Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Other Blogger

It came as a surprise to me, but recently I learned that someone else has a blog.

I learned this, as I do most things, from the New York Times.

There she is on the front page of the Sunday Times magazine looking all sultry and seductive. Her article, the cover story no less, is titled “Blog Post Confidential: What I Gained-and Lost- By Revealing My Intimate Life on the Web.”

It’s a long and weepy article, most of which I just skimmed, and the author finally concludes that she is better off keeping the personal details of her life to herself. She has paid a heavy price she acknowledges and has lost friends and privacy. Well, gollllly.

What strikes me though is that she has managed to parlay this into a cover story in the NY Times and a job at Gawker, the online gossip site with zillions of readers.

If a creeping dread is beginning to come over you that I am about to reveal details of my intimate life to bump up readership, fear not. Granted, according to the author, millions of people read her postings, as opposed to the few refined and intelligent souls who visit these pages.

She had to learn the hard way what I know instinctively: being too candid or too controversial gets people all excited. You can conclude from the string of zeros in the comment links at the end of my articles that the harmless twaddle you read here excites or stimulates no one. I like it that way. Apparently you do as well, since you are reading it.

Here are some other tips I would like to share with my fellow blogger if she wishes to restore peace, quiet and anonymity to her blogging life:

. Never pass on any useful information. People scour the internet in search of tidbits that will give them an edge in everything from dealing with ear wax to hub cap restoration. I am sure it has not escaped your notice that this site is entirely content free. It is very easy for me to attain this vacuous state because, basically, I know nothing about anything.

. Never say anything bad about Elvis. His fans are legion. They are old. They are angry. They miss him.

. If you must discuss your intimate life, lie like a bastard. People will be so intimidated by your prodigious feats that any comment they offer will make them seem puny by comparison. This comes naturally to men, by the way, among whom discussing their intimate life and lying are synonymous.

. Be careful with links. These, I am told, attract readers which is why I avoid them like the plague. Also, linking is one of the things I know nothing about. Even if knew, I wouldn’t pass it along because that would be information and, hence, a clear violation of the first rule. However, here is one tip I will share: linking to the Rahway State Prison Chat Room is probably not a good idea.

I hope the other blogger doesn’t get discouraged and give up, or accept a staff position at the Times. Then I would be all by myself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Critic

Last Friday evening, Kathie and I attended a Judy Collins concert at Town Hall in New York.

It was great and if I can’t think of anything else to write about in the meanwhile, it will be the subject of my blog later in the week.

However, now I want to relate an Incident that happened at the concert. We were seated in an aisle in the Loge that had just three seats. At the start of the show, the third seat was vacant, but soon a tall, late middle age gentleman excused himself, climbed over us, and occupied the seat.

At intermission when he stood up, I noticed that he was wearing a badge that read “Staff” and inquired about its meaning. He said he was a music critic for the New York Times. He entertained us with stories about recent events he had attended including a tribute for the songwriter, Jim Webb. He said that most of Webb’s songs including “McArthur Park”, “Up, Up and Away”, and “Gentle on My Mind” were performed.

Suddenly, I heard the following words emanating from my mouth : “Jim Webb didn’t write “Gentle On My Mind”. It was written by John Hartford who was a banjo player in the back-up band on the Glenn Campbell Show.” A very loud silence followed.

Kathie weighed in with her usual default position: “You’re wrong.”

The Critic just shook his head and confidently explained that, yes, Jim Webb had written the tune. Of course, he had every reason to be confident. He had the New York Times badge and he was talking to a man who had just drawn icy stares from three rows of concert goers by blurting out “I didn’t know Judy Blue Eyes was written about Judy Collins!!”

I saw terror in Kathie’s eyes and knew what she was thinking…..Jay Silver Wheels.

Before we were married a heated argument broke out among a group of our friend’s about Tonto’s real name. All of them, to a man and woman, said it was Jay Silver Heels.

I stridently and righteously maintained it was Jay Silver Wheels. Honest, we were not smoking funny cigarettes at the time.

I refused to surrender my position even after one of the group called ABC and established that his name was Jay Silver Heels. Feelings were hurt and relations were strained. I still don’t believe it. Jay Silver Heels makes no sense. What the hell is a Silver Heel? Silver Wheels means something. It might even refer to gaudy automobile he owned.

Anyway, it is often brought up as a classic example of my willingness to defend my opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Now she feared we were about to head down the same road, but I have matured since my Silver Wheels days. I made no reply and we returned to our seats for the second half of the concert.

However, as soon as I was in the door of our house I Googled “Gentle on My Mind” and found that, not only did John Hartford write it, but he received a Grammy for it as did Glenn Campbell who recorded it.

“How did you ever know that,” Kathie asked. Well in all honesty, I didn’t know I knew it. My theory is that somewhere at the bottom of the cracked pot that holds the fetid stew that is my decomposing brain, a cell containing the Hartford information broke loose and floated to the surface at the precise moment my conscious self was in the midst of the Webb conversation. It was pure coincidence. The cell could just as easily have contained the curb weight of a 1957 Chrysler Imperial which I am sure is also floating around in there somewhere. Even so, if I had introduced that into the conversation, it could not have stopped things deader than the Hartford haymaker.

Once upon a time I would have moved heaven and earth to find out how to reach the Critic and rub it in. But, as I said, I’ve matured.

It’s enough for me to know that his fa├žade as a Know-It-All-New-York-Times-Critic has been breached. He knows that I know that he didn’t know who wrote “Gentle On My Mind”, and he knows that I knew it…even if I didn’t know I knew it.

But maybe he knows that he is not really a NY Times critic? I’d look him up but I can’t remember his name.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who Are You?

I am getting worse with remembering people’s names.

However, I have just come up with an invention that is not only going to solve my problem and that of millions of other aging Boomers, but will also make me a tidy fortune.

It’s a pair of glasses. If you are a Boomer, picture a generous pair of glasses like _________ wore on Hollywood Squares. There is a blank there because I can’t remember his name.

As a person approaches, your glasses zoom in on the face and send the image via the cellular network, or whatever, to some national data base somewhere. Instantly a text message is sent to your hearing aid giving the person’s name and some other conversation points like name of spouse, most recent health problem, etc.

This has to happen really fast because once you are forced to say hi buddy, pal, dear, or whatever it is too late to recover. The person knows you are adrift in the No Name Zone.

I used to have what I call the three second lag. It took me three seconds to come up with a person’s name no matter how close the bonds of blood and kinship. Vamping for three seconds can be hard, but it is doable without resorting to the buddy thing. Now it’s gotten worse. I ran into a friend's ex-wife recently and have been three days trying to come up with her name. No luck. I don’t want to ask him, because I am sure he would rather forget.

Elisabeth, my daughter, says I have always been bad with names, which is why I make up names for people whose actual names I can’t remember. She calls this distorting the world to fit my own reality. Guilty. I will frequently say things like “I ran into Creepy the other day and he says hi.”

I am also very bad at remembering the names of people I am introduced to at social or business functions. In my defense, this is due to a failure of concentration. My mind has usually wandered to wondering whether I have time for a third drink before the bar closes or whether that waiter with the crab cakes is going to pass this way.

Wait. Forget the eyeglass gizmo, I just got a better idea. The Supreme Court has said it is okay for a state to require citizens to present a government i.d. in order to vote. There has also been a great deal of discussion about Federal identity cards. How about a National Name Tag Initiative? Every adult will be required to wear a name tag that is clearly visible at 10 feet by a person with declining eye sight.

Now, ladies, before you go all negative about the impact of this on your fashion statement, the legion of designers in this country will soon be turning these things into the latest and hottest accessory item. Men may even have the option of the ident-a-tie, thus revitalizing the flagging necktie business.

Children will only be required to wear name tags at family gatherings where senior family members will be in attendance. This is for their own good. Nothing is more hurtful to a young child than granddad calling him by the name of a family dog that died three years ago.

Well, I will have to continue to develop this program at a later date. What’s-her-name will be home from work soon and I have to get supper started.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

WHIRRRRRRR

I am late posting because I have been busy with the final phase of closing down the office.

When you work 35 years in the same place an unbelievable amount of files and paper accumulates. Particularly if you never throw anything out.

I have been having a hard time parting with my past. Each file reminds me of some person long gone, or some bygone activity or project. That is until I got my paper shredder.

My accountant suggested I get this to dispose of “sensitive” documents like credit card and bank statements.

I got a heavy duty one with a twelve sheet capacity. When you pass a document through, it makes a very satisfying WHIRRRR, not a little girlie “whirr”, but a manly WHIRRR. Papers going into its maw make a shrieking sound like a last desperate plea for mercy. As I was plowing through the canceled checks from the 1980’s, I learned that by keeping it continuously fed, the motor didn’t shut down. I soon discovered this could best be accomplished by employing the two handed feed. Soon I was stuffing paper with rights and lefts and the machine just hummed along.

I briefly considered taking my socks and shoes off to get a foot feed going. I was reminded of a song that Elsa Lancaster sang on the Johnny Carson show: “I’m Picking Bits of Paper with My Toes.”

Soon, alas, I was out of “sensitive” documents. I briefly eyed the boxes of material my accountant said must be kept “permanently.” This includes things like the articles of incorporation, tax returns, etc. I can picture some distant descendent of mine saying: “The old bastard didn’t leave us any money, just boxes of paper we have to drag with us into eternity.” I spared these files because I like to think that someday the association tax returns from the 90’s might be stored in a garage on Mars or some other distant outpost of humanity.

My gaze wandered to the piles of memory laden files I was planning to box up and take with me. Maybe I wasn’t so attached to them after all.

I decided to take my emotional temperature by shredding the files of correspondence that were critical or negative toward me. Fortunately, these made a pretty big stack. Into the shredder they went accompanied by witty comments like: “ So that’s what you think. Here’s what I think!” WHIRRRRRR.

Next came pictures and correspondence relating to people I never liked but had to put up with because they were dues paying members of the association. I spiced up shredding this stuff with appropriate observations: “This is a really nice picture of So-And-So. I should send it to him. Not!” WHIRRRRR.

I was in a shredding frenzy now and soon the slaughter became universal. Kathie must have extra copies of these pictures of the kids. Occasionally, a red light came on indicating the machine had overheated much like John Wayne’s tommy gun after mowing down legions of enemy troops.

At last, there was nothing left. The air was thick with paper dust. The floor looked like Broadway after the Giant parade.

I patted the machine, turned off the light, and left.

As I walked down the hall to the elevator, I softly sang “I’m picking bits of paper with my toes. I’m picking bits of paper with my toes.”

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mary Kate's Hat

In the John Ford film, The Quiet Man, there is a horse race in which the local belles place their bonnets on posts on the race course. The racers, as they sweep by, grab the hat of the young woman for whom they are racing.

Mary Kate Danaher, the female lead, is persuaded, against her better judgment, to put her hat up for grabs. After the riders pass, only one hat remains gently rocking in the breeze: Mary Kate’s. Her eyes grow large with shock and shame as she realizes she must walk across the field under the gaze of the whole town and fetch her scorned hat.

This is why I call retrieving my unsold art work from a concluded show “Fetching Mary Kate’s Hat.”

It is a measure of my success as an artist that I have a specific term for this activity.

It is a long walk across that gym or church hall floor under the gaze of the other artists to retrieve your unsold work.

At a recent church sponsored art show, neither of my entries sold. As I mentioned in my first posting, now located somewhere at the bottom of this pile of verbiage, I do wood carvings of a primitive or “folk.” nature. Clearly, they are not understood by the art consuming public as I have yet to sell one.

Not that I am about to cut off a body part or anything, but at times I do get a little frustrated.

My entries were a large mirror decorated with carved birds that I called “Rise and Shine” and a carving of a witch with ruby slippers that I titled “Alternate Ending.”

The first sign that this might not be my audience occurred when I was submitting by entries and an old gent took a look at “Alternate Ending” and said: “Oh look, it’s Harry Potter.”

At the show’s end as I was checking out with my Kate's hats, two elderly church ladies chimed in unison: “It’s the birdie mirror! We love the birdie mirror!” “Well apparently you are the only ones who do,” I heard myself say. Now,as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew this was a whiney remark. Artists, I believe are entitled, indeed expected, to be cranky and petulant. However, there is no whining in art.

The ladies didn’t miss a beat. “Oh dear, thank you for trying so hard,” the one said. “Would you care for a cookie?” the other asked.


As I was leaving, I ran into the old gent. “Heh, heh,” he said “Harry Potter didn’t sell.”

I didn’t say anything. I felt better. I had had a cookie.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My Teeny Weenie Carbon Footprint

I am kind of proud of the fact that when it comes to carbon footprints, I have very small piggies.

Believe me though it has taken lots of hard work and planning to achieve this diminutive status.

I have stopped mowing the lawn. In the first place, the knee-high grass and dandelions are madly pumping out or sucking up carbon dioxide…whichever it is they are supposed to do that is helpful. Plus the gas I save by not running the mower is enough to keep Donald Trump’s jet in the air for at least two weeks.

I have started rooting for the New York Knicks. Since they were mathematically eliminated in January, this has freed me from running the TV through the interminable NBA playoffs. This year, I expect a similar return on my investment in the Yankees and the Jets.

I am also drinking more alcoholic beverages. This not only eases the stress of worrying about my carbon footprint, but also renders me inert so that I am not stomping about with my big toxic shoes.

Unemployment is another thing that has worked for me. By not driving to the train station, generating bales of useless paper at the office, and throwing money around on irresponsible things like food and clothes, I am lifting a big weight off Mother Earth’s shoulders. It will get even better when the utilities shut us down.

Getting old is also a good strategy. Just the thought of chopping down a tropical rain forest or strip mining a national park makes me tired. I think with the average age of the global population climbing, a lot of countries are going to be too worn out to bother with industrial growth or military competition. Let the kids do it.

Here’s a tip that may sound counter-intuitive: smoke cigars on the front porch. I know what you are thinking: “Smoking cigars puts all kind of bad things into the atmosphere, and besides that’s your solution for everything.”

True, but the trade-off is by sitting on your butt for an hour and a half watching the world go by you are saving valuable resources and will make the world a better place for your grandkids. Pretty heroic and self-sacrificing, I would say.

It’s been tough but if my efforts can fuel one more episode of American Idol or one more week of the Democratic Primaries, it will be worth it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fishing for Answers

At the age of 63 I have taken up flyfishing.

Jim, the owner and proprietor of Shannon’s Fly Shop in Califon, got me started, outfitted and, after a brief but encouraging lesson, launched. He is my fishing guru, so to speak.

While fishing is relaxing and not a form of public embarrassment like golf, it is not without its frustrations. So while standing waist deep in the ass numbing water, I have compiled a list of questions for my fly fishing guru:

How come a guy can catch a bigger trout on a jellybean than I can with my $250 collection of fuzz balls?

How is it possible to catch one’s own net on three consecutive casts?

Why when I finally decide to pull my waders out of my crotch do three pretty girls jog by?

How can your line become hopelessly tangled in the garage?

How can you get your cell phone to work after you’ve dropped it in the water?

What sadist decided everything has to be so small?

Why is catch-and-release a good thing when guys in pick-up trucks are doing everything short of drag netting to fill their coolers?

Are the fish having fun?

How can a stone get inside my wader boot?

Why are those cyclists who stopped to watch me laughing?

So Jim, as Ricky used to say to Lucy: you got some splainen to do.

I have worked out a few things on my own though and am happy to share them.

When another fisherman asks you how many fish you have caught, three is a good answer. Anything less sounds like you don’t know what you are doing and more would be boastful. Explain the lack of fish on your person by saying you catch and release. I usually say “a few.” I remember in an old western a townie asked the cold eyed gunfighter how many people he had shot. "A few," he said. I try to mimic his laconic worldwearyness.

If you do decide to keep the one fish you caught, hide it in your waders. It looks lame walking back to your car with one fish. Unless it is huge, then flaunt it, baby.

Here’s another tip: always take a pee before you put your waders on. If you are like me, the sound of the rushing water and the three beers you had for lunch will fire up your bladder in hurry.

Jim didn’t tell me this. I figured it out myself.