Friday, December 31, 2010

Saying goodbye to 2010

Goodbye, 2010. We hardly knew ye. Ye went too fast, is what ye did. As a year 2010 was alternately interesting, exciting and stupefyingly boring. In other words, just like every other year.

Oh well. At least I got a laugh-a-day with my New Yorker calendar. Here are some more of my favorite cartoons.

I have the 2011 New Yorker calendar which I'll open tomorrow. When I check the date I will be assured of at least one fun moment in my day.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

We'll remember always, graduation day

The announcement.

The proud and happy graduate.

Julia and David, with youngest daughter, Gabby, in the immediate aftermath of the important occasion.

Bella and Gabby look forward to the prospect of themselves going to college one day!

It's such a great day the Beach Boys sang about it!

Congratulations to Dave and his family on this accomplishment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Draft day

This is yet another--but hopefully the last for a while--re-post. It's about the day I went into the U.S. Army in 1966. I posted it originally Thursday, November 30, 2006:

I thought about this anniversary several weeks ago, reluctant to believe it could be that long ago. As mind-boggling as it is to me, November 30, 2006, is the 40th anniversary of the day I went into the U.S. Army, a 19-year-old draftee from Salt Lake City, Utah.

In those days getting drafted was more of a process. You almost had to work at it, because other guys were finding it so easy to stay out of the Army. Stay in college, keep your deferment. Dick Cheney did that several times. A friend of mine was deferred because at 17 he had become a married father. Other guys found legal ways to stay out, going into the National Guard or Army Reserve. I never even considered that route. I had no clout, no rich daddy like George W. Bush, who could get me into such a unit.

My process was to get kicked out of college in December 1965, then go to work in my dad's business for several months. I knew I'd be drafted and I went into a depressive funk. It kept getting worse. The more depressed I got the less capable I was of doing anything like getting back into college to help myself stay out of the Army. I got called for my pre-induction physical in July, 1966, and was scheduled to be drafted at the end of September.

But I got sick in early September with mononucleosis, which had me down in bed for 10 days. They call it the kissing disease, but my then-girlfriend never got it. I don't know what I kissed to get mono, but I hope I never kiss it again. My doctor wrote a note to my draft board asking for a deferment of six months, because he told me it would take that long to fully recuperate. He said I'd be weak and worn down. They gave me 60 days, so in late October I got my notice: Report on November 30, 1966. Say goodbye to family and friends, girls, long hair, my car, my job. There was a war to be won, boy. Get over there and win it for Uncle Sam. Oh yeah…we don't care how sick you are.

November 30, 1966 was a day we know in Salt Lake as a temperature inversion day. We live in a valley surrounded by mountains, a bowl. During the winter sometimes high pressure settles over us, and our car exhausts and industrial pollution can't go anywhere, so it all lays in the air like a big, ugly, brown cloud of fog. It makes your lungs feel like you've smoked a pack of cigarettes, all at once. It's gotten better over the years with stricter regulations, but it still occurs at times almost every winter. It creates hazards to health, but when it gets bad enough it can also keeps planes from flying. We were scheduled to go to Fort Lewis, Washington, but there was no flying out that night. The Army fed us at a local greasy spoon. I don't remember anything I ate except that it had no taste whatsoever. Some goofball sat across from me and I thought he was on drugs. His eyes were bright, and he seemed manic. He kept saying, "Boy, I'm excited to be going into the Army! Aren't you guys excited? I'm really excited." I just looked at him, hoping my eyes would tell him, "Hey, Excited, shut the fuck up." I didn't say anything, though. Maybe I was the only guy in there who wasn't excited to be going. I looked around. No, the guy across from me was the only one excited. The rest of the guys had the sick look of men condemned to hard labor in a federal penitentiary.

The army set us up in a fleabag motel, two guys to a room. They told us, "If you live locally you can call someone and go home for the night, or if you live out of town you can stay here." About half of the guys were from out of town, including a clown named Willard, who was from Park City. He called his girlfriend and they screwed all night, much to the amusement of everyone else. There was a parade of guys going through his room just to say hello, checking out his girlfriend sitting up in bed, nude. I didn't see it, but I sure heard enough about it the next day. At least Willard got a sendoff. I don't remember what I did. I think I went home and went to bed. Alone.

The next day Dad drove me to the motel in the stinking, still thick inversion. After gathering us all up we were on our way to Ft. Lewis by rail, which took about 24 hours. It wasn't Amtrak, because it was in the days before Amtrak. It was some creaking, rattley-assed train with a genuine porter who mostly sat in his cubicle, told stories and drank whiskey out of a bottle.

What I remember most about that trip was that the meal they'd served us the day before and a case of nerves was hitting me hard, so I was in the bathroom every hour or so. So if I tell you it was a shitty train ride, I'm not being facetious.

Nowadays there is no draft, so with a lot of Americans there is no real connection with the wars we're fighting. In those days every family either had a male eligible for the draft, in the service, or trying to stay out. I listened to Rep. Charles Rangel say on Face The Nation recently that we should reinstitute the draft. There's no stomach for that anywhere, so it was rhetoric on his part. I understood his point. What he wants is for the rest of the country to feel like they have a stake in this war, to make the rich and powerful feel it the same as poorer families with servicemen who are fighting.

I'll bet if I was to stop 10 students at any of the schools where I go every day and ask them about the war at least half of them wouldn't know anything about it. They'd probably know we are in a war--actually we're in two wars--but they wouldn't know any details because kids in high school don't care about things like that. They're in their own little worlds of girls, boys, cars, cell phones, who's doing what to who…war? That's someone else's business, isn't it?

On that day 40 years ago I was faced with the real possibility that this could be the last stop for me. I could end up in Vietnam, I could end up dead. I'm still around to talk about it, but those were my thoughts at the time. And my parents, friends and family were all thinking the same thing. I'm not recommending we ever start up the draft again, but we also need for Americans to shake off their apathy and know what many young men and women are facing every day in a combat zone.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"...who steals my purse..."

This is yet another re-post of one of my favorite blogs, this time from November 19, 2006:

Friday night Sally and I were eating dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant when we were approached by a retired secretary, someone we'd worked with for many years.

Let me tell you something about this retired secretary: She is one of the most dramatic persons I have ever met. If you were to watch a history of World War II, and then listen to her story of an encounter with a telemarketer--a story she told me years ago when we were working together--it wouldn't seem anticlimactic.

On Friday night she talked with us about what she's doing now, working for her son's business. What her husband is doing, how her daughter-in-law is anorexic, how her son and daughter-in-law have no children, but she has a "granddog"…all while our waitress brought our drinks, and then brought our dinner. At that point the lady felt it was time to leave, so with relief we watched her go back to her seat.

A few minutes later she came back to us, saying, "While I was talking to you someone stole my purse!" She was off again in a hurry, after telling us the busboy had given it to a woman. When we finished our dinner and walked out the restaurant there she was, on her cellphone, with a police officer walking towards her.

While I felt sorry for her in her plight, I also thought there was a part of her that enjoyed the attention she was suddenly getting. I've had experience listening to her tell the most trivial stories from her daily life as if they had been written by Shakespeare. I visualized her telling everyone within earshot, in the most dramatic tones possible, about the theft.

Sometimes I've had to remind Sally not to turn her back on her shopping cart, where her purse rides in the child seat. A thief could have that purse and be out the door in seconds. It happens all the time.

On the other hand, some thieves are more blatant. My coworker Bob told me a story a couple of weeks ago. His 73-year-old mother-in-law drove into her driveway, got out of her car. A white van pulled up and a man got out, approached her and demanded her purse. She saw a knife in his hand and gave it up.

I'm really sorry the retired secretary and my coworker's mother-in-law lost their purses to thieves, but ladies, be careful. A bad guy looks at your bag like it's a key to the bank, and in many ways it is.


Speaking of purses, my wife collects them. She's been collecting old purses for a few years and usually looks for something unusual looking, something that has a brand name or at least says Made In America. You can tell if it's made in America it's gotta be old! How many years have those things been made in other countries? Forty or more?

I helped start her on her collecting course by finding this purse at a thrift store for $1.00. It's a Joseph Magnin purse, metallic, with rhinestones.

A couple of years ago on Solano Avenue in Albany, California, we visited an antique shop and I bought her this interesting lucite-paneled purse with lucite-links handle. It's got a leather interior and is marked "Meyers, Made In U.S.A." I didn't get off as lucky on the price of this purse. I looked in it before taking its picture and saw the original receipt. I paid $48.00.

I have some other purses for her for Christmas but I can't show them to you. Actually, it probably doesn't matter, because she usually comes up to me, hands me a purse or something else she likes and says, "Here, wrap this up for me for Christmas." Over 38 years we've evolved a system. We buy our own Christmas presents, then hand them to each other to wrap. We usually forget exactly what they are by the time Christmas rolls around. It prevents any returns to a store.

I found out early in my marriage that any man who tries to buy clothes for a woman is stupid. Purses are the same way. A woman will size up a purse in an instant. She'll either say to herself: "I've got shoes to match that purse," or, "I need to go buy some shoes to match that purse." Guys just don't think like that, so it's smarter to let women buy their own Christmas and for the man to present it to them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All their lovin', they will give to you

This is another re-posting of a favorite blog entry of mine, from Tuesday, May 23, 2006:

Sometimes I wish I was a time traveler, able to go back and revisit important moments in my life. That's the way I feel about the Beatles coming to America in early 1964. I'd like to go back to those moments, relive those exciting days.

I was 16 and a junior in high school. I was the perfect age to get caught up in Beatlemania. The first Beatles song I heard was "I Want To Hold Your Hand," and I heard it on New Year's Day, 1964, while driving my 1957 Ford Custom, the radio cranked up, feeling young and way cool. That song just made my day. What energy. The next day I went to the record store and bought the single, backed with "I Saw Her Standing There." I listened to those songs over and over and looked at the picture of The Beatles on the jacket sleeve, thinking, "This is different, this is great!"

I wouldn't have guessed on that day in January, 42 years ago, that I'd still be listening to Beatles songs as we all got older.

Well, hell. At 16 who thinks of getting old?

For my birthday a couple of years ago my wife bought me the 2-DVD set, The Four Complete Ed Sullivan shows Featuring The Beatles. There were several surprises in watching these DVDs.

First of all, in the excitement of seeing The Beatles for the first time I'd forgotten that there was still a show...that it was Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety hour, full of what made Ed Sullivan's show popular in those days, magicians, comedians, acrobats, segments from Broadway shows, introductions of guests in the audience. A true variety show.

The Beatles did their legendary first three songs to open the show on February 9, and the poor sap picked to follow them was a guy named Fred Kaps, described in the DVD listings as doing a "card and salt shaker trick." Say whut? Can you imagine the flop sweat going on in this poor guy's head, knowing he did not have the audience with him, that they had been completely stolen by the preceding act? No wonder I never saw or heard of Fred Kaps again. Fred, if you're still out there, when you came on live in 1964 I was out of the room, my brother and I talking excitedly about what we'd just seen, wishing away the rest of the show so we could see more of those Beatles. I'm sorry, Fred. You got screwed, but blame Ed or his producer, not me.

Something interesting about the show that caught me by surprise was the cast of Oliver! doing a couple of songs. One of the main kids in the play was Davy Jones, who later went on to do his own Beatles imitation with The Monkees.

Sullivan's genius was in booking the Beatles for three shows in a row, even building the second in the series around the Beatles' appearance in Miami by moving his whole show there for that week. Joe Louis made a bow from the audience, Mitzi Gaynor did a horrible medley of "hits," and Myron Cohen--an ethnic comedian mostly forgotten today--doing his Borscht Belt Yiddish schtick to mixed results. Frankly, I just couldn't understand what he was saying. My hearing is bad nowadays (probably from listening to Beatles records too loud), but I wonder if I heard him any better on our old 1962 RCA TV on the night of February 16, 1964.

I watched the third in the series, the February 23 show, when I first got the DVD set, but haven't watched it since, and looking at the list of acts I'm most puzzled by an act called Pinky & Perky doing a "Caterpillar & Crow routine," and right after that a "Dog & Cow Routine." I guess I'll have to watch that again to see what the hell that's all about.

Also on February 23, besides the up-and-coming Beatles we saw the down-and-going Cab Calloway doing "St. James Infirmary" and "Old Man River." Poor Cab. Just 30 years prior he had been a huge musical star in his own right. Now he was just meat in a Beatles sandwich, stuffed in with the other acts between Beatles sets.

After that show The Beatles went back to England, made A Hard Day's Night, did some touring, made Help! and then reappeared on Ed Sullivan's show September 12, 1965. By this time it was plain that they were no flash in the pan. They were entertainment royalty, the likes of which no one had seen. I had remembered something about that show, but I remembered it wrong. When Paul introduces "I'm Down" he refers to it as "...the B-side of our latest record." To which Lennon, off-camera, yells, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" I had remembered it as someone hitting the wrong note to start the song, and Lennon correcting it by yelling "A!" Wow. How could I have gotten it so wrong? I was "remembering" something that never happened. John was just being his usual smartass self, saying it was the "A" side of the record, "I Feel Fine," which of course it wasn't. I was pretty stunned and realized once again how imperfect memory can be.

What I haven't forgotten in all of those years in between the original shows and seeing them again, commercials, unfunny comedians, bad singers (was there any payola involved in some of these people getting on national television?) and all, was how influential and how important the Beatles were in their time. Some in our parents' generation thought they had come down from Mars. My mother thought they were sent by Satan to seduce all of us young people, and she wasn't alone in that belief.

This DVD set is very important historically, because it doesn't present the Beatles by themselves, but in the midst of what else passed for entertainment in those days...and based on what I saw, I can see why they stood out. If I traveled back in time I wouldn't waste any of it watching the kind of schmaltzy drek I saw on these four shows. Yeah, yeah...yeah.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living among the ashes

This is a re-post of a blog from the Insomnia Notebook predecessor, Paranoia Strikes Deep. It describes a memorable stop from a trip to San Francisco in 2006:

Monday, November 13, 2006

One of our stops in San Francisco last week was the Columbarium, where ashes of the dead sit in windowed vaults. Over a century ago San Francisco disallowed cemeteries, and over a period of time disinterred those already buried. The Columbarium was the centerpiece of a cemetery, left standing, soon to be neglected. In 1980 the Neptune Society bought the building and restored it. It is a gorgeous monument to the deceased, probably unique in the world.

Emmitt Watson is the caretaker of the facility, and gives spontaneous guided tours. His enthusiasm is infectious. He tells stories about the folks who are there, gleaned from years of talking to relatives. We got lucky enough to have Emmitt guide us through, giving life to the dead he watches over.

Emmitt came to San Francisco from Louisiana during the hippie era, living with them in the Haight section until, as he put it, "the skinheads took over." Emmitt, in his job as caretaker, reminds us that as long as stories can be told of us, we are still alive.

The structure itself doesn't lend itself to morbidity. We don't think of it as a cemetery, a place where corpses are a few feet below us.

Some of the displays are very ornate and beautiful. In the Fernando display you see antique tobacco jars, stored now with the ashes of husband and wife. Chet Helms, founder of The Family Dog, of hippie-era fame, has his ashes interred in the building. There are more stories than I can recount here in my limited space.

When we left Emmitt presented us each with necklaces of beads, like Mardi Gras.

We visited the Columbarium November 7, election day. The place was being used as a voting precinct. Trust San Francisco to bring out the unique in every situation, even elections. It reminded us that even though the dead are present, the living must still do the business of the living.

Pictures are by David Miller, used with his permission.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finding the inner werewolf

This is a re-posting of a blog from the Insomnia Notebook predecessor, Paranoia Strikes Deep.

October 22, 2006:

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 late night 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. 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.


UPDATE: Forrest J. Ackerman finally succumbed, dying in 2008 at age 92.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Have your picture taken with Jesus

I'm not religious, but I find this ad from a local ad flyer over the top. Have your kids' picture taken with Jesus? I thought the department store Santa Claus at Christmas was going too far--promoting the idea that there is a man somewhere wanting to know what you want, and willing to give it to you--and now we have pictures of your children with "the Savior."

Lord save us all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A year ago this month a young local wife and mom, Susan Powell, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Her husband, Josh, claimed he and their two young sons went camping overnight in the desert, on a below-freezing, snowy night, and came home in the morning to find her gone. She hasn't been seen or heard from since.

The husband came under suspicion immediately because his alibi was fishy. Camping in the middle of winter in the desert? Phew. Get out the room deodorizer because that excuse is stinking up the place. Even before Susan disappeared Josh was thought by Susan's friends and relatives to be controlling and a not-so-nice-guy. There was talk she was ready to leave him. So Josh shut up. He wouldn't talk to the police after his initial interview, which raised red flags amongst people watching the case. He won't talk because he knows they'd get it out of him that he killed her! He won’t take a lie detector test because that would trip him up! He moved himself and his sons out of state to live with his parents; he came back to town and cleaned out his house, then put it up for sale. That raised more talk: He knows she's not coming home! He knows she's dead because he killed her!

The latest coming from Josh is a claim Susan ran off with another man, Steven Koecher, who disappeared at the same time, and is also being currently sought. Both the missing wife's relatives and friends, and the Koecher family have pooh-poohed the notion the two knew each other, much less ran off together. Just a coincidence they disappeared at the same time, they say.

It's always the spouse who is most suspicious, isn't it? Cops look at them first, and sometimes cops get fixated on one person, to the exclusion of other potential suspects. In 1992 I worked with a man whose wife disappeared from her workplace. Six months later she was found buried in a shallow grave. He was under suspicion for years until a serial murderer was caught and confessed to killing her. Until that point the police were positive my coworker had murdered his wife. They had a theory of how he did it, but lacked the hard evidence necessary to arrest him and bring him to trial. Some of us who worked with him thought there was a strong possibility he did his wife in, as did his wife’s former employer. As it turned out, despite all their theories, the cops--and some of us who knew him--were wrong and my coworker was not a murderer.

In the case of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped out of her home at age 14 in 2002, a man named Richard Ricci, being held in jail on other charges, was suspected of the kidnapping. He died in jail, still under suspicion, before Smart was found and the truth of her abduction came out. Cops weren’t working the case hard enough, thought Smart’s dad, Ed, who pushed them to look for the street person his other daughter identified. They still believed Ricci was the kidnapper. As it turned out Dad was right, the cops were wrong. A homeless street preacher and his wife, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, had kidnapped and held her.

Finally, Roger and Pamela Mortensen were not only suspected of the murder of Roger's father, retired professor Kay Mortensen in November, 2009, they were arrested and have spent the last six months in jail charged with homicide. They had notified the police of the death, claiming they were tied up by two men and held hostage, while the men stole a substantial number of the professor's 30 guns. Luckily the police didn't consider the case a closed book. Within the past couple of weeks, acting on a tip, they arrested two men who acknowledged involvement in the crime, killing Professor Mortensen by slitting his throat. Police found over 20 of Mortensen's guns in their possession.

In this case the Sheriff's Department admitted they'd made a mistake and dropped murder charges against the professor's son and his wife. That's more than a lot of police departments or prosecutors would admit to, preferring to fit their own theory to who they'd arrested, rather than look for someone else.

So, maybe there's still hope for O.J. Simpson, that the L.A. Police will find the real killer of his wife and Ron Goldman!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

No good deed goes unpunished

A few years Sally took it upon herself to contact the local No More Homeless Pets organization about some stray cats who had staked claim to our back yard. She fed them, knowing that in the eyes of the county that makes them our responsibility.

Flash forward a few years. We have a family of three cats, two males and a female living under the porch in the back yard. Sally bought a dog house from a pet supply company, and a pressure pad that heats up to a cat's body temperature of 101 degrees when the cats lay on it. They are sheltered from the cold winter. I put food out for them twice a day. Ramses is the friendliest. The female won't come to either of us, the other male likes to be petted, but only in a small area near the food dishes on our back porch. Ramses will come in the house to flop for a while on the carpet. As you can see by the photo Ramses is the same color as the carpet. Sometimes I call him the Camo Cat, because he's hard to see with that as background.

A week ago Ramses, who is prone to wander during the day, got picked up and taken to the local animal shelter. Sally called and claimed him, and it cost $100 to bail him out. We found out he had to be licensed, he had to have shots, and we had to submit documents to that effect within 10 days or we'd be issued a citation. We were also startled when we were told that in the county cats have to be kept indoors, or on a leash if outdoors. What...?! Has anyone ever actually put a cat on a leash, much less an outdoor cat who is used to a territory as big as several city blocks?

So we made an appointment and took Ramses to a neighborhood veterinary. The vet said, sure, we can take care of all that! We can neuter him, because as the female doc groped his balls she said, "Yep, he's all boy." She also said they'd de-worm him, check him for other problems like feline leukemia, comb the mats out of his long hair, put a chip in him, make a tag for a collar, which we needed to supply. When we got him back from the vet yesterday the bill was $288. So far this week we're into Ramses nearly $400. When we got him home from his time in the hospital he went outside and disappeared for 24 hours. Hey, if someone had cut my balls off I'd run off and sulk for at least a day, also.

Today our no-nuts Ramses is back. We knew he'd be back eventually because he likes to eat.

Sally explained we were doing this out of the goodness of our hearts...we believe the cats have a right to live...we don't want them to suffer. She invoked the name of No More Homeless Pets several times.

But to no avail. Despite our taking responsibility for food and shelter we're also expected to obey the local ordinances. Okay, so I don't believe we're above the law, but $400 seems like a bite. I'm hoping our other two cats don't get caught by some animal control officer, because at that rate our kindness to animals will cost us enough we'll be living under a porch begging for handouts. No good deed goes unpunished, as my ol' daddy used to say.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tit tat toe

It's been a busy week and I haven't been able to update this blog. I have been trying to think of something I could write about other than tattoos, but lately they seem to be on my mind.

Perhaps it's because it's winter, and everyone is covered up. I haven't seen any tattoos lately, and I find myself, in an odd way, missing them. I say odd because I have a negative view of tats. Old school, my lifelong perception is of tattoos as being done to drunken sailors in tattoo parlors on waterfronts in foreign ports. However, I think, reluctantly, if someone chooses to have his/her skin permanently decorated, might as well be something good. And might as well be on a body part I like to look at.

Here's a Volkswagen fan. I wonder if this person was paid by VW.

Someone went to the pain and agony of having needle applied to instep of foot and tender toes for Volkswagen? The only way I'd do that is if they'd pay me, because my toes, tattooed or not, aren't worth looking at. There's also an admonishment on one tattoo site, saying that tattoos on feet tend to fade, and may at some point have to be retraced. Double the torture!
And speaking of pain, how painful is it to get one's tongue tattooed? I'd worry an illustrated tongue would distract my dentist while he was doing some delicate work in my mouth.

Mad magazine did a couple of tattoo-themed things in the 1950s. In those days tattooing a girl, like Miss Deviant Nation above, was a joke.

The other represents the 1950's image of people who get tattoos.
Most of the pictures I find online of tattoos are of fresh, bright colors on supple young skin. My advice is that what looks good now may not look so good in 40 years, faded, on sagging flesh. Or is it you believe you'll never get old?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Tat for tit

On a late summer day I waited in a line at the pharmacy. I was aware someone had come up behind me and when I turned to see who it was beheld a vision: a tall young Asian woman, wearing flip-flops, a pair of (very) short-shorts and an abbreviated top. She smiled at me, in that indulgent way beautiful young girls smile at men stunned by beauty. Since it would have been impolite to continue staring I took a mental snapshot, and it's that I'm looking at now as I describe her to you. Over her left breast--what I can see of it--is a tattoo of a butterfly, which if my mental photo is correct, continues on to her breast itself. It would been completely wrong to ask her, "May I see your tattoo, my dear?"

I still have a negative image of tattoos, although in the case of the young Asian woman it seemed to emphasize, rather than detract, from her natural beauty.

A few days ago, going through the Google Life magazine archives, I found an interesting article from 1936, explaining that one in ten Americans has a tattoo. Huh! Where did they get that statistic? They don't say, but they show some examples of living canvases for the tattooists' art, including a dead ringer for Curly Howard of the Three Stooges, and even one of the artists. Check out tattooist Apache Harry, with his long hair. This doesn't seem out of place in 2010, although Harry must have caused quite a stir in 1936, even in New York City.

There is no shortage of pictures on the Internet of lovely young women with tats. I'm pretty sure that 75 years later Harry has gone on to the great tattoo parlor in the sky, but his legacy lives on.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Smoke dreams

I was behind a young man in a checkout line at the local Walgreen's yesterday. He was buying four packs of Camel cigarettes. He handed the checker a $20.00 bill but didn't get back much change. In my state they raised the state tax on a pack of cigarettes to $1.50, bringing the price of a pack of cigs to well over $4.00. For that reason alone I'm surprised that people still smoke. Or should I be surprised? When it comes to feeding addictions people will pay about anything, whether they can afford it or not. An addiction is a true luxury.

Besides being addicting, smoking is a poke in the eye of political correctness. If you want to show you're anti-establishment, just fire up a cig.

When I was a smoker it was before smokers became pariahs. Nowadays if a working person wants to light up a gasper on the job they go outside in the weather to smoke. In my day I smoked anywhere I felt like, even in the grocery store while shopping. What a jerk! I didn't know I was a jerk, and nobody told me. In those days it was impolite to tell a stranger their smoke was assaulting you. Those days are gone.

No one is immune from tobacco addiction. Even the President of the U.S.sneaks a smoke now and again.

President Clinton might have had the most notorious smoke of all, when he put a cigar in his mouth that had just been inside the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

A few years ago there was some controversy because as the calls to ban smoking in public places got louder, the movies got smokier. It seemed that more characters in movies were smoking. That had something to do with product placement by tobacco companies, getting around the ban on advertising. But in period pictures there would be a lot off smoking, because for much of the Twentieth Century cigarette smoking was considered a personal choice, and everybody did it. Inf the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, set in 1920 Atlantic City, New Jersey, it seems every character smokes a cigarette a couple of times per episode. It's a good thing we can see the smoking, but don't have to smell it, or I'd have to air out my house after every episode.

I was a totally addicted two-pack-a-day smoker for years. By 1977, when I quit, laws against smoking in public places were beginning to be passed. The price of cigarettes had gone to 65¢ a pack. Outrageous! I had paid 32¢ a pack in 1968 when I got out of the Army, but 17¢ for American cigarettes in the Army PX in Germany.

After I quit I would have an occasional dream about smoking. I could feel the sensation of the smoke in my throat, the brief ecstasy as the nicotine in my bloodstream hit my brain and went straight to the pleasure center. "Just like cocaine," as I heard a doctor once explain. When I woke from a smoke dream I'd have a moment when I'd miss smoking, but I didn't miss sitting on the edge of the bed for several minutes coughing, hacking up phlegm. I didn't miss falling asleep with a burning cigarette in my hand, or dropping it into my lap while I drove my car. I'm lucky to be alive, folks. I had some close calls, but my risk factor dropped when I stopped. Smoking is more of a nightmare than a dream. There is more than one way for cigarettes to kill you. Santa Claus won't tell you that.

When I saw the young guy buying the four packs of Camels the other day I figured that the $20.00 he was spending then was cheap compared to what he'll be spending later. I felt sorry for him, knowing just how he felt, that he "just gotta have another cigarette."