Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Bucket List
I would like to…

1.  …spend an entire day with my daughter-just she and I.

2.  …meet Mary Lou Metzger of “Lawrence Welk” fame.  I’d like to tell her how much I enjoy her singing, her dancing, and most of all, her sparkling personality. 

3.  …get through an entire day without being negative about something.  It’s hard not to be grouchy when you’re a basic curmudgeon.

4.  …overcome my arthritis and forget about my age for a day so that I could go along on one of my son’s long hikes through the wilderness.

5.  …have dinner with our former presidents who are still living and with President Trump.

6.  …become as good a cook as my wife is.

7.  … keep all my friends but add to the list.

8.  …vacation in Rome.

9.  …visit every presidential library.

10.  …see my grandchildren graduate from college.

11.  …become an excellent photographer.

12.  …write a play that would at least be good enough that a few people would watch it.

13.  …find enough courage to donate blood on a regular basis.  I don’t do so because I cannot stand being stuck with needles!

14.  …attend another Paul McCartney concert.  The one I went to several years ago was fantastic.

15.  …do a better job of treating other folks as I would like to be treated.

16.  …make a pie and enter it in the local fair.

17.  …get a dog (a small one).

18.  …discover a fun way to clean the bathroom!

19.  … play Lebron James one-on-one in basketball, although I’d get the ball jammed down my throat. 

20.  …find Mom’s recipe for homemade bread.

21.  …find more information about Dad’s army career during World War II.

22.  …strive for the impossible by following Mark Twain’s advice to live your life in such a way that when death arrives even the undertaker will be sad.   WHAT’S ON YOUR LIST?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Collecting Baseball Cards

     As a youngster I certainly qualified as a “baseball nut.”  I knew each player’s position, age, weight, height, and batting statistics.  To this day the 1961 typical Yankees’ batting order is clearly imprinted in my mind:  1.) Richardson, 2B, 2.) Kubek, SS  3.) Maris, RF  4.) Mantle, CF  5.) Howard, C.  6.) Berra or Lopez, LF  7.) Skowren, 1B  8.) Boyer, 3B  9.) the pitcher.  Sadly, however, I can’t recall what I had for supper last night.  Come to think of it, did I have supper last night?
    Being such a baseball fanatic, like my friends I collected and traded baseball cards.  The typical card featured the player’s image on one side and his statistics on the other.  Just like the Yankees’ batting order, these now-meaningless numbers are forever lodged into my memory.  I shall never forget, for example, that in 1961 Roger Maris hit a (non-steroid) record 61 home runs, while knocking in 142, scoring 132 himself, and batting .269.  That same season his teammate, Mickey Mantle, crashed 54 homers, had 128 runs batted in, and hit .317.  Now if I could just remember my cell phone number or my wife’s birthday.
    Baseball cards had their beginning around the 1860s , which was  about the same time that the Cincinnati Red Stockings and other teams were turning professional (by paying their players).  Companies that sold tobacco, confectioneries, gum, and other various products issued baseball cards as a way to advertise and promote their businesses.  One of the first to issue baseball cards was Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods company, in 1868. 
    One of the more expensive cards is the Honus Wagner edition, which was  distributed by the American Tobacco Company from 1909 until 1911.   Wagner, who spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hit .327 for his career while collecting 3,415 hits and winning the National League batting title eight times.  Evidently because he opposed the use of tobacco products,  Wagner asked the company to halt production of his card.  As a result, it is believed that there are fewer than two hundred Wagner cards ever distributed to the public.
    One of the most sought after is the 1952 Mickey Mantle card issued by the Topps Gum Company.  Mantle, who spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, hit .298, walloped 536 homers, and knocked in 1,509 runs.  In 1956 he won the Tripe Crown by leading the American League in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. Just about every year, or so it seemed, he and the Yankees were in the World Series. I believe that my cousin had one of these cards, but gave it and the rest of his collection to some younger boys.
    Eventually little boys do grow up and move on to other interests, such as women, careers, and families.  Like my cousin, I gave away my collection.  It would be worth some money today, but that doesn’t concern me.  Instead, I would like to still have it so that I could share a piece of my childhood with my son; I guess he will just have to settle for his old man’s lectures that begin: “Back in my day….”
    Generally speaking, collecting baseball cards was a wonderful childhood experience, but once the practice got me into hot water with my father.  In the early sixties, Post Cereals featured baseball cards on the backs of their cereal boxes. Dad believed that sports in general and baseball card collecting in particular were wastes of time, but he loved Post Cereals. One day Mom brought home a box that featured my idol’s card-Mickey Mantle. Impulsively, I cut out the cards before Dad had the chance to eat his precious cereal.  Dad the non-sports fan was not amused.  He just did not understand the importance of showing off a Mickey Mantle card.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reporter Interviews Superman's Boss

 *Ron Mount, the ace reporter for the Daily Weekly, recently interviewed his hero, Perry White, the editor of the Metropolis Daily Planet:

Mount: Chief, this is an honor to interview you.

White: The honor is all mine, and don’t call me Chief!

Mount: Sorry. You’ve been a successful newspaperman for over eighty years.  What’s your secret, sir?

White: The most important thing in the newspaper racket is to be able to “read” people.

Mount: What does that mean, sir?

White: Often people pretend to be something that they’re not.  A good newspaperman can spot a phony; he can see the real person behind the fa├žade.

Clark Kent, one of White’s reporters, enters the room: Excuse me Perry, I just wanted to drop off this article on the Merton case.

White: Thank you.  Clark Kent, I’d like to introduce Ron Mount from our sister publication, The Daily Weekly. 

After the introductions are concluded Kent leaves the room.

White: Now, Kent is easy to read.  He’s clumsy and shy; he’d probably faint if a girl  ever kissed him!  He’s just a mild mannered reporter, nothing more and nothing less.

Mount: Don’t you think he looks a lot like Superman?

White, after laughing loudly:  That’s a good one! You’re a reporter; where are your observation skills?  Superman and Kent don’t even comb their hair the same way, and Superman wouldn’t be caught dead wearing glasses!

Mount:  Do you have regular contact with this Superman fellow?

White: Oh sure.  As a matter of fact, he  keeps a close eye on this place; just about every day pedestrians report seeing the Man of Steel flying out one of our windows.

Mount: From what I’ve heard he has many  powers.

White: That’s true, but what’s even more impressive is that the guy keeps learning.  Heck, when he started showing up around here in the 1930s I suggested that he wear a green uniform and call himself “Super Frog.”

Mount:  Why is that, sir?

White: Well, when Superman first  came here  he could pick up a truck over his head,  smile at the bad guys while  their bullets bounced off his chest, and leap a couple city blocks at a time, but he had no idea how to fly. 

Mount: That’s amazing!  Who does he hang out with?

White: Superman comes to this building in part because Lois Lane works here.  He’s had the “hots” for her for some time now.  Then, of course, he is a member of The League of Super Heroes, so he hangs out with the other protectors of the earth.

Mount: Chief, who are some of these other protectors and what are their powers?

White: Don’t believe this recent movie stuff about Superman and Batman being enemies.  If that were true poor Batman would be a pile of smoldering ashes by now! In reality, Superman’s best pal is the Batman, who works out of Gotham City. He has no super powers per se, but he has a lot of neat stuff in his utility belt and he’s mean as a snake!  The Flash can run like the wind.  As a matter of fact, he once beat Superman in a footrace.  You know, the Flash would be one heck of a pizza delivery man, don’t you think?  He could advertise that the pizza would be delivered in two minutes or your money back.  Then there’s the Green Lantern; darned if I can figure out what his special power is.  With that stupid lantern he looks like a yard ornament!  Then there’s Wonder Woman.  She’s built like the Fortress of Solitude, if you catch my meaning, and she’s always losing her plane.  No wonder; it’s invisible!  Super Dave, who wore a sack over his face and a towel around his neck, is a retired super hero of note.  He’d throw his aunt’s brick-like homemade loaves of bread at the bad guys until they surrendered. I think he’s now living quietly somewhere in Texas. Of course, all these other heroes are envious of Superman. And don’t call me chief!

Mount: Sorry, sir. Why is that?

White: They realize that all their powers together don’t add up to those of the Man of Steel.  That’s why they’re always sending him somewhere else so that they can solve a major problem.  For example, just a few months ago they sent Superman to Cleveland in case there would be rioting over LeBron’s decision to take his skills elsewhere, and they cautioned him that the Cuyahoga River could catch fire again at any time.  With Superman out of the way, the others then could get credit for stopping a huge meteor that was heading for earth.

Mount:  Does Superman have any pets?

White:  Yeah, he has a dog named Krypto.   Dog catchers are scared of him.

Mount: Why’s that?

White: That mutt has super powers.  Every time a dog catcher goes after him the poor schmuck ends up with a hot foot.

Mount: A hot foot?

White: Yeah, the dog has heat vision, just like its owner.  And let me tell you something; you don’t want to be in the vicinity when that dog stops at a fire hydrant.  His super water pressure puts that thing into orbit!

Mount: Who is his chief enemy?

White: Don’t call me chief!

Mount: I didn’t, sir!

White: Lex Luther hates Superman’s guts!  He’s been trying to kill the Man of Steel since the Great Depression.

Mount: Does Superman have any weaknesses?

White: Yes; he’s addicted to soap operas and Kryptonite can kill him.

Mount: What is Kryptonite?

White: It’s radioactive chunks from the planet Krypton. That’s where Superman was born.  His old man sent him to earth in a rocket just before the planet exploded.

Mount: What caused the explosion?

White: According to my liberal friends the planet Krypton overheated due to man-made (Kryptonian?) emissions.  No doubt a Cap and Trade policy would have saved them all.

Mount: No doubt. Well, thank you so much for this interview, Mr. White.

White: You’re welcome, Mount, and don’t call me Mr. White! 

Once outside the building, Mount hears a loud swishing sound overhead. Could it be the greatest of super heroes? Looking upward, he wondered: “ Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” Unfortunately, it was a bird, and it was right on target.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Edith or Edna?

Way back in 1919 it was not unusual for women to give birth at home.  Therefore, it is not surprising that my grandmother gave birth to twin girls at the old family farmhouse in rural Ohio.  At least there was a doctor present.

One infant, named Edna, either died immediately after birth or was stillborn.  Grandpa, in his grief, made plans to construct a tiny casket for his deceased daughter. 

The doctor, trying to be helpful, said, “You had better make two caskets, for the other one will not survive long.”

The “other one”-Edith- weighed next to nothing, had a blue tinge about her at birth ,and at first the doctor could not detect any breathing.  Only by placing a mirror in front of her face could he detect any signs of life.

As things turned out, Grandpa was wise to ignore the good doctor’s advice, for the second tiny infant lasted another 77 years!  During that time she married and raised four children.

Tragically, in 1996 we learned that both Dad and Mom were battling cancer.  After Dad’s death we helped Mom stay at home until there was no other choice but to use the services of Hospice.

One day when we went to visit her one of us noticed that the name listed at the foot of her bed was “Edna!”  Where had they gotten that name?  Mom had been entered under her name-”Edith.”  To this day we haven’t solved this mystery.  Contacting a nurse, we soon had the name on the bed corrected.

Despite her courageous battle, we lost our mother on January 1, 1997.  It’s strange that even when a person is in his or her forties or fifties, when the parents die one feels like an orphan.  She was a hardworking, giving person, who was only selfish once in her life.  No doubt to the surprise of the doctor mentioned above, she gave us 77 years, but in our hearts that was not nearly enough.

A few weeks after Mom’s death one of my sisters sent a check to Hospice as a way of thanking the nurses and doctors for the fine care they had provided.  In the attached note my sister listed Mom’s name so that Hospice officials would know about which person she was referring.

A couple days later she received a thank you note from Hospice officials. Once again they referred to Mom as “Edna!”  At that point things were getting rather creepy!

Was our mother trying to tell us something?  During the confusion of childbirth perhaps the names of the two little girls inadvertently had been switched.  Had Edith died at birth?  Was our beloved mother really Edna?

I guess we will never know the answer to that one.  Of course, it really isn‘t important.  No matter what her name, we have fond memories of our mother.  As Shakespeare made clear, a rose by any other name does not diminish its beauty.  Whether Mom was Edith, Edna, or whatever, the fact remains that she was a good person and as a result her children have many happy memories.  That’s enough. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Comic Books

               Back in the 1950s I spent many Saturdays  hunting discarded pop bottles.  The regular eight ounce bottle had a deposit of two cents, while the quart bottle cost an extra nickel .  Pulling my wagon behind me, on good days I would collect enough bottles to fetch a dollar or so. 
    The clerk at the nearby Herb’s Market accepted the bottles, perhaps knowing that the money given to me would not be leaving the building.  With cash in my pocket, I’d go  to the comic book rack to find the latest Superman or Batman and Robin editions.  The regular-size comic book cost a dime; the “giant annual” went for a quarter.  Occasionally Superman and Batman would be featured together in the same magazine.  That was like getting two for the price of one.
    Many of us kids hated some of the literature that was forced upon us in school.  First of all, from our point of view much of it was irrelevant ; secondly, the teachers would wring any joy out of  those stories by forcing us to over analyze them.  We read comic books simply because they were entertaining.  The point is that we were reading voluntarily,  so  parents and educators should have been thrilled.
    The comic books that I read pitted the good guys against the bad ones, and in the end, the good guys won.  My favorite character was Superman.  No one guessed that Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for the “Daily Planet“, was in reality the Man of Steel.  Batman lacked superhuman powers, but with several gadgets and lots of smarts he made the bad guys pay for their crimes.  Occasionally I’d also read comic books featuring the Green Lantern, Flash, or Wonder Woman.
    The first comic books in America were published in the 1930s.  They got their name from the fact that they were comic strips reprinted from newspapers.  Superman introduced the superhero in the June 1938 issue of “Action Comics“.  Other crime fighters with unusual powers  soon  followed.
    A psychiatrist by the name of Fredric Wertham, who was genuinely concerned about the welfare of children., wrote “Seduction of the Innocent” in 1954.  He believed that comic books, at least many of them, depicted violence, which in turn promoted violent actions by the young  readers.  In addition, he suggested that  Superman was a fascist, Batman and Robin were gay partners, and Wonder Woman was a lesbian.
    A Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency then investigated the possible harm caused by comic book reading (Maybe Russia was behind all this?).  Many concerned Americans believed that comic books were at least partially responsible for just about every problem of the young-from juvenile delinquency to drug use.  Thankfully,  they couldn’t find a connection between comic books and acne.
    Many fearful parents attempted to keep this “horrible” stuff away from their kids.  Some groups even sponsored public comic book burnings.  Of course, Hitler and his NAZI fiends liked book burnings, too.  The right to ban “harmful” material ran smack into the Constitutional right of free speech. 
    Under pressure, the comic book publishers began to regulate themselves by developing the Comics Code Authority.  The good doctor, however, believed that the code was not restrictive enough to protect the young.
    Like the situation with Elvis Presley and rock and roll in general, the critics overreacted.  Those comic books of the 1950s are rather tame and innocent when compared to what kids are exposed to today.  If he’s somehow aware of today‘s video games, movies, and  CDs, the late doctor is probably spinning in  his grave.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Stadium Tour

*During the off-season a big-time university offers tours of its renowned football stadium.  The author walked away thinking he had just visited a money-trap.

“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen,” proclaimed the grizzled tour guide.  “You will get to see things that ordinary fans seldom see.”

After paying my twenty dollars I joined a group of eight. 

“We will begin our tour in the Fred Foronsi Hall.   During the football games this is where you come to buy

hotdogs, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, and, of course, beer.  To your left is the Quimby Moto men’s restroom.”

“Should alcoholic beverages be sold at sporting events?”  one middle-aged lady asked. 

The tour guide responded: “After all that yelling and cheering, and after eating our highly-seasoned food, those fans need liquid refreshment.  Besides, we quit selling beer at the end of the third quarter, so we are being totally responsible.”

“How much to do charge for this public service?” asked a little old lady.

“Just enough to cover our expenses and help pay the head coach’s salary, which is twelve million a year.  One can get an ice cold beer here for only $10.”

“Excuse me, sir,” I inquired.  “Why does everything seem to have the name of a person in front of it?”

“Those are naming rights,” the guide proclaimed.  “Mr. Foronsi was able to secure naming rights for just $450,000 a year and Mr. Moto purchased his for a mere $250,000 annually.”

“I have about thirty-five dollars,” I stated.  “What can I buy with that?”

“Nothing,” the guide responded.  “However, for $25,000 we can place your likeness in the bottom of one of the urinals in the Quimby Moto restroom.”

After serious thought I passed on that opportunity.

After climbing a flight of stairs we came to a large office.

“This is the head coach’s stadium office,” the guide announced.  “For a donation of only $10,000 you can meet the coach here, have your picture taken with him, and spend up to three minutes sitting in his chair.”

Next we went to a corporate suite.

“This is a mid-level suite, complete with bar, refrigerator, padded seats and its own restroom.  This little number can be yours for only $350,000 per year.”

“Do you have anything for $120?” a retired school teacher inquired.

See the seat located behind that big girder?  We can fix you up there for only $115 a game!”

“But you can’t see the field from there, “ the retired teacher complained.

“What do you expect for $115?” answered the guide.

“Is the parking free on game days?” asked the little old lady.

“We have a special deal for you,” quipped the guide.  “For only thirty dollars you can park in our lot all day!”

“It seems that this university is money-hungry,” stated a minister who was on the tour.

“Well, we do have expenses,” the guide explained.  “The athletic director makes three million a year, and the assistant coaches average over $750,000 apiece.”

“How much does the university president make?” asked the little old lady.

“About $200,000  a year,” stated the guide.

“Isn’t that a bit unfair?” asked the minister.

“No,” replied the tour guide, “Our head coach had a much better year than she did!”

“Is every student guaranteed a ticket for each home game?” I asked.

“No, that wouldn’t be fair to the rich alumni who can fork over the big -time bucks,” replied the guide.

Getting on my high horse, I proclaimed,  “Since this is a state-supported university, it seems to me that the costs around here should be kept low enough that ordinary folks can attend games.”

“Nobody’s stopping them,” explained the guide.  “It’s their own fault if they don’t get  second or third jobs.”

As the tour came to an end, the minister replied: “Well, at least the cost of touring the stadium was reasonable.”

“Thank you,” said the tour guide, who was surrounded by five large guards carrying clubs.  “Now each of you need to pay an exit fee of $50.  Those new suites are not going to build themselves, you know.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Laughter-the best Medicine

1. What did the duck say when she purchased lipstick?  “Put it on my bill.”

2. What do you call a hyperactive number?  A roamin’ numeral.

3. My wife asked me if her left rear turn signal was working.  I went to the back of the car and answered: “Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no…”

4. When you see a guy open the car door for his wife it means either that he has a new car or a new wife.

5. Can a frog jump higher than the Empire State Building?  Yes.  The Empire State Building cannot jump at all.

6. What does Barack Obama call illegal immigrants?  Undocumented democrats.

7. Why did the witches have to forfeit their baseball game?  All their bats flew away.

8. A high school girl asked her gym instructor if she could teach her how to do the splits.  “How flexible are you?” the instructor asked.  The girl replied: “I can’t do Thursdays.”

9. Two young men were arrested yesterday.  One had been drinking battery acid and the other was eating firecrackers.  The police charged one of them and let the other one off.

10. Yesterday my mother-in-law fell down a wishing well.  Heck, I didn’t know those things actually worked!

11. A sandwich walked into a bar.  “Sorry,” said the bartender, “We don’t serve food in here.”

12. Two Eskimos in a kayak were freezing, so they started a fire in the boat.  Unfortunately, they and the kayak soon sank into the water.  The moral of the story is: You can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

13. A guy showed up two hours late for his job.  “You should have been here at 8:30!” the boss screamed.  “Why?” asked the guy.  “What happened at 8:30?”

14. My wife and I were walking through the woods when we were confronted by a bear.  “Slowly turn around and walk away,” I cautioned her.  “Do not run.  You cannot outrun a bear.”  In a few seconds she sped past me.  “You can’t outrun the bear!” I reminded her.   “I’m not trying to outrun the bear, “she said.  “I’m just trying to outrun you!”

15. There is a terrible punishment for bigamy-two mothers-in-law!

16. Evidently tennis was played back in Biblical days, for the Good Book says that Joseph served in Pharaoh’s court.

17. Although Bill was 45 years old, he had never married.  No matter who he brought home, his mother didn’t like her.  His pal made a suggestion: “Find somebody who is just like your mom and take her home.”  It didn’t work-Dad didn’t like her.

18. My wife seems to have every advantage over me.  She even has better in-laws than I do!  (Just kidding - I have great in-laws).

19. I went to the store to buy a pair of camouflage pants but I couldn’t find any.

20. A police officer notified his superior: “A lady just shot her husband for stepping onto her recently mopped floor.”  Supervisor: “Did you make an arrest?”  Officer: “Not yet; the floor is still wet.”