At Long, Long Last

     Consumers who complain about the flimsiness of items purchased in stores can take heart in the handy device that trims nose and ear hair without batteries and is “Built to last forever.” But what if someone does not intend to live that long?

     Who is going to be around to test the boast of a company which avers that its multizone wristwatch will not lose or gain a second in 80 million years? What if the sun which powers the watch’s solar cell burns itself out in 79 million years or ten seconds short of forever, whichever comes first?   

     Let us be grateful survivalists who only purchase shelf stable comestibles have not yet demanded grocers stock items meant to outlast shelf or stable which carry these words on fireproof labels:  “Best used after the apocalypse.”  

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As Is-Was-Or Will Be?

     Hardly a week passes without a postcard landing n my mailbox offering to buy my house “as is” for cash. I have received five cards that ask for my attention along with the words “I want to buy your property” on one side and the message “We’ve been trying to reach you” glaring at me from the flip side. I have also received no less than ten cards from a couple who invite me to experience the pleasure of selling my house in any condition with a photo of the smiling buyers on the flip side.

     Flip is the key term in all these offers. House flippers who buy “as is” properties and then resell them as soon as they can are abundant. What they are hoping for is a response from a frustrated homeowner that begins with a ungrammatical but melodic refrain along the lines of “I’m not going to need this house no longer, not going to need this house no more” because the person doesn’t have time to fix the crumbling shingles or to fix the sagging floor and doesn’t have time to oil the hinges or to mend window panes. What the flippers are counting on is the recipient of the regular mailings will act quickly before he or she gets ready to meet the saints.

     One wonders if any of the eager buyers ever visit a property owner who is standing in front of what is little more than sagging timbers and piles of plaster, a skeleton of what that ole house was at one time, and says to Mr. or Ms. Flip rather flippantly, “This is as is right now.” The theme song of the average band of workers cleaning up that rubble will likely be “Pick Up the Pieces.”

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What Is In It For Me?

The wording on fronts and backs of cartons, bags, and other packages we purchase often provides useful information to consumers. Sometimes, however, the terms used can raise more questions than answers.

Why does America’s Candy Maker make its confections in Mexico?

Why do companies put cotton balls in plastic bags and label them as Jumbo size when the balls are barely an inch in diameter? Are regular cotton balls pea-size for drying tears on baby dolls? Why do the bags trumpet “Reclosable!” in large letters as if the items inside were subject to spoilage? Are they fearful that if those cotton balls get rotten, consumers will not pick very much cotton?

Are organic snacks which list fifteen ingredients not included in their products certain than the thirty or more ingredients listed in small print healthier to eat? Is casein, a tasteless and colorless protein, excluded from their snacks because the company fears those caseins will go rolling along through digestive tracts with more rumbling than the nine grams of sugar in their snacks?

Why is nearly every spongy product inserted into shoes labeled as Memory Foam? Will it help consumers remember that those “30% off” stickers placed on the end of shoe boxes were there when the boxes left the factories?

Why are some packaged nuts labeled Fancy Pecan Halves? Are they only to be eaten with caviar by well-dressed gourmets?

A question to ask companies who slap “Decorative Keepsake Tin” labels on any metallic container bearing a graphic image: “For who’s sake is this worth keeping?”

Are those slippery patches of carpet remnants called Scatter Rugs because they scatter all over the floor every time consumers step on them?  Like right now when I —whoops! Now I know what is in it for me: a trip to the fracture ward.


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Come Clean

     One of the startling developments in personal grooming appears to be the trend to increase the degree of alcoholic beverages or fragrances into toiletry products, especially soaps. A catalog mailed recently from a company in California offers slabs containing “notes of aged bourbon and warm tobacco,” another packed with “Guinness Extra Stout Beer,” and a third is “reminiscent of fine Bordeaux wine.” For the teetotaler, there is a hunk made from ground chai tea with an aura “like a perfectly made vanilla chai latte.”

Such heady mixes might appeal to the latte-da crowd who yearn for heady mixes at $9.00 a raw-cut slab. A little yearning is a dangerous thing. Irish Spring still offers satisfying refreshment. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring where shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sobers us again.


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Far from Great

     No doubt residents who have been spending more time inside in recent months have been increasing their knowledge of subjects by ordering DVDs from by a company which provides complete courses in less than 35 lessons. There seems to be no better time to use distance learning than when everyone is being encouraged to use social distancing. Offering courses taught by eminent professors is laudable, yet some utilitarian subjects are being overlooked.

Certainly there will be those who might want practical guides to mastering the piano or playing songs on the guitar, but what about useful companions to playing the ocarina or plucking the mandolin?

Discovering your artistic ability is a worthwhile goal.  Learning how to draw chalk figures on the sidewalk in front of your neighbor’s house also has merits

Mastering the art of moving mediation may exercise physical fitness and mental well-bring. So will rearranging the furniture and then taking a nap on your newly-placed sofa.

Learning what it was like to live in ancient times may be going too far back for some who might want to know what it was like to live in more patient times when folks waited for their radios to warm up and for fevered temperaments to cool down.

There is a simpler way to unlock your inner storyteller than watching 24 lectures. Just open the door to Fibber McGee’s closet and listen to a master fabricator spin yarns of any magnitude.

The joy of mathematics will be skipped by those who prefer the pleasure of balancing the checkbook.

Effectively training your dog works for canines. Training your spouse to make the bed will help humans.

Discovering a toolkit for changing behavior is less important to many than recollecting where they put their tools.

Catch phrases often employed by this company are “No homework. No tests. No grades.” Until they come up with more practical offerings, the response of some people will be “No sale.”


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Get Shorty

Ask someone this question sometime: “Have you ever been given short shrift?” The likely response will be along the lines of “Once in a department store, but I went back right away and made the clerk give me the right change.” For too long short shrift has been given short shrift.

At one time shrift was a term used for confession in preparation for death. In the Third Act of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, Sir Richard Ratcliff tells Lord Hastings, who is about to be led to the execution block, “Make a short shrift.”

The idiom short shrift has since come to denote something or someone who has been given cursory attention or little time. An example of the idiom might be “The trio devoted hours to perfecting each session in the studio but gave short shrift to their live performances.”

Fashions in language and clothing are frequently changing so a comeback in usage is possible. Perhaps there is a crafty designer somewhere who will create a fad in a new style of mini-dresses with the catchy slogan “Make the cut on campus—Give yourself a short shrift.”   


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Eat Hearty

Shoppers moving carts through the aisles of grocery stores have undoubtedly noticed the words “Heart Healthy” (often arranged inside a graphic heart) on packages. This prominent image is sometimes reinforced by claims of “30% less fat than regular potato chips” and “50% less sodium” than a regular style of peanuts.

Often seen on such labels are qualifiers such as “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts…may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Sunbathers munching on 16 or more chips by the pool or revelers chomping on 50 peanuts at a cocktail party can thus console themselves with the possibility that they might be helping their tickers in the long run…assuming they take a long run afterwards to burn off the 150 to 170 calories they just added to their bodies.

Scientific evidence also suggests but does not prove that indulging frequently on snack foods increases waistline enlargement.

Do not be surprised if greeting cards soon qualify their opening sentiments with bold fronts that declare in bold fonts “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that…” which opens to the words “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

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No Fair At All

Everyone is entitled to grumble a bit over restrictions that have altered lifestyles in recent weeks. Cancellations of proms, graduation ceremonies, parades, concerts, amateur and professional sports, auctions, exhibitions, festivals, and other events have made our lives less than joyous. As we approach the height of  summer activities when Americans look forward expectantly to attending their county funfest for pleasure on the  midway and a tour of the livestock pavilions and produce stands, a complaint heard this year may have a double meaning: “No fair at all.”

Unfairness in life is not new as evidenced by a single released by The Association in 1967. “No Fair At All” never cracked the Billboard top 40 and has largely been lost among hits produced by that group during that period like “Windy,” “Cherish,” “Along Comes Mary,” and “Never My Love.”  It is certainly no fair at all that the haunting “No Fair At All” did not receive more airplay then and is now a moldy oldie.

Step aside the next time a wave of depression from the Sea of Despair or Slough of Despond is about to engulf everything in its path. Don’t submit to guilt by association. Instead, tune in to “No Fair At All” by The Association and accept the fact that we have been in this together for a long time.


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Split Decision

After finishing an article in a magazine, it is only natural that readers want to learn more about the person who wrote the piece. The trend in author bios now appears to be “Don’t’ tie me down” or “Don’t fence me in” to any one place.

Contributors to that favorite of world travelers, National Geographic, seem to be the most cosmopolitan. One of them “divides his time between Rome, Italy and Dorset, England.” Another “divides her time between Cambridge, England and the French Coast.”

One wonders if this living in two places is done on a fifty/fifty basis or perhaps one author leans toward a seventy/thirty split and another eighty/twenty or even ninety/ten. Maybe writers who live in one homey place will have to take another residence for part of the year in order to break into the big markets. A tip for any person considering such a bold move: make that second place exotic, not prosaic.  “She divides her time between Spokane and the Hawaiian Islands” is apt to get into print faster than “He divides his time between Hoboken and the streets of Philadelphia.”

Perhaps this separation of bowers will even carry over to the subject of articles, not just the residences of authors. Surely there must be interest by the editors of some pet periodical in a ripsnorter about a page-munching canine who divides his Time between the back porch and the doghouse.


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Look Out and All Around

It is likely that people feeling symptoms of cabin fever in recent weeks might be looking for safe places to visit this summer. Before picking up brochures or consulting travel agents, check out oversized Roadside Americana by Eric Peterson (Publications International) to view a variety of oversized landmarks, many of which can be enjoyed without even getting even opening a door or unbuckling a seat belt.

Autophiles can stop at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo (TX), Spindle in Berwyn (IL), and Carhenge in Alliance (NE). Larger-than-life characters of myth, legend, and fantasy emerge as oversized statutes of Paul Bunyan in Bemidji (MN), Bangor (ME), and Klamath (CA). Superman stands tall in Metropolis (IL), Popeye in Crystal City (TX), Steve Canyon in Idaho Springs (CO), and the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth (MN).

Motorists who want to return with images worthy of their personal gallery of world records may want to click on the world’s largest baseball bat (Louisville, KY), thermometer (Baker, CA), fire hydrant (Beaumont, TX), red wagon (Spokane, WA), buffalo (Jamestown, SD), chair (Anniston, AZ), or chest of drawers (High Point, NC).

It is only natural that people will want to make rest stops or just stretch their legs a bit. They can do just that while enjoying the Corn Palace in Mitchell or Wall Drug Store in South Dakota or perhaps at the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. There is no better place in the entire country to stretch legs and arms than the Four Corners Marker where one can recline in four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) at the same time.

A geographical index on the last page is arranged by states so even armchair travelers can view all the attractions in each part of this bountiful country at their convenience. Put this colorful and informative 12” x 12” volume on your shopping list, then on your coffee table, and finally on a seat in your automobile this summer. In a land marked by disease and discord in recent weeks, make plans to visit landmark attractions that make up the quirky, curious, and wonderful world of Roadside Americana.




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