In the Middle of an Island, In the Middle of an Ocean…

Earlier this year, scientists said they were almost certain that bones found on a Pacific island in 1940 were those of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. immediately had so much traffic that it crashed for lack of librarians to man the dictionary. People wanted to know what “circumnavigate” meant.

There are, of course, other hypotheses as to what happened to Amelia Earhart. (There are alternate hypotheses for everything anymore.) One of my favorites is the following.

For many years some of the most famous, controversial, and, at times, criminal Americans have been approached by a mysterious man in white. This fellow Roarke asks the person if he/she has had enough. “Enough what?” each person asks.

Roarke walks away but returns to confront the person a few days later. By then the man or woman knows what Roarke is talking about. If the person is famous, “enough” is the hassle of constantly being in the spotlight. If the person is controversial, “enough” consists of constant attacks by individuals and the media. If the person is criminal, “enough” is a growing weariness with trying to elude capture.

So, one day in 1937 Amelia Earhart and her flying companion, Fred Noonan, were in a panic. Blown off course in their quest to cross the Pacific, their plane was flying on fumes with no landing strip in sight, only ocean. Suddenly, Roarke came up the aisle of the aircraft from behind the two, stuck his head between them, and said, “Have you had enough?”

Assuming “enough” meant plenty of the threat of approaching death, they both said, “Yes!” (It’s interesting that neither asked “Where did you come from?” or “How did you get on board?” I’d guess it was the sense of urgency that helped them understand the question.)

“Then turn due north, and I’ll have you down safely in a jif.”

Upon debarking the plane, Earhart and Noonan walked into a lavish reception where they met Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Jimmy Hoffa, D.B. Cooper, Tony Soprano, and members of the Lost Roanoke Colony. (Time doesn’t really come into play on this island. It mostly stands still.)

Most of the residents had to pay Roarke a considerable sum to live on the island, but not Amelia Earhart. She was going to have to work to live there. Roarke needed a more enticing way of getting people from the U.S.A. to the island than paddling a canoe all the way from Los Angeles. Would Amelia consent to live on the island and fly newcomers in from the mainland?

As at least one other hypothesis about her disappearance maintains, Amelia was tired of the hassle occasioned by her fame. Plus, given that time doesn’t work on the island like it does elsewhere, Roarke had a supply of modern planes that far surpassed Amelia’s Lockheed 10-E Electra. She could fly her choice to pick up passengers. “Yes! I’ll work for you!”

Some people wonder how Roarke came to have modern airplanes on the island when no one other than Amelia Earhart has a pilot’s license. Well, Jimmy Hoffa and Tony Soprano may be living on an uncharted Pacific island, but they still have connections. It’s easy – load a plane on a truck, then load it on a boat, then drop it off at the island. Pay all involved to keep their mouths shut.

Amelia, like the others, does not age so long as she’s on the island. It’s only when she’s flying to pick up a passenger that she gets a new wrinkle. (From whence we get the movie, A Wrinkle in Time.) Still, she hardly looks 40-years old. And she loves to hear Fred Noonan say from the control tower as she approaches the runway, “De plane! De plane!”

Of all the hypotheses regarding Amelia’s disappearance, the above is known, obviously, as the “Fantasy Island Hypothesis.”  I can’t wait for the movie!


Grumpy Old Men and Women

I have a friend named Morris who lives in an assisted living facility across town. To describe what kind of a fellow he is, I must tell you that he changed his telephone message for the holidays. It says, “You have reached a number that does not accept felicitations. Keep your Feliz Navidads to yourself!”

If you have seen the movie Grumpy Old Men, the Walter Matthau character was patterned after Morris, only Hollywood cleaned him up a bit. He lives to torment his caregivers, putting sugar on his frosted flakes just to “gross them out.” There is a stash of fake-vomit (the rubber kind) in his closet that he strategically places in the hallway. And when people tell him he’s not politically correct, he argues that he is. If he had been the producer, the movie would be named Grumpy old Men and Women.

He also uses reverse elderspeak. If a dining room worker has an accident, he says, “Did we drop the tray of dishes, Dearie?” Or if he notices that one of the rooms is suddenly vacant, he stops by the administrator’s office and says, “Honey, did the staff kill off another resident last night? We need to stop doing that with paying customers.”

Morris was complaining the other day about Christmas music. His opinion is that there haven’t been any good Christmas songs since Eartha Kitt recorded “Santa Baby” Click Here in 1953. He basically likes Christmas carols, which were released centuries ago, but disc jockeys don’t play them as much on the radio as they do secular Christmas songs.

I don’t know much about Christmas music, but I got online. The forties and fifties were obviously great contributors to what has been heard on the radio ever since, but I only had to beat 1953 to prove Morris wrong.  “Morris, ‘Little Drummer Boy’ was released in 1958 and ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’ in 1962.”

“Can’t hear you!” he yelled. “Nothing good since ‘Santa Baby.’”

“Then how about ‘Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,’ 1964?

Naw, I never liked Burl Ives.

“You should. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas, you look more like him every year. Must be all that eggnog.”

“I never said I didn’t like Christmas.” Morris sighed deeply, “I just don’t appreciate most of what passes as Christmas music around here. And they play it in the dining room all month.”

“MOST of what passes? I thought you said there hadn’t been ANY good Christmas music since ‘Santa Baby.’”

“There might have been a couple of songs that I didn’t hate, but none of it’s any good.”

“Like what?”

“I forget.”

“You forget? Well, I haven’t forgotten. Last year you told me that you liked ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.’”

“I do like the story; still, Eartha Kitt rules.”

I looked at my screen. “Wait a minute. I’ve heard this song before but not often. It’s got a lot better story than ‘Santa Baby.’ It’s called, ‘Mary’s Boy Child/Oh my Lord,’  Click Here   by a group named Boney M.”

We sat in the common area of the second floor listening to the song. Three ladies got off the elevator and as they walked by, they broke into dance, at least a little bit.

“I hate it when they do that,” Morris said.

“But it’s got a beat to it, doesn’t it?”

“The only Boney M I know is Boney Maroni. Who are these people?”

I flipped to a Wikipedia page. “It says they’re a Euro-Caribbean group created by a German record producer.”

“Germany should have never switched to the euro.”

“So some believe.”

“I can hear the Caribbean sound. Thought it might have something to do with Jimmy Buffet. But Germans do pretty good with Christmas carols.”

“Do you like it? Is ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ any good?”

“Is it new?” he asked.

“No. It’s been out for years in Europe, since maybe the seventies.”

“Then I don’t like it.”

“Why not?”

“One of the jobs we elderly have is griping about the way things are today. If I found something I liked from as recently as the seventies, I wouldn’t doing my job.”

“Which is?”

“Griping that there haven’t been any good Christmas songs released since 1953, ‘Santa Baby.’”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T or There May Be Consequences!

Suppose that in the next few years a group of younger adults, say 20ish to 40ish, gets the chance to visit the Formerly Famous Persons’ Assisted Living Facility. They visit during the evening meal.

In the dining room they immediately see Shirley McClaine (presently 84), Willie Nelson (now 85), Gene Hackman (now 88), Jack Nicholson (now 81), Clint Eastwood (presently 88), Maggie Smith (now 83), Judy Dench (presently 83), Arnold Schwarzenegger (presently 71), and Hulk Hogan (65 and aging fast).

This is a selected group of visiting adults. Each won a contest, and each gets to dine at a private table with one of the formerly famous. But what happens is this: each one of the formerly famous has a mishap during dinner. Coffee is spilled on the table or food falls off a fork or a spoon drops to the floor. That sort of thing.

So, if these visitors talk to them like some people speak to the residents at the NOT Formerly Famous Person’s Assisted Living Digs, they might say something like the following.

To Willie Nelson: “Did you have a nice day, Mr. Willie? We did, didn’t we? But we look tired? We mustn’t forget to take our vitamins every morning and evening.” Not only does he leave the table, but he goes outside, and as he boards a tour bus, he’s singing, “On the road again!”

To Shirley McClain: “Uh oh Shirley, that’s such a nice pink blouse. Maybe we should put a bib on to keep it clean. You agree, right? It’s hard to keep food on our fork.” Shirley, who believes in reincarnation, not only slaps the visitor, but tells her she’s going to slap her again in her next life, only she won’t know it’s her.

To Jack Nicholson: “I’ve seen you in that movie, Bucket List. Not when it originally came out – I don’t think I was born then – but I’ve seen it on TV or Netflix. And we all saw you shuffle in here a few minutes ago. Walking like that, we do need a Bucket List, don’t we? Déjà vu, huh?” Jack chases the visitor down the hall with an axe that he produces from under the table. Even though the young man hides in an empty room, he knocks a hole in the door, sticks his head in, and says, “Here’s Johnnie!”

To Arnold Scharzenegger: “Look, buddy, we really do need to eat our vegetables. We eat way too many protein bars, don’t we? Yes we do. Admit it.” Arnold throws the young man across the room where he lands on his back and can’t get up. Then he says, “I’ll be back…just as soon as I take a nap.”

To Hulk Hogan: “Hulkie, honey, let’s be careful. We’re getting bread crumbs all over our lap and on the floor.” He then tries to twist this person into a crescent roll.

To Judy Dench: “Can I help you cut your meat. We girls so need our protein at your age.” Dench then gives a line from one of her James Bond movies, “How the hell did you find out where I live?”

To Clint Eastwood: “Ooh, let’s be careful with our coffee, dearie. It’s really hot! We could scald ourselves.” He doesn’t say, “Make my day.” The last words the visitor hears are, “You’ve MADE my day, dearie!”

To Gene Hackman: “Now, hon, are you ready for dessert? You are, aren’t you?” He says, “I’m not your hon, but if you say one more word, I’m going to become Attila the Hun!”

To Maggie Smith: “We’ve hardly eaten anything. Come on, don’t be so contrary. Take a bite.” She gives a line from Downton Abbey in return, “I’m a woman. I can be as CONTRARY as I want to be.”

The above are several examples of what is now called “elderspeak.” Experts urge us not to talk this way to anyone or to let them talk this way to us. It is demeaning. It assumes that the older adult is dependent, frail, weak, incompetent, childlike, AND suffers from memory problems, hearing problems, and energy problems. It also assumes that the speaker has greater control, power, value, wisdom, and knowledge. Some of which is true, no doubt, but NONE OF US WANTS TO HEAR IT!!!

Studies show that when older adults are exposed to elderspeak, their performance levels on various tasks decrease and their rates of depression increase. Even people with moderate to severe dementia can tell when people are speaking down to them, and it causes them to be CONTRARY.

Features of elderspeak include speaking slowly, speaking loudly, using a sing-song voice, inflecting statements so that they sound like a question, using “we,” “us,” and “our” instead of “you”, using pet names like “sweetheart” or “hon,” shortening sentences, simplifying vocabulary, and answering the question for the elderly person. In other words, talking to the elderly as though they are BABIES!

Treat the elderly with respect. The other day I stopped by to visit a friend of mine who has Parkinson’s and a bit of dementia. He’s in a care unit that has a lock on the entry door so the patients, most of whom are still in enough of their right mind, won’t run away. The caregivers were new and didn’t recognize me. After they buzzed me in, I said, “I’m Detective Johnson, here to take Don Harrison into custody.”

There were five or six young female caregivers gathered in the entryway. I wish my garage door opened as fast as their eyelids flew up. Their eyes were as large as saucers and their jaws were halfway to the floor as I walked by and headed toward Don’s room. I said, but not too loudly, “Just kidding.”

After my visit, I came back out to the unit’s entrance. All the caregivers were looking at me with smiles. I said, “I forgot my handcuffs, and Don won’t go peaceably. I’m going to have to leave him with you for now. You  treat him with respect. You know, don’t you, that he’s connected.” And he is connected to an oxygen tank, but it’s alright for them to wonder if I meant the mafia.



Frankenfruit for Christmas?

Tis the Season, and one of the last things that I associate with Christmas is the giving of fruit. (The rest of the year, we throw it at each other. Christmas truce, or rearmament?) Pears from Harry & David, pineapples from Don & Ho, and who knows what all from Butch & Sundance, Thelma & Louise, Penn & Teller.

I, too, have decided to start my own specialty fruit company. I’m focusing on the new hybrids, or what some people call frankenfruit. The Wise Men gave frankincense; thanks to me, Wise Acres will now be able to give frankenfruit.

This, of course, is not my first venture into hybrids. One time I crossed a parrot with a homing pigeon. My thinking was that if the bird got lost, it could ask directions. Turned out that the females asked directions just fine. The males never would.

By the way, what do you get when you cross a mime with an autumn yard-cleaning implement? A silent leaf blower. Mine didn’t work, though. It screamed at the leaves like a blowhard.

My new business venture won’t be up and running this Christmas season – don’t send in any orders for 2018 – but I hope to be by Christmas of 2019. Presently, I’m working on details such as my product line. I have the following in mind:

Plumcots – half plum and half apricot.

Apriums – more apricot than plum.

Pluots – more plum than apricot.

NectaPlums –  plum crazy.

Peacotum – peach-apricot-plum.

Pluerry – plum-cherry. Much different from cherry tomatoes, which aren’t even hybrids.

The above you can also get elsewhere. Exclusively, I will be selling the following:

AppleFrapple – a shaved fruit specifically designed for the frappucino conscious. A jillion less calories than in the frappucinos from Starbucks or McDonalds.

Girls&Boysenberries – the first gender-equality fruit.

BananaVanna – bananas in the shape of vowels. A,E,I,O,U, and sometimes Y not order another box? They are wonderful!

MindYourElderberries – a terrible tasting hybrid. Got unruly kids or grandkids? Make them eat a bowlful of these for punishment. They’ll straighten up.

StuffedGooseberries – for those on a diet when Christmas rolls around.  A handful of these instead of the Christmas goose can make all the difference in diet success. Of course, it depends on what Igor, my horticulturist, stuffs them with. Just for fun he likes to sneak in M&M’s.

MangoTangO – mango-tangerine-orange. The taste will have you out on the kitchen floor dancing!

LemonPersimmon – for those who like to pucker up, Buttercup. One may also try our SourPusses – a cross between a lemon and a cat. If cats aren’t your thing, how about a CollieFlower? Sorry, I have digressed into the kingdom of vegetables. That product line will have to wait.

As soon as I develop my frankenfruit product line, the bankers are making me file a business plan. I hate it when that happens. But before I do, I’m going to have to come up with a name for my company. My wife refuses to have anything to do with it, so I’m thinking of Frank ‘n Stein or Boris & Karloff or even Dew y Johnson, which I think would work well with orders from Mexico. It has certainly worked for bananas by Chick y Ta.

Watch for my catalog, however it turns out.




Who Were Those Old People?

Last week I taught a class from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. that involved my going west across the river. After sticking around for conversation and refreshments, it was 8:30 p.m. when I headed home. Dark. Cold.

I chose not to fight the maze of orange wooden blockades, orange barrels, and orange traffic cones driving back across the Rio Grande River on I-40. Instead, I returned home the rectangular way. North on Coors, east on Montano, south on 4th, and west on Griegos.

The stretch of Griegos that I drove along wasn’t depicted in the series Breaking Bad, at least I don’t think. But it was the darkest stretch of my drive home by far. The houses along Griegos are old but well-maintained, with elm trees and fences and court yards around them. There are no dead crows hanging from exposed vigas, but nor are there any signs that say, “Walk Right Up To The Front Door And Knock.”

An elderly fellow one time told me that when he was growing up in New Mexico, a person needed to be careful about approaching a house.  He liked the practice of calling out “Hello, the house!” He’d seen people who jumped down from their wagon or who exited their car too quickly get shot before they made it to the front door. Homeowners had the right to shoot you in times past, and some practices die hard. He advised me to be careful when walking up to a house. The least the owners might do is sic their pit bulls on me.

So, I’m driving along Griegos, which is a two-lane street, speed limit 35 or so, when I see amber taillights blinking on the right-hand side of the road ahead. As I then drove by the car, the driver’s door opened, and the interior lights revealed a young lady in jeans and a jacket doing her best to flag me down.

Whoever she was, she too did not feel comfortable walking up to one of the front doors on Griegos in the hopes of help. I pulled to a stop. It was so dark that I could hardly see the outline of her car behind mine. But suddenly she opened my door and asked if I had jumper cables. Her car had died. She hadn’t run out of gas; she had a quarter of a tank. She didn’t need gas. She needed a jump.

My jumper cables were in my older car, and so I had to go home and fetch them. When I arrived at home, I told my wife Cheri that the girl needed help. Cheri, then,  decided that she was coming with me, and I knew why. If it was an ambush and people were waiting to knock me in the head and steal my money and jumper cables, somehow her presence would prevent them from doing so. I didn’t know exactly how Cheri was going to protect me from such treatment, but I appreciated the company.

The young lady knew how to jump a battery. I hardly had the hood up before she had all the terminals connected. But after several tries, it was clear that a jump wasn’t going to help. What to do?

We asked if we could give her a ride home. No, she lived in the South Valley. She didn’t want us to have to drive that far. Her cellphone was dead, so she asked if she could borrow mine to phone her dad. I don’t always remember to carry a cellphone – Cheri never does – but I found it in a pocket and gave it to her.

This is what she told her father: “The car died, and this old couple picked me up. Can you come get me at the Walgreen’s at Rio Grande and Central?”

He could, and so we were off to Walgreen’s. Cheri and I were concerned, though. We thought maybe that the young lady was on drugs because she mentioned this “old couple” who had picked her up. We were the only ones in the car and had no idea who she was talking about.

Walgreen’s was more than five minutes away. We talked to her as we drove along, partly in an effort to determine if her mind was unimpaired. She had graduated from Del Norte High School back when it still looked like a high school. Now it looks like an office building. She was right about that.

She told us that she had recently given birth to a baby. In fact, the reason she was out that night was to meet the father and get her child support, which she had done. She said nothing else and did nothing else that made us think she was on drugs. Still, she had told her father that she had been picked up by an “old couple.”

Further evidence that she wasn’t on drugs was that when we got to Walgreen’s, she agreed to wait in the car with us rather than go inside to wait. I’ve been in that Walgreen’s late at night. It’s spooky even without the Halloween decorations. We waited ten minutes in the parking lot, then her father came driving up. She said, “Thank you,” jumped out the backseat, and was gone.

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. Cheri and I don’t have many adventures, and so we’re thankful that we had at least this one. Her car was gone the next day. I guess someone in her family got it running. And she was a nice young lady to talk with, even though we still can’t figure out who the “old couple” was. My suspicion is that she’s like the young character played by Haley Joel Osment in the movie The Sixth Sense. He said, “I see dead people.” Maybe she’s sees old people that we don’t. We’ll never know.


My, How the Mighty Has Fallen.

After more than a half century of being America’s favorite apple, the Red Delicious has fallen from the Tree of Popularity.

As the end of 2018 rolls around, the Gala will officially be Number One. The Red Delicious will be #2, Granny Smith #3, Fuji #4, and Honeycrisp #5. There are more than 7000 varieties of apples, but I’ll stop the countdown with the top five.

Proof that America is now willing to pay more for crunchier, crisper, and sweeter apples is that the Honeycrisp is expected to rise from #5 to #1 in a decade. This according to those who know about things like horticulture and what make Gallup Polls gallop. According also to those who know that a Honeycrisp can cost three times what a Red Delicious does.

All of this was quite a shock to me. I knew that you’d better eat a Red Delicious when it’s at its ripest else it can go mushy and bland on you in a minute; still, I never expected its popularity to be overthrown by apples that are merely reddish.

The Red Delicious is RED. It’s what the inventors of the color “candy apple red” had in mind as they worked late in their laboratory. “Igor, stop eating the apples! I need them to compare to my paint.”

This switch to the merely reddish Gala as #1 produces problems. The one thing that all Christian denominations believe is that Eve gave Adam a Red Delicious. He could only be tempted by forbidden fruit with a great paint job. And now the most popular is paint-peeling Gala? The Gala, like the Fuji and Honeycrisp, is nothing but a paint-peeling apple revealing a greenish-yellow coat underneath.

And the Granny Smith? Let me just say that Roger Miller had it right when he sang, “God didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.” Every time I have a slice of pie made with green Granny Smiths, I say, “The devil made me do it.”

Walt Disney made the first feature-length cartoon having sound and color. What color was the apple? Bright red. When you’re going to poison someone, you do it with the most tempting apple imaginable. The Wicked Queen gave Snow White a robust Red Delicious, not a gimpy Gala.

And what did Johnny Appleseed plant? Orchard after orchard of Red Delicious. Any other variety wasn’t worthy of his passion. And so now we find out that it’s okay for America to bypass all of Johnny’s orchards and keep driving down the road to Granny Smith’s house for a Gala event? Mapquest can’t even give us a route.

The Apple of My Eye refers to that which we cherish. And for more than fifty years America has cherished the Red Delicious. Now we’re going to discard this grand old apple with no more shame than we discarded the Macarena, pet rocks, bell-bottoms, maxiskirts, and disco. We are a fickle bunch.

We say that something is American as baseball, hot dogs, motherhood and apple pie. What are we going to say now? It’s as “American as baseball, hot dogs, significant others, and apples from Mount Fuji”?

The Big Apple icon is a Red Delicious, not just reddish. I guess they’ll change the lyrics of the song to, “If I can make it there-ish I can make it anywhere-ish. It’s up to you New Yorkish, New Yorkish.”

Worms, of course, find anything less than a Red Delicious hardly worthy of their time, and school teachers are going to be terrible disappointed when little Johnny brings a paint-peeling Gala to school and places it on her desk.

I am so tired of everything changing, changing, changing.

It’s just one change after another anymore. Yet, if An apple a day keeps the doctor away, I might become a bit healthier. I really do like these Honeycrisps. Crisp, with a balanced sweetness and acidity, I imagine the taste is what Eve had in mind all along.


I Like Standard Time So Much, I Think I’ll Just Stay On It.

It’s hard to remember. This Sunday, November 4, do we fall back into last year’s tired old arguments in favor of or against Daylight Savings Time? Or do we fall forward into what seem like new arguments, but really aren’t because everything that can be said has been said? Fall back or fall forward? Given the dangers of us older folk falling, it seems like we’d remember.

Not everyone has to remember whether to fall back or fall forward. It is said that less than 40% of the countries of the world use Daylight Saving Time today. 107 countries have never used DST, and of the 142 countries that have tried it, 67 have stopped and gone back to Standard Time all year long. This leaves only 75 countries presently using DST. (Which to me seems like 30% of the world’s countries, but then my handheld calculator fell back off my desk, or maybe it fell forward, and may not be accurate.)

I get up early enough that it’s dark no matter which time we’re using. But if I was still in elementary school, I don’t think I’d like to be trekking to school in the dark, which many kids do in the fall up until the first Monday of November when we change to Standard Time. Symbolically, still in the dark is not a good way to carry your homework to school.

If you are for Standard Time all year long, you can sing the following ode to the tune of “Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone!” Ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone. At least not much in the early morn, ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone, and you’re always gone too long, anytime you go away. And you’d have a point. Standard Time abandons us for roughly 7.5 months per year. Presently, we only have 4.5 months of Standard Time.

If you are in favor of keeping Daylight Savings Time, you can sing along with the Beach Geezers to the tune of “California Girls,” The West Coast has evening sunshine, and the golfers get so tan. I dig an eagle and a birdie not a bogey on the holey and staying out of the sand. And you’d also have a point. We don’t save any time with DST, we just whack an hour down the fairway so that people who work have a chance to recreate of an evening.

I prefer Standard Time all year long mainly because the switch to DST in the spring messes with my body clock. I have a very sensitive circadian, and the loss of that one hour of sleep makes me tired for the rest of the year. The condition is called ACRC, Acute Circadian Rhythm Chaos. The switch back to Standard Time this Sunday won’t even help. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature by pretending that seven o’clock is six o’clock.

Some polls show that as many as 74% of Americans want to drop DST. But I don’t expect any action from Washington or from the NM State Legislature, which, like Arizona, could opt out of DST if they wanted to.

Politics won’t settle the issue. We’re a nation of individuals, so let’s choose which one we like and stick with it. The waitress asks which I want, “Red or Green?” referring to chili on my enchiladas. The barista asks if I want room or not, referring to cream or milk in my coffee. The receptionist at the dentist office asks if I want to settle up now or should she bill me. Why not people who ask me what time I’m on, Standard only or a Standard/DST blend?

When America went to DST in 1966, my grandfather’s brother – we called him Uncle Alfred – refused to go along. For the rest of his life he lived on Standard Time. The stores were generally open no matter what time he went, and if church was letting out when he arrived, well, he didn’t like the preacher anyway. And I once observed a practical method that can be adopted to deal with individuals who decide for themselves which they’re going to observe, Standard only or a Standard/DST blend.

I had taken my mother to an appointment with a doctor in Lubbock – Texas being in the Central Time Zone. She lived in Roswell – New Mexico being in the Mountain Time Zone. Lots of people from Eastern New Mexico go to Lubbock for the hospital or doctors. As I sat in the waiting room, I heard the receptionist say to a patient who had called in by phone, “Your appointment is at 10:00 a.m., but where are you coming from? New Mexico? Then your appointment is at 9:00 a.m. your time.” She said it time after time, clearly stating both Mountain Time and Central Time.

We can do the same thing with Standard Time only and a Standard/DST blend. For 4.5 months they’re the same, no problem, but even after other people switch in March to DST, things will work out. If I stay on Standard Time and decide to stop at a 7-11 Store, I just need to remember that for 7.5 months of the year it’s an 8-12 store.

Or is it a 6-10 store? It’s hard to keep these things straight, but it’s the price one pays of not trying to fool Mother Nature.






Sailors Cussing Like Schoolgirls.

Given the way things are today, it’s hard to believe that Rhett Butler’s saying, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” to Scarlett O’Hara in the movie Gone With the Wind was considered scandalous at the time (1939). Censors objected initially because “damn” was a word prohibited by the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code even though it had often been mouthed in silent pictures earlier. (Before talkies, actors and actresses got away with a lot! Imagine the asides.)

But a month and a half prior to the film’s release, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America passed an amendment to the Production Code that permitted the words “hell” or “damn” when their use “shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore…or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.”

I think that the amendment made sense. Let’s be realistic. When a guy accidentally hits his thumb with a hammer, he doesn’t grit his teeth and say, “Gee Willakers, Mr. Hammer! That really hurt!” Or when a guy dumps his ladyfriend over dinner in a nice restaurant, she doesn’t say, “You are not a nice person! For treating me like dirt, you can just pay the bill yourself.”

There are many scenarios in movies that call for stronger language than “Oh, fiddlesticks!” but I see no “proper historical context” for the unrelieved use of the F-word. And it’s everywhere you listen anymore. I hear young ladies and older ladies and in-between ladies F-bomb supermarkets, drug stores, schools, and parking lots. Same with men, although their voices are lower and don’t carry as far. I hear it on TV without ceasing, especially on Netflix. It’s either Netflix of Amazon Prime that holds the current record of a character saying the F-word sixty-five times in what would have been a mere ten words of dialogue.

It’s so omnipresent in our culture that even the French are saying, “Excuse my English.”

Netflix is in the process of opening a new production studio in Albuquerque. I can just see the banners hanging from the buildings in a few weeks, “Netflix Studios! We’re F*ing Open!”

Not everyone is offended, of course. Lots of people, including a number of psychologists, are of the opinion that cursing has benefits. Richard Stephens, a psychology lecturer at Keele University in the UK,  studied the analgesic benefit of cursing by having students immerse their hands in ice water for as long as they could bear. First, they repeated a curse of their choice; then they said an innocuous word.

The result: “When they swore, they were better able to tolerate pain,” says Stephens, who also noted an adrenaline rush. “Swearing increases the heart rate and sets off the body’s flight-or-fight response.”

If this is true, I support swearing at the dentist’s office, although it’s hard to yell out a really good pain reliever with the drill in your mouth. Or at any doctor’s office. The doc says, “This is going to hurt a little bit.” The patient says, “Then wait a second. $#@*! $#@*! $#@*! Okay, now I’m ready.” At that point the patient can better bear it or run away faster.

You can find all sorts of opinions online about profanity. Some people say swearing keeps you healthier than a flu shot. Others say a dirty mouth is a breeding ground for a sick life.  Some say that with over 200,000 words in the English language, using so few profane words over and over shows a lack of imagination. Others say, “But profane words are such good words for making your point!”

On and on it goes. But Richard Stephens (above) then found that people who cursed excessively – up to sixty times per day – didn’t get any pain relief from it because the emotional response in the brain weakens after repeated exposure.  And a University of Arizona study determined that other people don’t care as much for people who swear as they do for people who are more moderate in their speech.

There you have it. It’s a scientific fact that some people don’t like to be around foul-mouthed people, even around characters on their TV sets.

I have read that women, at least some, stop using the F-word when they become parents. Don’t want their kids to hear it. One young lady claims that she quit after saying, “I’m so f-ing happy for you two!” in a wedding toast recorded on video for posterity. Even so, I expect there are sailors out there who for a long time yet will be able to cuss like a schoolgirl.

Why I Don’t go to the Movies Like I Used to.

I have gone to the movies more so than most people even if not so much lately. My folks didn’t have air conditioning when I was a toddler, but the movies did, and so they treated me on occasion to air-conditioned comfort. I’m still upset about what happened to Bambi’s mother.

And then there was the most wonderful six-weeks of my life! When I was in junior high, the civic-minded owner of both Roswell movie theaters offered an inducement to all us schoolkids. If we made the honor roll at the end of the six weeks, he would give us a free pass to any and all movies for the next six-weeks grading period!

I studied hard and got me a free pass and knew exactly how to use it. Movie theaters were big into double features back then. On Saturdays I’d go to the double feature beginning at the Plains Theater at 1:00p.m., get out and run down the alley to the Yucca Theater, where I was just in time to catch the double feature beginning at 5:00p.m. Home by around 9:30. I went with a number of friends, some of whom had made the honor roll, some who hadn’t.

I had a racket going. Four movies per Saturday for six straight Saturdays, twenty-four movies for free! I knew that I was going to make the honor roll again, and so I looked forward to running up the tally to forty-eight movies over twelve straight Saturdays. Unfortunately, the movie theater owner did not extend his civic mindedness for another six weeks. No more passes. If we made the honor roll, we had to do so of our own initiative.

And then for many years I used movie clips as illustrations for sermons. I went regularly to the movies, took notes to remind myself of what happened and how, and when I needed an illustration I rented a tape or DVD of the movie. I called Jay Thomas, a friend who was a videographer, and he extracted the illustration in a form that could be put on the screen at church. Jay and I had an assembly line going.

All good things, though, come to an end. In retirement I don’t need sermon illustrations, but what has surprised me is that I’ve stopped going to the movies much at all. At first I thought that maybe the researchers were right. People stay home and watch Netflix or Amazon Prime. And I do that a bit, but with me one of the benefits of going to a movie theater is getting out of one’s house and forgetting one’s life for a couple of hours. I don’t get that from Netflix.

So, why wasn’t I going to the movies like I used to? My wife and I figured it out. There’s nothing much showing that we care to pay to go see. Or see even if we had a free pass. Here are some of the teasers from the movie listings in Friday’s paper.

A Happening of Monumental Proportions. “Administrators at an elementary school scramble to hide a dead body from students and parents on Career Day.” I saw this years ago when the name was Weekend at Bernie’s.

The Meg.  “A massive creature attacks a deep-sea submersible leaving it disabled and trapping the crew at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.” I saw this back when I had a free pass and was watching four movies/Saturday. It was called Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It’s been done to a watery death on the ocean bottom.

Peppermint. “After surviving a brutal attack that killed her husband and daughter, Riley transforms herself into an urban guerrilla to deliver her own personal brand of punishment.” Jennifer Garner is now playing the role made famous by Charles Bronson in the original Death Wish? Sat there, seen it.

Papillon. “Henri ‘Papillon’ Charrièe forms an alliance with a fellow prisoner to escape from Devil’s Island”. I don’t recognize the name of the actor in the leading role, but I saw the original with Steve McQueen. Like James Bond movies, Hollywood can’t improve on anything with Steve McQueen in the original.

Life Itself. “College sweethearts Abby and Will fall in love, get married and prepare to bring their first child into the world.” I feel sorry for parents who bring children into a world that has such a limited selection of movies. But not sorry enough to support them.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Be still my heart, more dinosaurs.

 The Predator. “The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter, and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with new DNA.”  To find out the makeup of the new DNA is tempting, but I don’t think so.

Venom. “Journalist Eddie Brock develops superhuman strength and power when his body merges with the alien Venom.” Sounds like pouring money down a snake pit.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. “Best friends Sonny and Sam meet Slappy, a mischievous dummy who brings his ghoulish friends back to life.” I just hate it when dummies do that.

Incredibles 2. “Elastigirl springs into action to battle a cybercriminal who plans to hypnotize the world through computer screens.” Isn’t the world already hypnotized by computer screens? I can’t believe that Craig Nelson and Holly Hunter provide the voices for this, but I keep reading that social security isn’t enough. We senior citizens need to keep working.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t go to the movies that much anymore because there aren’t that many stories that interest me. But there are a few, so I keep reading the reviews.

That was fun, Granddaddy! Let’s do it again!

I took one of my two three-year old grandsons to the park the other day. I can walk there from my house, as can he, but I didn’t think he could carry me home if I pooped-out from all the swinging and sliding. I drove us there.

It’s not a very big park. There’s a grassy area for people to walk their dogs or toss a ball, and there’s a sandy area encompassing both an industrial-sized swing set and a slide. And as you may know, slides nowadays are structures consisting of steps and ladders of various sorts that kids ascend to a platform at the top.

The platform atop this particular slide isn’t as large as several others that this three-year old grandson frequents, but it is large enough to accommodate two side-by-side taller slides, and then a couple of steps down, two shorter side-by-side slides. He wasn’t interested in the shorter two slides but climbed immediately to one of the taller slides.

He didn’t go down, though. He just sat there, which is how he entertains himself so often. He waits to see what Granddad’s going to do in response to his just sitting there saying and doing nothing. My desperation thrills him to no end.

I urged him to slide down. He didn’t move. “Come on, you can do it!” He didn’t say anything. Thinking that he was intimidated by the height of the slide – I don’t know what a three-year old can do or not do – I climbed up and attempted to sit down at the top of the slide next to his, which required some doing. Slides nowadays are not necessarily open at the top. Oftentimes, you have to squeeze through an opening in a metal partition to begin your slide down.

Back when I was a kid, slides were simply slides. Kids climbed the ladder, stood at the top – “Look at me! I’m king of the mountain!” –  and if they were older and capable of doing so, even ran down the slide at times. Nowadays, you can’t do that because of the metal partition that is part of the structure. Little kids can easily get through the opening, but larger granddads have a harder time.

I plopped down on the platform, stuck my feet through the slide opening, leaned backward, twisted my head to the side, and pulled myself through the opening so I’d be sitting next to my grandson. What I didn’t realize was that I had on my “slickery” pants. Before I could right myself to a sitting position, surprise, surprise! I was on my way down the slide on my back!

And did I mention that the slide didn’t go straight down? It curved and leveled off at the bottom for a length until it ended only a foot or so from the ground. No way could a granddad zipping down the slide on his back possibly bend his knees to stop.

Thank goodness no one else was around to see me flying above the sand at a speed greater than the posted speed limit on nearby streets. Had an aspiring film maker taken a video with his/her camera, I would have set the record for hits on U-Tube.

I can’t believe how far I traveled! He flies through the air with the greatest of glide, the gallant grandad who just came off the slide. I felt as if I were riding in one of those anti-gravity landspeeders from a Star Wars movie, only I was on my own. I didn’t stop until my feet jammed into the concrete curbing that separated the sandy part of the park from the grassy part. And then I landed with a thud on my back.

As I lay there trying to figure out if I’d broken anything, my grandson shouted from atop the slide, “That was fun, Granddaddy Dewey! Let’s do it again!” Let’s? Let’s! Then he slid down, jumped off the slide, and tackled me as I was getting up because I was so much fun to be around.

I told him that I was through sliding for the day, but he should continue.

And he did, but he refused to take the steps or a ladder back to the top, preferring to try to climb up the slide itself to the platform. And he did a good job until the slide became very steep toward the top. Then he wanted me to reach up and push him to where he could reach the platform, which I did so many times – “Let’s do it again, Granddaddy Dewey!” – that my shoulders refused to move in that direction any more.

But I had an idea. I climbed to the top of the ladder, lay down on the platform and extended my arm through the opening and down the slide. If he could climb high enough to grab my hand, I’d pull him up.

He climbed high enough that he could just barely reach my hand. I grabbed it and pulled him up almost to the top, but then said, “Oh my gosh! My hand’s slipping! I can’t hold you any longer!” And with that, I let him slide down on his stomach as he looked up at me with a look of either terror or horror, I couldn’t tell which, on his face.

He was okay when he hit the ground feet first, and even though I thought it was time to move on to something else or go home, he smiled, clapped his hands and uttered those dreaded words, “That was fun, Granddaddy Dewey! Let’s do it again!” And so for the next eight hours, it seemed, I uttered the words, “Is he going to make it to the top this time? I think so…But no, I can’t hold on!” And so time after time he gleefully went down the slide on his stomach.

I attribute this memorable day at the park to my “slickery pants”, which I didn’t know I had on. After all, it had been more than sixty years since slickery pants were an important part of my life. I always tried to wear a pair if I knew that my elementary school class was going to have recess on the playground. All us boys did. The teacher called them our “shiney hiney” pants.

But back in those days our slide went straight down at such an angle that a kid could easily bend his knees and come to a stop at the bottom. No way could we have glided across the playground as though we had hitched a ride on a magic carpet.