Monday, October 30, 2006

Batty For Weird Tales

For some people Halloween is all year long. For people who like scary stories every issue of Weird Tales was the best of the best nearly every month.

Weird Tales was a pulp magazine published between 1923 and 1954. It never had a big circulation. It's subject matter was too specialized, but it had its fans then and now.

The magazine has such a reputation even now that you can hardly find an anthology of horror stories, fantasy or the bizarre, that doesn't include a story from the 31 year run of Weird Tales. Of the seven authors listed on the cover of the May, 1932 issue, the first six have been heavily anthologized for decades.

I'm showing you some covers that have bats on them. A bat is a horror symbol that doesn't really fit that creature's gentle nature. But for centuries people have made a connection to vampires, and that lore is still strong.

Click on the pictures for full-size images.

Two of the covers are by Margaret Brundage, who painted some of the sexiest covers ever for pulp magazines. The girl with the bat-mask is very chic. I'd like to meet her at a Halloween party, if I didn't think she'd bite my neck.

The earlier cover from May, 1932 is by an artist I'm not familiar with, and not nearly as accomplished as Brundage. But I like the bat.

Happy Halloween! El Postino

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Now That's Scary!

Halloween is coming up in a couple of days. What scares you?

My friend Sherry told me once that what scared her more than anything was Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People, specifically the ghostly carriage taking away the dead. I told her that Walt Disney had scared the crap out of me a few years earlier, when I saw The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow on the old Disneyland television program in the 1950s. That Headless Horseman…brrrrrrr….I couldn't sleep for weeks.

Anyway, those things are behind us now. It's hard to get scared by a movie when there's stuff on TV that's more scary, like news reports from Iraq. No, really, as a prior blog of mine stated, the gore level has gone up considerably on the home box, so it's competing with movies for big scares and total gross-outs.

What's scary to me now are simple things, like getting haircuts. This morning I was in the chair, having my head worked over by a young Asian woman. An hour earlier I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror with a pair of tweezers, pulling hairs out of my ears. Still, she ran her buzzers down my ears, because she'd seen more that I'd missed because of failing eyesight. That scares me: beautiful young women seeing how old I look. I'm just glad she didn't have to buzz my nose, because I pulled a white hair out of the bulb of my nose earlier, and you talk about gross-outs. Yow.

What also scares me is the talk of long waits in the Social Security office, because I'll be there in a few short years. Horrors of horrors: colonoscopies, cholesterol tests, diabetes screening; my feet starting to break down, my knees getting sore and weak, my back…shall I go on? I think not.

Anyway, keep your Halloween witches, ghosts, goblins and ghouls. Scare small children with them. The real scares are yet to come, kiddies.

Bobbing for apples with dentures. That's scary.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Finding the Inner Werewolf

When I was a kid in the late '50s-early '60s I was just the right age for Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine. It came out at a time when Saturday latenight TV was made up of local horror hosts showing corny old monster movies. The hosts made bad jokes, the sets were bad, the makeup was bad, but to the kids who watched it was all good.

Our local horror host was Roderick, played by Jack Whittaker, who doubled in an afternoon kids' show as Kimbo the Clown. Jack died some years ago and when I saw his obituary I got a pang of nostalgia. When I was 12-years-old he was the guy all of my friends wanted to see. We even went to a theater to see him live and I was in the bathroom when he and his assistant were taking off their makeup. I stood at the urinal while they talked about lugging equipment out to the van. Wow. That was one to tell in gym class the next day.

Jim Warren was the publisher who brought out Famous Monsters, and made a bunch of money selling it to the baby boomers, all of us at just the right age for such nonsense as a magazine devoted to old movie monsters.

Forrest J. Ackerman was the editor. 4SJ, as he sometimes called himself, was full of puns and jokes, using stills and publicity photos from old movies, mostly from his own collection. Ackerman owned a house in Los Angeles he called the Ackermansion, where every room was stuffed floor to ceiling with his collection of science fiction and horror memorabilia, going back decades.

At one point Ackerman announced he'd be driving cross-country. He invited his fans to send him their addresses, and instructions on how to get to their homes, and he'd drop in! I got a feeling…wow! Wouldn't that be great to sit and talk to the Great Man himself? Reality quickly set in. I knew I wouldn't be able to sell Mom on the idea. Mom was barely tolerant of the literature I chose for myself. She probably gave me a bye on the monster magazines (something she wouldn't do with Mad and Cracked magazines) because she grew up going to the same monster movies that were covered in the magazines.

I also knew that people weren't welcome at our house. Mom was someone you didn't visit. She didn't encourage visits, and Lord help me if I ever invited a friend over. She pitched a fit. I thought of inviting Forry Ackerman to my house and knew instantly Mom would put the kibosh on that plan. So I forgot about it.

Recently I was visiting a website and came across a picture of Forrest J. Ackerman with a young man, and according to the guy standing next to Forry it was from that cross-country trip. I'm posting the picture here.After all these years I finally realized that for Forrest J. Ackerman, the real purpose wouldn't be to meet his fans, it was a way to get free meals, and maybe even lodging, on his way back east. Good idea. Better than a Motel 6 every night and finding a Denny's three times a day.

Also, 4E (another of his puns on his own name) has his own website. If my calculations are correct the guy is 90-freakin'-years-old and still making jokes that are damn near as old as he is.

I don't think he ever grew up, or maybe Bela Lugosi bit him years ago and he's one of the undead.


When I wrote the story I posted in my previous blog, I used a character called Prince Harold The Werewolf. The character was based on something I read years ago, two writers discussing what they'd rather be: a werewolf or a vampire. One writer said he'd prefer to be a vampire because he could live in a castle. I guess you could, if you were Dracula. He didn't think he wanted to be a werewolf, out schlepping around in the woods, hanging around with gypsies.

I don't remember what the other writer said. For me the choice would be clear: Werewolf! If I was a vampire I'd have to sleep during the day, get up at night and go do some necking, suck some blood. If I was a werewolf I'd have just those days of the month with the full moon where I could roam around in the woods, biting anyone I didn't like. The other days of the month I could live my normal life with no one the wiser that at times I grew fangs, was covered in fur, and loped about the countryside scaring everyone. Sounds pretty good to me.

Personally, I'd make a list of people who need to be torn apart by wolves and go after them first.

If I was a vampire I'd be worried about things like sunlight, crosses, garlic and wooden stakes. If I was a werewolf I'd know the only thing that would kill me would be a silver bullet, and I haven't seen The Lone Ranger around here lately.

Yep, for me it's werewolf all the way.


My wife and I like the kitschy stuff from the 1950s and '60s. The kind of junk we grew up with, ignored, and then wondered where it went when it was gone. We found this light-up molded plastic ghost in an antique store last year and bought it for about $18.00.Our ghost is nearly three feet tall and occupies a place of honor in our living room. Until Halloween is over, of course, when he'll go downstairs and haunt our basement storage room.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Blood-Red Riding Hood, A Halloween Story

Hey there, Halloweenies...this is a special story I wrote some time ago. Hope you like it. El P.

A Halloween Story
By El Postino
©2006 El Postino

Good evening and welcome! I see that you travelers have successfully made it through Psycho Swamp, over Mount Misery, negotiated the land mines and the barbed wire on the Plain of Pain, and found the shortcut through the Field of Screams.

You have made it past the Gruesome Gargoyle guarding the entry to Our Lady of Perpetual Hysteria Monastery, through the razor wire and flamethrower-lined Hell’s Hallway, and down the Collapsing Stone Stairwell to find me, Brother Grim. As always, I am tending to my toadstools and deadly nightshade plants. You will notice that this was once the torture chamber of the Monastery, where some years ago folks were brought here innocent, then tormented and abused until found guilty. Jolly fun, I’d say. I miss those good old days.

Perhaps you would like to pull up a rack and stretch out.

You ask what I do now that I am no longer breaking bodies? Nowadays I just tend to my little garden. Perhaps you would like some of the special tea that I am brewing. It’s made from these very toadstools. We find much use for everything in Our Lady of Perpetual Hysteria, even the snakes which are right now slithering over your feet and up your legs. We use them to keep the rats away.

Please excuse me for not removing my cowl. I’ve been in this dank dungeon for so long that a mold has permanently attached itself to my face.

But you have come to hear a story! Of course, it is Halloween. What a wonderful time of year it is, too. If there is anything more soul-stirring than the shrieks of the damned as their ghosts haunt the earth, the whoosh of a witch’s broomstick, or the rattle of a skeletal hand beckoning you to your grave then I don’t know what is!

I forget my manners. Here is your tea, still hot. Please sit and listen...

Once upon a time...yes, my story begins once upon a time. Actually, once upon a time and place and a person! The time was a few hundred years ago, the place was the Kingdom of Lycanthropia, and the person was Prince Harold, who was also a very happy werewolf.

From time beyond memory there was a family curse on the royal family of Lycanthropia, and as the oldest prince in a family reached the age of 21, he would automatically, upon the nights of the full moon, become a werewolf. There were princes who dreaded this, who even went so far as to kill themselves before the curse descended on them, but Prince Harold was different. He loved being a werewolf. To him there was nothing like being in the dark woods on an autumn evening when the fur came over him, and the lust to kill was in him. Prince Harold was a bit of a lazy prince, though. He didn’t like to chase after deer or bunnies. They were too fast for him. What he liked the most was to run down slow-moving peasants, attacking them with claws and teeth. He loved the taste of their hot, jetting blood.

And that reminds me, have another sip of your tea.

It got so that the hardworking serfs of Lycanthropia learned to avoid being outdoors or in the woods on nights of the full moon, and Prince Harold was having a bit of a problem finding good peasants to murder.

One particular night--a Halloween night, just like this--Prince Harold the werewolf padded on all four paws through the woods until he came upon a small cabin with a light in the window. He crept to the window and listened. He heard the voice of an old woman moaning and speaking to herself, “Red Riding Hood! Red Riding Hood! Where are you? You should have been here hours ago. Your grandmother is so afraid of you being out in the woods on the nights of the full moon!”

He went to the front door and using the claws of his front paw made a rapping sound. It’s a well-known fact--well, not so well-known, but I’m telling you now--that werewolves are good at imitation. After all, they are an imitation wolf, as it were. Prince Harold the werewolf said in his best little girl voice, “It’s me, Grandmother! Little Red Riding Hood! Let me in, let me in!” There was a momentary silence and then he heard the bolt being pulled back and the door creaked open. The old woman screamed when she saw the wolf, his red eyes glowing like coals, his white teeth bared and gleaming in the moonlight. The wolf sprang and within seconds the old woman had disappeared down his gullet.

Grandmother was a bit scrawny and stringy for his taste, but due to the shortage of peasants he couldn’t afford to be picky. He also thought, “If it is true that her little granddaughter is coming to visit, then I will have some dessert tonight!” He curled up on the floor in front of the old woman’s fireplace and closed his eyes. Some time later he heard footsteps coming through the woods. “Grandmother, Grandmother, it is me, Red Riding Hood. Let me in! Let me in! It is dark and I am afraid of Prince Harold the werewolf.” The werewolf immediately jumped up, put the old woman’s shawl over his head and leapt into the old woman’s bed, pulling the covers over himself.

“Come in, Little Red Riding Hood! The door is open.”

Expecting to see a child, he was surprised to see a beautiful woman of twenty. Her hair, or what he could see from under the red hood on her head, was a brilliant gold like the sun. Her skin was an alabaster white. She was tall, lithesome, buxom and beautifulsome. He swallowed hard.

Red Riding Hood was carrying a basket, in which was a bottle. He glanced and saw that it had a label that said, “Lycanthropia Blood Bank.” Red spoke: “I’m here to get my blood supply, Grandmother. Be a good old lady and stick your arm out so I can poke you with this needle and get a couple of pints.”

Prince Harold, not wishing to expose his hairy arm and paw, tried to change the subject. Once again he used his talent for imitation by using the old woman’s voice. “What a lovely hood and cape, my dear, make it yourself?”

The girl stared at him. “Of course not, you silly old woman! You made it for me years ago, don’t you remember?”

“Oh yes, indeed, how foolish of me to forget.”

The werewolf licked his chops. My, but this girl would make more than a mouthful. Some very un-werewolflike carnal thoughts crossed his mind.

The girl said, “You know that I’m blind as a bat, but I could swear that you look different to me tonight. Is it your eyes? What big eyes you have, Grandmother!”

“Well,” said Prince Harold, “All the better to see you with, my dear.” Ho-ho, thought Prince Harold. Wouldn’t I like to see you without that hood and cape, and he licked his chops again. The young woman got closer. “And your nose...” She put out her hand and tweaked his muzzle. “You must have a cold, your nose is so cool and...ugh...wet,” she said, wiping her hand on her cape. Prince Harold thought, “This charade can’t last much longer,” and he bared his teeth.
“And those teeth! My goodness, whoever sold you those false teeth sold you quite a set of choppers! What big teeth you have, Grandmother!”

“All the better to eat you with, my dear,” cried the werewolf. He whipped the shawl off his head and jumped out of bed.

Red Riding Hood stepped back. “Are your teeth as big as MY teeth?” She said, baring her own. The werewolf stopped in amazement. Her canine teeth had suddenly grown to a length of two inches, and were needle sharp.

“I knew you weren’t my grandmother. Do I have the non-pleasure of addressing Prince Harold the werewolf?” In all of his years Prince Harold had never been addressed so casually by a commoner--a peasant girl, yet--but he shook off his shock. “Yes, I am Prince Harold,” he growled, “I ate your grandmother. And you’re about to become my dessert.”

“I don’t think so," said Red Riding Hood, waving her hand. At that the werewolf became frozen to the spot, unable to move. “I’m a vampire, and I have the power to hypnotize. You and your strength are no match for my brains,” she said.

“Werewolves!” she continued.. “Always looking for a piece of...of meat. You’ll find out that I’m not THAT kind of vampire girl.”

To his further surprise Prince Harold found himself whimpering. “But...but...getting strange stuff is always so much fun,” he said. Her lip curled and her face darkened.

“You say you ate my grandmother, eh? All right, open your mouth. Wide...wider, you idiot prince!” Her hypnotic power over him gave him no choice, and to his great astonishment the scrawny grandmother suddenly came up his esophagus and through his mouth, landing on the floor on her scrawny behind.

“Whew. ‘Bout time you got here, Red,” said Grandmother. “I’m not sure that I could have lasted much longer inside him. I’m glad I was able to come out that end and not the other.”

The grandmother went to the corner of her tiny cottage and picked up a broom standing there. She shook it at the werewolf, muttered an incantation in Latin, and to his utter horror he felt the werewolf slipping away and he then stood, naked, as the hairless, balding, flabby Prince Harold of Lycanthropia. He realized then that Grandmother was more than just an old lady. She was a witch.

“No wonder you like being a werewolf,” said Red. You make a fine looking wolf, but a terrible looking man.” She whispered in her grandmother’s ear and the two women consulted for several minutes out of earshot, occasionally pointing at various parts of his anatomy and snickering. He self-consciously but unsuccessfully attempted to cover these parts of himself with his small, smooth white hands. Then Red came back to him.

“Prince,” she said. “I need a husband. A prince seems like a good choice for me. My grandmother and I have decided that you will marry me and (a) I won’t drink your blood, or (b) she won’t turn you into a horned were-toad. What do you say?”

Considering his options he thought, “Might not be too bad.” She was a looker even if she was a blood-sucking vampire, and most wives’ grandmothers were one kind of witch or another. He knew that these two women had plotted to do this. They had set him up, but so what? He shrugged and said, “Consider yourself my new princess!” At that the old witch changed him back into his wolf form, much to his--and Red’s--relief.

The three of them, the witch, the vampire, and the werewolf, left the cabin in the darkness and headed for the castle. Along the way they ran into a hunter. In the original Red Riding Hood story the hunter killed the wolf, but in Brother Grim’s version--much superior, I might add, to that pansy Grimm Brother’s fairy tale--the three killed the hunter. After all, Prince Harold had been robbed of his peasant when the witch was vomited out of him, Red didn’t get her pints of blood from the old lady, and the old lady could use the hunter’s organs for some spell or another. What matter was it? The hunter was a peasant, and Red and her grandmother were soon to enter a more royal and exalted world than they could have ever dreamed of.

I’d say that as this tale ended, that the young couple went off and lived happily ever after, as the original sissy Grimm Brothers tale of Red-Riding Hood did, but it wasn’t exactly happily ever after. Oh, Princess Red and Prince Harold were happy enough, but just not delirious. She couldn’t stand him when he was a man, only when he was a wolf--now isn’t that just like a fickle woman?--and he couldn’t stand it when she put the bite on him for more money out of the kingdom’s treasury.

Actually, she brought out the beast in him, and he drove her batty...

Ho-ho-ho. Brother Grim must have his little joke, and the story is over, your tea is gone, and you must go. But what is this? I have been so busy enjoying my own tale that I haven’t noticed. None of you have moved for the last fifteen minutes, your eyes are glazed over and you are getting cold. Oh dear me! I guess the toadstool tea had either too much toad or too much stool. No matter. I will put you against the wall with the others who have come to visit me on past Halloween nights. You will make a good audience. You will never scoff at my stories, nor will you have to get up just as I am getting to the good part, and say you need to visit the bathroom.

Until next Halloween, then, I remain your faithful morbidly mirthful monk, Brother Grim.

The End

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Drug Of Choice

I haven't laughed at a Dilbert strip in a long time, but I got a real big laugh out of this one.

Click on the picture for full-size image.

I'm an addicted coffeehead. Caffeine is my drug of choice.
A few years ago Dilbert's coworker Wally was cut back to 40 cups of coffee a day, which he screamed was "inhuman!"

I like all of the types of coffee, robusta, arabica, or blends of the two. I like milder breakfast blends, I like more robust blends like Starbucks, but I also like Folgers. I like coffee bitter, I like it smooth. I like it flavored, I like it unflavored, with cream and without, with sugar or just plain black. I like it in the morning, in the afternoon or evening. I like it on Sunday morning with my newspaper, or first thing on a weekday morning when I'm shaving, getting dressed, or with my morning Quaker Oats.

I like it grown in Hawaii, Colombia or Vietnam. If they can grow coffee beans, I'll probably drink it.

I'm prone to depression, but coffee can give me a lift, make me feel better. I drink a cup before taking my shower to get my eyes open. I start to drift about halfway through the morning, attention span starts to shorten, eyelids start to droop. A cup about 10:00 keeps me going for a couple of hours.

I will always appreciate Muslims for introducing coffee to us during the Crusades. At one point several centuries ago, despite its origins, the Pope put his imprimatur on coffee, saying, "Hey, this is good stuff!" as he tipped back a cup and got ready for another day of Poping.

The cup of coffee that lifted my scalp two inches was from Peet's on Solano Avenue in Albany, California, many years ago. I strongly recommend Peet's, which is now available in some grocery stores, but it's not for beginning coffee drinkers.

I may skimp on a lot of personal things, but I need the best kind of coffeemaker. I find the Cuisinart does a great job for me.

I didn't drink coffee until I was 25-years-old, and in those days I was an addicted smoker, too, so I had two habits going simultaneously. I gave up smoking when I was 29, but give up coffee? All I can say is, if there's an afterlife, there better be coffee.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Body Parts

The ad says it, and quotes a reviewer: "There's hardly a body part that isn't mangled or lopped off, ground up or sliced through." I'm not sure whether the reviewer liked the movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning, from the quote. It might have been written from disgust. It probably tells you all you need to know about this flick.

I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre years ago, and even though it was made 33 years ago, you'd really have to amp up the violence to beat the original's mix of sadism and horror. Once strictly reserved for movies, the kind of graphic violence in movies like Texas Chainsaw has moved to the home screen.

The other night I watched an episode of CSI:NY, a series I don’t normally watch. The story was about the discovery of a headless female corpse. She was not only headless, she was hanging upside down from a light fixture. As the story progressed we found out she'd been decapitated by an acetylene torch. Several shots showed her neck, with emphasis on the scorched flesh.

Later in the story her head was found in the park under a rock. More gore shown.

This is all real Grand Guignol. Stories designed to shock and disgust. During the program, forensic scientists do their business with detachment. After a while, even the audience becomes detached.

My friend told me once, "I couldn't watch the stuff you do." In this blog I have talked about shows I like. I once couldn't watch the stuff I do now. I got desensitized. There are still subjects I'll run a mile to avoid: I don't like programs that show danger to children, for instance. But like most everyone else, including fans of the CSI franchise, I've almost gotten used to the gore and violence that is getting to be routine on those shows. I say "almost," because my stomach can still be turned. I wonder when someone will step in and say that enough is enough.

We're in a couple of wars, so we get pictures on the news of bodies strewn around from car bombs and suicide bombers. After the news we get primetime programs where gruesome murder is presented as a scientific puzzle, or police procedural.

You get a whiff of sex in one of these programs and the religious right is all over it with indignation, but headless corpses hanging upside down? No problem.

The FCC gets involved when a bare breast with a pasty covering the nipple is shown during the Super Bowl, but doesn't have any sort of penalty for showing dead bodies, mutilations, murder, and all of the violence that goes along with them.

One of my coworkers said to me once, about an R-rated movie he saw: "I couldn't figure out why it was rated R. It didn't have any sex in it, just guys getting shot." It is a really big double standard.


It seems this is a week for thinking about mortality. In the past five days I've seen obituaries for a former high school teacher of mine, a friend's 36-year-old son, and another friend's wife.

The teacher's obit surprised me, because she was only seven years older than me, which meant she taught me during what was probably her first year of teaching. She looked older than that to me, but when you're 17 everyone over 21 looks pretty old.

The 36-year-old son of a friend died of what started out as cancer of the mouth. This is the basic unfairness of life: He never smoked, never used tobacco in any form.

Any death seems unfair to us, though. Except when it's on TV as entertainment.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Which Witch Bewitch?

Yesterday I showed you babies, today I show you babes. It's amazing what happens when you google "Halloween costumes." The things you see! Like these outstanding looking witch outfits. I don't miss the witches of my childhood, which were old crones with green faces. These witches can sure fly on my broomstick. We've come a long way since Margaret Hamilton mounted her broom and scared the crap out of Dorothy.
This is the year of the pirate. Johnny Depp, what hast thou wrought? Pirates were a scurvy lot, and now they're a curvy lot. Or at least these lovely pirate lasses are. They can buckle a swash! They can walk my plank, scuttle my scuppers, guzzle my grog, yank my yardarm, hoist my mainsail or even swab my poopdeck.

These are the finest little pirate gals since Captain Kidd was a kid.

I've got to admit I love a little pussycat. And Catgrrrl is quite the pretty kitty!

A girl like this could drive a guy batty in no time. When she necks she really sinks her teeth into a guy.

There seems to be no shortage of imagination when it comes to sexy Halloween costumes. But I probably don't need to tell you these aren't the costumed cuties who show up at my door looking for my candy.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Teacher Conference

Today is the first day of annual teacher conferences, so all schools are closed. That means I get two days off.* Yippee.

I spent part of the day today with Sally babysitting the young'uns, Bella and Gabby. In my other identity as Grandpa Flashbulb I took a few pictures, and you, you lucky devils, you get to see a couple of them.

Bella shared a corndog with Sally.

Gabby did two or three things she does best: sleep, then wake up and look cute. Eat, sleep, poop. The life of a baby. Then you get old and it happens again. Sigh.


Teachers are very special people, but you know that already. If you're reading this, then you had a teacher.
I wonder how many of them actually go to their conferences, though? Since I'm not a teacher I don't have to do anything but stay home or leave town. No meetings for me. I'm sure some of the teachers, especially from the more rural school districts, travel to the capitol city for meetings, get-togethers and ideas.

I heard years ago that sometimes rural teachers like to come to Salt Lake and check into motels with their lovers, but that wouldn't really happen, would it? Years ago I ran into this cartoon from a Mad Magazine calendar and it made me laugh.

Click on pictures for larger images.

When she saw it, one of my teacher friends told me it was true: She said when she's in meetings she looks around at how the other teachers are dressed and thinks, "We'll never get anywhere until we start looking more professional."

And speaking of teachers looking professional, who knows what that is anymore? Dress codes kind of went out the window when the baby boomers took over as teachers and administrators in schools. The former president of our school district's teacher union was a very sexy woman who taught upper grades in elementary school. I saw her once in a grocery store, shopping with her husband. She had on a tight top, shorts that barely covered her butt, and platform high-heeled sandals. I saw her wear a similar outfit in school, and once when I saw her at the teacher union offices. But, that was a few years ago, and she's toned down her outfits quite a bit. Maybe she got some flak about her former manner of dress. Nowadays she tends to wear ankle-length skirts, loose sweaters, and low-heeled boots or Mary Janes to work. Maybe when she was teaching in the sexy outfits the kids in her class were getting the kind of education she hadn't planned on.

Ciao for now, El Postino

*That means that in 30 years of working for the school district I've gotten 60 days--or two months--off, just for these conferences. I should also count the 24 days I got when I went through 12 years of the public school system. In 42 years I've gotten damn near three months off! Thanks, teachers!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nothin' In The World Like A Big-Eyed Girl...

It's good to be Grandpa. A couple of years ago I wouldn't have said that, but now I think that way. It helps that I have a pair of good granddaughters to make me feel that being Grandpa is good.

Friday night and
Saturday morning Sally and I took care of both Bella, our 21-month-old, and Gabby, our 3-month-old. I quickly found out that I had forgotten a lot about how much work babies are. I mean, a lot, but for all of the work I enjoyed the visit. Why shouldn't I enjoy it? I let Sally do most of the work while I watched.

Saturday afternoon when our son came to pick up his girls we invited the girl next door and her baby for a visit. Elizabeth and David had played together as children. Her daughter, Alexana, was born almost exactly one hour after Gabby, on June 30. So we had a chance to introduce the two.

What I have noticed about Gabby is that she is a wide-eyed child. Everything is a wonder to her and her eyes go large when she's delighted or looking at something she likes. I'm guessing she'll be this way for the rest of her life. Bella is a lot more reserved; even though she's a happy child, she just doesn't smile a lot. On the other hand, Gabby smiles all the time. It'll be fascinating watching these two grow up, how they interact with each other, and with the world at large.

In the meantime, they are little so short a time, so I'm keeping my digital camera busy. In the top shot Gabby is reacting to Sally, and in the bottom Bella is checking out Alexana while Gabby wonders why that light is going off in her face. Hey, they'll thank me for these pictures when they're older. Yes, it's good to be Grandpa. Click on the pictures for larger images.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chest Pains

Every year a lot of people go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital complaining of pain in the chest. After some tests (expensive ones, it goes without saying), nothing shows up on the EKG. It's an anxiety attack, which to those of us who haven't had a heart attack, feels a lot like what we expect a real heart attack to feel like.

I did the emergency room thing 15 years ago, but the doctors then just said, "It's a mystery. See your family doc," which I did. My family doc told me, "That's not a heart attack. Don't worry about it."

Don't worry about it?
Jeeee-zus, Doc. I have an elephant standing on my chest and I'm not supposed to worry about it?
It wasn't until a couple of years later I found out my symptoms were classic for a garden variety anxiety attack. Eventually my doctor caught up to her literature and gave me a prescription for Valium. I went home and with a little pill cutter I bought at a local dollar store, I cut the Valiums in half. When I feel an anxiety attack coming on I usually take one of the half-Valiums and the symptoms go away.

Of course they come right back when the pill wears off, so next is to find the source of my anxiety. It usually comes from some sort of disruption to my life. I am best when I am a sailor on a calm sea. I don't like waves, don't like to feel the boat rocking. The usual culprit is my boss, a Captain Queeg who sails through choppier waters than I like. Before I met this paranoid bozo I'd never had an anxiety attack.

Like a lot of other people who work, I don't have the luxury of quitting. I take some small comfort in knowing that my boss does this to his other employees, too. Some days we have a bunch of guys walking around clutching their chests. Guys being what and who they are, no one says anything, just toughing it out. Who wants to admit that they are having a physical reaction to a psychological problem? Well, me, but then I've always been told I'm "different."


It doesn't help when local and national news add to the generalized feelings of anxiety. News of the latest school shooting, the killings in the Amish school in Pennsylvania, raise everyone's personal anxiety level. Almost everyone has something to do with a school, whether it's kids or grandkids going to school, or especially those of us who work in them.

Because of the news media, though, it makes the risk look a lot worse than it is. We're all worried about e coli, school shootings and terrorists, when the highest risks we run every day are driving out of the driveway in our cars. Any time you're on the road you have about a one-in-25 chance of an accident, or even death. So remember that next time you're on the freeway doing 75 mph, cellphone in one hand, Starbucks in the other, steering with your elbow.


I was in the thrift store last Saturday, looking for the usual books to resell, when I was lucky enough to find an old school reader from 1947, with this picture.

Looks like the kids have built a bomb on their Radio Flyer. A suicide little red wagon!

Click on picture for larger image.

Ciao for now, El Postino