Archive for the ‘nonsense’ Category

Time left on the clock

Monday, November 18th, 2013

A faceless city sandwiched between equally dull, non-descript neighburbs, all working-class in the shadow of industrial giants, Hammond, Indiana was generic, before the meaningless word had meaning.  Separated from lurid Calumet City, the Illinois home to 252 bars and strip clubs, by State Line Avenue and a tangent on the Rand McNally atlas.  From the playwright’s perspective, Thornton Wilder, Hammond was Our Town.

The writer, Sinclair Lewis, would have gagged on the polluted air from the Sinclair refinery, from the belching furnaces of USSteel, from the omnipresent aroma of pig fat rendered by Lever Brothers when the wind drifted south off Lake Michigan, all in the name of battleships, Lifebuoy Soap, Ivory Flakes, and 89 octane Dino Supreme.  Had this been Lewis’  Main Street in Indiana, and not Iowa.


The corner window at Goldblatt’s
presented the newest toys for the Holiday Season.  In Jean Shepherd’s ‘Christmas Story’, it is where Ralphie first saw the Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun.

The 1957 high school graduating class was thought special.  It was not.  Tens of thousands of seniors, everywhere, were gelatinized by geographic lottery, turbulent hormones, acne, fear of peer rejection, sexual arousal, and a license to drive.  So it was at HHS, neither a Blackboard Jungle, nor the Fonz in ‘Happy Days’.  Each class different, each class alike;  crinolines, flattops, bobby sox, and the Cubs finishing last.

Homeroom teacher, John Muri, spirited organist for the Civic Center basketball games, iconclast, strict disciplinarian, was known to break wind at 8:10 each morning.  The foul odor was overcome by the classroom stench of  flesh-tinted Clearasil except for the likable Jerome Johnson, whose flesh was a different color.

The permanent positive effect of demure spinster, teacher Margaret Work, and her devotion to Latin and literacy, was never acknowledged.  It shaped many lives, mine included, and I still retain her text, Ullman & Henry, “Latin for Americans”.  She was on my Mason Street paper route, but what I remember most, (a) the difference between the gerund and thirty forms of the future passive participle, and (b) we bought her father’s used 1940 DeSoto after WWII.  Henry had purchased a 1948 bullet nosed Studebaker.

The suppressed memory of my favorite English teacher, Miss Ellen McGranahan, whose posterior aspect of her calves, partially obscured by seamed nylon hosiery, resembled the blue and red interstate map of America’s east coast.  She quietly and singly, urged me to become a writer.  I succumbed, however, to the gruff math teacher, Charles Garrett, who demanded, in the name of patriotism, that we study math and engineering to counteract the Red Menace……the Soviet launched Sputnik satellite.  I foresaw no future in starvation;  on an empty stomach, science trumped art.

Proof that staying awake in class was important; to this day, I rarely end a sentence with the preposition, at, and never, never, modify an adjective with an adjective, e.g., large huge is where it’s at.  Unless you prefer butchered rap music over silence.

I had one favorite female class member, admired secretly.  She was quiet, soft-spoken, and very smart.  And in the basest, understated description, simmering hot.  If describing a wallflower, she was an orchid.  At a previous reunion, perhaps the 40th, her appearance caused two male counterparts and me to audibly gasp at the transformation…silver-haired, petite, and stunning. Although both Bob and Tom, their real names, have since dropped dead, the gorgeous (forever unnamed) classmate was never formally charged with involuntary manslaughter.


Much of the class of ’57, I remember, although in the pie of life, a third now constitute the necrology report, another third lost and forgotten, and for the breathing balance, the vagaries of advanced age move onto center stage; medicare part-D, dementia, grandchildren, mobility chairs, and assisted living options.  Few will choose assisted dying.

Dismissed: corporate stature & titles, tax bracket, size or number of homes, skin color, popularity, vanity.  All once relegated as important, now insignifigant, they’ve become the compost heap of righteousness, i.e., who really gives a s#it.     Relevant: family, friendships, lucidity, and remaining vertical.

The misses, Work and McGranahan, embraced reading (and writing), pursuits which have become passe, no longer a requirement for graduation.  Both ladies have since been bar-coded and scanned on the check-out lane of life, free, free at last, from the contemporary jargon that produces the idiotic phrase “my bad”. I miss them dearly, thankful for enriching this life.   A non-perishable memory.  Wherever and whenever those who survived this stepping stone to adulthood, we all possess private recollections.

With an internet assist, our remaining classmate leaders, those not yet at room temperature, may plan a 60th reunion in 2017.   Reunions, like Chai tea, are not my cup of gin, but we’re late in the 4th quarter.

With no time outs remaining.

Count me in as a yes.




A suitable quote (unattributed)

Where is it again that we are going… And why are we in a handbasket?




A set of Balls…..& Margaret Truman

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Welcome to the central Indiana supermarket tabloid for a love story….a tissue won’t be necessary.  The Balls, all five of them, are the renowned brothers from Muncie, Indiana, who created a financial empire selling glass canning jars.

George Ball, on the right, the last to survive, died in 1955 at age 93.

Their philanthropy and devotion to community embraced every cultural element within the city, most prominently the establishment of Ball State University whose most notable graduates are David Letterman (class of 1969), Jim Davis, cartoonist creator of Garfield the Cat® (class of 1966), and the irritating John Schnatter; founder, CEO, and blabbermouth for Papa John’s© Pizza.

Should you wonder how this celeb A-list might be confused with the 3rd tier status of presidential offspring, please continue.  Surely you’re thinking Lynda Bird and Luci Baines Johnson, Caroline Kennedy, Trish and Julie Nixon, Chelsea Clinton, and the forgettable twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush.

None, however, approached the talent or intellect of Margaret Truman, George Washington University, class of 1946, member of ΠΒΦ, the only child of 33rd president Harry Truman and wife Bess.  Neither homely nor glamorous, she was an accomplished vocalist.  No threat to her contemporaries, Maria Callas or Beverly Sills, she was still very good, and even better as a mystery novelist.


At age 32, Margaret married Clifton Daniel, age 44, a prominent staff member of the New York Times.  Together they raised four sons in her adopted, beloved Manhattan.  Easy to eschew her original, show-me, hometown, Independence, MO.  Then in 1973, Clifton’s career took a dastardly turn as the Times promoted him to Washington DC bureau chief.  Margaret was furious, as her years in the White House created a contempt for the society within the beltway, and refused to move.  She would need to have a car, which she also detested, having done well without one in Gotham City.

So, enter the New York Times largesse; they purchase a new 1973 Mercedes-Benz, a plain jane, entry level, 4 door sedan for Margaret, to assuage (think WD-40 for the soul) her resistance to the move.  Clearly, a bribe.  She relented.

This confluence of events leads me, along with my loyal canine companion, Jack, to Muncie to examine/appraise this very vehicle.  Aha, you may be thinking, the Seinfeld episode, where George Costanza buys a ratty, Chrysler K-car convertible which he believes was once owned by the B-grade actor, Jon Voight (best known as the biological father of Angelina Jolie, whoever she is).  Good comedy, crummy car.

Celebrity ownership, at any level, has little to zero effect on a car’s value.  The car is inorganic, like an Airstream, and has no individual or institutional memory.  It doesn’t know who owns it, its brand, logo, or have feelings, headaches, or memories of the ‘good times’.  Yes. I’m being harsh, but stuff a sock in it.  The notable exceptions, special order models; e.g. Clark Gable, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Elvis can command a premium.

Not so for Margaret (nee, Truman) Daniel’s sedan, but oh what a sweet example.  Now with its 4th owner, an elderly, respected Muncie barber, it has a verified 30,640 miles on a rust-free chassis with impeccable maintenance history.  Think of that, < 800 miles/yr, over a lifespan of forty years, with an all original pearlweiss exterior (off white) and schwarz mb-vinyl tex interior (black), always garaged, exhibiting few blemishes.

Aside from minimal factory upgrades; laminated tinted glass, power steering, automatic transmission, Behr® air-conditioning (not working), and Becker® AM/FM radio, it is free of those costly and needless options; power windows, power seats, power antenna, cruise control, sun roof, the very trinkets which become wallet shrinkers.


The classic 114 chassis, 280 sedan, fog lamps at the ready

Muncie, Indiana, 28Nov2012

So tonight, Jack and I will raise a toast, with our favorite malted beverage, a Steigel lager,  and a hardy Prost !! to Margaret Truman, an intellectual giant among the precocious White House dwellers.  Her decision to join Clifton in DC, was amply rewarded, as they returned to NYC in 1976.   Mr. Daniel wrote in his volume of reminiscences in 1984, ”We were the kind of people who wouldn’t marry anybody our mothers wouldn’t approve of; a couple of citified small-towners, puritans among the fleshpots.”

The future of the sedan, in limbo, stay tuned.  Tonight, any pizza except Papa John’s.


Right place, right time

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

As I recall, a warm winter day, 2007, in mountainous rural Arizona a few miles from the border to Mexico, I was enjoying a quiet morning ritual.  Coffee at the aptly named local cafe, the Gathering Grounds, the fresh brew originating from the third world; East Timor, Sumatra, or Nicaragua, all promised to be ‘fair trade’.

Lessening the carbon footprint, I bring my own, sizable plastic mug.  It makes me feel good.  Keeps the overpriced java hot, while I embrace the delusion that I’m leaving the earth a better place.   And I get free refills.  The generic mug has a benign black and white overlay, WMH, embedded within a cross.  I like it, a garage sale purchase for a dime, the summer before in the upper peninsula’s Pickford, MI., not far from Stalwart.

From across the room a lone young man, early 20’s, approaches my table.  He is neatly dressed in the khaki brown uniform of the U.S. Border Patrol and asks, “excuse me, sir, may I join you ?”

“Sure, son, have a seat”.  It was clear to me,  he did not intend to ask for my passport, photo ID, or suspect that I might be transporting illegal substances.  Anglo geezers aren’t in the cross hairs of the BP….call it ethnic indiscrimination if you like.  Or reality if you don’t.  We shook hands, his right hand in a cumbersome cast.  He had been crying.

He wanted to know if I was from Michigan and I explained, no, actually Indiana, however, we do spend the summers on the north shore of Lake Huron in the eastern U.P.  and why do you ask ?

His story began to gush.  Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, jobless after graduation from LSSU,  he joined the border patrol hoping to get stationed nearby at the Canadian border.  A plush, low-risk assignment.  The BP instead sent him to be trained near Ajo, AZ, a desolate desert outpost near the Mexican state of Sonora.  He had nearly severed a finger the first week, caught on a cyclone fence, pursuing illegal immigrants.  In the second week he discovered the remains of a fifteen year old girl, a victim of dehydration and hypothermia.  In the third, a fellow rookie had been shot in the thigh by a drug trafficker.  His fluency in Spanish limited, he had no concept of what he had gotten himself into, had never been away from the “Soo” and as evidenced by the tears, was a desperately homesick kid.

From halfway across the room, he had recognized the logo, WMH.  With no formal training in psychiatry, I thought it might signify Why Men Hurt.  No, he quickly informed me, it’s the War Memorial Hospital, and his Mom, an RN, had worked there for years.  He lived just east of Ashmun Street, the main drag, and before long he was smiling, telling me how he and his friends would jump off the bridge and swim in the canal.  And in the winter play pickup hockey games on the ice.  And how here it was February, 70℉, people wearing short sleeves, can you believe it?

Below, the Ashmun St. bridge, in the dead of winter

Yes, I knew the bridge, had been to the SooLocks, and my favorite saloon was the Antlers, renowned for those walls and ceilings covered with the dessicated body parts of deceased wildlife.  And where else can you enjoy a slice of Venison Pie ?

You couldn’t wipe the grin off his face as he nodded, “yeah, mine too”.

He had to return to duty.  We parted with a handshake, never exchanging names, and by his enthusiastic departure, I was certain he would never forget the encounter.  I know I haven’t.

And now, five years later, I’m enjoying my morning coffee from the same ten cent mug.  In the distance, a passing freighter, the DeTour Reef lighthouse, and less than 100 feet away, a pair of nesting sandhill cranes select insects for breakfast.

Funny, how a garage sale purchase can transport you to the right place, the right time.











Yappy Hour, Reigning Dogs

Friday, June 1st, 2012

dateline: Jackson Center, Ohio

Alumapalooza III

A new feature in the cascade of events for this unique rally; an hour for dogs to share their owners with other owners.  The owners, far more discreet than their beloved pets, are content to ‘talk’ without resorting to the mandatory sniffing of each other’s private parts.  Maybe next year.


Dozens of high-end breeds; dachshund, weimaraner, beagles, greyhounds, Scotties…..and a crowd favorite, the bulldog on the skateboard.  Boogeying down Bambi Lane.


Some fast, aloof, intelligent, powerful, miniscule, or alert, and others, rescue dogs like our Jack, the result of hasty, unplanned dog sex.  A dog’s eye view of the party.


Jack is considering accepting donations for his favorite cause, a national system to counter the dreaded wave of kanine kidnappings (think amber alert).  Seen below maintaining a vigil by his box trailer, to discuss strategy with other potential victims.


Among the dogs, few disappointments other than the absence of the corgi, favorite of writers, Graham Mackintosh (Pili) and A/S Life’s own Bill Doyle (Tasha).  However an unconfirmed rumor, started by a Welsh Terrier of ill repute, speculated that the lady below was planning to attend Alumapalooza IV in 2013.


Also, missing, not a single Lassie, as seen in this low-res file photo from 1955.


Lynn and I plan to adopt a collie puppy this year, a female, and we’ll name her Melon.  Like the movies of her forbearers, she will become melon collie and that will be sad.



Olamacare…. for the Dalai

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

dateline: Rochester, Minnesota

subject: celebrity sighting

For a serious health issue and a passing year, within the aura of the world’s finest medical center, my wife Lynn and I have become woven into the fabric of the Mayo Clinic.  Two million patients a year, from the hindsight of Nebraska to the Himalayas of Nepal, arrive in rural Minnesota seeking ‘treatment’.

In the interim, having traveled every subway tunnel, public and private, seeking out employee shortcuts, and unmarked elevators, this writer, ever vigilant, has dissected the bowels of the system….which brings us to today’s subject.  The Dalai Lama.  Yes, that Lama, Tibetan leader and symbol of kindness and magnanimity.

Known to have visited the clinic before, usually on a yearly basis in the month of April, his highness (a.k.a. Lhamo Dondrub to his close friends) is now a sprite 76 y/o.  An internet search revealed that he planned a brief appearance in Los Angeles on April 21st, and was scheduled to be in Chicago on April 25th, where His Holiness will participate in the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.  If you are like me, not a Nobel Laureate, as least not yet, then you, too, did not receive an invite.   Sooo….where would old Lhamo, during this 3 day vacuum, be on the 22,23, and 24th?  Welcome, fellow sleuths, to the underworld of InsightOut where yellow journalism and bogus reporting run amok.

Imagine that you are in the Kahler Grand Hotel, an 85 year tradition of catering to the rich and famous ( both Rick Santorum, deposed presidential candidate, and the Ambassador to Syria were here in March), and you, casually dressed in a crisp Ralph Lauren® shirt, a pair of baggy Chaps® jeans, both purchased at Goodwill®, one hole in the knee, with an official looking lanyard, pretend to be “lost” in an unmarked basement corridor.  When, suddenly, you are confronted by a contingent of foreign looking security personnel and a pleasant older chap in an orange bathrobe and really spiffy spectacles;


The clinic, parochial and private, is protective of their patient population.  No press conferences, no release of confidential information, celebrity visitors are veiled in gauze-like  anonymity.  I join this crew, ascending in a very slow freight elevator, replete on three sides with olive green collision matting, and arrive at the first floor destination to be greeted by a handsome man, believed to be physician representative of CEO, Richard Noseworthy M.D.

I am unceremoniously shunted away from the entourage into a sea of Chinese students, one, a quite attractive young woman who pulls me aside.

“Did you just get off the elevator with his holiness ?”

” Well, yes ”

Did you get to talk to him ?”

” Of course”

What did you say ?”

“In a brain freeze panic, only the standard Mayo questions came to mind, so I blurted out,”

  • spell your first and last name
  • your date of birth, month, day, and year
  • and do you have insurance ?

As if mistaken for Mayo personnel, he gave me a buddha-like smile, tilted his head reverently, and in a hushed tone, replied,



July, 6, 1935

“I believe so”







The material above may or may not be true, and those statements which are could also be fictional. All rights reserved.
No part of this essay may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.

Two thoughts for a penny ?

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Delivering the Chicago Tribune and the Sun Times in 1952 was a job that required a 5 AM wake-up, but generated an income of $4.50 a week.  The weekly charge was 35¢ and most subscribers, in Hammond, IN, 20 miles south of the Loop, paid in small change.

As cash was usually sparse in a blue collar neighborhood, payment was often made by raiding the ‘piggy bank’ or a stash of older coins, and hence began a lifetime as a collector for a 12 y/o snot nosed kid.  Once consumed by this minor virus, it may go into remission, but the need for Kleenex® lasts forever.  A lottery find, an 1895-O barber dime in VF condition, could strike again when least expected.  Being scolded for buying a 5$ gold piece ( ≈ a month’s earnings) by an FDR loyalist mother who insisted it was unpatriotic…’those coins were supposed to be surrendered to the government by presidential order’.

Fast forward sixty years, I turn down a generous offer to share a bucket of KFC with my street people pal.  We dodge hospital traffic on busy 2nd Street, criminal jaywalkers both, the extra crispy aroma is tempting, but I tell Joe my taste tonight is for a 2X cheeseburger, a few fries, and a Michelob.

The change at McD’s, 24¢, and I begin the 1/2 mile walk home wondering when Ronald will, if ever, begin to sell a brew, any brew, beside coffee.  By now however, you must begin to feel the tension.  I stop at the hindustani owned c-store to purchase an overpriced chilled beverage, Latrobe, PA.’s finest 12 ounce pale ale, while I examine my pennies.  And there it is….hold your breath for a moment….the heart rate rushes ↑ toward three digit range…….yes, a 1946-D Lincoln wheat penny in nearly un-circulated condition.  The original mint lustre, the unmistakable frosty sheen, staring up at me like a puppy awaking from a nap.  The brilliance, the contrast, a warm lick on a cold cheek from a tiny canine friend.  Can it be, an OMG moment to share on FaceSlap to gain hundreds of “friends”, the envy of lottery ticket buyers everywhere ?

Each bite of cheeseburger is more delicious.  The french fries, hot dipped in trans-fat; crisp, flavorful, overly salted, have never tasted better.  The rolling rock tingles as it does its pharyngeal dance.  But, alas, all hot air balloons descend.  Thud, I knew the 46-D to be very common, unworthy of a single extra heartbeat.

Here then, the sobering math.  In 1946, Denver minted 315,690,000 pennies.  A distance from the current production > 2 billion yearly, yet never destined to be a rarity.  The last Lincoln cent production, with the gorgeous parabolic shafts of grain on the reverse, so-called “Wheaties”, ended in 1958.  They were 95% copper and 5% zinc, and weighed 2,350 mgm. each.  The yield per penny was a meager 2.23 Gm. of copper, or ≈ 1/200 of a pound.

The U.S. Mint, official photo, below


Obviously it is more profitable to steal copper wire from the utility company or stripped from abandoned houses than it is to go to McD’s.

But my mind wandered as I thought of the trek of this penny, 1500 miles from CO. to MN., and where it might have been or gone in the 66 years.  Will we ever have the technology to trace the path of a metallic ion, perhaps a genealogy for common cents, an armchair dream away from a computer screen ?  Was this penny in a silk purse, from a collection wrongly spent, perhaps stolen, in a bank safety deposit box, in a lollipop penny scale hibernating more than half a century ?  Will the advance of technology consume and compost original thought ?  And why, on this day did it end up in a fast food restaurant that didn’t exist in 1946 ?  These are profound questions, trust me, suitable for internet publication.


The actual specimen, on my dresser. April, 2012

If Victor Brenner, the designer of this iconic coin were alive today, he may have sculpted a tear on Lincoln’s cheek.  Reserve a tissue for old Abe, an aging coin collector, and a puppy from the pound.

At the current price of copper, $3.81/lb, my lucky find is worth……well……two cents.

It is available, free, with no shipping charge, to the first 12 y/o paperboy who asks.

Blog for sale on eBay

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

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Type: celebrity
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About the Author


Retired 1997.

Frequent travel.

Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.

Avocation: writing social and political satire.

Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner.

Now in recovery.Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

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About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;