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 – 2021

Archive for the tag “Writing”

Pop Goes The Wall

 

I know that this will hardly come as a shock to you, but…

THERE’S A LOT OF STRANGE STUFF IN THIS WORLD.

One small example of this has been all over my Facebook lately. There have been daily, sometimes more than daily, postings by someone I don’t know myself who has been cluttering up the world with updates on the medical woes of her pet pig.

If this had been about her child or some other human relative I might cut her some slack, but IT’S A PIG FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!

I know…there are some of you who are thinking that I am an insensitive lout. I’m not. I have my own emotional support thing. Mine is a frozen burrito. It gives me comfort and pleasure, but I’m not going to pollute the internet posting pictures of it spinning around in the microwave on its way to becoming my lunch.

OK… I will now step down from my soapbox…my emotional support soapbox.

“Now for something completely different” – Monty Python.

Well…it is different, but in some ways it has some similarities. It is about one thing that has served in more than one capacity, but just not very well.

During the past year our ability to go out shopping in real brick and mortar stores has been seriously impaired by this virus foofaraw. Everyone has turned to shopping online and having stuff delivered right to our front door. It works surprisingly well and has made that Bezos fellow very happy.

With every package that UPS or the Post Office drops off at our place it is a safe bet that our purchase will come swathed in Bubble Wrap. Even if it makes no sense there is Bubble Wrap. Did that book need protective Bubble Wrap? I ordered some socks from Amazon and they came in a large box filled with Bubble Wrap.

Bubble Wrap. All around my socks. It’s like being on a crowded bus surrounded by fat people.

I felt the urge to waste some time and learn about Bubble Wrap.

Circa 1957 there were two grown men: Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes who collaborated to create what would come to be known as Bubble Wrap. They were nice guys I guess who created something but had no idea what to do with it. It was like coming up with a cure for a disease that doesn’t exist. When they did come up with a niche to be filled by their creation it was…stupid. They tried to market it as…Wallpaper. Wall Plastic to be more accurate. They were clever inventors, but lousy Marketers.

They got patents and formed a company – “Sealed Air.”

Sealed Air muddled along on the verge of bankruptcy until 1971 when an outsider was hired to run the company.

BINGO!

A fresh pair of eyes launched Sealed Air into the Center Ring. Today, Sealed Air is a Fortune 500 company with sales of more than 4.5 BILLION Dollars and 15,000 employees.

Some people create Bubble Wrap while other people spend their time documenting the ups and downs of a sick pig.

I’m going to go have a burrito.

Mipissssissippi, Misippiss, Mippiississ,…Texas

SOME DAYS THINGS WORK OUT FINE…and then other days – well…

Mipissssissippi, Misippiss, Mippiississ

I do believe that we have become “Snow Bunnies” of a sort. Consider that we have made three – count ’em, Three trips since October from our home in Terre Haute down to south Texas. It is only a two and a half hour flight, but we have done these trips earthbound. In these days of Nasty Viruses we feel better avoiding both Airplanes and Airports.

Driving to and from Hoosierland to the Coastal Territory near Corpus Christi, Texas is about 1200 miles each way. I say “about” because it depends on your route. You can save a few miles by driving through Arkansas and squeezing your nervous system through Downtown Houston. We have done that a couple of times and I will do almost anything to avoid doing it again. On this last trip to see the family and to NOT see Midwest ice and snow we followed a different route. It added about 100 miles each way, but it lowered my blood pressure and my heartbeat significantly.

Rather than drive through the Arkansas Pinball Machine of Route 40 where Big Rig Semis outnumber cars 25 to one and the speed limit is restricted only by Einstein’s Theory about the speed of light. Instead we cut straight south and went through the lovely State of Mississippi border to border.

Interstate 55 in Mississippi is my new favorite stretch of highway. It is well maintained, not overly busy, and goes through some beautiful countryside. They also had a Road sign that made my feeble mind drag up some old cliches and stereotypes. Hopefully, nobody will be offended, but if they are…too bad. I can’t let a joke get away from me so easily.

This is the sign that we saw posted every few miles.

What caught my jaundiced eye was the part about throwing trash on the highway. I read that and my twisted sense of tacky and tasteless humor kicked into high gear. It was a good thing that we made no stops inside Mississippi other than the obligitory rest stops to… relieve ourselves, shall we say.

As we plunged southward through the Magnolia State (As I learned from another sign) my mind concocted this short monologue.

“We were driving through Yalobusha County, heading south, when I saw a sign along side the road. Do you see that sign? The one about there being a $250 Dollar fine for throwing trash on the highway? Well, I saw it and it has brought back a sad memory that still haunts our Family to this day.

Seeing that sign made me remember about that unpleasant day when our beloved, though hard to live with, Cousin Billy Bob Beaureguard ran afoul of The Law. It was not that he hadn’t done the same thing dozens of times, but this time he got caught doing it in front of that State Trooper.

Billy Bob was caught up in a technicality when he was driving along and got into an argument with his youngest son, Jasper, and threw him out of his truck while driving down the highway just outside of Coffeeville. That boy, Jasper, was no good to begin with and everybody knew it. The Judge knew it too and instead of charging Billy Bob with any ‘Attempted This or That” he nicked him for that $250 dollar fine because everybody knew that boy, Jasper, was trash.”

You can see why I would not want to say that out loud in front of any Mississippians. They might either be offended by the cliches or upset that I was airing the Families dirty laundry in public. I thought of it and we wisely chose to continue driving until we were across the State Line.

(We are just skipping Louisiana here. I’m in enough trouble.)

 

 

 

 

 

Krakatoa Christmas

DON’T CALL ME SCROOGE, but I am glad that the Holiday Season is over. It’s not that I don’t enjoy getting together with family and friends, sharing good memories, and hopes for the future. I truly do love all of that. It is just that I find it all so very exhausting.

The “Holiday Season” starts with Halloween (Like it or not.) and doesn’t end until after the New Year’s Day festivities. For some people the end doesn’t come until the Super Bowl. Personally, I could not care less about that. I might care if the Cleveland Browns were in the game, but I‘m not holding my breath on that.

For over two months everything is in a whirl of shopping, eating WAAAAY too much, traveling, being pleasant with everybody, and wading through the tons of catalogs that overflow the mailbox. I find it all more than I can deal with calmly, maintaining a clear brain, and a digestive tract that doesn’t resemble Krakatoa West of my Liver. By the time the New Year starts I am a shambles. This year was even more difficult. I think I now know what all of those discarded Christmas trees feel like after a ride through the wood chipper.

This year we spent most of December in Texas. We drove there and back. Let me do the math for you – that was a round trip of about 2500 miles.

Ho Ho Ho

We split The Going and The Coming into three days each way. I can no longer do those marathon drives of 700 miles in a day. My butt just can’t take it anymore. Fifty years ago I could have made the Texas trip in two days, but no more. Back in 1970 I drove from Bar Harbor, Maine all the way to the Washington D.C. burbs in one day. That was about 750 miles in one day! I was young and foolish.

I’m not young anymore.

After traveling like that I need several days to recuperate. I can’t get up at 7 AM, make tea and coffee, and be a sociable breakfast companion. I need to stay in bed unconscious and eventually be a passable lunch companion.

I think what I need to start doing as the Holiday Season approaches again is to go into training as if I was going to compete in the Olympics.

I’ll start in July. I will spend hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair. I will start practicing on my Christmas present wrapping skills. This year everything I wrapped looked like it was done by an arthritic Orangutan.

Another area I’ll need to work on is Eating…Holiday Eating. That means eating too much, doing so at odd hours, and having a severely unbalanced diet. Cookies will become one of the major food groups. Did you know that there must be twenty different kinds of Oreo Cookies?

So you see…it’s not that I don’t like the Holidays. It is more like the Holidays have passed me by. I find that all of those things I took in stride in my youth now require some serious preparation. I’ll be ready when this year’s Holiday Season rolls around. I don’t want to face another year with my intestinal tract taking no prisoners.

Groundhog Day Redux…And A Few Days Early.

This is the last Friday in January. Groundhog Day is officially next Tuesday and I have no intention of doing anything on that day that might be considered work. So…

Here is a repeat of a Groundhog Day post from a few years ago. It was a tragic and bloody day. Everyone knows that Groundhog Day makes sense only in a small town in the hills of Pennsylvania – not in New York City.

HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY!

Unless you live in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania today is just another Friday. If you do live in Punxutawney, Pennsylvania then this is the one day in the year that anyone gives a hedgehog’s patoot about your town. Today is the day when the Network Morning Shows will give you a 90 second live cutaway to see the annual Groundhog ceremony…and then that’s it until next year.

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How To Make A Killing In Massachusetts

I saw a little item in the Real Estate section of the news recently that had my brain come to a screeching halt.

Does the name “Lizzie Borden” mean anything to you? If it doesn’t, it should.

While the O. J. Simpson trial may have been The Trial of the 20th Century the Lizzie Borden trial has that title for the 19th Century.

Picture if you will: Fall River, Massachusetts, in August of 1892. It was a quiet day until the calm was ruptured by the horrifying screams from the Borden Home. Inside the house were the mutilated bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Borden. Both of them had been savagely attacked with an axe.

There have been Movies, TV Shows, Dramatic Stage Plays (I was in one a few years ago), and even Rock Musicals about Lizzie Borden. She was arrested and tried for the murders. There was evidence, but no one could believe that Lizzie could do such a horrible thing. She was acquitted. She walked out of that courtroom and lived in Fall River until her death in 1927.

Now the “Lizzie Borden House” in Fall River is up for sale for a cool $2 Million Dollars. In recent years the house has been a very spooky, if well appointed, Bed and Breakfast and Museum.

“You too can sit on the couch where Lizzie’s Daddy had his head sliced and diced!”

I suppose that there are people for whom this house and it’s morbid history make it a “must see” destination, but not for me. I would rather to stay in a luxurious hotel where the only meat cutting takes place in a four-star restaurant.

                 Daddy’s Last Nap

I can just imagine that there will be a string of “Looky-Loos” who will want to get a free tour of the house and snap a few pictures to show the relatives back home. 

  Don’t go into the Bedroom Momma!

If I was the Real Estate Agent trying to sell this house I would hire a few local Community Theater Performers to just wander around the house in period costumes…covered in blood. I’d have a Lizzie Look-a-Like, give her a bloody hatchet, and let her walk around singing”I’ve written a letter to Daddy.” Of course it would make no sense and be in terribly bad taste, but I don’t think that would scare away any potential buyers. They might even get a History Channel Special out of it.          

 

When I did that Theatrical Production a few years ago I learned an interesting tidbit of information about the whole bloody mess. It seems that after Lizzie’s Mother passed away Daddy remarried to a woman with a son (that was my role.). The story goes that on the day following the murders Daddy had an appointment scheduled with his attorney when he was going to be changing his will to leave the house to the new Step-Son and leaving Lizzie and her sister out in the cold. Daddy didn’t make it to that appointment.

Did Lizzie do it? You tell me, but I don’t think that the Real Estate Agent is the only one making a killing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real And Unreal…Estate That is.

SOME DAYS i WONDER IF WHAT I SEE BEFORE ME IS REAL. Some days I’m sure, but, then again…
Not long ago while we were down in Texas for the Holidays my wife, the lovely and native Texan, along with Alex our son, were on a grocery run. That involved ordering online and then going to the Supermarket to fetch our stuff like a pack of dogs.
My favorite part of these trips to the HEB Supermarket had nothing to do with groceries. A few hundred yards from the Supermarket was the only St. Arbucks in the area. I was burning through my accumulated Reward Points like a house afire, but that’s why I’d been saving them. I knew that we would be going for groceries via the Drive-Thru Lane at St. Arbucks. This one day, however, there was something different. 
I placed our order online before we even got close. When we arrived at the St. Arbucks there were at least a half dozen cars ahead of us. There was going to be a wait. We had time to just look around and gawk. Dawn noticed that the car in line ahead of us had California license plates inside a frame that proclaimed them to be L.A. Dodger fans. The fact that we were in a rental car was the only thing that kept us from ramming into him.
When we finally inched up to the ordering speaker I spotted something taped to the big Menu Board. It was a Business Card. Whoever had taped it there must have been waiting in line just like us and figured, “What the heck. Why not.” They had to have gotten out of their car, pulled out their tape dispenser, and walked over to the Menu Board.
I had to know what was up.
I didn’t get out of our car, but I did hang out of the window like an Irish Setter so I could read the card. It belonged to a local Real Estate Agent who will remain nameless here. How desperate she must have been for business that she would think to herself – “Hmmm, I’ll bet a lot of people decide to buy or sell their homes while waiting in line for a Frappuchino and a Cookie.”
After seeing her card sadly taped there we still had another ten minutes in line and I began to recall my last dealings with a Real Estate Agent.
Agent Dan sold me a house in Cleveland back in the Seventies. He also sold it for me a few years later. He was a real Pro. He was also an Ex-Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot.  After “The War” he bounced around Europe for a time and ended up in Cleveland along with thousands of other “Displaced Persons.” There were very few job openings in Cleveland for Ex-Luftwaffe pilots so he ended up selling houses. Somehow his war experience made him an Ace Real Estate Salesman. I doubt if the desperate card-taping St. Arbucks agent could match my Agent Dan’s resume. Few people could.
By the time I got my Venti Iced Coffee and Dawn and Alex got their Non-Coffee Confections I began to feel sorry for the woman who had stuck her business card in the waiting line at Starbucks. I think that maybe her career has been shot down by someone tougher.

There Has To Be A Better Way There

I MAY NOT KNOW WHERE I AM ALL THE TIME, BUT I’M NEVER LOST.

At least that is how I like to think I’m getting around in this world. One method that I use to find my way is with maps. I like maps. I love maps. I have always loved maps.

Maps are Functional Art.

Just before we started off on our latest One Conestoga Wagon pilgrimage to Texas I noticed that my Road Atlas was severely out of date. A 2015 Road Atlas ain’t gonna get me anywhere but lost. I needed an update. I toddled off to Amazon and ordered the 2021 edition of the “Rand McNally Road Atlas.” I was going to be up to date in The U.S., Canada and Mexico. All those maps would be like tossing candy bars in front of a crowd of kids. I wanted to curl up and look at them all, go over each page and imagine myself there. Did I mention that I love maps?

My Amazon order was not going to come in time for our Indiana to Texas trip so I had it sent to Texas for us to use – hopefully to get us a better routing for our way home. Driving from Terre Haute to just north of Corpus Christi is a little shy of 1150 miles and it’s not a fun drive. Our route took us from Indiana into Illinois, south into Missouri (boring), and then across Arkansas on the most crowded road I’ve ever driven on. Route 30 in Arkansas has about 25 fully loaded Semis for every car. The speed limit was…irrelevant. There were times when, just to keep from being run over, I was going close to 90 MPH. At that speed trucks with over-sized loads passed me like I was standing still. It was like being inside a Japanese Pachinko Machine.

My brand spanking new 2021 Road Atlas arrived the day after we arrived at our destination. For me it was an early Christmas Morning. My new toy had arrived!

OK…The way I look at it is that instead of driving through Houston again on the way north (Another Pachinko moment) and having to scream through Arkansas again like a .22 Caliber bullet in the middle of a Howitzer barrage we will drive East on I-10 into Louisiana and then north through Mississippi. It may add a few miles overall but it should significantly cut down on my stomach acid production and jaw clenching bad dreams.

Here’s Hoping.

Once our trip back to Indiana is complete I will report on how and if things went. I hope that there will be no “Film at 11!” links about our trip. It’s the Holiday Season and I don’t need any more Drama. I am already craving boredom.

Down at the end of today’s offering I have posted a link to a song that, to me, talks about maps and, again to me, about driving through Houston and Arkansas. It is called “Columbus” and is performed by an incredible Irish singer, Mary Black.

Merry Christmas! 

 

Merry Christmas To You All Around The World !

christmas

 

 

 

Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

We Have Ways Of Making You Jolly

Throwback Thursday – 12/31/14

Berlin_Checkpoint_Charlie_089

PART OF VISITING family for the Holidays is going to drop in on those relatives you don’t get to see very often. We devoted part of yesterday to that.

I must admit that Rose and Ray are the only people I know who actually live in a “Gated Community.”  Well, that is, if you exclude from “Gated Community” those places where the gates are topped with razor wire and all the residents have colorful nicknames. Rose and Ray don’t have colorful nicknames and I didn’t see any razor wire. But there was one disturbing element, not counting the fact that all of the homes inside the gates cost more than some U. S. Navy warships. Let me explain.

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Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

WE’VE BEEN WATCHING A LOT OF TV LATELY.

The movie theaters are closed and most of our favorite eateries are Drive-Through only again.

Like most people we have been grounded by this virus thingy. As a result my wife, the lovely and Queen of All Cable Channels, Dawn, and I have been living in our sedative chairs in front of the 40″ Flat Screen. I have to admit that I am not as savvy as I should be about navigating my way around all of the channels that are available. Therefore, Dawn is also wearing the Captain’s Hat. she hits a few buttons on the remote and about five million options appear. I sit in awe. The World is our Oyster Pizza.

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Shifting Gears

Sometimes changes are thrust upon us by circumstances beyond our control. Being the Wannabe control freak that I am I do not like such changes – but like everyone else I have to accept and live with them.

I’m dealing with one such change right now.

With all of the Fooferaw about this virus thing I’d been hearing about there was one change that really tossed my routine into the laundry hamper of my life.

For a number of years I was used to getting up in the morning, driving down to the nearby St. Arbucks and writing for an hour or two. Six days a week I did that – and then that Corona Sumptin or Other butted in.

St. Arbucks became a Drive-Thru only and I was left on the outside looking in. Horror of Horrors! Oh, the Humanity! My writing sanctuary was taken away from me. Why didn’t they just cut off my fingers and gouge out my eyes? I don’t care what any says – writing at the Kitchen Table just wasn’t the same. There were just too many distractions.

Circle The Wagons!

This sudden and sadistic exile didn’t completely stop me from going down the street and getting my coffee. It just changed the How and Why of it all. My trips for coffee became social outings rather than creative efforts. I would abase myself by going through the line and getting my coffee handed to me from a small window. Doing it that way ended my free refills (Sob, Sob).

After being handed my plastic cup of iced coffee I would drive around the building and into the Kroger supermarket parking lot and join four or five other exiled coffee sippers who had set up an impromptu and ad hoc Gypsy encampment. Instead of writing every morning I was now spending my time chewing the fat with other retirees. It was a pleasant diversion, but nothing was getting written.

It was during this caffeinated diaspora that I restarted this blog with a weekly rather than a daily output. Writing any longer Fiction became almost impossible. All I could produce were 500 – 700 word bursts of extended random thoughts.

This Parking Lot Coffeehenge of circled SUVs went on all through the Spring and Summer. It was in early September that things began to look up. It was then that they unlocked the doors at St. Arbucks. We could go inside to order, and we could stay inside but there were only a few randomly placed seats. Our solution was to loiter outside in what the Manager of the store called “The Patio.” The Patio was about five feet wide and thirty feet long – not a traditional design. This same crew of Geezers was happy to move from the parking lot to The Patio just because it also opened up their emergency access to the Men’s Room. There were a few available tables available I was additionally happy because I could now get my free refills! This “better than nothing” improvement was a relief but it was still not helping my writing.

In Mid-September my prayers were answered…to a degree. Actually it was a lack of degrees that made me smile. We had a cold snap that made our early morning Patio Parties unbearable. I was not going to sit out there when it was only 8 degrees above freezing! I was the first one of our Senior Citizen Play Group to move inside. They were nice fellows but I wasn’t going to freeze for them.

For the first few days I was inside all alone and, wonder of wonders, I was able to write again! After about a week of icy temperatures the guys began to join me inside. Their Senior Bones had begun to object to the chill. On most days this group would begin to arrive at about 7:30 AM. When I was inside all alone I began to be creative, but when they followed me into the warmer interior everything fell apart again. My only solution was to come in even earlier than they could handle.

The St. Arbucks had returned to their earlier business hours opening at 5:30 AM for the Insomniacs and Methheads who were still up from last Wednesday…and the odd writer or two. I altered my schedule to arrive at about 6:00 AM to give me a good 90 minutes of writing time. It works for me. I get my work done and I remain a Social Animal.

I am once again a Happy Scribbler.

Games… Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

I’m not very athletic. No, let’s face it – I’m not at all athletic in any way shape or form. It’s not that I haven’t tried. As a kid I played baseball with the other kids. I played touch football in the streets. I was embarrassingly bad at basketball, but I tried.

As an adult I tried to play golf. It is supposed to be a very sociable game, except the way I played it I was always off by myself limping through the shrubbery looking for my ball. I gave up on golf and other Sports in favor of Games. Games don’t require any physical skill or talents of me.

Of course, it is important to know the difference between Sports and Games. Getting them mixed up can be both shameful and dangerous. If you aren’t sure which is which, there is a simple way to differentiate between the two.

If you have to say, “Hold my beer” before playing – it is a Sport. If the activity is one that you can do while still holding your beer – it is a Game. Can you play Basketball while holding onto your bottle of Bud? Of course not – ergo, Basketball is a Sport. But there is no problem holding onto your Brewski when it is your turn in Chess. Chess is a Game.

Checkmate!

This bit of knowledge has really helped to cut down on my pain of public embarrassment as well as my pain of pulled muscles and scraped knees. I’m never the last one picked to be on the team when playing Games. When I was still trying to play Sports most of the time teams were being chosen I got picked last just so both teams could have the same number of players.

These days it’s all Games for me. I played on a Dart team for three years. I wasn’t any good, but that was my role. I helped to mess with the team handicap, so I contributed in my own special inept way.

Lately I have been playing on a Trivia team. Monday nights at a local watering hole I call upon my trash bin of a brain to come up with obscure bits of information from deep within my nooks and crannies of gray matter. If I come up with the right answer I can do my own end zone dance and hoist my Diet Pepsi (I don’t drink alcohol any longer). If my Random Access Memory Software comes up with the wrong answer (Oh, the Humanity!), I can just shrug and move on. I have never pulled a muscle playing on Trivia Night. I came close one time when I chug-a-lugged my soft drink and had a serious episode of Brain Freeze.

As Clint Eastwood said in his Dirty Harry movie, “Magnum Force,” –

“A MAN’S GOT TO KNOW HIS LIMITATIONS.”

It has taken me most of my lifetime, but I know that I am a man who knows his limitations. I know that I can only eat so much chili before I turn into a gaseous fire hazard. I know that I can stay up only so late before I fall asleep in front of the TV curled up in the Rip Van Winkle Memorial Chair.

I know my limitations….and I also know a lot of useless information and I can hold my drink while playing.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln…

Seven score and fifteen years ago (that’s 1865 in case you don’t want to do the math) Abraham Lincoln had a bad experience at the theater. OK…so it was a bad night for Mrs. Lincoln too, but at least she got to sleep in her own bed that night.

It was not the best of marriages to be sure. He was rather busy with that war thing and Mary, from all reports, was very loosely wrapped. A nineteenth century Dr. Phil might have been helpful, but Abe was 6’4″ and Mary was 5’2″ and they just couldn’t ever see eye to eye.

They did get together on one thing however – having children. They had four sons. Unfortunately only one of them lived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln. The family line continued with Robert’s children and does so until today. I know this because I stumbled across a little news item about  this fellow.

 His name is Ralph Lincoln, an 11th generation Lincoln and a third cousin of Abraham Lincoln. This split screen picture (that’s Ralph on the left) does show a bit of a family resemblance but I don’t know if I wholly believe this. After all there have been mornings when, before my coffee, I think that I look a bit like that guy from Game of Thrones.

      Me before my morning coffee

People are always trying to claim a connection to famous people. There have been any number of people who will swear on a stack of bibles that they are descendants of the last Czar of Russia (and therefore entitled to a piece of the action.) The British Royal Family is always having to deal with “relatives” who pop up on a regular basis wanting a Palace and a Title.  My favorite connection to fame has to be the Barack Obama Plaza truck  stop in Ireland. I’ve been there and it’s a good place to have lunch and top off your tank. Rubbing gas caps with the rich and famous.

Back to Ralph Lincoln…

In the exhaustive research that I’ve done on this story (all 7 minutes of it) I read somewhere that there are no direct descendants of Abe Lincoln still alive…so, this means that Ralph is an “Indirect” descendant. He claims to be a third cousin of the late President. My guess he is one of those cousins who have been removed once too often. As far as that goofy picture of Ralph alongside of Abe is concerned all you need to do is put on a scruffy beard together with a soulful look and my third cousin Margery would look like Honest Abe.

I don’t know for sure if Ralph Lincoln if actually related to Abraham Lincoln. If he is he certainly has the makings of a unique pick-up line. “Hi, there, Gorgeous. How about if I Proclaim your Emancipation?” Of course, if he is not really related to our 16th President the only advice I can give him (other than “Don’t forget to take your meds) is “Don’t go to the theater. It’s a trap!”

Abbey Lincoln: has never claimed to be a cousin of Abe Lincoln

 

As I Was Saying…

“Why use ten words when a hundred will do quite nicely, eh?”

Those words were spoken to me by my wife this morning. I had been trying to explain something to her. I was simply trying to make myself understood when she made the comment above. I must admit that her synopsis of my explanation, which took only twelve words, was perfectly accurate. Twelve words that clearly stated what I was halfway through page two with.

All I want is to make sure that both you and I understand fully whatever it is that I’m trying to say. I want there to be no ambiguity or confusion so I will present a complete explanation of all… OK, I’ll acknowledge that I do tend to ramble on.

I’m doing it right now aren’t I?

What can I say? I’m a fan of words. Language to me is a great and wonderful toy. On some occasions it is like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle that needs twisting and turning to find the solution. Other times the words, any words, are like a cryptic and mysterious code that makes no sense at all until you find the key, the right words to make it sing.

This is the reality whether you are writing Fiction or Nonfiction. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between them anyway. At least it is with me.

I started writing when i was just a kid. I’d started reading even earlier. At the age of six I had my own library card. Once I learned how to read the books in the “Children’s Room” I knew that I could write better ones. I found a collaborator (Marty who lived down the block) and we began cranking out Cowboy and Indian stories that we thought would take the world by storm.

We were wrong.

Like any writers, of any age, we were always looking for approval (Positive Reviews). Marty went to the public elementary school nearby. I went to St. Mary’s Catholic elementary school. What better places to find critics? Marty took our stories to his teacher. I took them to Sister Mary Butch.

Marty’s teacher thought that our stories were the best thing since School Lunch Macaroni and Cheese. She praised our efforts and encouraged us mightily.

Sister Mary Butch said that we were wasting our time and that we were both going to Hell.

Marty got support and encouragement. He grew up to be a Doctor. I was belittled and damned to eternal perdition. I’m still looking for a sympathetic critic who isn’t my wife. Thanks, Sister.

As a result of these early literary traumas I’m still writing. Behind me I have left a trail of Fiction, Nonfiction, Textbooks, Speeches, Five years worth of Blogging, Jokes for Comedians, and the odd Theatrical opus or two. All of it just because that nun didn’t recognize juvenile genius. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And so I keep writing.

I have a number of the proverbial Works In Progress stacked up awaiting editing, a second draft, or a future as kindling. I am determined to finish these stories, but I’ll tell you one thing – I’m not taking any of them over to Sister Mary Butch.

Cutting Remarks

 

“If you prick me do I not bleed?”

I have never seen the “Merchant of Venice,” but that line is part of a famous monologue from that Shakespearean play. It came into my mind recently when I went to get a haircut.

What with all of the disruptions to our lives this year the little things like haircuts have been few and far between. My last ride in the Barber’s Chair was in January of 2020. As I write this the calendar on the wall insists that today is September 9, 2020. That is a long time to go without getting a haircut.

I get haircuts not “Styling,” so I’m not terribly picky about where I get my hair cut. All I ask is that the person doing the cutting has been trained and that they listen to me. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

It was 10 AM when I trundled myself and my nine months worth of increasingly graying hair through the door of the franchise hair cutting place. I hesitate to call it a “Barber Shop.” There was no revolving barber pole by the door. There was no “Barber” in there, just a very nice young lady who looked about 12 years old to me. She was going to cut my hair. I’m sure she has never given anyone a shave…other than her own legs perhaps. I wasn’t there for that. It was my head or nothing.

Whenever I have a new person cutting my hair I always start by telling them that I have a bump on the back of my head. It’s not a tumor. It’s not going to explode. It’s not going to bleed unless you stab it (See quote at the beginning). It is just a reservoir of fat and miscellaneous tissue. My doctors have expressed no concern about it. The only uproar came a few years ago when a newbie haircutter freaked out in mid haircut.

But not today.

The 12 year old reminded me that she was the person who cut my hair in January. At least there would be no screaming today.

When I sat down in her chair she commented on the mountain of hair on my skull.

“Shall I just get out my Sheep Shears?”

“Ha…Ha…Ha”

Those Sheep Shears might have worked, but I didn’t want to get involved in all the wrestling on the floor I’ve seen in real sheep shearing.

That gal may have been younger than the shirt I was wearing, but she knew her way around a head. She had me shorn and shaped within fifteen minutes. It would have been quicker if I had not had ears that needed navigating around. Fifteen minutes (Van Gogh would have been done in half the time) after I sat down I was feeling the breeze for the first time in months.

 

I’ll tell you one thing – the next time there is a Pandemic around here I’m going to get my head shaved and start over from scratch.

A Little Face In The Crowd

I find that the older I get I spend more time, while sipping my coffee, thinking about my younger days. It doesn’t take much to get me wandering back to the days of my life when I lived in a narrow valley in Western Pennsylvania.

These days my time is filled with thoughts of hi-tech computers and low-tech viruses. Neither of these are the sort of things that make for lingering memories. The things that did, do, and will continue to generate memories involve the people I’ve known and the places I’ve been. Today and tomorrow interest me less than the thousands of my yesterdays.

When I woke up this morning and turned on the TV in the bedroom one of the first images I saw was of a classroom. It reminded me of one in the elementary school where I was introduced to the world outside of my family. St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School was already old when i was enrolled in 1952. The school was started in the 1870s.

I was born in 1946 smack in the middle of the first wave of the Post-War Baby Boom. The hundreds of thousands of soldiers returning home from the horror of World War Two were thankful to be alive and they celebrated by starting families. My father was too old to be taken into the military, but he  got caught up in the spirit of the day and there I was six years later sitting in a classroom alongside 59 other First Grade Boomers. I sat there with the others, all of us staring at Sister Avila standing by her desk in her black and white nun’s habit.

You read that right. There were 60 kids in my first grade classroom and there was another classroom just as full across the hall. We were packed into our rows of little wooden desks like sardines in a can.

And we learned.

We learned how to sit quietly with our hands neatly folded on the desktop. We learned to stand up every morning and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. We learned how to read. We learned how to write in cursive. We also learned how to get along with 59 other kids.

We learned how to be the good kids everyone expected us to be.

That expanding bubble of Baby Boom kids continued all through my school years and it is still there even now. Now, however, all of us who sat in that crowded first grade classroom are hitting 75 years of age. We are the Senior Citizens who are filling up the hospitals, nursing homes, and cemeteries.

Today the desks at St. Mary’s are occupied with a new generation born in this century. The classes are smaller now. There isn’t a rush to build new schools like there was in the 1950s. The old schools that had been filled to the walls with the sons and daughters of the returning veterans are being torn down and replaced with Health Clubs and Organic Food Stores.

My generation – The Baby Boomers are now fading from the scene. The nation’s population is still growing but at a slower pace. There might never be another classroom with 60 little kids squirming in their seats and practicing their penmanship. Today’s teachers are horrified when they are faced with more than twenty curious faces staring at them.

In 1952 our stern-faced nuns in black and white struggled through the turmoil and managed to have most of those 60 youngsters turn out just fine. If there was one most important thing we learned in those crowded classrooms it was how to work together and not be afraid to ask questions. Those skills have served us well over the years.

Thank you, Sister.

 

 

 

 

Old Dog … New Tricks

JUST BECAUSE I’m retired doesn’t mean that my brain is sitting on a shelf in a dusty glass jar labeled “Abnormal.” Far from it! I am always looking to add new skills – new arrows in my quiver if you will.

It has been almost eight months since some pesky virus I’ve been reading about began throwing monkey wrenches into everyone’s daily lives.

This stop at the Malfunction Junction in our lives has given me the opportunity to discover and master a new skill. It may be that a new avenue could be opening up before me because this Old Dog has learned a New Trick.

The reality is that we are all doing less out in the world and are relying on having the world shipped to us. We are getting groceries, clothing, books, cosmetics, medications, and some things that are none of your business, delivered right to our front door. Everything comes securely shipped in sturdy cardboard boxes.

I love unpacking all of our deliveries. It’s almost like Christmas Morning without the electric trains and the pine needles. I take the scissors and neatly cut the sealing tape, open up the flaps, and lift out our goodies. After that I set the empty cardboard boxes to the side, out of the way.

Aha!

It was on a day like that when the handsome young UPS guy stopped by our house so often that we considered adoption that we were faced with a pile of empty boxes. I spent a couple hours struggling with those boxes to get them crammed into our recycling bin. That was not a good solution to the growing population of boxes that were filling up the downstairs bathroom. They were coming in faster than I could get them out. This problem was going to require some thought.

I sat in the kitchen with a large box. There was not enough room for the both of us. One of us had to go. Finally, I saw the solution in front of me. I began to tear the blasted box to pieces. I was stronger

than the box and in less than a minute I had that humungous container reduced to a neat little stack of cardboard pieces no bigger than the crock pot. I was deliriously happy. I knew how Einstein must have felt when he realized the “E” did, in fact, equal “MC².”

It didn’t take me very long to get into a destructive groove and those boxes were disappearing faster than taxis in a thunderstorm. I was disassembling the boxes like a tornado going through a trailer park. That Recycling bin in the back yard was taking all I could give it with room to spare.

I am living proof that “Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks.”

I can already roll over, heel, stay, and sit up and beg. Now I can add “Knows how to destroy cardboard boxes.”

It may not be much, but it’s better than nothing.

Isn’t it?

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.

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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