Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The bald-headed, naked truth is that I’m about to lose it.

I am really good----perhaps even extraordinary----at what one might term “the art of loss”. Coats, gloves, hats, golf clubs, car keys, eyeglasses, wallets, and a wide assortment of other items# have slipped through my watery grip and buttered fingers with more regularity than I care to admit. Bumbershoots are a particular specialty. I have misplaced and/or mislaid enough of these to keep a small town “bone” dry in the midst of a monsoon, especially if that small town were say, Atlanta or perhaps even Chicago. (That umbrella that you found in your office a couple of days ago, was more than likely left there by Cantrell.) At one time or another, I have forgotten the location of my car, once lost a sofa from the tailgate of a pick-up truck, and for eighteen hellish minutes lost my eight year old nephew at the mall!

The “it” referred to above as the object ‘most likely’ for loss is my new cell phone. Officially named the Techna Wizard 990, it replaces my decades old ‘Brick 100’. The later ‘died’ two weeks ago, after two decades of faithful service.

Towards the end, the Brick just failed to respond to anyone. It was also leaking what I am pretty sure was ‘transmission fluid’.

The Brick had been contemptuously nicknamed “Old Yeller” by my friends and family as it was also said that this is what I “morphed into” when taking incoming calls on the contraption. The replacement is an all seeing, all knowing, omnipotent, vibrating, ‘whirring’ dervish of transmitters, receivers, radar cameras, “interplanetary space eyes”, Zodiac calendars, Internet laser alarms, GPS crossword puzzle solutions and all manner of geosynchronous ‘do-hickeys’. Among the various and sundry features is what I am pretty sure is an atomic clock. (The cell phone company, it appears, envisions me as having occasional footraces with real, live atoms.) The Techa Wizard’s brochure even boasts of “…a sleek, sexy#, ‘art deco’, aerodynamic design”. The aerodynamics, I presume, make it useful for being thrown great distances after unsatisfactory encounters with cellular customer service. (“Course, foreseeing such an eventuality, one would think that the company would’ve designed the thing in the shape of a boomerang.) In the end, the Wizard’s features so baffle my mind and comprehension that I am almost tempted to violate the Sacred Testosterone Credo and actually crack the Wizard’s 1500 page Instruction Manual/DVD and Tutorial.#

The Brick had far fewer features than the new device, but our ‘relationship’ worked---me and the Brick’s. For one thing, it was impossible to lose---even for me. It had size and heft and weight (about three kilograms as I recall). It was a cell phone for a real man ---even if that man was say Jim Brown or maybe Sasquatch. The phone grew hot if more than two calls came in within a short period of time. (Instead of listening for one of those obnoxious ring-tones so prevalent on today’s state-of-the-art models, you could ---due to its cracked façade and exposed “innards“---actually, at times, smell the acrid odor of an incoming call. About 90 seconds into any cellular conversation, Old Yeller would overheat---a great excuse for either ending the call or going to find an over mitt. Handling any call was more than a business transaction or family matter, it was re-conformation that the owner still had an above average threshold of pain and a re-affirmation of one’s very manhood. You certainly can’t get that kind of validation from ‘the Wizard’.

I’d managed to keep the Brick 100 in ‘good working order’ through the deft use of paper clips, in foil, rubber bands and an occasional drop of Feako’s Bar-Be-Que Sauce. The phone functioned quite well in close proximity to the carrier’s headquarters, although elsewhere, signal reception was dubious. A ‘deal breaker’ for most users, I found he lack of range and erratic reception to be beneficial when trying to avoid bill collectors, relatives seeking to borrow a few dollars, or insufferable telemarketers.

My new cellular carrier, Inter-Galactic Mobile, boasts that Tehna Wizard owners can talk with “…anyone, at anytime as long as the call is initiated within two million light-years of the Earth. Sadly, now anyone ---even “ET” ---can chat me up including relatives seeking “to borrow a few ‘de niro‘.” (I vaguely remember the Wizard salesman mentioning something about the phone being able to talk with dead people, but I remain steadfast in my refusal to try.)

Unlike “Old Yeller”, which minded its own business, the Wizard makes every effort to mind mine! The damn thing has a mind of its own and tries to bend me to its will. It constantly pushes, prods, scolds, rebuffs, and reminds me of “Things to Do”-----meetings, birthdays, reports and trash that needs to be taken out. The Wizard does not readily accept excuses for non-performance. (Perhaps it would be more aptly named, the ‘Conspiracy 2010’). The dam thing is sneaky too. Last week, it waited until I was asleep, went behind my back and without either permission or authorization, booked a two week cruise to Jamaica! (I hope that among its myriad of as yet untapped features is a part time job to pay for the trip.)

As you may surmise, me and the Wizard are still getting to know each other. Our relationship is, so far, an uneasy one. It is tenuous, at best. My talent at “the art of loss” may, for once, come in handy. And soon too.

© Copyright 2010 Will Cantrell

Saturday, May 2, 2009


This month, we celebrate the birth of Gabriel Fahrenheit, the inventor of the thermometer. The Internet shows that he was born on May 14, 1686 and invented the first thermometer in 1724. (These facts come from one of those FREE Internet websites and thus, is extremely accurate to within a century or two.)

On the same day that he invented the thermometer, Mr. Fahrenheit also had to invent the wind chill factor as an accommodation to Mrs. Fahrenheit. She’d repeatedly nagged him throughout the day of his invention saying that “I don’t care what that damn thermometer says, its freezing. It feels like 19º. And put your coat on, you’re going to catch your death!”

By being the first to tell other people what the temperature was, Fahrenheit was also very likely the first weatherman. He was also undoubtedly the very first guy to stand outside in a hurricane holding on to a lamppost like grim death while the wind was howling at 7,000 miles an hour ---so that people on the inside could see how bad the weather really was. Of course, at that very same moment, at least a couple of those people on the inside were the very first people to invent the concept of secretly rooting for an apparently senseless weatherperson to be decapitated by a flying stop sign or to be bowled over by a large uprooted elm tree.

Legend has it that Fahrenheit invented the thermometer while playing with some matches and some mercury that just happened to be lying around. He noticed that, when heated, the mercury expanded evenly. Fahrenheit must’ve been bored stiff because setting stuff on fire is generally what guys do when there is nothing to do, there are matches available, and there is no porn around. You can also bet that Fahrenheit’s mother wasn't arond either ---or else it would have been years later before the thermometer was invented. I know this because when I was about eight (in the late 1950's) and in my efforts to invent the first thermometer that tasted good, I was stopped by my mother. “Boy, stop trying to light that toothpaste with those matches. That stuff costs money. What’s wrong with you? And besides you’re going to burn down the house.” My mother was always thwarting my scientific efforts. The woman didn’t care that I was trying to advance science by inventing the first thermometer encased in toothpaste or maybe even Tootsie Rolls. Some months later, she was even less amused when she caught me trying to invent florescent milk so that me ---as well as millions of baby boomers all across America could eat cereal in the dark. (But not for her short sightedness, I could have revolutionized the dairy industry and changed the attitude of kids everywhere about eating everything that was on their plate.)

One of the things that I have learned is that very often some of your better inventions or discoveries were made totally by accident or as the result of some guy, like Ol Fahrenheit, just goofing around. This is how x-rays were discovered. Ditto for the microwave oven, as well as for silly putty. The greatest invention of the past several centuries, the drive thru window, was also invented by accident. You will note that the invention of the drive-thru and was necessary before anybody could even THINK of inventing hamburgers, French fries, and soft drinks. It is also a little known fact but history also shows that dry cleaning could not be invented until after the discovery of drive thru window.

The very first STOP SIGN was also invented by the same guy and at the same time that he invented the first drive thru window. Of course, you can bet that his mother was nowhere around either.

By the way, I am still working on the invention of florescent milk. I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Dear Reader:

Assuming that I don’t get hit by a car, a bus, or a wayward asteroid careening toward the Earth, I’ll likely celebrate my sixtieth birthday in a few days.

Sixty years of age!

No one is more shocked at this development than I am. A life lived scoffing at the notion of moderation in almost everything, punctuated by lengthy bouts of overindulgence will cause one to eventually accept the idea of limited mortality. (I have it on good authority that the employees in my doctor’s office have been making wagers as to whether or not I’d ever make it to sixty. The good authority is Dr. Goodman himself, who says that he stands to loose big on my birthday. When considering the fact that I had lived this long given my proclivity for wretched excess, the word he used was “astonishing”. One of the other culprits in Goodman's office confessed that this on-going bet about my mortality was really a “double-down” of the bet that they had made regarding my prospects of making it to the age of fifty. Sons-of -bitches!)

I was thinking about marking the occasion of this unlikely anniversary by engaging in some death defying activity such as bungee jumping off the south rim of the Grand Canyon, running with the bulls at Pamplona or maybe by eating the 12,000,000 calorie, triple-decker bacon-cheeseburger combo at Burger Billy’s. You’d think that a guy turning sixty would be more level headed and celebrate the occasion by doing something by a bit more sedate. However cheating death has become a way of life for me. I have run just in front of the brides-to-be at Filene’s annual bridal gown sale. And just last summer, I even yelled “I Love OBAMA” at a large gathering of old, white, ornery, and presumably armed conservative talk show hosts.

Despite my desire to engage in a death-defying activity on my sixtieth birthday, I am nothing if not a realist about the fact that I am aging. Never mind what those glossy, overpriced glamour magazines on the newsstands say, sixty is not the new forty. And since, in these recessionary times, the new retirement age in America has reportedly been pushed to at least 102, sixty is really the new 75. "Sixty" is also getting up and going to the bathroom at least a couple of times a night. "Sixty" is actually having seen John F. Kennedy and hearing him ask you to ask him“…what can I do for my country”, and being terrified that his answer was going to be “take your young dumb ass overseas and fight the Vietcong”. "Sixty" is also having the momentary inclination to smack some much younger person in the mouth for something stupid that they’ve said or done and then immediately realizing that you’d better not because that person can kick your butt. What’s worse, you realize that even people older than sixty can kick your butt. (Of course, in my case this has been true since I was 45.) "Sixty" is also dreaming about sleeping with Hallie Berry and being really concerned about whether or not she snores, because you really need your sleep.

I am happy to have arrived at this auspicious occasion with all of my original body parts and with most of them functioning (at least most of the time). And I am grateful to have witnessed numerous history making moments too, including meeting Martin Luther King and to have witnessed iconic performances by Ali, Mays, Mantle, Aaron, Unitas, Jordan, The Temptations, Aretha, Ray Charles and also by the Jacksons, Michael and Bo. (Of course, I also must confess to have been around to witness the tragedy at Dealy Plaza, the Watergate mess, the subsequent resignation of Richard Nixon, and the wedding of Tiny Tim and Ms. Vickie. Even more tragic than Tiny Tim’s wedding, I have also seen a southpaw throwing catcher in baseball. Reader, with all due respects, I will tell you that the later is a sorry sight to the eye that I, as a lifelong fan of the game, hope never to see again.)

Despite having been a witness to all of this artistry, I am not, however, one of those people about to enter their dotage who thinks that everything was better in their day. It wasn’t and don't let anyone tell you that it was. It wasn't. Believe me. For example, in my so called "day", there was no Teflon[1], there were no fax machines, no answering machines, and no microwave ovens. Pluto was still a planet, the "iPod" was a misspelled word; Windows© was something that was jumped out of in case a jealous husband came home unexpectedly; and cell phones were regular telephones with long cords that well connected prisoners and convicts had at Alcatraz.

Come to think of it, there wasn't any technology in my day. It hadn't been invented yet. In fact, "Technology"2 was actually invented on June 23, 1967 when a part-time janitor walking in the dark of night across the campus of the then Massachusetts Institute of Counting (i.e. MIC), and lugging one of those big, unwieldy adding machines, fell and dropped it, breaking it into ten much smaller pieces and thus invented the hand-held calculator. As best that anyone can recall, computers were invented about a week later when somebody else at the school connected an electric cord to the new hand-held calculator. Before computers people had to use an ancient device called a slide rule that required you also to carry also around a whole other human being---a personal assistant---- who also knew how to do this insane math that we called logarithms. Of course, for about twenty years after the invention of the computer, nobody but big companies like IBM, the company who actually manufactured computers ----- could ever afford them. The first computers were fast but they were also huge, the size of football stadiums. The personal computer was invented twenty years later by a couple of computer operators who also built "ships in a bottle" as a hobby. They were trying to build a miniature mainframe computer in a gallon jug. The rest is history.

Of course, the biggest issue of my day, was that other than Playboy centerfolds, women, especially the younger ones, were not as quick to take off all of their clothes and roll around with you as they seem to be nowadays. As I recall, this was the biggest issue of my adolescence and most every other red, blooded males of "my day"...but more on that in a later post.

Yep, despite the fact that I am turning sixty, things are definitely better now than they were years ago.

Best regards,


[1] Teflon actually was invented, by accident, in 1938, but it took “them” about 25 years to figure out how to get it to stick to frying pans....or anything else for that matter. For a long while, it just kept sliding off of everything.

(As an aside, I once knew a guy named Teflon Richardson. He was a guy that I played football with in junior high school. Teflon was originally a wide receiver. For some inexplicable reason, Teflon was really lousy at holding on to the football. The coach changed him to be a lineman. He was really fast but every ball just seemed to slide slid right off of his hands. I found out a few years ago that Teflon had grown up and become a politician and had deftly avoided scandal even after thirty years in office.)

2 Of course one of the reasons that there was no "technology" was that there was no spell check and most everybody had a hard time pronouncing words with more than three syllables let alone spelling them. How could you invent anything that you couldn’t at least spell or pronounce?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Dear Reader:

You will recall that in my last post, I related that I was in the midst of writing a memoir: The Mostly True Adventures of JustPLainWill (Batteries Not Included). I wasn't kidding. Find below a brief excerpt of Chapter One: The World, the Devil and Adlai Stevenson. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think. JustPlainWill (better known to his mother, Mercy Winter, as "J.P." )

In the summer of 1956, Adlai Stevenson ran for the Presidency of the United States against the man who was already President, Dwight Eisenhower. It was in all the papers. You can ask most any old person who happened to be around at the time about it, assuming that they haven’t already bought the farm or otherwise lost their mind.

By rights, I shouldn’t remember a Presidential campaign or much of anything else that happened when I was seven years old. But I recall the 1956 election season because my mother seemed to take such great interest in the candidacy of Governor Stevenson and immersed herself in the day to day happenings of the campaign. There was hardly a moment when she could not be seen reading everything she could get her hands on about the upcoming election. At breakfast, you could find her reading news of the campaign in the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the evenings, she would pour through the campaign news of the day in the Bulletin. She read magazines and anything else that had the word “Stevenson” printed on it. She had high hopes for Adlai Stevenson and seemed to be quite taken with all of his ideas even though they were the same ideas that had gotten him soundly beaten by the same guy in 1952.

She even kept up on the places where Governor Stevenson was going to give an upcoming campaign speech. In her continuing attempts to make sure that I learned about ‘real life’, as she called all the stuff that you did when you weren’t in school, she even attempted to discuss Stevenson’s campaign strategy with me. It could have been said that she followed his campaign schedule with all of the devotion of a groupie -----or maybe, a stalker ------except that this was the 1950’s and I am not sure that the concept of stalking had even been invented yet. After observing her behavior for the several weeks after he had won the Democratic nomination, I could only conclude that she perhaps she was in love with Adlai Stevenson and perhaps wanted him to be my father. She had been a Korean War widow and I had been fatherless for five years by now. (I wasn’t sure of Adlai’s Stevenson’s marital status because in ‘Kid World’, in which I was firmly entrenched at the time, those kind of things do not matter.)

My mother’s insistence on discussing Adlai Stevenson’s campaign with me was more than a little annoying. First there the big words like “nuclear proliferation” and “military industrial complex” that I didn’t recognize and could hardly pronounce. This pronunciation problem became acute during 1956, since I had recently lost most of my baby teeth and was damn near toothless as a seven year old. Adults, particularly women, think that children who are missing teeth are cute. Believe me, this “toothless-ness” does absolutely nothing for a kid’s ability to pronounce almost any word with more than one syllable. Also, I was much more concerned with discussing more far reaching and important matters such as the adventures of Roy Rogers, Captain Midnight, Superman and especially Mickey Mantle---as opposed to some guy named Adlai.

Mickey Mantle had won the Baseball Triple Crown in 1956 and by the end of that season, I had already convinced myself, as well as my friend, classmate, and "spiritual advisor", Washburn T. Booker, that not only was the Yankee centerfielder, the greatest baseball player who had ever lived but that Mickey Mantle and Superman were very possibly the same person. (I did not have prima facie evidence of this but surely hitting 52 home runs, driving in 130 rbi’s, and batting .353 were surely super human feats even if no one had ever really spotted Mickey changing clothes in a phone booth.) Unfortunately, my mother had only a cursory knowledge of Mickey’s accomplishments and even less enthusiasm for engaging in any discussion about Mickey's vast skills. Of course, the woman was already prejudiced on such matters. As an example, on more than one occasion, my mother had emphatically insisted to me that Superman couldn’t really fly and that his “secret-secret” identity was not Mickey Mantle. She also seemed incredulous when I suggested to her that if she was, in fact, searching for me a new father that I would much prefer it to be Mickey Mantle as opposed to some guy named Adlai, who probably couldn’t hit a high curve ball if his life depended on it.

“You might as well go to bed. I don’t think that Adlai Stevenson is going to
win”, I quietly advised my mother just after the polls closed on the night of the Presidential election.
“I think that he has a good chance, J.P. Anyway, why do you say that? I thought you liked Adlai Stevenson.”, she said.
“Well, Sister Jean had us vote at school today and Eisenhower won”, I told her.
“He did?”
“How many votes did Adlai Stevenson get”, she asked, showing a mild look of concern.
“I think that Adlai got a few votes, but it was pretty much a slaughter. I think that maybe he got two votes.”
“Who else in your class do you think voted for him. Maybe just you and Washburn T. Booker, huh?”. ( For as long as I’ve known him, no one ---not even his mother ----had ever referred to him by just his first name---always by his whole name, “Washburn T. Booker”).
“I don’t know, Sister Jean said that our ballots were a secret all the way from Australia”.
“She meant that we use the Australian secret ballot in this country, honey. It means that in our country the voting ballot is a secret.”
“Well, Adlai Stevenson got slaughtered in secret then.”
“J.P., you did vote for Adlai Stevenson didn’t you?
“It’s a secret.”
“You can tell me….”
“But Sister Jean said that...”
“Well, I’m your mother, not Sister Jean, and there shouldn’t be any secrets between us”.
“Mom, Sister Jean said that President Eisenhower was at D-Day that he played football in college? And besides, he’s already the President”.
“So you voted for Eisenhower?”
“Mom, it’s a secret”, I said, holding my ground but not wanting to disappoint her.
“I think its time that you go to bed, young man”.
“What’s D-Day?”
She didn’t answer, and just looked at me like she was really disappointed in my upbringing and that maybe I'd be better off in bed even though it was still about 15 minutes before my normal bedtime. And so off to bed I went secure in the knowledge that I had done the right thing for America by voting for Eisenhower in my second grade class’ mock election. As I dashed upstairs to my bedroom, I could hear my Mom muttering quietly to herself and saying something like “that sister Jean so and so…and besides, what the hell do a bunch of second graders know about anything”.

The next morning I woke up to find my mother bleary eyed and in the same clothes that she had on before I’d gone to bed last night. Despite her high hopes and the fact that she’d stayed up all night praying for him to come from behind in the popular vote, Adlai Stevenson was soundly beaten by Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower had won 57% of the vote to Adlai Stevenson’s 42%. You have to give ol’ Adlai credit, though. He did much better amongst the American public than he did in Sister Jean’s second grade class at St. Agatha’s Catholic School.

In the end, most people voted for Eisenhower because they were pretty much satisfied with the way things were, or if they weren’t, they weren't complaining about it much. That’s the way things were in 1956. Unless you were a career woman or were a Negro (as we called ourselves in those days) or some other minority, most people seemed to be satisfied. Almost everybody who wanted a job had one, gasoline was $0.23 per gallon, you could get a pack of Chesterfields for about a dollar, and people were riotously enamored with I Love Lucy on TV----and even a second grader could see the appeal of Eisenhower. Ike represented the new "normalcy" (although I'm glad that no one asked me to pronounce "normalcy" in 1956. He was already President, was a soldier and looked a lot like the TV cowboy Hopalong Cassidy. And since he was the President, he probably knew both Mickey Mantle and Superman personally. At least that's what me and Washburn T. Booker figured. Many of our parents, or at least many of them, voted for Ike for all of those reasons -----and despite the fact that he also knew Richard Nixon.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Of late, while I am still relatively lucid, I have begun to write a memoir. It's a about my childhood--- growing up as a black, Catholic, baby boomer moving from Philadelphia to the Deep South in the 1950's and being loved by crazy adult relatives and even crazier, but well meaning friends. I have been engrossed in the writing effort for a couple of months now. I can't wait to see how eveything turns out, myself.

As is said in the introduction of the book, "It's a wonder that I made it out of childhood alive! (By the way, the working title is "The Mostly True Adventures of JustPLainWill (Batteries Not Included)" and it will, no doubt, be available at a better bookstore near you sometime soon for $19.95)

Deciding to write about your life is not a trivial undertaking. It’s not that I have had achieved anything that has been truly exceptional (the fact of which my family and close friends never fail to remind me). I have never had any encounters with space aliens (unless you count the possibility of Sister Ursula, the nun who was my eighth grade homeroom teacher). I’ve never rescued anyone from a burning building or done anything which would prompt a TV newscaster to tease an onlooking audience with the words: “film at 11”. (If I'd done something such as been the first man to walk on the Moon, you'd have heard of me already.) As family and friends have also reminded me, the most noteworthy thing that I have accomplished thus far is to have somehow managed to stay out of jail.

Maybe it is kind of presumptuous----maybe its even a bit arrogant------ to “offer” your memoir…especially when nobody has really requested that you do so or paid you a handsome advance. Personally, I kinda think that normally, anybody who writes “their own story” should have accomplished a lot (e.g. Colin Powell, Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong) or surely must feel that their life and the way that they have lived it can contribute a lot to the political or social discourse. (Reader, I am sure that Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg and Flava Flav must have had similar feelings when they began to write their life stories.) This writer, on the other hand, is chronicling his own story because I am getting older and I figure that some of the stuff that has happened can now be revealed since any Statute of Limitations have, in all likelihood, expired by now. In the spirit of full disclosure though, my memoir is a blatant effort to make myself look good to future generations of my family as well as to any of the authorities. In other words, it’s my way of saying to posterity “…that was my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Anyway, in my efforts to write the book, I have recently done some "poking around" ("research" you might call it) into my early years and have been able to dig up a bunch of incidents that I had long since forgotten. In the process though, I have also found out that this business of "personal archaeology" can be a little dicey. I’ve had access to a few pictures, some old clothing, a diary that, unknown to me until recently, my mother kept for three years when I was between 7 and 10 years of age, and regrettably, more than a little high school memorabilia. As a result of this …er, circumstantial evidence, I have found that when you do the ‘memoir research’ that there’s all kind of things that you recall (even without the help of sodium pentathol) that maybe you’d rather not remember ------or even know about. As an example:

At 6 years of age, I thought that Pontius Pilate was really Pontius Pilot and flew for Delta Airlines in his spare time.

In 1956, I actually owned ----and wore----- a synthetic Official Davey Crockett coonskin hat.

At 7, I once inquired of my African-American mother, if we had any Amish relatives. (This was revealed by reading an entry in my deceased mother’s diary.)

Until I was 15, I was dumb enough to believe that when a girl said that she couldn’t go out on Saturday night because she had to wash her hair, that she was actually washing her hair. (For that whole year, I just figured that Cassie Morgan, undoubtedly the prettiest girl in my high school as well as the four surrounding states also had the cleanest damn hair around…at least as so far as she led me to believe.) This whole episode was replayed as I looked through one of my old high school yearbooks.

I actually once owned an eight track cassette tape player, as well as the car that went with it.

Once gave an elderly relative a Chia Pet for Christmas

As an adult, I actually sat through both “Howard the Duck” and "Catwoman" although, in my own
Save as Draft
defense, the latter was the in-flight movie and I cold not walk out of the ‘theater’ at 43,000 feet… though I did, for a moment consider it.

When in some state of delirium that obviously lasted for about half a decade, I actually owned and wore both a leisure suit AND a Nehru jacket …although not at the same time.

My grandmother once told me that if you go snooping around, you might not like what you find. Gawd, was Nana ever right!

Monday, February 16, 2009


When I first spotted her, the grocery clerk was a good thirty yards away, a distance at which my 'powers' are normally pretty good. I had not seen her before and I guessed her name to be “Doris” or perhaps “Betty”. "Name Guessing" is a skill that was taught to me as a teenager by an old carnival barker named Otto. Right after my second and final lesson, Otto pronounced me 'a virtual prodigy' and I have played the game ever since ------most of the time, flawlessly. I can normally spot " a Doris" or "a Betty" or "a Peggy" at fifty paces.

So you can imagine my surprise when I went through the check out line and discovered that the clerk was, in fact, wearing a name badge that said “Patti”. Given my historical and statistical success at the Name Game", I could only surmise that the woman must've picked up Patti’s name badge in the employee locker area by mistake, as she was most assuredly "a Doris" if I ever saw one. But I did not press the issue. In the overall scheme of the cosmos, it wasn’t that important. These days, I usually played the game silently anyway and besides, if she wanted to go through life calling herself Patti, then that was her business. And admittedly, there was a small chance that I could be wrong about this ‘Doris’ woman posing as Patti. After all it was still early in the morning and maybe my normally highly reliable face/name association skills were still asleep---dormant as it were. But I digress….

Anyway, the this whole incident was precipitated by my need, early this morning, to make a quick run to the grocers to pick up several items for breakfast----- bread, eggs, grits, butter and Canadian bacon. To be honest, I am not terribly fond of eggs, but I put them in the cart for what might best be called “the purposes of effect” --------or perhaps more aptly put, for the purposes of diversion. The idea is that if you go to the grocers for breakfast food and don’t pick up at least a half dozen of eggs, the checkout clerks will openly and loudly call you out, question if you know what you are doing and wonder if you haven’t taken absolute leave of your senses. Maybe this behavior is misplaced exuberance for increased sales revenue, but they seem to think that certain items must be sold in combination with certain others. The assumption is that if you buy bacon, you must buy eggs because bacon cannot possibly be eaten without eggs. I figure that it must be an obscure law of physics or chemistry, and given the behavior of more than a few grocery clerks that I have encountered over the years, it must be as important as Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

(Sidebar: I have surmised that this little known law of physics must be something called “The Combo Ordering-Nuclear Fission Principle” and it must certainly be an outgrowth of some top secret scientific discoveries made in fast food restaurants----a sister to the grocery industry. Reader, you have, no doubt, seen this scientific principle in action for yourself when trying to order something other than the ubiquitous fast food combo meal at say, Burger Billy’s. Your order taker or server will either (1) tell you that ordering something other than the combo pictured on his or her cash register is strictly verboten and against corporate policy, (2) feign incompetence, (3) call the manager for “back-up”, or (4) as happened to me on one occasion, wrestle you to the ground and hold youon the ground until the police arrive. ("Surely, anyone ordering something other than a combo meal is a threat to national security", the woman said after the police had arrived in my case.) I am convinced that The Combo Ordering - Nuclear Fission Principle must be firmly rooted in sub-atomic theory as pioneered by Einstein. I suspect that it MUST have been Einstein who found that the fulfillment of an ala carte (i.e. a burger, separate from a drink separate from French fries) order by at a fast food restaurant will trigger a devastating atomic chain reaction roughly akin to three times the atomic force unleashed in the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima---and perhaps even risk tearing a hole in the very fabric of the space-time continuum.) It's the only thing that explains the reluctance of fast food restaurants to take anything other than combo orders. But again, I digress...

Truly, on a couple of occasions when I have purchased bacon sans eggs, I’ve had grocery clerks----big burly ones----- conspire to block my exit from the store and demand to see the grocery list that they assume that had been prepared and given to me by some female person at my place of residence. They demanded to see “the list” so that they could be certain that I had not forgotten to buy “…the eggs that surely went along with that pound of bacon that you just bought.” After a couple of such confrontations, I’ve decided that its just easier to buy the damn eggs than to get into a hassle with the checkout clerks like “Patti”, as she insisted upon calling herself.

The fact of the matter is that I hate eggs…loathe them all their attendant forms------ scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, “omelitized”, barbequed, grilled, bleached, strained, sprayed –on, or strangled----with or without cheese. My abhorrence for eggs is one of long standing that can be directly blamed on my mother. The woman excelled at every other criterion of motherhood and if you consider just her sheer humanity, she was assuredly one of the best human beings to have ever walked the earth. However, I recognized very early in my journey towards manhood, that despite a plethora of other extraordinary qualities, my mother was not a very good cook. She was particularly lousy when it came to the cooking and preparation of eggs. No matter which of the aforementioned methods of egg preparation that she employed, the eggs always came out looking, at best, like some extraterrestrial life-form and at worst, some form of rubberized, toxic waste…and this was back in the Fifties before anybody but Iron Eyes Cody[1] had nary a clue as to what toxic waste was.

Lord knows the woman tried and made great efforts to overcome her culinary deficiencies. But even when she had the help of the Betty Crocker and Julia Child cookbooks (or my Aunt Vera, a woman who was particularly adept in the kitchen), the eggs came out woefully deficient. After one particularly dreadful outcome, when I was about seven years of age, I suggested that maybe the Department of Defense could use the result as a way of coercing captured enemy prisoners to reveal Russian war secrets. She, of course, was not appreciative of what I thought was a particularly creative solution to our dilemma.

One of the problems that her incompetence with eggs presented was that like most mothers of that era, she was very determined that I was going to eat whatever was put on my plate.
“Do you know, young man, that there are starving children in Europe who’d love to have these eggs?”, she’d ask---but not really asking?
I would assure her that even the children in some far -off and famine stricken country would be better off slowly starving to death than eating her eggs which would likley kill them much faster. Not concealing her resentment of my heartfelt but possibly ill-timed remarks, she would then decree that "...I would stay at the breakfast table until I had eaten the eggs that were on my plate---and you'd better not be late for the school bus either buddy boy." Her principles of children eating what was on the plate and my determination not to die of what I assumed was most assuredly toxic waste poisoning made for many colorful ---and loud-----early morning confrontations in our household.

Anyway, back to the happenings of this morning and this woman posing as Patti: I put the eggs in the basket only for effect and told myself that I would think of imaginative ways------other than ingestion -------to dispose of a dozen eggs such as the late night egging of the home of my down the street neighbor, Donna. Donna[2] is a neighborhood busybody of whom I not particular fond, but again, I digress….

After my items had been properly totaled and bagged, this Patti woman asked “Are you a senior?”
Reader, I was so startled by her question that I asked her to repeat it, certain that my ears could not possibly have heard her correctly.
“Huh?” I said, in a truly startled fashion.
“Are you a senior? If you are a senior you have a $1.36 discount coming.”
Reader, no one has ever asked me before if I was a senior. Ever. Ever. To be sure, of late, I have noticed an increase in the number of younger Americans who, despite my protestations, insist upon calling me “Sir”. I have noticed a marked increase in the number of people who also insist upon holding the door for me as I enter business establishments. I have told myself that these events were attributable to an (alarming) turn toward civility in this country and that it is a possible side effect of the election of our new President Obama.

To be sure, I’ll be 60 in a few months. I am not ashamed of it. In fact, I am proud ---and shocked-------that I have lived this long[3] despite a life lived in the fast lane, an insistence upon not exercising on a regular basis, an unhealthy appetite for fatty foods, liquor, fast cars and fast women until I was of age to damn well know better. I just didn’t want to be reminded by ‘Doris posing as Patti’ reminding that I am inch by inch and day by day inexorably moving toward my dotage.

(Another Sidebar: Over the past couple of years, I have noticed that the editors of so called lifestyle and health magazines, no doubt wishing to increase circulation in this age of recession, running cover articles whose title is “SIXTY IS THE NEW FORTY” or “FIFTY IS THE NEW THIRTY” or some other such drivel printed so that we baby boomers can further delude ourselves about our rightful place in the world. The stark reality is that SIXTY is SIXTY, dammit! In fact, if you have taken care of yourself the way that many of us boomers have, SIXTY IS THE NEW FREAKIN' NINETY and most of us are only a few years from a time when Willard Scott will be calling our name and showing the entire U.S. television audience our picture on the side of a Smuckers Jar.)

The fact that I have lived this long is not because I have worked at it. I have not done ANY of those things that a lot of those nerdy people (with obviously too much time on their hands) do such as exercise, watch my diet, my cholesterol, my triglycerides, my electrolytes, and refrain from the fast life and having fun, etc. The one thing that has allowed me to live this long is the good genes. (Until now apparently), I’ve never looked my age. I was carded at establishments serving liquor until I was about 35 and everyone has ALWAYS said how remarkably young I look when I tell them how old I really am. Everyone, except this so called "Patti" woman.

So I told ‘Doris posing as Patti’
“No, I’m not.”
As broke as I am, I still didn’t want her damn discount. I got the eggs and the other stuff, left the store and sprinted in a dead run to my car in the parking area making sure that Ms. Patti could see how fast I was running. Since this blog is billed, in part, as the confessions of an aging baby boomer, I must report that after reaching the car, I was truly winded. I sat there for about ten minutes, looking at my face in the rearview mirror checking for crowsfeet and at the same time still fuming at at Patti’s question…and thought about what would be a good time to egg Donna's house tonight.

Inexorably aging in Atlanta,


[1] Reader, you’ll no doubt remember Iron Eyes Cody as the Crying Indian of the 1970’s who insisted that “People started pollution, people can stop it”. Well, it turns out that Old Iron Eyes wasn’t even an Indian but, in fact, an Italian actor from Sicily. Jeez, how did he expect us to believe him about pollution when he isn’t even a real Indian? They should have gotten Jay Siverheels, you know, Tonto to do those commercials.

[2] Donna knows everybody’s business in the neighborhood...and insists on spreading it to anyone who'll listen whether they live on this continent or not. I am sure that she knows my social security number and I don't think that she's even computer literate, just nosey. Several years ago, I secretly funded the purchase of a case of toilet paper so that a couple of neighborhood pre-teens could paper her house and yard. Of course, when she asked me if I knew anything about who would do such a thing, I had no idea. I still don't.