Boomer Twilight

Mostly Humorous Observations of Most Anything, with a Boomer Slant

Posts Tagged ‘Facts

Charles Manson vs. Peter Cottontail

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After reading this, please don’t form an angry mob outside my house brandishing pitchforks, torches, sickles, and lanterns. There’s no right or wrong position being espoused here. I’m just sayin’ . . . .

Charles Manson is well known for his cult following of marauding murderers and sadistic killers. He had a way of convincing some folks to snuff-out lives indiscriminately, without conscience. Fortunately, he hasn’t been executed, otherwise for some sickos a martyr would be born.

Don’t you think it’s strange we have a goofy rabbit, sometimes referred to as Peter Cottontail, who (as the folklore goes) carries a basket filled with colored eggs, chocolate images of himself and jelly beans (shaped like eggs) and delivers them to children on a day that celebrates the resurrection from the dead of the executed savior, Jesus Christ? I don’t quite understand the correlation of the two, but I assume when the Easter Bunny was conceived, some thought went into associating his origin with the death of the Messiah.

In its infancy Christianity was considered a personality cult. Throughout history, many people were killed by the followers of Jesus. The difference is it was not at his bidding; where as, Charlie Manson commanded his people to rain mayhem down upon unsuspecting souls. Christ couldn’t know what was going on (as he was dead), even though those doing the killing and torturing declared they were doing so “in his name.” Was Peter (the rabbit) created as a sort of soothing distraction? Who could blame a cute little bunny, giving away treats, for any indiscretions of the past? I’m sure anyone being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition did not have furry little critters dancing in their heads. They were just a little busy croaking.

There were several phases of inquisitive behavior (1184 – 1860); however, the Spanish Inquisition (1478 – 1834) is considered by historians the most notorious of them all. It’s quite a blemish on the permanent record of influential distributors of The Word. There is not much mention of it during contemporary sermons. It’s better to forget and let bygones be bygones. After all, those who were involved are no longer available for interviews, and descendants can’t change whatever an ancestor considered appropriate.

Although the episode was referenced by many at the time as a “cleansing of souls,” it is argued to have been an economic grab bag, “unofficially” endorsed by the Spanish Monarchy to beef-up a depleted Treasury, whose bills were coming due. The Horror Show began as a campaign to rid the land of non-believers and establish the Catholic Church as the one true religion.

But, a big factor in its intensified purpose was the King of Spain owed lots of coin to Jewish merchants and money lenders, who helped finance overseas exploration and military campaigns (the Crusades), expecting to eventually be repaid. Because the King’s cupboard was bare, the best way to avoid paying back the loans was to force the Jews to become Christians, and if they refused (which most did) they would be killed under torture and their estates surrendered to the Churchstate. It was a win/win. If the Jews converted, they would donate a hefty portion of their funds to the Churchstate and if they didn’t, the money became Churchstate property upon their expiration.

Apparently, the fun part for the Inquisitors was the torture. They developed torture devices that no Confessor could ever withstand. Anyone subjected to these confession-letting tools eventually agreed they were heretics or would become Conversos, or died before they could. It’s interesting to note that several of the torturous contraptions had some underlying sexual perversion (hmmmm) associated with them. Some were attached to genitalia or inserted in orifices normally used for sexual activity or expulsion of bodily fluids and waste. I can picture in my mind a Church official wringing his hands, while slobbering on his bib during the confessional ceremonies, enjoying the suffering of the soon-to-be convert or corpse (maybe that’s why they wore the long robes). Once they were done with Jews and heretics, the Inquisitors turned to witches, which gave them even more opportunity to indulge their sexual repression.

As a youngster, Easter meant coloring eggs, eating chocolate, a new suit from either Robert Hall in Suitland or Hecht’s Bargain Basement in Marlow Heights, those colored chicks from the 5 & 10 in Capitol Heights that always died within a week, and pancake breakfast at the First Baptist Church on 57th Avenue. Then there was fidgeting through the preacher’s talk about Christ and why we celebrate Easter, but all that went over my head because I couldn’t wait to get home to find the hidden eggs. I bet more children overdosed on hard-boiled eggs during that time of year than any other. The eventual flatulence was cause for celebration as each kid tried to out-toot the other. It was a grand time, followed by several days out of school. So, what about Jesus? Lost in the childish celebration of Easter is the reason for the holiday.

I’m sure Chuckie Manson is not praying in his cell. Most likely, he’s performing some sort of Pagan ritual, the meaning of which is known only to him, while he spits at the guards as they walk by (probably flinging stuff, too). His cruelty is ingrained and his followers were led by the nose to believe his word was god-like. They killed for him and are paying their debt to society.

The Spanish Inquisition was evil, regardless of how it was perceived while taking place. Hindsight and our evolving mores tell us that something like that should not have happened. But, it did. The views of torture and execution change with the times. Anyone subjected to the Inquisitors, would think Abu Ghraib was like summer camp.

It’s over and done with and we just have to live with the fact it ever occurred. Fanatic following of any personality can lead to evil and multiple deaths of innocents. It just has to be kept in check. We can declare all the holidays we want to make it seem better, but it can’t erase the past. Charles Manson should never be forgiven. My hope is he dies a slow and excruciating death. His victims can’t speak out for themselves. Neither can those who suffered during the Inquisition.

I’m just sayin’ . . . .

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Maryland’s Dying Sport . . . On a Morphine Drip

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It is generally accepted that duckpin bowling originated in Baltimore in 1900. There are references to it as far back as 1892 in the Boston Globe, claiming the sport to be of New England birth. Personally, I prefer the Maryland version, attributing it to the efforts of John McGraw, the famous New York “Baseball” Giants Hall of Fame manager and Wilbert Robinson, the Hall of Fame catcher who played for two Baltimore Orioles teams; from 1890 – 1899 (the National League team that folded after 1899), and the 1901-02 Orioles of the American League, who moved to New York City in 1903 to become the Yankees. That’s right, those Yankees.

Growing up in Maryland with duckpins was terrific. During my formative years (the 60s) the sport was in its heyday. My best friend’s dad coached our team and Saturday was anxiously anticipated. I couldn’t wait to get to the lanes for the bowling (but really for the french fries). Bowling Alley fries were the best. That was when they cooked them in real fat, not this sissy trans fat-less stuff we use today. Grease, salt and ketchup . . . . mmmmm, the best. We were active kids, not slothy adults, so the cholesterol didn’t clog our arteries. In my adult years I bowled with a fellow who drenched his french fries in mustard. If we wanted to snatch a fry or two while he was on the lane bowling, we had to eat them with the yellow stuff. I guess his intent was to thwart our thievery of his snack. It worked. Or, maybe he just liked them with mustard. On our team, he was the only one.

During the 1960s there were Fair Lanes alleys all over Maryland, and several independent lanes, as well. The sport was going strong. I bowled on leagues in Suitland, Forestville (Parkland), Queenstown, Hyattsville (Prince George’s Plaza), Marlow Heights, Catonsville (Westview), Laurel (with mustard guy), Silver Spring (White Oak), Riverdale (Rinaldi), Wheaton (Glenmont), College Park, and probably a couple of places I’ve forgotten.

The good thing about duckpin bowling is anybody can do it. The balls are small, weighing from 2 to a maximum of 3.75 lbs. But, don’t get the impression it is easier than ten pins, because it’s not. You can throw the ball right down the middle and “chop” for just two pins. No one has ever bowled a perfect 300 game in duckpins, but in ten pins it is a frequent occurrence. Many ten pin bowlers think they’re “tough guys” because they can roll the heavy ball down the lanes. They ain’t so tough when ending up with two pins for a whole frame because the first ball chopped, and the next two were rolled through the hole. I guess they really don’t appreciate the challenge and precision necessary to be a good duckpinner, so they make fun of it. With the game disappearing, there won’t be as many opportunities to test their skill as in the past. In 1967 there were about 300,000 duckpin bowlers. In 1973 nearly 40,000 were sanctioned (league) and today there are about 9,000; virtually all concentrated in Maryland and Connecticut. The biggest factor in the decline was the demise in 1973 of the only company manufacturing automatic pinsetters (one source says it was 1969).

Ken Sherman invented the automatic pinsetter for duckpins in 1954, but refused to sell the rights to Brunswick because he didn’t want to leave New England. Shortly thereafter, AMF developed a pinsetter for ten pins, and eventually the device became the preferred equipment due to their willingness to expand and Sherman’s desire to stay at home. His company didn’t survive, and today Fair Lanes establishments are named AMF.

After enlisting in the Air Force in 1969, I came back to Maryland in 1973, but didn’t join a league until 1980. Then I bowled for a few more years and stopped in 1987. I still had the itch, so in 1992 I organized a tournament for my employer, which included 40 teams, with 5 bowlers each from companies with whom we did business. Two hundred people participated during the middle of February to have a grand time of socializing and duckpin bowling. It was required that each team have at least two females, so those participating would have to allow the clerical employees (peasants) to take the afternoon off to bowl. Otherwise, they would just send the males, who usually golfed and found other ways to waste their afternoons while the peons did the work.

After five tournaments I left the company, but the event survives to this day. We gave trophies for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Last Place finishers. That’s all fine and dandy, but my preferred awards were for Best Team Name and Best Bowling Attire. My favorite team name and attire (designed by my son) is in the picture to the left.

Many of you reading this participated in one or more of those tournaments. Most of the pictures from the 1996 Awards Ceremony are posted in the sidebar link “5th Annual CIC Tournament Pictures,” which is under the “Boomer Memories – Duckpin Bowling” category. Take a peek(ing) and you may find yourself or someone you know. Don’t be alarmed by how much older and fatter you look today. It’s always fun to see what used to be.

If you have not bowled duckpins in the past (or even if you have), find an alley and have a good time. Take the kids. Most centers will put down gutter bumpers so the ball stays on the lane, and the child feels like a star. Spend a few minutes clicking on the links (particularly the videos) in the sidebar under “About Duckpin Bowling.” You might want to check out Robin’s Web, a site devoted to the sport.

It won’t be long before duckpins are completely gone. The equipment can’t last forever.

Roll one for the Gipper.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Written by Bake My Fish

February 16, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Shoe Fly, Don’t Bother Me

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George Bush was recently involved in a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” during a news conference held in Iraq. One of the members of the Iraqi media (a mini van, with three reporters and two digital cameras) took off his shoes (size 10) and hurled them at the President in an effort to insult him. I am not up on Shoe Insult Theory, but apparently the thinking is if you show a person the bottom of your shoe, they are forever scorned. When the shoe thrown at the person being assaulted conks them in the head, the bruise or lump might be a pretty good reminder they have just been dissed.

I was a salesman at Bakers Shoes in Iverson Mall in 1967. Our patrons were only female and so many times when I was dying fabric pumps in the back room or bringing them to the women, I saw the soles. Not once did I shake or feel insulted. Maybe it was because they were new and had not yet traveled the road of dirty sidewalks or stepped in gum or anything that might make them filthy. My guess is the soiling of the soles of worn shoes is what adds to the insult of showing them to someone. It seems the indignity can only come from a man, since the theory appears to have originated among the not-so-tolerant-of-females men of the Middle East. That’s probably why I never shivered at Bakers. When Dwight Eisenhower was President, I wonder if Buster Brown’s were used for the gesture or would it have been Kinney’s or Chucks (possibly the beginning of the term “chucking” shoes)?

Perhaps that explains why some men cross their legs like a girl and some like a man. Typically men wear pants and have no need to hide their privates. The feminish crosser is most likely just being polite, attempting to avoid showing the sole to innocent observers. It seems to me displaying the bottom of dirty bare feet would be more of a disgusting gesture, but like I said earlier, I’m not a student of the theory. Restaurants do not ban soiled shoe soles, only bare feet. So, the owners of eating establishments must not understand the Shoe Insult Theory, either.

Does the term “shooing” someone or something away have anything to do with the insult? Usually the “shooing” away of them/it is for safety purposes or because of annoyance. When someone says “shoo” are they saying “shoo” or “shoe?” If a salesman gets a “shoe in the door” is the person whose door was entered insulted? A political candidate who is a “shoo-in” could be less than flattering to the “shoo-out.” Is it “shoo-in” or “shoe-in?” And what about Shoo-fly Pie? The name is thought to have originated from shooing flies away while it was cooling. Is it possible it was derived from shoes being used in the baking process to knead the dough, or is there a subtle insult being extended by the pie? Only the Amish know for sure (but they’re not reading this).

I’m too fat to cross my legs like a girl, so I’ll have to continue the man cross. I never could accomplish the feminine cross, even in my early years, when thin. It was just too uncomfortable and seemed a little sissy-like to me. If someone is insulted by the sole of my shoe as a result of my inability or lack of desire to perform the girly cross, let me apologize in advance for my unintended rudeness.

Shoes should be worn, not thrown.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Digg! StumbleUponMy Zimbio

Written by Bake My Fish

December 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Good Morning, Taiwan!

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I really enjoyed the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Robin Williams was terrific in his role as Adrian Cronauer. He was a Disc Jockey for the American Forces Network and an English Teacher. Appealing to the differing musical tastes of soldiers from all regions of America is a task. Teaching Conversational English as a second language to the Vietnamese, although it was comical in the movie, was a challenge, as well. So that leads me into a period of time where I did basically the same thing; in Taiwan, rather than Vietnam (Pat Sajak was a Disc Jockey in Vietnam, but was given the Wheel of Fortune job over me because Vanna and I had a history).

In 1969 I owned a beautiful 1966 Aqua-colored Chevy Impala convertible with a white top, a 283 engine, and a 327 logo; a fraud perpetrated by the previous owner. After buying it from Bob Peck Chevrolet in Alexandria, I continued the lie. It looked cool and felt like a muscle car, with a nice sized trunk, making it possible to smuggle my girlfriend into the drive-in without paying.

One Saturday evening I went to Fairfax Village in Southeast DC to drink at a bar named The End Zone. At the time we only had to be eighteen to qualify for suds in Washington. My drinking partner was a friend, Ronnie Floyd, who had recently been drafted by the Army, but when he went to Ft. Holabird in Baltimore for his induction, a fellow from the U. S. Marines came in the room and chose him for their team. That’s how it was then. We had no choice.

That night it was snowing, and while preparing to leave the house, I joked with my parents about wrecking my car. Some joke. After celebrating Ronnie’s imminent tour in Vietnam for a few hours, I said goodbye to him and got in my car for the ride to Landover, where my family was living at the time. Of course I shouldn’t have been driving, but in those days no one paid much attention to that sort of thing, so while traveling NE on Alabama Avenue I began to slide in the snow, taking out a police call box. Oopsie Daisy! The upper half of the box landed in the back seat of the car, and the lower half was dragged several hundred feet under the vehicle, destroying all the hardware necessary for it to operate, as I experienced the twirling sleigh ride from hell, stopping at the corner of Alabama and Massachusetts Avenues. After looking around for Angels or pitchforks and realizing life would continue, I found the nearest pay phone (since the call box was useless) and called my parents.

It is just a bit foggy exactly how everything transpired, but I remember my parents showing up, and do not recall any police presence. My father and I pushed what was left of the call box from the middle of the road as he questioned me about my alcohol indulgence. Being a punk 19-year-old, of course I lied. “No dad, I haven’t been drinking,” but my stumbling behavior should have given me away. As a father, he was probably grateful to see me alive, and just a bit ticked about the inebriation, forgiving the lie for the survival. If given the same situation as a parent, I probably would have been as benevolent. But, the car was totalled and my life was soon to change.

The loss of transportation made it difficult to attend classes at Prince George’s Community College. It was my first semester, and hitchhiking to class was unreliable. After missing quite a few sessions, my grades were suffering, so I dropped out. In 1969, dropping out of school meant you went from a 2S draft classification to 1A immediately. Your lottery number was basically null and void. So, my induction was on the horizon.

I didn’t wait. Knowing Ronnie Floyd had been drafted and subsequently transformed into a Marine scared the heck out of me, so I went to DC and hit the Recruiter’s office. I signed up for the Air Force because it was my best chance not to be wallowing in the mud in ‘Nam. After taking their exam I qualified for several positions and agreed to enlist under the first one available, which was in the Administrative category. Whew! I avoided the draft. After Basic Training and Technical School, I was sent to Taiwan. My Radar O’Reilly career was beginning.

From July, 1969 through February, 1973 I was stationed at Tainan Air Base in Taiwan; assigned to the 2128th Communications Squadron. The United States maintained a presence in that country following the 1949 fall of China to the Communist regime (Peoples Republic of China) of Mao Tse-tung. The Kuomintang (Republic of China) led by Chiang Kai-shek escaped to Taiwan, which has never been disputed by either side as a part of China. Because of our staunch anti-Communist stand at the time and the invasion of Korea by Red China, the US elected to protect Taiwan from Mao, and 20 years later, I arrived.

The first thing I noticed after landing on the island was the smell. They had an open sewage system, which was essentially vented, masonry-covered pits along the streets. This kept people from falling in, but allowed the odor to assault all the senses possible. It reeked, but after a short time, I didn’t even notice. Other than the odor, Taiwan was beautiful. Imagine a tropical paradise, where you spend most of the day dodging bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, taxis and pedestrians, in overcrowded conditions, and you have a pretty good idea. Taiwan is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer, so the weather in Tainan is similar to Havana, Cuba (without the Castros). I was delighted to be there.

In the early morning, Tainan was serene. Less activity and street breakfast, consisting of heated soy milk and a sort of airy bread stick that was deep fried and probably unhealthy, but “Oh so good.” I’m not sure my etiquette was acceptable, but I dipped the bread stick in the soy milk and enjoyed my “Ugly American-self.” I was on a four-year vacation, and didn’t care what anyone thought.

One of my favorite activities in Taiwan was eating from street vendors (we called them Noodle Stands). As a young, naive kid, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it and contamination was not a concern. Everything was boiled or deep-fried and just awesome, with just the right sauces and spice. From 1895 to 1945 Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese, influencing the variety of foods. Fried tofu (smelled like feet), squid, snake, various poultry parts, eel, frog, noodles; you name it, I ate it. I’m sure today, based on my recent experience with Giardia, I would be hesitant to indulge, but in those days gorging on strange cuisine was my preference.

Tainan Air base was situated next to Air America (CIA), and our job was basically to keep the Communist Chinese from overtaking the island, and providing support for activities in Vietnam. For me, it was renting a house off base for less than $40 a month and partying with my friends. In the Communications Center we manned an old switchboard, probably left over from the Korean War (thus the Radar reference). Within the “secret” area we operated a General Dynamics computer that was a combination teletype, card reader, magnetic tape reader and printer; very high tech for the time. In the building next door there was the radio station, American Forces Network Taiwan, which was the only station in southern Taiwan to broadcast in English.

After a short time in the country, the local Baptist Church sought volunteers to teach Conversational English at the Chinese Air Force Academy in Gangshan, south of Tainan. I was dating an Elementary School teacher, Tsai-Yun (eventually my first wife and mother of our two wonderful children), who thought it would be a good idea to volunteer. So I did. The Robin Williams Experience began.

The classes were really nothing more than young Air Force Cadets asking me questions about my personal life and America. “Do you have a girlfriend?” “Is everyone rich in America?” “Are all American women blond?” “What do you and your girlfriend do for fun?” “Why do you say you know so much?” It was a good time and we laughed together quite often.

After several months of teaching, they had a graduation party for me. The Chinese like to eat. Their parties consist of many dishes on the table, where everyone partakes, family style. But the officers, particularly the General in charge of the school, liked Johnny Walker Black; however, they did not sip the beverage, they swilled. Every time a drink was poured one of them would shout “Gambei!” and we would all tilt our heads back and shoot the beverage down our gullets. After several “down the hatches” the food and drink was not sitting so well. Eventually it was time to grab the bowl with both hands, on my knees, and rid myself of the evening’s offerings. In the adjacent stall of the men’s room it was obvious someone was experiencing the same ordeal. I exited my area for clean up, and guess who came out of the other stall to do the same? The General. He smiled, then laughed and patted me on the back, while slurring something in Chinese. Apparently I had made a friend. Who would have thought Johnny Walker was such a match maker?

A couple of years, a few typhoons and some earthquakes later, I was looking for something else to do beside answering the switchboard and delivering messages to those showing proper ID at the window of the Communications Center. One of the Disc Jockeys, with whom I had become friendly, came over to our building one day and asked if I was interested in auditioning for a part-time position as a weekend broadcaster. It was volunteer work, but would be a lot of fun. I jumped at the opportunity and as soon as my shift was over, stopped by to meet with the Station Manager. He gave me a script to read, I passed the test, and “poof” I was given the job. My show was Saturday morning at 6:00 AM, in between Wolf Man Jack and Bob Kinglsey (both on tape), and Sunday at 8:00, right after a religious show (yeah, they were probably politically incorrect, but no one complained). From March 1972 through February 1973 I was a small-time star.

The first song I ever played was Doctor My Eyes, by Jackson Brown, and both shows opened with A Beautiful Morning by The Rascals (initially known as the Young Rascals). During every show, a young girl would call and ask to hear Layla by Derek and the Dominoes and I always played it for her, since she was my only groupie (plus she was awake at 6 AM to call, so I awarded her diligence). At the time my personal musical taste was pretty much Hard Rock. One Sunday morning I played six songs in a row, which included Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Jethro Tull (Aqualung), The Stooges (which had to be smuggled into the studio because they didn’t have anything commercially acceptable), Dr. John, and Humble Pie. I was having a blast; playing air guitar and banging pencils on the console like a wannabe drummer. Then the phone rang. It was the Station Manager. “You know, Bob, we have people stationed here with varying musical tastes. We are the only English Language station in Southern Taiwan; therefore, our people might want to hear something they like, rather than just what you like. So, could you mix it up somewhat and refrain from playing just the hard stuff at 8:00 in the morning?” That’s all he said, but I got his point, and grabbed some Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder from the library. My morning became a little more boring for me, but the job was secure.

I really loved my time in Taiwan, but getting out of the structured military life was a little more important than being a part-time DJ. My full four years would end in May of 1973, but I was entitled to an early out in February, and took it. So, it was back to the States to begin civilian life at the end of February. A truly enjoyable experience had to end and new experiences would begin.

Good Morning, USA!

With Love,

Bake My Fish

If Turkeys Were Pigeons and Pigeons Were Turkeys

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Suppose the Pilgrims decided to have pigeon for dinner instead of turkey; how would we be different? The common pigeon is everywhere, crapping on everything. What if it was a turkey? The load would be greater and statues would deteriorate at a much faster pace. Turkeys are beautiful, pigeons are “Eh.” But, if pigeons were celebrated like turkeys, where would we be?

Our Thanksgiving feast would be much different if pigeon was the main course. We would need more fowl carcasses to feed the family (a 13 pound turkey is equivalent to 16 average pigeons), stuffing would be limited; and what about cranberry sauce? Would the vile condiment be as good with pigeon? I hate it anyway, but those who like it might be put off. There would be more wish bones for the kids, but smaller legs for the fathers. Carving would be quicker for Dad, too.

If turkeys were pigeons and pigeons were turkeys, WWI would have been altered. Pigeons were used to relay messages in the absence of reliable communications systems. Turkeys really don’t fly very far or very well, although they could probably carry a bigger load. Turkeys make a larger target to be shot down by the enemy, so their usefulness as messengers would have been limited.

If turkeys were pigeons, we would “coo” our food rather than “gobble.” Even though a “coo” is a decidedly more pleasant sound than a “gobble,” what would Sergeant York have done during WWI? His method of enticing the Germans to raise their heads for killing was to “gobble” like a turkey. I doubt they would have reacted to the “coo.”

Imagine walking the streets of New York with unlimited turkeys flying overhead. Personally, I would rather be bombed by a few dozen pigeons than half-a-dozen turkeys. The damage from turkeys could be severe. There would be much less room on the sidewalks, and I doubt a flock of turkeys would scatter as quickly and efficiently as a bunch of pigeons. Fortunately, we treat turkeys with much more respect than pigeons due to their historical significance; therefore, turkeys are more easily tolerated. The ability of the turkeys to nest in Sky Scraper crevices would be a much more difficult task for the birds. Pigeons adjust well, due to their smaller size. And what about all the people who raise carrier pigeons on rooftops? They would need more room for turkeys, and there would be a danger of letting the birds loose from the roofs. They could very well fall upon unsuspecting passersby. Old men on fixed incomes, sitting on park benches, would have to spend more to feed turkeys.

Of course, as an American I have savored turkey quite often. Pigeon has not been a meal for me, thus far. Now, you are probably wondering what it might be like. Squab is pigeon. I was caught by surprise, too. Being on the East Coast, we really don’t eat much squab. I don’t recall seeing it on a menu recently. But, it is considered a delicacy. I would have a tough time with a squab leg being deposited on my plate with a message tied to it. Kind of like a fortune cookie. When I pass a pigeon on the street, I don’t think of food. If that pigeon was a turkey, a homeless person could eat for a week. I’m not sure they are eating pigeon, but a turkey would be hard to resist.

Thanksgiving will be here soon. We’ll gorge ourselves on turkey, without any thought of pigeon. Squab will not be on our minds. We will be busy enjoying stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, beer, wine and liquor. I doubt any of us will be considering pigeon. But, if the Pilgrims chose the bird we take for granted and consider more of a pest than a morsel, pigeon would be the featured dish.

Happy Thanksgiving.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Written by Bake My Fish

November 23, 2008 at 9:44 pm

1968 – Forty Years Ago; 20 Per Eye

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In 1968 I was a skinny, pimple-faced High School Senior. My biggest challenges were refraining from squeezing my zits and soiling my undies in my sleep. Worrying about economics, paying bills, who was in charge of the world, or any of those things took a back seat to fantasizing about my Business teacher, Miss Hopkins, and her Tabu perfume, and selling shoes at Bakers in Iverson Mall. But, the whole country was going crazy; I just didn’t think about it.

It has been argued that 1968 was the year that changed everything. Lyndon Johnson grew frustrated with the war in Vietnam and decided not to seek reelection. He had become President upon the death of John Kennedy, and then won election by beating a lame opponent, Barry Goldwater. But, now he wanted out. The country was being torn apart by opposition to a war that was none of our business. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. After the death of MLK, the cities erupted in riots. Whole city blocks were burned to the ground.  Richard Nixon was elected to his first term as President, only to resign the office amid scandal five years later.  O. J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy.

It’s easy to say today that everyone was just out of their minds back then, but unless you were there you can’t know. I was there, but oblivious, so how can anyone not subjected to it really understand? There are news accounts and historical records, but the atmosphere is not in the records. It was surreal. I remember my mother waking me by yelling upstairs to my attic apartment that Bobby Kennedy had been killed. All that went through my mind was that one day five years before, where the only thing on television was the funeral of John Kennedy. Was I going to miss Mayberry R.F.D.? Seriously though, it was shocking. How could I understand what was happening? My graduation was in just a couple of days, and that was heavy on my mind.

The Tet Offensive had just taken place in January. We watched the television reports, while my parents worried I would be drafted. I worried, too. Everyone was expected to wave a flag and declare love for America, but the young people could not figure out why we were in Souteast Asia. We were being thrown to the dogs for the sake of stopping Communist aggression. Or, so the story went. No one wanted to call it a Civil War.

But, that’s all in the past. We made a mistake and lost a lot of lives as a result. I just didn’t want to be one of them. John Prine wrote a great song, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” It was written in 1971, but I always loved the picture it painted. Honestly, I don’t really care what your feeling may be for that period of time, but while I was there, that’s how I felt. When the media was hammering Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for avoiding the draft, I sat back and held my tongue, because I understood. No one really wanted to go.

It’s easy to go to war when you can do it by proxy. Your life is safe if someone else is doing the fighting. Soldiers lose an arm, a leg, an eye, a life, a family, but it’s all OK, if it is them and not us. Politicians wave their arms high and scream “bloody murder,” but it is not them who are suffering. They don’t walk around with a limp, or an eye patch, or scooting around in a wheel chair. Yeah, they send their kids, but they send their kids. Not them. They’re safe. You can label me Liberal or whatever, but the fact of the matter is, war kills. It isn’t good for anyone. Everyone suffers.

As a society, we have to find a way to avoid war. If we are attacked, we have to react. Afghanistan made sense because that was the haven of Al-Qaeda, and they struck first. Iraq was vengeance; getting even for the past. We are there now, and have to tough it out. In the future we have to think a little more about jumping in the fray.

If forty years of history taught us anything, I would be surprised. We never seem to learn. When it comes to economic gains over death, we accept death as a consequence. As long as it’s not our death. Throw a soldier into the heat, and he’ll take it. But, we’re running out of soldiers. In 1968 we had the draft, which meant the soldier had no choice. He had to go. Today, there is no draft, and with what is occurring at the present time, fewer men and women are opting to join. They don’t want to die any more than the politicians who have chosen their fate.

With that being said (ha ha), we need to change the future.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

P.S. Check out the videos for 1968

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November 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Today’s Gladiators – Professional Football Players

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I love the NFL. There’s nothing more exciting to me. After the Super Bowl, I count the days until the Draft, followed by off-season training sessions, then pre-season and the new season. I fear dying before I get enough. It is the coolest and most anticipated thing in my life. When the season starts I am in 7th Heaven. “Lord, I thank you for the NFL.” Give me football on my death bed.

Millions of Americans and people all over the world love the sport. Players sacrifice their bodies and minds for our enjoyment. Billions of dollars are at stake. Players undergo sugeries we have to research on the Internet to understand. A lateral this and a medial lateral that is music to our ears. Living beyond fifty-years-old for an offensive lineman is a luxury, but who cares? We have our sport. Today’s Gladiators provide our entertainment and milk our weaknesses by proxy.

The NFL is a mutli-billion dollar industry. Our stadiums are like the Roman Coliseums. The players are shoved out on the field and we hope to catch a violent hit or two. We are just missing the lions and other beasts tearing flesh from the fighters. If it wasn’t moralistically-challenged, the creatures would play a part. Like the Gladiators, football players are shown the exit door once they have suffered enough injuries or grown too old to be of use to a team (although a Gladiator’s death ended their careers). Winning is everything, and job security is short-lived.

In virtually every sport there is the hope of tragedy. With Nascar, we are waiting for the fiery crash. In hockey we love the fight, where a couple of teeth are knocked out. A knockout in boxing brings with it a cheer from the fans, and tears from the loser’s family. Baseball brawls, with the dugouts emptying on the field are particularly exciting; the more players involved, the more newsworthy the event. An NBA player entering the stands to punch a fan in the mouth gives us goose bumps. Soccer hooligans are damned-near idols in some countries; tearing down fences and trampling spectators. A near-death collision in the NFL is spectacular. We thrive on the violence. Am I wrong?

Every year the NFL winner comes down to which team is the healthiest. When key players are hurt, the whole complexion of a team changes. How many of you relish the thought of your team’s biggest rival losing a player who makes a difference? I’m happy that Tony Romo is hurt, or T. O. is going through a meltdown. It helps the Redskins’ chances. And you are thinking the same thing with regard to the opponent of whichever team you cherish. The most anticipated statistics on Friday are the injury reports.

I’m not apologizing. At times I feel sort of bad hearing the news someone has broken a limb or suffered a season-ending injury that can help my team. But, I don’t feel that bad. If they don’t die, my conscience is off the hook.

We are already finished with half of the season. It will be over soon, and I have to begin the cycle again. Drool is running out the side of my mouth. I only have a couple of months left apologizing to my wife for ignoring her and letting the grass grow too long because it rained on Saturday. Sunday is my domain.

I always justify my love of the NFL by narrowing it down to the fact it is only 16 games, 3 hours each, which really only involves 48 hours. Two days out of 365; unless the Redskins make the playoffs. The math is what it is. Some wives don’t really get it, unless they are into the sport, too. I guess it’s because I watch the other games that can affect the Redskins’ season; crossing my fingers with the hope someone gets hurt.

Hail to the Redskins!!

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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October 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm

3:10 to Yuma – A Movie Review

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Being born in 1950 has at least one benefit. Many of you reading this think “that’s a long time ago, and what could be good about being that old?” Well, it gave me an appreciation of the western movie.

In 1950 the Wild West had only been tamed for about 35 years. The last stage robbery took place in 1916 and Wyatt Earp died in 1929. Forty years ago from this year, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated, so thirty-five years in perspective doesn’t seem so long ago.

Some of the best TV shows in the 50s and 60s were Westerns. We had Wyatt Earp, Cheyenne, The Rebel, Bonanza, Rifleman, Sugarfoot, Zorro, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, The Texan, Bat Masterson, Maverick, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Have Gun Will Travel, Big Valley, High Chaparral, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, The Virginian, Wanted Dead or Alive, etc. I think you get my point; there were a lot of shows devoted to Cowboys. Go to this website for an extensive listing.

In 3:10 to Yuma the cast gets my attention. I have enjoyed monitoring the career of Christian Bale. He was the kid in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and now he’s the newest Batman. If you had the pleasure of seeing his performance in The New World, you will most likely agree he is very good. He’s “movin’ on up” and it’s based on talent. In this movie he is great as Dan Evans, a rancher who is down on his luck. An Oscar for some performance is probably in his future.

Of course, Russell Crowe is terrific as the bad guy, Ben Wade. Mr. Crowe gets a lot of flack from the press for his “bad boy” ways, but his performance in virtually every movie he makes appears Oscar worthy. Throwing telephones at hotel employees is a bit much, but artists are often somewhat crazed (at least he didn’t cut off one of his ears). By the way, he was born in New Zealand, not Australia.

In my opinion (this is my review) the standout actor in 3:10 to Yuma is Ben Foster. You may have seen him in Boston Public as Max Warner or in the awesome HBO series Six Feet Under as Russell Corwin. In this movie he plays a really creepy, but slick killer, Charlie Prince, and he wears it so well.

Those of you who are familiar with Easy Rider know Peter Fonda, who is in this, too. He’s the son of Henry Fonda and brother of Jane, and even though he has a long career in films, most of which I have enjoyed, I think his greatest accomplishment is the fathering of Bridget. During the 90s she was the “It Girl” in my mind, and her greatest performances for me were in Point of No Return and Singles.

What I liked most about 3:10 to Yuma is the respect Russell Crowe shows for Christian Bale. Russell sees a father trying to impress his son, and willing to take on a job that can only lead to unfortunate circumstances. Bale is part of a group bringing Crowe to the town of Contention on behalf of the railroad he has been robbing, to be transported on the 3:10 train to Yuma for his trial. Bale is paid $200 to risk his life. All along the trail, Crowe’s gang, led by Ben Foster is creating havoc for the group, but Bale is committed to the task, regardless.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you by revealing what happens. This was my second viewing, and I won’t hesitate to watch it again. If you like westerns, lots of action and very good acting, check it out. Our library has it on the shelf for free. Yours might, too.

“Saddle up, Pardner.”

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by Bake My Fish

October 12, 2008 at 12:40 am

O Phineas, Phineas, Wherefore Art Thou Phineas?

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I’m probably going to Hell, be struck by lightning, or meet a horrible end for this post, but the subject is too freakish for me to avoid. I just can’t help myself.

It would have been interesting to know Phineas Taylor Barnum. Probably every birthday party he gave for his kids included clowns, dwarf piñatas, lots of celebration, and just a damned good time. He was involved in a few nefarious activities, including running numbers, hoaxes and displaying odd humans, referred to as “Freaks, ” and he was considered by many people of his time to be a scoundrel. If you’ve ever attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, you are guilty of being an enabler. Phineas started it, and you bought tickets. I took my kids when they were young, but they spent the whole show counting the number of times the elephants pooped. We didn’t have a chance to see Freaks.

Some of you may be thinking you are “Holier than Thou” and that you look the other way when you see an unusually-figured person (mimes don’t count), but don’t kid yourself and don’t kid me. We all like to see strange things. We pretend not to notice, but the corner of our eye gets stretched as far as possible and at any opportunity, we peek. When was the last time you were stuck in traffic, and the only reason for the delay was rubber-necking? I know you looked. Don’t be ashamed. It’s acceptable to gaze. That’s how Barnum grew rich. He was the first Millionaire Showman. And if it makes you feel any better, the people who were displaying their oddities and/or deformities referred to themselves as “Freaks.” So, you’re off the hook for the curiosity or use of the word.

When I was a kid, my favorite school field trip was to the Medical Museum where we saw fetuses in jars, photos of disfigurements, skeletons, and the Elephantiasis leg (there was a rumor about John Dillinger’s wee wee, but I never saw it). Little did I know at the time that Elephantiasis is caused by a parasitic worm (again with the parasites, Bake) and it demonstrates how vulnerable we are to nature’s invasive activities that cause unwarranted agony.

I recently became aware of the Treeman of Indonesia, aka Dede. This story has been circulating for some time, but it just caught my attention about a month ago (maybe I’ve been “living in a tree or under a log”). Wow! This guy is messed up. And from a human papillomavirus (HPV). He grows these wood-like warts all over his body. His hands and feet resemble tree branches and he has a morbid fear of termites, beavers, woodpeckers and squirrels. The sad thing is his wife left him and he was fired from his job. I assume he was sacked because he couldn’t use his hands or feet and it was impossible to perform any normal task (I suppose they don’t have ADA protection in Indonesia). His wife was probably worried about splinters. Yet, he likes to smoke cigarettes. If I were him, no open flames would get anywhere near me.

There is a fellow in Indonesia, Hani Suwanto (their P. T. Barnum), who along with his assistant, Boy, display Dede and several other people with physical deformities known as the Sadaluk Clan. The Clan includes Dede, Bubble Man and Nose Man as featured performers. Hani thinks of himself more as Walt Disney, with a goal of 100 of these people under one roof. In his mind he is providing a social service for the “performers” who have no other opportunity for income. Before you feel aghast at the exploitation, be aware Dede is OK with it. It’s the only way he can make a living. The Welfare System in Indonesia is not quite as generous as here, so Dede has to work somehow to feed himself and his children, and the circus is the only willing employer. If Barnum was alive today, Dede would be his featured act and he would probably have Huang Chuancai open the show for him.

Alright, I’ve gotten my cheap laughs and perhaps freaked you out just a bit with the pictures displayed here. Click on some of the links (especially Freaks) and feed your amazement. But, the purpose is not really for amusement. I’m fascinated by how unforgiving nature can be. The more we mess around with it the nastier it can get.

The next time you see an abnormal human, think about the suffering they must be experiencing and how fortunate you are to be spared the misery. Working in a circus might pay the bills, but I’m sure it’s not the occupation they had in mind.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

I Went to the Animal Fair; the Germs and the Microbes Were There

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Many of you reading this probably attended the Maryland State Fair, or a fair or festival of some sort this summer; especially if you have children. Ours ran from August 22 through September 1st. It’s always the same number of days ending on Labor Day. My wife and I hadn’t been for several years. This year we were given free tickets from the car dealer where she purchased her auto. Oh boy, free! Gotta go, right? It’s free!!

The Sunday morning before Labor Day we went for a walk to get a little exercise. I enjoy our walks. It gives us some time to talk without interruption, and to share each other’s company. As we strolled I was trying to avoid the subject of the fair, because I really didn’t want to go, initiating conversation about anything I could think of just to keep the chatter going and suppress the thought of the fair. Even though I had agreed to go earlier in the week, it was not an enthusiastic endorsement. Then it came up. “What time do you want to leave for the fair?” she asked. “Do we really have to go?” I whined. “It’s kind of hot now, and later on, it’ll be too hot.” “You don’t want to go?” she asked, in that sort of wife way that tells you she’s annoyed, but not angry. “We don’t do much on the weekend,” she continued. The guilt honed-in and my love of hanging out at home was challenged. As a society we spend about a third of our life sleeping. Another third working. We spend a substantial amount of our income buying a home and equipping it with entertainment and furnishings so we can enjoy our stay. Personally, I want to hang out at my abode. But, I don’t want to be a creep and sloth of a husband, so I agreed to attend the fair. Fun, fun, fun. After all, the tickets are eight dollars each, and we have two, so we’re saving $16.

We left our home about 1:30 to drive the half-hour or so from Eldersburg to Timonium. In my mind I was singing “Our State Fair is a Great State Fair, it’s the Greatest Fair in our State.” It sounds hokey, but I really was (I bet you are right now, too). I’m just glad it wasn’t out loud, because that would be just too corny. Our drive was unimpeded and we made it with ease. The bowling alley across from the Fairgrounds was offering parking for $5.00. Another bargain. We pulled in and parked, and thus far our afternoon was thrifty.

If you are young or have children, the fair can be a grand time. There are rides, treats, animals to pet, things to see, and you can act silly, unencumbered by embarrassment. When you are older, without children, it’s hot, noisy, dirty, stanky, boring, expensive, and the food really isn’t that good. But, the tickets are free, so we become two Old Coots walking around the grounds hoping for some excitement. They don’t even have bumper cars, so what the hell was I supposed to do? “I know, let’s get some bad food.” And the fair has the baddest. Deep fried Twinkies and Oreos? You mean they are not artery-clogging enough, that they have to be dipped in batter, and fried in the grease pit called a fryer? Those cookers have never contained zero-trans fat anything, and I doubt the grease has been cleaned during the entire event, and we were there the next-to-last day. No, thanks. I’ll pass on the “treats.” My mind was tuned to the thought of some lamb. Mmmmm. I like lamb.

The adult food is stationed next to the petting zoo. Nice and sanitary. That’s where you’ll find the pit beef, pork stuff, burgers, turkey legs, chicken parts, and the lamb. There are sanitation stations nearby, and there is the assumption the “chefs” are keeping their appendages clean. One would hope. The food is cooked, even though there’s no guarantee once it’s in the “keep it hot” containers the temperature is high enough to prevent illness. The servers are using utensils, and some are wearing plastic gloves, in compliance with the lenient Board of Health rules. But, the tongs and gloves are used over and over, without cleaning or changing, so we have to trust the heat is high enough to kill anything living within the grub.

My desire for lamb got the best of me. I cozied up to the stall, paid my $6.50 for a lamb wrap (a Gyro in a spinach wrap, rather than a pita, with less sauce) and devoured it standing, while my wife joined the pit beef line. She did have a bite of my wrap to taste it, but apparently missed the bad part. I inhaled my wrap, because it was falling apart and I was concerned about losing it. She brought her $6.00 pit beef sandwich, along with her $2.00 coke over to a table (she’s more sophisticated than me) and we sat down for a short time. Next to us a couple planted their lard asses, violently shaking the table, and began eating a pile of deep fried Oreos. They were both wearing fanny packs, no doubt stuffed with goodies of some type. The wife used a napkin to sop up the food-lube, and I thought, “To what food group does that belong?

We left the fair after a couple of hours playing Hop Scotch with critter feces, and seeing most of the livestock. I have to admit the babies are adorable, when there are a few. I see cows when passing a Chick-fil-A, pigs in any Walmart, chickens in the supermarket, and sheep when trying to go to sleep, so I don’t need to go to the fair. But, the tickets were free. Fun, fun, fun.

This was the beginning of a truly horrifying experience that was developing in my innards unbeknown to me. I’ve written posts about Parasitic Friends and pandemics One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the two guys being given birth, although not considered the source of a pandemic, definitely are not friends. They were intent on mischief and evil.

That evening everything seemed fine. No problems. The next morning (Labor Day) my wife fixed a nice breakfast, which I enjoyed with a few cups of coffee. Still going well. Then around noon I started feeling a bit queasy as the incubation was beginning. I laid down for a nap, skipped lunch and reluctantly anticipated the rib steaks we were to have for dinner. I lounged around on the couch, dozing off occasionally, while trying to watch TV. Eventually dinner was ready, I had a few bites of the steak, wrapped it up as leftovers and went to bed. This was about 7:00; very early to retire for me.

Tuesday morning appeared to be a normal beginning. I felt a little under the weather, but not enough to stay home from work, so I got ready, had some breakfast, packed a lunch and headed to the office. There were a couple of bouts in the mid-morning with bathroom visits, but not an unusual number of sittings for me. Things seemed on par with daily life. At noon I had my sandwich at my desk, all the while feeling a bit groggy, attributing it more to age than illness. Around 2:00, the “boys” took over as I rushed to the latrine, in a state of emergency. I was feeling downright funky. After returning to my office, I packed up my things and left without saying anything to anyone, because I was feeling putrid. I drove home, clenching all the way, and made it to the potty (think Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber). My dog was sitting outside the door because I had not properly greeted her upon my entrance. Little did I know at the time, she was in for a lengthy stay with Daddy. I changed into my home clothes and laid on the couch for a nap, and Holly joined me.

The “boys” made it impossible to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time without a bathroom rush. I was popping generic Imodium like mints, but no relief was given. Eventually I read the label and realized the limit is four per day. Eight had already been consumed on Tuesday. The pill popping had to stop. It wasn’t working, anyway. I was drinking G2, Powerade Zero and water in “beer bong-style” gulps, hoping not to become too dehydrated, but it seemed nothing could stop the assault on my body. The exhaustion was overwhelming and frankly I thought I was dying. It continued into Wednesday.

Wednesday morning the first thing on my mind was Gene Upshaw (not to mention the wallpaper in the bathroom), who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Sunday, August 17th and died on Wednesday, August 20th. He was only five years older than me, so I was worried I might be next. The difficulty I was experiencing was worse than any other episode in the past. What little time I could muster to stay awake was used to delete files on my computer and organize my passwords for my survivors. The same routine (by now it was routine) from the previous day continued into Thursday.

Thursday morning I called my doctor’s office and they were able to fit me in at 4:00. By the time I arrived for the appointment, I was sweating profusely. The intervals were now about every hour, so I didn’t have an emergency situation in her office. While I was signing in, practically laying my head on the counter, the receptionist made sure I had my $10 co-pay. “No problem, I’ll give you my house for a cure.” After examination, “Doc” surmised it was something I ate, and she gave me a lab form to get the vials for samples. On the form she wrote the word Giardia, which at the time made no sense to me. I asked if there was anything she could give me to halt the deluge, but she said not until it is determined what was attacking me. So, I obediently went to the lab, got the necessary equipment (eight vials) and returned home to continue my suffering.

About 3:00 AM Friday morning I collected the samples, and started searching on the Internet for Giardia. It is such a common parasite, I’m surprised I had escaped its wrath until now. Based on my symptoms I self-diagnosed that my doctor’s suspicion was correct. Since she couldn’t prescribe anything, the Imodium wasn’t doing the trick, and a large cork was out of the question, I searched for natural remedies. Goldenseal Root and Garlic were mentioned in several different articles. After making my lab delivery around 10:00 AM, I mosied on over to GNC and bought a bottle of Goldenseal Root for $15.99 and Odorless Garlic for $12.99. And guess what? By Saturday morning, I started feeling better. Now, many of you may think it just ran its course. Everything I read indicates Giardiasis untreated lasts about two – three weeks. I’m convinced I “nipped it in the butt” with a natural remedy.

Here‘s the best part. My doctor called me on Wednesday — which was five days after dropping off the samples — to give me the results. “Which do you want first, the good news, or the bad news.” she joked. “I guess the bad news,” I replied. “Well, you have two things, Giardia and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).” I knew about Giardia because I had just researched it, but the other condition was puzzling. “So, what’s the good news?” I asked. “We have one pill that can get rid of them both,” she said. “If you were older the C. diff could have been an even more serious problem. And you must have gotten both from the State Fair.” C. diff is sometimes rampant in hospitals among older patients. I guess I was lucky. Now, I’m taking Metronidazole three times a day for ten days.

The next time you want to attend a fair to see cute and cuddly animals, keep in mind the possibility of illness. I probably won’t go again, but if we are fortunate enough to get free tickets, I’m going shopping for a new outfit. Since this fair cost me $42.48 net (plus time off from work), I’ll have to factor in the cost of the new clothes for the next event.

I should’ve had baked fish.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Written by Bake My Fish

September 13, 2008 at 6:32 am

Who’s on the Marlow, the Marlow?

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In August of 1973 I began attending Prince George’s Community College, while living in Imperial Gardens Apartments in Suitland, MD. After being discharged from the Air Force in February, I had been through an attempt to sell pots and pans and one season of driving a Good Humor truck. Now it was time to start working on an education. After several months of growing my hair and beard, my Hippie Wannabe look was beginning to take form. You may recall in my Good Humor post I mentioned how several of the Ice Cream Men drove a taxi in the off season. I was glad they directed me to this particular occupation. Since I was also attending summer classes, there would be no further Ice Cream Man duties. Hacking was my immediate future until graduation.

Cab driving proved to be rather lucrative. The Government paid me $388 a month on the G. I. Bill to be a full-time student, and I rented a cab on the weekends from the Bluebird/Yellow/Suburban Cab Company in Marlow Heights, netting between $150 – $200. Working on New Year’s Eve was usually worth an additional $100 – $150 for the night. I was averaging over $1,000 a month, tax free (please don’t tell Uncle Sam), which was a tidy sum back then. It was enough to support my wife and two tots (aged 1 and almost 3), and allowed for the occasional bottle of Boone’s Farm, Bali Hai, Ripple, or a six pack of Black Label. Whenever school was closed for a holiday or snow emergency, I rented a hack and spent the day driving, and studying on the cab stand during slow periods. It was the ultimate temporary profession.

Most of you probably have in your mind the stereotype of the taxi drivers in most cities, who can’t speak English, or feign misunderstanding to drive you out of the way, and run up the meter. In 1973, the drivers were primarily American who spoke and understood English. But, in defense of today’s cabbies, we weren’t getting constantly mugged and ripped off by passengers, as seems to be so prevalent now. Sure, there was the occasional robbery and the passenger who jumped out without paying, but not to the extent it is today. Those most desperate for work tend to gravitate toward the danger and hassle, because no one else will do it. Cut the drivers a break when criticizing their lack of language skills, if you don’t mind. You’re lucky they are there when you need the ride.

“Who’s on the Marlow, the Marlow?” That’s the call from the dispatcher over the two-way radio putting out a job in the Marlow Heights section. How it worked was the first cab in line sitting on the Marlow Heights stand, located in front of the Giant Food/Steak in a Sack in the Marlow Heights Shopping Center, was given the job. Why the phrase was uttered twice, I’ll never know. Maybe it was to be sure we heard him. If there was no cab on the stand, the dispatcher called “Marlow 1st,” and any driver who was empty in section could bid on the job. The one closest to the fare would get it. “Marlow 2nd” was the next call if no one was empty in section. In this case, the taxi had to be in Marlow, dropping someone off or out of section empty. The closest to the location of the passenger won. Then if it went to “Marlow, Marlow,” which was the final call, and the first driver to bid got the fare.

Recently I met with some folks who grew up in Marlow Heights. The website in the highlighted link is run by Chuck Fraley. He organizes get-togethers of people who were youngsters in the area during the 60s and 70s. I discovered Chuck’s site while doing research for my Blog, and I’m glad I did. The group met at the Steak in a Sack for a terrific meal that brought back memories of the many sandwiches (basically a steak and cheese in a pita) I ate during my tenure as a cabbie from 1973 – 1976. Chuck was all “retroed-out” in his Banlon shirt, Macs and Chucks with the colored shoe laces. He really works to “Keep the Memories Alive!”

We had several taxi stands in the area. There was the one at the Prince George’s Motel, called “The PG,” which was across the street from Iverson Mall, where I sold shoes at Baker’s in 1967. We had a stand in Suitland at the Scot’s gas station (I forget what it was called). In Temple Hills we were on a dirt lot at the corner of Brinkley and Temple Hills Road, called (now stick with me on this), “The Dirt.” Those clever guys. Then there was the stand outside Andrews Air Force Base at the Ramada Inn called (sing in unison), “The Ramada.” By far the busiest stand was The Marlow. After moving to Greenbelt in 1975, I worked out of the Hyattsville office, and my favorite stand was at the Little Tavern on Route 1, right outside the University of Maryland campus (I was a Maryland student at this point). The reason I liked that location so much was not just because of the great little burgers, but its name. It was called “The Ritz.” Someone had a sense of humor in naming that one.

Most people these days are moaning and groaning about the price of gasoline; how it’s cutting into their budgets, and causing them to forego the extra Starbucks coffee or chocolate bar, just to keep their heads above water. Try having no gas when you are driving for a living. On October 17, 1973, just a couple of months after I started hacking, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to get even with the Western world for their support of Israel. Their plan to use oil as a weapon, by making it difficult to obtain, was secretly negotiated in August, in preparation of Egypt and Syria’s united assault of Israel. Both countries launched their attack on October 6th (Yom Kippur), and it was the beginning of the fourth Arab-Israeli war.

Fine and dandy for them, but my family had to eat and the Oil Embargo was not a welcome addition to my lifestyle. Sitting in line waiting for gas, and running out of gas while waiting, was not a particular thrill. It was irritating. In one instance, I was lucky enough to get a big fare going to Glen Burnie. The good news was I got a lot of cash for the trip. The bad news was I ended up hitchhiking, holding an empty Clorox container (it was in the trunk in case of an emergency), to get to a station and wait in line, so I could fill up the jug and get back to my taxi, with just enough gas to find another line that I could join and eventually fill up the car. Hitching a ride with long hair and a beard (two more months of growth), wearing jeans, Chuck Taylor’s, and my old Air Force fatigue jacket, isn’t a particularly appealing look to passers by. The addition of the Clorox bottle to my ensemble gave some people the impression I was a bum. My Hippie Wannabe look was transformed into Hobo Chique. It was a killer look, and I don’t mean in the sense of hot and sexy, I mean killer in the sense of homicidal. Fortunately a real Hippie stopped in his VW bus and drove me around to get the bottle filled and back to my cab. Kindred Spirits. “Peace, Brother. Groovy.”

One result of the Oil Embargo was the proliferation of self-service islands at gas stations. Although the first self-service station was opened in 1947 by George Urich, they didn’t really catch on. In fact many states banned them due to concerns about the elimination of jobs, and distrust of the inexperienced motorist spraying the ground (and possibly other customers) with petrol or driving away and ripping a hose off the pump. After the crisis that occurred in ’73, and the subsequent spike in gas prices that resulted, stations began offering the choice of full-service at one price and self-service at a lower cost. Still, many states didn’t allow self-service stations, but as we all know, today they are prevalent everywhere except New Jersey and Oregon. Additionally, the many incarnations of forced increased mileage legislation grew out of the Embargo.

Aside from the gas crisis, I enjoyed driving a cab, usually working the night shift because there were fewer drivers to compete with, and fewer old ladies with eight bags of groceries to be lugged to their sixth floor apartment, who only took the cab a few blocks, which meant a low fare, small tip, a lot of time spent, and losing my place in line at the stand. If I did work during the day, I avoided The Marlow, opting to drive around on the edge of several sections at once so I could “stretch my hood” when a job came out. If there was no cab on the stand of a particular section and it went to 1st call, I would make up a location in that section, hoping no other cab could see me. Any time a driver got caught fibbing he was cut off the air for an hour. If I was lucky enough there was no other cab closer to the job, I would get it, which meant I had to hurry, so as not to be discovered. A long delay in picking up a passenger, when I was supposedly nearby, was a dead giveaway. But, we could always use the excuse we had a bathroom emergency on the way.

Marlow Heights is fairly close to Andrews Air Force Base. Andrews is where Air Force One, the plane used by the President, is housed. There was always a “Press” plane as part of the entourage whenever the President went on trips. Although there were several reporters privileged enough to accompany the President on Air Force One, most of them flew on the Press plane. And, many of them ordered taxi service to get them into Washington and Northern Virginia once their plane landed. Our dispatcher would give us notification that several cabs would be needed in the Andrews section, so those who wanted the fares would go and sit on The Ramada at the appropriate time in anticipation of a pretty decent trip. The passengers were usually interesting, talkative (after drinking on the plane) and tipped well. I had the pleasure of carrying Connie Chung, Pierre Salinger and Garry Trudeau on separate occasions.

But, the best part of driving a hack was practicing my “Chicken Call.” There was a driver whose last name was Abel. I forget his first name because they always just called him Abel. He was a full-time cabbie who worked during the morning hours to make enough money to go to the racetrack in the afternoon and bet on the horses. There were several guys who drove to bet. Then after the races were over, if they lost they’d come back out on the street and work several hours, or if they won they wold take the rest of the day off. Abel was kind of a cut-up and the dispatchers liked him. My task was to cackle like a chicken over the radio, and I am very good. What was so much fun about the “Chicken Call” was the dispatcher always blamed Abel. My original intention was just to cluck for fun, but when they started yelling at Abel, it became a pretty good game. Sometimes I would continue on until the dispatcher was irritated to the point of threatening to cut Abel off the air. And Abel wasn’t even working. We had different dispatchers at different times, and they always blamed Abel. I got a real chuckle out of it, and it beat studying while sitting on a stand.

I often think about what it would be like to drive a cab today, but I’m sure it would not be as entertaining as then. I’m not even sure Abel is still alive, but if I were ever to cross his path again, I’d confess to the “Chicken Call,” just to see his expression.

“Who’s on the Coop, the Coop?”

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Who Left the Red Barn Door Open?

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It was 1966. I was 16 at the time and a big fan of the emerging fast food craze. McDonald’s was taking off, and we had a place named Burger Shack on Marlboro Pike, near the Hillside Drive-in Theater, selling yummy hamburgers for fifteen cents a pop. I loved Fridays, because my mother often brought home Burger Shack dinner, which included hamburgers, fries and shakes. So, I thought the best way to get a constant supply of burgers was to go to work for the new place called Red Barn that had recently opened in Coral Hills. Although the goal was to gorge myself on free eats, I had fallen upon a pretty decent job.

Red Barn was a really good chain that was started in the early 60s in Ohio, whose first Franchisee was Harry Barmeier. At its peak they had around 400 restaurants in 22 states, as well as Canada and Australia. What I liked about Red Barn that was different from McDonald’s, was they sold fried chicken. My mother grew up in Southern Virginia, so fried chicken was one of the foods I learned to love. I still do, but have to abstain because of the cholesterol problems we know about now, that we didn’t hear about then.

I was on the night shift, which went until closing. Our shift manager was a fellow named John. He was all of 19, but was still the boss. John was on his way up the Corporate ladder, yet he was very down to earth. We often messed around with him. He drove a dark blue Karmann Ghia that usually started, but sometimes did not. John had a rather weak stomach.

Our french fries were made from scratch, using a potato peeling machine and slicer. We blanched the fries and put them in the cooler for frying when needed. There was a product called Stay Fresh we used to keep them from spoiling. It probably caused health problems, but what the hell did we know in 1966? I couldn’t find anything on the Internet about it, but I would guess it was somehow related to MSG. When Stay Fresh was sprinkled in milk shake mix, it had a foul smell. One of our pranks was to take a bit of shake mix, drop a little Stay Fresh in it, and ask John to take a whiff and let us know if the mix was OK to use. The smell never failed to make him vomit. And we laughed our asses off. Sometimes John would have a drink set aside for himself, and we would add a little Stay Fresh to it when he wasn’t looking. Once he took a sip, he was a goner. It got to the point where we would just tell him it was in his drink (even though it wasn’t) and he would barf. Quite the chuckles for us punks.

My favorite task at Red Barn was to work the grill. Cooking the hamburgers, fries and chicken made me feel like a chef. It kept my Ichabod Craneish persona (picture Ric Ocasek with zits and a paper garrison cap) away from the customers, and I preferred to avoid their whiny orders, anyway. Working the counter usually ticked me off, but running the grill gave me command of the entire process.

The policy of Red Barn was to allow us to have free fried chicken only on Wednesdays and Sundays. But, we were more clever than they thought. At the end of the evening, any leftovers were fair game for our gluttonous ways. Around 10:00 PM, we would drop a load of chicken in the fryer, knowing it couldn’t be sold by the time we closed, leaving us with quite a bit of waste, that either had to be thrown away or consumed. John usually looked the other way, and we had chicken on whatever day we wanted.

Robbery of fast food restaurants was a fairly new phenomenon. During my time at Red Barn, we got hit twice. Once, a guy came in while I was cleaning the grill, hunched down near me to avoid being seen from the window, pointed a gun and yelled, “Where’s the money?” It took me a couple of seconds to realize what was happening, and I just said, “It’s in the back.” He was anxious and ran into the back of the store, while I took a moment to gather myself. Then it dawned on me what was going on. I shook for awhile and stood still, then figuring he was gone, went in the back looking for the rest of the crew. No one was around, so I worried a bit, then opened the walk-in refrigerator. Everyone inside instinctively put their hands in the air until they realized it was me, and John asked, “Is he gone?” Since no one was bleeding we figured he was. John then called the police. What the gunman didn’t realize was the cash registers had not been reconciled, so “The money was in them.” Robber Man did get away with the petty cash box, escaping with about $35.00. A big haul, and perhaps a couple of nights of drinking, or one fix of whatever drug he probably abused.

The second attempted heist was just this side of ridiculous. Often times after we closed, our activities included a drive to Guys and Dolls pool hall in Silver Hill, for an early morning round of pocket billiards, or a jaunt to Waldorf to throw our wages away in the slot machines that were legal at the time. This particular evening John was going to drive a few of us to Waldorf. We closed the store, and started piling into his Ghia, when we heard, “Give me the money!” We looked around to see where from the voice originated and saw what appeared to be a gun peeking out from the fence behind the store, with the “criminal” hiding in the bushes. The Karmann Ghia wouldn’t start, so we pushed it with John using the driver’s door as a shield, as we backed out of the parking space, snickering all the way. After popping the clutch, the car started, and we drove away from the “bad guy,” and headed to Waldorf. Our subsequent laughter was probably a combination of fear and relief that this particular robbery attempt was committed by a fool. We survived for another day of french fry blanching and terrorizing John.

My stint at Red Barn gives me fond memories. I’m not quite sure what happened with John’s career, but being the kind, gentle soul he was, I would guess he fared well (unless a Corporate audit revealed our chicken thievery). I tend to think if people are good, good things come of it. Since I don’t remember his last name, I can’t Google him to see where he might be (just entering John brought about 1,040,000,000 results). But, the last Red Barn franchising leases expired around 1986, so I can assume he has left the night shift.

I just hope wherever John is, he has a reliable car.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Coral Hills Red Barn Today

My Grandpa, the Shriner

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I always thought the hats were funny. Now, I’m not so sure. The miniature cars go well with the toppers. You have to be special to look silly.

My Grandfather was a Shriner. He appeared to enjoy it; but as a kid, I didn’t pay much attention. When my Mother and I went to the funeral in 1982, the honor of his participation showed through. The podium featured the logos of the Freemasons and Shriners, and eulogies from both groups. Wow, Henry was a Freemason. They are the world’s largest fraternity. To me that’s kind of a big deal.

Henry Sussman (Heinrich Süssmann) wasn’t a rich guy or a man with connections. His family left Germany in 1900 to settle in Pennsauken, NJ, and on October 10, 1903 Henry was born; the only one of his siblings conceived in the USA. He grew up to become a loom mechanic and shift supervisor for Belding Hemingway, who in the 30s and 40s was manufacturing silk thread. His father and he went to Lynchburg, VA to open a plant for the company, and at some point Henry moved to Bedford, VA to help open another facility. Eventually the company made a decision to switch from producing thread to the manufacture of fiberglass fibers. Occupational disease became an issue with the employees, who developed illnesses from the product, causing the demise of the Bedford location. But, Henry eked out a decent living for the time; back when “blue collar” meant you made enough to live. He raised my Mom as a single parent and things turned out grand. Knowing he was a Freemason piques my interest.

Throughout history, there have been quite a few Freemasons who were famous and influential. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere and Colonel Sanders were Freemasons. I’m not sure Freemasonry had anything to do with the taste of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but the secrecy of the Society probably contributed to the Colonel keeping his Original Recipe® of 11 secret herbs and spices under wraps. To this day, we still don’t know how the bird is dressed. Phrases like “Level with him,” “Be square,” and “The Third Degree” all originated with Freemasons. They are very important in our history, whether or not we are aware.

Red Skelton, John Wayne, Danny Thomas and Harry Truman were Shriners. I can picture Red Skelton wearing the funny hat, but not John Wayne. Being a Freemason doesn’t necessarily lead to Shrinerism, but to join the club, you must first be a Freemason and make it all the way to Master Mason. Check out this list of famous Shriners, and you might be impressed.

Shriners always look like they’re having fun. I bet they are. Helping kids is a heart-warming thing. Then there are the meetings, parades, conventions and all sorts of activities that keep the mind abuzz. And don’t forget . . . the little cars. You never hear of them causing any problems in the hotels or towns where they are holding conventions (news of Shriners throwing televisions out of hotel windows is minimal). They seem to be well behaved, upstanding citizens.

Because of my renewed interest in my Grandfather, I recently inquired about joining the Shriners, not understanding the necessary steps. At my age, I will be dead before qualifying. They were kind in not laughing at my naivete, and directed me to the Freemasons. Then I found out you don’t just join. You have to be recommended. Since, the only person I know who was a Freemason/Shriner died in 1982, it seems a difficult task. My interest will probably dwindle soon, but if there is a Freemason out there who is interested in recruiting a new member with a connected ancestor, give me a call. Better yet, send an email to Bake My Fish.

Henry Sussman was a pretty good guy. Whenever he came to visit my family, particularly on Thanksgiving and Christmas, he always brought me liverwurst (I was the only one in my family who liked it) and Land O’ Lakes butter (Mom preferred margarine). And, my mother always cooked a pot of Spareribs and Sauerkraut, which was his favorite. He loved me, and I loved him. Now that I know Henry even better, I love him more.

“Rest im Frieden, Heinrich Süssmann. Du warst ein guter Mann.” When we meet again, I’ll bring the Spareribs and Sauerkraut. Just make sure you leave my name at the gate, because Saint Peter may not let me in without a referral.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by Bake My Fish

July 20, 2008 at 12:01 am

Sputnik or Спутник? In Either Language It Spells Cold War

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“To escape the wrath of a mushroom cloud, you should hide under your desk.” That was what we were told when practicing our nuclear attack preparedness at elementary schools during the late 1950s. Especially after the USSR launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957. How out-of-tune is that kind of thinking? Wooden desks will stop Gamma Rays, X-Rays, Sugar Ray, Ray Charles, or any rays whatsoever. Today, anyone working in a Nuclear Power Plant wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a wooden suit for protection (or maybe they wood).

Look at that desk. Do you think it’s going to stop atomic radiation or falling debris? We did as kids. Just scrunch under it and nothing will hurt you. Not even the invisible stuff. My guess is during the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of those primary school students were thinking about hovering under furniture for protection. Tatami mats and bamboo were about the best shields in those days. We got them good. Then again, they didn’t know it was coming. At Bradbury Heights Elementary School in Coral Hills, MD we were preparing. The drills were fun because it broke up the monotony of lessons. Still, it was a little scary.

Click on the picture to the left, and you’ll see one of the few structures standing after the Hiroshima bombing was a desk. I bought four for my bomb shelter. One for me, one for my wife, one for our dog and one for Nicky (the Love Bird). I know it’s silly now, but in the 50s we thought it was real. The whole country went nuts after Sputnik flew.

I liked the Cold War. Khrushchev was funny looking and sort of Grandfatherish. I bet he did the “pull my finger” joke often. He made me laugh, and was probably more like the Uncle at Thanksgiving dinner seated next to the kids table, telling Knock Knock jokes, who had too much to drink and belched as if it were expected, rather than the cold-hearted killer we thought. These days, the people in power in threatening countries around the world, are spooky. I would rather laugh than cringe. Give me a Nikita over an Osama any day.

The Space Race really took off after Sputnik embarrassed us. Our childhood was devoted to beating the Russians, conveyed in our toys, media and even our lunch boxes. Eventually we landed on the moon, and now satellites are so prevalent there is no room for Superman. I do enjoy the 200+ TV channels we have today, so thank you, Nikita and the Boys, for forcing our hand.

There was a Russian movie spoof of the Three Stooges starring Joe Stalin as Moe, Nick Khrushchev as Curly and Al Einstein as Larry. Einstein was too bright to play Larry, challenging the credibility of the production and the Russians didn’t take to the use of a Foreigner in their film. Plus, there was an issue about the pay scale. As smart as he was, Al just couldn’t figure out the conversion of Rubles to Dollars, so the project was scrapped. His response was, “I am a Scientist not an Economist, so take your money and shove it!”

We continued on through the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, challenging the Soviet Union at every turn. The Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1978 – 1989 ruined their economy and eventually caused the downfall of Russia. It is generally accepted the Cold War ended on Christmas of 1991 when the USSR was officially dissolved. So, it wasn’t our doing, it was those dang Muslims.

“Let that be a lesson to you, Commies!”

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by Bake My Fish

July 16, 2008 at 9:16 pm