Friday, March 31, 2006

Jet Lag

(66) Jet Lag

Leon Hess was an oil guy and owned the New York Jets football team. A miserable crew most years. More soap operas than wins. One Super Bowl ring, and that was in 1969.

When Leon died, his will said, in effect, “Sell the team. No one in my family cares about football, and no one gets the money if they keep it.”

So, natch, they sold the team.

The Jets do not have a home of their own. They play at Giant Stadium in New Jersey. A little green in the Meadowlands swamp.

But they train at Hofstra University’s campus on Long Island. It’s a New York presence that keeps us from completely laughing off the “New York” part of their name. (Why the Giants keep “New York” in their name is a total mystery, since they DO have a home and it is Giant Stadium, that very same Giant Stadium in which the Giants play.

And when that place is rebuilt, both teams will occupy it.

The team’s relatively new owners say they’re going to put the headquarters in New Jersey, too – sometime soon. So now the team can train, do paperwork and lose football games all in the same state. Elegant.

Roll this one around your tongue: “The East Rutherford Jets.” Or this: “The Florham Park Jets.”

It will be a little less painful when Florham Park keeps losing. After all, it’s Florham Park, not New York City – which doesn’t breed losers, generally if you don’t count the ’06 Knicks and most seasons’ Mets.

The people who come to Hempstead, Long Island to watch the Jets train will have to find something else to do. Like going to Islanders Hockey games. They should feel right at home there. These guys don’t win a lot, either. Not only that, but the hockey season has many more games than football. Double your pleasure, double your fun.

The nearby Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts probably won’t feel much of a loss. They have the school kids and the travelers to count on. The village of Hempstead certainly won’t notice a difference. No one goes there now, so there can’t be a decline in auto or pedestrian traffic and business.

So, the Jets take off for New Jersey, and no one but a handful of die-hard fans notice.

Good luck, New Jersey. Claim this team entirely for your own, instead of just mostly.

And Leon? You did the right thing, posthumously. You should have done it sooner.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Reference Library

(65) The Reference Library

Does anyone still miss the Sears catalogue? They stopped printing it in 1993 and a huge outcry arose, largely from Middle America where the book was a standard reference, on the shelf right next to the Bible and the phonebook. Sometimes, it was the only actual book in the house.

Now, who cares, right?

After all, the stuff that made Sears and the catalogue unique just don’t sell anymore. Modular homes are all the rage. But “Sears Homes,” their predecessor, haven’t been available since the early 1940s. Farm and work clothing? Franklin Stoves? Inexpensive “store brand” musical instruments? All stuff you either don’t want or don’t need or can buy on any corner.

In killing the catalogue, they killed what was unique about them. Yeah, it didn’t generate much business. But it was still the centerpiece.

Kind of like GM saying “okay, we’re still General Motors, but we’re not going to make cars anymore, since no one really wants them, anyway.”

Kind of like DeBeers deciding to mine only potatoes.

Traditions die every day, and new ones arise to take their place.

What’s disturbing about the vanishing catalogue is what it might foretell.

Like the end of the telephone book.

Who needs a phone book, right? You have all those internet search engines, all willing to give you numbers, reverse numbers, addresses, business listings.

But it ain’t the same.

The Yellow Pages is one of America’s favorite bathroom books. And it gives you a good snapshot of your community. It’s not the same on the internet.

What reference material will be next to go. The World Almanac? The Old Farmer’s Almanac?

The PDR? The manual of baseball stats?

All stuff you can find on the internet. But you can’t bring the internet into the bathroom. At least not easily.

Of course, someone will figure out a way to make a bathroom computer. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll have a waterproof screen on a little stand right next to the sink.

Speakers built into the wall or the shower.

They’re turning paper goods into electrons every day. But there are some kinds of paper that they can’t replace.

Virtual toilet tissue just won’t make it. Nor virtual napkins.

Did you know that while Sears no longer has catalogues, it has catalogue racks for sale? Something on which you can rest and view your… um… what?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Buck Owens, The Movie

(64) Buck Owens, The Movie

Never gonna happen.

Unlike Johnny Cash and Elvis, this guy’s life was not a soap opera… or at least not a soap opera that would sell movie tickets and DVDs.

No question he was a huge star and an innovator. But if he had drug or booze or Jesus problems, he kept ‘em quiet. Counted his money. Bought regular businesses. Kept to himself. Didn’t do a whole lot of touring or other performing after the end of “Hee-Haw.” Sold a gazillion records. Most of them sounded aike – the Fats Domino/Frank Sinatra /Abba school of hit recording: got one decent song, change it around a little every few months and you’ll soon have a dozen good songs and they’ll all sell.

And continue to sell for decades. And why not? They were (and are) damned good.

Owens did some rebellious things. Like putting Bakersfield, California on the map and not hanging out in Nashville like the rest of the country crowd. Didn’t call his stuff “country music,” either. “American Music” was his phrase. And to back that up, he played a red, white and blue guitar.

He had a nasty snarling face without a trace of down home country good natured beer brawler in it.

Was he a nasty snarling guy? Who knows. Who cares. You like his stuff or you don’t. There was a lot to like.

But there’s no movie in it.

Who would make a movie out of a guy who showed up for his bookings – on time and ready to work? Where’s the dramatic tension? Where’s the tragic-comedy? Where’s the PLOT!

No big crusade for getting your high school GED, like Waylon Jennings. No amusement park like Dolly Parton.

No Buck Owens impersonators.

No mob ties.

This space has long spoken the idea that everything you need to know about an artist is contained in his or her work, and that the more you know about their personal side, the less you like or respect them.

Not much danger of knowing the guy better either from his obituaries or even from his fan friendly website.

Don’t expect a movie and don’t expect the erection of a Graceland style shrine. Tour buses. Pink Cadillacs. Nah.

Unlikely you’ll even get to see the original lyrics to the songs he wrote. He didn’t write them down. Said if he couldn’t remember them, the songs weren’t worth doing.

Of course the lyrics are out there for the reading. But not in his handwriting.

You wanna know about Buck?

Play “Act Naturally” or “Waiting In Your Welfare Line” or “Tiger By The Tail.” That’s all you need to know.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Road to Hell -- or is it From Hell?

(63) The Road To Hell

There was a little problem on the Jersey Turnpike the other year. That was about cops who routinely stopped Black and Hispanic drivers in nice cars, figuring they had to be drug runners.

Sometimes they were and sometimes they weren’t. But the head of the cops got up and said something like “well, we do that because these are the people who run most of the drugs.”

He lost his job the next day.

“Driving while Black,” or Hispanic or whatever.

The practice, of course, hasn’t stopped. It’s just gone a little more subtle.

But leave it to the free market to solve the problem, and it looks like it has.

They’re about to privatize the ‘pike.

Yes, they want to sell off part of the road or the running of the road or somesuch to private industry.

One of two things will result: either the private cops who will patrol the newly-private highway will decline to stop minorities suspected of drug running out of fear of lawsuits and EEOC violations, or they will have a separate but equal lane for all such drivers. Private road, after all.

Of course, the REAL drug runners are a few steps ahead of both the cops and the road segregationists.

Ask yourself this: if you were a cocaine exporter from, say, Colombia or Mexico or Lithuania, would you use local young men and women in Beemers as mules?

You’d have to be an idiot.

You’d use two kinds of older people. Who would suspect a business type, riding in the back of a Bentley or a couple of blue haired women driving a K-car?

You might even use a couple of guys in suits driving a Crown Victoria bristling with antennas. No cop’s going to stop a couple of other cops in a black four-door Ford with mesh grating between the driver and the back seat.

Back to Pike Privatizing for a moment.

What do you suppose they are going to call the newly acquired road? If the naming rights to stadiums and the naming of merged or acquired companies is any indication, you’ll likely find Route 95 will become Northrop New Jersey Turnpike. The Time-Warner Turnpike? The Altria Turnpike? The Pfizer Pike (It IS New Jersey, afterall.)

The new owners could make even more money by selling naming rights to the rest stops and other parts of the road. The Ortho Overpass. The Nets Scenic Overlook. The ExxonMobil rest stop.

Then, there’s a question of the speed limit. Most of the road, it’s 55. Some spots, 65. But why have a speed limit? After all, private property. Owners can do what they want on it.

A free market in velocity. What a concept.

Just be careful of those blue haired women drug runners in K Cars. Heavy footed on the accelerator, and they don’t see so well.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Magical Tools

(62) Magical Tools

Some inanimate objects seem to have powers we can only ascribe to supernatural intervention of some kind.

It hasn’t snowed here in Moote Pointe recently, and that’s probably because no one has put away the snow shovels yet. Should they, we can expect another storm.

Notice how often it doesn’t rain when you take the umbrella along – and how often it does when you don’t.

Your coffee, your sugar and your milk hold secret conversations devising ways to make sure you run out of each at different times, assuring multiple trips to the supermarket where one should do.

The color and black ink cartridges in you home printer have similar conversations, and count on this: you have never run out of each at the same time. Of course, with the printer, you can expect such conversations because the ink cartridges are right next to each other.

The heating oil and electric bills engage in another kind of conspiracy. They talk while in the mail to make sure they both arrive on the same day, or at least in the same pay period.

The clothes dryer eats socks. You put in 14 and 13 come out. Or eleven. Never an even number. Most socks aren’t very nutritious, so the dryer will eventually spit ‘em back to you. But not until you’ve spent a frustrating washday morning searching for the missing in action.

Books arranged in alphabetical order – like the dictionary or the telephone directory change the order as soon as you start looking for something.

Then there’s the telephone. You know it’s going to ring while you’re in the shower, or doing something else that makes it tough to answer. And usually, it’s a wrong number.

The cure would be to take the cell phone or the wireless into the bathroom so that when it rings you can still answer it. But this raises another issue: telephones like to swim, but can’t. So you run the risk of the thing leaping into the tub to its death.

And don’t even START to think about metronomes.

How does this all happen? Is there some great invisible force guiding our appliances, rain and snow obliterators, books, food, bills, paychecks, telephones and rhythm machines?

It’s troubling. We don’t know what to expect next. Drawers that stick at random times and don’t at others? Appointments in your Palm Pilot appearing at random? Decoy ducks that fly? Razors that nick you even when you don’t use them?

Will your Sinatra collection start playing Mozart or Led Zeppelin when you slip the discs into the changer or turn on the iPod?

And don’t even think about maps.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Monday, March 20, 2006


(61) Pharm-Aid

Will someone please help the poor pharmaceutical companies?

These sorry folk have dug themselves into a horrible and expensive hole.

No, it’s not the price of research or taking your doctor to lunch every three months. It’s not the cost of distributing samples or forcing prices up in the US so they can force them down, off shore.

It’s certainly not lack of money.

It’s the television ads.

Here we are bopping along in a pretty-picture commercial promising us a good night’s sleep.

“Take Socrates and enjoy a good night’s sleep,” intones the announcer, Oozin’ Susan, who sounds more like phone sex than pitchwoman.

While she’s saying stuff like that, you see a guy sleeping with a smile on his face. Or a woman. Sometimes even a couple – but they’re not actually touching.

Butterflies alight here and there. Dreamy music plays in the background, and all the while, Oozin’ is cruisin’ along with her narration.

But at some point, Oozin’ has to sit up straight and tell you:

“All sleep medications can be habit forming. Side effects include serious stroke risk, foul breath, itching toes and in rare cases, death. So talk to your doctor before taking Socrates, and make sure it’s right for you. (slouches back in her chair, hugs the microphone and oozes) So wake up refreshed and energetic, take Socrates tonight.”

There’s no way in the time allowed for a buffer between the opening ooze, the disclaimers and warnings and the closing ooze. The center part is the disease we’ve come to call Socratitis.

We have to help these people.

Situation is the same in pitching Medicaid drug plans.

Oozin’ doesn’t do this one, Oil Can Harry does.

Oil can has a grey comb-over a chalk white moustache and is dressed like the rest of the old goats who lunch at the golf club three days a week.

He strolls out from a stack of prescription bottles, each big enough for a day’s worth of water for a family of ten, holds up a regular size version and promises us that his company will cut the confusion down to size.


No one knows how part D works. Not even the people who invented it. ESPECIALLY not the people who invented it.

But Oil Can is assuring us he’ll cut the red tape if we just give his 800 number a call and sign up. Friendly operators will even fill out the paperwork for you “…right on the phone.”

This disease is catching. Even aspirin, simple, plain-old aspirin has caught it. They can sell the stuff for headaches and other pains. But when they get into the heart attack prevention aspect, they get Socratitis: “Aspirin isn’t for everyone, so check with your doctor blah blah blah.

The next substance we can freely abuse will be those cereals that say they lower cholesterol. They haven’t caught the disease yet. But you can see the day coming when they picture a table full of kids having breakfast and in the background someone is chirping “Oatmeal isn’t for everyone, so be sure to check with your doctor. Side effects include a sinking feeling in your stomach and bowl crust that you can’t remove with a blow torch. So have a Cheery Morning and control your cholesterol with our warm and friendly cereal.”

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Lists; The Truck

(60) The Lists; The Truck

From God's To Do list:
--Peace in the
Middle East.
--Oil the Pearly Gates.
--Review Open Enrolment Policy.
--Give the Devil his Due.
--Bury Pat Robertson with Faint Praise.
--Get the blind spots out of the Ford Taurus.
--Pay off the Visa card.
--Get Jerry Seinfeld back on TV.
--Note to
St. Paul about over enthusiasm.
--Tune harp.
From Satan's To Do List:

--Promotion for Robertson.
--Move Taurus visibility director to GM.
--Furnace cleaning.
--Check on Nail Keg order with Sears, call UPS about shipping to
N. Ireland.
--Birthday card to Adolf.
--Plant more anti-Prozac items in the press.
--Bagpipe lesson.

Silverberg is worried. There's just been a notice put up on the bulletin board at Duffy Carting, and it says that during the summer, the dress code is relaxed, and people can come in wearing casual clothing. Silverberg works truck number "738," which is called “Barbara Ann.” And he dresses casually all year long because of the nature of his work, which is picking up stuff in big black plastic bags, left along the sidewalks, and putting them into 738's roto-gate on the back.
Silverberg is going to ask Mrs. Silverberg who is Sheila whether she has kept any of his old uniforms, because he would like to keep in step with the rest of his co-workers. But Sheila probably threw them out years -- and pounds ago.
Silverberg is doing this work because he enjoys it. It gets him home early, it pays well, and sometimes you find good stuff. Big Silverberg, his father, who is Irv, says this is not work for an educated man. But Silverberg does it any way because it gets him home before Sheila, and he can have a beer or watch the ballgame or read or nap before she starts in.
Sheila took her mother on a trip to
Vilnius last spring, and it was the quietest two weeks Silverberg has had in 16 years. But in the last day or so before she came home, he had a lot of work to do. Dishes, making sure the toilet seat was down, two weeks of laundry.

This is a guy who's worked the truck for 20 years with never so much as a bruise or a pulled muscle. But getting the laundry done, he wrenched his back which then was out for a month.
This made Duffy unhappy. It made Sheila unhappy, and it made Silverberg unhappy. Gotta watch that laundry-- it's dangerous.
One night, during Sheila’s trip, Silverberg was on the computer, looking at the "personals" ads, and there were things in there he could not understand or figure out.
He wants to know what does "short term" mean. Maybe an hour? A night? Six months? If you're 85, which he is not, that could mean 30 years. How about "other relationship." What's that mean? You do something with inflatable objects? You have an exchange of shoes or other articles of clothing?
Silverberg is learning to skip the ads that are made up of letters that don't form words. "BBF, WC sks SWCM or SWDM 4 LWITH." "Huh?"

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 1999, 2006

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Steal My Identity Crisis

(59) Steal My Identity Crisis

Regular listeners/readers/viewers will by now have noticed that these tirades never are written in the first person singular. This will be the exception, and, with any luck, the only exception.

Why avoid the “I” word? Well, first, it’s gauche. Who cares about “I?” Second, it’s still gauche. Third: it’s amateurish. No one worthy writes about himself directly.

But this time, it’s about identity. And speaking about that in the first person plural or the third person would be tough.

So, here goes.

My parents, Max and Pearl Rotholz named me Wesley Ion. I think that was a misspelling of Ian. When the male Parental Unit declared he wanted to change his name to Mark Richards (didn’t want to have to buy new belt buckles, so he kept the same initials) I was given a choice of middle names and chose “Jon.” It was exotic in my ten year old mind. And it maintained the reference to my mother’s father, whose American name was John, whose Russian name was Ivan, whose Yiddish name (and that was probably the real one,) Yitsach. So I have three birth certificates: Wesley Ion Rotholz, Wesley Ian Richards and Wesley Jon Richards.

Somehow, the passport office read “Jon” as “Jan,” so my passport says “Wesley Jan Richards.”

When I applied for Social Security retirement, that office had me as “Wesley Jim Richards/”


My oldest child and older son, Wesley Jon Richards, Jr. and I are often confused in credit reporting, though our Social Security numbers are nowhere near each other. Jewish men don’t often name their kids after themselves. It happened in this case because my former wife and I could not come up with a compromise name.

But whither Jim? Social Security does not want to know from changes.

And whither Jan? The passport department does not want to know from changes.

My younger son and youngest child, Charles Richards has taken to calling me “Jimbo.”

And Max/Mark always called me “Johann.”

I am very confused.

I’m waiting for someone to steal my identity so I can change my name again. Maybe “Joe Doaks” or “Joe Dokes” or Jonjimjanjohann.

I have provoked thieves, taunted them, lured them for years. This, by not shredding financial records or changing my Social Security number when the card was stolen along with the rest of my wallet. I have a listed telephone number, a listed address and I don’t regularly take the mail out of the mail box. My computer doesn’t have spyware or no-phishing ware.

Just my luck, no one wants my name. Or the Identity crisis that goes with it.

I'm Wes Richards or something like that. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

McAvoy The Unifier

(58) McAvoy The Unifier

Seamus McAvoy is the last living white guy in the Hoover Houses in Manhattan, New York County, New York City, New York.

He has unified the two big factions at Hoover, the African Americans and the Spanish speakers,

Seamus is the only white guy left in The Project. He’s been here since the buildings went up in 1957. Four generations of welfare and food stamp recipients. McAvoy among the first of them.

He’s married, which makes it okay in the eyes of the Church that he’s living with his wife and child, but not okay in the eyes of the Housing Authority, hence he’s never quite gotten around to telling them.

He owns a house (location unknown, but somewhere in the Bronx.) He rents it out and pays taxes on both the building and the income, which makes it okay in the eyes of the IRS, but not okay in the eyes of the Housing Authority, hence he’s never quite gotten around to telling them.

When McAvoy got into the Hoovers, he and the other white guys would snarl at each other in the elevator (on those days the elevator worked) and in the lobby around the mail boxes. Gradually the white guys got snarled out of the place.

Then came the Spanish. So the black guys and the Spanish guys would snarl at each other in the elevator (on those days the elevator worked) and in the lobby around the mail boxes. The Spanish guys wouldn’t get snarled out of the place. They stay to this day.

After awhile, snarling wasn’t enough and they started getting into cold stares and hot fists.

The Housing Authority doesn’t stop it. Can’t. Gave up years ago.

The cops can’t stop it. Can’t. Hardly respond to calls from the address anymore.

But all this stops, when McAvoy The Unifier comes into view. No more snarls, cold stares or hot fists. The action stops.

How does he do it?

He becomes the common enemy, just by being who he is.

Parts the waters, he does.

Seamus is getting old now. You get old fast in the Hoover Houses. But even if you didn’t, Seamus would, because he’s lived a lot of years, and that’s what happens when you live a lot of years – you get old.

Mostly, it’s just snarls and stares for Seamus. But one year, on St. Patrick’s Day, they had to call the cops and the cops actually showed up for this one: two groups of kids had surrounded McAvoy and were about to set upon him.

Detectives Johnson and Torres and a bunch of uniforms separated all of this and asked why.

The answer: at the Hoover Houses, when you wear green, you’re wearing gang colors.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Ultimate Apprentice/American Idol

(57) The Ultimate Apprentice/American Idol

Hey, Jughead, you’re fired! Donald Trump’s not around to say the words, and there are no NBC cameras handy to record the event. But that’s okay, because this is no TV show, this is midterm election time, and you’re a stone around everyone’s neck. Even candidates of your own party. Especially candidates of your own party.

Christmas, man! Did you ever think that baloney about Iraq would fly once people caught on to your act?

How about that port giveaway? It took us awhile to wise up to that one, Porgey. Thanks for making it tough. If you had approved (or turned a blind eye toward) a deal with some of our other friends – North Korea, Syria, Iran or maybe Pakistan, we would have caught on to that Texas style pile of horse manure much faster.

Jughead! Trump would have canned your sorry butt long before we will.

Maybe “The Apprentice” is the wrong TV show. Maybe American Idol would be better. And more democratic. With a small “d.”

People watching Fox are more likely to like you than people watching NBC. But even THEY wouldn’t take this long to figure you out. Call 1888 IDOL 01 and vote “No!”

Tax refunds? Tax reductions? That’s bribery, and you got us cheap, those of us inclined to vote.

You’re there in Washington and (even more often, it seems) in Texas nattering about globalism and Islamic fundamentalism and Christianic fundamentalism (you see a adifference. Many others don’t. Except the muslim bombs actually work most of the time and the bombers have the good sense to take themselves out of the picture. We still have YOUR best bomber, Pat Robertson, who, as you, doesn’t have the grace to go down with his sinking ship, to mix a metaphor.)

And while you’re doing all that, your right hand man/puppetmaster is off getting drunk and shooting people for real, and lining the pockets of his former employer.

And what a deal THEY got. A name-brand CEO followed by a windfall of perfectly legal free money.

When you owned a baseball team, something else you did badly, you wouldn’t have kept a pitcher with a record like yours.

Even YOU would have spotted a guy like that and canned him, Jughead.

So, get out of town, Jug. And take Brownie and Condie and Dennis and Dick and Rummy and Tony Ducks Scalia and Silent Clarence and all those other drones with you.

How the hell are we going to stop Hillary when you keep lining her path from Westchester to the White House with rose petals?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Flato's Guitar and the Underground Satellite

(56) Flato’s Guitar and the Underground Satellites

Flato bought a cheap guitar and an expensive amplifier and he plays those old timey songs like angels were humming, and no one understands how he can get such music out of such a cheap guitar even though the amplifier is expensive, although not the most expensive one you can buy.
Flato explains it by saying that the music is in his head and in his hands and not in the cheap guitar or even the expensive guitar. He wants to know if you think Les Paul or Chet Atkins or Wes Montgomery sounded lousy when THEY had cheap guitars. The answer he gives is "no." What about Segovia, Julian Bream, Trio Los Panchos and Tony Motolla? Same answer.
The people at the Big Guitar Company don't like this answer. They are in the business of selling expensive guitars.
The people at the Collectors'
Guitars Mega Center do not like this either, because they are in the businss of selling OLD expensive guitars. This is very very bad for business. They are trying to silence Flato with bribery. They say they will have a "Flato's Choice" corner at the Collectors' Guitar Mega Center, where they can charge high prices for cheap guitars that Flato recommends. Make a 1967 Harmony flat top, now selling for $75 go for ten, maybe 15 times that. Flato says no.
The people at the Big Guitar Company want to make a "Flato signature model," from their bottom of the line series and charge ten or maybe 15 times what it's worth because it has Flato's name on it. Nope.
Flato's just going to keep making angelic music from cheap instruments, even though he's not getting a lot of work, and the Big Guitar Company and the Collectors' Guitar Mega Center can go to hell.
But Flato is not taking any chances. If you see a guy with a cheap guitar, and an expensive amplifier on the street and there is a bulge in his pocket and a rear view mirror on his amp, that's Flato.
They are now figuring out how to use TeraLites, which are underground satellites that are much easier to catch when they fall out of the sky, because they don't fall out of the sky, because they're never IN the sky. So, they've stuck a few of these things belowground here and there and they're trying to get signals into and out of them, and so far it is not working.
Hiring a crew to kind of dig trenches between them has worked. But trench placement is a tricky business, and right now, TelTerra, the company behind all this is negotiating with the Archdiocese of New York for the right to dig a trench under St. Patrick's Cathedral to feed a TeraLite signal from its headquarters on 6th Avenue to the patrons of the Palace Hotel, which is to the east of the Cathedral, across Madison.
So far, the negotiations are stalled. TelTerra has offered free service to the Cardinal's house, and even to the Cathedral itself, but the Archdiocese Real Estate Advisory Board says that's not enough to let dig holes under the buildings.
The Palace is getting a little impatient as well. It wants service pretty soon, or it is going to stick an antenna on the roof and just bring the signals in for free, and too bad about the TelTerra Traffic Channel, which they were offered as a free extra bonus because it was taking more time than expected to dig a trench under the Church.


Hannigan figures Drug O Rama is a clean shop, which is not mobbed up. This is because you can't buy a stick of gum in under 20 minutes. Hanningan walks into the Drug O Rama on 7th at 38th, and he's after a few small items: some shaving cream, a tube of toothpaste, just a few small things. So he goes into the store and picks up the stuff and there's one open register and there's a crowed up around the checkout.
First woman has big stuff: a Giant Economy Size Woolite, a Giant Economy Size Listerine (mint flavor,) a package of Pampers, a box of Malomars, and a bunch of little things that you can't see because you are too far back, and you need hawk eyes at that distance.
The checker-outer can't get the scanner to pick up the bar code on the Giant Economy Size Woolite, and keeps rubbing it on the thing that's supposed to do the reading.
Stuff keeps falling down among the gum and breath mints in front of the register. Behind her is a guy with nothing. Probably wants a pack of Marlboro or maybe a Hershey Bar.
In back of him are a man and a woman having a big fight about where to go for lunch. Hannigan wonders if they'll get out of here before lunchtime.
Then there's Hannigan with his stuff.
Hannigan thinks if the mob ran this joint there'd be five checker-outers, and a lot less big stuff.
And someone would have cleaned the scanner glass before leaving yesterday.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 1999, 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

Irwin's Umbrella Stand

(55) Irwin’s Umbrella Stand

Irwin ran the discount department store out east. Busy place in its day. But that was before all of the world became indoor malls.

This was a stand-alone. Today, we’d call it a big box store. But there were no Wal-Marts or K marts or any other kind of marts. And malls were called shopping centers and didn’t have roofs or mall rats or senior citizens using them as power walk tracks.

So, here’s Irwin. Big, well dressed. Not dumb, but he left you with that impression. Nice, though. Worked his way up in the company from stock boy to Managing Director of this fairly prominent Medium Box Store.

He’s loaded with energy. Stalks and paces the aisles, works the register when it gets too crowded, which it often did around the holidays and in good weather.

Rain? No roof on the parking lot. No customers.

This does not keep Irwin down.

He’s Managing Director. He wears a SUIT. A good suit, at that. He knows what to do.

He gathers up Ted and Dominic and two captains of security, each named Bill and they go to the back of the place and push the umbrella display, a huge thing with a zillion umbrellas in it, up to the front door.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Bound to attract customers like iron filings to a magnet.

Well, maybe not.

The store had many more employees than customers on days like that.

Moving the umbrella display did not change that.

But Irwin had nothing to managing direct. And captains Bill had no shoplifters to catch (except the employees, and they had to filter in and out through the back door.) And Ted who ran the menswear department almost never had anything to do, except maybe Saturdays. And Dominic who was in charge of all soft goods (we called clothing soft goods in those days, since there was no softWEAR) had nothing to do. So it gave them something to report to the Big Bosses At Union Square, and justified their paychecks.

Or maybe, for Irwin, it was once a stockboy, always a stockboy. And stockboys don’t worry about whether there are customers. They just do stockboy things. Like moving umbrella displays to attract iron filings.

The rest of us hid out, or hung out in the lunch room, where Dirty Sandy presided over the worst food on earth. Or we mixed cocktails using cheap Pepsis from the machine with miltowns or cough syrup with codeine, which in those days was over-the-counter.

But retail is the toughest division of show business and these guys had to do something to fill the seats. So they did what they knew how to do, which was shuffle the deck.

Today, we are all much more sophisticated. Today, we play musical chairs with people and assignments instead of store displays. Has the same effect.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Your Signature Signature

(54) Your Signature Signature

Pity the poor signature. It used to mean what was left on the paper after you signed your name.

Now it’s become one of those words thrown in the heap of those with definitions so rubberized we don’t know the meaning.

Creeping Signaturism.

Everything’s a signature. Chrysler has a couple of “signature models,” which have facsimiles of Walter P. Chrysler’s signature on the outside. This is almost a proper use, although Wally would probably wretch at what his name goes on these days.

Ford has an Eddie Bauer Signature SUV. Think Eddie knows that? Think he signed off on the plans for his signature car?

Some fast food joint has a signature coffee. That’s what it’s called. Do you think the new coffee blend at McDonald’s is a forgery?

A hair care products company recently started advertising your signature hair. Those of us who don’t have much feel left out, because what’s left of our hair is too short and too grey to sign anything.

“Signature” has fallen on the same scrapheap as “solution” and “premium” and a whole lot of other words that once meant something and now mean nothing.

A salute to the people who have not fallen on this same scrapheap: Kellogg’s could call its cornflakes its signature cereal, but hasn’t.

The New York City Council (which has its own slogan problem, i.e. “the Big Apple,” a horror unto itself,) could call itself America’s Signature City, but hasn’t. Plus Atlanta would probably sue them for infringement of bad ideas.

The President could reach into his bag of tricks and pull out any number of imbecile slogans and call them his signature lies. But he hasn’t.

Bic is really missing out on a huge opportunity to call itself the world’s Signature Pen. Same story with Alcatraz – signature pen.

You COULD have a signature signature. A “real” one, like for your checks and contracts. And then you could have a non-signature signature. Like for when you sign your expense account, or maybe just put a large magnetic version on your car.

Maybe it’s this kind of draining-the-swamp of content that makes English the world’s most verbose language. We have more than any other language, by 50 percent.

And maybe it’s for this reason that no one understands us – and we don’t understand ourselves and each other.

Or not.

This Wessay was written over the course of two days at the Atherton Hotel in State College, PA, which is not in the running for America’s signature city or town or whatever it is.

At this place, half the time, they don’t even want your signature signature at checkout time.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

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  Forget the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure.  With everything getting odder, let’s make it a Troy Ounce of prevention.   While “n...