was then I remembered that I had received a call from my pharmacy telling me that they had a prescription refill ready for me. Never was I so happy to get more meds to swallow. I have downed enough Potassium Chloride to perform a dozen lethal injections. And now I was going to pick up another month’s supply. Oh, Happy Day!

This time when I returned to St. Arbucks I could see from a distance that THERE WAS LIGHT, and parked cars, and a long line in the Drive-Thru Lane. Life as we know it had returned.

I wept a little.

I took my last sip from my original coffee and went inside to claim my refill. It was Ambrosia. It was Nectar of the Gods. It was Iced Coffee, a splash of cream, but unsweetened – the way Nature intended.

I wish that they had posted a warning about this shutdown a week or so ahead of time. I could have prepared myself – driven to the Auxiliary Chapel in the south end of town, or taken a sleeping pill to just miss the whole thing.

Plans are already being made to deal with a scheduled two-week shutdown in November when they close for remodeling. So far, the best option for that time is a two week sabbatical to Seattle.

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 –”Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 –”Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be” 

 

 

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THERE IS A GOOD REASON my wife, the lovely and unfailingly perceptive, Dawn, calls my trips to St. Arbucks, along with, “The Usual Suspects,” my “Play Group.” I admit that there are some days when the maturity level drops below Pre-School closing in on Pre-Natal.

For several days now the main topic of conversation among the group has centered on the television western series, “Gunsmoke.” This show hasn’t been on the air since 1975. Why this has become important enough to warrant two days of conversation is unknown.

I understand the lure of nostalgia – the being able to share common memories with contemporaries who are now getting along in years. What I can’t understand is why it has become necessary to dramatize scenes from the show – right there in the corner of the coffee joint. It mystifies me and I think it scares some of the staff and other customers.

The conversation seemed to center around one character on the show: “Chester Good” – portrayed by Dennis Weaver, a mediocre actor at best.

“Chester” was the Deputy to Marshall Matt Dillon, played by James Arness and irrelevant to this discussion.

The character of “Chester” was disabled on the show. His character was gunned down in an early episode and for the rest of his time on the show he ran around with one leg, unbending, and stiff as a pool cue.

Week after week he would scuttle around, getting in over his head with the local bad guys. He would then run, after a fashion – stiff leg swinging out like the line on a weed eater, and yelling, “Mr. Dillon, Mr. Dillon, come quick.” Not exactly a showcase for Mr. Weaver’s acting chops, but it paid the bills.

How all of this was remembered by The Usual Suspects in 2015 is where things got dicey.

After describing “Chester” and his “mobility issues” it was determined by one Suspect that more was needed to illustrate his point (Whatever it was). He also thought that it would help if he performed Chester’s lines, but his recollection veered a bit from reality.

The Suspect hauled himself out of his chair and began to stiff-leg it across the floor. Then his dialogue came out, loud enough to reach the back row at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Holy Sh**, Mr. Dillon. Come quick. Holy Sh**!

It was at this point that I tried to hide under a table. I’m positive that “Chester” never said that on network television – ever.

This breach of nostalgia etiquette had the other Suspects trying to force him back in his chair.

“Sit down! You’re going to get us all thrown out of here!”

I peeked around and all of the baristas and other coffee drinkers looked like prairie dogs – alert with eyes wide open, wondering what was happening. Was the big guy with the bad leg going Postal? Was he a threat or merely nuts?

The answer to that particular question was: All of the above. But I’m not being judgmental.

Now, all of this could be written off as a quirky, one-time event, like Ross Perot or World War Two, except that there was an encore performance the next day.

When I arrived on the scene this “Faux Chester” was already wound up like a Joy Buzzer and moments later he was off and running, albeit with a significant limp. I was still near the door, so I just sidled over toward the recycling bin and pretended to be checking that things were being sorted properly.

If this was going to be a daily performance, I told him, he was going to have to join the Actors’ Equity labor union. It was either that or he was going to be hauled off for a 72 hour observation at the Bubble Factory. Personally, I’m voting for the 72 hour gig.

Most days at St. Arbucks are quiet, contemplative even, but this week it was more like being trapped inside bad Community Theater.

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015

Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby

say my name

I WAS JUST LOOKING AT THE LIST of the most popular names for newborn babies in 2014. For 2015 I assume we won’t know for a while what names will make the Top Ten.

When I first saw the list of girl’s names I was struck by how “traditional” and even 19th century many of them seemed.

Sophia? Emma? Emily?

I guess the trend of recent years for “new” names or names that had a more nontraditional flair has waned at last.

I know of two families that have daughters named “Brooklyn.” Personally, I would no sooner name my child Brooklyn than I would name her East St. Louis or Beaver Falls (The town where I grew up).

Names like Sophia, Emma and Emily carry elegance about with them. They conjure up a gentler, and more polite, time. When I hear Brooklyn I think of black and while newsreel footage of crowded streets and Ebbet’s Field – Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I can almost smell the cigar smoke and perspiration. (I’m gonna hear about this – I just know it.)

Here is the complete Top Ten List of Girl’s Names for 2014, courtesy of BabyCenter.com.

  1. Sophia
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Ava
  5. Isabella
  6. Mia
  7. Zoe
  8. Lily
  9. Emily
  10. Madelyn

There’s not a Brooklyn or an East St. Louis among them.

I recall that a few years ago the name “Madison” was a very popular choice for both boys and girls. There are a number of names that do double duty, but the only reason this sticks out in my memory is that once, during an interview with some sportscaster, Giants’ Pitcher Madison Bumgarner mentioned that he once had a date with a girl who was also named Madison Bumgarner. He claimed that they were not related, but he grew up in a small town in North Carolina. I’m just saying…

Doubling up on both names just raises eyebrows and visions of children running around with extra thumbs.

All of these girl’s names are incredibly better than what Inventor and Aircraft Designer, Bill Lear (The Lear Jet) did to his daughter. He saddled his baby girl with the first name of “Shanda.”

10 Most Popular boy’s Names for 2014

  1. Jackson
  2. Aiden
  3. Liam
  4. Lucas
  5. Noah
  6. Mason
  7. Ethan
  8. Caden
  9. Jacob
  10. Logan

The one thing that leaps out at me about this list of boy’s names is that several of them are, what I would consider to be, last names or family names.

Nos. 1, 4, 6, and 10 are not first names.

Take no. 1 for example.

Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that little Jackson’s last name is “Thomas.” Years from now he will be asked to fill out some forms for a job or for some government program and they will ask that he do so “Last name first.” He will dutifully fill in the blanks with “Thomas, Jackson.”

I freaking guarantee that the clerk who is processing his paperwork will see that and think that Jackson is an illiterate fool and trashcan his application. He will not get the job, become disheartened, fall in with a bad crowd, and descend into a life of crime and despair. All because his parents got cute with his name.

Numbers 4, 6, and 10 – I’m sorry to say, but you’re screwed.

And number 8 – “Caden?” That’s not a name. It sounds like a dental term. “I’m sorry; Jackson, but you have a bad case of Caden. It’s going to be painful and expensive.”

Of course, as was the case with the girl’s names – it could be worse.

I do know of a young boy here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “My first name is Pierre.”) who has the legal first name of “Buckshot.”

Is that a crime statistic in the making, or what? Why not just name the kid, “The Defendant.”

I do believe that parents should be able to name their kids as they like, but if you’re going to give your child a stupid name, I think that the clerk authorizing birth certificates should be legally empowered to take Daddy and Mommy out back and slap them silly upside the head.

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – 

 

When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught

Kite with keyWHILE HANGING TEN OFF MY KEYBOARD today I bumped into a tidbit of info that is, perhaps, the most Obvious, Redundant, and Dumb As a Sackful of Hammers thing I’ve seen in quite a while.

The University of Pennsylvania, Department of English, is offering a course with the title of, “Wasting Time On The Internet.”

Well, yeah. And your point is…?

I’m guessing that the course is being offered through the English Dept. because Kenneth Goldsmith, the alleged instructor, either lost a bet or was so strung out of Red Bull that it seemed like a good idea at the time – or even just an idea.

I would think that such a course would be truly inter-disciplinary. It could easily fit in the Depts. Of Philosophy, Economics, Gender Studies, Computer Sciences, Phys. Ed., and/or Early Childhood Development. I stopped there because I realized that it could probably fit anywhere except the Library and the Student STD Clinic.

It is also fitting into the Tuition Billing Statement sent to Parents each term. One look at Junior’s course load and Daddy is likely to suffer a TIA episode and start calculating the drive-time to the nearest Community College.

The course is described thusly: “The class will, ‘Explore the long history of recuperation of boredom and time-wasting.’”

There is a more “in depth” (aka “piled higher”) description, but I’m not going to type it all out. I tried, but my Spell Check began to giggle. http://www.english.upenn.edu/courses/undergraduate/2015/spring/engl111.301 

Upon clicking on the Instructor’s link I learned, in spite of it all, that he has also taught another course called, “Uncreative Writing: Robotic Erotica/Erotic Robotics: Scribing a Non-Expressive Sexuality.”

(Batteries extra?)

Why am I not surprised by this?

His Bio blurb says that he has published ten (count ‘em 10) books of poetry and has a list of credits that provide a comfortable living.

I don’t begrudge it to him at all. To paraphrase another showman – a fellow named Barnum – “There’s a new one born every minute.”

“Wasting time on the Internet”

I’ve always thought of it as something that one does by instinct, not needing to be taught. Even as I’m writing this I am getting the feeling that I am doing it quite well. And I’ve never had a lesson in it in my entire life.

Maybe I should start freelancing a bit and teach others to do what they already know how to do. I could expand my course offerings to include:

“Breathing 101: How to Inhale and Exhale on a Regular Basis.”

“Recognizing the Differences Between Up and Down.”

“How to Lie Down – Without Holding On.”

I wonder if Mr. Goldsmith ever took the class called, “The Difference Between the Tenure Track and the Railroad Track.”  One can take you somewhere and the other can run you over. It can be tricky telling them apart sometimes.

The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. One of the more clever and witty men of his age I think he might be amused by “Wasting Time on the Internet.” He might even sign up to take the course. Maybe, but he was also a very practical man who might read the description of the class and turn to Mr. Goldsmith and say, “ Next time you’re trying to fly a kite in a storm– learn to let go of the key. It’ll reboot you something fierce.”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “Some Call It Courage”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – 

Some Call It Courage

20150818_204155THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIFFERING DEFINITIONS of the word “Courage.” Some call it “Grace under pressure,” while others say it is “Being scared, but acting anyway.” I think that, in many cases, what is called courage is simply not paying attention to what is happening around you.

I heard someone once say that the most courageous person in history was the first person to eat an oyster. How hungry must that person have been to consider eating that thing? If I was faced with that dilemma today I would still hold out for something better.

“I ain’t eating that. There’s gotta be a Cracker Barrel nearby.”

I would even eat a tuna sandwich from the Marathon Gas Station Mini-Mart before I’d pick up that raw oyster and say, “Pass the hot sauce, please.”

Last night my wife, the lovely and highly courageous, Dawn, and I attended the SF Giants vs. the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game at Busch Stadium. There were a number of people there arrayed in Giants shirts, caps, and attitude, but we were nowhere near them. We were surrounded by about 40,000 Cardinals fans, yet we never felt in peril. There was good natured ribbing going on, but being a Giants fan there never required courage – except maybe when I got in line to get a hot dog. Getting a ballpark hot dog always requires a modicum of courage. There is always a smidgen of that “first oyster” memory lurking in the background with ballpark dogs.

After downing our hot dogs we moved to our seats to enjoy the game. It was there that we witnessed the most courageous act since Bruce Jenner decided to have his eyebrows plucked.

Allow me to set the scene –

Here we were, in St. Louis – in Busch Stadium – looking across the field at the largest Budweiser sign in the galaxy – with every vendor in the park yelling, “Cold beer! Get your Bud Light here!” – And, seated in front of us was a young man of indeterminate intelligence, time/space awareness, or survival instinct wearing a shirt bearing the message, “Miller Time.”

This was a fellow who had either lost a serious bet or was trying to commit “Suicide by Brewery.”

Going anywhere in St. Louis wearing a shirt saying “Miller Time” would be comparable to opening a Pulled Pork restaurant in downtown Baghdad, while dressed as Uncle Sam and wearing a Yarmulke.

I’d like to think that this fellow, pictured above, just lives in his own private Idaho and is protected by the Fates who must have one doozy of a surprise waiting for him down the road sometime in the future.

Perhaps this guy will be selected as Joe Biden’s running mate, or Donald Trump’s barber.

I think that the fact that he was able to get out of the stadium alive is a testimony to the kindness of St. Louis-ians. In most other cities he wouldn’t have made it past the old guy selling scorecards before being turned into a crime statistic.

Personally, I didn’t really care. I’m not a beer drinker. My only concern was that we might fall into the category of “collateral damage” if things didn’t go well for Mr. Miller Time. I don’t want my death certificate reading, “Cause of Death: Jackass shrapnel.”

Maybe this guy is one of those people who are considered, “Thrill Seekers.” You know – the kind of person who skydives using a parachute packed by someone with the nickname of, “Better Luck Next Time.” – Or who jumps into shark infested waters carrying a Rare Sirloin Steak in his back pocket.

The most common phrase one hears in reference to “Thrill Seekers” is, “Oh, yeah, I remember him.”

So, whether it be wearing a shirt that doubles as a bull’s eye, or being the first person to eat a raw oyster, it takes something special, I just don’t know if I could call it courage.

I’ll reserve that word for folks in the Armed Forces and anyone who would marry a Kardashian.

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “Our Lady Of The Crosswalk”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Our Lady Of The Crosswalk

I THINK I SAW EVIDENCE OF A MIRACLE THIS MORNING.

I was driving down Wabash Avenue, heading toward home after morning services/brewing at St. Arbucks, when I stopped at the red light. It was then that I saw it.

Across the intersection at the crosswalk, leaning up against the light pole, I saw a single aluminum crutch. “Shades of Fatima,” I said to myself. “Right here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “What the heck is that?”).

Nobody would absentmindedly forget that they were using a crutch and just walk away and leave it there. Nobody would think that they didn’t need the crutch and just abandon it at the corner. It has to be a relic of a recent miraculous event.

Picture if you will – an injured, ill, or otherwise disabled soul galumphing down Wabash Avenue using their new aluminum crutch for support. What was it that happened at the corner of Wabash and Brown? There were no reports of miraculous visions, cosmic phenomena or angelic choruses in the area. Whatever happened must have been extremely private.

Our Hobbler got to the corner and had to wait for the green light when something happened that caused him/her to become restored to full bipedal status. Was it a vision, an apparition that delivered a cure or merely a warming glow that entered and told him/her that it was time to ditch the crutch? 

How in the heck would I know?

I saw the crutch leaning up against that pole and I knew that it couldn’t be accidental – no matter how much you’ve been drinking. In fact, the more you would drink the more you would rely upon the crutch to get you home. And besides – I didn’t see any drunken bodies lying there on the sidewalk.

Ergo: It has to be a miracle.

OK – I admit that another possible explanation or two exist but, really… does anyone think that the crutch may have been placed there as a gag? Or was the crutch thrown there from a passing car? If that had happened, the fact that it landed upright, neatly leaning on the pole, would be yet another miracle.

No – the only logical answer is that Divine Intervention took place at the corner of Wabash and Brown today – and the beneficiary of that intervention is toddling around town and doing just fine, thank you.

Miracles like this don’t happen every day, especially at the corner of Wabash and Brown.  If such miracles did happen every day more people would notice and there would be crutches leaning up at almost every intersection.

Of course, what the future holds for that intersection remains to be seen. Who knows if there will be more miraculous events there and that a devout following will turn it into a place of pilgrimages? If that happens the Mobil station at the opposite corner will see their mini-mart business really take off – Soft drinks, snacks and little plastic crutches made in Korea. It could turn into another Fatima or even a Super Target.

This isn’t like those people that see the face of Jesus on their taco or grilled cheese sandwich. This is a real, tangible aluminum crutch standing up at the corner. Those things don’t just walk there all by themselves. Somebody in need had to have gotten that far and then said, “Oh, I suddenly feel better. Aw, screw it. I don’t need no stinking crutch. I’m outta here.” Not poetic or very liturgical, but what do you expect at a busy intersection?

Today – one person leaving a single aluminum crutch.

Tomorrow – a shrine to Our Lady of the Crosswalk.

It could happen.

 

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “If You Don’t Hear From Me – It’s The Moles”

 

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 

If You Don’t Hear From Me – It’s The Moles

20150729_114750IT HAS BEEN A QUIET MORNING.

After stumbling through the process of making tea and doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper I felt that I was sufficiently conscious to drive to St. Arbucks.

“Oh, great nectar from the mountains of Abyssinia, you awaken my mind and soul to all the wonders and possibilities of God’s creation.” 

— From the Gospel of St. Arbucks, Patron Saint of Jittery people.

This afternoon, however, is a different story.

As I stepped out of the back door I was made immediately aware that things were happening – big time.

First of all my ears were assaulted by the cacophony of a million Cicadas nestled high in the treetops. There is no other sound quite like the half buzz, half whine of the ugliest insect around. I don’t know if these are the 5-year, 7-year or the 17-year Cicadas that seem to like this part of the country, but they are noisy. When they are going full blast it can make earplugs a nice accessory.

After regaining my equilibrium from the aural assault I headed to the car, but I stopped when I saw what is in the picture displayed above.

We had a bit of rain overnight and I think it inflated the mushroom that has been growing by the tree near the car. I have put a book into the picture to give you some idea of the size. It first popped up about three years ago and has somehow survived some truly bitter winters. Now it looks poised to take over the whole yard.

I’ve seen squirrels nibble at it and birds too, but I’d be afraid to sample it for fear that it might bite back. I have no idea what kind of mushroom it is other than Honking Big.

After snapping the picture of the Mega-Shroom I walked around to the driver’s side of the car and noticed yet another sign of activity.

We have either a collection of moles living in/under the backyard or the city is putting in a new subway tunnel, which would surprise the heck out of me because Terre Haute (That’s French for “Mama don’t ‘low no subways around here.”) doesn’t have a subway system. It barely has bus lines. I don’t think they’d want to dig too deep around here anyway – you never know who you might bring up.

It must be moles – lots of them. It looks like they’ve all been drinking too. None of the little raised piles of dirt go in a straight line for more than six inches.

Then again, maybe the moles haven’t been drinking. They might be disoriented from sampling that giant Magic Mushroom over by the tree.

Or maybe it’s those darn Cicadas. They make enough noise to drive me crazy – just imagine what they could do to the nervous system of a mole.

Wait a minute…

Did I just compare myself to a mole?

If someone else said that to me I would ask them to step outside, but under the circumstances I would find myself out there alone. Then what?

Besides, it’s too hot and muggy today, so I’ll just stay inside and give myself a stern talking to.

I will continue to monitor the activity in the backyard and report on any significant changes.

If you don’t hear from me – it’s the moles.

Throwback Thursday From July 2015 – “18 For Lunch”

Throwback Thursday From July 2015 – “18 For Lunch”

18 For Lunch

phone booth crowdedIT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO CARRY ON A CONVERSATION over lunch when there are 18 people huddled around the table. It can be hard enough when there are only two people, but the additional sixteen can really throw a monkey wrench into the process.

It ends up sounding something like this:

“So, how have you…seen my green beans, they…flew in last Thursday on…your Aunt Martha just before she…slid into third base.”

Eighteen was the headcount at our Family lunch down in Texas last week. Six orders of Catfish, Four Chicken Fried Steaks, Two Fried Shrimp, Five Fried chicken and one Salad Bar.

Somebody had to keep the cholesterol count down.

When you get together with the family it can be a real crowd and, while they are a lovely bunch, I grew up in a different set of familial circumstances.

My father was an only child and his father was an only child as well. That fact right there seriously cut into my count of cousins, aunts and uncles. I was one of two children and my brother had two daughters.

The Norman Rockwell picture around the Thanksgiving table is turning into a snapshot at the lunch counter.

On my mother’s side of the family they were more fertile. She had three sisters and one brother who made it to adulthood. My Uncle Tony was a great guy who was never married except to his job selling cold cuts at the Central Market and golf. Aunt Nellie was married to Uncle Paul and I think one of the conditions of the Potsdam Conference was that they never have children.

For a next generation on that side of the family we must turn to Aunt Annette and Aunt Anne. They both had two kids each. Of those four only one – Cousin Florence got into the baby production game. She had, if I recall, five or six kids. The other three cousins had a grand of one and even that is more or less an apocryphal child. Nobody has seen that cousin for thirty years, so there is no concrete proof like fingerprints, wanted posters or an appearance on “America’s Most Wanted.

You put all of this together, and the knowledge that those kids are scattered from California, to Ohio, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and you can see that getting 18 around the table for lunch would necessitate hiring some extras to sit in for dessert.

So, you can see why I relish the blessing of squeezing around the table with them. I have married into this family that has accepted me and welcomed me – even though I see them sneak a peek at me every so often with that look that whispers, “There’s something funny about that boy”

By marrying into the family I have become a Texan-in-law and I think that has some kind of real legal status. It’s not on my Driver’s License or anything, but I know that it does entitle me to swagger on certain holidays. Of course, with my limp and galumphing stride, any swagger I have could easily be mistaken for an attempt to walk while under the influence.

 

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “Randall The Candle”

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “Randall The Candle”

 

 

Randall The Candle

candleIN 1997 THERE WAS AN EPISODE of “Law And Order” (An American Cops and Robbers TV show set in New York City) that had a character, an arsonist, who went by the moniker of “Randall the Candle.”

Cut to 2015 in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Change the battery in your smoke alarm.”) and a conversation with one of the “Usual Suspects” during services at the Chapel of St. Arbucks.

The “Suspect” – a former resident of New York City and the son of an NYPD Detective and I were discussing the recent fire at a café across the street from St. Arbucks that destroyed the place within 24 hours of their “Grand Opening.” He hinted that it looked a little suspicious and that maybe “Randall the Candle” was in town.

Egads!

Further interrogation uncovered one of those “Art imitating Life” things. According to the Usual Suspect seated in the chair across from me – Randall the Candle was a real person, and an arsonist, and an off-the-books consultant for the NYPD about fires of a “suspicious nature.”

I do not find this to be at all beyond belief because every writer I know borrows from real life in every paragraph and a character called “Randall the Candle” is too good to pass up. If he didn’t exist you would have to create him.

Given the timeline of the TV show and the youthful remembrances of my cohort in coffee, I would guess that “Randall” is long gone to that Great Tinder Box in the Sky.” He isn’t still alive to file any lawsuits over using his colorful nickname. Even if he was around to make a play for some cash – any court action would almost certainly result in him admitting to a long career in crime and that would then open up a whole new set of fertilizer hitting the fan issues.

It seems that in real life, rather than “reel life,” Randall the Candle was a man who worked on both sides of the Law. For the right price he would light up your life and/or your warehouse in such a manner that your insurance company would have to pay off. He was a Capital P Professional.

But as active as he was, Randall wasn’t the only game in town and he did not like competition – especially “small p” professional arsonists who did sloppy work. It was sort of like a dishonest politician smearing the reputation of an honest —  wait, bad analogy there. There are no honest politicians. But you get my drift.

Randall the Candle would work with the police on cases of arson – helping them to identify how the job was done and often by whom. Arsonists, like most people, are creatures of habit and tend to repeat themselves – left sock, right sock, left shoe, right shoe, left incendiary device, right incendiary device.

In my own perverted literary way I am glad to learn that Randall the Candle actually existed. His whole story has a Damon Runyon-esque flavor to it. With a name like his, and a decent voice and sense of rhythm, he could easily have been a character in “Guys and Dolls.”

I can’t say that “they don’t make ‘em like Randall the Candle anymore.” I don’t know.   But I’ll bet you’d be hard pressed to find some jamoke with the moxie to play with the bacon and still run with his torch like Randall the Candle.

Throwback Thursday – From June 2015 – “Four Corners”

Four Corners

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THERE IS AN ODDITY of cartography that draws thousands of people to a dusty, flaming hot and remote spot on the desert land of the Navaho Nation.

I really can’t tell you what state it is in because it is, and it isn’t, in four different states simultaneously.

This spot of dusty Navaho land is called “The Four Corners Monument” and it is where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico meet in a pinpoint of bureaucratic, “I’ll be darned.”

For some reason, thousands of people every year drive out into the desert, fork over the price of admission to the Navaho land, and the pose for pictures while trying to stand exactly on the spot of congruence.

I was there myself not long ago. It was a hellishly hot day and there was no shade. There was a line of people (couples, families, bikers – I don’t understand that one either) all waiting to have their pictures taken.

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Throwback Thursday – From June 2015 – “A Rose Is A Rose Is A .357 Magnum”

 

A Rose Is A Rose Is A .357 Magnum

magazine rackI WAS WANDERING through the recently reconfigured aisles of the Kroger’s Supermarket this morning. Whenever they do make changes like that it takes a while for me to be able to find anything again. I end up having to go up and down all the aisles. I know that having me do that is the objective, but if I haven’t purchased canned lychee nuts  in the last forty years I probably won’t be doing so anytime soon.

While I was cruising and looking for the rice I happened to pass the Magazine display. I hadn’t seen that before so I stopped and perused the selection of things I wouldn’t be purchasing.

There must be 300 different magazines there. I haven’t heard of 98% of them.

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Throwback Thursday – From June 2015 – “I’m On A Mission From God”

I’m On A Mission From God

square donuts

WELL, NOT REALLY, BUT CLOSE. I was on a mission from my wife.

Last Friday was “National Donut Day.”

We’re talking about the pastry and not the parking lot maneuver done by drunken teenagers with the family car on Saturday night.

There is a fact little known outside of Terre Haute (That’s French for “Can I have some more.”), Indiana, but we produce the best donuts this side of everyplace else.

I’m talking about “Square Donuts” here. Not round. Not triangular, and certainly not Kremed and Krispy. I know that taste is subjective, so after an extensive fact finding mission I can “Objectively” state that I am right.

Anyway…

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Throwback Thursday from June 2015 – “Excuse Me If I Destroy Your World”

 

Excuse Me If I Destroy Your World

Dogs eat carTHIS MORNING AS I WALKED into the Friendly Confines of St. Arbucks for my morning coffee I saw that The Usual Suspects were already deep in prayer, or whatever you want to call all of them talking at once.

When I slid into my pew it became obvious that they were all worked up about the Kroger store – just a Molotov Cocktails throw across the parking lot.

It seems that a number of early shoppers had been parking in the Fire Lane and the Handicapped (Gimp) Parking spots illegally.

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