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weiner wagon 2   There was vacant land next to my elementary school way back last century  when I was in primary school .  (   Or was it Grammar school ? My friend Joe and I had a discussion about the use of those terms : elementary vs. primary vs. grammar school . )  A Hughes Market grocery store was built there . Now it’s a Ralph’s Market . Most of the space , or half of it at least , is now the parking lot , of course .  But that’s irrelevant to my story , so let’s get on with it .

Another random memory ,  emerging now  from my brain bunker  where I keep them  , uncatalogued , forgotten for decades , came back to light suddenly . I had gone to Berlin , saw a wurst stand , and began , I guess , to ponder wieners ( The name comes from Vienna , by the way , I hear ) . Unknown things trigger memories sometimes . We’ll just leave it at that . I can’t better explain why the memory came  . Doesn’t matter .

Anyway :

One day the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pulled up and parked on the vacant land next to the school .  The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile ,  a 1930’s idea of one of the Mayers , was a vehicle shaped like a giant hotdog in a bun .  It was driven by   ” Little Oscar” , who  was a little person dressed in a chef’s outfit , traditional high chef’s hat and all .  The nuns ( Corpus Christi Catholic Elementary School  ) took the entire school out to see the Wienermobile .  Why ? How that happened ?  Your guess is as good as mine . Stranger things have happened , I guess . Perhaps . Wienermobile 6

Well , this event was memorable . Who knew there was such a thing ? Who knew that hot dogs were cooked by little happy chefs in high hats ? Who knew ?

When I was a kid I didn’t know much about the world ( Same holds  true now — a little less so ) . From time to time little bits of it would show themselves , surprising things , good or bad things . The Wienermobile was one of the oddest things to come along . Now that I think of it , it’s still an odd piece of the reality puzzle . I know that there are odder things ;  but for a seven-year-old , a Wienermobile with a small chef inside with wiener whistles  for everyone —- that was something !

Yeah , to top it all off , Little Oscar handed out little plastic wiener whistles to every student and we all whistled like crazy out there in the open ,  and then we got to play with the silly things  for a few minutes back in the classroom .   Amazing ! weiner whistle

Wiener whistles are available on eBay . Get a vintage one for $ 3.75 !

There are , evidently , eight Weinermobiles  still in operation . The drivers , recruited from the ranks of college students , are called hotdoggers . A hotdogger blog hides on the world wide web , telling of hotdogger exploits .

I had forgotten all about that old Wienermobile and my wiener whistle ( which probably broke that same day ) , and Little Oscar the happy hot dog chef .  I never missed them , I have to  say ; but ,  it made a nice break  in  that long-ago day  from reading , writing , and arithmetic . weiner wagon chef


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This one’s a little late for Mother’s Day , but here it is anyway .


Harry Truman’s mother during the Depression offered a hobo some food and coffee . The guy complained that the coffee was not hot enough . She said , ” Oh , give me the cup ,” and took it  into the house . She returned with a shotgun and told the guy to get the hell out .


I once was reading  about  the WWII aid that the USA was giving to the Soviet Union when the two countries were allies fighting Nazis . . An American cargo ship  skipper was being bullied by an ever-present  Soviet commissar on the Atlantic crossing . The freighter was full of American -made  airplane engines . The commisar may have been whining that the engines were not adequate , so the American skipper had his crew ostentatiously toss one engine overboard and prepare to dump another .  ” If you don’t want ’em , you don’t need to take ’em , ” the skipper  may have  told the  arrogant Russian . The commisar backed off and was quiet for the rest of the journey  .russian bear


During the Battle of the Bulge in WWII , American Brigadier  General Anthony McAullife  and the 101st Airborne were surrounded in the town of Bastogne , Belgium . The Germans  issued  a surrender ultimatum .   McAuliffe sent a one word response :  ” N U T S ! “.101st bastogne 101st emblem


Success is the child of audacity ——–Benjamin Disraeli









party with jim 005

My mother and Ada .










ada in bed 005Possible caption  : ” You should see the other guy ! “

Excerpt from a college letter of Mom’s , after she’d been offered a university job : ” The university doesn’t have enough money to get me to work for that old scarecrow .” 


So ,  please have a wonderful ( and feisty ) Mothers’ Day !


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Was Jesus Wrong ?

jesus stained glass kneelingI saw a Facebook post from a New York friend of mine  which cooly  said that  proof has recently come in that Jesus was married .  I admit that I don’t stay current on Jesus news . I’m willing to go with the marriage conclusion . I only know what I read on Facebook .

It could just be that the guy wearing the beret who came in to the Assistance League counselling center years ago when I was the security guard was a Jesus descendant . That has not occurred to me until today . He had flown down from San Rafael ( CA ) , he’d said , and he was GOD . The secretary at the agency had listened to him for a minute or two . When he said he had just flown down from San Rafael she asked him on which airline .  ” No , I flew ,” he said , and flapped his arms . Oh. You never know .

I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t Jesus who coined the phrase : ‘My way or the highway’ .  I have heard something about him casting the moneylenders out of the temple .  I don’t think , though , that he hated moneylenders .  I suppose that he didn’t have much need for money , as it happened  . (His wife may have had a different opinion , though . )When he had a crowd for dinner he multiplied loaves and fishes . On other occasions he changed water into wine . And he seemed to wander around the countryside a lot , sleeping under the stars , I guess .  But , from what I know about Jesus , he wanted people to love one another . I think that was his number one rule . ” Above all else …..” he said , I think .

I’m not sure Jesus had this world pegged right , as it happens . I think he may have been a little too John-the-Baptisty , a little too idealistic , too much of a dreamer .

Did he have a sense of humor ? That would be important information , in my book . I’ve only met a few people with no sense of humor . People gotta have a sense of humor . Jesus should have seen a little more humor in life , I think , maybe . Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t .

And this sacrifice thing . ” Forgive them , for they know not what they do ” , or something like that . Right ?  What was GOD dad thinking then ?  Right at that moment .  Like : The good die young ?  Like : Holy ghost !  Like : O.K. , no more Mr. Nice Guy, Roman dudes; your empire’s toast !   Or , was the old man watching from up there in heaven and just shaking his head and mumbling  : ‘ Jesus Christ ! ‘

Which reminds me of what I’ve heard of old GOD up in heaven supposedly  punishing groups of people for sinning against HIM , ie. gays , Muslims , abortionists , etc.  But , of course, I’ve also heard at the same time : We are all sinners .  There’s a disconnect .  Houston , we have a problem . Cake and eat it , too , time ?  god book  Let the one who is among you who is without sin be the first one to cast the stone .——–J. C.

I wonder if God’s split personality is a problem . Three people in one ?  Maybe HE could get into a therapy group . Holy Spirit should go , too . Jesus , although way too busy , should make time to participate , too . There’s still hope . My opinion .

So if Jesus married then  maybe he had kids . They may have had kids. Then they may have had kids . Etc. , etc. , etc.  Finally , in a Hollywood counseling clinic , in walks GOD , namesake of the original one , having flown down from San Rafael , California .

Jesus Saves ?   Maybe he died with that belief in his heart . GOD the father should have clued him in . The Holy Spirit could have whispered a hint to him , clued him in to reality . Just my opinion . Hey , open a newspaper . Listen to Congress .  I’m not GOD , of course . What’s the opposite of omniscient ? That’s me .   But , man , look around !   Saved ?

He maybe should have stuck to carpentry . Joseph would have taught him , I’m sure . Honest work . He could have minded his own business , supported his family , argued once in awhile with dissatisfied customers . Maybe he could have designed cool furniture or gone into the home renovation industry .  It was his choice . God wouldn’t have minded , I suspect . Everyone has , I’ve been told , free will .

But , no , Jesus had to try to save the world .

I wonder what his wife was like , if he was married . Maybe he felt an urge to go out with the boys from time to time , wander around , speak his mind . Maybe the kids, if he had a passel of them ,  got on his nerves . Maybe his wife  tried from time to time to talk sense into him , too , on the other hand .jesus

” Stick with the carpentry , J , a little while longer ; a few more years . Quit hanging around so often with that gang of drifters . It’s only going to lead to trouble . ”

Maybe he didn’t listen to his wife and maybe he should have . She probably watched him wander off with those apostles  , shook her head back and forth sadly , and  mumbled…………..well , you know .


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a heartless gas

goodwill storeSomeday 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 .okies

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 .mission church front

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.two hobos

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 .


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the Carpathia

Titanic boats on way to CarpathiaThe Carpathia , launched in 1901 , came to the rescue when the Titanic distress signal   was heard  on the wireless  on 14 April 1912.  Later the Carpathia was sunk by a German U-boat in 1918  during World War One . ship carpathia

ship carpathia 1912

ship Carpathia in N.Y.ship Carpathia officers


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the old silk floss tree

Bing was the first one to come over . He stood a ways off and stared . I had the main branches down by then .

” I remember when Greta planted that tree , ” he said . ” It’s a beautiful tree .”

” Yes , it is , ” I said . What the old man seemed to want to say was why the hell are you cutting it down ? But he stood there a ways off , instead , staring .

Don from two doors down came over next . ” What are you cutting the tree down for ? ” he asked in unpolished tones of indictment . ” I remember when she planted that tree . Got it at the Arboretum .”

I was being put on the spot . Ada and I were new to the neighborhood . We’d been there almost three years but Bing had been there almost fifty and Don longer than that . They had raised kids there who had long since grown up and moved away . The two old men were watching me chop up the old tree that the former owner had planted decades ago .

“Greta loved that tree ,” Bing said .

” It’s a magnificent tree , ” I began , appeasingly . ” Beautiful pink flowers that look like orchids . But look at these roots .” I showed them the thick roots that were raising the driveway , that grew under the concrete walkway to the front door , and that were growing under the foundation of the house . ” If it wasn’t for these roots , ” I said . “But they’ll begin raising the foundation like they’re raising the driveway . Look. ”

” Sure did a job on the driveway ,” Don said .

” Can’t have roots under the foundation ,” Bing said .

” Otherwise I’d keep the tree , ” I said . ” But look at those roots !”

” I got an axe you can borrow , ” Don said .

” How you gonna cut them roots ? ” Bing asked . His tone had changed . Now we had a neighborhood project .  Rex the retired teacher emerged from the house next door . He was carrrying a pick .

” You’re gonna have ta get the dirt completely off the roots so’s ya don’t get dirt caught in the saw teeth ,” Rex said . He stood there on the lawn with the other two men and watched me work . They all had bits of advice .

Ada was watching from the window . When I came in , eventually , she said that she’s seen my  crowd of admirers . I told her that some guys are chick magnets but I ‘m a geezer magnet .

Finally I got the tree out but most of the thick roots are still there under the lawn and under the driveway and under the concrete walkway . The silk floss tree with its flowers and its thorns is gone  but I remember it fondly  . It was a great tree .  Bing is gone , now , and Rex too . Don , who turned  ninety in August ,  still offers to lend me tools and we have a beer together from time to time and we chat . The roots of those guys , too ,  will still be in the neighborhood long after they’re gone .

Ada planted rose bushes where the old tree used to be and when the roses are in flower in their brilliant reds and pinks and yellows and whites all the neighborhood geezers would admire the magnificence of the new blooms instead of  lamenting the silk floss tree’s demise .


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Merry Christmas

The inflatable snowman appeared across the street , suddenly . He’s a little worn ; but he’s there .snowman 002

Ed , who already had Christmas lights on the house next door , is now flying his Merry Christmas flag . Ed has a flag to fly for every holiday .x-MAS 005

Ed put up in his yard some kind of inflatable being , too. I’m not sure what it is . Possibly it’s a Star Wars storm trooper. I don’t know . But , whatever it is , it wears a Santa hat , so I guess it can’t be all bad . Shows Christmas spirit . I thought Ed’s son probably put the thing out on the yard , but no .  It was Ed who did it . Ed  asked Ada and I if we thought it might be inappropriate . Ed’s wife had objected , he said .x-MAS 004

Ada and I agreed that the odd decoration shows a unique Christmas spirit . That’s what we like about it , we told Ed .

To each his own , I say . Ever-body’s different .

Ada found the angel banner that was hiding somewhere in our garage . I put it to hang out front . x-MAS 047 x-MAS 048

I wish you angels when you need one . There’s probably one hanging around somewhere .

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all !


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