Wednesday, August 20, 2014

While you were sleeping....

Just down the road apiece from the Lazy 'C' Ranch where we live is a road called Cromwell Bridge Road.  The old Ma & Pa (Maryland and Pennsylvania) Railroad used to run through there, and you still can see mighty remnants of the old bridges that the trains ran along.  It's a pretty area, it runs to the Loch Raven Reservoir, and the stories we could tell about that site would fill a whole 'nother blog.

Along Cromwell Bridge Rd, someone got out of his or her car and painted a perfect little white heart on the macadam.  As you see, there is no shoulder along the road whatsoever.  In fact, I wanted to get a picture of the painted heart, but there is no place to park the car and get out to snap a photo.  Walking or jogging along this road is a risky proposition.  The cars and the trucks, they do whiz right on by.

That's why I deduce that whoever painted that heart did so in the middle of the night, the only time when you're not about to get "runned over" while trying to get the picture.  He or she pulled over, hopped out with the can of spray paint, and did his or her thing.  And it's been there a couple of years now, so someone came back and refreshed the heart not long ago.

It makes me wonder what else happens in the night. Take those real estate and "O'Hoolahan for Sheriff" signs you see along the medians and sidewalks.  Have you ever actually seen anyone pounding those staked signs into the ground?  Nor have I.

Fresh bread and milk get delivered to the Bag-Ur-Self and you never see the trucks.  For that matter, you never see the trucks leaving the dairy farms, shiny tankers full of raw milk, and you'd have to get up pretty early to drive past the bakery to whiff on the rye and whole wheat loaves.

The paper gets tossed into the driveway, cars get repossessed, great truckloads of Pepsi and cat food are hauled in giant trucks. Insomniacs wrestle with their pillows, police maintain their vigils, bartenders and all-night servers wipe down the same table for the millionth time, and new parents sleepily pad down the hall for the 4 AM feeding.

A little world of its own takes place overnight in the darkness, and when the sun climbs over the horizon at dawn, day side people should take a minute to appreciate what got done as they slumbered and snored.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All Day I Dream About Shoes

7-eyed Jacks
Time was, if you left the house wearing sneakers, or "tennis shoes," (even though you weren't going to be anywhere near a tennis court) you had to be wearing Jack Purcells, or hide your feet in shame. And that's not so easy, especially when you're walking.

I never cared for that sort of forced-fashion-conformity, yet I followed the crowd until one day, while sitting in a college classroom in which transcendental poetry was being discussed at great length, I deduced that I should wear what I wanted to, when I wanted to, and since that day I have paid little attention to what other people thought about my wardrobe, and to transcendental poetry, except for those poems beginning with "There once was a man named Thoreau..."

How they look best
But, no matter what sort of tennis shoes you like, there are two camps among wearers...those who feel that their shoes must be kept pure white and pristine, free from dirt and wear, and those who like that lived-in look for their footwear.  It was a rite of late August to get new Jacks and run around the baseball field a few times so they would pick up that nice dusty beige color, the better to wear while parading into school. 

Well, son, this is 2014, and we don't have time to get our own shoes dirty.  Adidas - the brand name that we all know to be an acronym for "all day I dream about sex" - has come out with their X KZK ZX 750 RG 84-Lab model shoes.  The RG stands for Really Grubby, I guess, because if the shoe seeker is too lazy to go out and get his or her shoes dirtied up a little, these babies come to you pre-muddied.

Oh well, now I mean, really.

Monday, August 18, 2014

All In The Family

There seems to be something about history, how it loves to twirl itself around a story like a kudzu vine, or even a creeping phlox.  

And if your phlox ever crept up on you, you know that awful feeling.

There are twists and turns to almost every story, and this is why we say that "truth is stranger than fiction."  Other things thought to be stranger than fiction include deep-fried Snickers Bars, the listing of side effects from every prescription medication (you take Lexapro for depression and then you get to deal with "Nausea, dry mouth, trouble sleeping, constipation, tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness, or increased sweating," many of which sound like symptoms of the very thing you are trying to get rid of) and the continued popularity of "reality" shows that show American culture at its loathsome perigee (we know that families such as the BooBoos of McIntyre, Georgia, live among us, but is that reason enough to glorify their dreadful existence?) 

Right up Harford Road from where we live is Harford County, Maryland, home to many fine citizens and businesses.  We like to drive up there to shop, buy cars, dine, and spend time in the rolling hills of Bel Air, Abingdon, Forest Hill, and Havre de Grace, among other towns there.  We know a lot of people who have moved up there and found happiness and joy.  

In 1822, an actor named Junius Brutus Booth, who had only the year before sailed to America from his native England, moved to Bel Air and founded a family. (The fact that he left a wife and child back home to come here with his pregnant girlfriend Mary Ann Holmes only amplifies the point that libertine behavior didn't just start last week.) Booth and Mary Ann got busy right away and raised eight of his ten children in a log cabin.

Hmmm. Are there any other famous Americans noted for having been born in a log cabin?  

Two of the Booth kids became famous actors in America, and they were named Randolph Mantooth and Benedict Cumberbatch.  No. They were Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth.

John Wilkes Booth, villain
On John Wilkes Booth's 13th birthday, his father celebrated by marrying Mary Ann, having been granted a divorce from his English wife, Adelaide.  John Wilkes Booth thereafter became a well-known actor on the legitimate stage, and also a rabid secessionist during the Civil War.  He hated Abraham Lincoln, so, gun laws being what they were before we knew better, he got a handgun and shot the 16th president dead during a performance at Ford's Theater in DC. Ever the performer, he leapt from the loge in which Lincoln had been sitting onto the stage, but caught his spur on the red-white-and-blue bunting surrounding the presidential box seat, so he landed awkwardly and broke his leg, impeding his getaway.  He was caught in Virginia, trapped in a barn hideaway.  Union forces set fire to the barn, but still he refused to surrender, and was shot to death for his trouble.

Edwin Booth, hero
Edwin was the more famous of the brothers, having starred in Shakespearean productions, and also having played Al Bundy in the theatre production of  "Married: With Children."  (No, that was Ed O'Neill.) A Union loyalist, he supported Lincoln, and, the year before his brother committed his heinous assassination, he saved the life of one of Lincoln's children!

Robert Lincoln
The story is that Robert Todd Lincoln, a student, was waiting along with Booth and a crowd of others at a train station to buy tickets for sleeping cars when the train began to move. Young Lincoln slipped off the platform, onto the tracks, and Edwin Booth grabbed him by the collar and pulled him back to his feet. This was the 1864 equivalent of having Channing Tatum yank you back from the path of an oncoming jet airliner. Recognizing the actor, Robert Lincoln thanked him for his efforts, and wrote of the incident many times.  At the time, Booth did not know it was the son of the man his brother was to kill the next year whom he had saved. 

I thought that, Paul Harvey being gone, I should share the rest of the story.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday rerun: Dupree plus ça change

I watched a film on ESPN the other night; it was part of their "30 on 30" series of sports documentaries and this one featured the past of  Marcus Dupree, the high school running back with the can't-miss future.

Like so many of the best-laid plans, his went awry!  The show is called "The Best That Never Was," and I commend it to your attention.  Even if you're not the big sports fan, it will speak to you about how things can change...sometimes for the good, and sometimes not.

Dupree, out of Philadelphia, Mississippi, had an amazing ability to take a football and run with it.  In high school, it didn't seem to matter how many guys on the other team tried to tackle him.  Old game footage in the documentary lets you see Dupree shaking off would-be tacklers the same way that Sarah Palin ignores rules of grammar and diction - with a gleeful alacrity that defied "refudiation."

And for what happened to him in college and beyond, I'm going to let you watch the show, because I hate to spoil the ending.  But there is an interesting sidestory to all this.

You who remember or have read of the civil rights struggle in this nation will recall Philadelphia, MS, as the place in which the based-on-fact movie "Mississippi Burning" was set.  Three civil rights workers, on their way to help African-Americans register to vote in that state (yes, this was 1964, not 1864) were waylaid on "speeding" charges as they traveled down Highway 19, held for several hours, and then set free.  From all appearances, it seemed that the sheriff held them long enough for local Klansmen to marshal their forces, and once the hooded hoodlums were ready, the three were let go, only to be beaten and killed by local horrors.

The Law of Neshoba County on trial.  Cecil Price, left.
The nation sat stunned, watching as a three-month long search finally resulted in the young men being found dead.  The local cops - Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and his deputy, Cecil Price, went up on murder charges and finally went to jail on severely compromised verdicts.  (The presiding judge having referred to the dead men by the 'n' word, you know the trial wasn't exactly on the up and up.)

But after serving four years of a seven (!) year sentence, Cecil Price came out of prison a changed man, accepting finally the changes that had come to the nation.  His son Cecil, Jr., and Dupree went to school together, entering local schools in 1970 that were desegregated for the first time that year.  "Little Cecil" and Dupree played high school football together in the 80's, hung out together, and visited in each other's homes.

At the end of his career, Marcus Dupree called Cecil Price, the man who had gone to jail for killing black and Jewish civil rights volunteers, and asked for, and received, a huge favor.

Watch the show, please.  ESPN will be repeating it.  If you're a young person, remember: my generation lived through this when we were in our teens.  It's hard to imagine that sort of hatred could exist in America, isn't it?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nickel-and-diming him

Some people just don't think about the consequences of their actions.

Out in Los Angeles, a man named Andres Carrasco, apparently an upright clean-living citizen, retired bus driver, used to have his car insurance through Adriana's Insurance, but one day he went to their office to find out why they had dropped him.

An employee of Adriana's Insurance attempted to explain the situation to Mr Carrasco by bodily throwing him out of the office.

So Mr Carrasco went to the courts to sue the insurance company, and he won a settlement of $12,000.

So the good people over at Adriana's decided that the best way to shell out that kind of change would be to send over that kind of change.

Eight paint buckets full of American coins were delivered to Mr Carrasco by eight goons working for the Adriana firm.

His attorney, Anthony Gallo, said he can't even lift the buckets and he doesn't feel that Mr Carrasco, recently recovering from hernia surgery, should even try.

"I am disappointed by the way Adriana's treats their customers and the elderly," Carrasco told KNBC-TV. "We might be poor, but we are people too."

Even if he were not poor and elderly, and I wish he weren't either one of them, Mr Carrasco has a right not be assaulted by insurance agents.  It doesn't sound like Adriana's is a firm with which I would do business.  My car insurance company has a cute little gecko and Little Richard doing their commercials; Adriana's just doesn't seem to care how many people hear about their nastiness.  It cannot be good for their business to treat the gentleman this way.

The one bright note in all this is that Mr Carrasco now has 8 paint buckets!  You can never have too many of them around the house.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You've been!

Out of the following two things, I bet you have heard about only one of them...

....AC/DC's rock anthem "Thunderstruck"
....the Stuxnet computer virus

Freedom Fighters!
Because we AC/DC fanatics tend not to delve into the intricacies of computer malware and the dirty things that governments do to each other in the name of waging peace, I know the song, but not the bug.  

The Stuxnet virus was cooked up in 2010 with the specific intention of derailing Iran's nuclear program.  There has been talk that the hackers were, indeed, employees of the American and/or Israeli government(s), but who's to say?  

What we do know about it is that, in the middle of one dark Iranian night, 20% of Iran's nuclear centrifuges went berserk because the computers that control them told them to spin like a record playing at 45,000 rpm.  Used in a dairy, a centrifuge separates cream from milk, leaving us with tasty Almond-Pistachio ice cream cones for dessert.  Pistachios are grown in Iran, and until that night so were nuclear reactors, which require enriched uranium.  You get enriched uranium from nuclear centrifuges, but 20% of the Iranian centrifuges don't work anymore because "someone" put the Stuxnet hex on them, causing...

...the centrifuges to spin out of control, burning themselves up

..."Thunderstruck" to come blasting at top volume out of the speakers of the affected computers.  They couldn't turn the music off, either.  While it attacked the computers and the uranium spinners, it soaked the Iranian atmosphere with a good uncontrolled dose of Angus Young's guitar and Brian Johnson's vocal.

I have never loved the world's computer geek squad more in my entire life.