Webster on the Web - 2013

Previous Year

A column by Gary Webster

 

December 2013

Mommy, where do peas come from?

I can't deny the fact that strange things pass through my mind as I make my way to work at 5:15 in the morning. I stopped listening to early, early morning radio years ago, meaning I entertain myself by contemplating all sorts of weird phenomena. This morning, for some odd reason, the words to the 1950's tune Sixteen Tons began to run through my mind. The song may go back well beyond the 1950's, but it was during the Eisenhower administration that country music star "Tennessee" Ernie Ford had a hit record with his rendition of Sixteen Tons. If you aren't familiar with the song. . .well, consider yourself lucky, since it's a pretty depressing tune. It's about a guy who scratches out a meager existence working in a coal mine and mourns his gruesome fate by crooning "you load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Satan, don't you call me `cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store." Yeesh! Is it any wonder I cringed at the thought of playing such depressing drivel for a living when the radio station I worked for changed its format from contemporary pop to country more years ago than I care to remember?

What does Sixteen Tons have to do with peas, you may ask, and well you should. The man who made the song his personal anthem, Tennessee Ernie, was known as "the ol' pea picker." I've never heard of anyone picking peas. I've heard of picking apples and picking berries. I've picked strawberries and I've picked blueberries. I picked a bag of blueberries while visiting my father's relatives in the coal mining country of central Pennsylvania when I was not yet a teenager. I proudly handed the bag to my mother who, I assumed, would take them home and bake them in a pie. She probably would have, too, had they not turned into blueberry juice in transit. I've also heard of picking cotton. The dispute over who should do such picking plunged this country into war. But I've never heard of picking peas.

Do peas grow on trees? That's a Dr. Seuss question if ever there was one. Too bad the good doctor never thought of it. He could've written another children's book that would've earned him a ton of money. If peas can be picked, they must grow on either trees or bushes, and I've never heard of a pea tree or a pea bush. Then again, I've never been to Tennessee. Maybe they have pea trees or pea bushes there. Ernie got that nickname from somewhere!

This question is important to me, because peas are the only green vegetable I'll eat, largely because they have no taste. I love potatoes, I tolerate peas, and I'll eat corn, but only under protest and extreme duress, and only if the kernels aren't attached to the cob and are swimming in butter. That's the sum total of my veggie consumption, and at least I know where potatoes and corn come from. But I have no idea where peas are grown, or hatched, or however they're created.

What's the deal with peas? Do they grow under ground, like peanuts? Is that why peanuts are called peanuts? Are peas the by-product of some other vegetable, as pickles are created from cucumbers? If peas can be picked, what are they picked from? Since I think we've eliminated trees and bushes, that would leave vines. Do peas grow on vines like grapes? And where are the seeds? How do peas produce more peas?

Are peas actually created synthetically and foisted on the public as a vegetable brimming with nutritional value? Are peas a gigantic hoax? Are we being flim-flammed by the food industry? Are you as sorry I brought up the subject as I am?

 

November 2013

Now, for post-election analysis.

That's why this month's essay is fashionably late. If you're reading this essay after November 11th, the day I wrote it, you don't realize it was late, so forget I mentioned it.

After, if I may quote the immortal William Shakespeare, the sound and fury of last year's presidential election, we needed a nice, quiet round of balloting with nothing much going on. At least I did, and at least nothing much was going on here. The only significant office up for grabs was that of mayor of Cleveland, and the only surprise was that the incumbent didn't win by an even wider margin than 65% to 35%. The challenger resorted to such goofy tactics to gain attention as deliberately posting his campaign billboards upside down. The first time I saw one of the challenger's upside down billboards, I assumed it was an act of vandalism. A week later, when I passed the same billboard and noticed that it was still upside down, I assumed no one had paid any attention to it and bothered to notify police. Not until I read a local political writer's analysis of the campaign did I discover that the challenger's billboards were purposely upside down. I was going to try standing on my head to read it, but thought better of it since I was driving at the time. I think there are laws against driving while standing on one's head. If there aren't, there should be.

There were a smattering of important elections around the nation. Voters in New Jersey kept their governor and voters in Virginia selected a new one. Virginians had no choice since the incumbent governor wasn't running. Not being an expert on Virginia's state constitution, I don't know if the governor couldn't seek another term, or if he decided to take a nice, quiet (and better paying) job like analyzing elections for a cable news outlet. In Colorado, voters in several counties in the northern part of the state rejected a referendum authorizing the secession from the state and the creation of a 51st state, which would've been called (how clever can you get) North Colorado. That's assuming Congress would've admitted the 51st state of North Colorado. A new state would've been a boost to the economy. Think of how many people would've been employed sewing all the new flags with 51 stars that would've been needed. Now it's going to be up to the northern counties of California or the people of Puerto Rico to become the 51st state. Unless Texas succeeds in seceding, which it threatened to do after last year's election, in which case we'll need another state just to keep all the current flags from becoming obsolete. Then again, if Texas secedes and no new state replaces it, lots of people will find jobs sewing flags with 49 stars on them.

Locally, the city in which I reside elected a new at-large representative to the city council. It was a hotly contested race between a guy named John and a guy named Joe. Really, those are their names. John really wanted to be a council representative. I know this because he paid for billboards on the freeway leading into Cleveland, so commuters would see his name every morning as they drove to work. And they wouldn't have to stand on their heads, since John's billboard was right side up. He rented another billboard on the opposite side of the freeway so the commuters would see his name again on their way home. That one was right side up, too.

John also spent big bucks on refrigerator magnets that he sent all the registered voters in the city. The magnet has the Cleveland Browns football schedule on it. It's currently attached to my computer. Yes, I voted for John. I'm not above being bribed.

I wonder what I'll be offered for my vote in next year's election?

 

October 2013

If I'm gonna get beat up, I wanna get paid for it!

Have you ever had a line from a movie stick in your mind for no explicable reason? The above quote was uttered by the one and only Curly Howard of The Three Stooges in the 1937 film Grips, Grunts and Groans. In the film, the Stooges, on the run from the authorities, take refuge in a gym where boxers train. The Stooges are offered five dollars (big bucks during the Great Depression) to serve as sparring partners. Curly wants no part of the deal, so Moe and Larry decide to physically convince him to accept. After a few slaps, punches and kicks, Curly decides that if he's going to be abused, he may as well be compensated for it and accepts the boxing manager's offer. Although there has been no physical persuasion involved, I've come to the same conclusion Curly came to.

It's about time I was compensated for a service I've no doubt been providing for years. I hereby publicly announce, via this website, my availability as a compensated spokesman, the key word being "compensated."

I was inspired to do this when I saw an advertisement for an insurance company on a website that features old radio programs. There was the smiling face of a former professional football player and current football analyst identified as the company's "spokesman and compensated endorser." I don't know why an insurance company selected a former football player as its spokesman. Then again, I have no idea why companies choose the celebrities they choose to endorse their products. Why did a camera manufacturer employ legendary actor Henry Fonda as its spokesman many years ago? Surely there must've been a famous photographer who would've been glad to accept the manufacturer's money to endorse its product, and the photographer would've known something about the product. Maybe the company made lousy cameras and no self-respecting photographer would endorse them for any amount of money. I wouldn't know. I didn't buy one the cameras Fonda endorsed. His word wasn't good enough for me. He was an actor. What did he know about cameras? His directors handled that stuff.

It occurs to me that I've been a spokesman for years without being aware of it. And without being compensated for it. But that's going to change. In this column, and on my daily radio program, I've made no secret of the fact I graduated with a degree in telecommunications from Kent State University. I'm proud of it. I mention it whenever the opportunity presents itself, and sometimes when the opportunity doesn't present itself. Not until today, however, did I realize that I am unquestionably single-handedly responsible for increasing Kent State's enrollment to the record level it currently enjoys. I visit the old alma mater whenever I can, and it's impossible not to notice all the new construction, most of which is dormitories to house the avalanche of students who wish to pursue a higher education at the same institution at which I pursued mine.

During the 26 years I've been on the radio, I wonder how many of my listeners have heard me talk about dear old Kent State and said to themselves, "if they did that for him, that's the place I want to go to school." It must be hundreds. Maybe thousands. Maybe more. And I think it's only fair that the old alma mater should start paying me for spreading the word about it. I'll send them a bill, too. And my services don't come cheap!

If you own a business, I can do the same as your compensated spokesman. And feel free to ask me to endorse products I know nothing about, which would be just about everything. If Hank Fonda did it, I'll do it, too!

 

September 2013

Wow! My very first sequel!

Sequels are all the rage in the world of entertainment these days. All successful movies have sequels. Most screenplays expected to become blockbuster hit films are written with a sequel in mind. Like the 1997 movie version of the 1960's television series Lost in Space, which I used to watch until Batman premiered at the same time on another network. I haven't seen any of the Batman theatrical films, but I did see the Lost in Space film. . .first run, too, meaning I shelled out eight of my hard-earned bucks, not to mention the price of a jumbo tub of popcorn. And I didn't even have a date. But I have to buy the jumbo tub of popcorn because I have a habit of arriving at the theater at least half an hour before the picture starts, to make sure I get a seat. And once I sit down, I can't resist digging into my box of popcorn. If I buy the small box, I often finish it before the movie starts. What a bummer! I find it physically impossible to watch a movie in a theater without munching on hot buttered popcorn, so I have to buy the jumbo tub to make sure I have enough to last through a 90-minute film with a 30-minute head start. I also can't resist the sales pitch of the highly-trained teenager behind the counter, who always tries to talk me out of the medium-sized tub of popcorn. "For only a dollar more," the teenager says, and I inevitably hear myself saying, "yeah, I'll take it."

Anyway, the 1997 theatrical version of Lost in Space just screamed for a sequel, but the studio never made one. Judging by the size of the crowd in the theater the day I saw the film, I can understand why. Also judging by the film itself. It sucked.

Now, to my sequel. In last month's essay, I made mention of redheads, as the term pertains to women with hair of that color. I've often wondered why we called redheads "redheads." That shows a dreadful lack of creativity on the part of the person who coined that term. We don't call people with blonde hair "yellow heads," do we? Yes, I know we call children with blonde hair "tow-headed," but that doesn't count. Maybe it does, but this is my essay, and I'm not counting it. I also wonder why we spell blonde one way for women and another way for men, but that's an essay for another day. Or maybe not. If I feel like tackling that question some day, I will. But back to this month's topic. We don't call blondes "yellow heads," and we don't call brunettes "brown heads." So why are people with red hair referred to as "redheads?" Not only is the term totally lacking in creativity, I personally find it rather demeaning.

Surely there must be a better term to describe those with the rarest of hair pigmentation. . .if hair has pigmentation. Few things command attention like a head full of flaming, red hair, so why not give it a name worthy of such stature? Like crimson. Or scarlet, although few people have hair quite that red, and if they do, it isn't natural. Blonde, brunette, or crimson. How does that strike you?

If you don't like that idea, how about honoring the most famous redhead of them all by using the name as the descriptive term for people with such distinctive hair color? No, I don't mean Carrot Top. I mean Lucille Ball, the redhead's redhead? We could refer to people with red hair as Lucy. Blonde, brunette, or Lucy. I think it beats what we call them now. And yes, I remember Lucy's hair was really more orange than red. Don't get technical!

What other well known objects are red? Maybe we could call people with red hair cherry, since the term "strawberry blonde" is already taken. Then there's blood…eeewww! Forget I mentioned that.

 

August 2013

Please, please, please, please, PLEASE!!!!!!!

Ever since hometown hero LeBron James, in his very own words, "took [his] talents to South Beach," a segment of the population of northeastern Ohio has been fervently hoping that, in the summer of 2014, which happens to be 12 months from now, James will change his mind and grace us once again with his presence in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. I’m not among them.

I had no problem with James deciding to spurn the ice and snow and general yuckiness of northeastern Ohio for the sun and surf (even in January and February) of south Florida. I’d have taken my talents to South Beach years ago if someone there would have paid me to. I’d take my talents to South Beach now if someone there would pay me to. Personally, I think James would be certifiably insane to turn his back on Miami and return to Cleveland, and I still don’t think he will. But now I can understand why he’ll conduct the charade of considering it next summer.

According to some basketball website, and we all know everything we read on the internet is unquestionably true, James will exercise the clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent after the 2013-2014 season. He did the same thing in the summer of 2010, paving the way for the dog and pony show that saw representatives of several teams, including the team James was playing for, the Cavaliers, beat a path to his door offering him the sun, moon and stars (not to mention gobs of money) if he’d sign a contract to play basketball for them. The website claims James thoroughly enjoyed the attention, and that’s why he’s going to repeat the process in 2014. He really isn’t concerned with what he’ll be offered, he just wants the chance to sit back and drink in the adulation as billionaires genuflect before him and beg him to take a significant portion of their money in exchange for giving their team a chance to win the NBA championship. Not a bad deal for a kid from Akron. And let’s be honest about it: who, among us working schmucks, wouldn’t do the same if we could?

I said be honest, now.

Wouldn’t you love the chance to have billionaires parade into your home and beg you to work for their company? In addition to offering you scandalous amounts of cash, they’d shower you with all kinds of other perks and promise to make you happy beyond your wildest dreams. Well, I would! I’d trade places with James in the blink of an eye.

Don’t you think I’d love to sit back in a recliner while the owner of Random House offers me a contract worth millions. . .make that tens of millions. . .make that hundreds of millions. . .of dollars to write books for his publishing house? In addition, he’ll give me my own personal secretary in my choice of hair color. . .blonde, brunette, or redhead. Then, the owner of Doubleday tops that offer by telling me I can have one of each. Plus a company limousine. . .which I decline, demanding a company Mustang instead. Doubleday would be glad to provide me with a company Mustang. Better yet, how about a Mustang for each day of the week, plus a company credit card to charge the gasoline to. Then, the owner of Simon & Shuster promises to trump anything those pikers at Random House and Doubleday have offered, in spades, because they just have to have me under contract, because I’m the world’s greatest essayist. Who wouldn’t love to be in that position? I would! And so would you. Come on, admit it.

That’s why LeBron can’t wait for next summer. But he’s still not coming back.

 

July 2013

And to think it all started in my hometown.

Actually, my hometown is Euclid, Ohio, which borders Cleveland on the east, but since I was born in a hospital in Cleveland (which has since been closed. . .the hospital, I mean, not Cleveland) I consider both to be my hometowns. Besides, the section of Cleveland in which the "Man of Steel" was created is near the border with Euclid. That's why Euclid Hospital (which is not the hospital I was born in) was called Euclid-Glenville Hospital when I was growing up. It was called Euclid-Glenville Hospital when I had my tonsils removed there in the summer of 1964. That fact has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to this essay, but I thought I'd mention it.

The weekend before this essay was written, approximately $120 million was spent on tickets to see the film Man of Steel. This development wouldn't have been possible were it not for the creativity of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, two twenty-somethings who dreamed up the idea of Superman during the depths of the not-so-great depression. Specifically, Superman was born in 1934, but wasn't introduced to the public until 1938, due to rejections of the concept of an invincible superhero by multiple publishers.

I don't know much about the history of Superman because, and I know this is anti-American but I can't help that, I don't care much about him. The next Superman comic book I read will be the first. I wish I had been interested in Superman, because I would have purchased some comic books as I grew up in the 1960's, and those comic books, assuming I hadn't spilled anything on them, or the pages weren't welded together with gum, would be worth a lot of money now. And the next Superman movie I see will also be the first. . .and it won't be Man of Steel. Not even when it comes to the discount theater within walking distance of my apartment. Now that I think of it, I did watch quite a few episodes of Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman on TV in the 1990's, but that was because Teri Hatcher played Lois Lane, and need I explain further? I just don't care much about Superman.

What baffles me is why so many people do care about Superman. It seems to me that Shuster and Siegel created their super hero with one basic flaw: nobody can defeat him, so where's the suspense? The people who forked over a penny or a nickel or whatever a comic book cost in 1938, when Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1, or whatever issue it was, knew that he'd vanquish the bad guys. How could he not? He was the Man of Steel! He could fly and jump over skyscrapers in a single bound and bend steel bars with his bare hands and see through brick walls thanks to x-ray vision and bullets fired at point blank range bounced harmlessly off the big red "S" on his chest. How could any villain in the known universe beat him? I repeat, where was the suspense?

Granted, Shuster and Siegel gave Superman one weakness. He's rendered helpless by the presence of Kryptonite, the stuff of which his doomed home planet was made. But where was the unfriendly neighborhood bad guy supposed to find Kryptonite? There was no internet to order it from. How did Superman become so popular when everybody knew when they opened the latest Action Comic that he'd beat his antagonist to a pulp? To quote my scriptwriting instructor from the Cleveland Play House, where's the suspense? Where's the conflict? No matter who the bad guy was, Superman was going to beat the bejabbers out of him. Be sure not to miss next month's issue when he does the same thing.

Maybe I will see the film. It depends on who's playing Lois Lane.

 

June 2013

Nice try, Mr. Former President.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, holds a unique distinction that he isn’t now, and never will be, aware of. Unless he reads this essay, or some Republican operative was somehow snooping over my shoulder when I cast my ballot in November of 1988. Bush the elder was the last Republican for whom I voted in a presidential election. On the surface, that doesn’t make much sense since I proudly voted against the man Bush served as vice president, Ronald Reagan, twice. Bush spent the campaign promising four more years of Reagan’s policies if he was elected, but I still thought he’d make a better president than my party’s candidate, former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. If you’re keeping score, in the past 25 years each party has nominated a former Massachusetts governor as its presidential candidate, and both were defeated. The Massachusetts delegation may as well stay home in 2016.

Among the reasons I voted for Bush was his promise to try to create what he termed a "kinder and gentler" America. We certainly needed a dose of civility after the turbulence of the Vietnam era, Watergate, the energy crisis, the Iran hostage affair, the economic downturn of the early 1980’s, and Reagan’s admission that he lied to us about selling weapons to the Iranians who, if memory serves, were supposed to be our sworn enemies. Bush even started a foundation, "A Thousand Points of Light," to honor people who did nice things for other people and tried to make his vision of a "kinder and gentler" America a reality.

As hard as he tried, Bush missed the mark. I’m reminded of that every time I go on line. There’s very little that’s "kind and gentle" about America in 2013, especially in Washington, D.C. Never does a day pass when my home page, AOL, doesn’t greet me with bold headlines about SENATOR BOONDOGGLE BLASTS CONGRESSMAN FARKLESCHNORTZ. Or CONGRESSMAN WHIPSNADE BLASTS SENATOR FOGHORN. Senators also blast their fellow senators and congressional representatives blast their fellow representatives, and every day another Republican is blasting President Obama. The president does quite a bit of blasting of his own, but he has to be a bit more civil because he’s the president. He has an image to maintain. Given my interest in history, I’ve always wanted to visit our nation’s capitol, but I’m assuming that right now, the cherry blossoms notwithstanding, it looks like a construction zone with all that blasting going on. I’d love to have the hard hat concession outside the Capitol Building.

The harsh tone of public discourse isn’t restricted to our esteemed elected representatives, at least according to AOL, which is my main source of news since I don’t read the papers or watch news on TV, mainly because, whatever is going on in this crazy world of ours, I don’t want to hear about it! But I can’t avoid my home page when I sign in to do my daily web surfing, and AOL loves to hit its clients right between the eyes with headlines like GRUSOME DISCOVERY MADE IN UPPER SLOBBOVIA, or YOU WON’T BELIEVE THE HORRIFYING DISCOVERY THIS WOMAN MADE IN HER SEPTIC TANK, or MAN SHOCKED WHEN HE OPENED HIS MAIL BOX. I turn my eyes away from the headlines and don’t read the stories. I really don’t. I have enough trouble in my own life. I don’t need to read about some poor schnook’s terrifying encounter with the unbelievable thing he found in his sock drawer.

I don’t think this is the "kinder and gentler" society Bush the elder had in mind. Maybe I should’ve voted for Dukakis.

 

May 2013

Thank you for your kind consideration.

My reasons for contributing a monthly essay to this website have been twofold. First, I want to pay tribute to the lady who began this site to create a place where writers with something to say could say it. Obviously, I’ve had a lot to say over the years and I haven’t been shy about expressing my opinions. The second reason is I was fervently hoping that someone, somewhere (preferably a publisher) would somehow stumble upon this column, read it, and decide that I was the logical successor to the legendary Dave Barry, America’s premier humor columnist, now regrettably retired. Alas, no such turn of events has happened, at least not yet, so our nation is forced to amuse itself with repeats of the columns that, I’m assuming, made Barry a wealthy man (even though he presented himself as one of the common people in his essays. Not many common folks have written best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning books or had a long-running TV series based on their lives, as Barry has.) One reader did inquire about the essay I composed about South Dakota (or was it North Dakota) a few years back, but after the initial inquiry, I never heard from him again. I’m assuming the inquiring mind who wanted to know about that column (and, presumably, the columnist) wasn’t a publisher looking to lavish a seven-figure contract on me.

I confess to having a life-long desire to achieve fame and fortune. When I was in elementary school, I dreamed of being the star of the most popular show on television. I also dreamed of being president of the United States and the greatest baseball player of all-time. Hey, if you’re going to have dreams, they may as well be big! I failed to achieve any of those ambitions, partially through a conspicuous lack of effort, and partly due to geography. I realized before I reached junior high school that being president carried with it more responsibility than I cared to be saddled with. And I wasn’t blessed with any athletic ability, so there will be no plaque in Cooperstown, New York, bearing my likeness. However, being the star of the most popular TV show in history was well within my grasp. One Saturday night, when my teen-age cousin David had nothing better to do than baby-sit a precocious two-year old (me), he put a microphone in front of my face and asked me a series of questions, a-la Mike Wallace interrogating a wayward public figure. I answered each question calmly and coolly (except ‘what’s your name?’, but that was a tough one) and concluded the interview by reciting the fairy tale of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I don’t recall (and neither does my cousin) whether I was reading the story or had memorized it, but either way, that was a pretty impressive accomplishment for a two-year old kid! Unfortunately, my cousin gave the tape recording to my parents, who packed it away with their keepsakes instead of gasping at the ability possessed by their pint-sized off-spring and giving it to a talent agent. That’s what I mean by being held back by geography. If we had lived in southern California, my parents would’ve been camped outside the door of the William Morris Agency on Monday morning. Some talent scout would’ve recognized my ability, I would’ve made a bunch of commercials, and I would’ve had my own situation comedy before I was five years old. I probably would’ve been washed up by age 12, like most child stars, but I’d still be living off the residuals of the re-runs of my TV show. Stuff like that doesn’t happen to kids growing up in Cleveland.

I recently learned that the people who have ignored my talents over the years have done so for my own good. A group of researchers with far too much time on their hands spent years studying obituaries (a pursuit there isn’t enough gold in Fort Knox to get me to engage in) and discovered that celebrities don’t live as long as average, ordinary people, of which I am reluctantly one despite my attempts not to be. The story didn’t say how much longer regular folks live, but they tend to stick around longer than the rich and famous. . .well, at least the famous, anyway.

In light of this information, I apologize to all of you who have steadfastly refused to put me on a pedestal for my overwhelming talents as a performer/writer. I thought you were being jealous and petty, when actually you were trying to extend my time on this mortal coil by not allowing me to endure the curse of celebrity.

I think I’m going to cry.

 

April 2013

Decisions, decisions.

What will you be doing on the 13th of this month? Specifically, between 6:30 and 11:30 in the evening? Hopefully, you’ll read this essay before April 13th, or you’ll miss out on the entertainment opportunity of a lifetime. . .if you live on Cleveland’s east side. You’ll also be faced with a choice.

For the past several weeks, the theatre group I’ve worked with since before the turn of the 21st century (1998 to be precise) has been working diligently on the performance we’re giving at a local party center on the night of April 13th, which just happens to be a Saturday. I mention that so you don’t have to bother looking for a calendar, in case you read this essay prior to the 13th and are interested in attending, which you should be, if you live in the vicinity of South Euclid, Ohio, where this extravaganza will take place. The evening’s fare will include a comic, several singers, a belly dancer (undoubtedly my favorite part of the evening) and original sketches written by the playwrights-in-residence of the theatre company, of which I happen to be one. In fact, I’m the group’s PIRE, which stands for playwright-in-residence-emeritus, and is not to be confused with pyre, which is something associated with a funeral, a topic I’d rather not get into.

Until a few minutes ago, I assumed my theatre group had April 13th all to itself in terms of presenting high quality entertainment to the residents of the east side of Cleveland. Actually, people don’t have to live on the east side of Cleveland to attend our soiree. They can live on the west side. If you live in Cleveland, you know this is a significant concession on the group’s part. We’ll go above and beyond that. People living anywhere in Ohio will be welcomed. Or Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky or West Virginia. Even (much as it pains me to write this) Michigan, may the spirit of Woody Hayes forgive me. If they have the price of admission, they’re in, since this is a fundraiser. We’re not going to be picky about where the money comes from, just as long as it’s good old American currency. On the other hand, if someone wants to dust off their passport and motor on down to the southern shore of Lake Erie from Canada, we’ll take their cash, too. Depending on what the exchange rate happens to be on that particular day.

I’m digressing from the point. Until just minutes ago, I thought my theatre group had a monopoly on entertainment on the evening of April 13th. Then I learned, much to my dismay, that we have competition. On that same evening, just a stone’s throw from our fundraiser, Microsoft is opening a new store in a fancy shopping emporium. No, I’m not concerned that people would rather check out the latest computer software than our well-written and crisply performed show (did I mention we have a BELLY DANCER?). I am, however, concerned that people might be inclined to check out Kelly Clarkson, who is undoubtedly being paid big bucks to headline a concert near the new Microsoft store. That was all the advertisement said. Kelly will be performing near the new Microsoft store. It didn’t say where near is, and I’m assuming that at this point in her career, Kelly is above singing in shopping emporiums, even one as fancy as the emporium in which Microsoft’s new store will open on April 13th. Maybe she was once willing to sing while shoppers strolled by and paid no attention to her when she was a waitress back home in Texas, but not now that she’s the original American Idol. So I have no idea if she’s singing across the street or in Zanesville, which really isn’t near the Microsoft store, but it’s nearer to the store than Paducah, Kentucky is. These things are relative, you know.

All I know is we have singers at our fundraiser, but Kelly isn’t one of them (but did I mention we have a BELLY DANCER?). Isn’t it just like a high roller such as Bill Gates to haul out the heavy artillery and pull an audience away from a struggling theatre group trying to make a couple of bucks to rent an old barn and put on a show like the Little Rascals used to do?

You have a choice this April 13th. You can promote the arts by attending our unknown theatre group’s humble fundraiser, or you can listen to a superstar recording artist belt out one top 10 hit after another at a free concert somewhere near the new Microsoft store. The choice is yours.

Did I mention we have a BELLY DANCER? Let’s see Kelly top that!

 

March 2013

I know what’s going on here!

Last Saturday, my alma mater, dear old Kent State University, played a basketball game in Athens, Ohio, at the unconscionable hour of 11:00 AM. In other words, in the morning. Unless college has changed considerably since I was a full time student at the institution mentioned above, 98% of the students on the campus of Ohio University weren’t even awake at that hour. Why do you suppose the students who ran the campus radio station for which I toiled from October of 1978 until June of 1979 gave me the 8:00 until noon time slot Saturday mornings? Because the whole campus was sleeping off Friday night, that’s why! Nobody (with the exception of an intelligent and beautiful young communications student who lived on the second floor of Prentice Hall and was wise enough to delicately spurn my totally sincere marriage proposal) was awake on the whole freaking campus. Management of the station gave me the time period when my nonsense could do the least damage because only one person was listening!

I’m assuming the reason the game was played so early was because it was part of Ohio University’s annual winter weekend for prospective students, of which I was once one. That’s why I know about it. In February of 1976, I dragged my parents to scenic Athens for such an event as I made the most fateful decision of my young life: where would I continue my pursuit of a degree in electronic communications? At Kent State or Ohio University? By the way, we called the school "Ohio U" in those days. Today, the administration prefers that I (and everybody else) refer to it simply as "Ohio." Which is why I’m referring to it as Ohio University. Just to tick them off. Not that they ever did anything to me. It was I who did something to them. I visited their fine institution on a winter weekend and said to my parents "blecccchhhh!" Or a similar sentiment.

In truth, when my mom and dad and I got in mom’s bright yellow Dodge Duster to make the trip to the state’s southeastern corner on that Friday afternoon, I was leaning heavily toward enrolling at Ohio University. I’d heard nothing but good things about their electronic communications department, and I actually wanted to get a good education. However, as soon as I drove the Duster past the sign that read ATHENS CORPORATION LIMIT posted alongside U.S. Route 33, I knew the trip had been a waste of time. No sooner had we checked in to our room at the University Inn than I informed my parents that "we can go home right now. I’m not going to school here."

I hadn’t even seen the campus, but I didn’t need to. As I learned about the two schools vying to take my parents hard-earned money to pay for my tuition, it somehow escaped my notice that Athens is smack-dab in the middle of scenic nowhere! How did I miss that detail? I scored 98% in my geography class in junior college! Since I grew up in a major metropolitan area, which isn’t as major as it was in 1976 but is still somewhat significant, nowhere had always been a nice place to visit, but not someplace I wanted to live, and certainly not where I wanted to spend my junior and senior years in college.

"You dragged us down here, so you’re going to look around and hear what they have to say!" mom informed me, which I did. Nothing I saw or heard changed my mind. The festivities concluded with a basketball game Saturday afternoon, to which all attendees were given tickets. I wanted to go to the game, but mom said no. Since I’d made my decision, she wanted to go home. And it was her car.

Who knows? Maybe if mom had let me go to the game, and Ohio University had sexy cheerleaders, and one of them had smiled at me, I might have. . .nah!

 

February 2013

Who needs this stuff?

I fully understand the importance of the essay I’m about to write, and its potential ramifications. I’ve been waiting since 2001 to use "ramifications" in an essay. It’s about time I was able to do it! Anyway, back to the topic at hand. With our nation still struggling to overcome the catastrophic economic meltdown of 2008, and with the unemployment rate higher than anyone would like it to be, I realize that the information I’m about to reveal will be devastating to our efforts to return to the boom years of the 1990’s, when there were more jobs than there were people qualified to fill them.

That, however, is precisely why I can’t keep this revelation to myself. I am one of the 99%, the people who don’t have money to burn, and that is why I must tell you of the discovery I made yesterday. Like many great discoveries, such as penicillin, I stumbled upon it accidentally.

Yesterday was Saturday, and my Saturday morning ritual since I moved into an apartment of my own way back in the last millennium has been to drive to my parents’ home to do my laundry. I do this despite the fact my parents’ home is three miles away while the laundry room in my apartment building is literally directly across the hall. I do this because, if I used the laundry room in my apartment building, I’d have to pay for the detergent, the fabric softener, and the use of both the washing machine and dryer. You’d think that would be covered by my rent, wouldn’t you? Well, think again! It costs 75 cents a pop to use those machines. At least, it did when I moved in. I haven’t checked to find out if the price has increased with the passage of more than two decades, but I think I can safely assume that it has. In my mom’s laundry room, the detergent, fabric softener and use of the equipment is free. You can’t beat that deal. So as not to appear to be too much of a moocher, I also do my mom’s laundry. I even fold it and lay it on her bed.

I don’t know how this happened, because I wasn’t in a particular rush yesterday, but after I put my clothes in the washing machine, I pushed the start button without putting the detergent or the fabric softener in! I washed my clothes with plain, old water only. And guess what happened? They came out of the washer as clean as if I’d used detergent and as soft as if I’d used fabric softener. There was absolutely no difference between yesterday’s load and a normal load. Do you realize what this means?

It means Americans waste billions of dollars each year on laundry detergent and fabric softener that our clothes don’t need! Think about it. These two items are relatively recent inventions. Our great-great-great-grandparents didn’t have detergent or fabric softener handy when they cleaned their clothes by pounding them on rocks at the nearby river or creek. So why do we spend billions of dollars each year on stuff we don’t need to keep our clothes clean and soft to the touch? I know this will put people out of work at Proctor & Gamble, but I feel compelled to pass this information along, so you can spend the money you’ve been literally flushing down the drain by purchasing these unnecessary luxuries on other items. Important items. Fun items. Like ketchup. Or gummy bears.

This revelation begs the question: what other items have we been purchasing that are totally useless? If fancy detergents and fabric softeners aren’t necessary to clean our clothes, are equally fancy toothpastes and mouthwashes necessary for oral hygiene? Wasn’t that why someone invented the Water-Pic? And do we really need soap for our bodies? Our shampoo for our hair?

All hail water, the miracle liquid. . .although it may not work on dandruff.

 

January 2013

I guess I can rule out any corporate sponsorships of this column.

For my first rant of the new year, I must address something I heard on the radio before Christmas. I hadn’t intended to do this. I had a perfectly good column poking fun at last year’s election written and ready to be submitted to the editor, which will now have to wait until February. What I heard on the radio bothered me so much I am compelled to comment on it or surrender my credentials as a socially-conscious internet blogger.

Oh, wait a minute. I don’t have any credentials as a socially-conscious internet blogger. In fact, I avoid socially conscious commentary. I think I’m allergic to it. Nonetheless, what I heard on the radio before Christmas bothered me so much I must express my opinion or bust, which wouldn’t be a pretty sight. So, here goes, and may the gods of humor forgive me.

Did you find yourself on the nation’s highways or by-ways on Christmas Day? If so, did you happen to pass one of those fast food emporiums known for their golden arches? Was it open for business? If so, were you surprised? Did your grumbling stomach urge you to pull into the drive-thru and order a burger and fries, or did you have a more traditional Christmas feast awaiting you at your destination?

A couple of weeks before Christmas, the network business news we carry at the top of each hour on the radio station that employs me reported that a memo had been circulated from the top brass of the fast food emporium that features golden arches to the managers of its individual franchises. The memo had been circulated prior to Thanksgiving, a holiday when most of us don’t wolf down burgers and fries and shakes. The memo from the brass urged the managers of the individual franchises to strongly consider opening on Thanksgiving to make burgers, fries, shakes, and other goodies available to those who might not be in the mood for turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie on the day we set aside to give thanks for God’s bounty.

The memo also suggested that the owners and managers of the individual franchises strongly consider opening said franchises on Christmas, too. Heaven forbid America should have to suffer through a whole day without the taste treats sold by the fast food emporium featuring the golden arches, even if that day is generally set aside for much the same kind of fare as is served on Thanksgiving. At least in the home I grew up in. The next hamburger I consume on Christmas will be the first, but that’s just me.

According to the business news, the reason for the memo was simple. The fast food emporium featuring the golden arches wants to make more money, and the top brass thinks opening those emporiums on Thanksgiving and Christmas, days their employees would probably like to spend with their families and friends, will help accomplish that goal. The report didn’t specify if the memo was signed by an "E. Scrooge."

Imagine that! The fast food emporium featuring the golden arches isn’t making enough money the other 363 days of the year, so it is strongly suggesting that the owners of its individual franchises open those franchises on Thanksgiving and Christmas so it can make more. I’m sure the valued employees who would be inconvenienced by this blatant money grab would be paid double, or triple, time for their service. I don’t know why this report has me so agitated. After all, as a great American once said, "the business of America is business." As another great American once said, "what’s good for General Motors is good for the country." I guess that goes for the clown, too.

Memo to the clown: even Scrooge closed his counting house on Christmas!

 

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Copyright © 2013 by Gary Webster

 


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