Posts Tagged ‘culture’

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I’m not sure why.  That is the way bad ideas present themselves—as good ideas when you least know it.

While my wife took our kids trick-or-treating, a sanctioned pastime that teaches our children extortion, I would stay in the mansion and pass out candy to the various ghouls, goblins, and neighborhood brats.

Nearly every good plan that fails does so because of poor planning, poor execution or just plain bad luck.  I think I scored the Halloween trifecta.

In the past, when we lived in a galaxy far, far away, we would take the young ‘uns out together as a family, leaving a bowl of candy on the front porch.  That wasn’t really such a bad idea, and I’m not sure why we ever deviated from that plan.

I was originally very leery about leaving a bowl full of candy unattended on our front porch.  The way I figured it, the first punk that comes by scores a mother lode, and the second schmuck dressed like a Teletubbie finds an empty bowl.  Within fifteen minutes, the unruly masses that trudged all the way up to our porch to find a disappointingly empty bowl will band together as a riotous mob to soap our windows and hang facial tissue delicately from our trees.

But I was wrong.  When we arrived back home, there was still candy in the bowl.  My wife had crafted a sign which she hung on the bowl that said, “Please take no more than two. . .God is watching.”

I think we ended up with more candy in the bowl than we started with.  Some of the little demons must have sacrificed their own candy in an offering at our Halloween altar.  I guess they figured it was like paying a penance or something.  Apparently, the little renegades from a travelling circus must have actually bought into the theology that the Almighty has nothing better to do than to sit guard over a bowl of candy.

But it worked.

And it was a much better plan than having me hand out candy all night long.

I watched my family head out with empty bags and high hopes, as I lit a fire in the fireplace (no easy task, since I actually had to get up and cross the room to turn on the gas switch.)  I then settled in to watch a horror flick on TV.

The opening credits hadn’t finished, the opening theme hadn’t faded away and not a single drop of blood had been shed before the first band of merry ghosts rang my doorbell.

I eagerly took up the bowl of candy and headed for the front door.  I pretended to try and guess who the little hooligans were, acted amazed at their pathetic little costumes, and then passed out treats.

It then struck me, that I was passing out perfectly good candy that I would really enjoy while watching my movie, to people I don’t know or care about, for reasons that were quite beyond my comprehension.  And I knew full well that my kids would return without enough loot to cut my losses.  Worse yet, while I’m handing out peanut butter cups—nature’s most perfect food—my kids were probably procuring stale popcorn balls or lumps of hard candy and stale chewing gum in return.

I began to stuff my face, reasoning that any candy I managed to put away, was candy the little heathens at my door would not get.

The movie hadn’t even made it to the first commercial break, and already my bell had rung five times.  The movie was just getting interesting, by the sound of the music someone was about to meet their death, and I was almost halfway through the Reese’s cups.  I ran to the door with chocolate dripping from my mouth and quickly passed the treats out slick as a Las Vegas dealer palming cards from under the deck.

I hadn’t even got a chance to sit down, when the cursed bell rang again.

This time, I threw open the door and tossed some candy out, shutting it quickly behind me.  I think I hit a witch in the eye with a Mounds, but I didn’t wait long enough to hear if she screamed.

I went to the kitchen for a beer. I needed something to wash down the glob of peanut butter in my throat. Believe it or not, the bell rang again before I had even chugged the first bottle.

“What do you want?” I screamed as I opened the door.

A little girl dressed as a princess fell off the stoop backward, surprised.  Unfortunately, a yew broke her fall, and she came back up for more.

I was running out of candy, and the doorbell kept ringing.  I would rather hear the screaming of the lambs than that incessant ringing.

I think some of the little devils were coming twice.  It was hard to tell for sure, but the costumes looked familiar, and some of them were ducking before I even opened the door.

I opened up a pack of cookies, and started passing them out.

But they kept on coming.

I drank another beer, and said a prayer.

I passed out potato chips.  The first couple of times, I actually took the time to put them in some plastic baggies.  After a couple more beers, I just dumped them in their Halloween sacks.  It’s hard to throw chips.

Apples worked pretty well.  I got rid of the rest of the oranges in the crisper.  There was also an onion, some broccoli and a stalk of celery.  I cut the head of lettuce up into pieces, and offered some salad dressing on the side.

I discovered some little bottles of liquor in the cupboard, left over from some airplane trip.  I didn’t give those out.  But they’re gone now too.

There must have been over 200 kids that came to my door.  I gave out the empty bowl.  I wrote out some IOUs for candy.  I haven’t been able to find my slippers.

Next year, I’ll just put another bowl out, and leave it at that.

NB:  I wrote this article 11 years ago for another site, but have reprinted it here because I got some requests for it.  OK.  I GOT ONE REQUEST.  If you consider my multiple personalities, then it seems like multiple requests.  The title is a quote attributed to Ogden Nash.  Then Willy Wonka.


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Maybe this isn’t worth ranting about.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it.

Maybe you don’t care.

Damn it, Jim, I’m just a doctor.  I have a blog to write here.

I don’t know when it started, or if it has always been that way, but every time you go to a sporting event where the national anthem is played, the announcer asks you to please rise and remove your hats.  I think they used to ask you to please rise for the playing and/or singing of our national anthem.  That’s okay–let me know it’s coming so I can be ready.  But when did it become necessary to remind us to take off our hats?

Do we really need to be instructed on how to behave for our national anthem?

I honestly don’t remember people announcing this years ago.  Maybe I didn’t listen.  Maybe I didn’t care.  Maybe I wasn’t even wearing a hat because back then . . . I HAD HAIR.

I swear this is a relatively recent phenomenon.  I recall being at a Penn State game a number of years ago and hearing this for what I think was the first time, and thinking to myself, ‘do we really need to be told how to do this?’  It almost seemed embarrassing that we needed to tell our fans how to do this.  I mean, at some point, kindergarten or grade school, you are taught these kinds of things, along with praying in school, saying the pledge of allegiance and holding your hand over your heart.  At some point, you needed to learn where your heart is.  But I don’t think they teach anatomy until junior high or high school.

It’s not that I have a problem saluting our nation or showing respect.  I think that’s very important.  I take my hat off.  And I would do so even if I was not instructed to do so.    That is not the point.  We shouldn’t need to be told how to do this.  The point is, have we reached a point in our society where we have to point these things out?

Apparently, we do.

According to some of the warnings on this blog, a jar of peanuts may contain nuts.  A roll of life savers is not for use as a flotation device.  A hair dryer cautions us not to use in the shower or while sleeping.  What if I’m dreaming of taking a shower and need to blow dry my hair?  A portable stroller instructs us to remove the child before folding.  So that’s what I was doing wrong!  No wonder I could never get it folded.  Of course, men never read directions anyway.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like being told how to honor my country.

I can and will do it for myself, thank you.

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Today I paid final respects to a man who was very prominent in my formative years.

We all have had teachers like that when we were growing up.  These people touched our lives in ways that we cannot always express.  They are indeed, a part of us deep down inside, and death can never take that away.

Darwin H. Bistline was the director of the marching band when I was in high school.  Under his direction, the AAHS marching band won first place awards in 15 of his sixteen years at the helm.   He retired in 1982, the year I graduated.

They had several video montages for guests to watch, featuring marching bands from the late sixties, the seventies, and even a few pictures from my high school years in the early eighties.  They brought back many memories–band camps in the heat of summer, cold parades in November, and band trips in the spring.  Back in the day, the high school band was a fixture in the community and brought a sense of pride to the hometown.  Schools actually provided uniforms and weren’t cutting music programs from the budget to make ends meet.

Darwin H. Bistline

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d lead the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
We were young and sure to have our way

I guess its true.  You can’t go back.  You can never go back.

I thought I would meet more people I knew at the funeral home, but alas, I was alone except for my memories.  Nearly thirty years separates me from that time in my life and many of the people in our band are spread across the country.

One montage showed countless pictures of Darwin and his family.  Sometimes, as students in school, we forget that our teachers have lives just like the rest of us.  I saw him as a young director and you could see the fire in his eyes.  He was a demanding perfectionist when I knew him in the twilight of his career, but there was another man I never knew who preceded that one.

At one point, I even considered a career in music–to become a band director–because of the influence this man had in my life at that time.  In college, I joined the marching band and even designed one of our half-time shows.  But I didn’t have the musical skill or ear and my interests were drawn elsewhere.  I can’t even carry a tune in a suitcase.

Mr. Bistline taught his students discipline and a strong work ethic.  Do it with spirit, tradition and pride.  That was his slogan.  STP.

The 1982 AAHS Marching Band!

I still get chills when I hear his–our–signature march, Barnum & Bailey’s Favorite.  To this day, I occasionally throw some march music into the CD player and I know my appreciation for this music came from him.

The leader of the band is tired
and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I’m just the living legacy
to the leader of the band.

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Our local paper carried an article on the release of Casey Anthony after her trial.  The accompanying picture was similar to this:

My first thought?  What is Alec Baldwin doing with Casey Anthony?

Somewhere along the line, there are going to be movie rights to this whole thing.  I’ve already helped the casting director out. 

Alec Baldwin should be her attorney.

But who should play the lead?

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Adam Richman (Man Vs. Food on the Travel Channel) did an episode in Phoenix, stopping for a sandwich at Los Reyes de la Torta.

So while on vacation in Phoenix, we headed out to this Mexican sandwich shop.

Of course, I had to order the Torta Del Rey.  The King Sandwich.   Ham, melted cheese, pork sirloin, breaded beef, sausage, chorizo and
eggs.  Who could ask for more?  Who could get anymore on the sandwich?

Open Wide and Say Ahhhhh!

This was going to take some work on my part.  It was man versus food.  Face versus “the King.”  Del Rey.  Mano a Torta.

It put up a pretty good fight.  Things got a little messy, but in the end . . .

I can't believe I ate the WHOLE thing!

Doesn’t look much like the MyPlate food recommendation does it?  My GPS (gastronomic preference system) warned me to make a U-turn if at all possible.  But I couldn’t turn away from that sandwich!  I almost got lost in the middle of the meal!

I highly recommend the torta del Rey.  Just be sure to bring your A-game appetite.

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