Thursday, April 30, 2009

Loan-Lee at the Top

The CEO traipsed down to Washington, positioned himself in front of the arrow-slingers, and spoke humbly but with determination about the future of his company.

He explained to the tough crowd in the room how beneficial it would be, for all of us, if his company were propped up, with a little financial help from the federal government.

Float us a loan, he told the sourpusses, and I promise you won't regret it.

It was the late-1970s. Detroit was in a recession, as was the entire country. But especially Detroit. It's always that way, it seems, when the country's economy goes sideways.

Lee Iacocca promised he would pay every single penny back, if the lawmakers in Washington would only give him a shot in the arm.

And what a shot it was: $1 billion in government-backed loans.

And ole Lee paid it back -- with $350 million interest, to boot. And early.

The bailout ended up not costing the feds a dime, after all.

Chrysler got the loan in 1979, and paid it back by 1983. Not long after that, there were folks who wanted to draft Iacocca for president. Of the United States.

Lee wasn't interested, though he was flattered. He was a car guy, through and through. Not a politician.

That was quite evident, in the manner that ole Lee managed the money that was lent to his company. No politician could ever have been that wise and prudent with that kind of dough.

There are some of them who I wouldn't trust with a sawbuck, much less a billion dollars.

Iacocca as a Time magazine cover boy, 1983

It comes to mind now, Iacocca's payback to the government, with the news that Chrysler, this time, won't be able to avoid bankruptcy. The news broke today. Negotiations with some creditors broke down. The Big Three is now The Big Two-and-a-Half.

Where's Lee when you need him?

I was never more proud of a corporation, or of a CEO, than when ole Lee talked his way into a billion dollar loan and then waved the payback cash in the politicos' faces.

There were plenty of folks, inside and outside of Washington, who didn't think Chrysler would pay that money back -- at least not on time.

Ole Lee brought the wheelbarrow of cash into the halls of Congress ahead of the appointed time.

Take that, you Beltway Boobs!

Iacocca was more than just a CEO who made his own TV commercials. His defection from Ford couldn't have come at a better time for Chrysler. Lee put out the "K car" and other simple, quality sedans and promised excellent customer service.

"If you can find a better car out there, buy it," Lee dared us in those 30-second TV spots.

Iacocca kind of drifted off into the sunset after his days at Chrysler. They asked him once more if he'd consider a political run of some sort, and he politely declined.

He saved a car company, propped it back up, and put it in a position to be successful once more.

I guess he thought he deserved some time off.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fly-by? Bye-bye!

OK, so who's the bozo who authorized a low altitude flyover of New York?

One person has come forward as being the bozo. But the president, no less, has ordered an internal review to determine who really is the bozo.

Bozo, by the way, once outed, should have his (or her) big red nose and orange hair and big floppy shoes removed, forever.

Be sure to blast him (or her) in the eye with a squirting daisy and deliver a jolt from a joy buzzer while you're at it.

You've probably heard: military planes, including one sometimes used to transport President Obama, circled the Statue of Liberty and zoomed near the World Trade Center site on Monday.

Jittery New Yorkers -- and can you blame them? -- panicked as nearby office buildings were evacuated.

Why, you couldn't have picked a more foolish -- and worse, insensitive -- thing to do, unless you baked cookies in the shapes of Jewish concentration campers in an oven.

Obama, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, was "furious" when he was told of the flyover.

If I was Bozo, and I just learned that the Leader of the Free World was furious about my decision and was ordering an internal review, I think I'd be washing off my makeup and voluntarily turning in my red waist sash.

Sayonara, pal.

The person who claimed responsibility, at least initially, for the mother of all faux pas was Louis Caldera, whose title of "director of the White House military office" is likely to have the word "former" placed in front of it soon.

The mission was to snap photos of Obama's plane in front of various famous landmarks, to update the White House's picture archives.

Seems innocent enough, until you start buzzing Manhattan without notifying even the city's mayor.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was beside himself.

"Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies the imagination," Bloomberg said. "Poor judgment would be a nice way to phrase it. ... Had I known about it, I would have called them right away and asked them not to."

According to the Associated Press:

The FAA notified the New York Police Department of the flyover, telling them photos of the Air Force One jet would be taken about 1,500 feet above the Statue of Liberty around 10 a.m. Monday. It had a classified footnote that said "information in this document shall not be released to the public or the media."

Umm, why the hell NOT??

In this day and age of communications, with e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, cell phones, BlackBerries, etc., you mean to tell me that it wouldn't have been more prudent to blast the news of the flyover to New Yorkers for a day or two?

Ah, but you'd be, in turn, also notifying the nut jobs out there. So it could be argued.

Yes, but not with enough time for them to really do anything about it. What would they do, anyway?

But, on the other hand, tens of thousands (maybe more) of New Yorkers would have known about it, and may even have gathered in front of windows to gaze at the sight, which, when you're expecting it, is probably pretty cool to witness.

Not so cool when you think it's 9/11--The Sequel. And running down the street like your hair's on fire, or soon will be.

Not cool at all.

Whether it was Caldera or someone else, yet to be rooted out, who played the part of Bozo, that should be a terminable offense. Sacrificial lamb? Not really. The decision, by all accounts, to do the flyover appears not to have been made under duress or with undo pressure. Cooler--and smarter-- heads had a chance to prevail. And they didn't.

A low altitude flyover in New York? Jets buzzing the Statue of Liberty?

All for a photo op?

Bozo blew it, big time. Banish the clown from appearing under the big top ever again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Motionly Disturbed

It's taking me longer to go to the bathroom nowadays, and I blame technology.

I'm not talking about going to the bathroom at home. That's always taken me a long time, mainly because I treat the rest room like a library. That is, if they ever allowed toilets on the floor of a library.

But that's a long time that I choose to take. It's a guy thing, but the bathroom is a safe haven, a reading room for men.

It's public restrooms that are starting to waste more and more of my time.

First, unlike the throne at home, which I'm in no hurry to leave, I can't wait to get my tush out of a public lav. The thought of what sort of scientific creepy-crawlies that are clinging to every wall and faucet and door handle in there doesn't lend itself to me wanting to spend anymore time there than is absolutely necessary.

But here's why it's taking so long nowadays: all the fancy-shmancy motion detectors.

Today's modern public restroom is discouraging you from touching anything inside it. Which on the surface sounds like a grand idea, but in disallowing human contact, it's relying on the motion detectors, which seem to be unable to do one key thing: detect motion properly.

It starts when you enter the stall, or (for the guys) approach the urinal. No handles to be found, which means the porcelain God must acknowledge your presence once you finish your business.

In the stall, you stand, and wait for the detector to detect that your rump is no longer pressing on the seat. For that's the only clue it uses to signal for a flushing.

So you stand. Nothing. Now, I suppose you could let your waste sit there for the next poor slob, but that's not very nice. So you sit, and try to re-create the whole "I'm done so I'm going to stand now" moment for the detector.

Rinse. Repeat.

Same thing at the stall. The detector is supposed to signal for the flusher after you've walked away. But ha! -- you walk away and nothing happens. This is a little trickier to replicate than the standing up thing.

Time to refresh the detector's memory.

"Remember? I came up to you and stood here, like this.....(physically re-creating the action)...then I peed, and I walked away, like THIS....(walking away). Remember?

"Now flush, damn you!"

Business-doing has now taken twice the amount of time than it should have, and now you're ready to wash your hands. Again, I suppose you could....

Don't you dare!

Wash your hands. Dammit.

But alas, no faucet handles. Just a faucet. The eunuch of all sink fixtures.

The fancy-shmancy detector is supposed to know when you've thrust your hands beneath the faucet, so that it will dispense water. How much water, and at what temperature, is anyone's guess. Sometimes it's a short blast, sometimes it's a gentle shower, sometimes it's...not at all.

That third option is what usually happens.

So again we're back to re-performing our physical actions for the very technologically advanced and very expensive motion detector, which is why the price of restaurant food has been going up, I'm sure.

Good for you if you're able to get your allotment of water on anything less than the third try. And even better if your allotment is enough to get both your hands entirely wet, so that you may wash them.

Which leads me to....

The soap.

Remember--no human contact allowed.

Several waves of your hand under the dispenser before you find the right speed, angle, and motion. But, just like the water, no telling how much soap you'll be rationed.

So now we have barely wet hands, traces of soap, and with that we're expected to wash our hands competently.

Which leads me to...

Drying your hands.


Look ma -- no handles!

More hand waving until the motion detector-equipped dryer kicks on. In fact, you might find that the hand waving dries your damp hands (remember, you weren't rationed all that much water and soap to begin with) faster than the damn dryer.

Note: Some less fancy-shmancy bathrooms may have paper towels instead of dryers. But these, too, are connected to motion detectors, which instruct the gizmo when to whirr and spit out a 4" x 5" piece of brown paper, which isn't enough to wipe your brow, much less dry your hands. Which means precious time spent coaxing four or five pieces of brown paper from it.

OK, so you've made it through Motion Detector Hell, and you're ready to leave. A three-minute trip to the bathroom is now on its tenth minute, most likely.

No human contact, to decrease the chances of germs spreading.

The only thing you need to touch is the door handle.

Which the person ahead of you has just touched--after being so disgusted with Motion Detector Hell that no hand-washing was done.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Fryers Club

No, no--say it ain't so!!

Kentucky Fried Chicken, that bastion of, well, fried chicken, would now have us shove grilled chicken down our gullet?

The commercials have been airing for several days now. No doubt you've seen them. Maybe, like me, you've looked out to the west in the evening, to make sure the sun still sets in that direction.

Kentucky Grilled Chicken?

There's nothing real in the world anymore. Like Black Sabbath once wrote, "Black is really white; the moon is just the sun at night."

Check Tweety Bird's cage; make sure Sylvester didn't just have her for lunch. Did Wile E. Coyote catch up to the Road Runner? Did Charlie Brown make the kick without Lucy pulling the ball away?

Kentucky Grilled Chicken?

Look at the calendar for a month of Sundays. The house lost. The check really is in the mail. Dewey defeated Truman, after all.

Kentucky Grilled Chicken?

Might as well pop open the colonel's grave and check the casket for after effects of spinning.

Oh, dear God.

If this is some attempt to present a "healthier" menu, you can hold it, right there!

If I want healthy, I sure as shoot ain't steering my car to Kentucky Fried Chicken--or KFC for short. Healthy isn't on my mind when I crave breaded chicken deep fried to a crispy, golden brown.

KGC? Sounds too much like a Russian agency.

The paid actors on the TV commercial would have you think that there's nothing wrong with reaching into a big red and white bucket of chicken from the colonel and pulling out something grilled instead of fried.

Who puts grilled chicken in a bucket, anyway?

Why, you couldn't have stunned me more unless maybe Taco Bell ran a spot for cheeseburgers. And even then, it would be too close to call.

Enough with the fast food joints trying to be healthy.

Like my lovely wife, who can cook circles around you, said, "If I want healthy I'll cook my own food. At least that way I know what's in it!"

Ah, so true, honey.

Grilled chicken at a fried chicken place is so wrong, I can't even begin to get into all the wrong about it.

There are plenty of places for me to get a piece of grilled chicken.

I want my chicken fried at KFC. Is that so much to ask?

Kentucky Grilled Chicken.

Goodness gracious--next thing you'll tell me is that Susan Boyle really has been kissed.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Border Over-patrol

It's been one of the rites of social passage for us metro Detroiters for, well, damn near forever.

Span the Ambassador Bridge, or snake your way thru the tunnel, and head into Windsor, Ontario (that's Canada, you know) for a couple of pops, some dinner, and maybe pull a few one-arm bandits while you're at it.

In my younger, more frivolous days, my buddies and I "did Canada" because the legal drinking age was 19, a full two years younger than in Michigan.

Molson's Brador was, at one time, my most favorite alcoholic beverage of them all. But the version they sold in the states was a watered down, inferior product.

So to get "real" Brador, you had to traipse to Windsor and buy a case from one of their beer stores.

Literally, a beer store. It even said so on the sign. Still does.

"Beer Store". No joke.

You'd place your order, and within moments it would come out from the back, on a metal conveyor belt.

Nothing made this college student happier than seeing that case of Brador come rolling off the belt.

The border patrol was casual.

"What are you doing in Canada today", one of the uninterested guards would ask from his booth.

"Picking up some beer." It was best not to lie.

Sometimes they wouldn't even speak; just nod as if to say, "Get the hell out of here."

And we'd get the hell out of there, to enjoy our beer bounty.

In my more mature years of today, I enjoy taking the family across the border for dinner in Windsor's Little Italy (which is a hidden gem), usually at Mancuso's. Erie Street is filled with Italian bakeries, restaurants, and boutiques.

Pick up some cookies, Italian-made soap, maybe an espresso maker, and last fall, even our daughter's shoes for her Homecoming Dance.

They ask a few more questions now when you re-enter the U.S., and you need a birth certificate, for sure. They still don't seem all that interested on the Canadian side. Then again, they weren't the ones attacked on 9/11.

But beginning June 1, a mere birth certificate won't be enough for all the Detroiters heading to Windsor for a night out.

You'll need a passport, too.

Forget that, last I looked (and I'm admittedly bad at geography), Canada isn't overseas from the United States.

You'll still need a passport, even though a trip to Canada, for us Detroiters, is like a drive to Southfield or Ann Arbor in terms of distance and time.

I didn't want to believe it, but it's true. I looked it up on the Net before I wrote this. I had heard some scuttlebutt last year that such a change was coming, but I must have subconsciously buried it in my mind.

It came to light when I announced that, with the weather warming up, I'd sure like some more gnocchi with vodka sauce at Mancuso's.

"We're gonna need passports soon," my half-Italian wife reminded me.

I said something, unfit for print here.

She's right. About one month of non-passport days left for us invaders of Canada.

The "Mancuso's dude" (he appears on their website and on the walls)

Dinner at Mancuso's and cookies from the bakery next door to it will now require the same documentation needed as if we were going to London or Paris.

OK, but why? 9/11 was, after all, some seven years ago, plus.

Not really sure, but I suspect it has something to do with tightening our borders, no matter how silly it may seem, when it comes to Detroit-Windsor.

I suppose if you're going to require passports, then you really can't say, "Except for Detroit-Windsor. Those folks are just doing dinner and drinks, after all."

Though it would have been nice had they inserted that rider.

Is a passport required to get into Mexico? I'll have to look that up.

Actually, forget the passport if you're headed for Mexico. Best to pack a pistol and your own bottled water.

All I want to do is have some pasta and minestrone soup and a few biscotti, in Windsor's Little Italy.

Yet I'll need to go to the post office and get us all some passports.

I'm getting me some Brador next time. Someone owes me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

His John Hancock

If I was a retail worker in the late-18th century, and John Hancock came in to my establishment and signed a check, then it would replicate the feeling I had that night in the drugstore in Ann Arbor, circa 1983.

I used to work the liquor counter and help the pharmacists, part-time, at Perry Drugs when I wasn't attending classes and parties at Eastern Michigan University. Not necessarily in that order, by the way.

EMU is in Ypsilanti, just a beer can's throw away from Ann Arbor, which is where I worked. Ann Arbor isn't all that far from Plymouth, which will become relevant shortly, I promise.

So I'm hanging out, chatting with the "druggist" (remember when we called them that?), late one evening, maybe after 10:00.

A man strides to the liquor counter and wants to buy some, well, liquor. Natch.

I load him up, with some of our most expensive vodkas and whiskeys, and he wants to pay with a traveler's cheque. Fine.

With a traveler's cheque, the clerk simply needs to have the customer sign it, below the signature that was placed on it originally when it was purchased from the bank. To make sure they match up. And to authorize payment.

So the man, perhaps in his 60s, signs it, quite eloquently. I mean, the signature flowed out of his pen as if it had been expelled by a machine.

He leaves, but I can't stop looking at the signature. It seemed like one that I should know.

But how? From where? I'd never seen the man--I didn't think, before in my 20-year-old life.

The evening droned on.

About 30 minutes later, I did another transaction and, upon opening the cash register, I saw the signed traveler's cheque. It was teasing me now. I looked at the signature again.


Then, for whatever reason, it hit me. Like the proverbial ton of bricks.

I opened my wallet. Withdrew a dollar bill. 1977 series.


The signature on the traveler's cheque matched, exactly, the one on my dollar bill.

The man who came into my store 30 minutes earlier, the one who bought some of our finest booze, was none other than W. Michael Blumenthal, Secretary of the Treasury under President Carter.

Here's the signature: (found it on Google)

Blumenthal was in charge of the old Burroughs Corporation, which became Unisys. And Burroughs was located in Plymouth. (Told ya it would be relevant).

Excited by what happened, I ran into the office and told the pharmacist on duty.

"You'll never believe who was just in here!"

He wasn't as impressed as I was, if I remember correctly. Oh well.

To this day, I rue not making a photo copy of that traveler's cheque. Not to prove the story (though it would make a wonderful visual aid among company), but just to look at the damn thing from time to time.

Werner Michael Blumenthal: Secretary of the Treasury (1977-79)

It's one of my favorite stories to tell, the night Mike Blumenthal bought liquor from me without me knowing it. And signing his traveler's cheque precisely the way it appeared on U.S. currency for all those years.

I was nearly knocked over by actor Donald Sutherland in downtown Detroit, at the old Trapper's Alley, when he was in town filming The Rosary Murders. He and I bumped into each other, literally, at the base of some steps. He's a tall dude.

There've been other brushes with celebrity that I've had, some that have occurred naturally in my role as a freelance writer. But none can top that night in Ann Arbor, some 26 years ago, when I sold booze to the former Secretary of the Treasury.

Blumenthal didn't say much, that I can recall. Just picked out his libations, signed his cheque eloquently, and went on his way.

I'll never get tired of telling this story. I'm sorry.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Icky Dick

I long for the good old days.

When you could buy a pack of bubble gum cards for fifteen cents.

When The Three Stooges were on the tube at 4:00 in the afternoon.

When they pumped out Towne Club soda pop in those thin-as-wand bottles.

When Dick Cheney was holed up in an undisclosed location.

Ahh, those were the days.

Remember when we didn't know where Cheney was and didn't hear a peep out of him?

I can't believe that I once found that a fault.

Oh, to have those days return!

Cheney, the deposed vice president who is getting more TV face time lately than any, well, deposed vice president that I can remember, has moved past simply being annoying on my patience meter.

He's bordering on treason, if you ask me.

Cheney keeps going on TV--mainly on GOP-friendly outlets like Fox News where he's treated like royalty by the likes of Sean "Insanity" Hannity--and crabs about the new administration's foreign policy. Maybe he's there to defend torture. Sometimes he goes on in Chicken Little mode, trying to scare us to death.

I saw his mug on the tube last night, in a clip played from yet another interview with Hannity. In it, Cheney was discussing the weakness of President Obama, because he has the gall to suggest that if we get off our high horse and explore diplomacy with some of the world's ne'er-do-wells, then maybe folks won't hate us so much and we can make some progress in international relations. Instead of having to fight our way out of paper bags all the time.

Go away, now.

A quick word about Hannity, while I'm at it.

A couple days after the election, I saw Hannity on Fox, and he was having a discussion with the likes of Karl Rove and a couple other conservative wonks. But it was rather civil and the tone was non-incendiary for a change.

Hannity, rather humbly, said something like, "Hey, I hope Obama succeeds. I hope he's a good president. I'm going to give him some time."

Immediately, I sneered and said (to the TV, no joke), "Yeah, right, Sean! You'll be the first one, leading the way with the torches and the pitchforks. Who are you kidding?"

My words, I'm not paraphrasing.

Well, Sean hasn't disappointed. He's been ragging on The Big O almost since the inauguration. He may have started sooner, but I don't normally watch Fox, so I don't know when he started railing.

Cheney is being subversive. He's trying to undermine the new administration, which was elected rather handily, by the way. He's violating the honor code adhered to by other presidents and VPs who've barely left office, which says, "Shut up and go away, gracefully."

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was about the best thing a goin' in the Bush Administration--certainly the classiest and smartest--went on Jay Leno last month and, without naming Cheney specifically, said that her brood had its time and now it's time to give the new brood a chance. She said it to cheers from the studio audience, but she wasn't pandering. She doesn't have to.

Rice indicated that, to do otherwise, isn't in the best interests of the country.

More cheers. From me.

Now allow me to do a self-interview.

Can Dick Cheney have an opinion? Of course.

Is it OK for him to express it publicly even though he holds no public office? Yes.

But should he stop? Yes!

Cheney said his piece--weeks and weeks ago. We all knew where he stood. Fine.

Now go away now.

It's funny that the most visible and audible of the conservative ideology consists of non-elected folks.

Rush Limbaugh.

Ann Coulter.

Newt Gingrich.

And, apparently, Dick Cheney, although many Republicans have told him, in so many words, to shut his pie hole.

Cheney is beginning to move into some very delicate turf now. The more he crabs, the more he undermines the current president with his bullying words, then the more he could potentially weaken our current policies, since the dissenting opinion is coming from a man who was vice president only three months or so ago.

Of course, many of those folks globally didn't care much for the USA under the Bush people, anyway.

The ironic thing is, vice presidents traditionally have been seen as irrelevant and mostly useless. While they were in office.

Now here comes Dick Cheney, former vice president, and he's doing his best to be as relevant as possible, with the aiding and abetting from Fox News.

But he's still useless. The sooner he understands that, the better.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I've never lived in Detroit. But I've lived all around it.

Northern suburbs. Western suburbs. And now, just a few miles north of its famous 8 Mile Road border.

I've worked in Detroit. For several years.

Hell, it doesn't matter. I'm a Detroiter! I grew up here and have spent my whole life living within 30 miles of the city limits.

Which is why I care, very much, about who becomes the next mayor of the city.

Ken Cockrel Jr., the current, interim mayor, is a fine man. His dad, who might have been mayor had he not died so young, ought to be proud of his kid.

Kenny Jr., and his stable, free-from-scandal administration, is a breath of fresh air after the stench left over from Kwame Kilpatrick and his corrupt Cass Tech crew.

There really aren't too many people I'd endorse over Ken Cockrel Jr., who in a different time, under different circumstances, might have made one hell of a mayor.

But this isn't the time, and these aren't the circumstances.

It doesn't mean a hill of beans, really, coming from someone who couldn't vote even with the most clue-free city clerk in office, but it says here that David Bing should be the next mayor of Detroit.

It's a premise that somehow gets lost on the bozos on City Council and their supporters, but we suburbanites would like nothing better than to see a bright, prosperous Detroit. Because a healthy Detroit can only make the rest of the region healthier.

Bing has my phantom support because I believe he's a bona fide expert in the one thing that would help Detroit the best, and quickest.

Dave Bing knows how to create jobs. He's been doing it for damn near all of his post-basketball playing life. He built Bing Steel from scratch, and has some experience in building housing, too.

I've written before that Bing could have been mayor, if he wanted it, some 12, 16 years ago. Maybe even earlier than that. He just didn't care to be.

And now, at age 65, I think Bing has the sense of urgency that's so badly needed in the mayor's chair.

He's not a spring chicken anymore, and he knows it.

Bing has said that he would only serve one term; that may not be enough

If he's going to see this through, and, as he told the Detroit Free Press editorial board recently, "make a difference in people's lives", then he'd better get cracking. Because he'll be damn near 70 at the end of his first term.

Bing, I believe, is bolder, willing to take more risks, and would play with more desperation than Cockrel.

The good news is, Detroit really can't go too wrong this time. The choices for mayor aren't, for a change, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Nor are they between an incumbent with a war chest and a machine behind him (Coleman Young), and a bright young man who doesn't stand a chance (Tom Barrow).

If Ken Cockrel Jr. manages to upset Bing--and it would be considered an upset at this juncture--then I won't be devastated. Maybe without the interim tag, and with some more time on the job before the November election, Ken Jr. can grow into the role even more than he has so far.

But Dave Bing is, in my eyes, ready to hit the ground running. He's 65 and impatient. And, frankly, a little pissed off at what he sees.

Now, more than ever, the good folks of Detroit need someone like that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oranges on the Juice

I'm not a very mechanical person. I admit that. Even simple tasks tend to challenge me. I can follow directions on a ready-to-assemble piece of furniture, or a grill--to about 95% accuracy. But there's always one tiny step I'll miss or misunderstand or read the diagram wrongly, and whammo--I've just added an hour to my work time.

Yet I always thought I understood where orange juice came from. Thought I had a handle on how it was made.

You squeeze juice from oranges, no?

It's cute how naive I am, isn't it?

The orange juice people are out of hand.

As far as I know, we grow basically one kind of orange in this country. The kind with a peel on the outside, the pulpy fruit on the inside, and, well, isn't that pretty much about it?

Oh, and some have navels, some don't.

Some are bigger than others, I grant you. Some are easier to peel than others. Some have a few more seeds inside them than others.

I get all that.

But beyond that, an orange is an orange, isn't it?

Then how can the OJ companies produce so many different types of juice from the same fruit?

Here's a list of some of the different kinds you can find in your grocer's fridge, right now.

Concentrate; Not from Concentrate; Pulp; No Pulp; Some Pulp; Lots of Pulp; Calcium; Omega-3; Vitamin D; Selenium; Anti-Oxidant; Fiber; Vitamin A, D & E; and Low Acid.

Where do they grow the Omega-3 oranges? In outer space? Are the anti-oxidant groves somewhere near Roswell?

Low acid oranges? Are those trees planted with spoonfuls of sugar?

Just a partial look at today's OJ section

Yogurt is starting to take itself way too seriously, too, by the way.

Time was, you opened up a tiny cardboard pail of Dannon, mixed the fruit up into it, and enjoyed. Or Yoplait, which was pre-mixed. Fine.

Now yogurt is being marketed as the panacea for what ails us.

There's yogurt for fiber. Yogurt for your blood. Yogurt for your bones. Yogurt to, as Wilford Brimley would say, "help you live a better life."

And they're not even trying to give all these yogurts catchy, aesthetic names. The manufacturers are boldly placing scientific-like terms on the cartons.

Dannon has something called Activia. I went to a yogurt website, and Activia supposedly contains "helpful bacteria that keep the digestive tract healthy." Activia also promises to "boost the immune system" with its "probiotics (beneficial microorganisms)".

Who knew?

Bacteria. Microorganisms. Live, active cultures.

This is the yogurt talk of today. The jargon.

I don't care how "helpful" it is--I'm leery of consuming bacteria, microorganisms, and live active cultures.

What if it turns out that stuff's not so helpful, after all?

Yogurt now terrifies me. And it used to be something I enjoyed buying a bunch of, because of all the yummy flavors. And I actually enjoyed stirring all that fruit up from the bottom. It was a good way to get out some aggression.

I heard a comedian once say about yogurt, "It looks better than the name sounds, and tastes better than it looks."

But now they'd have us take yogurt, like prescription meds.

"Ask your doctor about Dannon Activia."

It's YOGURT!! Get over yourselves!

Same with you, OJ people. You pick an orange. You squeeze the bejeebers out of it. You get juice.

Omega-3? Selenium?

The folks down in Florida are having a little too much fun experimenting, if you ask me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Say Uncle, Ed!

I used to adore Uncle Ed. Found comfort in him. Enjoyed spending time with him. He made me feel safe.

Then he went and got greedy, and now I've disowned him.

Uncle Ed's Oil Change was one of my hangouts, back in the day. We're talking the 1990s here. It was before the drive-thru oil change places started sprouting, like mushrooms.

I could cruise into Uncle Ed's, with its brown and yellow color scheme, sit in my car, and know that the dudes beneath my car were dutifully draining and changing me. I could read the paper, chill out, and be done within the 15 minute time frame that Uncle Ed promised on his signs.

I made it a practice to give the good folks there a thumbs up as I left. It was my little ritual. It wouldn't surprise me if I was the only one with such a ritual.

All I needed to do after I pulled into a stall was fill out a brief form on the Uncle Ed clipboard, which asked me what services I'd like to enjoy beyond oil changing.

Need some new wiper blades? Place a check mark next to it. Like your tires filled and the pressure checked? Mark it down! Top off your windshield solvent? Go for it.

Then Uncle Ed, and the knock-offs that he spawned, got all insurance salesman-ish.

Suddenly, a trip to Uncle Ed's and his brethren became similar to a saunter into bear-filled woods with honey smeared all over you.

Oil changes weren't enough anymore for my uncle.

Before I knew it, I was being shown filthy fluids and cruddy air filters and being lectured about catalytic converters and the evils of driving a mile further without a radiator flush.

They began trying to run up the bill on you at the drive-thru oil change places, and they were absolutely shameless about it.

They used scare tactics, plain and simple.

Of course, I didn't fall for any of it, but that wasn't the point. But I think it made them kind of angry, because another trait the oil change guys began assuming was to try to make you feel like you were now driving a death-mobile after rebuffing their advances.

The attitude was, "OK, if you say so...but don't come crawling to me when your engine blows up at the next traffic light."

It's actually been exposed by real mechanics that most of the extras that the oil change places try to sell you are unnecessary at best, and downright dangerous at worst.

Before I eschewed the drive-thru places entirely, I would pull in on the offensive.

"Just an oil change," I'd say firmly. Then I'd add, "Nothing else. And I know I need a new air filter, by the way. I'll pick one up later."

Their faces would sink.

In other words, "I'm here to spend my $19.95, plus tax, and not one penny more!"


Eventually I gave up on going to Uncle Ed's, or any of his competitors, entirely. I found a trusty mechanic and gave him all my oil change (and everything else having to do with old cars) business.

There was nothing more irritating than having one of those cheery grease monkeys amble up to me with some sort of dipstick in his hand. For I was supposed to be petrified at what he was showing me. Mostly I'd just look and nod.

"So, for $59.95 we can do a--"

"Just an oil change. Please."

Uncle Ed got greedy. Boy, did he ever.

Is that how you treat nieces and nephews? By luring them into your shop with the promise of a reasonably priced oil change, then scare them into unnecessary services?

They got it all wrong at the drive-thru oil change joints. They keep trying to insert the dipsticks into their customers' tailpipes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Was any entertainer "cooler" than Dean Martin?

Was any person, for that matter?

Was watching the highly-underrated romantic comedy, Fools Rush In, with Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry, the other day and during a montage, Martin's Ain't That a Kick In the Head was the tune.

That was a song written for Dean Martin to sing.

Just like Everybody Loves Somebody and That's Amore.

Kick in the Head rattled around in my head for a few days.

How lucky can one guy be?
I kissed her and she kissed me
Like the fella once said
"Ain't that a kick in the head?"

The room was completely black
I hugged her and she hugged back
Like the sailor said, quote
"Ain't that a hole in the boat?'

My head keeps spinnin'
I go to sleep and keep grinnin'
If this is just the beginnin'
My life is going to be beeeeeautiful

You hear Martin sing it, and it sounds like he's smiling. Deano always sounded like he was smiling when he sang.

I YouTubed the song, just to hear it again and again, and I found a version set to a slideshow of Martin, both on and off the stage.

He was even cool in the intro.

Just before the song plays (it was live, apparently), you can hear Martin speaking to the audience.

"If anyone wants to go to the toilet, now's the time," he says to laughter.

Then, he says to the band, "OK, let 'em have it!" A beat later, the song begins.

Let 'em have it??


Pay attention: THIS is cool, personified

Then there were the celebrity roasts, which are great fun to look at now on YouTube. Everyone's smoking, drinking, laughing. And the rostrum was full of A-listers. We're talking Bob Hope, Jack Benny, John Wayne. No less.

And Deano, of course, the MC. Either tipsy, or pretending to be.

There were no cooler private eye movies than Martin's "Matt Helm" series from the mid-1960s.

Martin was cool, almost to the point of not taking his career seriously. At least that's my impression. His falling out with Jerry Lewis was legendary. According to what I've read, Martin became burned out and Lewis thought Martin was mailing the performances in. Probably true.

The "Rat Pack" days were marvelously captured in an HBO movie some ten years or so ago. Martin was played by Joe Mantegna, who's only one of the best actors I've ever seen, bar none.

Anyhow, Martin was portrayed as a simple, casual guy who drank milk at home, watched TV, and didn't care to share too much with his wife. Deano preferred to keep things very generic. Easier for him that way.

Martin's singing voice might be considered a little too "lounge singer" for some, but I love it -- mainly because there really haven't been too many like it.

Dean Martin went through his entire career winking at us. That's the best way I can put it.

My wife once told me that when she was a young girl, she wanted to be a Goldigger -- one of the dancers on Martin's TV show in the '70s.

I would have liked to have been Martin -- and not just so I could have a Goldigger play with my hair while another sat on my lap.

How lucky can one guy be?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First 100 Daze

Barack Obama hasn't cured the economy. Hasn't ended any wars. Hasn't improved education all that much. The streets are still unsafe. Reality TV is still running rampant.

Throw the bum out!

We're getting close to the end of those crucial "first 100 days" of the Obama presidency.

I'm not sure when we began to be fascinated with the first three months and ten days of any presidency, but we sure are, it seems.

MSNBC has a graphic that screams OBAMA'S FIRST 100 DAYS on the top of the screen almost perpetually during one of their programs.

So what will we do with Barack Obama on Day 101? Send a progress report home to the White House? With the words "SEE ME" in red ink?

I suspect that 100 days were chosen as a sort of honeymoon period for new presidents, and those fortunate enough to be beginning their second term. Maybe someone somewhere deemed that once you get past April, all bets are off and the kid gloves are removed.

Maybe with other presidents, this has been the case. With Obama, his honeymoon will be extended, me thinks.

The prez is still riding high in the approval rating department. He recently returned from an eight-day trip to Europe and Turkey in which he was received so well, and with such fervor, it made President Kennedy's jaunt to Berlin look like a field trip.

No one truly thought that Obama could fix the mess that was left for him in 100 weeks, much less 100 days. Maybe it can't be fixed entirely in four years.

But it's not for lack of trying, that all of the aforementioned dragons haven't been slayed in the first 100 days of the Obama presidency.

Obama has held press conferences. He's hosted town hall meetings. He's gone on TV. He's traipsed up to Capitol Hill. He went overseas. He's signed executive orders.

And most of that was in the first 30 days, much less 100.

I don't know about the next guy (or gal), but when Day 101 comes (May 1), I won't be wringing my hands. Mainly because I'm not expecting much in these first 100 days. To do so would be unrealistic.

I think the first 100 days--if we're hellbent on using that amount of time as some sort of barometer--should be used for laying some groundwork and utilizing "political capital" (another trendy new term) to get some legislation passed, or at least started.

They should be used to establish a personality to the new presidency, and give us all a good idea of what to expect, in terms of management style, communications, and priorities.

Those 100 days are not there to solve problems. Despite what the media squonks say.

Today marks Day 86 of the Obama Administration. The man has two weeks left before his first 100 run out.

Two weeks before MSNBC has to change its graphic.

To, um, "The NEXT 100 Days"??

Silly me--I thought we elected Barack to serve four years, not 100 days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flying Time

Last year our daughter was born. Six months later she turned five. Three months after that, ten. Two weeks ago, thirteen.

And today, Sweet 16.

Don't tell me that it was sixteen years ago today, at 3:57 P.M., that our precious girl was born, some two months early, weighing in at a paltry 2 lbs., 14 oz. You'll never convince me that it's been that long.

It's cliche, but where has the time gone?

It's not just with this.

The Tigers, I realized a short while ago, won their 1984 World Series 25 years ago.


We watched the terrific movie Tootsie the other day, on DVD. I remember that film coming out like it was yesterday.

The DVD cover was on the coffee table. On it were the words, "25th Anniversary Edition."


I'm a date guy. I tend to remember when things happened, both month and year. This is true for events in history, and events that affect us personally at home.

Lately I've been extrapolating those dates backward, constantly amazed at how much time has elapsed since they've occurred.

It'll be 35 years ago, this August, since President Nixon resigned. Twenty-eight years ago last month that John Hinckley tried to kill President Reagan.

Heck, it's been 17 years since Johnny Carson signed off and Jay Leno took over.


But back to our daughter, who was in kindergarten last September, by the way, and who is now finishing up ninth grade. (We started her in kindergarten at age six due to her prematurity).

My wife had toxemia pre-eclampsia, and was relegated to bed rest for much of her pregnancy past month four. Our child was due in early June.

On Good Friday, 1993, we went in for what was supposed to be a routine follow-up checkup.

Two hours later, my wife was being admitted into Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

Five days after that, our daughter was born, in emergency fashion.

I was there, of course, and when I saw the less-than-three pound human being after they withdrew it and cleaned it off, my first words were, "Is she going to be alright??"

She could have fit into a shoebox. With the shoes still inside.

You could have fit me for a straitjacket.

For two months we visited her in the hospital, often twice daily, as the fine NICU nurses at Beaumont took care of her. Slowly she gained some weight. She was all of four pounds and some change when we took her home in June.

That was last June, I believe.

No? Sixteen years ago this June?


I have three years to get my act together before she's ready for college. With her As and Bs, it'll be a doozy of a tuition bill.

Three years.

Which, I figure, will be two weeks from Wednesday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Motor City Jay

I think Jay Leno did a terrific thing by coming to Detroit, er Auburn Hills, and performing a couple of free concerts for the area's unemployed. You can count on one hand how many non-Detroiter performers would have done that, and you'd have some fingers left over.

But it's the least Jay can do after coming to Detroit in 1986 and putting Collision Course on celluloid.

That movie was so bad, I'd say we're even-Steven now. His free performances at The Palace pay off a longtime debt, albeit with interest.

Leno wasn't the big deal in '86 that he is now when he traipsed to Detroit along with co-stars Pat Morita and Chris Sarandon to make a Hollywood movie downtown.

In fact, Jay's damn lucky that Collision Course didn't do any damage to his career.

Our city almost became the backdrop for a comedian's crash-and-burn moment.

The plot was thus. Leno played a Detroit cop who got himself involved in a case of industrial espionage, a case so international that it required Morita's character to venture all the way from Japan to investigate on behalf of his country's police force.

At issue were some rogue car parts and the evil mastermind behind the plan to illegally produce them, played by Sarandon.

All of the movie's exteriors were shot in Detroit. Getting especially good screen time were the Eastern Market area and several of the city's neighborhoods near downtown and in Mexican Town.

My friends from college, Cory Bergen and Jeff Johnson, got themselves into a scene as extras during one of the climactic car chases that ended in Eastern Market. I actually saw them, too, reacting wildly to a vehicle running headlong into the back of a produce truck.

They told me later that they purposely used exaggerated hand and arm gestures with the hope of being conspicuous on camera. Mission accomplished.

But Leno was awful. The film was pretty bad, too, but at least Morita and Sarandon had significant film acting experience under their belts. Leno didn't. And it showed.

Just in case you don't believe me.

There was a scene where Leno's cop is supposed to get in the face of Sarandon after the latter appeared at a press conference at one of the vacant lots in town. Jay's charge was to come off intimidating, pissed off, and Charles Bronson-ish.

Sarandon smugly asks Leno what he's going to do about Sarandon's nefarious plan.

Jay sneers, "I'm going to be your worst nightmare, that's whats I'm going to do."

Yes, Jay said "whats".

The filmmakers either didn't catch it (though I don't know you miss that) or probably had done enough takes that they just said "screw it."

Morita was decent, a fine actor in a bad movie with even worse writing. Sarandon was dutifully slimy. The car chases and our city looked pretty bad ass.

But Jay was awful.

Leno never made another movie after Collision Course, which had its release delayed. I suspect that it would have gone straight to DVD had it been made nowadays.

No, Jay stayed away from Hollywood (or vice-versa) and returned to his comfort zone, standup comedy. He eventually landed the job of being Johnny Carson's permanent guest host of The Tonight Show.

The rest, as they say, is TV history.

What also is history is Jay Leno's movie acting career.

Or should I say, "Whats also is history..."

Sorry, Jay, for bringing up Collision Course at a possibly unseemly time, in the afterglow of your free concerts for us.

But you owed us.

Oh, and to those reading this who are indignant.

Psst--I'm kidding.

Sort of.

Here's a scene I found on YouTube. It's Jay and Pat Morita busting up one of our bowling alleys.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chop Shop

Carl's Chop House is no more. Never again will a steak thrill me so.

It's been closed for several months now, Carl's has. But the familiar sign is still there, visible as you head down the Lodge Freeway, near Grand River.

All you non-Detroiters, keep reading. Because no matter where you live, you need to know that once upon a time sat a steakhouse where I nearly ran into the kitchen and yanked the chef into the dining area.

Don't worry; it wasn't to throttle him. Instead, I wanted to reveal to the customers that there existed a man who knew how to cook a steak "well done" while, at the same time, preserving its juices and flavor.

I first dined at Carl's, in its old, unimpressive from the outside brick building, in 1990, while courting my future wife. I had heard about it, along with the other famed steakhouse in Detroit, the London Chop House, for years but never had the occasion to eat there.

So I took the future Mrs. Eno to Carl's, ordered me a steak well done, and when I cut into it, my plate filled up with juices so fast I was afraid the steak was hemorrhaging.

Then I took a bite and that's when I harbored thoughts of marching into the kitchen and dragging the chef out by his ear.

"See?? See this man?" I would have yelled in the middle of the dining room. "This is a man who should immediately be deified and you should all bow to him. For this man has made a steak well done that doesn't resemble charcoaled beef!"

I still don't know how they did it at Carl's. The steaks were as thick as a New York telephone book, yet they were as tender and juicy as medium-rare prime rib. It tempted you to eschew the steak knife, or a knife altogether, and simply use your fork to cut off a piece, as if you were eating pancakes.

If they had any bottles of steak sauce at Carl's, then they were around merely as knick knacks, like conversation pieces. For if anyone dared pour steak sauce on a Carl's steak, then they should have been condemned to eternal damnation.

They started you off at Carl's with a relish tray that resembled a personal salad bar. It was also the only relish tray I ever saw at a restaurant that had pickled herring on it.

I used to order my steak with hash browns, because Carl's also had the best hash browns in town, so you know.

There was a salad, of course, but I didn't need any of it. Just give me the steak, a fork, and fill my water glass occasionally.

The service was terrific, too. The staff kept on top of you, and there was never more than a 15, 20 minute wait before your meal arrived. Even on their busiest nights.

So my wife and I made Carl's our "place" ever since our initial visit. We would go there on special occasions, like a birthday, or whenever I wanted one of their steaks and had the dough to pay for it.

Carl's wasn't cheap. It was hard to get away for less than $100 for two people. But I would have paid more. I would have paid it gladly, for there was never a steak like a Carl's Chop House steak. No sir.

I can see them now, thick and juicy and just about the finest thing ever plated. For $36 a pop.

Then the casino moved in across the street and that was the beginning of the end for Carl's.

They even dickered with the idea of turning Carl's into an adult night club, if you can imagine such a thing.

Sure would have put a new meaning into the term "New York Strip".

Carl's Chop House is gone. If you never got a chance to eat there, I'd consider suicide. Because your life is drastically worse off now.

You had your chance; Carl's had been opened since the 1940s, you know. So where were you?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cat Thief

As if I needed another reason to dislike cats. Here comes Jack the Thief.

This world seems to be split, black or white, no grey, when it comes to certain things.

Coke or Pepsi?

Democrat or Republican?

Boxers or briefs?

Cats or dogs?

I never liked cats. Mainly because I don't trust them. Cats are the one animal on this planet that can, at the same time, make me paranoid, give me an inferiority complex, and cause me to sneeze and make my eyes water.

I'm allergic to cats, physically, and afraid of them emotionally.

I distrust any pet that gives off an air that they could survive just fine whether you were there or not. My dad didn't like cats either. I remember him telling me why, back in the day.

"They always look like they're up to something," my dad said. "They sneak around."

They do. And they're arrogant. They come and go out of the house as they please, sometimes disappearing for hours. Then they saunter back in, as if daring you to ask them where they've been.

Well, Jack the Thief really WAS up to something.

In Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, Jack, a one-year old cat, has been, for months, pilfering other people's clothing at night. You heard me.

"I don't know how to stop him," his owner, a sweet old lady, told the local news in this video. "I heard that there's a lady who charges $60 an hour to talk to your cat. Maybe we should hire her to talk to Jack.

"It's his fetish," the owner added.

In the video, there's a clothesline strung, and it's occupied from end-to-end with various items of clothing: socks, gloves, a pair of man's underwear, scarves, etc.

Jack apparently commits these crimes at night.

"He's so cat-like," the owner said, and she didn't appear to be joking or sarcastic.

Where Jack gets these clothing items, I have no idea, except that they're obviously from within the neighborhood.

There's even a handmade sign attached to the clothesline.


Joking? I couldn't make this up if I tried, bunky, and I've been writing fictional stories for decades.

The crime spree doesn't end with the clothes stealing. Like many petty criminals, Jack has moved on to bolder and more violent crimes.

"Well, I'd rather he didn't kill birds," Jack's owner says. "But that's his thing."

Jack the Thief is now Jack the Bird Killer. Of course, killing birds is more "cat-like", truthfully. Much more so than snatching skivvies from the neighbors.

Cats. They're plotting. They're sneaking around. They leave and are gone for hours. Now, they're stealing.

I was RIGHT!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gun-Providing Wackos

When R. Budd Dwyer wanted to blow his brains out in front of video cameras, he had to call a press conference to do it.

Nowadays, even senseless, horrific murders -- and suicides -- can be caught on tape, by happenstance.

The latest example of the latter occurred yesterday in Casselberry, Fla.

For reasons that may never be known, 44-year-old Marie Moore, holding a pistol, stood behind her 20-year-old son, Mitchell and squeezed the trigger, the gun aimed at his head. He was killed, instantly. Seconds later, Moore stuck the gun into her mouth and fired. She died later in a hospital.

Now, some more details: Moore and her son were at a shooting range. And the whole thing was captured on videotape. There was a poor man in the shooting stall next to mother and son when it went down. He was the first to see the gore. I wonder how long before he's getting psychiatric help.

There's a punch line here, too, and as with most punch lines, it defies logic.

Moore, relatives said, had a history of mental illness.


Sorry. I had to put that in all caps, don't ya think?

I saw the video, and all I can say is, thank God for surveillance cameras. But not for the reason you might think.

You see, those security cameras record at such a low speed that when played back, you don't get a fluid picture. Instead, your images are herky-jerky, as if they're skipping frames. And, of course, the video is in black-and-white. Another reason to be thankful.

Because the incident is NOT something you'd prefer to see in any other way than in B&W and with the "frame skipping" effect.

Moore and her son, both wearing protective (ha!) goggles and wearing ear muffs, are seen being tutored briefly by another man, firing from an adjacent stall. Then the man goes about his business. Mitchell Moore takes his position, too. Mom lingers behind him.

The video, soundless, plays on, and because you know something terrible is about to happen, it's extremely eerie. Several seconds go by as you keep your eye on mom, because you know she's the perpetrator.

Then, it happens.

Moore raises her gun, inches behind her son's head, and fires. The herky-jerky video is such that one moment Mitchell is in frame, the next he's gone.

Then you see Moore, barely in frame, stick the gun in her mouth. In a flash, she's gone, too.

The poor man turns and looks, and you can only imagine what he sees. And his eyes don't register in black and white.

I'll post the story here. Don't click on the video link within it if you're squeamish.

Why Moore, with her supposed "history of mental illness", was allowed to rent a loaded gun at a shooting range is a question I'd dearly love to have answered.

I've never been to a shooting range, but I'd hate to think that just anyone off the street can sign up and be handed a weapon as if it were a pair of roller skates. Or a putter at mini-golf.

Perhaps by the time you're reading this more details will have emerged about how something like this could have happened. The story I read lacked those details.

Dwyer, by the way, was Pennsylvania's treasurer, and he became indicted on some bribery charges. On January 22, 1987, Dwyer called a press conference on the eve of his sentencing. He handed out manila envelopes to select people, along with a prepared statement to the media.

Dwyer himself held a manila envelope.

Then, after some brief remarks in which he apologized to his family and also berated the people who were his accusers, Dwyer reached into the envelope. And pulled out a .357 magnum.

I've seen this video, too.

R. Budd Dwyer, about to end it all in front of all

Gasps are heard, along with pleas from the crowd asking Dwyer not to do what everyone knows is going to be something awful. But it's no use. Dwyer sticks the barrel of the gun into his mouth and fires.

The video cameraman recording the shocking moment adds to it by zooming in to Dwyer after he blew his brains out.

Dwyer obviously wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. As if he wanted to have the ultimate last word.

Marie Moore? I'm not sure what her deal was. Witnesses at the range told police that mom and son seemed to be getting along fine. Until mom killed him.

Of course, she had that history of mental illness. That explains it.

Now, let's explain the whole letting-her-have-a-gun thing. That ought to be a doozy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Perty Gerty

If I had to watch daily viewings of The Price is Right, you can be dadgum sure that after a week I'd be begging you to call Dr. Kevorkian on my behalf.

Well, Gertrude Baines is 115 and has watched TPIR every day for years. Even though that young whippersnapper, Bob Barker has retired.

Oh, and if you make Gertrude some bacon, make sure it's extra crispy. That's how she likes it.

Baines is a Georgia native and turned a century-plus-fifteen on Monday, in Los Angeles. I'll save you the math: she was born in 1894. Two centuries ago.

Her most serious injury or affliction? Just some arthritis. She told MSNBC that she never smoke or drank, and never "fooled around."

So SHE's the one!

Maybe her long life can also be attributed to staying out of the political fray. Last November, Baines voted for Barack Obama -- some 48 years after casting her last vote in a presidential election, for John Kennedy.

Baines is the reigning Guiness book record holder for oldest living person. She achieved the distinction on January 2 of this year, when the previous record holder had had enough.

Baines was born to former slaves in '94, less than thirty years after President Lincoln was killed. Do you remember 1980? Well, that's the length of time that passed from Lincoln's death to Baines's birth.

I'm 45, which was Baines's age in.....1939! The year that my mother was born (sorry, mom; the cat's outta the bag).

Gertrude Baines was my age seventy years ago.

Goodness gracious.

Gertrude Baines, 115

Of course, I'd like to think I have seven decades left on this Earth. Maybe by then I'll have learned to pick my socks off from the floor.

I come from good stock, so there's hope. My mother's side of the family is Finnish, and they congregated in the Upper Peninsula -- taking it over, really. Most of the clan settled in a tiny town called Watton, about 20 miles from L'Anse. Where's L'Anse? About 50 miles west of Marquette. After that you're on your own.

Anyhow, those folks all seemed to live well into their 80s and often into their 90s. And these are people who worked in copper mines and killed their own dinner and went No. 1 and No. 2 in outhouses. Grandma's going to be 93 in May, and save her legs betraying her, mom says she's fit as a fiddle internally.

Grandpa passed in 2005 at age 96. Still young enough to be Gertrude Baines's son.

Or maybe here's another reason the Finns from up north lived so long.

They like their saunas in the UP. And it's not "sawna", like the city folk say. It's "sowna", with the "ow" part pronounced like when you get hurt.

Ow! Sowna!

Like that.

A wintertime tradition is to go into the sauna, which is separate from the house proper, and after spending some time steaming yourself, running out and jumping into the snow.

Sans clothing.

That can't possibly be good for you, yet that's what the Finns did. And look how long they lived.

So Happy Birthday, Gertrude Baines. You just turned 115. You watch The Price is Right every day.

I'm not sure which is more amazing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Charlie's Mercurial Angel

Farrah Fawcett and Lynda Carter fought over me, and I bet they didn't even know it.

I was a typical red-blooded, American boy with raging hormones, and that's why Farrah and Lynda fought for my attention, along with the other boy stuff, i.e. the sports pictures and posters on my bedroom wall.

Count me among the bajillion of boys who had the famous Farrah poster adorning their wall. It's about to appear later in this post, so stay tuned. But chances are you've seen it, whether you're a boy or a girl: Farrah, in a swimsuit, playing with her famous curls, smiling brightly at the camera, her big white teeth able to light up the room even if your electricity went out.

Lynda Carter's poster was a little more toned down. She was wearing a man's dress shirt, knotted just above her midriff, sleeves rolled up. Her look was kinda "come hither", and her hands tugged gently on the belt loops of her pants. It was farmer's daughter-ish, whereas Farrah's was pure, unadulterated cheesecake.

The Farrah poster -- she was Farrah Fawcett-Majors back then, married to actor Lee Majors (what a pair THAT was) -- and the Lynda poster were separated by a window in my room, though they shared the same wall. I was 14, give or take a few months, when they went up. I don't even know where I purchased them. I assume I purchased them. My folks certainly wouldn't have sprung for such fantasy material. But with a boy's own money, how are you going to say no? Can't keep the bottle corked forever. So to speak.

I bring all this up now because Farrah Fawcett lies dying in a hospital in Los Angeles.

She's unconscious, the reports say, and in critical condition, suffering from a relapse in her fight with rectal cancer. Longtime love Ryan O'Neal, the reports say, has been by her side since she was admitted on Thursday.

Doesn't look so good.

The Farrah poster -- the most famous one, as what adorned my wall -- came out in the peak of her popularity, circa 1976-77. Girls all over the country began wearing their hair like Farrah -- curly, parted down the middle, and feathered. Charlie's Angels was beginning to enrapture male viewers, of all ages, from coast to coast.

I found this by simply Googling "Farrah poster"

The fact that Farrah, a former beauty queen and model, couldn't act her way out of a paper bag proved irrelevant.

But she got better -- at acting. If you doubt me and snicker, rent a copy of "Extremities", the film version of the play about a young woman who manages to exact revenge on her rapist in her apartment, even as her own roommates beg her to stop.

It's some good stuff. Farrah Fawcett impressed the hell out of me with that performance. I didn't think she had it in her.

But Farrah couldn't be Farrah forever. Instead of building on the momentum from "Extremities", which was well-received by critics who were likewise surprised and impressed, she was unable to really make that transition from cheesecake to main course.

The result was a cartoon-like version of herself, exacerbated by a meandering, painful-to-watch appearance on Dave Letterman's show one unfortunate night in 1997. Farrah was wasted. High as a kite on something, the substance never confirmed.

If you haven't hit your wincing quota for the day, click here and see for yourself.

What's worse, she began having plastic surgery and so didn't even look like herself when she went on Letterman's show. But she looked enough like herself for us to know that it was her sitting next to Dave, bombed out of her mind.

It was a sad beginning of the end of her career, such as it was.

O'Neal didn't help. He never does. His antics, which included allegations of physical abuse, no doubt added to Farrah's state of mind.

The cancer invaded Farrah's body in 2006. It went into remission, but now has seemed to returned with a vengeance. Cancer -- the mind-messing disease. It fools you into thinking you've beaten it, then it comes back and tells you to f*** off. And then usually has the last laugh.

Farrah's dying. I'm sure of it. These things, once reported at this stage, hardly ever turn out for the best.

One of Charlie's original angels is about to sprout wings.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Monica CON-yers

I bet John Conyers wishes his wife was one of those women who kept her maiden name when she got married.

Conyers, a member of the U.S. House from Detroit, is one of the movers and shakers on Capitol Hill.

His wife, Monica Conyers, is a mover and shaker, too. The same way that an earthquake is.

Monica is the president of the Detroit City Council. If you happen to be reading this from outside our burg, then feel sorry for us. Just do it. Trust me.

Monica Conyers is quickly becoming the most polarizing political figure in these Detroit parts since Coleman A. Young was the motherf***ing mayor -- his self-description -- from 1973-93.

In fact, Conyers -- and from now on, "Conyers" refers to the wife, not the hubby -- might be more aggravating because not even Detroiters themselves like her very much.

Coleman Young was a lot of things. Not all of them very nice. But I have to hand this to him: he made the folks in the city fiercely proud to live there.

Hizzoner may have achieved this self-pride at the expense of diplomatic relations between the city residents and suburbanites, but he did it.

Conyers has a lot of street in her. So did Coleman, but she makes Young look like Colin Powell.

If you don't know much about Monica Conyers, first of all, thank your lucky stars. Second, let me enlighten you.

Conyers is a clown. She's a caricature of what's wrong with race baiting and is a poster child of what can go wrong when you give power to the mentally disturbed.

She has all the class and grace of someone paid a visit to on the show "COPS" during a domestic disturbance.

Conyers was at it again yesterday.

Being queried on channel 4, a camera inches from her and a microphone even closer, Conyers tossed out a comment about fellow councilperson Sheila Cockrel -- the mayor's stepmother, by the way -- that was about as irresponsible and jaw-dropping as any I've ever heard.

And I've been hearing them since the early-1970s.

Frustrated with what Conyers perceived to be Cockrel functioning as a constant hurdle that the rest of the council needs to overcome to get things done, the council president offered this nugget.

Conyers was asked if she had told Cockrel to "get a man", as Cockrel had accused her of doing during a council meeting.

"No, I did not," Conyers said. "But maybe she should get her own man instead of being with others' men."


The channel 4 reporter asked for clarification of that remark.

"I don't know. I'm just asking," Conyers said.

OK, but asking what, exactly?

What did she mean, the reporter pressed, by saying that Cockrel should stop messing with other women's men?

"I dont know," she said, as if someone else had said it. "I'm just asking."

Well, now THAT'S some responsible leadership!

Toss out an inflammatory remark insinuating that another member of council is going around town, functioning as a third person in various love triangles.

Monica Conyers in the middle of a trio that ought to give you the heebie-jeebies

Later in the interview, the reporter asked Conyers for some specifics regarding her assertion that Cockrel is stonewalling council.

"Can you give us some examples? Some specifics?" the game reporter asked.

"Ya know what? You start asking for specifics...we're done. I gotta go," Conyers said, walking away briskly.

Talk about a verbal drive by.

How dare we be given examples to support Conyers's outrageous accusations!

Whomever becomes the permanent mayor of Detroit -- and the city won't REALLY have one till the November election -- should immediately be swathed with the best medical care and security protection that money can buy.

Because if something, God forbid, were to happen, then city council president Conyers, by decree, would become mayor.

And you thought Kwame Kilpatrick was bad...

(If you want an example of Conyers' combativeness, check out this video)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Accidental President

Two angry broads took shots at President Ford within three weeks of each other.

How's that for a lede to a blog entry?

Well, anyway, the angry broads missed. Maybe because Ford stumbled at just the right time.

Jerry Ford did that a lot -- stumbled, if those old enough can remember.

Jerry slipped coming down the stairs of a plane. He tripped over his own feet on a tarmac, holding an umbrella -- also near a plane. He'd play golf and that became hazardous to OTHER people's health -- if you were within hook or shank range. He tried skiing and you can imagine what happened -- another "oopsy daisy."

So it was no wonder that the slapstick comedian Chevy Chase began impersonating Jerry Ford in various Saturday Night Live sketches. Chase looked nothing like Ford, which even added to the hilarity. All that mattered was that he act like Ford, which fit Chevy's propensity for taking pratfalls like a glove.

But back to the angry broads.

Within a few weeks of each other in September 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore (why do assassins and serial killers always have three names?) pulled pistols from their handbags or wherever, took aim at President Ford, and fired.

Or tried to fire, in Fromme's case.

It was in Sacramento, Calif., and Fromme, then 27, purportedly wanted to plead with Ford about the fate of the California redwood trees. Instead, she came armed with a Colt .45 automatic pistol. But the firing chamber was empty. She was immediately restrained by Secret Service agents. She later told authorities that she purposely removed the gun's cartridge prior to showing up to see Ford. Ohhhh-kay.

Seventeen days later, also in California (San Francisco), it was Moore's turn. Standing just 40 feet away from Ford as he emerged from a hotel, Moore pulled the trigger on her .38 revolver. But a bystander, a man named Oliver Sipple, saw Moore's gun-toting hand a fraction of a second in time and shoved at it, causing Moore's shot to go way off course, ricocheting off the hotel's entrance.

Two angry broads, two guns. Within seventeen days of each other. Both in California. All that anger directed at him, and Jerry Ford didn't even go looking for the job to begin with!

Jerry Ford, in typical repose

Ford was the Accidental President. And not just in terms of his clumsiness.

He was in the House of Representatives, a Republican from Michigan, minding his own business when President Nixon tabbed him to replace the disgraced Spiro Agnew, who resigned his vice presidency. Ford was reluctant, but said fine.

A little more than a year later, Nixon himself quit and just like that, Ford became president, without so much as winning one state caucus.

Fitting and proper, I suppose, that the clumsy Ford would stumble upon the presidency.

Fromme was one of Charlie Manson's girls. Why she deliberately sabotaged herself and showed up with a gun that wasn't going to fire is beyond me. Of course, she was a Manson girl, so that should explain it. While in jail, Fromme attacked another prisoner with the claw of a hammer. She's still behind bars at age 60, though she can be released on parole this August.

Moore was a political radical and a one-time FBI informant. She was released from prison on parole on December 31, 2007 at the age of 77. She served 32 years.

Sara Jane Moore: the second murderous broad angry at Ford in Sept. '75

Here's what she said at her sentencing hearing in 1975 about taking a potshot at Ford: "Am I sorry I tried? Yes and no. Yes, because it accomplished little except to throw away the rest of my life. And, no, I'm not sorry I tried, because at the time it seemed a correct expression of my anger."

Ladies, you gotta be pretty mad at a guy to not be sorry that you tried to kill him, don't ya?

Poor Jerry Ford. Only twice in American history has a woman tried to kill the president. And both of them tried to kill our man from Michigan, Jerry Ford. The Accidental President, who would have found it fine and dandy to stay in the U.S. House.

Of course, U-M men always did find the going rough in California. Just ask all the football teams.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mad About Maddow

I love Rachel Maddow.

No, really, I love her. Not IN love with her, but I do love her.

It's not just because Maddow does a radio show and then hustles off to host the best political news analysis show on TV on MSNBC. It's not because she's refreshingly charming, witty, fun, and intelligent. And it's not a birthday present from me (she turns 36 today).

Well, OK, it IS because of all that -- except the b-day present part. But it's also because of this: Maddow is on MSNBC, and the radio, and on my mind right now -- because she worked her tush off to get there.

I knew Maddow was smart. Anyone who watches her program for longer than thirty seconds -- if THEY have any intelligence at all -- can figure that out. I just had no idea of the scope of her smartness.

A quick click over to her bio at Wikipedia brought to the fore the following:

1. a degree in public policy from Stanford
2. at graduation, offered the John Gardner Fellowship
3. recipient of a Rhodes scholarship
4. Doctor of Philosophy in political science from Oxford University

Then, armed with all that education, it still took winning a radio contest to get her first job on the air. That was at WRNX in Holyoke, Mass.

From there, Maddow climbed the ladder, taking more radio gigs and then beginning to appear on television as a panelist on MSNBC's Tucker in 2005.

I'd rather this not be a simple recitation of her resume, so I'll just ask you to click here to read it for yourself.

Oh, and she just happens to be the only openly gay political talk show host on TV.

But I don't care about that. I'm much more impressed with Maddow's being openly smart. Openly funny. Openly challenging. And cute as a button.

Maddow: no other female political host on TV even LOOKS like her

Of course, it helps that Maddow shares my political views, which are left of center for the most part. But even if I disagreed with her often, I think I'd still appreciate her personality and brains.

I can't find anyone, for example, on the right who possesses all of what Maddow has and flaunts every night on MSNBC.

In a world of stuffiness on the airwaves, it's fun to watch Maddow, who hosts her program as if she's letting you in on the joke that everyone else seems to be missing. There's some sarcasm, for sure. But she's no clown. Think back to high school. The "class clown" and the "wittiest person" were almost always two different people.

Maddow debuted on MSNBC on September 8, just as the political election season was heating up. The two national party conventions had just taken place. Two months were left until Election Day. And here was Maddow on the tube, with her short hair (that's different for female hosts, too) and her little smirk and her clear understanding of the issues of the day, combined with that razor sharp wit and college-style sense of humor.

It was like being delivered the news by a mutation of Katie Couric and Joy Behar, in terms of cuteness and tongue.

There's a reason why Maddow's show is the only political one linked on this blog.

Because it's the only one worth linking.

And that's why I love her.

No April Foolin'.