Wednesday, July 23, 2014

gentlemen, please

My cousin Percy will be coming to visit the States this summer. Perceival J. Thudbury, Viscount Lord Duke of Slackenshire. "Lord Percy", his chums call him. 

Lord Percy lives across the Pond, you know, that's what the Brits call the Atlantic Ocean. He didn't want to arrive for Independence Day. Percy gets kind of skittish when the conversation turns to whom we are celebrating independence from. The course of human events, you know.
Lord Percy is a gentleman's gentleman, of course. His title requires that he keep up the appearances - polo ponies, fox hounds, livery (I think livery is a sausage, similar to a Banger). One never knows when Prince William will drop by for tea. He always keeps a few crumpets in the larder at Thudbury Castle just for such an occasion. 

Well, I'm planning a real Royal Welcome to show him that we Americans are not all those back-slapping, beer-swilling, loud, friendly, gun-toting John Goodman type characters you see in American movies. We have our gentlemen, too, and I'm going to prove it to His Lordship.  

There's a place I'd like to show him. I saw it from the bus on the way to work. (Yes, Percy, we take the bus here in the USA, too. Although most of them don't have the Upper Deck).  One visit to this place should show him once and for all that we also have gentlemen in the US. Why, yes, Your Lordship, here is where our gentlemen congregate in Milwaukee. There are enough gentlemen, in fact, that they have formed a Gentlemen's Club, and on occasion guests are welcome.

Imagine, a place where a Gentleman can feel at home. I've never been inside, but I'm sure that this club is just overflowing with politeness and Gentility. At every doorway the gentlemen tipping their tophats, "No, after you"  "No, please, after YOU" "Rather.  I INSIST". 

And surely, the gentlemen are all queuing up in the pump room, in their top-hats, adjusting their monacles, and quaffing ales while exchanging pleasantries about the weather, and relating tales from the last fox-hunt. "Tally ho, old sport!"

I didn't have time to visit the Gentlemen's Club in advance, to check it out (I have to stand in queue this week to renew my concealed carry permit).  So I rang them up (called them on the telephone).  I talked to the owner, who said his name was Seymour Heine. Fine German gent, you'd expect that in Milwaukee the Germans will lead the way to gentlemanliness, home of the Beer Barons, and all. He said of course there was a "cover charge". Certainly it's gracious, though, for them to extend temporary memberships to gentlemen and their guests - collecting a few token shillings at the door to keep out the commoners. Bully strategy, that.

And, besides the camaraderie of being with other gentlemen, the Club furnishes entertainment - folk dancing! Some of the finest dancers from Eastern Europe will present their routines. In the main hall, the Pole Dancers step through the traditional Eastern European dances of Poland.  And then, in the annex, the best of Scandinavia. Seymour said you'd have to pay more to see a Lapp Dance. No doubt the colorful costumes that Laplanders wear for their dances are quite costly, or quite dear as Lord Percy would say. But how often does my old chum visit?  Nothing too good for his Lordship on his occasional visit. I'm sure everything will be just as smashing as Seymour described it. I can't wait for our Gentlemen's Night Out.  Percy will be so surprised...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


The "4th of July" Parade - Independence Day. Childhood memories, family traditions, and perhaps a quiet moment of patriotic reflection - examining the ideal and renewing our responsibility, because liberty is a constantly created privilege, and not an entitlement. It is a delicate balance not maintained by trampling on the liberties of others. "I pledge not to take yours, and you will certainly not take mine."  

Or as General John Stark, a revolutionary general from New Hampshire put it: “Live Free or Die. Death is not the worst of evils.” 

Here's a take on our annual Independence Day Parade, set to excerpts from one of my favorite compositions "Night Passage" by Kamran Ince. I was trying out a new version of my favorite video editor "Power Director 12" by LG. I highly recommend it, it's versatile, and inexpensive - Power Director gets the most from your computer.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chariot of the Damned (damnatorum quadrigae)

I was still getting over last Wednesday's bus ride home from Downtown.  You know, the one where the bus is SRO, mostly due to the selfish people who believe that their backpacks have a right to a free separate seat, to allow their hands free to flick their fingers at their cell phones. And then a guy and three ladies get on.  He looks like the fat guy from Hangover, and he's joking loudly with the ladies, who are trying to get him to control himself. So, encouraged by all their negative attention, he starts singing West Side Story - the whole thing.  He doesn't sing that well, but he's very loud.  The Jets, Tonight Tonight, but by the time he got to Maria I had to get off the Ship of Fools.  He tried to get his women companions to do backup vocals, but they were too embarrassed

So, now, every time I step on the bus, I've been dreading the encore performance of  "I Feel Pretty".  Well, I was about to learn, there are worse things happening on a crowded buses than choreography in the aisles. 

Today's bus was monumentally late - more than 20 minutes. This bus almost crossed the line where it becomes The Next Bus.  The bus was Standing Room Only again, though only half full, because of the back pack people. Stinking Room Only, thanks to the bus's air conditioning being broken, or maybe it was set to some boardroom's idea of a temperature that would ensure a sustainable future for the planet.  The board-room fat-asses who make such decisions about bus climate should be required to ride in the buses they are controlling. And it stank (stunk?) - - we're talking Cleaning Cages Day at the Monkey House of the County Zoo.  The windows in buses no longer open. And oxygen masks do not drop down from the ceiling.

I found a sideways seat near the back and sat down. After I had sat down, a guy on the back bench tells me "Just so you know - there was a guy throwing up in that seat just 20 minutes ago. I think they got it all cleaned up, but just so you know..."  Oh, great, The More You Know, eh buddy. I can't wait to get home and burn my clothes. At the next stop, someone in front of my seat got off, and I slid into that seat instead.  Someone else sat in the seat I had previously occupied.  I counted down - 3 - 2 - 1 , and right on cue behind me I heard  "Just so you know, there was a guy throwing up etc.", and the next victim of the throno et vomens jumped up and stood for the rest of the ride. 

Meanwhile, the bus which is already running over a half-hour behind, is being over-run by Special Needs. Bicycles coming on and off the front rack.  A wheelchair - that means at least two minutes lowering the ramp, clearing out the handicap area, fastening the wheels, folding the ramp back up.  That's OK, nothing the bus line can do about the ADA.  But, two blocks later, the wheelchair guy wants to get off. Dude, you wheeled yourself for more than a block to get to the bus stop, is a two-block trip on a bus really necessary? You coulda been there already!

Then a lady boards shoving a stroller.  But there's already a wheelchair in the handicapped spot, so Baby goes in the aisle. Of course, Baby had to take a dump.  As we know, babies have many ways of notifying us of such things.  First there is the ear-splitting shriek.  How can a baby keep up such volume without tiring or even taking a breath? My head is hurting. And then Baby sends out the second notice - the nostril-melting stench. Back in the vomit section, it's getting pretty hot without the air conditioning. The vomit guy keeps re-telling his story but only after people sit down on the seat.   And the baby is still letting out that endless piercing scream.

Finally I was released at my stop.  As the bus stank and screamed off into the distance, I did not feel Pretty and Witty and Wise.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day, Random Thoughts

Random Notes - I've been working overtime, in addition to restoring a vacant rental unit in my spare time, so

I've only had a chance to jot down a few random notes over the past few weeks.  Sorry. And some nice all-American shots from today's Independence Day Parade.  Happy 4th!

The Mail Room
One day at my job, I was filling in for someone in the mail room. As the workers sort the incoming mail, they have a chance to exchange ideas and gossip. Fake names throughout.

Leona: "I hate it when I'm dreaming about shopping - I can never find anything."
Judge Konkel - I always enjoyed riding with him
in past parades, playing "God Bless America"
on my accordion.

Most of the people in the mail room have children.  The general consensus of movies was focused on between Transformers and The Avengers, movies patterned after superhero sagas and comic-book franchises from the 1950s, reworked by Baby Boomers. I've been pretty quiet, since I don't really watch that many of that sort of fantasy/action movie. So, Leona asks me:  "What kind of movies do Old people watch, Gary? Westerns?" Ya! old people.

Yvonne: "If you have a sexy dream about an ex-boyfriend, should you tell your current boyfriend? If you tell him, he gets all jealous and riled up, and for what? It was a dream. But if you don't tell him, I feel funny about that too, you know, not being totally honest with him."

Police Roadblock

My neighbor was walking her dog the other night.  She took little Muffy on his customary constitutional route, and encountered a police barricade. There was some domestic dispute or another that the police were working on, and they wouldn't let her through. Despairingly, she pleaded  "But Muffy can only poop in Bay View!"

and for all you vegetarians... our Rutabaga of the Week

After such a week, a man follows me into the Piggly Wiggly. "Are you the brown mini-van guy who just came in here?"  Well, yeah.  He told me that I was wrong to be driving in the right-turn lane.  I believed that the right-turn lane was where I belonged, since I was turning right. Apparently this gentleman did not believe that. Is he going to hit me or what?  Watch it, he's starting to stammer and drool. Something that seems a good idea behind the wheel, now begins to pale in the light of reality.  And I'm beginning to figure out who this guy is.  He was the one from the corner,  the one trying to turn left, crossing six lanes of traffic to get into the right turn lane, and everybody else better get out of his way.  Well, the law states that than turning onto another road requires that you turn into the closest encountered lane, and then signal lane changes until you arrive at the lane you want to be in.  So, it's him that's wrong, not me. But one thing I've learned is that you can't discuss legal fine points with a rutabaga, so I didn't enter into such a discussion. He turned around abruptly and walked away.  All done. Ya can't fix stupid.
Have a Safe and Happy Independence Weekend, everybody!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

lucis et musicae ♫♪♫

In the conscious interval which we refer to as real life, one of my past part-time occupations was making liquor deliveries for a wholesaler. At the time, I was in my twenties, and making my living by working three or more part-time jobs, at three different times of the day. Not always on the same day, but there were times I got off my 8-hour night shift job as a hotel clerk, and barely had time to change into the clothes of a liquor truck driver, for an 8-hour shift of throwing around cases of booze. I could do this because I was in my twenties, but sometimes after being up 24 hours or more, things began to look kind of vivid and dream-like.

One customer stop was a large liquor retailer occupying the entire building of a re-purposed J.C. Penney store built in the 1940s. The entire lower level was used as a warehouse, and not open to the public. There was a very wide stairway to bump the cart full of cases down (gently of course - Bob our boss really hates the smell of pre-maturely dispensed liquor on the customer's floor, because the customer won't pay for that, and Steve would start yelling...). Most delivery destinations had dark, narrow uneven wooden stairways to squirrel away their extra cases, but the lower level of the old Penney's had been used as retail space. The building
was built into the side of a hill - this gave a delightful surprise - as you arrive in the basement, you are greeted huge windows spilling glorious amounts of morning sunshine into the lower level.  

So, one fine day in the late 1970s, I was walking into the light, rolling a hand truck with a stack of brandy cases over to the pallet area where the brandy was stored. The unexpected brilliance of the basement was in its own way uplifting. When you haven't slept in 24 hours, the oddest things will uplift you. At just that moment, the tinny voice of John Lennon came from a tiny radio somewhere in the basement, singing "Strawberry Fields Forever".  In an unexplained way, the music blends with the sunlight, and becomes one of the most powerful sources of emotional and spiritual liberating energies in existence.  I felt lighter for days. Somehow the music blended with the light had overcharged my senses, arcing at the terminals.

That is a moment I have remembered for the rest of my life. 

One of the things I enjoy most in my interval of existence here on Earth is the delightful way that music blends with the light, smells and events of a moment and preserves the entirety so perfectly. Simply recalling the musical passage can vividly re-store the entire memory, to bring levity and hope to one of life's darker, more silent moments.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Stop it! I Can't Afford Any More Savings!

I decided that I would be doing my weekly shopping at Pick n Save this last weekend, because of the low advertised price on pork ribs.  Call me sentimental, but somehow, it just doesn't seem moral to be buying pork ribs at Piggly Wiggly.

My wife suggested "Before you go, why don't you look at those online coupons to see if there's anything?  Oh sure, you can do everything on the Internet. Our neighbor buys his groceries from Pea Pod.  Just click click click, and the next thing you know, a green truck is making ruts in the back alley and leaving soggy cardboard cartons outside the door in the rain... another story.

But I tried the on-line coupon section of Pick n Save.  It's called "E-Clips". Turned up about $6.00 worth of coupons for things I was going to buy anyway; things on the list.  Just click the little "E-Clips" box, and the virtual coupon is invisibly added to your Player's Card, and pops out at the checkout counter, right in the checkout lady's surprised face.  Great thing, this technology.

Arriving at the store at about 8:30 am, I went over to the Crest Toothpaste, knowing I would get my 75 cents off when the time came to pay for it.  To my dismay, I found that the price of the toothpaste had been marked up $1.25 more than it had been two weeks ago. This not only wiped out my 75 cents savings, and cost me more, but think of the poor starving children in Korea who don't have Pick'n'Save cards - they would be paying full price which has been artificially marked up to anticipate the coupon.   Same deal at the Old Spice shower soap - It was marked up a dollar, but the invisible coupon would protect me from that, leaving me paying the same high regular price.  Well, l had to have the soap, just trust me on that, so I bit the bullet. But, I found out when I got home and looked at my register tape that I had not even received the shower soap discount because the coupon offer was for two packages, and I had only bought one.  Why didn't my little invisible coupon speak up, in its squeely little coupon voice, that I had to buy two? But that would have been weird, come to think of it, a little voice in my pocket, people just wouldn't understand... So, I paid the artificially marked up FULL PRICE. (I expected to be paying $2.50 after coupon, and instead I paid $4.29.) About halfway through shopping, I gave up on seeking out the "e-clips" list, because the Markup Guy had already been to all the coupon items to mark them up.  So, when it comes to "E-Clips", turns out I was the only one getting e-clipped.

Thanks to for photo
And now the final indignity - Again with the Miracle Whip.  They're always manipulating the Miracle Whip. It should be listed on the commodities exchange. As we all know, Miracle Whip is packed in "short quarts", that is, two ounces short of a quart.  That's Kraft's fault, and I don't hold Pick n Save responsible for that.  But, how can Pick'n'Save justify a "regular price" of $4.99?  Who pays $4.99 for a (short) quart of Miracle Whip? Surely, not a Piggly Wiggly shopper! Luckily, this item was on sale, no coupon needed,  so I was able to get it for $2.98, what it's really worth. But, according to the register tape - a "Total Savings of $2.01"!  Spare me, please! Why not mark it up to ten bucks, before marking it down?  They could have taken credit for even more savings!

So, "blind, but now I see",  I had a higher than average grocery bill, although I was treated to total "savings" of $50.14.  As Miss Daisy said to Morgan Freeman:  "Take me to the Piggly Wiggly."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sleep Soldier Boy

Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, the beginning of summer was by the Memorial Day Parade, staged by the various veteran's groups (VFW, Amvets, American Legion . . . ). Traffic on Main Street would be blocked, and we would gather quietly on the Main Street Bridge. There was a ceremony conducted by the veterans, and always began with the pledge "as long as two comrades remain...".  At the time, we even had World War I veterans marching in the parade, and now, if the tradition has continued, there are many more veterans.  Many more.

At the end of the remarks by whatever dignitaries were present, a song was sung in a brittle tenor voice "Sleep Soldier Boy Sleep On..."  It was touching because I could imagine that he actually knew the Soldier Boy personally, either a son or a buddy.  After the song, a floral wreath would be tossed off the bridge to float down the river, as the color guard gave a 21-gun salute. The pigeons who lived below the bridge would all fly out around the wreath as it headed down the river. 

"Your journey is ended; your work here is done. Sleep soldier boy and rest. "

Here's a video from another small town's observance (unknown town) featuring the song by a much younger vocalist. Thanks to "cdb913"

To the soldiers who believed that there is still something worth fighting and dying for in this world -- Thank you.