Let’s have a shoutout for the seven remaining Madges in the world

mo madgeGeorge Carlin has an absolutely hilarious sketch in which he heatedly explains how he hates guys named Todd, not to mention Scott, Jason, Justin and all the other new-fangled names. He wonders whatever happened to guys with ‘real’ names, like Eddie. You know, like Fast Eddie, the poolshark Paul Newman played in The Hustler.

Now, all you Todds and Scotts, don’t get pissed off with me about this, George said it, not I. But, the real point of the issue is, how names, male and female have changed so profoundly over the years as they slip in and out of fashion.

Male babies born in Edwardian times and for decades after as often as not were stuck with the name Edward, consequently we get Carlin’s Eddies. My dad’s first name was George and, of course, the King at the time of his birth (1916) was George V. Georgie-Porgie Bush got his ‘George’ from his father, who quite possibly was named in deference to either the King of England or George Washington, who was probably named after George I or II of England.

Where the hell Ian came from, I have no idea. I hated my name when I was little because I didn’t know any other Ians. Then, when I was about 10 another Ian moved to the neighborhood, and that made it seem more acceptable since he was a pretty neat kid.

But, I don’t want to dwell so much on male names as I do on female. Female names today are profoundly different from when I was a kid. When I was in elementary school we just had a whole slew of Lindas, Carols, Judys, Trudys, Susans, Annes, Wendys, Dianes, Karens, Sheilas, Shirleys, Carolyns and Carolines, Debras (not to mention Deborahs) and a bunch of others. Like you could always recognize a ’55 Chevy, you could also recognize a female born around that time because she probably sports on of the aforementioned names.

The female names I like best, however, are the ones you just never hear anymore. Those were the names sported by friends of your mother or grandmother, depending on your age.

Like, when did you last run into a female born since 1920 who was named ‘Madge?’ The last Madge of my recall (other than Madonna, who chose Madge as a nickname) was the manicurist who soaked her clients’ fingers in Palmolive liquid. She not only was named Madge, she looked like a Madge. She could never have been a Chelsea, for example.

Those great old names had associations that were either fair or unfair, but all you had to do was hear the name of a woman you’d never met, and you formed a visual image of her. I’ll list a few of them. If one of them happens to be your name, please don’t take umbrage. You might, for example, be an absolutely wonderful Gladys (Wendy’s late Mom’s name, so I can get away with this example.)

Dot: Dot is a waitress in a diner. She has a pencil stuck behind her ear and she licks the tip of it before she takes your order on her pad. She has a heart-of-gold and always makes sure the truckers have their coffee topped up. The truckers love Dot.

Bertha: There’s no way around this. Berthas are big and fat. The name sounds big and fat. The Allies name the huge German cannon ‘Big Bertha’ for understandable reasons.

Lola: Lolas are a bit on the slutty side, but in a kind of sensual way. They are peroxide blondes who smoke heavily and like their martinis just a little too much. “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.”

Wanda: Wandas, on the other hand, are also a bit slutty, but in a more basic manner. Wendy has a perfectly respectable friend named ‘Wanda’ but I always have to bite my lip slightly when she mentions her name, just to refrain from making a lewd comment.

Myrtle: Now, there’s an old-fashioned name with which to conjure. You hardly ever run into Myrtles these days. Myrtles worked in the same small-town bank for 40 years; they were maiden ladies (as they were called in those days), but were quite jolly sorts, and pillars at serving at the church’s annual strawberry tea.

Daisy: My mother-in-law had a friend named Daisy whose last name, before she married was – wait for it – ‘Duck’. This is absolutely true. When the cartoon character came out she opted for using her second name, Margaret.

Mabel: Mabels worked in the local five-and-dime. They were salt-of-the-earth and if you had a question about any of the merchandise you always went to Mabel because she had been working there since Lincoln was president and she knew everything about everything within its walls. A different Mabel was a bar waitress, if you remember the old beer slogan: “Hey, Mabel. Black Label!”

Blanche: Blanche was the head nurse at the local hospital. Blanche RN, if you prefer. Severe but probably attractive in her day. She was rumored to have once had a torrid affair with a married surgeon, who then left her in his wake when he ran off with a comely young LPN named Marcia. Marcias were inclined to be on the cute and on the flirtatious side, in my experience.

Esme: Now, there is a nifty name from days of yore. My aunt had a friend named Esme, born like she was around the time of World War One. It’s a name I want to use in a story and think I shall. Salinger already did that, but since he’s dead now he can’t claim proprietorship of Esme.

Anyway, I could go on and on with this, but will refrain. But, please, think kind thoughts about all the Hortenses and Millicents you might have known in your life – you might never see their names pass this way again.

On the whole I am from the Groucho school of marxism

Groucho-Marx-Duck-Soup-e1434598275998I’ve never been much on open-casket funerals. Call me a killjoy but I’d rather see loved ones when they’re alive. If they’re not still alive – which is why I am at their funeral – I can quite easily remember them from their vital days.

I have attended a few of the aforementioned and the one thing that always struck me about them is that the dead really do look, well, dead. Slap on the pancake and lipstick, but they still look dead.

Also, as a former reporter, I have seen dead people who have died tragically in accidents and the like. Never pleasant but again, the dead people really do look dead. Dead people on TV shows never do. They are always rosy-cheeked and the dead girls, for example, still look rather darn pretty. Dead people don’t look pretty. They don’t look ugly, either. They mainly look dead.

As a consequence of my feelings on the matter, I just don’t get mummification. I have seen some of the Egyptian mummies in the British Museum. They not only look dead, they also look pretty much the worse for wear down the millennia since, due to their perceived holiness, they were not destined to be interred in a respectful manner, but instead had to spend their eternity being gawked at by common Egyptians, and then later by boring Egyptologists and fat tourists from Dubuque. Actually, a lot of Egyptian mummies bear a remarkable resemblance to the late John D. Rockefeller.

But, in the mummification biz there is something that has always struck me as curious. OK, the dead Egyptian guys were deemed holy and to be worshipped. But why do commies gravitate towards vladimir-lenin-bodymummification?

They ostensibly believe in a classless society, and they aren’t big on the God thing. So why do they try to turn their dead leaders into demigods that will attract pilgrims to their shrines for eternity. By the dictates of Marx we’re all the same. So, why isn’t every schmo entitled to mummification? Well, it was Orwell who suggested some pigs are more equal than others, but that was his cynical view of Marxian hypocrisy.

Latest contender to soon be enshrined is Venezuelan dictator Cesar Chavez. Those left-of-centre may object to my usage of ‘dictator’ to describe a guy some venerate as an icon, but I call dictators as I sees ‘em. It’s a bit like people who vacation in Cuba and convince themselves they aren’t having fun-in-the-sun in a police state. Anyway, those are my views and this is my blog.

In that Chavez joins other notable mummified commies like Lenin, Stalin (until he fell into deserved disfavor and got relegated to the underground), Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and probably Fidel ere long.

I might want to visit Venezuela someday, but I don’t think Cesar’s corpse will be high on my agenda’s must-sees.

And I prefer to get my doses of Marx from Groucho.

Spending a penny isn’t always cheap

peeI posted an item on Facebook the other day that ascertained that if you are driving your car on the freeway and have to pee so badly you are on the verge of wetting yourself, your mental state at such a time of duress is the same as being impaired by alcohol.

It must be true since the finding was the result of academic research and academic research is always infallible – right?

How do they test the pee urgency-booze equation? I have no idea and probably don’t need to know.

I do know that if a body has been out somewhere and the urge to void has struck, then walking to the door of house or apartment and inserting the key will instantly increase the desperation 10 thousandfold. There’s even a clinical name for it. It’s called ‘latch-key urgency.’

Human beings are very shy about their functioning, I’ve found. It’s odd, really, since we all do it a number of times a day, but don’t want others to know about it if it can possibly be avoided.

A female friend told me of how she wet her pants in elementary school because she was embarrassed to tell the teacher (and the entire class) she needed to go. Yet, I daresay the mortification of peeing herself in public was surely much greater than simply raising her hand and getting up and leaving the room.

But, people do things to avoid letting others know that they either need to spend a penny or are in the process of voiding at any particular moment. Some folks, women especially, will turn on the faucet and run the water so that nobody can hear their tinkle hit the water in the toilet. This is a situation that rarely applies to males. Let’s face it, we pee at urinals and on trees. It’s virtually public domain stuff for guys.

It has been said that one of the marks of royalty is an infinite capacity for not needing to use the toilet. In that context the Queen consumes very few liquids when she’s out and about.

“I say, hold off on the opening of Parliament, chaps, I must whiz like a racehorse!” No, it just wouldn’t do.

And, with my perverse mind, I have sometimes wondered when people get trapped in an elevator for hours and hours how it is decided where to pee and who is brave enough to bring up the subject first.

Come on, you’ve wondered that, too.

And that’s the end of this pissy topic.

There must be a common denominator for bullying but I am damned if I know what it is

Teenage Girl Victim Of Bullying By Text MessagingA few years ago we were exposed to the sad, sad tale of young Amanda Todd and it is one that is still worth reiterating. Amanda was the 15-year-old Miss from the greater Vancouver area who attested that she was the victim of relentless cyber-bullying and posted a clip on the Internet in which she threatened to kill herself. And then did just that.

I will refrain from posting a photo of young Amanda because I don’t want to hit her suffering parents with even more exposure to that familial tragedy. In fact, I won’t dwell too relentlessly on the sad case of Amanda except to look at the concept of bullying in general.

To cut to the chase in the case of Amanda, however, what happened is a creep – posing as an adolescent male in the Internet – talked young Amanda a couple of years earlier into baring her titties on the Net. And as these things go, it went viral. Furthermore, stats show that Amanda is far from alone in exposing intimate bits for public scrutiny – especially amongst the younger female population, but for some reason it ate at her right to the core. She found herself mocked and victim of nasty shithead attacks from both males and females. Oh, and it turned out that the creep who talked her into exposing herself was far older than an adolescent. Same old story, with different details and in this case a horrific and sad ending.

Cyberbullying has, of course, put a new complication to a human behavior that is as old as humanity. Certain people see it as their role to make the lives of the alleged ‘weaker’ a misery. But, with kids today it is so out there and the cowardly knaves (and your parents were right, bullies are invariably cowards) can hide in electronic anonymity whilst they torment their victims. All I can say is that parents must be ever-vigilant of a kid’s electronic behavior.

Of course the invariable cry is for officialdom to ‘do’ something? What? Bully the bullies to make them stop? Pull out all stops to protect the victims? Bring in harsh punishments? New strictures are about as effective as ordering a drunk to stop drinking. It never works. He’ll drink in defiance and will only quit when he (or she) makes that decision – or not.

But, as I suggested, bullying is endemic to the beast. I remember kids who were bullied and, in some respects, they invited it. Not consciously, but there was something in their bearing, appearance and attitude that seemed to provide an invitation. Other kids, often equally geeky or unfortunate in appearance in those awful cesspits of human interaction, junior and senior high schools, were never touched. I’ve never fully figured out why.

I can honestly state that to my recall, I was never victimized by bullies. That isn’t because I was in any way cool, especially not in my elementary school days. I was the geekiest looking little bugger that you could find. Added to which, I wore glasses. How bad is that? I made Leonard on Big Bang Theory look like Joe Cool. Think of the kid in The Christmas Story with his specs and bunny jimmies and that was kinda me. But remember too when he was pushed to the limit he pounded the shit out of the neighborhood bully.

No, I wasn’t bullied. And I have no specific answers as to why. I can, however, think of two things. One: I had a sense of humor. I was funny and I could make kids laugh. Two: (and maybe more important) I was pretty good with my fists. I wasn’t athletic and I looked like a nerd but I could throw a punch if goaded sufficiently. That gets around. Despite the Biblical adage about turning the other cheek (which actually can also work in some instances of bullying; just ignore the pricks and they might stop), sometimes it is necessary to smite your enemy or make a good job of trying. That gets around. Just like Ralphie in Christmas Story.

My convoluted point is bullying is never going to go away but there are techniques that kids can learn to offset the rigors of gratuitous cruelty. They should be clear that society will always have its ‘Blutos’ and they won’t go away when school days end. You’ll later find them in offices and other adult walks of life. Learn to deal with them.

As for kids, as I suggest, parents should be vigilant and advice to younger ones is keep your shirts and pants on because those electronic pictures will last forever.

None of this will bring poor Amanda back and my heart goes out to her family and friends, but parents must take steps to know just exactly WTF is going on with their kids, take pains to provide really honest (and non-shocked) help and perhaps avoid future Amandas, may she rest in peace.

You like stumbling out to pee in the middle of the night? Have I got a deal for you

campstoveOut on the shelves of our garage, along with the rest of the ephemera is a considerable quantity of camping gear of all description. Camping? I mean, wha-a-at?? Wendy and I have been a couple for (I think) 16 years and never once have we gone camping, or had the impulse to do so.

Camping to me is punctuated by a desperate need to pee at 3 am with the sure knowledge that one will have to venture out into a darkness that may be populated by bears and cougars and wolverines all for the sake of not peeing accidentally in one’s sleeping bag.

And sleeping bags. What a less-than-savory site to grab your 40 and it is probably situated atop a rickety camp cot or worse yet, an air-mattress. No camping charm happening so far.

So, that is why we have selected lovely outer-deck suites on cruise ships, or beachfront condos in Hawaii for vacations in recent years – but never camping. If God had meant one to camp he wouldn’t have created shipboard suites or condos on Kauai.

So in the garage we have two – count ’em, two – tents. We have sleeping bags and cots and backpacks and stoves and all of the other stuff that will enable a modern person to live like it’s still 1857. Pooping in a two-holer always filled me with enchantment. Or reading in a tent with gas lantern going – a lantern that is methodically sucking up all the oxygen in the tent. Or making love in a sleeping bag? Sort of takes a little fun out of the process no matter how urgent.

tentSo, we have all this stuff. The products of the lives of two people who were married a priori and bought their former shit with them, living under the delusion it would be ever so much going camping together at some point in a magical future. But it has never happened. The stuff was relegated to the garage and there it has sat for years and years.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate all aspects of camping, and the most enjoyable part is rising at sunup, smelling the foresty air, listening to the rippling of a brook (you know, the one you could hear when your bladder was bursting the previous night) and then firing up that Coleman campstove of the old green sort that had to be pumped up to get the right pressure in that white gas tank.

When the stove is lit the coffee is set to perk and soon its fragrance will be permeating the vicinity, only to be trumped by the perfume of the morning bacon when it begins to sizzle. Meanwhile, the campfire is also reignited from the night before and all is primal heaven.

So, if I miss anything about camping it’s that morning stuff.

Meanwhile, anybody want any camping gear in moderately decent condition?

You’re telling me dear little Nelson is what? Ayyy, Chihuahua!!

'I just want you to know I've been reading  US Weekly and I'm literally ashamed of your behaviour.'

‘I just want you to know I’ve been reading US Weekly and I’m literally ashamed of your behaviour.’

Ever since we picked up Nelson a few months back we have been faced with the same conundrum we had to deal with in the early days of Max.

Rescue dogs both it comes down to a matter of figuring out their lineage. In the case of Max we bore with it for a few months and we had speculated that he was probably a German Shepherd cross, judging by appearances. Finally we had him DNA tested. Nope, not a corpuscle of shepherd. Predominantly a smooth-coat collie and malamute cross. We could live with that – easily. Fine breeds. Of course they also mention that he had a goodly amount of Chow in him. Neither of us really fancy Chows, so we chose to ignore that aspect of the boy’s heritage.

And now there is Nelson. Also of dubious parentage. To me he looks like a beagle. A teeny-tiny beagle. We do know he has terrier in him. His bro from his California puppyhood, whom we met at the foster home, is definitely a terrier, kind of Jack Russelish. As for the rest, well this is when I get irked. Wendy is opting for chihuahua. He is little like one. But, I don’t really like chihuahuas. Aren’t they kind of yappy and irksome? In my mind they are. But Nelson is definitely not yappy. Rarely hear him bark, which is a blessing.

So, I guess there is just one thing for it. We have to have him tested. But if the C-word breed prevails, what am I to do? If I held it against him would that not be like being a racial bigot? Something that is anathema to me.

So what is my problem here? I like Mexicans I have known and I definitely like Mexico, so their favored canine breed should be just muy bien for me. Well, it is, but maybe not by that name. Speedy Gonzales be damned. I know Speedy is a mouse, but he looks chihuahua-ish to me.

But a chihuahua. Aren’t those the little creatures Paris Hilton-sluts carry around in their bags? How am I to get over that?

Should worse come to worst I guess I will live with it, but I do hope Wendy is a bit wrong.

A testament of love to my dear Aunt Audrey

001Today my Aunt Audrey marked her centenary. A full hundred. I am delighted. And she remains a very classy looking dame, featuring the best looks of her parents, my beloved maternal grandparents.

Audrey is one of the first relatives of my recall. Her son Bruce is a year and half older than I am and he and I (by dint of age) became very close as children and remain friends to this day. And we played together happily. But Audrey was married to a kind of roustabout golf pro in those days so they ended up moving a lot and Bruce would go away and I wouldn’t see him for a while.

Later his sister Susan was born and she added a third member to my grandparents’ roster of grandkids. Many, many more were to follow.

But, this is about Audrey and her 10 (count ’em 10) decades on this planet and well-deserved they have been in my esteem. Audrey was unique in a family of seven kids in that she was the only child of fiercely Brit expat parents to have been born in the UK. That was due to the fact that my grandfather was wounded in the Trenches and my grandmother went back ‘home’ to see to him during his convalescence. She obviously saw to him well and ended up pregnant and giving birth in old Blighty.

There are many things I could write about my aunt, and aunt who once referred to me (and the sentiment flattered me a great deal) as her ‘other son’. It wouldn’t have flattered my own mother a lot since such a reference from her older sister seemed to cast aspersions on Mother’s maternal skills. About that I can only say, ‘if the shoe fits….’

audrey birthdayAnyway, I thoroughly liked Audrey, always loved hanging out with her. She , was intelligent, well-read, humorous as only a girl who had a name but, for some reason known best to him, was never Audrey to her father, but ‘Rory’.

After a convoluted and distressing marriage finally ended, Audrey went back and got her degree in public health, and also married for a 2nd time to a wonderfully eccentric, and rivetingly intelligent man whom I got along with wall, albeit not everyone did. I was very pleased to attend that wedding.

That husband died a few years ago and Audrey was left alone but never lonely as she had not only her children but a goodly crew of grandchildren.

Bless you, Aunt Audrey, and long may you prosper. You have always had great value as a surrogate mom to me, and I love you dearly.