Have A Nice… Rant

At a store today, the pleasant lady behind the counter gave me my change and said ‘Have a nice weekend.’  Being in a grumpy mood, I almost shot back with my frequent retort, ‘Don’t tell me what to do’.  But, I buy wine there a lot, and the prices are good, so I gulped and shut-up.  

I know I risk alienating my tens of faithful readers who routinely employ this phrase out of the best of intentions; friendliness, concern, compassion, sociability, affection.  But….

If you recall, the title of this blog contains the word ‘curmudgeon’, and that sobriquet refers specifically to me.  Any curmudgeon worth his thesaurus would be irked by, not so much the innocuous phrase itself, but its inescapable presence in all of our lives.  Try and get through a day without someone saying one of the variations of ‘have a nice weekend’. Have a nice….. morning, night, afternoon, day, vacation, trip, drive, game, life, nap, swim, and, of course, ‘have a nice etc.’

I am waiting, hoping, for the day when someone with a sense of humor says something like ‘have a nice root canal’ or ‘have a nice IRS audit’ or ‘have a nice argument with your teenager for whom slamming doors is as close to an expression of affection as you are likely to get’.  That little bit of humor, that bit of snoot, would at least establish some connection between the speaker and the speakee.  It would be true communication.

It really isn’t the phrase itself, which has become so meaningless that it enters one ear, barely makes an impression on the auditory nerve, swirls around the brain for half a nanosecond and rushes right out the other ear without even leaving a forwarding address.

There is a subatomic particle, the neutrino, that is so small that trillions of them pass through our bodies every second, yes even the bodies of curmudgeons, and we never even know it.  In fact, if you had a warehouse full of neutrinos, you would still have room for a warehouse full of neutrinos.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s physics and who says basic principles of the universe have to make sense?  The ‘have a nice…’ farewell has all the gravitas and impact of a neutrino.  Perhaps even a neutrino on a diet.

Language, speech, verbal social interaction are meant to reduce what could be an infinite distance between us all.  Without some kind of social discourse, some ability to connect with each other,  life would be, in that famous phrase, ‘solitary, poor, nasty brutish and short’.  And who needs that?

My point, and like Ellen DeGeneres I do have one, is that this verbal and vocal belch, ‘have a nice whatever’ actually dilutes this vital ingredient of the Mulligan Stew that is life in the twenty-first century.  

It is background noise.  It is Muzak.  It is humming when you don’t know the tune or the words.  Worse, it is the background noise obscuring the Muzak that you are humming when you don’t know the tune or the words and you have half a tuna sandwich in your mouth and a stuffy nose.  It is that meaningless.

So, as a public service (very un-curmudgeonly if un-curmudgeonly is the word I want and if it is even a word), I offer these alternatives to the ‘have a nice’ vocal belch.

***

“Don’t let the giraffe look over your shoulder.”

“Try not to fall in a hole and disappear.”

“Just let a smile be your umbrella (and you’ll get rain on your teeth)”.

“No matter where you go, there you are.” (A personal favorite)

“A rabbit’s foot may bring you luck, but it didn’t do that much for the rabbit.” (That one is from Ambrose Bierce).

***

Try one of these next time you get a chance and see what kind of intensely appreciative stares you get.

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Issue Is or Issue Ain’t

Issue is one of those words that has several meaning.  An issue is, among other things, one production of a magazine, as in ‘the latest issue of Oriental Folding Fan Weekly’.  It can also mean the act of going forth as in, ‘the three Musketeers issued forth with mayhem in their hearts’. Or, in legal speak,  it can refer to one’s progeny, as in ‘the Duke of Earl’s legal issue’, or it can refer to a disagreement, as in, ‘the queen took issue with his height and decided that his head should come off’.  In sports, it can refer to a nagging injury as in, ‘the offensive lineman was sidelined for six games due to a hangnail issue’.  Most frequently, the word refers to a subject of interest to be discussed.

Except so far in this election.

I hear, often, that the real election season doesn’t begin until after Labor Day.  I really hope so.  So far what we have seen is the equivalent of throwing toys at each other in the sandbox.  I won’t say which candidate with orange hair has made insults and invective his primary tactic, but the resulting dueling badinage has become unwatchable and unlistenable.  That is, if unlistenable is the word I want and if it really is a word.

Perhaps the debates next month will clear a few things up.  Perhaps the moderators will have their respective heads out of their final digestive sphincter to ask intelligent questions and keep the responses civil.  

We have beaten immigration policy into the ground.  Also the economy and trade policy have received some glancing blows without much real content or substance.  How about gun violence?  Global warming.  Renewable energy.  Fracking.  Education.  Infrastructure.  (Here comes my one and only cliché) The list goes on and on.

So, while my hope is springing eternal in my human breast (okay that qualifies as a cliché) I can at least offer some musical entertainment.

Issue Is Or Issue Ain’t My Baby  by the great and greatly underrated Louis Jordan.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5LGl70VGvmg

A Sage With Scissors

My barber is a sage.  After every haircut he says something to me that is profound and should be carved into a monument and taught in every school.

I don’t like getting my hair cut, but he takes most of the angst out of the process by the unaffected and buoyant approach to his vocation.  In a less sensitive, less politically correct age, I could refer to him as a cliché, an Italian barber.  He is an immigrant, been here for a few decades, and still speaks with a classic, stereotypical accent.  

“Hello Dere,” he says to every customer that comes into his one room, one man shop.  In that less sensitive, less politically correct age, I could compare his speech patterns to Mister Bacciagalupe from Abbott and Costello, or even Stromboli, the villain from Pinocchio.  The greeting is loud and definite and sincere, and reminds me of when I needed a booster seat to get a haircut.  It is not a ‘Oh good, here comes another eighteen bucks plus tip for twenty minutes work’ kind of greeting.  It is a ‘hail fellow well met, we’re all in this together,  everything is gonna be fine’ kind of greeting.

No appointment is required, thank you very much.  Just come in, grab a magazine and wait your turn.  And it doesn’t really matter what kind of haircut you want, either.  You come out looking the same every time.  Well groomed, but the same.  He will say, as a question, when you first settle into the chair, “As usual,” and it doesn’t matter how you respond.  You can ask for a mohawk, or a shaved head, or a Dorothy Hamill Wedge, you will get the same haircut.  And, it will be just what you need.

Once in the chair, he reads you.  Emotionally, I mean.  If you are in a quiet mood, he will not disturb it.  If you are feeling garrulous, he is a champion at charming chinwag.  Kids today… the election… crime… taxes… terrorism… his daughter’s neighbor who is a slob…. and, of course, Italy.  

More specifically, Sicily, where he grew up.  He is from Italy, yes, but he is an American, and happy to be here.  Not an ‘Italian-American’, not him.  He is an American.

But he knows Italy, like I know Queens, and likes to talk about it, both good and bad.  There is crime, there are guns, there are immigrants, there is poverty there are crooked politicians.  All of which sounds eerily familiar in this particular election year.  It isn’t really a conversation, more like a guided monologue.  I can toss-up a topic, say, parking tickets, and then return to my People Magazine while he extemporizes.  An occasional verbal nudge, like, ‘oh yeah and all the cops have to make a quota’, is sufficient to keep him going until the haircut is done and he can exclaim with well-earned pride, “Good for another forty thousand.”

He can get a little frothy about all of this, which makes me sit up straight and still.  Nothing improves your posture more than a frothy man with a sharp instrument near your jugular vein.

I over-tip, or it would be an over-tipping if it was just a hair cut, and pay him, and I wait for his final pronouncement, which ties the whole adventure together.  It’s that profound statement, the ‘carved in a monument and should be taught in school’ statement.  

He says, somehow without sounding corny or sanctimonious, “This is the best country on earth, and we should all be glad we are living here.”

He’s right of course.  And the only response possible is, “See you next time.”

Donny Trump Is A Video Production

I think Donald Trump may be nothing more than a video production gone wrong.  

Many people are saying that the moon landing in 1969 was only a movie, produced by the CIA in a warehouse in Newark, New Jersey.  Or at Universal Studios in Hollywood.  Or by NASA at Cape Canaveral.  Or, most disturbingly, by a coordinated effort of all three.  

Similarly, many people are saying, or writing, blogging, tweeting, that Donald Trump is not a living, breathing person, but a composite of people, famous and obscure, compiled to influence the unsuspecting voter in the 2016 presidential election.

How else can you explain the hair?  How else can you explain those hand gestures?  Or that Cheshire cat grin?  How else the jumbled, incoherent, stumbling word salad that transforms every statement into a guessing game, ‘what did he mean by that?’  Literally, thousands of people have come up to Mr. Trump and said, “Mr. Trump, we love you.  But, what did you mean by that?”

I think he is not real.  He is celluloid or digital or whatever they make movies of now.  Those pudgy, orange tops with the thumbs up at rallies are body doubles, or holograms.  He’s only here through the magic of technology.

So what explains his campaign?  The one in which top management has turned over twice.  The one where he speaks approvingly of dictators.  The one where he campaigns in states where he cannot possibly win or has certainly already won.  The one where he picks fights with media, with fallen soldiers parents, with top Republican leadership, with senators generally perceived to be war heroes.  What explains all of this?

Simple.  He is being paid by the Clinton campaign.  

It’s either that or he is a real live misogynist, serial liar, bully, braggart, and racist who is completely ignorant of the U.S Constitution and how the government works, and is yet the Republican Party’s nominee for the Presidency of the United States.

And, really,  who could believe that?

The Reason Things Don’t Fit

Here is a list, far from complete, of things in my life that don’t fit.

Right foot shoes, my wedding ring, most of the screws and bolts I have ever bought and ended up at the bottom of my tool box, a bedroom door (bought a right-handed door and needed a left-handed door) another bedroom door (bought a 32 incher, needed a 30 incher), my Irish walking hat, the world’s most orange sweatshirt, …. And now sadly, dolefully, I must add another to this depressing list.  

I bought a strike plate for the new bedroom door today.  The strike plate is a rectangular plate that fits into the door opposite the funny shaped cylinder thingy that sticks out from the door knob handle and goes in and out when you turn the handle.

The funny shaped cylinder thingy will, if the stars are in alignment and a soft breeze is wafting over your non-dominant shoulder (if a shoulder can be dominant or not so) inserts into the door frame in a hole cut into the, yes, the strike plate.   Effectively that keeps the door in place and stable, and the strike plate is a thing that doors all have to have.  It is a universal and integral component of a door, and without a strike plate, it is not a door, it’s a flap.  

You would think, wouldn’t you, that the strike plate into which the cylinder thingy  inserts would not need to come in different sizes.  Like hamburger buns and bucket hats and twist-off wine bottle caps, such a simple thing seems like a one size fits all kind of situation. But, oh, how naive of you.  And me.  The one I bought was about ½ inch longer than the space carved out for it.  

That extra half-inch had no purpose whatever, other than to ensure that it would not fit into the door jamb.  So, it didn’t fit and I needed to go back to the hardware store and find one that  would.  Which I did, and at the store asked the hardware expert (he had to be an expert because he wore a brightly colored apron and an unmistakable air of superiority, even insouciance) about the need for different size strike plates.  I noted, with some firmness, how inconvenient it is to find that something so simple could be so wrong.

“Well,” he opined.  “Precision is a hallmark of modern building technology.  We have a whole aisle of screws and bolts.  Lumber comes in dozens of depths and widths, not to mention lengths.  Even bricks are baked into a variety of shapes and sizes.  We have fourteen different sizes of paint brush, eight sizes of paint rollers, and a paint tray for every taste.  An educated consumer would think that a brick is a brick is a brick, but, oh, how naive of him.  In humanity’s long ascent, we have moved from caves to huts to ranch houses to palaces to space stations, but not without an enormous  sacrifice to convenience.  As John Barrow has elucidated… are you familiar with the work of Barrow?”

I had to admit that I was not.

“Mr. Barrow has affirmed, in his somewhat circular and opaque style, that ‘There is no reason that the universe should be designed for our convenience.’  In all honesty, I think we have no choice but to ascribe to that world view.”

I could only nod, nonplussed as I was, but I did notice his nameplate before he turned to go and polish the acoustic tiles, or whatever.  The gold nameplate told me all I needed to know:

                                                                George

                                            Ontological Hardware Associate

Campaign Rhetoric

Many people have said this is the most important election of the millennium.  I don’t know, you tell me.

()()()()()()

We were debating the relative merits of home-baked versus packaged chocolate chip cookies the other evening when a serious kerfuffle developed.

“Packaged,” she claimed, in a predictable but nonetheless egregiously hypocritical flip-flop, “hold their shape and consistency better when dunking.  They’re  stronger when they’re together,” she pontificated from the left side of the kitchen.

“Well,” I countered from the right side of the counter, “you’re walking back your position on milk and cookies from last November when you slammed me for saying the same thing!”  

“Only because you blasted me, for my slip of the tongue when I referred to chocolate chip snookies.  And then you doubled down on it when you talked about snocholate chip snookies.  You don’t have the temperament or the stamina required for this position.  I knew the Pillsbury Doughboy.  The Pillsbury Doughboy was a friend of mine.  You’re no Pillsbury Doughboy

“Well,” I opined, only for the sake of making desert great again, “maybe I could vote for your cookies, but I could never endorse them.”

Not Quite Enough

I’m just about to finish a book called “Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin” which is a depressing prospect to contemplate.  I often feel bad at the end of a good book, sometimes even at the end of a ba…

Source: Not Quite Enough