Thursday, September 30, 2010
I went shopping this afternoon to pick up a couple of gifts -- one for my youngest niece and one for my nephew -- both of whom I'll be visiting in a few days. As I mentioned not long ago, my nephew was born recently.
As a single, 40-something year-old guy, I have no idea what I'm doing when I enter the toy aisle or baby area in a store. When I do so to buy something for somebody else's child, I must look the part of the lost guy, because usually a mother will offer me a little guidance. Today, no mothers came to my aid. I did see a long-haired guy who was a clueless as I am.
"What in the world do you buy kids these days?" he asked.
Oh boy. He's asking me?
"I have no idea," I said.
"I just want something cheap and something they'll use. What exactly will they use?" he said.
"I have no idea," I said again.
We both shook our heads and moved on.
I spotted a doll that shares the same name as my niece. It was part of the "Bratz" line. I have never seen dolls like these before. They were wearing the shortest mini-skirts possible with long boots (pictured on the right). I passed. Then I saw Barbie (pictured on the left). I passed on her too and bought my niece a Hannah Montana pillow case. The only risk I run is that my niece has moved on from her Hannah Montana phase. Hopefully she hasn't.
Next up was my nephew. I stumbled across rubber duckies. Perfect! Except, rubber duckies are more than rubber duckies these days. This particular one (pictured above) actually has a built in temperature gauge of some sort that alerts parents when the water is too hot to place the baby in. You just place the rubber ducky into the water, and after a certain amount of time you pick it up and flip it over. If it says "hot," then it's too hot for the baby.
What a great idea. You could have locked me into a room with a rubber ducky and told me I had to come up with a new idea for the rubber ducky or you wouldn't let me out and I would have been in there 20 years and still not come up with a temperature sensitive one. Probably because I'm still partial to this one:
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I was astounded he could play both quarterback and kicker. His 1971 card even showed both positions. That's what made it valuable to me. This was before I realized card collecting was a business, which caused my view of the hobby to be skewed.
The funny thing is, I was never a Raiders fan. I was, and remain, a Steelers fan -- so that made me a Raider hater. But I still always respected Blanda. I was only 9 when he retired, but he reminded me of the way my friends and I played football at the park. We played multiple positions and rarely left the field. As I was reading some of the tributes to Blanda since his passing, I read a line from an article written by Peter Richmond on the Sports Illustrated website that nailed the way I felt:
"Blanda was the old-world guy, with one foot back in the days of the Decatur Staleys [the original name for the Chicago Bears in 1920-21], an athlete who would pass for the touchdown, kick the extra point, and then, if necessary kick the game-winning field goal. Blanda represented football."
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
|Photo by D.C. Atty|
As the staff spread out through Georgia, they would enter a random establishment and ask the locals, "Who is the most interesting person in town?"
In Meriwether County, the answer turned out to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After doing some digging, a rumor surfaced about FDR buying moonshine during the Prohibition. The question wasn't answered during the podcast, but it made for an entertaining segment.
A number of other great stories about other, much less famous people, surfaced as well. In fact, I think I was more intrigued by those stories. There was one about a man who fought against the government buying his land for a lake project, but he eventually sold most of it and even though he saved his home, he ended up being surrounded by the lake.
I would love to travel around my own state to ask that very question in run down cafes, small gas stations and old general stores -- if any remain. In fact, every state should have its own rambler. I imagine this could work for local newspapers, but it might be better if a website or blog were started and each state had its own page, with the best stories being featured on the front page.
Down the road, the best of the best stories could be used in a book entitled something like, "The Real America: Intriguing Stories from the Nooks and Crannies of Every State."
Even if I didn't write any of those stories, I would so buy that book.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Remember how you could call a specific prefix followed by any four numbers and still get the time lady? When I first learned this, I felt like I had discovered some grand secret.
The funny thing is, I can't really even remember why I used to call time. Why did we do that? Maybe we didn't trust our clocks. Maybe we didn't have as many clocks. We certainly weren't as technologically connected and therefore didn't have as many gadgets with the time on them. Whatever the reason, it was just part of our routine.
I did a search yesterday and discovered the service was discontinued three years ago. I also learned the system has been around since the 1930s. Things change though, and even though I haven't used the service in ions, I'm still going to miss it.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Rocky: Original Motion Picture Score
If you are a 40-something year old guy, you probably gulped raw eggs from a cup when you were young, went jogging in gray sweats and dreamed about getting your shot at the heavy weight championship of the world. And the background music came from the first Rocky movie soundtrack.
From the heart pumping opening tune, "Gonna Fly Now," to the reflective "Philadelphia Morning," to the inspiring "Going the Distance," this soundtrack does a number on your emotions.
"First Date" will transport you back in time. "Take You Back" will make you want to hang out with a few friends and do a little barber shop quartet as you contemplate taking back a lost love. And "The Final Bell" might just be the theme song in your head as you complete a goal you never thought possible. In fact, this entire soundtrack makes you believe you can accomplish things you might not ordinarily.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The Heights "Music from the Television Show"
People probably know the hit song from this series better than the series itself. "How Do You Talk To An Angel?" by Jamie Walters was on the soundtrack and it went to number one. TV Guide says the song "stayed on the charts longer than 'The Heights' stayed on the air," which isn't actually true (it was number one for two weeks in November 1992), but their point was valid.
The Heights debut on Fox in 1992 and it only lasted 12 episodes. As I've said before, I'm a series killer. If I like it, it probably won't last long. But I'm not sure why this one never made it. It was about a group of young people in a band and they helped each other through various trials.
The soundtrack has some killer tunes on it, in addition to Walters' hit. "The Man You Used to Be (A Song for Dad)" by Shawn Thompson is a keeper. So is "Children of the Night" by Walters.
You know how sometimes you can remember an event based on the song that was playing on the radio at the time? Well, I can remember waking up after surgery to fix my broken nose in the recovery room and hearing "How Do You Talk To An Angel?" on the radio in the room. I wouldn't remember a think about those moments if it hadn't been for that song.
This is my third favorite movie of all time. The soundtrack also introduced me to or acquainted me with some great songs -- songs like "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by Al Green, "She" by Elvis Costello, "When You Say Nothing At All" by Ronan Keating, and two versions of "Ain't No Sunshine," one by Bill Withers and the other by "Lighthouse Family."
The lyrics from "When You Say Nothing At All" move me in the same fashion that a line from a book called A Window Across The River by Brian Morton. First the lyrics:
It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing
Now for the line from the book: “I recognized your silence. It’s different from anybody else’s.”
Silence speaks volumes and it's not always negative.
This one is a guilty pleasure. The movie is about a rock singer who dares to chase his dream, and after achieving it against all odds, finds out it's not what he really wants.
The dream he chases puts him in front of the microphone for a group called Steel Dragon. Several real life musicians make up the fictitious group and several of their songs are on the soundtrack, including a song called "Stand Up," which sort of becomes the group's anthem.
One of my sisters, who lives in St Louis, went to see this movie at the theater with her husband when it came out in 2001. They both know about my long hair, rock n' roll days, and they knew this movie would probably resonate with me -- at least the me who used to live the lifestyle, in moderation of course.
So, when I would go visit them in St. Louis, my brother-in-law sometimes greets me by singing, "Stand up and shout! Stand up and let it out!" in his best impersonation of Mark Wahlberg, who played the singer in the movie, and it always cracks me up.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
|Photo by eastlaketimes|
My niece was probably seven or eight years old at the time. She had two kitties -- a black one, named Blackie, and a blond one, named Blondie. They hung out in the garage with us during the garage sale, often snuggling up together in a pile of clothing we were trying to sell. Whenever a customer would see Blackie and Blondie together, they would fuss over them. We did too.
Dad opened the doors for us on one of the days since neither my sister or I could be there right away. I pulled up a couple of hours after he opened and saw him sitting in the garage behind the card table we had the money box on, sipping his cup of coffee and reading a book. It was rare to see Dad sitting around without a cup of coffee in his hand. We talked computers, family history, sports and weather like we usually did.
My sister helped customers, negotiated prices, and sold a ton of my niece's toys and clothing she had outgrown, prompting my niece to object because she just didn't want to let go. I felt her pain. I sold some items I didn't really want to let go either, but I didn't really have any use for them any longer.
One of the funnier moments happened when my niece opened the money box one day. Her eyes grew big as she tried to comprehend her cut of the wealth.
We made some money, did a ton of work, and had a great time as a family sitting together for hours at a time without any other agenda. Sometimes it's nice to step off the hamster wheel.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
|Check out the job the guys did securing the recliner|
I've bought my fair share of recliners over the years and I know that they come in two sections -- one of which is usually hard to fit into a Ford Focus like mine, but it can be done.
When I pulled into the pick up lane yesterday at the furniture store, I had second thoughts about their chair fitting in my car. The box was huge. The two guys who wheeled it out tried to conceal their disappointment, but their slight shoulder sag told me they knew we could be in for an interesting experiment.
The back portion of the recliner fit easily in my back seat. The base, however, didn't look like it would fit anywhere inside the car or the trunk. The guys figured out a way to make it fit in the trunk and then they went to work tying ropes around it to keep it steady for the drive home -- which, by the way, was during the front end of rush hour.
They made me sign a waiver saying the furniture store is not responsible if something happens to the chair while in-transit. Was it really worth saving the delivery fee? Well, yes, if I got the thing home without it falling out of the trunk and into a busy intersection causing an accident -- for which I, or my insurance company, would be responsible.
So, I pulled away from the furniture store trusting that the two guys who tied my recliner into my car did a good job. I took back streets as often as possible, leaving my radio off so I could hear any dreaded crashing noises coming from behind my vehicle. I cringed when I hit bumps and breathed a sigh of relief with each corner I turned without any problems.
I arrived home safely and checked the trunk. The base of the recliner hadn't moved an inch. So, to my delight, I saved $59.00 and had the recliner set up in no time. I'm even writing this post from it. But this process reminded me how much we trust people we don't know.
I trusted the guys who tied my recliner in my trunk. The people who drove behind me, trusted me to make sure the recliner was secure enough not to fall into their path.
And so it goes.
Years ago, there used to be a television anchor in Omaha who signed off each night by saying, "Have a good night. Take care of one another."
That's a good motto.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I'm also quite moved that somebody is taking something I've written so seriously. It reminded me of something that happened five years ago. I spoke in a coffee shop, along with another author, about the subject of unmet expectations (most of us expected to be married shortly after graduating from high school or college) as a single person. Afterward, a woman who was carrying a tattered, beat up copy of Single Servings approached me and asked me to sign it. That is every author's dream. Well, maybe that, or seeing somebody sitting on a plane or in a coffee shop reading your book.
Both of these examples remind me about the weight of words. Writers produce tens of thousands of words in every book, a thousand or so in every article, and many more thousands in blog posts every month. Once they are out there, it's nearly impossible to get them back. That doesn't mean we don't change our minds or grow over time. We certainly do. But for one moment in time, we recorded our thoughts about something, turned them loose and then moved on to write about something else.
Five years later, someone might just pick them up and begin writing a series of blog posts about them. Or, in my case, I'm reading The Accidental Tourist, written in 1986 -- 24 years ago. Imagine writing something today that somebody might pick up and read in 2034. Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Photo blogs aren’t normally my thing, but I found one while browsing Time magazine’s “Best Blogs of 2010” list yesterday morning that intrigued me. Shorpy features vintage photos from the 1850s to the 1950s. It is named after a young Alabama coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham (1896-1928).
I’m always drawn toward blogs that are named after people from the past who are relatively unknown, but the blogger finds a way to make that person known by bringing one of the subject’s qualities or features to life for us. Years ago, a blog called The Boileryard, named after dead-ball era player Boileryard Clarke, fascinated me. The blog was about politics, but it came at the subject from a political viewpoint that largely doesn’t exist any more – much like the dead-ball era. Sadly, The Boileryard no longer exists now either.
But now I have Shorpy.com. Shorpy, the coal miner, died in mine accident at the young age of 31, but his way of life lives on in photos. I found two there yesterday that drew me in.
The first one shows Chicago commuters moving around the railroad yard in 1907. I lived and worked in Chicago for three months in 1990. In the 83 year gap, not much, and nearly everything changed. While the streets look much sparser than they were in 1990, everybody in the photo has the same look I remember – heads down, focused, ready to take on the challenges that face them. The style of dress is much higher than it was in 1990. Every person in the photo I can see is wearing a hat – even the lone guy sitting above the railroad yard who is reading a newspaper. It’s a perfect snapshot of a bygone era.
The second one shows an Omaha liquor store in 1938. The store has one out of place sign that says, “Drink Coca-Cola,” surrounded by ads for gin, scotch, beer, grain alcohol, wine, whiskey, and snuff. There’s a root beer sign mixed in as well, but it doesn’t tell customers to drink its product. It’s simply says, without saying it, we have root beer, if you really want it. Two of the street signs intrigue me. One one street, a sign says “Parallel Parking” and on another, a sign says, “Diagonal Parking.” No such signs exist in Omaha today that I’m aware of. Somebody on Shorpy.com says the intersection where this photo was taken no longer exists either. At least we have the photo.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The season premier of Parenthood last night brought back a rather comical memory for me. In the television show, Kristina Braverman takes her 15-year-old daughter, Haddie, out for her first driving lesson. Lots of screaming, commanding and freaking out ensues.
My first driving lesson with traffic involved wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it would had made for funny television. After getting my learner’s permit at the age of 15, my grandpa took me out for my first driving lesson. He chose a dirt road, slid out of the driver’s seat and let me take the wheel. We never encountered any traffic that day, but I learned the basics and Grandpa told my mom he thought I was ready for traffic.
So, one day, my mom and I climbed into her green Pontiac and I backed out of the driveway. We weren’t more than a block from our house when I saw a car coming from the other direction. Until that moment, driving was something adults did. The responsibility of guiding a huge chunk of metal in the general direction of another human being overwhelmed me, and you might say I panicked a wee bit.
“A car!” I said.
“Just stay in your lane,” Mom said. “You’ll be fine.”
“What did you expect to see on the road?”
“I just wish they weren’t on the road. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.”
The car passed us without incident, but I didn’t relax. I don’t think mom knew whether she should laugh or panic along with me. She probably did both. My eyes and focus were too glued to the road to know how she was reacting.
Along came another car.
And so it went that day.
The next time out, I was a little better. By the third time, I laughed about my first encounter. In fact, I still laugh about my first encounter whenever I’m reminded of it.
How about you? Was your first driving lesson (with traffic) any easier? Or was it similar?
P.S. Last week I told you that one of the reasons I changed the look of Little Nuances was to make it easier to navigate. One of the ways to make it easier is adding tabbed pages (see the top of the blog). Yesterday, I added a new tab called “Series.” On it you’ll find links to many of the series I'm doing.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
When I was a kid, my grandparents had a house on an acreage with a wooded area behind it. A small underground stream cut through it. My grandpa, and sometimes my dad, took me down into the woods on Saturdays and we walked the land. They told me about various animals and birds we saw and sometimes my grandpa pointed out subtle differences he saw in the land over the years.
When I got old enough, they let me bring me bring my BB gun and I’d shoot at cans or birds as we walked. I wasn’t the only kid enjoying the land though. Occasionally, we’d come across an area in which a kid had set up a mini-camping area and left behind traces of the fun he had. Grandpa seemed to make a mental note and I knew he would be keeping an eye on the area.
I was always drawn toward the little stream. It didn’t cover a lot of land, and best I could tell, it didn’t contain any fish. I just liked the sound it made and I was fascinated by its existence. One winter, my grandpa and I took a walk in the woods. For some reason, I picked up a long stick and used it as a walking stick. The stream was frozen over and I took a short jaunt over the ice. I slipped and fell, jamming the stick into one of my eyes.
Grandpa got me back to the house. He was more upset than I’d ever seen him. I think he was upset with himself more than anything, but I don’t know how you keep a kid from being a kid in a setting like that. I can’t remember what the doctor said at the hospital, but I do remember wearing a patch over my eye for quite a while. After it came off, my eye was fine.
During another trip to the woods, my dad pointed at what we thought was an owl in a tree. Then, as we studied it, we thought it might be a dove. I know, they looking nothing alike. Then we laughed about our lack of wilderness knowledge. But it didn’t matter, because we were hanging out in the woods together. What more could a boy ask for from his father on a Saturday afternoon?
After my parents divorced, my mom, my sister and I moved. Mom bought a painting for our living room of a meandering stream that cut through a patch of trees in the middle of fall. The leaves had already turned to orange, red and yellow. And, of course, the painting became a gentle reminder of those Saturday afternoons in the woods.
I still have that painting. It’s hanging in my living room.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
During my downtime, I enjoy the fall television season. As is normally the case, some of the shows I like got the axe, a few of my shows are headed into their final season, and I’m going to give one new show a shot.
Got the Axe:
- Gary Unmarried: The final episode of second season, which turned out to be the series finale, couldn’t have been a worse place to end the series. Gary learned he was still married to Allison and the show ended with us not finding out whether he chose to stay with her or stay with Sasha, whom he had been dating. Yeah, it was a classic case of the hokey mix up that is common in sitcoms, but I still hate not knowing.
- FlashForward: Started with a great concept, and initially it made for some interesting character dilemmas, but producers began to focus so heavily on the convoluted plot, that it began to lose my interest. By the series finale this past May, I found myself not caring if the show returned or not. When I learned there would be another flash forward in the series finale, I knew I probably wouldn’t watch the show, even if it returned.
- Friday Night Lights: The new and final season starts on October 27 on DirecTV. This is one of my favorite shows and I hate to see it go. I love the Friday night small town football atmosphere. I love the character arcs. I love the plot lines. I love the acting. How can this show possibly be heading into its final season?
- One Tree Hill: I watched the first two seasons on DVD and was really bummed when I caught up the episodes during Season Three. Much like FNL, I love the small town sports atmosphere. And I feel like I know these characters. Even with Lucas and Peyton no longer on the show, I’m still interested finding out what happens to Brooke, Mouth, Skills, Nathan and Haley and even some of the newer characters. I have a feeling this will be the final season. At this point, I’m just hoping the series ends well.
- My Boys: What’s not to like about P.J., Andy, Bobby, Brendan, Mike, Kenny and Stephanie? I love how close these characters are. I love the way they deal with modern technology (the Facebook episode was classic). And I love their traditions (poker night, their annual game decathlon). Sunday night may have been the series finale (no announcements have been made one way or the other) and if it was, I wasn’t ready for it to go.
- Parenthood: It’s back for the second season and I’ll watch it. I almost gave up while watching the pilot last season, but by the second episode the Braverman family dynamic reeled me in. I wouldn’t be too upset if it gets canceled after this season, but having said that, only shows I love get canceled, so this one should be okay for years to come.
- Men of a Certain Age: The second second starts in December. I’ve already written about this show. I’m just hoping we are allowed to follow the lives of Joe, Owen and Terry for seasons to come.
- Running Wilde: I don’t have high hopes for this one, but Felicity was one of my favorite shows and Keri Russell is in Running Wilde, so I’ll give it a shot. The way the trailers are portraying Steve – the son of an oil tycoon who doesn’t appear to have any concern for anyone but himself – seems too cliche, but if Emmy changes and grows as Steve does, then I’m in.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Through the magic of Google, I found out that mush really is pretty much just fried cornmeal (mixed with water and salt), but somehow, it’s mushy inside. Check out this post on a blog called “the frugal girl” for a picture and the recipe.
One of my grandmas was from the south. Mush was one of the many things from her heritage she treated us to. She would drag out her fry daddy, fill it with grease of some sort, and drop pieces of uncooked mush into the gurgling abyss. It hissed in pleasure and made our mouths water. One of my sisters and I could hardly wait for her to dip out the mush and set it on the table.
“It’s hot!” she would say. “Be careful.”
So, we would use the sort of bite in which you use your teeth but you move your lips out of the way. If you ever saw the episode of Friends from Season Seven called "The One With The Engagement Picture" during which Chandler could not smile in front of a camera so he did a fake smile with his teeth showing, then you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyway, if it didn’t leave a third degree burn, we would wolf it down.
Milk was the drink of choice, but you had to be careful because Grandma preferred butter milk and that meant she thought you should prefer it too. So she would slip a glass in front of you if you weren’t looking just to see what type of reaction she could get as the clumps of gunk (what is that stuff, anyway?) present in butter milk slid down your throat. A nice tall glass of cold 2% milk was the perfect complement to the piping hot mush.
I miss those days.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
In preparation for their concert, I’ve been working my way through their catalogue on my iPod. The other night, as I listened to “Live from Nowhere, Vol. 1,” the song “Spark” spoke to me:
Obsessions with self-preservation
Faded when I threw my fear away
It’s not a thing you can imagine
You either lose your fear
Or spend your life with one foot in the grave
Is God the last romantic?
The song connects the shunning of self-preservation with romance. It’s safer to feel nothing than to risk the chance of being hurt by someone we love, but in essence, feeling nothing is living with one foot in the grave.
Contrast that with the way God loves. He woos us, and courts us and draws us to himself, knowing full well we’re going to shun him, reject him and deny him.