Monthly Archives: February 2018

career plans

Sometimes we do things against our better judgement . Oh , maybe you don’t ; but some of us do . In my case , several examples come to mind : Agreeing to go to Vegas with friends of ours on the busiest traffic day of the year ; renting our little canyon house to   a guy who I had a very strong sense from the beginning was a total flake ; volunteering to solicit donations from every house on our block for a cancer charity ………………..

The subject of our study today is something that happened way back during the last century . It’s another example of going against my better judgement ; but , sometimes in life we compromise . This example is no big deal , really . It’s just that the memory came back to me and I’d like to share it .

I had graduated from UCLA by then but I had no overall career plan . My mother was concerned about me. She had a friend who told her about a project at USC where , for free , a guy could get some help to develop a career plan . You go over there and take a test , my mother said , that might help give me an idea about what to do with my life .

I had taken one of those aptitude surveys in high school . The entire class answered several written questions and then we were given  suggestions about what we should do when we grew up .  I said somewhere in the survey that I liked working with people . I don’t remember much else about the thing  , except that one of the recommended suggestions for a career for  me at the conclusion of the whole thing was : undertaker .

Likes working with people .

I turned down my mother’s suggestion about the USC gig  at first . I told her about that old  high school aptitude test , about the undertaker idea , about how I would rather not go through that again . I didn’t want to be a mortician , after all . But she persisted , and I figured I’d do it for her because she’d worry about me a little less . It was against my better judgement , of course , but I called and set up an appointment . There was no cost , after all .

On the designated day and time I showed up at an office on the USC campus and checked in . I’m here for the aptitude test , I told the secretary .

Soon I was escorted into another room by a young woman . She walked me into a white room that was covered walls-and-ceiling with acoustical tiles . There was a large mirror on one wall . Two armless chairs were placed facing one another in the center of the room . There was nothing else in the room .

” Sit down ,” she said .

I sat and she sat on the other chair . Ours knees were inches apart .

” I’m here to take the test , ” I said .

” Tell me about the test , ” she said.  I told her that I had expected to take a written test . ” You appear nervous ,” she said next . ” Tell me why you are nervous”.

” Look at this room “, I said . ” Look at how these chairs are placed. Our knees are almost touching . I just came here to take a written survey . Yeah , I’m a little nervous . Aren’t you ? ”

” Why do you feel you need to take a written survey ? ” she said .

” That’s what I was led to believe by my mother who is the reason I’m here “, I said .

” So you’re here because of your mother “, she said . ” Tell me about that “.

This woman and I were about the same age .  She was a student of psychology , no doubt ,  practicing Rogerian therapy techniques, I suppose , and I was today’s guinea pig .  I didn’t think that she was very good at it .  I imagined that her professor was on the other side of the mirror , watching . She continued on , asking probing questions , offering no information . I pushed for the written part of this and she probed my apparently intense need to have things in writing . I mentioned the fact that I was here only at my mother’s urging , and she probed my deep-seated need to please my mother . I could almost see her psychology-student heart beating faster : Ah ! Mother issues !

She said something about my living with my mother  and questioned my being overly influenced by her . I think that she thought she had hit pay dirt —- momma’s boy —- the source of all my problems ! She  pursued this theme for quite a while  after she got off of the need- to- have- things- in -writing theme.

” I don’t live with my mother “, I said then , and her composure suddenly collapsed . It was a very subtle collapse , granted , but she couldn’t hide it . Her body language told the tale . Her practiced- professional smile wavered . Maybe she was instantly aware of the observing professor on the other side of the glass as her instantly devised theories in this case were suddenly undermined .

And then the hour was up . I didn’t see her check her watch . She stood up . I looked at my watch and saw that it had been exactly an hour since we began this little verbal undertaking  . I don’t know how she knew exactly when to finish .  She thanked me .Buster Keaton From Between the 1920s and '30s (32)

” Next time you can take the written part “, she said .

” Oh , there isn’t going to be a next time “, I said . She seemed genuinely surprised by that comment .

” How did it go over at USC ? ” my mother asked me later .

” Undertaker “, I said .

” So , it didn’t help “.

I decided eventually to become a teacher .






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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 bentat 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 . 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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one door

I haven’t contributed to the #ThursdayDoors project for a long while . I am always overwhelmed by the doors presented . Thanks , Norm , for the pleasure of peeking week by week at the fine displays .

I’ve had this door sitting in my computer for a few years , now , so it’s high time that I kick it out —- Thursday or no Thursday .

POLAND xmas 2017 009.jpgThere she is : Lady Justice , I guess , guarding the entrance . I don’t know the answer to the question ” what entrance ? “.  Maybe I don’t want to know . Is it a mere bank office ? Maybe it’s some government benefits office ?  I think if I ever pop inside and look around I’d either be immediately thrown out , which would be interesting , or I’d be disappointed .

I’ve been walking past this door from time to time for a couple of years now , wondering what’s on the other side  . It’s tucked away in a little alcove in an otherwise nondescript building in the center of the city of Szczecin  , Poland . Maybe it’s a police building . Maybe it’s a law office . Might well be a courthouse , I suppose . Whatever it is , I prefer to leave it a mystery so the imagination can wander and I can continue to wonder a bit longer .


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under the bridge

Trolls live under bridges . Billy goats live under bridges . Hitchhikers sleep under bridges and some stay to live under bridges . When they stay we call them homeless . Not all homeless live under bridges .

Trolls don’t live in the USA ( as far as I know ) . Trolls live in Scandinavia , I think . Correct me if I’m wrong . Trolls live other places , too , I think , generally in fantasy lands .  My brother-in-law says they live in Western Europe , mostly . Unless you’re talking about internet trolls , who live in their parents’ basements , he said .horse tow truck.jpg

Speaking of trolls , hitchhiking went downhill after Charlie Manson , I told Ada . She, on the other hand ,  suggested that it went downhill after the movie  ” Hitchhiker ” . Trolls don’t hitchhike , as far as I know . And homeless don’t hitchhike much either , as far as I know ; but I don’t pretend to know much , so take all of this with a grain of salt . Well , most people in their right mind don’t hitchhike any more , I suppose . Too much fear of one another these days . Watch out for those homeless , too , by the way .  And those aliens . And people who come right up on our porches to steal our mail . And ………… It’s not those creatures in the caves and mountains who scare us these days ; it’s those around us .

[side note : Merriam – Webster says a troll is a dwarf or a giant in Scandinavian mythology that lives in caves or on mountains . Word first used in 1616 .]

And then there are those other aliens , of course . You know , the moon-Martian type . Well , according to a neighbor of mine they’re out there . He goes out to the desert and waits for them . One day they will beam down , or whatever they do , and pick him up . Bound to happen , he says . He watches carefully . I told him to have toothpaste and a toothbrush in his pocket , just in case , but he’s too excited about his upcoming space travel to consider tooth brushes . If he disappears one fine day I’ll know what happened .

Which reminds me of the old man who used to like to crawl under his house to get away from people to take naps and relax under there deep into the crawlspace . One day he disappeared , but actually he had had a heart attack under the house  and died . Eventually a young couple bought his old house at a good price , but no one knew until years later that the guy was still lying under there , presumably dried up , but certainly mostly forgotten . His son , who eventually  sold the house , had been wondering for years what in the world had happened to the old man  .art deco poster

You might  ask : How do you know, Dan ,  that the old geezer liked to crawl under the house to get away from things ?  Good ; you’re paying attention . Believe me , I know , but I can’t reveal my sources . Let’s just say a little bird told me .

I have a gnome in my back garden who might share a few secrets if he spoke , but he doesn’t speak . And there are three tikis out there hanging around , too , who I’m pretty sure converse  loquaciously when I’m not around ; but , not to each other , I suspect , not to each other .

random quote : Certainly it constitutes bad news when the people who agree with you are buggier than batshit .  Philip K. Dick

Well , you got through this post . You’ve only yourself to blame for reading this nonsense .  Oh , well !  At least it was short . It’s all water under the bridge at this point anyway . And if you’re under that bridge , watch out for trolls .balloner 1898



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hula hoops

I was thinking about hula hoops today . I can do that because I’m retired and I don’t feel that I have to use my inimitable brain power to  change the world .

I remember when hula hoops came to town. It was a sunny day in 1958 .The  Clancy family lived across the street and the Clancy girl , about my age , got a hula hoop . It was a sunny day and neighbors crowded around to watch as she put the thing over her head and down around her waist and she tried to spin it with her hips . Within weeks it seemed as though everyone had a hula hoop . The fad caught on quickly but it didn’t last long .

I don’t remember the Clancy girl’s name . I suppose guys didn’t pay much attention to girls at that young age . Her brother Tom lent me her bike once, though , a couple of years later , after the Clancy clan  had moved to another part of town . They lived at the top of a hill and I somehow lost control of her bike on the way down .

Tom walked me back to his house and we left the bike there in a heap at the bottom of the hill .  His mother put bactine on my cuts and scrapes .

The bike got it worse in the crash than I did , I guess , according to Tom Clancy’s sister , who proceeded to practice her considerable assertive -elocution skills aimed in my direction and immediate vicinity for the next several  minutes . The words “my bike” came up in several of the references she used  during her verbal onslaught  . I don’t remember the rest of the words ; just the tone .

I think that was almost the last time I saw her , whatever her name was . She and I  had settled into some form of child detente with a non-proliferation addendum after she eventually calmed down at her mother’s urging . I felt bad about the bike . It did get pretty banged up as it slid along the asphalt . It may have hit a curb , too , and flipped itself over a couple of times . We were moving pretty fast down that particular hill . It was , after all , my fault that the bike got banged up .

That same year Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union as he flew a U-2 CIA spy plane at high speed as it  took high-resolution photos of Russian military installations 70,000 feet below . Eisenhower was president of the US at the time and Krushchev was the leader over there in the commie stronghold on the mysterious other side of the Iron Curtain.  Powers didn’t use his CIA-provided poison pill when his plane crashed and he was captured . Eisenhower, embarrassed ,  decided to admit that the US had been violating Russian airspace .gas-maked-children

The world seemed to be on the brink of an all-out nuclear war during those Cold War years , but we kids spun hula hoops and rode bikes and played kickball and slid along on Slip-and-Slides and waited for summer vacation and played Cowboys-and-Indians and didn’t worry at all about missile gaps or bomber gaps . Yeah , we practiced air raid drills on Friday when the sirens went off , but that was more fun than anything else , a short break from arithmetic class and spelling lessons .

We were kids . What did we know ? The nuns told us to keep away from the windows during a nuclear attack , because the broken glass might be dangerous . And to keep our heads under the desk , of course . I think that we were mainly just waiting for recess .



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Mary Chapin Carpenter : When Halley Came To Jackson — The Immortal Jukebox

This one is worth sharing . Well , all of the Immortal Jukebox is worth sharing .


‘It’s not every night a comet comes around’ The current President of France Emmanuel Macron is a man, as you might expect, of Gallic flair and charm as well as vaulting ambition. Un homme pour Le Grand Geste. So when he visits other World leaders and presents a gift it’s not going to be a […]

via Mary Chapin Carpenter : When Halley Came To Jackson — The Immortal Jukebox

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hitchhiking without charles manson

I used to do a fair amount of hitchhiking around L.A. and a few times up the coast as far as Oregon . In the sixties I wasn’t the lone hitcher on the road. Some places , like Santa Cruz and State Street in Santa Barbara , had waiting lists . I’d arrive at a good spot , maybe a corner , and see only one or two others. But behind nearby bushes was a crowd waiting their turns . You’re behind him . You’re behind the barefoot dude with the flute . You’re behind the two dudes going to Alaska . You’re behind all them , man , so wait out of sight .

There were wierdos on the road, of course , and horrendous things happened. A girl up in the bay area had her forearms chopped off by some sicko who picked her up. Things like that . But , generally , people still stopped to pick me up , or me and a buddy , or the longhaired pothead behind the bush waiting his turn with his dog , or the stoned pregnant girl with her dog . Signs near prisons said don’t pick up hitchhikers . But we were  picked up anyway and driven up the highway toward where ever our cardboard sign said : San Francisco , San Jose ,Portland . Sometimes they got tired of us fast and said that  they were only going into town , or had to turn at the next crossroad , or were just going a few blocks . We hoped we’d be dumped at a good hitching spot , dug out our cardboard , and thanked the driver . Hitching was generally accepted and hitchhikers were everywhere .

And then Charlie Manson came around .  Charlie Manson killed hitchhiking in California . There were Mansons running around killing random people in 1969 and ever after , holed up in cars , standing on road shoulders and under freeway bridges , thumbs out , cold blooded , and evil-minded . There were sweet young things like Linda Kasabian and Katie Krenwinkle who might have looked harmless but who had execrably evil hearts and who had Tex and Charlie in the back seat or waiting at the next stop .

Random Killings done just for the thrill of killing , or in demented conceits of causing chaos and revolution  spooked people that August . The residual fear seeped into the L.A. air , joined the other ominous particles of pollution , and is still there . The world was now everlastingly full of these perverts who might kill you as you minded your own business , as you sat on your sofa watching your sitcom ,  as you breathed deeply in your otherwise safe neighborhood , living what you thought , ante  Manson , was your safely mundane existence .

It wasn’t so safe anymore in your safe neighborhood , in your home , certainly in your car cruising a Manson- tainted world , breathing Manson-tainted air , with your windows rolled up , of course , and with the doors locked.

There was trouble on the road . The height of stupidity would be to invite it in , to slow down for the hitcher , to ask for trouble. Every man for himself now . Even once in awhile now if the urge to stop , to help out a stranger , to have some company  or to do a good deed  arose ,  it had to be suppressed. Drivers felt in their bones that they shouldn’t make the ante  : there’s a killer on the road .

Why take a chance ?  That would be stupid. Scenario : Hi , I’m Susan Atkins , and this is my friend  Leslie Van Houten . Get in . How far ya goin’ ?   Wanna get wasted ?

I couldn’t get a ride to save my life after Charlie Manson . I know , I know , what am I whining about !

You know , a long time ago , being crazy meant something . Now everyone’s crazy. —-Charlie Manson


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