Monday, May 30, 2011

Paying Attention To The Men And Women Behind The Curtain

You know a blog as far-reaching and, well, as big as this one doesn't get blogged by itself (hence, I guess, the dearth of posts lately in my busy life). No, it takes a small-office village to blog idiotic. So, while I get all the accolades, in truth there are a few dozen people whose collective talents, wisdom, and hard labor make spitoutyourgum what it is. In the spirit of the holiday, then, (though thankfully they are all still with us), I'd like to remember and give shout outs to all the good folks toiling behind the scenes who make this blog possible.

Upper Management Guy Guy "Bigger" Thomas keeps the whole shebang humming with his Post-Its and stern reprimands (ow, my wrist). If you ever read this, Guy, I'll wear a tie to work for a week straight. And yes, you can consider this "in writing."

Leslie Huggams, Office Manager: With your saucy wit, your paper clips, coffee machine upkeep, and obsessive shoulder punches, you make the workplace a veritable Currier & Ives environment. May your daughter find happiness in her fourth marriage and your beloved Pug 'Nacious chew up all your furniture for years to come.

Troy Cadd: Is there a more anal "in a good way" Accounts Debatable person working in the media today? I can't imagine. My money's on eHarmony finally working its magic for you this summer, man.

Perpetual Intern Suzzsyie Caloric: Love the new tat, girl.

IT Boy Channing "Circuits" Power: You do that spritz thing on my keyboard bi-weekly; you Windex my screen fortnightly; and on demand you do that voodoo thing with my on/off switch whenever things get haywiringly SNAFUish: where would this blog be without you, kid? Buck up, there'll be a whisker to shave in due time.

Waste Management Aficionado Tony. You're correct, Tony. We don't really need to know your last name. We just need to thank you for the air fresheners, your mastery of the plunger, and your effervescent aroma. Just how do you keep that Cadillac so shiny, though? No, that's a rhetorical question meant as a compliment; no need to answer.

Ever since I was a lad and watched the 1976 Democratic National Convention "gavel to gavel," I have been infatuated with sign language interpreters. And for the past twelve years I have been fortunate enough to have Sookie Triplett at my side accompanying me on all my travels and trysts to provide precise sign language for all my interpersonal interactions in the event that anyone in the vicinity is audio challenged. Sookie, you're simply the best. Hey, sign this! (Inside joke).

Larry Fine, Fact Checker: The fact that we have no staff attorney is proof that your work speaks for itself, Mr. Fine. Fine job as always.

Staff: God knows what all twenty-five or so of you do but rest assured no one does it better, individually or in teams or collectively. I swear, really this time, to attach names to faces and have it all memorized by this year's xmas party. And, sure, I'll look into the asbestos situation and see if we can't trim the sick day call-offs a bit. You mean the world to me.

And so, the lesson is, no blogger is an island. He/she's more of an atoll with a lot of washed up (not in a negative way) flotsam and even some jetsam helping to sustain his fragile ego ecosystem. Thank you all.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Only One Ball Off The Carpet? Not For Mulligan

I've been called a Cracker only once. This is the story.

To begin with, we were never sure if Mulligan was his first name or last. You'd think it would be his last, but Peterson always swore it was his first and in time he (Peterson) persuaded a few of us to at least have doubts; all we were all sure of was that nobody knew another name, first or last, to go with Mulligan. Not that Peterson really knew the guy. Nobody really did, we realized much later. It was that time right out of college when your group of friends is pretty limited--high school buddies, college ones, maybe a childhood friend or two (long before one's network of friends extended to co-workers, neighbors, parents of kids' friends, in-laws)--and everyone not in the core group of us high school classmates could be easily connected to one who was. Except for this guy. A few years later when he was gone from our orbit, when we were telling old stories (as much as thirty-year-olds have old stories to tell) we kind of realized no one could be definitively, as in the Alpha-friend, connected to the guy. As far as we could tell, he just showed up and attached himself. We couldn't even agree on when he showed up: Fischer always argued it was the night of the darts marathon at Shakey's Pub, while Peterson himself claimed it was the night we had to get Straka out of jail. Whatever, he was one of us, and he was only, ever, known as Mulligan.

When I say he attached himself to us, it might sound negative, like he was the hanger-on nobody really liked too much. Not so. I'd say we pretty much collectively opened our arms to him (which, being young and parochial in ways literal and figurative, was no small group accomplishment; I mean if we had known that first night--whichever one it was--that nobody knew him, that he was not friend-vouched-for in some way, we surely would have shunned him, and Straka probably would have picked a fight with him within five minutes); he was immediately and ever after a fun, funny, all for one kind of guy. In those first couple of months/years of hodgepodge transition from college to adulthood, Mulligan was omnipresent. Everybody had had him as a kind of temporary roommate for at least a week or two, if not for two years, like Peterson. Everybody had had his car temporarily cured of its ills by Mulligan's voodoo-like under-the-hood ministrations. Everybody eventually had a girlfriend who had to endure (sort of like a benign hazing ritual) a drunken, clumsy declaration of love from Mulligan. And of course, everybody lent the guy money. But shit, as much as he could irritate you in the minute, you loved him for the hour. He was always the one who'd show up first thing with some suspect van/truck/U-Haul with an even more suspect crony when you were moving to a new place. A twelve-pack, a medium onion pizza, and ten bucks for the crony was all it ever cost you. Need a ride to or from the airport or place of employment in a pinch? Get ahold of Mulligan--he'd be there, always in a different car, to help you within half an hour. Need someone to go out with a girlfriend's friend? Mulligan. Fischer always tells the story of him showing up at one of these friendly set-ups with sunglasses, a cane, and a dog, which effectively ended his blind date go-to status on a high note. It's amazing that after all these years, after all the nostalgicohol get-togethers, everyone, and multiple sub-groups, has at least one Gospel of Mulligan story the others have never heard of.

No one of course could verify it, but it would seem that Mulligan was one of those guys who had a beer belly at the age of seven. And of course he could fart prodigiously and (it embarrasses me to say this, that there were actually a variety of appropriate occasions) appropriately for the occasion. Never what one would call tall, in the few years we knew him, Mulligan seemed to shrink, as if his already low center of gravity just kept sagging. When we first got to know him he had lost a bit of hair in the front and you assumed it would all be gone in five years, but he never seemed to lose any more. If by some miracle we saw him today, I'd be willing to bet his unkempt pile of light brown hair would be the most copious of us all, excepting Peterson's, of course, though Mulligan's I'm sure wouldn't be surgically enhanced. The smallest hands I've ever seen on a grown man. More than one of has said he would have been known as Stubby if he wasn't so completely Mulligan.

Among the many entertaining endeavors Mulligan involved us in, The League of Hackers is, to me, most memorable. He was the worst golfer, between his hyperactvity, beer intake, penchant for new gadgets and "hack thoughts," and fiery temper (always directed solely at himself). It was never a regular league, but a few times a summer you'd get a short message on your answering machine: "Pine Nook, 7:10, 7:18, 7:26, Sunday. Be there with a blank check made out to me, Mulligan. I've got plenty of coolers." The kind of guy who always had plenty of coolers. Why so early, we never knew and never could budge him from. "Dew's good for you," is all he'd say. And every time there was some new exotic bet, but always, afterward, on some patio, sweat-inundated, stubby pencil in his stubby hands, Mulligan would pore over the score cards, eventually emit a soul-aching, "Shit," toss the pencil over his shoulder, and declare, "Peterson gets a buck from everyone, everyone else basically smashed, and I owe everyone five bucks. I'll square up with you all next time." The ensuing laughter was all the squaring up we required.

It's so old by now and done by everybody that it should be aggravating as hell, but it still amuses: the practice swing on the first hole where the follow-thru consists of instantly reaching your left hand into your pocket and muttering, "Shit, I'm hittin' another one." Peterson, naturally, has his own take. When placing his ball on the tee on the first hole, he declares, "I gotta hit another one, guys."

We were playing at High-Lo for some reason once, probably on account of Straka's stalking one of the beer cart girls there. By this time, we had all pretty much followed Mulligan's lead at taking two tee shots off the first tee, though we weren't calling them Mulligans then (that came much later, after we lost touch with him). Almost as if he knew his place, Mulligan naturally hit last that day. By the time he had hit a worm-burner barely past the ladies tee and was re-loading another ball on his plastic, illegally-long tee, the surly black starter was flooring his suped-up cart down to the tee in fits of anger and shouting, "Only one ball off the carpet! Only one ball off the carpet." Mulligan, as stoic as I ever saw him, just waited, standing over the re-teed second ball, idly swinging his driver, watching the guy drive up until he braked loudly and repeated his admonition. "You guys hitting balls all over the place. I got starting times to keep up. Only one ball off the carpet. One ball off the carpet." Mulligan looked at the man and politely said, "Sir, men were born with two balls. It would go against nature and God's plan not to make full use of them." Without even looking away from the starter, Mulligan cranked up his herky-jerky swing and mashed one down the fairway; we agree it was his best shot ever. The starter just shook his head, muttered, "Crackers," and putt-putted his cart away. Straka swears the guy had to work the choke knob a few times to get it going.

One More Shot--Danko, Fjeld & Andersen

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rolls And Rolls And Rolls Of Coins For That Minstrel Boy

What to say to/about Bob Dylan on the occasion of his 70th birthday tomorrow, May 24th, that isn't already being said by thousands of others on the Internet, airwaves, and in the print media? How about, thank you, Bob?

I've been listening intently to Bob for nearly thirty-four years. Around Christmas in 1977 I used a record store gift certificate to buy Bob's first Greatest Hits album and Neil Young's Decade--pretty astute purchases for a 14-year-old, I believe. I'd give anything to go back to those first few hours lying on my bed listening to that first clutch of Dylan songs and be able to pick the brain of that young boy. What did that odd, dry voice, those variously quiet and raucous sounds, that torrent of words all mean to me then, what did it all do to me? Years later I read quotes from Bob about not trying to understand his songs but to feel them, and from Bruce Springsteen about Bob freeing the mind like Elvis freed the body and how the opening of "Like A Rolling Stone" sounded like busting out of jail (or was that Bob talking about hearing Elvis? who cares, it's all the same)--I wouldn't have been able to articulate thoughts like those at 14, but I guess all of that is probably pretty accurate to the effect. My initial exposure to Bob's music presented me with a set of doors (some opened, others ajar, more seemingly locked but with a promise that with time they'd be priable) I didn't even know existed. Over the years those doors have opened into mazes of hallways and further doors, and I'm happy to say I'm still delirious to be lost in the maze and hunting around corners for more doors, as long as they're not marked EXIT.

I remember a few months after the purchase of that Greatest Hits album, while I proudly held my latest acquisition, Highway 61 Revisited (still my all-time favorite album), which was probably about the fourth or fifth Dylan album I had bought, my sister said to me, somewhat critically, "Are you going to buy all of his albums?" I'm sure defensively, like most 14-year-olds, I muttered something like, "No!" but inside I'm sure I was thinking, that's not a bad idea; probably, I guess. Mission long since accomplished.

I could go on and on blathering about What Bob Means To Me (and I had kind of planned on it), but really, what's the point? Ultimately it's a personal thing, and a few thousand words here would only serve to show how inarticulate trying to explain What Bob Means To Me would render me.

For a lifetime of pleasure, provocation, education, and inspiration, thank you, Bob. And Happy Birthday.

Bob Dylan and The Band--Minstrel Boy

Friday, May 20, 2011

Be A Rock Swami For A Good Cause

A few times in the past I've mentioned a great site, Rock Town Hall. It's a place to argue/debate, opine about all sorts of rock music personalities, arcana, sacred and not-so sacred cows. The site is run by two friends of mine from college, Mr. Moderator and Sammy Maudlin. Unfortunately, a few months ago Sammy suffered a serious head injury. He is recovering nicely, but he and his family still face some significant medical bills. Mr. Moderator has been organizing some benefits for him, and now has come up with a great idea for everybody everywhere to help out. Read more about and enter the contest here, but in a nutshell, contestants are being asked to predict an artist/song that will be played during a regular 20 minute "Classic Rock Block" on a given "Classic Rock" station the night of June 4th. Each prediction costs a buck; if you predict correctly, you win the 50/50 raffle. So, to test your classic rock wisdom and to help out a good friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and spend a few bucks.

Now in my Kentucky Derby going days, I handicapped a few races to profitable results, so I'm going to try my hand here. I'm giving away these ten picks FREE, and I will not enter them on my own, but I guarantee you at least one of these tunes will be played during those 20 minutes on June 4th. So, spend a few bucks on these picks, and I'm sure you'll win your money back, and then some. I'm so sure I'm right I'll even stay away from the gimmees, classic rock's Big Three, The Beatles, The Stones, and Zeppelin. Thanks.
  • The Who--Won't Get Fooled Again
  • Moody Blues--Nights in White Satin
  • Tom Petty et al.--Refugee
  • The Doors-- Riders on the Storm
  • Steppenwolf--Magic Carpet Ride
  • The Eagles--Hotel California
  • David Bowie--Rebel Rebel
  • Lou Reed--Walk On the Wild Side
  • Jimi Hendrix--All along the Watchtower
  • The Kinks--Lola

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Will I Be Blogging A Week From Now?

When I first heard a few months ago that some group somewhere was predicting The Rapture to occur this May 21 (as in like this Saturday), I must admit I scoffed at the notion. If, as the group claimed, careful analysis of the Bible proves that 5/21/11 (or 21/5/11 for you overseas folks) will be the day, why haven't we known about this for years, centuries? But now I'm hedging my scoffing a bit. I mean, bin Laden's dead, the Mississippi River is "closed" (how I wish Mark Twain were still alive to comment on that one), the Cleveland Indians have the best record in baseball, the Cleveland Cavaliers are minutes away from scoring the top two picks in this year's draft, Newt Gingrich is actually running for president, Maria and Arnold have split up, and Bob Dylan is writing notes to his fans via the Internet. Plus, my local Home Depot is reporting a shortage on ark-building supplies. Something's definitely up.

As such, I've got a few questions pertaining to said Rapture if it does indeed occur this Saturday. First of all, as of 5 p.m. on Saturday, I will have earned another complete paycheck. Will I ever see that money, or should I call in sick the rest of the week? Can I finally get my decades longed-for mohawk knowing that whatever ensuing disinheritance ramifications won't last? Is there any way to sneak a glance into the what might have been future to see if the Tribe's magical season continued into October? Would the U.S. have ever elected president a guy named Newt? If hell is indeed right around the corner, can I take back some of what I said in my last post? Is it possibly true that the Rolling Stones were still intact when the world came to an end? Just how much does Michael Stipe know? Has Justin Bieber ever shaved?

If you have correct answers to any of these questions, I would appreciate you sending them to me pre-Saturday. As Alex Chilton once said, "It's time to buy some stuff on credit." See you soon, I think.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Goat Not Gotten

Sorry, some technical issues have interrupted the flow here a bit lately. But I'm not angry. It takes a lot more than that to get my goat. In fact, as far as I know, my life has been pretty goat-free. I'm sure somewhere along the line I've had some goat cheese, but I don't think I've ever eaten any goat or even ever consumed any goat milk. The closest I've ever gotten to a goat was at a friend's house years ago. He raised all sorts of animals. When I asked him if his little kids got attached to the rabbits he raised, therefore making killing them and eating them a difficult proposition, he said no, the kids loved picking out the ones they'd eat next. I'm experienced, what can I say? I've visited many different worlds.

But I've been thinking about goats a lot, or at least more than I ever had, these last couple of weeks. It started with bin Laden's death. Among all the reports coming out of his death, the one that intrigued me the most was the one about how a goat would be delivered to his compound every week. The image has staying power with me for some reason. Naturally, I searched in vain for at least one wise ass headline writer's work along the lines of "U.S. Really Gets bin Laden's Goat." Never found one, though. But sure enough, within days, I came across the "get his goat" line in some reading I was doing, then, apropos of nothing connected to any of this, a co-worker used the phrase. Now how in the world, I wondered, did the phrase "get his goat" get its "to annoy or make angry" meaning? Turns out it has something to do with horse racing. I guess a goat's presence in a horse's stable supposedly has a calming effect on the horse. If you wanted to mess with your rival's horse the night before a big race, you'd literally "get his goat." Fascinating.

Thank God I had learned all this and meditated properly on it before the events of a few days ago; I believe it helped me keep my cool, and probably my job too. Long story short, and believe me, the details are so innocuous and irrelevant that they don't even warrant a parenthetical mention. Suffice it to say, a customer told me I was going to hell and that I had better repent. Thankfully I'm a Gemini who's familiar with the whole negative capability thing: One of my minds reeled with exquisite possible retorts to the customer, while the other mind calmly and coolly envisioned a peaceful goat, bucolically munching on some grass, with nary a nefarious "getter" in sight. I bit my tongue, not as severely as I would have had to sans goat image, and silently kept my doomed ass and mouth in check. Now I'm not saying there aren't a few several a ton of things I probably need to repent for, but I'll bet my butt against damnation that the way I treated the customer isn't one of them.

So now I'm making a concerted effort to take a few minutes each day to breathe deeply, close my eyes, and conjure up peaceful images of a placid, wholly unthreatened goat; I believe my blood pressure has improved and my general regard for the world and its inhabitants has brightened. The repentance project might take a little more effort. BTW, I have gone the extra step to name, appropriately I think, my mental ungotten goat: Dander.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Don't Even Say It

It might be foolish to heap a little scorn on Microsoft, but foolishness calls for foolishness, so what the hell? On the MSN homepage today was a link to their "Lifestyle" page which contained a list of things women should "never, ever say to a guy." In all fairness to Bill Gates, the "article" came with a Glamour magazine logo and the subheading, "we asked men to spill the details on the phrases guys dread." My suspicions are that the whole thing was concocted by some 20-year-old Glamour intern, reflecting her idea of what verbiage would send a guy into a tizzy; if not, if real (sic) men were indeed consulted, it must have been done at a take-out quiche joint--real men don't tizzy.

Read the entire list here, but among the supposed verbal atom bombs the piece warns women against deploying on men are such inanities as "Can you TiVo the game? I need to watch the finale of The Bachelor live." If a guy "dreads" this phrase, he's either as soulless as she or doesn't know an open invitation to spend the evening at a sports bar when it hits him over the head. How about, "Maybe you should pick up some Rogaine"? Guys know the condition of their pates, trust me. If he's been thinking about Rogaine, he'll thank you for the confirmation. If he's not, he'll just laugh, thinking it funny that someone else gives more of a damn about his hair than he does. But be warned: men know the names of some image-enhancing products too, and if he's in a feisty mood, he might consider the door open to make comments along the lines of, "Okay, let's go to Walgreens and while we're at it we can pick up some _______ or ________ for you." Let's see who's full of dread now. One of the "dreaded" phrases that really cracks me up is accompanied by this photo:

"I really wish you'd shave your back." Seems to me the MSN art department could find a picture of a man who just might have a whisker or two of visible body hair to illustrate this damning quip. But really, even if a man has abundant back hair, there are about five million phrases he dreads more than this one. "Fine, I can't see it or reach it, so if it really bothers you, lather me up and go to it. It's no skin off my back, I hope."

Look, let's get real here. Men are narcissistic ego-maniacs, but we're not wimps. It takes a little more than the type of petty digs the article lists to raise our hackles. You want to get a man ticked? Tell him his lawn needs mowing. Guys have a sensitive internal clock that tells them the exact time to cut the grass. Don't mess with it. "Are you going to shower today?" Well, "today" might be a little too constricting, but, yes, I do intend to shower again in the future. "What are you thinking?" Well, whatever it was, it's now been replaced by thinking how in the hell I'm going to answer that question. "Do you have to spit?" Duh (though beware, if you phrase the question, "Do you have to spit like that?" the man may not pick up on the tone of admonition and instead hear it as a more inquisitive statement: "Well, no, I can also spit like this, and like this, and ..."). But the king of them all, no doubt, is this one: "Would it bug you if I said ..." Men are either bugged or not; they don't think about it, which really bugs them. Which is why MSN/Glamour has really bugged me today.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Album Art To Go By

I thought I was being set up. What else are you to think when a co-worker comes up to you all excited and says, "You have to go look in the bathrooms! You have to go look in the bathrooms!"? Plural, as in both the men's and women's public restrooms at work. Being a dutiful employee, as always, I trudged off to the back hall to "look in the bathrooms!" not knowing what I'd find and practicing a ho hum no big deal reaction just in case Candid Camera cameras were rolling. What I found was no practical joke but an art exhibit.

Putting to use some "Frame Your Favorite Album Artwork" frames that haven't sold, the co-worker had festooned the drab walls of both bathrooms with six or seven album covers, and done so with a nuanced, quite aesthetically-pleasing touch. Due to the configurations of the restrooms, the artwork mostly hangs on the wall facing the lone commode in each. Ergo, most of a man's time in the w.c. will be spent with his back to the art. Women, however, will be looking at the framed albums' front covers while they go about their business. Thinking about all the insipid wallpapers and dull paint jobs I've encountered over a lifetime of answering nature's call, I must admit that hanging album art in a bathroom is a great choice, wholly worthy of my co-worker's exclamation points.

Now to wax, as it were, poetic about album cover art, and lamenting its ruination by CDs and now digital downloading, is hardly anything new. We all have our favorite covers that bring back truckloads of memories. But to curate a bathroom album artwork display, especially in a public restroom in a corporate-friendly environment, is a delicate proposition. One needn't unsettle the customer when he or she is still in the middle of shopping and hasn't yet purchased anything. I mean, as much as I love Bob Dylan and his Blonde On Blonde album and its fuzzy, iconic artwork, I don't think I want this image staring at me while I'm porcelain sitting:

Sensitive to this need to provide pleasing, memorable art while not creeping out the customer, my co-worker did an excellent job choosing the albums and displaying them. Most of the albums seem to be from the late 1970s or early 1980s, with colorful yet somewhat abstract covers. I think Journey albums appear in both the men's and women's rooms; I'll make a point of twisting around and staring at Discovery while I happily flush. I love the fact that there's a Stones album in the men's room (the somewhat treacly, unStonesy Flowers album, a cut and pasted U.S.-only release, rather than something a little more authentic and appropriate [the original Beggars Banquet, above], but probably too outre for our customer-friendly environment) while A Flock of Seagulls adorns the women's room walls. Bright and colorful and inoffensive, yes?

But I laugh a little thinking of the hit song from this album, "I Ran."

Of course, if the boss had made me Commode Curator (which assumes the boss is a dolt, which he is far from), things might have turned out a little differently. Cliched as hell, but I would have placed my second favorite cover of all-time, The Who's Who's Next just above the men's toilet.

I'm sure the paper towel dispenser's location there is the only reason why such an artistic statement of purpose was nixed. Also, to speed up any dawdlers in the one-seat men's room while I'm doing a middle-aged male's a cappella dance outside in the hall, I would have placed this baby at eye-level across from the throne:

Okay, so my interior design skills should be contained to a man cave and not allowed to wander freely in public restrooms, but I do believe there is room for common ground, a chance for my all-time favorite album cover to hang inoffensively, even appropriately, in such a setting: Neil Young's amazing On The Beach.

Is there an album cover, or album itself, that sums up not only the malaise of 1974 America but the contemplative nature of man's daily private sit-down better than this? Oh the hours I have spent examining this cover. The flowery umbrella, chairs, and paper cup, the cheap can of beer, the "Sen. Buckley Calls For Nixon To Resign" headline on the abandoned newspaper, the discarded boots, the desultory surf, Neil's incongruous electric wardrobe, the long hair, the back to the world hands in pockets despairing shrug stance, and that perfect, half-buried tail fin (which I always thought was a crash-landed UFO)--all of it so casually (un)staged and fitting so perfectly the title song's sad lazy lines: "Now I'm living out here on the beach/but those seagulls are still out of reach" (actually, Neil, there's a flock of them right next door in the women's room). Turn the cover over and the image continues--just a long stretch of sand with a lone potted palm tree, the physical, fauna representation of Neil in full shakey mode. Brilliance.

May your trips to the loo be as memory-stirring and as artistically pleasing as mine at work will now be.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Show Me The Damn Photo!

Call me naive, but unless Osama bin Laden starts popping up on videos claiming he's not dead yet and that they got the wrong guy, I believe. But in this day and age when everybody wants proof of everything, seemingly only so they can point out how in this day and age everything can be faked, I guess all we're going to hear about is doubt until photos are actually released and then more insidious doubt once they are.

Fine, but I want to see some historical photos myself. A sampling:
  • a photo of Rush Limbaugh looking humble
  • a photo of Harry Reid looking well-fed
  • a photo of Clarence Thomas talking from the bench
  • a photo of Donald Trump getting out of the shower (from the shoulders up only, please)
  • a photo of JFK and Marilyn sharing a cigarette
  • a photo of Nixon looking suave
  • a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald at the precise time the shots were fired
  • a photo of Sarah Palin reading a newspaper
  • a photo of Walt Whitman and Abe Lincoln exchanging waves on a street in D.C.
  • a photo of Huck Finn ripping up his letter to Miss Watson
  • a photo of Bob Dylan at Woody Guthrie's bedside
  • a photo of a two-legged Captain Ahab
  • a photo of Bruce Wayne tugging the mask over his face
  • a photo of J.D. Salinger taking a photo of himself in a mirror
  • a photo of Ernest Hemingway ducking a punch
  • a photo of Ali not looking cool

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jerry vs. Gerry

At times I've had my doubts, but I think it's clear to me now that not any of my thousands of readers is a nit-picker. Thank God, because a dedicated, well-meaning blogger has enough hurdles to leap as it is. I refer to my post of a few days ago concerning the ramifications of having a Father Nature/Earth instead of a Mother one. In my haste to communicate such weighty thoughts I used the word gerryrig. Thankfully, no one called me on it, but nevertheless, I'm here to beg forgiveness; there is no such word. Having never written it before, and probably rarely if ever speaking the word, my incompetence with it was obvious. Sure enough, the next day in reading something, I came across the word jerry-rig, which I believe is the correct spelling. Interestingly enough (to me, at least) I say "believe" because in researching the word, all I came up with was jerry-built, which means "cheaply and shoddily built," which was the meaning I was going after with my gerryrig faux pas. Nobody seems to know where jerry-built came from: some poor Jerry, a would-be handyman with imagination and no chops, probably rigged up something, showed it to some smart-ass, and forever was stained with the perjorative term. From there I guess it was a quick leap to combine jury-rigging with jerry-built and hence jerry-rig.

Anyway, the whole experience got me thinking of guys named Jerry or Gerry. Now I'm sure there are plenty of boys out there named Jerome or Gerald these days, but I'd be willing to bet not many of them go by Jerry or Gerry. Just doesn't sound like a 21st Century kid's name, Jerry or Gerry. What really interests me, though, is the difference between a Jerry and a Gerry. Truth be told, and I'm not trying to justify my misspelling, but Jerry seems (I was going to write "sounds" which would really make no sense) like someone who would actually be quite handy with building things, whereas Gerry would be more of a destroyer of things. "Jerry spent all week building the cutest clubhouse, then Gerry came over all drunk and trashed the place in five minutes." Read that quote juxtaposing the names and it doesn't make any sense, does it? Jerry is slim, sensible, dependable, and, for some reason I can't explain, profuse with body hair; Gerry is stout, raucous, nearly hairless, and a helluva lot of fun. Jerry makes a name for himself (Garcia, above) while Gerry makes a scene and is quickly forgotten (Cooney, above). I'd love to do a test and ask women if they would pefer to go on a blind date with a guy named Jerry or a guy named Gerry. I'm sure you could tell a lot about the women who go for either one--just what, I don't know, but I bet the results would be pretty conclusive.

And just what would be the qualities of something that was tom-rigged or dave-rigged or sam-rigged or God forbid, dan-rigged? I'd take my chances on the sam-rigged.

Finally, the word gerrymander. Now this makes sense: Jerry builds/rigs, Gerry manders. "What the hell is that nearly hairless stout guy doing out there, Martha?" "Oh, that's just Gerry. He's mandering, as usual." Here's where it gets really interesting. Gerrymander (the practice of carving up strangely shaped voting districts for the benefit of one party vs. another) comes from a 19th Century Massachusetts governor by the name of Elbridge Gerry. Gotta believe the name Elbridge didn't even make it into the 20th, let alone the 21st century; I'd take Jerry or Gerry hands down over Elbie any day. And the -mander? From salamander, as in the shape of the cockeyed districts old Elbridge drew up. Now that's a word: gerrymander. Must use it more in my everyday language. "Say Bill, why don't you gerrymander yourself over to the bar and buy us another round?" "Great peas, grandma, wouldya mind gerrymandering them back to me for seconds?" "Hey Jerry, gas up that jitney you jerry-built and let's gerrymander over to Gerry's man-cave before the keg gets warm."

I'm sorry. It's been raining a lot here lately. I promise to get out more in the near future.