Parkway Rest Stop


Jack Bog
Ultimate Insult
Yakety Yak
How Appealing
Ipse Dixit
Attu Sees All
The Presurfer
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Rachel Lucas (on hiatus)
a small victory
Peppermint Patty
Balloon Juice
Da Goddess
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical
Power Line
Electric Venom
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Margi Lowry
Sgt. Hook
Gut Rumbles
The Laughing Wolf
Not Quite Tea and Crumpets
On The Third Hand
Right We Are (Closed)
Mudville Gazette
The Country Store
Zogby Blog
Single Southern Guy
Ravenwood's Universe
Resurrection Song
The Spoons Experience
Side Salad
Bloviating Inanities
Serenity's Journal
Babel On!
Jay Solo's Verbosity
Sketches of Strain (Closed)
In Sheeps Clothing
The Accidental Jedi (on hiatus)
Straignt White Guy
The Cheese Stands Alone
Dax Montana
Tasty Manatees
Trying to Grok
Unbillable Hours
~ Tuesday, December 31, 2002

I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. See you in 2003.
~ Monday, December 30, 2002
Swizzle Sticks. While the origin of the term “swizzle stick” is less than completely clear, they are drink stirrers, usually made of plastic, which used to be available in virtually every bar. They often promoted brands of liquor, but they also bore the logo of the place serving the drinks, be it a hotel, bar, or even an airline. They are more difficult to come by these days now that bars often use those awful little, thin plastic straws as drink stirrers. Some people, obviously not knowing how silly they look, insist on drinking through those teeny straws. Yo! It’s whiskey, not a milkshake! Next time you are served a drink with a teeny straw in it, I suggest you use it to stir your drink, and then remove it. You might consider putting it in your pocket after each drink as a convenient way to remind yourself when you have had enough.

Not surprisingly, people collect swizzle sticks, and I enjoyed looking at the collections here, here, and here.

Here’s to ya!
~ Sunday, December 29, 2002

A Hockey Night for a Non-Hockey Fan. Last night I went with a friend to Continental Airlines Arena to watch the New Jersey Devils play the Washington Capitals. The tickets for the event came courtesy of my friend’s employer. No one I know would describe me as a sports fan, much less a hockey fan, but I have been to New Jersey Devils hockey games a couple times over the years (also with corporate tickets), and I attended this time, because it is difficult not to get caught up in the spectacle of it all.

It starts in the parking lot being surrounded by the tailgaters, ranging from folks who bring a sandwich to eat and a beer to drink before the game, to those who set up elaborate cooking areas and bring cases and cases of pre-game suds. Last night, we enjoyed it all vicariously, as it was below freezing and the thought of standing in the wind-whipped Jersey parking lot sipping a cold one didn’t appeal to me very much. So, we left the tailgating to the diehard Devils fans.

Once in the Arena and its large circular hallway, one is treated to another people show, the cast of which hustles in both directions simultaneously. I immediately began to think that I was the only person in the place who was not wearing some sort of Devils regalia. People were wearing Devils hats, Devils jerseys (adorned with their favorite player’s name and number), Devils Jackets (one guy was sporting a leather job that must have cost a small fortune), Devils Sweaters, Devils tee shirts, and a couple guys even wore Devils hardhats. The prize for the goofiest, I think, goes to the people who wear red devil’s horns on their heads that blink on and off. Some people carried homemade “Go Devils” signs, and a few even painted their faces to say, I assume, “Go Devils” (I found it difficult to read the face writing without staring directly into the faces providing the writing surface, something that made me, if not them, uncomfortable).

The circular hallway is also full of places that sell all sorts of food and drinks, including beer and I think even booze. The Devils Fan Club also mans a table, as do program sellers, and people who were taking applications for Devils Visa Cards (all the way up to platinum), which come with a free three-month subscription to Sports Illustrated Magazine. Of course, there were also numerous souvenir stands selling a dazzling array of Devils hat, jerseys, toy hockey sticks, and God knows what else. It was all flying by too fast, as I was working my way through the crowd to find our seats.

Upon exiting the circular hallway, one enters the seating area surrounding the rink. It is a case of an instant and pleasing audio and visual overload. All the arena lights are ablaze clearly showing the advertisements and corporate logos that cover seemingly every inch of the interior. Even the ice itself serves as a billboard displaying the "Bud Light" Logo under the playing surface. There are several huge TV screens on which there is always something (almost always promotional) going on. Both teams were in full force on their respective sides of the ice warming up by skating in all directions and slamming dozens and dozens of pucks to one another and at the team’s goalie. The goalies’ functional, protective outfits are also billboards for the teams’ colors and, with their elaborately painted facemasks, they look downright otherworldly to the uninitiated.

The sound of it all is also quite amazing. As the teams warm up, one can hear the multiple thwacks of the pucks hitting against the sticks as well as the noise of the skate blades cutting through the ice and against it as the players abruptly stop and change direction. Now and then a practice shot smacks into the glass (protecting the audience members from possible decapitation), which creates a sound that leaves little doubt about how fast those things fly through the air. All this is against the background of electronic music that is pumped through a well-equalized sound system that must be worth a gazillion dollars.

During the game’s many breaks in play, the action does not stop. There is a person dressed as a devil who shoots tee shirts from a special gun that can rocket tee shirts from ground level to the highest points in the arena. There is also a “Winning Section” game, which awards a single row of audience members, chosen at random, prizes that are handed out by the tee-shirt shooting Devil guy.

The huge TVs also fill in the play breaks with entertainment. For example, there is the “Kissing Cam” that focuses on two unsuspecting audience members for all in the arena to see. If they kiss, they are rewarded with applause, while refusals to smooch bring hoots and hollers from the audience. . Much like the “Kissing Cam,” there is a also a “Fan Cam,” which focuses on one or more fans who are the most creatively “Deviled Out.” Last night one of the favorites turned out to be an infant decked out in a pint-sized Devils jersey. The TV also entices audience members to visit the souvenir stands in the circular hallway during the intermissions, and informs parents that while out there the kids can have their picture taken with Scooby Doo (who looked to me to be about 6 and a half feet tall).

It was quite an amazing experience, but there is most definitely a rub, and that is, I cannot imagine too many families of four being able to afford to experience the whole show. Here are some numbers.

Tickets. Our tickets carried a price of $90.00 each. We sat in Section 117, which are very good seats, but one could pay more for even better seats. So, for Joe Working Guy, his wife and two kids, the seats alone would cost $360.00.

Parking. Our parking was included with the complimentary tickets, but parking normally costs $10.00.

Drinks and Food. If the parents might like two beers each during the evening, they come at $6.25 each (a can of Coors Light in a plastic cup), and the guy serving the beer has a tip jar. So, figure another $26.00 for beer. For kids, soda or milkshakes run about $4.75 each. If each child wants two, that’s another $19.00. Food is also extremely expensive. I don’t know about the fancier food items, but a couple pedestrian hot dogs can run $10.00. Two for each family ember totals up to something like $40.00. Toss in some fries and popcorn and you’re easily up to $50.00. (I saw dads carrying lots and lots of food and drinks).

Souvenirs. Let’s assume that the adults are not interested in souvenirs (although you could not prove that by watching the action at the counters), and that only one of the children wants a jersey, while the other wants only a hat (anyone with kids knows that this is a pretty gutsy assumption). The jersey will run about $70.00 and the hat about $30.00.

So, conservatively, it would cost a family of four something in the area of $555.00 for a night of Devils Hockey (not including a program, the Devils Year book, or the picture with Scooby Doo). Now, I am sure that it can be done cheaper. Cheaper seats, no food, no beverages, no souvenirs, no this, no that, – an evening of “no’s” to the children. Pretty sad picture, I think, and the people who are making all the money count heavily on that.

I am sure that sports journalists have a good deal to say about why it is that professional athletic events are becoming something that only well-to-do individuals and corporations can afford, so I will leave that to them. For my part, as much as I enjoyed the evening, I think for $555.00, a family could get more bang for the buck elsewhere. However, I am sure that the folks wearing the blinking horns on their heads would not agree.

Oh yeah, the game was very good. The Devils won 2 to 1 in overtime.

~ Saturday, December 28, 2002
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Christmas. On November 28, 2002 in “More than Just Turkey,” I shared our family’s custom of selecting an annual theme for grab bag gifts at Christmas. As reported then, this year’s theme was “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Christmas,” inspired by the movie in which two spaced out high school students manage to go back in time and witness historical events. As such, each participant in the grab bag had to purchase gifts that collectively signified an historical event.

It turned out to be more of a challenge than any of us realized at the time. Of course, my putting the grab bag gift out of mind until the last minute did not make things easier.

Here’s a sampling of the gifts that were exchanged:

Gift: A book about Kites, Photocopy of the front side of a $100 bill, and the book “The Perfect Storm.”

Event. Ben Franklin’s experiment proving that lightening was an electrical phenomenon.

Gift: Bottle of Fab Detergent, American Flag Pin, “4” birthday candle, and a can of “Raid”

Event. British/Beatles’ Invasion of America

Gift. Small globe, toy soldiers, “Uno” game.

Event World War One

Gift. Toy Firemen, box of wooden matches, small cow, Video Tape of “Chicago Joe and the Showgirl”

Event. Chicago Fire

Gift. Tea set, tea, Samuel Adams Beer, Tastykake Krimpets

Event. Boston Tea Party

Gift. Can of soup, two apples, loaf of bread

Event. The Great Depression

Gift. Bottle of Crown Royal Whiskey, Bottle of sweet vermouth, check in the amount of $24.00

Event. Dutch purchase of Manhattan Island

As in the past, we had lots of laughs, but we all agreed that, by comparison, the Elvis Christmas was a snap.
~ Friday, December 27, 2002
The Real Fear Factor. Last night I watched the History Channel’s re-broadcast of The World Trade Center Special, which included dramatic photographs and video clips of that horrible day in 2001. The re-broadcast was every bit as unsettling this time as it was the first time I saw it. I think the History Channel should broadcast that program several times per year, and I think we would all do well to watch it each time it airs.

Slightly more than 15 months have passed since September 11, 2001, and, judging by what seems to occupying people’s minds and the collective mind of the press, I wonder if we are letting those horrible pictures slip away from our consciousness. It seems to me that far too many people are far too concerned with who their favorite “Survivor” is or what is the latest disgusting thing people will have to eat on the "Fear Factor" to get their 15 minutes of fame. Those who consider themselves too sophisticated to wonder who will booted off the island or who will actually be able to gobble down all their allotted number of reindeer testicles, spend far too much time worrying about which Senator made what lame-brained remarks in any given week.

I think we should all focus on the Real Fear Factor:

There are people in world, cut from the same cloth as the 9/11 terrorists who, given the chance, would happily kill you and me and our children simply because we are Americans.

Their willingness to kill us knows no political parties. They hate democrats, republicans and independents alike.

Carrying peace signs (as if you have a monopoly on wanting peace) won’t get you a pass from them. They hate you too.

They do not distinguish between military and civilian targets. We are all their enemies.

They don’t mind dying in the process of killing you and me and our children.

They WILL strike again.

This all seemed quite clear on September 12, 2001. I worry that we are forgetting what we must never, ever forget.

And if you are one of the American-brought-this-on-itself crowd, consider this a cyber spit in your eye. I suggest you consider living elsewhere. Try Saudi Arabia on for size.
~ Thursday, December 26, 2002

Merry Christmas. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I certainly did. Lots of great, fattening food (guilt free - It's Christmas) and more than a few Christmas libations, which mad shoveling snow today a special treat. I think I'll use the balance of this day to mentally and physically regroup.
~ Monday, December 23, 2002

Christmas/New Year Champagne. This is the time of year when people, like me, who drink champagne once or twice per year find themselves wanting or needing to buy some Champagne for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Large liquor stores will often have a large and varied selection of the bubbly, which can be terribly confusing, with prices ranging from $4.95 per bottle to twenty times that much.

To further add to the confusion, only some of the bottles are labeled “Champagne.” That’s because to be labeled “Champagne” the bubbly wine must be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. So, the stuff you see on the shelves called “Sekt” is sparkling wine made in Germany. When it is made in the U.S., it is simply called Sparkling Wine. For our purposes and for the sake of simplicity, (the complaints of the wine makers in France notwithstanding), let’s call them all “Champagne.”

If you found “Holiday Spirits, the Drinkable Kind” (December 16, 2002) useful, I thought you might appreciate a Champagne recommendation that will not bust your budget. I recently tried and thoroughly enjoyed Mirabelle Brut (dry) Sparkling Wine from the Shramsberg Winery in California. For about $12.00 - $14.00 per bottle you can serve “Champagne” that should please all but the $100.00 per bottle folks. If, however, you feel that you absolutely must have French Champagne, I recommend Moet & Chandon. It is excellent, but it can set you back $35.00-$40.00 per bottle. For a New Year’s toast, I’d go with the Mirabelle.

A tip on opening Champagne. Champagne should not gush from the bottle upon opening. Gushing Champagne just means that the person opening the bottle did it incorrectly, or he just won the Indy 500 and wants to spray Champagne rather than drink it. When Champagne is opened properly, you should hear a soft “pop” as the cork comes out of the bottle. I prefer setting the bottle on a flat surface, as it allows you to control the cork and bottle better. The key is to firmly grasp the cork with one hand (best to use a towel) and TURN THE BOTTLE, not the cork, with the other hand. You will find that when you do this, you will feel the cork push itself slowly out of the bottle. Here are detailed instructions, with photographs.


~ Saturday, December 21, 2002
“You must have cheated!” I was in the Army only about a week or so, and there I was being accused by the First Sergeant of cheating on a test. One must understand the terrifying power of a First Sergeant. The First Sergeant is the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in a training company, and most definitely is not a man to be trifled with. First Sergeants usually have twenty years plus in the military, and they have been known to make young officers shake in their boots. Here’s what happened, and I believed then and I believe now that it could only have happened in the Army.

About a week or so into Basic Training, each man in the training company was given a three-hundred multiple choice test to take cold. The test dealt, quite predictably, with Army things (e.g. rank insignia, protocol, drill, communications, weapons, etc.), but it also dealt with the kinds of things that one learns in the Boy Scouts (e.g. camping skills, survival skills, and first aid). So, as a result of having been a Boy Scout and also having done some pre-induction reading about the Army (that too was probably spawned by the Boy Scout Motto “Be Prepared”), I scored something like 200 out of a possible 300 on the test. Other members of the company, presumably not having been Boy Scouts and not having done any pre-induction reading, generally did not do as well.

The First Sergeant did not accuse me of cheating at that time, but he was quite incredulous as to how a “raw recruit” (pronounced something like “rawCROOT") could score so well. He asked me in front of all the men in the company how I managed what to him was an amazing feat. He was not happy when I told him that I had “learned a lot of that stuff in the Boy Scouts.” I suspect that he probably was a supporter of the Boy Scouts, but he did not appreciate the rest of the men laughing at the implication that this rough-tough Army stuff was the stuff of Boy Scouts.

After this less-than-pleasant interlude, other training sergeants spent three plus hours using the test as a teaching tool. They slowly (very, very slowly) read each question and then gave the correct answer from the four choices, along with a brief explanation of the reason for the answer. They did this 300 times. For the 200 questions I had known the answers to, this was frightfully boring, but for the other 100, I paid attention to the answers and the proffered explanations.

Now, I swear that the following is true. Twenty-fours hours later, the sergeants handed us the SAME TEST. I thought, there must be some catch. This cannot be the same test that we went over in excruciating detail yesterday. But, ten or fifteen questions in, I realized that this was, in fact, the same test.

Following completion of the test (actually a re-test), papers were exchanged for grading, and the sergeants again did the same read-the question and then give the answer routine. I could not believe that they were going through this painful exercise a second time. I had assumed that virtually everyone who had heard the answers a mere twenty-four hours earlier would get all 300 correct.

Well, the guy’s test I marked got about 150 of the questions wrong!! Incredulous, I concluded that the guy must have been elsewhere the previous day. Wrong. He was there; he had had taken the test and also sat through the three hour tortured review of each and every question twenty-four hours earlier.

Enter the First Sergeant asking how the marks were. “Any man get more than 200 right?” I assumed my guy was the only one who could have possibly scored fewer than 200 questions right. Amazingly, others also did not raise their hands, indicating that my guy wasn’t the only guy in the room who must have been dropped on his head as an infant. The First Sergeant then worked the numbers: “Any man get more than 250 right?’ “More than 275 right?” Each time fewer hands went up. He got to “more than 285 right?” and no more hands went up. “So, that’s it then,” the sergeant said, until a guy on the other side of the room put his hand up and said, “This man got all 300 right.”

“WHAT??” the First Sergeant yelled. “That can’t be. Are you sure you marked the gott-damned test right?”

The other recruit confirmed that he had carefully marked the test.

“Something’s going on here,” the First Sergeant hollered. “Whose paper is that?” At this point, I was hoping against hope that it was NOT my paper, and that I had had a series of mental lapses during the test, causing me to get 15 wrong. I did not need another exchange with the First Sergeant.

The other recruit answered with my name.

“Who is this man? I want this man to stand up, NOW.” I stood up. The First Sergeant glared at me, and it was at this point that he said (honest), “You must have cheated! No man has EVER gotten all 300 right.”

My heart pounding out of my chest, and my mouth dry as sand, I replied, “I did not cheat.”

The other sergeants, who were present during the test, caucused with the First Sergeant and must have assured him that they had not seen any evidence of cheating. During this time, I was thinking, Cheating? You must be out of your mind. What the Christ am I doing here?

Faced with my answer and the assurances from the other sergeants, the First Sergeant went into a sarcastic mode and said, “You must some kind of college boy. Are you some kind of college boy?”

“Yes,” I replied.

Reminiscent of Rod Steiger’s sheriff role in “In the Heat of the Night,” the First Sergeant said, “OK then Mr. College Boy smart guy. Why don’t you tell us how you managed to max this test?”

It was not the first and surely it would not be the last time that Army reality was more than I could process at the moment. I actually think that I raised my voice, and replied, “Sergeant, I cannot believe that you would even think to ask me that question. How did I max the test? YOU GAVE US ALL THE ANSWERS YESTERDAY!”

Perhaps sensing the loss of some ground in front of the entire company, his mood changed yet again to one of conciliation and even grudging admiration. He told all the other recruits that my “outstanding” (another favorite Army word) performance was something they should seek to emulate.

At the end of it all, the First Sergeant even gave me a tangible reward. He said, “In recognition of this man’s 'outstanding' (there’s the word again) performance, he goes to the head of the chow line for a week.”

By this time, my sense of reality was so out of whack that I actually began to feel as if I had accomplished something “outstanding.” And, I more than appreciated the honor of going to the head of the chow line that week. The other recruits made much of it as well, and happily made a spot for me at the head of the chow line, because I think they viewed my back and forths with the First Sergeant as one small, albeit very small, victory for the “rawCROOTs.”

This was not the only time I bumped heads with the Army over tests. But that’s a story for another day.
Army Underwear. It was freezing cold that night in December 1968, when the bus delivered us to the U.S. Army Reception Center in Fort Dix, New Jersey. We were “greeted” by an Army sergeant, who boarded the bus and wasted no time reminding us that we were all “in the Army now,” and that we should all keep quiet and walk single file into a large, sparsely furnished, overheated room for the purpose of filling out stacks of forms.

“Gentlemens, listen up! Last name first, then first name, then middle initial.” So instructed the crew-cutted Army sergeant over and over for the completion of each form. He did so in the loud, Army sergeant monotone I would come to know so well. (I thought, Gentlemens? Might that be some sort of super-plural form of he word gentleman? And, listen up? Why listen up? Can one listen down?) The seemingly endless forms were obviously designed to squeeze from us every single detail of the lives we all had before we became “gentlemens.”

“What if you put your first name first?” asked a voice from somewhere behind me. It was the first time any of us actually spoke to a sergeant. Several other voices hesitatingly revealed that they had made the same mistake. That produced a tirade in a much louder than usual Army sergeant monotone, “Gentlemens, you are no longer on the gott-dammed block, and I ain’t your gott-dammed mama! When I give instructions, you WILL gott-damn pay attention, and you WILL gott-damn follow my instructions.”

No question about it. This guy did not like his job, nor did he much like any of us. Then and there I decided that if in one of the dozen or so forms yet to go I mistakenly put my first name first, I would not fess up. No, I would take the easy way out and jab my gott-damned eyes out with the gott-damned number 2 pencil and hope for a gott-damned looney tunes discharge.

After all the forms were finally completed, we were led to the “mess hell” for some “chow.” (The Army just springs these new words on you.) One thing about the Army -- you WILL get three “squares” per day, hence the 24-hour operation of the mess hall in the Reception Center to accommodate the streams of incoming draftees needed to fuel the war in Southeast Asia. Amazingly, some guys greeted this news warmly. I was much too miserable to be hungry. Good thing too, as we were given about five minutes to eat some really chewy chicken wings and lima beans. “Move it. Move it. Move it, gentlemens. Chew it here, swallow it outside, and digest it later!” Maybe I should just jab the gott-damned fork in my gott-damned eyes.

It was too late in the night for the Army to completely strip us of our civilian identities. However, to start the process we were all “issued” Army underwear. (The Army never “gives” you things; it “issues” them to you.) From there, we were “marched” to a two-story World War II barracks for the night, and we were told that under no circumstances was anyone to leave the “gott-damned” barracks until the following morning. It was frighteningly true. The Army really did “own” our “asses.”

The next morning -- just like in the movies -- the sergeant came roaring like a madman into the barracks at God knows what ungodly hour. “Off your asses on and on your feet! Move it! Move it! Move it! We ain’t got all gott-damned day, gentlemens.”

As ordered, we all put on our newly “issued” Army underwear under our civilian trousers. Army underwear (or skivvies) are funny looking billowy white boxer shorts that almost touch the wearer’s knees. After a quick trip back to the mess hall (remember, three squares) for a warp-speed breakfast, we were “marched” to the barber, where in approximately 20-30 seconds, each of us was relieved of a critical party of our 60’s identity – our hair, just about all of it. The barbers were ankle deep in the stuff – just another surreal picture. Everyone looked perfectly ridiculous, but, more importantly to the Army, everyone looked sort of the same.

The next stop was a long, long building where we would be issued uniforms. The idea here is that you start at one end of the building in your underwear and you exit the other end of the building with a uniform on your back and a duffle bag full of extra clothing. Army efficiency at work. So, when we entered the building, we were told to remove everything except for our newly issued Army shorts (I believe that our civilian clothes were mailed home, but I do not recall). From there, we were led into another large room, with rows and rows of folding chairs arranged in front of a stage.

We sat shivering in our Army shorts while one of two sergeants on the stage began to tell us how the uniform issuing procedure would work. In mid sentence, he was interrupted by the other sergeant, a huge black man, who pointed out into the audience and shouted, “YOU!!” Sweet Jesus, does he mean me? If he means me, I hope I just have a heart attack and die right gott-damned here.

“YOU!! YOU IN THE BACK!!!” the sergeant roared.

“Me?” the guy in the back said.

“Yeah, YOU!!! Get the f*** up here!” Thank God it’s not me.

It did, however, turn out to be a guy I went to high school with – a seriously smart, exceedingly polite and quiet guy who had recently graduated from a prestigious university. I was horrified for him as he walked, like a condemned man, to the stage in his shorts and nothing else, past the 100 or so of us, also in our shorts and nothing else.

He walked onto the stage, and the sergeant bellowed, “What’s your name, boy?”

My former high school classmate, now terrified recruit, said “Carl Thompson.” [not his real name]

The sergeant hollered, “Where’re you from, boy?”

Frightened, and obviously puzzled by the reason for the question, Carl said, “Where am I from?” Oh God, he repeated the sergeant’s question.

“You got shit in your ears, boy? I axed you, where’re you FROM?”

“Kearny, New Jersey, sergeant.”

“Well tell me something boy. Do everybody in Kearny, New Jersey wear his underwear backwards?”

Carl looked down and saw, to his shock and embarrassment,. that he had indeed put his underwear on backwards. He was speechless.

We all stifled our laughter, as we quickly looked down to make sure that we didn’t put our bed sheet sized underwear on backwards.

“Answer me, boy. Do everybody in Kearny, New Jersey wear his underwear backwards?”

Barely audibly, Carl said, “No, sergeant.”

“I can’t hear you, boy. Sound off like you got a pair!” (They really do say that.)


The sergeant stared at him, apparently savoring the moment, and then shouted, “Well, gott-dammit, FIX THEM!!”

No one, but no one, laughed as Carl, right there on the stage, took off his shorts, turned them around, and put them back on.

About an hour later we were all at the other end of the building wearing olive drab everything, very drab indeed. It all served to remind me of just how much my life had changed in not even 24 hours.

It would become even more bizarre, but that’s a story for another day.
~ Thursday, December 19, 2002
Musical Altercations, Part Two. My cousin Jack wrote me after having read Musical Altercations (see December 17, 2002), a piece envisioning how the stories told in the lyrics of songs involving fights would look if reported in the press. He remembered a song I had not considered. Even though the song does not actually involve a fight, it does play on the theme of a stranger making a pass at a jealous fellow's wife/girlfriend (e.g. ""Bad Bad LeRoy Brown" and "Copacabana"). Here, however, the protagonist wisely escapes before being stabbed, slashed, shot or beaten..

Jack writes:

TIJUANA, Mexico -- Restaurateur Bad Man Jose reported to local police that a patron of his cafe near the U.S. border ran away through the window today without paying a sizeable food and bar bill. The unidentified patron bolted suddenly following a brief altercation involving Jose's wife, who also works at the establishment.

Mrs. Jose alleged that she was being sexually assaulted by the patron before Jose arrived at the cafe and stopped him. "I'm so glad he got here," she told reporters. "He is so big and so strong. He saved me from that bad man."

"We tell that gringo no mess with her, but he no listen," explained Pedro, a member of the mariachi band at the popular spot. "Finally he vamoose when Jose get here."

Police said that although the mouth-watering food at Jose's is a major tourist attraction, there have been increasing reports of trouble caused by overly aggressive male customers

The song -- “Come a Little Bit Closer" by Jay and the Americans

Jack regularly writes about music from this era in Yakety Yak. Be sure to check it out.

~ Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Learn-Something-New-Every-Day Department. If manhole covers didn’t do it for you, how about pencils? Turns out that there is a lot going on in the world of pencils, and this is the place to get up to speed. With a couple clicks, you can learn the history of pencils, how they are manufactured, who manufactures them, and exactly what a ferrule is. The site contains pencil jokes, pencil trivia and even pencil FAQs. There is also a classified section for people seeking to buy or sell particular types of pencils. A pencil as a Christmas gift? Absolutely One fellow is offering to sell “a Faber BLACKWING 602 and will be taking the best offer before Christmas.” (I wouldn’t wait on that one, if I were you.) Don’t miss the photo gallery, with lots of photos of ….. well, pencils, including a picture of the world’s largest pencil. (via The Ultimate Insult)
~ Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Musical Altercations. The other day, I found myself humming Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee,” the song about a gambling dispute in a bar that led to the shooting of “Billy” by “Stagger Lee.” That led me to think of a couple other tunes involving a fight, often involving a weapon and almost always resulting in casualties.

I sat down at the computer to make sure that that I was recalling the lyrics accurately. It was then that I learned that the song “Stagger Lee” is based on an actual event in St. Louis in 1895, when Lee Sheldon (known locally as “Stag Lee”) fatally shot his friend William Lyons (“Billy”) following a political argument. A quoted portion of the text of the original newspaper report is here. I was struck by the contrast between the poetry of the song and the cold, factual reporting in the 1895 St. Louis Globe Democrat.

I wondered how newspaper reports of the other “fight songs” I remembered would look.

Man Slashed in Bar Room Brawl

Details recently emerged about a fight that took place in a bar on Chicago’s South Side resulting in serious injuries. According to eyewitnesses, a well-dressed gambler, named LeRoy Brown was playing craps at a local gaming and drinking establishment when he became involved in an altercation with the jealous husband of another patron named “Doris,” who prior to the fight had been seated at the bar. The jealous husband, who remains unnamed, claimed that he had become enraged when he saw Mr. Brown staring at Doris. A fight broke out almost immediately between the two men.

Mr. Brown suffered multiple slash wounds and some apparent dismemberment. Authorities are not certain that both men were armed, although Mr. Brown is generally known to carry a razor in his shoe. Sources close to the investigation speculate that the unidentified man may have disarmed Mr. Brown during the fight and used the weapon against him.

In the hospital recovering from his wounds, Mr. Brown conceded that the unfortunate event taught him a valuable lesson. He stated, “I ain’t gonna be messin’ with some jealous guy’s wife anymore.” The unidentified husband remains at large.

Former Showgirl Recalls Lost Love

New York. Looking out of place in an old, low cut dress and wearing faded feathers in her hair, Lola, a former showgirl at the Copacabana Night Club, now a disco, recalled the night thirty years ago that changed her life.

“I was a top showgirl in this place once, you know.” As she stared into the swirling disco ball, she remarked, “Oh yeah, they used to have great shows here. You’d never know it by looking at this crowd.” She paused to order another drink, which must have been her fifth or sixth. “It was great, I tell you. I worked six nights a week from 8 till 4. And then there was Tony -- my dearest Tony. He was a bartender here. Right across the floor there. I’d dance and he’d keep the bar popping. We fell in love. Who could ask for more?”

“So, one night this guy Rico walks in the place. He really thought he was something, wearing that big diamond and all. So, the maitre d escorts him to his chair; he sits down and watches me dance. At the end of my act, he calls me over to his table. Well, the guy was not very nice. I’m used to jerks coming on to me, but he just went too far. Next thing I know, I see Tony sailing across the bar at Rico, and the two of them went at each other like wildcats. I saw blood on the floor, and that is when I heard the gunshot. No one could tell who was shot.”

When asked what happened to Tony, Lola simply replied, “I lost him.” She refused to elaborate further, stating simply, “I’m thirty years older now, and I’d rather not discuss it.”

Violent Disturbance at Local Tavern

The usual evening revelry in a local corner tavern on Honky Tonk Street was interrupted when violence broke out between two patrons, both of whom were armed. Police reports indicate that at some point in the evening, a cigar-smoking man wearing a tailor-made suit, a Stetson hat, cowboy boots and several diamond rings, emerged from a Cadillac (presumably a limousine), and boisterously entered the tavern. The man, identified himself as “Big Boy Pete” and warned the customers not to trifle with him, or he would “cut them down.”

With this, the music stopped and the only voice that was heard was that of a Mr. Brown (a/k/a “Bad Man Brown”), another patron. Mr. Brown reportedly smiled and warned Pete that if he were to take three more steps, Mr. Brown would “do him in.” Pete responded with his own warning, which included advising Mr. Brown that he was armed with a loaded 45-caliber pistol.

Undeterred by Pete’s warning, Mr. Brown pulled a knife and attacked Pete. A savage fight ensued, which ended only when Mr. Brown reportedly cut the cigar from Pete’s mouth and knocked him to the ground. Witnesses reported that Pete grabbed his Stetson hat and ran from the tavern. No arrests were made.

Patrons of the tavern often refer to this incident when warning others who come to the tavern not to “mess with” Mr. Brown.

Posse Locates and Kills Murder Suspect

El Paso. An unidentified man, believed to have been a resident of El Paso, was fatally wounded by one or more members of a posse as he returned to El Paso from having previously fled to New Mexico following his involvement in a fatal gun fight with a young Texas cowboy. Witnesses who recognized the dead man reported that he had become infatuated with a young Mexican woman named “Feleena,” and that he spent virtually every evening at a nightspot called “Rosa’s Cantina,” where he would longingly watch Feleena dance. The alleged murder took place when the El Paso resident became angry at seeing the Texas cowboy drinking with Feleena. The El Paso resident challenged the cowboy, who immediately drew his gun, but not before the El Paso resident fired the fatal shot.

Following the incident at Rosa’s, the El Paso resident fled on horseback in the direction of New Mexico. The evidence suggests that his decision to return to El Paso and Rosa’s Cantina was driven by his continuing infatuation with Feleena, who reportedly ran to him as he lay dying from the wounds inflicted by the posse.

The songs and artists are, of course:

Bad Bad LeRoy Brown” by Jim Croce
Copacabana” by Barry Manilow
Big Boy Pete” by the Olympics
El Paso” by Marty Robbins
Roadies. Those of us who countless times have lugged speakers, amps, soundboards, drum sets, wires, microhpones, keyboards and guitars to a gig, set it all up before everyone arrives, played the gig, tore it all down after everyone has gone home, and lugged it all again in the wee hours of the morning can appreciate what these unsung heroes of rock and roll do for a living. (via The Ultimate Insult).
~ Monday, December 16, 2002
Holiday Spirits, the Drinkable Kind. Here’s the situation. You are expecting guests, and you would like to serve cocktails, but you don’t know the first thing about booze. Perhaps you prefer beer or wine, or maybe you drink only non-alcoholic beverages?

Fear not, for I will tell you the absolute essentials you need to set up a basic bar, which will please all but the ultimate liquor snob, the type of person who would complain that the bar in the Plaza Hotel did not serve his or her preferred liquor. I do not hold myself out as an expert, but I have had many, many years of experience doing my favorite things – shopping for, tasting and enjoying various kinds of liquor and serving drinks to friends.

The focus here is liquor and a couple other necessities. This is not intended as a mixing guide, although you’ll be happy to know that most drinks that people will want will require only liquor and one of the mixers mentioned below. Besides, a minute or two on a search engine will produce lots of sites containing instructions for making cocktails. Here is one of many such sites.

Most importantly, you need not spend a lot of money. The following guide provides choices to fit your budget.


You will need one bottle each of the SIX BASICS: Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Scotch, Rum and Rye.

Vodka: My first choices would be Ketel One "or Finlandia. Both are widely available and either will keep even a vodka martini drinker happy. If either of those costs a few dollars more than you wish to spend, I recommend Smirnoff. Grey Goose and the other boutique vodkas are generally overpriced and are not necessary.

Gin: My favorites are Bombay Blue Sapphire (the gin is clear; the bottle is tinted blue) and Tanqueray. Either makes an excellent martini, which for me is the true test of gin. However, if you wish to save a few dollars, or if you know your guests are gin and tonic drinkers, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Gordon’s Gin, even for martinis. In fact, a friend of mine, who makes wonderful martinis uses only Gordon’s gin.

Bourbon: The first choices are Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey. Either will please even those who drink bourbon neat (straight). The money saver here is Jim Beam, which is a great bourbon and a staple in my home.

Scotch: It is difficult to imagine a scotch whiskey drinker who would not be delighted to be offered Johnny Walker Black Label scotch. However, if you are seeking to keep costs down, you cannot go wrong with Dewar’s White Label scotch. Avoid the very pricey single malts, unless you wish to buy a scotch drinker a nice present.

Rum: You may not get much call for this, other than from those who drink rum and coke. The sellers of rum tout it for use in martinis and other drinks, but other than its use in tropical drinks (which are summery and are not the stuff of a basic bar), you will likely need it only for rum and cokes. For that, Bacardi rum is really the way to go. It is not expensive. The only time I tried a cheaper brand I did not like it. The dark rums are excellent, but they are not necessary for a basic bar.

Rye: When I was a boy, this was THE drink of choice: rye and ginger ale, rye and club, rye with ginger ale and club mixed, and rye and Seven Up (“7 & &”). Some folks still like it; it is not expensive, and it still qualifies as one of the six basics. I recommend either Seagram’s 7 or Canadian Club. If you wish to spend a couple extra bucks, try Seagram’s VO. Seagram’s also makes Crown Royal, which is excellent, but not necessary for a basic bar.


I suggest one SMALL bottle each of white and red vermouth. There are a couple brands widely available and both are inexpensive. The white is for martinis and the red is for Manhattans and Rob Roys (Manhattans, only made with scotch instead of rye).


You will need ginger ale, club soda, seven up, and tonic water. Any brand will do. I prefer cans or small bottles, as it is easier to have cold mixers available and you avoid losing the fizz from open bottles. In addition, you should have on hand orange juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, and perphaps a bottle of pre-mixed Bloody Mary mix (e.g. Mrs. T’s). Finally, I suggest buying a couple bottles of nice bottled water (e.g. Poland Spring) for those who like liquor and water drinks. It just makes a nicer drink than does tap water, which around here is full of minerals.

Buy a couple lemons and limes and slice them into small wedges in advance. You should also pick up a SMALL jar of maraschino cherries (for Manhattans and for non-alcoholic “Shirley Temples” for the kids) and a jar of olives.


By all means, buy a couple bags of clear ice. It makes the drinks look better than they do when made with the milky-white cubes that most home freezers make.

Glasses: You will need some 12 oz plain glasses for most drinks and a few 6-8 oz glasses for those who prefer drinks on the rocks. If there are martini drinkers who prefer martinis straight up, you will need a couple martini glasses. You can spend a fortune on glassware, but glassware from stores like K-Mart will do the trick. As for things like martini shakers, they are nice, but not essential. My friend who makes the best martinis (the Gordon’s gin guy mentioned above) used to make them in a clean mayonnaise jar!

You should be good to go. Here’s to you!!!

~ Friday, December 13, 2002
The Great One. My dad was never really big on comedians. It wasn’t that he lacked a sense of humor – he loved to laugh at funny stories and real life situations, but comedians, especially television comedians and comedy programs, generally left him cold. There was, however, one gargantuan exception, and that was Jackie Gleason.

I can recall being a boy and watching the Jackie Gleason variety show on Saturday nights with my dad – he with a beer and I with a Dad’s Root Beer. As much as I would enjoy watching Jackie portray the “Poor Soul”, “Reginald Van Gleason III” “Joe the Bartender” and “Charlie Bratton, the Loudmouth,” I got the most pleasure out of watching my dad howl with laughter. All these characters, in one way or another, spoke to him.

The variety show began doing a regular sketch about a working-class bus driver who lived in a cold-water flat in Brooklyn with this wife and their goofy upstairs neighbor. Of course, this was the Honeymooners, which ultimately became a regular network program and ultimately a syndicated series that still airs today. If standing the test of time is a critical ingredient to greatness, the Honeymooners more than qualifies.

I don’t think that there ever has been a time when the Honeymooners has not been on TV somewhere. In the New York metropolitan area, local stations run Marathon Honeymooners Weekends, which repeat, back to back, episodes that we all have seen so often that we know the classic scenes and lines by heart.It doesn’t seem to matter, though, for they are still just plain funny. One needs only sit in a tavern and strike up a Honeymooners discussion, and in no time people will quote their favorite lines or describe their favorite scenes. Here’s one of my favorites:

In a train on their way to a convention of the Loyal Order of Raccoons, in full Raccoon Lodge Regalia, Ralph and Ed Norton find themselves handcuffed together in their sleeper car because Norton was unable to open the trick handcuffs he demonstrated for Ralph. Ralph decides that they should try to get some sleep, even though they remain joined at the wrists. They spend the next few hilarious minutes each trying to climb into his berth. Once they finally managed to get into their berths, there is a moment of silence when Norton breaks the silence:

Norton (from the top berth) “Ralph?”
Ralph: (from the lower birth) “WHAT?”
Norton: “Mind if I smoke?”
Ralph: “I don’t care if you BURN.”

Gleason and TV, with its close ups, were perfect together because, among his other comedic talents, Gleason could convey a wide variety of emotions with his facial expressions alone. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do it better. A raised eyebrow as he was approaching critical mass at Norton’s antics would start the laughter that would crescendo and ultimately erupt when Ralph finally would explode at the hapless Norton. By contrast, we would watch his pained face and false starts at an explanation as he stood behind Alice after pulling a stunt that angered her, but more importantly, disappointed her. His expressions were funny, but at the same time we felt sorry for Alice and even more sorry for Ralph, who let her down, yet again. However, we always knew that everything would turn out OK in the end, and Ralph would tell Alice that she was “the greatest.”

Jackie Gleason is gone now and so is my dad. I wonder if Jackie would be happy knowing that a few years ago, during the final days of my dad’s terminal illness, we would sit together and watch the same Honeymooners re-runs that we had watched together more than thirty-five years earlier, and as sick as he was, my dad still howled with laughter, and I howled right along with him. For those 22 minutes, The Great One took us both back to a better time.

Jackie Gleason was a big man who lived large. Somehow I was not surprised to learn that his epitaph reads, “And Away We Go.”
~ Thursday, December 12, 2002
“Greeting” That’s what it said - not “Greetings,” but “Greeting.” To this day, I wonder if it had been a typo. We had always been told that draft notices opened their chilling message with the cheery salutation “Greetings.” It was one of many things we were told that turned out to be wrong. December 12th marks the 35th anniversary of my induction into the U.S. Army. It was 1968, and all hell was breaking loose at home and war casualties were peaking.

Being drafted did not come as a surprise. Several months earlier, during our senior year in college, I, along with several guys I grew up with, had been ordered to report to the Induction Center in Newark for our pre-induction physicals. Our first taste of the military was being barked at by an immense sergeant who seemed to be all stripes from his shoulder to his elbow. He hollered, “Take off everything except your undershorts, socks and shoes.” Barely five minutes in and already it was surreal. A hundred or so men looked like actors in a black and white, 35 millimeter stag film.

Back then, most college seniors were not terribly keen on the idea of being killed or maimed in Southeast Asia, so stories circulated about ways to avoid being drafted without having to flee to Canada or serve out your time in a federal prison, where we were told that the inmates just LOVED “college puke draft dodgers.”

According to some of these stories, you could avoid being drafted by showing up for the pre-induction physical in a dress. However, given the choice between being drafted and possibly being shot or blown to bits in some godforsaken place like the Mekong Delta and showing up at the Induction Center in drag, most men, myself included, took the easy way out and opted for possible death or dismemberment There was, however, that ONE GUY who wore a dress.

I hadn’t noticed the guy in the dress, and I suspect that not many others did either. After all, he was not wearing sequins and a boa, but rather he sported a tasteful, rather understated cotton shirtwaist number. But once we all got down to shorts, socks and shoes, as ordered, we couldn’t help but notice the Dress Guy, because despite the unmistakable order to “take off everything but shorts, socks and shoes,” the Dress Guy remained dressed.

We all buzzed, “Holy shit. Check it out. There’s a guy over there in a DRESS!!” Virtually every eye in the room was fixed on the Dress Guy – that is, until Sergeant Bulldog re-entered the room. We looked back and forth between the Sergeant and the Dress Guy as if we were watching two gunfighters squaring off on Main Street in Dodge City.

The crusty lifer scanned the ridiculous looking, scared shitless array, until he spotted the Dress Guy and placed him in the crosshairs. We all held our breath, for this promised to be a moment of high drama and the confirmation or refutation of all the “beat it by wearing a dress” stories we had so often heard. Would Sergeant Bulldog ridicule the Dress Guy? Would he smack hell out of him? Maybe he would drag the Dress Guy off to a special room reserved for dealing with guys who show up in dresses?

None of the above happened. Sergeant Bulldog looked directly at the Dress Guy and said, “ Hey you!”

The Dress Guy pointed at himself and said, “Me?”

Sergeant Bulldog matter-of-factly replied, “Yeah you. Take off the dress. Shorts, socks and shoes.” The Dress Guy, who probably had mentally rehearsed his lines for months in anticipation of a major confrontation, was so caught off guard that he sheepishly removed the shirtwaist and instantly became just another guy in the shorts, socks and shoes crowd. And, just as instantly his plans to beat the draft evaporated.

For my part, I held tightly to the note from my podiatrist certifying that I had “second degree pes planus that sometimes became symptomatic.” In other words, I had (and still have) flat feet that sometimes hurt. I was hoping that the Army would have no need for a guy with second-degree pes planus, for Heaven’s sake.

My chance would come at the final step in the physical when each man was to get a one on one with a doctor, at which time we would be able to explain all the reasons why the Army might not want us. This is the time, so the stories went, that you could beat the draft by telling the doctor that you are gay, schizophrenic, depressed, or who knows what. None of that for me. I was going with pes planus, second degree.

So, I endured the “bend over and spread ‘em” indignity, I dutifully peed in the bottle, I turned my head and coughed (twice, as some of you know), and cooperated with the Army guys who herded us around like cattle, but cattle wearing shorts, socks and shoes.

When I finally got to the doc, I proudly presented my flat feet note. He read it and, showing off either his knowledge of medicine or Latin, said, “Flat feet, huh?” I nodded in the affirmative. He told me to take my socks off. Great sign, I thought. Here is a guy who appreciates how serious pes planus, second degree is. He said, “Stand on your toes,” which I did. He muttered, “Uh-huh,” stamped something on my note, kept it, and said, “Put your socks back on and move on. Next man.” So much for pes planus, second degree.

I found myself in a large room with all the other guys who were found to be healthy enough to be shot or blown to bits in the Mekong Delta. I couldn’t believe it was all happening to me. Oh yeah, the Dress Guy was there too.

A few weeks later, we got our “Greeting” letter, and a month or so after that, on December 12, 1968, we reported again to the Induction Center, this time to be formally inducted and transported to Fort Dix, for basic training, which made the pre-induction physical seem like a day at the beach.

But that’s a story for another day.
~ Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Hungry? How about ordering up some Christmas Fries? Ding, they're done!
Step Lively. Although a walk through this is probably a valuable learning experience, do you think some people may come out feeling like a piece of shit?
~ Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Harmony! There aren’t many things about music that captivate me more than close harmony, sung with letter perfect phrasing, and without any gimmicks. There aren’t many people who can do that better than the Dixie Chicks. I just watched their special on TV, and I was, quite simply, knocked out by their depth of talent. Not only are their vocals extraordinary, but they also happen to be ass-kicking musicians. I have been a fan for quite some time, having all their CDs, but tonight was the first time I really had the chance to watch them perform. What strikes me about the Dixie Chicks, and other great harmony groups such as the Everly Brothers and the Mills Brothers (more about them another time), is that they are the music. They could perform in a living room with a couple instruments and sound just as they do on their records.

One has to wonder about the odds against three such extremely talented people whose voices perfectly melt into a chord coming together. I hope they stay together and continue to make music that gives me goose bumps.
~ Monday, December 09, 2002
What Exit? This question has become quite popular with comedians. You know who I mean. The guy who bounds onto the stage, picks up the microphone stand and swings it back and forth like one of those metal detectors, while he asks the audience, "Hey, are you guys having a good time? Great. I'm happy to be here tonight. Where are you guys from?" He hopes that some glutton for punishment in the audience will say, "New Jersey," so he can say, "New Jersey? What exit?" Of course, what “Shecky” is referring to are exit numbers on the Garden State Parkway (here, it's just "the Parkway") or the New Jersey Turnpike (here, "the Turnpike"). On one level, we realize that we’ve just heard a joke because some folks are laughing. However, we're not laughing because our first instinct is to answer what we understand to be a legitimate question.. So, amidst the laughter of those not from here, one hears numbers being shouted by audience members, “145! 151! 82! 15W!”

These numbers tell us a wealth of information. “145” means Newark/East Orange. “151” means Nutley/Bloomfield. “82” means Toms River/Seaside Heights, and “15W” (the “W” gives us a clue that this is a Turnpike Exit) means Kearny/Harrison. In addition, because the exit numbers are keyed to mile markers, we know approximately where in the state a particular location is. So, if you live off Exit 145 and you are headed for Exit 100, you know you will have to drive south for approximately 45 miles. It’s simple. No baloney. We like it.

Join me in a virtual road trip on the Parkway and other New Jersey roads. Unlike most trips in Jersey, this one is toll free. Oh yeah. One other thing. Here, if someone passes you on the right, it means that you are going too friggin’ slow for the lane you are in. MOVE TO THE RIGHT. They just don’t seem to get this in New York or Pennsylvania.
~ Wednesday, December 04, 2002
Manhole Coverology! Who Knew? On November 29, I wrote a bit about manhole covers. I had assumed that manhole covers are something that we don’t often notice and take completely for granted. I figured that the “we” in the previous sentence naturally did not include people who manufacture, sell, buy and install the heavy metal plates, but in the ensuing days I learned that the “we” also did not include lots of people who think a lot about manhole covers. Here’s a sampling:

Some people travel the world taking pictures of manholes. Some take artistic pictures..

One can buy furniture made from old manholes.

There are jokes that involve manhole covers.

One fellow has a web page dedicated to manhole covers. This page also shows that someone has written a manhole cover book!

Another person makes amazing models of manhole covers.

People make quilts patterned after the designs on manhole covers.

There is a good reason why these babies are round.

There are special tools to lift them from the holes they cover.

I learn something every farookin’ day.
~ Tuesday, December 03, 2002
Governing in the Garden State. On November 29, 2002, we noted here in “Spendin’ of the Green” that New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey resisted production of the financial records of his “trade mission” to Ireland, the Governor’s “ancestral homeland.” The Gov was accompanied by his wife, 8 staffers and a security detail. No doubt he resisted making the records public because the tab for the trip that was touted in advance as costing us $20,000 ended up costing $105,000. Nevertheless, the Gov finally conceded that the records had to be produced under New Jersey law. Having been caught trying to pull a fast one, he apologized and directed the Democrat Party to reimburse the state for $70,000 of the bill. I believe the only thing he is sorry about is being caught.

Well, today the New York Times reported that the Democrat Party will have to write yet another check to the state – this time for $18,200 for 14 personal trips the Gov took in the state-supplied helicopter. Apparently, the Gov is fond of flying, as his office reported that Hizzoner took 272 helicopter trips in his first ten months in office. Mind you, New Jersey is not exactly the size of Texas, so 27 helicopter trips per month (at $1,200 per hour) seems a bit much, no?

More Jerseyspeak. After reading “Jeetyet? No. Joo?” here (see December 2, 2002), my daughter wrote to remind me of another bit of Jerseyspeak. More specifically she described how we tend to mangle the words “all right” by pronouncing them as one word -- “erright.”

She writes: “Here it is in context”

Person A: Hey, would you mind taking out the garbage?
Person B: Yeah. Erright.
(Several minutes pass.)
Person A: Would you mind taking it out now?
Person B: Erright already! I'll do it now. Erright?!?

Or, perhaps, more realistically………

Taxpayer: “Hey McGreevey. It’s only a five-mile trip and there is no traffic. How about taking the friggin’ car?”
McGreevey: “Goddamn newspapers. Erright already!!!!”

New Jersey…….Only the strong survive.
~ Monday, December 02, 2002
Jeetyet? No. Joo? If you are from New Jersey, more precisely, northern New Jersey (they talk funny in the southern parts of the Garden State), you can recognize the question and answer that appears in the title. The questioner asks “Did you eat yet?” or more properly, “Have you eaten?” The respondent answers “No. Did you?” or more properly, “No. Have you?”

We also are known for damned near putting two syllables in the word “dog,” so that the word comes out, not as “dahg,” but rather something more like “doo-wug.” Similarly, “chocolate” isn’t “chalk-lat,” but rather, “choo-wuhk-lat.”

Yes, Virginia, we do have an accent. Many of us, however, recognize this and can modify our speech to fit the audience, or the setting. Having said that, sometimes even when being on my best language behavior, I have been recognized as being from New Jersey by folks from other parts of the country.

Some of our accent is purely pronunciation-based, as above. However, veering a bit more towards a being a dialect, "Jerseyspeak" has some of its very own idiomatic expressions, as evidenced by the blank stares from those from elsewhere when they hear them. Foremost among them is the manner in which we refer to the part of the state, notable for its vacation spots on or near the ocean. It is not “the beach.” Rather, it is “down the shore” – not “down to the shore, mind you,” but simply “down the shore.” Actually, it is pronounced almost as one word, skipping the word “the” --“downaSHORE.” The "beach" and "down the shore" are two separate animals..” One might go “down the shore” and never go to "the beach,” the “beach” being just one of many places one could go while “down the shore.”

To complicate the matter even more, if we are going to be “down the shore” for only a day trip, we “take a ride down the shore.” By contrast, if we are planning to stay overnight or for a vacation, then we are clearly “going down the shore.”

And, while “downaSHORE” (or anywhere else for that manner) and we want to drink a carbonated, flavored, soft drink, we have a “soda.” Having a “pop” means something quite different to us, which requires proof of age. I understand that, in Boston, a bottle of soda is referred to as a bottle of “tonic.” No way. In Jersey, “Tonic” is either quinine water (always drunk with either gin or vodka) or some vile stuff one would buy in a health food store.

Oh, by the way, unless we are filling out a tax return or a job application, we rarely say that we are from “New Jersey.” We are from “Jersey.” Indeed, New Jersey is the only "New..." state that doesn't require "New" to identify it. Saying , “I’m from Hampshire… or York…or, worse yet, from Mexico” just doesn’t work.

This introductory lesson would not be complete without a word or two about our alleged use of the word “Joisey.” I have lived in New Jersey all my life, and I have never, ever heard another person from New Jersey say “Joisey.” The closest thing I have ever heard to “Joisey” is something that sounds more like "Jaisey," a pronunciation used by certain old timers from Hudson County (the county that made political corruption an art form). I believe our friends across the river in Brooklyn may say “Joisey,” but I will leave it to them to explain themselves.

Are you getting this? I recall laughing at the expressions on the faces of some Californians as I tried to explain all this and laughing even harder at these poor souls who never set foot in the Garden State trying to correctly pronounce “downaSHORE.”

You’re not getting it? Then, FUHGETABOUTIT!!!

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