Friday, March 29, 2013


We received a birth announcement the other day and I feel compelled to add my $.02 to this highly controversial subject. Being one who has not had children places me in a category of people who are uniquely qualified to comment on this subject. Often times an outsider such as I am renders a unique point of view to a particular subject, much the same as Howard Cosell did for professional football.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with telling your friends that you have a new member of the family. My problem lies in the information that is provided in such announcements. Specifically, the names of the mother and father are a given - nothing wrong with that. Next is the name of the baby - again, needed information. Pictures of the baby and parents - love it. Date of birth - very important.

Here's where I have a problem. The proud parents always list the weight of the baby as well as its length. Unless the baby is a record-breaker, why would I care if he/she weighs 7.3 or 7.4 pounds? Also, is a 21 inch baby better than a 20 incher?

I think not.

Now, as previously alluded to, if the kid were a 19 pound whopper, I'd be interested in knowing that. If the kid is the length of a yardstick, that would be something to share. But a 20.5” baby who weighs 7.5 pounds? Why bother.

Instead of length and weight, parents should consider providing other, more interesting information about the baby.

I, for one, would like to know the following:

Baby's girth measured at the waist, much like how a mackerel is measured.
How long the labor lasted. Importantly, did the mother bitch at the father saying "you did this to me, you schmuck!"
Length of the baby's middle finger, especially if the child may eventually grow up to be a New York City cab driver.
Who was the child named after? Note: If the kid's name is "Pringles", "Banjo" or "Antarctica", there is no need to answer this.
The kid's nickname. This is important in cases where the child's name is Cornelius and the family intends to call him "Bubba".

And, lastly and most importantly:

Is the baby's belly button an "inny" or an "outy"?

Readers, enjoy your day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


In preparation for our upcoming trip to Mexico, I have been setting up a list of possible restaurants which me may visit and, hopefully, enjoy. To that end, I have enlisted the help of the always reliable Internet to assess the opinions of food critics. To be sure, these food critics are not of the New York Times variety. They are just normal schmucks like me.

For Mexico, this is probably a good thing as a true food critic would gasp at the places that the wife and I have frequented South of the Border. Our type of restaurant usually has a sign in front that says "No shirt, no shoes, no problem."

We found such a place on a trip to Mexico some years ago. It was a beach bar whose only source of entertainment was a tone-deaf two inch diameter speaker that hung precariously above the bar. Its only visible means of support were its two rusted, frayed speaker wires. I think that the music of Bob Marley was playing but I'm not real sure as the speaker cut out from time to time. There was a sign above the bar proclaiming that the bar featured "two for one happy hour all day." On top of these enticements was the fact that a lively diverse crowd had gathered around the bar. There were locals and gringos engaged in lively conversation and laughter. This was truly my kind of place.

In my never-ending quest for beach bars and restaurants of this genre, I have stumbled upon the names of about 15 such establishments which may fill the bill for our upcoming trip. The key element that attracts my attention is whether the crowd is local or tourist. The tourist restaurants, while having good food, have the usual predictable fare that their clientele likes to order. The locals' places, on the other hand, feature dishes that have not as yet made their way to the U.S. border. That's exciting...and a little scary at times.
"Excuse me, José, what is this on the menu - 'baked allaluca'"?
"Ah, si, señor. The allaluca is an animal of the southern Yucatan."
"How big is it?" 
"It's about the size of a large rat." 
"Is it a rodent?"
"Si. But it's not a rat." 
"Gracias, José. I think I'll skip the allaluca and just have the tourista menu."
Local customs and associated behaviors have also come into play on occasion. One time we were sitting at a beach bar and we saw an unusual looking drink at an adjacent locals' table. I asked the waiter what they were and he told me that they were "micheladas." He proceeded to explain that a michelada consisted of beer, lime, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of Tabasco. I thought that these sounded pretty good so I ordered one. When I ordered one, the men at the next table laughed heartily. When I ordered another one, they laughed even harder. As we were leaving I asked the waiter why the Mexican men were laughing. He then told me that, in Mexico, only women drink micheladas.

Since then, I've not had another michelada. Now I drink only manly drinks.
"José, another mimosa, por favor."

Readers, enjoy your day.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Break, separate, split up, fall apart, come apart - it all means the same thing. Broken is truly the word for people who make the wrong choices in life. Of late, it has been very disheartening for me to watch as my close friends and I have chosen the wrong paths and have ended up scorned and humiliated. The impact upon our lives will be long-lasting, I dare say even permanent; and there's no way out.

The die has been cast, the mold has been broken, there's no turning back.

None of us knew the consequences of our actions - it all seemed so innocent. 

Most of us have made poor choices in life - driven an automobile after having a few drinks, making false promises, keeping company with the wrong people, driving too fast, jaywalking, cheating on taxes. Each has its consequences. However, the consequences endured therein are more of the private variety.

I dare say that our pain, being more of the public scorn variety, is much more excruciating, akin to the 17th century practice of strapping someone to a stock in the town square and pelting them with various form of rotting garbage.

The most shocking thing is that we will repeat the same poor choices next year.

The poor choices to which I am referring are those that my friends and I have made in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. New Mexico loses to Harvard, Wisconsin loses to Ole Miss, Georgetown loses to Florida Gulf Coast University and Gonzaga loses to Wichita State.


Thus, our brackets, along with our pride, self-esteem and dignity are broken. Break out the rotting garbage and warm up your throwing arms, folks. The tournament is only half over.

Readers, enjoy your day....and root for Louisville.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Some years ago I worked for a beer distributorship. At Christmastime, our management gave each employee a ham as a gift for the season. I told the wife about this and she asked when I was going to bring ours home. Being the mindless person that I am, I kept forgetting to bring the ham home. This stretched on for several weeks. In utter and absolute frustration, she put her foot down and demanded that I bring home the ham that evening. To that end, I wrote many sticky notes and attached them to everything imaginable to remind me to bring home the ham. 

This time I remembered. Proudly, I walked to the refrigerated warehouse where the gift hams were stored and looked on the shelf where mine should have been and saw none of them left. I asked the warehouse guy where mine was and he told me that it had fallen off the shelf, was run over by a forklift and discarded.


True to form, the wife was waiting for me at the front door of our house and by the look on her face, she had a purpose. It didn't take a Harvard scholar to figure out what the first words out of her mouth would be. Stupidly thinking that she would be completely understanding of the fact that the ham met its demise under the wheels of a forklift, I told her the truth as to the fate of the protein mass that used to be a walking, breathing pig. 

Let me rewind for a moment. My parents instilled in me the belief that honesty is the best policy. Since my childhood I have been hard-wired to believe that that is true. Until the ham incident, honesty had never failed me. This time, however, I saw the true advantages of being a good liar. Since this incident, I have thought of many ways that I could have bypassed the scorn of a wife who was denied her five-pound Christmas ham. I won't bore you with all of the lies that I could have told. Instead, I'll tell you only the best one. 

If I had the opportunity to do it over, I would have come home and told the wife that all I could think about on the way home from work that day was how lucky we have it. We have a nice home, wonderful friends, good health and a loving family. On the flip side, there are many less fortunate people who would greatly appreciate a Christmas ham for their holiday dinner. So, I donated the ham to the local homeless shelter. This was a story that couldn't have missed, making me a man among men, generous to a fault, a pillar of the community.

That would have been a great ploy other than the fact that she would have seen right through it. Maybe honesty is, truly, the best policy.

Or, I could have just stopped at the grocery store on the way home, spent the five dollars and bought a damned ham.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I've not thought about her for many years. That all changed today. This morning I was reading about the after-effects of the war in Iraq. The article talked about the orphans of the war. Then it came back to me.

It was in early 1969 and I was an Airman stationed at Ubon Airfield in eastern Thailand. I was there only a few weeks and I decided to visit the local orphanage. It was run by a group of nuns and was called the Ave Maria Orphanage. As I walked in I was greeted by one of the nuns as well as by at least 6 one to two-year olds holding up their arms wanting to be picked up. I took turns picking up the little ones while following around the nun who patiently tried to explain in broken English how they cared for the orphans. The nun and I took a liking to each other and I stayed there for the better part of the morning talking to her and playing with the orphans. But who were these kids and why were they there?

It didn't take long for me to figure that out.

As with all wars, these kids were a product of our presence in Southeast Asia. They were the unwanted children of American soldiers, sailors and airmen who were called to duty in the Vietnam War. As was common then, the kids were considered outsiders as mixed-race Thai children and were, in many cases, sent to orphanages. 

One of the kids there was a small girl named "Noy". Noy is a very common name in Thailand and, seemingly, about half of the girls there were also named Noy. This particular girl would run to me each time that I visited the orphanage and was always in the head of the line of kids that would crowd around wanting to be picked up and held. I figured that she was either an exceptional runner or was more motivated than the others. 

While the first few times there I just spent time visiting, I found that there were some unmet needs that could be addressed. Specifically, the orphanage building had some maintenance issues that the nuns were unable to address given the fact that they were so busy caring for the kids. To help them out, I was able to scrounge some supplies and tools from the base as well as getting a few of my buddies to spend their day off doing some work at the orphanage. We poured concrete, patched the roof, painted, cleaned and took care of some of the things that needed fixing.

To be sure, It was really no big deal but, to the nuns who worked there we were heroes.

I made it a habit to continue visiting the orphanage at least every few weeks and helping out wherever I could. And, yes, little Noy would always be there ahead of the pack of anxious kids wanting some attention. It always made me feel good that she was quick to climb into my arms when I arrived there.

As my year in Thailand came to a close, I decided to make my last visit to the nuns and to the kids. This time, I brought a friend of mine to the orphanage in hopes that he would continue the practice of helping out the good people who worked so hard to care for the children there. As we walked together through the front door, predictably a herd of youngsters was running toward us with Noy in the lead. I had warned my buddy about this and he was ready for the onslaught. I knelt down in anxious anticipation of Noy climbing into my arms.

Instead, she made a detour at the last second and climbed into the arms of my buddy. I was shocked at first but the truth dawned on me in a matter of seconds.

I had mistakenly thought that Noy and I had established a bond of sorts but such was not the case. These kids were so in need of individual attention, that they would jump into the arms of anyone who would willingly accept them. I suppose that that is the nature of people, kids especially, who have been rejected, as was the case with these orphans.

Several days later my tour in Southeast Asia was complete. As my C-130 left Ubon, it banked to the right, heading on a southwest course to Bangkok. I didn't have a window to enjoy the view but I would have liked to have grabbed one last glance at the orphanage. I thought about the concrete steps that we poured, the blue paint that we splattered generously on the siding and the roof that no longer leaked. Mostly though, I imagined the pack of kids, led by little Noy, noisily running across the well-worn wooden floors of the orphanage and happily jumping into the arms of a complete stranger.

Noy would be in her mid-40's now. I hope that she has found acceptance, love and happiness.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Ever have a song that won't leave your head no matter what you do? Unfortunately, the songs that come into our heads and refuse to exit are usually of the readily forgettable variety...

"See the tree how big it's grown..."
"I rode my bicycle past your window last night..."
"I love the flower girl..."

I once heard a story of a guy who swam the English Channel who, when asked how he occupied his mind during the ordeal, replied that he sang the Gilligan's Island theme song in his head the whole time. Wow, seven hours of...

"...the millionaire...and his wife."

While coming home last night, the wife told me that she had been recycling a song in her head all day long. Knowing that I was going to hate myself for asking, I posed the query "which song?"

"Blame it on the bossa nova"

So, fueled by a wonderful dinner and several glasses of wine, we broke in to singing this 1963 Eydie Gorme song on the way home. Driving through the empty, rain-drenched streets of our little mountain town, we entertained our neighbors with an unforgettable version of the song in not-so-perfect two-part harmony.

Blame it on the bossa nova
with its magic spell.
Blame it on the bossa nova
that he did so well.
Oh, it all began with just one little dance
but then it ended up a big romance.
Blame it on the bossa nova
the dance of love.

I only wish that when we arrived home we had done an Internet search and found Ms. Gorme's phone number and called her at midnight to entertain her with our stirring rendition of her song. Alas, we were too tired, opting for the comfort of eight hours of slumber.

I can imagine the conversations at this morning's breakfast tables around town.

"Marge, did you hear that ruckus at midnight last night?"
"Sure did. What a noise. I think it was the wailing sound of a raccoon that got run over by a car."
"Could be. Sounded to me more like two cats fighting."

Admittedly, we must have sounded pretty dreadful. It would do no constructive good to point fingers at our parents, music teachers, friends, etc. for our inability to pleasantly sing a song in tune. Saying that we were not born to musically-inclined families is also a wasted cop-out. Alas we must place the blame where blame is due.

Blame it on the bossa nova.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


After all these many years I have finally been flagged to be on jury duty - and I couldn't be more excited. I've heard that they even pay you for being on a jury. I'll bet it's huge. Maybe even $500 a day + daily lunch expenses of at least $50. You can bet that I'll be going to the local steak house for lunch every day and ordering the steak and lobster.

Man, if I hit the jackpot and get the trial of the century, I may be rich by the time the trial ends sometime in 2014. They might even sequester the jury, putting us up at the Ritz Carlton where we'll be pampered with spa treatments and daily massages, all at taxpayer expense.

"Garçon, another shrimp cocktail, please. And don't be cheap with the cocktail sauce." 

Wine with dinner would be nice also.

"Chateau Lafite 1985? You don't have it? O.K., what about Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2013?"

Beyond the extravagance of daily pampering and fine dining, I'm also looking forward to the trial itself. I'm hoping for a seedy, Hollywood style blockbuster...

...a man comes home from working three jobs and finds his wife in bed with the plumber. Man goes berserk and forces the plumber to do the unthinkable - repair a bathroom faucet for free. Plumber then sues for damages, loss of income and mental anguish. Man counter-sues because faucet still leaks.

The drama will be unbelievable. 

My infatuation with legal trials began very early in life. Growing up, I was fed a steady diet of Perry Mason on Sunday evenings as my mother was deeply infatuated with Raymond Burr who deftly played Mr. Mason. While I watched the first two episodes under duress, I was soon as hooked as my mother was. Back then, lawyers were the world's salvation, saving poor, disheveled schmucks who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and, by accident, had their fingerprints all over the murder weapons. But you knew that Mason, with the help of his secretary Della Street and his private eye Paul Drake, would blow the case wide open, much to the chagrin of the dastardly D.A. Warren Burger and his erstwhile accomplice Lt. Tragg.

"Burger" and "Tragg" - somehow, with names like these, you just know that they're not particularly on the level.

Which brings me to the upcoming trial in which I may play a part. The Perry Mason episodes never dealt with jury selection as that is probably less dramatic than other phases of the trial. I understand, however, that jurors are questioned by either or both the defense attorney(s) and the prosecuting attorney(s). I wonder what sort of questions they will ask.

If it is truly a case of a plumber messing with another man's wife as previously described, my chances of being selected are pretty slim. The questioning may go as follows:

Question: "Juror #63 (that's me) have you ever been overcharged by a plumber?"
Answer: "Of course."

Question: "Have you ever told plumber butt-crack jokes?"
Answer: "Yes, daily."

Question: "Can you recite the three things that plumbers must know in order to be licensed?"
Answer: "Shit flows downhill, the cold water is on the right and payday is on Friday."

Readers, enjoy your day.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I went skiing yesterday and had the pleasure of riding the chairlift with a nice young man of high school age. He was a wonderful conversationalist and we talked the entire time that we rode to the top of mountain. Yesterday the skiing was excellent and the weather equally so. This prompted the young man to say that the day was "funner" than any ski day he had had so far this year. My first reaction was to act like my second grade teacher, Sister Alice Claire, and correct his primitive use of the language. Remembering that I used to describe things as "groovy", I restrained myself.

For some reason, the word "funner" haunted me the rest of the day. It was all I could thing of. I grew obsessed with it. We went to a party last night. I sat in a corner and talked to no one. I stayed up all night thinking about this one word...


Why is it not a word? Did some Oxford University tweedy hoyty-toyty professor decide that we should ban the word from the dictionary? If something is "big" and some other thing comes along of a larger size, that second thing is "bigger". Why not "funner"? Or "littler", for that matter. More about these later in the post.

It has become painfully obvious to me that the English language needs a re-write. The reasons for this are twofold: we need to instill both simplicity and consistency into our language. 

To illustrate the need for simplicity, why do we still use the ubiquitous, phonetically diverse and complicated "ough" in our spellings? From my second grade teachings, this collection of letters can have six different sounds:

"Oh, oo, uff, off, aww, ow"

Here's an idea: Let's simplify and spell the word thought "thot" and though "tho" and borough "boro" or through "thru" or ... the list is endless.

Furthermore, we should take a look at the simplicity that is happening in texting language. While I don't personally send text messages, I do marvel at the evolution of this subculture of the English language. Perhaps it's time to incorporate some of the wisdom of its users who spell the word "great" as "gr8".

To these ideas, there will certainly be detractors.

To those who scoff at modifying the language, please understand that all languages naturally evolve. Cavemen did not suddenly start speaking the Queen's English. They started making guttural noises to communicate their needs*. 

* Much like the language still used by snowboarders.

A specific example of language evolution was experienced by me in high school English class. Then, under the guidance of the wickedly cruel Miss Isabel Harriman, we were forced to read "The House of Seven Gables" in nineteenth century English prose, no less. In short, the language of the time bore little resemblance to today's English (and it was a bugger to read).

I also point out that changes in spellings are not unprecedented. In England and in Canada as well as in other English-speaking countries, the words neighbor, favor, and labor are spelled differently that we do in the U.S., adding a "u" before the "r" in each case. Somehow, we dropped the "u" in favor of simplicity. The city of Albuquerque used to be spelled "Alburquerque" - the "r" was eventually dropped.

Why not do it again?

I also propose that, for consistency, rather than use inconsistent comparatives such as big, bigger and biggest, that we start using big, big+ and big++. Should something be described as small, the comparatives smaller and smallest would evolve to small- and small--.

After all, it would make English fun+. (Translation: funner).

Readers, enjoy your day.