Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • This morning, someone wished me a happy Thanksgiving and admonished me to not eat too much turkey.  Aren’t those two things mutually exclusive?  In order to have a happy Thanksgiving, don’t you have to eat too much turkey, or too much of something anyway?  Glutton that I am, I plan to eat too much turkey and too much pumpkin pie as well.

  • Why do so many people these days stop so far behind where they’re supposed to stop at traffic signals?  Don’t they know that a lot of traffic signals have sensors under the pavement and if nobody passes over the sensor the light won’t change?
  • If there’s a liquidity crisis in this country, shouldn’t I be receiving fewer credit card offers in the mail?
  • I’m beginning to think that traffic officials in New Jersey deliberately abandoned the left turn, rather than never discovering it in the first place.  Yesterday, I saw someone make a U-turn on a major New York State route (six traffic lanes, turn lanes in each direction and a center divider), from the middle lane, with the left turn signal red!  Is going around the block a felony?  I only ask because I know that was at least three traffic violations.

My Dad

Today I am one year older than my father was when he died.  So, I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit. 

My father didn’t suffer adult fools lightly.  He told wonderful stories and he told them wonderfully well, but was otherwise kind of a stern man with adults. 

He was tall, muscular, but very thin and had large, strong hands.  He could hold a sturdy kitchen chair at arm’s length by the bottom of one of its legs and he could do that with either hand.  If you think it’s easy, you try it.  His demeanor matched his appearance. 

Maybe he was stern because he was a police officer.  Maybe it’s because his father died when he was a child and he supported his mother, brothers and sisters from the time he graduated from eighth grade at the age of 13.  It was a different time. 

Because he had both an eight-grade education and a passion for learning, he would have loved to see both of his children get master’s degrees.  I would have loved for him to see that too.  I know he would have loved to know his grandchildren, especially when they were little kids. 

With little kids he was different.  He wasn’t stern at all:  instead, he was sly.  He knew little kids love foolishness and absurdity.  When my sister and I were young children, he would tell us that he was pretty.  We would insist that he was handsome and we would argue back and forth until all of us were laughing. 

After he retired from the police force, he was a school bus driver.  I went with him a couple of times when my school and the one he drove for had different holidays.  Once he stopped the bus with its red lights flashing, making an ice cream truck coming the other way stop too.  He bought me some ice cream and a couple of the kids on the bus complained that he bought ice cream for me, but not for the rest of them.  I guess they didn’t realize we were related.  And I remember him asking a boy in kindergarten at the beginning of the school year whether he was married and what he did for a living.   The little boy laughed and for a while forgot he was nervous about this new thing called school.

He was 11 years older than my mother and he didn’t age well because for much of his later life he was in poor health so he looked older than that.  A couple of the little kids in our neighborhood would knock on our door and ask my mother if her father could come out and play. 

I still miss him sometimes, more often than you would think.


I can’t figure out how to respond to comments made in the comment section of this blog, so I’ll respond when I feel like it in the blog item section.

To Richard, I’ll say that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fill the portable  hard drive I just got with MP3 music files (not even when I’ve digitized all my Moody Blues albums), let alone consider another hard drive because the one I bought last week filled up with music.

If the entire Billboard top 100 turned over every week since Billboard started its charts in 1955, that would be around 110,000 songs.  It doesn’t, so I’d guess the actual number of songs in the Billboard top 100 is on the order of 20-30 thousand.  I don’t like all of them and I’m not going to try to collect a complete set.

But it occurs to me that computer storage is now so cheap that while having everything is still out of reach financially, having a place to keep everything (at least if everything is digitized) does appear to be within reach.  A 500GB hard drive that fits in my shirt pocket sure beats the equivalent amount of storage in boxes of 500 IBM punch cards.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • Did Joe Scarborough perform a necessary public service this week on his MSNBC program, or did you already know which word “the f word” is?

  • The National Toy Hall of Fame has named the stick as one of this year’s inductees.  I’m not kidding!  How would you differentiate between a toy stick and a real one?

  • Polka dots:  why are they called that?  Does it have anything to do with dancing or accordions?

  • Is bombarding people with unwanted e-mail an effective way of selling stuff?  I took my wife to a nice restaurant last month.  They have a rewards program.  If we joined, they’d give us a ten-percent discount on the bill, so we joined.  Now, we get at least one e-mail from the restaurant per day.  Yes, I’ve added them to the filter that dumps selected e-mail into the junk mail folder.

  • I know I’m admitting to being older than a teenager when I ask this, but if you know what pismatology is, or the meaning of either the pompatus or the puppetuse of love for that matter, get in touch, please.

  • Has any individual ever used every function of a top-of-the-line Swiss Army knife?

  • Did you ever wonder why there are no holes in Swiss Army knives or in Swiss steak?

  • “Into,” one word.  “On to,” two words.  How does that make any sense?

  • Why is orange the only fruit named after a color?

  • Did you know you can play solitaire without a computer?

  • I don’t know if they still do, but the NY Times used to run personal ads in the regional sections on Sunday.  I didn’t see this recently, but it’s still stuck in my mind.  Only in a NY Times personal ad would a man describe himself as “ursine.”  I know that means bear-like, but doesn’t it really mean big, fat and hairy?

  • Are you as sick of teasers on TV newscasts as I am?  “Governor Patterson’s proposed state budget cuts, how will they affect your property taxes?  Coming up.”  Uh, your property taxes will go up?  I think I’m going to banish those things to a new cable TV channel and call it The Obvious Channel.

  • For less than $200, I bought a portable hard drive that holds 500GB of information.  Do you know how much that is?  The package says it will hold 120,000 songs.  I have around 6,000 now.  I’d better get busy downloading.

A Cautionary Tale

I had already graduated from high school.  My sister hadn’t yet.  It was Veterans’ Day, just as it is today.   School was closed, but they were holding rehearsals for a school play and my sister was on the stage crew.  My Dad wasn’t feeling well, so he asked me to drive over to the school that night and pick my sister up from the rehearsal. 

In those days, pay phones had been invented, but cell phones hadn’t.  In that school the pay phones could be locked up and they were when I got there.  So, unable to phone her parents to pick her up, a girl I knew named Rita was walking around the stage saying, “Who’s got room in their car?”

I said, “I do, Rita.”

She said, “Good, you can take us home.”  Us turned out to be Rita and another girl named Karen; a petite, cute, blonde girl named Karen.  Rita and Karen were on the stage crew with my sister.  So, three girls and I went out to my car.  My sister got in the front seat, Rita and Karen got in the back. 

I took my sister home first.  She’s four years younger than I am, so I got to stay up later.  At least that’s what I told the two girls in the back seat, neither of whom was willing to sit up front with me after I dropped my sister off. 

Rita told me to take her home next, so I did.  Karen still would not join me in the front seat.  While driving the couple of blocks from Rita’s house to Karen’s, I decided it would be an extraordinarily good idea to go see that play the following Saturday night,  I don’t remember anything about the play.  I may not have remembered anything about the play halfway through the second act.  I had no interest whatsoever in the play. 

But Karen and Rita invited me to the cast party which was at my ex-girlfriend’s house, so I knew how to get there.  In fact, I was the only person driving to the party who did know how to get there, so I led a caravan through town.  This time, Karen did sit in the front, between me and my ex-girlfriend.  In back were my sister, Karen’s friend Rita, and my ex-girlfriend’s best friend, Sue.  I had warned (or perhaps threatened) my sister about sitting in the front seat again.

All this sounds harmless, right?  So why is the tale cautionary?  Well, not right away, but I eventually married Karen.  I’ve just recounted how we met on the anniversary of the day we met.  So, I’d like to take this opportunity to warn all petite, cute, blonde girls to think at least twice before accepting a ride from a strange boy.

Things I Know

  • Ford reported third-quarter losses of $129 million:  GM reported third quarter losses of $2.5 billion!  If it’s all in hundreds, General Motors lost over eleven-thousand pounds of money in three months!  My wife is really good at finding the things I misplace.  They should hire her to look for all that money.

  • It’s a little early for certain liberal-leaning reporters to be canonizing President-Elect Obama.  On the other hand, it’s a little late for conservative talk radio to be whining about the outcome of the election too.

  • I think it’s great that an African-American can now be elected president.  I reserve judgment on whether it’s great that this man has been elected.  I’m not crazy about some of the policies he’s advocating.

  • Nobody’s taking any notice of the fact that 200 years ago importing slaves into this country became illegal.  That’s probably because while it was a noble idea, it didn’t do anything to curtail slavery in this country and slavery is probably the biggest stain ever on America’s soul.

  • The most boring thing I’ve ever done is drive Interstate 80 west through Indiana.  I say that because I’ve driven I-80 through Indiana twice in each direction.  Both times, I noticed the sign marking the time zone boundary when heading east, but not when heading west.  It might be there, but I didn’t see it.

  • There is a semi-permanent speed trap on the New York State Thruway, headed north, just over the top of a hill around milepost 52, south of Newburgh.  I’ve seen it in operation on dozens of weekday mornings through the years.  I’m telling you this because if they’re going to do that, I think they ought to put up a toll booth and get everybody.

  • I really like the Baseball Hall of Fame.  In fact, I’m a subscribing member of the museum.  I like Cooperstown too.  It’s a pretty place, but Cooperstown must be what Ogden Nash was thinking about when he said, “You can’t get there from here.  You have to start from somewhere else.”

  • The people who run the Baseball Hall of Fame must know that Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball:  he doesn’t have a plaque there.

  • Every time I visit my dentist, I think of the dentist in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors.”

  • Women should put the toilet seat down:  they’re the ones who want it down.

  • Women live longer than men, on average, because when we’re all set to leave, they’re still getting ready, on average.

  • My young adult daughter told me recently that not only can she believe it’s not butter, she’s always believed it’s not butter, even as a little girl.  She’s a strange child.  I wonder who she gets it from.  I mean her mother and I are completely normal.


I was going to write a blog item about the importance of voting.  But my friend Richard (not Feder) of New Jersey (not Fort Lee) wrote a blog item in which he said voting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Particularly, he took issue with the often repeated statement:  “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”  He’s right about that.  While voting and complaining can be done simultaneously, they can be (and often are) done independently too.

I emailed Richard and he turned my e-mail into his own blog item.  So through the magic of hyperlinks, my work here is done.

And I don’t just recommend Richard’s blog because he was intelligent enough to recommend mine.  Richard and his blog are smart, quirky and often funny.  Today’s item is mostly my writing, but here’s his blog’s index in case you would like to catch up with his writing.  If you do, you’ll learn what a PLUCO is.  That’s a promise!

And here’s my endorsement for this election season.  I think Richard’s blog is worth following.