Sunday, October 30, 2016

De Mortuis, Nil Nisi Bonum

Neil and his band mate Leighton are contemplating the production of a podcast entitled "Speaking Ill of the Dead" in which they challenge Denver Uber drivers to defend their apparent fascination with all things Grateful Dead.

Although I am sympathetic, I have a small rebuttal.
Dear Neil
With respect to “Speaking Ill of the Dead”, you well know that no one who knows me would ever place me in the camp of the first generation of Deadheads.  Yet, every endeavor of any lasting repute must have some foundation, some basis, some work of merit, that defines its reputation, no matter how thin that reputation grows over the years.
For the Grateful Dead that work of merit is “Truckin’”.  Yes, it is just another song about a traveling band and drugs, albeit from a uniquely told point of view with a weary inevitability about it.  But in the middle of the long mumbled rambling over the demise of Sweet Jane, the defining hook comes crashing in.  Loud, high, and clear comes the chorus.

 “Sometimes the light is all shining on me;
   Other times I can barely see.
   Lately it occurs to me,
   What a long strange trip it’s been.”

You can view this as simply an expositional statement on the highs and lows of drug abuse, which it is.  But, more importantly, it is a well-versed metaphor for life, with or without drugs, life pure or impure, the wheel of fortune, not as your Grandma Jan understands the Wheel of Fortune, but as the Greeks understood it, as Baby Face Nelson understands it in “O Brother”, strapped helplessly to the inexorable rise and fall of one’s own destiny.  It is the tide, daylight and darkness, the seasons, the joys and sorrows, the loves and losses, the ups and the downs of daily life, of any life, on which all art, all life, is tethered.  The summation is no less metaphysical.  Step back from the spinning, it says, and appreciate it, accepting that our journey from the past to the future is wonderfully strange.  Or, as Seuss would have it, “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”

There, I’ve said my peace.  You can go back, now, to listening to The Decemberists.



Thursday, September 01, 2016

I was in Oklahoma last week on business.  Nice state - I lived there for 10 years.  They have some of the best road signs in the nation.  My old favorite used to be "Do Not Drive Into Smoke".  It made you keep an eye out, scan the horizon for, perhaps, telltale wisps of chimney smoke in the fall and winter.  Of course the sign did not tell you what to do if you ran across some smoke.  Stop right there on the turnpike and put your blinkers on?  Pull off to the shoulder and let all the scofflaws drive on into the smoke?  Cross the median and drive back the other way?  Or what would happen if you are sitting there, stopped, and the smoke drifts across your car?  Are you violating the traffic code sitting there?  Can you be ticketed?  Is it illegal to drive Out of the smoke in that situation?  What do you do with a sign that leaves more questions than answers?

I didn't see any "Do Not Drive Into Smoke" signs last week.  They have been replaced with "Bridge Ices Before Road".  A warning with no actionable advice.  If the Road is icy, well, then I suppose common sense tells you the Bridge should be icy, too.  If the Road is not icy, well, then I still have no clue about the condition of the Bridge.  The Bridge may or may not be icy.  It's a warning perilously close to crying wolf every mile or so down the Interstate.  At lease the Smoke sign gave you an imperative instruction to act upon. 

But my favorite Oklahoma road sign is "Damaged Guard Rail Ahead".  Oh, no!  If your planning on hitting this guard rail, don't.  It's ALREADY damaged!  Go hit another guardrail instead!  What in the world is a person supposed to do with this warning? 

The best sign of the week, however, was not provided by ODOT.  It was on the side of an eighteen-wheeler with Ontario plates.  It read, "Where Honesty & Integrity Matters".  Where, apparently, grammar does not.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas in 60 Seconds: 1968.  Night of the Christmas Iguana.




10-year old boy:           I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.

[Gunshot:  Blam!]



[Man in Santa suit laying face up, pulls beard away from mouth.]

Man:                            It’s me, David.  Go get in the car.

[Woman helps man up.]

Woman:                       He wants an iguana for Christmas.



[Front of PetSmart.]

Man:                            We’ll get one on our way out of town.



[Back of adult heads in front seat of car.]

10-year old boy:           This iguana is a girl.

Woman:                       It’s the only one they had, sweetie.

10-year old boy:           Can I call her Iggy anyway.

Man:                            Sure.

8-year old girl:             Mommy, I don’t feel good.

10-year old boy:           She’s all cold and clammy.

Woman:                       It’s a lizard.

Man:                            Close the lid and quit playing with the iguana.

[8-year old girl wretches and vomits.]

10-year old boy:           I think she’s dead.

Woman:                       Pull over and throw the lizard in the trunk.  I’ll clean up sis.

10-year old boy:           Can we trade her in for a boy?




Woman:                       I don’t think it’s safe to go on any farther.

Man:                            There was a motel back there if you want me to turn around.


Woman:                       What was that?

Man:                            I think it was the median.

[Tire blows out.  Thump.  Thump.  Thump.]

                                    Or a flat tire.

[Flashing police car lights.]

[Car door slam.]

Officer:                                    You made an illegal U-turn back there.

[Trunk opening.]

Man:                            Here, you hold the dead iguana while I dig out the spare tire.

[Car door opening.  Retching sound.]



[Front desk of Motel.]

Clerk:                           Room 16.  Here’s the key.  Um, no pets.

10-year old boy:           He’s dead.

8-year old girl:             I’m going to throw up again.



[Movie marquee.]        2001 A Space Odyssey

  Open Christmas Day

Man:                            Is there any place in town open where the rest of us can get supper?

Clerk:                           Movie theater is the only place open today.



[Empty movie theater, save for Family.]

[Popcorn passed among the Family.]

Woman:                       Feeling better, sweetie?

[8-year old girl nods.].

10-year old boy:           Merry Christmas, everybody.


HAL 9000:                    I’m sorry, Dave.  I’m afraid I can’t do that.                 



Friday, April 13, 2012

Karen replies:
I think your idea of an "oral history" or whatever you call it is a good one. I've found some excellent things on-line for older material (Nebraskana 1940 and Andreas 1904 and earlier histories.) I am amazed at what you can find on-line, and it is increasing all the time. However, Midland Passages is the only thing I have found with facts of the second half of the
In the late 50s-early 60s "riding around" was our term for cruising about town on Sunday afternoons. The standard path was from the old Burlington railroad station (the south end of O Street) to the Courthouse, down the Boulevard, quick stop at the Midway Grocery, and on through town to Tiny's and then back again. When the Dairy Queen (later Dairy Chef) was open, that was another stop. Although we might take an occasional detour elsewhere, to see and be seen was on this standard route. Of course, we all remember Tiny himself. I'm not sure if you knew him or not. He was quite a character but also very interested in progress for Auburn. He was good friends with my dad.

Mr. Hutton to my generation was, in private obviously, was "Chops" or "Kenny." A few years earlier (my sister's classmates) called him "Porky" which did become "Pork Chops" and all those variations. People loved him (like I did and my brother Joe) or "not-so-much" like my older sister (Margene) and Anne. Despite his many idiosyncrasies, I felt that he truly wanted "the best" from
every student and nothing less. I'm sure that every student he ever had has a different, but lasting, memory!!
I was sorry to see on my last visit that the triangle where Courthouse Blvd meets J street has been blocked.... just seemed strange to me! Keep in touch, and I'd be glad to help you in any way. As I said, I have been collecting any old photos of Auburn that I can find. The quality varies, but fun to see the details on a big screen. I'm working on a family segment about J.W. Kerns coming to Auburn in 1871 (the lumber yard founder).

On Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 1:14 PM, McCormick, Sam A. wrote:

I got JC Penney’s right, but I missed out on the theater. It’s always been the State to me. Next
to the “Booth” sign is a soda fountain. I remember it as the Green Lantern. I suppose it was quite the hang out for kids in your day. My next door neighbor, Rita Eckart (a few years younger than you, I think) would take us their when she baby-sat for us.

I’m very interested in the social history of Auburn. What one might call the oral history of how
kids grew up (and out). For example, what was the “main drag” in your day? We went from just north of the “old” (your) high school (the spot now occupied by Wheeler Inn) down to Tiny’s, turned around and drove back. During the first Arab Oil Embargo in 1972 we shortened the route to go from Tiny’s to the “gas station triangle” at 13th and J, somehow convincing our parents we
were saving gas; Or, did you amuse yourselves by giving outrageous nicknames to your teachers (and kept them strictly secret so you wouldn’t get in trouble). I believe that Mr. Hutton was there when you were in school. Did he know his nickname (in my time) was “Chopper”. Where did that come from and when (PorkyPig through Pork Chop is what I’ve been told) and did it evolve further in later decades?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The following was contributed by Karen Ely Eichstadt

In recent weeks, my AHS Class of 1961 classmates and others of that era have been having an interesting and fun electronic discussion. I thought you might know a bit about the topic too. Here are two Auburn Trivia Questions with the answers in the attached photo postcard. I hope you enjoy it.

Question: What national retail chain had a store in Auburn located just north of Glen's Drug Store? Now the Auburn State Bank is on the site and before that it was Hinky-Dinky. Hence the question: What was in that space BEFORE Hinky-Dinky?

Question: What was the original name of the movie theater, built in 1928, known to us as the State Theater?

Do you know when Hinky-Dinky arrived in Auburn? When/why did the other store leave? What do you think is the date of the postcard? (I found the postcard on-line and it said 1940s. However, I'm thinking late 1930s or early 1940s.)

I've been working on Ely-Kerns Family histories and also reading all that I can find about the history of Auburn. I was interested in your blog on grocery stores. I see that regional chains (Safeway, Hinky-Dinky) were somewhat controversial in the beginning, nationally and regionally. They did put a lot of owner-operated stores out of business. I'm guessing that every person who ever lived in Auburn had been inside the Midway, don't you think? I'm wondering just when Safeway and Hinky-Dinky came to town. After WWII? It's a question I had never thought of until I found the attached photo.

Have you considered making a e-book with your data on Auburn, 1960 to 2003? I would encourage you think about it. In my research about Auburn, I've found some excellent "old" books, but there are no "newer" compilations available. Yours is factual and clearly shows an important part of Auburn's history. Perhaps specific businesses could be included. It would be a nice companion for Kevin Casey's book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The following is a transformative creative work. As far as I know, not one word in this play was actually spoken by any of the characters, real or imagined. Whether this be historical fiction or parody is for you to decide.

Read on, McDuff.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Play in Five Acts


Richard, President of the United States

Howard K. Smith )
Eric Severied ) members of the Press
John Chancellor )
Walter Cronkite )

Spiro Agnew, Vice-President
Carl Albert, Representative, from Oklahoma
and Speaker of the House of Representatives
Warren Burger, Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court
Gerald Ford, Representative, from Michigan,
afterwards Vice-President
Sam Ervin, Senator, from North Carolina
and Chairman of the Senate Select Committee
James Baker, Senator, from Tennessee
Carl Curtis, Senator, from Nebraska
Peter Rodino, Representative, from New Jersey
and Chairman of the House Committee on
the Judiciary
Wiggins, Representative, from California
Sandman, Representative, from New Jersey

Judge Sirrica
Other Divers Senators, Representatives,
and Justices
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel
Leonid Brezhnev, Party Chairman of the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Counsels for the Majority and Minority

Pat, wife to Richard
Julie Nixon Eisenhower ) daughters to
Tricia Nixon Cox ) Richard
Ron Ziegler, press spokesman to Richard
Rosemary Woods, personal secretary to Richard

John Dean )
H.R. Haldeman ) aides to Richard
John Ehrlichman )
John Mitchell, Chairman of the Committee to
Re-elect the President
Martha, wife to Mitchell
Henry Kissinger, a Jew, Secretary of State
Herbert Stein, an Economic Advisor
William Simon, an Energy Czar
Edward Cox ) sons-in-law
David Eisenhower ) to Richard
A Doctor, to Richard
Daniel Ellsberg
A Psychiatrist, to Ellsberg
Archibald Cox, a Prosecutor
Leon Jaworski, another Prosecutor
James St. Clair, lawyer to Richard
Bathe, a Farmer
Arab Ambassadors
Five Burglars
Cub Scouts
Two Jailers
A General
A Corporal
A Jury
Divers Crowds, Spectators, Experts, Farmers, Advisors, Servants, Attendants, Bailiffs, Clerks,
Officers of the Court, Members of the Press, Supporters of the President, Demonstrators,
Plumbers, Lawyers, Townspeople, Secret Service Agents, Dignitaries

Scene: Washington, California, Florida, Nebraska, Israel, Moscow