Monthly Archives: May 2012

writing ?

I was reading a post from my friend Joe’s blog  COMING OF THE TOADS   titled : How To Teach College Writing To Nonreaders .

How indeed !

I was reading the weekly Sierra Madre paper yesterday about a homeless guy spotted in town who hangs around behind Howie’s Market . A local lawyer resident wrote a long letter to the paper about how letting this homeless man hang out in town brings down property values , etc. , and opens the proverbial floodgates to Sierra Madre being overrun with homeless people . He wrote to the local police , too , and was told by the Chief that the police were aware of the man but that he had caused no trouble .

Several people wrote letters in response to the lawyer which were published in following issues . They , I will say , were eloquent counter-arguments renouncing the lawyer’s intolerance . Turns out the man spotted by the lawyer comes to town every few months and repairs fountains for some local homeowners . He has  regular customers and people in town know him . He’s Jim the Fountain Guy . He’ll be gone in a couple of weeks and he’ll be back again later in the year .

“Jim has been coming to our town longer than you have ,” someone wrote to the lawyer .

But here is the point of my story about Jim the Fountain Guy : Although the letters to the editor were eloquent responses to the  intolerance of the lawyer , most of them were poorly written . I thought , at first , that the weekly paper needed to hire a better proofreader . But , no proofreader could be THAT bad . One writer spelled homeless “homless” . One person didn’t use any capital letters ( as I do in my titles ) . Apparently the editor of the paper sees no need to edit for spelling or grammar . There were sentences as fragmented as ” Just like you and me. ”  and as “run -on” as ” He has chosen this life , he has two dogs and a bike” . One sentence reads ” Along with not caring about the persons grammer”.

Terrible ! None of these writers would pass a basic English writing test .

But , nevertheless , they made their points effectively . They expressed a general outrage at the intolerant guy who complained that the homeless man hanging out behind Howie’s  would undermine the culture of the wealthy foothills community  and rapidly destroy the city .

I wish that these letter writers would have used proper English , but they didn’t . If they had used proper spelling , grammar , and syntax , then I would not have to worry that the world is doomed to a quickly disintegrating culture because language is an integral part of culture . Where was the newspaper editor when we needed her ? Where were their writing teachers  ? What is the world coming to ?

I’m going to write a letter of complaint  before it’s too late ! But , who do I write it to ?

Teach college writing, Joe  ?  Didn’t I hear on the radio today that most U. S. Congressman communicate at 5th grade level ? Perhaps all is lost already .

Advice to Joe : trying to teach writing to non-readers seems to me to be  like teaching a pig to sing . You won’t be able to do it  and you’ll  eventually frustrate the pig .

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I had a little problem opening WordPress for a couple of days . I couldn’t have written a blog on this computer even if I had wanted to .

I’m taking the Metro over to Pasadena again tomorrow to talk to the Apple geniuses one more time . They can check one more time with their plug in genius devices to tell me that the computer is in working order . Just to reassure me .

I’m sitting in the Sierra Madre Library  writing this . Everything is opening up and working fine . I think that I have isolated the problem . It’s the network . Or the phone line . It’s not the hard drive . Not the cable to the haed drive ( I had a new one installed ). It’s not the computer . Maybe it never was . I went through a logical process of elimination : not this ; can’t be that ; not the other thing .  I checked and checked twice and asked the geniuses a few times and checked again . Just to be sure . And then I checked again . Just to have the illusion of being sure .

When I finally got to my blog site again I found that the blog had written itself . It’s title was 0-54 , short , no doubt , for ” Operative 54 ” .  Something in the espionage line , I’m sure .  No text , but there was a picture . Encrypted , no doubt . It was unrecognizable . A street scene ? A group of people in an auditorium ?  We will never know , I guess .

I’m not saying that the computer has taken over , although this might be a preliminary coup attempt . I know by now that these electronics have minds of their own . We humans pretend that we own and control  them , but …….

I’m not ruling out aliens . If 0-54 was a message for me it was  lost on me . In fact , I deleted the mystifying blog post . As I write this I suddenly realize that this may have been a huge mistake . Perhaps the aliens were sending Earth a message through my blog . Why mine ? Because it seemed the most vulnerable ? If they were sending a message  then I have shirked my responsibility .

If the earth is destroyed by aliens in the near future because I missed their communication then I apologize in advance to humanity . Win a few , lose a few , I guess ! Sorry !

I’m going to look at the Apple geniuses very carefully tomorrow , scrutinize them thoroughly . It occurs to me that they may be : a)  the aliens , or  b) taken over by the aliens .

I’m kind of hoping for alien influence . Otherwise we are simply at the  mercy of the   electronic devices with their hopelessly heartless operations .

0-54 ……..operation 54 ? Like Car -54 , Where Are You ?   Ooh ! Ooh !

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May 9, 2012 · 9:49 pm

flying coach

I flew recently to Hartford , CT , from LA , CA . It was not a direct flight . First , I went to Minneapolis  , MN for about an hour . It was a cheap flight and I was going what  is called economy class , or coach .

There were some first class passengers . They get bigger seats and are able to board before the rest of us . They are not quite sipping their champagne in tall fluted glasses as we economy class people slog past . But , almost . We get to see their relatively cushy accommodations as we file back to find our cramped coach seats and wonder if there will be space for our carry-on in the overhead compartments .

I wonder why we poor slobs are forced to watch the first class customers stretching out in their seats as we descend into the bowels of the aircraft , and vice-versa . Is it designed to make us wish that we had spent to extra bucks to sit in first class ? More likely it is designed to let the first classers see our expressions as we pass : surprise ? envy ? depression ? disgust ? That way they might feel that their exorbitant air fare was worth it .

As we coach people settle in we have two thoughts on our minds . The first is about stowing the carry-on. Second : will the flight be full or will there , possibly , be a little open space next to us ?

Going from Minneapolis to Hartford was nice because the flight was half – full . There was plenty of space for my carry-on bag. The bin was so small , however , that I had to take things out of the bag to make it fit . I found three seats near the exit door empty , so I sat there . There was much more leg room and no one but me to use it . ” It was waiting for you ” the guy across the aisle said to me . There was a big smile on his face . He was a long-legged guy like me and I think he had done just what I had done .

Going the other way , from Hartford to Minneapolis , was completely full . The woman next to me explained , ” No one wants to be in Hartford “.  I had to check my bag because there was absolutely no room in the overhead bins .

Coach passengers could buy a sandwich or a beer or wine . A few years ago they gave away sandwiches . We were given a beverage and had a choice of two little cookies or peanuts or mini-pretzels .

I’m not complaining , though . In about seven hours I was in Connecticut . Beats walking .


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turning 60 in connecticut

The Connecticut Yankees were all complaining that it was cold ,  but it wasn’t . I was there a week . Sunshine except for one day of rain . I got sunburned a little despite my 30 sunscreen . ” Sorry about the cold weather , ” they’d say . Connecticutians complaining to a Californian .

My friend Willie had a 60th birthday .  His girlfriend Jan planned the party . I saw her notebook that had lists of guests and what each guest promised to bring . Lists of those with chairs and how many chairs and those with tables and how many tables , and those with tents . Yeah , tents . Three tents were set up , mostly as a plan B measure in case of rain . There was a fourth tent but I spent  half an hour trying to figure how to set it up and by then Willie , Jan , and I decided that it was too complicated . Maybe we could have got it up and maybe not . It was Army green and  Willie and I missed basic training way back when . The  other tents set up easily and quickly . The Army tent sat in the garage .

We set up tables under the tents . Jan’s ‘s mother and I put bouquets of blue and purple flowers on each table . Nice thick paper table clothes held down with tape . Plenty of folding chairs of various types lent by several people . Neat . Organized .  Ready for rain . And everyone later sat up on the deck in the sunshine . No one approached the tents .

Willie had friends from all periods of his life there . One guy who now lives  in Arkansas was there with his wife . He had lived in the New York City apartment house with Willie when they were small kids . There were some former college roommates of his there and musician friends from various past times there . And local people .

Jan had the food plan arranged , potluck , so that there would be  plenty of food . But she and Willie went out and bought tons more of cold cuts and fruit and chips —- just in case . There was enough left-over food for an army  . There were twenty -five bottles of red wine left over . There was enough for another party or two . Or three .

Willie’s brother composed a song for Willie , kind of a ” this is your life ” review of experiences . Jan recited for him a poem that she had written about how he had affected her . His friend Heafy filmed the event  and promised that a video would  arrive some time in the near future .

At one point Willie , Jan , Willie’s brother , and Willie’s nephew were playing music for the crowd . ” We have one more announcement ,” Willie said at the microphone . Then he and Jan sang ” going to the Chapel ” and the crowd roared . The sun was still shining . Willie was crying . ” I just kept looking out and seeing people from all parts of my life in front of me ,” he said .

Turning 60 is a big deal for some people . Willie’s turning was marked in a big way . He looked about the same when he was 60 as when he was 59 , I thought . Maybe a little tireder . But it was a nice marker along the life path  for Willie . A big event . People came from New York and Virginia and Arkansas and California to attend . Weather was excellent and it all worked out . Everone got a guitar pick with an inscription and a chocolate guitar to take home as a party favor . There was a cake as big as a small car . It had Willie’s picture on it . I thought that Jan was lucky to find a cake with Willie’s picture on it in Woodbury , Connecticut . What are the chances of that ? Sure , maybe in Waterbury or Hartford ……………………..

I turned 60 the same month as Willie . We had a house full of friends for a dinner cooked by Ada and I asked them all to say how they’d met me . It was wonderful . We had originally planned the dinner for outside.  But it rained .  There was no poetry and no one sang . I looked about the same at 60 as when I was 59  I thought . I felt about the same , too .

There is something about round numbers , though , I suppose . When I was 18 one of my roommates at UCLA turned 20 . Big round number . As far as I was concerned , he could have been 60 . How could  I have a roommate so old , I wondered ?

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