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Monday, March 16, 2015

What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common?

What do Ted Williams and Steve Martin have in common? It's more bizarre than you might think... but tantalizingly possible.

In 1999, Martin starred in The Man With Two Brains, a very funny move about a world-famous neurosurgeon who fell in love with a living human brain in a lab jar (voiced by the ever-talented Sissy Spacek) and finds himself in the middle of murders committed by the elevator killer.

Ted Williams--the greatest hitter baseball ever knew-- died in 2002 and, after some contention as to his final wishes, his head was severed and "put into biostasis (frozen cryogenically) ... to be together in the future even if it is our only chance."

Frankenstein's Monster
Add one more story that gives the whole thing believability. This was actually done way back in 1818 when a doctor completed a brain transplant into a cadaver and HE LIVED!

Oh, that was fiction? You mean Dr. Frankenstein wasn't real?

Martin's movie was a comedy, Williams' story a tragedy and Dr. Frankenstein's, a comedy (The Gene Wilder version) but all now have a basis in factual possibility, according to Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero.

The Doctor plans to stitch a 'fresh' brain to a body of a very recent deceased by their spinal cords, hooking the rest of the blood vessels, airways, etc. to regenerate cells in the central nervous system. Canavero likens those million of sharply severed neurons to spaghetti. "Italians adore spaghetti, I love spaghetti and spaghetti is what is called for here," he says with conviction.

There is more detail but ethically, I will not print it here lest you be tempted to try it at home. However, where seems to be some credibility to it all (it has shown promise in mice), though not much believability that it will work. And of course, there are always the details... ethics and stuff like that.

Another caution, the Doctor advises, "Once the connections are made, you don't want the wrong connections getting created." I'm guessing he is referring to feet backward and other small details. 

"He's insane. You can't put a head on somebody else!" says another noted neurosurgeon... but didn't they call the Wright brothers crazy? And how about sliced bread? Somebody had to think of that.

Dr. Canavero points to possible breakthroughs in spinal cord injury treatment as early as 2017 and, as strange as this all seems, I'm all for hope of that.

Who is admired more than someone with a good head on his/her shoulders?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I know, I know... yesterday I promised to tell you what Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common... but I lied. Well, not really. I just wanted to insert this post on old movies because it fit. The answer to this riddle is next, just after these selected short subjects.

Moviola is fictional story I wrote seven years ago about the making of the 1915 romance, Moon over Miami starring the soon to be famous Vivian St. Claire, a real 'looker.' Movie making back then was a gritty black-and-white art that stole its way into the imaginations of the world. It was made with grand imagination, before such things as computer effects--or even computers, and without sound which is good because Vivian's high pitched voice never would have made the cut. It was what it was and it was beloved.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the sun slowly set over the placid blue ocean ending another perfect day in paradise…
Rip. KRRRASH! Zzzip.
Dust rose from the ripple-cut cardboard ‘ocean’ as the copper-colored metal ‘sun’ crashed ingloriously into ‘the sea’ and rolled off-stage.
“Cut! Cut! CUT! damn-it! Where the hell is Corky?”
“Here, boss.  Here I am.”
“What the hell are you doing to me Corky? First the beach scenery falls on Vivian. Then this. If we loose our star, there is no moving picture and we go broke. You tryin’ to put us out of business? Some right-hand guy you turned out to be, you washed up old has-been.”
Josh, always the entrepreneur, founded RockScissorsPaper Studio in 1914, right after he was dumbfounded by that French ‘moving picture,’ seven years ago. He knew then that moving pictures would be the next best thing since the stereograph. And Josh was almost never wrong.  “If a guy in America today hasn’t been broke four times in his life, he will never amount to nothin,” he told his backers.
”Sorry boss. That’s why we needed new rope.”
“You know we can’t afford an extra penny. Now, if you are any good at all, fix that damn thing before it kills somebody. We gotta finish this scene or we don’t go home tonight.”
“Washed up old has-been. That’s what he called me,” said Corky, talking only to himself as he walked through the dark and rainy night to his trolley stop. “I slave for that guy… save his ass time and again. If it wasn’t for me, there never would be a RockScissorsPaper Studio.”
He smiled as he remembered the first time Josh brought ‘the money’ to have a look-see at the new studio. “Hell, it was a garage…a dirty, dingy garage with three lights and one camera. So I made a big sign and hung it on the empty building down the block. Those yokels never knew the difference.”
He laughed out loud as he remembered that first movie… Pauline and the Big Bad Wolf. “Vivian was just a young kid I found on the street. Boy, was she a ‘looker.’
“Hey kid! Wanna be in movin’ pictures?”
“Yeah! Sure mister. What is movin’ pictures?”
“I had to find a wolf costume. OK, so it was a gorilla suit. When I was done with it, it was a wolf costume. And I had to wear it ‘caus no one else would. It must have been 120 degrees in that thing. But Josh liked it. God. That first movie… seems like so long ago.”
The next day at the studio didn’t go much better. Corky, do this! Corky, do that! Where is that beach ball and sun umbrella Corky? Help Vivian into her costume. Shut that shade! Get a ladder over here! Can’t you do anything right?
“Shut up!” Corky exploded. “Shut your mouth up you pompous stuffed walrus. You sit in that chair and act like you are God. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of you!”
The set became quiet as a graveyard at midnight. Everyone looked at Josh and Corky. Josh couldn’t believe his ears.
“Well, Corky. If you can’t take it, then maybe you aren’t as tough as I thought you were. We have a movie to make here and we have to be done by Friday. Are you going to shut your big, fat trap and get to work, or are your going to get the hell out?
Corky, stunned at the turn of events, stood for almost a minute without answering, then turned and stormed out the door.
The bright sun hit him like an epiphany.
“What the hell did I just do? Josh and me, we been together now for almost eight years. The big jackass can’t do it without me. He doesn’t know how to make the moon rise, find a canoe, get a street sign or create a saloon from nothin’. Only I can do that.
“But I’m not goin’ back. I can’t go back.”
The movie did not go well. You can’t make “Moon over Miami” if you have no moon. You can’t row a canoe if you have no paddle. You can’t have no parking unless you have a ‘No Parking’ sign.
“Where the hell is Corky,” screamed Josh as he slammed his clipboard to the floor. Where is that stupid son-of-a-bitch when I need him.”
“You fired him, boss,” he was reminded. “You kicked him out.”
“Oh yeah. Good riddance. That little weasel thinks he owns RockScissorsPaper. He don’t! I do!”
“Want me to go find him boss?”
“No. Absolutely not! I never want to see that guy again. Nobody quits on Josh DeMille.”
That night, Vivian paid Corky a visit. “Remember when you first saw me, Corky,” she reminded him. “You told me I would be a star. You told me that I would make us all rich. Remember?
“Yeah,” he said with a reminiscing smile. “I Remember.”
“Well, you knew that wasn’t true. You knew that unless we had Josh with his connections and you with your moxie, we couldn’t do it. We can’t do it alone, Corky. We need you. Josh needs you.”
“Can’t do it Vivian. When you tell a guy he’s a washed-up old has-been, you cut him in two. I won’t be half-a-man and go crawling back. If Mr. Big Shot wants me, then let him come and ask.”
“Ooooh! You are just two stubborn jackasses who couldn’t find their way back to the stable if someone didn’t lead them by the nose.” Frustrated and angry, Vivian slammed the door behind her as she left.
Somehow, Josh and crew finished “Moon over Miami” without Corky. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t good, but it was done. In the early days, sometimes that was enough.
It was part curiosity, part jealousy that took Corky to the Hollywood Theatre first showing that next week. He ached to be a part of the festivities. This was the best time in all moving picture-making and he was on the outside looking in.
Josh saw Corky across the street. Looking away as he lifted his chin in the air, Josh entered the theatre.
Hurt, Corky turned to leave, with one last glance back at what used to be his world. And, as God is witness, it’s the only way anyone would have seen that small escape of smoke from one of the side windows. His nose quickly confirmed his worse fear.
“FIRE! The Hollywood is on fire!”
He bolted across the street and pushed the theatre door hard, shattering its glass. He yelled to the astonished monkey-suited doorman, standing with mouth agape.
Fortunately, the fire was detected before it was wide-spread and everyone was safely on the street in front of the theatre, screaming, shrieking, crying, and talking wildly as the first pumper wagon was pulled ‘round the corner by two hard-breathing horses.
Hours later, the fire was controlled but the building was gone. And Josh, sitting on the curb in his tuxedo, now ash-covered and torn, looked like a refugee from the Great War… a man who had lost everything.
“Vivian. Oh Vivian. It’s gone. The film is gone.” His authoritative voice was reduced to a resigned whisper. “All of our money was in that film. Its success was the key to our next movie. That fire not only burned down the Hollywood Theatre, it burned down RockScissorsPaper just as surely.”
“Josh,” she comforted,  “It can’t be that bad.”
 “We’re done, Viv. That film was our bankroll.”
“Oh, Josh…”
“Mr. DeMille!” the doorman hollered as he approached. “Mr. DeMille. One of the firemen gave me this before they left. Said he found it on the seat of the fire wagon.”
“Oh my God. OH MY GOD! Vivian. Look at this…it’s the film. I can’t believe it. How did it get there?
“The fireman didn’t know, Mr. DeMille. It was just there.”
The headline in the next morning’s Pacific Sun told the story. “Hollywood Theatre Burns to the Ground: All 150 moving picture fans watching “Moon over Miami” are safe.”
The following day, the paper interviewed Josh DeMille:
”Miraculously, the only copy of the film was rescued. We are sure the doorman, modest as he is, saved it from the flames. It will continue to be shown across town at the Hippodrome starting tonight.”
When Corky read that, he threw the paper down in disgust and stared at his now-cold cup of coffee. “If that jerk don’t know who saved his bacon, I sure as hell won’t tell him.”
As his anger was about to turn to tears, he was startled by a knock on the door... and a ‘not too welcome’ voice.
“Corky… Corky… ” Josh pleaded from outside. “Please forgive me, my friend. Fate has given me another chance.”
“Another chance, DeMille?” questioned Corky skeptically as he now faced Josh. “Another chance to be a rich man?”
“No. No. No. Another chance to save a friendship! Will you please come back and be my partner? I need you. I have always needed you.”
Later, as DeMille told Vivian, she patted his shoulder and smiled approvingly.
“But why didn’t you tell him you now know that he rescued the film?”
“I will… someday. I just didn’t want him to think I was asking forgiveness because he did one thing and I owed him something. I wanted him to truthfully know that I was wrong.  I took him for granted. It was because he did so many things…and always has.  And because I owed myself something. His friendship.
“You see, Viv, I can go broke four times and still end up a rich man… because it’s only money. But if I loose one true friend, my chance for being truly rich is forever diminished…by one true friend.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

Old time movies: The Reel Thing

Buster Keaton did his own stunts

There's something special about Turner Classic Movies television channel, TCM. It's where you can see so many old and near current (classic and otherwise) movies 24/7 for free. Pay attention insomniacs.

And if that's not good enough, you have a front row seat to watch how movies used to be made. The older films have an integrity to the art that newer technology often enhances and sometimes makes surreal. As one TV critic put it, "The people in them did what they were filmed doing. When the side of the house falls on Buster Keaton and he stands, miraculously, in the empty square of its missing window, the side of the house actually fell on him. (It is said that some people left the set that day because they could not bear to watch.)"

Jackie Chan
Many actors actually did their own stunts, sometimes taking their lives in their hands... like Buster Keaton. And if you want to see the incredible Jackie Chan doing all he does in his movies, take a look at his top 10 and be amazed. (TIP: It really is worth the 5 minutes.) You gotta love this guy.

But back to TCM. The monthly lineup always features some real gems... everything from The Music Man (1962) to Gone With the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1940). You can watch Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and The Artist (2011). You can catch Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002 and 2003) in succession. You can see Laurel and Hardy and Wonderful World of Tupperware if that's your thing. And of course, lots, lots more to suit many tastes. How can you beat that?

Check out the TCM line-up this month and take advantage of your DVD.

My next post has more to say about TCM movies and ties nicely to a very controversial subject I can have some fun with. (Hint: What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and Comedian Steve Martin have in common?) If you guess it, you either Marilyn Vos Savant or Albert Einstein... wait, he's dead. So male or female, you are Marilyn Vos Savant.

EUREKA! I HAVE FOUND IT: Today I learned how to time-shift and it was amazing. I purposely didn't set any of my car clocks ahead one hour. so when I got into the car, I actually went back in time! Yes, I was very careful not to alter anything that would change my life in present time, but I definitely became one hour younger. If I do this enough times a day, I will never have to shave again!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

PART II: AN ELEVATOR TO GOD (ok, to space because we don't actually know where heaven is located) IN OUR LIFETIME! (Not yours though baby boomers)

SciFi author Arthur C. Clakre wrote about it in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise and it WAS science fiction then... but not any more. There are scientists who think it can be done--and it could be a reality in this century, possibly as early as 2050.

Now that's pretty impressive!

Spoiler alert: much of the technical language is not understood by mere mortals. It is included to impress you so you think I do.)

"It's a phenomenal enabling technology that would open up our Solar System to humankind," says Peter Swan, President of the International Space Elevator Consortium. "I think the first ones will be robotic, and then 10-15 years after that, we'll have six to eight elevators that are safe enough to carry people."

The concept is simple. First, you would need a landing station that, let's say, would be the equivalent of floor 12,000,003 (avoiding the 13th floor, of course). That landing station, maybe called God's Little Acre, would be a satellite or space-debris platform in geosynchronous orbit with the earth--a floating anchor, so to speak--and there are lots of possibilities out there.

Earth station would best be about 600 miles west of the Galapagos Islands because of the rarity of hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons in that area, say those smarter than me.

Then you need a very strong cable--which doesn't yet exist--running between the two. There are now several concepts that would produce a cable with sufficient strength. One is a diamond-like nanothread material. Another is a cable made of carbon nanotubes with a tensile strength of 63 gigapascal--about 13 times stronger than the toughest steel. And that cable would need to be about 60,000 miles long. (Remember, up AND back with a counterweight and/or maglev technology similarly as used on high-speed trains.)

Oh, and we'd have to dig up an extra $100 BILLION or so.

Now here's the kicker... IT IS POSSIBLE, say many involved with the knowledge and desire to do it. But how does one go from concept to reality?

The reason we would do this? It would be incredibly less costly to send stuff to space... and from this platform, the universe would open to us as never before. 

Elon Musk, one of the most fascinating people of today, has offered his say. He is the genius behind SpaceX which develops and launches space vehicles, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors. He is also the founder of SpaceX and a co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors. He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.

With Hyperloop, Musk envisions 'shooting' people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a metal tube in just 35 minutes. How's that for a starter? But regarding the space elevator, he says it would be easier to "have a bridge from LA to Tokyo." So what does he know?

Interestingly, as bizarre as this seems, remember that the Wright brothers' first flight was in 1903. Who then would have visualized humans would land on the moon just 66 years later--less than a lifetime!

As Groucho Marx said, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Part I, The Set Up: Classic joke ALL WRONG! Part II will blow your mind, I promise.

The elevator operator

Back story: In the olden days elevators were not 'do-it-yourself' transporters.* They required an elevator operator to make them go, usually someone pleasant who makes friends easily.

So, his passenger greets the operator and asks:

"How is your day going?"

"Oh, it has its ups and downs."

(Laugh track crescendos... then fades)

Now this was not an easy job... well, sort of it was. In the early days, it required training before earning an elevator operator license.

Elevator control panel
If you think modern elevators were a step into a bold new future (and they were), when some people saw their first escalator, they didn't know what to do and others couldn't figure how to safely step on and off. Many just stood and marveled at where all those steps that disappeared into the floor were going and where the new ones were coming from.

A few worried about being transported into an alternative universe (like I was... but that's another story). Some stores stationed an employee (escalator operator?) at the bottom offering instructions or a helping hand. Really.

But the old "ups and downs" joke won't work any more because German elevator manufacturer Thyssen-Krupp has something up its sleeve for the skyscraping record breaking heights of today's world. They are testing 'The Sideways Elevator."

In its test tower the company is replacing steel ropes with magnetic levitation used on high-speed trains. Without the need to stabilize a central cable, these elevators require half the building's prior elevator footprint and multiple cars can use a single looping shaft, vertically AND horizontally, at up to 11 miles-per-hour. Riders can be at their desired stop, dizzy or not, within 30 seconds.

Mile High
Powerful magnets suspend and propel the cars from floor to floor to any created stop point. Building operations can add or remove cars depending on demand and occupancy. Says the concept's director for vertical transportation, "The mile-high building is easily achievable. There is absolutely no limit to how far you can go."

There actually was one planned and on the drawing board, four times taller than today's giants. Frank Lloyd Wright talked about its fesibility in his 1956 book, A Testament. The design, intended to be built in Chicago, would have included 528 stories, with a gross area of 18,460,000 square feet. Wright stated that there would be parking for 15,000 cars and 150 helicopters. There's a lot here for King Kong to like.

So I thought this would be the ultimate in elevators. Boy, was I wrong! When you read Elevators, Part II, THE NEXT THING will blow your mind. I promise! Stay tuned.  

     * Historically, simple elevators really go back to about 300 B.C. predating the Julian-Roman calendar. They were crude 'lifts' powered by human, animal, water or wheel power and probably did not have floor by floor push button operation.
      In 1835, a belt-driven, counter-weighted, steam-powered device was created in England.
      In 1857, a steam powered 'moving room' for a 5-story building was developed by Elisha Otis, founder of the most known name in elevator-dom, Elisha Elevators. OK, Otis Elevators if you prefer.
     The first escalator was on the old steel pier at Coney Island in 1897. Then, of course, there is the moving sidewalk envisioned no doubt by the future-seeing Wright brothers for expansive airport use. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

YOUR FEET'S TOO BIG meets ALLEY-OOP and other songs you can't forget... or don't want to

Your Feet's Too Big

Say up in Harlem at a table for two
There were four of us, me, your big feet and you
From your ankles up, I'd say you sure are sweet
From there down there's just too much feet

Oh, there's more of course, but you get the idea. It was written* and then sung by Fats Waller in 1936 and many others since then, including The Beetles. It is one of the songs in the Broadway musical review, Ain't Misbehavin', a musical tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and '30s... and a great show that is still being performed around the country.

Novelty songs have always been a big part of our musical 'ear' but they have faded somewhat as we turned 21 centuries old. Seems we had more fun with our music then... before rap gave us today's somber-storied lyrics. These songs were supposed to make us laugh, or at least smile, with lyrics fun to sing and remember.

(If you remember any of these songs and their tunes, you are, like my friend Ron, oldish. But fear not, you can hear them all and/or read the lyrics on YouTube or from the Top 100 list below.)

There was The Witch Doctor by David Seville in 1958 that had us singing:

Ooh, eeh, ooh aah aah 
Ting, tang,walla walla bing bang
Ooh, eeh ooh aah aah 
Ting tang walla walla bing bang

Yellow Polka dot bikini
And Alley Oop and Mr. Custer and Kookie, Kookie (Lend me your comb) and They're Coming to Take Me Away (Ha Haaa!) and Little Blue Riding Hood and Along Came Jones and Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills and Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and LOTS MORE!

I learned French by singing The Little Shoemaker:

Lei scarpini de bailare, bailare.
Bailaremos tutusi.
Lei scarpini de bailare, bailare.
Bailaremos con cosi.

Shoes to set my feet a-dancing, dancing
Dancing all my cares away

Oh, they laughed when I tried that in Paris, but what do they know? They have a different word for everything.

These songs were fun when we seemed more light-hearted and 'fun-loving.' But if this is not your thing and you like a song that is popular today and will last forever, how about It's a Small, Small World? Forget that if you can.

Wanna see lots more you may never have heard of? Here's a Top 100 list from good friend Del who might know Sigfried and Roy, but probably not. Del loved music so much he invented and patented 'the musical bicycle seat' in the form of a multi-speaker mp3 player fixed below that surrounded you from the butt up with 'hill climin' music' baby, and that's the truth.

*Also by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Saved a Life Today!

You remember Lily, right?

We saved her in August by rescuing her. She was abandon with heart worms and held in a pen at animal control for six weeks. It's a miracle she wasn't put down, but they just couldn't do it, so sure she would be wanted.

Fact is, not many want a black dog or a big dog or a heart-worm positive dog. Lily was all three but we fell in love with her at a glance.

She's an absolutely beautiful two-year-old Labra-Dane (Labrador Retriever/Great Dane mix) who knows how to love better than any dog we've ever had. She is now heart-worm free and as rambunctious as any puppy-plus can be, but what a dog we have... and almost lost.

Lily loves to eat and what she digested last were the fingers and thumb of a red oven mitt that she pulled off the counter when we weren't looking. It didn't go down so well and after a three-throw-up night with more the next day, we knew something was wrong.

We got to the vet at 2:30 in the afternoon on ice-laden roads and the X-rays told the story. Two hours later, we were shown the remains of our oven mitt, about the size of my fist, that was pulled from her stomach just before it entered her small intestine and real trouble.

By 4:30 we had her home again, minus the oven mitt but plus a handful of stitches and lots of
Abby, Tess and Lily
morphine, as you see here. We couldn't leave her at the vets because there would be no one to watch her through the night and we figured home would be lots better than the emergency vet clinic across town. So here she is, under the watchful eyes of her sisters Abby and Tess.

It's amazing how much love you can give and receive from a pet but you really don't appreciate what it means until you have a crisis and almost loose her.

Lily and Abby
So this beautiful girl will live (we pray) to become a working therapy dog someday like her sisters. Today wasn't fun... but tonight is a different story.

OK Lily, you owe us one.

PS: That oven mitt cost us $1,200, according to the vet, but it was a very nice mitt. We have Pet Plan Pet Insurance that covers all after the $200 deductable and I HIGHLY recommend the company.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE VINEGAR CRUET: A Love Lesson (Happy Valentine's Day!)

A Love Lesson

It was a silly whim, really.

My wife and I used to play this game all the time in our early married years. She or I saw something at a garage sale or flea market that neither one of us could ever use, let alone be caught dead with. So she/I bought it for a birthday… or our anniversary… or any excuse for gift giving like, “have I told you lately that I love you?”

I once got her a two-foot tall ceramic monkey dressed in an Uncle Sam suit, red-white-and-blue top hat and all. Days later, I would see on my dresser, a small souvenir pillow with a fancily embroidered drawing and the words, “Niagara Falls… where the rivers gently flowing come to a crescendo of nature’s might.”

It was our inside joke… a goofy ‘thing’ that always brought us closer, made us laugh and enriched the bond between us.

That was then… when we were more in love with each other than our careers and before life’s distractions took their toll.  Sadly, the ‘surprise’ gifts got fewer and fewer… until there were none at all.  Who had the time any more? We kind of ‘forgot’ that we loved each other and often, acted accordingly.

Then, one day when I came home from work--late as usual—and there it was… a vinegar cruet that had lost its purpose many years ago.  I found it, with a small, hand- lettered card that said, “In case you forget, I LOVE YOU.”

We decided that if either of us took the stopper from the cruet and laid it across the top, that meant, “I need a hug. I need a kiss.” Once delivered, the stopper was put back into the cruet.

Funny thing is, the stopper was atop the cruet almost all the time… first by me… then her. It became our token of why we married in the first place… A reminder of what is really important.

My, how easily one forgets.

From that day forward, we stopped taking our lives together for granted. We started to dwell on the more important things like, ‘Gosh, how beautiful you look today’…’Can I help with the laundry?’…”Remember how we laughed so hard when I had toilet paper stuck to the heel of my shoe at a friend’s wedding… and I was the best man?’

That has been a number of years ago now… and I must say, THE BEST years ago.  Our marriage is richer than it ever was… and it gets better every day.

A friend asked us if we could ever live without our vinegar cruet that still sits on our bedroom dresser.  Of course! We know the cruet is just a reminder that took us back to a place and time we had forgotten.

That silly cruet and all that it represents is worth a million dollars in our hearts.  But we often wonder if there are others, like us, who forgot. Maybe they need the vinegar cruet now more than we do.

True happiness always wants to be shared.


I wrote this story six years ago and always loved it. 
Hope you do too.


Friday, February 6, 2015

VIOLINS! We need more violins!

Remember This?
Go back to Saturday Night Live, 1975 to see Emily Litella's commentary to Chevy Chase's SNL news:

Chevy Chase: And now with tonight's commentary; Miss Emily Litella.
Emily Litella: Thank you, Cheddar. What's all this talk about violins on TV? I think we need more violins and less of that loud rock music. And furthermore...
Chevy Chase: Uh, excuse me; Miss Litella. It's violence on TV, not violins.
Emily Litella: Oh. Never mind.

And this one too:

Emily Litella: What is all this fuss I hear about the Supreme Court decision on a "deaf" penalty? It's terrible! Deaf people have enough problems as it is!
Chevy Chase: That's death penalty, Ms. Litella, not deaf ... death.
Emily Litella: Oh, that's very different.... Never mind.

But she made a very good point. We really do need more violins... LOTS MORE! And less of the things that make us less human.

She also almost got it right on "saving Soviet jewelry" [Jewry], "endangered feces" [species], "conserving natural racehorses" [natural resources], "firing the handicapped" [hiring], and "making Puerto Rico a steak" [state].

Gene Wilder & Gilda Radner
Emily Litella was the incredibly talented Gilda Radner, one of the SNL originals. She was not quite 33 when she died of ovarian cancer, just four years after she married talented actor and writer Gene Wilder (who played Willie Wonka among other great roles). When asked by comedian/friend Gary Shandling why she did not appear in public more often, she replied, "Oh, I had cancer. What did you have?" Shandling's reply: "A very bad series of career moves ... which, by the way, there's no cure for whatsoever."

She wrote a book, It's Always Something, which, by title alone, gave hint to her admired character and courage. It you've never seen any of these things, Google Emily Litella and have a look at some of what made us laugh.

PS: SNL is now in its 40th season. With many up and down years, it remains today as something very "save" worthy for later viewing (and fast forwarding when required). Lots of great new performers and funny stuff amidst some less-so. It is worth your discerning eye. A history of SNL is a perspective to the changing face of humor over four decades of skits and talents.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Ever want to thank all the little people who helped you climb that ladder to the top? And other stuff too.

Ever want to thank 'all the little people' who have helped you get to the top? Well, here they are.

Thank you little people. And that takes care of that.

Super Bowl ad from 2012
Gonna watch Superbowl 49? (Looks a lot less important written that way, right?) The best parts of the 72 hour +/- telecast are, let's face it, the commercials and half-time. Oh, sometimes there is a football game or a scandal, but ads and half-time, now those are for real. And so is the reported price of a last-minute ticket: $8,000!

This year, a 30 second ad spot costs $4.5 mil--a mere $150,000 a second--and there are 15 new advertisers plus a waiting list. The ads, however, offer a solution to every problem, like Doritoto-itis or Budweiser Belly. Well, not EVERY problem... I'm still looking for a flat, brown 42-inch shoelace. Hard as one is to find, it is easier to find two for $3.95. So I want--and think I  DESERVE--a Superbowl shoelace commercial. And believing in advertising, Acme Shoelaces would only have to sell an estimated 4.5 million to come out even. But when you are building a brand like "Acme Shoelaces: the only laces with both a right and left for the discriminating tier," the big deal, of course, would be the repeat business. 

Pope Francis and God
Then I cleverly segue into this Pope Francis Joke:  

Pope Francis was a beloved cardinal in Argentina. He gave up all his worldly possessions. He gave up his house to live in a tiny apartment. He gave up his car to ride the bus. You know what that means? Right now every divorced guy is saying, "I could have been Pope." 

And if you ask me, Pope Francis looks an awfully lot like Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy and that classic dance they did. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ABSOLUTE PROOF: Dogs go to heaven... but what about cats?

Dog in Heaven

As all good Catholics know,  Popes are infallible on matters of faith. If the Pope says it, God has a rubber stamp on His paperwork that says "OK by Me."

Ergo (I always wanted to use that word in a sentence), Pope Francis and Pope Paul VI both said dogs go to heaven. So they do.

“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures," Pope Francis said.

“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” Pope Paul VI told a disconsolate boy in 1978.

Billy Graham, when asked by a little girl whose dog had died that week whether her pet would be in Heaven, replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be." He later explained "God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there."

"But, you say, "Is that all there is?" (From another fabulous song by Peggy Lee as in my last post. Do yourself a favor and watch her sing it.)

Oh, there is more, much more proof: Author Mitch Albom who has written a number of 'best sellers' including The Five People You Meet in Heaven and his latest, The First Phone Call from Heaven should know if anyone does... but don't take his word for it.

I got the SECOND phone call from heaven. Yes, it was from God.

"Hi Jerry. This is God."

"Oh, hi God. This is really a surprise."

"Well, if my guy, Pope Francis calls regular people, so can I. By the way Jerry..."

Then I heard all this barking in the background and could barely hear God.


And it became instantly quiet.

"Oh my God, God... oops, sorry... "

"No problemo, Jerry. If I can part the Red Sea, I can surely train these billions of dogs up here with a clicker. I will say though, it took longer than I thought. Where is Cesar Milan when I need him?"

"I thought he died just recently."

"Don't believe everything see on the internet, My son."

"So there ARE dogs in heaven, right?"

"Of course."

"May I say 'Hi' to Snert and Hagar and Gretchen and Alix?"

"You want to do it personally?

"Uh, not today God, OK?"

"Ha ha. Good one Jerry. OK, we'll save that for later."


"Hey Jerry, I gotta run now. It's my turn in Stratego. I'm playing Julius Caeser, Napoleon, McArther and Alexander the Great. Bonaparte is cheating, but we all know it and there is a lot of kidding going on. Just wanted to say 'Hi'."

"Wait God... are there cats in heaven too?"

"Oh, sure, but I gave them even free-er will so not even God knows... I mean I don't even know what goes on in that brain of theirs. See ya later, Jerry."

"You got it God... Oh, wait a second... God, when you say 'later,' what do you mean?

Click. bzzzzzzzz

"God? GOD?

So, straight from The Horse's mouth, so to speak, great news for those of you who have experienced one too many sad trips to the Rainbow Bridge, we'll all be together soon enough. Hmmm, I wonder if God lets Alix on His couch?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are you kidding me? I JUST WON $5,000 a week, for life... I think.

I can't believe it! I may already be a winner!

This incredibly important official letter (top) arrived one week ago alerting me of the probability that I won enough money to ask Bill and Melinda Gates to dinner next week so I can make a sizable donation. I'm really sorry if it seems I am rubbing it in, but how often does an above-average person like myself win so many millions of dollars for life?

The letter advised me to "Be on the lookout for a brown envelope with a red and white 'NOTICE RE: WINNING NUMBER FOUND REPORT label like this and a green star. It contains the documents neccessary [sic.] to win the 'Forever' Prize that will definitely be awarded on February 27th."

Well, I did. Most days I checked my mailbox three and four times just to make sure I didn't miss that brown envelope if it did come. A week had gone by and I had almost given up. Then, a miracle--IT CAME! What are the odds of that happening?

Brown Envelope: check
Green Star: check
Opportunity to win: check

Everything matched... my zip code, the correct spelling of my name  and my secret number which only I know. Now how DID they know my private number if I wasn't already a winner? 'They' even talked about people dumb enough not to check their number. "The conversation at one of our recent meetings," they said, "began to focus on what should we do about people who forfeit big Prizes?"


The brown envelope had my secret winning  number "8384 4901 8017" (number changed so as to not inadvertently give it away), "This number," they continued, "is eligible to WIN $5,000 A WEEK "FOREVER"

Then I spotted the ominous note on the brown envelope that I wasn't supposed to see: 'IGNORED PRIOR BULLETINS"

Yes, once... when I was almost near death from a bad case of athlete's feet, I did ignore a prior bulletin! But how did they know? And how many millions of dollars have I already lost? NOT THIS TIME CHARLIE!, I said to 'the wife,' even though that is not my name.

They say "No purchase necessary" in very small print, but who's kidding who (whom?) I stayed up all night ordering everything in the brown envelope to give me an edge and assure I was qualified to win. I got the Musk Cologne Spray by Jovan for 20 % off, the famous 'contour bottle' design Coca-Cola Salt & Pepper Shakers saving over 35%, the night view glasses that are virtually indestructible, for four easy payments of only $2.99 each, the 32-melody wireless doorbell (sold elsewhere at $29.95) for four easy payments of $3.99 each, and best of all, I'll be eating edible dessert bowls with the Brownie Bowl Molds set of two... but that's not all... you buy 2 and get 2 FREE! Yes, I'm pumped!

I filled out every form and stuck every stamp just as they told me to do, then to be sure, I had 'the little woman' double-check my work. Thank God, because we almost missed this important instruction that surely would have disqualified us. "Before you start thinking about how you would like to spend the money, make sure you transfer the red & white label from the other side to your official Entry-Order Form and mail at once!"

Yes, we did transfer the designated label to our entry-order form... and return it at once! as requested.


Now we are biding our time checking off the items in our left-over Christmas catalogs that we will buy. (The kids will never recognize me in that specially priced-to-sell Santa suit.) Darn, why did Sky Mall have to go out of business... they had so many great things?

Well, that's about it Suckers! Go cry in your milk. And if we see you and your wife and 7 kids in rags on the street selling pencils to make a few cents to buy rotting apples to keep your family from starving, I just might buy one or two... if you don't price them outrageously, like 25 cents apiece or something like that. Hey, don't be ashamed. I understand. I was poor once too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

My wife's hip replacement... which reminds me of a song

Wife's hip

Of all the major operations--everything from brain surgery to heart transplants to God knows what else modern medicine allows--perhaps hip and knee replacement surgery is on the more simple side. Violent but simple. (Here's a YouTube look at knee surgery if you have the stomach for it. There's one for hips too. )

What you learn as a caregiver to someone just home from the hospital is that it's a 25/8 proposition... not enough hours in the day to do it but a good try is had by all.

The upsides are many, of course. Care-giving is most often out of love and devotion. The duration is short as is, from time to time, the patience. By week two, improvement typically comes fast and you feel as if you have crested the hill and are coasting.

And the biggie... your patient is becoming a renewed person!

That said, I have a much keener appreciation for what it takes, from a male perspective, of course:

*I'm A Woman... as Peggy Lee would sing it.

I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have 'em hangin out on the line
I can starch & iron 2 dozens shirts 'fore you can count from 1 to 9
I can scoop up a great big dipper full of lard from the drippin's can
Throw it in the skillet, go out & do my shopping, be back before it melts in the pan
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again

I can rub & scrub this old house til it's shinin like a dime
Feed the baby, grease the car, & powder my face at the same time
Get all dressed up, go out and swing til 4 a.m. and then
Lay down at 5, jump up at 6, and start all over again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again

If you come to me sickly you know I'm gonna make you well
If you come to me all hexed up you know I'm gonna break the spell
If you come to me hungry you know I'm gonna fill you full of grits
If it's lovin you're likin, I'll kiss you and give you the shiverin' fits
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again

I got a twenty-dollar gold piece says there ain't nothing I can't do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag and I can make a man out of you

'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, and that's all.

 Thanks, y'all, especially for the "shiverin' fits.

*Sung by my favorite, Peggy Lee. Songwriters: LEIBER, JERRY / STOLLER, MIKE
I'm A Woman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This ain't no Pixar Toy Story my friends... And other animal tales of note.

This is
... A lotta

He died recently at the age of 13. He was renowned as the grandest of the grand, the daddy of more that 500,000 of the best looking (really say those who have an eye for cows), milk producing Holsteins many dairy farmers have ever known.

To say he had great genes is an understatement. To say he had great stamina, drive, charisma, passion, devotion...well, maybe that's going a little too far. He also made the pages (center spread?) of the glossy monthly Holstein International three times. But what makes him truly amazing is that he remembered all their names and birthdays... believe it or not!

How good? He actually produced 2.415 million units of semen to inseminate cows in 50 countries, easily topping the old record of a mere 1.7 million. It is believed that Toystory's record will never be topped. If he was a major league baseball player, there might not be enough money to pay him... and God knows it needs it. The cost of birthday cards and postage alone would break an average bull.

So, Macho guys, if you've already figured out what 2.415 million divided by the number of days in the 11 years of Toystory's potency (602 including weekends), I have one thing to say: In your dreams! A Toystory T-shirt with 'TORAZO!" under his picture and/or a commemorative semen straw might be your speed.

It's Awards season again. And you know as well as I do that it wouldn't be complete without the World Dog awards. The 'Pawscars' has recognized other animals in the media... like the tarantula that won Best Supporting Arachnid a few years ago for its appearance in the movie, Salt when Angelina Jolie saw it and said "EEEK! A SPIDER!"

Fans vote online for The Most Pawpular Dog, The Most Influencial Dog in Social Media, the Happiest Reunion, well as the Most Dog-Like Cat. WHaaaat?

The key award, of course, goes to the dog voted Most Congenial because it probably means it doesn't bite. Good luck to all the animals, fish, arachnids, etc. And please, no long acceptance speeches for those dogs that 'talk,' like on America's Funniest Videos. Personally, I knew they were saying stuff but I just couldn't understand them because most dogs talk in French which they picked up from watching Lady and the Tramp subtitled

Want to hear something that sounds like a Baaaaad joke? One of the hottest Apps available for Iphone and android is called Goat Simulator. It lets you wreck havoc in a virtual town as an animated goat, says the WSJ. "There is even a jet pack for the goat to fly and land on a hang glider. Think Grand Theft Auto meets petting zoo."

Goats have almost become 'beloved' in today's lore, perhaps spurred on by Dorito's malevolent chip-chopping goat that was one of the most popular commercials airing in 2013's Super Bowl. "Once I saw one yell like a human," says one of the Apps' developers, "and I knew we were on to something."

"Goat-centric videos have been the rage... they are part of our culture," says another partner.

"In Goat Simulator, the goat uses its horned head to destroy furniture and make cars explode. It terrorizes pedestrians by throwing them up in the air or dragging them along" the asphalt wit its long, sticky tongue."

"Goats are headstrong and cheeky," says Dorothea Dapper, founder of the Institute for Systemic and Animal-Assisted Therapy in Germany. "Learning how to effectively deal with them can teach executives a lot about working with people too."

Important note for executives: Do not grow horns, do not make cars explode. Do not drag people on asphalt. Otherwise, go for it. If you don't yet have Goat Simulator, then you are probably too old or not-with-it enough to matter, but FYI, if you loved Donkey Kong, Pac-Man or Angry Birds, you just might love Goat Simulator... at your friendly App Store now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

There she is... Miss America... and other girl problems

Bess Myerson... with Salvidor Dali looking on
Bess Myerson died. She was the first... and still the only Jewish Miss America in 1945. And she was something. Who would have thought that someone born in 1924 could have looked this beautiful?

Well, she was more than that. She worked for two New York City mayors and was instrumental in Ed Koch's election. She ran for Senate, appeared regularly on three different TV game shows, survived cancer and was acquitted on conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges brought (some say revengefully) by Rudy Giuliani. She was admired for her chutzpah (courage, mettle or ardor), outspoken and sought after. She was clever and quick thinking. In other words, she was an admired woman and Jew at a time when not all women or Jews were.

The Miss America Pageant was big at the time. Given how we have grown in understanding and perspective, the Bess Myerson of that time would not have been involved in today's banal excuse for a television program.

Admiral Michelle Howard
On July 1, 2014, Michelle Howard became the first woman and the first African-American woman to become a four-star admiral.

In 1999 she became the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. In 2006, she was selected for the rank of rear admiral making her the first admiral selected from the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1982 and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for flag rank. What do you think of those apples?

We may see our first woman President in 2016, but if not then, no doubt soon after.

Which begs the question: Why are we still latent in acknowledging the best man for the job could well be, and often should be, a woman?

In business, "companies with more women in leadership posts simply perform better," notes Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief of Portfolio magazine in the WSJ . Fortune 500 firms with the most female board members outperform those with the lowest by 26% on return on invested capital and 16% on return in sales. Yet, the number of women at the top is barely budging."

Lipman offers some observations as a guide for men: A male magazine editor may declare "We need a piece on the drop in gas prices!" Some woman making the same point might ask, "Has anyone noticed that gas prices are falling? Do we know why?"  It's the question mark that takes ownership away.

Some women apologize more often, says Lipman, and might attribute a compliment to "Just lucky." She may not ask for a deserved raise. Some may feel wrongly that men don't respect her. Some may consider "I've got a great girl in shipping that is..." as a compliment. Tears are often viewed as a weakness. Some may need a maternity leave or step back in her career to raise children. Some may be viewed as a mother figure rather than a boss.

So who's fault is that?

Surprise! It's yours, you male pig. (I just said that to get your attention men.) OK, it's hers a little too. But if a decision-making man is truly worthy of a leadership role, he most likely recognizes skill, talent, viewpoint, introspection, leadership, potential, etc. without sexual bias.

The world of yesterday was full of 'good old boy' networks and old ideas (like Miss America Pageants) that often still persist. Old stereotypes forget it was the women at home in World War II that allowed for victory to happen. Women have, sadly, not been appreciated anywhere near to what they may be able to contribute. We are equally good... or bad in every way except child bearing where they lead by a hundred miles.

Yes, we are better at appreciating quality regardless of sex or race, but we're really not there yet. And I do wish women, in their evolution, would stop using girl power or girl anything... sounds as bad as 'good old boys.' 'Women' is so much more powerful.

I guess I just had to get that off my chest.

For a good time, read Men are From Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray Page in 1992. Watch From Nine to Five with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin dating back to 1980. Then go out and make the world a better place.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Who has the real poker face?

Poker Face

 I have a son-in-law who plays a mean 'Texas Hold 'em.' (That's a sophisticated poker game for you high-stake
wannabes who have 'TELL' written all over your bodies.)

Not Poker Face
But then does it make any difference anymore? Thankfully, no...not because
I don't like to see the other players sweat and squirm...
who wouldn't like that?... but because the answer to the unbeatable perfect-poker-playing probot (think Peter Piper... ) could be the key to saving the world. Really--sort of.  It's a 'greater good' kind of thing.

This could be THE break-through to better solutions in so many human applications. (For you 'robotophobes,' don't worry, this isn't artificial intelligence that thinks--YET... but don't hold your breath.)

This is a highly sophisticated algorithmic solution that does more than play unbeatable chess, perfect Scrabble and a mean Jeopardy. This bugger plays poker where so much information about state of play is hidden. The poker-playin' program should be called Tex... a solid poker-player name instead of some nerdy-sounding thing like Cephus (which it is now).

"Our goal," says Dr. Bowling of Canada's University of Alberta, "is to advance artificial intelligence. And poker is an ideal game to capture all kinds of uncertainty."

To learn all the nuances of bluff, bet, hole cards and luck of the draw, the algorithm ran on an array of 4,000 computers for 68 days, calculating the optimum outcomes for more than a trillion possibilities of play.

The program worked through six billion hands every second, more than ever played by all the people who have ever been on earth, and it refined itself to near perfection. If you played against it, no matter what you do, you still wouldn't be able to eke out any more than a tiny advantage over millions and millions of hands."

But, as any true gambler knows, "This could be my lucky day."

Wanna bet?

Researchers don't plan to commercialize the system but do plan on setting up a University-managed public website where you can try your skill against it for free.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The worst team EVER... and a fascinating tie to my historical trip down memory lane to learn a lesson in morality

 How do I begin to tell you about the worst team ever and how it
Brantley B2b
relates to my personal touch with historical infamy?

OK, first guess which team is the absolute worst ever. And no, it's not the Cubs. Hint: This team's record is 1-14,000 and still counting.

Ever hear of the Washington Generals--the perennial losers? The Washington Generals are the team that always plays the Harlem Globtrotters--the perennial winners. The Generals were created in 1952 and owned by Red Klotz who was also its manager, coach, mascot and chauffeur in his used green DeSoto. Oh, and he also started and played into his 60s. He and his team were good players but that was not their show biz role. The Generals lost wherever the Globetrotters played... in the Egyptian desert, on an aircraft carrier, in Attica Prison, in Hong Kong, in a "Simpson's" episode, in front of Nikita Khrushchev, the Pope and Barack Obama to name a few. Get the picture?

Oh, and they won once--by accident--and were booed by the fans.

In fact, the Generals' win over the 'never lose' Globetrotter at the height of their popularity in 1971 was so upsetting to everyone who knew about the fabulous showboats that one sports writer called it a blow to American confidence. The loss was, he wrote, on a par with Lt. William Calley's recent conviction for murder in the My Lai massacre when as many as 504 unarmed South Vietnamese villagers were brutilized and killed by American soldiers under Calley's command. (Google it and be amazed, greatly saddened and ashamed.)

Now the connection: At that time, I was publisher of a really good magazine called Rotor & Wing International. It was an influential business publication for all the commercial helicopter owners and operators in the world.

F. Lee Bailey, the flamboyant attorney who helped get O.J.Simpson off the hook bought a small helicopter company called Brantley which manufactured the helicopter shown above. He visited our offices to get editorial coverage for his new company and I visited his manufacturing facility. His operating manager was former army captain, Ernest Medina who was Lt. William Calley's superior in Viet Nam. Calley contended Medina gave him the order to massacre those civilians who were suspected of aiding the Viet Cong, the enemy. That was suspected but never proven.

I knew Medina and his flamboyant boss, Bailey. They didn't give me good vibes. Bailey was an egotist, a pompous showboat and womanizer. Medina was quiet and not warm. Bailey flew me in his helicopter to show me what he could do and he and Medina bought lots of advertising in our magazine.

Less than a year later, Medina and Bailey sold the company 'stiffing' our magazine with a very large advertising bill unpaid, the jerk. So sue me, he said.

The enormity and shame of the Viet Nam war massacre and the pomposity and gall of Bailey gave me a 'dirty' feeling. The loss of a game by the Harlem Globetrotters didn't affect me... or any of the My Lai survivors in the slightest by comparison, which goes to show that any analogy of life to sport is a vast and ridiculous overreach.

And any excuse of serious allegations against athletes we idolize as great football players or whatever, is crap. Life is for real. Sports are for money. Not the same. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for cutting any star athlete any moral slack so our team can win. There are enough examples in today's news to make you sick. Let's stop that. Oh, by the way, you too congressional abusers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Yeah, I've seen all the movies. You go on a road trip, revive old memories, laugh, cry, get drunk, get a tattoo or two (butt and face of course), find a baby and a stray lion. Yawn!... So ordinary. That stuff happens all the time.

Wonderful Chicago from top of the Prudential
So when my youngest son threw a road trip for his older brother and his pop because we both had landmark birthdays this year, it was all of that and more. Sure, we found the baby... but he had a messy diaper so we passed on that... and saw the lion--two in fact--guarding the front entry of Chicago's Art Institute. Tattoos hurt so we were thinking tacos because that sounds similar... but when we walked by
Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza we decided that would be so much better--and it was!

We got pretend drunk--three beers and a glass of wine--and witnessed a killing--the Dallas Cowboys killed the Chicago Bears--from great seats in Soldier Field. Now I won't exactly say they were the best seats but Pope Francis sat on one side of us and Mike Ditka on the other... so you figure it out.

Pope Francis was a stitch... but unbelievably, he was rooting for The Cowboys (and I thought he was supposed to be ecumenical). Says Romo sounds Italian and it reminds him of Rome. He and Ditka kept trash-talking each other right in front of us. Ditka likes "smash mouth football," he tells His Holiness. Pope Francis says, "My favorite play is the Hail Mary." Ditka hums The Super Bowl Shuffle and the Pontiff comes right back with When the Saints Come Marching In. I asked The Holy Father why he didn't root for the New Orleans Saints and he says he can't root for any team that is 5-8, even if they are leading their division. "You can't even be a saint in heaven with less than 10 wins," he says... and he should know. When the game was over, Pope Francis gave us his blessing and Ditka offered a knuckle sandwich. We all walked out of the stadium arm in arm singing, you guessed it,  "Oh when the Saints... " 
His Holiness

Before the game, we tailgated, which is why we were too full to accept The Pope's burgers and a beer invitation. We had brats, buns and mustard with two cans of beer in each of our pockets. No grill... no problem. We asked to use someone's who had extra space. That's the thing about Chicago--people are super friendly and will lend a grill at the drop of a hat. I guess that comes from years of rooting for loosing sporting teams... you get kind-hearted and really nice because you have no bragging rights. Take that Yankee and Cardinal fans.

"Cloud Gate"
Next day, after a great breakfast, we took an architectural tour of the city's beautiful buildings and very snazzy Millenium Park just off Michigan Avenue by the Lake. The architectural tours of different parts of Chicago's downtown areas are renowned for their quality and the buildings and stories are well worth it.

"Looking Into My Dreams Awilda"
The huge ice skating rink in Millenium Park was in full use and the Jay Pritzger Pavilion designed by Richard Geary (like his Rock and Roll Museum in Seattle) was incredibly beautiful, as were the sculptures and other art.

Then it was drinks in the lounge on the 96th floor of the Prudential Building, pizza at Giordano's and settling down in the hotel lounge.

We laughed a lot too!

This was so nice a two-day affair that it was difficult to say good-by the next morning. In life, things happen that leave a mark. I've been so fortunate and grateful to count many of those, this being the latest. I told my sons that they could do it again, anytime, even after "you know what." They would take my ashes with them, of course, and remember this and all the great times we've had.

Thanks guys... and all the wives that let this happen. I'm super "touched," in the best of those definitions.