Saturday, May 30, 2009


We were sitting in the gate area, waiting for our flight when the 4 TSA agents came up. They were clearly there on business – it wasn’t quite as dramatic as, say, “The Wire” when the cops come into the courtyard at the low-rise apartments and everyone yells “five-oh” and scatters – but these four officers came in and “took positions”, definitely there on business.

One stood with his back to the wall by the door to the jetway, one moved somewhere behind me, one gave the lowdown to the gate agent and the fourth questioned “The Witness”.

The Witness was a woman about my age, seated opposite me. She spoke to the agent as they both looked at someone somewhere behind me. I heard her say “…about ten minutes ago…” She had observed some suspicious activity and as the incessant indoctrination announcements instructed, she had alerted someone. I appreciated that she had done so, but now I had to figure out who the terrorist(s) was (were).

I turned around and immediately saw two bearded men traveling with modestly-dressed women, all wearing head coverings of a different culture. They were Mennonites.

I wondered what suspicious acts they had been engaged in that had alerted The Witness. Perhaps they had been sharing fried chicken and homemade pies “family style”. Maybe she had seen weapons of mass consumption. I’m not trying to stereotype people here; it’s just that I have come in contact with the Mennonites and Amish people only at bed and breakfasts and restaurants in Ohio and in Pennsylvania. There are always large quantities of food concealed in kitchens or even openly displayed in their gathering places.

As the situation developed, it was obvious that the TSA agent trying to be inconspicuous by the jetway door was going to pull the terrorists aside and water board them … or at least wand them and look through their carry-ons. But the Mennonites boarded and front of me and went through unmolested. I had apparently made an assumption based only on the fact that they looked different from me and I was embarrassed. The worst thing was that I wouldn’t get to see the real terrorists pulled aside and tortured.

As people boarded after me I worried whether the terrorists had been arrested or any of them had slipped through. During the flight I thought I had figured it out. There was a young couple who had smuggled aboard a baby designed to render us helpless. The baby screamed through most of the 5-hour flight, especially loudly during the heavy turbulence, when we just wanted silence so we could weep and pray to our God in peace. Halfway through the flight everyone in coach (first class had been provided noise eliminating headphones) went to the couple and promised to renounce our evil Western lifestyles, but it did no good. Turns out it was just a crying baby.

The actual terrorists turned out to be a trio of women dressed as flight attendants. Prior to the flight they had somehow secreted tremendously heavy metal carts aboard the aircraft. The wheeled carts were just slightly wider than the aisle between the seat row. One hour into the flight, the women grabbed the carts and ran them pell-mell up the aisle, smashing armrests, shattering elbows and ripping legs off at the knees. They tried to cover their mission by tossing snacks and beverages at the passengers, but these just became part of the scene of carnage, mixing with the blood and severed appendages. The screaming of the multitude momentarily drowned out the baby.

Shortly thereafter, the women came by with hot towels to staunch our wounds and comfort us. It never did become clear what their mission was.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Feelin' Me, Bro'?

I am not now, nor have I ever been, cool. I was never in with the in crowd, part of the scene, or remotely in synch with “what’s happenin’ now”.

For example: When I was a teenager, bell bottoms and flares were popular fashion items. We were the Woodstock Generation. It was Cool Times in America. However, those bell bottoms were way beyond my cool status level. But I did wear flares. I assume everyone knows what these items are, but, for an in depth discussion, click here. The short definition of the style is “Trousers with legs that flare at the bottom.”

Cool people wear bell-bottom or flared jeans or cords or even “pants”. Cool people do not wear “trousers”. But I did. I had “Trousers with legs that flare at the bottom.” What’s more, I was a tall, skinny child and the flared bottoms of my trousers were just above my ankles. Not dragging the ground, becoming fashionably frayed at the hem. No, my flared trouser legs flapped at my ankles, giving the cool folk a great view of my white socks and my Hush Puppies. I was not cool.

Having been around back then, I have now aged beyond hope of being cool. My daughter, who is cool, tells me that I get cool points for having done stand up in actual theaters and comedy clubs (strictly amateur). But those few points are apparently a mere drop in the cool bucket. If I accidentally say anything that sounds like I am trying to be cool (or “hip” or “hep” or “the shizzle” or whatever the kids these days are saying) she wall warn me “Dad. No. Don’t ever say that again.”

So I don’t try to use current slang (or “lingo”, or “street”, or “text-speak” or whatever the kids these days are saying). I speak, white, mid-western English, which is no better or worse than anything else, it’s just the language of my people: The Uncool. That’s not to say that a manner of speaking is limited to a given region, age or ethnic group, but we characterize certain ways of talking with such groups. Certain expressions are associated with white culture, some with brown and some as black culture. Cool people can cross over cultures, but uncool people who try that are what we commonly refer to as “dorks” (or “nerds”, or “fools”, or “dweebs” or whatever the kids these days are saying).

I told you all that to tell you this:
You know how certain expressions are automatic? You pick up the phone in the U.S and you say “Hello.” You don’t try to be Chinese and say “Ni hao,” unless you are from that culture. Likewise, at the end of a discussion about some conflict, some people would say “Are we okay now?” and some would say “We good?”, depending on culture. Again, you don’t think about what words to say, it’s automatic based on who you are and the way you learned to speak.

Last weekend an African-American man was explaining to me the service he was providing on the trees at our house. When he was done, he said “alright”, signaling, “Alright, I’m ready to get started,” and I said, “a’ight”.

What? (or “Say what?” or “WTF?” Or “Huh?” Or whatever the kids these days are saying). I could have said “alrighty, then” or “okey-dokey” and not thought I sounded any more uncool. ”A’ight” just came out of my mouth, leaving me wondering who had said it, while the black guy was saying “alright”. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it made me feel like I was Gene Wilder in "Silver Streak" ("Get down! Feelin' fine!"). For sure! (or “tru’ dat”, or “right on”, “I heard that” or whatever these kids today are saying).

"A'ight"? Seriously?

As my daughter would say, “Dad. No. Don't ever say that again.” To which I would instinctively reply, “A’ight. We cool.”

(Don’t forget to go to Humor Bloggers dot com, read all the “Funniest Post Ever!” contest entries and then vote for “What Chinese New Year means to Me” because it is the best one. A’ight?)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dear New Yorker

This was the cartoon:
When I entered my caption, my biggest concern was that it was so obvious that many people would have already submitted the same idea and I was too late. So this morning I checked to see who had gotten in first and was sure to be the winner.
The three captions you selected are:
"Free will is overrated."
"This was so much more awkward before Craigslist."
"This is why I suggested a threesome."
The third one has a nice, subtle reference to the difficulty of managing one's own puppet strings and the second one is a nice tribute to the recent murders of Craigslist prostitutes. The first one is weak allusion to the control aspect of the situation.

Do you remember which one is mine? Right, none of them. I wrote, "Please, dear, try to control yourself." I'm not going to try and explain how that works on a couple different levels. I leave it to you to ponder its New Yorker style perfection and to regret your choices. I know it is too late to reconsider and that you can't just pull a few strings and change the decision.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Foul Ball Fever ... Catch It!

From Chris Mauger comes a great essay on the life-long aspiration all (real American) men have to catch a foul ball at a baseball game.
(I discovered Chris’ blog after he left a very nice comment on my previous post. He is an elementary school principal so he can understand the maturity level of my humor and the aptitude level of my writing. He is very funny and you should read his blog).

Reading about his foul ball dreams, immediately sent me back to Dodger Stadium – I’m sitting in the stands with my mom and I have my mitt on, ready to catch any ball that comes near me. Nevermind that I am in General Admission, high above the field (just above the blinking red light that warns away airplanes). A home run travels only 400 feet or so; how is a foul ball going to reach me in General Admission, where we have to listen to Vin Scully on my transistor radio to know what we are “seeing” below? None of that matters; the fantasy of catching a ball from the game and taking it home to treasure is the lure that attracted every male to that ballpark.

Oh, we sometimes sat in the bleachers, which were also cheap seats at Dodger Stadium, so I might have caught a home run. But these were the early 60s Dodgers. Runs were manufactured by Maury Wills stealing 1st then 2nd, followed by a sacrifice bunt to move him to third and a sacrifice fly to get him home. Home runs were things other teams got because they – I’m looking at you, Yankees – were in league with the Devil. (That would specifically be the American League). So I sat in foul territory to increase my chances.

Men love action, thrills and violence and yet baseball was still our national pastime when I was a kid. Basketball offers fast-paced action – hockey even more so. Football offers physical contact, maiming and death – hockey even more so. Of course hockey is hard to follow and surely you couldn’t do that on what passed as television in the 60s. Baseball you can turn on at any point and get caught right up to the moment:
"Willie Davis at bat now. Gaylord Perry gets the ball and looks in to the catcher. Davis got the base hit in the first inning and scored on Gilliam’s double, providing the only run in the game. Perry shakes off a couple signs. Koufax has struck out 4 in the first three innings. Perry winds and throws. Of course, Gilliam made one heck of a catch on a hard line drive by Aaron in the second. The ball is approaching the plate now. The Dodgers have three hits, one run no errors. Davis looks like he might swing at this one. The Braves have 4 hits, no runs and one error which … Davis grounds back to the mound .. .put Davis in scoring position for that run … Davis is out at first.”
So baseball is easy to keep up with, which is why your girlfriend goes with you: you can explain all the rules between actual player motions on the field. But it is the foul ball that brings in the guys. You never hear this at an NFL game: “Fans are welcome to keep any errant passes thrown into the stands…” Hockey does let your next-of-kin keep any errant pucks you catch with your face, but you aren’t going to come back for more.

The promise of a caught foul ball indoctrinates kids into baseball worship. Sitting there with your glove on makes you part of the game. So I sat there as a kid, waiting. And waiting. Years later, in Cincinnati, I sat in Riverfront stadium (too embarrassed to wear my glove) waiting. One day I took a friend to the game. About the 5th inning I got myself some ice cream: a sundae served in a miniature, plastic replica of a batting helmet. I looked down to scoop up a mouthful. When I looked up, a foul ball was coming directly toward me. Things began to happen in slow motion – okay, everything was already in slow motion, this was baseball – I saw my friend’s arms reach out and I saw his hands catch the baseball. God had sent ME that baseball … but he was really punking me by making me get that ice cream first. The point is I’ll never forget the roller coaster ride of emotions from seeing the ball finally come and then losing it. I’ll never get the chocolate sauce out of my shorts either.

I don’t know if kids today build the same dreams. There are so few day games, and the night games are so late, it’s hard to bring kids. Without as many young boys learning to reach beyond hope for that ever-elusive foul ball, the popularity of baseball has declined. They try to attract us with hot dogs or t-shirts fired out of a canon, but, come on! That doesn’t make you one of the players like catching a real ball. And the “kiss cam?” Ew, gross! (if you’re a young boy there with your mom or dad, I mean).

Thinking about that, I just had a recovered memory. About 3 years ago, I did get a ball in the stands. There was a foul that bounced around the seats and came to rest in front of the guy next to me. Being that he was a five-year-old, my arms were longer than his and I reached down and snatched the ball right from under his little, 5-year-old feet. Oh my God, that is horrible! No wonder I blanked that out. But, come to think of it, had he got the ball, his dream would have been fulfilled and he could have put aside baseball for one of the other sports. My quick action established one more lifelong fan of America’s pastime.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Simple Simon Met a Pieman

Before I got the job I have now, I was the controller at a manufacturing plant that made auto brakes and ABS units. During the 3 years I was there, I became good friends with my assistant controller, Brian. We formed a bond based on a mutual love for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and a mutual dislike of our boss. Brian got out of there in 2003, a year after I did.

We’ve stayed in touch and today I went to have lunch with him at the new company he went to work for just a year ago. His company is owned by Perkins Restaurants and they make all the desserts for Perkins, including … wait for it … pies! They also make pies for Marie Callenders and various other restaurants and frozen food vendors. One of the perks of Brian’s job is, free pie to take home whenever he wants. I don’t know if he has to juggle numbers to cover up the pies he takes, but it doesn’t matter, it’s FREE PIE. Brian even gave me two pies to take home, slipping them to me from under his suit coat as he ushered me out the back door. It was suspicious but, hey, it was FREE PIE.

I know what you’re saying, “JohnnyB, how did your assistant controller end up with YOUR dream job?” Well, I figured out today that controller or CFO for a pie manufacturing plant might not actually be my dream. Wait. Let me explain.

There would be some obvious problems if I were doing the accounting for a pie factory. The CEO would constantly be calling me in and saying, “I have a few questions about some of the items on your report. Is this a smear of blueberry filling or cherry? Have you ever tried using a napkin? And could you possibly stop eating pie for one minute?"”

But the main reason is that I hate accounting for manufacturing. Doing inventory and cost accounting is only slightly more interesting than being an actuary or a pill bug. Even if you are making pie. Let me put it this way: I like women. I like the way they smell, I like the way they look and I like the way they are put together. But I don’t want to be a gynecologist. I don’t want to deal on a daily basis with the technical aspects of their pieces and parts and equipment .

There is one other reason I will never go back into accounting for a manufacturer. Brian and I had a terrible boss. Every quarter he would come up with some new report he needed two hours before the board meeting. He crushed morale - he was constantly telling my accounting team to stop “laughing and chatting.” He once got angry at me and smashed his fist into a computer white board, breaking the equipment. Brian and I became lifelong friends in the way that John McCain will forever be close to the men he shared a prison camp with in Viet Nam.

When I went to see Brian, he gave me a tour of the pie plant and, as I stepped onto the manufacturing floor, I had flashbacks and had to struggle to not run screaming back to the business office. But suddenly my senses were soothed and I calmed down. The plant didn’t smell of oil and metal and water treatment chemicals. It smelled like flour and butter and fruit filling. It smelled like heaven.

Still, watching pies being made in a factory is not like watching pies being made in your mom’s kitchen. My mom taught me to take the scraps of pit crust dough and make little tarts in the oven, to be topped with strawberry jam. At the factory, the scraps are dumped back into the machinery so they don’t go to waste; except, Brian assured me, the pieces that fall on the floor. “What about all these signs that say ‘remember the 5 second rule’”, I asked. “Too much chatting,” he replied.

I Am Working To Remedy This Situation

Please remain calm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trouble With a Capital T and A

Cincinnati battled Larry Flynt.
The Queen City took on Robert Mapplethorpe.
We have established, time and again, that that sex stuff belongs in Newport, Kentucky, not in River City.
So how did Kenny Tessel think he would get away with the sex display in front of his business?

You will recall Kenny and his girlfriend BarBe Q from a recent post. Wednesday night, BarBe, dressed in a more modest outfit than her working attire, went before a review board to defend her job. "I ain't a ho or a street walker," she explained, "I can't even walk much. I am a spokesmodel and a classy broad. Kenny has made me an executive."

In some cities BarBe's professional appearance, quiet demeanor and obvious sales skills would have won the board over. But this is Greater Cincinnati. Oh, she gets to continue working the streets, but she must sell only Kenny's ribs and must not display her own
"she must dress more modestly. Her clothing must be 'appropriately sized' so 'nothing can be seen from the side'."
Actually, things were going well for BarBe until some carpet-bagging, out-of-town modest-clothing salesman stood up and said:

"Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a mannequin in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Why sure I'm a barbecue eater,
Certainly mighty proud, I say,
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With some ‘cue in my hand are golden.
With a vinegar-based hot sauce
And a cool beer and homemade pie.
Ever take and try to get
A satisfying meal for yourself
From a topless restaurant?
But just as I say,
It takes wood smoke, brains, and decency to sell
In the barbecue game,
I say that any boob can flash
And pull a man into a shop.
And I call that sloth!
The first big step on the road
To the depths of deg-ra-Day--shun
Friends, the string bikini is the devil's playground!

Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital "T"
That rhymes with "B"
And that stands for boobs!"

So now BarBe will be dressed more appropriately for Cincinnati. At least the t shirt gives her somewhere to wipe the sauce off her fingers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Don' το τ ρωτά don' το τ λέει

There seems to be some debate over whether President Obama is going to have the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on gay soldiers repealed. He hasn't officially said no or yes and he'd prefer you don't inquire.

I don't understand how having gay people in uniform would undermine the mission of our troops but it does seem that NOT having them is, at the very least, hindering our ability to understand the enemy. The biggest loss (for purposes of this blog) to the military has been in the linguist troops.
"The group contends the records show that the military — at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don’t have enough Arabic speakers — is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request."
When did "linguist" become a gay industry? I know "gay" does not equal trans-sexual or trans-gender but I guess it does equal trans-lator.

How is it that there are so few straight translators that losing the gays is devastating to the linguist corps? What is it about being gay that makes one gifted in foreign tongues? Is it a gay career of choice like fashion design, hairdressing or decorating? If Tim Gunn had not gone into fashion would Bravo have created "Project Translate"? Were Isaak Mizrahi's designs successful at target because they "spoke to" the immigrant shopper?

Are all translators gay? Is there some special meaning to "bi-lingual" that I never understood before? My best guy friend, who lives not far from San Francisco, speaks Spanish pretty well; should I wonder about his orientation? Or do the gay linguists speak only Farsi and Arabic? Why not Greek and French?

So many questions that I don't ask and they won't tell me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How Did We Survive?

I just saw a reference to “Greenie Stickum Caps”. I doubt that many of my readers know what those are or appreciate what a technological advancement they were. Before stickum caps arrived, we had the tedious chore of loading a roll of caps into our guns. Mattel gave us the freedom to quickly stick individual caps on our fake bullets, fire away with our revolver – six times – and then peel off the used caps and stick some more on. That special Mattel gun even fired those Mattel plastic shells at a target (I’m sure my target – my sister – remembers).

Parents today don’t buy their kids toy guns because they think it’s a gateway to the real thing. If we hadn’t had toy guns, we would have just used sticks and pretended they were guns, so why not pay Mattel to give us better toys so we could save our imagination for other things?

Kids today are so overprotected. How did we survive? I’m sure you’ve seen that email about how tough the people who grew up in the 40s through 60s were, like this and similar ones like this.

The point of these nostalgic rants is that we rode bikes without helmets, rode in cars without seat belts, jumped off roofs, threw rocks at each other, ate Drano and no one died. It’s true! Have you ever read an email called “We didn’t survive” telling about being thrown from a car or being kidnapped and killed while hitchhiking? No. No one is typing blog entries about having their hands blown off or being blinded by firecrackers or being brain damaged by lead paint. If some kid rode his bike without a helmet and fell off, cracking his head open, THEN he got a helmet. And you don’t hear those drooling morons complaining.

We ate off asbestos plates, smoked unfiltered cigarettes at recess and tattooed ourselves with rusty nails dipped in lead-based ink and we all lived. How did we survive? Harry T. Roman got it right in his blog: (link up above) by being Christians.
“Know what else we survived? Having the Bible read to us in class every morning. It produced no religious zealots, or made us “prissies”. It gave us no guilt complexes, nor long-term hang-ups; and none of us had to have remedial time with the school psychologist. It did make us aware of right and wrong; and very few ax murders, drive-by shootings, or drug binges resulted. No rapes, molestations, or other such behavior.”
That’s right, no one was ever raped until they took prayer out of schools.

We survived without email or internet porn; we made do with the underwear ads in the Sears catalog or with the Playboy magazines that Jimmy found in his dad’s closet. We didn’t have “sexting” and crap like that so there weren’t all these teen pregnancies. Parents didn’t have to waste money on cell phones and such and were able to get kids better stuff; like the time Jimmy’s sister got to go on some year long trip, right before their little sister was born.

I miss those days when we could play with guns unattended while our moms smoked and drank. It didn’t hurt us. We survived. What was I saying? Oh yeah, Greenie Stickum Caps. Brings back Good Times. Let me tell you about how we survived...

To hear more about the things we survived, listen to Bill Cosby. If you can get this site to work, click on “The Playground”
(site may not work well)