Some Like It Tepid

The July Travel + Leisure can safely be called running hot and cold with visits to Torngat Mountains National Park in frigid Labrador and a brief tour of our fiftieth state.

Any traveler who wants to go way up north needs to be timely for the TMNP base camp is only open from late July to late August. Even during high summer guests must stay in heated geodesic domes to survive the Artic evenings. Newcomers are advised to bring bug spray with their down jackets, though a greater hazard than an insect bite or frostbite might be a confrontation with a polar bear. Visitors to the region coming face-to-face with a bear are instructed to punch it in the nose and “fight for your life.” Uh-huh. Tell that to those at full gallop running for their lives.

Researchers who have discovered that the human attention span is eight seconds might wonder if the truly vacuous among us will make it through the first sentence of the article about the popular Pacific vacation spot: “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is the name of Hawaii’s state fish.”

Those readers who persevere will be rewarded as the author recounts the highlights of a weeklong trip as part of a UnCruise Adventure in mid-November, long after the TMNP camps are frozen shut. The appetizing food, sunny adventures on or near Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii, and the congenial passengers onboard and pleasant natives encountered on the islands make small-ship cruising sound very attractive. The author admits to being genuinely touched by a hula performance by ten girls on Molokai, their heart-felt hand movements giving him goose bumps or “chicken skin.”

Of course, there is a simple way to get chicken skin without even leaving the house. Just think about coming face-to-face with a polar bear.



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Season’s Pleadings

Most of the unsolicited cards, envelopes, and circulars filling my mailbox have the same address on the label, though few of them have my name on the top line. The new wave of salutations apparently is intended to sound personally impersonal. “Occupant” and “Current Resident” must have been deemed a little too callous, although electricians may still prefer the latter.  

From a well-known financial institution comes a mailing to get up to $500 if I nibble at the bait of opening a checking and savings account with that bank. The brochure, with a return address of a Post Office Box in Ohio, is addressed to “Our Neighbor.” Although a branch bank is undoubtedly located closer to me than the Buckeye State, people in my neighborhood who have been around this block once or twice are not likely to chase after offers requiring a $15,000 savings deposit to cash in on the $500 offer.

A medical college that sends me a health publication occasionally is located in my area of the state which, I suppose,  is why the top line of the label gets a little more personal by designating me as a “Dear Neighbor.” Because most of the issues deal with vascular and circulatory concerns, I expect a coming issue to be addressed to “Dear Hearts and Fragile People.”

An oversized postal card from an exercise franchise with nearly a dozen locations in the state calls me “Fitness Friend.” I suspect many postal patrons are not hypnotized by the steely stare of the healthy lass trying to entice people to join her exercise experience. The response of “I choose my own friends” is apt to be on the slightly flabby lips of many who receive the card. Those recipients who bother to read the repetitive copy of “Zero down, zero contracts, zero reasons not to join, zero excuses” can likely add one more: “Zero chances of me joining, my erstwhile friend.”

In a time when houses are selling within days of being listed, realtors are assaulting me weekly with cards showing color photos of ranch homes sold on one side and the exclamations “Now is the time to sell!” and “Get a Sold sign in your yard!” on the other. Addressing the label to “Home Owner” prompts this one to say, “That’s the way it’s going to stay” and “Not only don’t I want your signs in my yard, keep your cards out of my mailbox.”

The mailer with 20 or more slips inside assumes there are multiple residents at home with a “To our neighbors at” line above the address. Restaurants who use this service could band together to send their own envelopes with the address line “To the carry-outers at.” The blinds, shutters, and remodeling companies could market to “Window Shoppers.” Plumbers might get a response from “Fellow Flushers.” Businesses offering pet care and other animal services could cast a very wide net with “All Creatures Great and Small.”

In the end, being addressed by name is preferable to a dispassionate “Residential Customer” or even a presumptuous “Valued Customer.” Of course, in the end there is one form of address that might be considered a little too personal regarding our end: “Dearly Beloved.”


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Crypt of Terror

The financial world seems fixated now with the cryptocurrency, a concept in which the actual means of transfer of funds does not exist in a physical sense. Through a network of computers, consumers purchase something (bitcoins seem to be the most popular, although they are neither bits nor coins) with which they can purchase automobiles, furniture, clothing, and other items from vendors who accept this specious specie. Sourdoughs who formerly bit into coins to test their authenticity cannot even bite their bitcoins; suspicious prospectors and speculators just have to take the word of the seller and gum their bitcoins like an edentate Gabby Hayes chomping on a wad of his favorite “tobaccy.”

In 2003 when additional security features were added to United States currency to stymy counterfeiters, the Department of the Treasury issued a brochure entitled “The New Color of Money” with these reassuring words on the cover: “Safer. Smarter. More Secure.”  This new form of exchange by its very nature is paperless, but a pdf. describing its features might borrow a title from H.P. Lovecraft: “The Colour Out of Space.” Truthful add-ons would be “Risky. Act quickly. Good luck.”

The $20 bill illustrated in the brochure has a security thread with the words “USA Twenty” and a small flag. The thread glows green under an ultraviolent light. The red flag that goes up is the thread that runs through every conversation about the volatility of the cryptocurrency market which might be $9744/bitcoin last month, $6120 this month, and $8.45 by the time the purchaser reserves a room in the poorhouse.

The front of the revamped bill has color-shifting ink in the “20” found in the lower right corner which changes from copper to green when tilted as well as colors of green and peach added to the background. Facial expressions of crypto buyers lying in bed wondering if they will wake up the next day paupers will vary from sickly green to ashen.

Two symbols of freedom, a blue eagle and a metallic green eagle, were added to the front of the $20 bill. (The symbols of freedom differed on each denomination.) The raven on the bedpost tells the new keeper of the crypto when the shadow of doubt will be gone: “Nevermore.”

Holders of the double sawbuck can see images of Andrew Jackson both front and center and also in the watermark which can be viewed easily by holding the bill up to the light. Purchasers of cryptocurrency, by the time they see the light, are holding the bag as they follow the tracks of their tears.

The currency paper is ¼ linen and ¾ cotton and contains red and blue fibers. Cryptocurrency is ¼ fairy dust, ¼ hot air, ¼ hooey, and ¼ piffle, and is hardly worth the paper it is not printed on.

A large number 20 appears in the lower right corner on the back as a low-vision feature. No “Whoa” but almost certainly some woe exists for those who cannot see the dangers ahead in purchasing castles in the air.

People who stick with paper currency and wonder if they are being left behind by friends who are buying more bitcoins than they should eschew can take consolation in this pithy proverb: “Cash on hand better than flash in pan.”


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The Dead Beat Goes On and On

      Some of the announcements we hear on the radio are apt to make us pause, others stop us dead in our tracks. One I heard recently combined both as I paused to reflect on how the quick are tracing the tracks of the dead.

Anyone expecting to see and hear the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers live on the same stage this summer might think somehow Carl and Dennis Wilson and Bobby Hatfield will be making a guest (or ghost) appearance out of Rock and Roll Heaven. Actually, Mike Love is the only founding Beach Grandpa still with the group and Bill (who can still deliver a soulful) Medley is the half-righteous survivor of the duo formed in 1962.

I suppose rock fans are becoming accustomed to hearing the same old songs with different singers since they’ve been gone. The Eagles keep flying even though Glenn Frey has been permanently grounded. The voices of Kendricks and Ruffin were silenced long ago, though crowds can’t resist certain Temptations. Abdul Fakir remains from the original Four Tops, joined by various fakers.

I have been accused of being fixated on the days when musicians died and reminded that I should bid bye, bye to that part of American Pie by rolling with the changes in personnel. I do admit there is one group who will live up to their name no matter how grimly the reaper shuffles their lineup: The Replacements.


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Time Limps On

“The time has come,” the walrus now says, “to speak of one thing: how telling time in the UK has gone the way of sealing wax.”

Verified reports indicate that analogue clocks are being removed from British classrooms because few students can read them. One can only speculate on how expressions will change as these young people confront life.

Workers who slow down near lunchtime or as the end of the day approaches will be told by supervisors “Keep working. Stop being a numbers watcher.”

Instructions for assembling merchandise or installing parts or fixtures will include the wording “Tighten bolts in an underhanded direction. To remove, loosen in a counter-underhanded direction.”

Bands will tell cheering audiences at 2 a.m. “We’re going to rock around that numbers thing on the wall.” Such groups would be wise not to include “25 or 6 to 4” and “Quarter to Three” in their repertoire for fear of confusing their fans.

Teachers will praise their pupils when they are cooperating nicely by telling them “That’s fine. Things are running like digitwork.”

After parents hang new timekeepers on a bedroom wall, they will tell their children “Put your ears right up to it. Hear that? That’s the sound of silence.”

Coaches will borrow from Shakespeare and Aldous Huxley when they tell their teams gathered around in a huddle “We’re ahead so just hold the ball until time must have a stop.”

The odds are ten to two driving instructors will get novices to put their hands in the proper position by telling them to play pattycake with the steering wheel and then hold their fingers right there and left there.

Threats uttered by angry husbands bent on revenge over a misdeed committed by a neighbor will contain the promise “I’m going over and clean his timepiece.”

Shops formerly referred to as second-hand stores will be known as used-once emporiums.

At 79 Wistful Vista, the home of radio’s Fibber McGee and Molly, whenever someone asked for the time, he or she was told it was “About half past.”  In 1962 to the rhythmic chant of “Tick-tock, Listen to the Clock” The Jive Five asked the musical question “What Time Is It?” In 2018 the time is more than half passed to stop blithely saying “O’clock” and begin moaning “Oh! Clock!”



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A Test for the Ages


Certainly the most intriguing article in the May Maine Antique Digest is “Why Collect?” written by a clinical psychologist who is, not surprisingly, also a collector. What did take me by surprise is a statistic he reported in his coverage of transitional objects: “About 35% of adults in our society still sleep with a stuffed animal.”

I do not question the veracity of the author for he would most certainly not risk his professional reputation by citing a bogus figure in a respected periodical. My astonishment is twofold: What kind of questionnaire was used to determine that fact? What adults would admit they engage in such a childish habit?

I can only surmise the survey took the form of a preferential format like the choices listed below:

  1. In times of crisis, I sometimes a) bite my lip; b) suck my thumb.
  2. For artistic expression I would prefer to a) paint a portrait on a canvas; b) draw a stick figure in chalk on the sidewalk.
  3. The best way to settle a difference of opinion with colleagues is to a) agree to a compromise b) hold my breath until they give in to what I want.
  4. I prefer to get exercise by a) taking a brisk walk in the park b) jumping hopscotch at the playground.
  5. The best use of my time on a rainy day is to a) organize my financial and medical records b) drag my blankie around the house.
  6. I can learn more from a) reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln; b) building a crib for my dolly out of Lincoln Logs.
  7. I am at my most creative when a) thinking outside the box; b) playing in a sandbox.
  8. The best way to deal with the ups and downs of life is a) keep an even disposition; b) get on a pogo stick.
  9. My favorite mixed drink is a) a cocktail with a cherry in it; b) a glass of strawberry milk with two candy canes in it.
  10. I am apt to lose my temper when a) standing in line for a long time; b) standing in the corner during time out.
  11. I frequently need help a) getting out of jams; b) getting out of my jammies.

I contend that adults who sleep with stuffed animals certainly need help, the kind a clinical psychologist can provide.









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You Got to Have Heart

In April I toasted Roxette. This month I praise the songs of Heart, a group led by sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson.

Chroniclers of rock music sometimes characterize how an artist or band captured the zeitgeist of a period. Heart surpassed many other contemporaries by charting singles over an 18-year span, from 1976 to 1994. Of those 28 hits, half of them are on my playlist.

“Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” got Heart started, proving they had the magic touch to go with the magic hands.

“Straight On” remains one of my favorite hard-driving songs from pounding start to stop-and-start fadeout that one hopes would never end. The rapturous moan Ann delivers as her coda makes every listener want to have what she’s having at that moment.

“What about Love?” is the great question that women have been asking of their lustful or distracted lovers for generations. The plea to “Don’t let it slip away” is that of an impassioned partner trying to mend a severed relationship.

“Never” has any song been as openly sensually direct as the wake-up call of “Hey, baby, I’m talking to you” and the blatant invitation to “Walk those legs right over here. Give me what I’m dying for.” “Hold me down, never let me go” is the sassy voice of one who wants to be sexually dominated (at least for the nonce.)

It is not surprising that Nancy’s vocal on “These Dreams” reached number 1 in 1986 for she touched a responsive chord in both sexes. All men and women have something out there they can’t resist in those dreams in the midst.

Heart built a follow-up out of  “Nothin’ at All,” then hit the top of the charts again with “Alone,” a ballad describing the aftermath of a breakup that shows Ann’s powerful range.

My nominee for most overlooked Heart rocker is “Who Will You Run To?” which shows an aggressive side of the female in the brassy challenge “Who’s going to love you as good as I?” Wounded lovers no doubt sang along that sentiment, saying “There’s the Girl.”

“I Didn’t Want to Need You” captures a lover’s ambivalence after a breakup, capped by the confession “But I need you now” and mournful moans from Ann which suggest remorse rather than ecstasy.

The wistful cries of “Don’t leave me like this” in “Stranded” and “We want so much to touch” in “Secret” encapsulate the heartbreak of fractured or hidden relationships.

A fundamental question of the hookup culture is unanswered in “Will You Be There in the Morning?” The fear of losing a lover forever runs through the lyrics.

Perhaps if there is a theme running through the Heart catalog it is the unfulfilled yearning of lonely people hoping to engage in meaningful, lasting relationships with other people. Maybe that search is at the core of our existence, right at the very heart of the matter.


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