Politics, Cooking Shows, Home Makeovers, Reality TV and Miscellaneous

I’ve now been successfully retired for over ten years.  The definition of ‘successful retirement’ means two things:  a)  I’m still here – and  – b)  I have become expert at watching television.

Those of you facing retirement soon  or perhaps just embarking on your (hopefully) slow mental and physical deterioration may wonder what to expect as you disassociate yourself from real interaction with real people while you dissolve into a pool of stagnant cortisol, your only window into the real world provided by what you see on Cable TV.

The following is meant to give you an idea of today’s Cable TV environment as compiled  through my highly sophisticated powers of observation and analysis.

Politics as Reported by Today’s NEWS

Let’s begin our walk through of Cable TV Land  with a discussion of Politics as presented to us 24×7 by innumerable television stations. (We’ll ignore Social Media insofar as this is a discussion of what’s served up on TV, AND as we all know it is illegal to publish anything on the Internet which isn’t the truth.  Or so I’ve been told).

Moving on, if you’re chained to your couch all day and your sole physical activity is the workout you’re giving your thumb using the Remote, it is inevitable you will eventually stumble upon one of the many stations purporting to ‘serve’ you with the NEWS OF THE DAY.   You may be experiencing extreme pain in your thumb from the overwork of channel surfing and if so, tarry a moment to hear what is being ‘served’ up today as news.

The first, second, third (and so one) and last thing you will learn is that ‘Trump Sucks’.

This fact will be repeated incessantly.  Quite often it will be shouted out in discussion group sessions wherein the ‘winner’ of the Best Reason Why Trump Sucks will be the person most able to out scream other participants.

(For purposes of this article I will not enter into a philosophical discussion of whether Trump actually Sucks or not.  I believe the facts speak for themselves and the arbiters of all that’s good and holy who live on Mount Olympus have pretty much settled on the answer to that question.  I should point out, however, that at this point in time if the ‘news’ that Trump Sucks is in fact really news to you it’s probably important that you make every attempt to crawl out from under the rock that’s been sitting on your head for the past couple of years.)

Once enlightened that Trump Sucks based on the channel your wounded thumb settled on, as it recovers and you resume surfing, you will undoubtedly land on yet another station with a similar format and be subjected again to the non stop broadcasting of the news that Trump Sucks.

WARNING:  It IS possible you may accidentally rest your ‘in danger of becoming gangrenous’ thumb on something called FOX NEWS.  If you do, don’t be fooled.  The news as reported on this channel MAY report something to the effect that Trump Doesn’t Suck.

Carefully note that virtually all of the Trump Doesn’t Suck reporting done by this channel is presented by hot women with great cleavage, or by Tomi Lahren – a precocious fifteen year old in training to become a hot woman with great cleavage.  You can disregard such reporting insofar as if you’re a man, you actually aren’t HEARING what is being said.  You’re just developing serious eye strain.  If you’re a woman, you’re probably rabid with jealousy and you haven’t heard a word that’s being said anyway.

And that will be the sum total of what you learn from the news each and every single day.

A possible exception is you may also be treated to a weather report presented by someone called a Weather Bunny in which you will be informed that the world will end today and each and every subsequent day included in the five day forecast.  Don’t sweat that.  It’s bullshit.

Cooking Shows

Moving on through Cable TV Land, the next apparently can’t do without offerings are something called, generically, COOKING SHOWS.

How to describe these?   It’s difficult to put into words.

For starters, what we CAN say is there are hundreds of these stations.  If there weren’t your Cable TV provider would be forced to admit that the 582 Cable Channels you’re paying for actually include only 15 channels or so that AREN’T Cooking Shows.

Next, as we move from Cooking Show to Cooking Show we note that apparently to cook anything requires availability of a kitchen whose footprint would dwarf the likely square footage which you personally inhabit along with your wife, children, pets and n’er do well mooching brother in law.

As you watch a recipe coming to life you’re astounded to find that it takes easily ten to fifteen different little glass dishes filled with a little bit of something that eventually gets tossed into the same pan to cook.  AND you never, ever get to see how long it takes to wash all of those little glass dishes and pans after whatever is being concocted is concocted.

Likewise, you learn that cooking requires an unending supply of different sized and shape pans, each bubbling merrily away at just the right temperatures and in the time frame which fits exactly into what is needed and when.

To your amazement you will also find that in Cable TV Land, mankind has developed stove technology to the point where food to be cooked can be put into a magical oven on the top level and voila!, removed fully cooked from the bottom level of the oven instantaneously.  If you thought the Biblical story of the Loaves and Fishes sounded suspect, here’s your proof.  Apparently, the Hebrews created the magical oven centuries ago but somehow the secret, similar to the recipe for making Greek Fire, was lost until the advent of Cooking Shows.

Eventually if you’ve seen enough Cooking Shows it begins to dawn on you that there are at  thousands different ways to cook anything.  AND, you’ll also discover that the thousands of different ways are utterly meaningless insofar as most of what’s being cooked you’ve never even heard of.  And if you did, you wouldn’t eat that stuff anyway.

Finally, be aware that the latest trend in Cooking Shows is to have wannabe or already are chefs compete against one another by giving them a bunch of ingredients which you either don’t recognize or if you did you wouldn’t feed to your dog.  After an incredibly tense period of chopping things up and throwing those little dish contents into the pan out comes something you’d never, never eat and the ‘Judges’ decide whose monstrosity tastes the best.

This trend has devolved from having real chefs compete to having rookie chefs paired against one another, and now even children are now competing, the latter usually producing something which with very little imagination you can easily see the Judges chewing up and spitting into a slop bucket as soon as the camera leaves them.

Home Makeovers

HGTV.  Who said Rome wasn’t built in a day?

The sheer number of channels offering home makeover ‘entertainment’ is dwarfed only by the number of Cooking Show channels.  The probable reason for this is it’s easier and cheaper to fill little glass dishes with stuff and cook instantaneous meals using the magical ovens than it is to draw architectural plans, obtain financing, engage contractors, purchase and deliver building materials, obtain building permits from bribed public servants, fire non performing contractors, hire new ones, pour concrete and let it set – well, you get the picture.

Nonetheless, every day in Cable TV Land we are treated to the spectacle of usually two Hosts, one of whom is often a hot woman with great cleavage who attempts to convince us during the show that she really does know something about construction as evidenced by her ability to pick up a hammer, and the other either a David Hasselhoff  look alike who never worked a day in construction or a smarmy guy in an ill fitting suit.

These folks first walk us through the pathetic before shape of whatever structure needs a makeover.  Sometimes it’s even entertaining if this occurs right in front of the current inhabitants of the structure.  Must be a real upper to be standing in front of the cameras while Ms. Cleavage, Mr. Smarmy/Hasselhoff comment upon the filth, mold and really awful unsanitary conditions in which you’ve been raising your family.

Ah well.  So on we go. Cleavage/Smarmy/Hasselhoff thankfully have the solution to whatever the problem is and in the blink of an eye all of the aforementioned preparatory work is done, construction begins, ‘surprise’ obstacles are overcome (Good Lord!  We found the toilet actually empties into the kitchen sink!) and kaboom, we have a beautiful, brand new environment built within an hour.

Fade to the current inhabitants tearfully gazing upon their new Taj Mahal surroundings, Cleavage/Smarmy/Hasselhoff waving goodbye as they walk into the sunset (probably heading for some cheap Motel for you know what), credits roll and NOBODY EVER SEEMS TO GET PAID FOR ANYTHING!!!

Bet the kids are just happy their chances of getting bit by a rat are considerably diminished.

Reality TV

Admit it.  If it weren’t for shows like America’s Got Talent (AGT), American Idol, The Voice, American Ninja Warrior (ANW)  and the growing number of Channels with derivative formats, the Entertainment Industry’s talent pool would be about as deep as the Dead Sea in the middle of August.

American Idol led the way in presenting what used to be called ‘Talent Shows’ in the old days and in the beginning was pretty entertaining as we watched a good mix of truly talented performers move ahead in the competition while perfectly awful singers and performers humiliated themselves, generously bashed with insults by a Brit in a T-Shirt.

As the years have gone by this show has proceeded to embarrass itself as the Judges either mellowed or had their lives threatened by the losing and humiliated Bulgarian Brother’s Tonsil Band.  Nowadays, even the backstories of the competitors are lame (who knew there were so many opera singers living in trailer parks in this Country?) and seldom does the Brit T-Shirt guy even bother to mention how much most of the auditioning competitors suck.

This genre, collectively called Reality TV, fills the Cable waves with scads of ‘acts’ that, as time goes by, are either repetitive, silly, or even semi-suicidal as real people reach for the brass ring only to be cast back into life situations which leave them as has beens with nothing but an asterisk on their resume documenting their attempt at greatness on some Reality TV Show.

But hey, if that asterisk gives you an edge on that McDonald’s window order taker job, most certainly go with it!

Moving on, the absolute silliest Reality TV Shows are those which pretend to follow young men and women as they try to develop romantic relationships.  The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are the top contenders for Most Stupid Concept in this category.

I mean, if these shows were really ‘Reality’,  instead of those stupid rose ceremonies, the Bachelor guy would be given a case of condoms and each ‘suitor-ess’ or whatever they call the female supplicants would each be given an adequate supply of IUD’s.  (Naturally, the closer you get to the end of a Bachelor Season, the more IUD’S the diminishing number of female contestants would be given.)  The Bachelorette series would likewise involve an appropriate distribution of safe sex products.

The one TV Reality Show you might enjoy is American Ninja Warrior (ANW)  I have to hand it to the male and female competitors on this show.  These people are the real deal when it comes to toughness, strength, agility, stamina and (usually) their ability to strike solid/cushioned objects full face and fall into a cauldron of boiling oil.  (Ok, I made that up.  It’s really just water but wouldn’t it be REALITY COOL if it really was boiling oil?).

Another thing I like about ANW is that as an ancient, couch bound retiree, I can watch the show and actually feel myself reaching, jumping, straining, and climbing right along with the contestants.  Or at least I used to until I pulled a groin muscle fantasizing about doing one of their stunts.

Miscellaneous

For those of us of a certain age, our TV Channel selection was limited to Channels 2, 5, 7 and 9.  Eventually Channel 11 appeared as the start of Public Television and did and continues to do a reasonable job of providing solid, fairly sophisticated entertainment and shows which serve to increase one’s knowledge of the world around us.  Bravo for them.

On the down side those PBS telethons which seem to be broadcast every other day or something like that are most definitely repetitive, boring, even annoying.  Kind of seems like an exercise in Technological Street Begging.

Then came UHF TV stations, followed by Cable and Satellite TV.  Today’s Cable TV environment has something for everyone (there’s even an interesting Channel called AHC which stands for American Heroes Channel but if you watch it often enough it looks more like the All Hitler Channel with its constant documentaries of Hitler’s life and politics) and as you move forward in retirement you’ll likely have the opportunity to sample them all.

I heartily encourage you to do just that as you begin to shuffle off your mortal coils.

And please let me know if you come across one of those magical ovens!

 

 

 

 

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A Christmas Story

Thank You and A Merry Christmas to You, Dana

 The buzz these days is all about the decline of bricks and mortar stores with retail sales rapidly moving to the internet.

And it may well come to pass that people soon won’t know what it’s like to walk into a store and actually interact with another human being.

What follows is both a Christmas story as well as what to me was a shopping experience I cannot imagine occurring in an all electronic sales world.  Regardless, my recent experience shopping this Christmas at J.C. Penney’s is a memory I’ll take with me forever.

Several months ago my dear wife of 47 years was diagnosed with cancer.  That tragic news changed our lives and things will likely never be the same for us.  One thing that’s changed is I’ve assumed responsibility for all of our shopping needs (at least those we can’t or don’t want to conduct over the internet).

Like most cancer patients who’ve undergone chemotherapy, at this point in her treatment my wife has lost most of her hair and in the plans is a visit to go shopping for a wig after the Holidays.  In the meantime, although she is largely homebound, we do have some Holiday visits with relatives on our calendar.  These will be poignant for obvious reasons and I know my wife has been concerned over her appearance.  Again, like most cancer patients she has lost a lot of weight and dressing for a Holiday party is an unfortunate stressor at an otherwise normally stressful time.

Two days ago, I was out doing food shopping and also had with me a list of presents I was to pick up at various stores along our main shopping venues located on Randall Road in Algonquin, Illinois.

In the back of my mind it occurred to me that in lieu of a wig, I could perhaps pick up some kind of head band which my wife could use to cover herself in the event we were able to spend some time with the relatives.

It so happened I was driving by a shopping area in which a J. C. Penney’s store was located.  Thinking I might find a suitable head band I made my way through the Christmas shopping jammed parking lot and entered the store.

I asked the first salesperson I came across where I might find women’s head bands.  I was given general directions to the Women’s Wear area.

I should mention that like most men, I suppose, I am terrible at shopping for women.  I don’t know sizes, styles, prices, what’s in fashion, what isn’t – pretty much everything men leave to women to know and act on when they go shopping for themselves.

I managed to find the Women’s Wear section and noticed a woman salesperson walking briskly to take care of business somewhere in the store.  In her hand were several outfits on hangers.

I excused myself and asked her where I might find a head band for my wife.  She paused and thought for a moment and I could tell from her response it would definitely take some searching.

On impulse I mentioned to her my wife’s cancer and my desire to get her something to wear on her head while visiting during the Holidays.  I noticed from her J.C Penney’s name tag that her name was Dana.

When I told her that about my wife, something remarkable happened.  She looked at me with a combination of sympathy as well as a surprising look of determination.  She hung the items she was carrying on a passing rack and said, “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.  You come with me.”

With that she quickly went to a corner in the department and, stopping in front of the items sold there, she looked at me directly and said, “All right now, you need to understand that in cold weather the body loses heat most quickly through the extremities, including hands, feet and head.  With your wife’s hair loss she is first going to need to wear something warm on her head to prevent heat loss.”

With that, she directed my attention to a selection of women’s hats, similar to stocking hats only more stylish and made of a material I could well imagine would keep out the cold.  With her help I picked out a hat I thought my wife would like.

Next, she told me, “And I would suggest that you buy your wife a scarf, one she can use as both a covering and a fashion accessory.”  She explained that such a scarf could be arranged in such a way as to look nice while serving as a covering and that the internet would provide information on different ways of arranging it.

I picked out a scarf I thought would look nice and Dana told me she liked my choice.

Finally, she explained I should visit a store that sold medical supplies and buy a roll of self adhesive wrapping of one to two inches in width which would be used to provide a foundation for the scarf and hat.  This would not only provide some warmth but would also keep the other items in place.  I assured her I would.

All of the above took somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen minutes, allowing for my fumbling around in the unfamiliar women’s clothing world.

By this time I was totally amazed to find someone like Dana with that much knowledge who would spend that much time on your average Joe Customer during the busiest shopping time of the year. I thanked her over and over, becoming more flustered as I realized I couldn’t really express the true depths of my appreciation.

She gently quieted me and said, “Please, I’m glad to be of help.  My daughter was diagnosed with cancer a while ago and everything I’m telling you we learned through her experience.  Fortunately, we were able to save my daughter and I wish you the best in your wife’s outcome.”

By this time I was nearly in tears but Dana wasn’t through helping yet.

“Come with me,” she said again and led me over to a check out register which wasn’t currently in service.  She produced a key and proceeded to begin checking me out.  In the midst of this she asked if I’d been given a coupon when I entered the store and I told her I hadn’t.

She directed me to where the coupons were being distributed and I returned with it in hand.

Upon finalizing checkout I discovered the coupon was for 50% off of items purchased.

When all was done I once again expressed my sincere thanks for all of her help.  We exchanged Holiday wishes and shook hands.

As I drove home (or more accurately to a drug store to get the self adhesive tape wrap) I found myself stunned at the kindness, understanding, and willingness to help an old man as exhibited by Dana.  Thoughts of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, O.Henry’s famous Christmas tale and others came to mind and I wondered what it was that led me to make that unscheduled stop and to find such a wonderful and giving person in Dana.

And so I hope Dana and her family have a wonderful Holiday Season. And I’ll say a special prayer for her.

And I also will thank God that J.C. Penney placed those bricks and mortar in that shopping mall and placed Dana there at exactly in my time of need.

 

 

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Stephen Hawking, The Media, Lawsuits, and Junior Mints

I don’t know what it is, but sometimes the planets come into alignment, the Hand of God reaches out to nudge the Universe one way or another, a Vulcan mind meld is applied irresponsibly, or perhaps humanity reaches an apex in stupidity derived from the Butterfly Effect triggered by one of Grandpa’s SBD farts blamed on the dog.

This morning is one of those times. (Sorry, dog.)

In its ongoing desperate attempt to remain relevant and in a classic example of the inmates running the asylum of the Media, today’s Chicago Tribune runs an article with the headline “Illinois Suit  Challenges Junior Mints on Space in Packaging”.

The headline itself was enough to send me into convulsions, the result of which may be a headline tomorrow reading something like “Illinois Man Files Lawsuit After Suffering Coffee Burns to Groin Area After Reading Headline About Junior Mints Lawsuit”.  I’m still thinking about pursuing that.

Be that as it may, the gist of the article is that a lawsuit has been filed in a Chicago federal court by a woman claiming ‘there is nearly as much air as candy’ in a box of Junior Mints.

The article goes on in excruciating detail to explain the genesis of the suit (triggered by the purchase of a $1 Box of Junior Mints), the tortuous relationship between the Junior Mints contents and deceptive packaging, a discussion of the pros and cons of empty space left in product packaging (Examples:  We are told ‘the air cushion …protects potato chips from breaking in the bag’ versus in the case of the Junior Mints ‘that empty space can increase the chances that the candies will be damaged because they move around quite a bit inside the hard cardboard box’).

Next we are treated to a history of the litigation filed in various other jurisdictions, resultant court decisions, appeals filed, pending related litigation and so on which might or might not have a bearing on the Junior Mints lawsuit.

Also included is a discussion of the relationships of Junior Mints to the episode of Seinfeld which if you haven’t seen it you really should but which I won’t waste your time here explaining – all of which has absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit filed but makes for some nostalgic reflection on the good old days when the most disturbing thing about Junior Mints wasn’t the contents of the box but the potential effects of accidentally dropping a Junior Mint into an opened wound during surgery.

(After spending the time reading the article it also occurred to me that if I were a subscriber to the paper version of the newspaper I might have thrown it onto floor laughing.  Having moved on to the online version,  I realized once again how much technology had changed my life.   Throwing my laptop onto the floor laughing would have been a stupid and costly thing to do.  Gotta love serendipity)

Anyway, a number of thoughts came to mind after reading the article.  The first was ‘How could such a thing be considered ‘News’, worth spending the time, mental effort and cost to include in a major metropolitan newspaper?’

I don’t have the answer to that one but assume the Media Gods in their infinite wisdom had once again decided for me that here was information critical to my understanding of the world and events which shape our time.  And thanks for that.

Then, I tried to picture how the conversation went between the litigant (i.e., the buyer of the $1 box of Junior Mints) and the Law Firm that decided to take this case to Court.

One possible (likely?) scenario:

PARTNER IN LAW FIRM:  “Good morning, Mrs. X, what can we do for you today?”

MRS. X:  “Well, I bought this $1 box of Junior Mints yesterday and I was OUTRAGED (see prior blog post re:  OUTRAGE) to find that the entire capacity of space available in the box wasn’t taken up by Junior Mints.  In fact, it looks to me like not only are there Junior Mints in here, there’s also AIR!!!”

PARTNER IN LAW FIRM:  “Hmmm.  How much money do you have?”

MRS. X:  “A lot.”

PARTNER IN LAW FIRM:  “Well, in that case, we’ll be glad to take it.  Your case, that is!(laughs professionally)”.

Finally, I wondered, “How would I, as maker and packager of  Junior Mints, defend myself against such a charge?”

Suddenly, I realized the answer was obvious.

If you’ve been wondering where Stephen Hawking comes into play here….wait for it….

IN FACT, THE SPACE WITHIN THE JUNIOR MINTS BOX NOT OCCUPIED BY JUNIOR MINTS IS ACTUALLY FILLED WITH DARK MATTER!

And with that, your Honor, I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Outrageous!!!!….And One Other Thought

A few days ago something happened that annoyed me.

I forget what it was exactly but within minutes I realized my reaction to it was WAY inappropriate for the times.

In case you haven’t noticed,  if you bother to watch the Talking Heads or read the online/paper based Anointed Pundits ranting about (insert your topic here), no one seems to have any emotional response to ANYTHING anymore but OUTRAGE.

I remember the old days.  Way back then, if someone said some shit to you that you didn’t like or maybe you read something online or saw something on the Tube to which you took exception, your reaction may have run the gamut of emotions from disappointment or mild annoyance to just plain annoyance (never quite sure what the differentiator was there – I just knew I could tell the difference), or you might have felt Slightly Pissed Off to Full Blown Pissed Off.  You may have even internally escalated things to the point of feeling Anger, or, if you’re the type that hears voices in your head, plain old unhealthy Rage

(Of course, in an alternate universe you may even just have ignored the whole thing but I don’t want to get off topic here.)

No, today’s standard, nay expected, reaction to things said, events that occur, gestures made , eyebrows furrowed, quizzical looks, differences of opinion – pretty much anything with which you disagree – is OUTRAGE.

Don’t like it that you were stopped by a cop for having a tail light or license plate missing AND were then found to have a pound of crystal meth in your trunk along with a decapitated body?  Well, if you’re 1/10th Inuit Indian on your father’s side, the media story will likely start with the headline, “Minority Person OUTRAGED Over Police Profiling.”

Don’t like waiting in line for your turn at the trough in the Men’s Room at Wrigley Field? Push your way through the even longer suffering line waiting in front of the Women’s Room, declare yourself Transgender, get into a fight with a patient WWW contender, get arrested and you get the headline, “LGBTQ (What’s with the Q?  Isn’t that redundant or does is stand for Questionable?)  Person OUTRAGED Over Denial of Access to Women’s Room’.

Got an annual income of a gazillion dollars, you own Ecuador, and find your Property Taxes have increased by $10,000?  Call a like minded individual who controls the media in your locale (or Mark Zuckerberg who apparently controls ALL media in ALL locales through Facebook – Russian subsidiaries included) and you get a headline, “Friend of Gabillionaire OUTRAGED Over Friend’s Property Tax Increase.”

Live in a ‘Geographically Disadvantaged Urban Boundary Owned by Absentee Owners and Populated by Poor Minorities With a 250% Increase in Gun Deaths’  and get capped by a cop while you’re reloading an Uzi which you just emptied at the cop and for some unknown reason you’re such a rotten shot you completely missed him/her?  Inevitably your headline will read “Father Pfleger (or whomever is your local defender of all that’s good and holy) OUTRAGED Over Unjustified Police Shooting of Future Assumed Rhodes Scholar”.

The examples cited of course incorporate some of today’s hot button issues and are in some respects perhaps a bit hyperbolic 🙂 ; however the term OUTRAGE is now being used to describe reactions to even the most mundane of situations considered as newsworthy and reported as such by today’s media.

If you don’t believe that,  simply take out a blank piece of paper and  for the next two weeks every time you hear or read about someone being OUTRAGED about something place a tick mark on it.   I’m betting you’ll find yourself AMAZED at the results, by which time you may find the media has discovered  people are becoming less OUTRAGED and more AMAZED!  Who knows?

Thank you for reading today’s diatribe.  I actually feel EMPOWERED having written it!

…..and now about that word EMPOWERED…..

AS PROMISED – ONE OTHER THOUGHT

Having been bombarded lately with the Saga of Stormy Daniels As Translated From the Old English I find it one of today’s extreme ironies that a woman who spent much of her adult life making money doing porn movies received what was undoubtedly her biggest payday – for actually keeping her mouth shut!

Think about it.

 

 

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Potty Break

It was one of those steaming hot summer days in the suburbs.  The pavement shimmered in the heat and the local swimming pools overflowed from the impact of countless cannon balls and belly flops.

Looking forward to watching my son’s little league game that evening, I dressed in my lightest seersucker suit and spent the day in the comfort of air conditioned corporate servitude.

As five o’clock approached, the guys at the office began discussing plans for the evening, which almost invariably involved a stop at the local watering hole called Barry’s.

With the game starting at six thirty, I knew it would be a brief Barry’s stop for me but agreed to join them for a quick beer.

Now, the thing you need to understand about Barry’s was that each ‘quick beer’ was served in a frosty sixteen-ounce mug.  Aside from being a bargain price-wise, this had another benefit: namely that you theoretically could look your wife square in the eye and, flaming capillaries notwithstanding, swear truthfully that you had “stopped and had A beer”.  The fact that the low single digit beer count multiplied times the ounce factor could represent a couple of quarts of the stuff seemed irrelevant given the promise of wobbly integrity at home.

On this particular night even the walk to my car from the office and the few steps from the parking lot into Barry’s raised a sweat,.  With one eye on the clock, I ordered A beer, a second and then a third until it was time for me to leave for the baseball fields where my wife waited with increasing irritation as game time approached.

The fields on which the games were played were quite elaborate for little league.  None of the Chicago rock strewn sandlots on which I played ball as a kid, these were genuine first class baseball diamonds.  There were four of them, arranged in hub and spoke fashion, with each field having its own backstops, dugouts, bleachers and other spectator seating areas.

The parking lots servicing the fields were located several hundred feet away.  Hoping to reduce my sentence for having cut it so close in arriving just before ‘Play Ball’ was called, I jogged through the oppressive heat of the early evening to where my wife sat.

The jogging had two effects.  First, by the time I flopped into the chaise lounge next to my wife, my suit was soaked;  second, I felt a familiar pressure which I recognized resulted from my rapid departure from Barry’s without the required offering to the porcelain god and which I new would require relief soon.

I made small talk with my wife (“Hi, hon, stopped for a couple of beers at Barry’s”) as I glanced around to determine the whereabouts of the nearest rest room.  To my annoyance I realized that the only facility was a Porta-Potty located far off adjacent to the parking lot.  I knew that in order to keep the ‘Myth of the Single Digit Beer at Barry’s’ safe for future generations I would have to remain seated for at least the first couple of innings, so I hunkered down to tough it out.

The game started and I sat there in increasing discomfort until the third inning when I could stand it no more.  I excused myself and began the long walk to the facilities.  The closer I got, the faster I walked.  The faster I walked in the sweltering heat, the more I perspired.  By the time I made it to the portable bathroom even my socks were ringing wet.

I’m sure you know the type of comfort facility I’m talking about.  It was one of those free standing structures with the spring loaded door, the tiny window for ventilation and the lock latch located on the inside.  I opened the door and stepped in.

As I let go of the door the spring mechanism slammed it shut behind me with a bang.  Actually, it shut with a bang and another sound – sort of a ‘klunk’.  I registered the ‘klunk’ in the back of my mind as I frantically took care of business  which by this time had become my sole purpose in life.

As a flood of relief swept over me my mind wandered, and I realized how really unbearably hot and ripe were my surroundings.  My shirt was wringing wet, my suit was pitted out, sweat was poring from – well, from my pores – and my olfactory senses were in mega revulsion mode from the stench.

Having taken care of business as quickly as possible, I turned around, lifted the latch and pushed on the door.

It refused to budge.

I moved the latch up and down several times with no result, each time slamming my shoulder harder into the door.  As I did so the meaning of the mysterious ‘klunk’ became clear.  The locking mechanism had malfunctioned and I was now locked inside a human waste oven, the temperature of which was well over 100 degrees.

I normally consider myself to be pretty resourceful, however, a survey of my cell in hell offered no potential for escape.  I stood on my toes and peered out the tiny ventilation window, expecting to see salvation in the form of another soul responding to nature’s call walking towards me.   From my vantage point I could see clear across to the baseball diamonds and to my amazement there wasn’t a single person headed for the can.

Hoping that perhaps someone was within earshot in the parking lot I yelled, “Hey, can anybody hear me?  I need help.  I’m locked in the john!”  As I did so, the humor of the situation struck me and I waited for a response, already thinking up clever one liners I could toss out when rescued.  There was no response.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

For the next few minutes I repeated my calls until it became obvious there would be no help coming soon. I returned to the tiny window and looked again in vain for help from the direction of the ball fields.

The next twenty minutes were a lifetime.  You’d have thought the kids on those ball diamonds were playing in the World Series, so intent were the parents and other fans on watching the games.  Surely, I said to myself, there must be someone who has to go to the bathroom eventually.

With each passing minute, the temperature and the stench rose in parallel.  I cursed my luck, I cursed my suit, the coat of  which was now doing double duty as a towel to wipe the sweat out of my eyes, and I pretty much cursed everything up to and including Abner Doubleday for inventing the damn game which had brought me to such a ridiculously low place.

Finally, returning to the ventilation window, with relief I saw the figure of a seven or eight year old boy coming towards me from the ball fields.  I let him approach to within twenty feet or so and hollered, “Hey kid, I’m locked in the john.  Help me get out, will you?”

I instantly realized my mistake.

The boy looked up, his eyes widened in terror. He screamed and fled as fast as his little legs would carry him – straight back to the ball fields.  I watched as he gesticulated to the crowd watching the games and pointed in my direction.

Like a scene out of Frankenstein the villagers rose up as one to slay the monster in the castle nee portable bathroom.  These were big villagers, too, and ten or so of the macho vigilantes ran towards me.  I swear I could almost see the lit torches.

Not wishing to take the chance that someone might decide to lynch the pervert in the potty or worse yet, tip the thing over, I began to yell frantically for help as soon as I thought they were in earshot.  Unfortunately, like the villagers, the nearer they approached the louder were their cries of rage and demand for retribution.

Quickly the mob surrounded the facility as I stood tip toe to the window, talking a mile a minute about how I had been locked in the thing for half an hour, how I was losing weight in the putrid steam bath, and, “Honest guys, I didn’t say anything evil to that nice little kid”.

Finally, a guy who resembled a Bulgarian wrestler looked up at me and said, “Buddy, we’d better find that door locked.”  He didn’t need to finish that statement and for one terrifying instant it occurred to me that perhaps I should have tried to open the door at least one more time.  I heard the latch being worked from the outside and to my tremendous relief heard the words, “Damn, the door really is jammed,”  and,  “Wow, that poor s.o.b. in there really got the shaft!.”

When the door was finally pried open I stepped out and stood limply in front of  the crowd of my would be executioners who were now staggering around convulsed in laughter.

I sloshed back to where my wife sat watching the game that by now was in the seventh inning.  She barely glanced at me as I sat down.

After a couple of minutes wet reflection on the absurdity of my experience I managed to convince myself that she should somehow share in the blame.   As I told her what had happened she began to chuckle.  The more I told her the harder she laughed and the more indignant I became.  By the time I finished the epic she was doubled over and all I could manage was a lame complaint to the effect that “I could have died in that thing and you never even would have noticed I was missing!”

I knew I was looking for sympathy in the wrong place as, wiping the tears from her eyes she smiled sweetly and said, “Don’t be silly, they clean those things out at least a couple of times a week.”

I think those are the kinds of things that have kept us together all these years.

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The Controversy Over Cursive

I’ve lived in the Great State of Illinois all my life.

I use the modifier ‘Great’ for the purpose of distinguishing Illinois from other States known as ‘Not Great’or worse yet ‘Insignificant’ (e.g., Rhode Island).  I also use it because that’s what Politicians here call it, and as everyone knows Illinois Politicians are renowned for their intelligence, honesty, and most importantly their ability to consume and digest prison food.

Our State was created in 1818 becoming the 21st State of the Union.  The State Seal contains the official motto ‘Ego Expendas Pecuniam Tuam’ which translates to ‘I will spend your money.’

When not spending our money or avoiding creating a balanced budget through a loophole in the State Constitutional requirement to create a balanced budget which as written says words to the effect that a balanced budget must be created annually except during years in which it is not necessary to create a balanced budget, our Politicians grapple with many other issues critical to effective governance.

The Illinois Legislature regularly tackles such urgent issues as establishing Official State Birds, Official State Invasive Fish Species, Official State Losing Professional Football Teams and I’m sure eventually will get around to naming an Official State Ear Wax Removal System.

In the meantime, the big issue now being debated here is whether our School System should require students to learn to write in cursive.

From my personal research cursive as a form of written expression was created way back in 1626 when Peter Minuit, appointed director-general of New Netherland by the Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie (the Dutch West India Company), purchased Manhattan from the Lenape, or Delaware Indians, for $24-worth of trade goods, or so the story goes.

Suspecting the Delaware Indians just might be able to read printed words, the Dutch cleverly used the new cursive script to confuse them and suck them signing into that $24 ‘deal’.  Evidence of this may be seen on the original contract on which the Chief of the Lenape, an Indian named Bob, marked an ‘X’ on the signature line of the contract.

Bob just as easily could have made his mark as an ‘F’ or ‘M’ or some other printed letter but used an ‘X’ presumably to impress the Dutch with his knowledge of the whole printed alphabet – or at least the first twenty four letters.

Flash forward to the present and the Legislature debating whether or not to require Schools to teach students to write in cursive.

To quote from a Chicago Tribune article, “The lawmaker pushing the idea says being taught the fancy script (emphasis added) can improve student’s learning abilities and help them read handwritten notes from their grandparents.”

Opposition in the Legislature claims that “such a requirement would put another burden on schools already struggling to meet other goals with limited time and money”.

As a grandparent this issue concerns me on a number of levels.

On the one hand, I understand the Legislature’s desire to cut back on frivolous spending on ‘fancy’ and otherwise unnecessary learning experiences.  This has been a concerted effort for many years as reflected in our State’s student population’s overall test results which clearly demonstrate the success of the elimination of other useless skills such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

We simply can’t afford to teach fancy skills that might negatively impact critical life knowledge in such areas as climatic impact on biodiversity of the sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea due to the Rusted Container Ship Recycling industry there.

However, more relevant to me and as recognized by the Illinois League of Pro Cursive Lawmakers is the potential of my grandchildren being unable to read the little yellow stickies I leave for them in the bathroom when they come to visit reminding them (in cursive) to ‘LEAVE THE TOILET SEAT DOWN’.

This is a lesson which my grandchildren MUST learn if they are ever to establish a successful relationship with their future husband(s), wife(s), same sex individual(s), transgender person(s) or the odd goat(s) they may choose as life partners.

Believe me, life is not worth living being awakened by the primal scream of one’s partner using the facilities in the dark hours of the morning preceded by a muffled splashing sound.  This is minimally a guarantee that cold cereal is on the line for breakfast – or worse.

A more important concern is that my grandchildren may someday find themselves sitting across from some grizzled old Danish guy holding a contract written in cursive in one hand and $24 worth of beads in the other negotiating the sale of their house!

Finally, having used cursive all my life, as a grandparent I’ve discovered I no longer remember how to print.  (This is among a number of other things I seem to have forgotten lately but that’s another story.)

Thus, as I age further with my eyesight and hearing failing and my speech becoming less intelligible due to tooth loss or increasing phlegm balls interrupting my elocution,  my only fallback position in communicating with my grandchildren will be written cursive which they will be unable to decipher unless the Illinois State Legislature finds the money to teach them the fancy script.

Somehow I have to believe learning cursive remains an essential life skill.  At least until the letter ‘X’ suffices to convey the sum of all human written expression.

 

 

Posted in Contemporary Political Thoughts, Humer, Retirement Thoughts | Leave a comment

Trump & Obamacare Replacement – NADA!

Just feel like I have to put down my opinion on the premiere issue of today, Friday, March 25, 2017 – namely, the House vote on replacement of Obamacare.

To put it bluntly, I hope the bill on the table today stays right where it is – on the table.  Or better yet, is voted down by the House. Or maybe it just falls off the table and into the trash can.

Like every other thinking American I’ve had enough of Donald Trump’s ego, stupidity, arrogance, crudeness – sorry, I’ve run out of negative descriptors – as evidenced since the election.

While I didn’t vote for the Buffoon in Chief (nor Empress Pants Suit either, for that matter) I DID and still do support much of the Republican Party’s platform, including such things as enforcement of immigration laws, tax reform, reduced Federal regulations/bureaucracy, a return to America First trade policy, incentives for reduced outsourcing, and even repeal/replacement of Obamacare – the subject of today’s rant.

First off, it’s clear that Obamacare is a seriously flawed program; passed in an authoritarian manner with no bipartisan support and proven unsustainable from a financial standpoint.  In other words, it needs to go.

But it can’t be replaced with a new program slammed together, not properly vetted or understood (again) by Legislators, pushed forward once again with absolutely no bipartisan support, sold as a fiscally sound solution in the face of those FACTS that seem to annoy Trump so much which point in the opposite direction.

It needs to be replaced with a solution that provides a well rationalized program, discussed and debated in the light of day with ALL of Congress having at least some skin in the game at the end of the day.

I don’t think any of the above is too much to demand of our elected representatives.

What I CANNOT stand for is watching a petulant school boy demanding what he wants just because he wants it, willing to bargain away any or even all of the current bill’s provisions simply to enable him to claim a WIN.  That isn’t right.  It isn’t even right politics – the latter phrase itself being an oxymoron.

I sincerely hope the Bill fails and Trump is forced to accept a humiliating defeat.  Not that that result would have any lasting beneficial impact on him.  He simply will shrug it off and move onto the next issue where he thinks he can WIN.  That’s the essence of the guy. Right or wrong is immaterial.  Winning is everything to him.  We know the type.  He’s the Bobby Knight of politics.  Knight, former and disgraced head of the University of Indiana’s basketball program recently said of the Administrators who fired him, “I hope they’re all dead.”

That’s Trump.  He’d  just as soon walk over the bodies left in his destructive path rather than call the Medics to tend the wounded.

On a positive note, I hope, hope, hope, the GOP’s refusal to bow to Trump and coalesce around his demands portends the re (? ) emergence of this Country’s balance of power and that both Dems and Repubs ‘get it’ that they’d better hold firmly to the reins of their power and act responsibly during the next three and a half years to offset the demonstrated unbalanced personality of our now ‘Bobble Head of State’.

I had hoped Trump would somehow rise to meet the serious responsibility of the Office to which he was elected.  It didn’t take long for him to reveal to all that underneath that smirking, bloviating, lying egotist we were all afraid he would be was in fact a smirking, bloviating, lying egotist.  (Hey, guess you never really can run out of negative descriptors when it comes to Trump!).

It’s all too bad.  Really too bad.  HUGELY too bad.

 

 

 

Posted in Presidential Election, Uncategorized | 1 Comment