A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm doing a lot better now. I turned my Blackberry off.

Hi, My name is Jim and I am an email addict.
The room says: “Hi, Jim!”
This is my story.
It started off innocently enough. I got AOL on my lumbering 286. I didn’t use too often in those early days. You had to get your connection and that was time consuming. And you paid your connection by the minute. Ouch! But still the sound of that voice got its hooks into me. “You’ve got mail.” Wow! What a rush it was.
Then came the day I moved on to an actual ISP. My connection of choice was epix and even though it was still dial up I was using a couple of hours a day. Emails were still kind of a novelty back then so it was exciting when I was able to communicate back and forth with another person. Gee isn’t technology great? Of course all this was done mostly after dark. In the privacy of my own home.
Spam was still in the kitchen cupboard.
Then came the day I started using email at work. All of a sudden I was checking my email two three sometimes even four times a day! I knew it was taking away from my work but I couldn’t help myself. One day I even found myself sending an email to the person in the office next to me. What was wrong with me? Couldn’t I get away from my email long enough to talk to a real live person just steps away? I was well on my way to becoming the addict I am now.
Soon I had an email monkey on my back. I set my desk top computer up so I could check all of my email accounts constantly. By now I had five email addresses and almost all my time was consumed with reading and responding to email. I kidded myself that it was job related but most of it wasn’t. And by this time the emails were all being cut with spam. To get to the good stuff you had to sort through all the seeds and stems of that junk. And when I left the office I raced home and got my connection going for my home computer and wasted hours I could have been
Watching TV or sleeping checking my email. The inbox was consuming my life. And I was powerless to stop.
Soon the connections both at work and at home got faster and better. Now I was mainlining email at home with DSL. It made the old dial up stuff seem like drinking warm water. This was so intoxicating that I spent more time on email than I did anything else. I had computers in every place I went. Wireless laptops hidden around the house so I could get my fix.
I knew that I was hitting rock bottom when I got my Blackberry. Now I could check my email anywhere. It’s shameful to me now to admit the places that I logged on. I looked at email while at business lunches. I checked the inbox while I was in meetings. I was in agony when the network went down. How could I live without my connection? When I found myself answering an email while I was on the toilet I knew it was time to come here, to the rooms of e.m.a.a. Email addicts anonymous. I had hit rock bottom.
The road to recovery is slow. All around me are the temptations to log on and get a quick email fix. My job does require me to use email but I am keeping my use down to an hour or so a day. I have sought out help from the IT department to help me cut down on spam and to help me work a plan to manage my habit.
I know that I have a long way to go but I have hope. You can too. Just remember. One email at a time.
By the way. Can someone email me when the next meeting is?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Computers have become the cabbage patch kids of today.

Remember the cabbage patch craze of 10 or 15 years ago? The cute dolls with birth certificates and individual characteristics were the hottest things since bread in slices. The local insanity culminated in a riot at the now defunct Zayres in Wilkes-Barre. Grandmothers and Mommies pushing and shoving each other, body checking with vicious elbows to kick and claw their way into the store to get one of the plastic Pollyanna’s. I must admit that I bought into the stupidity myself, buying one from the classified ads for more than I would care to admit. I would be willing to be the little girl who I bought it for (my Daughter) has no idea where it is today.
What reminded me of this was a recent sale of used laptops in Richmond Virginia that turned big time ugly. The Henrico County schools decided to unload 1,000 4 year old Apple I books for $50 each. A crowd estimated at 5,500 showed up, some as early as 1:30am for a 7am opening. A 20 year old guy who probably is not smart enough to own a laptop used a metal folding chair to beat back people who cut in front of him. He said “I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought it was just.” You have to hope if he got the laptop that he uses it to study ethics.
The chaos began when they opened the doors and the crowd surged forward. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd. One woman reportedly urinated herself because she didn’t want to lose her place in line.
In Henrico county Virginia where their Motto is “Proud of our progress, excited about our future” Paul Proto director of general services for Henrico County said "It's rather strange that we would have such a tremendous response for the purchase of a laptop computer -- and laptop computers that probably have less-than- desirable attributes, but I think that people tend to get caught up in the excitement of the event. It almost has an entertainment value."
Obviously entertainment has a somewhat different meaning in Virginia.
But then again I could be wrong.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Modern life has all sorts of interesting ways to stress you out that our ancestors didn’t have to deal with.
When Og the caveman had a dispute with somebody he clobbered them over the head with his trusty club and then they were gone. No more dispute. Nowadays of course we are more civilized and instead of clubs we use…lawyers.
20 years ago I had the unhappy experience of going through a divorce. Kids were involved so there were seemingly endless meetings with domestic relations and lawyers were always part of the festivities. My ex-wife chose a legal beagle that I now see almost every day. Now I am sure this is a highly qualified member of the bar. I am positive that he does his job well and is a credit to his profession. I know the fact that he made me crazy back then is my fault and none of his. But I didn’t care for him then and I haven’t warmed to him since. So why do I see him everyday? Well I don’t see him in person. I see his 14 foot high mug on billboards all over town. And I must say he looks the same as he did 20 years ago. And he still raises my blood pressure when I look at his unsmiling face. It takes me right back to those less than pleasant days when I was chewed up and spit out by a legal system endorsed by the Commonwealth. The last time I saw this guy the most vivid memory I took away was the layer of egg he had on his tie. Of course I left those meetings with empty pockets and egg on my face so who came out better?
You have to wonder. What would Og the caveman have done. Put another way. WWOD. What would Og do?
Or then again I could be wrong.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now.

Did you ever get a song stuck in your head for days at a time? Most of us have. Why is it that it’s always the dumbest song? It’s a small world after all comes to mind. NOT THAT SONG AGAIN!
Or the Monty Python spam spam spam spam song.
But it goes away eventually. Except for a few unlucky enough to have…musical hallucinations.
It’s an actual diagnosable disease that doctors are studying. The conclusion by the boys the white coats? The brain in folks who hear Christmas carols and Caberet songs with no radio in the room is malfunctioning. Gosh it’s good to know we have Doctors to figure that one out.
The Docs also have decided that this phenomenon has been around for many years. Towards the end of his life, composer Robert Schumann wrote down the music he hallucinated. He thought he was taking dictation from Schubert’s ghost.
To give you the readers digest version of the medical research, there is a part of the brain that turns sounds into music. It’s always trying to do this and when it doesn’t hear any in some people it makes up its own. Even deaf folks, especially deaf people are not immune.
This problem is not the same as hearing voices in your head. Or like David Berkowitz, the son of Sam killer, thinking that the neighbors German Shepard is giving you orders to kill people. That’s just schizophrenia. Whew!
The Doctors have also found out that the tunes people are most likely to hear on the private radio station in their head are those that they have heard repeatedly or are emotionally significant to them. Often the music has religious overtones.
It happens most often to folks in their 70’s.
This is going to be interesting. An entire generation of baby boomers in the nursing home, listening to Stairway to heaven in their heads.
Or then again I could be wrong

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hurry Spring!

I had lunch with a friend the other day and I was grousing about how bad this winter had been how much snow and ice we had to deal with and blah, blah, blah ad-infinitum. He looked at me and said “I don’t think it’s been that bad.” Now bear in mind that this is from a guy who spends his days roaming all over Northeast Pa selling his product in rain sleet snow and hail. I got to thinking about it as I drove home in the five to seven inches of slop that we were getting that day. Maybe he was right. Maybe it was my imagination that this winter has sucked far worse than normal. I began to tally up the damage in my mind while in a four wheel skid heading for the drifts on the side of the road. First on my mind was the crack in my windshield. I have now replaced this piece of glass twice in this car. Why? Because anti skid kicked off the road hit it and sprouted a star chip. And on the way to get it fixed I had to run the defroster because it was snowing and that is what cracks the windshield, or so the glass guys tell me. They are all driving Mercedes Benz’s. Then I stopped by the hardware store to pick up more sand. We spread the stuff on the driveway and the walkways for traction. It’s cheaper and believe it or not cleaner than that stuff that is supposed to melt ice and snow. This trip I picked up four fifty pound bags of the stuff. Over the course of this winter I have purchased close to a ton. This spring we will have our own beach! As I did an unintended 360 in the parking lot I thought about my fuel bill. Since December we have filled the twin tanks in our basement twice with number two fuel oil. The guy who brings this liquid black gold was telling me about his new boat as I wrote out the last check. Fifty foot cabin cruiser he said. As I drove up my driveway that day the guy who plows for me was just finishing up. I paid him and he remarked that he hoped it didn’t snow next week. “Why?” I asked. “Heading for Jamaica!” was his reply as he tucked the bills into his bulging wallet.
I slipped and slid my way down to the mailbox. It was leaning like that famous tower in Italy. The last pass by the big county plow has ripped the number plate clean off. Maybe we will find it next spring. Or then again I could be wrong.

Friday, February 22, 2008


The only candidate that you can burp the first name.

You are getting sleepy...very sleepy.

I have the usual amount of weird dreams. Most everyone I know has them. Have the seen the ads for the new pill you are supposed to take to make you sleep and have dreams? One of them has Abe Lincoln and a beaver holding a jump rope. Not one of my most common dreams. In fact I just saw a survey that listed the most common things that people do in their dreams. Chasing or being chased ranks first followed by falling (yeah I get that one a lot!) wading or swimming is in there and being invisible rounds out the top four. I have to admit I used the have the invisible dream a lot when I was younger. It had to do with, I am sorry to say, being in girls locker rooms. I don’t have that one anymore. I swear I don’t. But I notice that the one dream they didn’t mention was the one I have most often. It ties in with the falling one and that is of course, flying. They (whoever they are) say that flying in dreams is the wish to escape the ties that bind us here on earth. Sometimes this is a wish for spiritual enlightenment, and sometimes it's merely a wish to escape daily drudgery or responsibilities. That sounds about right. Of course Sigmund Freud believed dreams of flying meant," Nothing else but the desire to be capable of sexual activity," but he thought everything had to do with sex. How much faith can you put in a guy who more often than not had a snootfull of Coke? I wonder what he would have thought about my invisible locker room dreams? I digress. I seem to do that a lot lately. Back to sleeping and dreaming. In recent times I have suffered from bouts of insomnia. I seem to get into a routine where I sleep really soundly about every third night. They (there’s that they again. Who is this they?) say that the real loss suffered when you don’t sleep is the fact that you don’t dream. That we need dreams to stay sane. I can vouch for the fact that I do feel a little less sane when I don’t get a full night’s sleep but I don’t know about the dream part. I mean how can a dream involving Abe Lincoln and a beaver make you saner?
The falling dream especially concerns me. You dream that you are falling and then suddenly wake up scared half to death. The ever elusive they say that if you don’t wake up before you hit the ground that you die. I hope I at least get to break my fall on honest Abe. Or that guy in the deep sea divers suit.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Parking lot blues

Parking lots shouldn’t cause your blood
pressure to rise.
What is it with some people and parking lots?
The spaces are clearly marked at one place where I park daily.
It’s a medium sized lot that is never full but gets crowded in front of the business I frequent. Why does this person who parks every day ignore the lines? They consistently park with the line running right down the middle of their behemothmobile SUV effectively taking up two parking spaces. In fact because there are two rows of spaces and they park in the middle of the two rows they eat up four spaces.
And another thing. Why do people speed in parking lots? Ever see that National Lampoon Summer vacation movie? There is a scene in there where Chevy Chase is driving the family truckster sound asleep on a sidewalk at high speed. A guy walks out of a door and is almost clobbered by the car. That’s the way it looks to me as I watch some people at racing speed in the narrow rows of some lots. If you walk out from between cars you may become another notch on their grill. What would it say on your tombstone? Flattened at the Wal-Mart?
And why is it so important to get that space? I have fallen into this kind of behavior myself. You see someone vacating a space. You wait patiently with your blinker on while they back out. Someone zooms into space before you. I have seen fights erupt over this. Why? It’s just a parking space? Why does it make us so furious?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

With apologies to Dave Letterman

Last year I left a job in radio for what I thought at the time were some pretty good reasons. I still do.
It left a lot of people scratching their heads and questioning my sanity.
There really is no percentage to be gained in questioning my sanity.
With that in mind here are the top ten reasons why I quit my job:

10: Resign? I thought it said re-sign!
9. Got a great job selling Amway
8. Got a great job selling Mary Kay
7. Making comfortable living off pictures of high ranking Entercom brass with farm animals
8. Devoting full time to weight loss. Now down 300 pounds! Eat your heart out Karen Carpenter!
7. Wanted to sell water and salt door to door
6. Found a job with even more meetings
5. Two words. Free time
4. Two more words. No Salespeople
3. Resign? I thought it said re-sign!
2. Wanted to see more daytime TV
and the number one reason Jim quit

1. Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose.

Calling George Orwell

Big brother is watching you.
And soon in downtown Wilkes-Barre he will have over 500 eyes. The Mayor has decided that a system of security cameras is a fine idea.
Mayor Tom Leighton says: "If you're not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't be worried about being watched.”
It was put another way to me by the Sisters of the Perpetual Agony. “God is watching you” the nuns would say. And they didn’t mean it in the general sense. They meant the Supreme Being had his eyes on me. It was a heavy thought for a six year old.
Catholic guilt aside most everyone probably has no objection to the idea of surveillance in downtown Wilkes-Barre. When he was a city councilman Jim McCarthy described some of the night time denizens as “creepy-crawlies” and looking at the police blotter you can’t really argue that some folks would be better off caged.
The city has been boasting about its state of the art monitoring system for some time now. 10 wide screen monitors connected to an unknown number of cameras in undisclosed loacations are watched 24/7 by a policeman. How do you get that job? I am guessing that if they expand to more than 500 cameras that a few more eyeballs will have to be assigned to the task.
It brings up a whole bunch of questions. Like who does get to watch?
Why shouldn’t the cameras be put on a public access TV Channel so the taxpayers who foot the bill can get some entertainment for their money? Or at the very least post them on a web-site. Gosh some of the results could even make it to you-tube!
The “Creepy Crawler” show could be the next “Big Brother” if we handle this right. See real life drama in the city. See creatures of the night doing unspeakable acts under the cloak of darkness. See actual crime as it is actually being committed. And all from the comfort and safety of your own home.
I remember years ago when commercial radio scanners were all the rage. You could listen in to Police and Fire department radio communications. Every kitchen had one and all the blue hair set knew all the police and fire codes by heart. It was a form of entertainment for them and it made them feel as though they had some insight into what was happening down the block and around the corner.
I can’t see any real difference in putting the camera’s on public view. What did you say? Invasion of privacy? Come on! That ship sailed long ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

R E S P E C T !!!

“Hey Nineteen That's 'Retha Franklin. She don't remember The Queen of Soul
Steely Dan-“Hey Nineteen”.

I watched the Grammy awards. Well some of it. I get bored easily and I was channel surfing and stumbled across it a few times. I was unlucky enough to see someone called Beyonce embarrass herself and call into question what the current generation of musicians really know about music history.
I couldn’t tell you a single song that Beyonce is responsible for. I am out of the age demo that listens to pop radio and to tell you the truth I mostly listen to talk radio and NPR anyway.
But when Beyonce introduced Tina Turner as the” Queen” on the Grammy show aired February 10th I was a little taken aback. You wouldn’t ever introduce a musician as the “King” unless you meant Elvis. “The hardest working man in show business?” You of course refer to the late great James Brown. Google “Worlds greatest rock and roll band” and you will get The Rolling Stones as the lead entry. And do the same for “Queen of Soul” and you do NOT get Tina Turner. You of course get the one and only Aretha Franklin. Franklin has won twenty Grammy Awards in total during her nearly half-century long career (she first charted in 1961), and holds the record for most Best Female R&B Vocal Performance award with eleven to her name (including eight consecutive awards from 1968 to 1975 - the first eight awarded in that category). Tina has won eight herself, no mean feat but still not in “reefa’s” league.
Beyonce has won 7 Grammy awards.
Beyonce meant no harm I am certain. But it pissed Aretha off enough that she was quoted as saying "I am not sure of whose toes I may have stepped on or whose ego I may have bruised between the Grammy writers and Beyonce," Franklin said in a statement issued by her publicist. "However, I dismissed it as a cheap shot for controversy."
Tina Turner is 69 now-and to be sure she deserves a lot of credit for getting up and shaking her booty on stage. To be honest she looked old and haggard. And she was wearing pants! Tina’s legs and her short skirts were the subject of many a fantasy on the part of men of a certain age. To see her in pants, well, I guess we all are getting older.

Beyonce is 27. She seems to be talented and for sure is pretty. Most female pop singers trade as much in the currency of looks as they do sound.

Aretha is 66. She was never what one would consider a sex symbol. But she sings her ass off.

Who is the “Queen”?

Consider this. The films these three have starred in:

Beyonce starred in a terrible remake of “The Pink Panther.”

Tina was in “Mad Max beyond Thunderdome.”

Aretha was in “The Blues Brothers”.

I rest my case.

Monday, February 18, 2008


It’s ok to bribe doctors but don’t try to get a song played on the radio by using any coercion. Maybe it’s just because I worked in radio that I find this a little ridiculous but bear with me here for a moment. A Disc Jockey named Alan Freed who many believe came up the term “Rock and Roll” was hounded out of the industry and ended up drinking himself to an early grave after he was convicted of taking bribes of various types to play records. In 1960 the F.C.C. made this practice illegal. But Under US law, a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime. Confused yet? It gets worse. Because of some recent attention drawn to this issue radio station’s have to log every contact with record companies and report it to the F.C.C. who should be worrying more about Janet Jackson showing off her mammary glands. If a record company sends a stick of gum to a program director they must make full disclosure. But doctors are under no such compulsion. Medical industries like those who make drugs or medical devices are free to wine and dine, give free samples to doctors and even take them on trips. In one survey taken by the New England Journal of Medicine 78% of all doctors say they get free drug samples from Pharmaceutical reps. 83% admit they have received free food or drinks. If a radio person is taken out to dinner by a record company employee the event must be logged sometimes even to the point where the items ordered must be disclosed. They have to sign many forms assuring everyone that no matter what they will not be influenced to play any songs on the radio. Now I am not saying the idea of paying off or bribing a Program Director to play a song that sucks on the radio is a good thing. It’s not. But a pharmaceutical rep can and did go your Doctor and got him all liquored up and then asked him to prescribe more Vioxx. He gave the doctor bushel baskets full of Vioxx which was supposed to be a great drug for arthritis. Nothing wrong there? Vioxx has been shown to cause heart attacks and strokes and has been banned. But has anyone of the Pharmaceutical industry been hounded out of a job and forced to drink themselves to death? It’s to laugh. No one is going to die because a bad record got on the air. Especially now that radio guys can’t even break wind after a record company dinner without recording the length, volume and odor. But bribing Doctors is ok. Is this a great country or what?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Put the moron back in Oxymoron

Oxymoron’s. I love them. Sometimes they are meant to be serious and that’s what makes them all the more lovable. “Impotent rage” is a good one. Think about being that mad that you can’t…well you know what you can’t. Now that’s mad! How about the sign I saw at a flea market the other day. “New antiques arriving daily.” I knew there was a factory someplace. Probably the same place that makes “Authentic Reproductions.” Or that “Priceless junk.” You can bring them all home in a “new used car.” “Safe sex” gets me to laughing whenever I am in a bank. I know that I have been drunk but have I ever been “legally drunk?” I wonder at what point it becomes legal? Just before slurring your words? And how can you be a “devout atheist?” Who do you pray to? Is it permissible to say “Thank God I’m an atheist?” Why is it when someone shares a sandwich with you they always take the “larger half?” How do they do that? Why don’t they just take the “whole piece?” And is it possible to have a “one hundred percent chance” of anything happening? It’s probably some sort of character flaw on my part but whenever I see a traffic sign that says “watch children” I think about small watches. And I wonder what the pedophiles do when they see those signs? Here’s one that needs no further explanation. A sheet in a long report that reads “This page intentionally left blank.” No it’s not. I read a blog the other day where the author was proud of his “unbiased opinion.” I guess if he was a movie reviewer he would call a film “unbelievably real.” All this work is making me hungry. Do you know where I can get a “well done steak?” I mean one that isn’t overcooked of course. Never mind, I’ll just have some “grape nuts.” Wait.. there isn’t any of either in here. And how am I supposed to tell the difference between “half dressed” and “half naked?” And why do they need a “dressing room” in a strip club? And although I am not a fan of any sport where the winner knocks his opponent out did they think really hard before that named it a “Boxing ring?” Maybe a few too many blows to the head there. The other day I got my car repaired and before they started they offered me an “exact estimate.” I thought it was too good to be true but I was “cautiously optimistic.” But the best oxymoron is on my computer. To shut it down you click “start”.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day. Got Beer?

Nowhere is the difference in the sexes more apparent than at a Hallmark store on valentines’ eve. In a perfect world I would be no where near the Hallmark store on the day before this most romantic of all Holidays. Side note. Is it truly a Holiday if we don’t get a day off? Just wondering. But events and timing conspired yesterday to put me smack dab in the middle of a heart shaped, cupid inspired, crimson frenzy. Because the store was crowded like they were giving away free beer I had plenty of time to observe behavior. Men, when shopping for Valentines card do so quickly and with decisive moves. They stride confidentially to the display racks, reach out a hand and bang! They have the perfect card. How can they be sure that it’s the perfect card? Because no matter what sort of card it is, at least the recipient knows they took time to get a card, so they get points for that. Women on the other hand take their time. They look at every card in the store a least twice, including birthday and anniversary cards which is not the mission. Eventually after much agonizing they will pick out the perfect card, which the recipient will take a quick look at and immediately start thinking about his chances of getting lucky or sports.
The checkout line is also a great divide for men and women in the Valentines Day frenzy. Women wait until the total is announced to them to find money. It’s almost like it comes as a surprise to them. Oh, I have to pay now, right? So it’s into the purse and minutes pass while they dig around looking for cash. Men approach the register with cash in their fist, anxious for nothing more than the transaction to be done with. Men also and this is without exception, turn the card so that the cashier cannot see the sappy sentiment that have purchased. Most men would sooner be hit by lightning than have anyone other than the intended see the card they have picked out. Women on the other hand don’t conceal the card and in fact I think want to make sure as many people as possible see the thing.
The other difference is the faces as they leave the store. Women leave with happy, almost glowing expressions.
Men run out like they have escaped Sing Sing with cards held tight to the side so other men can’t see that they have been doing the valentine day duty.
If Valentines Day didn’t exist think about all the chocolate manufacturers, rose growers and card makers that would go out of business.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On the road again

So this morning I had to take my wife to work. I really don’t mind doing this. With my current job status (I have no real job at the moment, but that’s for another day) it can be the only time I go out in the real world daily. The reason for this morning’s trip was the three inches of wet heavy snow that fell from the sky which then changed over to sleet then to freezing rain. A regular potpourri of weather. Because I have a nimble all wheel drive vehicle I am elected to be the chauffer.
I had gone about a mile before it happened. The first driver to piss me off. This was a jerk in huge pick up truck with a plow that looked wider than the road. This nincompoop was talking his half of the road out of the middle and damn near creamed me. Plus he was driving like he was setting a lap record for the Daytona 500. I yelled “Get on your @%^&ing side of the road you @#$&ing idiot!” My wife said to me “Do you know you never drive anywhere without cursing at someone?”
I thought about this for just a second and then cleverly defended myself by saying “But he was in our lane!”
My wife just sighed and said “But aren’t they always?” I vowed to do less swearing at other drivers. My wife just rolled her eyes. She is known as the “Long suffering wife” because she puts up with me. A chore sometimes I am sure.
Our trip today included a stop to pick up the wife’s sister who works with her.
The roads really sucked. Some of them looked like they had been plowed and treated with anti-skid, some of them looked like they hadn’t been touched yet. It was on one of these as of yet pristine untouched roads that some new jerk in a SUV the size of my kitchen started to tailgate me. Now the road was mostly snow-covered except for the portions that were ice. Common sense, if not common courtesy would dictate a safe distance between motorized vehicles. This a+*hole in the SUV had neither of these commendable traits. I took it for about half a mile before I found a place to pull over and let the in-a-hurry jerk go by. As he passed by I said “Go ahead you idiot. Obviously you are in a big @#$%ing hurry.”
The wife turned to the sister and said “This go on with your husband too?”
“All the time.” was her reply.
“But he was tailgating me and the road is really icy.” I said in my defense.
“But you do the same thing when the road is bare and dry.” was my wife’s reply.
To this I had no response. Maybe there is something genetic in man’s makeup that prompts him to yell cuss words at other drivers. I know in my heart it does no good. They don’t hear me. The wife doesn’t care, I am not impressing her.
And the truth is I am MORE apt to scream obscenities at other drivers when I am all by myself behind the wheel. I am just glad there is no black box in my car that records all these explosions of profanity. But then again I might be able to use it for a rap song.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Frick You!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at anything anymore. I guess my shock-o-meter by this time of my life should be pretty well disconnected. My “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” world weary attitude should protect me from anything like a delicate sensibility. But I have to admit I was a little taken aback by the seven foot high sign at the gas station that sells subs and soup too. What’s that line from National Lampoons Vacation? Clark W. Griswold says “I’m so hungry I could eat a gas station sandwich?” The sign reads something like “try our new Crispy Frickin’ Chicken Sandwich.” Excuse me? FRICKIN? Chicken? I get that Frickin’ and chicken rhyme but holy cow! I mean I know Doctor Evil said “Mini-me, fire the Frickin” laser” but that was in a R-rated movie. I know there is a band called “Frickin’ A” but somehow that seems different. Now we are advertising a food item by using the word that, lets face it, is short for a slang word for, well you know what. I will admit it makes me laugh when I hear Peter Griffin say “Frickin’ Sweet” on Family Guy. And I don’t mind it when Todd Rundgren sings “I hate my Frickin” ISP”. But for some reason this bothers me. A little on-line research shows that Frickin’ may have come from a guy named Henry Clay Frick, who is infamous for busting a union up in the 1890’s in Southwestern PA by having people murdered. So the theory is Frick became a dirty word and then morphed into Frickin’. I don’t buy it. I guess I should count my blessings that I don’t live in Ohio where the restaurant chain called “Frickers” invites you to “End your Frickin’ week with us” and boasts menu items like Frickin’ chicken pizza, Frickin’ shrimp and even a big Frickin’ bologna and cheese sandwich for the Frickin’ kids. I am not making any of this up. Let’s try a little test. Fill in the blank in the following phrase. Mother (blank). Try “Mother Fricken”. See what I mean? George Carlin has his list of the seven words you can’t say on radio or television. I know that Frickin’ is not among them. But I am having some trouble with the image that F@#$ing chicken puts in my mind. I saw a picture once of a Hells Angel type guy “wearing” a cooked chicken and nothing else. I mean he was using the chicken in a way that some might call unnatural. So with all due apologies to the advertising genius that came up with the idea, I don’t want any of your mother Frickin’ chicken. Or then again I could be wrong.

Monday, February 11, 2008


There isn’t very much that’s funny about heroin addiction. Although there is some disagreement how severe the cravings for the drug can become no one argues that the drug is a powerful draw to some. Heroin addiction is closely associated with crime and disease. Recent events in a McDonalds in Wyoming point this out. Three guys came up with a scheme to get real heroin by selling fake heroin and got caught. Although there is probably some humor somewhere in the idea these three unfortunate souls got busted for selling bags of pancake mix as heroin I won’t be going there. Heroin is often diluted with many different substances. Watering down the stuff gives a dealer more volume for sale so they often cut it with whatever is cheap and plentiful. Baby laxative, sugar, rat poison and other drugs are shoveled into the bags and sold as the real deal. Recently in Philadelphia 116 people were sent to the hospital in a rash of incidents where heroin was cut with a drug called scopolamine. Scopolamine is normally prescribed for motion sickness. In higher doses it can cause delirium, delusions, paralysis, stupor and death. None of these additives does the junkie any good but cutting the drug with pancake mix is a particularly nasty idea. As anyone who has ever made pancakes knows the mix swells when it hits moisture and when injected into someone’s vein that’s not a good thing. The three arrested in Wyoming weren’t cutting real heroin. All they had was pancake mix which they sold to somebody for $100 with hopes of cruising to New Jersey to buy some of the real stuff. In spite of the fact that they sold a few pennies worth of Aunt Jemima’s they were charged with possession and intent to deliver a counterfeit controlled substance which brings with it the same sort of penalties associated with selling the real deal. The penalties probably will not stop there, however. There’s probably a pretty good chance that the three flapjack mix dealers were not caught the first time they sold the fake stuff. Now that their names and faces have been published in the newspaper whoever they sold the fake stuff to will probably want to have some words with them. I don’t think the conversation will be about the merits of real maple syrup with your pancakes. And I can imagine that any time they do in the lock-up will be unpleasant for them if their cellmates discover what they were up to. Lot’s of guys in jail use heroin or know somebody who does and probably will have a problem with the pancake mix dealers.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oh! Deer!

It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last. That doesn’t make it any easier. We can always tell when something has happened on the road that runs by the Rising Ranch. It’s a busy road which many use as an alternate route to Harvey’s lake. Posted speed limit is 35 but that’s a laugh and half. In spite of the heavy traffic it’s a very rural area. Only a scattering of houses and the presence of the Huntsville reservoir make it an ideal place for all sorts of wildlife. We have had countless deer in our backyard and on one very memorable occasion a bear came to dine on our bird feeder. I would venture to say there are more deer than people on this road and the surrounding woods. As we are set up on a small hillside we can see when traffic stops and that’s what happened after a loud bang the other night just at dusk. By the time I got the boots and jacket on and found a flashlight with batteries not purchased in the Carter administration the traffic had dispersed. It took a bit of searching but I found what I feared I would. A large buck with at least four points was a little ways up in the woods near the road and he was in severe distress. It was pretty obvious that his back had been broken by being struck by a car.
It was snowing lightly and cold enough so I could see his breath. When I shined the flashlight on him he panicked and heaved himself forward a few feet. He stopped and made a mournful low sound, surprisingly loud. It sounded like a moan. Traffic swept by on the road. The deer made another move and ended up rolling down the bank into the gulley by the side of the road. His legs windmilled in the water and splashed. He wasn’t going any further. I jogged back up to the house and called 911. I went back down to the deer and waited. He thrashed a bit more and then looked at me as if to say, can’t you do something here? His mouth moved and if he could have spoken I guess I know what he would have said.
The Policeman who responded to the call was unwilling to put him out of his misery. I own no guns. So I watched and waited for the breath to stop making its white plumes from the animal’s nose. The cop left. I went back to my warm house on the hill. And this morning the young buck is still there, covered with a blanket of new fallen snow.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Road Rules!

I have been observing driving habits here in Northeast Pa for the better part of three decades. I have come to understand that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation driver’s manual is a work of fiction rivaled only by fairytales and some local municipalities ideas of budget control. So here are the updated and corrected rules of the road for NEPA.
First and foremost: The yellow lines in the middle of the road are only put there as a suggestion or maybe as decoration. They really don’t mean anything so feel free to drift over them whenever the spirit moves you. And not just a little. If you feel like taking your half of the road out of the middle, go right ahead!
Turn signals. These devices have been rumored to be an option on cars purchased in Northeast PA but they do serve a function. The procedure is to turn them on as soon as you start driving and leave them on no matter what making everyone guess as to your real intentions.
What if there is an obstruction in your lane on a narrow two lane road? Speed up and get around it at all costs. Ignore traffic oncoming in the other lane like it doesn’t exist. Don’t concern yourself with being in the other lane traveling in the wrong direction.
The left lane on a divided highway is always the travel lane. And it doesn’t mean you have to be going faster than traffic in the right lane. As soon as you get on the turnpike or the interstate plant yourself firmly in the left lane and don’t budge except to make sudden moves to exit. If at all possible have your turn signal on indicating a left hand turn when you swerve to the right. It makes high speed travel much more exhilarating.
Always use your horn and your middle finger when driving. Just giving someone “the finger” does no good if they don’t see it so lay on the horn. What else is it for, anyway?
In winter weather don’t waste time clearing the ice or snow from your car. If you must, scrape a small viewing port in the windshield directly in front of you but forget about cleaning off the side windows or the rear window. It’ll melt eventually. And if you have a big pile of snow and ice on the roof of your auto by all means leave it! Enjoy the view when it flies off and crashes behind you in the path of unsuspecting fellow drivers. It’s all part of the fun and excitement of a day on the road in Northeast PA.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Credit Card Blues

So I had a bad day. After coming home from the dentist who said I could either have the tooth extracted or have a fifth root canal I was in intense pain. The pain of a toothache seems worse to me than any other. Remember that movie with Dustin Hoffman “Marathon Man” where he is tortured by a Nazi with a dentist’s drill? I do. Every time I go into my friendly dentist I remember. But that’s a story for another time. I was in agony that would make a lesser man cry like a girl. So I wiped the tears off my cheeks and sorted the mail. I opened the Visa bill. I just made a huge payment so it should have just a small balance. What the hell? Almost $5,000? It’s maxed out? How could this be? Well you probably guessed it. Seven fraudulent charges totaling more than $4000! Someone, apparently some frog leg eating snail slurper in France had swiped my poor innocent Visa card number from somewhere and gone to town. I can’t even figure out what this beret wearing wino bought. Oh I googled the names of some of the things he ripped off. $800 smackers to something called Podospecial Chesina Uzza. It’s all in Italian but from what I can tell it seems to be selling Dentist supplies. Is this too ironic for words? This French bag de le douche also spent more than $1300 at some place called Calleja Motocomponetes which I have to assume is something to do with cars. Good, I hope he crashes and gets French fried in his hot rod. Almost $400 bucks at France rugby. Enjoy the game Pierre. And the list goes on. Thankfully the story has a happy ending. Sort of. The credit card company eats the charges and issues me a new credit card. They were very nice about it. Then I got a chill down my spine. I also have an American Express card which has no spending limit. A quick phone call to Amex world headquarters showed that thank goodness no one had tampered with that one. But then the customer rep tried not only to sell me some sort of credit card insurance but also was really really sure I needed another Blue American express card. Lady, I said, because I am sure she was, I just had a credit card ripped off and you want to send me another one? You have to be joking, right? Wait a minute. Did she have a French accent?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I love my gym

This is the time of year that area gyms love. After the excess of the holidays many of your friends and neighbors step on the scale, let out a horrified shriek and run or more likely waddle to the nearest work out palace. The gyms and health clubs love this because they get the added income from the new members and they know that in a few weeks time these new members will disappear like all new years resolutions do. But for a few weeks the joints will be crowded. I work out regularly and have become amazingly set in my routines. The addition of these new members annoys me. They get in my way, use MY machines and generally make me wish they would go to a planet on the galaxies outer rim. But what really has set my teeth on edge these past few weeks has been the arrival of “The Whistler”. You probably hear someone like him in your travels. You can be walking the aisles of the Bi/Lo minding your own business and out of nowhere someone is trilling and riffing some old forgotten song. It’s usually an older resident of our community and almost always accompanied by the jingling of coins in his pocket. Of course in those circumstances you can move away from the aural assault. I am not so lucky in the instance of the “Gym Whistler”. This guy seems to be able to time his day to catch me in the locker room, hot, sweaty and sometimes hung-over, eager for a trip to the sauna to sweat out the sins and excesses of the night before. There I sit while he flattens my eardrums in my skull with his tuneful but LOUD solo. The locker room is cold hard tile and the whistle bounces around until it drills into my skull like a woodpecker with a dentist drill for a beak. It’s more than I can take in the small, reverberant space. It was bad when he ran through his repertoire of Christmas songs. Now it’s excruciating as he works thru the hit parade of by gone days. Now I am certain this is a nice man, kind to his Mother, gentle with his family. So common courtesy precludes me from my more murderous thoughts. But the other day I could take it no more. When he paused briefly in his attack on my ears I asked “Do you know Lady of Spain?” A moment of blessed silence. Then he laughed and launched into it. So my mission is now clear. Keep coming up with ever more bizarre songs until I stump him into silence.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I rarely leave less than a 20% tip. Even if the service is completely unacceptable I will leave at least 10%. I know that most of the problems that occur when you are dining out are not the fault of the server. I am also aware of how little they make in wages and that tips are a big part of their income. There is nothing like good service. And the other night I got nothing like good service. And for the first time I can remember I left almost no tip. The long suffering wife and I ventured to Lackawanna County for a book signing. By the way, my book “And then again I could be wrong” is on sale at bookstores near you. And Amazon.com. Shameless plug out. Dinner was courtesy of a gift card at a chain with the same name as a cartoon character. Not our first choice, but hey, free is good, right? Wrong! Our server was a chirpy overly friendly one who called us “guys” all night. I hate that. It got worse. I ordered chicken. My wife ordered chopped steak. That’s basically a hamburger ,no bun. We waited, and waited and waited. No word of lie, it was ½ hour before our dinners came. Chirpy waitress came by every so often and apologized saying “Guys, I’ll check and see what’s taking so long.” She said that three times. Finally the long lost food arrives. My wife asks always for well done. If you know about E. coli you know why. Her hamburg was bright red and bloody inside. This after waiting a half hour? So it was sent back. Our waitress couldn’t have been more apologetic. Ok, this was not her fault but the offer of free deserts to make up for it sounded great. I distinctly heard “Free Deserts” plural. I have a good clear voice. So I am sure chirpy waitress heard me place the order for two to go. I even pointed out the two on the menu. Of course you know she only brought one, right? I am guessing she was told by someone in charge that for our “trouble” we deserved only one. At that point the 10% tip I had figured on leaving didn’t seem like it was earned. So I screwed her on the tip. I think I left her 32 cents. Do I feel good about this? On reflection, no. But up until she made an offer to make it good then shorted us I was willing to play along. Lesson learned. Free is good, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Much smarter people than myself (and that’s almost anyone with a pulse) have already written many words about our governments plan on giving us all a tax rebate. I know that I shouldn’t but I can’t help myself. In plain words, who do they think they are fooling? Now far be it from me to sniff at the amount of money proffered. As I understand it unless you are making elephant dollars you stand to get somewhere between $300 if you are footloose and fancy free and $1200 if you have a long suffering spouse. $1200 is a nice chunk of change. But hold on here a minute. It’s your money to begin with, right? I mean follow the logic here. If you pay your taxes on April 15th and the rebate comes through in May you are just getting your money back, right? I am not a financial genius but I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t save everybody time and aggravation never mind some money printing up all those rebate checks if they just didn’t take the money from us in the first place. Call it a tax discount or something. And here’s another little thought. I just filled my fuel tanks at the Rising ranch. Cost me well over $600 which is the amount that my rebate will be. I will in all probability have to do this again before May. I will do this unless a dark planet crashes into the sun or we decide not to heat our home in the coldest part of a Northeastern Pa winter. Both about even odds. So if the idea of the tax rebate is to stimulate the economy for me personally all it’s done is pay a bill I have to pay regardless. I wasn’t sure where the money was going to come from to pay that anyway. And in any case it will be long paid by the time May rolls around. Doesn’t it get cold in Washington? Don’t they have to pay a heating bill too? Silly me. We know who pays for that, don’t we? But I need to pay the man with the long hose and the big truck now!
It occurs to me that found money is not real money. Real money is the money you earn with the sweat of your brow and you watch where it goes real carefully. Found money like the tax rebate is like a windfall. You will be flush with it one day and wonder where the hell it went the next. And the other thought that occurs to me. If our country can run without my $1200 this year, can’t it do that next year too?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Superbowled over.

They came to play. They should just go out and execute. They should stick to their game plan. They tried to establish their running game. You knew as soon as they drew first blood that this was a barn burner. Two teams fighting tooth and nail. The crowd was really into it. The crowd was going wild. The fans were on their feet. The plays electrified the crowd. The place was bedlam. The place was pandemonium. You could feel the electricity. The competitive juices were flowing. It was a real pressure cooker and a nail biter. It was a nip and tuck game. It was a see-saw game. It was theirs to lose. They weren’t playing to win – they were playing not to lose. They had to get back into their offensive rhythm. They had to make some adjustments. They had to go back and re-group. They weren’t out of it yet. They were still hanging around. We still had plenty of football left. The quarterback was a physical, steady, workhorse, warrior, explosive, impact, tough, hard-nosed, scrappy, unselfish, finesse player. He was some kind of player. He was on top of his game, he took over the game because he’s a go-to guy when the game's on the line and he had his game face on. He always comes through in the clutch, thrives under pressure, has ice-water in his veins, has a tireless work ethic and plays with a lot of emotion. The crowd factor came into play, along with the injury, fatigue, clock, humidity, altitude, experience, psychological, revenge, mental and motivation factors. In order to win they needed to turn up the intensity, to step up and make plays, come out of the locker room fired up, loaded for bear, go out and take care of business, not let the crowd faze them, rise to the occasion, leave everything on the field, stay hungry and no matter what keep the continuity. If they can come together as a team, believe in themselves, play like they're capable of playing then they can take home all the marbles. The coach was under fire, on the hot seat with his head on the chopping block. We hoped that cooler heads would prevail, but he was blind-sided, they really cleaned his clock, put the lumber to him, rung his bell, clothes-lined him, ran him into a brick wall, laid him out with a hit and he was literally run over by a freight train. When it was all said and done, when the fat lady had sung, remember, the final score was not a true indication. It’s another one for the record books. This game is history. Or then again I could be wrong.