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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Airplanes, babies, barbeque & breast feeding . . .

Airplanes, babies, barbeque & breast feeding . . .

Airplanes, babies, barbeque & breast feeding . . .

Today en la madrugada—that’s Spanish for to the dawn, a term used by Spanish speakers in reference to the wee small hours of the morning—whilst I wandered amongst previous postings in search of embedded subjects that might be suitable for a subsequent post, I found some poetry concerning felines and their feeding habits. Most of the poetry is mine, but some of it is the work of unknowns, their identities shrouded in the swirling mists of time.

As an aside, I abhor writers and speakers that resort to using ancient poetical terms such as whilst and amongst, don’t you? Pray with me, and we will offer up a prayer for them in their positions as members of a semi-literate group, and trust that they will perhaps one day come to accept the fact that the use of ancient poetical terms such as whilst and amongst should be left to ancient poets. Oh, and let’s add unbeknownst to the list of words that were created by the ancients and that should be left in their care—exclusively.

As I read the posting I was particularly pleased by the second one, A Kitten’s Plaint, when I noticed that 13 of the total 17 lines were mine, including the title, and that allows me to claim 76 percent of the work. I dislike tooting my own whistle but as a friend from my past would say, It ain’t bragging if you done it!

And as Pythagoras exulted on his discovery of the Forty-seventh Problem of Euclid, exclaiming Eureka!, in the Grecian language meaning I have found it, I was similarly exhilarated when I discovered material for another posting in the title of this post, A tale of two kitties. However, I will not do as did Pythagoras on his discovery—he sacrificed a hecatomb of cattle—that’s 100 unlucky members of the bovine species, and I have neither a large herd of cattle nor a Bar-B-Q grill.

I was tempted to say that I have neither a large herd of cattle nor a Barbie, the term used by the Aussies, but I decided that my use of the term could be misinterpreted—not that I actually have a Barbie, of course, and not that I would necessarily want to have a Barbie—now that I appear to be digging myself into a hole, I will stop digging.

My title for this post is an adaption of A tale of two cities, Charles Dicken’s 1859 novel of the French revolution, reminded me of a silly rhyming riddle that was popular among kiddies during my kiddie days, and when told always evoked gales of laughter, even when most or all of the kiddie audience had already heard it.

Are y’all ready for dis?

How is an airplane like a baby?

Give up?

The airplane goes from city to city, and the baby goes from etc., etc., etc.

Postscript: Note the proper way to hold a nursing child shown in this image. It makes a lot of sense, because in the NO position the baby will be affected by gravity exerting force on its weight—the baby pictured appears to be hanging by its neck and may have difficulty swallowing. I should think that the mother would instinctively know the proper position for at least one obvious reason—that same gravity will affect the connection between the baby and its mother.

Forgive me, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Somebody Let the Cows Out

Somebody Let the Cows Out

My title for this post is a euphemism, as defined by Wikipedia: Euphemism is a substitution for an expression that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver, using instead an agreeable or less offensive expression to make it less troublesome for the speaker. To Wikipedia’s definition, I would add that it also makes it less troublesome for the one to whom the euphemism is directed—big time!

The word euphemism comes from the Greek word eupheme meaning words of good omen, and etymologically is the opposite of blaspheme, or evil speaking—the Greeks felt that one should speak well or not speak at all. An admonition oft delivered to me by my sainted mother was If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything. In my early years as a young boy, a small decorative plaque placed prominently on the wall of our combination living room/bedroom/game room/courting room bore a special poem—the poem and related information, all tremendously interesting and beautifully written, even if I do say so myself, can be found here and on my About Me page. The poem is as follows:

There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

I have carried the image of that plaque and the words of that poem in my memories for almost eight decades. I sincerely wish that I could say that I’ve followed its recommendation over those decades but I cannot—so I will not. I will, however, share this claim with any viewer that happens to stray this way—at this time, admittedly a late date, I am striving mightily to follow the creed expressed on that small plaque in the hope that my failures will be overlooked and credit will be given, both in this realm and in the realm to come, for subsequent attention paid to that sage advice.

Our English language is rich in euphemisms, some created in English and many converted to English from other languages, resulting in a wealth of ways to express something that at first glance is unrelated to the subject, a pot of gold that is constantly spilling over as new euphemisms are created.

And now on to the crux of this posting:

The most recent example, at least the most recent euphemism that applied to me, was when I recently took a neighboring couple to the airport to catch a flight. After we retrieved their luggage from the car trunk the lady favored me with a goodbye hug. Her husband normally shakes hands, but this time he put his arm around my shoulders, pulled me close and whispered in my ear.

I was expecting him to say something similar to See you in a few days, or perhaps Don’t be late picking us up, but what he said was Somebody let the cows out. I was perplexed for at least two nano-seconds and then I realized that my jeans were not zipped, hence the reference to the cows being turned loose, implying that someone had left the barn door open. His courteous and euphemistic whisper in my ear was my neighbor’s way of telling me that my fly was open.

I was lucky—my neighbor could have asked me whether I was anticipating, advertising or absent minded, with the emphasis on absent minded. I suppose that such a question, whether voiced openly—so to speak—or communicated to me in a whisper, could in its self be considered a euphemism—I prefer the one dealing with the wayward cows.

I immediately made a 180-degree turn and tossed the rest of my words—over my shoulder. The ambient air temperature at the baggage drop-off point had risen so swiftly that my first thought was of Al Gore, that he was right about global warming and that it had finally arrived in central south Texas, but then I realized that the increase in temperature was caused by my blushing. Speaking quite frankly, had I been asked I would have said that I did not have a good blush left in me, but I was wrong—I did.

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

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Watermelons, fish, skinny-dipping & dynamite

I recently told the tale of how three of us, all miscreants and all active members of the United States Air Force stationed at Moody Air Force Base near the city of Valdosta, Georgia decided to raid a watermelon patch one Saturday night with the laudable purpose of illegally obtaining enough watermelons to have a Sunday watermelon party for ourselves and for our fellow barracks occupants. We felt that it would be a friendly, patriotic, doable and inexpensive gesture, especially since the watermelons would be free and the only other things we needed would be knives, forks and salt—yes, salt, because watermelon without salt is just watermelon. Click here for the original story of our night-time foray—our incursion into enemy territory, so to speak.

The knives and forks and salt could be easily lifted—oops, I meant borrowed—from our military dining facility, aka mess hall or chow hall, and by some as our slop shop. For those readers unfamiliar with the word slop—and there are lots of city folks, especially New Yorkers, that won’t know—slop is the mixture fed to pigs, and could be comprised entirely of commercial grains or entirely of table scraps or a combination of both.

As for a location for the party, the air base was surrounded by oak and pine forests, and our plan was to combine the watermelon feast with one of our frequent weekend sojourns into the woods to skinny-dip in one of the many dark-water creeks in the area—usually on such outings we consumed only beer—we felt that the melons would be appreciated by all.

The blast from that farmer’s shotgun on that night, on that quiet and peaceful rural road in South Georgia, resounded seemingly with the force of the explosions at Nagasaki and Hiroshima that ended World War II. Well, maybe not quite that loud, but it was at least as loud as the time a certain brother-in-law left me sitting in my car at an isolated location in that south Georgia area while he disappeared into the woods to a place where beavers had dammed a small creek and formed a fairly large body of water behind their dam.

When he disappeared in the bushes after telling me to wait in the car he was carrying a small bag, and a few minutes later when he burst from the bushes running toward the car, laughing like crazy, there was a tremendous explosion that told me the bag had contained dynamite, and the explosion was so loud and so unexpected that it almost resulted in me soiling my seat covers. He had wired the dam with the dynamite and blew it up, based on his belief that the pool created by the beavers’ dam would yield tons and tons of fish—trout, bass, perch, catfish, etc., perhaps even a sailfish or two—no, I made up the part about the sailfish.

I never learned whether the use of dynamite brought anything to my brother-in-law’s table. We left the area in considerable haste, spurred on by his admonition that someone may have heard the explosion and would come to investigate. My brother-in-law said he would return later to check on the effectiveness of his work with the dynamite, sometime after the reverberations had subsided and possible searchers for the source of the explosion had left the area. I never asked him how the fishing was, and he never volunteered the information.

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

 
 

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Didja hear the one about the two little morons and the weather?

Didja hear the one about the two little morons and the weather? Does anyone even 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 in a recent posting brought back one of those jokes, and I humbly offer an abject apology in advance—but not too seriously—to anyone that may be offended now.

I believe the question Are ya’ll ready for dis? which introduces the joke is, or at least was in the past, used by the San Antonio Spurs NBA team at the start of their games. It may be copyrighted, and if so I acknowledge that right and give them full credit for its origin. The voice is that of a former player named Johnson—no, not Jeremiah Johnson—Avery 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, Chris Dodd & Barney Frank, Stanley & Livingston, O’Reilly & Beck, Paula & Simon, ad infinitum—or ad nauseam, perhaps. And the joke could also feature any two people, whether morons or MENSA charter members, regardless of nationality, race, sex, sexual preference, political affiliation, ideological bent, region, occupation, body build or marital status, whether divorced, married or cohabiting, whether same sex, married or unmarried, or two prim straight old maids or two grumpy straight old bachelors.

I used the original speakers, two little morons, to tell the joke as I remember it—history should never be rewritten, whether by nondescript writers such as I or by presidential biographers, historians and most of all, not by the school boards that decide what goes into the history books.

There’s a time-worn maxim that tells us that If we do not remember history we are doomed to repeat it. How can we remember history when it is constantly being rewritten in order to conform to prevailing social mores, to support or condemn various opposing political factions and to promote or condemn various opposing political agendas?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course, for which there is neither right nor wrong answers, and to misquote a line from the old Laurel and Hardy movies, It’s a fine mess that political correctness has gotten us into.

As a nation we are adhering so tightly to political correctness that little by little we are painting ourselves into a corner, and eventually our chickens will come home to roost—and that mixed metaphor should give everyone something to mull over!

And one more special note:

I especially like the combination of Pelosi & Reid as a replacement for the team in the little moron jokes. They were overwhelmingly voted into first place in a recent far-reaching poll, both exhaustive and exhausting, to determine the most logical team to replace the little morons in all the old jokes, and in any similar jokes that may be created in the future.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must state that only one person was polled. Can you hazard a guess as to the identification of the person that was polled? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count. Yep, you guessed correctly—I was both pollster and pollee and here are the results of my poll:

My vote of first place for Pelosi & Reid was unanimous—I know, I know, that’s an oxymoron.

Chris Dodd & Barney Frank were first runner-ups, also unanimous.

Barack & Hillary were relegated to third place, ditto.

The other candidates were also-runs, unnumbered but also unanimous.

And a rather lengthy final note:

Lighten up! It’s all in fun, and if this posting elicits a chuckle from even a couple of 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, usually making the wrong choice when their path diverges—-most do as Yogi Berra suggested: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!

I will conclude this posting by echoing the words of Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up 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—and for those that have forgotten them or are too young to remember them, LPs are long-playing phonograph records.

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 one of his trademark expressions—he would undoubtedly exclaim,

Ain’t that weird!

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

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

The world is in turmoil, and our country is currently in the midst of an upheaval caused by a never-ending battle waged by conservatives on one side and on the other side liberals, NOW, communists, fascists, Muslims, progressives, Nazis, abolitionists, various ethnic and racial minorities including blacks and Hispanics, many of the Jewish persuasion, unions, gays, and those that are vertically challenged—short people.

I have, at great length over a considerable period of time, closely observed and analyzed the current problems in the world, problems such as the revolutions underway in the Middle East and in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and potentially in every state not governed by a conservative, and the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Yes, Iraq—anyone that believes the war in Iraq is over is taking the proverbial head in the sand stance attributed to the ostrich, or better still, everyone that believes the war is over has their heads up their collective—sorry, the rest of that phrase escapes me. People in Iraq continue to die by the dozens from explosives-laden vests worn and detonated by morons anxious to meet the seventy-two virgins promised by their religion—die by the dozens has a nice alliterative ring, don’t you think?

At this point I must digress in order to inform my viewers, in the unlikely event that they are unaware that there are only 72 virgins available in the heavenly beyond, that it is not simply a matter of first come, first served, because all arrivals are served—or serviced, so to speak—equally. The same 72 are used by all, but it is written that regardless of the frequency with which those ladies are ravished, they remain chaste—ain’t that a hoot!

I have also considered the plethora of medical problems that plague mankind, problems such as malaria, HIV, AIDS and ingrown toenails, and class warfare and nature’s calamities such as tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, forest fires and the plight of the Snail Darter and the Blind Salamander and the host of other threatened fauna and flora species in our country and across the globe, including Atractosteus spatula calico magna, the snaggle-toothed alligator gar found only in southern states, primarily Mississippi—okay, okay, I admit that I made up the snaggle-toothed part—oh, okay, I made up the entire name—well, most of it anyway.

Having given so much consideration to so many problems, I have selected one, and only one, to discuss on WordPress. It’s one that I can discuss with certainty, and perhaps in some way, in some measure, change the course of that problem and relieve at least one of the many adverse conditions that plague civilization, specifically our supposedly civilized English-speaking nations—please note the four-syllable construction of the word supposedly—I will explain that construction in the next paragraph. The following statement explains the problem I have with the way many people pronounce supposed: The word has only two syllables—not three!

Only two syllables but many, perhaps most, talking heads on television, whether guests or hosts, pronounce the word sup-pos-ed with three syllables. Those people are supposedly well educated, erudite even—at this point please note that the adverb form of the verb suppose has four syllables—sup pos ed ly—but that construction is not a problem—everyone gets that one right.

Many of those people pronouncing the word supposed with three syllables are attorneys, graduates of ivy league universities, many with PHDs, high ranking government officials whether elected or appointed, priests, teachers and school administrators and a multitude of others from every walk of life, people that emulate the pronunciation of the word by people they admire, believing that if they use that pronunciation it must be right, coming from such a supposedly erudite group—and once again there’s that four-syllable construction of the word.

In my survey of the pronunciation of the word by talking heads on cable television, I found those folks on Fox News to be the most frequent offenders, including the gaggle of attorneys that appear on that channel. That’s a real mystery for me—all of them certainly have at least one college degree, and many have several. I will, grudgingly, give Glenn Beck a pass on mispronunciation of supposed because he is not a graduate of any so-called higher institution of learning.

In previous posts I have mentioned a lady that I have known for many years, a lady for whom English is a second language. Her native language will become apparent by my saying that she pronounced the English letter I as an E, thus the term nit picker came across as neet peeker—I suppose it could have been worse in some other foreign language, coming across as neat pecker, for example, or perhaps as gnat pecker.

I mention that lady only because there is a slight possibility that one or more of my viewers may consider me to be nit picking in my effort to educate the public to the correct pronunciation of the word supposed when used as an adjective, as in the term the supposed murderer, or the supposed philanderer, etc.

I am neither neet peeking nor nit picking—my efforts in this venue are similar to the ever ongoing search for the Holy Grail, the vessel from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, and comparable to the search for the Golden Fleece, the fleece of a golden-haired winged ram that was the offspring of the sea god Poseidon, the fleece that was so long and so arduously sought by Jason and his band of Argonauts.

The same people that pronounce the word supposed with three syllables also pronounce the two-syllable word alleged with three syllables, as in al-ledge-ed. I suppose I should make that a separate post, but I won’t bother—it wouldn’t make any difference anyway. May the Grand Protector of Syllables forgive them—I won’t!

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

 

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Watermelons, shotguns, Red Sovine, Patsy Cline & Viet Nam

This is a sequel to my original post of 13 January 2011. That story involved the theft of a watermelon by a brother-in-law, a born again Christian, and my confession that I had been guilty of a similar offense, but I furnished few particulars. This posting expands on my unlawful actions considering watermelons, namely stealing them from a roadside field a few miles from the South Georgia Air Force Base where I was stationed a lifetime ago—way, way, way back in 1952. Click here for the original post. It’s well worth the read, then come back here for this story of the farmer and his firearm—it’s also well worth the read!

Almost fifty-nine years have passed since then, but my watermelon memories are as fresh as the first seasonal load of melons being off-loaded at my local supermarket, and for good reasons, primarily because my last foray into purloining watermelons involved the farmer, a shotgun and the thoroughly trashed rear seat of my 1951 sky-blue chick-magnet Ford convertible.

On that eventful Saturday night I and my two co-conspirators wisely waited until a late hour in the evening to ignore Georgia law and also ignore signs that many of the local farmers posted along roads bordering their fertile fields of crops. We were of the belief that the farmer would be safely ensconced in his easy chair listening to the Grand Ole Opry on radio, a Saturday night not-to-be-missed event in those days.

As our method required—a well thought out method of stealing watermelons and one highly successful on previous Saturdays—I lowered the top on my chick-magnet 1951 Ford convertible and drove slowly as we neared the field and my two buddies disembarked—jumped over the side of the car—and disappeared into the cornfield on the right side of the road.

Yes, cornfield—this was a combination corn-and-watermelon crop, a common practice in the area. In fact, some farmers added a third crop, that of pole beans, with the corn stalks serving in lieu of the poles that the beans require for climbing and maturing properly. Pretty neat, huh?

I continued down the road for several miles, then turned around and waited a few minutes to give my team time to gather watermelons and place them in the roadside ditch preparatory to transferring them to the rear seat of my Ford chick-magnet convertible.

At this point I must digress to explain the ditch—road building, Georgia style. There were no freeways in the area nor in that era, just two-lane roads graveled or paved with asphalt—the interstate system was in work, but years would pass before multiple lane roads came to that area. The depressions that border both sides of South Georgia roads are called bar ditches by the locals, as in, Muh tar blowed out an’ muh car runned off in uh bar ditch.

I puzzled over the term bar and queried several local natives for its meaning and its origin—natives of Georgia, of course—and was told Ah on oh, interpreted as I don’t know. Having heard the song and seen the movie about Daniel Boone and his bear-slaying ability—kilt him a bar when he was only three—I figured it had something to do with bears—bars—but I was wrong. I learned from one of the more educated and articulate natives—a rarity in that area—that it was a borrow ditch, so-called because soil was borrowed from the roadsides and used to build up the roads to prevent water accumulating on the highway during the rainy season. Thus borrow ditch in English became bar ditch in Georgia-speak.

Now back to the farmer and his firearm. As I approached the drop off point—now the pickup point—I flashed my headlights three times to signal my criminal associates of my approach, then turned off the lights and coasted to a stop at the proper point, and the watermelons began to take flight, sailing over the side of my chick-magnet and landing indiscriminately on the seat, against the side panels, window sills, window handles, on the floor and on each other. Speed was of the essence because we planned on a watermelon party for our barracks-bound buddies the next day, a Sunday watermelon fest to be held in a secret location in a wooded area near the air base, and we needed a lot of watermelons for that crowd.

The blasts from that farmer’s shotgun on that night, on that quiet and peaceful rural road in South Georgia, resounded seemingly with the force of the explosions at Nagasaki and Hiroshima that ended World War II. Well, maybe not quite that loud, but it was at least as loud as the time a certain brother-in-law left me sitting in my car while he disappeared into the woods to go to an unnamed location, saying only that he would return in a few minutes. Click here to read about the explosion that resounded several minutes after he entered the woods.

At this point I will conclude my digression and return to the tale of the Great Watermelon Heist, and hold my brother-in-law’s actions for a later posting, one for which the wait is well worthwhile.

In addition to the sound of the shotgun blast, we could detect the sound of lead shot pellets tearing through the leaves of corn stalks, a sign that the shotgun was not aimed skywards when the pissed-off farmer pulled the trigger—or triggers—judging by the sounds it may have been a double-barreled shotgun, or perhaps an semi-automatic shotgun that held five shells and the trigger was pulled so fast that the five explosions blended into one fearsome sound.

As an aside to this subject, I know that such a sound could have been made, and here’s proof. Many years ago while assigned to duty in Washington, DC, I was privileged to be present at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC when one of the agency’s top guns demonstrated his dexterity and the power of his weapon by firing it six times in succession. The sound of those six shots of .38 caliber ammunition exploding was absolutely continuous, just one smooth roar. When the agent pulled in the silhouette target, it showed that the rounds were all closely grouped in the chest area of the target, a group that indicated the location of the heart.

That’s enough of my digressions and my asides—okay, more than enough. I will conclude this posting by saying that I and my companions in crime escaped unscathed, and our depredations were never made public. That was not our first watermelon heist, but it was definitely the last—we never even considered another, neither in that watermelon season nor in subsequent seasons.

However, the rear seat of my 1951 sky-blue chick-magnet Ford convertible did not escape unscathed. Several of the large melons, tossed in the rear seat under extreme distress—the throwers, not the melons—burst open from impact with the car and with each other, and the faux leather rear seat and side panels were covered with watermelon seeds and juice, as were the combination rubber-and-felt floor mats. I worked half the day on Sunday cleaning up the mess. However, enough of the melons escaped destruction for us to have a watermelon party, albeit somewhat truncated because of the losses we suffered. Ah, those were the days!

This story is true—I know it’s true because, just as was the protagonist in that popular song Deck of Cards, sung variously and in various years by T. Texas Tyler, Tex Ritter, Wink Martindale and Bill Anderson—I was that soldier! If you like, you can click here to read the complete words of the song. It’s clever—I wish I had thought of it!

I know I promised no more asides or digressions, but I must do one more aside. The last time I heard Deck of Cards sung was in 1969, it was rendered by country singer Red Sovine before a raucous, rowdy and unruly crowd in an NCO Club at Da Nang Air Base in South Viet Nam. That in itself is worthy of a separate posting, so stay tuned. If you like, you can click here to learn everything you ever wanted to know, and even more, about Red  Sovine.

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

Postscript: In reference to that so-called chick-magnet auto—I never knew whether it would have drawn girls into its magnetic field because my future wife and I were already going steady and the subject of marriage had been broached, albeit ever so lightly, when I traded for the convertible, and we married just four months after we met, a marriage that lasted for 58 years. As for the convertible, it was traded immediately after our first daughter was born—so much for the chick-magnet characterization.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in driving, friends, Humor, Military, Uncategorized

 

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Revisited: Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

Revisited: Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

I am revisiting this post because it received more comments than any of the other 372 literary efforts I have presented to the world in general and to WordPress in particular. My purpose is to bring those succinct and tremendously well-written comments out of the Stygian darkness and into the bright light of now—I can truthfully say, with all seriousness aside, that I enjoy reading comments to my postings almost as much as I enjoy rereading the original posting—almost, but not quite!  If you wish, you can click here to read the original posting, published on June 27, 2010.

Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

For a brief period of several months I lived with my family—mother, stepfather and youngest sister—in a one-room kitchenette in a small motel on East US Highway 82 in Columbus, Mississippi. This was in the latter years of World War II—although the term motel had been around since 1925, our establishment called itself the Columbus Tourist Court, the word court suggesting a more comfortable kind of accommodation—it was actually a stand-alone cabin in a line of other stand-alone cabins backed by an ages-old cemetery that historically was limited to black burials but was no longer in use.

Just as an aside, our stepfather frequently told people that the owner of the Columbus Tourist Court was a close personal and business friend of many years standing, and that if one mentioned his name—my stepfather’s name—the owner would cut some slack on the price of the accommodations. I tried that some years later and got nothing but a blank stare from the owner—he opined that he was not familiar with the gentleman—so much for slack, right?

The cemetery was in total disrepair, with tombstones missing, broken and fallen, graves sadly sunken and the ground strewn with remnants of urns and flower vases and leaves and rubbish, even a cast-off mattress or two. My sister and I roamed that cemetery picking up bits of colored glass and retrieving unbroken receptacles for flowers, some almost buried in the ground. This was the equivalent of a nature park for us, a place to linger in the evening after school and on weekends. It was also a place that prompted us to make up ghost stories, sometimes so scary that we scared ourselves.

But I digress—this story is not about cemeteries—it’s about the two pets, dogs, that our stepfather promised one day near Christmas as he and our mother headed for town in his four-door black 1939 Plymouth sedan. I mention the auto because it was never, not even once, not even on days of rain or snow or heat or cold, used to transport me and my sister to school. Had our tourist court been on a numbered thoroughfare, it would have been somewhere around Twenty-fifth Street. Our high school was located at Seventh Street and Third Avenue North—city blocks usually run 12 to the mile, so our walk to school covered some 21 blocks, almost two miles, and we walked it barefoot regardless of rain or snow or heat or cold, and it was uphill in both directions. Okay, I’m stretching it a bit, but the fact remains that we walked the distance five days a week while we lived at the Columbus Tourist Court—bummer!

When our mother and our stepfather returned that day shortly before Christmas, our stepfather gave me and my sister separate packages that we hurriedly unwrapped. My sister’s package contained a beautiful Collie, colored identically as Lassie of the movies. My package yielded a gorgeous Pekingese with the cutest face ever seen on a dog.

These were the two dogs he promised us for Christmas, and he had followed through with his promise. However, there was a hitch—my sister’s Collie was mounted on the side of a large tabletop ashtray and my Pekingese was a lead-weighted plaster dog intended to be used as a doorstop. We expected pets, of course, but we were given functional replicas of dogs instead. Mental torture? Child abuse? Of course, but in those days there was no Child Protective Service or any other service to accept complaints, even if we had been endowed with the courage and the willingness to complain.

Merry Christmas!

We were between trips to the atom bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where our stepfather worked. He was laid off for awhile and we had left a government trailer village in Gamble Valley, Tennessee to return to Columbus, and we were now returning to that area to another trailer village called Happy Valley, Tennessee—both locations are subjects for future postings. Stay tuned!

A funny thing happened to us when we were loading the car for the return trip to Tennessee. I had an armful of funny books—they were actually comic books but nobody called them comic books in those days. They were funny books, even the ones picturing the most violent mayhem, and the comic strips in newspapers were also referred to as the funnies.

Our stepfather told me I could not take my funny books because the car was already overloaded. My sister promptly spoke up and told him, in a completely serious tone, that she would carry them in her lap. That was one of the very few times that our little family laughed together—for a brief shining moment we were a happy family, albeit caused by friction. The moment was brief—the stack of comics was consigned to the trash, we climbed into the car and were off on another great adventure.

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

The following comments on this post and my responses follow below—my responses are in italics.

A comment from my daughter in Dallas:

Ok, these are two of the stories that I always remember and they never fail to make me sad. Thanks, Dad??? You write so very well and the story hasn’t changed through the years. Not even a little.

My response:

Hi, Kel—thanks for the comment, especially for the part that reads, “you write so very well.” I consider that to be the ultimate compliment, coming from someone that has the potential of becoming another Eudora Welty (Google it!).

I’m pleased that you find the stories unchanged over the years. I will never admit that some of the details of a posting are a bit obscured by the swirling mists of time, but should it ever happen I would necessarily fill in the blanks.

Much as some of us improve our appearance with cosmetics, I would make up (get it?) fillers for the gaps in my memories, and those fillers would improve the story and propel it forward without altering its basic truths. A corollary can be found in the pig–and–lipstick story, namely that one can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

I believe that some of us tend to remember things not as they were, but how we would like them to be. Your Aunt Dot is a prime example of that—during the final years of our stepfather’s life, she apparently set aside all the bad and retained all the good of the earlier years and I suppose, as Martha Stewart is wont to say, that’s a good thing!

A comment from absurdoldbird: Click here for an adventure in art—this is a tremendously talented lady!

It’s good to read the stories of your childhood, youth and beyond, Mike. And I get the impression from your daughters’ comments here and there, that you’re doing the blogging equivalent of what I’d persuaded my dad to do for me and my sister when he recorded his memoirs onto audio cassette. Though the cassettes were just for us and here you’re talking to the world (or whatever part of the world may come by to read. I do hope that, in time, you’ll get more readers.)

My response to absurdoldbird:

Hi, Val—thanks for the comment. Your peek into my postings peeled back the cosmetic layers and revealed the naked unvarnished truth—my blogging is the direct result of the persuasive powers of Cindy, the princess that lives, loves and works in Virginia, just as your father’s audio cassettes are the result of your powers of persuasion.

Cindy hounded me for years in an effort to get me on camera, extolling my virtues and/or lack thereof in a series of videos. I consistently and stubbornly resisted—I vowed that I would never allow either the visual or the vocal results of such grilling to impinge on the senses of anyone, whether family or friends or the public.

Using the cosmetic approach I could have controlled the visual but not the audio portion. I consider my voice, both timbre and content, to be a combination of Archibald Alexander Leach (Cary Grant) in “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” and Barak Obama reading from the teleprompter.

However, my recorded voice sounds like a combination of W. C. Fields and Gomer Pyle. And finally, the possibility exists that a slip of the tongue while on camera could land me on the covers of various tabloids along with Britney, Lindsay, Paris, Sean Penn, Hugo Chavez, Harry Reed, Nancy Pilosi and others of that ilk.

As for my getting more readers, the number of visitors to my blog has spiked dramatically just recently, a spike that I attribute–if not entirely then primarily—to you and Cindy.

More from absurdoldbird:

My dad frequently made me turn off the tape, rewind and erase bits – not only stuff he’d uttered but some side comments from yours truly!

It’s a brilliant (and respect-worthy) endeavour to commit ones memoirs to some sort of recording device, whether it’s tape (which will be gone soon, I’m sure), CD, DVD, mp3 or any number of other formats or, as you’re doing, internet, for ones family. Sadly, I have no children, nor has my only sibling. I’d persuaded my sister to record hers, mostly for fun for us both and she’d wanted to do it as an interview so we’d both have each other’s, but my damn tape recorder died and I’ve not yet sussed out the digital alternatives.

Now I want to hear your voice! (Was that deliberate, I wonder?) I had to look up ‘Gomer Pyle’ as the show the character was in, was never shown in the UK. (Amongst other exports from the ‘States, we had Bilko – Phil Silvers – but then he sounded like Top Cat/Boss Cat).

While I’ve only been on WordPress since September last year, I’ve been blogging since 2004 and have been thinking about doing a post about blogging, getting traffic to ones blog, etc. One thing is this: it’ll be your own comments on other people’s blogs and their comments in yours, that get people into your blog, particularly when there is more than one-liner reciprocation. People like to surf into blogs via the usericon they see in the person’s comments to find out what that person is about and what sort of blog they have. They are usually (unless they’re authoring a commercial/professional blog) looking for people who are on their wavelength. People look at the content of comments. If there is something that rings bells with something in their own life, present or past, they’ll be interested. So – if you want more people to come by, just keep doing what you’re doing, and send yourself out more. Explore others’ blogs, talk to people about their own lives, find the blended-borders at which you and they meet and they’ll come and check you out.

And still more from absurdoldbird:

Whoops – ‘she’d not wanted to do it as an interview, but a discussion’ was what I had meant to put in that comment, apropos my sister’s memoirs. Sorry. Some of my thinking is still a little disjointed.

From a girl named Sue: (No, not Johnny Cash!)

I can’t wait for your book to come out so I can curl up with it and a good cup of tea for a heartwarming read when I just want to relax and unwind.

My response to Sue:

Hi, Sue—what a nice comment. That makes me want to build a fire under myself and under Cindy and get the show on the road and when, and if, it happens we just might call on you to pose with your copy—the first one off the press, with its title prominently displayed, a nice poster to use for our book signings.

Thanks for the visit, and thanks for the comment.

And a final comment by my daughter in Virginia: Click here for her blog, one of the finest—nay, the finest—blog on Word Press!

Light a fire under me? Under me? Ahem….I’m the one lighting fires, mister! Get me that title and tagline pronto, ya hear?

Val has some great observations about attracting readers to your blog—keeping on doing what you’re doing and then some!

My response:

Alright, alright—lighten up! As the Spanish-speaking folks enjoy saying, “Lo dije en broma!” I said it playfully, in jest, and you’re right about Val having some great observations about attracting readers—right now she has me working overtime responding to comments—I love it, just love it!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized