Friday, June 30, 2006

Miss Bacon and Mr Hamm Announce Their Nuptials...

Click on picture for larger image.


From Look Magazine, July 23, 1946.

Weren't you happier before you knew that toothbrushes were once made of pig bristles? That you could have bacon and eggs for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, roasted pork for dinner, then brush your teeth with a toothbrush made from the source of your meals?


Ciao for now, El Postino

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Brokeback Jungle

Click on picture to view larger image.


From the April 23, 1945 issue of Life Magazine.

They don't call them "Scandals" for nothing.

Is there something about this ad that makes you think these GI's have been together in the jungle too long?

Ciao for now, El Postino

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Vintage Paperbacks Part III

More Richard Powers book covers today. While overall I think Zacherley's Vulture Stew from 1960 is a better cover, I still love Zacherley's Midnight Snacks. When you look at it you see amongst all of the nightmarish bric-a-brac surrounding Zacherley that there is a girl in a glass jar...or is it a girl? A doll, maybe? Brrrr. The 1961 anthology Things With Claws is pretty disturbing, itself. I see an open-mouthed African woman, armbones, a creepy bloodshot eye, and a very unusual looking profile of a man on the left side. To add to all of this imagery you have the claws of the title, well positioned to do some real damage.

Philip José Farmer is one of my favorite writers, so I was always glad he got a couple of covers by the master. "Alley God," the title story from this anthology, is about a race of Neanderthals still living amongst us, far beneath our notice, in the background of society. This was a surprise to me. I didn't realize this was by Powers until I saw it listed as one of his covers. It was first published in 1971 to illustrate what I thought at the time was the most imaginative science fiction I'd ever read, To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Of all of his covers this seems the most spare, but is extremely effective design, very eye-catching.

And finally, I'm throwing this in just to show that Powers didn't always use abstracts. No Other White Men, a paperback for young readers, was published by Comet Books in 1949. The cover and interior drawings are good, and Powers was a good illustrative artist in a mainstream style, but it's not great like his abstract work of 10 years later.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Monday, June 26, 2006

Vintage Paperback Books Part II

I have two rooms in the basement, both stuffed to the ceilings with books, old magazines, comics, all of the ephemera of an obsessive-compulsive like me. My wife doesn't like to look at all of this, and who can blame her? Thank god I got rid of over 2/3 of my collection over the years, or we'd be living in a shed in the back, and the books would have taken over the house.

Still, I venture downstairs every few days. Going into either room, reaching into any random stack will produce book treasures that make my eyes water from nostalgia (or, more likely, from the dust that comes off the books).

Anyway, I have dug out some of my favorite old paperbacks to share with you, specifically those with covers by Richard Powers, one of, if not the greatest paperback cover artist of the 1950s and 1960s. I love his surreal visions, which perfectly capture the moods of the science fiction books he was illustrating. I love the way his abstracts also included identifiable figures, usually human, but not always.

The title to this book makes it sound more sexy than it is. It must've raised some eyebrows when it came out, but the bold graphics probably also caught the eye under the raised eyebrow. You can see the little human figures running along the top of what looks like a tracked vehicle, while other human figures appear on the right, under the explosion.

A really unearthly spaceship zooms toward a Stonehenge landscape and some abstracted, but recognizably human figures. Love those explosions of his. They blowed up good! They blowed up real good!

Wilson Tucker was a science fiction fan who became a popular s-f writer. He also wrote mysteries, but I haven't seen any of his books in print for years. The design elements on the cover are superb, and the colors are bold. I'm sure it sold a lot of copies in its time. Maybe not enough to sell Tucker as a writer, but enough to keep Powers' artistic legend alive.

Of all the Powers' covers in my collection, this is my all-time favorite. I bought this book, and its companion, Zacherley's Midnight Snacks, when they came out in 1960 or thereabouts and read them to death. This is a copy of Vulture Stew I found in the past couple of years. I love the image of Zacherly, who I knew only from Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine. Zacherley was a TV horror-show host in the Philadelphia, but we didn't see him in the boonies out in Utah. His image in Famous Monsters was enough to get him a following, and apparently Ballantine Books decided putting his name and image on a cover--a Powers cover, yet!--would sell some books. Apparently they were right.

According to Powers' biography, he was art director and chief artist for Ballantine Books, but he must've worked for all of the major publishers. Check out the variety of publishers just from the four books I've shown here.

Because Powers was so popular books with his covers surface all of the time, so you can find them fairly easily in used bookstores, thrift stores and the like. The best thing is, they are so distinctive you can spot them instantly.

Ciao for now, El Postino

That'll Be The Day

The genesis of this story goes back a few years to a very realistic dream I had about a person now deceased, but close to me in life. It made me think, are these vivid dreams wishes our minds make, subconscious desires or messages bubbling to the surface during our sleep? Or are they premonitions? My character, Martin, has much more of a problem with his dream dilemma.

El Postino

Martin Phillips III dreamed that his grandfather, Martin Phillips I, told him he was going to die. "You will die on March 23 of next year," Martin I said.

Martin I had died of a heart attack in 1932 at the age of 42. Martin III, now sixty, had never known his dad's father. True to the nature of dreams, he accepted that this was indeed his paternal grandfather.

In the dream, Martin I was in an old-fashioned room, sitting in a large overstuffed chair. He wore a dark suit, stiff collar, black tie, patent leather shoes. His hair was slicked back straight from his forehead. One leg dangled over the other in a very casual attitude, and he was smoking a long cigarette. The smoke curled around his head like a shifting corona, illuminated by the dim light of a bulb in a nearby lamp. Martin III sat across from him on a green velvet love seat, with curved legs ending in carved wooden lions' feet, and doilies sewn onto the armrests.

Martin III thought, Grandfather is dressed like he's going to a funeral.

"How do you know I'm going to die?" said Martin III to Martin I, still feeling safe in the dream. The dream Martin I answered, "We people on the other side know these things. I know, for instance that you will die--"

Martin III felt a sudden rush of alarm. "Stop! Stop! Do I want to know that?"

Martin I stubbed out his cigarette in the freestanding brass ashtray next to the chair arm. "I just thought you should know. Remember your therapist told you that you have an avoidant personality, and always run away from problems. Death is a problem you can't run away from. You need to prepare yourself. You don't have much time."

Martin III could say nothing. He looked at the smoke from the cigarette hanging in the air, but his grandfather was gone, and he was facing an empty chair.

He forced himself to wake up and look at the alarm clock, whose lighted dial told him it was an hour before he was to get up. He got up anyway, careful so as not to awake his wife Janet, who stirred. Her gentle snoring stopped briefly, and then resumed as soon as he padded through the bedroom door.

He spent the next hour sitting at the dinette table drinking coffee, thinking about the dream. He decided to tell Janet what he had dreamed. He didn't expect much from her in the way of reaction. He was correct, because as he related the dream she stood over the toaster with her back to him. Every once in a while in his recitation she would throw in an "uh-huh," or "oh," although none of them had the force of a real interjection, being said in her most bland, disinterested voice.

"Don't you understand? He said March 23. March 23! That's only four months away. He said I have a lot to prepare for, that I'm unprepared to die."

"Who is prepared to die?" she asked, dropping a piece of margarine-smeared toast on his plate, then settling down at the table with her coffee.

"Of course," he answered, as if they had finally reached some sort of common ground in their thinking. "I think I should see a lawyer, get my will written. My subconscious is prodding me to do what I need to do, and there's a lot to do."

"Just cleaning up the garage would be a help," she said, then took a sip of her coffee. Sometimes he didn't know if she was kidding him. He looked at the toast, uninterested, as it got cold.

At work, running through those endless columns of budget figures, he could barely keep his mind on what he was doing. He found himself in the break room, getting a Snickers bar out of the vending machine. He usually didn't eat candy, because it was bad for the teeth and cholesterol, not to mention his expanding waistline. He thought, if I only have four months to live, then who cares about my teeth or cholesterol.

In his life Martin had never noticed how many people used death references in everyday conversation. That day he noticed people saying things like, "that guy kills me," or "I died when I saw how much it cost."

Driving home he switched on his favorite oldies radio station, turning up the volume to drown out the thoughts in his head. The first song they played was Buddy Holly, himself long dead, singing, "That'll be the day-hey-hey, when I die."

He was able to keep his thoughts to himself that evening, although his wife thought he was unusually quiet. She just assumed it was the usual funk he went into after a hard day at the office. He finally spoke and asked her, "Is Marty coming over this weekend, do you think?"

Their son was 21, and lived in an apartment. He was a good son who usually visited his parents once a week or so.

"I suppose so, why?"

"I thought I'd show him some stuff of mine. Tools and such. See if he might want them."

"Why would he want anything of yours?"

"Well, you know, just stuff he might want if I, well, if I die."

Janet had forgotten their breakfast conversation, so she gave him a puzzled look, but then the memory of his dream came back to her. "Are you still thinking of that silly dream you had about your grandpa?"

"I don't know that it was a silly dream. My grandfather was a doctor. He attended to people who were dying. Maybe he knows the signs that someone is dying before they die."

"Your grandfather has been dead for over seventy years. You never met him. What, do you think he sits around in heaven watching you all day, looking for signs you're going to die?"

Martin tried to make a joke of it, but it came out flat. "Maybe he's got an inside track with St. Peter."

Martin wasn't a religious person. No one in his family was, not his wife or son, not his late parents. He didn't know if he believed anyone went anywhere after they died. It all seemed like a subject that, true to the avoidant nature of his personality, he didn't think of. Before he fell asleep that night he tried convincing himself what he had dreamed was some sort of warning signal from his brain, using his grandfather as a symbol. It represented things he needed to take care of. Things his mind had neglected. That was probably what his therapist would tell him. He fought back the nagging thought which kept intruding, that the dream, and his grandfather, seemed as real as could be, as real as everyday life, not like most dreams, disjointed and fuzzy around the edges.

The next morning Martin felt better. He had a good night's sleep without dreams, woke refreshed, his mind clear of the morbidity of the day before. That day at work was like most other days. He did his job without thinking too many extra thoughts.

He did allow himself to indulge in his on-again-off-again fantasy about Tiffany, the twenty-something receptionist with the great chest. Tiffany was a black girl who was actually more of a tan color, with freckles sprayed across her nose and cheeks. She had long legs and bright red fingernails like daggers that had little designs appliquéd to them. Tiffany would walk by Martin's desk and at the sound of her heels clicking on the linoleum, he'd smile and say hello, and most times he got a return greeting with a big smile, showing off her full red lips and gleaming large, straight teeth. He thought she liked him, and that fed his fantasy.

If I'm really going to die, then before I die I'd like to get in her pants, he thought. One time he had been alone with her in the break room and had an impulse to ask her what she thought of him, but decided he didn't want to know, preferring fantasy to reality. He also thought about the ramifications of sleeping with Tiffany, or any other woman for that matter, and tried hard to shake off his thoughts.

In thirty years of marriage Martin had never cheated on his wife, both because of problems inherent to an extramarital affair, and because he felt no one would be interested enough to want an affair with him. Still, if he was going to die, it might be nice to know what it was like.

In late February Martin had another dream, this time with his grandfather and his father, Martin II, who had died when he was fifty. They were in that same dreary room with the green velvet love seat. They were both dressed in black suits, Martin I in his chair, Martin II standing by his side. Martin III knew he was dreaming, but the two men seemed very real. "Sonny," Martin II said, "your grandfather and I are worried that you aren't doing enough to prepare for your death."

Martin III felt very uncomfortable, and squirmed, but Martin II continued, "You'll be here on the other side with us, and you'll feel bad that your widow and son aren't cared for like they should be. You need to get on the horn to your insurance agent and get more insurance." His father put his hand to his ear, thumb and pinky fingers extended in a mime of holding a telephone. "You need to move that savings account into a trust, Sonny, so Uncle Sam doesn't get his greedy mitts on it." Dad has always been one to keep as much money as possible for himself and not let the IRS have it.

To this Martin could only nod. He couldn't find any fault with what his father had told him, but asked him, "Are you talking about heaven? Is that where you are? I'm not a religious person. Maybe I don't deserve to be in heaven."

Martin I laughed. "Your dad and I are here, and we can tell you everyone makes it to the other side. No one gets out of life alive, as the old saying goes." Both senior Martins chuckled briefly. For a fleeting instant he thought he should ask what was going to cause his death, but he couldn't get the words out of his mouth, and then the dream was over.

Martin didn't have to force himself awake this time. The alarm clock went off at that moment. He faced the day, feeling much the same as he had after the first dream. This time he didn't bother his wife with the story.

During the day he called his insurance agent and upped his life insurance, figuring his wife could live comfortably for a few years, at least. She might have to go back to work, but she could pay off the house, pay off their bills, and since she wasn't by nature a spendthrift, he figured she'd do OK.

He borrowed a CD-Rom from the company controller. It was a home will kit, already written in legalese. It just needed to have some blanks filled in. He had thought of borrowing it before, but this time he defied his avoidant nature, and using the controller's advice, had soon filled out, printed and signed a document that gave him respite, at least for the time being, from his dreadful feeling.

He also called his doctor, hoping to get an appointment. He thought, I wish I’d had Grandfather tell me what I was going to die from. If I'm going to have a heart attack, stroke, or die of something like that, maybe Doctor LeBeau would be able to catch it and head it off. His doctor was very busy. He couldn't make an appointment until several weeks hence, long past his March 23 deadline.

When Martin drove back and forth to work he was extra careful. He was an already careful driver who avoided dangerous situations on the road.

He had never smoked. It had killed his dad, and presumably his grandfather. But he now paid special attention to what he ate, any unusual feelings he might have in his chest to forewarn him of a heart attack. When he shaved he examined his face for any signs of skin cancer. He became self-aware to the point that it was distracting to others.

When asked by a coworker, "How’re you doing today?" he would sometimes now answer, "How do I look? Do I look all right? I'm OK. Do you think I'm OK?"

It got noticed by the people he worked with, and less and less of them passed the time of day with a man who seemed so distracted, who even took his own pulse at odd times during the day.

The Saturday before March 23, Martin cleaned out his garage.

The morning of March 23 was a beautiful day, an indicator of springtime ahead. He woke up thinking, "Well, if I have to die, this will be a good day to do it." Then just as quickly he thought, "No, this would be a terrible day to die! No one should die on a beautiful day."

He was once again totally distracted at work. He went to the break room, had a Diet Coke, sat on the employee couch and, lost in thought, ignored anyone who came in the room. He even ignored Tiffany, who bustled around the coffeepot for a few minutes. He remembered the time at age eleven he nearly drowned in a boating accident, but was saved by an alert boater, and then thought about his two years in the Army. While others went to Vietnam, he spent his time stateside as a finance clerk. He had been pretty lucky all his life to avoid accidents. He had been reasonably healthy, but he considered now that he was of an age when men sometimes died from hidden or neglected health problems.

He also had a thought of what he wanted his obituary to say, so he wrote it on a legal pad while he sipped his Diet Coke:

Martin Phillips III, 60, of 16 West Anker Lane, City, of (insert cause of death). Born May 21, 1948, died (insert date).1973 Graduate, University of Southern California. Sergeant, U.S. Army 1966-68. Longtime employee, J. J. Cook Company. Married Janet Holloway June 30, 1969. Survivors, wife, son Martin Phillips IV. Funeral arrangements (insert details here).

He thought of writing an extra note to Janet, but instead folded the obituary and put it in his wallet. If nothing happened to him then no one would have to see it, and if he did die unexpectedly the first place anyone would look would be his wallet.

He went home and watched television, although he couldn't have told anyone what he was watching. His wife's attempts at conversation were met with grunts and monosyllables. She soon gave up.

At 11:00 PM he started feeling better. One more hour and it wouldn't be March 23 anymore. If nothing happened, well, then they were just silly dreams and not real premonitions of doom.

Janet was reading in bed when he slipped between the sheets about 11:20. Forty minutes to go," he said to her.

"Forty minutes to go what?"

"You remember that dream of my grandfather, telling me I'd die on March 23. Well, it's forty minutes to go until March 24, and I'm still alive."

She said, "I can't believe you are still thinking of that dream. You are such a nut! I can't believe you'd believe in any of that dream nonsense."

He said, "you never know, do you? All I know for sure is it won't be March 23 for much longer."

"Actually," she replied, flipping the page of her book. "It may be March 24 here, but somewhere in the world it's probably still March 23. I don't know much about international datelines and all that, but I'm sure someplace is twenty-four hours behind us."

He had no response for that. The thought that somewhere it was March 23 hit him hard. It didn't make sense. If it was a genuine premonition, then his grandfather would mean March 23, Martin III's time, wouldn't he? Not time in Bora Bora or Paris or Vladivostok, or heaven, but here in Martin's time zone.

He lay on his pillow. Little beads of sweat dotted his forehead and upper lip as he considered what Janet had said. What is the time zone on the other side where Martin I and II were? Is it March 23 there, or March 22?

His eyes slowly closed. His brain felt cloudy. Too much thinking about this had wearied him, more than any day at work had ever done. He thought briefly, of all things, of Tiffany and her dagger-like fingernails. He thought about his will, his insurance, his tools, and in the midst of it all that old Buddy Holly song kept running through his head. But fatigue took over, and in the waning moments of what could be his last day on earth, Martin Phillips III finally dropped from consciousness into that place where dreams are alive.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

More Grunting

This is the second comic strip I did about my old coworker, Grunt.

I couldn't include it in my original Grunt posting because it wouldn't enlarge when clicked. Apparently there is a limit to how much you can put on these Blogger blogs. I'm still learning.


Click on picture for full-size image.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, when I started my job 30 years ago I worked with an outlaw biker named Bill C., who we called Grunt. As my boss said, "He's named that because of his disposition." I always thought it more aptly described Bill's communication skills when he came in hung over, which was often.

Bill was a big guy, at least 6'2" tall, with legs that seemed too short and a trunk that was too long. He had a massive chest and huge long arms that gave him a gorilla appearance.

He was a Marine Corps deserter. He said he joined when he was 17, realized he was in over his head, and just walked away. A couple of years later his dad talked him into giving himself up and he did after finding out that by going on probation and working two years for a non-profit organization (like our school district), he'd earn an amnesty discharge. He was about six months into the amnesty process when I first met him.

Most guys we worked with gave Bill a wide berth, but I liked him for some reason. I liked him well enough to caricature him in these comic strips I did after he quit. I mixed in Bill with another guy I knew from a former job, since they were both lowbrow characters; rednecks, really.

Bill had a pink '62 Harley-Davidson full-dresser, with saddlebags on the back. Bill wore his hair in a ponytail held in by a rubber band with two pink Lucite beads. The hair-tie was obviously meant for a little girl and he had found it on the floor at an elementary school. I remember the first time our secretary saw him with that band tying back his hair she said, "I love your little pink balls, Bill."

The whole pink-thing fit Grunt because when he was on the run from the Corps he had taken on a false identify, having bought a birth certificate in the name of J. Pinckney Glidewell. That caused me a lot of glee, and I knew I was working with a walking cartoon character.

One time Bill didn't show up for work, and our boss told us he'd called in sick. He was out for three days and when he came back his head looked like a pumpkin, his face badly swollen. He'd been in a bar fight. The fellow members of his motorcycle club had stood by while rival bike gang members had beat him up, at one point knocking him to the floor, one guy standing on his hair to hold him down while another kicked him in the face. I asked when I saw him, "Did you see a doctor?" He said, "Hell, no! I don't need a doctor!"

I'm sure he suffered some brain damage in that beating because he never was the same after that, becoming more moody, withdrawn and even more violent. He eventually quit and everyone breathed a big sigh of relief, because our lives had become full of Grunt threats to, "Beat the shit out of you," "Go get my gun and shoot you," or my favorite, uttered by Grunt when he was completely exasperated by the needling of another employee: "I'll blow you up. I swear to God, I'll blow you up."

He worked in town for another couple of years and I'd see him occasionally, in a grocery store or riding his pink Harley, but after awhile I heard he moved to his dad's hometown in Southern California.

Guys like Grunt wouldn't be hired anymore, since the school district has tightened their policies to keep felons out.

I have one memory of Grunt I'll never forget. We went out after work one day to go home. His Harley had a flat tire. I asked if he needed to take the tire off and get it fixed, because I was willing to take him to a service station. He said, "Naw," and from one of his saddlebags he produced a can of Fix-A-Flat. He inflated the tire enough to ride on it, and then rode off. I followed him on the freeway, and he got his Harley up to 80, ducking in and out of traffic like he wasn't riding on a mostly bald tire held together by Fix-A-Flat. That to me was the essence of Grunt, that "Fuck all of you," death wish sort of behavior.

After all these years I still wonder what happened to Grunt. I wonder if he's working some warehouse job in Southern California, still riding his Harley, still threatening to blow people up, or maybe dead by now, buried with his little pink balls.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Friday, June 23, 2006

Time Flies When You're Having Life

Today was an anniversary for me, but I shared it with only a couple of people, because it's not that big a deal to anyone but me. Today was my 30th anniversary of working for the school district. I started there on June 23, 1976.

When I started working for the school district we had 69 schools, and one female principal. Now we have 100 schools (give or take a couple, since almost every year they shut down old schools or open new schools), and the last figure I heard was that 2/3 of the principals are female, and about half the administrators in our district offices.

Up until a few years ago, when my parent's generation started retiring or dying, the school system was still patriarchal. The principals were all men who sat in their offices doling out punishment. To get called to the principal's office meant you were in TROUBLE. Now it means you might get a certificate good for a little toy at the school store if you were good that week, so a kid might look forward to being called in to the principal's office. Back then the principal was a godlike figure who presided over a school like Moses over the Israelites. To be summoned was to feel fear and trembling.

As society has changed, so has our school system.

I was hired by Big Jim, who was Warehouse foreman, for whom I worked in one capacity or another for about 26 years. He went on to become Director of Purchasing, and an even bigger pain in the ass than he was as the Warehouse foreman, but that's another story.

One of the guys who worked there when I started knew me from when we were teenagers. He was then a warehouseman, but he went on to bigger and better things, and now he's a high school principal still working for our district. Since he's gained about 50 or 60 pounds in 30 years he tells me, "I should've stayed with that job; I'd still be lean and mean." Well, mean anyway.

On my first day of work in 1976 I was sent on a work detail to unload a boxcar load of toilet paper at a railroad siding. That was the first and only time I ever did that. As some sort of an initiation on my first day the guys working with me took me to a bar for lunch and wanted to buy me a beer but I refused. I'd been out of work for seven months when I was hired, and didn't want to be fired on my first day for drinking. That was the first and last time that ever happened, too. My first day working for the school district was a day of first-and-lasts for me.

A whole other story, worthy of more room than I have here, would be about those men I worked with when I started. As the district has gone kinder-gentler in its administrative ranks, so have the men working in the non-teaching jobs like mine gotten more modern and smarter, less the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals common in those days. I'm a remnant of that Neanderthal bunch, but I think I was a harbinger of what was to come. Maybe a cross between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon.

I worked with a guy nicknamed Grunt, who was such a character I've got to devote a whole blog posting just to him. I only worked with him for two years before he quit but he was one of a kind, and I haven't forgotten him. He was a deserter from the Marine Corps, working for an amnesty discharge by working a minimum of two years for a non-profit organization. He did his two years for us and hit the road.

There isn't anyone nowadays who would quit after two years. Men work for us for a long time. It's the benefits. Their stories are always similar to mine; they worked another job, they got laid off, or the benefits sucked, or they needed something more secure. The school district is a big security blanket for many of us.

Whatever my background, I didn't think like that in 1976. The last thing in the world I was thinking about was retirement. I didn't plan on staying there, as a warehouseman or anything else. I had other plans: be an artist, be a writer, get back into the creative business. The need to make a living has a tendency to crush plans like that.

When I started my job Gerald Ford was President. Now I consider him the biggest welfare recipient in the history of the U.S. because he's gotten a fat pension as a former President when he was never elected to anything but Congress. He was appointed to Vice President and became President by default. (One of my rants, if you haven't guessed.) Now we have another unelected President. Well, unelected in 2000, that is, and barely elected in 2004. (Another rant.)

For the whole 30 years I have been on a 243-day-a-year contract, commonly called a 12-month contract. People in school districts have varying lengths of contracts: teachers have 9-month, school secretaries have 10 ½ month, principals 11-month, etc. So in 30 years that means that I've had to wake up 7,290 times and either go to work, call in sick or take a vacation day. That's kind of awe-inspiring when you think about it.

I accrue about 22 days a year vacation, and 13 days sick leave. I rarely call in sick, but try to use my vacation to avoid total burnout by taking a week off here and there. My job is to stop at 32 schools a day, which adds up to 160 stops a week. I get to a point where I need a break to recover. The toll on my body has been considerable. My lower extremities, feet, knees, ankles, have taken a direct hit from walking, standing, stepping down from a truck. My beard has gone from dark brown to white. The sun, which in 1976 could not penetrate the thick dark hair on my head, can now sunburn the bald spot.

In total, 30 years adds up to 10,950 days, give or take a few leap year days here and there. But then, who's counting?

Ciao for now, El Postino

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Shapes flesh and cartilage--quickly, safely and painlessly..."


When it comes to the human body and our paranoid insecurities about body image, canny entrepreneurs will step in to sell us what we want to change our bodies and our lives.

Whether the products they sell us actually work, well, that's something else.

I've always felt that good sense and skepticism go out the window when the opportunity to change something we don't like comes in the door. These are products that probably didn't do any harm--except maybe the Les-Wate pills, what was in them, anyway?--but didn't do any good, either.

Want to be slim, use Les-Wate. You don't have to change your eating habits at all and you'll be skinny! Wow. Irresistible. I'll send my buck for a two-week supply, then bring on the Krispy Kremes.

Want to get rid of that enormous Jimmy Durante schnoz sticking out of your face? Anita will do it for you, shaping the bone and cartilage…painlessly! While you sleep, yet.

Or if you're deaf…tired of saying, "Would you repeat that?" "Sorry, I didn't catch that?" or "'Scuse me, did you say kiss my ass?" then you can wear this little handy device that uses tiny megaphones (!!!) so you can finally hear what your relatives and coworkers are saying behind your back.

Variations of these useless products still exist today, somewhere, even products that are updated for the modern self-conscious amongst us.

I bit (no pun intended) for the tooth whitening products sold over the counter. My son and his wife had their teeth whitened by a dentist in 2003 and the process worked so well that they both still have brilliant pearly-whites that gleam when they smile. I am embarrassed about teeth stained by over 30 years of drinking coffee. I fell for the line about an over-the-counter product making my teeth 7 shades whiter in just 7 days. At the end of 7 days, well, I asked for my money back and got it. I'm sure the companies selling these sorts of products don't worry much about that, since most people don't ask for money back. They might throw away the product and not use it again, like me they might feel silly for spending the money in the first place, but a company will count on most consumers not asking for a refund.

The magazines I got the old ads from are Amazing Stories from 1928 and 1929. It seems appropriate, since the claims the products make are just that, science fiction.

Ciao for now, the sadder but wiser and no whiter-toothed, El Postino

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Three-Legged O.J.

Click picture to see larger image.


I'm guessing the folks who make Dingo boots don't have this 1979 ad of a three-legged O.J. Simpson framed and on the wall in their corporate offices.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Bag Of Bones

Click on picture for larger image.


The Charles Atlas ad showing the guy getting sand kicked in his face might be one of the most famous and long-running ads of the Twentieth Century. The phrase, "97-pound weakling*," entered into popular culture decades ago.

The ad trades on the basic insecurity and paranoia about our body image. Looking around us every day we'd be hard-pressed to see one person in 50, or even 100, who has a perfect body. Hell, I see a really imperfect body every time I look in my mirror! Most of us are dissatisfied with our bodies in one way or another, but not a whole lot of us want to go the trouble of working out at the gym, eating right, jogging or even walking for exercise.

Charles Atlas was a believer in being fit, having stayed fit all of his life. Like the old saying goes, "Eat right, exercise, die anyway." Charles Atlas died in 1972, but he died rich from selling the program of isometric exercises he called Dynamic Tension.

Looking at the ad a couple of things jump out at me. There is the familiar guy looking weak in front of his girl. A situation no man, young or old, would want to be in. The bully is some sort of psychopath who pushes our 97-pound weakling around just because he can.

The ad shows the weakling, Joe, kicking away in frustration. He's going to "gamble a stamp," (itself a phrase that insures this is a pretty old ad) and send away for the course. Then we get the diagonal black bar with the word LATER. Now he's a muscleman, and he goes to the beach to the give the bully a "love-tap." This wins the hearts of the women around him. Women just love to see men turn themselves into gorillas so they can go around giving love-taps to other men, and they show their appreciation with exclamations of "What a man!"

The biggest thing is that word LATER…how much later? Weeks? I doubt it. Months? Possibly. A year? More likely. We can figure that Joe probably worked out with his Dynamic Tension course over the winter, building himself up, seething with his need for revenge. Every time he went for his workout he was thinking, "I'm gonna go back to the beach and find that guy and give him a big love-tap to the jaw!" He's thinking revenge, people. He's still burning with humiliation from being made to look like a wussy in front of his girl.

So what happens? He gets his revenge, he gets his girl's respect, he gets admiration for his muscular masculinity from the nearby females, but after we leave Joe walking off with his girl he also gets pinched by a local cop who witnessed his battery on another guy. That's the part of this little revenge fantasy that Charles Atlas wouldn't want you to see.

If this situation were suddenly transformed into real life, what would really happen is after all of the exercise it would take to build his body, Joe's brain would be flooded with endorphins. He'd feel great! He'd swagger a bit walking down the beach, catching out of the corners of his eyes the admiring looks from chicks in bikinis. He'd see the bully, who may or may not recognize him with his new physique. But Joe likely wouldn't punch the bully, because he'd be more self-assured with his new body image, and the best revenge is just looking good, after all.

Joe should thank the bully, not punch him. If not for getting shoved around he'd still be a 97-pound weakling, not the Adonis he's become.

Ciao for now, El Postino

*That phrase isn't used in this ad, even though it's associated with Atlas, but this particular ad uses terms like "bag of bones," or "skinny scarecrow."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Why--They're All Bent!"

Click on pic for larger image.


One tactic of advertising is to take products no one has ever heard of, don't want, don't need, and create in us a need for them.

My brother and I first saw this ad from an old 1950 crime comic book in the mid-1960s. We got a big kick out of the dialogue.

A technique of advertising is to make us feel paranoid about having some sort of inferiority which a product can correct. We can be upset about a social or sexual problem that can be solved easily if we just buy something.

This ad perpetuates the old stereotypes about women being gold-diggers and shrews. The woman in the ad suddenly turns against her date when his cigarettes are bent! Not only that, the gigolo with a pencil-thin mustache, in a white dinner jacket, is there to steal her away with his plastic $1.98 All-in-One Cigarette Case and Lighter. Wow, any woman willing to leave a guy for that wouldn't be worth having in the first place. Her date, because of his lack of the basic skill of providing for her an unbent cigarette has suddenly become impotent; a craven coward who won't fight for his woman, but asks wimpishly of his successful rival, "Where can I get a combination cigarette case and lighter like that?" His girlfriend's new paramour tells him and why not? He's now got the girl!

What kid reading this ad would want that to happen to him? He'd better save up the money he earns on his paper route and buy a dozen of them. No use risking a faux pas like that at any time in his future.

Also, the ad covertly reinforces the idea that smoking is cool and sexy. Bogart got away with it and he looked great with a cigarette in his mouth, right up until he got lung cancer. These folks at the nightclub aren't worried about that, though; the woman especially, who is more worried about snagging a "real man" with his unbent cigarettes.

When I re-read this ad a few days ago I thought with some tweaking it could be turned into an ad for erectile dysfunction. For the word "cigarette" substitute the word "penis." Nowadays Viagra ads show couples in a happy afterglow thanks to a pill, but in this ad it shows the shame that comes from having a dysfunction, especially a bent one.

I wonder how many of these things they sold 56 years ago when this ad appeared? I wonder if there are still any around? After all, every man wants his cigarette to stand straight and tall.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"...birthday greetings, bottle of wine?"

A few years ago my wife bought this music box from Franklin Mint, a partial representation of the album cover from The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I thought of it today when I watched a story about Paul McCartney's 64th birthday on CBS This Morning.

But hey, newsguys…give it a rest. So Paul is 64. So he wrote the song, "When I'm 64", which is a fine song but isn't about him.

So he doesn't have grandchildren named Vera, Chuck and Dave.

I read in a book yesterday that The Beatles (popularly known as The White Album) has sold 19,000,000 copies since being released in 1968. Sergeant Pepper, including the song, "When I'm 64," isn't all that far behind. The Beatles albums still sell because people find their melodies and lyrics irresistible. I'm sure some of their songs will be sung 100 years from now, in the manner of Stephen Foster's songs today. Only instead of "Doo dah," kids will be singing, "Desmond has a barrow in the marketplace…" or, "You say goodbye, and I say hello!"

I also expect when Paul McCartney's 164th birthday is being celebrated in 2106, that songs like "The Long And Winding Road," or "Blackbird," or even the tragically eerie "Eleanor Rigby" will still be part of the popular song lexicon, along with songs by George Gershwin or Irving Berlin.

In the meantime, I hope Paul enjoys his... "birthday, I would like you to dance. Birthday, take a ch-ch-ch-chance!"

Ciao for now, El Postino

Friday, June 16, 2006

Get Yourself a Government Job

My friend in California dropped me an e-mail this morning. He told me that he was anticipating a problem--maybe even layoffs--at the hotel in the East Bay area of California where he works. A few years ago he had helped a hotel workers' union establish themselves in the hotel, protecting the workers. Now another company is buying the hotel, and they don't have to pick up the union contract. As a matter of fact, they can fire everyone and start new. Now that sort of news would be something to chew over with your morning muffin, wouldn't it?

By coincidence, last night a high school buddy of mine, Gary, called from out of the blue. I hadn't heard from him in over 35 years. He wanted to know what was going on with me. We caught up in a cursory fashion and when I asked what kind of work he did he told me he had been laid off from his job of 30 years, two weeks short of his 30-year anniversary. So he has no pension, no benefits, just his 401K and severance package. He also told me that about 20 people were laid off, all but a couple in the 50-65 year-old-range. He said that the couple of younger workers who were laid off were to make it look like older workers hadn't been targeted. That sounds paranoid, but just because it sounds paranoid doesn't mean it isn't true.

A few months ago a lady at my work told me her husband had been laid off from a local grocery store chain where he had worked for 29 years, most of those years as a produce manager. The lady was recovering from cancer and when they fired him his benefits ended, so they were left with thousands of dollars worth of medical bills. She also said the layoff that caught her husband was strictly of higher wage earners in that 50-65 year age group. The fired workers took the store chain to court for age discrimination, but what will the courts do? Big deal. They won't buy you back your life.

I don't claim these stories are unique. It happens every day in this country. As rotten as it is, you just can't go into any job or occupation with any kind of real assurance you'll still be there by retirement time, and if you are, that the package they had promised you will materialize.

My advice is, get a government job. At least that's what my mother used to tell me, because she retired from the government. I took her advice, although in an oblique fashion. After being laid off from some dinky job I had in the early '70s I took an opportunity to interview with the school district and got the job that I'm still doing 30 years later. I'm glad I got the job, but I would have taken any job at that point, and maybe not have fared as well. I have every confidence I'll get my retirement (which is administered by the state), and my pension package because every other person in the past 30 years I've worked with who qualified has gotten it. That includes my wife, who is semi-retired from the school district.

I wonder, though, how do the guys who fashion these layoffs, who put people out of work, cut families off medical insurance, ruin a community, live with themselves? Isn't there a time when they wake up in the morning and look in the mirror at their face and the reflected face says to them, "You are a cold-blooded, scum-sucking bastard." Probably not, because people who have gotten themselves the sort of job that lends itself to having the power of life and death over lesser mortals have usually sold themselves on the idea it's for the greater good of the company. Yeah, the "company," meaning those managers, shareholders, people who are the highest earners, and probably the least productive. The hatchet-man looking into the mirror probably appends the "…scum-sucking bastard" line with, "That means you're doing your job! Keep up the good work!"

It's sad to say, but as sorry as I feel for the people whose stories I've told, it's life in the working world. My own brother has had to retrain several times in his commercial art career, learning new technology, and watching the companies he has worked for fail because they couldn't keep up with technology. He's managed to bounce back so far, but who knows how close he is to living in a cardboard box somewhere under a viaduct?

All of these stories are why I cling to my job like a drowning man clings to a tree branch on the river's edge. You just pray the branch will still be there long enough to provide you with a way to get out of the rushing water.

Whenever these executive types get behind a podium and say they did it for the good of the company I just about heave. They do it for their own good. And they've apparently learned to live with themselves, too. They wouldn't want to be my friend in California, or my high school buddy, Gary, or the produce manager, or me. They couldn't imagine themselves being my friends or me because that would make their callous impact on some working stiff's life real. It's better just to look at everything as bottom line and not worry about whether real live people are being buried alive by the shit shoveled over them.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Take My Wives, Please!

Yesterday I got an invitation in the mail to a family reunion of the polygamous side of my heritage.

Nathaniel Henry Felt was an old-time Mormon polygamist who lived with his wives and kids in 19th century Utah, practicing his religion along with his whole crowded family.

My grandmother was especially proud of this part of her ancestry, referring to it often, even though she was a monogamous Mormon. I heard about ol' Nathaniel Henry more often than I heard about living relatives, so she looked up to the old boy.

Mormons, the "official" Mormons, anyway, gave up on polygamy in the late 19th century in order to get Utah admitted to the union, which happened in 1896. Before that the U.S. government said no way: You guys and all your wives will live in a territory until you go along with the established order in the rest of the nation to get your statehood. The polygamy groups which exist today are offshoots of the official Mormon church. They believe that Mormon leaders were guilty of apostasy when they gave up on polygamy.

So today the Mormon church officially hates polygamy; they don't want to be associated with the splinter groups who still practice what they call "the principle." The LDS Church even stumped politically for the ill-fated attempt lately to get an amendment going that would establish marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and not two guys or two women or a guy and a sheep or a guy and two or more women.

Anyway, I don't care about all of this, really. I don't care if people want to practice their religion as long as no sacrifices, animal or human, are involved, or as long as kids aren't abused. In other words, live and let live. If a guy wants to be married to two or more women then more power to him. Hell, let's make it fun! How about a woman married to two or more guys (this is polyandry, whereas a man married to more than one woman is actually polygyny, commonly called polygamy, which is the overall state of having multiple spouses).

Several cultures in the world today have multiple wives in their marriage practices, and they don't think it's any big deal. Why should I?

But, I won't be attending any family reunions for Nathaniel Henry Felt's descendents. Despite sharing their bloodlines, I'm not a part of that whole ancestor-worship culture.

Lately polygamy has been in the news, what with Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located in enclaves in several states and Canada, making the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Way to go, Warren! You get your chance to become a martyr like your idol, Joseph Smith. I'm sure that will make you happy, won't it? Or do you believe in your religion enough to give up your life for it? Do you want to go down shooting it out with the G-Men, or will you hide out in your burrow with Osama bin Laden (also on the FBI's Most Wanted list, and also a polygamist). Will there be 72 virgin wives in heaven for you, Warren, if you go down as a martyr?

Like a lot of leaders of religious cults, Jeffs exercised extreme power over his followers. I'm thinking of people like Jim Jones of The Peoples' Temple, David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, and others I've totally forgotten. Guys with absolute power get drunk on that power and since Mormons, and even Mormons who aren't mainstream Mormons anymore, don't drink, it's about the only thing they can get drunk on.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Pick Up Your Poop, People!

This morning I saw something I hadn't seen before.

I came out of one of the schools on my route and while getting into my truck I saw a woman across the street with her dog. She is an unsighted woman and the dog is a service (seeing-eye) dog. The dog was leading the woman to a grassy area in front of the apartment complex where they live. The dog pooped; the woman, even though she was blind, reached down with a bag and picked up the poop, putting it into a bigger bag.

I thought, "This woman can't even see, but she's more courteous about her dog's shit than most of the sighted people I know."

Years ago I used to have to step over the droppings of a dog walked by an old man, who used to bring his dog to a school on my route. I guess the school yard looked like a big toilet to them. That dog's droppings were everywhere. One day I stepped out of my truck just as the dog was depositing his load. The old man looked at me blankly. I said to him, "How would you like the principal to bring some of the kids over to your house and have them shit in your yard?"


Today I got a notice in the mail from the Veterans' Administration. In all of the years I've been a veteran it's only about the third or fourth piece of mail I've received from them. It reiterates what we've all heard on the news, that an employee of the VA took some important stuff home on his laptop and the computer was stolen. So it warns us all to look out for identity theft or people getting into our bank accounts.

I have heard so many stories about this on the news. First they said it only affected veterans discharged since 1976...then they admitted it affected active duty military personnel, and now apparently it affects me, who was discharged in 1968. Hey, VA! Get your story straight!

Good god, no wonder I'm so paranoid about things when everyone in government appears to be lying all the time. Of if they aren't actively lying, it's because they don't know what the hell is going on.


In line with an April posting of mine about foot fetishes, here's a story I read this past weekend in the book, Mr Hitchcock At Work By Bill Krohn. In the chapter on the movie Rear Window Krohn writes: "…This attention to detail [in the film] has been described as evidence that Hitchcock was obsessed with Grace Kelly. A similar misunderstanding inspired another anecdote: when Herbert Coleman, who was making his first film as an assistant director with Hitchcock, inquired why Hitchcock spent so much time filming a shot of Kelly's feet in high-heeled shoes which wasn't even in the script, the director asked him if he 'had never heard of foot fetishism'." What, you mean like this?


My feral cat, Little Brother, is now running with a cat gang, made up of two Siamese cats, and now Little Bro'. Today when I came home from work I saw on the lawn what was left of one of the adult quail who live with their babies under a pyracantha bush in our yard. Either Little Brother, or his two kitty-gangsta buddies had killed the bird, leaving, on closer inspection, just the bird's two wings and a bunch of feathers.


The new issue of Reminisce came in the mail today. What I wanna know is, where did they get the picture of my room for the cover?

Ciao for now, El Postino

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Vintage Paperback Books

When I was a kid, being dragged along by my mom to the grocery store was only made tolerable by being able to hang out looking at magazines or at the paperback rack. It was looking at paperbacks in 1956 that caused my personal epiphany, discovery of The Mad Reader. It changed my life. Not always for the better, but it did change. But, that's another subject.

I used to love looking at the old covers on paperback books. When I was seven and playing in our garage I found a whole cupboard over the workbench full of paperbacks; they were mostly potboilers, mysteries and sleaze with really great covers. They belonged to my dad. He was the proverbial traveling salesman, and when not staying with farmer's daughters (heh-heh) he was holed up in motel rooms at night with very little to do but read. In those days motels didn't come with HBO and ESPN. They didn't even come with TV's.
I made the mistake of taking a couple of the more exotic-looking books into the house and proclaiming to my mom, "Look what I found in the garage!" The next time I went to the cupboard the books were gone. I learned a lesson at that time: If you find something great, don't share it.

However, over the years I've found some pretty nice vintage paperbacks, mostly in thrift stores, usually costing from 50¢ to 75¢. Unlike my mom, I want to share some of them with you.

The first is Pocket Books 459, The Dragon's Teeth by Ellery Queen, a 1947 printing. What I like the most about this book is the non-representational art on the cover. This book isn't about dragons…but I like the way the art director chose to use this cartoony, bizarre-looking critter on the cover. Very eye-catching.

Back to more realism in the art, this cover of Fast One by Paul Cain, Avon Books 178, from 1948, has been reprinted in several forms. I always wondered…is the guy dropping dead from the sight of the babe in the bathtub? To find out I could always read the book, but I don't think vintage paperbacks are to read. I think they're to be collected so people can look at the lurid covers.

Speaking of lurid covers, The Case Of The Curious Bride, a Perry Mason mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner, Pocket Books 177, from 1942, is a great example of the old law in publishing that having a skeleton or skull on the cover raised sales figures. That's apparently why so many old books and magazines feature bones on the covers. Anyway, this is a nice example of what I call The Skeleton Law of Covers.

Finally, we jump from the 1940s to the 1960s with The Long Sword by Hunter D'Allard (pseudonym of Willis Todhunter Ballard, a prolific producer of paperbacks under several names), a 1962 Avon paperback. This is a suggestive cover; it's hidden from the bluenoses, who would pass it over as being just another historical paperback, but if you take a closer look you understand what the title, The Long Sword, really means. Girl in bed…sword at crotch…clothing folds indicating bulge in front of trousers. Aha. Now I get it! Oooo, this one should be hot! Then you get inside and read, "Her warm hand touched the bare breadth of his wide chest and she ran it swiftly down, across the taut muscle of his stomach, laughing up at him gaily. He loosened the pants and she yanked them down, the hand following along his leg and squeezing once around the thick ankle…"

Ankle, huh? Ankle, my…uh…ankle!

Anyway, fun books. I'll have more for you sometime.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Friday, June 09, 2006

Found Items Part V

It's been a few days since I posted. My head is swimming in sweat from 90º+ temperatures. The first week of June, yet! Probably due to global warming, another source of paranoia.

Actually, our weather people tell us--they tell us and tell us and tell us--that if it's hot like this early on it portends a hot summer. Moan, groan. Luckily, I drive vehicles with air conditioning. When the wind blows the air from the desert southwest north to us it's best to get inside, either a building or car, and crank up the coolness. Unfortunately, I do have to do some work outside during the heat of the day. Some people thrive in desert heat, not me.

So what's this got to do with anything? Well, nothing. I just like to complain about the heat!

Last Friday was the official last day of school and it was also a time when the kids clean out their lockers. I walked into one of the high schools I visit and spotted this sticking out of a garbage can. I walked by it, gave it the hairy eyeball once-over, then did my usual thing in the office and came back. There were a bunch of girls, pep club or cheerleaders, right by the garbage can, cleaning out their lockers. I took this out of the can and asked, "May I have this?" not knowing whether it belonged to one of them, not knowing what someone would say or do if I just plucked it out with half a dozen girls watching. The girls did some eye rolling, did their, "Like, I'm so sure," type dialogue to me. Us older guys are practically invisible to them and they are usually startled when I have the audacity to speak. So I took it.

Some art teacher was probably teaching kids techniques of abstract art, and they were most likely studying artist Jackson Pollock, and his dripped paint technique that earned him the nickname Jack The Dripper.

Pollock was also the subject of a fine biographical movie with Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock.

The student work I found is on foam board, and right now I've got it in my downstairs studio, sitting on the back of a futon chair. Know what else I like about it? It looks just as good upside down...

...or sideways!

Ciao for now, El Postino

Monday, June 05, 2006

Alex Toth and The Beatles, 1964

Alex Toth is dead at 77! Died at his drawing board, which is probably the way he would have picked to go.

Toth was a true pro, who had a lot of credits going back to the 1940s. Toth is probably an artist's artist...someone professionals, his peers, really love, not just a fan favorite.

Toth lived in California and drew a lot for Dell Comics, later Gold Key, and for the black and white hot rod magazines of the 1960s. Here are a couple of pages from Big Daddy Roth Magazine #2, 1964, starring everyone's favorites, The Beatles! It's Toth, at the advanced age of 45, predicting what The Beatles, then aged 23 or 24, would look like in 30 years. All I can say is, The Beatles Toth drew must've been through a lot too look so old in 1994! But, it's a gag strip, so we can just enjoy it for that. From the rushed quality of the art it looks like it was banged out in one session, but it still has Toth's trademarked superb layouts and drawing.

Click here for larger image of page 1.

Click here for a larger image of Page 2.

Goodbye, Alex! We loved your work, and dazzdatt!

Ciao for now, El Postino

Sunday, June 04, 2006

School's Out!

School's out for summer! Friday was the last day until the kids go back in late August.

Remember how that used to feel? That is, if you've been out of school as long as I have and can still remember those feelings. If the school year was over on Friday afternoon then I had all weekend to think of how great it was going to be on Monday morning with nothing to do…no school to get up for…no worries about a math test, or a term paper that was due (that I hadn't started to write). Then Monday would come along and by noon I'd be bored because being footloose and without responsibilities always sounds fun, but falls short of expectations.

Anyway, school's out, so starting tomorrow about noon you'll hear kids start to whine, "Mom, I'm bored! Can we go to the waterpark? Can we go on a trip to Disneyland? Can you stick me in a cannon and shoot me anywhere but this boring place?" Ever notice that kids always want to do something that costs money? You say to them, "Go out and play with your friends!" and the kids say, "Give us $20 so we can go to the mall." That's their idea of playing. Going to the mall. We had to find different games to play because we were bored but we didn't have any money nor did we have parents who had money to give us.

We played a game called eggs. Kids sat on someone's front porch and one kid stood in front of the sitters. The one standing would say, "Do we have any green eggs?" and if anyone had chosen green to be the color of their eggs then they'd jump up and the kid who did the asking would chase them around the yard until they caught them. Then that person became "It" and asked for colors. Pretty dumb game, really, because it depends on having some sort of personal integrity and honesty. I found myself one time asking every color I knew of and no one jumped up. Finally in exasperation I asked, "Well, what color are your eggs?" and one kid said, "My eggs are greenish-purple," and another said, "My eggs are chartreuse with a tiny bit of mauve as a highlight." (That last one I made up.)

This year one of the ladies I've worked with for over 20 years retired and on the last day we spoke for awhile about our mutual friends and coworkers. She complained about one of my coworkers and said, "It's worth it to retire and not listen to that guy's phony bullshit. If he'd come in to my school one more time and said, 'How are you, young lady?'--I'm not young and hearing that makes me feel even older--I was going to cut his fucking nuts off."


A female guidance counselor in one of the junior high schools motioned me into her office. She was signing kids' yearbooks by using a rubber stamp. She stamped the back of my calf with a rubber stamp of a purple elephant. I wear shorts, just so you know I didn't have to drop my pants. When I washed most of it came off, but it looked like a bruise and I hoped my wife wouldn't ask me about it. She didn't.

This year I wasn't victimized like I have been in previous years. I didn't get my District truck shaving-cream bombed or get any personal insults (that I noticed anyway). Junior high kids like to bait me. They will be with their friends and say something smartass, at which time I act like I'm deaf as a cement post. This year some kid said something I don't remember because I really wasn't listening, and when I didn't respond he told his buddies, "He's not allowed to talk to us." Hell, I'm allowed, kid…you just don't wanna know what I'd say to you if I talked to you.

To all of you who graduated, have graduates in your family…to all of you who are through with school for yet another summer and are counting down the years until you're done, hope you have a good summer and quit your bitchin' about not having anything to do. Go get a job. As for me, I'm a 12-month contract employee so I go to work every day regardless of the season. Schools are open 12 months of the year, you know, because someone has to get them ready for when school starts up again. It's a process that starts even before the kids leave in June.

Ciao for now, El Postino

My 17-month old granddaughter Bella gets a call while she's at our house on Saturday. Some kid asking her to a graduation dance. She says, "Hey, call me back in about 17 years, willya?"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Kiss My Ass, Kissinger

Some of the most disturbing news in a disturbing week: transcripts of some of Henry Kissinger's secret talks with China's Premier, Zhou Enlai, in 1972 have been released. Have you seen this story?

Calvin Woodward, in a syndicated story published by the Associated Press on May 27, 2006 says the recently declassified documents show Kissinger told Zhou that with a "decent interval" for U.S. troops to clear out, we weren't averse to having a communist takeover in Vietnam.

Quoting the story, "Kissinger's comments appear to lend credence to the 'decent interval' theory posed by some historians who say the United States was prepared to see communists take over Saigon as long as that happened long enough after a U.S. troop departure to save face."

Going on with the story, Woodward says, "Almost 2,000 more Americans would be killed in action before the last U.S. combat death in January, 1973, the month the Paris Peace Accords officially halted U.S. action, left North Vietnamese in the South and preserved the Saigon government until it fell in April 1975." That doesn't mention the thousands of South Vietnamese killed, or the panic or human misery caused by the fall of Saigon in 1975.

This is what really galls me--and helps feed my paranoia--about government. I'm not even specifically blaming Kissinger, although he was the one who approached the Chinese with the idea; I'm sure every administration has a story or two they wouldn't want told about backroom negotiations that led to the deaths of Americans in order to obtain something we wanted.

If I had been to that war, if I knew someone or had a loved one killed in that war after Kissinger's meeting with Zhou Enlai on June 22, 1972 I'd be calling for the guy's head on a pike. This to me is the most cynical action any government can engage in, selling out their own armed forces, their own countrymen, to save face.

This is a story about powerful men using other people as pawns in a huge chess game for their own purposes. About a government supposed to take care of its people sacrificing them instead.

I couldn't say it any better than John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, who is quoted as writing, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority."

Fuck you, Henry. And fuck Nixon, too. While I'm at it, fuck Bush for his war! Throw in Rumsfeld, Cheney and their gangsta pals...might as well fuck 'em all. They sure fucked us!

Ciao for now, El Postino

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Found Items Part IV

What can you find anymore for a buck? No fair counting the dollar stores, where you're paying a dollar for an item worth 50¢. No, I mean true value for $1.00.

First place you've gotta go is your friendly, neighborhood thrift store, where true bargains can still be found. These are all items I found at thrift stores, all items that I paid $1.00 for. Click on pictures if you want to see them larger.

First up is this cute little horse painting. It's small, only about 6" wide, done on a piece of plywood. It might have been done on a mass production basis, or maybe someone just did it for fun. The colors look like basic paint by numbers, and there is no gessoing or preparation of the wood underneath the painting, so where it has been stored some of the paint has worn off, showing the wood underneath. It gives it some character, though. It's a nice little shabby-chic item for my wife's bathroom which is decorated in early cowgirl.


These fine gorillas I call Mr. and Mrs. Kong. I found this salt-and-pepper shaker set for $1.00 and when I took them home I felt like I'd just won the Irish Sweepstakes. They have the paint worn off in many spots, which shows they were actually used, not just stuck on a shelf (like we have them). The picture doesn't do them justice. For instance, the pepper shaker has a dark face and the salt shaker has a white face. Very unsubtle! I like it.


Calling Mars! Earth calling Mars! I found this tin, which originally contained some sort of candy from Holland (maybe those little salty licorice bits that give you a pucker-face but you start to like when you eat enough of them). I love the girl's headdress, which looks like a pair of angel wings, and those little satellite-style solar panels coming out of her head are a nice touch. Not to mention the gal looks kind of...well, wholesome. Toothsome, too.


These next little guys I call the porkin' pigs, or the screwpigs, or whatever comes (ho-ho) into my dirty mind. I found the back pig first, then had to search a shelf for his mate. The funny thing was that the thrift store selling this little pair is the one owned by the Mormon church. It's something I wouldn't expect to find in one of their stores, but obviously I did. Someone must've gotten a big kick out of them; at least as big as the one I get from them. Even as I type this I look to my right, and on my bookshelf I see them humping away. Hey, eat, drink, screw and be merry...tomorrow you could be bacon!


I'm kind of cheating with this one because I didn't actually buy it. I got it in change from a thrift store purchase and when I saw it I was very pleased. This is guerilla protest! I visualize some guy in his basement taking the dollar bills he got in change that day and carefully applying his stamp to them. It's against the law to deface U.S. currency, but who's going to track him down and arrest him? Dollar bills are only in circulation a matter of weeks or months, anyway. But in the meantime this rebel rubber-stamper continues to put his mark on the money! Right on, bro'!

Ciao for now, El Postino