31 December 2011

Bartender Trick!

How to Look Cool Opening a Jar

Looks like this guy is a lot better at it than I was,
but I could throw a little flash, too.
Bartending is part assembly-line, part dance. When you're behind the bar—especially at a high-profile, high-volume dance bar—you are on stage. Multiple pairs of eyes track your every move, critically and mercilessly. Oddly, it's perceived as a "glamour job," and everyone thinks they could do it just as well or better.

So while you have to move smoothly through the process or you'll get your covers yanked fast, you also have to handle the interruptions smoothly. When you need ice, when you break a glass (oh god, not over the ice, please!), when you run out of garnish, you can't fumble around back there and you can't hold things up. It can get all Lucy Ricardo on you in a matter of seconds!

One of the most awkward tasks, and of course it comes up a few times a shift, is the need to open more juice. (Or cocktail onions or whatever, glinting at you from inside the hermetically-sealed jar.)

Imagine. You can't be back
behind the bar doing this.

Each time you face a new jar,
you sweat and think to yourself,  
What if this is the jar I won't be 
able to open?!

So! Here's what you can do:

1. Hold the jar around the middle in your non-dominant hand. 

2. Tilt the lid end about 45º down from the horizontal.

3. With the base of your other palm, smack the bottom of the jar firmly to break the air seal. 

4. Tip the bottle up, and twist open normally (maybe with a flourish).

* Don't smack it so hard that you hurt your hand. Or break the jar.
* Concentrate on what feels right for breaking the air lock, and strive for one smack.
* It may take some practice to get the smack just right; it's really more of a dull thwock.
* With further practice, you'll find the smack-and-twist steps flow into one smooth move.

Now, I did not post this because I think you are an aspiring bartender; rather, I'm showing how this bartender's trick can help when 1) you need to open a jar and the "regular" way isn't doing it for you; and/or, 2) some babe, or your child (especially if teenaged) asks you to open a jar. You know, when you're on stage. This way, you'll look like a smooth operator. Like me.

30 December 2011

Asa is not happy that he has no Facebook page.

Though he still looks mad here,
he has accepted my explanation.
 Asa is 12. Facebook's policy is that kids have to be 13 before they can have an account.

Some parents (most that I know) allow their under-13 children to be on Facebook, even going so far as to lie about the child's age so they can get on the site. The explanation I hear most often is that kids need to be on Facebook to participate fully in their peer group's social life.

Uh-huh. Asa participates quite a bit in his peer group's social life. He seems not at all socially restricted by his lack of a Facebook page. Even he admits it: he knows the score.

No, the reason Asa isn't on Facebook is that the policy says 13 and up. Yeah, I know, I've heard about how that's arbitrary or whatever. Doesn't matter. It's Facebook's right to make that decision and enforce it. You can bet they studied it and consulted on it before determining it. Facebook's age requirement didn't just pop into some geek's head arbitrarily.

The biggest deal for me is that in order to get Asa on Facebook before the age of 13, I have to lie about his age. Think:  I'd be promoting lying about your age to bypass restrictions on Internet sites.  Seem good?

The potential fallout is most clearly illustrated by imagining you have, say, a 14-year-old daughter and someone tips you off that she is on a dating site. You can't believe it. But you look, and there she is—with her real name and town, her real picture. She's done up in sexy clothing and make-up so that you barely recognize her. (But with gut-wrenching chagrin, you do.) Her ad says she's 22 and "looking for fun."

Did you expect her not to do this? When you modeled it? Go ahead—try explaining the difference to her now.

28 December 2011

5 Warnings We Could Get Rid

Yeah, everyone laughs at "Do Not Eat," but there are others...

Now if they mentioned this trick,
they would at least be helpful.
1. Insert tab to close. 
It's on every box of food we've opened since the 1950's. I think we've got it mastered.

2. Repeat. 
As in, "Lather, Rinse, Repeat." They just want us to use it up twice as fast. It's like, "Apply Liberally" = "Use Way Too Much."

3. Check engine.
Please, how often, really, do we need to check the engine? Every time I go into Mike's Garage for this, Mike says, Oh, yeah, we just have to reset a little something. What Mike means is, we just have to reset the "Check Engine" light.

The "universal" No Shoplifting sign.
I wonder what they use for No Hiking.
4. No Shoplifting.
So... let me get this straight... you're saying that stealing is not allowed here? Well, I'll just take my shoplifting elsewhere. I've even seen this sign in stores: "Shoplifting Is Stealing." Do they think the problem stems from limited vocabulary?

5. Do Not Hold Over People.
I ran across this in the course of my "research" for this post. It is on my coffee pot. I'm thinking I may be the only person who ever read it. I really can't imagine a situation around this occuring in nature. So, worn or not, this just needs to go:

Cheetah, chimp from Tarzan films, dies

   Cheetah JUST died??
Cheetah and Johnnie Weissmuller lived together for years in a 
luxurious condo in West Hollywood after having met on the set.
"Condolences poured in..."   Condolences?? Poured in to whom?

Quote from link: 

Cheetah is not believed to have had any children.

 I can just see old Cheetah running around the compound, erect, saying in his smarmy little voice:
At least, heh, heh, none that I know of.

An Unkindness of Ravens

Are ravens cranky? Are they actually unkind? Does unkindness have a semantic link??

An unkindness is the official collective noun for ravens in English. I bet if I point out an "unkindness of ravens" in the park one day, my friend Sandra will be enchanted. (She's very enthusiastic about learning new things, and also easily enchanted.)

Other collective nouns (or quantifiers) are so commonly used that we no longer analyze them. The phrase becomes a whole, not just the sum of its parts—like an idiom. When you hear the idiom "let the cat out of the bag," do you picture cats in, and then out of, bags? No. Here are some collective nouns that are similarly transparent in use:

• a pride of lions
• an army of ants
• a school of fish

School of Fish
Home-Schooled Fish
Montessori School of Fish
But if you do analyze the common examples, they're as imaginative and charming as a "murder of crows" and a "float of crocodiles." A pride, an army, a school? Where did such quaint quantifiers
come from?

Heck, I don't know. But below are some that are official in English and yet, huh??

Smack! Oh, sorry. Smack! Oops. Hey!
• a glaring of cats—Someone not-very-cat-liking was being wicked clever there.

• a smack of jellyfish—Got me. Maybe you really have to  know jellyfish for that one to work.

• a knot of frogs—It skeeves me just to picture this. Brr.

• a piteousness of doves—Is piteousness even a word, on its own?

You can make up your own collective nouns. (Talk about idiosyncratic.) Here are some of mine:

What if I want whitening,
fluoride protection, tartar control,
healthy gums, AND plaque removal?
Will they not all fit in one tube?
• My son got an arsenal of video games for Christmas.

• There was a slag heap of laundry to sort. (Those who didn't grow up near a coal mine may not get this.)

• I went to the store to get toothpaste and was stopped short by a confrontation of choices.

• A pubescence of middle-schoolers came pouring out of the classrooms.

• The restaurant was filled with a gallery of gay men.

—and, what I think is my best effort so far:

• Onto the field marched a potluck of lesbians....

"She always brings that."

Bobby in the Flesh!

Thinking back to my 'tween crushes.... 

Remember 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat?  (Someone just told me that Tiger Beat is still around—is there really a call for that? Isn't even the name a little dated now?)

I was never really into Tiger Beat, but I was hot for the new issue of 16 Magazine the minute it hit the stands. I'd run downtown to Tom's Pharmacy....

I even remember the cover of this issue. ---->

I think that guy next to Bobby was on Dark Shadows. Remember that? (Wait, what are they doing in that pelican's bill...?)

So, my major crushes were on Bobby Sherman (Here Come the Brides), David Cassidy (The Partridge Family--like everybody doesn't know this), and Donnie Osmond (The... er, yeah.)

My close cousins, Shawnee and Sheila, loved the Cowsills, but for some reason they just never appealed to me. We would debate the merits of our opposing crushes ceaselessly.

I bet it was the stray eye that won
me over. I've always been a sucker
for that kind of "difference."
But here's something a little deeper that I remember. Bobby Sherman was not my only crush from Here Come the Brides. I was hopelessly in love with Bridget Hanley, his on-screen girlfriend. I had fantasies about her visiting me all the time. I would even act them out when I was playing alone. 

And even more intriguing is that, at what age—12? 13?—I knew to hide my crush on Bridget. Of course, to do that, I used Bobby Sherman as the "beard." For every picture of Bridget that I cut out of 16, I cut out one of Bobby, too. Behind Bobby's pictures pinned on my wall and bulletin board, were my secret pictures of Bridget. I'd flip Bobby up to see Bridget when I wanted to. But when no one—not even my cousins—were around.

If I want to get honest about it, I really wasn't all that into Bobby. And I just wanted David Cassidy and Donny Osmond to be my brothers. At that age, and in that time, and in a town where I had never been introduced to the idea of homosexuality, how did I know to hide my crush on a female? I don't need to ask how I could know I was attracted to her. I knew.

Her original name was
Bridget Swackhammer.
She's 70 here.

26 December 2011

More Amusing Myself

When I tire of the amusement my dog provides, I turn to my son for novel ways to entertain myself. He's up for anything.

This is Asa, age 5 or 6.  I put Vaseline® on his hair to "condition" it. But then it was pretty weighted down so I thought, How to get this Vaseline® off his head?  Maybe cornstarch will absorb it! 

So here he is with Vaseline® and cornstarch in his hair. 

       Doesn't he look cute?


25 December 2011

One Bad-Ass Baby Boy

A few years ago I was visiting my friend Drew in prison. Another young prisoner, hardly more than a teen, walked by and smiled shyly at Drew. Drew said softly, "Hey, Baby Boy."

Serving 5–7, Baby Boy ought to fit right in by the time he's out.
"That's his real name," Drew told me. "I mean his real-real name."

Baby Boy? "Well," I said, "that is kind of sweet...."

Then Drew told me how he'd come by the name. "His mama already had a bunch of boys so when he was born, she just called him what the hospital bracelet said. Never gave him no other name."

It took a moment to register in my world. I had named my son Asa after months of contemplation. No one cared enough about this little baby to give him a name. I still choke up thinking about it.

And I have to wonder: Couldn't the degree of neglect that indicates have been a factor in Baby Boy serving time in prison while, really, still hardly more than a baby boy?

23 December 2011

bad boyfriends

Asa and I were in the car listening to Adele's song "Set Fire to the Rain" (whatever that means), and Asa observed:

"Adele must have had a lot of boyfriends this year....  Actually, she must have had a lot of bad boyfriends."

Aunt Helen and Uncle Alva

Sound and Vision

Writing about my Aunt Nellie, who was deaf (see post below), I got to thinking about my Aunt Helen, who was blind. 

Aside: More often than not, when I tell someone I have blind relatives and deaf relatives, the person asks, "Are they the same relatives? Ha ha!" (And I think... Ha ha? Really?)

Not my Aunt Helen, but like how I
remember her when she was young.
(I love this photo.)

Most people termed blind aren't totally blind. Aunt Helen had "light perception," as in, on/off. Uncle Alva (such an unfortunate given name), had "object vision." He could distinguish an object and sometimes identify it, depending on proximity, distinctiveness, and familiarity. 

So functionally, Aunt Helen and her husband were blind. How do I know the details of their disabilities?  Where I'm from, everyone speaks comfortably about congenital disability like it's totally normal. And in Appalachia it is a lot more normal, in the sense of common.

Anyway, Helen and Alva weren't too private about it all. Helen, in particular, could wax on about her burdens if she wanted you to go get her something.

Gainfully Employed

Not my Uncle Alva; he was cuter.  I'd say this is some other Federationist capitalizing on Randolph-Sheppard.
My Uncle Alva had a nifty little business for himself. He had benefited from the 1936 Randolph-Sheppard Act. It provided blind people with opportunities to run (as owners) the newsstands, smoke shops, etc., in government buildings. 

Alva had the newsstand inside the Federal Court Building in Toledo for decades. He sold candy, too, and when my dad would take me down there, Alva would always slip me some.

Uncle Alva was, like, famous down at the courthouse. There were dozens of framed pictures hanging on the marble walls around his shop, of him with governors, white-collar criminals, fallen Mafia figures....

My Blind Spot

Once, when I was a teenager, Aunt Helen was visiting from Toledo, and she wanted to go in to my Aunt Jeanette's house, a 20-minute drive away.

V-8, sweet.
I'd just gotten my first car, a Chevy Chevelle—that's right, a Chevy Chevelle!— and I offered to drive. Dad, Aunt Helen, and some of my fungible little cousins (I had 57 at last count) piled in the Chevy, with Aunt Helen and the "chilluns" in the back.

My dad had been giving me pointers on driving. So as I checked the right lane in my mirror and then turned to do a visual check, looking just past Aunt Helen's shoulder... I brightly called out, Hey, I found the blind spot back there! 

Now, if I hadn't been a teenager, I doubt I would have suffered such chagrin. And I realize now that Aunt Helen most likely didn't notice. She was back there thinking about how to manipulate me now that she knew I could drive her around.

"Light Perception Only" geddit? geddit?

So evening of the same day, Aunt Helen asks me to help her find her nightgown. And I say, Sure, what color is it? And she says, I don't know. 

And I was like, "Shoot me now."


22 December 2011

Well, that's depressing.

If you were depressed, 
and you knew there was a 
pill across the room that would 
immediately cure your depression...
             you'd be too depressed to go over and take it.

have a holiday

Mary Belle and Nellie Lou

L to R, that's Mary Belle and Nellie Lou, not the other way 'round.
(Gee, I didn't realize how much Cherokee showed in us.)

In a line-up of twelve kids, my mother was born just after her sister Nellie Lou. The older kids had come in a flood; the younger ones came in a later wave; and Mary Belle and Nellie Lou were between these two groups, together on their own little island. They were just a year apart.

During the school year, they were together only on weekends. Nellie was born profoundly deaf and my grandmother sent her to a school for the deaf in Columbus. It must have been free because they were dirt poor.... Yes, that makes sense—it would have been a State School for the Deaf. And since my grandma had worked at State Schools, that's how she would have known to do that for Nellie.

Former Ohio School for the Deaf

The old State Schools are controversial in Deaf history; regardless, it's where Nellie learned to sign, and most Deaf people would agree that's a good thing.

Discovering sign would have been Nellie's entrance into the Deaf community, too. She was coming out of the isolation and frustration of being in a hearing world, and suddenly swept into a new world, a working language, a body of shared experience that for once was really hers. 

She must have been so jazzed!


It seems Nellie picked on my mother a lot when they were little. "Mean as a snake, she was," said my mom.

One year at the end of a summer, just before Nellie would go back to Deaf School for the year, my grandma, Nellie, and Mary Belle were in the car and headed to town.

Nellie Lou got new shoes each year for school, and Mary Belle would get Nellie's old shoes to wear for the new school year. My mom said she could hardly wait to have Nellie's shoes. They were "saddle shoes," black and white and very much in style.

Well, part way to town, Nellie got mad at Mary Belle for something—my mom couldn't remember what. But anyway, Nellie rolled down the car window and threw out one of her shoes....

My mom said her stomach sank as she looked out the back window at the shoe, lying in the road. She knew the car wasn't going to be turning around. She said it made it worse that Nellie threw out just one shoe.

Now, if you ask me, you couldn't meet a nicer person than my Aunt Nellie. She's funny and she's very, very gentle. Frankly, I didn't always believe Mary Belle's stories either but she swore by this one.

And come to think of it, Aunt Nellie always did turn her head when my mom started to tell it....

21 December 2011





adj  \ˈwist-fəl\

full of yearning or desire, tinged with melancholy
rhymes with wistful:  tristful

I'll have decap.

Beach-goer on Long Island, interviewed near site of several recently-discovered body dumps:

I'm not really worried about a serial killer. There's a better chance of getting killed on a Long Island Rail Road train or walking into a pharmacy.

Consider methodical murder, random murder—what difference does it make? It's like getting killed and dismembered—what's dismemberment matter to you? I've also thought about this in relation to dying in a terrorist act. Care to discuss? What...? Oh, ha, ha, don't worry—I'm not dangerous!


Pumped Up Kicks

Robert's got a quick hand
He'll look around the room, he won't tell you his plan
He's got a rolled cigarette
Hanging out of his mouth, he's a cowboy kid
He found a six-shooter gun
In his dad's closet with in a box of fun things
I don't even know what
But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet

Daddy works a long day
He'll be coming home late and he's coming home late
And he's bringing me a surprise
'Cause dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice
I've waited for a long time
Yeah the slight of my hand is now a quick pull-trigger
I reason with my cigarette
And say, "your hair's on fire, you must've lost your wits, yeah"

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet

19 December 2011

The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me

Country singer Sammi Smith's first and biggest hit was Help Me Make It Through the Night. In her lesser-known song, The Last Word in Lonesome is Me, the word trick with lonesome amuses me. Plus you just can't beat the twang in her voice.

Songs like this were what we listened to where I grew up. The only radio station we could bring in was WWVA (as in Wheeling, West Virgina) "Big Country." When a song from back then, back there, comes into my head, I can still remember all the words and sing it in tune. 

Miss Sammi Smith


17 December 2011

Not So Tiny Son Now

"I'm mature enough now that I don't look for my xmas presents."

—Asa, age 12

14 December 2011

5 Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Me OR "Mine's an Inny"

1.  I can ride a unicycle. 

Now look. How friggin' hokey is that?   ---------------->

No one can look even halfway dignified doing that.  Not even a kid, which I was at the time. I was like this poor kid whose parents got her a unicycle before she was old enough to know it was undignified.

2. For a while, I named all my pets Rudy. 

Here are some of the late Rudies now.   ----------v

    Rudy the Cattledog                    
                                                                        Rudy the Cat                                                                                               

Rudy the Emerald Gartersnake

3.  I can put gel, wax, vaseline, hairspray, olive oil, water, or absolutely nothing on my hair and get the exact same look. 
  This one.  -------------v

Looks better shorter. (I think.)
Longer it's like this:                                                                                                                   

4.   When I first moved to Boston, I took my bike and went on a Boston Strangler Tour. It wasn't an official tour--I made it up and went on my own.

<----------- This building, where Mary Sullivan was killed in 1964, is right on Charles Street. I was amazed to see the amount of foot traffic along here. How could someone not have seen him?? Wouldn't he be covered in blood? Don't google this crime scene unless you can take just about the worst imaginable.

And if that place had a lot of visibility, you should see this place, right on Huntington Ave. --------------------->

This is where Sophie Clark was killed in 1962, in her apartment right above the Shwarama in Boston Shawarma.

Huntington Ave is the main artery across the middle of Boston, east-west. The green line, the 39 bus route, universities, the Museum of Fine Art, all are along this avenue. Thousands of people pass daily. How, again, could someone get in there, do what he did, and not be seen?

I recommend the bike tour.
There is far more to a crime
scene, or any historical site, when
you go there to see it for yourself.


<--- Gary Fisher Marlin.
Oh, yeah.

5.  I used to tell my kids the ice cream truck played music when it ran out of ice cream.


Aw, honey. Maybe next time, huh?

13 December 2011

Therapy Comes to the Haight, #4 in a series


"I'm hearing from you that this new lifestyle you've chosen can be uncomfortable at times. Could you take one of those short lawn chairs with you to sit on?"

"I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the phrase Free Love. Can you explain it to me?"

"I see that you've come to group therapy tonight with open minds. Can someone share what you're feeling? Oh! Not all at once!"

So... what would that look like, exactly?

11 December 2011

I miss Lazarus.

Remember falls? The big wigs of the 70s?
Not big as in up; big as in down. Fall, get it?

In the 70s, before there was a Wal-Mart culture that trapped us into one-stop shopping, my family and a few other families would drive every December to Lazarus (great name!) Dept Store in Wheeling to shop for Christmas.

There'd be, like, 3 moms, 3 dads, and maybe 8-9 kids. We'd go in two cars. It was before safety.

One year, on a whim, the three moms bought themselves falls. Then they ran outside Lazarus to the big intersection where the dads and us kids were supposed to swing by and pick them up.

It was raining like a sumbitch and everything was flying around. We kept driving around that big city block, looking for them, looking for them.

Suddenly my mom—I think! But she had long hair!—threw herself at the car and we all went, Oh my! There's the women now!

They got in with their big new hair streaming and sticking all over their faces. You can bet our own hair was sticking straight up on end. They were mad we hadn't recognized them. Geez, what'd they expect?