Old soldiers never die ; they just fade away . —– Douglas MacArthur
Today in 1945 the first ball -point pens hit the stores in America . The first patent had been taken out in 1888 , and the idea had been bouncing around in Hungary and Argentina and other places earlier . I came upon this little bit of trivia as I was tapping away on my laptop keyboard .
I was watching an old movie yesterday . Someone was typing a letter . I could see the carbon paper there . Carbon paper ? Yeah . That’s how copies were made . I used to use a mimeograph machine at school that used carbon to run copies .
When I started school , once upon a time ago , some of the desks in the classrooms still had a hole in the corner . You know , a hole in which was placed the jar of ink . The old fountain pens needed to suck up some ink . That beats dipping a quill into the ink , I suppose . Also , delinquents had the unique opportunity to dip the pony-tail of the girl in the desk ahead into the ink .
In high school we were required to use ballpoint pens at school but homework had to be done with a fountain pen . Thanks to those crafty Jesuits for that little bit of intrigue . If you were caught with a fountain pen at school it was bad news for you . The idea was to have homework done at home . The idea was to curtail guys ( boys’ school ! ) copying other guys’ homework right before class .
Anyway , we used those fountain pens with little plastic ink cartridges . On hot days these capsules might burst and leave an indelible circle of blue ink staining whatever forever and ever . Some guys wore white shirts with quarter-sized blue stains at the bottom of the pocket until the shirt material finally wore out years later .
In fourth grade , now that I’m thinking of ink , I suddenly remember a time when the teacher left the room for a few minutes and the class spontaneously erupted in an energetic ink fight , hoards of hooligans flicking fountain pen ink at one another . When you flicked the fountain pen , a squirt of ink would spray whomever or whatever happened to be within a few feet of you . I had mine out ready for action , but I couldn’t get the little improvised weapon to work . No ink came out .
And then soon the teacher returned . The whole place was covered with ink splatter . The teacher chewed us all out , of course , and then asked us to be honest . We were told to stand up if we had participated in the melee . Reluctantly , a couple of miscreants stood up , then a few more , then more . I hadn’t actually inked anyone , but only because my pen was out of ink , I guess , or maybe I just didn’t have the proper technique , but I had participated in the action . So I stood up .
I forget what punishment we all got . I don’t remember that part , but I remember that we all had owned up to our short span of stupid behavior . I might have got away with sitting down since I hadn’t actually flung any ink . There were a couple of us who hadn’t been part of the action , though . Lori Powers was one , I think , and most likely another girl , but I can’t remember who it might have been. Both of them had more self- control and/or maturity than the rest of us .
Yeah . So students these days don’t have the option of ink fights during class . Too bad , in a way ; but good , of course , in another way .
The fountain pen incident could not have taken place had we all had ball points instead of fountain pens that fateful day . Wouldn’t have made such a good story , though . Although those early ball points would heat up and leak ink sometimes , too , they didn’t provide such a good temptation to stupid little children as the fountain pens did .
School kids today don’t have the opportunities that we had . No loose ink to flick from a Notebook/laptop/cell phone . Well , on second thought , they bully and harass one another via internet , so maybe things haven’t changed all that much . The technology improves , but human nature stays pretty much the same .
Here I sit in the Pasadena Toyota dealership , sipping coffee while I wait for my 60,000 mile service to be done . I know that I’m paying for the coffee they’re providing , somehow , in my service bill ; but hey , what are you gonna do ? It’s comfortable here . I could watch TV if I wanted to . I can wander around looking at all the new vehicles that I can’t afford . One can dream , though , eh ?
There is a woman sitting across from me who is loudly talking business on her cell phone . She is evidently organizing a large meeting on Sunday to discuss funding . I feel almost like interrupting her to ask what the funding is for , but my momma brought me up better than that , so I just sit here quietly . Now she’s “just touching base ” with someone about Sunday . There seems to be some resistance coming from the other side . The woman is laughing a phony-sounding staccato laugh in response .
It is , apparently , the caterer on the phone . Only thirty-five people are coming . It seems as though the caterer wants to back out . Why , I don’t know . ” I’ll give you your money back ,” the woman in the waiting area says . ” Everyone knows you’re a fine cook , ” she says . Another forced laugh .
Cook ? I’d back out , too . Cook ! I’d take my knives and leave . ” I’m not just a dabbler in the kitchen , ” I’d tell her . ” My culinary degrees should be worth something ! Cook , indeed ! ” (I have to imagine what the person on the other side is saying . )
Maybe I should point out to this woman sitting across from me the error of her ways . It’s a public conversation , after all , isn’t it ? She’s broadcasting her voice all over the sitting area . A little free advice never hurt anyone anyway , I guess . Right ? I could offer some free consultation . I’m sure that she would appreciate input from some of the rest of us who are sitting around here .
No , some of the others have wandered away to more remote locations . The old guy in suspenders is now out on the lot looking at 4 X 4s . The young Asian woman has settled a ways away over in front of the TV. Another guy on his laptop has stuck around but he has a scowl on his face . Aren’t his eyes narrowing ? I think he may feel an urge to address the situation with his own inimitable style of assertive response .
I asked the Toyota service rep Lou over there in the office if he can speed up the service on my car . He said that he couldn’t possibly do that . It takes whatever time it takes , he said . Have another cup of coffee , he suggested , or some hot chocolate .
“Can I wait in here until the shooting stops ?” , I asked . ” I hope all of this glass around us is bullet-proof .” Lou didn’t answer .
I practice what’s called defensive living ; it’s like defensive driving , only a somewhat broader concept .
I walked into a Big Five sporting goods store today . I wander over there about every six months or so , just to see if they might have something that I desperately need that happens to be on sale . Today I bought four tent pegs . Ada and I are planning a camping trip to Death Valley with a couple of friends . I don’t want our old tent blowing away in a strong breeze for the want of enough tent pegs .
There was one customer ahead of me at the cash register . I waited patiently , standing to the customer’s right . Evidently I had done it all wrong .
” For future reference , ” the store clerk at the register said after the other customer left and when I laid my tent pegs on the counter , ” the line begins over there .” She pointed left . I was at that moment the only customer in the store. There was no line of customers .
The clerk had pointed out this piece of important information to me without smiling . She spoke matter-of- factly , just for my own knowledge , I guess , so that I could avoid this particular gaffe in the future .
For future reference . I wanted to say , ” Haven’t you been paying attention ? People are dropping like flies this year . Fats Domino today . Tom Petty not long ago . Leonard Cohen . And that’s just the music industry .
Didn’t she realize that Trump has already sold the country out to the god-forsaken Muscovites , with the help of American evangelical Christians , no less , aided by party-obsessed GOP politicians with their hands folded over their mouths or ears or eyes . But , before the Russians will be able to fully claim their prize , we might all be dragged into a nuclear war . And , that can’t have a good end.
So , don’t bother telling me about standing to the left of the register instead of to the right of the register to wait in line even when no other customers are present and there is , in a sane world and in rational reality , actually no line . I probably won’t be visualizing over the next few months my strategy for next time that I buy something at that store .
Oh , I don’t take the ” For future reference ” admonition personally . I’m sure that she didn’t mean it in any offensive way . I think that she most likely was simply establishing her authority over her little cash register area kingdom , letting me know who’s boss .
We should respect the working person.
And by the way , for another thing , Congress will probably approve those gun silencers when memory of the Las Vegas shooting fades a bit so that gun manufacturers can make a little more money . Those politicians , Republicans and Democrats , may approve inter-state recognition of concealed weapon laws too , so that Arizona boys, for example , can wander into California with hidden firearms despite the tougher CA rules .
And of course there’s that little spat about health care. Short future there for affordable health insurance for millions of us , it seems . And Congress today , by one vote , just defeated the ban on forced arbitration instead of having the right to sue corporations .
That store clerk assumes a future . Good for her , I say . Optimism is nice.
For future reference , nevertheless , I’m moving to Dogpatch if I can get my paperwork in order . I may run for mayor . Maybe even Lower Slobbovia will do , if Dogpatch doesn’t pan out .
I was surprised to hear , recently , that there is little or no racism or bigotry in this country . We Americans however , I’m informed , have been brainwashed by the fake media to think that that kind of bad stuff exists here, here in the least racist country in the world . After all , look at all of the ethnic restaurant food choices we have !
That piece of flawed wisdom from the son of journalists , no less . Well , to be fair , his parents had practiced their craft decades ago when , I guess I have to assume , the media was not fake and all unwelcome news was not immediately labelled as being fake and phony as it is so often today .
Things ain’t what they used to be and never were .——— Will Rogers
It’s a stroke of good luck , therefore , that my shallow stab at the journalism trade , as I will heretofore describe , went nowhere . Wait a minute ! Sorry , heretofore is the opposite of what I meant to say in the previous sentence . I meant heretofore to say , instead , subsequently . Yeah , subsequently . Or postliminarily ? How about ensuingly ? Followingly ? No. Let’s move along.
In the following paragraphs I will briefly tell my tale . Incessantly .
When I was an undergrad at UCLA ( note: in another century ) I thought it might be a good idea to join the staff of the school newspaper , The Daily Bruin , so I wandered into the office one day . I should say , more professionally , that I wandered into the news room . Tried to talk to the busy people at the City Desk , or whatever it was ; talked to the managing Editor , or whoever he was .
” Say , I’d like to volunteer at the paper , ” I said . He hesitated about six seconds . Maybe seven.
” We’ve got a followup story about a professor who started a study in Guatemala ten years ago . The ten year anniversary is next week . Can you interview him and get me a follow-up story by Thursday ? ”
” Sure , ” I said .
So I assume that I was instantly a journalist . Unpaid , of course , and completely untrained , but , hey ! Dan the Daily Bruin reporter ! An ink slinger , a newshound !
I immediately hunted down that particular professor and set up an appointment for an interview . Meanwhile , I researched the ten -year old story in The Daily Bruin about the innovative plan and the ten-year grant that he had received to do whatever it was he claimed that he would study or do in Guatemala. Alright ! Onward and upward in my journalism career !
I walked through the hallowed halls of Haines Hall or wherever the professor’s office was , and sat down with my notebook on my knee , pencil poised , ready to hear the tale .
” No program , ” he said . That was his first comment. ” It was like the Wild West out there at that time . People getting murdered every day . I pulled my team out of there , ” he said .
” After how long ? ” I asked .
” Right away ,” he said . ” We didn’t even try to begin the project . We jumped on a plane and came home . Too dangerous . I returned the grant money and we forgot all about it and here I am today , ” he said . And then he smiled . The smile told me he wasn’t really interested in an abandoned idea from ten years ago .
I wrote up something . Whatever it was the City Editor didn’t like it ; tossed in the trash in front of me . ” Some stories just don’t work ,” he said . He smiled . His smile looked to me to be a lot like the professor’s smile .
The City Editor was right , too . I’m not disputing that . A real reporter would , maybe , have found an “angle” to pursue , and would have written something interesting and worthwhile , maybe about the ins and outs of grant money for arcane projects , or perhaps tie in a story about the political/social landscape of Guatemala , then and now , or maybe write about what the profession of teaching in a major university is all about , the possibilities , academic projects , and requirements unknown to the general public , or some such thing .
At any rate , that one attempted stab at journalism was enough to do me in for good . I decided that I was not cut out to be a reporter . And it’s a good thing , too , because , as I understand the way things are , from reading Facebook and listening to the President and some excessively -passionate TV commentators and a few others , reporters are nowadays just shills for the big media corporations controlled by mega-billionaires who tell us what to think .
So I say : Tell it to Sweeney !
Actually , to be a little unsmiling about this stuff , I think more people should start thinking for themselves . That might be an appropriate innovation . Critical thinking ! How about that ? Take whatever it is you see or hear with a grain of salt , consider the source , etc. , and use the old noggin’ to decide what’s what . As they say : You have a right to your own opinion but not to your own facts .
And , by the way , about that racism and bigotry notion aforementioned ………….Well , .as they used to say in Texas : That dog don’t hunt .
The facts are always friendly . Every bit of evidence one can acquire, in any area , leads one that much closer to what is true . ———- Carl Rogers
That’s 30 for now. Or , for you neophytes : Over and out . ( More correctly : Out . ——- Over means you’re waiting for a reply and out means you’ve ended the conversation . So ‘over and out’ doesn’t make much sense . Just saying .)
1. Is the bar tender here ?
3. What , was that the wrong answer ? [ alternate : Should I have said DiMaggio ? ]
4. Well , I’ve been a lawyer for fifteen years too , but you don’t see me doing this all the time do you ? ( physical joke )
5. It’s only twenty-one thirty now .
6. Sorry , Father , I thought you said goat .
7. Well , you heard him . He’s an incorrigible liar .
8. No , you ride the camel into town to find a woman .
9. No , that’s okay . The smartest man in the world took my backpack .
10. I have an American for a neighbor and you have an Indian for a neighbor .
Bonus ( 11 ). If Princess Margaret were here we could’ve saved the Rolls .
Someday I might need gas money to get to Texas , too . You never know . I’m too old to pretend to have a baby with my wife waiting in the car . Why Texas ? I think it was a sick , or dying ? , father down there . And no gas to get there . And , of course , no money .
I should give you a few dollars because you asked ? I guess if you don’t ask , you probably won’t get anything .
Decades ago , when the Hari Krishnas , and the Moonies , and the Born Agains , and others , infested the L.A. airport , I was there with my old friend Fred Kail . Why we were there I don’t remember . Neither of us had any money in those days to fly anywhere . We must have been there to pick someone up . Doesn’t matter .
All of these askers-of-money seemed to be dressed well , in crisp white suits and polished shoes , and they carried clip boards ; even the Krishnas ; even the Moonies . Well , at first the Krishnas wore their orange robes , enraptured smiles , and , maybe , occasionally , hopped a little . But , I suppose , that wasn’t working for them . Some head Hari in charge maybe talked to a marketing guy . Get a crisp white suit , he must have said ; maybe a fedora hat to cover the shaved head ? ; and don’t hop …… and don’t mention Rama or white rice . The Moonies got on board , too : white suits ; clipboards .
They all looked like they may work for the airport . What is it , a survey ? An airport promotion of some kind , or a security check ? They would approach just-arrivers , especially foreign people arriving with confused expressions , and begin their hurried spiel , holding the clipboard as if it should be respected , as if the confused traveler were being spoken to in some official capacity . Was it Customs ? The airport broadcast continuous announcements : These solicitors don’t work for the airport . You don’t have to give them anything .
Fred and I were walking into one of the terminals when we were approached by one of these anonymous beggars shrouded in white . This one was a cute girl . Maybe in light of that Fred reached for a bill to give her . I tried in that brief moment to dissuade him . He had a fiver in his hand . What , are you crazy , Fred ? A weak moment ? She’s a Moonie , man ! He held the five dollar bill out to her .
” Most people give ten dollars , ” she said .
Wow ! Yeah . Pushing her luck just a little bit . Fred instantly flicked the fiver back into his pocket . ” I’m not most people , young lady , ” he said . And we were off . I was reassured . At least old Fred hadn’t completely lost his mind .
So , I’m pumping twenty dollars worth of gas yesterday into my car in the mid-day heat , minding my own business , when a young guy , maybe twenty-two , twenty-three , walks over . I’ve seen him approach a couple of other gas pumping people on his way across the lot . ” Meaning no disrespect …..” he says to me . His opening gambit .
I’m not in a good mood that day , you should understand . Too hot . I’m looking at his tatoos . He’s evidently covered with tattoos . How much do those cost , buddy ? , I’m thinking . Maybe you could have saved the tattoo money for your needed gas . He looks healthy , strong , despite the hang-dog expression , the ” Meaning no disrespect , sir … ” ploy . What , are we in the Army ? Sir ? That’s supposed to sound respectful , to impress me ? Melt my stone-cold heart ? I’m supposed to be awed by this guy’s pathetic circumstances . Now , it’s my responsibility to buy his gas ? Why would that be ?
I’d rather have the fruit seller on the freeway off ramp , or the beggars with the cardboard signs : ” Veteran God Bless You anything helps homeless ” Once in a long while I hand them a dollar , although I’m not under an illusion that the dollar helps . I think the homeless veteran god blesser should go to a social agency or an established charity or a church and get the help that will keep him/her off the roadways with the scribbled bullshit cardboard signs .
So I told the gas station beggar , a little too firmly , that I wasn’t going to give him any money . He walked away . He’ll find some sucker soon enough . I stepped around the other side of the pump and asked some man with a Volvo , ” Will you pay for my gas ? ” He didn’t laugh . I could see his little ‘crazy person’ antenna immediately go up . He shook his head solemnly and looked away . I could see that he didn’t know if I was joking or not . Can’t be too careful these days.
Maybe I wasn’t joking . Maybe I should start asking . Ask and you shall receive . If you don’t ask you won’t get . It’d be easier for me just to canvass the people at the gas station when I go for gas . Won’t someone pay for my gas ? I have to get home . My cat’s sick and I need to replace the front garden hose . I’m trying to upgrade the modem for my DSL . Anything helps . I want to get to Oregon next fall . Need gas desperately . Sir . How about a few dollars ? Meaning no disrespect .
I was walking , once , with my Danish friend , Ivan , when someone asked for money . ” You’ve chosen your lifestyle , ” Ivan told him , “not me . I’ve chosen my own lifestyle . ” The poor guy was listening . Ivan speaks authoritatively . ” I don’t ask you to finance my lifestyle , ” Ivan said . ” You shouldn’t ask me to finance your lifestyle . ” And we walked away . At least the guy didn’t call us ‘sir’ and make something up about needing to get to Texas . Or dress up in a crisp white suit and carry a clipboard .