Friday Frivolity: Bahston T

The title of this Frivolity is not about the Boston Tea Party. It is, nevertheless, about Transit in Bahston.

As a project devised to utilize time during COVID, Sue and I have embarked on a long delayed task of “organizing” the electronic pictures of our vacations. This process has inspired us to recall particular memories about certain pictures. It has also prompted me to share an excerpt from our 2002 trip to Boston.

Out east, there are signs to indicate a “Rotary” is ahead. Mind you, it is not alerting drivers that a Rotarian is up ahead, seeking donations. Around here, we call them “traffic circles”. In the east, the term “Rotary” is loosely applied to everything from a flag pole in the middle of the street to a circular traffic jam.

I believe “traffic circles” in Michigan are strategically placed at busy intersections to efficiently maintain smooth traffic flow. At least that is their intention. Out East, they seem to be whimsically placed—often in defiance of strategy and logic.  They were frequently at the center of small towns where the majority of traffic was circling to the drive-thru at Dunkin’ Doughnuts.

We also found rotaries in large cities, as hubs, branching to a half dozen streets, …many of which barely had sufficient width for parking.  Once, we even encountered a pair of rotaries. They were practically side by side and served as a multi-highway interchange.  I swear, those two rotaries had outlets to 3 or 4 highways each. Most drivers were careening around in a virtual figure 8 at 45-50 mile’n’hour.  I’m tellin’ ya, there was more honkin’ than a gaggle of geese over a corn field.

But our absolute greatest calamity, involving a rotary, was in Bahston.  Of course, that’s not too surprising considering that all sage advice is to NOT drive in Boston.  Okay, so I thought sage was a spice and ventured into the Bean Town commuter melee.

After traversing the entire city on Interstate 95 looking for an exit to “Boston Commons” (or for that matter, any street on one of our 3 maps) we exited to a State Police Post.  I’m not entirely sure if it was because of our Michigan license plates or the fact that I, a man, would succumb to asking for directions. Whatever! The two officers I asked for help, seemed almost as confused as I was.  However, following considerable debate between them, they settled on; “Take Columbia Road to UMass and UMass goes right to the Commons.

We found Columbia, no problem… then it entered a Rotary.  Around we went seeking the continuation of Columbia, yet all we could find was Columbia going back the way we just came.  Around we went again, hoping for the outside chance of finding UMass.

Nope… the only “U” we saw was on the sign ‘No U turn’.  Helloooo, what else can you do on a rotary but turn? How much difference is there between turning O and U?  Once again, there were those plagued honking geese.  Either they were following us or they hover over the rotaries.  Seems like wherever we went, there was honking.  Everywhere, that is, except on the T.  That’s the Transit system throughout Boston.  That’s the system we opted for the next day.

We bought a pass to ride the all forms of the T for a fabulous day in Boston.  At the Commons, we also bought a pass for a narrated trolley ride. Note: the first letter of trolley was not T.  The rides was a very informative, entertaining trip around this historic city.  Following that whirlwind tour, we rode the T busses, to the USS Constitution, Paul Revere’s home, Old North Church, and many other beautiful sites and historic buildings.  Oh, yes, shopping and dining at Quincy Market.  A day packed with memories, for sure.  Ahhh, but the climax memory of the day was exiting the T subway.

Upon exit from the T to return to our car, I flashed the “daylong” pass, just as I had all day long.  “I’m sorry sir, that’s not the correct pass to let you out”. Point of fact. For Inbound trains to Boston, you show your pass when entering. For Outbound, you have to show it to get out of the station.

“What?!?!  I bought this pass here this morning and it’s supposed to be good all day”

“Not that pass, sir, 4 bucks please”

Oppps, I had shown the trolley pass, not the T pass.  Point of fact. The trolley pass should NOT have worked for T travel on busses, yet it did. Now we want to get off the T and I can only find the trolley tickets. As I frantically searched my pockets, I could almost hear the Kingston Trio; “…did he ever return, his fate is still unlearned, will he ride forever ‘neath the streets above…,”

Whew, Sue saved the day.  She found our passes to freedom tucked in with a host of souvenir pamphlets she’d collected throughout the day.

Friday Frivolity: Falls & Pratfalls

How many of you recall the opening lines of many of the “Goofy” cartoons? I think it went something like this: Here we find our hero preparing for… and subsequently the zaniest dog on two feet leads on a hilarious episode of pratfalls.

Try to imagine such a video with the closed caption, Here we find Ed, preparing for rebuilding a waterfall.

As you watch Ed precariously balancing on rocks trying to traverse to the falls without trampling emerging lily sprouts which surround the pond, you wonder why rebuild the falls. Unlike naturally formed falls, Ed’s creation is ‘fed’ by two pumps not a natural spring. Necessarily, water conservation is critical to the fish in the pond. As a result of winter’s freeze and thaw…plus the unauthorized burrowing of a despicable chipmunk…one side of said waterfall was sagging. This caused some of the cascading water to seep backwards under the rocks, then sideways and off of the rubber liner.

This needed to be fixed. Removing the sides was a necessary task to get a clear view of where the water was escaping the liner. Because Starship Enterprise has not yet delivered my Tricorder (my Neurologist will not release me from this cumbersome back brace until the Governor will let me go to get an x-ray) I must carefully roll away the large, cut-fieldstone side of the Ed-made mountain. Although there were some humorous scenes in this process, I will cut to the climax.

Of course you understand that to find where water is escaping the falls, I needed to keep the pumps running. In hindsight, once I had discovered the escaping trickles by removing several pieces of shale and flat surface rock, THAT would have been the opportune time to shut off the power to the pumps. Alas, Goofy does not think particularly well at opportune moments.

I honestly was not concerned about water washing across my hands as I knelt to replace rocks one by one. All was going quiet well until a bee was about to land on my hand. You know…the hand that was steadying my body as it leaned out over the corner of the pond as the other hand was trying to put a 5 pound (well under my lifting limit) into place approximately centered in the falls (well over the balance limit of said body). Actually it was within the limit of balance until the bee did in fact land.

There is a natural reaction to such an event. It is sometimes referred to as ‘fight or flight’. In this particular instance my “fight” did cause the bee’s “flight”. It also caused my body to tilt into the waterfall as opposed to splashing head first into the pond. My shoulder abruptly planted itself like a new rock in the cascade—consequently diverting significantly more than a trickle into my face. Not to mention down my arm, along my torso and into…well…let your imagination flow to a conclusion.

It is also noteworthy that this performance did not go unnoticed. When I finally regained my balance, the entire school of goldfish was flapping their gills and gasping in amazement. Such is the typical pratfall of GoofyEd.

Friday Frivolity: Malady Recall

Malady Recall

I have recently had a rash surface on my skin. I say surface because I’ve not been anywhere to “catch” a rash since my “platypus dive” in my driveway. That was last January and the resulting lumbar compression fracture effectively kept me indoors.

So, when this rash became evident, COVID-19 necessitated a phone visit with my Dermatologist. If I had shown her the worst of my rash, …well let’s just say the FCC frowns on electronic nudism.

Long story short, she told me to use a particular cream she prescribed. This undefined rash recalls the longer story which follows. That time it was far more than just an unsightly rash. From 2008…

I’ve got an itch.  No, not a mosquito bite type itch.  Not even a dozen bites itch.  This is like a colony of insects have taken residence under my skin…everywhere, and no amount of scratching can persuade them to leave.

When I went to the doctor for a remedy, he was unable to discover the root cause.  There were lots of possibilities.  He reasoned that it was likely an allergic reaction. In lieu of some specific remedy, he suggested I stop doing something, …not sure what, but something, to see if the itch would go away.

So what to give up?  Hmmm. When I was a young man I drank way too much “Detroit River Water”, smoked everything from vines to stogies, and consumed enough cholesterol to clog the Windsor Tunnel.  Not to mention my frequent habit of carousing around ‘til all hours of the night, chasing all manner of women… and a few without manners, too.

And that was just my college years.

In my thirties I added overindulgence of sugar and salt as well as escalating most of my other bad habits to just short of excessive.  At least, in my estimation, it was less than excessive.  I cannot recall excessive libation to the extent of being drunk.  Of course, there were times when I could not recall falling down either.

Such a wild and glorious lifestyle has its price.  Ironically, it also provides remedy.  Through the years, as one affliction after another would wage war on my well being, I would simply give up one of my vices and feel better for it.

My misfortune, at the moment, is that I have no vice in reserve.  No bad habit to offer as sacrifice to my current ailments.  I’m a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard.  I’ve surrendered the pleasures of tobacco, alcohol, carousing and overindulgence of fats and cholesterol.  I’ve even severely reduced such delights as chocolate, salt and peanuts.  Yup, even my handful a day peanut habit is now reduced to “for medicinal purposes only”.  What?, …you’ve not heard of nuts as an antioxidant?

Now, with this itch pestering me and no obvious cause, I fear there is nothing left for the doctor to proscribe.  Perhaps I should have clung to a few evil cravings so the medical profession could find something for me to renounce.

I am surely not suggesting that any of you have a bad habit.  However, if you do, do not relinquish it prematurely.  Wait until you have an itch that won’t go away, so the doctor will have something to prohibit for cure.

Friday Frivolity: Reunion Recall

For 44 years following my High School graduation, I resisted the temptation to attend a Reunion. When the 45th Reunion was being planned, one of my friends on the committee suggested that he knew I would be a great candidate to do a roast of the Committee.
I consented and decided to attend the “Friday night Social” just to see if I could add a few more tid-bits of ammunition to fire at the Committee.
At the restaurant, there were several clusters waiting outside. I’m not sure why, but no one made a move for the door, so neither did I. None of them looked familiar to me. Must be I didn’t look familiar to them either. We all nodded cordially. Another classmate arrived. I recognized him. Believe it or not, 45 years had gone by, yet I was quite certain I knew him.
“Bob Jackson…right?” I greeted him. “You wrestled one seventy-five didn’t you?”
“Yeah, actually 185 and heavyweight.” He responded, “And… you… are… “
“I’m Ed Kaiser and this is my wife Sue”. And the reminiscing began. We talked about others on the wrestling team, but I never got the feeling that he remembered me. He should have. After all, I’m the little kid who brought him oranges after his matches. Of course I also saw him every day at practice. Dropped sweat with him. There were only 20 or so guys in that group, so you’d think he’d have remembered.
But, hey, the lighting in the wrestling room was bad and I was hard to see, cowering in the corner. Plus, we never wrestled each other. He was huge and I wasn’t much bigger than the oranges he devoured.
I was almost too small to be noticeable in any wrestling picture. As a sophomore, I was barely visible in the team picture. Barely, as almost hidden, but not physically bare. I had a T-shirt on so as to not scare viewers with my muscleless physique. I was under 85 pounds and tried to wrestle 95. I did wrestle a few matches against 1959 powerhouse schools such as Okemos, Boys Vocational and School for the blind. I was undefeated and earned a Varsity Letter…which was very heavy to wear on my blue and gold sweater.
In other sporting news, I tried out for the football team. Sophomore year—JV. My shoulder pads would only rest on one shoulder or the other. Kinda like a boa loosely slung around my neck.
The smallest padded pants they had in dusty storage tied up very nicely… just under my armpits. Add in a helmet and my full uniform doubled my gross weight. The coach admitted he would never put me in a game. He was afraid for my life.
Spring sports didn’t work out either. They told me I couldn’t drag my bat up to the plate and just hope to get 4 balls. Next stop was the track. I’m guessing the same guy who designed Christiancy School’s rock strewn ball-field must have had an influence in pouring cinders in a circle to run on.
Seriously? Red-stained clinkers from a coal furnace? Shameful! Come on…they could have laid down an oval of concrete then had all the hot-rodders in school burn rubber on the straigth-aways and do power slides in the curves. Awesome traction and you wouldn’t have needed cleats.
That being said, the Track Coach suggested I try sprints. I suppose he figured my scrawny legs were not long enough to endure distances. But sprinting was a flop right at the start.
Literally, at the start. Starting with my hands on the ground was a disaster in the making. At the starters gunshot, my feet spasmed, my fingers lifted off the ground, but my legs failed to catch up enough to keep my nose off of the track.
Next event was distance running…as in all the way to the showers.
Fast forward to the 45th Reunion. At that time I stood six-four and over and about 100-over my wrestling weight. I was no longer shy. That is, unless it is in the context of hair loss. I no longer had a Swave coated wave above my brow. It was much closer to being a glassy sea.
Anyway, it’s no wonder very few classmates recognized me. It mattered little to me, though. Over 45 years, my athletic mis-adventures were now great topics for humorous recall at Reunions.

Friday Frivolity: Elementary Playground

A friend from grade school (hmmm, if that doesn’t give you a clue as to just how long ago I was in 6th grade). Anyway, a guy who went to Christiancy Street Elementary School and I have been sharing remembrances from the playground.

Actually playGROUND is a misnomer. It was closer to a rock quarry. It wasn’t even ground rocks. It is beneath even the Lansing School District’s foolhardiness to use gravel for a softball diamond. They dumped stones everywhere except the muddy puddles under the teeter-totter.

Stones were arguable okay for kick-ball, where a bouncing ball of that size was not likely to veer suddenly. Softballs, however, do change directions very suddenly when careening wildly across the infield (field also being a misnomer). Be advised, my childhood stature, even if I stood up straight, put my nose much too close to an erratically bouncing softball (soft also being a misnomer).

Of course, considering the roughness of the playing surface, it is understandable why “sliding into base” was discourage. Ramming the defensive occupant of said base was not outlawed. My personal foolhardiness was to choose to play second base. Collisions were inevitable and…did I mention my diminutive stature. Further on the “no sliding rule”. For an undersized, uncoordinated juvenile like me, sliding, stumbling and nose-diving were inevitable.

Do any of you remember playing “500”? That’s a ball game where the batter “pitches’ to himself and hits the ball to a bunch of kids congregating in the outfield. Each outfielder was granted a rather loosely defined “space” in which they had the rights to catch a fly ball. Catch 5 flies (not to be confused with insects) and you get to be the batter. You did not populate the outfield if you had no desire to be the batter. Desire was also very loosely defined, so desire frequently invaded space. Nobody had to even bother to push me out of the way of their desire. Not only was I shorter than most of my playmates, my jumping ability was closer to toad than frog.

If I did somehow manage to pick up enough bouncing balls (everybody wanted 100-point flies, not 25-point grounders), I’d earn my turn at batting. That feat would further testify to my lack of athletic prowess. I know I mentioned that the batter was his own pitcher. In my enthusiasm, if not a distinctly necessary need for sufficient time to get the bat in both hands, I would toss the ball so high…and wide…in the air that I often needed to lunge to hit the ball. It should not be surprising to you that the ‘outfielders’ quickly took up their “space” in the infield.  That’s okay, though.  Do the math. During my turn at bat, I would get four times as many swings as a guy who would crush 5 long fly balls.

And that’s the way it was on the playground of my Elementary edification.

Friday Frivolity: Typing II

This past week, my brothers and I were reminiscing about movies.  Bob recalled seeing a Red Skelton movie during the second half of “Lunch Hour”.  At Walter French Jr. High all three of us recalled that one of the options of filling the half hour after lunch was going to the auditorium for a movie…at least a half hours worth.

During that discussion, Rick said that he was part of a student team that assisted in the projection room.  In trying to recall which teacher was the advisor, I concluded that it was NOT likely to be Mr. Youngblood, my Typing II teacher. He was nothing like his name would suggest. Basically, he was a crotchety old man that probably hadn’t seen a movie since “Tugboat Willie” and didn’t laugh during that one.

He certainly never laughed at any of the antics during his Typing classes. Hitting the wrong keys often created words and phrases we felt important to share with anyone seated nearby.  Youngblood was deviously always nearby. To his way of thinking, it was embarrassing, not funny to hit the wrong key. Humph. Embarrassing was that I took this class instead of Dodge Ball.  That would have been the epitome of awkwardness. I had to use two hands and three bounces just to get the ball across the line. It was far better to be plagued with hitting the wrong keys.

And wrong keys plus my tendency to see humor in errors, kept Mr. Youngblood near me much of the time.  The challenge of imprinting any letter or symbol which required shift key was tougher than it is with the modern keyboard.  First of all, because we were required to have a piece of folded cardboard over our hands, my view of the keyboard was effectively blocked.  Secondly (okay, so this is conclusive proof of just how old I am.)…secondly, the SHIFT key was actually a lever, not an electrically connected button.  The lever raised the platen so that the bottom portion of the ‘letter’ key would strike the paper. Not only was my body quite underdeveloped in Jr. High, my pinky demonstrated about as much strength as a slug trying to pull an anvil.

Probably because it is such an oft used key today, I particularly remember trying to strike an @ on the paper.  That necessitated finding the out-of-sight “2” key with my left ring finger while simultaneously slamming down the platen lever…aka “Shift”.  Remember that slug? I had to roll then entire left side of my hand, not just a finger, to push down on the “Shift”. Regrettably, that usually included inadvertent depression of the “a” key…which coincided with striking the desired “@” with my ring finger.

Are you aware that all of the keystrokes, back then, were processed to the paper via a single ‘type-bar’ wide guide. The operative word is single. More to the point here, the non-operative trapping of the type-bars for ‘a’ and ‘@’ just prior to striking the ink ribbon. Uncrossing type-bar fingers usually resulted in fingers stained with ink…telltale, after-the-fact  evidence of my keyboard ineptness.

Today, with the frequency of using the @ symbol for e-mail addressing, I’m still not very adept with the shift-stroke and synchronization with my left ring finger.  Even though my desktop keyboard requires very little pressure to invoke the ‘Shift’, my habitual rotation of my left hand to do it often results in  a  ‘tilde’.  …or worse, coincident ~!

I have now modified much of what I was taught in Typing II. Of particular note here is the traditional use of my pinky to press ‘shift’, but instead of my ring finger, use my left middle finger to get an @.  (no specific inference intended).