SATURDAY NIGHTS BIG SURPRISE

Last night I was playing records at The Chatterbox.  My show was in it’s usual state of bedlam. In the middle of it all, members of the Wanderers Car Club came in for their usual Saturday night feast.  It’s a rare night that at least a dozen of them don’t come by.  They sit all at one table and whoop it up till closing.  Generally, they come in a song or two before the National Anthem.  It’s nice to have them in just before the ceremony.  Everyone of them honors the flag and that always gets the rest of the crowd to join in.   Not that the other diners wouldn’t salute the flag but, with all the noise in the Chatterbox, they might not hear my call to stand and salute.   Absolutely everyone in the house got up last night.  I guess that’s Super Bowl Weekend working it’s magic.

     After the Star Spangled Banner, a few of the Wanderers came over.   They almost always do.  If nothing else, they come by to at least say hi and shake hands and stuff.   I’m grateful for their friendship.  They remind me of the wonderful brothers and sisters I had at the rescue squad back in Wilson.  Like my fellow squad members, the Wanderers are more action than politics.   Last night, though, some of the members coming by to say hi had a different look to them.  Something was up.
     Oh,  it wasn’t anything bad, the guys coming over were smiling.   But, somehow their smiles weren’t quite the usual grins.   Maybe they had a good joke for me.   Maybe they had some kind of crazy news.  Oh God, I thought, please don’t let them announce a winter cruise night.  I’ll freeze to death out on the patio in February.  Well, whatever it was going to be, I felt that I didn’t have long to wait.   Jim, from the Wanderers was holding something.  I think  Lou was starting to speak.
     I wouldn’t be able to give you the conversation word for word but, it went something like this.  Lou was saying how the club had just come out with the new Cruise Nite Dash Plaque.  He thought that I might like to take a look at it.  Jim had it in his hands.   Gosh,but Jim was smiling a lot.
     What is a dash plaque, you ask?  Well, it’s abut the size of an inspection sticker.   When you go to a car clubs regular cruise nite.   You put this plaque on your dashboard so the club will know that you have paid your cruise fee for the season.  Usually, dash plaques don’t cost a fortune, just a few bucks and they’re good for all season.  Displaying your dash plaque entitles you to maybe win a trophy or a door prize.  It shows your support for the event and, it helps cover the cost of running a regular cruise nite.   All entrants to a cruise nite are strongly encouraged to get a plaque.
     Lou continued talking.  Saying how they usually put a different classic cars photo on the dash plaque each year.  That is usually the case.  Lou went on to say how I’ve always been there for the club.  He liked how I’m always helping with this and that.  Jim kept smiling.  It looked like his face was going to crack.  I started to fear that this year the car of honor was going to be my rotten old van.  I’m thinking oh God, they can’t do that.  I’ve never even cleaned my van, ever.   What if they took an interior shot?  Lord, the White Castle bag from the first day I had the van is still in there somewhere under some rubbish.  This can’t be happening.
      Lou was still talking.   He said words to this effect. ” Doc, so because of all you do, this year we’re going to do something different.  show him the plaque Jim.”    Jim turned the face of the plaque towards me.   Lou was saying how this year instead of a car, we’re going with a person Doc.  It’s you!  You’re on the face of the Wanderers dash plaque for 2015!!!!!
      Jim handed me the dash plaque and, darned if I wasn’t on it.  There I was smiling in my control booth at the Chatterbox.    I seem to remember someone taking my picture last fall as I cleaned a record  but, I had no idea what for.  Camera warranties don’t cover taking pictures of me.  If I break the camera, you’re stuck with the damages.  But, you know I came out looking not too darned bad if I do say so myself.  I may just offer to autograph each plaque.
That’s what all the stars do, right?
     Honestly, I was so honored.  To think that such nice people as the Wanderers think enough of me and the work I do, to do such  nice thing, is such a thrill for me.  I’m really overwhelmed.  Truthfully, I almost started bawling right there on the spot.   I’m still feeling great almost 24 hours later.
     Don’t let anyone know but, I did lose it after a Wanderers Christmas party many years ago when they gave me my own Wanderers Jacket.  That just threw me for an emotional sob fest on the drive home.  With all that nose blowing and tears squirting all over my glasses, I was lucky to get home in one piece.   When someone asks me to dress up for a gig, I wear that jacket.   It’s my tuxedo.  The Wanderers are ok by me.   Bless them all.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RYLEE

There’s a small town I pass right through on my way to work at the A&P.  There’s maybe only fifteen houses in the whole town.  I think in the old days, the whole place was built around a mill, a country store, and a very small church.  Nowadays, traffic flies through on a fairly good sized two lane highway.   The only reason to stop is for a traffic light.

      I was going through the town yesterday at morning rush hour.   This is the only time of day that there’s any kind of back up in the town.  During the afternoon rush hour any cars passing through have made it through the traffic light and are accelerating west bound and homeward.  But, in the morning they do have to sit and wait just a little.   I think on Wednesdays you can also get backed up behind a garbage truck making it’s pick ups.  Other than that, the traffic copter isn’t going to be making any reports whatsoever.  It wouldn’t be worth the fuel to report a fifteen second delay.
      So, I was waiting for the traffic light behind roughly ten cars yesterday.  My eyes caught a glimpse of something to my right.  I looked over to see an old brown house..  The house was about a good ninety years old.  I figured it was built sometime in the 1920’s.  It might have been older.  The small front door sat only about ten feet from the side of the road.  There was no front yard.  Only bushes lined the edge of the house in the short space between the house and the edge of the road.   It would have been a pizza delivery guys worst nightmare to make a stop there.  I can just hear the airbrakes and horns now.   But, here was this great thing about this home.   In the morning gloom and nailed proudly to the front door which sat between two big  and dusty evergreen bushes was this colorful sign.
     The sign was in all different colors.  It measured about two foot by three foot.  Large letters proudly proclaimed to all…….”HAPPY BIRTHDAY RYLEE!!!!!!”   The words were surrounded by printed on birthday cakes with candles and I think I saw a circle of party hats there too.   I just looked at the sign and thought to myself, “Well, I’ll be darned.  Good old Rylee is having a birthday.”   I have no idea who Rylee is but, that wasn’t going to stop me from being glad for her big day.   The light changed and I moved on.  Rylees  big birthday sign just made my day.
      It’s a shame that almost no one will see that sign.  It was a great sign.  If you go through that little town a bit above the speed limit, you’ll never see it.  Stopped at the light you might reach for your coffee or, adjust the car radio and you’ve missed it.  It was a great sign.  It showed a lot of love and, that a nice family lived in that house.   I was lucky to spot the sign and thought it my duty to report it’s sighting to you.  Happy Birthday Rylee.   May you have many more and,  I’m sure you will

PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT HEAVEN VS HELL

Doing the show yesterday from Project Homeless Connect wasn’t  the first show I’ve done  from where people are helping other people.  I guess I’ve done quite a few.  This time, I saw something I don’t think I’ve noticed before.  Let me set the stage for you.   The day was held at the Hackettstown American Legion.  The Legion is always up for these kind of events.  They opened eagerly and I hear they had the coffee ready when the doors opened.

     The day there was to be spent helping the homeless and near homeless find some relief and help for what we all hope will be only a temporary bad situation.  Civic groups, county agencies, volunteer groups, and well you name it arrived early with a smile and set up shop to provide advice, merchandise, and every thing from clothes to a dental check up.  Even hair cuts were available.  I was there to observe and run a live broadcast  interviewing as many folks as possible.
      As I spoke with the staff on the air, I was struck by one thing.  They were all very happy and honored to be doing their part of the event.  No one seemed to be afraid to speak on the air.   They went about their time on the air with not one hint of worry.  They told their particular story very well and got their points across nicely.   I saw a wonderful brightness in their eyes.
     You all know how much of a stumblebum I am on the air.  I’m not Edward R Murrow by any stretch of the imagination.  My thing is to make sure my heart is in the right place and then just engage my tongue.  Putting my brain into gear is optional.  That sometimes throws some people off and even makes some folks quite nervous.  But, these folks at Project Homeless Connect just took me in stride and we all had a ball.   They seemed to be able to roll with the flow.
     One interview I had was with Operation Chillout.  They are veterans that go out and find and help homeless veterans.   Tony, who spoke to me about Operation Chillout spoke among other things about a veteran who had a bad case of PTSD.  Operation Chillout got him out of the woods and into treatment.  To make a very long story short they helped the fellow so much that, now that he’s better, he plans to join the group and do whatever he can to help other veterans in a jam.
     One other wonderful thing I noticed, and it really got to me, was the look most, if not all, of those who came to help shared.  Friends, they all had this look about them.  It was a kind of purposeful and inner smile.  Maybe it was a happy kindness or something, something ummm.  Well, let me think.  Do you know how people look when they are up to no good?   These folks looked the opposite of that.  Does this make sense?
     I finished my show and packed up.  It was getting busy anyway with people who needed help coming in.  From the looks of things, the volunteers wouldn’t have time for interviews.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and started for the door.  Some people were thanking me and asking how to find the station.  Some were hobnobbing a little with me.  In one such group, I found myself talking with a few volunteers.  It was a cheerful talk.  But, as we talked, I noticed a man sitting nearby.
      He might have been six feet from me.   His clothes were pretty beat up.  His shoes were worn  down pretty good.  He had an old brown green coat on and trousers.  Here and there he had bandages and such.  I would have guessed that he was forty or so but, in his eyes, he looked like eighty.  He was very quiet and still.   It was like he didn’t see all the good going on around him.  He just kind of looked blankly at me as I spoke with the group I was in.  It was like he was in shock.  I looked him in the eyes.  I think I managed a smile.  He didn’t seem to be able to smile back.  He was in a bad way.  There was pain in his soul.  Lot’s of pain.  He’d been through the mill.   For a brief second, there was just him and me looking at each other with the room and people out of focus.  I felt like I was viewing hell.
     Then, out of nowhere, one of those wonderful volunteers sat down next to him with a paper or two and gave him a coffee and started talking to him.  I was glad she did.  They started to talk and, I headed home.   I can only hope that maybe next year that man will be sitting down next to someone else in a bad way with a piece of paper in his hand and give them a coffee. Stranger things can happen.

A WEIRD WAY TO SLEIGH RIDE

Yesterday I was coming home from work.  It was still daylight.  School was out for a snow day.  I was passing by this house and yard.  I know the family.  They’re very nice folks.  Lots of kids.  I kind of smiled as I drove by the field alongside their backyard.  There was about four or five kids from the family out in the big field.  They were sitting on their sleds.  It looked like they were ready for a run.  I remembered way back in the day, when I was a kid, and the thrill of starting a downhill run on my toboggan or my American Flyer.  I remembered hanging on tight and giving the sled a little nudge by leaning forward fast.   Better yet, it was even more fun to hold the sled in my hands and run at the hill and dive onto it for a high speed run.  I envied those kids out in the field.  Many a winters day, I had been there and done that on my own favorite slope.

 There was just one thing wrong,   The field was flat as a pancake.  There was no slope at all.  I couldn’t believe it.  “What’s with those kids?” I thought.   I know the family.  Those kids aren’t dummies.  I’ve seen them out in that field during the summer, racing mini bikes and go carts.  So why the heck are they trying to sleigh ride on a level surface?
  Suddenly, I had my answer.  Out of the garage popped a big old snow mobile.  It was heading their way at top speed.  The little ones we’re going nuts and squirming on their sleds as their dad backed up to a tow chain.  Soon, they’d be careening around the field faster than any down hill run.  I know the dad and, he would never go so fast that they could get hurt.  But, hey, seven miles an hour to a kid on a sled is like Warp 10.
  I guess sleigh riding has gotten modern.  I guess after some fun in the snow, they went inside and nuked some popcorn and played video games instead of Monopoly.   Times do change

THE 1000 POUND GORILLA AT THE DOOR SHRINKS

I’m kind of glad that the 1000 pound gorilla turned out to be, at least in New Jersey,  just one of those charm bracelet monkeys.  That storm sure looked hairy coming our way.  Mother nature smiled upon us for a change.  I’m off to the A&P to clean up the dairy aisle a bit.  When I get back, I’ll do a live show.  I think it will be just a mish mosh kind of thing.  You know, grab a record and play it kind of thing.  I think we’ll run from 4pm to 7pm.   Looking forward to it.  Anyone want a bagel?  I was afraid we’d get snowed in and I bought a dozen.  Millie the hound and I are doing our best to finish them but, I think it’s hopeless.  My wife Sandy, will only eat a bite or two.  Maybe I can make a lamp out of the ones that get stale.

CHASING RAINBOWS

Last night I was on the phone quite awhile with someone very dear to me who was having a bad night.  We all have these nights, myself included.  I did what I could to calm this wonderful person down.  Life has hit this person hard, make that very hard.  Still, this person is fighting the fight.  In due time, all will be well but, right now it’s tougher than tough.  Self doubt was taking over but, will pass in time.  No one said life should or, will be a snap.

     When I went to bed, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I asked the angels that have often come to my aid, to give me some help in this matter.  I put on the repeat of last nights Songs From the Kitchen Show and fell asleep before the forth song was done.  (Gee, I hope the show didn’t do that to all the listeners.)  The show played out till it was done and must have stopped around three AM.   I woke up with the sun, which means I overslept.  Sometimes when I first wake up, the information I asked for at bedtime pops into my head.  I just have to lay there real quiet and it hits me.   This time, nothing happened.  Or did it?
     I felt a strong urge to listen to some more of last nights show.  It was still in the computer and just needed to be restarted.  I got out of bed and tripped a little over a box of CD’s and bent over the computer.   The window that holds the show has a slider on it to adjust the point in time where you want to start playing.  As I started to adjust the slider, something sort of said to move the slider a bit to the left, now to the right, no no back, a little more, more, THERE!!  Start it there and pay attention.   There’s a clue waiting right there.   Play it.   I hit start and next thing you know, I’m hearing a song I played last night.   It was Judy Garland Singing   Over the Rainbow.
     I listened to the song and remembered how much I’ve loved it.  There’s various versions, Doo Wop, Hawaiian, and of course the one I was listening to from Wizard of Oz.  Did you know that it’s been selected as the all time best American Song ever.  The composer, Harold Arlen, somehow got the melody from looking at a rainbow that formed over Hollywood.  He watched the rainbow, and grabbed some notepaper from his back pocket and scribbled down the gist of the melody.  I’m guessing that he told this to the Lyricist Yip Harburg who then let rainbows influence him for the lyrics.   Just a side note, Harold Arlen, worked with Johnny Mercer on my all time favorite song. Accentuate the Positive.
     I think I’m supposed to dwell on rainbows and that song to come up with an answer for this persons self doubt and torment.  So here goes.  Noah would be the first guy to tell you that rainbows are a good sign.  My father, who was a pilot for awhile was always sure to be the first person to point out even the smallest of rainbows.  He never missed spotting them.  He’d see rainbows anywhere and anyway he could.   I’m not sure, but I think when I was a kid, he showed me how to make rainbows with bits of glass.  Now that I think about it, he loved those things.  I can’t count how many times he told that pot of gold story.  Funny, my father was the luckiest and most successful person I ever knew.  Oh, he’d fail at this and that now and then and, he’d crab about it for a bit.  But it wouldn’t be long and, he’d be after that next rainbow.   Somehow he was attracted to rainbows  and he’d let the storm roll off his back.  There might be a lesson there I think.   If he could get to the rainbow, the storm was old news.  Actually, rainbows lead you away from the storm don’t they?
     Judy Garland, when she sang Over the Rainbow, has it in her eyes that it’s going to be better, when and if she can get beyond that rainbow she’s singing about.   That land beyond the rainbow boy, it’s got to be better there.  They got troubles melting like lemon drops and, little blue birds flying around.  What could be better?
     Of course in the movie. the only way Dorothy could get over the rainbow was to ride there in a tornado.  When she got to Oz, it was nice I guess, but it was also rather scary.  Like anything, Oz had it’s good points and it’s bad points.  Dorothy found good friends there and together they battled witches and armies of flying monkeys.  In the final analysis, she realized that her home back in Kansas was every bit as good as Oz.  Maybe it was even better.
     One more thought is that you can’t get to a rainbow. They move away just as fast as you approach them.  Also, if Dorothy in Kansas is in a storm, someone else in Colorado, is seeing that storms rainbow. while someone in Missouri is getting the chickens back into the hen house because the Weather Channel is calling out a storm watch.
     I guess in short, rainbows are pretty elusive,   The poppy fields of oz aren’t any better, when it’s all said and done than the corn fields of Kansas.   There’s pretty little bluebirds everywhere you go and, be ever so humble and troublesome there’s no place like home.   Hey, there’s a rainbow!  Let’s chase it!!!!  I hear you can get a pot of gold if you can catch it.  Maybe the chase is the pot of gold.   There’s got to be a lesson here somewhere.  I hope.

THE CRITTERNET IS DOWN

Yes our hound Millie is going out of her little but, very smart, brain.  The heavy snow yesterday has frozen up the critternet.  She’s having an awful time getting her pee mails.   Just a trickle is getting through.  Dogs, foxes, coyotes, and deer are all in the same fix.  It’s all been blocked by a heavy blanket of snow.  Millie is visibly upset.  She has no idea where her fellow critters are or, what they’re up to.  Snow has been piled high up the sides of trees and telephone poles and there’s just no way to access her data.  The telephone poles are usually a major gathering point, a kind of cyber café, for her and those on her friends page.  It’s like Mother Nature, has popped off an EMF bomb in her world.  There’s no physical damage done, but her web is destroyed.   The only thing that cheered her up was a slice of left over pizza for breakfast,and Fox and Friends.   I think when I leave for the Chatterbox today, I’ll leave the TV on.  Millie likes Animal Planet.

MUSH!!!!!

I just ended one of my facebook postings saying how I’ll be leaving soon for The Chatterbox and the usual line up of shows.  It snowed pretty good last night here in north Jersey so, I ended the posting with something I remember from Sargent Preston of the Yukon.  He used to run to his dog sled much like Bat Man and Robin would run to the Batmobile.  He’d grab the reins and holler, “MUSH !!!  Mush you huskys!!!  MUSH!!!  I don’t think he ever whipped them.  Just hollering Mush was enough to put them into immediate overdrive out into the Artic Waste Lands in search of Bad Man Pierre.  I didn’t know that huskys liked mush so much that they’d run like fiends into the night just for a steaming bowl of the stuff at trails end.

     I can see Sargent Preston stopping along the trail at a saloon for the night.  A hush falls over the place as he saddles up to the bar and orders his favorite drink with his booming voice.  “Barkeep!  A glass of warm milk please!  Oh, and eight bowls of hot mush for my huskys if you’d be so kind.”
     Speaking of mush, here’s a way to make perhaps the best Sunday breakfast you’ll ever have.  On Saturday night, boil up some white or yellow corn meal mush according to directions.  Once it’s cooked. pour it into a greased two inch high pyrex baking dish.  Let the mush cool over night in the fridge.   Next morning, the mush in the pan will have thickened to something sort of like rubber.  Carefully flip the pan upside down and let the slab of mush fall gently onto a plate.  Slice the slab into 3/8 inch slices.  Fry the slices in a greased frying pan.  The slices are done when they get crispy on all sides.  Serve them with syrup and butter just like you would pancakes.  A little bacon or sausage won’t hurt either.  Hot coffee and you got a treat.  It’s very good and perhaps the best thing you’ll ever have for breakfast.  Eggs Benedict eat your heart out.

DUEL IN THE DAIRY AISLE

The other evening I was sticking bags of shredded cheese on the shelf hooks at the A&P I work at.  It was a slow night due to crummy weather.  I was pretty much alone and more bored than busy.   Suddenly, good luck came my way in the form of a mom and her son who looked to be a tall nine years old.  The son was in charge but, mom was in control.

     ” Here it is mom, right here!  See!   Macaroni and Cheese shredded blend!   This is what you want.”  The kid was pretty insistent but, mom held fast.  She kind of had her foot down, “No, I’m not using that one.  Grab the  Mild Cheddar, the Mexican blend with cream cheese and, the Shredded Swiss.  Now, we got to go get the macaroni.  Stay out of the store clerks way.  He’s trying to work.”   The kid did say excuse me and then whirled his attention back to his mom.  “Ma, you got to use mac and cheese shredded blend.  That’s how to make macaroni and cheese!  Gosh ma!!!!
     I had to step in.  “Young Man !!” I chimed.   “I’m here to tell you that your mom is the best macaroni and cheese maker there ever was.  It’s an absolute certainty.”  The kid wasn’t going to go down easy.  He said something to the effect that I had no way of knowing and where did I get my information anyway.   His mom was smiling.  I think she knew what was coming.
     “It’s easy son,” I was on a roll.  “All moms cook the best macaroni and cheese ever.  You can’t be a mom without getting the secret of perfect macaroni and cheese down pat.  In fact, if you put all the moms in the world together in a big macaroni and cheese bake off, they would all win.”   I turned to his mom.  ” Ma’am do you put baked bread crumbs on top of the noodles and cheese and maybe little pieces of baked ham into the sauce?”   Mom said she did.  “Then that’s a sure winner kid” I said.
     “But someone could beat her.  I’m sure.” said the kid. ” Right?”
     “Well, maybe someone else has a mom who makes great macaroni and cheese.”  Sez I.  ” And, sure, it tastes great while you’re eating it. But, what happens when you put down the bowl down and try some of your other friends mom’s macaroni and cheese?  Picture yourself tasting that one.  How does it taste?”
      The kid had to think a minute.  His forehead was getting sweaty.  ” Gosh, it tastes pretty good too. In fact it’s very good.”
      I had him.  “So who made the best one?”
     The kid had to agree.   “I don’t think I can say who’s best.  His eyes lit up.  “They’re all the best.  It’s a tie.”
     “That’s right, son.  If you had every mom in the world bring the macaroni and cheese that she makes special for her family.  Each one would win.  The judges would not be able to pick a clear winner because they’d all be great.”
     The little guy was puzzled.  “But how can that be?   What’s the secret?   There has to be a secret ingredient.”
     “There is a secret ingredient son and, most if not all moms have it.  Look at how your mom is smiling at you.  It’s love.  That’s the ingredient.  Moms have it by the bucketful. “
     I was getting a little too syrupy for a nine year old.  So, we called it a draw.   He agreed that his mom knew all there was to know when it comes to macaroni and cheese,  but, he still wanted her to get the macaroni and cheese blend.
     She said she’d give the stuff a try.   He grabbed one bag of it and they went down the aisle, together.