Monthly Archives: January 2017

on markets and mark twain

conserve for war 1943 posterIt’s nice to be reminded from time to time that our plight in this world , for better or worse , is most likely shared by plenty of others .There’s comfort , somehow , in that . What is it ? Misery loves company ? Whatever . Mark Twain said : All generalizations are false , including this one . 

I was reading the latest post written by another Dan , over at his blog No Facilities , about markets , and shopping , and marriage , and life , and college , and cooking . Yeah ; all of that , and no doubt scads of other stuff , too ; but I’m a sloppy reader and miss lots of detail . I’m not a detail guy ; by no means a perfectionist . That’s just the way it is . So , sue me . As Mark Twain said : ” You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus .

cafe sign

Dan’s post , as his posts often do , in their unobtrusive manner , sparked a few scattered long-missing memories in my functional but slothful mind about this  and about that , and a little about  these and those . Funny how that works .  No Facilities  often inspires me to tap out another post of my own . The mental mud is stirred up just enough , I guess , to get a few bits in the murk spinning . So , I’ll get to it . As ( yeah , you guessed it ! ) Mark Twain said : Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow . So here goes .

I , unknown to many , got my professional start in the food industry . First real job with or without a work permit and I don’t recall which . I was fourteen and ready to make my mark . As ( well , what’d you expect ? ) Mark Twain said : To succeed in life you need two things : ignorance and confidence .  I washed coffee cups and dishes at the Town Talk Cafe . I remember writing about it before . The German owner must have escaped and evaded for all those many years after escaping certain post War punishment for her Nazi past and now she was hiding out as the owner/operator of a little local coffee and donut , bowl of chili and piece of pie food joint . What they used to call a Greasy Spoon .

Well , the spoons weren’t greasy when I was on the job . Not that the Nazi noticed . She yelled at me for bending the flimsy handle of the cheapo glass-washing brush . She yelled at me for getting dirt ( her Greasy Spoon dirt ) on my apron . She yelled at me that I was putting too much bleach in the rinse water . She yelled……….Well , you get the picture . She was a nut case . As Mark Twain might have said ……………………………no , not again ? . Well , okay : Mark Twain said  When we remember we are all mad , the mysteries disappear and life stands explained .liberty bell

However , this is not a post about what Mark Twain said . This is a post about a post about food and education and marriage and shopping and the Men’s Aisle in the supermarket , and …………whatever it was . 10 things not to do . Buying butter , etc.minuteman statue

Ada and I have had our fights discussions about buying butter . First , I should state the obvious : rule for women : Never send a man to the market to shop . With or without a written list — doesn’t matter . He’s there all alone and totally unsupervised . A little pang of FREEDOM thumps in his chest . The Liberty Bell rings somewhere far away in the still recesses of his male psyche  . Maybe he sees  a deal on butter , for example . Or maybe he sees that he can get two or three margarines for the price of one butter . He doesn’t know that some butter is unsalted and that’s the kind you wanted . Okay , it’s written on the list but the word UNSALTED slides by as he checks out the colors of the packages and the prices . He simply doesn’t have enough training . They didn’t teach that in Army boot camp , or in college , or even in high school shop class . His mother didn’t teach him , evidently , either . When you send a guy to the market with a specific job to do , well Mark Twain said : Everything has its limit ; iron ore cannot be educated into gold .July 4 4

I was pretty sure that I had learned the system . I’d stick to the list . I learned not to be so shortsighted as my blogger pal apparently was once when he tried to substitute another brand for the required one ( a no brainer ;  buy the one on the list : Duh ! ) But I saw a sale on butter and I bought a package even though it wasn’t on the list . What was it ?  $!. 65 ? I don’t remember now . No one would have to change their kids’ college plans over the cost of it .

When I got home All Hell broke loose ! ( Ada , no doubt , remembers it differently . But , as Mark Twain said : It ain’t what you know that gets you in trouble ; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so . )

Ada : ( sotto voce , but in the voice of the German cafe woman ) We already have butter .

Me: But it was on sale .

Ada : You ALWAYS have to check . We already have butter .See ? ( She holds the ice box door open for emphasis ) . kitchen (old)

Me : It was only  $1.65 .

Ada : We don’t  NEED any more butter . You NEVER check to see what we have . Why don’t you check first ? You ALWAYS have to check first . And then stick to the list .

Me : It will get used .kitchen old 2

Ada : That’s not the point !

And , that wasn’t the point , of course . My blogger friend , exactly as in my case , pretty much gave up cooking and shopping for all the reasons I did , too . His wife’s a better cook , for one . But the main reason is that he and I are just sure cause for chaos in a woman’s world . I might have learned the lesson as a child ; should have , but I didn’t . My mother would announce : Get out of my kitchen  ! ( key word: ” my” .)  God made kitchens for women and barbecues for men . So saith the Lord .

Some of us are  just not wired for list -shopping ; have never really been trained properly . Sending us shopping might be a lot like releasing a rat into a maze , with little or no pre-conditioning , and hoping for the best . How did guys ever live on their own without proper supervision ? It’s one of those unsolved mysteries of life . It’s no mystery , however , that  ” he,he,he ” equates with laughter . As Mark Twain once said .queen of heartstwo men near train (old)


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ten slang slung plus one

clinger : a female dancing very close to her partner (1890)

cossack : a policeman (1850s)

pull the devil by the tail : to take a risk of ruin (ca. 1750)

the devil’s guts : a surveyor’s chain  (1670s – 1700s)

flicker :  a drinking glass  (1700s)

good as good : extremely good ( 1850 )

head-rails  : the teeth (nautical ; 1785)

lash : violence ( Australian ; 1916 )

queer the pitch : to spoil a deal (1901)       tulip and palm 004

scammered : tipsy ( 1840 )

slang-tree : a stage (1850-1950)

Lilly-slang-tree : ( I made this one up ; no meaning ; 2013 )


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you have nothing to fear………………

……………but just about everthing , I guess .four men depression era

I began reading an article in the LA Times a few days ago about North Korea and Los Angeles . The headline was something like  ” Is LA on the North Korean Nuclear Hit List ? ”   I thought , at first , that I might find something interesting in the article about North Korea . I don’t know much about North Korea . Isn’t it the so-called Hermit Kingdom ?

Well , no , I guess the Hermit Kingdom was all of Korea in previous centuries , 1600s to 1800s . ( I looked it up just now ). Could also be used as a generic term to mean a place cut off from the rest of the world . So , okay , seems to me the term applies pretty well to North Korea . So , let’s move on .poland-xmas-2017-009

I don’t know just why I thought that I might learn something from a newspaper article with a headline such as this one  had . Anyway .  It seems , as you no doubt already know , that North Korea is fixing to develop a missile long-range enough to hit America’s west coast . San Diego is a target , the Times said , because of the Navy base there . I forget the other targets .

Maybe I should have paid a little closer attention , read with a little more focus . But , after all , I was educated in those American schools that , as our new President said in his inaugural address , don’t teach nothing and don’t give students any knowledge . So , what do you expect !

Now , as the writer of the newspaper article reported , after the North Korean attack on the US west coast , the little Asian hermit country would be quickly wiped away in retaliation . He seemed pretty sure about that . But , still , we on the west coast would have a serious mess to clean up  .

So , is Los Angeles on the target list or not ? The assumption within the article seemed to be , of course , that the N. Koreans would have only three or four nuclear weapons to hit us with .  So they would have to choose their targets wisely .

I lost interest quickly in the newspaper discussion . I don’t like to explore such speculation as if , after reading this kind of stuff , I would have learned something that I might then use to improve my life somehow .

I will say , however and nevertheless , that the part of the article that I read did get me thinking a bit . Sometimes , people around my age , think about their end . How will it happen ? I told my friend and neighbor , Don , when his physical health finally turned against him big time at age 94 that the best way to go , it seemed to me , would be to just drift off in his sleep and not wake up the next morning . So , that’s what he did , and when I went over to visit him the next morning his wife , Marie , told me that he was gone .bar-old-1900

So I envisioned for a minute , because I’m not yet ready to be passing away in my sleep any time soon  , being killed in a nuclear blast . I could get cancer , or get hit by a bus , or have a heart attack or a stroke , or be run down in a crosswalk by a speeding car , or slip and fall . Would it be better , by the way , to fall to your death down a mountain rather than to slip and fall in the bathtub or on the back step ?  The best thing , perhaps , is that whatever happens happens instantly . For most of us , to avoid long drawn out pain and agony is a benefit .

I was thinking for a moment , as a result of all of this , that being hit directly by a nuclear warhead wouldn’t be such a bad way to go for an older guy . I’m not going to spend any more time contemplating it , though . I think the possibility of the hermits  developing the ability and then deciding to attack LA is pretty remote . More likely I’ll be  accidentally shot  by some God-fearing patriot with a gun , or be run over by a runaway shopping cart in the Ralph’s supermarket parking lot .

And , besides , I might appreciate making my final bow by nuclear blast , but the other millions of souls around me might not so much . Whatever . I’m not going to worry about it . Robert in Szcz. 2015 191


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sailing the wilshire sea

” A ship in port is safe ; but that is not what ships are built for . Sail out and do great things . ” —–Rear Admiral Grace HopperPorts of Call San Pedro 014

It wasn’t Beverly Hills .  Beverly Hills was , what ,  a full block over . The ship-shaped apartment house sailed  close but then stopped and anchored . When ? 1941 ? Maybe the architect or the builder were Navy men . Who knows ? I don’t .Battleship Iowa 019

Holmby Hills was nearby . Within walking distance if you’re a good walker . Lew Archer lived in Holmby Hills in a big house along with Lt. Commander Phil Queeg . No , no , it wasn’t Lew Archer . He was the partner who’d been knocked off . It was  Sam  Spade . Queeg liked strawberries . Was obsessed with strawberries . I’m not sure about Spade  . Spade said , ” You’re a good man , sister .” Probably said it to the tough guy Duke Mantee  or  to Charlie Alnut .  Those characters both lived in the same house , too , with a guy named Rick who ran a high class nightclub and gambling joint  in Casablanca. He might have liked strawberries too for all I know . They all lived with a girl named Lauren Bacall and an actor named Bogart .

The Maltese Falcon was made in 1941 . Casablanca was made in 1942 but  the action was set in 1941 .  The  house I live in now was built in 1941 . Bogart had been  in the Navy.   He sailed for fun . He’d  bought a sailboat from Dick Powell . The apartment house I lived in then on Wilshire Boulevard ,  the early 1970’s , was built like a ship . It had decks and  portholes . My apartment was on the quarterdeck ,  I think . I climbed up the starboard gangway to get to it . Also in 1941 the U.S.  launched the Liberty Ship program .  Well ?  You don’t get it ? All coincidence you think ?Battleship Iowa 079

The old building was crumbling . I got a very  good deal on rent for a large apartment . But this was part of the deal : The corporation that owned it wasn’t going to put any money into it to fix anything because they’d bought it to tear it down and build something new .  That might happen next week or next year or never . I had to agree to go when the time came , be ready to clear out , to abandon ship on short notice and not to expect anyone , in the meantime , to do any repairs around the place .

While I was there a hair salon owner lived downstairs —- sorry —– below decks with his sleek girlfriend . He stayed to himself ; worked long hours at his elegant shop in Westwood . He would slip back home  evenings in a gleaming white Rolls . He probably paid the same meager rent that I did . I’d see his mail sometimes as it came to the building , addressed to So-and-S0 , such-and-such number Wilshire Blvd. , Beverly Hills . Beverly Hills my foot !  He lived  in the same crumbling ship as I did to save money, because it was close to his hair salon , and  to pretend to have a Beverly Hills address . It was always a funny sight to see him roll up to the old wreck of a building in that shining white Rolls with the elegant girlfriend, both of them too aloof to converse with the rest of the crew .

The Playboy mansion was , sort of , in the neighborhood  too . It was over on Sunset , farther away than the Bogarts’ house . It’s hidden behind gates and hedges and lush landscaping , though . There’s no point walking that far to stand outside the gates .

I would walk down the other direction , toward Santa Monica Blvd . , to do my shopping at the Santa Glen Market , located on the corner of Santa Monica and Beverly Glen . Once in awhile I’d see movie stars shopping there . Everyone has to eat .  They bought the same cheap cans of peas that I bought .

One day I was walking along Wilshire behind an elegantly dressed old man . He suddenly turned to the boulevard ; it was around noon , I think ; he unzipped and  took a piss on a plant . I was a little shocked and mentioned the incident later to a friend of mine . He said matter-of-factly that sometimes  when you gotta go you gotta go  and your bank balance has nothing to do with it .

I lived there  in that old leaky apartment  for two years and then I jumped ship . It was torn down several years later . I used to check on it every few months . There’s a tall and typical high rise there now . It  has none of the character , in my mind , that the old structure exuded as it waited to be  finally scrapped . But I guess sometimes when you gotta go you gotta go .

Early one Sunday morning  the water heater burst . I could hear Max , the manager, and his brother outside my place chattering . I stepped off the bed into six inches of water . I was contemplating this sudden wet surprise when Max knocked on the door . I opened it and a river rushed out onto the two decrepit old men . ” If I’d wanted Venice , Max , I would’ve gone there , ” I said . They weren’t laughing . They were probably thinking that it might be about  time to abandon ship .

San Francisco Oct. 2012 040

As the fat man Gutman says to Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon : ” These are facts , historical facts , not schoolbook history , not Mr. Wells’ history , but history nevertheless . ”   Such as it is and so it goes .Sczcecin 2 2012 106


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3 coifs and a gutenberg

big hair shop sign

femail frizzer caricature

woman hair skeleton caricature


………………oh , and a flying pig.flying pig


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tonsil paint tasting

A friend of mine came over last night . She showed some black-and-blue bruises on her arms and one lumpy bruise near her eye . Like the latest boyfriend had beaten her up . But , no , she said , it wasn’t a boyfriend .DANCE

It was the rot-gut whiskey , the hooch , the panther piss . She had gone to a whiskey tasting party at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles . Of all places to raise the drunken sails , that’s an interesting choice . The expression ‘three sheets to the wind’ doesn’t quite tell the tale .

Her two companions entered the same troubled water , she said . All three got inelegantly blotto , to be blunt about it .

He, the husband friend , went off at some point not to return . The wife friend  ” was going crazy” because the husband went missing . They had all three over-stayed their welcome at Sobriety Village by then , long-overstayed it , and had skipped town for the dark wilds of unincorporated Inebriation . The husband turned up sometime later  in a men’s room stall in the station . If you’ve ever been in the men’s room at Union Station you will know what a hell hole it is . I’m half-afraid to go in there during the day and sober . I  have done so only in dire emergencies . Going in there sloshed and  in the evening is a terror unimaginable , or quite in line with the common custom , I suppose .  It all  depends on your point of view  .

Until the 1960s that restroom  was something of an elegant place . There was an attendant always on duty in there wearing a starched white jacket and holding  towels at the ready over his arm . Everyone was , of course , wonderful in those days ,  because those were the Good Old Days .Those days are long gone , though . You may have noticed that . The heyday of Union Station , by the way , were the Good Old Days of the Second World War .

The two women wobbled over from the whiskey tasting soire and sat in the big cushy leather chairs inside the station . Any port in a storm !  In the Good Old Days , anyone could sit in a chair there inside Union Station and relax , perhaps to  contemplate the universe or the exquisite tile work on the walls , or the beamed ceiling , or the designs on the marble floor of the station , or whatever .  Nowadays , though , a sheriff’s deputy approached and told them to leave . Nowadays a weary soul must have a train ticket and, therefore ,  be prepared to verify a destination in order to sit in a cushy comfortable leather chair . The authorities decided to institute this policy to keep the homeless hoards from having a haven for the night .Api and LACMA Oct. 2015 077

Well , rules is rules , so the two inebriated women had to go elsewhere to suffer the effects of their   stupidity    liquid miscalculation.  Meanwhile , the lost husband was either asleep or passed out in the men’s room stall ; he doesn’t remember which , evidently . I didn’t get the story of what happened to this happy couple as the night progressed .

My friend has a sister savior who drove down to LA that night on a rescue mission .  Some of  homeless did , no doubt , that night , the same thing : ask salvation for the night at the Rescue Mission . Oh , I didn’t yet mention that she fell over a whiskey-tasting soire chair , having misjudged the trajectory of her sloshed and bender-bashed body , the dexterity of her feet , and the distance and time to the chair seat . That’s how she got the bruises , she says , but she doesn’t really remember too many of the details . She was , by that time , fried . Her head hit the floor , she is sure . She was bent at the time , of course .  She was zozzled .

I asked her was it scotch she was ‘tasting’ . She looked baffled and said  ” It was whiskey ” indicating , I think , that she didn’t know scotch from bourbon from rye whiskey from Canadian from moonshine .  And  she said that there was some food at the ‘whiskey-tasting’ event , but that she had refused it since she had had a big lunch hours earlier .MINES

Oh , and did I mention that this friend isn’t some dopey teenager or college kid . I won’t tell her age , but she’s old enough to know better . She doesn’t usually drink whiskey . In the last twenty or thirty years I’ve never seen her drink whiskey . Maybe a margarita once in awhile or a  glass of wine or two with dinner .

Oh , I take that back . She had fairly recently developed a liking for cocktails mixed with bourbon . She says she’s off whiskey now , however , for good , after the Union Station fiasco . That’s what she says . That’s what they all say . Better be drunk on life next time , I think , and leave it at that .

I wonder if she knows bourbon is the devil’s juice , too . Wine is fine , as they say , but liquor is quicker .  doctor caricaturechain link


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the burning of washington

This is a Catholic school story again .

I liked to have my classes make flour-and-water maps . A little geography . A little history . A little fun . There’s less and less of that kind of thing going on now in these days of testing , teaching to the test , and testing again . No test for flour-and-water mapping  !

This particular year the students each  chose a state . They made a dough shape of their state and I put the little dough states in an oven in the teachers’ lounge at a low heat to dry out .

In Catholic elementary schools , on Fridays , the school troops over to the church for noon Mass . So we were sitting in the church . One of my students said to me : Do you smell smoke , Mr. H ?

No , I didn’t .

I think I smell smoke , another student said .  I didn’t . I figured that they were grasping for any little distraction . Concentrate on the Mass , I said .

And then there were sirens . A fire truck .  Then more sirens . Fire trucks . Close by .

And then the light bulb went on in my head : I left the states drying in the oven !

I rushed out into a mass of firemen scooting around with extinguishers , walkie talkies . The school was surrounded . Fire crews were unravelling their hoses . It’s just smoke from the oven , one of them reassured  me . No ignition .

No ignition , I told the principal as she rushed into the building . Black smoke billowed out the door as she entered . Open the windows , she said . You did this ? she asked matter-of-factly .   She knew .

It was Washington , I said . It still had cardboard on the bottom and the cardboard caused the smoke .

Washington ? she said .  She looked at me with an unexpectedly tolerant stare . Help me get this smoke out of here , she said . And she was done . She never said another word about it .

The fire department always sends everyone when it’s a school , the pastor said to me as he passed me in the hallway . He was carrying a fire extinguisher . I wonder what happened ? he said to the principal .

It was Washington , she said to him . He looked at her briefly as if he should know what she meant , and then he sped away with his extinguisher .

Good one , Mr. H.  ! , one of my students softly whispered to me later . You burned Washington .
There was a fathomless measure of collegial sympathy in his conspiratorial gaze .


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