Saturday, December 25, 2010

Herkimer, New York

Family trips are often the high points of childhood memories, often increasing in their exoticism and sheer pleasure as viewed from the distant past. So it was with the family vacation of 1958. I was six years old and my father had just bought a beautiful 1958 Ford Fairlane and the family was embarking on a summer trip to Canada. We were headed for Nova Scotia, where there was a road the supposedly went uphill and downhill at the same time. We got as far as Herkimer, New York when my brother remarked to my father that the engine was making a funny noise.

My father said, "Just ignore it, turn up the radio!". Soon, passing a gas station, my father reluctantly turned in to get second opinion on the car.

Being only six, my memory resurfaces the next week where the family stayed at the Hotel Herkimer. Every day we walked through the park and every day my father came back from the garage with bad news. Apparently the family trip to Canada had met with a permanent dead end in Herkimer. The mechanics thanked my family for the watermelon we had left in the car. It must have tasted good that hot August day.

My brother and me were playing at the one pinball machine in the hotel when a man came out and said, "Hey kids, would you like to see a radio station?"

"Sure," my brother said. We walked around the station and the disc jockey, he looked like a spaceman with those huge headphones waved at us. Then the gentleman who gave us the tour gave us a gift of records. I still have the Conny Francis record in my collection.

Finally my father, exasperated by the fate of the car, sent me, my mother and brother to the train station where we took the train back to Hackensack, presumably through New York.

It was my first trip on a train.

The car was finally repaired, but it was a source of constant expense and aggravation during it's lifetime with the family. It was replaced in 1966 with a Ford Falcon, a much better automobile.

The family never made it to Nova Scotia. Thanks to college radio, I got to sit with headphones and wave to people while doing my air shift. The glamorous world of radio.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Just when you think we can't possibly have one more thing to worry about, we find out that anarchists are sending bombs in Italy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tin tin deo

Last week, James Moody died. I first heard him when I was in college when I bought a copy of Blue Note Records Three Decades of Jazz, 1939-1949. The last cut on side four was "Tin tin deo". I played it for some of my college friends who, like me, knew very little about jazz beyond maybe Louis Armstrong. Yes we knew all about Jethro Tull and King Crimson and Pink Floyd, but jazz was new to us.

Years later, when I was working in Denver, we had a shared radio on the floor and the radio frequently played King Pleasure's warbling of Moody's Mood for Love.
Turns out he had a long career and recorded and performed widely. And what ever happened with the court of the crimson king.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The cure for cancer

After billions of dollars of research, they finally have discovered the cure for cancer. Aspirin. People taking aspirin for headaches will live longer. But they'll still have headaches.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas leave

Assembly No. 1225

State of New Jersey

214th Legislature

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman John Christmas

Assemblywoman Susan L. Homaker


Provides fifteen days paid leave in the month of December for women who wish to maintain family Christmas traditions. This includes needlework, baking, wreath making, the sending of Christmas communications, the purchase of Christmas gifts, candle making, and other tasks as assigned by the families of said women. Many traditions in New Jersey are being forgotten and this act is intended to rectify this situation.

An act:

Resolved that women need special legislation in order to maintain family Christmas traditions. This act will give fifteen days paid leave to all full time employees in the State of New Jersey to fulfill these traditions. A log must be maintained and photographs available to verify the activities performed. Photographs of outdoor Christmas displays must be available in computer readable format. Indoor candles must be photographed. Photographs and samples of Christmas cookies, pastries, baked geese and other holiday meats and fish must be maintained. Receipts of Christmas related shopping must be made available. This documentation, called a "yule log", will be submitted along with the New Jersey state income tax form the following year.
Egg nog must be prepared from scratch in order for a woman to be eligible for this paid leave. Christmas trees must be natural chopped down trees for houses over 4,000 square feet. Genuine stringed popcorn must decorate these trees. Decorations for all trees, artificial and natural, will consist of a ratio at or higher than 25% for ornaments hand crafted in the United States. Other regulations to be promulgated by the appropriate state agencies.

Editor's note: The turkey is now leftover sandwiches and we are now in the Christmas season. The egg lobby had a lot to do with the egg nog ruling.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Audrey Tattou

Thanks to Netflix, I've discovered Audrey Tattou. Yes we remember her from the DaVinci code, but I'm thinking of the string of French language comedies featuring the jolle fille. So far I've seen three movies with her, Amelie, Priceless, and He loves me he loves me not. All three movies are off-beat (very off-beat) romantic comedies/bedroom farces with lots of fast cutting. I'm sure there are more. So now you know what dvd's you can give me for Christmas.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mortgage interest deduction

The new Commission on eliminating the Public Debt recommends ending the deduction for home mortgages. The mortgage deduction is as much a part of America as apple pies and penalties for unnecessary roughness in football games. It is part of our culture and our heritage.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cooking for men

During my Denver days, a co-worker remarked, " I know why you're not married. You can cook."

Which may be true. I'm not a tv quality cook but I can cook tasty and interesting, if crude at times, meals. Doesn't the picture on the left look scrumptious? There it is, chicken basted with powdered garlic and under $10 (from Chile) wine. Cooked in olive oil (on sale at the Acme), carrots (California, Grimmway) mushrooms (A&P Gold Quality whole white) sliced white onions (from the Shop-Rite), sliced cayenne pepper (from the garden), cooked (not pictured) with brown rice, of provenance not determined (probably a local supermarket).

Well, enough eye candy. As good as the meal on the left looks, I had to microwave it later to cook the chicken, which had been frozen. Still the final result was not a bad dish of chicken and vegetables.
On the political prograstination note, Obama and the Democrats could have done worse, although they did lose some serious House seats. I would personally retire Nancy Pelosi. She did a good job but now it's time to settle down. We need a new, young, face to lead the party. Hope everybody enjoys their day off Thursday.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Foreign movies

Always loved foreign movies since my college days. Got to see some recently via Netflix. For the in the audience experience, there's always foreign film festivals like the one in Trenton this weekend at the Mill Street Playhouse. I'm ushering on Sunday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Television situation comedies

There was once an episode of the Simpson's where Lisa and Bart demanded of Maggie that she tell them who she loved the most. After a moment's thought, she ran and hugged the television set. Most of us baby boomers are most influenced not by our teachers and our families, but by television situation comedies. Here we learn what life is like, how people act, how to stay out of trouble, and what the world will be like when we grow up. For many of us life is a continuing series of disappointments when life turns out to be unlike situation comedies.

Here are a few examples where life is different from what we see on tv.

Work shows. In work related situation comedies, the normal staff is there every day. In real life, what with doctor's appointments, vacations, student conferences, meetings, etc. you never have more than 40% of a staff present at any one time.

In shows like How I met your Mother or Friends, the same group of people has a regular table at a bar in New York. In real life bars in Manhattan are very crowded and it's hard for anyone to get a table.

Graduate students and professors don't act like they do on the Big Bang Theory. And a cute neighbor like Penny would never hang out with them.

In television situation comedies, the principal moves into a new place and meets a neighbor. By the next episode they are fast friends. Most of us never get friendly with neighbors.

When people on television situation comedies go somewhere all the principals go together. In real life, some of the people always have dentist appointments, can't get away from work or have no money to go to the Hamptons with the gang.

Community college is a very transitory place and study groups change personnel constantly. No study group at a community college would have the same people for more than one semester. Plus no one ever mentions waiting for the student aid checks to come through, a constant at community college.

Lorelei Gilmore would never have been able to buy an inn without money from Dad.

Of course, television situation comedies give a hands on accurate portrayal of married life.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Deer camp

Twice today I've seen an ad on the Internet that celebrates deer camps. I've never been to deer camp but it is on my bucket list. A bunch of guys shooting at deer, playing cards and drinking beer. All in a cabin in the woods. The Yoopers, (named after the UP - Upper Peninsula of Michigan) an area rife with deer camps, have the classic song on the topic. Deer camps sound like fun. Sort of like Boy Scouts with beer and guns. Another thing I'd like to do is go to the world's longest flea market on Route 127.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lindsay Lohan and Christine O'Donnell

Like most Americans, my day begins and ends with ruminations on Lindsay Lohan. What did she do today? Will she have to do hard time? What about her driving skills? What happens if she is imprisoned and we can't follow her adventures on a daily basis?

The answer is that she will be replaced in the national consciousness by Christine O'Donnell. For the next few months we as Americans will follow every thing said or done by dear Christine. From a liberal woman to a conservative women. My, men are so fickle.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The recession is over

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession is now over. Everybody's going to find jobs. No more layoffs. No more furloughs. Back to work everybody! Happy days are here again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The liberal vs. Aunt Agnes

We all have Aunt Agneses. They are our mothers, our neighbors, our co-workers and in some cases, our Aunt Agneses. At this point in history she is dominating the American political landscape. She has the Democrats as scaird as a turkey in a football stadium on Thanksgiving.

The modern day liberal: All religions deserve tolerance and the Moslems have a right to do whatever they want in New York.

Aunt Agnes: They want to be close to the World Trade Center so they can plot another attack on Americans.

The modern day liberal: Immigrants built this country and illegal immigrants should be treated with compassion and their children deserve an education.

Aunt Agnes: They come over here to get welfare and free health care and the illegal ones should be shipped back from where they came.

The modern day liberal: The school teacher is at the forefront of creating a new generation of American citizens. They should be paid and rewarded for the important work they do.
Aunt Agnes: Schoolteachers, don't get me started. They work a nine month year, and God forbid they should stay in the classroom after three o'clock. The unions have ruined our schools.

Today all the politicians are afraid of dear Aunt Agnes. And she always made such good pies.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Blind man's bluff

I recently went on an expedition to beautiful upstate New York. I took the new car and the latest edition to my traveling ensemble, the GPS, which I affectionately named Jean. I had my route all mapped out in advance thanks to the more plebeian Yahoo maps. Half way up Route 81 Jean announced that I was making a turn onto a state highway. I couldn't figure out why. Being a natural follower instead of a leader, I did what I was told. I spent the next three hours jaunting around on state and county roads. I saw beautiful downtown Ithaca. I passed a farm maze. I passed an octagon house.

Eventually I did arrive at beautiful Canandaigua. Should I have been more assertive and not left the Interstate? Made Jean announce the dreaded word "recalculating"? Did Jean know something I didn't know? Am I sheep and not a man?

One thing I did learn is that, like blind man's bluff, you must either follow Jean like a robot or go your own way. If you suddenly make a decision midway to leave the chosen route you can go seriously out of your way.
Editor's note: I have posted a photograph of this year's balcony garden on my companion blog, Balcony Tomatoes.

Monday, August 23, 2010


In New Jersey people like to go to the shore during the summer. They love to sit in bumper to bumper traffic to go to their favorite shore resort. On a hot humid day in Wildwood you can really experience the Americana that the Jersey shore provides. Thousands of people lining the boardwalk, trying their luck at the pinball machines, eating pizza and having Polish ices.
I got to take the shuttle and saw lots of Wildwood, home of do wop architecture. Sitting on the seat, wishing I had remembered my suntan lotion, we went to the end of the line in North Wildwood and retreated to the hotel bar at the Montego Bay. It had the coldest and most delicious beer I ever had. One of the group wanted to go indoors to see the waterpark. It was incredibly hot and humid at the waterpark. Reminded me of what a class B hotel in Miami would be like. Still it has a great bar.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The flush up toilet

When I was growing up I lived in a house with only one bathroom. In emergencies, I could always use the slop sink in the basement for no. 1 if not for no. 2. My father, when he was thinking of selling the house, decided to put a flush up toilet in the basement. Why did he wait so long? At any rate, because it was below the sewer line, the mechanism had to move the refuse up to the pipe. Home from graduate school and jobless, my father saw an opportunity for us to have a little home project. My father and myself sawed lumber and built a little enclosure. We even built a little exhaust fan. Then he ordered a flush up toilet from an ad he saw in the paper.

One day my mother got a call that the flush up toilet was ready. It was waiting at the Greyhound Station on Polifly Road. I was volunteered to pick up the thing. Sons are handy in that way.

After hours of work, the flush up toilet was installed in a cute little room. My mother did the decorating. Postcards from various family trips graced the walls.

One afternoon my father had some of his golf buddies over. I decided to smoke a j---t in the new bathroom I was just about to light it when my father started banging on the door. I managed to hide the j and chatted with the golfers about all the work I had done on the flush up toilet. We were all happy. Another minute and this story might have had a different ending.

Many young people are living at home now and I suppose similar stories can be told across this great land.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The air conditioning theory

I have a new theory on how globalization affects the United States. You can think of the world as a giant house in summer where the owner can only afford to air condition one room. The rest of the house is hot, humid, and full of mold except for the one room that has an air conditioner. The room with the air conditioner is the developed world. The United States, Canada, western Europe, Australia are relatively comfortable and (until recently) prosperous.
If you open the doors of that room you have the world economy under globalization. The outer reaches of the house get a slight increase in comfort. Most noticeable, however is the one room that had air conditioning. It's conditions deteriorate rapidly.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dog shifts and automatics

Starting with the first car I ever bought, a 1979 Toyota Corolla and on through my two Ford Escorts, I have always had a manual transmission in my cars. I was a terrible shifter the first two months of the experience but in past years I have become quite good (methinks) at using the clutch. My friends and family have always disputed this fact and long held the belief that I was a terrible shifter. My parents hated when I shifted my car. My female friends have always closed their eyes when I reached for the dreaded gear shift.

Today, partly due to arthritis, I have faced the ravages of time and admitted that I am middle aged. I bought an automatic. I am now like everybody else. Driving is easier, I admit. Still I miss the manual transmission. Shifting is fun, dargon it.
Editor's note: 1999 Ford Escort, manual, in photo.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Batteries to the rescue

One of the nice features of summer in the listening range of WXPN Philadelphia is that for three days you can hear the live music festival from the waterfront park in Camden. You get to hear bands with names like Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Unlike the people hearing the show live you don't have to bake in 90 degree weather. I'll leave that pleasure to the young.

Saturday night, the Felice Brothers ended the evening. Minutes before they were scheduled to go on, my place was struck by a power failure. Being an old Boy Scout, you might think I had boxes of batteries and radios and flashlights but well, I wasn't that prepared. I fumbled around in the dark like most civilians. Finally, I remembered an old Radio Shack radio I had and good lord willing, it might have functioning batteries. It did.

It was a great live performance. Adding to it was the sense of adventure of listening to the band in the dark on a crummy radio.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hamas bans smoking water pipes for women

This story struck my eye this morning. The theory is that women smoking water pipes in cafes leads to them divorcing their husbands. Which I can see. Many of the women I smoked water pipes with at college ended up becoming divorcees.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Leaving ala 2010

LeBron has created a new art form. The resignation video.

This new form will inevitably be repeated by normal people not in sports. Instead of a terse letter to a landlord or a boss or a wife, people will now issue videos.

Say you are vacating an apartment. Instead of a terse letter to a landlord, people will now make videos. It will start with a history of the life of the apartment, a moving in video, videos of the renter socializing with neighbors, sitting on the couch, followed by interviews of neighbors explaining what a great tenant he was. Then the video will conclude with a question and answer session. The tenant will speak of himself in the third person. He will speak of the many happy years he spent in the apartment and will then talk about seeking new opportunities, an easier commute, a roach free kitchen. Perhaps the tenant will speak of the desire to make toast and coffee in the morning at the same time without worrying about blowing a fuse.

Leaving a job will no longer mean a letter of resignation. Instead you will give your boss a documentary of your life as a trusted employee, ending with a question and answer session where you'll talk about how Joe Smith is seeking new opportunities and desires to spend more time with his cat.

A surprised wife will have to watch a forty five minute video complete with wedding pictures, the trip to Vegas and cuddling on the couch. Then the inevitable question and answer question where friends will shout out questions and the husband will give a tearful response and tell how he is moving on to other people and friends but will always have fond memories of his wife.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lousy jobs

There is an old country song that goes, "the girls always get prettier at closing time". This can also be said to be true for people who desperately need a job. An article in the Times opinionates on how even having a lousy job is better than no job at all. According to the piece, even a crappy job presents the recent graduate a valuable learning experience.

I graduated into a lousy job market in 1974 with a BA degree in English. I finally landed a job selling hot dogs at Two Guys on Route 4 by concealing my degree. I did learn a lot at that job.

The most useful thing I learned is how to steal money. The secret is not to be greedy and make your pilferings moderate. You wait for the hurried customer who rushes away after giving you exact change. You give him his hot dog but you don't ring it up on the register. Then you discreetly pocket the money. This information is invaluable later on if you find yourself supervising clerks in an environment where money changes hands.

I also worked for temporary agencies. Here some of the jobs were okay and some were pretty awful. The worst jobs are the ones where you show up at the agency (I fondly remember Handy Andy in Hackensack) for the early morning shape-up. Nobody feels more miserable than a hung over 21 year old college graduate sitting in a hard chair waiting to be put on a crew.

Finally I found a job courtesy of family connections through CETA. Family connections are the deux ex machina of modern life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The past two days I have been wearing corduroy pants to work. They make that swishing sound wherever I go. You are never lonely when you wear coruroy trousers. That swishing ghost is always with you.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I just finished reading an article about children's playgrounds in the New Yorker (not available on-line). This reminded me of the summer around kindergarten when my brother dragged me to Polifly Park in Hackensack almost every day. I remember making a lanyard and playing on the swing, see-saw, and climbing through the tunnels (actually leftover water-main pipes). I remember having a girlfriend at the park who was what we used to call "colored". Finally I remember the older kids nursing a sick bird. The next day they buried it.

I also remember the two hours I was in a playground in the Bronx. It was an experience quite noteworthy at the time. I was brought there there by my mother so she could go to my aunt's funeral. She left me with an old neighbor of hers she knew from her Bronx days. It was a nice day so we went to the park. I remember the park was real quiet and then suddenly hundreds of kids came running down Webster Avenue. Suddenly they took over all the swings and merry-go rounds. It was incredibly noisy. Then two boys approached me and started to talk. One was real friendly and the other kid wanted to slug me. I told them about Hackensack. They wanted to know if it had cows.

Soon my mother came to fetch me and take me back to New Jersey. Back to a slower paced life where you could be ignored in the playground. And milk in peace.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Men's day

I spent Father's day helping other people with their computer problems. "You have to find the Windows XP setup disc I explained over the phone." In the real world, fathers spent the day eating and opening boxes filled with ties and analog television adapters. I always gave my father a stick of Old Spice deodorant. More fun is what they do in Eastern Germany.

Here, according to Wikepedia, in Eastern Germany they call it "Men's day" and it's not limited to fathers. Here, the men all get drunk and ride around in wagons. (Go to section on Germany). Sounds like more fun than yelling into a phone, "No not the drivers disc, the setup disk!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time wasters

The Internet is one of the world's greatest time wasters. It is better than television ever was in making potentially productive time unproductive and wasteful. Slate is a good way to kill an hour or two. The news, Dear Prudence, and the pod casts are entertaining and waste a lot of my time. I must admit I never miss reading Dear Prudence's insightful advice.

As trite as it is, I find myself wasting hours a week on Yahoo shine and omg. I am on Yahoo and suddenly I see "the world's best ice cream in Texas" and I'm reading about Peco Joe's cafe in Lufkin and ice cream I will never eat. I love to read movie reviews of films I will never see. Taking a virtual tour through the Hilton in Zimbabwe was a pleasant waste of an hour a few months back.

Facebook is a marvelous way to burn hours upon hours of valuable time. You can play the Farm or join an old girlfriend for a game of scrabble. Catching up with old faces from high school. It is fascinating to know one of the dunces of the class in the eighth grade owns a successful real estate company and has a summer place in Spain and has six cute children from three former marriages. I've decided the biggest time killer in Facebook is looking at pictures of your friend's trips. No wonder they block Facebook at work.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why we are in Afghanistan

They have found a vast reserve of minerals in Afghanistan. These include gold, iron, and lithium (you have that in your camera battery). Now when you are discussing matters at your favorite tavern you can say, "They went into Iraq for the oil and they went into Afghanistan for the lithium".

Saturday, June 12, 2010

South Carolina

I've been to some of the notable sights of South Carolina. I have visited South of the Border, Myrtle Beach, Charleston I remember in Charleston the horses that give carriage rides to tourists wear diapers. (I have not been to Hilton Head). A nice, old South state where people sell boiled peanuts on the side of the road.

Now people are talking about the new victor in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat.

Alvin Greene. Seems he surprised everybody by winning the primary with no money and no campaigning. I say let him stay in the race. Who knows? He might win.

Editor's note: South of the Border has lots of fireworks this time of year.

Monday, May 31, 2010

the Jersey Shore

I just read that I missed the casting call for the Jersey Shore. I might have been a good addition to the show. I'm from New Jersey, half Italian, a librarian. I like Italian hot dogs. Hey what could be more Jersey?
Still I might have to work on my pecs.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Communism is around the corner in Europe

This article states that the European crisis might bring about the return of the Communist party to Western Europe. As if we didn't have enough to worry about.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the Suits

Yesterday I was closing the elevator and I noticed five Caucasian males and one Asian female in $1000 suits standing in a row. Nothing strikes terror into a low level employee than the view of six "suits". "Oh no, we're going to be downsized! Oh no, we're going to be made more efficient!" One thinks.

At my advanced age, I realize now I will never fulfill my life ambition to be a "suit". I'll always be one of life's little people. I'll never get invited to parties in the Hamptons. I'll never have a $1000 dollar suit and eat on an expense account

At least I can dress in cheaper clothing so I don't have a big bill when I spill my Italian hotdog on my shirt.
Editor's note: Squirrel Nut Zippers sing about "suits".

Friday, May 14, 2010

Music for dogs

Not a lot of good news this week. The oil is still spilling in the Gulf. Our governor is making himself more and more endearing to civil service employees. This story caught my eye. Lou Reed and his wife, Laurie Anderson, are going to give a concert in Australia that is only audible to dogs. I hope they release it on an album. It would be fun to play it and drive the dogs in my neighborhood crazy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mother's day

We all know the drill for Mother's Day. You have to get to your Mother's house with a gift. Then you are fed a fattening meal and go home with leftovers. If you are upper middle class, you and your siblings and spouses take your mother to a restaurant where you eat an overpriced and fattening meal. If you are lucky, you may walk out with a doggy bag.

If you mother is in the grave you are supposed to visit it, put flowers on it, and stroll about and complain about the maintenance. "You'd think they could get rid of all these weeds!" you say. Later, you go to a relative's house for dinner. If your significant other has kids you may be allowed to attend Mother's Day there, however if you show up you have to bring a gift.

I realize how lucky I am. I can sit around the house all day long on Sunday in my underwear. I can drink beer, watch the game, and don't even have to shave. Needless to say no gifts.

This year, for the first time in ten years I bought someone a Mother's Day card. I realized that for the first time in ten years I did something for Mother's Day. Who knows, one day I might even have to take a shower on that day again. To all the mother's out there, "Happy mother's day!"


Clubs are always short on cash, volunteers, and leaders. Leadership is the crucial shortage that can lead to the demise of a club.

The problem with leadership is it hearkens back to the essay I wrote a few years ago on lives. People who have lives usually have better social skills than people who don't have lives. If you don't want your club to be a total disaster, you should seek people who have reasonable social skills and can use the Internet (and probably have lives). Unfortunately time on one's hand, another essential requirement for officers in clubs, is inversely proportional to the social skills one possesses. The ideal leader is probably already involved with the church, her daughter's school, the softball league, has a full time job and is the house mother for an extended family ranging from wayfaring uncles to recent college dropouts.

Hence the dilemma of the overextended leader. I once was in a group where the only way you could guarantee that the leader would make the meeting was to have it in her house. I remember well sitting on her front porch waiting for our leader. Fifteen minutes after the meeting was supposed to begin she would roar into the driveway. Needless to say, the meetings ended late.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

I remember the first Earth day. I was in high school and we had just printed another edition of our underground newspaper and were selling it at school. Later we went to a local park where we heard speeches on Earth day. I am vague about that part.
Now we recycle our cans and bottles and buy cars, for the most part that get better gas mileage than our grandparents got in the fifties. We've done the easy stuff now. The question will be if we as a people will be willing to sacrifice our prosperous life styles for the environment. Well at least we used to have prosperous life styles.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea party celebrations

I was taking a stroll and encountered a demonstration of the tea party types today. They got the governor they wanted so now they're out to get rid of national health care. Not a rowdy crowd, sort of looked like a VFW picnic without the uniforms. Didn't see any tea, though. More of a steak and hamburger crowd.

The Chinese restaurant was practically empty. Guess they don't like ethnic food too much either. The prices went up and they didn't have either free fortune cookies and I had to eat with a fork since the collection of chopsticks I was looking for was gone.

It's ha ah ard times.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Price of Beauty

The Price of Beauty with Jessica Simpson is billed as a reality show but it really isn't. It claims to be a worldwide analysis of beauty, but it really isn't that either. To me, it's just a hokey travelogue, at times a bizarre one at that. That's the beauty of the series. They go to places like Africa, India, and Morocco and do stuff. You get the feeling the advance work done before shooting is not too extensive.
There's plenty of scenes where Jessica is offered insects or other weird foods for dinner. "Oh yuk!"she responds to roast ostrich brains. The show has a thrown together feel to it that is probably hilarious after ten bottles of beer. Part Kardashians, part On the Road Again, part Hope and Crosby road movies. On VH1 and the Internet.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The public library in 2011

It's nice they put "reference" back in the old building. The other one used too much air conditioning anyhow. Fans are fine with me. And there's a computer here or there for people to type their letters on. We had to give up public Internet last January when those budget cuts went in.

I have to admit, it is quieter. All those young kids rough housing on the Internet. Let them play ball outside like the boys in my neighborhood used to do. I do admit I miss Ebsco Host, but I've gotten used to using the old Reader's Guide. Brings me back. I remember using that as a school girl. Got you there if you had the patience.

Course that bright young man who used to fix our computers got laid off. He's probably back in Arkansas with his parents now. Nowadays you can't afford a decent apartment in town on a librarian's salary. Still I guess we should go with the times.

Editor's note: There are a lot of major cuts in public library funding in the NJ budget and in state pending bills. They include cutting Ebsco products, inter library loan and grants for Internet access. I let my state Assemblywoman know my opinion, and so can you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Day one year later

Reuters Factbox for today.

My predictions from a year ago.

Unemployment rate is 9.8% not 6.5%. That was my major mistake. And no wedding for Governor Corzine. Oh well. Happy Holy Thursday. Enjoy your novenas.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March madness

All the hip people in America are taken in by NCAA college basketball. They are doing their brackets, line bets, computing their point spreads. Words like Kentucky or Iowa mean teams, not states. Even our president is paying more attention to free throws and foul shots than to his overweight children.
I have tried to watch it. It seems to have taken over CBS. Still I have not been taken it by the force of America's latest obsession. Last night I watched old movies on tv and missed all the free throws and excitement. Maybe next year I'll go to Las Vegas in March and try the Pocket Casino.

Monday, March 22, 2010

That long dark road to socialism

One of my mother's kinfolks once said that when they outlaw cockfighting in the United States, we will be on the road to communism. Well cockfighting may still be legal in some places but we are well on that long dark road to socialism. This conference cover to the left was held in 1916 and consists of a number of speakers in favor of national health insurance. The long road can be said to begin here.

Roosevelt instituted Social Security, the Federal Reserve and the WPA bringing us that much closer to the ways of Stalin and Lenin. Lyndon Johnson brought us Medicare. Truman got the first Medicare card. We should have have known then what was coming.

George W. Bush, a Republican, brought us the senior Prescription drug plan and practically nationalized the banks. And now comrade Obama is bringing us a step closer on that road to socialism with the health plan ramrodded through Congress. We can join Britain and France and the other socialist countries with national health insurance. There are few countries left with no government run health insurance. At least there is still the People's Republic of China.
Editor's note: With apologies to Stephen Nyman.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Airline food

I just read that Continental Airlines is going to start charging for food. If you can call that food. I remember the good old days of air travel. Not only the food but the booze was complementary. I remember traveling with my mother as a tot and her ordering a Martini on the flight. "I'm nervous about the flight", she explained.

I remember one stormy day taking Mexicana Airlines back to Denver and them walking through the aisles with bottle of wine after another. I guess this was to make us to forget the sudden drops in air pressure. I treated to myself to the free libations. "Heck, I'm not paying for it" I said to myself.

It was then that I discovered the pleasures of air sickness. I learned then that drinking too much on a flight is bad for your sense of well being. Thankfully, I didn't have to use the air bag.

At least the food in airports is better than it used to be. And if they let you bring stuff on the plane now, you won't look cheap. You'll just be making a stand against the man. And they still will supply peanuts and pretzels. Just like the Hilltop Tavern.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day Humbug

When I was a tot I remember always being jealous of the Irish kids on Saint Patrick's Day. Here was a day only for the Irish. We got to hear that there's no smile like an Irish smile, there were no finer people on Earth like the Irish. They got to have a holiday all to themselves, got to take off school and go to a parade. And you couldn't join in the fun unless you had an ancester in old Erin.

Then when I was in college, I roomed near a group of Irish American patriots who would go to MacSorley's on Saint Paddy's day and come back to the dorms full of the magic spirit of County Cork. Then they would get drunker still, break a chair or two, perhaps have a good fist fight, and celebrate the wonderful day in their own way.

Today, however, the day seems diluted. It starts too early for one thing. The day after Valentine's day, the stores start decorating with shamrocks and leprechauns. The parades start the first week in March. People who have no Irish blood at all start eating Irish soda bread and drinking Guinness beer. Everybody it seems is Irish not just for a day but for half a month. Saint Patrick's Day. Bah humbug. Time for another Irish coffee.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The predictions

Starting to look at how I did on my predictions. Of course it isn't April Fools Day but I can see that my predilections were sort of right. The market is up and we have a Republican governor in New Jersey. Looks like I was overly optimistic on the employment numbers. The rich get richer and the poor have babies.

Friday, March 5, 2010

the Subways

Recently I did something I haven't done in a couple of years. I went to New York and rode the subway. I first rode the subway with my father and used to ride it on my own starting in high school and on through middle age. It offered excitement and a cultural escape from the hum drum world of the suburbs. I still remember the tokens, the pan handlers, the faint smell of urine giving the subways a Mediterranean atmosphere.

I had grown out of practice. The tokens are gone now and you have to deal with the weird machines that sell you a ticket that expires in two hours. I was a typical tourist fumbling for change.

I can remember when you couldn't transfer from an IND train to an IRT train at Times Square. Now you can. The trains looked newer now too and the walls weren't caving in like I remembered.

Still the subway is still the subway. Going from an uptown train to the 7 crosstown train is still an adventure. Half a mile of walking in dark corridors with an occasional blind singer or guitar player on the way.

Treat of all treats I got to hear "the speech" on the number 6 train. A voice suddenly boomed out from behind me, well echoed. The man was homeless, had a wife with a baby on the way and only needed enough money to stay in a youth hostel. In the 70's he would have been a Vietnam vet. He did well and collected some bills. I was surprised. Unfortunately he kept talking after his pitch and collection was over. Like a talk show host he started making small talk to the crowd. You should always know when to end a presentation.

Like I always say, "You haven't been to New York if you haven't ridden on the subway". I'm not sure if quoting oneself requires the use of quotation marks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


When I was a tot, our family had a canary named Cheap. The bird was named by my mother when my father, who wanted to buy a canary for himself, gave dear Momma a canary for her birthday. The bird never sang and Momma, who had to clean the birdcage and feed this hungry if quiet pet, named the bird Cheap in honor of the old man's parsimony. Sadly, one day poor old Cheap passed away.

People who have children know that a dead pet can never be replaced by the no pet option, however well that may serve the furniture and the family budget. Naturally the kids wanted a replacement for dear old Cheap. By this time my big brother was preoccupied with baseball and I, an eight year old, was left with the task of keeping up the inquiries concerning when we were going to get a new canary. I was weepy about losing our beloved Cheap, and the folks, perhaps realizing how lucky they were that we didn't want a dog, promised us a new canary.

Why a new bird didn't just materialize in the family I don't know, but it was decided that the bird would be my birthday gift. Being a December baby, dear Momma was relieved to have a fall where she didn't have to deal with bird baths and Hartz Mountain bird seed and gravel. Come November, my father and I started making expeditions to visit old Henry, who raised canaries in Bogota New Jersey. He had a huge labyrinth of bird houses beyond his driveway and he posed quite an interesting figure, always wearing a golf hat. My father asked him how old he was. He said he was ninety-eight years old.

One problem, though, is that he didn't have any canaries for sale for the first three visits. Whether this was caused by the weather in the Caribbean or because he wanted to make sure my father and myself would make good parents I don't know.

Finally, one Sunday after mass, my father drove us to the house and Henry greeted us with good news. He had canaries for sale. I looked through the birds and picked out one I liked. It had a cute hat like structure on the top of his head. Henry said I had good taste. My father turned ashen for a moment, seeing that I had picked out an expensive specimen of the species.

Nevertheless, we brought the bird home and my mother seemed happy to see the new addition. I got naming rights and I named the bird Henry, after the wizened old bird dealer. Henry was a fine member of the family and it sang and kept my mother company in the house when the rest of the family was away and Arthur Godfrey was not on television.

A few years later my brother had a New Year's eve party and the bird caught a draft and died on New Year's day. That was the last bird the family ever had. The next year we got a cat.

Editor's note: I have a new blog on Brigitte Bardot on the Sixties blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We have an excuse

People who graduated into a lousy economy (like my age group, class of 74) are doomed to make less money and have periods of unemployment throughout their lives. This according to a column by David Brooks in the New York Times. It wasn't our fault after all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another solution to the economic malaise

One of the problems with being over fifty is that you are too old to be marketable but too young to retire. I propose to change that. I would lower the age at which you would receive Social Security to fifty. And for those of us who have aches and pains in the morning I would decree that all you would have to do is send in a post card checking off your ailments (aches and pains, cholesterol, high blood pressure) and you would be immediately eligible for Social Security Disability.

America would become like France. The coffee houses would be full during the morning. The bars would be filled from noon onto the evening. We would all be happy and fulfilled in our lives. Doctors and rehab in the morning. Whiskey and beer in the afternoon. Hotels would be at capacity. Casinos and racetracks would be full of business. Restaurants would be busy. There would be a ready pool for volunteer positions. Unemployment would be below 5 per cent.

What this country needs in new ideas. To heck with the deficit.

Happy Valentines Day

Here is an old blog that you might enjoy. Keeping in the spirit, the picture is of St. Valentines Catholic Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I've discovered Facebook

After a little coaxing, I've joined Facebook. So far it has been interesting. I am now "friends" with people I haven't thought about in decades. I've seen pictures of the neighborhood kids I grew up with. As tykes and as granparents. It's sort of like a high school reunion. You get to see who got married. What kinds of jobs people ended up with. What people's kids look like.

So far no great surprises. Everyone is successful it seems. Still, like high school reunions, the people who ended up in jail or in the French Foreign Legion are less likely to turn up on Facebook.

So far no one has turned up from my past and asked to borrow money. Of course I have only been on for two weeks.

Facebook is also fun in that you can put up movies and links to neat stuff. Your favorite tv shows and bands also have Facebook pages. I'm waiting for someone to tell me I missed out on the golden age. There are always people on anything who remember when it was better than it is now. Like when you had to understand Unix to go on the Internet.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hamilton Square

Recently I was walking through Hamilton Square. The Chrysler dealership was gone. The Chevrolet dealership had died. The Blockbuster was closed. The recession has come to Hamilton Square.
Editor's note: The bar where people bring their dogs was still there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hanging out in bars

I was leafing through the catalog of a community college last week and the thought occurred to me that one course that they didn't have was one on the art of hanging out in bars. I have been researching the subject and have come up with the outline of a ten week course on the subject.

Week 1: Choosing a bar
This week we will talk about the fundamentals in choosing a bar. Location (on the way home from work is ideal). Prices (Low enough to be affordable and high enough to keep out the rif raff.)

Type of beer available. Type of food available. Specials. Attractiveness of the staff and clientele.

Week 2: Having chosen a bar, this week will examine the rudiments of becoming a regular in a bar. Where to sit. What to order. How to find out the bartender's names.

Week 3: Buy backs and bar ettiquette. When to buy someone a beer. When someone should buy you a beer. Tipping. How to determine when you are not wanted at a bar. The art of getting into a football pool. Darts and billiards dos and don'ts.

Week 4: Surprisingly, women are often found in bars. When you can approach them. How to talk to them. When to avoid them.

Week 5: The rudiments of computers and automobile mechanics. Bar talk is not all sports. A good bar patron can discuss computer problems, cell phone features, fuel pumps, and drive shafts.

Week 6: The fundamentals of construction. A bar patron should be able to know how to use terms like drywall, sheet rock, as well as general terms used in plumbing, electrical work and boilers. These topics come up in most bars and you should be able to join in the conversation.

Week 7: Travel and casinos. A good bar patron has been to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, racinos and Indian casinos. Florida also comes up a lot in most bars. You should go to these places and spend a few dollars.

Week 8: Legal aspects of drinking, driving, and smoking will be discussed.

Week 9: Commenting on the game. This week we will discuss ways to keep up to date on the controversies and strategies in sports. We will discuss when it is appropriate and not appropriate to comment on a game.

Week 10: For the final week we will go to a couple of bars and test our theories.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Changing toner

In the working world, toner is one of those items that separate the sheep from the goats. Sheep complain about the printer or the copying machine when the pages are too light or they get an error message about toner. Goats get the job of replacing the toner.

"Oh *%^()&%!!" your boss or co-worker exclaims. I'm out of toner! Oh I wish somebody would do something."
The goat walks into the office, a smile on his face. He has just finished his sandwich and has five minutes left on his lunch hour. "&%*(&#&%" he says to himself. "Oh You want me to change the toner". If he is lucky there is extra toner in the supply cabinet. If he is unlucky there is no toner in house. Then he has to make phone calls, perhaps fill out an order request.

"But what am I supposed to do in the meantime?" he is asked.

"&*&^%%& why did you wait until we are out" the goat says if the employee is not above him on the food chain. If the complainer is higher than him on the food chain the goat is pleasant and reassures the complainer that it won't be long until we have our toner.
Five days later, two minutes before the end of the workday on Friday afternoon, the toner arrives. The goat can't wait until Monday because he is at a meeting all day so he stays late to put toner in the machine.

There is an art to installing toner. Too light a touch and the thing won't go in right. Too heavy a touch and the thing will get bent. Then there is the matter of recycling the toner. Sometimes the unscrupulous goat will pocket the old toner to get a discount at Staples.

Ever since I have collected a W2 form I have put toner of one type or another in a machine. I have put toner in photocopy machines, microfilm machines, computer printers and scanners. I always end up with black on my hands, my shirt, my tie, my trousers. Luckily if you act quickly you can get most of the toner off.

Toner installed, now is the test run. Some machines insist on doing a printer allignment check. Finally you get a decent copy and you can go home. Perhaps to a nice dinner of curried lamb.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yemen and the rule of three

The schoolteacher gets a request from a student for a special favor. She grudgingly says yes. She gets a second request from a different student. She says yes again. The third student asks for something. Now the teacher gives a firm no.

The supervisor gets a request from an employee to have Valentine's day off. The answer is yes. The second employee asks to have the same day off. The supervisor grudgingly says yes. The third employee has to work Valentine's day, even if his wife is having her liver removed.

It is the rule of three. The third person to ask to borrow money will always get turned down. The third problem in your house will always be deferred. The third son has to pay for his own college education.

Hence the problem with Yemen. We sent troops to Afghanistan. We sent troops to Iraq. America is overextended now and Yemen will be ignored. We have no more money and no more troops to deal with any more problems. It's the rule of three.