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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Crabby old man—revisited . . .

On the tenth of this month I posted the contents of an e-mail I received from my son-in-law in Dallas. His e-mail consisted of a news report, and a poem supposedly crafted by a man that died in a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska. The only comment generated by my posting was dated a few days later, but was rejected by Word Press as spam because it was posted from a commercial web site. I belatedly discovered the comment, and finding myself with mixed emotions as to its content, I decided to allow it so I could respond.

Click HERE to read my posting of the poem, and click HERE to determine whether the poem is truth or fiction.

My purpose in making this posting is to share that comment and my response with my viewers. I believe the comment is a canned message to bloggers, probably used as a message intended to attract them to a commercial web site. In our federal government terminology it would be termed a boiler-plate letter, a canned reply to an inquiry—the only changes needed would be dates, names, locations and the event in question.

Should a viewer to this posting have an interest in buying or selling diamonds, or wish to learn everything you ever wanted to know about diamonds, click here for the commercial web site—it’s worth a visit.

This is the original comment on my posting, exactly as received:

Great post. It is clear You have a great deal of unused capacity, which you have not turned to your advantage.

The way you write shows you have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself.

It seems to me that while While you have some personal weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them.

And this is my response to the comment:

Great comment! Thanks for visiting, and thanks for commenting. I apologize for not responding earlier. Word Press considered your comment to be spam, and therefore tossed it atop my spam garbage pile.

I just noticed the comment yesterday. I agree with Word Press that it is spam, intended to draw me to your commercial web site and perhaps add to your take of moola. I visited the site, and found it interesting and quite informative.

I am not, however, in the market for diamonds, neither for buying nor for selling them. I dragged your comment out of the garbage because I was fascinated with your analysis of my writing, and therefore approved the comment in order to respond to it.

I made no effort to correct minor errors in your comment—errors such as improper capitals, unnecessary commas, and duplicated words—while/While. Since the errors did not materially divert from the comment’s purpose, I allowed them to stand.

I am in awe of your ability to analyze my writing with only a small sample available. I am particularly astounded by your ability to compliment and criticize one’s writing ability in the same brief sentence—you have both complimented and criticized my literary efforts in each of the three sentences in your comment.

I cheerfully accept your criticisms and compliments with equal fervor. I also accept the fact that you have effectively outed me as a modern-day Janus, an ancient Roman god believed to have two faces that faced in diametrically opposite directions, features that enabled him to see into the past as well as the future.

Thanks again for the comment—it pleases me, so much that I plan to bring it and my response into the daylight as a separate posting, one in which I will recommend your website and highlight it for easy access by viewers to my blog. I may also expound on your astounding ability to analyze persons on a limited sample of their writing ability. You are apparently well-trained in the disciplines of psychology as well as psychiatry.

I can only imagine what personality traits you could identify if given a handwriting sample—by using the proven process of inductive reasoning, you might well be able, as was the god Janus, to peer into that person’s future!

Postcript: I would propose that every reader of this posting do the following: Imagine that you are the ancient Greek god Janus, the god of two faces. Step out of yourself, then turn around and face yourself and then ask yourself whether the comment of the diamond merchant may apply to you. Click HERE for more information on Janus.

Can you truthfully deny that you see yourself reflected in the three sentences?

Can you truthfully claim that none of the three apply to you?

I did exactly what I suggest you do and I saw my reflection—hence this posting.

Ain’t that weird!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in death, Writing

 

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Redux—Chihuahuas, ham hocks & butter beans . . .

I originally posted this story on May 24, 2009. It has languished there ever since—only one vote has been cast, albeit a vote for excellence and albeit cast by my mother’s youngest son—me.

This redux is for the benefit of those that do not delve into the past in search of blog baubles. Not that this posting is a bauble—I unashamedly and with all humility consider it to be a jewel, a true story with no equal—oh, alright, I’ll concede that some tales may equal it, but none will surpass its innate humor and pathos.

Enjoy!

Chihuahuas, ham hocks & butter beans . . .

A recipe for disaster:

Assemble one medium-size ham hock, one pound of dry butter beans, a medium-size cooking pot, a reasonable amount of water, and one Chihuahua.

Place ham hock, butter beans and water in pot. Cook over medium heat until meal is done (beans should be soft, ham should strip easily from the bone). Have the Chihuahua stand by while meal is cooking (don’t worry—when he smells it cooking he won’t stray very far).

When meal is done, strip most of ham from the bone (leave a little for the Chihuahua) and serve with butter beans and such other vegetables, drinks and breads as desired. Place leftovers (minus the ham bone) in refrigerator.

When ham bone is properly cooled, give a few beans and the ham bone, with bits of meat still attached, to Chihuahua for his enjoyment. Allow him to gnaw on the bone to his heart’s content for the next two days

After his two days of enjoyment, patiently (and very carefully) separate the snarling Chihuahua from his ham bone and place him, full of butter beans and ham cooked with butter beans, into the car for the 800-mile return trip to San Antonio, Texas.

The end result? (pun intended)

DISASTER!

My mother used the above recipe with devastating effectiveness in the summer of 1966. My wife and I took a vacation with our three daughters and Bimbo, an adult Chihuahua with a voracious appetite. En route to South Georgia to visit my wife’s relatives, we made a brief stop in Alabama to visit my mother, my brother and his family.

Mama loved animals—she and Bimbo became instant friends, and she prevailed on us to let her look after Bimbo while we were in Georgia, pointing out that we could pick him up on our way back home. We readily obliged—Bimbo had a strong predilection for intestinal gas, with its accumulation and discharge not restricted to any particular type of food. In short, we were happy to leave him in Alabama.

On any automobile outing, seating for our family, including the Chihuahua, rarely varied—elder daughter in front seat, two younger daughters on opposite sides of the back seat and their mother in the center, strategically placed to keep the two girls separated, father behind the wheel and Bimbo standing, rear feet in father’s lap and front feet placed on the door’s cushioned armrest—the little dog loved watching the scenery pass by, and barked at most of it.

I feel that I have effectively laid the groundwork and prepared the reader for the rest of this narrative—I’m fairly certain that most readers by this point are far ahead of me, so I will try to be brief in my finishing remarks (good luck there!).

At numerous times during the long trip home, anyone who happened to be watching would have seen a black-and-white 4-door automobile swerve off the highway onto its shoulder and screech to a halt—then all four doors would fly open and all the car’s occupants would stumble out, coughing and retching with eyes streaming tears—all, that is, except the Chihuahua—obviously he wasn’t as bothered by the results wrought by Mama’s recipe for ham hock and butter beans.

We made it safely back home, and in retrospect we found that part of the trip to be hilarious, but it was definitely not funny at the time.

Bimbo had a good life and a fairly long life—born in 1964, he lived until 1972 and enjoyed good health throughout those years. The little fellow met his demise while fighting another male dog over the affections of a female dog—had he known that he was no match for the other dogs, neither for fighting the male nor for (insert 4-letter verb with gerund) the female, he may not have been as quick to vie for the female’s favors, but he had no way of knowing that the other dogs, both male and female, were full-grown German Shepherds. However, I believe that had he known, he would have still persisted—he was, above all, a Chihuahua and backing away from a fight or a (insert 4-letter word here) was not in his nature.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

Postscript (not in the original posting):

My youngest daughter and I took Bimbo to the vet immediately when we learned of the brutal attack, and we said our goodbyes after the doctor gave us the results of his examination—our little lover had suffered terrible damage to his heart and lungs, damage that could not possibly be repaired—relieving him of his pain was the most humane action to take, and we gave our consent.

My daughter and I drove around for awhile before returning home—we needed some fresh country air and time to collect our thoughts, and our tears flowed freely. Bimbo had been an honored member of our family for nine years, and we loved him in spite of—or perhaps because of—his many faults, frailties and freakish actions, performances such as standing at the patio door, shivering uncontrollably on the hottest summer day in Texas’ history, begging to be allowed to come into the house.

Bimbo also did all the things that dogs do when they have not been relieved of any of their internal or external body parts, acts that should need no clarification. Bimbo seemed to do such things more frequently and with more delight than other dogs we have known and loved. A prime example was his frequent abuse of a small brown Teddy Bear, a child’s toy that was stuffed and sewn into a prostrate position, a pose that readily lent itself to abuse by our diminutive canine Lothario.

Thirty-eight years have hurtled by since Bimbo left us—I still miss him.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in Childhood, Family, food, Humor, pets, Travel, Writing

 

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Sid, Looney and a Model T Ford . . .

In my posting of A shaggy dog storyclick here to read that story— I left the viewer in suspense, with me and my sister hiding in the woods early on a cold winter morning beside a gravelled country road after Papa John, our stepfather, shouted to us from our front porch, saying he was going to get his shotgun. At the time we were standing in the middle of the road in front of our house, driven by fear that stemmed from an incident that occurred in the kitchen a few minutes earlier. He called to us to come back in, that everything would be alright, that he was not going to hurt us.

We never knew whether he actually got the gun. Our mother later said he did not, but her testimony in such instances was not very reliable. In any event we took no chances. We fled into the woods and remained hidden while Papa John and our mother drove back and forth on the road calling to us, saying that everything would be alright, to come out and go back to the house with them.

Being sound of body and reasonably sane, we silently declined and remained hidden, prostrate among the trees and undergrowth, until the sound of the car faded towards home. We then came out on the road and started our long walk toward town, some twelve miles distant. Every time we heard an auto approaching—the road was graveled, remember—we took to the woods again and remained there until the vehicle passed. We followed that in and out strategy until we heard the distinct put-put-put sound of a Model T Ford, and we were reasonably sure of its occupants. As the auto neared we came out on the road and flagged it down. The Model T was owned by Sid and Looney and occupied by the same. The two men lived a few miles from us and passed our home daily on their way to work in the city.

In retrospect, I believe they constituted a domestic couple, joined by forces that were not suitable for discussion in the company of children, particularly in our part of the country in that era. Regardless of their various preferences, they obligingly took us aboard and carried us to the edge of town. They either knew our problems and were sympathetic, or perhaps simply had no interest in knowing why two kids were in the woods instead of being on a school bus. They asked no questions and we volunteered no explanations, and they dropped us off on the outskirts of town near the lumber yard where they worked. My sister and I then walked a short distance from there to the home of an older sister.

And now for an explanation of this episode. The reader will have to take my word that the story is true, because I am the only person extant. I am the last one standing of those involved in the proceedings. All are gone. I have my opinions of the direction each took, but I’ll keep those opinions to myself. Trust me—the story is true in every detail.

My early morning tasks while we lived on the farm included interior as well as exterior duties. The interior duties included emptying chamber pots—that’s an acceptable synonym for slop jars, items used at night by the family because we had no bathroom and the necessary was set well behind our house—an outhouse, so to speak. Other interior tasks were building fires in three places—one in the room I shared with my sister, one in our parent’s bedroom and one in the kitchen stove. This allowed my sister and my mother to arise to a warm room, and my mother to a hot stove, ready for our breakfast preparation. As for our stepfather, that worthy arose to a warm room, dressed and stepped into a warm kitchen and sat down to a hot breakfast—he remained abed until breakfast was on the table.

My outdoor tasks included feeding a mule, formerly one of a team but the other died. He leaned against the barn wall on a cold night and died, an event that warrants its own posting. To continue: I slopped the pigs (slopping means feeding, a term applicable only to pigs, an unpalatable nomenclature but one that was in general mode at the time), I carried in wood for the kitchen stove and coal for the fireplace, I hand-pumped water into a huge iron kettle for our livestock, and I cleared the barnyard of any offensive material—dung—that had accumulated so my mother could make her way to the milking stall without stepping in something. Yep, her husband—my stepfather—was really solicitous of her well-being, at least in that instance.

Picture this:

On my return to the house into the kitchen after finishing my outdoor chores, I asked my mother for some of her hand lotion—my hands were reddened and chapped from the cold. I posed the question just as Papa John entered the kitchen and he said—these are his exact words: What are you, a cream puff? My sister, aged 13, entered behind him and said, Well, you use a lot of talcum powder when you bathe, and he slapped her, a blow strong enough to slam her against the kitchen wall.

My sister bounced off the wall and attacked him—she applied the fingernails of her right hand to Papa John’s left cheek and plowed four red furrows from the corner of his eye down to the corner of his mouth—I tend to believe that his eyes were the target and she missed. He cursed, raised his fist and moved to strike her again just as my mother was moving toward the table with a pan of biscuits fresh from the oven. She told him, Don’t hit her again, John, and in order to protect my sister she dropped the pan and stepped in front of him shouting, Run, kids, run outside.

And we ran—my last memory of that tableau was that of hot biscuits rolling everywhere on the kitchen floor. I ran out the front door and my sister ran out the back door. We met in front of the house in the middle of the road and waited for further developments. That’s when Papa John came out to the front porch and told us to come back in, that he would not hurt us, that everything would be alright. We refused to comply—that’s when he threatened to get his shotgun, and that’s when we headed for the woods at top speed.

Now you know the rest of that story.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2010 in Family, Humor, kitchen appliances

 

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Go west, young man, and grow up . . .

Go west, young man, and grow up with the country, a quote attributed, perhaps wrongly, to Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune. Regardless of the quote’s origin, my mother’s youngest son followed that advice—not voluntarily but certainly not reluctantly—the mere thought of going west was exciting. By the age of 12 I had read every Zane Grey western novel, and I fancied myself a fine candidate for the title of cowboy.

Click here for an interesting article dealing with Horace Greeley and the development of our country. Be forewarned—every time the author used an apostrophe or quotation marks—and they are numerous in the article—they printed out as a question mark on a black diamond background such as this:

Now on to my great adventure:

I made the trip from the deep South—Mississippi—to Midland, Texas, as a passenger in the rear seat of a 1939 Plymouth four-door sedan. The youngest of my three sisters, just eighteen months older than I, shared the rear seat with me, and my mother and our stepfather—Papa John—filled the front seat.

It took an interminable time to complete the journey. Our interstate highway system was in its infancy at the time, and most of the trip was along two-lane roads—paved, of course, but not conducive to getting anywhere anytime soon. Papa John, dressed in his trademark khakis, shod with hand-stitched Texas style boots, with a wide-brimmed Stetson hat set squarely and firmly atop the ensemble, served as our driver. He sat rigidly upright with both hands on the wheel, positioned at two and ten o’clock, and hurtled us toward our destination at a hair-raising speed of forty-five miles per hour—exactly. I gave him credit for getting us to Midland safely along treacherous roads, but gave no kudos for making good time—both comments made inaudibly, of course—I couldn’t afford to tempt fate!

My time in Midland lasted just over three months. It began in March and ended in late June when Papa John, once again weary of shepherding our small family, found an excuse to throw a tirade–or pitch a fit, as my sister put it—and send us packing, off on another great adventure. My mother, my sister and I wound up in El Paso with my older brother who lived and worked at the El Paso Smelting Works. We made the trip on a Greyhound bus, one that we hastily boarded after hastily packing our meager clothing.

Our stay in El Paso was of short duration, and that stay will form the basis for a subsequent posting. As a preview of things to come, I’ll say that my arrival in El Paso was followed by travel by my brother and me, from El Paso to Dallas and on to Valley Park, Missouri for an overnight stay in jail on a Sunday—my sixteenth birthday—then on to St. Louis and New York City for a brief stay at 21 University Place in that city’s Greenwich Village.

Here’s a teaser: My brother and I were hot on the trail of his wife, a native New Yorker that had left home with their two children, shortly after he left for work, on the pretext of a shopping trip to downtown El Paso—that pretext took them all the way to New York City.

Stay tuned– more details of our pursuit will soon follow. The pursuit proved fruitless, but provided significant adventures for my brother and me, not the least of which was our overnight stay in a Saint Louis suburb. Our sleeping accommodations were rather sparse with no freebies, but were provided by the city at no cost to us.

Had I the talent and the inclination (I have neither), I could write a book on my experiences during that summer in Texas—not just a short story but a lengthy tome. Just as a teaser, I’ll say that in that interval of time I acquired a Social Security card—illegally—I was fifteen and the minimum age requirement at that time was sixteen, and subsequently had two paying jobs while in Midland. That card enabled Papa John to hire me out, first to a self-service laundry as an indentured servant—so to speak—and then as a clerk in a retail hardware store.

In addition to swamper duties—mopping, sweeping, cleaning windows, etc., my job at the self-service laundry included bringing in dry soiled clothing from conveyances and taking out newly laundered wet clothing to the same. The bringing in was no problem, but the taking out was a serious problem because the laundry had no dryers. Customers took their wet clothes home and hung them out to dry on lines mounted in their back yards—ah, for the good old days!

Picture this: A #2 tin washtub piled high with wet clothing carried by a 100-pound teenager—I’m here to tell you that the job got old quickly. My usual sequence for outside delivery was to squat, take a deep breath, lift the tub with a loud grunt (the grunt was mine, not the tub’s) and hasten with short steps, almost running, to the proper conveyance, be it an auto, a child’s wagon or a wheelbarrow—all three modes were used at that time in that place.

Following a brief period of hauling in soiled clothes for women and returning wet clothes to the proper conveyance, Papa John thoughtfully secured a position for me as a clerk in a combination lumber yard and retail hardware store—I’ll hold that story in reserve for a future posting.

One final note on my adventures in Midland, Texas—no, belay that—this may not be the final note—there may be more to come, because writing of one aspect of our sojourn there tends to awaken more memories, many well worth separate postings.

Now to continue with my not so final note on Midland:

As in all locations in which I earned money while under the tutelage of my stepfather, my take-home pay in Midland was not subjected to discussion but was, as always, subjected to division. One half went to my mother for my room and board, and I was allowed to retain a pittance for my use—the rest went for the purchase of federal savings bonds in my name, documents that were termed war bonds during World War II. I suppose I should feel indebted to Papa John for instilling good saving habits in me, but at the time I did not appreciate the continued division of my labors, with the smallest amount left available for my use, an amount not determined by me.

Bummer!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Speaking English not good for you . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that was privileged to come into the world ahead of her two sisters, the one I love more than the other two but don’t tell them—yep, that one—sent me an e-mail with the following series of questions and answers concerning the importance of diet and exercise on health.

I felt obligated to spread this doctor’s take on diet and exercise as far and wide as possible. It’s an anonymous piece of writing, so I’m not too worried by the fact that I took the liberty of making numerous changes to the original. And I must say, with the usual humility that my viewers normally expect from me, that those changes improved the document significantly—nay, they improved it immeasurably!

What follows is a series of questions, asked by a patient and answered by Doctor Sum Ting Wong, the patient’s doctor during the two years the patient spent in China:

Q: Doctor, is it true that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life?

A: You heart only good for so many beats and that it. No waste beats on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer. It like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp theory of logistical efficiency. What do cow eat? Hay and corn. And what that? Vegetables. Steak nothing more than efficient mechanism to deliver vegetable to system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef good source of field grass, and field grass green leafy vegetable. And pork chop give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of protein.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A:  No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy distilled wine.That mean they take water out of fruit so you get more. Beer and whiskey also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body fat ratio?

A: If you have body and you have fat, you ratio one to one. If you have two body, you ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Sorry, can’t think of single one. Philosophy is, no pain—good!

Q:  Are fried foods bad for us?

A:  You not listening! Food fried these day in vegetable oil. It permeated by vegetable oil. How much more vegetable bad for you?

Q:  Will sit—ups prevent me from getting soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle it get bigger. Only do sit—up if want bigger stomach.

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?

A:   Helloooo! Bean of cocoa plant is vegetable! Chocolate best feel-good food can find!

Q:  Is swimming good for my figure?

A:  If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q:  Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?

A:  Hey—round is shape!

This should help clear up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets, and remember this:

Life should not be a journey from the cradle to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, a tall glass of Chardonnay in one hand and dark chocolate in the other, with body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “Woo-hoo, what a ride that was!”

And for those that watch what they eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health—it’s a great relief to know the truth after all these conflicting nutritional studies:

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Mexicans eat lots of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Chinese drink little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Italians drink lots of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Germans drink lots of beer and eat lots of sausages and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It’s obvious that speaking English is what kills you.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in death, food, grammar, Humor

 

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Somewhere over the North Pole . . .

I left Vietnam in April of 1970 on a commercial airliner packed with military personnel, most of whom had finished their combat tours and were returning home. Somewhere over the North Pole, on a flight that took 14 hours to complete, the temperature in the plane dropped so low that I started shaking and couldn’t stop. I quieted my chattering teeth by keeping my jaws clenched shut, and curled up into the tightest ball I could manage in a seat considerably scaled down in order to accommodate more passengers. Seat width and leg room were severely reduced, and when the seat ahead was fully laid back, getting into and out of of my seat was a real chore.

I was a passenger on a commercial airliner, one of a fleet leased by the U.S. military to ferry personnel to and from Vietnam during our prolonged war in that country. Our flight from Da Nang, South Vietnam would take us over the North Pole and on to Los Angeles’ International Airport.

Spring was in full bloom in the United States, but the season was a hard cold winter over the North Pole. When I first began to feel the cold, I asked a flight attendant for a blanket. She said that she would be right back with a blanket, but after a considerable amount of time passed, she had not returned, and I noticed that blankets were being passed out up and down the rows of seats.

The same attendant came by and I reminded her of my request. She apologized nicely, saying that she had been busy and had forgotten my request, and told me she would return shortly with the blanket. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep—it isn’t easy to sleep when one is shivering violently. Another long interval of time passed and she finally returned, minus the blanket. She again apologized nicely, but this time she told me there were no more blankets, that the aircraft’s supply of blankets had all been handed out to other passengers. A quick look around showed that in my immediate area I was the only passenger without a blanket. Apparently they were handed out while I was trying to sleep.

My three-time loser of a flight attendant was young and attractive, attributes that would have, in a normal situation, prevented me from voicing the comments that followed the news that I would not be—could not be—given a blanket. I won’t repeat what I said—Word Press has some rather stern restrictions on the use of vulgarities and some of the terms that I used, terms that I had accumulated over many years in military service, would probably not be well received.

I will only say that, had my verbal censure of the girl been a double-barreled shotgun, she would have received censure equal to being blasted with two full loads of double-ought buckshot, delivered at very close range. Any hunter can describe the terrible damage that would be caused by such loads.

Resigned to my fate—an unnatural fate of freezing solid at 40,000 feet over the North Pole while crammed into a baby seat in a commercial aircraft traveling at some 400 miles per hour—I curled up into a ball again, wrapped my arms around myself as fully and tightly as I could, and tried to sleep—in the words of Hamlet, I sought to sleep, perchance to dream, etc.

And I did sleep—to paraphrase Brother Dave Gardner’s words, I reached for the arms of Morpheus and fell into that somnolent state of glorious oblivion—I slept, and I dreamed.

I dreamed of being warm again. I dreamed that I was covered with something soft and furry, a cover with an aroma that combined the smell of budding roses and lilacs in bloom—an aroma superior to any of the world’s most expensive perfumes, with just a hint of chicken frying in my mother’s kitchen—no, scratch the fried chicken—that was an earlier dream, one that I had the night before I boarded the plane to begin the long journey home—I suppose some residual of that odor remained in my brain.

I know the suspense is gnawing at anyone reading this posting, so I will hold back no longer. While I slept, the flight attendant that failed to deliver a blanket after my repeated requests for one—far in advance of the time blankets began to be handed out to passengers—the flight attendant that I berated so forcefully and fiercely—yep, the same attractive woman that patiently endured my verbal onslaught on her professional conduct, had returned with a full length fur coat and gently placed it over my numb body, tucking it in as well as she could, considering my fetal pose.

The coat was probably hers, but she could have borrowed from another flight attendant—that point is moot. Regardless of the owner, that fur coat saved my sanity and possible my life. I quickly returned to that somnolent state of glorious oblivion and spent the rest of the night gamboling through Elysian fields with Bambi, Flower and Thumper—I awakened only after daylight filled the cabin.

I never saw the flight attendant again. The fur coat had been retrieved while I slept on like the proverbial baby, probably picked up by its owner after we left polar bear territory. I searched for that familiar face, but exited the aircraft after landing without an opportunity to thank her, and to apologize for my boorish behavior during the flight. She may have been busy in the galley or perhaps had business in the cockpit, if you catch my drift.

No matter where she was then and regardless of where she is now, I owe her my thanks for saving me from becoming a curled up block of ice—even though it was her fault for exposing me to such a potential ending.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Third time is charm—but not always . . .

In March of 1969, I had the privilege of taking a 13-month tour of South Vietnam with all expenses paid—my tour began in the the capital city of Saigon and ended at Da Nang Air Base in April of 1970. While at Da Nang I made two week-end visits to Hong Kong. The first was rather harrowing, but turned out okay. To read my posting on the first flight click here.

The second week-end trip was even more harrowing, and I wisely declined  all invitations for additional trips. Had another aircraft been available—another model a bit less vintage, I perhaps would have returned—no, belay that—the only circumstance that would have gotten me on a third flight to Hong Kong would be the imminent fall of Da Nang to North Vietnamese regulars. In that case I would have made a third flight to Hong Kong on any conveyance that could get me off the ground, whether on the Gooney Bird, in a lawn-mower-powered ultra-light or under a parasail towed by a child in a rowboat.

This posting will reveals the details of the second flight, details that would cause anyone, particularly my mother’s youngest son, to forego a third flight to Hong Kong.

Saturday dawned bright and clear at Da Nang, South Korea on a day in 1969,  and we lifted off for our flight to Hong Kong, the star of the Orient. We were ensconced in a C-47 transport plane affectionately nicknamed Gooney Bird. Powered by two reciprocating engines, our Gooney Bird was assembled in the late 1930s or the early 1940s—a durable bird, but not exactly a state-of-the-art conveyance. However, its age and its continued use by the United States Air Force were testaments to its reliability.

Our flight from DaNang to Hong Kong was routine, uneventful, with nothing to portend the nature of our return flight to South Vietnam. We arrives at Hong Kong in mid-morning and passed the the day shopping—I purchased a a reel-to-reel tape recorder, one of the finest units available at the time, along with a plentiful supply of tape, some jewelry for my wife, and a wooden model of a Chinese junk—the recorder was junked, the jewelry is part my wife’s heritage to our three daughters, and I’m still stuck with the Chinese junk—it’s still accumulating dust and it’s still an eyesore. I can’t decide what to do with it—I’ve offered it as a present to several people—all expressed their appreciation of the offer, but none accepted it. I hate to give it up, and I hate to keep it—bummer!

But I have digressed—back to our return flight:

We left Kong Kong in mid-morning on Sunday. Our flight was routine until a short while after passing the point-of-no-return to Hong Kong—regardless of circumstances we were required to press on to Da Nang—if an inflight emegency should 0ccur, our options would be to ditch into the ocean, land somewhere in China, either on an island or on the mainland, or land somewhere in North Vietnam.

An emergency did in fact occur, and a mayday call—a call for assistance—was made to DaNang. Our #2 engine—that’s the engine on the left if one is facing the nose of the aircraft—began coughing, a series of sounds indicating a problem with fuel intake or ignition problems. The coughs were infrequent and minor at first, but soon  became more frequent and longer in duration. I was privileged to be seated at the window closest to that engine, and each time it coughed the propellers would stop, only for a tiny instant at first, but the stop  was clearly visible.

Our loadmaster told us that a mayday message had been sent to DaNang and that a Navy PBY, an aircraft with the ability to land on water as well as land, had been dispatched to meet us in the event that our aircraft had to be ditched in the ocean. The loadmaster began moving all our luggage and our Hong Kong goodies to the cargo door. I asked him why, and he said our load had to be lightened to help the Gooney Bird remain aloft in case we were reduced to only one engine. I protested—mildly, of course—and was told something to the effect that the load had to be lightened, one way or another, and that it was either my new reel-to-reel tape recorder or me. Naturally I chose to remain on board and sacrifice the recorder.

However—and that’s a really important however—I, my tape recorder, the passengers, the crew and the aircraft landed safely at DaNang. The ailing engine stopped completely several times–all three prop blades became clearly visible for a few seconds—but the engine recovered enough each time to contribute to the other engine’s efforts.

Following the loadmaster’s explanation of our current situation and his description of possible changes to that situation, the passenger section became eerily silent, with each of us enveloped in our own thoughts. I venture that my thoughts were identical to the thoughts of others.

Yep, I prayed. I prayed to my god and to the gods of others, regardless of the nature of their gods. I prayed that the engine would recover, that the PBY would arrive soon, that ditching would not be necessary, and that we would land safely in South Vietnam. If their prayers were anything like mine, then they made promises they knew the would not—or possibly could not—keep.

I have no doubt that our combined prayers were answered, all except my prayer that the engine would recover—it was still coughing mightily when we landed at DaNang. The PBY soon arrived—its pilot made a 180 degree turn and placed his aircraft near our starboard wingtip—a position taken in order to observe the ailing engine—and escorted us to a safe landing. Made all the gods bless PBYs and their pilots!

A quick aside at this point, just in case a viewer is unsure of the difference between left and right in nautical terms—port is left, starboard is right. Running lights on vessels are red and green—red is for left side, green is for right side. Here’s a memory aid that may help one remember which is which—memory aids seem to be items for which I have an ever-increasing need as I advance in years!

Just remember that port, left and red are short words with fewer letters than starboard, right and green, so port and red are on the left side—starboard and green are on the right side.

Got it?

Below is an image of today’s Da Nang—it did not look like that when I was there!

Speaking of inflight aircraft malfunctions, Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up comic, created a skit to use in his comedy routines, a skit dealing with an inflight emergency on a commercial flight in the United States. An engine caught fire inflight, and a little old man seated near the burning engine prayed long and loudly for his god to rectify the situation, saying “Please get me on the ground safely and I’ll give half of everything I own to the church.”

The fire was instantly extinguished and the plane landed safely.

When the little old man deplaned he was met by his minister and the minister said, “Brother, I heard what you said up there! I heard you tell God that if he got you on the ground safely you would give half of everything you own to the church, and I know you’re going to start right now!”

The little man said, “Nope, I made a better deal—I just now told God that if I ever get back on another one of those things, I’ll give Him everything I own!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Redux—Thoughts on adultery . . .

This is a re-post of the original posting. Since it has garnered only five votes since its posting—all excellent, of course—I can legitimately surmise that very few have read it. It’s reproduced here, en toto, for the benefit of those that have not read  it. I am vain enough to believe that it’s well worth the time and effort a viewer may spend in reading it. I hasten to acknowledge the fact that vanity in one is frowned on by others, but please know that vanity is my only fault—except for that I would be perfect.

The original posting follows—enjoy!

In the interests of full disclosure, I must stress the fact that I’m never wrong—about anything. I thought I was wrong recently, but I later learned that I was right. I was chastised by a blogger for misspelling adultery. I was told that the correct spelling is adultry.

Wrong.

I don’t spell by rote—I spell by instinct. That statement is copyrighted, but all are free to use it. Check out this definition of adultery at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery. It’s worth the read.

Adultery: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Adultery is referred to as extramarital sex, philandery, or infidelity, but does not include fornication. The term adultery for many people carries a moral or religious association, while the term extramarital sex is morally or judgmentally neutral.”

Say whut??!! I’ve read the above definition hump-teen (so to speak) times and I still don’t understand it. Adultery does not include fornication? Wikipedia defines fornication as consensual sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other. If Decartes’ statement that cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) is true, then in the context of Wikipedia’s definition of adultery, even if one only thinks it one might as well do it because it follows that the thought is as bad as the deed. Or as good, perhaps, but not likely.

Permit me to quote—and then corrupt—some words from a poem by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832):

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead
that never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!”

I know. You’re wondering about the pertinence of the above quote. Trust me—it’s pertinent. One needs only to replace the third line as follows:

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead
that never to himself hath said,”
“Wow! I wish I could . . . . . .”

Or perhaps thusly:

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead
that never to himself hath said,”
“Oh, boy! I’d like to . . . . . .”

The possible variations of substitutions for the third line are infinite—one is bounded only by one’s imagination. Of course Sir Walter is referring to a man’s fealty (fidelity) to his native land. He probably never considered the possibility that his words might, some two centuries after his death, open a wide window of opportunity to the feckless (and reckless) among the world’s population when faced with a desirable person of the opposite sex.

Special note: In compliance with our Equality Opportunity laws and in fairness to the fairer sex (females), it must be noted that the corruption of these words in Sir Walter’s poem requires replacing the words man and himself by the words woman and herself.

One more thought, completed unrelated to the original posting: Does anyone remember the wealth of little moron jokes that made the rounds several decades ago? We aren’t allowed to use them now because they are not politically correct. Such jokes would disparage anyone of those among us that may be outside the intellectual norms established by our society. My use of the word instinct brought back one of those jokes, and I humbly apologize (but not too seriously) in advance to anyone that may be offended by my adding it to this post.

I believe the question Are ya’ll ready for dis? which introduces the joke is copy-righted and used by the San Antonio Spurs NBA team at the start of their games. I acknowledge that right and give them full credit for its origin and its use (the voice is that of a former player named Johnson).

Are ya’ll ready for dis?

First little moron: It’s going to rain.
Second little moron: How do you know?
First little moron: My instincts.
Second little moron: My end stinks too, but it doesn’t tell me it’s going to rain.

I realize the two speakers could just as well have been Bert & Nan (the Bobbsey twins), Pat & Mike (Irish friends), Dagwood & Blondie, Mutt & Jeff, Donnie & Marie, Pelosi & Reid, Barack  & Hillary,Dodd & Barney, Stanley & Livingston, O’Reilly & Beck, Paula & Simon, ad infinitum (or ad nauseam, perhaps). And the joke could also feature two people of any nationality, race, sex or sexual preference, political affiliation, ideological bent, region, occupation, body build or marital status (two old maids, for example, or two grumpy old bachelors).

I used the original speakers (two little morons) as I remember them—one should never try to rewrite history.

And one more special note:

I really like the combination of Pelosi & Reid! They were overwhelmingly voted into first place in a recent poll as the most logical team to replace the little morons in all the old jokes, and in any that may be created in the future. In the interest of full disclosure, I must state that the poll was limited to one person—can you guess who won?

My vote guaranteed first place for Pelosi & Reid.
The team of Dodd & Barney qualified as first runner-up.
Barack & Hillary were relegated to third place.

And a rather lengthy final note:

Lighten up! It’s all in fun, and if this posting elicits at least one chuckle from any readers, regardless of their age, religion, sexual orientation, political preference or affiliation, education, profession, location, marital status, economic status, race, nationality, place of birth, height, weight, intelligence quotient, hair style, eye color or shoe size, then I have accomplished my objective—I’ve lightened their load for a moment, however brief, as they laboriously trudge along the road of life.

I will conclude this posting by echoing the words of Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time comic whose career flowered and flourished in various entertainment venues in the years between 1950 and 1970, and included the production and sale of millions of LPs (long-playing vinyl record albums). Brother Dave would not be accepted today because of his politically incorrect repertoire, one that depended heavily on the use of regional and racial dialect. His career nose-dived in adverse proportion to the rise of political correctness in our republic. Were Brother Dave privileged to read this posting, he would analyze it and express his thoughts with his trademark expression—he would say, Ain’t that weird!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: In my search for photos to add to this redux, I learned that Kate Moss and Dave Gardner were an involved couple, and I found this image of Kate and thought it might be of interest to my readers. I realized later that this is a completely different Dave Gardner with whom Kate is involved, but I decided to let the image remain for the same reason work crews are instructed to let the wildflowers bloom and flourish when they cut the grass along Texas highways—most motorists in the Lone Star state find those fields of flowers pleasing to the eye, visually stimulating and gratifying.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2010 in Family, Humor, marriage, Writing

 

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Notes on a tiger and its stripes . . .

This posting will present my analysis of, and my comments on, the path that Tiger Wood has followed over the past few years, leaving behind a trail strewn with prostitutes, broken hearts and broken promises—if one can believe the prostitutes that claim their hearts have been broken.

I have my opinion regarding Tiger’s so-called sex addiction, his stint at a rehabilitation center, and his recent apology to his legions of admirers and to the rest of the world’s population, admirers as well as non-admirers—and in my opinion there are far more non-admirers than admirers. I do not believe his apology was sincere, and I don’t believe the sex addiction clinic will work any miracles, even though it is in the sovereign state of Mississippi.

Many of the non-admirers are envious, however, both for his dalliances with hookers and his ability to place a little ball, less than two inches in diameter, atop a large ball some twenty-five thousand miles in circumference and hit the little ball without touching the larger one. They admire his golfing skills, but they do not admire his lack of restraint in sexual matters.

I want to share my opinion with my viewers, limited in number though they may be, and in that endeavor I will invoke the words of some of the wisest men that ever lived. That will include conjuring up long-passed notables such as Henry David Thoreau, Omar Khayyam, Jimmy Carter, Red Foxx and Sir Walter Scott. Note that I have lined out Jimmy Carter, not only because he has not passed as of this writing, but because I do not believe he qualifies for membership in this group of thinkers—I will still quote him, regardless.

As for the remorse voiced by Tiger Wood, the greatest golfer in the world, one of the world’s most prolific seekers of sex for sale and the purchaser thereof—in my opinion the remorse rings hollow. Tiger is not sorry he committed an outstanding, perhaps record setting, string of indiscretions. He’s just sorry that his wife finally got fed up with them and with him, and announced her displeasure with the help of a #9 golf club. She would have to be blind and deaf with no knowledge of Braille to not have known that something was rotten in Denmark (with apologizes to Denmark).

If she did not know, or at least had strong suspicions that Tiger was, and is a serial philanderer, she would have to be the ultimate victim of ADD, the attention deficit disorder that has become so prevalent in recent years. In my opinion, she is not ADD.

I refuse to believe that legions of his admirers believe the story that his wife shattered the windows of his Cadillac Escalade in order to rescue and administer to his injuries, if any. I believe that she truly meant to minister to him, but not to care for any injuries he may have suffered in the crash. I believe she had it in her heart to inflict some deadly serious injuries on him, up to and including a death blow.

Tiger’s wife says she found Tiger inert, apparently unconscious after his vehicle took out a fire hydrant and smashed into a tree near his home. I believe that Tiger was simply and wisely playing possum, a feint that may have saved his life, or at least lessened the possibility of a death blow from the #9 iron.

This just in: GM has recalled all its Cadillac Escalades for demagnetization. The company has concluded that the vehicles are over-magnetized, as evidenced by the recent malfunction of Tiger Wood’s Cadillac SUV at his home—drawn by the magnetism in his Escalade, a metal golf club flew out a window of Tiger’s home and shattered the Escalade’s windows.

I will now invoke the words of Jimmy Carter, a former president of the United States, as told in an interview that appeared in Playboy magazine. The ex-president from Georgia said something on the order of:

Although I have never transgressed, I have lusted in my heart.

Carter is an honest man—not the brightest card in the deck, but honest.

And now for a quote, one that I have badly corrupted, from Sir Walter Scott’s, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (the italicized and bolded words are not Sir Walter’s—they are mine):

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land! Hot dang, I’d like to have some of that!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand! Las Vegas.
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentrated all in self, A
Living, shall forfeit fair renown, perfect
And, doubly dying, shall go down description
To the vile dust from whence he sprung, of
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung. Tiger!

The point I am making, however crude and obtuse, is that no man has ever lived—at least no manly man—that did not lust—perhaps with little more than a twinge of lust, but lust nevertheless—in his heart at the sight of a beautiful woman, whether in magazines, in the movies or on the street, whether fully clothed, scantily clad or nude, whether in a gentleman’s club or pictured in enticing positions in many of our nation’s magazines for men. And in my opinion no man will ever live and not have the same thought in those situations, namely, Hot dang, I’d like to have some of that!

Tiger can be likened to a tomcat, and we are all aware of a tomcat’s activities, mostly nocturnal but no tomcat has ever waited for the cover of darkness if the conquest is available in daylight. And trust me, once a tomcat’s proclivities and his routine are established, nothing will ever change him short of death. His routine will continue even if he is relieved of his ability to sire offspring or even to minister to members of the opposite gender, or the same gender should he be so inclined.

Nope, it will not keep a tomcat at home nights even if he is subjected to a surgical process, the very thought of which causes nightmares for the male of the human species, and probably for every tomcat. Be advised, however, that the tomcat will still make his rounds every night. The only difference is that following the surgery he goes out as a consultant.

Now let’s bring Red Foxx into the discussion: Red Foxx, when he was accused of being a dirty old man replied,Yes, I”m a dirty old man, and I’m gonna stay a dirty old man until I’m a dead old man!

‘Nuff said, Tiger?

A leopard can’t change its spots, nor can a tiger change its stripes. Those spots and stripes will be with those animals as long as they live. No amount of money spent at a sexual addiction treatment center will change Tiger Wood, and no amount of new births, a process offered by the Buddhist religion he professes, will change him. The urge will always be there, and the best thing he can do is accept its presence and control it.

He shouldn’t waste time trying to extinguish something that burns with a flame so bright and hot that it cannot be extinguished—its flame can only be dampened by the use of free will. It’s his flame and it will stay with him. It will still be with him when he departs for that ultimate golf tournament, the one hosted by Saint Peter and the angels—or the one hosted by Lucifer and his minions, whichever is the case.

Had Tiger come to me for advice before staging his return to the media’s bright lights, I would have advised him to decline the opportunity, no matter how well staged—and it was staged, with nary a question permitted. My expert advice for him would have been—and still is—just five words:

Shut up and play golf!

And now to support that sage advice, a quote from Khayyam’s Rubaiyat:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Tiger should pay heed to Omar’s words—he cannot change one iota of the past, so he should shut up and play golf!

An important footnote: I have oft’ quoted and will continue to quote an author that I admire above all others—even above Bill O’Reilly! In Thoreau’s  Walden, or Life in the Woods, one of the most important works in the history of this country and the world, Henry David Thoreau says:

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.

‘Nuff said?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2010 in Humor, marriage, Travel, Writing

 

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Let me tell ya ’bout the birds and the bees . . .

I have dredged up this posting from the depths of my blog in order to bring it into the bright light of today. It was posted early in my blogging career, dated June 11, 2009. My daughter in Virginia considers the subject a favorite memory—it’s also one of my favorites.

The original posting follows—it is my remembrance of a very positive multi-grade on-stage presentation at my elementary school, a presentation chock-full of lights and action, but no cameras except for a smattering of Kodak Brownies—none with flash capabilities—wielded by family members in the audience. It was a presentation that should be replicated on-stage in today’s schools, in high schools as well as elementary institutions. It was a highly positive learning activity that taught us all we needed to know—at that age—about the birds and the bees.

Now for a redux of the original posting:

My family has been blessed with three princesses produced, with a little help from me, by my wife, the Queen Bee of Texas. This posting is in response to an e-mail from Cindy, the middle daughter, a royal princess who lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia.

The e-mail is a passionate plea for me to blog about two events, one that took place in the early years of my education and was reprised some 32 years later, and another that took place around the same time as the reprisal. I have divided her e-mail into two parts, and will respond to the two parts separately.

This is the first part of her e-mail:

I have always loved this memory…you, me, and Kelley…sneaking into an abandoned grade school in Mississippi…you got up on stage and started singing some bee song. You told us about your mother making you a bee costume but she either couldn’t (or didn’t care) that you would be the only orange and brown striped bee. Your costume wasn’t yellow and black, as assigned. I think I was only 12 or 13 when you told us this story. Remember that adventure?

And this is my response, my blog posting, to the first part of her e-mail:

My acting career began and ended at some point in my fourth grade school-year at Barrow Elementary School in Columbus, Mississippi, a town of some 25,000 people, situated on high bluffs overlooking the Tombigbee River. My school occupied a relatively small two-story red-brick building, but with its surrounding playgrounds it covered a full city block. It was ruled by the iron hand of Miss Mary Stokes, the school principal, a white-haired high-buttoned-shoe spinster throwback to the 19th century.

I loved that lady with all the fervor a little boy could muster, a love that still exists many years after her death. I loved her despite being a frequent target—perhaps the most frequent target—of the 18-inch ruler she always carried in that iron hand, a tool that she used for punishment, and one that she wielded with vigor, accuracy and effectiveness on recalcitrant palms and backsides.

Ah, those were the days! Corporeal punishment no longer exists in our elementary schools, whether public or private, and our nation suffers horribly because of its demise.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it, and I humbly offer myself as a shining example of the system’s effectiveness, with full credit given to Miss Mary and her ruler.

She never left home without it.

I attended her school for the first four years of my education (a process that continues to this day). For the fifth grade and through (almost through) the tenth grade, I began each school year in one city and finished it in another. That tortuous progression in my education resulted from my mother’s remarriage near the end of the fourth grade year. At the close of that year I began a pilgrimage that lasted seven years—a pilgrimage that would have me living, and attending schools, in several different cities in several different states.

Now on to my acting debut and its reprisal

I was fortunate enough to successfully complete the academic requirements of the fourth grade, chiefly because the school did not grade its students on their acting abilities. I debuted my acting career in that year, and some 32 years later I briefly revived that career with an impromptu reprisal of my debut performance. The reprisal was a command performance of the part I played so many years before, at the same school and on the same stage. My reprisal was performed before a wildly applauding audience comprised wholly of my two younger daughters, aged 8 and 12 years.

The school year was 1940-1941, and I was enrolled in the fourth grade at Barrow Elementary School in Columbus, Mississippi. The principal, Miss Mary Stokes, felt that every student should be involved in everything—if the third grade performed on the auditorium stage, every student in that grade had a part, even if it consisted of lining up on stage and watching their peers perform. However, the play in which I made my debut required flowers of different sizes, so students from grades below and above my grade were pressed into service—one of the taller flowers was my sister, a fifth grader. I mention all this because the stage was small and the cast of the play was huge.

I debuted as one of several boys cleverly costumed as bees. The curtains opened to reveal a group of girls—including my sister—cleverly costumed as flowers. The girls were almost immobile, because flowers have neither the option nor the ability, perhaps not even the desire, to move around. In this case, because the script called for it, these flowers were allowed to lean forward, backwards and sideways to simulate swaying in the breeze, most of which would be created by the bees buzzing around them, doing their pollinating thing.

The flowers began singing a bee song on cue, and on cue we bees spread our wings (arms), trotted on-stage and buzzed—as in bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, etc.—all around and between the flowers, pausing briefly near each flower and bzzzing like crazy, with the bzzzes aimed at the flower’s ear (a bit of symbolism there—hey, we didn’t write the script—we just emoted!). We were given to understand that we were simulating pollination and that the actual pollination was a vital activity of the bees, although they accomplished it unknowingly and accidently by transferring pollen (with their legs) from flower to flower—the pollen accumulated on their legs while they were gathering nectar. We learned that bees were absolutely necessary to propagate the flower species and to ensure a good honey crop and beehive survival.

That which we bees were doing was simulation, not stimulation—I don’t think I learned the latter word until junior high school. Here I must note that, contrary to the popular and virtually universal belief regarding familial relationships in the deep South, I never pollinated my sister, not even once, nor was I in the least bit ever inclined to pollinate her.

I drew the line at pollinating her.

I did not even like her.

As we bees flapped our wings and trotted, buzzed and pollinated, the girls sang the bee song, a catchy refrain of which I remember only a smattering. I googled the term and was faced with a bewildering array of bee songs but none sufficiently comparable, as I remember it, to this line from the song the flowers sang:

“Honey bee, honey bee, fly to and fro, gathering honey where ever you go,” etc., etc.

I know now that bees do not gather honey—they gather nectar, a substance that is ultimately turned into honey in the beehive. And all that pollination, a process that generated a lot of giggling from the girls, is purely accidental. We bees, bless our hearts, may not have been fully aware that our pollination was ensuring the propagation of the flower species. However, our lack of awareness did nothing to reduce the giggles.

The girls made their own costumes, with considerable help from the school staff. Their costumes consisted of varicolored crepe paper shaped as petals and affixed to their regular clothing, effectively obscuring their clothing and transforming them into beautiful flowers filled with pollen.

The flower costumes were made by the girls with staff assistance, but the bee costumes were made by the bees’ mothers at home. Our costume was a one-piece ensemble similar to a jump suit with short sleeves, with the legs descending only to mid-thigh—the ensemble’s legs, not ours—our legs continued all the way to our bare feet—evidently bees do not wear shoes. The basic color of the bee costume was light yellow, with strips of black material affixed horizontally to give the effect of stripes.

I was given no samples to take home to assist my mother in selecting cloth for my costume, so she winged it (so to speak) based on my verbal description. She chose bright orange for the basic color and light brown, almost tan, for the horizontal stripes.

I can truthfully state that I would rather have been a normal bee, one of several normal bees, but I was not—I was a standout among bees, a honey bee of a different color, if you will—I was like, you know, a honey bee with panache and lots of it. In later years I would happily conclude, in retrospect, that my costume was intended to identify me as the king bee, the strongest of the beehive’s male bees—all the others were mere drones.

I was the lucky bee that would be able to follow the Queen Bee’s flight straight upward to unimaginable heights, while one by one the other suitors would be falling back to earth, completely exhausted, and ultimately, at the apogee of our ascension I would mate with the queen, thereby ensuring that the pollination and propagation of flowers would continue, nectar gathering would continue, and the production of honey would continue in the new colony that the queen would establish.

Sadly I also learned in later years that, immediately following our coupling, the queen would begin the new colony as a widow. I, the bee with panache—the bee with the spectacular colors—the strongest and highest-flying bee—would not survive the mating.

Very soon, after you know what, I would have died—with a smile on my bee face, perhaps, but no less dead.

Bummer.

But that’s how things go in the bee world—if you don’t believe me, google it.

And now to the crux of this posting:

I and my two younger daughters were touring my home town, with me pointing our the various places I had lived,  played, worked and gone to school, and we found that my elementary school was still standing, but just barely. The building was condemned, surrounded by a tall chain-link fence with warning signs posted prominently:

Danger!

This building is condemned!

Do not enter!

So we squeezed through an unauthorized opening in the fence and entered the building. It was in total disrepute, with broken windows, sagging sheet rock and debris everywhere. We were not deterred. I gave the girls a limited tour (we avoided the second floor because the stairs did not appear trustworthy), but we thoroughly toured the lower floor that included the auditorium. The seats had been removed but the stage was still there and reasonably intact.

I told my daughters about the fourth grade play, and at their urging I even mounted the stage for a reenactment of my part, including my entry, the play’s sound effects and my exit. I was a smash hit, with a far better reception than I received at the original performance, and I bowed to thunderous applause from the audience. In fact, I received a standing ovation—well, it was necessarily a standing ovation because there were no seats, but my daughters assured me that, had they been seated they would have nevertheless stood to applaud, and I accepted that gracefully.

And here is the second part of my daughter’s e-mail. Again, the e-mail is a plea for me to blog this subject:

And another segue….we always marveled at a) how many places Hester shuffled you and Dot off to whenever Papa John demanded the two of you be banished…and b) how you could remember exactly where (even if the house had been replaced by a 7-11 at the time you were showing us the location) each house was, which aunt/uncle/cousin took you in, and how long you were there before Hester cajoled Papa John into letting you return home. It seemed like dozens of locations, but maybe that is just how I remember it. That memory sticks out because we can’t relate to being tossed out of our home. We always had such stability (still do) in our family. I recall only living in five places—155 Farrel Drive in San Antonio, the house in Louisiana, then 155 Farrel Drive again, then briefly in Bonnie’s trailer park in Weslaco, then finally on 109 N. 10th Street in Donna.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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Bus driver, or cowboy . . .

Preamble: A preliminary statement, especially the introduction to a formal document that serves to explain its purpose.

A preamble is normally written before a document—I’m adding this preamble after I posted the document below. My daughter, the one that lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia, the one that I love best, but don’t tell the other two daughters I said that—tasked me with answering several questions concerning the person in this photo. In the interests of levity, I assumed the character of a criminal investigator in analyzing the photo in response to my daughter’s request. I identified her merely as a relative in Virginia, and she took umbrage—this addition to the posting is my attempt to correct my blunder.  And in the interests of full disclosure, I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be a criminal investigator, not in Washington DC or any other location. I merely presented myself as such in order to bolster my analysis of the photo.

The photo is an accurate depiction of my mother’s youngest son—me—and virtually all of the information I posted is true. The only time I seriously strayed from the truth was the part about  studying photos from various high school yearbooks while working in the Washington DC area—I freely admit that it was a real whopper! However, that I worked in that area for three years is a true statement—so help me, you know Who.

Here is the original posting, unchanged. The only difference is the addition of the preamble above—my search for an antonym to preamble was fruitless. I suppose we could call it a postamblewe could run that term up the flagpole and see who salutes it!

I recently received this photo from a relative in Virginia, accompanied with a request for me to apply the training I received over many years in the field of law enforcement and answer as many of the questions below as I could, with the answers based on the expertise I acquired—expertise in the use of observational techniques and in the questioning routines I used in conversations with subjects suspected of various crimes.

These are the questions:

Tell me something about this fella—-where he was mentally and physically at this time…How old was he? What was he was thinking about? What aspirations did he have?  He looks so pensive and serious. What was he dreaming about?

It was an unusual request, but it posed a challenge for me. There are, of course, more visual and physical traits to be observed when faced with the actual suspect, but some definitive conclusions can be reached simply by studying a photograph.

This young man, for example, has an exceptionally well-formed head with an Adonis-like visage. Each feature—eyes, ears, nose, mouth, cheekbones and chin—are in perfect harmony with the other features. Any observer would view him as a handsome young lad, undoubtedly popular with the girls and envied by his male peers. That beautifully coiffed hair places the boy in the company of Narcissus, and at this age the lad undoubtedly spent lots of time looking into a mirror. Narcissus, of course, fell in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it was his own. The photograph reflects no doubt—this young fellow knows exactly what he sees in the mirror and he is well-pleased with the image, a pleasure bordering on self-adulation.

Whether this teenager ever enjoyed any significant contacts with the opposite sex based on his looks would be pure speculation, and an investigator never, ever speculates—any investigative conclusions must be based on demonstrable facts.

Some conclusions may instantly be made—the photo is that of a young boy, perhaps in his early to middle teen years—he is white, Anglo-Saxon, with perhaps a bit of the old Irish in him. His age is  somewhere between fourteen and fifteen years. He has a delightful sprinkling of freckles, indicating that most of his years have been spent in sunny southern climes in a state, or states, well below the Mason-Dixon line. The hair style is representative of those affected by youths in the middle to late 1940s. I believe this photo was taken in late 1946 or early in 1947.

The source of the photo can often be helpful. One can deduce that the photo is not the work of a professional portrait studio. If it were, it would show the company’s name and logo near the lower edge—Olan Mills, for example. By an unusual coincidence, I worked in the Washington, D.C. area for three years, and on an unrelated assignment I studied student photos in the yearbooks of  several schools in the DC area—although some 13 years have passed since the assignment, I still vividly remember the photos.

This photo, judging by the pose of the subject and the clarity of the portrait, matches very closely the attributes of yearbook photos taken of students at Suitland High School in the city of Suitland, Maryland—the photo in question was published in that school’s year book for the period cited.

An astute observer will instantly be drawn to the left eye—it’s ever so slightly squinted, caused by a deliberate but subtle lowering of the eye’s upper lid. No definite conclusions can be drawn from that squint, but  here are some possible causes:

It could be that the photographer is an attractive young female, and her subject is speculating on his chances of getting it on with her, a term similar with today’s term of making out. It could be that the photographer is a school staff member, one for which the subject has no particular fondness—the squint could be saying, “Don’t screw it up—either do it right, or don’t do it!”

That squint is, perhaps, in imitation of some Hollywood actor favored by the subject, and is thus used in such situations. I must confess that I use it, but infrequently, and I believe that one of my own three offspring also utilizes the squint as needed in certain situations.

This unusual and interesting habit of squinting one eye is sometimes reflected in a person or persons closely associated with the squinter—a brother or sister, or a relative of the squinter, perhaps a daughter or son—daughters and sons sometimes tend to imitate one or more habitual physical traits exhibited by their father.

That squinted left eye leaves me with the thought that this lad did, for one reason or another, not complete the current school year at this high school. He probably dropped out of class near the end of the second semester. His failure to complete the year may have been caused by having to relocate in a distant city, or because he converted his thoughts concerning the photographer into action, or perhaps he broke his leg while playing in an American Legion Little League baseball game, or for some other completely unrelated reason.

As for this lad’s aspirations for the future, that’s very difficult to discern. My best guess is that his aspirations at that time were similar to those of Jethro, of Beverly Hillbillies fame—Jethro vacillated between becoming a brain surgeon or a short-order cook.

I believe this lad, at this time in his life, vacillated between becoming an old-time cowboy, broad of shoulder and tall—yeah, good luck with that—and lean of hip, with steely gray eyes perpetually squinted from checking the horizon for Indians and badmen—either that, or a bus driver.

Of course I could be wrong.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 19, 2010 in actor and acting, Humor, PHOTOGRAPHY, sports, Writing

 

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Et al . . .

A special note from the writer to the reader: Please be forewarned—I wrote this story with my tongue pouched firmly in my cheek. The dictionary defines tongue-in-cheek speech and writing as “Ironic, slyly humorous; not meant to be taken seriously.

From Wikipedia:

et al, a Latin abbreviation meaning “and others” (‘et al.’ is used as an abbreviation of `et alii’ (masculine plural) or `et aliae’ (feminine plural) or `et alia’ (neuter plural) when referring to a number of people); “the data reported by Smith et al.”

The family that I will introduce to you in this posting would not know a Latin term from a monkey’s rash, but you will soon learn that the family is closely related—to the Latin term, not to the monkey.

The aforementioned family lives and reproduces in a mountainous region somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. It is an extended long-lived family that includes members from several generations, members ranging from great grandparents to great grandchildren, all crowded under the same roof.

For many years the family enjoyed the companionship of a beloved pet, a lady pig reared from its piglet status to adult pighood. She had a sparkling personality, and readily responded to the name Al, a diminutive term for Alberta. Al’s name was diminutive but she was not—she tipped the scales at 1,000 pounds, and for many years was awarded the title of Healthiest and Heaviest Hog at the state’s annual Hog Festival—she was much larger even than Godzilla, an Alabama boar hog pictured at right (you will note that Godzilla is now deceased).

The family’s rationale for naming their pet Alberta is unknown, but it’s doubtful that it came from any sort of written material, unless from can labels or printed feed sacks—most of the family was neither inclined nor capable of deciphering literary symbols—in fact, the only printed material to be found in the home, other than can labels, seed catalogs and printed feed sacks was the Sears catalog, delivered to the family annually by a postal worker leading a mule. The mule carried the mail while the postman walked, but following the last delivery the worker was authorized to ride, if he so desired.

Note: I have walked and I have ridden mules—astride—and I would much rather walk.

One more thought concerning the name Alberta—one may reasonably surmise that the home may have housed one or more immigrants, legal or otherwise, from Italy or Spain, or perhaps from Mexico, Central America or South America, all locations with considerable numbers of Spanish-speaking people, hence the name Alberta, the feminine form of Alberto.

The Sears catalog, a thick periodical comprised of thousands of smooth and very slick pages with thousands of pictorial images, was handled so much by everyone, including the very young and the very old, that the pages were softened by its constant use, especially in the section that presented images of underwear-clad models of both sexes.

Each year, in a time-honored practice initiated immediately following the delivery of the new catalog, the previous year’s publication was exported to a small house located a few yards to the rear of the big house, to be used for a secondary purpose—although very few members of the family could read, some wag had posted a crudely lettered sign in the little house behind the house that read, “Blot, do not rub,” a reference, perhaps, to the catalog’s remarkably smooth pages.

Please forgive me. I have inadvertently digressed from my original purpose, that of telling the story of the family’s beloved pet, a tremendously talented pig named Alberta—Al for short.

Now to continue the saga of Al:

Al lived with one of the family’s grandmothers—a kindly woman, an Aunt Bea type that cheerfully welcomed all visitors that came to see her highly talented pet perform. Al was a very intelligent pig and very light on her feet— she could, on cue, perform various tricks including dancing wildly on her back legs to tunes played by one of the younger boys in the family. That worthy was a lad that never did well at his studies—fact never entered a schoolroom, but he was a music maestro with a banjo in his hands. Oh, and Al also did a remarkable imitation of the belly dance performed by Little Egypt in1893 at the Egyptian Theater on the World’s Columbian Exposition Midway in Chicago (pictured at right).

In addition to her dancing abilities, Al could also emit a staccato series of grunts and squeals that were easily identifiable as the tune of The Star Spangled Banner. People came from far and wide—over the river and through the trees, to grandma’s house they came—just to hear Al sing our national anthem. The highlight of Al’s performance was when she hit the high notes in the final stanza, the part that goes, ” . . . o’er the land of the free . . .” When she inhaled deeply and then squealed out the word free, thunderous applause erupted, with the audience according recognition and appreciation for a performance that would equal or surpass the applause for any rendition of the song at major league baseball games.

The family prospered for many years, but in time the area fell on hard times, a deep economic depression that required them to forage for sustenance over a wide range. They had a plentiful supply of poke salad, a type of green made from pokeweed, a plant that grows wild over a wide range. When properly prepared, pokeweed is a palatable and digestible green, similar to turnip greens and spinach. However, preparation must be meticulous because, if not properly prepared, the weed is poisonous—it has the ability and proclivity to kill a person soon after its ingestion. The images on the right show the living plant and a woman preparing a meal that includes poke salad—ummm, looks tasty!

Not long after the depression hit, visitors seeking entertainment from the family’s beloved pet were told that the pig was not available. On questioning Al’s whereabouts, they were first briefed about the hard times on which the family had fallen, with emphasis on its inability to adequately nourish the children, primarily because poke salad did not furnish the protein necessary for survival. So in answer to the question, the grandmother would furnish a prepared answer, one couched in the form of a poem:

“Our young’uns was hungry,

And we was too,

So we done the only thang

That we knowed to do.

We et Al!

We et everthang ‘cept her squeal, and we shore do miss ‘er!”

Please don’t laugh—this is a true story, as told to me by the banjo-playing boy from Deliverance, a great movie that starred Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty—if you can find it on VHS or DVD, check it out—it’s well worth the watch!

In an odd way this posting is related to the movie, because in one scene the script called for Ned Beatty to squeal like a pig—Ned squealed beautifully, so well that he was awarded Hollywood’s Oscar for Best Squeal of the Year. The award could better have been titled Best Squeal Ever.

And just in case that a reader of this posting—any reader—really believes this is a true story, as told to me by the young banjo picker in that movie, I stand ready to offer that reader a fantastic deal on some ocean-front property near Flagstaff, Arizona—I’m reasonably certain that we can come to an agreement on the price.

Just one more thought, a word of precaution to anyone that harbors thoughts of using the poem above for mercenary purposes—the poem that reveals the fate of the fair Alberta. The poem is my creation, given birth by me. It should be obvious to any viewer that I expended a considerable amount of my time, talent and energy in its creation, and the fruits of my labor should not be harvested by others. Beware—the poem has been properly copyrighted and made a matter of record in all the appropriate venues.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.



 
 

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Irregardless—correct speech, or double negative?

This posting consists of a series of comments posted to my blog in my About the King of Texas section. I consider the comments and my responses worthy of being brought into the bright light of day instead of remaining in the shadows of the comment section. My purpose is to share those brilliant interchanges with the ever-growing legions journeying to my blog, throngs—nay, multitudes—that include the brightest of the brightest—intellectuals all, erudite to the very core, whether subjects of The King of Texas or visitors from far flung regions ruled by lesser monarchs.

To view the original About the King of Texas, click here.

Comment posted by Barbara Kelley on June 13, 2009:

Dear King of Texas:
You write like Flannery O’Connor, so maybe you are the King O’Texas. I am going to delve more into this blog at a later time—you know, when I can wrap my mind around it. What do you think of the word “irregardless?”

My response:

Hi, Barbara—thanks for the comment, particularly for your comparison of my writing to that of Flannery O’Connor—I’ll accept it as a compliment, regardless of her propensity to lace her writings with grotesque characters.

I appreciate your application of an apostrophe to my title—apostrophication, so to speak. I know—apostrophication is not a word—at least it was not a word until I created it. I couldn’t find it anywhere online or offline. I should probably apply for a patent so I could draw royalties each time the word is used.

I love it—there is probably a wee bit of Irish in all of us, including our current president. And here I must give thanks and a tip of my kingly crown to Kinky Freedman, a well-known Texas resident, a successful writer and sometimes candidate (unsuccessful) for public office. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kinky said that he would vote for that Irishman, Barak O’Bama.

As regards—or in regard to—or regarding—irregardless:

Irregardless is not a proper word, regardless of its appearance in dictionaries and regardless of its use in speeches and writings by supposedly erudite persons. An exception might be when the user is faced with an untutored audience, one that might accept its use as proper—audiences in certain southern hilly or swampy areas, for example.

You know, of course, that the prefix ir means not, and the suffix less means without, ergo the non-word irregardless contains a double negative.

Less negates regard all by itself—it needs no help from ir.

Thanks again for your visit and for your comment. Please feel free to “delve more into” my blog—I welcome your comments, whether compliments or criticisms, and I will respond to either—or both.

Comment posted by Mary Ellen Ryall on July 26, 2009:

Good morning: One day one of our officers said, “I can’t wrap my head around it right now.” I thought, what does she mean? Well, I know now. I became overloaded with projects at work and simply couldn’t take on one more responsibility. Still, I don’t appreciate this kind of expression. Why not just say, I have too much responsibility right now and can’t take on anything more at this time. Information overload is a reality in the work world now unfortunately.

Cindy Dyer is our graphic artist. She mentioned what a great writer you are. I can see you enjoy being a student of language. The world needs those who can express themselves with polish and flair. The gift of writing using eloquent language skills is fast disappearing from this world.

Comment made by Will Howard on February 14, 2020:

I just delight in your writing. Texas would be so improved if you would make Texas the focus of your wise wit frequently.

My response:

Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment. It’s a nice compliment, one that I cheerfully and gratefully accept, and I will in future postings strive to incorporate Texas to the greatest extent possible, whether witty or not so.

Texas is not my native state, but as the bromide goes, “I got here as soon as I could.” I arrived long ago in the past century as a lowly serf, one among many subjects in our military forces, and in the interim I have ascended to the throne—I am now The King of Texas, albeit the result of self-crowning and self-anointment. It’s important for one to note that the first word in my title is The, and that word makes me supreme, not susceptible to the actions of pretenders and contenders thirsting for my throne and fame—they can use the title A King of Texas or King of Texas or Texas’ King, etc., but none can rightfully claim to be The King of Texas, at least not as a blogger on WordPress.com.

I would like to believe that your comment was inspired purely by your having read About the King of Texas on my blog, but I have reason to suspect that the comment was perhaps tinged—tainted, so to speak—with the purpose of introducing me to your web site and its various connections.

Hey, whether true or otherwise, I have no problem with it. After reading your comment several times while blushing with sinful pride, I rushed to your site and spent a considerable amount of time rambling around it and its connections, then I bookmarked it and forwarded it to several people. And as Ahhnuld is wont to say, “I’ll be bach!”

 
 

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Why they call it Garcia’s Cave . . .

In the spring of 1979, a father-and-daughter team (a college student of 18 tender years and a military-retiree father of 47 not-so-tender years) embarked on a memorable sojourn, an excursion into the wilds of Mexico. The start of our trip was discussed in detail in this posting here.

At the conclusion of that posting I promised to return and give more details of the excursion, and here I am, making good on my promise. Check out the other posting—in my completely unbiased opinion, it’s well worth the read.

And here I must digress in order to discuss the word excursion:

The ex in that word comes from the Latin and means out of. I therefore rationalized that since our trip was in to Mexico rather than out of Mexico, it was an incursion rather that an outcursion, but alas—although that seems rational, we are stuck with excursion simply because the words cursion and incursion do not exist in our English lexicon.

Bummer!

My daughter recently sent this message suggesting some details to include in the promised posting:

Hey, don’t forget to talk about the actual ride up, going into the cave, lights being turned off while we were climbing treacherous ladders, you talking in Spanish to the “tour guide” (VERY loosely defined; he was probably the short order cook in the cafe, too) and asking him why they named it Garcia’s Cave, then you trying to cajole me into walking back down to our teeny tiny Volkswagen Rabbit in the desert—seemingly miles away—a bright orange (um, sorry, Panama Brown) speck in the dirt below—then your silence on the tram ride back down—then you finally telling me how the cave got its name.

Following our guided tour of Garcia’s Cave, my daughter took an interminable length of time to photograph the world that was visible from our location near the mountain peak. While I waited (impatiently) I struck up a conversation with the mule operator, a likable fellow that spoke excellent Spanish.

Although my ability and agility with Spanish was, and still is, far south of excellent, we managed to have a useful discourse by using combinations of our two languages. Mule was the term used in reference to the engine (not the operator) that huffed and puffed and wheezed and snorted and brayed while moving the tram cars up and down the mountain.

Our English term mule is translated as mula in Spanish, pronounced moola with the accent on moo. I once spent an eternity in a small theater in Reynosa, Mexico watching the movie Dos mulas para la hermana Sara, starring Shirley MacLaine and Clint Eastwood—the English title of the movie was Two Mules for Sister Sara.

Yes, I had a lot of time on my hands!

In response to my question concerning the origin of the cave’s name, the mule operator told me that it derived from the death of the cave’s discoverer, a death that occurred when a tram cable broke and Senor Garcia was killed at the conclusion of the car’s accelerated trip to the bottom.

Bummer!

I found a site online that tells us that the appellation Garcia’s Cave is derived from the name of a nearby town called Villa de Garcia—Garcia’s town. I suppose the name is similar to the argument of whether the chicken or the egg came first—in this case, Garcia’s death or the town of Garcia. I submit that the point is moot, especially in view of the fact that our solar system, the one that includes our planet, is hurtling through space at warp speed toward some unknown and unknowable finish—so who cares which came first?

I rest my case.

Okay, where was I? Oh, now I remember—I was visiting with the mule operator while my daughter was taking some outstanding photos of our surroundings. When she had finished, I suggested that it would be ever so exciting to walk down the mountainside, along with the cows and goats that roamed the mountain at our altitude—I reasoned that if they could do it, we could do it.

My daughter was adamant—she refused to take the walk, and I eventually was reduced to begging rather than suggesting (I knew better than to attempt ordering!). We both rode down—I simply held my breath and kept my eyes squinched shut, silently repeating to myself (an always avid listener), Never again, never again—never, never, never!, until the car came to a bumpy stop at the bottom.

There are several web sites that go onto considerable detail concerning Garcia’s Cave, and I suggest that everyone visit the cave through that venue—you’ll find the excursion interesting and educational. Should you choose to make the incursion to the mountain, you’ll find that the railway has been replaced by a modern system of airborne cable cars, a system undoubtedly safer, but not nearly as exciting (and scary) as the old system.

I will therefore conclude this rambling recitation by telling the viewer that, at one point in our guided tour, while deep in the bowels of the cave our guide, without warning, shut off all the lighting, leaving us stranded in an infernal, hellish state of stygian darkness—frozen, afraid to move in fear of sinking farther into said bowels. I wanted to express my feelings in Spanish, but I knew very few Spanish cuss words. I did, however, mutter a few English cuss words, heard only by my daughter—I hope.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

To learn more about Grutas de Garcia, click here.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 17, 2010 in Family, foreign travel, Humor, Writing

 

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Be aware—be very aware . . .

I have just learned a new word. Given the remote possibility that one or more of my viewers may be unfamiliar with the word I will use it in a sentence, for their benefit and to help spread the word far and wide. At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first saw the word I figured it referred to some sort of alcoholic drink because of its resemblance to the Spanish word sangria, “. . . a delicious, fruit-based wine “punch” with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.

First, the presentation and definition of that word—to paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Here’s a new word for ya!”

san·gui·nar·y (adjective)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

1. Accompanied by bloodshed.

2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.

3. Consisting of blood.

1. sanguinary—accompanied by bloodshed; “this bitter and sanguinary war”sanguineous, slaughterous, butcherly, gory bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

2. sanguinary—marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed; “bloody-minded tyrants”; “bloodthirsty yells”; “went after the collaborators with a sanguinary fury that drenched the land with blood”-G.W.Johnson—bloodthirsty, bloody-minded bloody— having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

Here is the new word (example #2 in bold) properly used in a sentence:

The sanguinary talking heads on cable’s MSNBC, labeled PMSNBC by Rush Limbaugh, comprise a group of professionals, a group in which  all, in varying degrees, launch verbal and vicious attacks on everyone and everything they consider to be standing on, or even leaning towards, the political right in our nation’s political spectrum.

I neither condemn nor praise the speakers on MSNBC. In an attempt to understand both sides of political issues, I attempt to devote equal viewing and listening time to MSNBC and another network, a network  that  claims to be fair and balanced, saying We report, you decide—catchy and lofty phrases, but phrases that one should not accept whole cloth—the facts and opinions expressed on that network should be compared  to facts and opinions expressed on other networks.

For anyone that may need their memory freshened on the meaning of whole cloth, the following definition is furnished—the bolding of certain words is mine:

WHOLE CLOTH <a href=”http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

[Q] From an anonymous correspondent: Do you have any information on the meaning or origin of the term whole cloth?

[A] Literally, the phrase refers to a complete piece of cloth as it is first made, as opposed to one which has been cut up to make garments. It goes back at least to the fifteenth century in that sense. Down the years, it has been used in a variety of figurative senses, but in the early nineteenth century it began to be employed in the US in the way that we now know, of something that is wholly fabricated or a complete lie. The implication seems to be that a thing made from whole cloth has no previous history or associations, that it is created from a blank sheet in the same way that a total lie is invented.

And finally this posting has come to its end, or at least it is nearing its end. Whether it is a noble or ignoble posting must be decided by its viewers. Each viewer will have the opportunity to rate the posting at its conclusion with five levels—stars— to use for voting.

Note that a vote to the far right star means excellent, and a vote to the far left star means poor, and I believe that one could surmise that the star in the middle stands for average—the center, if you will.

The positioning and the relative value of the stars is either a startling coincidence or a really well thought out and well developed voting system furnished by WordPress. Color me wary and susceptible to subliminal messages, but I seem to fixate on a particular star for voting purposes, and I rarely deviate from that position.

You should be aware and cognizant of the stars’ positions and their relative values before you vote. You will not have the option of changing your vote, so please don’t vote erroneously and paint yourself into a corner, so to speak—you may leave a posting with a specific label, other than the one to which you adhere, attached to your lapel—so to speak.

I just noticed that in my typing above I inadvertently omitted the A in be aware and failed to space, thus combining the words be and ware. I corrected the typos but not before I noticed something significant that resulted from my errors. Can you guess what resulted? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

Give up? Fail to space between the words be and aware and omit the a and the two words are converted to beware. I have just created a maxim, namely that, “If one does not be aware of all possibilities of certain situations, one should beware,” shortened to “Be aware, or beware!

That admonition qualifies as outstanding poster material and should be posted in every work center, on every street corner, on every marquee, on the giant digital billboards in Times Square, on auto license plates, on Hallmark’s greeting cards, on home wall decorations and prominently displayed on ladies purses as a reminder to the lady that purse snatchers prey on women, and as a warning to potential purse snatchers that the lady is very much aware of that fact. The possibilities are endless—as is, apparently, this posting.

How about that? I probably should copyright that maxim and charge for its use—I could profit significantly from my creation! No, not really—as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure my creation is not new—knowing that it is not new does not preclude my claiming to be its discoverer—it’s in my nature!

If this posting garners a significant number of votes, the results may be worthy of a subsequent posting, so I urge all viewers to follow the example of many that vote in our local, regional and national elections:

Vote early and vote often!

I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative, but please be gentle.

That’s my  story and I’m sticking to  it.

 
 

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Turn around and bend over . . .

I wonder how many people out there remember Dragnet, an early black-and-white television show starring Jack Webb and Ben Alexander. That law-and-order series was my very first exposure to television, viewed in an Atlanta, Georgia motel on Peachtree Street in 1952, the same year that I returned from a two-year tour of the Orient (Japan and Korea). Oops, I forgot something—I watched part of the 1947 World Series, the very first time it was broadcast in color. You can read all about it here.

The television in my room on Peachtree Street was activated and kept active by inserting quarters into a coin slot mounted on the set—one quarter bought thirty minutes of viewing—if the minutes ran out in the middle of a show, a viewer had to be fast on the draw to recover the picture by inserting another quarter—not being particularly fast on the draw, I compensated for that deficiency by sitting close to the set.

I slept very little that night—I fed all my quarters to the television, and made two trips to the motel office for more quarters. I was in Atlanta to reenlist in the military, a process I completed the following day, one that was both hilarious and sad.

The next day, December 20, 1952, dawned clear and cold, a day that holds memories both funny and psychologically painful for me. I left my motel room on Peachtree Street early, and arrived at Fort McPherson at 0830 hours to submit to a physical examination required for my reenlistment for another four years in the United States Air Force. On that day 500 men reported to Fort McPherson for physicals, a huge group that included volunteer enlistees, re-enlistees and draftees. After a brief signing-in process, we were ordered to remove all clothing except shorts, and were told that, should we be so inclined, we could remove that item as well.

The provision to retain underwear did not apply to those wearing long-handles, a winter underwear garment that covers everything except head, neck, hands and feet—you know, that one-piece winter accessory that is strategically fitted with a button-up drop flap in back. There were no long-handle wearing participants present, a fortunate exception for the wearer and for the rest of us. It would prove to be a very long day, and having someone’s Johnson or someone’s Willie, depending on one’s terminology preference, staring (or peeking) and waving at us as we moved from one location to another would have been disconcerting—for some, perhaps, but perhaps not for others.

I have spent what may be regarded as an inordinate amount of space and number of words in this first paragraph, but it was necessary because I needed to present some important details. We were told to bundle our clothes, place them on the floor and then form a single line. We obediently obeyed those orders, all 500 of us. That line snaked out the door and down a long corridor, then a 90-degree left turn and farther down another long corridor. Buildings at the installation were connected by those corridors, enabling people to move from building to building without being exposed to inclement weather, including rain, heat and cold. And cold is the operative word for that day. Those corridors were not heated, and their floors were covered with linoleum.

I was near the end of the line that formed, and my feet were bare—yes, I removed everything except my shorts—I have always been one to follow orders unless I stood to sustain injuries in doing so. As a result of leaving my socks with my bundle, I stood on one foot for much of the day, letting one foot freeze while its counterpart warmed up a bit—I felt, and probably looked like, a Florida flamingo.

Now that I’ve laid the stage, this posting will be mercifully short. Our physical exams progressed as the sun reached its zenith, and continued well into the afternoon as shadows lengthened. We filled out innumerable forms and presented ourselves for weight measurement, height measurement, eye exams, dental exams, exams of our privates, rectal exams, IQ tests, blood draws, urine sampling, dexterity tests, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The only moment of comedy relief came after we marched into a large room and lined ourselves around its perimeter while a doctor stopped in front of each man, had him drop his shorts so the doctor could take a cursory look at his genitals, then pull his shorts back up. The doctor then stepped in front of the next man, and on and on until the line was completed. He then ordered us to face the wall, drop our shorts and bend over so he could make the rounds again, ostensibly making a visual rectal examination.

When he finished that round he told us to restore our shorts to their original position and face front. At that point the doctor made a declarative statement. He had earlier directed a rhetorical question to an individual while the doctor was performing a visual examination of that individual’s genitals: He said, “Damn, boy, have you been driving nails with that thing?”

Revealing the racial composition of the man to which the question was directed should not be necessary, but I will point to the doctor’s use of the term “boy.” This was in Georgia and the year was 1952, long before the passage of civil rights legislation, and long before the concept of political correctness swept the nation.

And in the words of Tom Horn, as portrayed in the movie by Steve McQueen, “I’ll have nothing further to say on the subject.” (I love that movie!)

The doctor’s declarative statement was made just after he ordered us to pull our shorts up and face front after he completed his visual rectal examination. When we were faced front he said, “Well, it’s just as I expected—they’re all brown!” There were several chuckles, titters and giggles, but none from me—my feet were so cold that, had I attempted a laugh it would have sounded like something akin to the “He-haw, he-haw” of an Alabama mule—a bit more subdued, of course.

The long day eventually came to a successful close, and I embarked on my second enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, a career that would end several months after I completed my twenty-second year and retired for length of service

Nope—my retirement did not include even one percent of disability. I had no lower back pain and I even passed the hearing test—bummer!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in actor and acting, grammar, Humor, Military

 

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A shaggy dog story . . .

My mother remarried when I was nine years old, and for the next six years, for varying periods of time I had the privilege of living under the auspices of a stepfather. Those periods varied because several times during those years, for one reason or another, he banished his new family to other pastures. I suspect that each time he had accumulated enough of a grubstake to make it on his own for awhile without having three millstones around his neck, namely a wife and two children, he would precipitate a ruckus that would drive us away, in one instance a ruckus that included these remarks:

“Come on back to the house, kids, I won’t hurt you,” a sentence shouted from the front porch to the two children standing out in the road, poised to run. That supplication was followed by a louder and very sinister shout. He said very forcefully, “I’m going to get my shotgun,” and with that exclamation he disappeared into the house and the two kids disappeared down the road. That was the only time my sister ever managed to outrun me—she managed that by running so fast that she kicked up gravel in my face—yes, Virginia, it was a graveled road. I may possibly be exaggerating a bit, but only a bit—that she outran me is factual—I can neither explain nor deny it. We ran a short distance on the road alongside a pasture to a point where the woods began, then plunged into the forest and hid in the bushes and the underbrush.

And now I will leave my legions of viewers in suspense, undoubtedly wondering what started the fracas and how that episode turned out. I’ll finish that story in another posting because it was not the original subject for this posting, my shaggy dog story.

This is how it began:

My stepfather mandated that everyone in the family be gainfully employed, a mandatory requirement that extended to animals. He allowed no pets—no cats on the hearth and no lapdogs—he felt that if an animal did no work it was not entitled to be fed, and that included human animals. He would feed and groom, and if necessary medicate, a working dog but only as long as it produced. If a watchdog didn’t bark to ward off intruders, it shortly disappeared, ostensibly a runaway. If a hunting dog slacked off noticeably in its production of game, whether rabbit dog, squirrel dog or bird dog, that dog would also disappear and be labeled a runaway.

I have a memory, one dear to my heart and closely held, of a particularly lovely autumn day in the sovereign state of Mississippi. On that day I went squirrel hunting with my stepfather. We were accompanied by a small black-and-white female Cocker Spaniel named Lady, a beautiful little dog my stepfather had borrowed from a fellow hunter. The dog’s owner claimed that Lady was the finest squirrel dog in the state and perhaps the finest in the entire nation. At my stepfather’s request, the owner left her at our house some weeks before the scheduled hunt, and my stepfather courted her religiously during that period—he petted her and groomed her and hand-fed her, constantly assuring me that Lady, or any dog, would work best for a person they loved and trusted.

From this point on, the posting will be brief and brutal . . .

We entered the woods with Lady and began the hunt. For those not versed in the intricacies of squirrel hunting with a squirrel dog, the dog is trained to range far and wide through the woods to pick up the scent of a squirrel on the ground, then follow that trail to whatever tree the squirrel has ascended, and bark furiously until the hunter arrives and blasts the squirrel out of the tree. Our little hunter, however,  stayed right at our feet, so close that we had to walk carefully to avoid stepping on her, and she completely ignoring my stepfather’s exhortations to, “Hunt—hunt, damn it, hunt!”

He finally spotted a gray squirrel running along a high branch, and when it stopped to check us out my stepfather downed it with a blast from his 16-guage Browning, and with that roar our squirrel dog disappeared—we never saw her again. We tramped the woods for hours, but no amount of calling, whistling and cussing (that’s southern for cursing) could bring her back. The calling and whistling soon tapered off, but the cussing went on for an interminable length of time.

I was not privy to whatever agreement my stepfather reached with the dog’s owner, but armed with the knowledge that owners of great squirrel dogs take great pride in the dog and therefore sometimes place an inordinate value on it, I suspect that my stepfather paid handsomely for not returning Lady to her rightful owner.

That’s my shaggy dog story, and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in Humor

 

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Age 10, with a job as water carrier for mobile homes . . .

Picture this: The year was 1942 and World War II was raging. Now picture a location near Oak Ridge, Tennessee where construction and work on the world’s first atomic bomb was in progress. That location was known as Gamble Valley, Tennessee, a trailer city peopled by many of those involved, one way or another, in the best kept secret of World War II—the building of the world’s first nuclear weapon, bombs that would be dropped in 1945 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and bring to a conclusion our long war with Japan.

And finally, picture a family living in one of Gamble Valley’s modular homes-on-wheels, a small family consisting of one mother, one stepfather and two children, a boy of ten years and his sister, a firebrand just eighteen months older than her brother. We arrived there in early summer, shortly after the end of the school year, and left shortly before the end of summer.

The home was only eight feet wide and thirty feet long while being transported, but when placed for occupancy its width was expanded with panels, some of which had been stored on top in transit and others that folded out to make the home larger. That expansion, with an additional 12 feet of floor space added on each side of the 30-foot length, provided an overall area of 960 square feet, cramped but adequate for that small family.

Entrance was gained through the kitchen, with the dining area straight ahead and two spaces on either side, each measuring twelve by fifteen feet (there was no back door). In effect, in addition to the kitchen and the dining area, the expansion created four other spaces that could, when curtained off, be used either as bedrooms, living rooms or storage space.

Floor-to-ceiling curtains hanging on ceiling rails provided visual privacy for the two spaces on each side of the home, a system identical to that used today in most hospitals. With all the curtains closed, four rooms were created, each closed off from the kitchen, the dining area and the other three rooms by the curtains. The curtains were lightweight and had no muffling properties. And trust me, some of the sounds needed to be muffled.

The curtains were adequate for visual privacy, but there were no provisions for vocal sounds nor for sounds other than vocal—and as one might expect, there were many sounds, both vocal and otherwise. Punishment, including corporeal, verbal and psychological, was meted out behind drawn curtains by one-fourth of the family—the stepfather—to the other three-fourths of the family—my mother, my sister and me. There were lots of arguments, private conversations and various activities that I and my sister always heard, but never were privileged to see.

Now on to my job as water carrier for my home and for paying customers. The trailers had no bathrooms and no running water. The kitchen was equipped with water storage tanks that could be filled to provide water suitable for drinking, cooking and for washing dishes. Known as gray water, the dish water was drained from the trailers and moved through a buried pipeline to a distant waste water area. The village had centrally located communal bath houses that included restrooms, showers and laundry facilities.

My stepfather mandated that everyone in the family be gainfully employed, a trait that extended to animals. He allowed no pets—no cats or lapdogs—he felt that if an animal did no work it was not entitled to be fed, and that included human animals. He would feed and groom a working dog only as long as it produced. If a watchdog didn’t bark to ward off intruders, it shortly disappeared, ostensibly a runaway. If a hunting dog slacked off noticeably in its production of game, whether rabbit dog, squirrel dog or bird dog, that dog would also disappear, and would also earn the label of runaway.

Special note: The paragraph above will reappear as the preamble to another posting, one to be published shortly after this one is published. Stay tuned.

Forgive me for digressing from my original subject, that of being a water carrier for trailer homes at age ten. This is how it was: The kitchen water tanks were fitted with a filler tube that was accessed outside the home. My stepfather convinced several people, a dozen or so, to hire me at one dollar a week to keep their water tank filled. I was outfitted with two water buckets, each with a three-gallon capacity, and a tin funnel with a long neck, ideal for slipping into the outside neck of the water tank.

Water weighs about six pounds per gallon, so with a bucketful of water filled at the laundry facility in each hand, I was carrying (we called it toting in those days) about 36 pounds—not an extreme weight, but more than enough for a boy of ten. I don’t know how much I weighed then, but six years later when I took a physical to enlist in the U.S. Army I weighed a whopping 110 pounds. It’s probably safe to say that I weighed significantly more than I did when I was just ten years old.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the neck of the funnel was flexible, so I curled it around my neck while in transit, full buckets in one direction, empty in the other—admittedly it was not the most inspiring work for which a young boy could wish—I would have been much happier at shearing sheep or castrating bull calves, anything other than carrying water—in fact, it left such an indelible imprint that since that time I have used every excuse available to avoid carrying other people’s water.

Another memory that has escaped me is the capacity of the trailer tanks, nor do I remember how many buckets it took to fill an empty tank. The part I  remember best is that I had to continue hauling water until the filler neck overflowed, and I did that twice a week for each of the dozen or so customers on my list. And I don’t remember my weekly income or my total income for that summer, but I have vivid memories of how that income was divided—half of my weekly take went to my mother for my board and keep, one dollar to me to spend at my leisure and my pleasure, with the remainder going for victory stamps, purchased at the post office for twenty-five cents each—this was my contribution to winning the war, albeit a non-voluntary contribution.

Following its purchase, each stamp was pasted into a special book furnished by the post office. It took $18.75 to fill the $25-dollar stamp book, a book that at maturity would be, some seven years later, worth a whopping $25. None of my books ever made it to the $25 dollar level. They were necessarily turned into cash during separations from my stepfather during the war years, separations necessitated by his violent temper that flared when something did not go his way.

When I started this posting, a flood of memories washed over me—friends I made, games I played, digging up our front yard and planting vegetables (under my stepfather’s direction), a gaggle of family conflicts, my mother teaching me to embroider—I finished decorating a tablecloth and a napkin set that summer—and many more memories worthy of telling, but I must conclude my rambling for now—I’m running out of paper.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor, Travel, wartime

 

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Don’t blame Madoff . . .

Don’t place all the blame on Madoff for the billions of dollars that passed from thousands of people to him, his family, his friends and his associates through his Ponzi scheme. Many of those thousands that were bilked enjoyed the rarefied atmosphere found in our top income brackets, but most breathed the common air of middle incomes. Those billions of dollars handed to Madoff were considered by all to be investments, but after a considerable amount of time passed—years—the truth was outed. Those billions of dollars were actually donations, given freely to Madoff and his investment company, given in anticipation of earning fantastic profits.

The blame is not Madoff’s alone—he is guilty, of course, but that guilt must be shared by his victims.

Madoff is now firmly incarcerated, entombed by our criminal justice system and will remain entombed for the next thousand years or so, or until he dies, whichever comes first. He is enduring a punishment for something that was not his fault—well, perhaps half of it was his fault, but no more than half. The other half of that fault lies with the people that followed a trail of crumbs of greed, one carefully laid by Madoff, to its ultimate destination—the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Many of his victims—not all, but perhaps most—were honest and hardworking people, all expecting to profit by dabbling in the stock market and thereby improving their lives, a perfectly normal expectation in our capitalistic society.

Those that were scammed by Madoff’s Ponzi scheme were sorely afflicted with gullibility and greed, a two-pronged disease that will always be lurking in the darkness, ready to oblige anyone that expects to receive something in return for giving nothing. Such are those that firmly believe in that fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

We have a maxim that will protect us from similar situations, but only if we acknowledge its truth and follow it scrupulously. That maxim goes like this:

If something seems too good to be true, it isn’t.

A simple and straightforward adage and one to which we should all adhere. And there is another simple and straightforward adage to which each of us should adhere. This adage is my adage, or maxim if you will, coined by me. I give it freely, with neither hope nor need of recompense—no hope or need of monetary recompense, but I would appreciate and acknowledge recognition of its value. Here is my contribution to civilization:

Every person now living, and every person that arrives later, can be had.

For anyone unfamiliar with the verb phrase to be had, it means can be screwed. In this instance the verb screwed is a remarkably understandable synonym for cheated—the verb to screw has substantially different meanings, of course, as do many verbs in our language.

Conjugation of the verb to be screwed would be screwed, screwed and screwed. Present, past and future tense would be, I am screwed, I was screwed, I will be screwed again.

If confession is good for the soul, then mine is about to be washed clean—I have been had, not once but many times over a lifetime of susceptibility, a life that has taken me far beyond senior citizen status and still counting. The situations in which I have been had differ only in degree—everything else is the same, identical to the situation in which people were had by Madoff. In every instance in which I have been had, I was afflicted with and guided by gullibility and greed.

Trust me—those two emotions are always present and are always the culprits when one is had—there are no exceptions. Many years ago I was had by a carnival barker that promised me a huge profit if I would only toss wooden rings at several rows of wooden pegs. Each peg had a specific point value that ranged from one-half point up to a much higher number of points—there was an explanatory chart taped to the counter top showing the various point values.

Prizes to be given ranged from teddy bears to televisions, prominently arrayed on shelves behind the counter, to be given depending on the number of points earned from tossing the rings at the pegs. Each ring had to be paid for before the toss. The ring could be tossed until a peg was ringed, and the number of points on that peg were earned and added to the total points already earned, if any.

The limited amount of money I brought to the carnival—only five dollars or so—was soon expended, and after my last dollar had been pissed away—oops, I meant thrown away—I needed only one-half of one point to win the brass ring—my choice of any prize behind the counter. As a precaution prior to investing more money, I studied that fraction-filled point chart (studiously) and found that the lowest fraction on the chart was one-half—1/2—of one point.

There was no one-fourth—1/4—point!

Voila!

How could I lose?

The answer?

I couldn’t lose!

I only needed to toss rings until my toss circled a one-half point peg, and the brass ring would be mine!

I only needed the wherewithal to purchase more rings.

I was a proud enlisted member of our American military force at the time. I was paid once monthly at the end of each month—not much, but I was paid regularly. I was four days away from payday and neither my wife nor I had any more money with us, but safely ensconced at home, well hidden against the possibility that a burglar might ransack our home, was one twenty-dollar greenback.

And now for the rest of that story:

I hied myself to our home, extracted the bill from its hiding place, returned to the carnival, began tossing rings and finally, after I had the entire twenty dollars invested, the barker said, “This one’s a winner.” The brass ring winner? No—the last peg I ringed with that stupid wooden ring that took the last one of my twenty dollars showed only one-fourth of a point.

I protested vigorously and vehemently, charging that the chart taped to the counter did not include a one-fourth—1/4—point. The barker calmly placed a fingertip on the chart, and my gaze followed that stupid grimy hand and its stupid grimy fingertip with its stupid nail packed with dirt to a number that definitely and indelibly read as follows:

1/4.

It hurt horribly and I protested loudly, threatening to leave and return with my base commander, all without effect—my twenty dollars could never be retrieved. For all the good that bill did me, I might as well have utilized it at home and then flushed it.

That’s my story—I could have told other stories, some involving more money and some less, and some involving other than money, but this is as good an example as I have to demonstrate my theory of gullibility and greed. I did not see the 1/4 point on the chart because I did not want to see it. It was there, but my gullibility and greed infected and affected my vision, resulting in the loss of our accumulated cash wealth at the time.

I say that in all seriousness. We had no money in a checking account or savings account because we had no bank account. With the loss of the twenty we had no money, nothing to exchange at the commissary for food or for baby formula, diapers and talcum powder. Other than that ill-fated twenty-dollar bill, we had absolutely nothing reserved for a calamitous event such as the one precipitated, with treacherous and malicious aforethought, by that damned carnival barker—may he rest in (fill in the blank).

Bummer!

I was gullible and greedy, just as were the victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. However, that incident has stood me in good stead over the years since. I readily admit that I can be had, that somewhere in my world there is some silver-tongued devil that has the ability to make a profit off me by focusing on those two emotions, and I resist it with every fiber of my being, knowing that it could happen again.

In the near future I plan to post the story of how we made it through the last four days before payday. That posting will be a sad tale that involves floating a five-dollar loan and completing a sales transaction, both successful only because of the beneficence of two fellow service members.

A special note: The brass ring was an item that could be snagged by a rider whirling around on one of the old time carnival merry-go-rounds, provided that the rider had a very long reach—hence the expression go for the brass ring. A rider that snagged the brass ring qualified for a prize, one of very little value but one sought for desperately, particularly by young men eager to impress their dates, or perhaps by young men eager to impress other young men, or by young women eager to impress—etc., etc.—who knows who or why? I don’t know whether the practice still exists—I do know that it did exist—I tried many times, but I never caught the brass ring.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2010 in Family, friends, Humor, stock market

 

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Lightning, lobsters and babes in the woods . . .

The e-mail that follows was sent by one of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. She suggested that I tell the story of a camping trip we took in the summer of 1986, a jaunt that began in northern Virginia and took us through Washington D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and back to Virginia—ten states, eleven counting Virginia, and the District of Columbia, all in just six days. We were really happy to get back home!

This is her e-mail:

Here’s a memory to get you started: Our road trip to Maine….you wanted lobster…I ordered chicken (no surprise there)…she brought us the food, then left. You called her over to ask for the lobster cracker thingies and she said, “That family over there is using them.” We were blown away that they only had one set—-something about “people keep taking them” or something like that. I don’t remember what happened or how long you had to wait, but it put a damper on your “famous Maine lobster” adventure.

Then the night in the tent in the campground…and the lightning and raining and horrendous thunder…seeing shadows of trees through the tent when the flashes occurred….then you whispered, “Where are your arms?” I asked why and you said, “Tuck them in and don’t touch the metal on the bed….JUST IN CASE.” Way to go to scare your kid, pop! This would have been spring or early summer 1985, I think. I’ll check the date on my slides to verify, though.

My daughter touched on the lobster snafu and the night we spent in a non-waterproofed tent while a storm raged around and over us, and one might legitimately say, with one of its components—water—inside the tent with us. At twilight that day we luckily stumbled upon a small state park in Maine with tent grounds, and we pitched our tent under the comforting arms of a giant oak, reasoning that its shade would be welcome the following day. The Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best with the phrase that began his 1830 novel Paul Clifford: It was a dark and stormy night . . .

For us it was not only a dark and stormy night—it was also a very wet night that we spent in our two-person tent, an item we purchased new just before we began our odyssey, along with two aluminum folding cots, two light-weight sleeping bags, a one-burner Coleman camp stove and a Coleman two-mantle lantern, both of which used white gas for power. Using the booklet provided we practiced pitching the tent in the parking lot at our apartment, but decided not to follow the instructions to “waterproof your tent by using the waterproofing tubes included.” Since the skies were clear that day in Arlington, Virginia, we surmised, wrongly of course, that they would remain clear for the duration of our camping trip. They did not remain clear.

Note for campers: Do not—I repeat, do not—pitch a tent of any size under a tree of any size regardless of the weather and regardless of whether the tent is waterproofed. The absolute last place one should be in a storm is under a tree, whether in a tent, a car, a trailer, a wagon or just standing, sitting or lying under a tree. Trees and lighting bolts appear to have a passion for one another—everyone knows, of course, that lightning goes upward from the ground, quite often from a tree, and is met by its counterpart coming down from the clouds. We can pass this gem of knowledge we gleaned on our trip: Weather has an odd way of changing abruptly—in our case it changed so abruptly that we had neither time to relocate our tent, nor time (or the means) to waterproof it.

The massive storm hit around 9:00 p.m. and lasted for an eternity, with brilliant flashes of lightning and rolling thunder, sounds comparable to the sounds made by massive landslides with huge trees snapping like twigs—before the night was over it sounded like Mount Helena blowing its top. Of course my imagination was at high pitch, fueled by something similar to fear—no, not just similar to fear, it was fear. For awhile I feared that I could drown even if the lighting didn’t get me. Not surprisingly, my daughter slept soundly through most of the bedlam, awakening only when I whispered, “Where are your arms?”

At one point during the storm I imagined that I could smell sulfur, an odor associated with lightning strikes—some say brimstone, as in “fire and brimstone.” In 1983 in Arizona it smelled like sulfur. I was in a moving automobile at ground zero near the Arizona/Mexico border when a lighting bolt struck and mangled an aluminum guardrail just a few feet from my front-seat passenger position. Come to think of it, that may not have been sulfur I smelled, but I definitely smelled something!

We survived the ordeal of the storm and emerged from our tent, a bit bedraggled but bound to continue on our great adventure, and as time passed we began to remember that night as a fun time and one of the most memorable moments in our trip.

Prior to finding the state park where we camped that night, we stopped in a couple of travel-trailer parks to see if they allowed tent campers. Neither provided sites for tents, but a woman in the second park mentioned that “a nice family” owned and operated a camp nearby and accepted tent campers. While giving me directions, she included a but, a but as in, “But they only accept family campers.” Thinking perhaps that family size was a factor for admission, I told her there were just two of us. She repeated the provision that, “They only accept families,” with strong emphasis on the word families, and then I realized the reason for her repetition of the sentence. She had a good view of me standing in front of her, of course, and she could clearly see my daughter standing outside near our car.

Note: My daughter was twenty-three years old at the time, and I was rushing toward my fifty-third birthday, an approximate age difference of some thirty years. I said, “Oh, I see,” and turned on my heel and left, my heart and my chest swelling with pride, knowing that she actually believed that I could entice a female non-family member such as the lovely 23-year-old girl standing by my car to embark on an extended camping trip with me. As I pranced out of that office I felt much taller than I did when I entered—had I been capable of doing so, I would have snorted, whisked my tail and whinnied all the way out to the car.

Enough is enough, at least for now. I have been criticized and censured for making my postings too long—evidently some viewers’ truncated attention spans prohibit them from spending very much time reading, especially if there is a dearth of photo images in a posting. I will therefore terminate this posting, a tiny vignette, but representative of the memorable experiences we accumulated over the six-day period, and return at a later date with more details.

I promise.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2010 in camping, Family, Humor, Travel

 

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An historic event? Oh, puhleeze!

An historic event?

Oh, puhleeze!

During the recent and still continuing snowfalls across the country, talking heads on television, weather forecasters in particular, have repeatedly characterized and continue to characterize snowstorms and snowfalls as an historic storm and an historical snowfall.

During the recent and still continuing snowfalls across the country, talking heads on television, weather forecasters in particular, have repeatedly characterized and continue to characteriz snowstorms and snowfalls as an historic snowfall and an historical storm.

In the storied (and some say fabled) history of our nation there has never been an historic event, nor has there ever been an historical event. Never. Not one. I can clearly remember reading about historic events in a history book—World War II, for example, and the wrecks of the Titanic and the Hindenburg, the solo flight across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh, and Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent to the top of Mount Everest. I found all those historic events in a history book, but I have never found one in an history book.

If we insist on dropping the H  and saying an historic event, we should apply that rule to all words beginning with H—that would give us an Hoover for a vacuum cleaner, an Hoover for president, an harp for music, an heaven to which we should all aspire, and on and on, ad infinitum.

I realize that such terms as an herb and an herb garden are firmly entrenched in our English language, in spite of the fact that many distinguished speakers and writers refuse to deviate from the terms a herb and a herb garden. Two of those distinguished people immediately come to mind—both Martha Stewart and I refuse to say an herb—we are sticking to a herb. That’s not one of my neighbors—that is the Martha Stewart, a widely known decorator and gardener, and an accepted authority on everything, including herbs, herb gardens and stock market trades.

If both Martha Stewart and I refuse to drop the h in herb in order to use the an rather than the a, that should provide sufficient reason for everyone else to step out of the an line and into the a line—one only needs to take a teenie weenie baby step to move from an egregious wrong to a resounding right—a step from left to right, so to speak. On serious reflection, such a move would be beneficial in other venues, particularly in the political arena.

Folks in Great Britain speak English, albeit English that in a large measure has not kept pace with the times, has not evolved over time as has our use of English to communicate. English-speaking people in Great Britain tend to drop their aitches, particularly those speakers of cockney descent.

The following joke clearly illustrates that tendency (please forgive me for the joke, but I must use the tools that are available to me):

During World War II an American soldier was strolling on the beach with a lovely British girl he had just met. A strong breeze was blowing off the water and the girl’s skirt billowed up over her waist. This was wartime and many products, ladies undergarments for example, were in short supply, hence this lady wore nothing under her skirt. The soldier took a quick look, but not wanting to embarrass her, quickly looked away and exclaimed, “Wow, it’s really airy!”

The girl snapped back, “Well, wot the ‘ell did you expect? Chicken feathers?”

I realize that returning our population to the proper use of a and an is a task that far outstrips Hercules’ assignment to clean the Augean stables. In comparison with Hercules’ assignment to clean the stables in one day, this one will require a tremendous amount of shoveling. Had we two rivers adjacent to the stables as Hercules did, we could divert the  streams to and through the stables as he did, and thus clear up this problem of deciding whether a or an will precede words beginning with an H.

Alas, we do not have the two rivers available for our use, but we do have shovels. I will continue to wield my shovel as long as the misuse of a and an exists, but I sure could use some help!

Oh, just one more thought—the first objection to saying a herb rather than an herb usually involves and invokes the word hour. I readily agree that nobody ever says a hour—they always say an hour. I accept that, but I do not accept it as justification to say an herb. An hour is simply an exception to the rule, exceptions that all of us must recognize and accept.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 10, 2010 in Gardening, grammar, Humor, proper english, wartime, Writing

 

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What I did on my summer vacation, by . . .

Does anyone remember the return to their classroom on the first day of school following the summer hiatus, a return to the unwilling pursuit of an education under the tutelage of teachers toiling at the elementary level? On that first day at my beloved school, every child in every grade (first through sixth) was privileged—nay, ordered—to stand in front of the blackboard, facing the class and disclose some or all of whatever they did on their summer vacation.

Some of my classmates stood stiffly throughout the delivery with arms held rigidly at their side. Others stood with hands in pockets or clasped behind their back, and in some limited cases, especially for the boys but occasionally for one of the girls, with hands covering their crotch, concealing that area of their anatomy. Whether that pose was an effort to divert from, or perhaps attract attention to that area, the “hands covering crotch” was limited by the teacher to a very few seconds, with the remonstration being made before the speech began and sometimes repeated during the presentation.

The title to each speech—the preamble, so to speak—was given rote and was identical for each student except for the name. My speech to my classmates began with this:

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by (fill in first and last name)—as if the rest of the class didn’t know my name!

Everything that followed that ominous start was extemporaneous, a wandering recitation filled with numerous ands, uhs, thens, wells, ain’ts, mispronounced words, poor sentence constructions, conflicting subjects and objects, misuse of adverbs, long looks at one’s feet and even longer (and longing) stares through the classroom windows to the outside world.

Most errors were caught by the teacher, with the resultant corrections and reprimands. If anyone wonders how we got through the first day, just remember that we didn’t change classes during the day—our heinies were glued to our seats all day—we had more than enough time to finish.

A few of our What I Did speeches were mercifully terminated early by the teacher. A classic example of such action was the speech to which we all looked forward, that of a classmate known only by the initials W. A. It isn’t that I’ve forgotten his last name. I remember it well, but I must admit that, for some odd reason, I remember more names of girls than names of boys among my fellow students in elementary school—in fact, I am hard put to remember both given name and surname of any boy from those years (none other than W.A., of course).

W.A.—the boy and his name—is prominent in my memories of elementary school. A unique and very special person, I treasure his memory and could never forget him.

W.A. stuttered—not a slow, drawling stutter one would expect from a Mississippi stutterer but a staccato stutterer, a rapid-fire stutterer, one that soon had the entire class in tears, howling with laughter while our teacher faced away from the class with her gaze apparently fixed on something interesting outside the building.

Although she made no sounds while gazing, W.A.’s speech was apparently so effective that it made her tremble with pleasure—in fact it affected her composure so strongly that she invariably terminated his speech well before he finished. When she told him “That was very good, W.A., thank you,” W.A. always returned her thank you with his own, obviously heartfelt thank you, although it took awhile to return it. Once he got past the tee in thank, the you followed quickly and W.A. could then return to his seat.

We had ample opportunities to develop and perfect thespian skills in our elementary grades. In addition to individual performances in various holiday presentations such as Easter, Halloween, Independence Day and Christmas, we also appeared onstage as a group in the school auditorium, an area that daily doubled as our lunchroom. Each class went onstage en masse, and each student performed—each had a speech to give, a poem to recite, a song to sing, a story to tell, etc.

On a memorable day, perhaps the most memorable in the history of our school, the third grade students’ presentations began with a song by W.A., a heart-wrenching story  about a missing cat, one that was last seen running over hill and dale with a dog named Bowser in hot pursuit. Here is the first line of the song, a line that was repeated several times in the song’s chorus:

Has anybody seen my kitty, has anybody seen my cat?

Note the letters b, d, k and c (k sound) in the line—it should not be necessary for me to describe how difficult it was for W.A. to sing that song, but I will attempt to describe the audience’s reaction to the song, a reaction that included faculty, lunchroom employees, visiting friends and relatives and every enrolled student that was fortunate enough to have attended school on that day, including W.A.’s fellow classmates.

The laughter was thunderous, but the applause was even more thunderous, a standing ovation that began just before the conclusion of the song. And for those that may be disposed to criticize the reactions of the audience, we should remember that in those days, particularly in my part of the country, very few things were politically incorrect—actually, neither were there many things that were politically correct.

In order to wrap up this posting, I urge the viewer to understand that W.A. was, without question, one of the most popular students in our school. We mocked him but we also imitated him, not to belittle but to share with him even a small portion of the laughs he garnered and the popularity he enjoyed—because of  W.A. every kid in school could qualify as a stand-up comedian. And most important, W.A. was frequently surrounded by a bevy of cute girls. That’s a neat thing, regardless of their motives—like, who cares why?

I can never know whether he enjoyed his popularity or hated it, but in retrospect I suspect that W.A. tended to prolong his stuttering and perhaps even embellished and enhanced it—but I could be wrong.

W.A., if you happen to read this and you enjoyed your popularity, I’m happy for you. If you hated it, please accept my abject and heartfelt apologies. And if you are enrolled and performing in that brightly shining elementary school in the sky I say,

BREAK A LEG!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Crabby old man . . .

I recently received this poem in an e-mail sent by a relative in Dallas. Whether true or false, it is a moving tribute to old age and a scathing criticism of how the elderly are perceived by many of us. I am posting it on my blog with the hope that its message reaches many others—and if it changes even one person’s attitude towards the elderly, the effort has been worthwhile.

This is the e-mail and the poem I received, but the poem has undergone many changes since landing in my mailbox. In its wandering around the internet it had collected many faults—missing and misplaced punctuation marks, misspelled words, lines out of sequence and many other problems that restricted a thorough understanding of the work. I feel that my modest efforts improved the message that the poem is intended to convey.

This is the story of the crabby old man, as told in the e-mail:

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska, it was believed that he had left nothing of any value. After his death the nurses were going through his meager possessions and found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Missouri. The old man’s poem, his sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple but eloquent poem.

This “crabby old man,” with nothing else to give others on his departure from this world, has given the world he leaves his richness of thought—he is the author of this anonymous poem, now winging its way across the internet and into the homes and hearts of thousands, perhaps millions.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see, nurses? What do you see?

What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?

A crabby old man, not very wise,

Uncertain of habit with far away eyes?

Who dribbles his food and makes no reply,

When you say in a loud voice, ‘I do wish you’d try!’

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,

And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,

With bathing and feeding and the long day to fill.

Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?

Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,

As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten, with a father and mother,

And brothers and sisters who love one another.

A young boy of sixteen with wings on his feet,

Dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.

A groom soon at twenty, my heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,

Who need me to guide them, and a secure happy home.

A man of thirty, my young now grown fast,

Bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,

But my woman’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.

At fifty once more babies play ’round my knee,

Again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my wife now is dead.

I look at the future and shudder with dread,

For my young are all rearing young of their own,

And I think of the years, and the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old man, and nature is cruel,

‘Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,

There is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young man still dwells,

And now and again my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys, I remember the pain,

And I’m loving and living life over again.

I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,

And I accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people, open and see,

Not a crabby old man, look closer, see me!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person, one that you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within.

We will all one day be there also!

The best and most beautiful things of this world can neither be seen nor touched.

They must be felt by the heart . . .

To determine whether the poem is truth or fiction, click on this Crabby old man.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 10, 2010 in poetry

 

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To lay, or to lie—that is the question . . .

And this is the answer: Hens lay—people lie.

The misuse of lay and lie is one of my pet peeves, perhaps the pettiest and peeviest of all.

We hear the verbs misused in every venue—we see it printed in our daily newspapers and other periodicals, and we hear it on radio, on television and in everyday conversations. Medics arriving at an accident scene will invariably tell the injured to lay down, lay still. The medic may report to his home station that he found the injured person laying in a ditch beside the road—and the operator may ask him to repeat the victim’s location by saying, “Repeat, please—where is the victim laying?” As much as I detest repeating myself, I will now repeat myself:

Hens lay—people lie.

Remember when we learned to conjugate verbs? We memorized word groups containing the present, past and future tenses of verbs. The verb to lie, as in lie down, is conjugated as lie, lay, lain—I lie down today, I lay down yesterday, and  by this time tomorrow I will have lain down again. This conjugation is used to reflect the position of something in repose, whether alive or dead, whether animate or inanimate, whether animal, vegetable or mineral and whether prostrate or supine.

A quick explanation here on prostrate versus supine may be in order, just in the highly unlikely possibility that one or more viewers may be confused by the difference between prostrate and supine. Prostrate means lying on one’s stomach (face down), and supine means lying on one’s back (face up).

Special note: Some people sometimes tend to confuse the term prostrate with prostate. The first refers to position—the second is “a gland found at the neck of the bladder in male mammals.” I remember a sentence in a novel that read, “He lay prostate on the altar of Mammon.” The name Mammon, of course, refers to wealth, something regarded as evil, an object of worship and devotion. Medieval writers took Mammon as the name of the devil of covetousness. I suspect that the misspelling of prostrate was a typo, an error made way back in the days before spellcheckers came into use. There is a truth to be learned here—spellcheckers are not infallible.

The verb to lie also refers to truthfulness (or the lack thereof), and is conjugated as follows: lie, lied, lied—I lie today (or I am lying, the gerund form of lie), I lied yesterday, and by this time tomorrow I will have lied again.

The verb to lay also has two very different meanings, as does the verb to lie. It can refer to the hen’s ability to lay an egg (lay, laid, laid), or it may be used to place or put something, also conjugated as lay, laid and laid. Rather that saying “Put (or place) it on the table,” we can say “Lay it on the table.” We can then legitimately say that we laid it on the table, and that by this time tomorrow we will have laid another on the table.

I suppose that a hen could lie down, but in my experience they only sit—or stand, of course. I have never seen a hen lie. However, I have heard hens lie. When I was a child, in a time shrouded in the mists of the past, a cackling hen usually meant that an egg had just been laid. That sound would send me running to the hen house for a quick visual scan of the nests to locate and purloin the egg, still warm after its journey from darkness to the bright light of day, then a quick run to the general store one-quarter mile distant to initiate and complete a business transaction. A dozen eggs in those days cost 60 cents, so I would exchange the egg for a nickel’s worth of something sweet, the buyer’s choice of items ranging from candy to cookies to a Coke. Yes, at that time the green Mae West-shaped bottle of Coca-Cola cost just five cents.

As regards that hen cackling, the cackling did not always indicate that an egg had been laid and was available. There were other situations in which hens cackled. They often cackled when the rooster was in hot pursuit, a cackle engendered by panic or perhaps by anticipation or some alternate feeling. Hens also sometimes cackled shortly after being overtaken by the rooster—whether the cackling indicated pleasure or disappointment is known only by the hen—and the rooster, perhaps. I use the word perhaps because the hen, in any discussion that may have ensued between her and the rooster following their encounter, may have told him things that were somewhat less than truthful, little white lies told so the the rooster would hear that which she knew he wanted, and needed, to hear. Let’s face it, my brothers—it’s well known that some actions of some animals sometimes mirror the actions of humans, both in the psychological sense and the physical sense—they just speak a different language.

A quick application of basic arithmetic to the sale of eggs at sixty cents per dozen:

Armed with the knowledge that twelve of something—anything—equals one dozen, then dividing the cost of a dozen eggs (sixty cents) by the number of eggs in a dozen (twelve) would show that one egg had a value of  five cents, and one might wonder how the store’s proprietor could make a profit. In this instance he was satisfied to break even—he was my uncle, the husband of my mother’s sister, a deeply religious and benevolent man cut down in the prime of his life. He was killed by the actions of a 12-year-old boy, a first-cousin to me and the younger of his two sons.

My cousin’s actions were not deliberate—his father’s death was an accident, avoidable perhaps, but still an unfortunate accident. Unless it sprouts wings and flies (or flees) from my memories and refuses to return, the story of my uncle’s death will be the subject of a future posting.

Stay tuned.


 

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Controversial—four syllables or five? . . .

Controversial has only four syllables when pronounced correctly.

Five syllables, as in con-tro-ver’-si-al, is wrong.

Four syllables, as in con-tro-ver’-shul, is correct.

Controversial is one of the most often mispronounced words in our English lexicon. It is mispronounced by supposedly erudite people and is one of my pet peeves. The word is improperly pronounced by people in high places, particularly by television personalities such as news anchors, political commentators and visiting pundits.

I am particularly peeved by the frequent and consistent mispronunciation by an attractive—I mean really attractive—lady on the Fox News channel. Were I in the position to do so, I would shake her until her teeth rattled and continue until she learned to pronounce the word with four syllables, not five.

I hasten to add that, once my hands were on her shoulders, I would probably forget my original intention, instantly and completely. (Note that I do not name the reporter because I am not a stalker—I’m just a wisher).

However, that beauty is not alone. One of the most respected men in television, a grandfatherly type and a regular on Fox News, also consistently enunciates five syllables—not that I would ever consider shaking him—he’s far too big for me to even think about doing any shaking. (Note that I do not name him either—in case he comes after me, I can always claim that I was referring to some other grandfatherly reporter).

How many times have you heard someone refer to the martial arts? Do they pronounce the phrase with three syllables, as in mar-ti-al arts? No, they pronounce that phrase as mar-shul arts. And how about the word partial? Does anyone pronounce it with three syllables, as in par-ti-al?

No, of course not—they pronounce it as par-shul.

It’s very difficult for me to understand why someone—anyone—has apparently never advised either the blond or the grandfatherly type reporter on Fox News that their pronunciation of controversial is incorrect.

Because of their consistent mispronunciation of controversial, they are contributing significantly to the corruption of an entire generation of our nation’s children, a demographic that is very susceptible to such corruption, just as are many in the adult demographic.

I rest my case.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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They invited you and I to the party. Right or wrong?

Wrong.

The sentence should read They invited you and me, or They invited me and you—either is correct.

A complete sentence consists of a subject, a verb and an object (quite often the object is unseen and unheard, but is understood by the reader or the listener). An example would be, “He is almost as handsome as I.” In that sentence the last word is am, as in “He is almost as handsome as I am.” The am is unseen but is understood.

In the title sentence above, you and I is a compound object that takes the action of the verb invited. This is a very common mistake, one that can easily be avoided by a simple—extremely simple—nay, stupidly simple—process.

There are no complicated rules of grammar to learn. To determine the rightness or wrongness of the sentence, simply delete each of those invited—you and I— in turn, then read the sentence and listen to the sound.

Delete the I and the sentence reads, They invited you, an obviously correct sentence.

Delete the you and the sentence reads, They invited I, an obviously incorrect sentence.

The same simple process may be used when the sentence involves plurals of personal pronouns such as we and us. Were my brother and I conversing and I said, He is almost as handsome as we, the unseen and unheard word would be are, as in we are. We would not say He is almost as handsome as us are.

Special note: The statements regarding relative handsomeness are not necessarily true.

I said it was a simple process–-need I say more?

 

 
 

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Irregardless—right, or wrong?

Wrong.

Warning:

Read this posting at your own peril. It’s a grammar lesson, the first of many to come, a veritable onslaught of similar postings and a site to which viewers will quickly become addicted. Anyone that adheres to the maxims presented on this site will be swimming upstream, ostracized, isolated and rejected by the multitudes that go with the flow. Ignore them. Stand out from the crowd. Keep swimming upstream.

This posting focuses on the use of irregardless, a word frequently used when a speaker wants to suggest that a certain something is to be disregarded. Its misuse is one of my pet peeves (and they are legion).

I plan to cover all my pet peeves eventually, and I will happily discuss any pet peeve that may be submitted by a viewer. I will also cheerfully answer, or attempt to answer, any question that may be presented, whether on pronunciation, sentence construction, spelling, subject and verb agreement, the use and construction of adverbs, the possessive form of nouns, etc. If I don’t know the answer and cannot find the answer, I will just as cheerfully admit that I don’t know it.

Try me.

As regards—or in regard to—or regarding—irregardless:

Irregardless is not a proper word, regardless of its appearance in dictionaries and regardless of its use in speeches and writings by supposedly erudite persons. It should not be used. One possible exception, perhaps, might be when a speaker is faced with an untutored audience of one or more persons that might tend to accept its use as proper—audiences in certain southern hilly or swampy areas, for example.

The proper word is regardless—it means without regard for, pay no attention to, do not regard. A loving and very understanding wife, for example, might tell her husband “Darling, I love you, regardless of your slovenly appearance and your disgusting bathroom habits.”As used here, the word means “in spite of.” (She may say it, but may not mean it).

Everyone is aware, of course, that the prefix ir means not, and the suffix less means without, therefore the word irregardless contains a double negative.

Less negates regard all by itself—it needs no help from ir.

Now that you’ve read my position on the word irregardless, I’ll give you Wikipedia’s stand:

Usage Note: Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.

 
 

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Redux—About the King of Texas . . .

My “About the King of Texas” page is a work in progress. I am re-posting it now as one of the first steps towards presenting a more comprehensive picture of my mother’s youngest son—that’s me, myself or I, whichever seems correct to the viewer (other writers vary, and as a group tend to use all three at separate times.

In my world when I was a child, when asked a question such as, “Who wants to go to the picture show?” we would often reply, “Me, myself and I,” indicating that all three of us would jump at the chance to see a picture show. For the edification of viewers a bit younger than I, picture show was our term for a movie. We never suggested going to a movie, or to a theater.

The term movies is derived from motion pictures, the words first used to describe the mid-19th century process of projecting images on a dark screen by passing film strips rapidly between a bright light and the screen. Motion pictures morphed into moving pictures and the truncated term movies soon followed, and that is the term most used today. In the era of my early childhood, the terms motion pictures and moving pictures were not used—at least not in my isolated rural area in Alabama.

In retrospect, I postulate the possibility that those terms had become passe’ and we had advanced to the term picture show. However, I don’t recall hearing the word passe’ at the time—had I heard it I would have probably considered it to be a mispronunciation of a familiar noun, one that had several definitions and uses (so to speak), including its use to indicate the gender of a female cat or kitten, namely passe’ cat. The gender of a male cat is, of course, indicated by the term “tom cat,” indicating a male cat or kitten).

For the additional edification of the group of the population younger than I, a group that accounts for ninety-one percent of our nation’s population, those under the age of seventy, I happily and gratefully report that I breathe the rarified air of the other nine percent. I have for a goodly number of years, and I’m still counting.

Hey, don’t laugh—we’re gaining on the young’uns—in 1950 we were only five percent!

I don’t recall our little town having a theater—if it did have one, it was never referred to as a theater. Little though our town was, we did have a picture show, one that was brightly lighted and showed films every Friday and Saturday night—it was dark for the rest of the week.

Ah, for the good old days!

Here is my current home page.

It’s not completely original—I have made slight modifications to it over the ten months I’ve been blogging, and subsequent changes will follow. This posting includes the comments that the site has garnered (a rather sparse listing).

About the King of Texas

I will complete my “About” page later (and I have a lot to say about myself), but because my daughter made me promise to post something—anything—no later than today, I’ll keep my promise with this short prayer:

Oh, Lord, please deliver me from people that use the expression “can’t wrap my head around that.” How can one wrap one’s head around something? If one has difficulty forming a mental grasp of something one has heard, seen or felt, then say it, rather than using such an inane voguish phrase.

On the practical side, should one successfully wrap one’s head around something the cranium would be horribly distorted, and the process of unwrapping one’s head could be unsuccessful—consider just how disastrous that would be.

Viewers’ responses:

1. Well said….written. I have never liked the phrase “keep your eyes peeled” which sounds pretty painful. However I do like the phrase “head on a swivel.” I’m sure the King of Texas knows (or will shortly find out) where these phrases originated. He seems like that type of guy to me. Also, it is quite convenient when people say “to me” at the end of a sentence. My 5 year old daughter says that quite often and who can argue with that—. Not I. (By itsjustnotright on March 23, 2009)

2. Dear King of Texas: You write like Flannery O’Connor, so maybe you are the King O’Texas. I am going to delve more into this blog at a later time—you know, when I can wrap my head around it. What do you think of the word “irregardless?” (By Barbara Kelley on June 13, 2009)

My reply:

Hi, Barbara—thanks for the comment, particularly for your comparison of my writing to that of Flannery O’Connor—I’ll accept it as a compliment, regardless of her propensity to lace her writings with grotesque characters. I appreciate your application of an apostrophe to my title—apostrophication, so to speak. I know—apostrophication is not a word—at least it was not a word until I created it. I couldn’t find it anywhere online or offline. I should probably apply for a patent so I could draw royalties each time the word is used.

I love it—there is probably a wee bit of Irish in all of us, including our current president. And here I must give thanks and a tip of my hat to Kinky Friedman, a well-known Texas resident and a successful writer and sometimes candidate (unsuccessful) for public office. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kinky said that he would vote for that Irishman, Barak O’Bama.

As regards—or in regard to—or regarding—irregardless:

Irregardless is not a proper word, regardless of its appearance in dictionaries and regardless of its use in speeches and writings by supposedly erudite persons. An exception might be when the user is faced with an untutored audience, one that might accept its use as proper—audiences in certain southern hilly or swampy areas, for example.

You know, of course, that the prefix ir means not, and the suffix less means without, ergo the non-word irregardless contains a double negative.

Less negates regard all by itself—it needs no help from ir.

Thanks again for your visit and for your comment. Please feel free to “delve more into” my blog—I welcome your comments, whether compliments or criticisms, and I will respond to either—or both.

3. Good morning—one day one of our officers said, “I can’t wrap my head around it right now.” I thought, what does she mean? Well, I know now. I became overloaded with projects at work and simply couldn’t take on one more responsibility. Still, I don’t appreciate this kind of expression. Why not just say, I have too much responsibility right now and can’t take on anything more at this time. Information overload is a reality in the work world now unfortunately.

Cindy Dyer is our graphic artist. She mentioned what a great writer you are. I can see you enjoy being a student of language. The world needs those who can express themselves with polish and flair. The gift of writing using eloquent language skills is fast disappearing from this world.

Best wishes, Mary Ellen

Immediately after reading Barbara Kelley’s comment, my head swelled to such huge proportions that, for a brief time, any itch that developed anywhere above my neck required the use of a back-scratcher to quell the itching. Because the swelling phenomenon occurs frequently, I keep a back-scratcher within handy reach. In this instance the swelling was mercifully short in duration. Through my use of deductive reasoning (reaching a conclusion by reducing a general conclusion to a specific fact), my swollen head quickly returned to its normal size.

I realize that probably all my viewers know the principles of deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, but on the remote possibility that one-in-a-million is not familiar with the terms, here is an example of deductive reasoning:

First premise:

All good writers are always brilliant.

Second premise:

I am sometimes brilliant—I have teeny weenie flashes of brilliance (my opinion).

Conclusion:

I am a good writer.

The swelling was quickly reduced because that argument is not valid. If the first premise is true, that brilliant writers are always brilliant, then my conclusion that I am a brilliant writer is invalid because I am only sometimes brilliant. In order for the argument to be valid, the second premise would have to be that I am always brilliant.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Two women make different choices . . .

This posting is a letter that I submitted to the editors of the San Antonio Light way back in 1992, and in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that it was never published. Apparently my letter touched a nerve, or perhaps several nerves, because it was neither printed nor acknowledged.

First, a brief history of the SAN ANTONIO LIGHT, a daily newspaper that flourished for more than 100 years in San Antonio, Texas, but is now defunct:

The San Antonio Light, a daily afternoon and Sunday morning newspaper in San Antonio, Texas began as the San Antonio Surprise in 1881. The paper subsequently morphed through a series of titles including the Evening Light, the Daily Light, the Light and Gazette, and finally settled on the San Antonio Light title in 1911. The Light was published continuously until late 1992 and was then closed, shortly after its purchase by the Hearst Corporation.

This is the letter I submitted:

Letters to the Editor, San Antonio Light

PO Box 161

San Antonio, TX 78291

“One Woman’s Choice,” the article that appeared in FOCUS on July 5, was an eloquent and compelling plea for legal abortion. Subtitled “Best decision made among grim options,” its objective was to convince the reader of the rightness of pro-choice.” The article practically guaranteed equal space in FOCUS for a pro-life rebuttal, providing that such a rebuttal would be submitted. The Light’s editors must have prayed for a rebuttal and had their prayers answered, because in the space of one week a rebuttal was submitted, verified, edited and printed in the FOCUS section of the paper.

Remarkable!

The pro-life article appeared in FOCUS just one week later, titled “Another Woman’s Choice.” Subtitled “Giving birth took love, hard work,” the article is just as eloquent and compelling in its plea for pro-life as the first was for pro-choice. The Light did not publish either writer’s name because of the “personal and sensitive nature” of their stories. I can understand the woman that aborted her pregnancy being reluctant to see her name in print, but not the woman that gave birth and life to her child and then achieved success in her quest for an education—summa cum laude, no less!. That mother (so to speak) should be shouting her name from the highest rooftops, perhaps even having it written in the sky high above the city of San Antonio.

Ostensibly the letters reflect widely disparate personal experiences of two young women in San Antonio, events which profoundly affected their lives. Rather than the work of individuals, the letters appear to be composites of the abortion issue. I suspect that they are ghost-written, perhaps by a professional writer or writers or groups of writers, all well-versed in the pros and cons of the abortion issue.

While both articles are excellent journalism, an error or two in sentence construction, grammar, punctuation or spelling might have made them more believable. Of course, one of the authors is careful to tell us that because of her abortion she was free to pursue her education, and ultimately graduated from college and traveled extensively.

The other author stresses the fact that she was able to pursue her education without aborting her pregnancy, and was graduated magna cum laude by a prestigious university. The stated accomplishments of the two women effectively explain their articulateness and the excellence of their literary arguments.

If the letters are genuine, I apologize for allowing my skepticism and cynicism to show (Ann Landers would probably sign me, “Cynic in San Antonio”).

Whether the letters are genuine or bogus, I extend my congratulations to their authors and to the Light for publishing them. The abortion question is probably the most divisive issue this country has ever faced, and I applaud any efforts to resolve it, even those efforts that appeal to emotions rather than reason.


 

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