Friday, August 31, 2007

Mystery Woman is a Phenologist--you knew?

They take their weather serious in Minnesota. How serious?

Fist fights have been know to break out in an effort to settle which TV station has the better meteorologist.

Remember earlier I told you Minneapolis has a weather man, Paul Douglas at WCCO, who quotes Thoreau and Whitman?

And when Belinda Jensen announced she was pregnant, well, I tell you. The Mystery Woman and I favor newcomer Sven Sundgaard. He speaks the local dialect.

Well, the other station has moved the competition to a new level. At the State Fair, KARE 11 is selling weather calendars so loaded with info they come with their own Glossary.

The calendar is 59 pages and is so heavy it's a three-holer (for nails). Fifty-nine pages for only twelve months?

For weather nerds, this is the Rosetta Stone. At fifteen bucks, the calendar is a bargain. If you can't get to the Fair, order yours on-line. Be sure to specify 2008. No, I do not get a commission.

I don't care if you think me to be a total nerd. Not when it comes to weather. I grew up in Lubbock, or Baja Oklahoma, where the wind comes whistling from the plains. Tornado watching was considered teenage fun before TV finally came to town. It's only natural that I became a weather nerd.

Thanks to this calendar, the Mystery Woman has learned she is a phenologist. Naturally, I'm the chief phenologist in our house. (Phenix, get it?) Or at least she lets me think I am.

Phenology? Look it up. I'm not going to do all the work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Keeping AARP (and me) honest

Well, I was wrong yesterday when I goosed AARP for "cooking up pap" in their publications. This morning, I sat down and read AARP The Magazine and I must confess, I found it entertaining.

Yesterday, when I complained, I had only skimmed the publication online.

They won me over with one little squib on speed dating that hit my particular warp. A 73-year old man says he gets right to the point by asking "What medications are you on and how many times have you been married?"

For the most part, the magazine articles were a little bit lite for my tastes. I want to see AARP publish a future-looking piece that delves into the infrastructure and political ramifications of the Baby Boom impact. (see Age Wave and subsequent books.) Maybe they have. But they ought to hammer it home in a national campaign.

Full disclosure: I get so damn mad when I think of AARP and Medicare Part D that the fumes cloud my thinking. It was a knee-jerk reaction and I apologize to the folks who put the magazine together. And no -- nobody asked me to do this.

I've said it before: AARP is the biggest lobby in the United States, perhaps the world. With 38 million members, AARP is the elephant in every hearing room on Capitol Hill. There is no reason Social Security and Medicare cannot be cleaned up before we get into a generational war with our grandchildren over funding.

This thought just hit me. If AARP wants to sell aging problem solutions as well as insurance, perhaps the behemoth should appoint an ombudsman to referee complaints from its members.

Yes, I know AARP sponsors an ombudsman service aimed at keeping nursing homes honest. What I'm talking about is a similar position that would focus on keeping AARP honest.

Think about it, Big Guy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Curmudgeon, graduate level

Once upon a time, I got up off the cart about to wheel me into the operating and harrumphed off to find my clothes with my bare bottom peeking through the gown. That particular surgeon was too religious -- he thought he was God.

True story as my daughter, Annie, will attest.

I don't think I'm a difficult patient. And, luckily, I like my various doctors. But every now and then I want to grab the doc up by the lapels on his white smock and growl: "just tell me the truth, dammit."

Well, maybe I am a little difficult. There was the time when I confronted my cardiac electrophysiologist about my newly-implanted pacemaker/defibrillator combo.

"How do I die?" I asked the doctor.

"What do you mean?" he asked back.

"I mean -- how do I die. I don't want this damn defibrillator firing off and causing me to flop around in the street after I'm long gone."

He walked away mumbling something about not having enough data. He might have been giggling.

But seriously, most of the geezers I know have more in common with Walter Matthau than with Jack Lemmon.

We've got to shuck this saccharine image, people. Just look at all the pap that AARP cooks up in their many publications. Tweet, tweet.

Geezers aren't sweet old people who feed the birds. We are hard-edged, crotchety old people who have lived through a helluva lot. Give us respect for that and stop this inane molly-coddling. Molly coddling is but a step away from warehousing.

I don't want your senior discount. Give it to the single mom who is having trouble making ends meet.

I do want your respect.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pajamas media -- sic 'em

My old friend, former business partner, and tough old bastard, Sam Kinch, Jr., has a minimum of high regard for blogs-as-journalism. He thinks that bloggers break more wind than news.

He's right.

Today, there are 94 million blogs. Who knows how many there will be tomorrow. They can't all be reporters. Besides, if all those blogs were reporting new news, who would have time to read it?

However, there are notable exceptions. My son-in-law, Jeff Hebert posted this piece from the L.A. Times which chronicles some bloggers actually reporting news and breaking stories. It will help you make an informed judgment.

I've come full circle. Initially, I thought bloggers were opinionated jerks in need of an editor who would wash their mouths with soap. Now, however, I've come to believe that we need bloggers to save journalism from itself.

In a recent PBS broadcast, Bill Moyers focused on radio but was really talking about all media. Already, big bucks moguls control much, if not most, of the media outlets in America. That's very dangerous. Rupert Murdoch could be a bigger threat to democracy than the communists ever were.

That's my concern -- the big business takeover of American journalism. And that's why I grudgingly welcome blogs and low-power radio into the media mix. The new competition will have to be from the bottom up.

Although it's tempting, I have no plans to make this little blog into a kick-ass news gathering operation. Nor will I ever take to the airwaves with Radio-Free-Geezer.

Hmmm. I wonder if we could recruit a hearty band of retired newsies (have pajamas, will travel) and ... No. Probably too much job-and-alcohol-related brain damage.

Meanwhile, I will call an ace and ace from time to time. Perhaps you will enjoy the ride as much as I intend to. Hope so.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sex: the new senior moment

Researchers have discovered what the rest of us knew all along: people like sex no matter how old they are. Yup. Sorta gives a new definition to "going like sixty." My son Steven calls it geezer-gasms.

It gets better.

Rather than get married, many senior couples are shacking up.

Full disclosure: the Mystery Woman and I are on the cutting edge of this paradigm shift. We're not married.

And we're not alone. The perverts in the Census Bureau say the number of seniors living without benefit of clergy had doubled in the last decade. And that's before the Baby Boomers give themselves permission.

Geezers cite several reasons for living together. At the top of the list: possible loss of pension and medical coverage. In our case, Medicaid was the motivating engine. Each of us has enough health issues and just enough real estate that we simply had to consider consequences of long-term illness causing bankruptcy. Cheesy, perhaps, but practical.

We think it adds a little sizzle.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cue the music, slice the watermelon

We're porch people. The Mystery Woman and I are actually two-season porch people. We like to sit on the screened porch in the mornings, drinking coffee and reading the newspapers. In the evenings, we sit the the porch with our old friend, three buck Chuck.

Since both of us are writers, we write and read and talk out on the porch. That's largely what writers do. Read, observe, write, talk. And sometimes, think.

Well, sometimes we go bowling. Joke.

The porch is a window to the world. We live three doors away from an elementary school so we get to watch the little school children to and fro during school months. There's one kid, I'm guessing he's a fourth grader, who is late every morning. He runs with his hands in his pocket, like he is protecting a goldfish and some muffins. Or some such.

Throughout the day, we watch the neighborhood just walking around. Young mothers with kids in strollers. Easy going. You can almost hear Aaron Copeland laying down some clip-clop music.

Evenings, we watch the pet parade as the neighborhood walks the dog. Often, we walk Bella, the Dachshund who owns us. The dog is just a cover. She can't walk very far on her short little legs. So we have to bring her home early.

This tableau plays out on the sidewalk which is maybe only 30 feet from the front door. Sidewalk? Yes, ours is an old neighborhood stitched together with sidewalks. Porches, sidewalks, swings. We love 'em.

Imagine my surprise to read a front page story in the Sunday paper that some people think sidewalk is a four-letter word: U-G-L-Y.

Hold it. The first sidewalks in Minneapolis were wooden in the 1800s to keep your feet clear of mud and manure. Still handy today during political campaigns.

No matter, say the people who oppose sidewalks for taking away front yard space (ignoring that the city owns right of way). Further, they fuss about run-off. Cities who want to retro-fit neighborhoods with sidewalks are running into a cement mixer.

Minneapolis has approximately 2,000 miles of sidewalks for 1,000 miles of road. It's the suburbs that face the dilemma.

I can understand the geezer opposition. Older folks don't want to have to shovel the snow -- but teenagers can be bought for the job.

To us, the sidewalk makes it a family street. Safer. Lovelier.

After all, if sidewalks were good enough for Pompeii...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

New reality show: So you want to be a Geezer?

First, the disclaimer: I dislike the trend toward reality shows. A lot.

Sure, I understand the economics but I think the networks are dumbing down America with the likes of "Survivor." Pure pap.

At least there's decent leg art in "So You Think You Can Dance" but it's still pap. About the only decent genre is "Ice Road Truckers" on the History Channel. Don't miss the Ice Road marathon Sunday.

If the networks were paying attention to demographics (baby boomers) they would roll out a show called "So You Want to be a Geezer."

I'm serious and I've given this lots of thought.

To keep the excitement level fevered, we would break the show into segments.

Cognitive recognition:
--here's Medicare Part D. Choose the correct way to fill the doughnut.
--in three mumbles or less, explain Notch Baby.
--how does a reverse mortgage help old people more than lenders?

--you have five things wrong with you and only seven minutes with doctor. Choose which ailment gets priority.
--how many specialists must you see before getting relief for constipation?
--tell the truth, how long has it been since your colonoscopy?

--can you recite the History Channel schedule by memory?
--do you secretly hope Animal Planet will repeat the show about lions having sex?
--what do you think, does Katie Couric wear support hose?

--it's not whether you can see your toes; can put your socks on.
--are you the only one wearing a windbreaker and it's July?
--do your slacks have elastic waistbands? Do you wear them to Walgreens?

--can you name the day of the week without first consulting your pill dispenser?
--you're retired. how do you know if Monday is a holiday?
--can you remember when is your next doctor's appointment? which doctor?

Mobility (formerly known as sex):
--do bi-focals help when you are making love?
--you know what you want but can't remember the word?
--do you call KY geezer glide at Walgreens?

--who said, I'm getting so old that I pee in Morse Code? (Billy Crystal)
--who said, If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it. (George Burns)
--who said, Life's a pretty good play, but the Third Act needs work? (Truman Capote)

Copyright: August 18, 2007.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The real story of the day Elvis died

August 16, 1977 -- the day that Elvis died. And the world was shaken.

Network television cut into regular programming to alert the nation. CBS did not and dropped huge rating points.

I know this because I was a fan. And because friends of mine, Janice and Neal Gregory, wrote a book about the way the media treated his death. The book, "When Elvis Died: Media Overload and the Origins of the Elvis Cult" is available in paperback on Amazon.

The story of how they came to write the book is one of those "only-in-Washington" kind of tales. This is how I remember it.

Shortly after Elvis died, Neal and Janice were on vacation in London where they attended an auction. The front page of the London Times featuring Elvis' death was auctioned for $300.

Hmmm, thought Janice and Neal, we have three kids needing $$$ for college and we know the librarian who gets incoming newspapers for the Speaker of the House. It was August, the House was in recess, and cart-loads of newspapers from across America were going to be languishing in the little-known library. Naturally, our dynamic duo figured they could sell those front pages at other auctions and get their urchins educated.

They contacted their buddy and he agreed to let them pull off their caper and abscond with the Speaker's unread newspapers.

As Janice and Neal scanned the papers, they were struck with the differences in the way the U.S. media treated Elvis' death. Intriguing.

That week, they were at a Washington cocktail party and Janice was telling a friend the story of their discovery. "I think we have the makings of a book," she said. "If only I knew a publisher."

There was a gentle tap on her shoulder and a stranger said: "I just happen to be a book publisher." Thus, the couple wrote a book instead of auctioning front pages of newspapers. It seemed more tidy.

And -- that's how the three Gregory children went to college.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What's next, synchronized snoring?

We finally did it. The Mystery Woman and I made the Big Commitment. We bought matching recliner chairs, albeit without benefit of clergy.

As we sat in chairs for the first time with the blue tint of the TV flickering softly throughout the semi-darkened room, we were both struck by the same thought:"My god, what have we done?"

Such hesitation is normal, according to older, wiser friends. After all, it is a long-term commitment. So, with little fanfare, we cut away the tags that read, "Do not remove under penalty of law." There was no turning back.

I suppose the first hint that something was brewing came when we put her pill box to the right of the sink, mine to the left. Question: does that count as foreplay?

Maybe now is when I should confess I was apprehensive earlier in the year when I found my worst nightmare had come true. It was at an outdoor arts and crafts fair and the wind was still a bit chilly. Airish.

The Mystery Woman and her mom were shopping inside the antique store and there I was -- sitting on a bench outside the entrance wearing tube socks and a gimme cap, holding a shivering Dachshund inside my Eisenhower jacket to keep it warm. The dog was getting lots of action. Perfect strangers thought we were cute and kept putting their hands inside my jacket to pet the dog. Ambiance R Us.

Matching recliners. I knew it would lead to this. I just knew it.

But still, the chairs are kinda nice.


DISCLAIMER: the Mystery Woman wants it known that the chairs are small and stylish and not the big puffy ones that are difficult to get out of.

They did, however, replace gliders.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Our JFK book goes to third printing

This is my A-material.

I was a skinny, 24-year-old reporter at KRLD-Radio/TV in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

I had been hired only six weeks before, straight out of journalism school, and was likely the greenest reporter in town.

Four of us who were part of the news team that covered the tragedy have written a book about our on-the-job experiences. For example, Jack Ruby was standing right next to me as he stepped out of the crowd and shot Lee Harvey Oswald. I got film of Ruby shooting Oswald.

Our publisher just printed the third hardcover edition of our book, When the News Went Live.

Plus, our new paperback goes to print within the next two days, and it appears that Rowman will get the paperback on the shelves by mid-October, in time for the Sixth Floor Museum's November 1 paperback release. The four of us will present the kick-off event at the Museum's month-long commemoration of the JFK murder. Hope to see you there.

You can buy the book on Amazon for sixteen bucks and change.

We've lost more money than we've made with this book. But that's not why we wrote the book in the first place. We wrote it for history and, hopefully, for journalism schools.

Ask me what I think about Oliver Stone. He ought to be horse-whipped.

Today, more than 75 percent of Americans believe there was more to the murder of President John F. Kennedy than was documented in the Warren Commission Report. Seventy-five percent! And that's due, in large part, to Stone's unfounded assumptions in his twisted film, "JFK." What an injustice to history.

In the first national poll taken after the assassination, the majority of Americans trusted the findings of the Warren Commission. But after 43 years of pounding by conspiracy theorists, that trust has seriously eroded.

Now comes a new book 20 years in the making, 1,612 pages thick, and expensive at $49.95, which proves Oswald did it. Already, conspiracy junkies are lining up to shoot down this new research tool. No surprise.

Buy the book. Read it. Take your time. Then make up your mind.

I can't quite get my head around what I'm about to say next because the subject is just too big for my small brain. But it goes something like this:

America is getting dumbed down. The rich are getting super rich while the middle-class and poor people are allowing themselves to be whipped into a non-thinking boobs easily manipulated by spin-doctors and mugs who shout on television.

Nobody trusts the news anymore. So fewer people read. Nobody trusts government. So we elect power-driven politicians rather than folks who stand on principle.

"Oh, the bloggers will fill the vacuum." I call BS on that one. Some bloggers actually do original reporting and reach spectacular success. But the vast majority of the 94,000,000 blogs are opinion pieces, family stuff, humor -- like this one.

Buy the guy's book. "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" by Vincent Bugliosi.

Buy our book,too. If you have already purchased ours, thanks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sex and politics

This is the second-best political story I've heard. Short, to the point.

A Minnesota state senator opined that workers should be able to take a sick day by calling in horny. He was a great American.

Next story, same theme.

A Texas solon was about to be propositioned by the tipsy wife of the local newspaper publisher. She was an attractive woman.

But I decided this was the time I should earn my paycheck. He and I had never discussed anything like this, but I jumped right in. "You can't do it," I said. "She the publisher's wife, she's a Republican and someday it will bite you in the ass."

He looked startled. But only for a moment. Then his eyes took on a strange glint.
"OK, he said, "you do it and then tell me about it!"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers

I can't help it. When I go to lectures, I count the audience. Same thing at parties. It comes from being a reporter. If there is an explosion, I want to be able to say, "Yes, there were 42 people in the room when fire broke out."

You don't think reporters fly everywhere with the President because they like him, do you? It's called the Death Watch. Reporters need to be around to report the news if the plane goes down.

Maybe that's one of the reasons the public has such low opinion of journalists these days. We have duties similar to the undertaker but lack his charm.

Years ago when I published a community newspaper, the middle school principal got angry with a story and headline, called the kids to assembly and griped about our newspaper. "Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper," she railed.

At first, I was mad as hell. But, upon reflection, I realized the principal was right (for the wrong reason). You should not believe everything you read in the newspapers. Especially today when the news industry is owned by capitalists whose only truth is the bottom line. News gathering used to be a civic responsibility. No more. Now, it is for the cash register. Ca-ching.

There's much more wrong with news that we'll talk about later. Stay tuned.

But I meander. Over the weekend, the Mystery Woman and I attend a dinner party (yes, there were 26 people in the room when...). Across the room, I noticed a guy who had all the signs of a retired reporter: squinty eyes, cheap watch, a ballpoint in his shirt pocket, and the white horse he rode in on parked at the curb.

Once a reporter, always a reporter.

Actually, the ballpoint gave him away. He was either an engineer or an old reporter. Thankfully, he was a retired reporter. I have trouble talking with engineers once we get past pi.

You see, we old reporters wear ballpoints like women wear jewelry. We have to. We have to have something to write with when the explosion...

There's more. But I have to go feed my horse.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mumble, mumble, grin, grin

It's subtle, but you can already see signs of winter in Minneapolis.

Already, Craig's List is filling with ads for snowmobiles. And there's a big mark-down on convertibles. I just learned that many people rent barn space to store their convertibles for the winter up here. Otherwise, the weight of the snows would cave in the car top.

File that tidbit. It goes along with the revelation that Texans who have vinyl seat covers in their vehicles don't wear short britches in the summer.

Leaves are beginning to turn on the neighbor's tree. Hope it's the first signs of Fall. Could be the drought. We need rain. Crops are failing across the state but you can still find sweet corn at the farmers markets.

The Mystery Woman is already talking of packing things we need to take to Austin. Sure, honey, the china will make the trip just fine.

People are eating more salmon. I think it's a hold-over from their Norwegian ancestors to insulate themselves against the cold. You bet'cha. That's Minnesotan for "Damn straight."

In just a few weeks, we'll be wearing sweaters as we sit on the screened porch to read the morning paper.

Winter's coming. But locals tell me to expect one more heat spell -- usually timed to parallel the State Fair. I love the Minnesota State Fair, or the Great Minnesota Get-Together as they call it. Among other things, this fair is famous for food-on-a-stick. Any kind of food. This year, we are told the featured food will be Sloppy Joe on-a-stick. What, me skeptical? You bet'cha.

Hopefully, I'll recover from the recent surgery enough to manage a few bicycle rides before we return to Texas. This is truly bike-friendly country. The Grand Rounds is 50 miles of paved bike trails only six blocks from our front door. We would like to ride down to the site of the 35W bridge collapse and pay our respects.

All of this is a long mumble to say we hope you can kick back and enjoy the weekend. We intend to. Just as soon as we finish this coffee.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

AARP sold out

If you'll pardon this approach, I tend to think of AARP and Listerine in the same breath. Remember the old Listerine slogan: hate the taste but use it twice a day? That's how I feel about AARP. I'm not sure I like them but I do use their services quite often as I dink around for info on aging. I've been a member off and on for years.

AARP is huge -- and suspect.

From its creation, AARP has been a vehicle to sell health insurance to older Americans. Since 1958, the organization has grown into a powerhouse with an annual budget larger, maybe, than some Third World nations. At $800 million, the AARP budget is five times larger than the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, according to the Washington Post. With a claimed membership of 35 million, AARP is 10 times the size of the National Rifle Association says the Post.

AARP is the largest lobby organization in the United States. Maybe the world.

So how the hell did we end up with such a convoluted formula on Medicare prescription drug benefits. That program is needlessly confusing.

Let me tell you, if I ran the largest lobby machine in America, your drugs would be delivered to your front door.

Sure, that's an obvious over-statement. But it makes my point. I don't blame the Congress or President Bush as much as I fault AARP. They let it happen. Without a doubt, the bill would have never passed without AARP's support. They were wrong and older America is paying for AARP's mistake.

How did it happen? AARP has over 1,800 employees, many of whom are damned smart.

Two things seem obvious. AARP cut a deal with the drug manufacturers. Wish we could follow the money trail. And AARP recognized a new opportunity to sell insurance. That's a clear conflict of interest.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

AARP not tough enough

Let me tell you a question. Who is protecting the public face of older Americans?

This is a serious question laced with sociological and economic consequences.

Who is the guardian that will raise hell when a TV sit-com portrays a geezer as a dottering old fool? Who will orchestrate public outcry when a commercial marginalizes an older person? Even the cavemen are getting better media treatment these days.

Black people have the NAACP. Jews have the anti-defamation lawyers. Somebody mobilized all the Mexicans who have been protesting the immigration laws.

Who do old people have? AARP. That's about it. If you malign old people, AARP will publish a tut-tut paragraph in their magazine. AARP has 36 million members. And a nasty paragraph is the best they can do?

AARP is the biggest gorilla in America! What a waste of muscle.

Older Americans need a champion, somebody not afraid to kick some butt.

We need a new gorilla.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Congress passes lobby reform rules

So, the Congress has passed far-reaching ethics and lobbying rules, this time with teeth: fines up to $200,000 and five years in the slammer.

It's about time. The new law is a direct result of shady dealings by disgraced and imprisoned uber lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his golf buddy, Tom DeLay, the former Texas congressman and current sleaze.

DeLay, more than anyone, fertilized the K Street culture of corruption. His mandate to lobby firms was blunt: hire Republicans only. Apparently, they were easier to get into bed with.

If President Bush signs the new bill into law (how big is that "if?"), it will be a strange, new day for the K Street lobbyists. More Dutch treats. Trimmed menus to meet House ethics committee guidelines of "light appetizers and drinks, or soda and cookies." They call it the toothpick test.

Fund-raising is going to change, too.

Lobby lawyers are busy looking for loopholes. Already, there's an exemption for "widely attended events" that paved the way for a bunch of senators to attend a lavish aerospace shindig in Paris last month. Watch for more loopholes soon in a theater near you.

But is lobby reform the real question? To me, the problem smears the other side of the coin, too. We need Congressional reform. Lobbyists complain that the new law slaps them around for the wrong-doings by members of Congress -- from both parties. Seems to me it's the Congress who can't say no.

I think the lobbyists have a point. Reform should cut both ways.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Geezer bloggers -- run!

Back in February, when I started writing this blog, Technorati said they were tracking 50 million blogs.

By April, the number had grown to 70 million.

There are now approximately 87 million blogs in the world. That's just today.

According to Technorati, my blog ranks 789,000th. Mom! Guess what? I came in 789,000th.

Fifty million, seventy million, eighty-seven million. Incredible numbers that give rise to incredible fortunes. For example, Facebook is a relatively new online social networking site which has just been valued at $6 billion (with a B). That's the same money neighborhood that Rupert Murdoch just paid for the Wall Street Journal.

Confession: I barely understand how to turn my computer on/off. Nor do I care. Were it not for my technical advisers (my son and my son-in-law), this blog would exist only in my heart.

I write because I enjoy writing. Just like I enjoy reading. Moreover, I encourage everyone, especially geezers, to give blogging a go. This is a very satisfying past-time. Keeps the mind active and the butt planted.

And I thank you for reading this blog. Tell your friends about it. My new goal is to snatch the 788,999th position.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Trojan hoarse

Remember the movie "Summer of '42" and the scene where the teenage boy can't get past his embarrassment to tell pharmacist he wants to buy condoms?

Flash forward 60 years and I still identify with that teenage boy. There are some things I am just too modest to buy at the drug store. You know what I'm talking about. Anything to do with bodily functions. Anything.

Well, that's becoming a problem what with the three surgeries I've endured this summer. I needed some over-the-counter stuff to help regulate my intestinal problems so I turned to the Mystery Woman for assistance. She volunteered to make the buy. I didn't notice at the time, but she was eager to help.

A little too eager.

We were parked at the front door of the pharmacy. No way in hell was I going in the drug store. And that's where the trouble began.

Although I don't know but a few people in Minneapolis, I didn't want to be recognized. So I put on sunglasses and pulled my gimme cap down around my ears. "Thanks, hon," I said prematurely.

She was half way out the van when her body started to convulse with laughter. Her eyes took on a shine I had not seen before. I swear her voice dropped an octave when she giggled, "Do the xxxx come in sizes?"

I was in serious trouble now.

She made it almost to the front door but executed a neat pirouette. I swear she began to levitate as she floated back to the passenger-side window. In a voice a little too loud, she asked, "What flavor xxxx would you like, dear. Lemon lime?"

A crowd gathered. The outside temp was still barely 60 degrees but sweat rolled off my forehead. "Get in the van," I begged and snarled through clenched teeth.

"Oh dear," she cried in mock concern, "are you in distress?" Damn right, I was in distress. "OK, hon. I'll see if the pharmacist will sell me only one xxxx just to get you home."

I don't know what I'm going to do when if I ever need to buy dxxpers.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Give it a rest

Ahh. It is raining in the Twin Cities. At last, this parched mid-western patch of America is getting some rain.

We need it to replenish our soil -- and our souls.

All morning, we've heard the thump of helicopters over the collapsed bridge on I35W. Maybe it's the President. Undoubtedly, the rain will hamper recovery efforts, but those folks need a break, too. Just stand at the banks of the river. It's OK today.

For me, today will be different. I'm going to sit on the screened porch and listen to the rain. Soothing, gentle rain.

Hmmm. My mind wanders over the people I love. It's a good place to go. I'm thankful for having one more day with thoughts of each of them.

We are here. Safe. Wake up, honey. Coffee's ready.

Even though I am retired, I rarely pause to appreciate the every day stuff. I think I'll start today by appreciating a brownie instead of Metamucil.

A little classical music? No. The sound of the rain is classic enough.

But the rain is only flirting with us.

More, please.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bridge disaster political posturing in very bad taste

It took less than a day for the disaster to turn political. Less than a day!

Bush cut the Democrats for failing to pass the annual transportation spending bill. Democrats accused the White House of underfunding the nation's needs. Congressman Barney Frank whined about war spending vs. domestic spending.

Goddammit, we still have dead people trapped underwater. Can't we at least get them out before this finger-pointing begins. Have our politicians become so insensitive that they prefer partisan battles -- on everything? Let the victim recovery get done. Let our people grieve.

Politicians in need of sensitivity training should read Nick Coleman's column in today's Minneapolis StarTribune. He loves the Twin Cities and it shows in his work. Warning: the newspaper site loads slow.

Politicians should listen to the quiet voices of the emergency workers who held vigil with the dying. They (we) don't give a damn about your political posturing right now.

Sure. It's going to boil down to spending priorities. Estimates to fix the nation's bridges run as high as a trillion and a half. But until we get the people out of the water, just back off.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Minneapolis bridge collapse

Horror. Horrific. Horrible. Strong words. Emotional words. Yet still not strong enough to convey the shock and pain and death that follows the collapse of the interstate bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

California. The destruction looks like something you would expect to see in California after an earthquake. California. But it was here in Minneapolis.

Troubling information: a 2005 assessment called the 40-year-old span "structurally deficient" and it was a candidate for replacement according to the Minneapolis Star. A word of caution, the Star-Tribune site loads very slow. Probably slower now with all the interest.

Speaking of news outlets, both CNN and the NY Times were mistaken when they said the bridge linked Minneapolis to St. Paul. Not so. There are many bridges across the Mississippi connecting the Twin Cities, but this was not one of them. Upon entering Minneapolis, Interstate 35 splits into 35W and 35 E and reconnects on the north side of town, much like I-35 around Denton, Tx. This bridge connected north and south Minneapolis on the way to the cabins and lakes Up North.

You can keep up with official engineering info at the Minnesota Department of Transportation site.

We live about two miles from the bridge and would use it often, trusting the steel and concrete to protect us high above the big river.

Two images stand out: The little white car perched on the slab of cement, hanging on for dear life despite the perilous angle. And the resolute woman rescue worker in the water without snorkel, masks, or tanks who repeatedly dove beneath the dark Mississippi to search for survivors in submerged, crushed vehicles.

Like you, we've been glued to the TV, the Internet and the morning newspaper worried about casualties and searching for answers.

Thus far, the only answers are: Horror. Horrific. Horrible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Would W. C. Fields drink bottled water?

"I never drink water. Fish f**k in it." -- W.C. Fields.

Maybe he would think differently had he lived long enough to witness the bath America is taking in the bottled water phenom.

Americans take bottled water everywhere they go. But we are finally figuring out the cost. Eight glasses a day could cost you as much as $1,400 annually if you sip from the portable plastic bottles. From the tap, a mere 49 cents. From the tap? Hell, that's where much of the bottled water comes from in the first place.

Environmental costs are staggering. Read the editorial in today's NY Times.

Who would have ever thought bottled water would be such a big hit? And such a big problem. If they start selling bottled air, I'm leaving.

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