Webster on the Web - 2016

Previous Year

A column by Gary Webster

 

December 2016

Hey, Prez!

I must confess to being dumbfounded that roughly 48% of this country's voters cast their ballots for the Republican candidate for president. Not surprised, but dumbfounded. However, I'm not going to rant and rave and question their judgment, warped though it may have been. That's because, while recovering from the shock and discussing the unfortunate turn of events with relatives and friends on the day after the bombshell exploded, I was reminded of the words of probably my least favorite politician: the honorable, and I use the term because protocol dictates, not because he deserves it, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). Within hours after Barack Obama was elected to clean up the mess left behind by another of my least favorite politicians, President George W. Bush, McConnell declared that he'd dedicate the next four years of his life to making sure Obama was a one-term president. Not a word about working with the man who received more than 69,000,000 votes to get the country back on track. No, McConnell instead vowed to block every effort Obama made to turn the country around and work tirelessly to re-gain the White House for the Republicans. There's a real statesman!

I realized on the day after the Republicans did re-gain the White House (albeit four years later than McConnell planned and with a candidate McConnell clearly disliked) that I'd be just as bad as McConnell if I didn't give the next president a chance. He won the election fairly and squarely (the Electoral College MUST be relegated to the scrap heap of history, but that's another topic altogether) and he deserves the chance to govern as he sees fit. If he screws up, we can send him back to his penthouse in Manhattan in 2020. In the meantime, I've decided to give the guy a chance. In fact, I'm offering him a helping hand. I'm offering to write his inaugural address.

Not only was I disappointed that the Republican candidate won the Electoral College (I can't bring myself to say he won the election when the Democrat got 2,200,000 more votes), but I was also disappointed in his speech declaring victory in the early morning hours of November 9th. After all the bombast and vitriol spewed during the highly contentious campaign, I couldn't believe my ears. The president-elect sounded like every other president-elect in praising his vanquished opponent and reaching out to those who voted against him and promising to be the president of all the American people and to, as he insisted he'd do throughout the campaign, "make America great again." I hope he succeeds. But what a bunch of malarkey!

I hope the next president begins his administration by telling us how he truly feels about his astonishing victory. You don't really believe that bunk he gave us the day after the election, do you? He won the presidency by telling us what he thought, whether we liked it or not (for which he deserves credit, by the way), then he gives us that load of hooey about bringing the country together and serving all the people and so on and so forth. I'm not buying it, and that's why I'm volunteering to write the president-elect's inaugural address. Or is that his Inaugural Address? If I write the speech, the prez will take the oath of office on January 20th, then step to the podium and, with the nation and the world listening, tell it like it is.

"Nobody thought I could do it! But I did! I did it, people! I'm the president! To all those who said I didn't stand a chance (at this point he'll stick out his tongue) NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH! You can all go the H-E-double hockey sticks! I WON!!!!!! And for those 65 million people who didn't vote for me…you'll be sorry. You see, I know who you are. Oh, yes, I do. Every last one of you. And starting tomorrow, by my executive order, the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services will deport you. I don't care if you were born here. To paraphrase what I used to say on television, YOU'RE GONE! You don't want me to be your president? Fine! See if I care! You're gonna get your wish. I'm shipping you all off to some Godforsaken hole in the ground that I'm not president of. So there! Serves you right! And when I make America great again, don't think you can change your mind and try to get back in. TOUGH NOOGIES! You should've thought twice before you voted against me. I'm gonna build a wall around the whole country to keep all the vermin who don't like me out! And one more thing. I'm suspending the Constitution permanently and declaring myself president for life. And when I kick, my son-in-law will take over. Elections are for chumps, and this country just had its last one. I'm doing you a favor. Who wants to go through that mess again? Now, let's party!!"

I think I have a future as a political speechwriter. I hope I get deported to a democracy.

 

November 2016

Thank you so much!

I've been writing these essays since 2001, and it just occurred to me, as I searched for this month's topic, that I've never written one about the things I'm thankful for in this month whose only saving grace is Thanksgiving Day. I know all you literary critics will find that trite and clichéd, but you try writing an essay a month for 15 years. For the statisticians, that's 180 essays. Hmmm. I thought it was more than that. It sure seems like more than that.

Have I mentioned in any of my essays that November is my least favorite month? In case you're interested, allow me to rank the months in order from my favorite to least favorite: June, July, May, August, April, September, October, March, February, January, December, and, last and certainly least, November!

You no doubt noticed that the winter months rank at the bottom of my list. And as far as I'm concerned, November is a winter month. The calendar may say otherwise, but in my opinion, any month in which we can expect significant snowfall in northeastern Ohio is a winter month. And the most significant snowfall in the history of northeastern Ohio took place in November of 1996, when 70 inches of lake effect snow buried Chardon. Fortunately, I was no longer working there at the time. I was working in Painesville, which only got 50-some inches of snow. So don't tell me November is an autumn month.

Maybe you're wondering why I rank November behind December. Maybe you're not. I'm going to tell you anyway. Even though 20 or 21 of December's 31 days technically fall in autumn, I don't think many of you would argue that it's a WINTER month. But December has two things going for it. Number one, it's Christmas! How can anyone not named Scrooge hate Christmas? And that's followed by New Year's! Secondly, here in the northern hemisphere, the days actually start getting longer in the middle of December. At least in the evening. On December 14th, sunset is one minute later than it was on December 13th. By December 31st, sunset is 10 minutes later than it was on December 13th. It ain't much, but it's progress! In November, the days are chilly when the month starts and cold when it ends. And they're short when the month starts and even shorter when it ends. Aside from Thanksgiving, November has absolutely nothing going for it, and that's why it's my least favorite month of the year. I can't wait to get it over with.

Let's get to that list of things I'm grateful for as we approach November 24th, the Thursday on which Thanksgiving will be celebrated this year. I'm thankful that I have a new job. At least, I do as I write this essay (which I'm writing in October). I hope I still have the job in November. I was hired on a probationary basis, which, I understand, is standard operating procedure these days in many businesses. I'll be evaluated the first week in November. If I pass, I continue. If not, I'll be back in the library, sitting at the microfilm machine, researching another book, the topic for which I don't happen to have at the moment. I still can't believe no one has written a book about the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe they're expecting me to do it. I'm busy, and, as much as I love writing books, I hope I stay that way.

I'm thankful that I haven't found a hypnotist willing to put actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens into a trance (free of charge) and make her fall in love with me (see January 2015 essay.) I just can't afford a relationship right now, especially with a bling queen like Ms. Hudgens. Hopefully, that will change if I pass my probation review on my new job. I know Ms. Hudgens has the money to buy all the bling she wants, but as the man in the relationship, that would be my responsibility. It's up to me to shower my lady in diamonds and furs and expensive cars. I'm old-fashioned that way.

I'm thankful that I have no room to continue this essay. You should be, too.

 

October 2016

Now, for a trip down memory lane.

It's September of 1965. I know it's October of 2016, but pretend. A nine-year-old fourth grader is sitting in the back seat of the family car in the parking lot at the General Electric wire plant on Tungsten Road in Euclid, Ohio. It's almost 4:00, when the boy's father will be finishing his work day. As the family waits for dad to walk through the guard house and clock out, they listen to the radio. Beatlemania has swept the country, but the "yeah, yeah, yeahs" have been interrupted by the bleating of a singer named Barry McGuire, who has managed to reach the top position on the music chart with a ditty titled Eve of Destruction.

At first, I thought the song was about a nasty girl named Eva Destruction. But the lyrics certainly weren't that of a love song. The first words from McGuire's gravelly voice warned the listener that "the eastern world, it is explodin'." For the next three minutes and 38 seconds, McGuire droned on and on about bombs and guns and riots and assured us that there was no hope for the human race and the end of civilization was at hand. Hence, the cheery title. It wasn't my favorite song. In fact, it was the scariest thing I'd ever been exposed to in my young life, with the possible exception of Laughing Sal at Euclid Beach. Maybe Sal and whoever wrote Eve of Destruction were in cahoots. Each time I heard it, which was always in the car waiting for my father to get out of work, I feared that we wouldn't make it home before Russia dropped a nuclear warhead on our 1963 Ford Fairlane. I was only nine! What did I know?

Fast forward 51 years. I'm older and wiser…well, I'm definitely older. Protest songs like McGuire's…I don't think it was ever heard on American Bandstand because it had a lousy beat and you couldn't dance to it…have been replaced by websites which warn of the imminent destruction McGuire sang about. At least, I'm bombarded by warnings from such websites each time I visit the internet, which is much more often than I should. But where else am I going to find the latest publicity photos of J-Lo, and Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton?

I don't visit these websites, no matter how dire their warnings may be. I've heard that, by "clicking here," web surfers are often directed to sites that have nothing to do with the subject matter in the advertisement, and often unleash nasty spyware and malware and otherwise do terrible things to one's computer. I'm not falling for that.

I'm curious as to what has happened to the people who have visited Stansberry Research, which has been warning since 2014 that it knows of a scandal which will bring down the Obama administration any day now. In 2015, Stansberry also warned that "the new Obama currency law" scheduled to take effect in July of that year would ruin our economy. Former congressional representative and presidential candidate Ron Paul has been warning since 2013, via Stansberry, that the greatest economic collapse mankind has ever experienced is just around the corner, and even buying gold won't save us from it. But Paul knows how to survive the carnage, and he'll explain when you "click here." So far, I've resisted that temptation. If I can't afford gold, I can't afford whatever Paul is selling.

Lately, a website called argofinancial.com claims to have confidential information that will destroy Donald Trump's chance to win the election. It will release that information on September 30th, meaning it has been released by the time this essay is read and we'll know what that information is. Or maybe argofinancial.com will only release that information to those who "click here," in which case I'll never find out what they've got on Trump. Not that I care, frankly. Just to prove it isn't biased, argofinancial.com also claims to have confidential information that will destroy Hillary Clinton's administration before she's even sworn in.

McGuire was right. We were on the eve of destruction back in 1965. It's just taken longer to happen than he expected.

 

September 2016

We Kent Staters have to stick together.

I must admit that, in my 16th year of writing monthly essays for this venerable website, I occasionally have to search long and hard for a topic. So, when an idea is dropped in my lap, I run with it. That metaphor (at least I think that was a metaphor) is highly appropriate this month because the topic for this essay was inadvertently provided to me by Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama and a fellow graduate of Kent State University. Saban also served as an assistant on Kent State's football staff from 1973-1976, meaning he blew town the year before I arrived. Maybe he knew I was coming.

A few days ago, I was reading a college football preview on a sports website. By the time this essay is published, the college grid season will have begun, and Alabama will already have a record of 3-0. Maybe not, but it'll seem that way. Alabama is the defending national champion. The 2015 championship was the school's fourth under Saban, who also coached Louisiana State University to a national collegiate football championship. If you're counting, that makes five championships, establishing Saban as rather successful in his field of endeavor. Saban was asked how he keeps putting championship caliber teams on the field season after season after season. Instead of laughing in the reporter's face (Kent State graduates have too much class for such boorish behavior), he said that he wasn't quite sure. That, of course, is pure horse puckey. Saban knows exactly how he keeps winning national championships. He keeps luring the best high school players to pursue higher education at the University of Alabama, along with playing a little football in their spare time. Saban's exact response to the question intrigued me, however, and led me to compose this month's essay.

"Lots of books have been written about how to get successful," Saban said. "But I haven't seen any books about how to stay successful." Maybe Saban should write one, since he qualifies as an expert on the subject. If winning 12 football games every year isn't staying successful, I don't know what is. But since Saban figures to be coaching football for the next few years, I thought perhaps another Kent State alum should write a book about staying successful. Namely me.

Never mind that I know nothing about staying successful. As Saban pointed out, in order to stay successful, one must first get successful, and what I know about getting successful could fill a thimble. For the pinky finger. But lack of knowledge hasn't stopped other people from writing self-help books, so why should I let it stop me? And self-help books are where the money is. I defy you to show me a self-help book that doesn't have the words "national best-seller" on the cover. People eat up that stuff. We all want to improve ourselves, and we can all use some help in accomplishing that objective. Who am I to deprive my fellow human beings of my expertise in that area…even if I don't have any?

It would seem to me that the key to staying successful is continuing to do whatever one did to become successful in the first place. That's simple common sense. But how do I stretch that advice over 75,000 words, which is the standard length for non-fiction books? Who's going to buy a one-page book with just one sentence on that page?

Maybe I can fill it with pictures.

 

August 2016

Not that you asked, but…have I used that opening before? I've used so many openings since I started contributing essays to this esteemed website 15 years ago, I can't keep track of them. By the way, I wish the other writers who have contributed to this esteemed website would start contributing again. Why are you letting me have the stage all to myself?

Anyway, in my May essay, I mentioned an event that happened on a certain date many years ago. Thirty-six years, to be precise. If you haven't read the essay in question, the topic was giving silly designations to days, such as National Cow Appreciation Day, which happens to be the designation of the day (July 12th) on which I'm composing this essay. I'm serious. Anyone walking into a national chicken restaurant wearing a full cow costume, or any portion thereof, was to receive a free entrée from said restaurant. Honest! I heard it on the radio network news. Unfortunately, I own no such costume, or I would've taken advantage of the generous offer. I love chicken!

My essay designated May 17th as National Flirt With a Beauty Pageant Contestant Day. I mentioned that I selected that designation for that particular day because as a mere youth, I once flirted with a beauty pageant contestant on the 17th day of May. It was in 1980, when I was 24 years old and unattached, meaning I had no wife or girlfriend (or both) to get jealous of my flirtation with the young beauty pageant contestant whose sash read MISS FAIRFIELD. I explained in the May essay that I didn't have time to tell you the story behind the designation of National Flirt With a Beauty Pageant Contestant Day. But now I do. So, here's the scoop.

It was a Friday night and I was bored. As I mentioned, I had no wife or girlfriend to snuggle with, so I went to the Euclid Square Mall, where there was almost always something going on at center court. And so there was on the evening in question. It was the first night of the second annual Miss Venus Ohio beauty pageant, and there at center court were a whole bunch of beautiful women wearing sashes and walking around in business suits. Odd attire for a beauty pageant, but this was just the introduction of the contestants. It got better. Quickly. At least I think it did. Now that I try to recall that fateful evening, I find that I can't. All I remember is somehow finding the courage to approach MISS FAIRFIELD, and being very upset because I was scheduled to work the next day, which just happened to be May 17th. I was upset because on the afternoon of the 17th, the Miss Venus Ohio pageant would conduct its swimsuit competition. In today's terminology, the pageant was interactive. That mean the audience was invited to get involved. No, not THAT involved. But in the Miss Venus pageant, the swimsuit competition didn't mean just parading the contestants around center court in bathing suits. The audience was invited, even encouraged, to bring cameras and snap pictures. The contestants would even pose if asked. Unfortunately, I had volunteered to serve as public address announcer at the annual high school track meet at Chardon High the next day, meaning I'd be busy during the interactive swimsuit competition, and MISS FAIRFIELD would be posing for lots of other men, but not me!

When I arrived at the high school the next day, I was delighted when I was told that the principal always handled the public address announcing, and whoever had asked me to volunteer had no authority to do so. The Flash couldn't have gotten to my car faster than I did. I made it to the mall, trusty camera in hand, and snapped dozens of pictures of the contestants, one of whom would be crowned Miss Venus Ohio later that day. Hopefully, the crown would rest on MISS FAIRFIELD's lovely head.

I don't recall who won the pageant, but I know MISS FAIRFIELD didn't. After it was over, the audience was invited to join the contestants for a post-pageant party at the Charterhouse, about a mile away. An invitation to join dozens of beauty pageant contestants in evening gowns, including the charming MISS FAIRFIELD. Did I accept the invitation and continue flirting with her? You get three guesses, and the first two don't count. Yeah, you guessed it.

 

July 2016

Here's a riddle for you: what does yours truly have in common with Ben Affleck?

No, we aren't both ex-husbands of mega-babe Jennifer Garner. Ben enjoys that distinction. I don't. I am available to change that however, in case Ms. Garner happens to read this essay.

I never thought I'd have anything in common with a Hollywood hunk like Affleck, but I do, as of June 19th.

Affleck was born and raised in New England. As such, he is a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox. In 1918, the Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. They didn't win the World Series again until 2004. I'll do the math for you. That's 86 years, meaning many people who lived their entire lives in New England never experienced the thrill of watching their team win baseball's world championship. Legend had it that Babe Ruth placed a curse on the Red Sox on January 3, 1920. That was the day the Red Sox sold his contract to the New York Yankees. Or maybe a fan placed a curse on the Red Sox for making such a stupid mistake. Ruth played on World Series winners in New York in 1923, 1927, 1928, and 1932. He played on World Series losers in 1921, 1922, and 1926. The Yankees made it to the World Series seven times while Ruth played for them. The Red Sox, without Ruth, sank to the bottom of the American League and stayed there for a long time. When they did make it to the World Series, they lost. They lost in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986. Each time, they lost in the seventh game. The "Curse of the Bambino" became part of New England sports lore.

I remember reading an article in which Affleck said whining about the "Curse of the Bambino" was so deeply imbedded within the psyche of every New England sports fan that he didn't know what his fellow New Englanders would have to complain about if the Red Sox ever won the World Series. They had to find something new to moan and groan about after Boston beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. They won again in 2007. And again in 2013. Nobody talks about the "Curse of the Bambino" anymore.

In my hometown, we whined about the "Cleveland Curse" that had made the lives of sports fans miserable for 52 years. Little did I know on the afternoon of December 27, 1964, as I listened to the Browns trample the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, for the championship of the National Football League that I wouldn't experience the pleasure again until 2016. At least New Englanders got world's championships from their hockey, basketball and football teams. It was only their baseball team that broke their hearts continually. In Cleveland, all of our teams lost, and usually in the most agonizing fashion they could think of. I understood what Affleck was talking about. What would northeastern Ohioans have to whine about if one of our teams somehow broke the "Cleveland Curse?" It was almost as if we wore the curse with a perverse pride, like it was a badge of honor, a way of showing the rest of the country how tough we were.

On June 19th, the Cavaliers concluded an improbable comeback by winning the NBA championship. There was, literally, dancing in the streets of downtown. More than a million people showed up for a parade and victory party three days later. Congratulations flowed from the four corners of America. Even people in Pittsburgh were happy for us. Or maybe not. Now that I think about it, I don't believe I've seen any messages of congratulations from Pittsburgh. They're just jealous because all they have to do in the winter is watch hockey…even if their hockey team is the world's champion. So is our basketball team!!! And we had more people at our victory party!

All of this joy is well and good, but, as Affleck noted years ago as it pertained to New England's baseball fans…what the heck are we going to cry about now? We can't say we haven't won a sports championship in more than half a century any longer. That was part of our identity as northeastern Ohioans! What will be the source of our self-pity now???

Oh, I forgot. We still have lake effect.

 

June 2016

Well, that certainly took awhile.

This month's essay is 19 days late. I apologize profusely, but that's how long it took for inspiration to strike this month. I hope what follows will prove to be worth the wait.

I'm writing this essay on Father's Day. I'm aware of the origins of Mother's Day. A woman some 100 years ago decided mothers deserved a special day set aside for their children to thank them for all the duties they performed. President Woodrow Wilson agreed, and the second Sunday of May was designated as Mother's Day. At least, Mother's Day was the second Sunday of May this year.

I assume Father's Day began in much the same way, if not exactly the same way. Some guy who probably felt guilty about being a rotten kid decided to make it up to dear old dad by asking the government to declare one Sunday each year Father's Day…preferably during a summer month to give sons and daughters living in the northern states a chance to enjoy outdoor activities with pops, like picnics and sack races and baseball games. I don't know which president declared the third Sunday of June to be Father's Day. Maybe it was Wilson again.

Some good friends of mine (Chris, Rick and Bill) are being treated like royalty today. That's because they are fathers, and I presume their offspring are celebrating the occasion appropriately. Their wives may be getting into the act as well. After all, without their wives, my friends couldn't have become fathers. I don't know what my friends' children are doing today to thank their dads for being the swell guys that they are, but whatever it is, they deserve it. After all, they paid (and are still paying) dearly for this one day of recognition. One of the drawbacks to being a parent is that you never get to retire. No matter how old the little shavers get, they're still your kids. That means you're still their parent. In this case, you're still dad.

I am not getting the royal treatment today, but I have no regrets, because that means I don't get the royal treatment the other 364 days a year, either. I am no one's father, and I'll submit to any DNA test you can conceive of to prove it. Besides, any child sired by me probably would never admit to it anyway. Just a few days ago, I witnessed an incident that reminded me (as if I needed any reminding, which I didn't) why I have no regrets that I won't be getting any gifts, or cards, or invitations to a free dinner, or phone calls today. I might get a phone call, but it won't have anything to do with Father's Day.

While reading a book in my local library last week (a book about television, if you must know), I was distracted by a woman who looked to be about 35 years old. After watching her deal with her daily responsibilities, I assumed she'd aged before her time. She had three children with her as she scoured the shelves looking for a book, which undoubtedly explained her presence in the library. The children were laughing and squealing and running up and down the aisles and paying no attention whatsoever to the woman as she pleaded with them to behave. None of them could've been older than five. She promised that as soon as she found the book she wanted (I'm guessing it was a book on how to survive having three rambunctious children) she'd take them to the children's section. But the kids wanted to go to the children's section NOW!!! The frazzled woman chased them up one aisle and down the next, but they managed to stay one step ahead of her. After several minutes of relatively gentle coaxing and cajoling failed to dampen the kids' enthusiasm, the poor woman blurted "I'm going to kill all of you!" Since the local news has reported no mass murders, I'm assuming the threat was made of frustration and never carried out. I don't know if the lady found her book. I also don't know if she took her precious bundles of joy to the children's section, or packed them in the car and made them go home without their lunch.

All I know is, watching the poor lady struggle with her brood reminded me of why I don't regret that Father's Day is just another day to me. Being a dad would've been too much work!

 

May 2016

Let's call it a day.

I don't know what day you're reading this essay, but I know what day I'm writing it. Today is the day after National Teacher Appreciation Day. I wish I'd known yesterday was National Teacher Appreciation Day. I have a friend who is a fifth grade math teacher at a local middle school, and had I known that yesterday was National Teacher Appreciation Day, I'd have commemorated the occasion by texting her a greeting. I also would've given her my permission to celebrate by taking the day off, for whatever that would've been worth. I have no authority whatsoever within my friend's school system. But what better way for a teacher to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Day than by giving teachers a day away from their classrooms full of unappreciative kids? Did you appreciate your teachers? I sure didn't.

Already this month, we've had May Day and National Teacher Appreciation Day. May Day was the first of the month, but was celebrated (by those who celebrate it, generally political activists) on the second since the first fell on a Sunday, and even political activists have to rest one day per week. In four days, it'll be Mother's Day, which will be celebrated even though it falls on a Sunday because Mother's Day always falls on a Sunday. That's the way the lady who convinced our government to set aside one Sunday a year to honor our mothers wanted it, so that's the way our government arranged it. Later this month, according to the calendar hanging on my bedroom wall (bearing a different picture of singing sensation Taylor Swift for each month), Armed Forces Day will be celebrated in the United States, as will Memorial Day, which was also called Decoration Day when I was very young (which shows you how old I am) but isn't anymore…except by people as old as me. Also celebrated later this month, according to the Taylor Swift calendar, will be National Sorry Day. This will be celebrated in either Australia or Austria, or maybe both. The calendar simply designates May 26th as National Sorry Day (AU.) Maybe the AU is short for Austin, Texas. I don't know. I also don't know what the people who live in the nation or nations that observe National Sorry Day are supposed to be sorry for.

We as a society love to set aside specific days to commemorate specific things. Some of them are worthwhile, such as memorializing the men and women who gave their lives in foreign wars to protect our precious freedom (or what's left of it) on the fourth Monday of each May. We also celebrate some not-so-worthwhile things, like National Doughnut Day and National Pizza Day and National Take Your Kids to Work Day. These days weren't important enough to be noted on my Taylor Swift calendar, but, rest assured, they exist. Who is in charge of assigning such stupid designations I don't know. I hope our elected representatives have better things to do with their time, but I wouldn't be surprised if they don't.

Since there are a lot of blank spaces on my Taylor Swift calendar, I'm nominating some stupid designations to fill them. Let's have 31 mostly stupid designations, one for each day of the month.

MAY 1: May Day. MAY 2: National Soak Your Feet Day (for those whose feet hurt from marching in the previous day's parade.) MAY 3: This has already been designated as National Teacher Appreciation Day (now you know on what day I'm writing this essay.) MAY 4: National Star Wars Day. This isn't my idea. An enthusiastic group of Star Wars fans has declared it to be so. MAY 5: Cinco de Mayo (Mexican holiday). MAY 6: National Isn't That Wall Finished Yet Day (if Donald Trump is elected president.) MAY 7: National Get Hugged By a Librarian Day. There already is a National Hug a Librarian Day (really!) and I know a sexy librarian I'd like a hug from. MAY 8 (when it isn't Mother's Day): National Hug a Radio Announcer Day (especially if you're a sexy librarian.) MAY 9: National Hug an Internet Essay Writer Day (especially if you're a sexy librarian.)

MAY 10: National Argyle Sox Day. MAY 11: National Weed the Garden Day. MAY 12: National Street Cleaner Appreciation Day. (After all, who wants to drive a freshly washed and waxed car on a dirty street?) MAY 13: National Trim Your Toenails Day. MAY 14: National File Your Fingernails Day. MAY 15: National Honk Like a Canada Goose Day. (If you observe this day, don't be surprised if no one wants to get near you.) MAY 16: National Filet Mignon Day. (Since doughnut shops often give away doughnuts on their day, it's worth a try.) MAY 17: National Flirt With a Beauty Pageant Contestant Day (I tried this on May 17, 1980, too long of a story to relate here.) MAY 18: National How Much Longer Until Summer Vacation Day. MAY 19: National How Much Longer Until the End of the Basketball Playoffs Day. MAY 20: National Cranberry Day. MAY 21: Armed Forces Day. MAY 22: National Millard Fillmore Appreciation Day (a day to honor one of our nation's deservedly forgotten chief executives.) MAY 23: National Complain About Gas Prices Day. MAY 24: National How Much Longer Until the End of the Hockey Playoffs Day. MAY 25: National Sorry Day Eve. MAY 26: National Sorry Day. MAY 27: National Polish a Manhole Cover Day. MAY 28: National I Survived National Sorry Day Day. MAY 29: National Defrost Your Freezer Day (for those who don't have freezers that defrost themselves.) MAY 30: Memorial Day (this year, anyway.) MAY 31: National Thank God May is Over Because I'm Pooped From All These Celebrations Day.

Have a fun month!

 

April 2016

Here's what I don't understand.

There are many things I don't understand. I could fill all 45 lines of this column with things I don't understand. That would probably be confusing…for me, if not for you. So I'll concentrate on just one thing I don't understand.

As I write this essay, the New York Knickerbockers are looking for a new head coach. If you don't know who the Knickerbockers are, they're a team in the National Basketball Association, and not a very good one. That's part of the reason they're looking for a new head coach. I have no idea what a Knickerbocker is. The team's fans probably don't know, either. That may explain why everyone calls them the Knicks. Or it could be because Knickerbockers is way too long to fit in a newspaper headline, and there are lots of newspapers in New York.

The Knickerbockers were coached for the second half of season that ended two days ago by Kurt Rambis. Rambis is a former player and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who fired him after the team lost about 100 more games than it won with him on the job. Shortly afterward, he was hired as an assistant by the Knickerbockers, whose team president is Phil Jackson. Jackson won two championships as a player (with the Knickerbockers, ironically) and 11 more as a head coach (not with the Knickerbockers.) He'll decide who the next head coach of the Knickerbockers will be. Jackson's first move as team president was to hire Derek Fisher as head coach, even though Fisher had no coaching experience. None. At any level. Jackson fired Fisher in the middle of the season that just ended two days ago and replaced him with Rambis, who didn't do any better (or worse) than Fisher had. Rambis wants to keep the job, and why not? Head coaches in professional basketball make millions of dollars per season. Rambis, I'm assuming, earned millions coaching the Timberwolves, and he'd like to make millions more coaching the Knickerbockers. Jackson knows Rambis well since Rambis played for him when Jackson was head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. First, however, Jackson has to interview Rambis.

At last, we've gotten to the thing I don't understand. Why interview a man about a job he already has? Let me repeat, Rambis played for Jackson. It's reasonable to assume Jackson had some (maybe a great deal of) input into Fisher's decision to hire Rambis as an assistant. Jackson observed Rambis coaching the Knickerbockers during the second half of the season that just ended two days ago. Why is an interview necessary? What can Rambis possibly say during that interview that Jackson doesn't already know about him and his philosophy of coaching a professional basketball team?

This reminds me of a situation I was involved with in the closing weeks of my senior year at dear old Kent State University. Because I'd written a complimentary article about the cheerleaders that was printed in the campus newspaper, I was invited to be part of the committee that would choose the following season's cheerleaders. I couldn't accept fast enough! One of the candidates I was assigned to interview was a beautiful brunette named Carol, who was the reigning Miss Portage County in addition to having been a cheerleader the year before. I'd watched Carol wear a revealing uniform while leading cheers through a losing football season and a losing basketball season, and she wanted to come back for more. That was school spirit!

Halfway through the interview, Carol and I started laughing. Why were we going through this charade? Carol had my vote! I didn't need to ask her any questions to know she had the right stuff. She'd shown me all I needed to see during the football and basketball games. Boy, had she shown me!

Being interviewed (by the guy who hired you) for the job you already have. I guess I just don't understand the corporate world.

 

March 2016

This must cease!

I don't know what day you're reading this essay. I'm not certain what day it will be added to the website. But I'm composing it on February 28th, while most of the country (that country being the United States) is watching the Academy Awards on television. I, however, have more important things to do than spend three hours enjoying the sight of gorgeous actresses in skimpy evening gowns walking onstage to accept their hard-earned awards. I can't believe I wrote that. I always have time to watch gorgeous actresses in skimpy evening gowns. Well, I won't actually miss anything. Their pictures will be all over the internet tomorrow.

And speaking of tomorrow, that's exactly what I want to speak of. Do you know what day tomorrow is? Again, I don't know what day you're reading this essay, so I don't know what day your tomorrow will be, but I know what day I'm writing it, and I know what day my tomorrow is. It's Leap Day, the 29th day of February, and something about it just occurred to me.

It's going to be JUST ANOTHER DAY. And that's totally unacceptable. At least it is to me. Okay, it was totally acceptable until this Leap Day, which will be the 15th Leap Day of my lifetime. But it isn't acceptable any more.

Think about it. Leap Day comes but once every four years. Or every 1,460 days. It's a rare event, like a total eclipse of the sun or the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. All right, it's not that rare. But it occurs only once every 48 months, and how do we celebrate it?

We don't, that's how!

I don't know how you'll be spending your precious extra day of 2016, but I'm guessing it will be the same way you'll spend most of the other 365 days of this and every other year. You'll go to school or work and eat your three regular meals and do ordinary stuff, just like it was any other day. Am I right?

But February 29th isn't like any other day. It's Leap Day! We get an extra day added to the year! It reminds me of how we spend the extra hour we're given once a year when we move the clocks ahead in November, at the end of Daylight Savings Time. You know, spring ahead and fall back. When we complain about losing that hour of sleep when the clocks are moved ahead in March, we're reminded that we'll get it back in November. One day each year, we get the unique opportunity to re-live one full hour of our life. At two o'clock in the morning, the time reverts to one o'clock, and we can re-live that whole hour all over again. Who wants to waste such a golden opportunity snoring? Not me. I've dreamed of spending that hour cavorting with a very sexy woman on a couch (or a bed, I'm not fussy.) I haven't accomplished that yet, but 2016 may be the year. I sure hope so. I'm not getting any younger.

Leap Day is like moving the clock back multiplied by 24! We get an extra 24 hours added to our lives every four years, and what do we do with them? NOTHING! That's blasphemy! Why isn't Leap Day a national holiday? Why don't we party like it's 1999, or at least do whatever we consider to be fun?

From a practical standpoint, Leap Day would be a boon for the economy. Give everyone the day off and let us do whatever we want. Think of the money we'd spend. If there's something this country needs, it's more holidays. Wow, do I sound like a politician or what? We celebrate Christmas and New Year's and our birthdays and a whole bunch of other days that come every year, yet we don't commemorate a day that comes just once every four years. Okay, so we do hold a national election every Leap Year, but that's nobody's idea of fun.

One other thing: whose brilliant idea was it to tack an extra day onto February? If we need to have an extra day every four years, let's add it to June. June 31st…Leap Day! Picnics, parades, ball games, swimsuit contests. Why didn't I think of this before?

 

February 2016

This is the story of Sal and me.

Or maybe it's the story of me and Sal.

It could be the story of Sal and I.

I'm pretty sure it isn't the story of I and Sal.

Forget about the grammar. This is a story of regret and lament. It's the story of a kid who threw away two perfectly good summers of his life back in the 1960's. If I recall correctly, they were the summers of 1965 and 1966. I should know, because I was the kid who threw them away.

I was reminded of this unfortunate circumstance a few nights ago when I attended a program about the history of Euclid Beach Park at the library in which I do the overwhelming majority of the research for my books. For those who aren't as old as I am, or who aren't from the Cleveland area, Euclid Beach Park was a magical place on Lakeshore Boulevard at East 156th Street. It was an amusement park in an era when a family didn't have to take out a second mortgage on its home to pay for admission. In fact, my family and I walked right in the entrance gate, which is still standing along Lakeshore Boulevard. It will be forever preserved thanks to its place on the National Register of Historic Places. Or is that "historical places?" Anyway, everyone's family entered the park for free. Euclid Beach didn't charge admission. Parking was free, too. Such a deal!

Euclid Beach was the greatest place in the world. At least, it was certainly the greatest place in Cuyahoga County. Except for Laughing Sal, the giant mechanical woman who stood in a box outside the Surprise House and shook with laughter from 10:00 in the morning, when the park opened, until it closed, which I believe was midnight. That was lot of laughing. I have learned through reading books and attending lectures about Euclid Beach that Sal was made of papier mache. I discovered just the other day that her voice was provided by a stack of records on a phonograph inside her body. As one record ended, the tone arm rose and the next one fell into place. The moment of silence made it appear that Sal was pausing to catch her breath. Then she picked up where she left off, laughing hysterically as she invited visitors to spend a few minutes in the Surprise House.

One day in the summer of 1964, when I was an impressionable youth of eight, I found myself face to face with Sal. She was six feet tall, but she seemed 60 feet tall to me, as I looked up at her from the pavement. Her hair was a mess and she had a front tooth missing, and she just kept shaking and laughing and shaking and laughing and shaking and laughing. She scared the living snot out of me, so much so that for the next two years, whenever my parents would offer to take my sister and me to Euclid Beach for an evening of fun (or, on a weekend, a whole day of fun), I threw a fit. I'd scream and yell and cry and stomp my feet until they abandoned the plan. I just didn't want to be anywhere near that horrible old hag in the Surprise House. I fully expected Sal to jump from her box and chase me all over Euclid Beach! I was scared to death of her. And so it was that I missed out on two full summers of fun. By 1967, when I was 11, I'd overcome my anxiety, and Euclid Beach and I were re-united. At the time, the two summers I'd stayed away didn't seem like a big deal. My parents told me how they'd gone to Euclid Beach when they were children. The place would always be there, right? There'd be lots of chances to make up for lost time.

Wrong. It closed in September of 1969. I missed out on two summers of rides and arcade games and candy and ice cream because of that mechanical battleaxe cackling outside the Surprise House. Someone owes me restitution, or at least one more ride on Over the Falls.

Who do I sue? Or is it whom?

 

January 2016

I just don't understand us.

It's another presidential election year, and the rhetoric has been flying for months between the three Democrats and too numerous to count (and that's even after four of them have 'suspended' their campaigns) Republicans who want to succeed President Obama in the White House. We'll make that decision over the next 11 months, meaning I should never be at a loss for material for this column.

I don't claim to be capable of providing insightful political commentary. In fact, I'm not capable of it because I don't understand human nature, despite having been one (a human) for almost six decades. I'm still trying to make sense of the results of the 2014 mid-term election. That makes me smarter than Karl Rove, the renowned Republican strategist largely responsible for George W. Bush's unsuccessful 2000 election campaign (even though Bush wound up in the White House anyway), and his successful 2004 re-appointment campaign. As I understand it, Rove is still at a loss to explain how Obama won my home state of Ohio and was re-elected in 2012. I don't watch Fox News Channel, the organization that employed Rove as an analyst four years ago, but I've been told that he went absolutely ballistic when Fox (reluctantly) declared Ohio for the Democrats on election night. I've heard he put on a pretty entertaining show, staring into the camera and swearing that a mistake had been made, that it was Florida 2000 all over again (when the networks declared Florida for Al Gore and then had to recant), and that when every last Ohio ballot was counted, the state would be in the Republican column and Mitt Romney could start writing his inaugural address. When every last Ohio ballot had been counted, Obama had 50.6% of the votes. . .one of which was mine, in case you're interested. I have no idea what, if any, role Rove will play in the eventual Republican nominee's campaign, but if he's involved, you can bet he'll bust his rear end to make sure his party doesn't lose my home state again.

While Rove continues to fret over 2012, I'm still trying to understand the Republican tidal wave of 2014. There's nothing unusual about the party out-of-power winning a mid-term election decisively, and the Republicans did, hanging on to the House of Representatives and re-taking the Senate from the Democrats. They also won almost all of the governorships that were up for grabs, including Ohio's. So what don't I understand?

As we begin another election cycle, most of my fellow Americans, according to polls (I'm sick of polls already, and it's only January) think the country, under a Democratic president and a Republican legislature, is headed in the wrong direction. When was the last time we thought the country was headed in the right direction? Probably sometime during the Truman administration. Anyway, when we cast our ballots in 2014, the polls said the majority of us favored same-sex marriage. Then we voted for a bunch of Republicans who were against it. The polls said we were in favor of increasing the federal minimum wage, then we voted for a bunch of Republicans who were against it. The polls said (by an admittedly razor-thin margin) that the majority of us liked Obamacare, then we voted for a bunch of Republicans who vowed to repeal it. The polls said we wanted immigration reform, then we voted for a bunch of Republicans who want nothing to do with the issue.

Is it any wonder our elected officials are nuts? Trying to understand us would drive anybody crazy.

 

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Copyright © 2016 by Gary Webster

 


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