Category Archives: humor

talkin english language

TWO CENTSI want to write this one in honor of my daughter-in-law ,who understands the mechanics of  the English language far better than I do . She has an advanced degree in American English , and she knows the ins and outs , all the ins and outs , no doubt , of grammar . I used to know some of it , a long time ago  , but never to such a degree .

She hears in conversation and reads in print the misuses of tenses and a multitude of other corruptions of the lingo and I know it bothers her . Her standard mantra is ” You can’t say that !” and I’ve spent somewhere between fifteen and twenty years being told , ” You can’t say that ! ” because whatever I had uttered was evidently utterly disgraceful and unacceptable , given the written rules of the English language . Oh , yeah , there are rules . Lots of rules . I hadn’t  even known that there are so many tenses , for example . The rules are  recorded in scholarly books and evidently should  be adhered to . At least , that’s the way I understand it .

Well , you have to know that my daughter-in-law is a  Polish person , born and raised and living in Poland .  I’m the first “native speaker ” who she had ever met . Should I have written “whom” she had ever met ? Now I’m a bit self -conscious about this stuff . Oh , if only I coulda  remembered the grammar what I was taught to me in high school !

Jumpin’ Jupiter !   I knows I gots a grammar handbook somewheres  in my garage unless I threw it out at some point . Maybe  I should look for it . Ah , but I don’t think that even that single thin volume would help me rise to my daughter-in-law’s level of competence .

One time she said to me , ” You can’t say that ! ” when I hadn’t said anything at all . I pointed this discrepancy out to her , of course . : ” I haven’t even said anything this time “, but she was referring to the Guinness shirt I was wearing . Evidently the saying on the front of the shirt wasn’t quite grammatically correct .donut hole size

” But , they said it ! ” I said , so there’s no use declaring that it can’t be said . That’s my default response — a pathetic  wailing  in the unschooled wilderness . I’ve had to reiterate and reiterate and reiterate over the years that potentially silly notion : when something’s already been said it’s been said —–  the cat’s already out of the verbal bag , the chicken’s already flown the coop ; no use closing the barn door after the horse is gone ; no use crying over spilt milk. Ah , but my having that attitude might just be why my use of the language maybe ain’t so perfect .mark twain and chickens

I was in Poland before I even met Daughter-in-Law , having dinner with Ada’s friend What’s -his-Name and the  girlfriend of What’s his-Name . The girlfriend had at the time a daughter over in England studying at Oxford. The conversation turned to language and I made one of my typical statements of how Americans don’t really care much  one way or another if people use correct grammar so long as they can be  understood . This woman , whom I ain’t had never met before that nohow  , went off on what I considered a decidedly anti-American rant beginning with the words : ” That’s what’s wrong with Americans ” . She did a five minute speech about how Americans don’t care about nothin’ , and she blathered  on and on . I thought that it was a bit weird because I had never met the woman before .  I wanted to point out the apparent fact that I’m American , but I held my tongue . She knew that anyway , and I let her spew out her inside knowledge of my country , having herself never been to America . Ah , she was proud of her English-educated daughter , of course , so I let her off the hook because of that and kept quiet .thanksgiving-goes-crazy

My daughter-in-law explains to me that you know , you cant’say this or that because that’s obviously conditional past perfect , and I had just used this incorrectly as if it were , what ? , unconditional perfect continuous non-denominational superlative . You can’t say that !  That should be clear , right ?  It’s in all the books ! Besides , it’s a dangling modifier and participles shouldn’t be cavorting with gerunds , especially not in past perfect ! That might be conditional , though . I’m not really sure . I made my mind up , because of this determined instruction from the English language scholar , to try from now on to be future perfect — if there is such a thing , although I’m a little tense thinking about it .man newspaper chair 1880

I began by saying that this post is in honor of my daughter-in-law with the American English advanced degree . She went on to acquire a PhD , by the way , with a different focus , and she speaks at least four languages fluently , but those achievements are well  beyond the scope of this post , so let’s stick to the topic at hand . I truly admire someone with such an intense need for knowledge in any field of study who has the smarts to pursue their goal and who goes for it with diligent passion . I thank her for using me as a “native speaker” resource , too . That must have been extremely frustrating for her over the years . Many of my answers are ,” Well, you can use it either way “, when she’s trying to pin down the correct usage of some word or phrase . There’s got to be a one correct usage , right ? But , I try to tell her , Americans don’t care as much about correct usage as she does and they tend to use it either way .

So , maybe  that woman with the scholar at Oxford was right after all : that’s what’s wrong with America  ! I can live with that . ford truck




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boggs and mc burney and other fond memories


I used to go to a shop called Boggs and McBurney for auto parts in the late 1960s when I had my Opel . It was in Santa Monica somewhere . I can visualize it’s location but I don’t remember the street . I think it was near a little Italian restaurant called The Broken Drum ( You Can’t Beat It ). I never ate there , as far as I recall  . No , on second thought , The Broken Drum ( You Can’t Beat It ) was on Wilshire Blvd. A few times I ate at Zucky’s ,  a large coffee shop also on Wilshire . I’m 97 %  sure that it was on Wilshire , but I’d have to go back and take a look . I know where it was , but none of those places are there anymore and I haven’t been around Santa Monica for quite some time and I’ve forgotten the sequence of streets .milkman 1960

I went to a restaurant down on Pico called Pickle Bill’s once or twice with my boss at Redman Van and Storage . [ Or should I say for the benefit of my daughter-in-law the American English language scholar , ” I should hadda went  ” or ” I had should’ve gone to a restaurant…. ” I don’t remember the cumulative past-perfect subjunctive participle rule , or is it ( Or had been it ? ) the conditional retroactive future past -perfect . I’m pretty sure , at any rate , that the past-perfect tense is involved , unless the exclusionary rule applies here. Or , should I say rather ” Should it have applied ” ? Definitely  not  ” shoulda had it ” . I’ll have to look that up in my English grammar rule handbook which may be  packed somewhere in my garage . Another alternative solution to this ( grammar and usage )conundrum is ( at Daughter-in- Law’s suggestion ) to contact my London-raised  British/American buddy William . He would set us straight right away , she thinks . But he was educated in England , I know  , and what do Brits savvy about everday  American  lingo anyhows , I wonder .]

Pickle Bill’s, at any rate ,  had sawdust on the floor and served hot dogs , french fries , and who knows what else .  The guy who hired me to work in the warehouse at Redman Van and Storage , one of the front -office suits , liked Pickle Bill’s and for some reason dragged me along with him for lunch there once or twice .boy and dog 1920

He  had originally intended to hire my brother Tom for the warehouse assistant job  . He liked Tom better than he liked me , but Tom went off to the Army right at the time that he was supposed to have started work at Redman . Apparently the Army doesn’t like to wait around after they issue orders . So I was hired instead as pinch hitter .

The Navy is of the same general mind set , evidently , as the Army  . I have a letter that my dad wrote to his fiance ( my mom ) while a train was taking him to Washington D.C. from San Francisco in 1944 . Evidently my dad-to-be had arranged a date with his sweetheart for the days when  his ship would be  in San Francisco , the Morton having temporarily returned from some of those horrendous battles out in the Pacific . He intended to take a train up to Seattle , where my mom-to-be was working at the time , but some  admiral or other had a different idea . My dad-to-be’s letter , written on the train to Washington D. C. , is an apology that includes a statement to the effect that when the Navy says you go , you go .

Another Santa Monica spot was a little place where you could go for clam chowder or chili . That’s all they served . It was called The Chowder Call . And , now that I’m thinking of it , there was a cafeteria called The Seven Seas . It was on Ocean Boulevard , I think . My dad would take us there every so often and we kids loved it because we could pick and choose whatever we wanted from the several items spread out along the counter .

Santa Monica changed to one -way streets decades ago . The streets are congested nowadays and the type of people who hang out on them  have changed too.  It’s just not the same laid-back type of a place that  it used to be . It’s changed ,  like most everywhere else has , I suppose . If Boggs and McBurney still sold auto parts there it would now be all but  impossible to pull right up to the curb , park , and pop in for a part . Well, to be honest , they seldom had the parts that I needed for my old Opel . ” We’ll have to send to Germany for it ,” they liked to tell me . I sort of always half-believed them . Opel’s are German Ford’s  after all , and so I’d come around a few days later with high hopes and a penny or two in my pocket for the parking meter .



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some liechtenstein shots

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Independence Day

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oh , my , fourth of july

Usually , I’d celebrate . The 4th of July is a glorious holiday . Always we have spent the day gathering , organizing games of softball , barbequeing , and then watching fireworks displays . Even in Poland Ada and I managed to acquire some American flag napkins and  paraphenalia and in past years we held little celebrations of our freedom and pride in country .

I’m sorry to say that Trump ruined that for me this year . Many of my friends are Trump supporters , and I see some sense in their  positions . They are sensible , intelligent people . They are or aren’t blind to his personal crudeness , rudeness , and coarseness as a human being , but they support him anyway .

To me , Trump is the half-crazy guy on the corner complaining about the government , the Mexicans , the immigrants taking our jobs and making a mess of everything , the damn foreigners and the Muslims out to kill us all , and  high taxes . Only , Trump is President and , theoretically , he is in command of inside information from our country’s intelligence agencies , and advice from the smartest people available , and he should have the weight of responsibility for everyone in the nation on his mind , but he doesn’t read or study reports or care about facts . He shoots from the hip and changes his mind from day to day and doesn’t seem to really care about anything or anyone who doesn’t obsequeously praise his every move and utterance . He crudely attacks those who don’t .

He should be representing all of us in USA , but he seeks to represent only those sycophants who profess to adore him . Until they don’t . He demonizes anyone who expresses any opposition whatsoever to whatever crap he flings. He demonizes even the Canadian Prime Minister, for example , who says simply and directly ( and politely ) that Canada will not be pushed around (by Trump) .

This Presidency is  not representing America or American ideals.  . A national policy of criminalizing would-be immigrants and asylum seekers, systematically taking children away from parents with no thought or plan of returning them ? Are you kidding me ? Allowing  environmental regulations to be disregarded , allowing polluters and financial opportunists to run unopposed , refusing to stand up for students who have been scammed by crooked schools , not standing up for the poor or the oppressed , in fact , insulting them ,  but strenuously defending corporate interests  yet berating  even them when they respond sensibly to Trump’s irrational tariffs ( note Harley-Davidson ) —- do we as Americans think this is right ?

I’m not proud in any way , shape , or form of this administration sunk up to its eyeballs in corruption , depravity , cruelty , crude behavior , and daily and out-in-the-open  mendacity . Lies pile upon lies and the faithful swear to them and rationalize them and curse those who won’t swear similarly that the latest lie is another glorious truth .

No , I can’t celebrate the 4th this year with a clear conscience . The country is being led down a path of shame , isolation , unconscionable debt , and  a nasty bullying false pride in some sick fantasy of greatness. Agreed -upon American ideals of justice , fair-play , human rights , and freedom for all is being clearly undermined with insipid  facts-don’t- matter bluster and flag-hugging chicanery .

The country is being handed over to the billionaires who are cashing in hand over fist as the administration  strives to distance the country from trusted allies in favor of cosying up to murderous dictator /tyrants who are in the current president’s judgement evidently  more trustworthy than his own government intelligence services .


No , the actions of this present government reflect upon all of us , they show who we are as Americans ,  and they are shameful and disgraceful and not worthy in my opinion of Americans or America . To the extent that we stand by and accept these disgraces we own the disgrace , and we should not be out celebrating some glorious ideal that no longer is ( for the moment , at least ) representative of the US of A .

So , there’s the wet blanket post this year for you to consider . My opinion must be stated — my feeble attempt to maintain some integrity under the current dire  circumstances .

Happy Fourth ! Enjoy your hot dogs and fireworks , if that’s what you do . I’m sitting this one out .



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jessie and the gents

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Ask me if I’ve been to Liechtenstein . Ask me if I was there to attend a fan party of the band Jessie and the Gents .

Someone might go to Liechtenstein to see the story book castle of the Prince high up on the hill above the town , or to taste the chocolates , or to hike up in the mountains  or , perhaps , to visit their own personal stash of money that sits safely somewhere locked up in a Liechtenstein bank .

Ada and I went there to see some friends . It happens that that guy in the black gambler duds , Putzie , is a chimney sweep who plays slide guitar for Jessie and the Gents . He also plays accordion for the occasional Cajun song they might perform during a gig . People assume that the band must all be Americans , maybe from Texas  , come to Switzerland by way of Austin or Nashville , but no .

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I met Putzie a few years ago at a wedding in Connecticut of another musician friend of mine , a guy originally from New York City who lived and played in Switzerland for several years . Putzie said  hey , come on over to Liechtenstein for a visit . Be careful what you ask for . It took Ada and I a few years to make good on Putzie’s offer , however.

We stayed with Putzie and his wife Vera for a few days and we had a fantastic time seeing some of the countryside , eating raclette and schnitzel  and laughing at Putzie’s stories . We had seen Putzie and Vera and their kids and his mother  in San Diego a few years ago when they came for a Christmas visit . They surprised their daughter who was studying in San Diego .

It seems Putzie hates mountains and loves San Diego . He’d be at home in the bayous of Louisiana , the bars of New Orleans , and the honky -tonks of Texas  . There is a steep mountain behind their house in Liechtenstein , though , that Putzie  pretends to ignore . I reminded him  from time to time that the mountains  were there . Right there . He , unlike Vera , is not originally from Liechtenstein . He’s French-Swiss . I guess there aren’t any mountains in Switzerland. Maybe he’s not used to them.  LICHTENSTEIN 2018 June 104

Anyway , check out Jessie and the Gents . It’s a good band . Ada and I  joined the official fan club and participated in the fan club concert/party at Jessie’s home . I was in charge of keeping the fire lit on the patio . Jessie assigned me that job. I guess it kept me out of trouble as the band set up . I didn’t have my cowboy boots with me . Well , next time .



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c and r

I worked for a while for an outfit in Los Angeles called C and R Clothiers . They had one store at that time with  a warehouse attached . I worked in the warehouse . I had a little plastic gun that shot those short strands of plastic that hold the price tags onto clothes , and I also helped unload the cartons of suits that came into the warehouse once or twice a day . It wasn’t demanding work , but dough is dough and honest work is honest work .

I never for a moment thought these guys would stay in business very long . They had fifteen or twenty of us in the back storage area all day long  among the racks of clothes . I figured that  they needed only about three or four workers back there . There was nothing to be done most of the day for so many people . One guy slept under the clothes racks all day long every day . Some of the employees pitched pennies against the wall for hours . They’d stop for the few minutes that the manager would come back every so often to wander around to check on things. In those moments  all of us grabbed our little plastic price guns , aimed them at suit sleeves , and pretended to be busy ; but the truth was that everything that needed to be done already had been done .

When a delivery  truck came in once or twice a day all of us were busy for about fifteen or twenty minutes while we unloaded the cartons full of men’s suits , broke the tops open , and counted suits  . Each cardboard carton held sixty suits , give or take a couple .

The guys I worked with were so lazy that they eye-balled it and guessed the inventory count rather than actually counting as if actually making a count was too much of a struggle . One guy held a clipboard and a pencil to record the count while another guy counted . Well , the  guy was supposed to count but on a regular basis he didn’t bother . The conversations between the two often went something like  “Well , write down sixty-one for this one since we’ve had four with sixty already  “. It was a guessing game and so the final counts could never be relied upon .

We employees got a 10% discount on suits . All C an R Clothiers sold were men’s suits and maybe a few accessories. There were two fellas I worked with who regularly had the manager fit them into nice suits . They told the dopey manager that they intended to buy the suits because of the discount and he would give them advice , tell them what a good choice they had made , or suggest an alternative .

Of course , these guys  never intended to buy the suits. They would put the chosen suit into one of the  collapsed cardboard cartons , all of which were dragged outside and piled high  on the back lot . One of the two guys had a friend who would pick the suit up for him during the day . The other guy took his stolen suit home with him after he punched out . And this went on week after week .

No , I didn’t turn these guys  in . I don’t work for the FBI , and I figured in this case that it was really none of my business . If the place was managed at all efficiently these guys would have been easily caught , but the manager was an ignorant  dunce and the two owners were seldom around .

There happened to be  a Mr. C and a Mr. R ( Correnti and Reisbord ), who owned the joint . They’d come in every week or so to have a look  . As I remember it , Reisbord would tend to whine  about some of the lousier-looking suits on the racks , as many of them were , and Correnti would reassure him that they would sell no matter what . I guessed that Reisbord was the money source and that Correnti was the brains of the operation . Correnti sort of dragged  Reisbord  along on a chain hooked to an imaginary ring in Reisbord’s nose . Well , that was my impression ; but what do I know !

This was their business strategy :  Suit factories would occasionally over- produce a certain suit in a particular size , let’s say size 44 long  for example ,  and the manufacturer would find themselves unexpectedly with way too many size 44 longs , and then Correnti and Reisbord would arrive to buy up that surplus in that size at a cheap rate . C and R  would pass this discount price along to their customers .  A guy could get a good suit at C and R Clothiers for a good price —- but only in 44 long , or whatever the size for a particular suit happened to be . Store customers would continually  find a suit that they liked and ask for it in their size . Ah ! There’s the rub ! That’s where the whole thing broke down . C and R wouldn’t  have a suit  in their size unless their size happened to be the one  size on hand .

I thought that these guys would be out of business in a few months . Maybe a year if they were especially stubborn. Suddenly, however ,  they opened up hundreds of stores within a very short period of time . I guess they forgot to tell me their overall business plan . I suspect that they made a killing , too , in a short time with all those stores around southern California .

I wished the best for Mr. Correnti and Mr. Reisbord . I wouldn’t say the same for that dopey manager.  He fired me for wearing my sweater tied around my waste . It was my thing to do in those days , but he told me to take it off . Why ?  ”  Because I told you to .” I worked in a warehouse , for heaven’s sake ! I told him that I wouldn’t take it off and so he told me that I was fired . Ah , then I got to use the old standard line :

” You can’t fire me !” I said.beard

” Why not ? ” he said .

” Because I quit , ”  I said , and I walked out . It surprised him sufficiently enough to satisfy me at that time and forever afterward .

I knew that their business was collapsing around them anyway and that I was probably getting out of there just in time .  Well , what do I know !  I guess I don’t have much of a business sense . I had evidently underestimated  old Correnti and Reisbord .




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