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Archive for the ‘Miscellanea’ Category

Checking the Mail

When I ask my dog Jake, “Wanna go check the mail?” he is delirious with joy. Jake has access to the back yard via the dog door, but being in the front yard is special: while I proceed to the mailbox, Jake can look for cats.

The neighborhood cats — we seem to have eight or 10 — are aware that Jake is constrained by the back yard fence. But when he is loose in the front yard, it’s every cat for itself. Jake has surprised many a cat in the open or flushed it from hiding, and the ensuing chases are epic.

Inevitably, after a few moments of pandemonium, the cat is treed. Jake parks himself at the base of the tree, looking pleased with himself, and remains on guard until we go back inside.

Because of all this, a new ritual has evolved. While I check the mail, Jake makes a circuit of the front yard, systematically checking every spot where he has seen or smelled a cat in the past.

Following the same route every time, he stops to look behind certain hedges and shrubs. He peers inside the drainpipe that runs under the driveway. He peeks under vehicles and behind the trash cans. He scans the treetops.

Jake takes the matter of cats very seriously.

Saint Isidore

Isidore of Seville (560-636), the Archbishop of Seville, Spain, dedicated most of his adult life to preserving the knowledge handed down by the Greeks, Romans, and other early civilizations. Had he not done this, most of what we know from antiquity likely would have been lost.

Born into a rich and influential family, Isidore undertook the project of compiling a massive “encyclopedia of knowledge” that compiled virtually everything of consequence known at the time. It was called the Etymologiae, and it was decades in the making. The work consisted of 20 volumes and 448 chapters. For centuries thereafter, it was a staple of medieval libraries.

Isidore had underlings to do the tedious work, of course, but he is known to have been deeply involved is the project. Along the way, he also is credited with inventing the period, the comma, and the colon, which is pretty cool.

In 1997, as the internet was becoming an important thing in the world, Pope John Paul II recognized Isidore’s devotion to knowledge by naming him the patron saint of the internet.

Wedding Day

For years before I retired, I spent nearly every Saturday or Sunday, sometimes both, hiking and kayaking in the mountains of North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. That was my thing.

From where I lived, the most direct route north was US 441, which, for much of the way, is a divided four-lane highway. I would start out on 441 and peel off on other routes depending on the destination.

US 441 passes through Demorest, Georgia, which is notable for the picturesque campus of Piedmont College in the center of town. Driving through Demorest is always pleasant.

I recall one weekend that was especially memorable. Driving home from a hike somewhere, I passed through Demorest and saw that a wedding was in progress in a city park adjacent to the campus.

This, I said to myself, is worth a stop. I parked and walked back to a spot overlooking the site of the wedding, a small gazebo in the park. I sat down on a bench and watched the remainder of the ceremony.

The afternoon was sunny and warm. Fifty or so guests were in attendance. The bride was radiant, the groom was handsome.

The scene was moving, and I became rather emotional. Never mind that I had no idea who those people were.

The gazebo in Demorest.

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Fit for a King

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, built in the late 1800s by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, is a real-life fairytale/fairyland castle. No surprise, it was the inspiration for the royal castle in the Disney film Sleeping Beauty, as well as for the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland.

Ludwig built several spiffy castles during his reign and, to his credit, paid for them with his personal fortune, not public funds. But he overreached with Neuschwanstein, and the costs soon had him in serious debt.

After borrowing heavily from relatives and every financial institution that would listen, Ludwig finally asked the Bavarian government to bail him out. His cabinet said no.

Serious rancor ensued. The situation escalated. Eventually, Ludwig was declared mentally ill and unfit to serve. He tried to flee the country, but was caught and detained at a remote estate near Munich.

A few days later, he and one of the doctors who declared him a mental case went for a walk along the shore of a mountain lake. The next morning, both men were found dead in waist-deep water. The doctor’s body showed unexplained signs of head and neck injuries.

The coroner declared Ludwig’s death a suicide by drowning. He said the doctor’s cause of death could not be determined due to lack of evidence. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Neuschwanstein Castle was completed a short time later and was opened to the public. It remains a popular tourist attraction today.

The Holiday Tree

Years ago, when my dad retired, Mom announced her retirement, too — from cooking. At the time, Mom was reassessing her life and making changes she felt were in order. Ergo, for Mom and Dad, a new era of pizza deliveries and eating out began.

Another of her changes concerned the Christmas tree. Mom said she was tired of the annual hassle of spending time decorating it, then, a few weeks later, reversing the process and hauling everything back to the attic. So she decided to leave the tree up permanently.

Thereafter, the Christmas tree became the Holiday Tree. Mom changed the decorations to reflect the seasons and holidays as appropriate.

After Christmas, it became the New Year Tree. Then the Winter Tree. Then the Easter Tree. Then the Springtime Tree. You get the idea.

The tree — artificial, of course — stood in one corner of a large rec room (formerly the carport, which the previous owner had enclosed), so having a six-foot tree in the house was never a problem.

In truth, Mom invested more time and energy in the Holiday Tree than she ever had in ordinary Christmas trees, but she and Dad thoroughly enjoyed it. They especially had fun collecting decorations.

I thought about doing the same thing myself, but decided against it. The hassle factor, you know.

Me at Mom and Dad’s house, Christmas 1998.

Unconventional

In the late 1920s, William M. Marston (1893-1947), a Harvard-educated psychologist, invented a device that measured blood pressure. His wife Elizabeth observed that when she got mad or excited, her blood pressure inevitably increased.

A light bulb came on over William’s head, and he contacted the inventor of the polygraph (lie detector). Result: The blood pressure device became an integral part of the polygraph.

The Marstons were, shall we say, an unconventional couple. Both were dedicated feminists, and, quietly, fans of BDSM. Eventually, the couple invited a like-minded friend, Olive Byrne, to live with them.

William had two children by each woman. Elizabeth pursued her career as an attorney and psychologist while Olive cared for the trio’s four children.

William had dabbled in writing since his college days and had published a series of self-help books. The itch to write later led him to a job at DC Comics as an educational consultant and occasional writer.

In 1941, his affinity for feminism, writing, and the bondage thing led him to create the character Wonder Woman, the first female superhero.

You may be aware that ropes (e.g., the Lasso of Truth) and being tied up are suspiciously regular Wonder Woman themes.

William wrote Wonder Woman stories until his death in 1947. Elizabeth and Olive continued living together until Olive died in 1990 at age 86. Elizabeth died in 1993, age 100.

Stranger than fiction.

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Thoughts du Jour

Unpalatable

To understand why the episode was so unsettling, you have to know that I prefer dry red wine. To me, the concept of sweet wine is simply wrong. In fact, I’m not a sweets person. I rarely eat or drink anything sweet.

Years ago, to lose weight, I switched from beer to wine. I began with Cabernet Sauvignon, then decided Merlot was more to my liking, then found Pinot Noir to be more subtle. Pinot Noir became my beverage of choice.

One evening a few weeks ago, I retrieved a bottle of Pinot Noir from the wine cellar (okay, the garage), popped the cork, poured a glass, and retired to my recliner to reflect upon the events of the day, with thoughts of bonding with Jake over some Combos or peanuts.

I raised the glass of Pinot Noir, took a sip — and recoiled in distress. It wasn’t Pinot Noir at all! It was sweet — alarmingly and cloyingly sweet!

I returned to the kitchen and checked the label on the bottle. Zinfandel. I had purchased a bottle of Zinfandel by mistake. Except for uttering an obscenity, I was speechless.

I took several more sips, but, ultimately, I emptied the rest into the sink. Still stinging, I returned to the wine cellar and retrieved a bottle of actual Pinot Noir.

Verify your purchases, people.

Zinfandel: full-bodied and fruity.

Pioneers

The first living things to go into space were fruit flies. In Feb. 1947, several of the little guys rode a V-2 rocket launched from White Sands Missile Range, the purpose being to study the effects of radiation at high altitudes. The fruit flies were recovered alive and well.

In June 1949, a rhesus monkey named Albert II was sent into space aboard a V-2, shortly after Albert I died when the rocket self-destructed on takeoff. Albert II reached space, but the V-2’s parachute failed, and Albert II died on re-entry.

In July 1951, the Soviet Union sent two dogs, Gypsy and Dezik, into space and returned them safely to earth.

In November 1957, the Soviets put a dog named Laika into orbit aboard Sputnik 2. Unfortunately for Laika, a mutt picked up from the streets of Moscow, it was a one-way trip; at the time, the technology didn’t exist to return a spacecraft from orbit. Laika died of hypothermia.

In October 1963, France sent a cat named Félicette on a suborbital flight aboard a Veronique rocket. Félicette was recovered safely after a 15-minute flight and a descent by parachute.

Thank you for your service.

Grooms and Valets

Friends, I am a relatively intelligent guy, and I consider myself attentive and curious. I am, in fact, an information junkie. I’m a major fan of the daily parade of facts and trivia you find online and in the media.

And I regularly pick up information that I’m genuinely surprised is new to me. How, I wonder, did I miss that?

I recently learned, for example, that for several centuries, every European monarch had a personal attendant in charge of overseeing the royal diet, attire, and toilet. Some of the courtiers in question also arranged for ladies to visit the king’s chambers.

Mainly, however, the attendant monitored the king’s meals, saw to his clothing and laundry, and, when the king went to the royal toilet, was available to make conversation and assist with hygiene as needed. In that regard, the degree of assistance provided is said to have varied from country to country and from king to king.

In France, the attendant was called the Valet de Chambre. In England, he was the Groom of the Stool. The positions were in existence from the early 1500s to about 1900.

Naturally, only noblemen and royal insiders were eligible for the job — which, despite certain unpleasant aspects, was highly coveted. Being in intimate contact with the monarchs, the attendants often gained the royal confidence, and many became highly influential at court.

How in the world did I miss that?

Sir William Compton (1482-1528), Groom of the Stool to Henry VIII.

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Thoughts du Jour

Random observations / recollections / stories…

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Ugly Remark

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one of my regular hiking buddies was a graphic designer named Sue. She was an avid hiker like me, and a mutual friend hooked us up: a blind date to climb Stone Mountain. We soon fell into a regular thing of hiking in the mountains every few weekends.

Sue and I were very simpatico. I was 20 years her senior, and our relationship was comfortably platonic. She and I were friends for 10 years, and all was well.

At the time, Sue lived in Decatur. I usually met her at her place on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and we would drive north to hike a chosen trail. We spent the long drives and the hours on the trails chatting and laughing and telling stories. Those were fun times.

Of the numerous times Sue and I went hiking together, she got mad at me only once. And I deserved it. It happened one morning as we were leaving her neighborhood. We passed a billboard that read, “I Buy Ugly Houses” and listed a name and phone number.

Clever me, I said, “Hey, maybe you should give that guy a call.” Sue’s house was a couple of decades old, and it indeed qualified as homely.

Sue turned to me and said angrily, “Rocky, you CANNOT call my house ugly! It’s okay for ME to call it ugly, but YOU CAN’T!”

It was the first time I had seen her upset. Which she had every right to be. I apologized, and she calmed down, and normality returned.

Eventually, Sue moved the Asheville, and we lost touch after a year or so. Later, I saw on Facebook that she got married. I miss our hikes. Those were fun times. But that stupid remark still makes me wince.

Sue in 2001.

———

Winning Formula

Nancy Drew, the fictional child prodigy and super-sleuth, came on the scene in 1930. She was the creation of publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who struck gold in 1927 when he introduced the Hardy Boys books. Coming up with a female counterpart was practically an obligation.

Stratemeyer truly understood his audience and knew what young readers wanted, and his organization delivered splendidly. Generations of boys and girls have grown up as enthusiastic fans.

Over the years, the Hardy Boys books were published under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon, but they were written by a succession of ghostwriters Stratemeyer kept on salary. The Nancy Drew stories also were written by in-house talent, published under the name Carolyn Keene.

Both the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew books are still in active publication today, 90 years later.

———

Evolution of a Melody

Charles G. Dawes (1865-1951) was a Republican who served as Vice President to Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. Dawes also was co-winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize for America’s reparations plan after World War I.

Additionally, Dawes as a musician a self-taught pianist and a composer. In 1911, he wrote Melody in A Major, a pleasant tune for piano or violin that became a national hit. It remained popular for years and, while Dawes was VP, was played regularly at official functions.

In 1951, not long after Dawes died, songwriter Carl Sigman added lyrics to the song and called his version It’s All in the Game. Over the next few years, it was widely recorded by prominent artists of the time.

The best known and most popular recording came out in 1958: a livelier pop version by Tommy Edwards. In 2018, it placed number 47 on the Billboard “Hot 100” list of all-time top songs.

You can hear Melody in A Major here.

It’s All in the Game is here.

Dawes probably would approve.

Charles Dawes and Tommy Edwards.

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Thoughts du Jour

George

A few years before I retired (from the Advertising Department at Lithonia Lighting), the higher-ups hired a neurotic guy in his 40s I shall refer to here as George. He was brought in as an “account manager,” a sort of liaison to the other departments. George was useless, but the job was unnecessary anyway, so the only harm was the money wasted on his salary.

His eccentricities were many. He was nervous, twitchy, and socially awkward. He was a habitual fingernail biter and eventually began wearing false nails.

He also made strange noises. At random times, a sudden squeak, or sometimes a low moan, would erupt from him. He never acknowledged these peculiar sounds, and I’m not aware if anyone was ever bold enough to inquire.

On one occasion, George discovered a cellophane-wrapped Gaines-Burger® in a pocket of his sport jacket. He spent the next week fretting about it, mystified and confused. It never occurred to him that someone simply put it there as a joke. (The someone was Larry Flowers, the Art Director.)

One day, George emerged from his office in distress, complaining of chest pains. Someone called 911. Our department was deep inside the building, so we sat him in a swivel chair, and I rolled him to the nearest exit to meet the ambulance. He was okay and back at work a few days later.

I don’t remember when or under what circumstances George left the department. But I well remember the false nails, the Gaines-Burger®, the baffling noises, and that wild ride in the swivel chair.

Walking the Dog

One Saturday a while back, I took Jake to Jefferson Middle School for our morning walk. It’s one of the places he can go off-leash. At the south end of the parking lot were several teenagers shooting hoops, so I parked at the north end, and we set out in the opposite direction.

As is his habit, Jake executed a few energetic zoomies around the lawn, then settled down to plodding along, sniffing, and marking the bushes, trees, and poles.

Over the next 20 minutes, we walked the perimeter of the school property. Eventually, we came out from behind the school about 50 yards from the teens — who were, we observed, petting a Golden Retriever that also was off-leash.

Jake came to attention and stared intently at the Golden, thrilled as always to encounter another dog. I clipped the leash to his harness, and we approached the group.

The Golden was not alone. Inching along behind him was a man about my age behind the wheel of a silver Honda. The man was, in fact, walking the dog from the comfort of his car.

It was weird, yes, but reasonably safe. The parking lot is nowhere near traffic, and it was empty at the time, except as described. Also, the dog looked fairly old, probably not inclined to run off.

Jake and the Golden met, and both were super-excited. They inspected each other at length, tails wagging furiously. After I exchanged pleasantries with the humans, we walked on.

Walking your dog with a car. That concept never occurred to me.

On the Mend

Alas, our daily morning walks ended abruptly in late July when Jake somehow broke a toe and spent 10 weeks — 10 weeks! — in a cast and under treatment. I took him to the vet when he began limping and favoring a rear paw, and the x-rays showed a fracture.

Only a toe was involved, but the cast covered half his leg.

“Doc,” I said to the vet, “That cast is huge. I broke a toe once, and they just told me to go home and take it easy. They said it would take care of itself.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but I can’t explain to Jake that he needs to take it easy.”

They sent Jake home wearing a cone of shame, but he paid no attention to the cast, so I got rid of the cone the first day.

Anyway, no daily walks, and the dog door was closed. I was supposed to keep him quiet and minimize the activity.

Fortunately, he adjusted well to the situation. He either walked on all fours, the cast making a clop-clop-clop sound on hard surfaces, or he trotted on three legs, holding the cast aloft like an aircraft with retracted landing gear.

On the other hand, if he saw a cat or a squirrel, he was off in vigorous pursuit (cloppity!-cloppity!-cloppity!).

But the fracture healed, and after seven weeks, the hard cast was replaced by a soft bandage. The vet also okayed our daily walks again. After 10 weeks, the bandage came off, and — knock on wood — all is well. On the final visit, they shaved his foot. It looks like a naked mole rat.

Odds are, he fractured the toe while going out the dog door. He exits the dog door like a speeding bullet if something worth chasing appears in the back yard.

When so doing, he lowers his head so his forehead hits the plastic flap, not his nose. Clever boy.

Well, clever except for fracturing a toe.

———

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Thoughts du Jour

Random observations / recollections / stories…

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Dopey, Sneezy et al

As you may know, the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was Hollywood’s first full-length animated film. Based on an 1812 German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the movie was a great success and won awards aplenty.

The movie focused more on the dwarves than did the original story, because Walt Disney wanted to take advantage of their potential for humor and emotional appeal. Although the dwarves in the original story were not individually identified, an obscure Broadway play in 1912 gave them names. Disney ignored that and chose new ones.

The Disney names were Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc. Except for Doc, their leader, the dwarves were named for a distinguishing characteristic.

The seven names were selected by a process of elimination from a list of about 50 candidates. Among the rejected names: Baldy, Gabby, Sniffy, Lazy, Tubby, Shorty, Wheezy, Burpy, Jaunty, and Awful.

Mr. Disney wisely decided not to name one of the Seven Dwarves Awful.

———

Neighborhood Jerk

Through most of the 1980s, my family lived in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville. Our house was on a cul-de-sac, and our back yard was adjacent to four other back yards. This created a large, pleasant green space behind the houses consisting of lawns, shrubs, and trees.

Another nice touch was that the five back yards were mostly private; no house had a direct view of any other. You saw kids playing and people doing yard work, but no more.

I liked all the neighbors just fine, except for one. He was a jerk. Too many times, we would hear him in his back yard, sometimes drunk, yelling profanities at someone in the household. Most people avoided him, but he made no effort to fit in anyway.

One Saturday afternoon, while peering out our bedroom window, Deanna said, “Would you look at what that fool is doing.”

I looked. It was the jerk in question, in the process of setting fire to a large pile of dry brush in his back yard. To our dismay, the pile of brush was not in the open, but under a canopy of trees. We hurried out onto the back deck in alarm.

The brush caught fire quickly, and almost immediately, the flames climbed into a pine tree. We could hear the sizzling and crackling. Deanna ran to the phone and called the fire department. Mrs. Jerk probably did the same.

Minutes later, the firemen arrived. They waved aside the jerk, who was impotently using a garden hose on the inferno, and put it out.

He lost two pine trees and a small hardwood. His house easily could have gone up.

What a jerk.

The deck from which we watched the conflagration.

———

National Jerk

In 1796, the renowned American portraitist Gilbert Stuart was commissioned by the family of George Washington to create a painting of the former president, who then was 65. The painting turned out to be exceptional, but Stuart’s behavior in the matter revealed a clear lack of character.

Throwing the Washingtons a curveball, Stuart left the painting unfinished, which allowed him to retain legal possession. For years thereafter, he made and sold copies of the painting for $100 a pop.

Still, even unfinished, the painting was widely recognized as a masterpiece and probably Stuart’s best work.

After Stuart died in 1828, the painting was moved to the Boston Athenaeum, a distinguished private library. Today, known as the Athenaeum Portrait, it is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

If the painting seems vaguely familiar, that’s probably because it was the model for Washington’s likeness on the one dollar bill.

Gilbert Stuart, world-class jerk.

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Random observations / recollections / stories…

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Spidy

Banks Crossing is a commercial area that grew up around one of the I-85 exits in the nearby town of Commerce. Walmart and Home Depot are there, as are half the town’s restaurants.

The last time I was there, it was lunch time, and up ahead was a Chick-fil-a. Drive-throughs being especially popular right now, a long double line of cars was queued up. I almost went elsewhere, but a chicken sandwich sounded good, so I got in line.

The wait wasn’t bad. Half a dozen employees were scurrying around outside, taking orders and money. Even the manager was there, directing traffic.

When my turn came, I ordered a chicken sandwich, and the girl asked, “What’s the name for the order?”

Smitty,” I said and proceeded to the window.

Later, I noticed the receipt stapled to the bag.

Spidy

My son Britt says “Spidy” can be my new call sign.

———

Spooked

Before I retired and began a life of comfort and indolence, I worked in the Advertising Department of Lithonia Lighting, a large manufacturer. I was just an ordinary copy chief, trying to get by.

The department consisted of a few admin types, the copywriters, and a stable of graphic designers who reported to the Art Director, Larry Flowers.

One of the designers, Dan Rabun, had the personal quirk of being unusually jumpy. He was easily spooked if someone came up behind him and caught him by surprise. Which happened regularly.

Probably, Dan simply zoned out when he worked and was oblivious to his surroundings. But the designers sat at a drawing board, or in front of computer screen, with their backs toward you. Not a good situation for poor Dan.

The person who spooked Dan most often was his boss Larry. Larry roamed the office constantly, checking on projects, assigning work, telling fart jokes. Regularly, he walked up behind Dan and, without intending to, scared the heck out of him.

Dan wasn’t always caught by surprise, but he jumped in alarm often enough. Cries of AUGGH!” and “AAAHH!!” were common.

Eventually, Larry came up with a solution. It was simple and effective.

When Larry went to see Dan, but before he got too close, he would announce in a calm and measured tone, “Approaching… Approaching…”

Dan

———

Trouble With YCbCr

Late last year, my Blu-ray player began screwing up. At unexpected moments, the screen would go black, and simultaneously, the sound would mute itself. A second later, picture and sound would resume as normal.

It didn’t happen on every disk, but it happened a lot. Losing the picture was annoying enough, but following the dialogue when random words are missing, that can be a challenge.

When the problem first surfaced, I checked all the cables and connections and otherwise tried to noodle out the cause. No luck.

Once, when the issue made watching a movie impossible, I went online and ordered another DVD of the movie. It was fairly old, so I got the replacement disc for just a few bucks. The problem was still there.

So, finally, I coughed up $50 for a new Blu-ray player. And, wonder of wonders, the problem went away.

For a few months.

One recent Saturday evening, I popped a DVD into the player it turned out to be a mediocre gangster movie and the problem was back. At unpredictable intervals, the sound winked out and the screen went black for a second or so. Crap.

I watched the movie for a few more minutes, but finally, I hit the pause button. Fuming with righteous indignation, I went to my computer and typed, “On a Blu-ray disc player, what causes the picture to go black and the sound to stop and then resume?”

According to the Google, that subject is a hot topic online. It’s a common problem and a source of widespread exasperation.

But I found a fix that seemed worth trying:

The issue might be your video output mode. In the bluray player settings, try switching from YCbCr 4.4.4 to YCbCr 4.2.2. That resolved my problem!”

YCbCr, I learned, is the method the player uses to interpret color. Blu-ray works best with YCbCr 4.2.0, but 4.2.2 is acceptable. Blu-ray does not like 4.4.4 and shows its displeasure.

So, I searched around in the settings of the Blu-ray player (settings I didn’t even know were there) and, sure enough, my player was set for 4.4.4. I changed it to 4.2.2.

And that, indeed, solved the problem. The disc played flawlessly, without winking out or muting itself a single time.

I watched the rest of the mediocre gangster movie with peace and contentment in my heart.

YCbCr

 

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My default position on movies is to ignore romantic comedies and chick flicks, most of which are formulaic and silly, usually on purpose. My snooty self prefers intelligent movies — thoughtful films that tell plausible stories in a satisfying manner. In my experience, the good ones come in all genres except rom-coms and chick flicks.

Sometimes, a single scene stands out. I’ve featured some of my favorite movie scenes previously on this blog, namely here, here, and here.

Below are more gems, in my subjective opinion.

———

I Want My Two Hundred Dollahs.”

From “Paper Moon,” 1973

Paper Moon

(In 1936, grifter Moses Pray and nine-year-old orphan Addie Loggins are having lunch in a Kansas diner while waiting for the train that will take Addie to live with her aunt in Missouri. Addie’s mother Essie May recently died in a car wreck, and Moze, who once had a fling with Essie May, has accepted $200 in hush money from the family of the driver.)

Addie (Tatum O’Neal): How good you know my mama?

Moze (Ryan O’Neal, Tatum’s real father): Good enough to know you can be real proud of all the happiness she give to people. Eat your Coney Island.

Addie: You meet her in a barroom?

Moze: Why would you have a question like that?

Addie: I hear Miss Ollie talk to the neighbor lady. They was wonderin’ if you’re my pa.

Moze: Well, don’t the world have a wild imagination. Now eat your Coney Island.

Addie after a long pause: You my pa?

Moze: ‘Course I ain’t your pa. (He pauses.) I’ll getcha some relish. (He retrieves a jar of relish from the next table and spoons some on her hot dog.) There ya are. Coney Island’s no good without relish.

(Addie looks at the hot dog, then glares at Moze.)

Moze: Now, look, I know how ya feel. I lost my ma, too. Even lost my pa. Don’t know where my sister is… Look, I wish I could tell ya I’m your pa, but it just ain’t like that.

Addie: Ya met her in a barroom.

Moze: Just ‘cause a man meets a woman in a barroom don’t mean he’s your pa. Eat your Coney Island.

Addie: Well, then, if you ain’t my pa, I want my two hundred dollahs.

Moze: How’s that?

Addie: I want my two hundred dollahs. I heard you through the door talkin’ to that man, and it’s my money you got, and I want it.

Moze: Now, just hold on a second.

Addie: I want my money. (Then louder) You took my two hundred dollahs!

Moze, as others in the diner turn to look at them: Quiet down, ya hear?

Addie, louder: I want my two hundred dollahs!

Moze: Alright, alright, just hold on. (He smiles at the other customers, then turns back to Addie.) Let me explain somethin’ to ya.

Addie: It ain’t as how you was my pa. That’d be different.

Moze: Well I AIN’T your pa, so get it out of your head, you understand? I don’t care what those neighbor ladies said.

Addie: I LOOK like ya.

Moze: You don’t look nothin’ like me. You don’t look no more like me than that Coney Island. Eat the damn thing, will ya?

Addie: We got the same jaw.

Moze: Lots o’ people got the same jaw.

Addie: But it’s possible, ain’t it?

Moze: No, it AIN’T possible.

Addie: THEN I WANT MY TWO HUNDRED DOLLAHS!

Moze: Alright, maybe we got the same jaw. Same jaw don’t mean the same blood. I know a woman looks like a bullfrog, but she ain’t the damn thing’s mother.

Addie: But you met my mama in a barroom.

Moze: For God’s sake, you think ever’body gets met in a barroom gets a baby?

Addie: It’s possible.

Moze: Dammit, child, anything’s possible, but possible don’t make it true.

Addie, loudly: Then I want my money! (All the other customers are looking at them.)

Moze: Will you quiet down! (Then in a low voice) You don’t have no appreciation, that’s the trouble with you. Maybe I did get some money from that man. Well, you’re entitled to that. And I’m entitled to my share for getting’ it, ain’t I? I mean, if it weren’t for me, where’d you be? Some orphan home, that’s where. You think them folks’d spend a penny to send you east? No sir. But who got you a ticket to Saint Joe? Who got you a Nehi and a Coney Island? And I threw in twenty dollahs extra, plus 85 cents for the telegram. Without me, you wouldn’t have any of that. I didn’t have to take ya at all, but I took ya, didn’t I? (He pauses.) Well, I think that’s fair enough. And we’re all better off. You get to Saint Joe, an’ I get a better car. Fair’s fair. Now drink your Nehi and eat your Coney Island.

Addie: I — want — my — two hundred dollahs.

Moze: I don’t HAVE two hundred dollars no more, and you KNOW it!

Addie, menacingly: If you don’t give me my two hundred dollahs, I’m gonna tell a policeman how ya got it. And he’s make ya give it to me, ‘cause it’s mine.

Moze: But — I — don’t — HAVE IT.

Addie: Then — GIT IT.

(The waitress approaches and addresses Addie.)

Waitress: How we doin’, angel pie? We gonna have a little dessert after we finish up our hot dog?

Addie, staring at Moze: I dunno.

Waitress: What d’ya say, daddy? Whyn’t we get Precious here a little dessert if she eats her dog?

Moze, staring back at Addie: Her name ain’t Precious.

———

“The Prize is Winning.”

From “Bite the Bullet,” 1975

Bite the Bullet

(In 1906, somewhere in the American west, 15 contestants are competing for a large cash prize in a grueling, 700-mile cross country horse race, sponsored by a newspaper. One night during the race, former Rough Rider Sam Clayton and an aging cowboy known only as “Mister” have made camp together. Mister is weak and exhausted, and he admits he has a heart condition.)

Clayton (Gene Hackman) covering Mister with a blanket: Why would a sick old man like you get tangled up in all this? Why in the name of sweet Jesus? What is so important about this gut-twisting, back-busting, man-killing goddamn race? The money?

Mister (Ben Johnson): The prize.

Clayton: The prize IS the money.

Mister: The prize is winning. Lose, you’re nothing. Who remembers a loser, or even cares? Win, you’re somebody. What you done, it’s printed. It’s in the newspaper. And when it’s printed, it ain’t brag. It’s real. Suddenly, everybody knows you, or wants to. Strangers shakin’ your hand. “Pleased to know you. Have a drink. Have a cigar. Meet the wife.” Everybody’s friendly and welcome. And I got a lifetime hunger for being welcome.

Clayton: No family?

Mister, gesturing toward his horse: Him. You know saddle tramps. They sign on, drive the beef a thousand miles. Make your mark, draw your pay, and move on to the next ranch. Another roundup, another drive. Hired, fired and move on.

Clayton: Well, it never bothered me none.

Mister: No, me, neither — when I was 30 years lighter.

Clayton: Ever prospected? Ever hit pay dirt?

Mister: I’ve dug for gold, silver, lead, mercury. I’ve dug more holes than a whole regiment of gophers. Ain’t never dug out a decent day’s wage yet. God, what ain’t I tried? Pony Express rider, Overland Stage driver, lawman, gambler. River man, rancher, rodeo hand, barman, spittoon man, old man. Nothing much to remember. Of course, ain’t nothing much to forget, neither. (He pulls the blanket closer and chuckles.) Nobody’s got much use for an old man. Can’t blame ’em much. That’s why I’m gonna win me this here newspaper race. When I cross that finish line, I get to be a big man. Top man. A man to remember.

(Mister turns and looks up at Clayton, then slowly closes his eyes and slumps over, dead. Clayton stands for a moment in respectful silence.)

Clayton: I didn’t even know your name, Mister.

———

You Smart College Guys!”

From Mister Roberts, 1955

Mr Roberts

(During World War II, the captain of a cargo ship refuses to allow his cargo officer, Lt. Roberts, to transfer to a fighting ship. Captain Morton also refuses to grant long-overdue liberty to the ship’s crew. The ship is in port, and Roberts has convinced one of Morton’s superiors to give the men a night ashore anyway. Morton is furious.)

A sailor on deck, expecting to hear that liberty will be announced: Here we go! Here we go!

Morton: This is the captain speaking. l just found out that there’s men on this vessel expecting liberty. I don’t know how this rumor got around, but I’d like to clear it up right now. On account of cargo requirements and security conditions… which have just come to my personal attention… there will be no liberty while in this here port! That is all. (Morton turns off the microphone and looks at his watch. There is a loud banging on his door.) Come in, Mr. Roberts. Twenty-eight seconds! Pretty good time. You see, l’ve been expecting you.

Lt. junior-grade Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda): Okay, when does this crew get liberty?

Morton: ln the first place, just kindly hold your tongue. l’m still Captain here.

Roberts: When are you gonna let this crew ashore?

Morton: l’m not. lt was not my idea coming to this liberty port. lt seems one of my officers arranged it with a certain port director. Gave him a bottle of scotch whiskey, compliments of the Captain. The port director was kind enough to send me a thank-you note… along with our order. Sit down, Mr. Roberts. Now, l admit l was a little provoked about not being consulted. Then l got to thinking. Maybe we ought to come to this port… so as you and me could have a talk.

Roberts: All right. Take it out on me, but not the men. (A band can be heard playing onshore) Don’t you hear that music? Don’t you know it’s tearing the guys apart? They’re breakable, Captain! l promise you.

Morton: Now you listen to me. l’ve got two things l want to show you. That is the cap of a full commander. l’m going to wear that cap some day, and you’re going to help me. lt won’t do any harm to tell you that you helped me win that palm tree by working cargo. Don’t let this go to your head. When Admiral Finchley awarded me that palm tree, he said, ”You’ve got a good cargo officer. Keep him at it. You’re going places.” And l went right out and bought that hat. And nobody is gonna stand between me and that hat! Certainly not you. Now last week it was agreed that there was to be no more of these ”disharmony” letters.

Roberts: l didn’t say that.

Morton: And what do l find on my desk this morning? Another one. lt says here, ”friction between me and the commanding officer.” That ain’t goin’ in, Mister.

Roberts: How are you gonna stop it?

Morton: l ain’t. You are. Just how much do you want this crew to have a liberty? Enough to stop this ”friction”? Enough to stop writing letters, ever? ‘Cause that’s the only way this crew is going to get ashore, this day or any other day. Now we’ve had our little chat. What do you say?

Roberts: How did you get in the Navy? How did you get on our side? You ignorant, arrogant, ambitious — keeping men in prison ’cause you got a palm tree for the work they did! l don’t know which l hate worse, you or that other malignant growth… How’d you ever get to be commander of a ship? l realize in wartime they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but where’d they ever scrape you up?

Morton: There’s just one thing left for you, mister. A general court-martial!

Roberts: Fine, court-martial me! l’m asking for it! lf l can’t get transferred, l’ll get court-martialed! l’m fed up! You’ll need a witness. Call your messenger. l’ll say it over again in front of him. Go on, call him! You want me to call him?

Morton: You’re a smart boy, Roberts. But l know how to take care of smart boys. l hate your guts, you smart college guys! l’ve been seeing your kind around since l was ten years old, working as a busboy. ”Oh, busboy, it seems my friend has thrown up on the table. ”Clean up that mess, boy, will you?” And then when l went to sea as a steward, people poking at you with umbrellas. ”Oh, boy! You, boy! Careful with that luggage, boy!” And l took it. l took it for years! But l don’t have to take it anymore! There’s a war on, and l’m captain of this vessel. Now you can take it for a change. The worst l can do to you is to keep you right here, mister! And here is where you’re going to stay! Now, get out!

Roberts: What do you want for liberty, Captain?

Morton: You are through writing letters, ever.

Roberts: Okay.

Morton: And that’s not all. You’re through talking back to me in front of the crew. When l give an order, you jump!

Roberts: ls that all, Captain?

Morton: No. Anyone know you’re in here?

Roberts: No one.

Morton: Good. Then you’re not to go blabbing this around to anyone, ever. Might not sound so good. l don’t want you to take credit for getting this —

Roberts: You think l’m doing this for credit? You think l’d let anyone know?

Morton: l’ve gotta make sure.

Roberts: You’ve got my word, that’s all.

Morton: Your word! You college boys make such a great show of keeping your word. (He turns on the PA system and picks up the microphone) Now hear this! This is the captain speaking. l’ve got further word on the subject of liberty. lt gives me great pleasure to announce liberty for the starboard section —

Roberts: The whole crew, or there’s no deal! l mean it!

Morton into the microphone: Correction. Liberty for the entire crew will commence immediately. (Loud cheers erupt around the ship.)

Roberts: You don’t have to tell them again. They heard you.

————-

That’s Envy, My Dear.”

From “Harvey,” 1950

Harvey

(In Charlie’s Bar, a doctor and a nurse are trying to convince Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey, to return with them to Chumley’s Rest, a sanitarium. While they are dancing, Elwood wanders out into the alley. The doctor and the nurse quickly follow him.)

Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake): Where’re you going, Mr. Dowd?

Elwood (James Stewart): I’m just looking for someone.

Sanderson: Why don’t you come back inside?

Elwood: Oh, all right, if you want me to. I — it seemed to be so pleasant out here. You know, you — you two looked very nice dancing together. I — I used to know a whole lot of dances. The, uh, Flea Hop, and — and, let’s see, uh — the Black Bottom. The Varsity Drag. I don’t know, I — I just don’t seem to have any time any more. I have so many things to do.

Nurse Kelly (Peggy Dow): What is it you do, Mr. Dowd?

Elwood: Oh, Harvey and I sit in the bars — and have a drink or two. Play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people, they turn toward mine, and they smile. And they’re saying, “We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fellow.” (Elwood sits down on a bench and looks up at the night sky) Harvey and I — warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We’ve entered as strangers. Soon we have friends. And they come over and they — they sit with us, and they drink with us, and they talk to us. And they tell about the big terrible things they’ve done, and the big wonderful things they’ll do. (He smiles and looks at Sanderson and Kelly) Their hopes and their regrets, their loves and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then, I introduce them to Harvey. And he’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back, but that’s — that’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us. That’s too bad. Isn’t it?

Sanderson: How did you happen to call him Harvey?

Elwood: Harvey’s his name.

Sanderson: How do you know that?

Elwood: Uh — there was a rather interesting coincidence on that, Doctor. One night several years ago, I was walking early in the evening down along Fairfax Street. Uh, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth. Do you know the block?

Sanderson: Yes, yes.

Elwood: I’d just put Ed Hickey into a taxi. Ed had been mixing his rye with his gin, and he — I just felt that he needed conveying. Well, anyway, I was walking down along the street, and I — I heard this voice saying, “Good evening, Mister Dowd.” Well, I — I turned around and here was this big six-foot rabbit leaning up against a lamp post. Now, I thought nothing of that, because when you’ve lived in a town as long as I’ve lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name. And naturally, I went over to chat with him. (Sanderson and Kelly lean in, listening intently) And — and he said to me, he said, “Ed Hickey was a little spiffed this evening, or could I be mistaken?” Well, of course, he was not mistaken. I think the world and all of Ed, but he was spiffed. Well, we talked like that for a while, and then — and then I said to him, I said, “You have the advantage on me. You know my name, and I don’t know yours.” And — and right back at me, he said, “What name do you like?” Well, I — I didn’t even have to think twice about that. Harvey’s always been my favorite name. So I said to him, I said, “Harvey.” And he — and this is the interesting thing about the whole thing — he said, “What a coincidence. My name happens to be Harvey.”

———

We’ll Always Have Paris.”

From “Casablanca,” 1942

Casablanca

(In 1941 Casablanca, police try to arrest Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo, but are stopped at gunpoint by American expatriate Rick Blaine. Blaine and Laszlo’s wife Ilsa are former lovers, and they are tempted to rekindle the romance. At the airport, police Captain Renault expects Rick and Ilsa to fly together to America. With one hand on the pistol in his pocket, Rick hands the Letters of Transit to the police captain.)

Rick (Humphrey Bogart): If you don’t mind, Louie, you fill in the names. (He smiles) That will make it even more official.

Renault (Claude Raines): You think of everything, don’t you?

Rick: And the names are Mr. and Mrs. Victor Laszlo.

Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman): But why MY name, Richard?

Rick: Because you’re getting on that plane.

Ilsa: I don’t understand. What about you?

Rick: I’m staying here with him [Renault] ’til the plane gets safely away.

Ilsa: No, Richard! No! What has happened to you? Last night, we said —

Rick: Last night, we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you’re getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.

Ilsa: But Richard, no, I — I —

Rick: Now, you’ve got to listen to me. Do you have any idea what you’d have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we’d both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn’t that true, Louie?

Renault: I’m afraid Major Strasser would insist.

Ilsa: You’re saying this only to make me go.

Rick: I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

Ilsa, in tears: What about us?

Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have it — we’d — we’d lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.

Rick: And you never will. I’ve got a job to do too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. (She is on the verge of crying, and he consoles her.) Now, now. (He raises her chin) Here’s looking at you, kid.

 

 

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Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Close Inspection

Recently, my son Dustin borrowed my utility trailer to haul some things to the county dump. A few hours later, he returned it to its customary spot outside my garage.

The next morning, when my dog Jake and I got home from our daily walk, Jake got of the car, paused, sniffed the air, made a detour over to the trailer, and began checking it out.

He systematically sniffed the side rails, the tires, and the tongue. I let him take his time. After several minutes of close inspection, he was satisfied and trotted to the back door.

We went inside, Jake got his customary treat, and I texted Dustin to tell him about Jake’s intense interest in the trailer.

It went on an adventure and had a story to tell,” Dustin replied.

Well said.

Jake horizontal

Keeping the Story Alive

In the early 1950s, we Smiths lived in Falls Church, Virginia. One summer, when I was about 10 and my brother Lee was four-ish, our Uncle John from Brooklyn came for a visit.

We were all in the living room chatting, and John asked Lee a question, something innocuous. Lee answered, then laughed heartily and added, “You silly froop!”

Baffled, the rest of the family laughed politely, and the conversation moved on.

Years later, I brought up the incident with Lee and asked him to define froop.

Lee had no recollection of the event. The word froop didn’t ring a bell.

So I asked Mom about it. She remembered the exchange, but had no idea what Lee meant by a froop.

Nowadays, the word froop has several meanings. It can be, for example, a combined form of fruit loop, a froop being, like, an airhead. It’s also a brand of apple-flavored yogurt.

But even if the word dates back to the 1950s, Lee probably was too young to have known the term. Most likely, the word just popped into his head.

Because Lee doesn’t remember the incident, I am the only person on earth who does. This post is my effort to keep the story alive.

P.S. I call Jake a silly froop all the time.

Froop

We Regret the Error

I love this story.

In October 2007, the Los Angeles Times published the obituary of Nolan A. Herndon, 88, a South Carolinian who had been an Army Air Forces navigator during World War II. Herndon participated in the bombing of Japan by “Dolittle’s Raiders” four months after the Pearl Harbor attack.

After the war, Herndon raised cattle and later went into the wholesale grocery business. The lengthy obituary gave details about his war experiences and was mostly accurate.

Mostly.

The day after the obituary was published, this correction appeared in the Times:

The obituary of Nolan A. Herndon in Monday’s California section gave his nickname as “Sue.” In fact, he was known only as Nolan A. Herndon.

In addition, his sons were listed as Nolan A. “Sue” Herndon, Jr. and James M. “Debbie” Herndon. Neither son goes by those nicknames; Sue and Debbie are the names of their wives.

I wonder if a copywriter got fired.

Herndon N

Nolan Herndon, not Sue Herndon.

 

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Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Southern Speech

My North Georgia grandfather, Frank Byrd, was a bona fide native who lived in the same small town his entire life. And his speech confirmed it. Frank spoke in the same manner, using the same colloquialisms, as virtually all of his contemporaries.

Some years ago, I wrote a post on this blog entitledTalking Georgian,a subject I find fascinating and entertaining.

I was reminded of Frank and his manner of speech recently by the arrival of spring. Everything is waking up – the bugs, the weeds, the grass, the trees, the pollen – and as I watched my dog Jake trying to catch a carpenter bee, I recalled that, to Frank and his friends, a wasp was a waust.

Waust. Rhymes with lost.

The speech characteristics of my Savannah grandfather, the first Walter Smith, were radically different from Frank’s, but equally interesting. Natives of the Savannah/Charleston area (who call themselves Geechees) speak Geechee,” which borrows words and phrases from African slaves, native tribes, and Europeans.

For one thing, Geechees pronounce the letter “R” only at the beginning of words. (People in the region can form the “R” sound perfectly well, but for some reason, choose not to do it.) Take, for example, this phrase:

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.

In Geechee, the phrase would be:

Renduh unto Caesuh the things that aw Caesuh’s, and unto God the things that aw God’s.

Wasp

A waust.

———

The Mortuary Business

In the South, most black people and white people attend separate churches and have separate funeral parlors. The old laws that required the separation are gone, but the systems remain in place.

In white society, morticians (undertakers, funeral directors) often are a source of jokes, owing to the services they provide, their stereotypical demeanor, and the prices they charge. Not so in the black community. Most black funeral directors are highly respected and honored.

Are the two images appropriately earned? Probably.

According to Ebony Magazine, the country had about 3,000 black-owned funeral parlors in the 1950s. Today, the number is down to 1,200, which is sad.

Years ago, my then-wife Deanna went into the florist business, with half interest in a small flower shop in Buford. As with most florists, funeral work was a significant part of the business. They dealt regularly with the local funeral parlors, both black and white.

On weekends and holidays, I usually helped out by making deliveries, so I also got a glimpse of how the mortuary business operated behind the scenes.

By and large, the black funeral director (Buford had only one) behaved like, and was treated like, a clergyman.

His two white counterparts, on the other hand, were ordinary guys who had inherited family businesses. Both behaved in a somber, funereal manner, probably because they felt people expected it of them. Around town, they were neither beloved nor especially respected.

One other interesting fact I learned about the funeral homes in Buford in those days: the black-owned mortuary had no refrigeration capability. None. The white-owned parlors made refrigerated storage available as needed.

I often wondered whether that vital service was provided gratis. Probably not.

Mortuary fridge

A modern nine-cadaver unit.

———

Petty Tyrant

When warm weather arrives, it’s time to take my RV to Mr. Clean Truck Wash in Athens to have the accumulated layers of mildew, pollen, and crud removed. The guys at Mr. Clean will scrub ‘er down and apply a coat of liquid wax for the lowly sum of $30. The workers at Mr. Clean do a thorough job and are a very congenial bunch.

Last year, the boss at Mr. Clean was a stoic black guy who handled the money, but otherwise just sat in a lawn chair and watched.

This year, in addition to the stoic black guy, the management includes a foremen – a plump, gray-haired, middle-aged, scowling white guy who bosses around the young black workers. He is, I regret to say, a jackass and a petty tyrant.

He and one of the crew started by spraying the van within a chemical that loosens dirt. Immediately, the foreman started yelling.

Not straight on, you @#$% moron! Hold the sprayer at an angle!”

The worker’s expression remained blank as he changed the angle of spray. The foreman spat several more curses before he dropped the subject.

Every few minutes, he chewed out one of the workers for a transgression – handing up the wrong brush, leaving a hose underfoot, missing a spot, not controlling the overspray. By the time the job was finished, he had yelled at and cursed out all three workers at least twice each.

Here was a guy, probably battling inner demons, who was taking advantage of his authority, knowing that the workers could do nothing about it. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t.

At one point, one of the young workers came over to the supply bench where I was standing, and I asked, “Is he always like this?” There could be no doubt what I meant.

Oh, yeah. Every day.”

I left $20 in the tip box.

Mr. Clean

 

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