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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.