Saturday, December 24, 2005

Hidalgo: The Beginning, or I Am Born (23)

Hidalgo: The Beginning, or I Am Born


Hello. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the second best known writer from Hidalgo, Illinois (POP. 100). Which means you won’t be seeing me hawking my book on the Today Show any time soon. (My “book” is incomplete, similar to my high school geometry grade.)

And who is Hidalgo’s best-known writer? It’s probably on the tip of your tongue, isn’t it? No? Give up? His name was Winfred (or “Winnie”, as I like to call him) Van Atta, author of Shock Treatment, which was made into a movie that Mr. Van Atta later sniffed at: “It ran the gamut of emotion from A to B”. This line was stolen from Dorothy Parker of course.

Incidentally, Van Atta’s family name was Vanatta. He thought this was too plain for an Author so he changed it to Van Atta. And of course he became world famous. You have heard of him, haven’t you?

What say we have a little quiz? Class, name three of his other novels. How about just one? I’m sure Van Atta won some prizes. He made a famous Oscar speech; he got the nod for his screenplay (category: based on work from another source which means only the title was used) of his novel, Shock Treatment. He gave an emotional speech: “You really, really like me!”

Come to think of it that was Sally Field. I’m sure Van Atta won some awards, probably the William Faulkner Ole Miss Award for Best Regional Novel Featuring Weird People That In Real Life You Would Drive Hundreds of Miles Just to Avoid Running into Them.

Actually, I think one of his books was nominated for The Edgar Award, which is named for Edgar Allan Poe who wrote all those very popular Vincent Price movies (The Pit and the Pendulum, The House of the Seven Gables, and Lassie, Come Home.) Poe’s Oscar speech was also a humdinger. I’m sorry I don’t have the space to quote it, but it was for the best murder mystery based on material (calico) stolen from another source.

As soon as my book is finished (working title: My Life on the Prairie: The Early Years, 1910-1950), I plan to write the movie version. I’m sure it will fit the best screenplay or story or long-winded tale adapted from another source category. It will probably be a shoo-in for the Oscar. My speech will begin: “I’m proud to represent Hidalgo; I’m only sorry my old friend, Winfred Van Atta, another Hidalgo boy, is not able to be here. I know he would have been proud…” I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in Hidalgo.

It is now time to move on to:

CHAPTER ONE (in which the hero manages to get born without going to a hospital, or calling anybody on a cell phone)

“Who said we were going to call him Denny”? Dad said about 4:42 AM, local time.

It was a very cold morning when Dad inquired about the baby’s name. It had been the coldest winter since records were first kept by the folks who invented handwriting (the Good Sumerians). This was odd as the date was March 25, when it was technically spring, on that day in 1945 when I was born. I don’t remember much about it. I’m the baby of the family, if a sixty -year old person can be called a baby.

Although all of us seven children-I have four brothers and two sisters-- are still at large, it is unclear to us exactly what happened that night .The mystery of the baby’s name was solved, eventually, but it was still a long day’s journey into the night and the predawn hours before things broke loose.

It had not been an easy birth. The baby didn’t come out right; he had to be assisted into the world with the doctor’s tools. (Many years later when the baby was supposedly grown up he heard on TV that the sort of birth he had experienced was traumatic; that a child never got over it, that it marked him for life, etc. “It was almost enough to make you give up TV”, he said.) And the birth was at home, like that of the other six children born to this family. Still everything was all right with mother and child except for the confusion over the baby’s name.

Brothers Jack and Jim were the only children still living at home at the time. Jack was nearly ten; Jim had just turned twelve. When the boys heard that a baby was coming, they decided to continue living at home, at least until they had jobs. Jim’s birthday in fact had occurred only five days before the birth of the boy whose name, according to Dad was not Denny, “for crying out loud”.

Jack, who is our star witness and principal supporting player in this drama, says that they (the Brothers Dunne) were sent to town just when the situation was getting interesting. . Being sent to town meant going to Hidalgo, a place where things tended to fold up early. So we’ll assume this was early in the evening, well before bedtime. This was in the dark ages, 1945, B. T (Before Television).

What did the boys do to occupy themselves until it was time to go home? I had thought about making this story into a reality show and having Jack and Jim return to Hidalgo to reconstruct the scene for us. They could have easily played themselves, although their appearance has changed somewhat after sixty years (they are a little taller).

I thought maybe the three of us might work up a little video to go with the script, which would show how things went on that important day. But I decided to go with my usual method of research, which shuns legwork in favor of making stuff up.

As to what the boys did, there weren’t that many options available; the nightlife of Hidalgo consisted of three or four grocery stores. They probably dropped in at Reba’s (sometimes pronounced “Reebie’s”) Meeker’s Grocery. Reba’s sign also said “Home Cooked Meals”, but not many people took her up on that as they could, well, get that kind of grub at home.

I like to think the boys each had the Pepsi and Planter’s Peanuts combo. The peanuts were not necessarily eaten on the side; the preferred method was to pour a few peanuts into the Pepsi bottle and then drink a little pop and chomp on a few peanuts at the same time. Very tasty.

You say you’ve never heard of Pepsi-soaked peanuts? Try them sometime—they’re delicious. Still with Pepsi at a nickel a bottle, the boys wouldn’t have gone overboard by drinking themselves into a sugar-salt coma.

Clarence’s Pool Hall may have been open, but the boys were a little young for billiards. So they probably drank pop and discussed why they were went sent to town.

“Mom’s having a baby, that’s why”, Jack said.

Jim responded: “There’s more to it than that. You’re just too young to know about it, that’s all.”

This remark infuriated Jack who was already wound up; he had been waiting for weeks for Mom to have this baby, which was supposed to be a girl named Judy Kay. That a girl’s name had been chosen led to unforeseen consequences. Namely, that there was way too much time spent on girl rather than boy names. (This is just speculation on my part, though I was considered to be a remarkable child, I took no notes at the time, preferring to spend my early hours mastering the art of burping.)

After an exciting evening in Hidalgo the Brothers Dunne walked home—a two-block journey-- in silence, as Jack instructed Jim to never speak to him again. (Jim was not necessarily crushed by this idea: “Fine with me, Buddy!”) The brothers early on practically invented sibling rivalry, but they both were very kind to me even beyond my “cute period”, which only lasted about two weeks.

I doubt that they called Dad for a ride home. I almost wish they had; I’m sure his response would have been interesting, but not necessarily suitable for home viewing. Although he normally used phrases that sounded like he was swearing, they were really harmless. A favorite exclamation was something that sounded like “Galnt dang it!” short for maybe, Gal Dang It. Anyway on his particular evening, I’m sure he was not in a mood to be bothered. Besides, kids weren’t carted here and there in 1945, not in Hidalgo, particularly.

At the same time the family was waiting for the birth of a child, another drama was taking place. Sister Betty was making plans to be married, which she did the day after I was born. Years later I congratulated Betty on her excellent timing in getting out of the house before it was time to take care of Baby. It was just a coincidence, but it makes a better story to say that Betty knew when to light out for the territory.

So it wasn’t a restful night for anybody, particularly for Jack who woke up every hour wondering if his sibling had been born. The event finally occurred around 4:00 AM. Jack was so excited he burst out into the streets of Hidalgo and began knocking on people’s doors to let them know about his baby brother. This was much appreciated of course.

Jack caused such a commotion that lights came on all over town, which led some people to believe that the War had ended. One neighbor lady explained it to her spouse, who was modeling his red flannel underwear on the street in downtown Hidalgo. “Oh, it’s only the little Dunne boy gone crazy telling everybody about his new baby brother.”

Her husband was disappointed: “Damn! I was hoping Hitler had been shot, or something”. Eventually, everyone went back to bed.

After Jack’s early morning excursion to take the good news to Hidalgo, he somehow managed to have a chat with Dr. Massie, who had a few questions for him. Why Dr. Massie decided to interview a not quite ten year old boy in the early morning hours has never been satisfactorily explained. Apparently no adults were around to grill. Mom and Dad were with the baby, no doubt stunned after having six children already; they were probably wondering if they would ever get all their offspring raised. (They were quite right to be concerned, as I lived with them for over thirty years.)

Dr. Massie was a fairly young man who was somewhat excited himself. He got a shock after the birth when Dad asked him how much he owed him. The fee was $45, a considerable amount of change at the time. For Dad, the hard times of the Depression and World War II had eased somewhat, so he quickly pulled out his billfold and handed over the cash. Dr. Massie was so overcome—he was used to people paying him in produce and promises—he said, “You mean you’re going to pay it all now?”

It is my theory that Dr. Massie was so stunned by collecting $45 in cash that he plain forgot to ask the parents a few questions including the name of the just born.

On his way out of the house he realized that his work was not quite finished; he stopped in the kitchen where Jack was fixing himself a little breakfast, a fried egg sandwich. (It had been a long time since the Pepsi-Planters snack of the previous night.)

Jack was happy to accommodate the good doctor. He was proud to have his baby brother; it made him feel kind of important to be finally included in the process. Jack was the youngest, and was always getting left out—he was sick and tired of it.

The only problem was he didn’t quite have his facts straight. He proudly (and innocently) reeled off the baby’s name as “Denny Kenneth”: Jack was close, according to the authorities (Mom and Dad); the name was Danny Kenneth, or Danny K., which Mom later said was her choice.

The birth certificate managed to get all three names wrong, even the last name by omitting the “e” in Dunne. Thus it read “Denny Kenneth Dunn”. Still no harm was done.

No harm except Dad wanted to know, “Who said we were going to call him Denny”? When this storm broke, Jack was in another part of the forest (under his bed upstairs), and Jim wisely played innocent. It all blew over.

Sixty years later, though, some family members still call me Denny, or Den. I kind of like it, actually.[1]
[1] No wonder the boy became a writer: he was plagued with an identity crisis from the beginning. This has probably accounted for his tendency to try on different hats. In his cowboy days, which lasted until about age fourteen, he pretended to be Roy Rogers. Later in his so-called maturity he liked to pretend to be somebody else for a day. Currently he is Hidalgo’s second best known writer.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Annotated Diary Entries of D. K. Dunne (22)

The Annotated Diary Entries of D. K. Dunne (22)

There is great excitement in the literary world today, as it was announced that an early diary has surfaced that reveals that D. K. Dunne, the author of “Hidalgo: The Town, Not the Horse”, was once a high school sophomore.[1] The diary, written when the budding author, was fourteen going on fifteen, sheds new light on the teen years that have so mystified latter day critics.

The man at the center of this literary storm --D(anny) K(enneth) Dunne--has been silent thus far. A spokesperson(someone who did not want even his gender revealed) said that the author is not answering his door; but that he does, however, occasionally sneak a glance through the peephole.

It is thought by some observers that the author has been behaving strangely lately, but other sources say he has recently seen The Aviator, and is only doing his Howard Hughes impression. In any case Dunne, it is said, plans to lie low until the diary hubbub dies down.

And indeed much has been made of the very first diary entry dated 2-16-60, 8:00 PM. It reads: Went to school as usual. Latin test today. Don’t think I did too well. Well, back to TV. 2]

This entry indicates the author’s early interest in popular culture. It is no wonder that he later wrote several articles about TV detectives. It was his thesis that Cannon and Barnaby Jones, to name only two of his subjects, were landmark series that deserved close study if one wanted to get a grip on Western Civilization, not to mention the early use of car phones. [3]

The next diary entry of 2-25-60 6:00 PM indicates a gap of nine days between posts. Scholars speculate that the intrepid boy diarist was honing his craft by taking time out for real life experience, such as the adventure later described in “Newspaper Boy”, when he got lost in downtown Greenup.

Other scholars, however, are quick to note that the author was reputed to be twelve, not fifteen, when he delivered papers. Thus there are many unknowns in the life of the man often called the Toast of Hidalgo.

The second entry, or the next diary entry as described in Paragraph six above, [4]reads: Had big snowstorm today. School let out early. Don’t know whether or not there’s going to be school tomorrow.[5] Dad got stuck in Kenny’s ditch when we were going after Mom. [6] Jim had to pull him out with the propane truck. [7]

This entry indicates the author’s early preference for short sentences; it will doubtless be copied/pasted by all PHD candidates who plan to examine the diarist’s life and works in toto.[8]

An even longer gap occurs before the next entry of 4-1-60; the date is uncertain as Mr. Dunne's handwriting when he was young is almost always difficult to read.

The entry in question reads: Betty brought Aunt Maude up yesterday. She brought me a tie for my birthday. I am getting ready to go to school. Will report later.[9]

Mr. Dunne’s birthday is on March 25, which indicates that the April 1 date is inaccurate; it is also possible that Aunt Maude was late in delivering the tie. It is likely that we will never know the answer to this conundrum.

Although the literary public is eagerly awaiting the release of the complete diary, insiders say readers may be disappointed, as it has many gaps that may raise more questions than it answers.

A spokesman for Mr. Dunne, who only wishes to be identified as First Reader, is encouraging the author to include the diary in a revised version of his autobiography, “A Very Modest Book Proposal, or My Life on the Prairie.”[10]

[1] The “Hidalgo” story is set in a small town (POP. 100) in the Midwest during the 50’s; it is a humorous memoir of a boy and his pony. It later served as the basis for a made for TV movie, which proved so popular, it is repeated every year during the Christmas season. Fans of the story, however, were offended that Jiggs the Pony was played by Eddie, a Jack Russell Terrier.
[2] “Word” indicates that “Latin test today” is an incomplete sentence. The young Mr. Dunne (picture John-Boy Walton with his nickel notebook) was either ignorant of this, or was hell bent on being original.
[3] Some critics say his chapter on “Mannix” includes a complete summary of Western Thought from Aristotle to Sartre. We (the staff of The Washington Post) think he was just kidding.
[4] The Reader is advised to skip returning to Page One and counting paragraphs; it’s not important. You’ll never get through this article and its various and sundry footnotes if you question everything.
[5] This sentence indicates the author’s early preoccupation with future time.
[6] It is assumed that “Kenny” was a neighbor, but what his last name was and whatever happened to him are questions not answered by the diary. PHD candidates who are bent on solving this mystery are already in the field canvassing the old neighborhood, or would be if they could find it.
[7] Jim is the diarist’s older brother who figures in the Hidalgo story, as he and his brother Jack were given the job of chasing Jiggs the Pony with a lasso whenever he tried to get the heck out of Dodge. Jack, according to a source close to the story (his baby brother), once said that Jiggs made his life a living hell. Childhood, this report from the front indicates, is not all it’s cracked up to be.
[8] If this makes you think of The Wizard of Oz, it can’t be helped. Such is the power of words!
[9] “Will report later,” indicates the author’s keen interest in recording his life; it is clear the itch to express himself was strong even at that early age. He did not, however, post again for another six days. One can only guess as to his activity during this period. Some early speculation--people always want to jump to the wrong conclusion about these matters-- centers on the possibility that this was Mr. Dunne’s “coming of age” period. A source close to the author (Peter Pan) says he has never come of age. We (the Committee appointed by Congress to write this report) suspect Mr. Dunne is dodging this question. Other observers assert that this matter was cleared up in Mr. Dunne’s celebrated blog, which at last count had an e-mailing list of thirteen.
[10] Not sold at better bookstores.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Losing It (21)

Losing It (21)

My new worry—I try to come up with a new one every week—is not that I’m getting older, fatter, balder, the usual suspects, but that I’m slowly and surely, losing what little memory  I have left.

I used to be good at remembering important stuff like who starred in the Saturday morning TV shows back in the 50’s. When friends of a certain age (i. e., those almost as old as me) discuss the Saturday morning shows they usually bring up Fury (about a horse), or My Friend Flicka (also about a horse), or Rin Tin Tin (about the U. S. Cavalry in the Wild West despite being named for a German Shepherd). I have a theory about this dog: I think he also played Bullet on The Roy Rogers Show; he probably led a double life, though not as confusing as that of Lassie who pretended to be a girl.

My friends can tell you all about Peter Graves and Bobby Diamond (the stars of Fury, as I’m sure you remember). I like to chime in with my favorite example, the TV series The Gallant Men. Now I’m not even certain the show was called The Gallant Men. But I’m sure it concerned the French Foreign Legion and what tough fighters they were. (This was in the 50’s before the French became the weenies they are today.)

Although I’m no longer certain of the show’s title, I still remember the stars: Larry “Buster” Crabbe and Fuzzy Knight. Some people accuse me of making these names up. Nowadays I just refer skeptics to Google, which settles any arguments, as there are whole web sites devoted to these worthies. Even though I seem to be losing my grasp of trivia, at least I still know who Elmo Lincoln was (the first movie Tarzan whose yell never quite came off as he was a silent film star)[1].


Not being able to remember trivia is one thing, but what really bothers me is I can’t recall what little history I once knew. At one time I could name all the Presidents of the U. S. in order; now I usually get lost around old No. 7. (He’s on the $20 bill—I’ll think of his name later).

The War of 1812 is my favorite date, as it helpfully tells you what that very important year was about. It turns out the War of 1812 was actually a mini-series which technically ended in 1814-- during sweeps week-- with a peace treaty. But General Andrew Jackson didn’t hear about it and beat the stuffing out of the British at the Battle of New Orleans (from the song of the same name) in 1815, technically after the war was over, according to that great historian and popular singer, Johnny Horton.[2]

Andrew Jackson was known as “Old Hickory.” (You couldn’t be a general in the 19th century unless you had a catchy name like Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too)[3]. The “Old Hickory” nickname had its origins in Jackson’s hot temper; when riled he was apt to pick up a hickory log and lambaste the daylights out of his soldiers. (With civilians he was a little more composed: he merely slapped them with a glove and challenged them to a duel: “Pistols or swords—name your poison!”)

When questioned by the press (a bunch of anti-war fruitcakes) about killing British soldiers after the war was over, the General said: “I don’t give a crap about any peace treaty. I beat the redcoats, I’m going to be President, so watch your mouth.” Jackson liked to shake his finger at the press while he lined them out. He later posed for the famous "Uncle Sam Wants You" poster.

Most historical dates—unlike the War of 1812-- are bare of any hints. Strangely enough, I often remember exact dates, but can’t for the life of me recall what happened. For example, December 17, 1903 comes to mind, but was that when Wright Brothers first flew, or did they just fall off their bicycles that time?

April 3, 1882 also sticks in my mind: I think that was the date that Bob Ford shot Jesse James, but maybe it’s F. D. R.’s birth date.[4]

When I still had some memory for historical trivia, I used to tease people with questions like: What office did Aaron Burr hold when he shot Alexander Hamilton?[5] Was Burr arrested, impeached, imprisoned or otherwise chastised for killing Hamilton? I don’t remember now. All I know is Hamilton’s portrait is on the $10 bill. Hamilton was also inducted into The Founding Fathers Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (be sure to look him up the next time you’re at the Museum in Akron, Ohio).

At one time I would have known the answers to all these pressing historical questions. Of course at one time I could have bent over and tied my shoelaces without getting dizzy.

No, I’m not going to think about being dizzy—that will be next week’s worry.

[1] Larry “Buster’ Crabbe also played Tarzan; Fuzzy Knight, however, did not. Fuzzy spent his days competing for character roles; he usually found that George “Gabby” Hayes had beaten him to the draw.
[2] Jackson was bitter the rest of his life that no one told him the War of 1812 was already over; he blamed the news media, particularly “those knuckleheads at CNN.”
[3] William Henry Harrison was the victor at the Battle of Tippecanoe and was President for about 30 days before he keeled over from getting a bad cold on Inauguration Day and eating strawberries and cream. (Probably too many preservatives.) His running mate (Tyler, Too) became President and thereafter was called John Tyler, as it would have been too silly to call him Tyler, Too.
[4] I'm sure you remember that very popular bar room ballad with lyrics that included " 'Twas a dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard and laid poor Jesse in his grave”. (This little ditty was covered by, I believe, The Sex Pistols.) “Mr. Howard” was the alias Jesse was going by at the time he was dispatched by Mr. Ford, the “dirty little coward.”
[5] Burr was Vice President of the U. S. Thomas Jefferson was somewhat put out with him; he began shopping around for a new vice president, preferably one that had a nicer hobby than dueling.    

Saturday, November 26, 2005

George Washington Checks In (20)

Father of His Country Stuns the Nation

Will Guest Star in Ghost Whisperer Episode During November Sweeps

Former President Says He Doesn’t Feel a Day Over 273 Years Old

CBS Entertainment Division held a press conference today to announce that George Washington had showed up at the Ghost Whisperer set for an early makeup call. The former president had apparently returned from the spirit world just in time to film a Thanksgiving episode.

Several reporters questioned why Washington had chosen Ghost Whisperer when The West Wing, or Commander in Chief might have been more suitable.

Sources close to the former president (other ghosts) explained that Washington was a fan of the show’s star, Jennifer Love Hewitt. Besides, he didn’t want to compete, “with that M*A*S*H* fellow or the Lady President”. He seemed to think he would make a bigger splash on The CBS show.

The General, as he prefers to be called, is said to have his lines memorized and is anticipating completing his guest role so he can return to the spirit world in time to watch the broadcast version on his dish.

Washington explained that high tech worked well in the other world; he was sorry, for example, that TV wasn’t available in his day, as he would have enjoyed the sports, but was glad he didn’t have that “blasted cable news” following his every move.

The actual plot line of the script is a closely guarded secret. Washington is said to be upset over present day insiders who leak to the press, and was assured that the script would not fall into the wrong hands. “What tommyrot—in my day I would have drawn and quartered those scoundrels!”

Within minutes of the announcement, however, a Washington Post forum appeared on the Internet that gave full details of the script (after a spoiler alert).

Bob Woodward said Washington had given him the plot in an earlier conversation when he was interviewing him for his instant book “Washington Returns to Earth”.

Woodward did not say when he himself would return.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

President Bush Proclaims National Day of No News (19)

Says Sports and Weather Can Be Covered

Entertainment Tonight Given Special Waiver for Hollywood Couple of the Week Series

President Bush, according to White House sources, ( staff members planning to write insider books) “has had it up to his eyeballs with the news media”.

After recently stunning the nation’s Capital by taking a day off to play with his dog, Barney, the President said today he was setting aside next Tuesday as a National Day of No News.

Official Washington Insiders (leakers) and the Press (leakees) were both agog over the statement as they live on the latest rumors, gossip, and downright whoppers that pass for news coverage in the nation’s Capital. Reporters and their sources fell over one another in their panic to get one last story out before next Tuesday.

One reporter who was overrun in the pressroom—she still had marks on her forehead caused by wing-tip shoes--said, “It was like the last flight out of Saigon”. Some younger reporters didn’t understand the reference to Viet Nam until it was explained that the war had been rerun during the 2004 Election (“Oh, The Swift Boat thing” they said.)

The President was asked about the rights of a free press. “The Press is pretty darned free with their coverage. I just want to give the American people a break from all those cable news birds that think they know everything”.

The Washington Press Corps took the proclamation —as they do all news coming out of their hometown—very seriously. And Congress, after giving a heads up to their reporter friends, held their own press conferences to denounce The National No News Day as Unconstitutional, not to mention harmful to their fund raising campaigns.

One Very Important Senator (one of 100) explained, “Besides, if you’re not on TV, you won’t be invited to the right parties".

The Press was represented by all the major news organizations except the Washington Post staff, which was attending a seminar led by Bob Woodward on “How To Keep Yourself Out of the Story”.

C-Span will have cameras turned on to capture every moment of the No News Day. Brian Lamb, C-Span founder, said it would not be a problem as they were used to dead air from their non-stop coverage of The House and Senate.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How to Become a Better Old Person (18)

How to Become a Better Old Person[1]

(Footnotes—a new blog feature—will be found at the bottom of the page, according to Word which is certainly the last you- know- what on these matters.)

The other night, while holding my arms over my head and waiting for my deodorant to dry, it occurred to me that I was turning into an old person. “It’s time to work on becoming a better old person,” I said to myself while staring at the Geezer in the glass.

The next morning, after a wild night of waking every hour to make sure I was still alive, I made new rules for myself. If I’m going to be old, I thought, I might as well do it right. If I feel cranky, I darned well plan to be cranky. It’s such a strain to be nice when sometimes all you want to do is to slap certain persons silly.

So, as a public service, let me pass along my thoughts on becoming a better old person (geezer).

If you are naturally hard of hearing like me, you’ll have a head start on being an old person, as you’ll miss a lot of foolish remarks, which will have the happy effect of making you less irritable. Generally what people say is boring anyway; they usually just drone on about their own pathetic lives instead of focusing on you, the interesting person in any exchange.

If you hear perfectly well, just pretend you don’t. Practice a blank look on your face when people talk. Maybe, not right away, but in the fullness of time, they will give up talking about their children or their grandchildren who are so good at sports.[2]

If someone does go on at length about the kiddies, interrupt them with the details of your latest doctor’s appointment, the more embarrassing the better. Describe your encounter with an examination table that was so cold you shot up to the ceiling when you landed on it.

Don’t be shy about describing your latest colon test. Were you put out, or did you stay awake for the procedure? Did your BP take a dive; did you turn pale? Were you held over in the exam room because you very nearly passed out?

Be sure to note this in your diary. Or better yet, if you have a newspaper column, write up your medical problems for the locals to discuss. Everyone will be extremely interested in the results of your annual check-up. [3]

Make a point of not lifting anything heavier than a potato chip bag. If you’re a guy, politely explain your hernias (I have one which is about to give birth to another one) prevent you from lifting. Start wearing a post-it note on your shirt that says “Sorry, no lifting done here”. [4]

For your mental health, give up watching TV News, particularly the Talking Heads on both the right and the left. It’s OK to check the headlines at Yahoo, but skip the stories. They will only upset you and distract you from your goal of becoming a better old person.

The Constitution clearly says you are not required to follow the news. You are only required to pay your cable bill. The Founders knew not many people would be interested in government, which is a good thing. Otherwise we would all be yelling at one another like the idiots on TV.[5]

Speaking of your Constitutional rights, tell everyone you meet how many meds you are on and bitch about how much they cost. It’s your right.

I now take eleven pills a day, up from zero a couple of years ago. One is a blood pressure med; the others are over the counter allergy/sinus remedies. Some days I take twenty-two pills as I forget I’ve taken them earlier. [6]

I’m sorry—I have to bring this article to a close, as it is time once more to let my deodorant dry. Chores never cease, do they? Besides, I’ve run out of footnotes. As a consolation prize, please read this week’s crop (no quiz!).

[1] This title is only a working title unless I blog it. Which would mean I couldn’t think of anything better. Sorry.
[2] People who show pictures of the little darlings at play will be banished in the New World Order.
[3]Don’t mention the hospital’s name, as the staff will be waiting for you with cattle prods.
[4] T-shirts are also available that read, “I’m recovering from surgery—sorry I can’t help”.
[5] The Bill of Rights will be found in your textbook under The Founding Fathers’ Greatest Hits: Volume I, The Early Years.
[6] I know you’re dying to know the names of the pills, but I can’t spell them without looking at the bottles, which are inconveniently located in the kitchen cabinet. Suffice it to say they are harmless unless chewed rather than swallowed.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

President Bush Takes a Day Off (17)

Says He’s Going Back to the Constitution

Plans to Cut Work Day in Half to Spend More Time with Barney, the White House Dog

This morning when the White House Press Corps gathered for their daily briefing they were stunned to find no one in the pressroom. Instead the President’s daily schedule was posted. It read: “Gone to play with Barney”.

The reporters—from force of habit--began shouting as though a press conference were going to be held anyway; after a few minutes of head butting and jockeying for position, they began calling their sources.

Insiders close to the White House—they live in the same time zone—painted a picture of a President whose persona had changed overnight from embattled Chief Executive to Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky. Some feared the President had gone wacko, but most thought he just needed a vacation.

These sources explained that the President was getting very weary of all the criticism from his conservative supporters (“Those birds are never happy”) over the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination fiasco (“She’s a fine person, but who knew she couldn’t pass an eighth grade Constitution test?”)

Staff members close to the story who did not wish to be identified (they wore their very scary—to Republicans—Bill and Hilary Clinton Halloween masks) said the President had a sudden moment of clarity while surfing his way to The White House site.

Bush likes to linger over press releases at the site to read something good about his administration. On an impulse he followed a link to the Constitution and discovered it had very little to say about the President’s duties.

He smacked his head and said, “I’ve been making this too hard. I’ll execute the laws and approve treaties. If nothing is happening in those areas, I’ll take the day off. This ought to make all those strict constructionist right-wingers happy. Besides, I’ve been neglecting Barney something terrible what with all this political stuff.” And then, sources said, he began playing ball with his dog.

Vice President Cheney was so alarmed at the news that the President had apparently gone around the bend that he surfaced from the White House basement. The Vice President’s staff—those who were not busy leaking the news that they never knew “Scooter”—said he feared he might have to assume the President’s duties, which he has always been reluctant to do, as it would seriously interfere with his current job of running the world.

The President said, “Relax, Dick. Read the Constitution—you have even less to do than me. The Constitution says you can preside over the Senate—good luck with that.”

Shortly after the Vice President’s appearance a ball landed in the pressroom with Barney in hot pursuit. To the surprise of the few reporters left, President Bush ran in, scooped up the White House Pooch, and did an unscheduled photo-op.

“It’s good to see the little fellow having fun. And I’m feeling better myself since I realized I’m not all that important. According to the Constitution, the Congress is supposed to do the heavy lifting. The next time they want to do something dumb and then blame me for it, I’ll tell them to include me out.”

And with that the President ignored the shouted questions from the reporters and said to his dog, “Barney, what say we rustle up a little grub?”

The word on the President’s schedule for tomorrow is that he and Barney will be making a holiday video. “Barney,” the President said, “gets more hits than anybody at the site”.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ex-Presidents in Family Court (16)

Bush-Clinton Request To Be Made Permanent Team

White House Rocked by News that Former President Bush Plans to Adopt Bill Clinton

The American public has become accustomed to seeing former presidents Bush and Clinton make joint appearances in their work for disaster relief. This morning, however, the ex- presidents made a surprise court visit. The proceedings were so unexpected that Court TV had to rely on video taken by a security camera.

Former President George H. W. Bush petitioned the court to become Bill Clinton’s legal guardian. A lawyer for the elder Bush (one of the few Republican attorneys not working the White House leak case) read a bilingual (English and Lawyer Speak) statement that said Bush stands ready to become Bill Clinton’s daddy.

Representatives from Children and Family Services (former cast members of TV’s “Judging Amy”) confirmed that Clinton wants be adopted. Clinton spoke on his own behalf, which the court allowed with the admonition: “Keep it short; remember, you are not running for office”. Clinton addressed the court without notes, but appeared to be squinting as though he were looking for a teleprompter.

“For all practical purposes, I am an orphan. My natural father died before I was born. My stepfather has been dead for many years; my Mother, Virgina Kelly, author of Leading With My Heart, died a few years ago. I, too, am an author. My book describes my early life and explains how important family is to me.”

The former president choked up for a moment. “But now I live all by myself in a big old house in New York; Hilary stays in Washington and hardly ever leaves her Senate office except to fly to California to raise money for her Presidential Campaign. My dog and I are ready to move to Texas.”

Former President Bush spoke up to say that “Bill is like the son I never had; I know Barbara and I are just the ticket he needs to grow up to be somebody.”

A reporter pointed out that Clinton had already become President. “That’s true. But still we gotta think of the boy’s future. I think he has a good chance to head the U. N. and eventually rule the world. His foreign policy is a lot like mine. With my diplomatic contacts I’m sure I can help Bill with his ambitions.”

A source close to the White House—he double bunks with a Secret Service agent—said President Bush is concerned that his father is spending a little too much time with Bill Clinton. “The guy’s OK to raise money with, but Dad needs to cut out the sleepovers for pizza and movies”.

Another White House source, when asked the President’s response to the news that his father is planning to adopt Clinton, quoted Bush as saying, “I’m calling Mom!”

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Another Greenup Press Week (15)

It’s time to revisit The Greenup Press. You remember the Press, don’t you? It has the weekly scoop on what’s going on in my hometown of Greenup, IL (Pop. 1500). I like to read it and make “smart remarks” about some of the items. As the Press isn’t online (darn), I feel it’s my duty to share. Here are a few highlights since I first covered it in July (Blog No. 6).

Bulletin from the Timothy News:

“Don & Brenda P. spent a few days in Kentucky while there, they took in the World’s Longest Yard Sale.”

(Maybe it just seemed long.)

From the Liberty Hills News:

“Gina M. left Wednesday morning to go back to Northern IL. University for the fall semester. Her uncle Brent B. also took a truck load of things for her. I didn’t know it took so much stuff to go to school, but she says she needs every bit of it. Anyhow she is all moved in and taking training to be a floor counselor in her dorm. The students will all be moving in next week so she will be very busy on those days helping new students get to their rooms.”

(Is this one of those “party” schools?)

“We had a little excitement here in Greenup last week. My end of town was closed off awhile due to a unknown object that was found about one block from me.

It was handled as a bomb threat that turned out that it was not. It sure made a lot of extra work and scare for local and state officials. It was decided that the boxes were meant to trap mosquitoes to check for Niles infected mosquitoes. I feel kind of sorry for the guy that put them out as I bet he sure got in trouble. Anyhow I guess it was good training for everyone. At least we now know we have trained personnel if we should need it.”

(Trained personnel? Let’s have a few names please.)

From Letter To The Editor:

In response to Mr. C.’s letter to the editor, as commander of the American Legion I am at all the dances and we have very little trouble. We did not have any fights at the dance that ended at 1:30. Yes, one young man took his frustrations out on a door.”

(It’s good to know the Commander attends all the dances, but maybe in his next report he could explain the “frustrations out on a door”—sounds sort of kinky, don’t you think?)

From Class Offered Notice:

“On Tuesday, November 1, at 7 pm at Toledo Village Hall, Effingham Center Educators Beverly C. and Pat H. will present “Celebrate the Holidays: Make it Simple”. Beverly will give several holiday recipes featuring a variety of convenience foods. Pat will share simple, inexpensive ideas for quick ways to add a festive look to packaging (gift wrapping). You will also learn about some new small kitchen ware on the market”.

(Sounds like the girls will be selling something.)

From Museum News:

“It would be nice if we had a variety store where one could buy a pair of anklets and things such as this without going out of town”.

(Interesting, but what happened to the Museum News?)

And, finally, from the Jack Oak News (our favorite column):

“Mon. Oct. 10th Keith and Anita B. both kept Doctor appointments in Champaign. We are both going to live unless some unforeseen thing occurs”.

And on that cheerful note, we must bid farewell to the Village of Greenup.

See you next week.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

This Date in History (14), or What Our Ancestors Did When They Thought Nobody Was Looking

On this date (Thursday):

Carrie Nation smashed up her first saloon and told the drunks what she thought of them.

Wilbur and Orville Wright fell off a cliff even though they were wearing feathers.

Thomas A. (for Adele) Edison invented the movies, but closed his studio when the star of The Great Train Robbery, Bronco Billy Anderson, jumped off the screen and left the country with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Susan B. Anthony said of the new coin with her image: “Looks like two bits to me”.

Thomas Jefferson exceeded his credit limit with The Louisiana Purchase; Visa was not amused.

Millard Fillmore, President of The U.S, disappeared. No one missed him.

In 1890 the Census Bureau declared the frontier was closed, which confused thousands of people on their way to Disneyland. Many cancelled their motel reservations.

In 1893 The U. S. allowed people to settle the Cherokee Strip, which further puzzled the pioneers who had bought the Government’s previous story that the Frontier—not to mention The Sands—was closed. (See paragraph 7, line 1, Schedule C above).

Today was the 80th birthday of Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret “The Iron Lady” Thatcher. After a wee bit too much champagne, the old girl called up Argentina and threatened to declare war on them if they so much as looked at The Falkland Islands.

And, finally, an update on last week’s report on the James Brothers: On Thursday Frank and Jesse filed for a divorce. Judge Roy Bean, however, pointed out that the Brothers were never married, which made their petition null and void, not to mention stupid. (After this ruling, Judge Bean—The Law West of the Pecos-- is pretty confident that he’ll be named to the Supreme Court).

Informed sources (barflies) say Jesse is now seeking to be declared an emancipated person capable of living on his own. Sources close to the story (they have cable) indicated Frank thought this was pretty funny.

Spokesmen for both parties say they plan to remain friends, but will be dating others. The Dalton Gang was mentioned as a possibility.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Return of Frank and Jesse (13)

Famous Old West Outlaws Hold News Conference

Skeptical Press Question “Frank and Jesse James”

Famed Duo Attired in Long Yellow Dusters and Three Piece Suits from Warner Bros. Outlet Store

At a hastily called press conference, reporters in St. Louis, Missouri questioned the famous James Brothers. Jesse James read from a prepared statement, managing to hit all the reporters in the front row with his spittle. James was a little hard to follow, as his remarks were more in the nature of a rant, rather than a statement.

“I am sick and tired of reading about all these so-called outlaws, who are trying to horn in on my glory. (His brother Frank glared at him.) Well, our glory. We were the greatest outlaw gang in history. The modern world is going to hell in a hand basket, excuse my French.”

The outlaw was interrupted by several reporters shouting at him (they were in training for the White House press corps). The AP reporter finally got James’s attention.

“Who do you think you’re kidding? I know for a fact that you, ‘Jesse’, are deader than last week’s celebrity. And isn’t true, ‘Frank’, you spent several years in prison after your outlaw career was over?”

Jesse managed to get a word in: “Don’t that beat all. You press guys haven’t changed a bit. To get back to the subject, I am fed up with people who claim to be the West’s greatest outlaws. And don’t get me started on Butch and Sundance—Bob Redford and Paulie Newman—what a pair of fakers! And if I hear another word about the Reno Brothers being the first train robbers, I swear I’ll have a conniption fit.”

James was so overwrought he made a quick gesture towards his inside jacket pocket, which caused an uproar as several reporters hit the floor in anticipation of gunplay.

“What a bunch of weenies”, James said. Even Frank managed a grin.

James pulled out several folded sheets of paper and waved them at the reporters.

“ Speaking of weenies, I’m going to sue those Google Guys if they don’t straighten up. Every time I Google my name all I get is garbage about some biker who married a floozy actress that followed him to the hospital after a stupid accident.”

James stop to squint at his Google search: “Sandra Bullock—that’s the girl friend of the guy using my name. He even says he’s a direct descendent of the outlaw Jesse James. Give me a break. I mean Tom Hanks may be a descendent of Abe Lincoln— though why anybody would want to be related to that Yankee upstart, who claimed to be a Southerner, is beyond me. But I’m here to tell you that I am the original, the one and only Jesse James.”

Jesse was shaking all over himself at the end of this tirade; his brother Frank tried to calm him down.

“Don’t get your drawers in a snit, Jesse! Remember what the Bible says: Do unto others, and do it first.” (The older brother was famous for quoting-- or misquoting--Shakespeare and The Bible).

The elder James led Jesse out of the banquet room. Reporters were still shouting questions at the outlaws who were as oblivious as a couple of ex-Presidents.

“Oh, sure, Frank—show off what a faker you are! You’re always so high and mighty! Why Mom liked you best is the biggest mystery of my life. And another thing, why do people always say Frank and Jesse James when everybody knows I’m the famous one? Answer me that Brother, since you’re so smart…”

The Brothers had left behind a press kit with clippings of their exploits. They were as famous as rock stars in their day (June 6, 1876).

The James Gang included at times the Younger Brothers, The Ford Brothers and their Lincolns, Stacey Keach and The Quaids. The Gang was notorious for trashing hotels, ordering room service, and riding their horses up to the top floor of their hotel.

They liked to order videos of movies that portrayed their exploits. Their critiques were on the harsh side, as they would usually shoot out the TV before the pizza arrived.

Later in the day Jesse James dialed a local TV station from his cell phone while on horseback. He said he and Frank were galloping towards Meramac Caverns, as a local farmer’s barn helpfully proclaimed that Jesse’s hideout was nearby. (The barn also had large lettering inviting them to “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco”.)

Jesse wanted the press to know he had Googled his name; the first thing that now came up was the AP report of his morning news conference. James was crowing that he was now Ranked No. 1 in Google Search. “It’s about time,” he said.

He rang off shortly afterwards as Frank was heard in the background, “You’ve got another think coming if you actually believe I’m going to stay in a cave overnight!”

The hotel manager later said he saw the James Boys in the alley where their horses were hitched at parking meters, but they galloped off before he could bill them for the room damages.

Local reporters who researched their own newspaper’s files found that James’s death in 1882 had been front-page news. Several men over the years had claimed to be Jesse James—he was often sighted at the same gas station with Elvis.

But this James, said one of the old-time reporters, was the first one to complain about Sandra Bullock.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The U. S. Gets Born (12)

On September 17, 1787 The Founding Fathers adopted the Constitution, an Orphan born in Philadelphia. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton had a stern disagreement over who would be Daddy.

G. Morris (first name always written as G. as nobody then or now could spell it) said he was the Father, as he had actually written the words with his pen, a $0.98 cent Bic, which doubled as a lighter.

Wise old Ben Franklin was in charge of settling disputes. He made a speech about the rising or setting sun picture that was on George Washington’s chair (also his screen saver).

Ben said the Orphan Constitution would survive. (Or something like that: the original video has been lost.) Just to be on the safe side Children and Family Services were called (Ben had just invented the cell phone).

Although the Orphan was now adopted, he had to be approved by the Original Thirteen Colonies who were now states under The Articles of Confederation, Part 17, line 46, Row 6B, except for Massachusetts, which thought it was a commonwealth.

Massachusetts was so confused that it passed The Somewhat Gay Marriage Law, which provided for couples that were not necessarily gay, but were at least moderately cheerful, to be eligible for call waiting and high speed Internet access.

Things became so muddled that James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay (The McGuire Sisters of Journalism) wrote a series of pamphlets to explain the new Constitution, which had citizens shaking their heads and exclaiming: “What the heck are these guys trying to say?”

Sample sentence: “The executive branch will be co-equal with the legislative branch which will be overruled by the Supreme Court unless they are not wearing their robes in which case they will declare themselves obscene”.

The Founders went back to their laptops and wrote still more of the Famous Federalist Papers though the People begged for mercy.

Madison finally made an overseas call for help to Thomas Jefferson, who along with John Adams (the original Adams, not one of his 37 descendents also named John) conveniently managed to be in Paris, France during the controversy. Jefferson said: (this is a direct quote from the original phone log):

“Madison, who gave you my number? Why do you think I crossed the Atlantic if not to get away from your pesky questions? How are you ever going to succeed me as President if you can’t handle a crisis on your own?”

Sensing that his mentor was having a bad day, Madison said Jefferson was cutting out on him.

Jefferson gave phone to John Adams who yelled (to be sure they could hear him in America):

“What’s this nonsense about Massachusetts? What are “gay couples”? Aren’t all happily married couples “gay”? I’ve only been gone two years, and already the Country along with our Mother Tongue is going to hell in a hand basket.”

Jefferson took the phone back to tell Madison to add Bill of Rights to the new Constitution.

Madison said: “What bill? The overseas phone call?” Jefferson gave up, and told Madison to expect a fax with the details.

So the Orphan Constitution had a rough time of it for about two years, which was compounded by much bickering over expense accounts that seemed to indicate heavy drinking by the people’s representatives.

This dust up came about as one busybody delegate had snitched on his brethren. Geo. Washington termed him an old blue nose and gave him a stout cursing; he heartily wished the little you-know-what was in the army so he could have had him flogged.

But after two years of wrangling the Constitution was passed and the new country was poised to live happily ever. There was, however, a little hitch when Geo. Washington was to be sworn as the first President. He arrived at the District of Columbia, but was ten years early as the White House had not yet been built.

“Accursed Yahoo Search!” thundered the General.

He then took an Amtrak special to New York only to be told that the new government had makeshift quarters at the Philadelphia Holiday Inn. “By God! This is worse than a floating crap game!” (This is not exactly what he said, but this is a family blog.)

Washington was so put out by this mix-up that he had his advance man strung up by his heels and made him answer questions from The Press. Washington was a fun guy.

And so the Constitution was no longer an orphan. The original document can be read online with nice exhibits of, for example, G. Morris’s Bic Pen, which doubled as a lighter.

Remember: you are reading this on the Internet-- it has to be true. I’ve lost my original link, but if you Google “G. Morris Bic Pen”, I think you might be surprised.

By the way, I’ll be offline the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Newspaper Boy (11)

One afternoon when I came home from school Mom greeted me, “Aren’t you the boy that always wanted a paper route?”

When had I ever said I wanted a paper route? I really didn’t have time. I had to practice my card tricks--I was going to be a magician.

But I didn’t want to disappoint Mom. Sonny, the kid who was giving up the route, would show me the ropes. At fourteen, he was two years older; Mom said he had other interests. What those were I didn’t know. Whoever invented the word “clueless” must have had me in mind.

Showing me the ropes only lasted two days; Sonny said if I could figure out what customers I had missed I would have the route in hand. Of course I didn’t have a clue. Sonny assured me I would be able to handle it. He jumped on his bike and flew off to pursue his “other interests”.

I did have the route pretty well memorized, but I wasn’t good at folding papers. I just threw them in my bicycle basket and tried to keep them from blowing away. Between chasing runaway papers and crashing my bike into people’s porches—I wasn’t made to ride a bike and throw a newspaper at the same time-- the route was getting longer and longer.

The very next afternoon it got dark early thanks to a thunderstorm; I was running even later. I was about to make my last few deliveries, when a car pulled up blinding me with its lights. It was Dad. “What in the crap are you doing out here at this time of night?” He didn’t wait for an answer—I was on my way home as fast as I could pedal.

When I got home, I heard Mom saying, “I don’t want that boy out at night riding his bike”. I heard Dad say, “He can give that paper route back to Sonny what’s-his- name”.

So it was decided my newspaper days were over. I didn’t know whether to be elated or sad. The paper route money would have come in handy for magic supplies, but there were a lot of things around the house that could be used as props.

The next evening I used some of those “props” as the folks had gone to The Store. I launched my career in magic by filling the dining room table with dishes. The idea was to pull the tablecloth (quickly) out from under the dishes. I practiced until I heard Dad and Mom pull in. It was show time; I gave the folks a demonstration.

The next morning we were still finding broken crockery.

“Maybe we should have let him kept his paper route,” Dad said.

“I liked it better when he played cowboys,” Mom said.

Cowboys! Great idea, Mom! I was twelve, but I was working my way back to six.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

1846, or Where Were You CNN? (10)

In 1846 apparently nothing happened. It was the most important year in our history, but CNN was asleep; C-Span took a powder. Luckily people who claimed to have been alive at the time took notes.

For example, a very famous American was born that year. He was a Pony Express rider at fourteen, and later went into show business with James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickox and Martha Jane “Calamity Jane” Cannary.

He lived a very long life—so long, that he re-invented himself in the 1950’s by changing his name to “Buffalo Bob” Smith and taking Howdy Doody as his new partner. (He had no choice; he had outlived “Will Bill” and “Calamity Jane”.)

Who was this famous American? . Why, none other than William F. (for Freddie). “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He was sometimes mistaken for Wild Bill Hickox, or even General George Armstrong “Yellow Hair” Custer, as they each had long blond hair that came down to their belt buckles.

Their hair was so long they were known as The Three Hippies; they of course burned their draft cards to protest the Viet Nam War. But they were all great Americans. They eventually came home from Canada after President Jimmy Carter pardoned them. They then took their act on the road, eventually replacing The Three Tenors.

But to return to 1846, not only was Buffalo Bill born, we also managed to get ourselves in a war with Mexico. Bill enlisted at age 2; the only thing that prevented Teddy Roosevelt from joining up was he wasn’t born until 1859.

The war wasn’t an accident; The President—quick, who was the President in 1846—give up? James Knox Polk (coming back to you now?) wisely went to war, as it was necessary to give our budding generals from West Point, Robert E. Lee and U. S. Grant, a chance to meet and greet before they reported to the set of “Gone With the Wind”.

A few Mexicans were killed, but it was a small price to pay for some necessary war games. A few bleeding hearts, like Abe Lincoln, protested the war. Lincoln’s heart, however, stopped bleeding in 1861 when he refused to let the South leave the Union.

The Mexican War produced several heroes who became public nuisances, as they ran for office; one eventually became President. So the war was well worth fighting on that score alone. In fact, the hero who became POTUS (President of the you- know -what) made news as recently as 1991.

I’m sure you remember the story. Zachary Taylor held office for only a few months before he keeled over under what some deemed suspicious circumstances. It was thought that he had been poisoned; somebody actually wrote a whole book about this theory. The author made such a fuss that Taylor was dug up and examined with a very fine magnifying glass. Verdict: he died of natural causes. The author of the book has since disappeared along with the advance he got from his publisher.

“Old Rough and Ready” Taylor’s brief tenure as POTUS pales in comparison to his contribution in 1846, when he was largely responsible for the successful Mexican War Games, a dry run for the Civil War, though Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower later tried to take credit for the exercises.

And why was this the most important year in our history? It made it possible for the Civil War to be held, which has remained a great industry and a nice hobby for amateur soldiers. Sort of makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Drive Time (9)

I drove to work this morning with the nagging feeling that I had missed a news bulletin. Something was not quite right. Then it hit me: it was back- to- school time. I made up a headline for the story I had obviously missed:

Driving Age Lowered to Twelve

This accounted for those little children who wore their caps backwards and could barely see over their steering wheels. For reasons best known to themselves, they preferred to drive down the middle of the road.

While I was trying to dodge these little people, who only yesterday were on the playground plotting to crash driver’s ed., I made a point of glaring at them. One of the Munchkins rewarded me with a puzzled look.

I imagined his thoughts: “What? Somebody else is driving on this street that belongs to us high school students only? What’s that old Geezer doing driving anyway?”

I had barely recovered from my close encounters with drivers supposedly 16, when three people in a row, average age 52.7 years, or old enough to know better, failed to use their turning signals.

These people were the parents and grandparents of the aforementioned, headline-grabbing twelve-year old drivers. We live in a small town, it’s true, but a little warning that somebody might be taking a left to The Store would be nice. I made up another headline:

One Hundred Million Vehicles Recalled as Turning Signals Defective

Half of all American drivers don’t use turning signals. They think (apparently) that blinkers are optional equipment and that turning signal use is for other people; they themselves can’t be bothered as they are in a lather to get to the other side of town. (Some people would be in a hurry to get to Hell.)

The only thing worse than idiot drivers are idiot drivers talking on cell phones. What I really love--to get to my pet peeve--are people who call a business and the first thing out of their mouths is, “Let me talk to Bob”. I created a headline for this group:

People Who Can’t Identify Themselves Barred from Using Telephones

Millions of Americans call businesses and ask for Jack or Susan. Were they brought up in a barn? I want to say: “NO, you may not talk with Jack until you say who you are. Did you notice when I answered the phone I said: This is Danny; may I help you? Didn’t that give you a clue that you are supposed to identify yourself? Apparently not, you worthless scum.”

Well, I certainly feel better.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Vacation (8)


I have actually gone on vacation only twice in the last sixty years. In 1978 my nephew Dana and I went to Beverly Hills, California; we were just a couple of single guys raising heck of course.

I was then a boy of thirty-three; Dana was twenty-seven. Going to Hollywood was a natural choice as we were show biz people in the making. Later that year we auditioned for our first community theatre play. It later opened nearly on Broadway (a street in Mattoon, Illinois.)

I retired from the stage over twenty years ago, but Dana has been active all these years. This is only right, as he is the talent in the family.

We didn’t-- at first-- seem to have a talent for traveling. We flew from St. Louis directly to Los Angeles without a hitch. We were not, however, to see much of anything but the hotel the first couple of days. We were supposed to have been on a bus tour, but we couldn’t locate the bus.

Our first disappointment came at the airport when a limousine did not meet us. We inquired about this and were told that the shuttle bus was the limousine, so stop whining already.

After checking in at our hotel, we asked where the tour bus would be. We got in line early the next morning at the designated area-- if you could call it getting in line, as we were the only two people around, a clue perhaps that we were misinformed. We saw busses, but they flew by as though we had just got off the boat.

Later back in our hotel room it occurred to us to call the Bell Captain. He answered the phone himself and said that the bus took off from Robinson’s Department Store. (Famous retail establishment, which we later discovered, sold dry goods at several times retail.)

The next morning we showed up at Robinson’s; again we were the only people in line. After several long minutes we saw our bus, or at least a bus whizzing by. We waved at the driver to let him know he had forgotten something, or someone. But once again we were stranded.

We checked with the Bell Captain who this time gave us more specific instructions (he finally realized who he was dealing with): the bus stopped on the opposite side of the building. The next morning we were in the right area, and got off on our Hollywood tour, a bit delayed, but still worthwhile.

This episode—though it had a happy ending—did me in for travel for years afterwards. Dana, however, has been on the road or in the air or at sea practically ever since. Just last weekend a bulletin came in e-mail form: he was off with friends to see a play in Chicago. He was traveling by train I understand.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Lost Weekend (7)

My wife had many chores lined up for the weekend; she always does. She also gets a load of work done on her days "off.” When I'm home, I do my computer surfing, watch TV, and read.

If I'm off, it's pretty obvious. I'll be wearing my bathrobe in the middle of the day. This doesn't matter, as almost no one comes to see us. My wife suggests the bathrobe could be the reason. I don't think so; I’m sure other people are also watching TV, computer surfing, and reading. Unless they are women of course.

In that case they are doing household chores and, in many instances, working outside the home. Sometimes they stop to give birth, but they are back multi-tasking before you know it.

If a guy gave birth, he would have to have a year off. Actually, two years, as he would be in bed for nine months followed by a year of recuperation.

Women probably deserve better husbands or boyfriends. But most of them are stuck with us guys, a very different breed.

Speaking of dogs, you'll notice that guy dogs are clueless, running around trying to find new spots to fertilize, while girl dogs are checking their planners to see when the puppies are due.

I think women could stand for guys being less dog-like. I sometimes offer to help my wife with the chores; I'll suggest that possibly I could whip up a little lunch.

For some reason my wife gets a little agitated when I head towards the kitchen. I don't know why. Unless she remembers how I lived in my bachelor days; I like to tell her how I prepared meals.

One of my favorites was scrambled eggs, which I was pretty proud of as I actually used the stove. I would break the eggs directly into the skillet--I didn't fool with beating them and adding milk. I would eat them from the pan while standing over the kitchen sink. Saved time doing dishes, of course. For some reason, my wife always orders me out of the kitchen when I suggest I cook.

Women really need to let their guys help out. We could be trusted with a meal or a load of laundry. I think we might surprise our spouses and girlfriends given the chance. I try this notion out on my wife.

"Your apartment was a surprise all right--your clothes hamper was running over into the next county. You told me yourself you didn't do laundry until you ran out of underwear! No, really, I don't need any help. Why don't you go watch TV?"

It works every time.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Greenup Press Week (6)

Greenup, Illinois (POP. Fifteen Hundred) is my second hometown. My folks and I moved there from Hidalgo (POP. One Hundred) in 1956 when I was eleven--it was at least a day's ride.

It is also home to The Greenup Press which I mentioned in Blog 2. (You did read it, didn't you?) No need to refer back; I'll be nice and just quote myself:

" For those of you not acquainted with the Press it's a local weekly that has the lowdown on who stayed over night, who had Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, and a complete notation of doctor visits."

"There’s no national or world news, thank you very much, just brief bulletins from the communities of Jack Oak and Liberty Hill covering what the columnists, their friends and family did the past week. I like to make “smart” remarks about some of the items. Not nice of me of course. It’s a pity the paper isn’t online. It’s probably my duty to share it with others."

So this week I'm going to pass along a few items from recent issues of The Press. On the front page of the July 21 issue appeared this bulletin:

"Notice-Due to lack of interest and help. The Greenup Fire/EMS FAll Festival has been cancelled."--Chairperson Anne R.

(No bitterness here.)

Another front page article was actually a news story: a trial no less. The details--drunken motorcycle riding, serious fisticuffs, and way too much bodily injury--I'll pass over. I can't, however, resist quoting from the cross examination:

"Mrs. O. said the Mr. C. had to be 'bagged'. O. explained the procedure was performed because C. had quit breathing."

A little later in the proceedings The State asked another witness Miss. W. why she decided to bag the the patient.

"Because he had quit breathing."

(The State needs to pay more attention.)

This week's issue also had a article entitled: CCDC (Cumberland County Development Corporation) Meeting Held. The Committee Reports were noteworthy:

Finance--Nothing new to report.

Membership--Nothing new to report.

Publicity--Nothing new to report.

Tourism--Nothing new to report.

Executive--President Dan C. reported that the executive committee had decided to postpone its decision regarding the director position for three more months to give the group more time to determine the direction it is going.

(From the committee reports the " direction" appears to be "nowhere".)

There was also discussion of a "Shop at Home" campaign which would endeavor to educate the public about what it actually costs to shop at the "big boxes."

(Explain to me the "big boxes").

The proceedings of the County Board meeting were also covered in another article. My highlights:

"The (phone) system had been struck by lightning in a recent storm. After a short discussion the board decided to purchase the equipment. Board member Sherwood voted no."

"...Circuit Clerk noted that the copier in her office was needing to be replaced. ...The monthly agreement is $78 for the new machine. The Board agreed to take over the service agreement. Sherwood voted no."

(Sherwood appears to be a pretty tough customer.)

As interesting as these articles are, for real Greenup Press fans the highlights usually come from the columns. Here are some samples from the Jack Oak News:

"We met Amelia B. and Nikki K. at their home and went out for a late lunch at Cheddar's. The new pug "Gabe" had just returned from the Vet's having been neutered and implanted with an ava chip for indentification purposes. Didn't slow him down one bit."

"Don't forget to attend the Muddy Creek Concert and Summer Picnic on August 5th at the Neil Park in Toledo. The cost is very reasonable and small children are free."

"Keith and Anita had their evening meal at the Airport Steakhouse in Mattoon."

Lydia and Joe C. and Joyce L. visited Kim N. at her new apartment in Charleson Saturday. Paul, Carol, and Michelle V., Cheryl and Bart N. and Shara G. were all helping move in. They had lunch at the Airport Steakhouse in Mattoon."

(The Airport Steakhouse seems to be the place to go.)

"Sorry there was no news last week but I only had two articles and I will just include them this week. There will not be news next week because I will be busy making news and I'll report the next week. "

(Guess we can skip the evening news next week.)

And what news did our busy Jack Oak columnist make you may ask. I was curious myself as were my friends who are also Greenup Press fans. We had to wait two weeks until this very day, Thursday August 19, 2005 when the latest edition of the press arrived in the mail. (We agreed I could not blog until this mystery was solved.)

Here's the pertinent information from today's column:"We drove to Morrisville, PA and Belmar, N. J. Visited with Diana C. and Frank G. and swam in the Ocean. Gettsyburg on Wednesday and started back home on Thursday. We all had a great time together and arrived back at Twelve Oaks after lunch on Friday."

So there you have it--our intrepid girl Columnist "swam in the Ocean" and visited Gettysburg, the battlefield, or perhaps just the town. (This is not clear.)

I was also struck by "back at Twelve Oaks after lunch on Friday." Wasn't Twelve Oaks the name of one of the plantations in Gone With The Wind? Quick! Someone Google this for me. That's another great thing about The Press--it's so educational.

It's a pity--as I've often said--it's not online. I will try to revisit it from time to time for another blog entry to help keep us up with the important news. I mean you really wouldn't want something big to happen in say, Jack Oak, and not hear about it? No, it's too terrible to think about.

See you next week.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Warning: Diet and Exercise May be Hazardous to Your Health (3)

I sense no one else is going to speak; since I have the floor, let’s explore what may happen if you do everything right. Someone should have warned me years ago about the risks of healthy living.

Let's say you quit smoking, which makes you a nervous wreck of course. You used to have a nice hobby, smoking, which helped you to relax. (I stopped smoking over the 4th of July weekend of 1988; it was three days of headaches and dizzy spells. It was so hard to quit I’ve never been temped to take it up again.)

So you replace that habit with eating everything in the kitchen when you go home at night. You will soon be dragging around an extra twenty pounds if you work it right. Then you may the have related problem of high blood pressure, which is not helped by the gallon of coffee you drink daily, or those salty snacks you inhale straight from the bag.

In time—it only took me two years--you may lose the weight you gained, and then where will you be? If you are of a certain age, losing weight makes you look--brace yourself--older. Your skin is looser; all the better to highlight those lovely wrinkles your flab used to conceal.

I seriously considered putting on a tie again, after not wearing one for twenty-five years, to hide my ugly neck wrinkles. So losing weight isn't a panacea either, for you could find yourself looking like a geezer.

And what about exercise-- that supposed cure-all for every ailment including flab? Let’s say you ride a stationary bike for several years before learning it’s not the best thing for guys as it interferes with, shall we say, their waterworks?

Not that I’m speaking from personal experience of course, but I do think exercise bikes should have a warning label: "Guys do you value your waterworks? Think twice before jumping on this equipment”.

Had I known how much fun the “diet and exercise combo” was going to be I would have first gone out on a bender. Well, not out except to the kitchen to wolf down every salty thing I could have found. Next I would have topped that off with a gallon of ice cream eaten straight from the box while standing up over the kitchen sink.

Am I addicted to junk food? No, I can quit any time. Actually my wife has to hide all the snacks before we go to bed. She claims I get up and eat in my sleep. She also says I wake her up banging the kitchen cabinet doors at night in my search of the edible. Sometimes all I find are doggie treats—not bad, really, if you’re asleep, that is.

After a bender my wife will ask me the next morning: “Did you have a snack attack in the kitchen last night?” I’m always given away by the trail of cookies crumbs. Not a pretty picture, but it beats the heck out of one taken recently which highlighted my scrawny chicken-like, old neck.

Here’s the sorry truth: no one said healthy living was pretty.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

What's happened since I last blogged? (2)

What’s happened since I last blogged? Do you really want to know? Is this going to be a serial blog? (The floor is now closed to questions.) For the answers, grab yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a chair. Clothing optional. (You look fine in your tattered bathrobe.)

I’ve decided not to let this blog be a repeat of my diary that is, trust me, so dull I read it aloud to my wife so she can go to sleep. My family and friends deserve something more than a rehash of the week that was.

My brother Jack has encouraged me to get the blog news out to the rest of the family. Our niece Jeanne in turn asked about the Yahoo Writing With Humor website, as she wanted to check out the stuff I've posted there. All this has sparked a weeklong spate of blog related e-mail, which has been very pleasant.

(Why does spell-check question “blog” every time I type it; isn’t Word a Microsoft product? I think those people know what a blog is—can’t they change their stupid program?)

Let’s agree I won’t foist off disguised diary entries. It would really be better to post the few funny pieces I’ve submitted to my Yahoo Humor Writers Group. I’ve sent some of them to my family, usually just the ones that relate to the good old days as we like to talk about where we came from (Hidalgo, IL).

I would prefer to write something original—don’t I wish—each week and leave the diary/log/blog entries to someone else who leads a more interesting life. This may put too great a strain on your correspondent of course. By next week I may be reduced to sending links to news stories with “smart” remarks attached.

Hey, I actually like this idea; I may do that sometime particularly if The Greenup (IL) Press has a few good items. For those of you not acquainted with the Press it's a local weekly that has the lowdown on who stayed over night, who had Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, and a complete notation of doctor visits.

There’s no national or world news, thank you very much, just brief bulletins from the communities of Jack Oak and Liberty Hill covering what the columnists, their friends and family did the past week. I like to make “smart” remarks about some of the items. Not nice of me of course. It’s a pity the paper isn’t online. It’s probably my duty to share it with others.

One of my favorite examples occurred last year: “Mary, Jarod, and Christopher visited Saturday with Bill and Nancy T. Nancy gave Mary a permanent. Jarod spent the night.” At least Jarod didn’t have to get his hair done.

Yes, I may try that among other things. Until then, keep your powder dry and (in winter) coast across the bridges, as Dad used to say.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Does the world need another blog? (1)

Does the world need another blog? Of course not. I've been up since 3:00 AM (Central Daylight Time except there was no daylight). I often get in trouble while surfing; I always find it hard to sign up for anything. Every user name is apparently already in use. I've now forgotten what one I came up with.

The question is specifically: Do I need a blog? I'm a member of Yahoo's Writing with Humor Group--I've already committed a fair amount of embarrassing e-mail on that site which is open to the public. And just this morning (around 4:30) I signed up with another Yahoo group which is Andy Borowitz's fan club. I am a fan, but I had an ulterior motive I realize now. I just wanted to post a piece I had written about Borowitz and Harold Bloom.

I was surprised to see--shortly after 7:00--my 481 word essay had appeared at the site. The instructions said all posts had to be approved by the moderator which in this case is Borowitz himself. Didn't hear anything from him directly, but it was nice of him to allow the thing to be posted.

So now I am bracing myself to make an another entrance on The World Wide Web. This is the height of foolishness as I can't write enough to cover a postcard without an aggravated sinus/allergy headache. I've practically stopped posting to my Yahoo Humor Writers group as I laid a very large egg at that site on the twentieth of June. I've had a mild case of writer's block since--I say mild as I hardly qualify as a writer. (I joined the group 1-15-05; practically the only other writing I've done was for Chandra Clarke's online humor writing class I took last year.)

So I am a new writer, a beginner if you will. What's wrong with that you say? Nothing except the word "new" doesn't seem to fit someone who was born in the middle of the last century. I was born in 1945, the last year of World War II. I turned sixty on March 25. I am still up and working full time--not a drag on society just yet. What's shocking about being sixty is as I don't feel wise and mature as I always assumed I would. As a youngster, I was very immature for my age. Now that I am in my middle years--no doubt I'll live to be 120--I am still immature for my age. This is a disconcerting discovery. This can only mean that I will NEVER grow up. And on that happy note I must take a break. My sinus/allergy headache is calling for over the counter meds. And another cup of coffee, if you don't mind.