flying

I flew Delta from LAX to Minneapolis to Hartford . Red eye special . Good arrival time for my friend to pick me up , except that I got confused on the day . The day I flew in he had a gig and had to pick me up a little later . I waited in an airport bar and had a couple of expensive airport beers ,  local Connecticut stuff .

Now I’m home again . Same flight in reverse , except that this time it wasn’t a red eye .

Three hours in Minneapolis . Coming in from L.A. , I saw snow covering the parking structures outside . On the return trip , two weeks later ,  no snow . The airport is stretched out along endless concourses . Concourses . When do you walk concourses  outside of airports ? Am I missing something ? There are moving sidewalks and a tram .  Endless concourses . Food courts . Shops .  WiFi access .

I had a few mini-bottles of Scotch in my carry-on bag . They’re allowed . My friend Willie told me that last year . He gave me a couple of them to test his statement . No problem .  I showed them to the snoops , thinking that they might confiscate them . No . Willie was right .scotch

To order the same shot of Scotch during the flight would have cost me seven dollars , I think . Drinking one of the bottles during the flight I felt as if I were now out of the red , outsmarting Delta , pushing the envelope . The little bottles cost only 99 cents in Connecticut .  If I had had a few more mini-bottles I’d be sitting pretty , ahead of the game , actually beginning to show a profit . Well , almost   .

I once went from Berlin to London on Ryan Airlines . Ryan , if I remember correctly ,was the airline that seriously considered charging a fee to use the restroom . Nice .I would have gone broke .  I got to the Berlin Airport , Freuninggulingen ……., no Shaeuftshaffen ……. no Sheinifeld ? , Shoenefeld ? , at six in the morning . I had come from Poland by taxi that morning . Got there overly early , as is my way .WWI air ambulance

I was second in line . We were the only two customers to have arrived so early for the flight .  I had one bag to check . There were two conveyor belts moving luggage along : to London  and to  Ankara . I didn’t see the clerk put my lonely bag on the Ankara belt . I should have been watching , I guess . When I got to London I had no clothes . 10 days in England and no  clothes other than what I was wearing . I won’t tell you the whole sad story . My bag met me in London on the 10th day , having , I assume , enjoyed its own vacation in Turkey . We flew back to Berlin together , but we didn’t talk to each other the entire flight .

Another Berlin to London flight on British Airways was exciting after the pilot announced  over the scratchy PA system that he thought the landing gear was stuck . We were going to have to go in on our shiney sleek aluminum belly . The pilot’s voice was almost inaudible and he had a heavy English accent . One of the many . Dorset , maybe . Rs everywhere . Like old movie pirates :  Aarrh , matey ! Wharr yer headin’ ? Shiver me timbers !  Emarrgency vehicles aarrh be preparrhin’ fer arrh landin’  . Aarh.sign el monte airport

The plane was full of Germans . I , a native English speaker , was barely getting what the pilot was saying . I didn’t think that many of the Germans got much of it . But , on the other hand , maybe they had learned English from the English . Good possibility that they understood a lot more than I did , now that I think of it .

When we approached Gatwick , or was it Heathrow ? , the emergency vehicles were lined up along the runway . There were plenty of them : fire trucks , ambulances , police , hearses . Well , maybe not hearses .   I had confidence in the pilot and the plane . I don’t think anyone else in the plane could say the same , judging by their panicked expressions . Those pilots , highly trained ,  could slide it in on its fusilage belly .

Buckle your seat belt ; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride . airplane seat belt

But the landing gear came down and we all rolled to a stop .  Anticlimatic . I’m not complaining .  Billy Bob Thornton said ,” I’m not afraid of flying . I’m afraid of crashing . ”   That about sums it up .

About these English accents :

Ada and I flew from LAX to London once and I had arranged , in advance ,a rental car from the airport . I never sleep on flights and by the time we reached the car rental desk in London I was exhausted . I couldn’t , for the life of me , understand what the English girl at the counter was telling me . It was a Friday . I thought that she was telling me that my car wouldn’t be available until Monday . She wasn’t , of course . She was trying to tell me that my car would be a Mondeo .  I was losing my temper .

” Not Monday !” I said . ” Now “england

Ada had to translate . Mediate . Ada grew up in Poland .

” Tell him…” the English girl would say .

” Tell her ….” I would say .

Oh.  The car is called Mondeo. Nothing about Monday . It’s waiting for us . Oh . O.K. Why didn’t she say so ?mondeo

I don’t mind flying much . Once in awhile . It’s quick once you leave the ground .  Gets you places you might not otherwise go . Somewhat uncomfortable . Never enough leg room . And they always remind you how a seat belt works ; they show you ; give a demonstration . That comes in handy because sometimes , if you haven’t used one in a few hours , you might have forgotten .

Sometimes you should bring along an English-American dictionary , or , at least a phrase book . Several English speakers from various corners of the earth learned English English from the English . Beware .  And consider bringing  some little bottles of booze . If nothing else , it gives you a sense that you’re getting away with something .  Even if you’re not a drinker bring some  —– trade one  for a few more tiny bags of peanuts or pretzels . If you ride Ryan Air , bribe the stewardess to use the head without paying the fee . Endless possibilities . Endless.illustration 3

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more flotsam and jetsam

armor 1917

1914

casey stengel 1914

coke

car in snow 1929

smoking 3 year old

mail carrier sweden

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molehill

Did you go to HR ?

Ada and I went over to the school district headquarters , to the Benefits office on the 28th floor. We wanted a statement from Benefits that Ada gets no benefits from her few years of work as a teacher with LAUSD . Another bureaucracy , Social Security, demanded verification of this .stress

It seemed to me that it should be an easy thing to provide a statement to that effect . It’s not like she wanted to claim any benefits , after all.  Ah ! , but I know LAUSD from my decades of working there . Nothing is easy . Passing the Buck is their specialty . If you were to ask seven people at LAUSD headquarters the same question you would get seven different answers , and the seven would change the answers if you were to ask them the next day.

I spent 45 minutes the day before we visited the headquarters on the phone being passed around  from one LAUSD office to another . I had begun with the Benefits Office. The woman who answered the phone would not so much as let me explain what it was I needed , yet she told me I had the wrong office . Insisted.  100% the wrong office , she told me .  That’s after she made me wake Ada up from a nap because she insisted that I was not authorized to speak for my wife . I woke Ada up and she spoke to the woman for a minute or two , got nowhere , and returned the phone to me . And I can’t transfer you to any other office , the woman told me .

I hung up on her at this point and I called a friend of mine who had been Principal of several LAUSD schools . He told me that I should call HR . I called HR . HR transferred me to Employee Relations . A woman there told me not to use the word ” verification ” for what I needed ; otherwise I would have to be transferred to another office . You have to use the right lingo , she said . I asked for the right lingo for my request and she gave me a few pointers .clown band

Employee Relations transferred me back to HR who transferred me to Benefits  . Got nowhere and gave up for the day . Nothing would be managed by phone I realized, so Ada and I went down to LAUSD headquarters the next day to wrestle the beast .

The clerk at Benefits asked immediately : Have you been to HR ?

Yes , I said , I’ve been to HR after talking to Benefits . HR sent me to Employee Relations who sent me back to HR who sent me back to Benefits . We have a very simple request .

I laid it out as simply as I could for the guy . We need a letter from Benefits that states that Ada receives no benefits from LAUSD based on her employment with LAUSD . He said that he’d ask his supervisor and he disappeared into a maze of cubicles . He was nice about it , at least. Things are looking up ! In a couple of minutes he reappeared shaking his head and told us that the supervisor wouldn’t do it .

I asked to talk to the supervisor in person . To my surprise the young man agreed to go back to the supervisor and pass on my request . To my utter astonishment a supervisor came out to talk to us after a few minutes .

No , he couldn’t answer our request , he told us . First of all , he said in true LAUSD method , this office doesn’t have employee records before 2006 due to an overhaul of the computer system . This was meant to shoo us on to whatever LAUSD office might have those records .   But you , I mean the Benefits Office , has access to those records , right ? I pointed out to him and he reluctantly abandoned that particular pass-the buck ploy  . Actually , someone on the phone the day before had tried the same tactic . No , he was stuck with us.

Five minutes into his poo-pooing our ( what seemed like a simple )request , I could see Ada wavering . I held strong . I would talk to this guy calmly but insistently until he got mad and stormed off . Might happen . When the supervisor told us what agency we should go to instead of Benefits I asked him to write us a simple statement on LAUSD letterhead stating briefly that we had come in with a request and that he could not help us .

He kept telling us that the request made no sense . Ada said that she had made the same request of a local library where she had worked and that they had happily agreed to provide us an e-mail in response. He told us  , well, that was a small city library and LAUSD Benefits Office was part of a huge bureaucracy with its own rules and regulations . Oh , like the Social Security Department , I said , who are demanding the information ?

In all candor, it  just doesn’t make sense to me , he said . He repeated that about six times over the fifteen minute conference .

With all due respect , I said ( having never before in my life used that phrase ) you don’t need to make sense of it . Social Security asked for it . We need to show them something .

He agreed , in the end , to send us a brief e-mail saying that former employee Ada was receiving no benefits from the Benefits Office of LAUSD . He sent such an e-mail the next day . It consisted of one sentence . Probably took the guy two minutes to complete our simple request.

What’s the expression about making a mountain out of a molehill ?

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ipod

One morning into the Deans’ Office walked a young woman talking broken English to me  like she knew me , like she had business with me . Had I made an appointment with a kid’s mother and forgotten all about it ? I wondered .
(Well , nowadays , that’s what I routinely do ; but in those days I would have been upset with myself for being so negligent and/or forgetful ). Do I have an appointment with you ? , I asked .

No. She was not the mother of the kid but his older sister .   Twenty -five ? A bit older ? He stole my ipod , she told me . Yeah , from their home .old school

And why is this my business ? I thought to myself . But , hey , I’ll try to help her out . I’m the school Dean . I sent a student helper to bring the kid in from his classroom . Make sure he has all his belongings with him , I said .

As we waited the young woman told me her sad tale . The twelve -year old brother had stolen from her . Again . And why is this my problem ? I couldn’t help wondering . But , hey , we’ll see what we can do .

When he came in I looked at him and motioned to the sister . Do you know her ? Yeah , he said . She’s my sister .Bedlam patients (16)

She says you took her ipod.

The little kid launched into a passionate denial . She’s my sister ! She’s family ! , he declared . I would never ……………… He spelled it out at length with a sincerity that would fool most people ; would have melted their hearts .  Poor misunderstood kid ! He almost worked himself into tears . Wow ! Poor guy .

I searched his pockets and his backpack ( as was my right as the school Dean . Probable cause not needed in a school situation , just reasonable cause needed .) I had reasonable cause : his sister was accusing him ; he had stolen from her before ; she had come all the way over to the school to get her ipod back .

Okay .

Nothing in his pockets . Nothing in the backpack . Maybe he had stashed it with a friend or in a secret place . Maybe . Maybe the upset sister was mistaken . Maybe .

I took the kid into my little cubicle office for a minute . Two chairs and my cluttered desk .  Take off your shoes, I told him . He did . No complaints . He was wearing what we used to call loafers . I looked down at his shoes .Poland 2016 art etc 053

What’s that ? I said.

Ipod , he said . It was right there .

Whose is it ? I said .

Hers , he said .

I handed the stolen item to the sister and she left the office . I sent the kid back to class. Another day in the Dean’s Office . Good guess , Dan , I thought to myself . Now on to , perhaps , some school-based problems . miner boy

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2 nuns

Okay. I was reading about the two nuns in southern California who liked to gamble in Vegas . The trouble was , besides apparent inconsistencies with their hobby and their chosen vocation in life , that they were using funds that were,  well , just  not theirs to use .

They were school administrators in a Catholic elementary school . One of them was the principal of the school . As I read about these two religious women,  ghosts of past days bounced around in my brain . I taught in a Catholic elementary with a nun like that.

The principal , evidently , would plead poverty when it came to discussions of the purchase of common items such as sports equipment for the students at the school . Parents , wanting the best for their children , would chip in to supply the needed items . This went on year after year after year after year after………  The investigators had only gone back , so far , to some random year, in tracing the embezzlement by these two women . No one knew about all of the previous years yet, how much illicit money they were able to snag. They had private bank accounts to finance their excursions and parents were told to write checks to those slush fund accounts.

These two brides of Jesus ( Sorry ,  I mean no disrespect. I think that’s what nuns consider themselves . ) wanted to gamble in Las Vegas and the parents of their students unwittingly financed this somewhat dubious endeavor year after year after year after  —- well , you get the idea.

And now the two old birds are retired , having successfully bilked the parents of their former students for a least a half a million dollars over a period of decades . Nuns , no less. Educators , no less.

I worked with a nun of the sort . Enough said. She’s passed away now and my friends would say let bygones be bygones , let sleeping dogs lie . Her name was Agnes but I called her Sister Agony . She got away with a lot of this kind of disgraceful behavior because she was a nun . Nuns wouldn’t do that , parents would tell me . I’d tell them , for example , keep the receipt . They must have thought I was a heretic . Nuns don’t steal , cheat , or lie , they would tell me . True believers . Optimists . Do I need to mention to you what would happen ? old school

So , how did these two unscrupulous recently caught old thieves get away with it for so long ? I could give you my insights. And , what should society do with these two old retired women now ? I kind of hope that there is a Saint Peter and that when the time comes he holds them up for at least awhile at the Pearly Gates and asks them a few probing questions. I wonder if Saint Peter is a true believer .

We’re brides of Jesus , they will say , of course , in definitely condescending tones . I can hear the holier-than-thou pronouncements now . They may even say something along the lines of  , as  Sister Agony once aggressively said to me  : Well shit man , what are you telling me ? That’s when I wonder about what Saint Peter is all about . What do we really know about that guy anyway ? We’ll see what happens then .

Meanwhile I think someone should throw their holy carcasses in jail ! The law is the law. Maybe it’s just me .

 

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here’s to Ed

I’ve got this neighbor , right next door , named Ed. He’s got some kind of medical supply business and he’s busy all the time . He delivers medical supplies , I think , in his little pick-up truck , and he’s constantly in and out with that vehicle .

Ed wears a white lab coat . It kind of blends with his fluffy white beard and long white hair ( although he cut both for Christmas ! ) . He carries packages in and out of his house all day long , and usually into the evenings . He’s a hard worker , that Ed.

He didn’t say hello to me for nine years . I counted . When Ada and I moved in next to him I tried to say hello , but he would turn his face away and ignore me. Okay , some people are shy ; I understand that , but after three or four months of trying just to say hello I gave up trying . I began counting years of non-communication : one, two , three , four…………

Two houses down on the other side lived an old guy who I used to have a beer with and sit and talk with  once in awhile . He didn’t like Ed . He told me a story that ten years before  , or so , Ed walked by and called this guy  “dude”.  ” I’m not a dude , ” my  friend told me . That was good enough to dislike Ed since then . I tried to explain that the word dude wasn’t an insult , but I made no headway into solving anything . I’m good like that .

Then one day I was rounding the corner of my house just as Ed was rounding the same corner from the other direction. We nearly bumped into one another . I said hello and Ed answered hello , more or less out of relief that we hadn’t crashed into one another . Ah , the ice was broken , I guess. For the next couple of years he and I would exchange hellos . Nothing more , but hellos . Things were looking up . This could be  the beginning of a beautiful friendship .

Now he and I have long conversations quite often that last sometimes a minute or two . We call each other by name , we smile , and we are great friendly next-door neighbors . But all of this has nothing to do with the concept of this post . Sorry . Let’s move on.December 2018 056.JPG

What I like about Ed , besides his dedication to his business , is that each and every holiday Ed decorates his front lawn with stuff appropriate to the holiday . He even has a flag pole and he runs up flags having to do with the holiday .

And now here we are at Christmas . Not that I want a big inflatable plastic snowman on my  front lawn ; but , hey  , Ed goes for it . I like that . I like that about Ed . There’s a passion in his lawn paraphernalia. December 2018 060

And , also , he’s never called me “dude” . But, then again , you can call me anything you want , just don’t call me late for lunch.December 2018 055

 

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Christmas Alphabet I for In The Bleak Midwinter : Shawn Colvin & Bert Jansch

A lovely post for Christmas from Thom over at The Immortal Jukebox .

The Immortal Jukebox

We live, now, in a world where, at the flick of a switch, we can be bathed in brilliant light.

But, for millennia it was not so.

We lived in a world lit only by Fire.

Huddled in the darkness we looked with awe and supplication to the celestial lamps in the sky.

The Stars, The Moon and The Sun.

By observation and calculation we learned to predict the movements of these Heavenly Bodies (oft times believing them to be the actual bodies of the gods who bestowed the light upon us).

We came to know that there was a cosmic dance and that, magically, in December, out of the depths of darkness, the first light of the rising sun signalled rebirth for the land, the crops and for the people.

No matter how dark it gets there is hope, belief, that the light and the warmth it brings will…

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the truth

 You can’t handle the truth !  

I think Jack Nicholson said that , playing Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men .

And what is truth ?  , says Pontius Pilate , when Jesus of Nazareth is on trial for his life . We both have truths . Are mine the same as yours ? 

 

anatomist

I thought for a minute that I’d write a little on the topic of truth . That’s not really what’s on my mind , though . I was thinking more of all the recent political craptrap and my flimsily assertive ideas like the world is going to hell in a hand basket and the inevitable upcoming  sunsetting  of the great American experiment at the stubborn hands of ham fisted bigots and simple minded ignoramuses and self-interested fools , many of them holding the reins of intelligence and probably fine educations only to put all of that potential to use plundering  the moral , civic , and historical riches of this nation .

You know , temporary but discouraging  thoughts like that .

A lie told often enough becomes the truth .   —- Vladimir Lenin

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skull museum

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BELARUS TRIP 2017 305betty compson.jpg

[fact or reality , fact or reality, fact or reality, fact or reality , fact or reality]

 

Here I sit in the USofA , fat and coddled , pecking upon the keyboard of a laptop computer while  munching candy-covered peanuts and  , well , disappointed , weighted down with the endlessly circulating lies these days flying crazily around what’s been called the public square . frenc liberty brit slavery

Even if you are a minority of one , the truth is the truth .

 Ghandi said that .candy worker 1925

Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell it . Emily Dickenson said that .Edwardian Girls From between the 1900s and 1910s (13) (1).jpg

2 cents…………………..and that’s my two cents for today .

 

 

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