Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All I want for Christmas is a REAL dentist...

What the hell has happened to dentists? Those guys, and now gals, you used to go see for check-ups and the occasional chopper related problem seem to be nothing more than traffic cops these days. If you need anything other than a routine cleaning or somebody to tell you not to brush "like you're killing snakes",'re out of luck.

All my life I have been one of those people who makes a dental pit stop twice a year mostly for the ego boost of hearing: "You really have nice teeth. How old are you anyway?" My wife hates me for this as she has had nothing but dental dread all her life. My teeth--bullet proof; hers--as fragile as Madonna's morals.
Imagine my surprise when last week I visited my local dentist because I, for a change, had been having some pain in a tooth somewhere...back there. First of all, this was demoralizing for a guy used to checking in for his "Atta boy!" every six months, but also for what I heard as the doc peaked into my gaping maw.
"This looks like either a root canal or an extraction. Let me get you a referral."
WHAT?? My mind was racing. "You can't take care of this here...and NOW?"
That's when I learned the modern day dental facts of life. Unless you are there for a check-up or cleaning, most dentists will send you to a co-conspirator who will do their dirty work for them. The bastards have figured out a way to charge you "a la carte" for what used to be an all inclusive not so Happy Meal.
Here's how it went for me: ( I have time for this as I rest and wait for the swelling in my jaw to subside.)
My regular dentist charges $67 to tell me that he can't fix my tooth and that I need to go see a root canal guy. The root canal guy tells me, "It will be $1385 to do this job." I reluctantly agree and get ready for some pain. Fifteen minutes into the root canal I'm told that "The root is cracked and further work is useless." Doctor Root Canal charges me ONLY $385 to tell me this and to recommend yet another doctor who actually owns a pair of pliers that, "GASP!", remove teeth. He tells me that he has called the "yanking dentist' and that I can see him tomorrow morning at seven. I am one lucky patient!
The very next morning I show up at Dr. Yank's tooth extraction emporium ready to rid myself of my ever more painful tooth. I spring for the upgrade to "laughing gas" because it IS Christmas and I haven't copped a buzz in years. In just a few minutes I'm whacked on nitrous oxide and minus a honking big toothache. Good job Dr. Yank!
And...he only charged me $300.
The swelling has gone down some since I started writing this rant and I must also confess that my sinuses have never felt better. But, I still want to know why I had to spend $752 and see THREE different doctors just to rid myself of a molar that turned on me.
Next time maybe I'll just head to a biker bar, find the biggest, meanest, nastiest guy in the joint and say something unkind about his mother. I'm sure the tab will be less than $200.

My younger brother, Steve, laughs at me from his home in Illinois. He'll have turkey tomorrow. He has yet to learn about today's dentistry.
The Tooth Dude abides.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It Ain't Christmas 'Til Ralphie Gets His Gun

My wife and I were about the only people in the theater when we first saw "A Christmas Story", Jean Shepherd's recollection of a kid's Christmas in the Midwest of his youth.
I thought the movie was brilliant. It was funny and pitch perfect in its recall of kids and their lives before television, computers and dads who wanted to be their pals instead of their father.
In short, it reminded me of how it was when I was a kid, right down to the pesky kid brother. I never understood why the movie didn't do well in its initial 1983 release. Probably it was lousy studio promotion. But, it has become a TV classic.

I should admit that I was a longtime Jean Shepherd fan. The first time I heard him on the radio, for that's where he began, he was sneaking into the speakers of my little transistor radio via the 50 kilowatt power of New York's WOR. It was late at night when I should have been sleeping. I had never heard anyone like him before when I roamed the nation from under the covers of my cold Michigan bed. In addition to New York, I would listen to stations from Boston, Chicago, sometimes even Los Angeles and dream of someday escaping my small town prison and MAYBE even being able to work at one of these magical stations.

As I said, Shepherd was different. He didn't play the hits. He told stories...his stories, stories like the Christmas Story. Listening to Jean Shepherd was a nightly stream of consciousness that covered everything from his childhood, his time in the Army to what he would be doing tomorrow. He was amazing. If you never heard him, I can't explain. If you are familiar, know what I mean. He made you feel like you weren't alone. You and he shared this special world together, and he was FUNNY.

Flick gets his tongue frozen to the flagpole

So, here we are a week from Christmas and I'm ready. I think TBS is the channel that runs "A Christmas Story" for all twenty-four hours of Christmas. I've still got plenty of time to check my TV Guide, but rest assured that I'll catch it at least twice before the big day is done. Like I said, it ain't Christmas 'til Ralphie gets his gun...Oh, and the Old Man gets his Major Award!
Merry Christmas...
Don't put your eye out, kid.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Custer, Wounded Knee and Me...

In the late 1960's I was a student at the University of South Dakota.
I was a broadcasting major and, thanks to a job as a disc jockey at KVRA radio in Vermillion, I was able to pay for my education and get hands-on experience on the radio at the same time. Ted and Doris Dolney owned KVRA and were like a second set of parents to me. They allowed me to program the radio station, host the morning show and indulge in flights of fancy that would have most likely gotten my ass canned anyplace else. I owe them big time.

Wet Vermillion

Dry Vermillion

Because I was in charge of station programming, the
bulk of available hours were hogged by yours truly. Most of the other guys at the station were students too, but I had been there the longest and was the closest to Ted and Doris. This meant that most weeks I worked seven days. Like I said, I was a student and I needed the money.

In those days the FCC required radio stations to carry a lot of "public service" shows designed for the betterment of their communities of license. It was all boring crap that NObody wanted to hear, but the government thought was good for us all. HA! Up yours LBJ!

Since South Dakota is smack dab in the heart of Sioux Indian country, one of the programs we were asked to carry was called "Oyate", which is Sioux for...Uh...Beats me?
Anyway, we were required to run all thirty minutes of the pre-recorded show which was entirely in the language of the Lakota Sioux.
Naturally I scheduled the show to run in what we radio types referred to as the Sunday morning ghetto. It ran someplace in that wonderful 6AM to 10AM corral between the Back to God Hour and some Baptist thing. Who knew? Nobody was listening on a Sunday morning, not even me.
It was really a sweet deal. Here's how it worked:
The radio station was located on Main street in Vermillion and had a huge picture window into the primary On-Air studio. This allowed people walking or driving by to look in and see the disc jockey doing his show. (It was a simpler time and folks were easily entertained.) There were, in addition to the usual microphones and turntables, a couple of large reel to reel tape recorders that were used for the playback of shows like Oyate. It was necessary to merely slap the tape onto the recorder; hit PLAY and the announcer on duty could exit the studio. An easy way for a guy to turn a buck on a Sunday morning. If I had been smart I would have gone somewhere for a snooze every Sunday after starting the tapes. BUT Nooooo.
Vermillion, being in South Dakota, had about nine million bars lining Main street. In fact there were two saloons directly across the street from KVRA. One of them, "Our Place", was owned by two guys named Freddy and Duane who looked like two escapees from the Planet of the Apes movies. Nice guys...but goofy looking. As luck would have it, they were always open on Sunday mornings beginning at 6.
It was really too perfect. I would arrive at the station just before 6, load the tape recorders, push "start", place the phones on HOLD, and then mosey across the street to greet either Freddy or Duane as they opened their swinging doors. It was easy to watch the tapes roll and the phones flash in our "Window on Main Street" as I kept watch from my perch on the stool closest to the door of the bar. I'd shoot the breeze with Freddy or Duane as I enjoyed a "big red one", the always big in South Dakota...tomato beer. Sometimes I even shot some pool. The boys always had the radio behind the bar tuned to KVRA so that I could closely monitor our very fine Sunday morning programming.
The Oyate show was on every Sunday during my years at KVRA. I never understood a word of it and neither did Freddy or Duane. Hell, who spoke Lakota Sioux?? It always sounded really strange to me.
Years after I was long gone from the frozen and dusty plain of South Dakota I discovered that Oyate had always been shipped to us "tails out". For you non broadcast types, that was how lots of reel tapes were shipped in those days. Some engineer had figured out that tapes lasted longer if they were sent out backwards and required a re-wind before playing.
I had been playing Oyate backwards for at least two years. No wonder the damn thing sounded so sing song!
So, here we are forty years later... I'd like to apologize to the entire Sioux Indian nation. Hey, why didn't any of you guys call?? (Oh yeah, I had the phones blocked.)
In fact, if you're ever in the San Diego area, I'd like to buy you a tomato beer...

Friday, December 5, 2008

No Cocktails Necessary For This Guy...

I used to meet the most interesting people when I was drinking.
Or, perhaps they were interesting because I was drinking.
With a backward glance through nine years of sobriety, I now realize that many acquaintances required massive rounds of wobble water to make them anything close to interesting let alone fascinating. It's the main reason I don't get out much anymore.
No offense, but most people are a snooze.

Eleven or twelve years ago when I was still in the broadcast dodge, I had a rather predictable ritual that wrapped up the work day.
After a rigorous and grueling four hour morning show in San Diego, I would wend my way homeward via stops at some rather stimulating establishments that dispensed alcoholic beverages. You know...BARS. It was sort of a Cheers experience squared. Instead of hearing "Norm!"upon entering, I was greeted as "K.C!", or if accompanied by one of my degenerate companions, it was.."The Boys!". Whatever the case it was a hearty "glad to see you " kind of thing that made me feel warm and welcome.

For a few years I stopped regularly at the Fish Market Bar in Del Mar, California. It was, and still is, a terrific place to eat oysters and other fruits of the sea as you knock back potent potables. I'm fairly certain that there are still martini molecules holding hands with oyster molecules in my bloodstream today. ( This is where the song "Memories" comes up and under. )
One chilly winter day as I sidled up to the bar for a liquid lunch I noticed a peculiar looking fellow sitting a couple of stools away. He looked to be in his seventies and, hard as this is to believe, was dressed even worse than I was. An FBI cap sat atop his out sized head and he was resplendent in his tattered flannel shirt and worn bluejeans. We smiled at each other as I waited for bartender Dave to wet down my infield with the usual pour of Jack Daniels. When Dave had made me happy the older man summoned his attention with a "David...It's time.". Immediately Dave produced a chilled martini glass from the freezer and lifted a stunningly beautiful bottle from beneath the bar. He then dropped an olive into the glass and proceeded to fill the glass with a deliciously clear liquid from the bottle.

"Perfect David...You've done it again," said the old gentleman.
As he savored his drink, the man turned to me and introduced himself as Sidney Frank of New York and Rancho Santa Fe.

Sidney Frank

Liquor tycoon extrodinair and snappy dresser

Sidney, as he explained to me, was one of the most successful liquor importers in the United States and the delightfully clear liquid he was consuming before me at the Fish Market was the now famous Grey Goose Vodka. It was a brand new beverage he was importing from France and he thrilled as he explained the process of Champagne filtering that produced Grey Goose's wonderfully smooth taste. He invited me to see for myself as he had Dave introduce me to this wonderful cold velvet cloud of a drink. I think we "bonded" after a couple of hours of tasting. Actually, he had me at: "Dave, get a glass for my new friend Ken."
The man was a genius!

Over the next few months I got to know Sidney a little more. I learned that he had married well. "It's easier to marry a million than to make a million my boy." And that he had taken what were several severely low rent brands of booze and made them hugely successful via brilliant marketing schemes. He was truly one of a kind.

Occasionally I would see him at "the Market" with an entourage of young athletes. All of them were professional golfers whom he employed so that he might watch them play a game he loved but could no longer engage in himself. He also had a staff of chefs at his home in Rancho Santa Fe who were "on call" to prepare foods that he craved or thought interesting. They worked in his massive kitchen as he watched from his custom built barber chair.
Here was a guy obviously enjoying his life to the fullest.

After I gave up "touching the stuff" I didn't stop by the Market much and rarely saw Sidney. He died a couple of years ago, but not before selling his beloved Grey Goose label to the Bacardi people for 1.75 Billion dollars. Not bad timing.
He left his staff generous pieces of his estate after making sure that his wife and daughter were set for life. His secretary got a few million dollars for her faithful service. (No, it wasn't what you think! I assume they were both a little too old to tango.) He was just a real decent guy. Brilliant too.

Sidney Frank

Here's to you Sidney! A guy nobody EVER had to drink "interesting".

Next one's on me, Sid...

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I can tell that she's itching to do it. She watched as the neighbors hopped aboard the "let's see if they can see this from the space station" parade of lights. She has already dragged me on an "exploratory" expedition to Lowes and Home Depot just to "see" what's out there in Christmas lights land.

This year we are home for Christmas. Our youngest daughter, Katie, and her husband are available and we haven't spent the holidays with them or close to home for a few years; so that is good. The only problem, at least for me, is that means there is no acceptable excuse for not putting up a tree and doing that decorating thing. I didn't even like doing it as a kid and left all of that mess to Linda and the girls when they were available. Wrapping presents is also a pain. (You can always spot gifts I have prepared by simply checking for duct tape secured paper bags under the tree.)

We will spend this Thanksgiving with the family of my old radio partner, Cynthia, and her wackjob husband Bill and I'm sure it will be a great time. The chance to corrupt their grand-children inspires me to new heights of creative weirdness. (Can't wait to get to work on some of my own.)

But.... I know tomorrow brings the start of the Christmas decorating madness. The neighbors will fire up their professionally installed (somehow NOT fair) mega watt illumination and the gauntlet will have been thrown down. Christmas crap fest here we come!

I'm thinking perhaps an Elvis theme this year?

How about the Simpsons?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Live From Detroit...The 3 Stooges!

There they were, live and in high def, still not getting it.
The presidents of the Big 3 automakers and their union goon were getting a verbal high colonic from, appropriately, Barney "There's something in my mouth so I talk funny" Frank, and several other camera hogging political nitwits.
It really wasn't fair because all defendants were jet lagged from the grueling individual private corporate flights that had transported them from Motown to Halloween-by-the-Potomac. I loved it when a "show of hands" was asked regarding pooling their travel arrangements or...God forbid, the possibility of traveling First Class or (GASP!) Coach on a domestic commercial airline.
(For the record: No hands went up.)
The three stooges and their union Shemp were in town to beg for a "bailout" of their sorry collective asses. It seems, we're told, that the whole damn country will fall apart if they are not allowed to continue making crappy cars that are not only uninspired and ugly, but expensive too.

It was especially gratifying to see Mr. Nardelli of Chrysler trying to explain why he wasn't good enough to get the big job at GE when Jack Welch retired and how he had single-handily nearly taken down Home Depot when he had the gig, extorting from them somewhere around $200 million just to GO AWAY. Oh wait...he didn't address that issue at all.
There was also Mr. Wagoner of GM explaining his company's need of a fleet of TEN corporate jets to keep his VIPs mobile and Ford's Alan Mullally allowing that he was "okay" with his $14 million dollar annual salary. Right.
Here is my take...
Each of these out of touch incompetent morons needs to get into one of their Detroit clown cars and head back to Michigan. Sorry, NO SALE! You guys deserve a firing squad; not a handout.
It's time to turn the page to a new chapter.
You know...ELEVEN.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Up Yours Microsoft!

Not only has their stock sucked massively for the past several years, but now Microsoft has managed to really piss me off with the most useless software I have ever used. Microsoft Vista is a nightmare!

I recently decided to chuck my Sony laptop which had served me well with Microsoft XP for the past several years. The siren call of a new toy packing lots more memory and the "New and Improved" Vista program reeled me in like a fat wall-eyed pike. What a mistake!

I realize that I'm not telling many of you anything that you are not already painfully aware of, but I remain truly stunned by just how much doesn't work on Vista. The failure to boot up with any degree of predictability should have been my first clue. No wonder the guys and gals in Redmond are in a big hurry to replace this turkey!

I am writing this on my faithful old Sony with XP because some idiotic "cookie thingy", which is supposed to make my blogging experience better, doesn't allow me to sign-in on my own damn blog page!

I HATE Vista; I hate Microsoft but I love my old computer with its dependable XP.
Screw you Bill Gates and your nerd minions! I'm taking my now beloved Sony, ( featuring XP), out for dinner and dancing.

Don't wait up for us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

WAIT? You've gotta be kidding me!

So I'm reading about this big ass study by some clown at Columbia University, I think his name is Walter Mischel, which deals with how our brains manage delayed gratification...

What? Where was I? I got distracted.
I have the attention span of a gnat. I was jonesing for some of that Halloween candy we withheld from the neighborhood hooligans. (Once again I was successful in my annual con job on Linda regarding the amount of sweets we would need to protect ourselves from the local urchins.) Looks like there's enough chocolate goodness in the house to keep me happy until just before Christmas.

My only 0versight appears to be forgetting to load up on candy corn. That stuff is super hard to come by during your post Halloween holiday shopping excursions. (Something to do with ethanol production is my guess.)

Anyway...this study of delayed gratification employs a simple test. This test, according to the Boston Globe, has surprising power to predict a child's future. It works like this: A 4 year-old is left sitting at a table with a marshmallow or other treat and is given the challenge of either eating the marshmallow right away or waiting for a grown-up to come back into the room at which time he or she will be rewarded with two marshmallows.

Some kids wait less than a minute and others last as long as twenty minutes. The longer the child can hold back, the better the outlook in later life for everything from SAT scores to social skills and academic achievement. Neuroscientists say it's all pre-wired in our brains.

This goes a long way toward explaining why I spent nearly forty years tucked away in very small sound proof rooms playing phonograph records and talking to people I couldn't see. I was, alas, a ONE marshmallow kid.

Sorry....What was I going on about?

Hey, did you hear that Obama won?

That is so cool! I have nothing to worry about anymore. My IRA will be whole again, gasoline is going to be free AND my house will be PAID IN FULL.

I'm a reasonable guy. I'll give him until March, my birth month, to make this all happen. People I know have assured me that he's THE MAN!

In the meantime...pass me the marshmallows.

I don't see any grown-ups around.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Change that will KILL you...

Naw...I'm not going off on a political rant. I'm really tired of all that bullshit and will be forever grateful when Tuesday has come and gone. Although, if you are of a mind to vote for Change because you think it might make a difference in your life, please know that the only change "The One" intends to leave you is a change of underwear. (If you're lucky) You see, I've been around long enough to know when somebody is peeing on my shoes and telling me it's raining.
Take that to the bank, if you still have one.

NO, what is pressing on my gourd today is life in general. Can you tell that I've just finished checking the obituaries? (It's always a good day when I'm not in there.)

As I scan the names and faces of the most recent planet departees, I find myself grading the duration of their respective "runs". I'll see a guy who pegged-out in his late seventies and think, "that seems like a good run" or, a woman who's odometer turned eighty-something and decide that "she can't complain". By the same token I lament the passing of folks who seem to have been given the bum's rush off the planet. There's something not right about receiving the ultimate short-change. You know...getting screwed!

What I have decided lately is that there is a situation that is actually worse than an early death. WAY worse. Sticking around passed your expiration date of seventy or eighty has got to be a special kind of hell. Why? It's simple, ...CHANGE. Change is the one thing that gets harder and harder to accept as the years roll by. It quite simply pisses us off. Seventy-five years is about all the change a man can handle and women, being way more tolerant, are able to put up with an additional five or ten more years of people "messing with stuff".

Think about it. When was the last time you knew who Don Pardo was talking about when he introduced the host of Saturday Night Live? Or, could even understand the name of this week's musical guest. Hell, Don's 90 now and I'm sure he doesn't know if he's wearing pants let alone who or what he's talking about. (Though I'm sure he's still cashing his checks.)

Face it. When was the last time you stayed up late enough to watch Saturday Night Live? I TIVO the damn thing and watch it at a more reasonable hour, but am beginning to wonder why I bother. It's just not that funny anymore. It has changed.

CHANGE, that's what kills us. A person can only accept so much of it and that is IT. "Get me out of here" syndrome begins to overtake us as the years roll by and the stupidity of the generations behind us becomes an unbelievably annoying burden.

Excuse me just a moment....


Have you gotten a load of the tattoos the whippersnappers are sporting?

When I was a kid, the only time you saw people with tattoos was when either a circus or carnival was in town. Now, in our age of enlightenment, body mutilation has become an accepted form of self expression. I'm guessing that next those snappy homemade prison tats will become all the rage as the younger demographic opts for more "realism" in their exterior decoration. These are, after all, the same clowns that popularized the "bed head" hair style.
According to the Pew Research Center, 36% of all 18-to-25 year-olds now have tattoos. Makes a parent proud doesn't it?

I just want to stick around long enough to see how all these tattooed hunks and honeys deal with their body art when sagging skin and dunes of cellulite turn some of those bitchin' tats into something resembling the Blue Ribbon eggplant at the Iowa State Fair.'ll happen.

You see, I have been very carefully buying stock in several companies that produce the lasers needed by plastic surgeons for the removal of unwanted tattoos. I'll be RICH! I'll be 90, but I'll be RICH!

Better put in my request for an additional ten years. There must be hundreds of expensive cigars and cases of whiskey with my name on them that will need taking care of.

Now, that's Change I can Believe In.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Let Me Talk to Ma Bell...Not "Nancy" from Mumbai

My wife smiles as she watches me try to keep it together. I am about an hour into a conversation regarding my e-mail account with the ever so helpful "Nancy" from- "Oh sir, please do not be asking me where I am located as I am not allowed to say.". She is polite to a fault, but my blood pressure is escalating rapidly as I struggle to understand the majority of what she is saying.

"Please sir, I am thanking you for your patience. I will have an answer for you in a moment. Please hold." If only she could see my face and hear the not so flattering suggestions I am making under my breath. WHY does it have to be so HARD????? We've had all this computer crap and high speed Internet access for years now and yet it seems like we're all doomed to the same type of problems that plagued early automobiles. It is not yet idiot proof!

What has prompted this, my second call, to the folks who used to be referred to as "Ma Bell"and were formerly located in a country where people actually talked like they were from "around here" is an e-mail that I have been finding in my in box for the past several days.

"We have noticed that you are accessing email using non-secure settings in your email software....blah blah blah"
It then wraps up by saying: "Please make the necessary changes immediately. Remember, you need to make these changes if you want to continue to send/receive email using a mail client."

"Nancy" is the second person I have spoken with in the last two days regarding this email. "Ben" had assured me that everything was taken care of and that I was "not to worry" less than 24 hours ago, yet I have just received another warning. All I am trying to determine is just what the hell they are talking about and how I can fix it. That's all! I have been using this email account for several years and wonder what has changed and what I need do to insure continued email service. Simple.

Perhaps it's all the excitement of their Chandrayaan-I moon shot from the Satish Dhawan Space Center that happened this week. (Oops, I may have said too much.) But, after a grand total of over three hours on the phone with "Nancy" and "Ben", neither they nor I have a clue regarding the purpose of my email notice about the security of my account. They both have assured me that I won't be getting that notice again and that I should not worry about having my email cut off.

Wait. Let me check.....

Yep, there it is again. Good work "Nancy" and "Ben"!
I guess I'll just continue to delete these notices until Ma Bell gets her head out of her ass or until...HELL BLOWS UP!

If you need me, I'll be in the garage...sitting in my car.
My car understands me.

Well, at least until it tries to send me an email.

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Supermarket Parking Lots...They were #1

The 1950's were tough for my dad. He was a TV holdout.
We were absolutely the LAST family in our neighborhood to get an idiot box.

"It'll ruin everybody!" "Kids won't play outside; won't get their homework done." They'll all be morons!" (As usual, you could take his prescience to the bank.)

Until he succumbed to the lure of televised baseball and the Friday Night Fights, (How are YOU fixed for blades by the way?), I had to practically live next door at the Chamberlain's house. They HAD TV and six kids...their very own peanut gallery. And, there I was every weekday afternoon huddled with the Chamberlains as we gazed at the TV test pattern waiting for the magic hour of 5 o'clock when we would hear the magic begin.

"HEY KIDS, WHAT TIME IS IT?" It was, as we all responded: "HOWDY DOODY TIME!"

Howdy, Buffalo Bob, Dilly Dally, Mr. Bluster, Clarabelle, Chief Thunder Thud and the always HOT Princess Tinka Tonka were a national show out of New York that every kid in America thought was just about the best damn thing they had ever seen. It was the cat's nuts and it was just for us.

Local broadcasters, never shy about copying success especially when it would allow them to pocket a couple jillionty dollars, were quick to get on board the kid train.
Local kiddie shows sprang up in nearly every metropolitan area large enough to support a TV station. Playing to the tykes was a GOLD MINE! Overnight, guys,( it was mostly guys), who were perhaps weathermen or TV engineers donned cowboy, clown or space cadet get-ups to entertain and sell stuff to the ever so coddled baby boomers. It was a classic scenario of local broadcast ner'- do- wells becoming very LARGE celebrity fish in dinky show biz ponds.

While it lasted, it was sweet.

In southern Michigan, Detroit spawned a huge stable of kid show hosts. I thought they were just about the biggest stars EVER and so did the Chamberlains and the rest of my gutter-snipe pals.

There was Soupy Sales on Channel 7, WXYZ. Soupy went on to greater fame at all the ABC owned and operated stations and enjoyed a long career. (The kids missed most of the innuendo on Soupy's shows, but the adults didn't and that produced jumbo ratings.)

There was also Johnny Ginger, Wixey, and Milky the Clown who didn't do much for me.

Milky and his loser friends

One of the best Detroit area kid show hosts was a guy named Ted Lloyd. Thanks to the Internet I just recently learned his name. (Hey, what's 50 or 60 years when it comes to finding out important information?) To me his name will always be Sagebrush Shorty.

"Here he comes ridin' into town again
It's Sagebrush...Sagebrush Shorty.
Here's Shorty NOW!"

Every time I heard that jingle I knew it was going to be a good time with Shorty. He had his little wooden pal, Bronco Billy Buttons, and a whole mess of really cool cartoons. It was kid heaven. I loved that show.

Thanks again to the Internet, I learned that Shorty left Detroit in 1965 and headed for L.A. where he mostly paid the bills by teaching ventriloquism until his death in 1999.
It made me sad to think that old Shorty was living just up the road from me in Southern California for all of those years and I never even knew it.

Sometime in the late 60's or early 70's the government got involved in children's television programing producing shows like Sesame Street and the Electric Company. They were, and I guess still are, good shows that kids enjoy. Why our tax dollars are helping to provide this entertainment is lost on me. It's just another example of the federal government getting into a business they don't maybe... banking. Oops.

With the assent of children's programming on public television, just as the blacksmiths and telegraph operators of the old West, the local commercial kiddie show hosts began to disappear. Today, like investment bankers, they are all gone.

Hey gang, how about a Popeye cartoon for old time sake??

Now, where's that cartoon machine?

Do we need a cartoon machine bailout?

Friday, October 10, 2008

October Means Great Timing

"Congratulations men. I am happy to report to you that this is the first Signal Officer Basic Course class that will NOT be going to Vietnam."

October has always been a magic month. The warm days and cool sleeping nights, not to mention the kaleidoscopic colors in the trees have long made it my absolute favorite month. There is something about the feel of the air and the cast of the Autumn shadows that lends itself to daydreams and reflections that are far away in other seasons.

It was thirty-seven years ago this month that an Army major came down to Fort Gordon, Georgia from the Pentagon to deliver the news that probably saved my life. I was just another freshly minted second lieutenant in the Signal Corps who was being made ready to command a forward area signal platoon in Southeast Asia. They went through a lot of us in those days. The job involved traveling with and setting up communications for the infantry in combat situations. In the case of Vietnam it meant that you and your men set up the radios and antennas on which "Charlie" zeroed his artillery and combined arms fire. Not a great job.

I was newly married and the father of a baby girl and had been walking around with 'Nam orders for several weeks when the major gave my group the news. I was relieved to know that by shear good timing I had been training at the perfect point to benefit from President Nixon's "Vietnamization of the war" efforts. In his attempt to show the American public that U.S. troops were turning more of the fighting over to the army of South Vietnam, he was slowly bringing home some of the Army and Marine Divisions stationed there. It was a ruse...and I was part of it. Nixon had decided to bring home both the Army's 1st Infantry and the 82nd Airborne Divisions in November. At least that's what he told the American public. What he was really doing was bringing home a small contingent, (Headquarters Company), from each division and moving the bulk of the remaining troops to other units still in country. The Army was to flesh out the 1st and the 82nd with new troops still in the United States. Tricky, but that's what Dick did.

Half of my class went to the 82nd Airborne Division, after first going to Jump School to prepare themselves for the task of falling out of perfectly good airplanes. I, mercifully, was in the group that was sent to the 1st Infantry Division which was being re-located to Fort Riley, Kansas. Another extremely lucky break. This meant that my Army career would involve lots of sleeping on the ground and trying not to shoot cattle on the dusty plain of Kansas as the division trained for its new role in support of NATO forces in Europe. ( It should be noted that no VietCong dared show their face during my tenure in the heart of America.)

It is said that "God looks out for drunks and fools". Since I was both in those days, perhaps I was doubly blessed. Whatever the case, each year about this time I reflect on the good fortune that came to me that particular October and appreciate even more what a grand stroke of luck it was.

Ask me anytime...

Favorite month?

October...hands down.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

To Congress: Do the right thing...DIE!

Who would have ever considered that perhaps Nixon and Elvis would have made a great ticket?
Well, right now they are looking pretty damn good to me!

As I watch the car wreck that is our congress wrestle with the Frankenstein financial mess they created with their moronic oversight of Fanny, Freddy and the economy in general, I find myself torn between public execution and castration (where appropriate) as the punishment of choice. How about a Perp Walk for the sons o' bitches for starters!

Will the REAL congress please stand up...

"Everything is okey dokey."
Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Maxine Waters and the rest of the congressional criminals: 2003-2008

These clowns make what Ken Lay and company did to Enron look like a snatch and grab at the Circle K. And Lay, at least, had the decency to DIE.

Remember Uncle Billy from "It's a Wonderful Life"?

Where are Gabby and Roy when you need them?

Where is Sky King???

Where is Penny?
Oh, that's right. I have her tied up at the old line shack. (Never mind.)

Friday, September 26, 2008


Perhaps it's the age thing.
Or, maybe I'm just RIGHT and most of the world is wrong.
I think I'll go with the me being right thing.

Here are just a few items that are weighing on my gourd these days:

1. Why does anybody think that Jimmy Carter was worth a damn at ANYTHING?

2. Who thinks that those Tramp Stamp butt tattoos on women are attractive? Wouldn't you love to be in the plastic surgery dodge a few years down the road when the tidal wave of aging beauties with the now hideously deformed body art is looking for a laser eraser?

Who loves ya now, Raider girl?

3. Why don't more people think that Tom Arnold is funny? The guy could make me laugh just reading the phone book. (By the way...Until Roseanne had the "Property of Tom Arnold" tattoo removed from her ample ass, Tom was the largest property owner in Southern California.)

4. Why does anybody think Al Franken is funny??? A colonoscopy is more entertaining than this talking pile of Minnesota pig poop.

4. Whatever happened to S&H green stamps? My folks furnished our entire house with classic items from the S&H store.

5. Donald Trump.....
Who cares what a guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a home run has to say?

"How's my hair?"

6. Billy Mays....
If I were on fire, this idiot couldn't sell me the water to put myself out! He should be working the midway selling "five chances for just one dollar", not pitching everything from Magic Putty to health insurance. Why is he on TV...EVER???

And...finally: PETA You know....the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Just today I read that they are asking ice cream maker Ben& Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream to tap nursing moms, rather than cows, for milk to use in the making of their ice cream. They say that it would reduce the suffering of cows and calves and give ice cream lovers a healthier product. (Not to mention, it would make for a more interesting time in the old dairy barn for farmer Brown.)

You can't make this stuff up! These people need to be put to sleep.

8. I almost forgot...
Those Geico cavemen. What's that all about??? Does that sell you insurance? Ugh!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Praise the LARD and pass the mashed potatos"

Been cruisin'.
Sorry, but sometimes you just have to hit the, water.
I had good intentions. There would be ample opportunity to blog while messing around on the East coast but, true to form, I was a traveling slug.
Hey! You aren't paying to read this!

Linda and I spent a week aboard the Maasdam cruising from Montreal to Boston. It was a fortieth anniversary present to ourselves that was a feast for both the eyes and our ever expanding adipose tissue. Damn those Holland America Cruise chefs! ("More Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee, Mr. Copper?")

We had always craved a peek at the Canadian Maritime provinces and a chance to bond with the socialist cheese heads who dwell in the loft apartment above the cool party that is the United States. Even if I do hate their screamingly liberal press and their penchant to embrace concepts like socialized medicine, I have to admit that Canada has money that is not only worth more than ours, it looks wicked fine too.

Our northern neighbors don't lack in the scenery department either.
Check out these shots:

This is Peggy's Cove on Prince Edward Island.

Another pastoral spot on PEI....

The cruise ended in Boston where we were met by longtime pals The Skipper and Betty Erickson. The Skipper has a barge and tugboat company, New England Harbor Services, that is the home to fine vessels like the "Captain Shorty". (The tug gets its name from its ability to feel comfy only to passengers who measure no more than 62 inches in height.)
Thankfully, the sea gods had seen fit to render the Cpt. Shorty unfit for habitation due to electrical problems and we were able to bunk in a real bed at the Ericksons.
The Skip has a radical new addition to his quarters. His neighbor and buddy, Jim Currier, has designed and built a one-of-a-kind Boat Bar that is an amazing work of art. It seats 12 and comes with ship sound effects, flags, ship's bell and a multitude of additional goodies being added on a regular basis. There is also enough booze to require major sea legs, if you're so inclined.
If I still drank...I'd still be there.

"The Skipper" tends bar

We also spent a terrific couple of days enjoying the hospitality of the Erickson's good friends, Dan and Sandy, at their home on Cape Cod. My only complaint was that the towels provided for our visit were extra fluffy and hard to fit in my suitcase. Sandy, being completely insane, will never miss them. Dan should have her institutionalized...but I digress.

It was also good to see an old friend, Captain Eric Franzen, and his son, Carl. The Skipper and Eric once abandoned a junk car they had driven from Port Arthur. Texas in front of my apartment in South Dakota. But, that is a story for another time.

Here is the Skipper with his pal "Batman" at the Bat Cave in Sandwich, Mass.

There is never a dull moment when you seek adventure beyond the horizon...or spend some time hangin' with The Skipper.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

WHO LOVES YA? Cats...or Dogs?

My neighbor, Jai, got himself a new dog.
He named him Duke. I figure I'm one lucky fellow to be living next door to a guy from Bombay who digs his adopted country enough to name his dog after the actor who single-handed won World War II without ever leaving Hollywood.
Cool dog. Just make sure that he takes care of business on the other side of the fence.
I like dogs...had a couple as a kid and made sure that we were a doggy family when my girls were growing up, but I can't say that I want another one. Oh sure, dogs are all over you with unconditional love and affection (not to mention drool), but they are so damn needy. Ron Rosen, a columnist for the New York Observer says, "The love of a dog means nothing. Zero. Dogs are the slavering sycophants, the slobbering indiscriminate flatterers, the bootlickers, the pathetic transparent brown-nosers of the domestic animal kingdom." They are "an easy lay emotionally". He is right.
Mans' best friend? When was the last time your "best friend" pinched a loaf in your backyard?!

Nope, no more dogs in my life. Fun to look at, "but you wouldn't want to own one" pretty much sums it up for me.

Cats I loathe...always have. The girls had two of them when they were around and both "Murray" and "Satchel" hated my guts. The good news is that they would actually leave the room when I would enter. Perhaps that's how they made it to kitty old age.
A friend of mine, "Willie the Moff", used to have a regular zoo at his house. There were dogs, cats, even horses that cost him a small fortune to maintain. Several years ago one of his cats needed some veterinary attention because of an abscessed tooth. Willie, being a man of thrifty Midwest ways, refused the vet's recommendation of a sedative for the cat prior to the necessary tooth extraction. ""The Moff" elected to hold the cat steady while the doc pulled the tooth. No sense in paying that extra fifty smackers to send Sylvester to "la la land" while he was in pain.
The cat starred malevolently at his master on the car ride home, no doubt plotting his revenge. Shortly after the return to "Moff Manor"the still hurting kitty left a steaming pile of cat disrespect in the Moff's newly purchased leather briefcase.
Cats are like that.

I see no pets in my future. Too much trouble. Even fish have a hassle quotient I'm not willing to put up with.
Turtles might be alright. If they croak on you, you've got a dandy looking ashtray. If you don't smoke...I've got nothin' for you.

A chicken might be fun.

We all know who to call if that doesn't work out.