Boomer Twilight

Mostly Humorous Observations of Most Anything, with a Boomer Slant

Posts Tagged ‘History

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;  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

Deathball Revival

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So, you’re sitting in the bar with your friends and you start to think about ordering food. A good steak usually satisfies, but you are not that hungry. Chicken tenders and wings have become old hat, and nachos or chili go in easy and exit violently. What to order? What? Then the hot waitress or waiter you’ve been ogling and hoping may find you appealing, suggests sliders.

It’s not surprising because they’ve been appearing in scores of bars, taverns and restaurants lately, and now’s your chance to check them out. Hell, even Burger King is advertising them these days, but their’s are called “Burger Shots.” As if you stuff one in a small glass and gulp it down with a beer.

They’re nothing new, even though they seem to be all the rage. The tiny burgers (sliders) originated with White Castle restaurants in 1921; the true beginning of the fast food hamburger trade. Then in 1928 Harry Duncan relocated from Louisville, KY to Washington, DC and opened the Little Tavern at 814 E Street, NW. The onslaught of “deathballs” in the Washington – Baltimore area began, and by 1939 there were 50 locations.

Devotees of Little Tavern affectionately called it “Club LT,” and referred to the mini-burgers as “deathballs,” which was a reference to how they were cooked. The “chef” would line the grill with little balls of meat, with chopped onions and fry a bunch, then place them on the small buns along with a pickle, and store them covered by a damp towel in a drawer under the grill.

I didn’t really frequent Club LT when I was a kid. As a teenager riding around in cars and drinking beer with my friends, we usually stopped at Eddie Leonard’s for a sub when the munchies set in. It wasn’t until about 1973, while driving a cab, that my gourmet habits developed. You see, I always worked the night shift and Little Tavern was open 24 hours. The only other place open was 7-11 and at that time their food just wasn’t very tasty. They carried the Stewart sandwiches that needed to be heated in their toaster ovens (microwaves weren’t available), so my late night meals were three LT deathballs and a cup of coffee. I’m not one who usually goes for coffee with anything other than breakfast. It just sort of says, “I’m an old fart and don’t care any more.” Coffee with dinner just doesn’t seem right. But, at Club LT the coffee was delicious, served in the thick mugs that somehow made it better. Not to mention, I needed the caffeine buzz to continue working.

After relocating from the Marlow Heights territory to the Hyattsville driving zone, my favorite cab stand was the College Park Little Tavern, referred to by the cab company as “The Ritz.” Since this location was right across the street from the Rendezvous Inn, I’m sure they had many visits by drunken U of MD students when the bar closed. Like all Little Taverns, this place had a few stools (a large LT had about a dozen). The sit-down crowd was certainly welcome, but “Buy ’em by the bag” was the slogan. When Harry started the business, burgers were a nickle, so walking out with a bag full was a pretty easy task. You could feed the whole family.

In 1981 at age 82, Harry sold the chain to an attorney, Gerald Wedren, and moved to Florida. The business had dwindled to 30 locations at this point, caused primarily by the proliferation of fast food burger chains in the area. McDonald’s, Burger King, Red Barn, Wendy’s and others had been tapping into the profits of LT for quite some time, and Harry decided to let go. The imminent demise was on the horizon, as Wedren tried to “class up” the joints and extract some profit by competing with the big guys. Dress codes were implemented, and the menu was changed by adding more items. They even opened a fancy diner named appropriately, “Club LT.” But, the flavor of Little Tavern was lost and in 1988 Wedren sold the enterprise to Atlantic Restaurant Ventures, Inc., a firm that held the local Fuddruckers franchise. The writing was on the wall.

After only three years, ARV sued Wedren for fraud, accusing him of misrepresenting the value of the business. Shortly thereafter foreclosures of the various properties began and four of them hung on, being temporarily rescued by Al Wroy of Belair, who had joined the company during the Wedren reign. He tried to keep it going, but the last location in Dundalk was closed on April 9, 2008.

Well, that’s the story of the deathball; gone from our area forever, but living on in its evolved form. The next time you’re at the Green Turtle, Burger King, Chili’s or any place advertising sliders, think of Harry Duncan as you bite into your order. They’re no longer a nickle, and probably not as good, but three deathballs and coffee always hit the spot.

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

Bats in Hats

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Have you seen the recent Burger King Whopper Virgins commercials testing the Whopper against the Big Mac? They use Eskimos, who prefer Seal meat, tribes people from Thailand and some fellows from Transylvania. That’s Vampire territory, right?

What strikes me as funny are the little headpieces the Transylvania guys are wearing. Is it a joke, or do they really wear those things? The Producers of the commercials swear no actors were used and nothing is fake. Frankly, I think Burger King is messing around with us because all the characters in the films are dressed in their ceremonial garb, usually worn only once or twice a year for festivals and celebrations, not day-to-day. I couldn’t find any pictures on the Internet suggesting the toppers are real, so I am wondering if guys from Transylvania are upset by the stereotype being conveyed by Burger King?

The ads make them look pretty silly, and I worry about Vampire terrorists in my future. Could these portrayals cause them to begin attacking us in our sleep? “Leave the Transylvania guys alone, Mr. Burger King Executive.” Political correctness is real, especially if the absence of it can lead to blood-sucking intruders flying into our homes or accosting us in dark alleys and draining our fluids.

During the 50s men wore hats all the time. It was a part of the business uniform. An insurance salesman coming to your home to sit at the kitchen table and sell you something, usually wore a fedora or maybe a bowler. They were stylish and tasteful. But, the guys in the Burger King commercials look kind of stupid. “Sorry, Mr. Transylvania Man if I am hurting your feelings, but you should rethink your wardrobe.” If there is something festive about the accessory, then maybe you should keep it “under your hat.” I’m afraid seeing you in public will cause me to stare or snicker. It just doesn’t seem worth the comparison of the flame-broiled, 1/4 pound beef patty, with lettuce, mayonnaise, pickles, tomatoes, onions, ketchup on a sesame seed bun to the two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

Today all the guys seem to be wearing baseball-style caps; the greasy-lined lids they slide on and off with little thought of hygiene. Most of them are used to hide baldness or the lack of shampooing. It’s easier to throw on a cap and ride to the nearest breakfast drive-thru than it is to take a shower and clean the hair. I haven’t noticed anyone in my neighborhood wearing the silly Transylvania hats displayed in the BK commercials. So, “Come on Burger King, show what they really wear.” There is no way they are donning the ridiculous lids portrayed in the advertisements. If they are, then my appreciation of differing cultures is being challenged, and I will have to laugh with the rest of the world. Those hats are comical.

What would be the function of the headdresses? They are small and barely fit the noggins of the testers, so it can’t be for warmth. They probably have some religious or celebratory purpose. There are little tassels hanging from the side with a brim, and they sit on top in some sort of hysterical display, like an Organ Grinder’s Monkey. If you watch the commercials you know what I mean. It cracks me up every time I see them, and I wonder if the “actors” feel as silly as they look. I’m sure they’re not really Vampires; most likely American Thespians with a Transylvania look, possessing dark, evil eyes.

I don’t suppose it would do any good to write Homeland Security and warn them of the danger to our society due to Burger King’s insensitivity by running a commercial making bufoons out of suspected Vampires. They would just tell me to knock it off and stop being paranoid. But, if I wake up some night and there is a bat in a hat hovering over my bed, I’m gonna dress up like Ronald McDonald, hunt down the Burger King and kick his ass.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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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Written by Bake My Fish

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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Written by Bake My Fish

October 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm

If You Met God, What Would You Say?

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I’m not a particularly devout person. I do believe there is a purity everyone seeks in whatever religious vehicle they may travel. All beliefs seem to have a “Golden Rule” which basically states the same thing in their language, and it always seems to come down to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” translated for convenience.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume everyone reading has a belief in a supreme being of your choosing, and that deity determines how you will spend the after-life. The fantasy of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates will be used as the scenario for entry into the everlasting existence.

So, you have died, and are waiting outside the gates wanting to meet with God, and the Doorman, St. Peter, encounters you to show your identity to check against the guest list and his/her question is, “Tell me why you deserve an audience with God?” How would you answer? What qualifies us to be considered pure? Wars are fought in the name of promoting religion, which seems to me hypocritical. I would think that someone leading a good pious life is honest, peaceful, caring, sharing, etc. Not destroying people so they can convince them to go in the right direction. Once “sinners” have been eliminated, how can they learn? They’re dead.

I’m not trying to pick on any one religion for using violence to push their views. Throughout history every organized belief has been guilty. The social mores of the era dictated what was acceptable punishment. How many people were killed because they did not believe a particular teaching? It’s not just war (The Crusades and 9-11), but torture (The Inquisition or Salem Witch Trials) and the Spanish Conquest of the New World (aka the American Holocaust), which probably qualifies as both war and torture in the cruelest demonstration of soul saving. I’m not sure anyone can give the right answer at the Pearly Gates. It depends on the interpretation of what is good.

Your answer to St. Peter the Bouncer could be, “I’ve been good.” That might allow you to cross the rope. Then you meet God and he/she looks you in the eye and asks, “What is good?” You stumble for an answer and mutter something like, “I’ve done unto others as I would have them do unto me.”

What does that mean? Did you give a dollar to a beggar? Did you help an old lady across the street? Did you give honest answers on your tax return with regard to charitable giving? Did you wave with a kind, rather than obscene, gesture at a person in a vehicle who cut you off? Did you give back the $5.00 the bank teller accidentally gave you over what you requested? Did you alert the clerk at the grocery store you had a twelve pack of sodas in the under bottom of the cart he/she overlooked? What is good? I’m asking you because I don’t know.

Is the answer in the “Good Book?” Which book is the “Good Book?” Every religion has one, and they all consider theirs to be the right one. I have never met a Gideon, but they have been to every hotel in the USA. You would think I would have met a Gideon at some point. Maybe they’re like the Tooth Fairy, sneaking into hotel rooms just before or after the cleaning people to stick the “Good Book” in a drawer.

Is being “good” going to your House of Worship on a regular basis? Is it confessing your sins? Michael Corleone in Godfather 3 confessed to having his brother killed, but it seems to me confessing did not make the act a “good” thing. I just don’t think professional Hit Men get through the gates just because they “got it out of their system” by telling the Priest. Maybe it is OK if it’s just one or two killings, as long as there is a long period of time between the deaths and the killer’s demise, but I can’t be sure because I’m not up on the rules. My guess is God would be somewhat less forgiving for such a blatant violation of one of the Commandments.

It’s puzzling because so many people have been killed in the name of religion that perhaps it is alright, if done properly. If the killing is organized and sanctioned, then it must be “good.” The “eye for an eye” thing seems reasonable to me. I support the death penalty. Am I wrong for doing so?

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of “What is good?” I’m sure God has a chart of correct responses that allow us to pass into eternity. My concern is under pressure I may not give the right one.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Written by Bake My Fish

October 20, 2008 at 10:14 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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October 12, 2008 at 12:40 am

With That Being Said . . . .

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OK, I have a bone to pick with a current trend in the English language. When did “That being said,” “With that said,” “Having said that,” “That said,” “With that being said,” and so on become so common? I don’t remember them being used several years ago. Now everyone is saying them, writing them, belching them, rapping them, and pissing me off by using them (but, not quite as much as Grief Counselors). Maybe they’re proper, but I don‘t care. They don’t really mean anything. It’s kind of like saying, “Hey moron, did you get that? I said it, and I’ll tell you I said it just in case you don’t know I said it. So, listen up and let me tell you I said it because I like to repeat myself.”

On ESPN Sean Salisbury used them about every third sentence. Fortunately he’s no longer working on ESPN. He stunk, anyway. All of his time was spent screaming at John Clayton and calling him a Nerd in thirty different ways (I think he had a problem with the idea John didn’t play football). Another abuser is Stephen A. Smith, whose ridiculous rants are particularly annoying, with or without “That being said.” He still does some discussion of the NBA, but I don’t care about the NBA, and can avoid his nonsense. Every time I watch a FOX NFL game, featuring Troy Aikman, I notice he uses “Having said that” quite a lot. I like Troy, but the use of the phrase has to go. He always gets the NFC Game of the Week, so it’s hard to avoid Troy if you like football.

Perhaps it is correct English; I’m really not sure. What bothers me is how they have become so vogue. They are certainly overused by the media. Enough that it really gets on my nerves. The use of “For sure” was the same way a couple of decades ago. Eventually it went away. I’m concerned “With that being said” is so ingrained it may take a century or two to become archaic.

If you use “That being said” quite a lot, all I can say is you are a follower. You’ve heard it so much you are regurgitating it without even knowing. I forgive you, because society has pummeled you so much “With that being said,” you probably don’t even realize you’re a phrase junkie. Maybe there is something in our drinking water forcing our lemming behavior.

I like the evolution of language. The writings of Chaucer and Shakespeare seem very strange to us today. We need an interpreter to understand the English that was contemporary during their time. College courses and entire curriculums are devoted to studying their words, with ongoing debates about their meaning. At the time those words were written they were understood by the lowliest of peasants as well as the upper crust of society. The Intelligentsia of today cannot come to terms with what exactly was meant back then. When was the last time you watched a Shakespeare movie or play and did not scratch your head just a few times during the performance?

I watch a lot of movies; history, action, drama, comedy, westerns, sci-fi, whatever. I don’t recall in any of them, regardless of the time period being depicted, “With that being said,” “That said,” “Having said that,” “With that said,” or “That being said,” ever uttered by any of the characters. It seems writers of dialogue don’t feel a need for the meaningless words among the thousands in their screenplays (they’re just a little busy picking the proper profanities for the scenes). The overuse seems to be a staple of today’s media, commentators and politicians.

Yeah, I like the evolution of our language. But, the ride on the “With that being said,” train is becoming a bit much. Eventually the phrase will grow old and lose its glamour. Society will replace it with something else that will be spewed over and over and over to ad nauseum. That’s what we do. We run things into the ground, causing idiots like me to moan and groan about it. I just hope it goes away before I die. It will probably take too long, so my gravestone will convey my displeasure.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

 

Written by Bake My Fish

October 4, 2008 at 7:11 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

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