Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Airports, Hotels, and Grass

  • One Friday night Jeff and I took an unplanned trip to Las Vegas. I took a dugout with some grass, leaving the pipe behind so I didn't have to worry about metal detectors. We would get some rolling papers in Las Vegas.

    In the event they were not difficult to locate and we were soon good to go. As mentioned earlier, I couldn't roll a joint to save my life, but Jeff could, so he carried and used the papers throughout the weekend.

    We had an enjoyable weekend, and Sunday afternoon, after getting stoned one last time, we headed for the airport. Just as we were about to enter the terminal, Jeff said "Oh, shit. Wait a minute." He walked over to a sidewalk trash container, reached into a pocket, and threw something away.

    "What was that?"

    "The papers."

    I guess we were supposed to be perfectly content to carry the illegal marijuana through security and back to Chicago, but were to take no chances with the legal rolling papers.

  • In the mid-1970's I had to make a business trip from Boston to somewhere, Jacksonville, I think. Airport security in the US was a much more casual matter then, and it was my habit to carry a baggie with small amount of marijuana in my briefcase, along with a small stone pipe.

    Packing for this particular trip must have been done in a daydream. At the security checkpoint I put my briefcase on the conveyor belt, dumped my metallic objects into a small basket, and walked through. On the other side, a young woman approached me and asked if I would mind if she opened my briefcase. Some metallic object had caught her eye during the scan and she wanted to know what it was.

    I gave the go ahead, and right there on top of everything else was the bag of marijuana. She sifted through the briefcase's contents and found whatever she was looking for, looked up at me, and in a positively frigid voice said "Thank you."

    I just smiled in return and as I began to close the briefcase she dashed over to a middle aged, potbellied, gun carrying security guard. I couldn't hear what she said, but I saw him shake his head and say "No." Her voice rose and I heard her say "But I saw it." He shook his head more emphatically and walked away from her and I got my feet going too, heading for the gate before anyone changed his mind.

    At a guess, airports and airlines wanted no ill will between themselves and the casual user. Presumably, anyone stupid enough to put a bag of grass on top of his briefcase contents was understood not to be a veteran dealer.

  • A planning associate, Ginny, and I sometimes had to make business trips together. It was our habit to fly out on Sunday afternoon and have dinner together that night.

    On one trip to Chicago, she informed me after we were airborne that she had just finished a huge meal cooked by her boyfriend's mother and really didn't have much desire to go out to dinner. *Eye*, on the other hand, had eaten very lightly in anticipation of the forthcoming dinner. Somewhat disingenuously, I told her not to worry about it.

    We checked in at the Ritz-Carlton (a major convention or two had booked all the rooms at other hotels. Life was tough.). I walked her to her door, entered with her, pulled out the grass, got her to roll a joint, and we got stoned. A few minutes later dinner seemed like a good idea to her.

    I went to my room and unpacked, went back and collected her, and off to dinner we went. When we got back to the hotel I walked her to her door and then headed for mine. I had just closed the door behind me when the phone rang.

    "Donnie, come quick. Come over here. You have to see this."

    I went back to her room and she led me over to the table with the ashtray. She had left the roach in the ashtray and while we were at dinner a maid had entered the room cleaned the ashtray, and put the roach right back into it.

    As with the airport incident, the Ritz-Carlton was not going to bust a customer for the unfinished half of a joint.
OK, everyone, This is the 128th post and I regret having to tell you that that's all there is for the moment. I'm sure that as time passes memories will pop into my head and I'll post them, but I'm out of material for Sunday and Wednesday posts.

I thank all of you who have followed the blog, and would like to remind anyone who might be interested that instead of having to check here for new entries you can use one of the "subscribe" links at the bottom of this page.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blue Cross Women

  • One of the young women in my area was Doris, German born, fluent in English, but not acquainted with the more obscure euphemisms, or at least not *all* of them.

    Our building was at Illinois Center in Chicago, and below ground level it was possible to walk indoors to the Hyatt Regency hotel. Consequently, there was the occasional gathering for drinks at the Hyatt. One morning at work Doris told us abut the evening before.

    She had gone to the Hyatt to meet a couple of girlfriends. While crossing the lobby she was stopped by a stranger, a man in a business suit, who asked her "Are you a working girl?"

    Never having heard the expression, she interpreted the question literally and answered in the affirmative. To her astonishment, he handed her his room key, told her the room number, and said he'd be there in a few minutes.

    Naturally, we, her audience the next day, wanted to know what she had done about it. He had simply walked away after giving her the key, leaving her to work out exactly what had just happened. Once she had done so, she walked over to the registration counter and gave the key to one of the employees, saying she had found it on the carpet.

    It was several days before she could relate the story without a look of absolute horror.

  • Relatively new to our area, Nicki was in her early twenties and heartbreakingly cute. She was also shy and very proper, at least around her vice-president, yours truly.

    Her desk was in an office with several other analysts and junior analysts, all older and a bit less retiring. The office was bordered on its sides by two hallways, and one day while walking through that office, I was stopped by one of the veterans and asked, "Donnie, will you do something about Nicki?"

    Nicki and I looked at each other, and I asked "What's the problem with Nicki?"

    "She has the hiccups and we've tried everything, but nothing works. She can't get rid of them."

    Not knowing exactly what to do about it, I nevertheless walked over and stood at Nicki's side. She was seated at her desk and looked up at me. Talk about a deer in the headlights.

    I thought for a moment and then unbuttoned my suit jacket, grabbed the zipper at the top of my fly, and pretended to unzip it. Nicki shrieked, threw up her hands, hurled herself away from me, and tumbled out of her chair onto the floor.

    One seldom hears such laughter as filled that room, and I just continued on my way to wherever I had been going. A few minutes later, on my way back to my office, I stopped in and learned that Nicki's hiccups were indeed gone and the story of the cure was all over the suite of offices.

    The next morning, at the beginning of office hours, Nicki stopped by my office (a first) and tapped lightly on the door frame. I looked up and she smiled and said "Oh, Donnie, I told my father what you did yesterday."

    Visions of fathers and shotguns popped into my head, but she continued, "He thought it was very funny."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

(1) Billy and (2) Big Red

Another mish mash of unrelated items.

  • Toward the end of her life Mom lived with my brother Billy until she reached a point where she needed full time care and entered a nearby nursing home. Being seventy miles away, I saw her only on weekends, but Billy was a saint in this matter and visited her twice a day, seven days a week.

    In southern Maryland the climate is moderate most of the year, and most days when we visited there was an elderly man with no legs sitting in a wheelchair just outside the entrance to the home. This man was known as "Chicken John" because there was an extensive wooded area around the nursing home and he and a wild chicken had befriended each other. At some point during each day the chicken would leave the woods and visit the patient, hopping up in his lap.

    The chicken was not fond of other humans, but permitted John to hold him, pet him, and talk to him. This had gone on for several years and John had somehow acquired a small building, something like a doghouse, that was kept by the side of the entrance and was the exclusive domain of the chicken.

    John and visitors would "hello" each other, and one day my brother had a thought.

    Billy: "You know, I come here every day, and if there's something you would like me to bring for you I could do that."

    Chicken John: "Well, actually I could use a little whiskey once in a while."

    Billy, suspiciously: "Is there any medical reason why you shouldn't have whiskey?"

    Chicken John: "Oh, no, I'm just here 'cause I'm old and I don't have any legs."

    So the deal was done and my brother acquired the habit of presenting John with a pint of whiskey once a week. John would thank him and the pint would disappear under his lap warmer.

    This went on for months and then one day John stopped appearing at his post. Billy made inquiries, and learned that Chicken John had died. He also learned that Chicken John had been a diabetic.

    I suppose there are people who will be horrified by this story, but I've given it some thought and I'm in agreement with Billy - John knew the score and had a choice: he could play the odds and perhaps live a little longer or he could drink the pint a week, perhaps shortening his life a little but making it more endurable. He made his choice, and while those responsible for his medical care would have prohibited it, I think he had the right to make that choice.

  • My outfit in Vietnam had a unique assignment. I won't bore you with that except to say that it was the brainchild of a full colonel, a redhead known to the outfit as "Big Red." We went from Corpus Christi, Texas to Vietnam, and the colonel stayed behind, building another outfit to replace us in thirteen months. Naturally, there was some joking among the guys about this being his idea along with his not making the trip to Vietnam.

    In fact, one GI who had brought his guitar wrote a song about it and in no time he and his guitar were a hit. Eventually, word of it reached our batallion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Davis (R.I.P.), and he summoned the GI to his office for a special performance.

    Some lines from the song:

    We had a old colonel they called Big Red.
    I'll never forget the last words he said.
    He said "This deal's too good for me.
    I'll stay right here in old CC."
    And I ain't seen him since.

    Colonel Davis was delighted by the song, and a few months later, when Big Red visited us in Vietnam, the GI was summoned once again, this time for a performance before the subject of his song.

    I do believe he'd rather have dipped his arm in boiling oil than sing that song in front of Big Red, but he did his duty and the colonel laughed and applauded through the performance.

    As we wound up our tour we heard that Big Red had received his first star, and we were all happy about that.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Dee Dee Stories and a Mini-Rant

As we wind down, I'll be combining unrelated subjects more frequently, simply in order to make posts of respectable sizes.

  • I have mentioned that Dee had a sweet tooth, and it was from her that I learned that M&M's *will* melt in your hand, given sufficient time. Dee also liked the occasional daydream or nap, and one day she combined her pleasures, grabbing a handful of M&M's and stretching out on the bed. She awoke several hours later with a handful of melted chocolate.

  • One day Dee was *quite* upset with me over something, I honestly don't recall what (but if she reminds me I'll post it here), and was unable to keep it from spilling over into the office.

    Whatever led up to it, she came to the area where I worked and shrieked "I'm BUSY Saturday. And EVERY Saturday."

    The rest of this I later heard from her. Soon it was quitting time, and she was at the elevator bank, crying. Several co-workers arrived and one asked, "What's the matter, Dee Dee?"

    Dee, Having Her Cake and Eating It Too: "Oh, never mind. I don't want to get Donnie Richards in trouble."
What Constitutes "Art?"

Twenty years ago a colleague and I skirmished for a couple of days over the things that people call art, in particular "abstract art" and its cousins. Taking examples from real life, my position was that paintings created by dipping cows' tails in paints and having the cows swish their tails against canvas, and paintings by monkeys randomly throwing paint at canvas have been awarded first prizes in art contests, and this says to me that the so called judges simply couldn't distinguish between art and Art Garfunkel.

In the end he took the position that something was to be called art if whoever created it said it was art. My take on that was that the concept robbed the word "art" of all meaning.

My colleague is now among the departed, and if he ever changed his mind on the matter he did so without informing me. *Eye*, it will delight you to know, have not changed my position one iota, and a recent news item simply adds fuel to my fire.

The Tate Museum in London is "thought" to be displaying two paintings by the late Mark Rothko incorrectly. They currently hang horizontally, and it is said by some that he intended that they hang vertically. This argument is bolstered by the position of his signature on the back of the canvas.

Rothko donated the works to the Tate Museum before committing suicide, and one is left to hope that the proximate cause of the suicide was not the positioning of the paintings.

Rothko, by the way, has been described as "famous for his bold stripes and squares."

Here's one of the pictures in question, hanging at the Tate:

Couldn't you just look at that all day?

What? Let me see if I've got it:

If you paint stripes - nothing but a couple of stripes - on a canvas, you've created a work of art, a serious work of art, one worthy of hanging in the Tate Museum, even though no one can look at it and tell which end is up.

Try this thought experiment:

1. Find and isolate a dozen or so art critics who somehow have never seen or heard of Rothko or his paintings.

2. Make your own painting - nothing but a couple of stripes. Paint them vertically or horizontally - it doesn't matter.

3. Submit your painting and the painting pictured above to the critics for comparative judgments.

If such an experiment could be arranged I would bet the farm that the critics would be divided as to which was the better painting. And they would find reasons for their opinions, reasons regarding what each painting "says," reasons that never entered Rothko's mind or yours while the paintings were being created.

Despite the  risk  certainty of being categorized a Philistine by the effete, I say they're jackasses all - those who think it's art, those who argue about which end is up, and those who even give it a second thought.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thoughts About Marijuana

  • Marijuana Is Not Addictive

    • How many times have you read about someone breaking into a house to steal marijuana money? Pulling a knife or a gun on someone to steal marijuana money? None, right?
    • If you smoke it and you know others who do, then you know people who have quit. Sometimes they've just lost interest. Sometimes they have had to quit because of employment - random testing, etc. How many of them had any problem quitting? None, right?
    • How many times have you run out of grass and been unable to get any for a while? We've all had it happen. How many times did it make you think about doing anything drastic? None, right?
    • How many people do you know who had trouble sleeping because they had run out of pot? None, right?
    • How many people do you know who have shown physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, such as weight loss or weight gain, runny nose, hyperactivity or lethargy? None, right?
    • How many people do you know who have suffered from a lack of self-esteem due to smoking or not smoking grass? None, right?

    Then by what definition is marijuana addictive?

  • But there are reasons people shouldn't smoke marijuana. Kids shouldn't smoke it for obvious physical reasons. And smoking anything isn't good for your lungs.

    And there are behaviors that should not be indulged in when stoned, such as baby sitting or driving. My brother Billy says that "Alcohol makes you run red lights. Marijuana makes you stop at green lights." That's clever, funny, and true, but . . . stopping at green lights can be dangerous.

    And for that matter, trying to stay stopped at red lights. When I was younger and more stupid, I used to drive after smoking a little grass. I remember driving stoned in Boston once, around midnight, and stopping at a red light. On the right hand corner across the street there was a neon display that alternated between time and temperature. It changed from one to the other and I proceeded to drive right through the red light. Fortunately, I was the only driver in the area, but with a little less luck I could have been T-boned.

  • Credibility Gap

    The subject of marijuana is one that teaches children that their government, their schools, and adults in general will lie to them to get their way. Most kids know someone who smokes marijuana. It might be friends, older siblings, adult relatives, or anyone. And they know, absolutely, that they are being lied to about all the hobgoblins they are told accompany marijuana use. Why, then, should they trust these people on other matters?

    The government in general and politicians in particular annoy me on this matter. Many of them know better, but will pretend that marijuana is addictive and is dangerous in ways that it is not. Two Presidents, Nixon and Bush the Elder, created apolitical commissions to look into and make recommendations about the subject. These groups comprised politicians and non-politicians, Democrats and Republicans, active and retired people. Both commissions recommended decriminilization and both Presidents buried the recommendations. They were afraid of what would happen to them in the polls and they just didn't have the  balls  courage to do the right thing.

  • Ramblings

    • Two friends drove from Cape Cod to Boston on a Sunday night. It was after midnight and they were about ten minutes from the city proper when they spotted an open Howard Johnson's restaurant. They had begun the drive after smoking some grass, they still had the munchies, and they had run out of snacks, so they decided to stop and eat. As they entered the parking lot it began to resemble a law enforcement convention. There were a half dozen cars there bearing the markings of city police or state police.

      But these were desperate times and they resolved to go through with it. Promising each other that they would act "normally," they entered and sat at a booth. After looking at their menus, they both ordered steak and eggs and a hot fudge sundae.

    • A friend, an Assistant Vice-President in a large corporation, was driving from Boston to Manchester, New Hampshire on a Sunday afternoon. He was a little stoned, alone in the car, and virtually alone on the road. He was doing about ten miles per hour more than the speed limit when he saw a state trooper coming from the other direction. He slowed down and they passed each other, and he was dismayed to see the trooper slow down and cross the median, reversing direction.

      He thought Might as well get it over with and pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the trooper. A few minutes later the trooper pulled in behind him, walked up to the window, and said, "Excuse me, sir. Would you mind telling me why you're stopped here?"

    • Perhaps a dozen of us, guys and gals, had gathered at a friend's house to watch a heavyweight championship fight, or to watch those who were watching it. Pretty much everyone had smoked some grass, and one guy, Bobby, had grabbed a Trivial Pursuit game and was thumbing through the cards, asking the group at large questions he thought interesting or difficult.

      I disappeared into the bathroom for a couple of minutes and when I returned everyone was looking at me. Bobby looked at the card and asked me a question about the Watergate burglars. My answer was "G. Gordon Liddy," and Bobby turned to the others and said triumphantly, "See? I told you he'd know. J. Lordon Gibby."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Miscellaneous and Pointless

  • Miss Wilson, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Johnson, Miss Sewell, Miss Frazier, and Mrs. Kiley were my first through sixth grade teachers. Can you name yours? Half credit if you're under forty.

  • On a Friday night around 1980, Betty and I went to a restaurant on Diversey In Chicago, Lawrence of Oregano, one of a chain of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants in the Chicago area. There was a very small stage at the street window end of the bar and on Friday and Saturday nights there was music - two one hour sets each from folk singer Carolyn Ford and from former lead singer of Chicago's New Colony Six, Ronnie Rice.

    Ronnie did pretty much all fifties and sixties songs, and while I was pushing forty, most of the audience was twenty-five or so, and it was amazing how many of these songs they were familiar with. The whole act was just Ronnie and his guitar and voice, and he would do a few seconds of a song and then segue into another, for four or five minutes at a time. He'd stop and schmooze with the audience, and perhaps once a set he would offer a free drink to the first person who could name the artist who did a particular song, usually songs around the bottom of the top twenty in their day.

    My first night there, the one with Betty, Ronnie did the free drink thing, saying "Don't yell it out if you know it, just raise your hand." He began playing and I knew instantly what it was, so I raised my hand. He looked at me, looked around, played a few seconds more, and then stopped and looked around. There were no other hands in the air and he asked me for the artist. It was Nervous Norvous, singer of the novelty tune Ronnie had performed, "Transfusion."

    So I won a drink and a friendly competition was born. A few of us *really* enjoyed Ronnie's performances and went occasionally on Fridays. Sometimes Ronnie would have *two* drink questions, one for the audience at large - excluding me - and one exclusively for me. The latter were always fairly obscure, but this was the music of my youth, and I was not easy to stump. I'd give the answer, he'd shake his head, and a drink would arrive.

    But then . . . but then . . . .

    One Friday I was there with a friend, Marlene. About halfway through his first set Ronnie began playing and singing another novelty tune from the 1960's, Mr. Custer.

    I thought for a couple of seconds, then thought frantically for a couple of seconds, then said aloud, "Shit!"

    Marlene: "What's wrong?"

    Stumped Unohoo: "He's gonna ask me who did this song and I don't have a clue."

    Marlene had never witnessed the Q&A thing between Ronnie and me, and she looked skeptical, but sure enough, he ended that string of songs, looked over at me, and asked "Do you know who did that?"

    I smiled and shook my head no.

    "But you know the song, right?"

    I laugned and nodded yes.

    He threw up his hands and yelled into the microphone, "Yayyyy. I win a drink" and the kids, some of whom had seen me win a dozen or more drinks over the course of a year, went crazy.

    The artist was Larry Verne, a one hit wonder, and I'll never get caught short on that one again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Momisms and Other Expressions

Heard at Home During My Youth
  • "Don't get your water hot."

  • "What are you trying to do, heat the outdoors?"

  • "If I hear one more peep out of you . . . ."
      (Followed by the inevitable "Peep")

  • "Firstname Middlename Lastname, you stop that this minute!"

  • "Think of all the starving kids in China who would love to have that."

  • "If you don't stop that I'm gonna knock you into the middle of next week."

  • "I hope that when you grow up you have kids that are just like you."
      (The only curse universally recognized as effective.)

  • "Because I said so."

  • "A grasss in the snake" and "Don't put all your baskets in one chicken."
      (Both from Dad)

  • "If I have to come up there . . . ."

  • "Be nice to your brother."

  • "I'm going to count to three."

  • "We'll see."

  • "Did you say 'Thank you?'"

  • "If Johnny jumped off the bridge would you jump off the bridge too?"

  • "What has gotten into you?"

  • "I'll give you something to cry about."

  • "If it was a snake it would bite you."

  • "You'd lose your head if it wasn't screwed on."

  • "Same thing, only different."

  • "We went to different schools together."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Random Memories II

  • Two thirtyish women at work, one of them Betty, decided they needed to lose weight, and agreed to provide moral support to each other in "counting carbs."

    First thing every work morning they would put their heads together and each would tell the other everything that had been consumed the preceding day, as well as why some things "didn't count."

    One lunch hour I joined several women in the cafeteria, one of whom was Betty. A couple of minutes after finishing a small and healthy meal, she left us and returned a couple of minutes later with frosted carrot cake and a fork.

    Silly me: "Betty, how many carbs in carrot cake?"

    Betty: "None, Richards."

  • Not long after we started dating, Dee Dee decided to share an apartment with two girls. One evening when I arrived to pick her up, we somehow got into a brief conversation about Women's Lib. It was a hot topic, this being the early to mid-1970's, and I think she had just been discussing it with her roommates, who had disappeared into their bedrooms.

    Dee lectured me on women and their rights and abilities for a moment, and my recollection is that her tone made it sound as if I had been out campaigning against women or something. In any case, I decided to have some fun and asked her "Well if we're so equal, why don't you pay for any of our dates? Why do I always pay for dinner, drinks, and everything?"

    Dee shouted toward her roommates, "It's over."

  • My secretary at Blue Cross had been promoted (to become the secretary of my boss) and I had promoted a young woman, Kathy, to replace her.

    She had only been my secretary for a short time and I didn't know a great deal about her life outside the office, but I did know that she had a Puerto Rican boyfriend.

    On returning to work after a 4th of July weekend, I asked her "what did you do over the long weekend?"

    "Went to a spicnic."
As these posts have become a little shorter, a little less connected internally, the more astute among you may have wondered whether we're about to wind things down, and the answer is yes.

Way back when, more than thirteen months ago, I committed to posting a couple of times a week for a year, and I am happy to say that I've met that goal. But I am running out of things to say, running out of stories about myself and my past that might prove interesting or amusing to other people. I'll continue posting on Wednesdays and Sundays for perhaps several more weeks, but that will be it.

No doubt memories will surface from time to time and I will write about them here, but there won't be any regularity to this. I am grateful to have learned that I have acquired a few dedicated readers, and in the event you would be interested in knowing when I have added a post here, you can fiddle with the "Subscribe to Posts" link at the bottom of the page, which will offer you a choice of ways to be notified of new posts, allowing you to avoid having to actually come to the blog to find out.

I have a political blog elsewhere which I will shut down soon due to lack of interest, both mine and readers at large. It has been suggested to me that I could post here about other matters, but I don't want to change the nature of the blog, which is and was intended to be entirely narcissistic.

It is possible that something will move me to start yet another blog of some kind, and if I do then I will post a link here.

We're not *quite* at the end here, but I want to say thank you to those who have enjoyed these posts.