Thursday, May 27, 2010


“Judge Phyllis”

ANNOUNCER (VOICE OVER): The “Judge Phyllis” show, one of cable television’s most successful programs, is already under way as we join it...
GLINDA: We had been staying together.
JUDGE PHYLLIS: For how long?
GLINDA: Three weeks, like.
JUDGE: So, Alberto, you were in a relationship with this young lady?
ALFREDO: We were, your honor; I mean I was. We both were.
JUDGE: You were in love?
ALFREDO: I most certainly was.
GLINDA: Yet he stole my shoes!
JUDGE: Yes, that’s what this all boils down to. Why would you steal a lady’s shoes, Alberto?
ALFREDO: Judge, I am a philosopher. You see, the heart only knows what the yearning of the soul is aware of. Men may have scoffed through the centuries, but the truth is always there, always waiting to be found. I have learned this as I have wandered down through life’s path.
JUDGE: Unfortunately the network gives me just one hour for this show. Otherwise, I could take twenty minutes or so to try to figure out what you just said. In the meantime, how about you, Glinda? Why do you think he stole your shoes?
GLINDA: That’s easy! He found a new girl friend! He met her at work.
JUDGE: Where do you work, Alberto?
ALFREDO: Your honor, usually I take what comes my way. As a philosopher I learned long ago not to try to change the world, though deep inside all of us is the awareness that it certainly needs change. So I emphasize that I am not offended that you don’t seem to know my name, though it’s written right there on that paper in front of you. My name is “Alfredo,” not “Alberto.” Just think of the sauce, Sauce Alfredo – though they usually use too much butter in its preparation – and you’ll get it right every time.
JUDGE: Whatever. Let’s get back to business. Where do you work?
GLINDA: Go on, tell her. He works in the town dump, Judge.
ALFREDO: Actually, the waste disposal division. I am a separator. As people come in with various types of material they wish to dispose of, I separate this into three parts: metal, wood and cardboard.
JUDGE: And you met this new girl friend at the town dump?
ALFREDO: She drove in with some things she wanted to throw away so I showed her how I was there to separate them. We sort of got to know each other. Her name is Eunice.
GLINDA: It would be something like Eunice. Look at him, Judge. He’s not much to look at but believe it or not he has a kind of mysterious charm that appeals to women.
JUDGE: That definitely is mysterious. So you decided to go after this new girl and dump the old one?
ALFREDO: I would certainly not put it that way. I saw immediately that I could be of help to this young woman. Her shoes, your honor. Her shoes were all wrong for her – boring, utilitarian, unattractive. But I knew where there was a pair that was just right for her, made for her you might say.

JUDGE: I’m beginning to figure this out. So you went back and stole Glinda’s shoes to give to your new girl friend?
ALFREDO: I stole nothing. They were given to me.
JUDGE: And you, Glinda, Good Witch of the North, you gave him the shoes? Why on earth would you do that?
GLINDA: Well, I thought he was a freak, a bit of a pervert. You know, a “footishist” or whatever they call it. So I figured it would do no harm for him to have a little fun with them. I certainly didn’t know he planned to give them to another woman.
JUDGE: That’s it. You’ve got to give them back, Alberto.
ALFREDO: I don’t have them. They now belong to Eunice.
GLINDA: But you stole them!
ALFREDO: Again, Your Honor, I stole nothing. They were given to me, which means, according to our ancient legal code, that I could do with them as I wished.
JUDGE: I’m afraid he’s got something there.
GLINDA: But isn’t there some kind of law against inalienations of affections?
JUDGE: Not really. You know, Glinda, there’s an opera song titled “La donna e mobile”: women are fickle. But so often it’s men who are the fickle ones. You’ll see. Alberto will stick with this current girl friend till he meets someone new – or maybe comes across an enticing new pair of ladies’ shoes. Then he’ll be gone like a shot. Bailiff, next case!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Contribution to ABC WEDNESDAY

"S" is for Santa -- the REAL Santa.
(From Archive)

Try to picture this setting.

First off, it’s very hot, the sun’s beating down; we’re in the tropics. There’s a beautiful beach and the ocean, it’s the Mediterranean, is dazzling. This is what they call the Turkish Riviera, and the name is justified; it can hold its own with the French Riviera.

Reason I’m telling you about this place is that some years ago I was in this tropical paradise and had a chance to meet Santa. The REAL Santa.
Everyone knows that ol’ S. Claus lives up in the frozen north with Mrs Claus and a houseful of industrious, non-union elves, not to mention a stable of reindeer, and that Santa has always lived there.
Not true.

Santa Claus was originally Saint Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century and who never saw the North Pole (and maybe never saw any snow). He was born and lived right here in the hot, sunny Turkish Riviera, though the name would not have been familiar to him. I was there working on a tourism-promotion project for the Turkish government and I thought it would be interesting to show Santa’s real home, where he was born and raised.
As for the actual saint, Nicholas, he had been famous for his generosity, for the way he gave gifts to the needy. (Well, he should have; he was a saint.) He became known throughout the Christian world.

He wound up in Holland, where they changed his appearance somewhat. They also took his name and sort of Dutchified it: St. Nicholas became Sinterklaas. When the Dutch lived in New Amsterdam they celebrated Christmas with Sinterklaas and all the English folks living around them thought the old fellow was sort of cool so they adopted him for their Christmas too.
They couldn’t quite pronounce “Sinterklaas” however; the closest they could get to it was “Santa Claus.”

So somehow the old fellow had metamorphosed from a 4th-century saint to a corpulent chap in a red suit who was always smiling about something.
One day I was standing on that beach, working, when an Orthodox Christian priest approached and asked if I would like to see the bones of St. Nicholas? Of course, I said.
He returned with a small case, beautifully made, lined with satin, that, he assured me, contained some of the bones of the Saint. I was aware of the thousands of kids who go to see Santa at Christmastime and here I was getting to see the real Santa.
For a fleeting moment I thought of saying that I wanted a pony for Christmas, but I couldn’t be sure Orthodox priests had a sense of humor.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Magpie Entry 15

For those of us who belong to an older generation, today’s popular music is often difficult to appreciate. It doesn’t always seem to make sense.

How different, then, is an old song I was reminded of by today’s Magpie prompt. Way back in the late thirties it was the top hit of the land, primarily because of its touching, poignant lyrics. It was sung by the Andrews Sisters, whom you may have heard of because of their career in grand opera.
The song I was reminded of by the Magpie prompt had overtones of tenderness and sadness, of serenity and tranquility, as well as of deep psychological understanding.

Join with me now as we study the unforgettable lyrics of:
The Andrews Sisters’ Song “Hold Tight.”

Hold tight, hold tight,
Want some sea food, Mama?

I like oysters, lobsters too,
And I like my tasty buttered fish, foo!
When I come home late at night
I. Get. My. Fav. Or. Ite. Dish:

Hold tight, hold tight,
Want some seafood, Mama?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Flying High

I was watching a TV documentary on Southern California recently and I noticed a Ralphs market on the screen.

So they still have Ralphs in Los Angeles?

Took me back. In 1941 I was employed in a Ralphs grocery store there, trying to work my way through UCLA, and one Sunday a guy in the delicatessen section shouted to me: “They just bombed Pearl Harbor!”

That didn’t have as much impact on me as you might imagine. I didn’t know who “they” were and I didn’t know what, or where, Pearl Harbor was. I was to learn quite a bit about the place before the day was out.

In addition, since I was a teenager in perfect health, I realized that Pearl Harbor meant that the U S Army Selective Service, known to its friends as The Draft, would soon come a-courtin’. And they did. I received a postcard telling me I had two weeks to wind up my affairs – though at that age I hadn’t had all that many – and report to the Army for induction.

I had earlier made application at the Navy midshipman-cadet academy in San Francisco. So I called them on the phone and said if they wanted me they should take me soon. They told me to fly up; they would pay the air fare. That was good to hear. At my grocery store job I worked three hours to make one dollar – I understand salaries there are a bit higher now – and money was something I didn’t have a lot of.

Believe it or not, it was to be my first flight. I was a child of the Great Depression and flying around was on the huge list of things I hadn’t been able to afford. So I looked forward to my first air trip with enthusiasm.

To be able to travel in one of the sleek ultra-modern commercial airliners of that time, streaking through the sky at a breath-taking 180 miles per hour, the whole countryside spread out below for my personal enlightenment and enjoyment! It was going to be unforgettable.

The first disappointment came when I learned that all the windows on the aircraft were sealed shut; passengers could see nothing outside. What with the war and all, plus the fact that the plane regularly flew over ship-building facilities and aircraft plants, the U S Government wanted to be sure that when I arrived in San Francisco I wouldn’t phone the Imperial Japanese armed forces and tell them where such operations were located.

Which I wouldn’t have done anyway.

So it was a pretty uneventful flight. It was like being in a small, unattractive room surrounded by small unattractive passengers, a room that jiggled about a bit for a while, which I took to mean that maybe we were taking off. Later, much later, it jiggled about again, which meant we probably had landed in S. F.

Anyway, the midshipman-cadet outfit took me. I was signed up, which meant that I could say to the U S Army: Sorry, fellas – maybe next time!

Also, it meant that if I played my cards right I could fight the war as an officer and a gentleman. Though when I later reported as an ensign aboard ship, other officers, in an effort to be helpful, informed me that an ensign was three steps below nothing.

But I digress. I want to get back to my momentous first flying experience. I had been careful to husband my resources.

In L. A. in those days, we rode streetcars. The airport was at Burbank – nobody had ever heard of an LAX Airport – and it cost seven cents to get a streetcar to take me there. Naturally I wanted to make sure I could pay for the ride home when I returned so I made the whole trip with another seven cents in my pocket.

That didn’t leave much for food. And I got hungry fast.

On the return flight – once again, you could see nothing outside – the stewardess came by and asked if I wanted lunch. I told her, no thank you. Later, I idly glanced through the leaflet that was in the pocket of the seat in front of me. It mentioned such things as what a great airline this was, etc., and in addition, that the meals were complimentary.


You mean when that nice lady had suggested lunch, it was free? Who could have known?

I looked wildly about, trying to locate her again. I planned to say something like: Well, whaddya know, I guess I’ll have that lunch after all. But by then the nose of the aircraft was sort of pointing down, which meant we were either going to crash or we were landing at Burbank. Whichever came first.

So I got off the plane and blew the entire seven cents on a streetcar ride home, where at last I managed to get something to eat.

I am well aware that the flight of the Wright Brothers was more important, more memorable, than my trip to San Francisco, but mine was pretty memorable, too – especially the memory of that free lunch I turned down.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Magpie Entry #14

Dr. Rosenfeld: And how do you feel about that, Mrs. Green?
Sybil: You already know how I feel; you know what worries me. What else have we been talking about here?
Harve: What we haven’t been talking about is the truth. And the truth is, you’re worried about something that is – nothing. There’s nothing to worry about.
Dr. Rosenfeld: Hold on a minute, Harv. I get the feeling that we’re actually approaching the real problem. It seems to have to do with a plate.

Sybil: Yes. My mother was a collector. Over her lifetime she put together a beautiful collection. A star of that collection is a priceless plate; she gave it to me to take care of for a while, just so I could have such beauty in my home, but it’s her plate; we shouldn’t forget that.
Harv: No one is going to harm her damn plate!
Dr. Rosenfeld: Let’s see. If I understand this right, Harv, you want to use it in your restaurant?
Harv: Restaurant? Come out and say it; it’s a diner. I run a diner.
Sybil: And to think of using this beautiful plate in a diner – well, the very idea is grotesque!
Harv: Oh, stop. You know damn well I’m not going to “use” it. It’s just that I have come up with a great idea, and this blue plate would help put it over.
Dr. Rosenfeld: What’s the idea?
Harv: Well, things have been slow at the diner. I felt the need to come up with a clever gimmick, something that will get talked about, written up in the papers and so on. So I intend to re-create the look, the feel, of a diner of the thirties, the days of the depression – a nostalgia thing.
Dr. Rosenfeld: And you’re going to serve meals on your mother-in-law’s plate?
Harv: Of course not. Listen. What do we think about when we think about old-fashioned diners? We think of a “blue-plate special,” right? When my grandfather owned the place I used to come in as a kid to watch; folks loved the blue-plate special. It was a complete meal: meat, potato and veg on one plate – and for a quarter! It was Fred Harvey of the Fred Harvey Restaurants who first came up with it. This is American history.
Dr. Rosenfeld: And you, Sybil, do you feel that, the romance of the American diner?
Sybil: A diner is a diner. I don’t care what he does just as long as he doesn’t use my mom’s beautiful plate to do it!
Dr. Rosenfeld: But Harv, you say you won’t serve meals on the plate?
Harv: Of course not. You see, I’m planning a big splash opening. On that one day -- it'll be Blue Plate Special Day -- I’ll actually serve everyone a meal on a real, cheap blue plate for twenty-five cents. It’ll make headlines. The publicity will be worth a fortune. Should get national coverage.
Sybil: So go out and buy a few dozen blue plates. Serve on them.
Harv: But don’t you see? My idea is to have this blue plate of your mom’s – and I admit it’s beautiful – put up on the wall of the place, like a work of art; it’ll be a marvelous touch. It’ll be a highlight. I’ll have special lighting for it and everything.
Sybil: Oh, Harv, you and your ideas. Remember when you had that Wild West theme and you rented that horse to stand in front of the place. More American history.
Harv: We had agreed not to talk about that again.
Dr. Rosenfeld: What was wrong with the idea?
Sybil: Nothing. Nothing at all, except most folks won’t go in a diner that has a horse in front of it who does nothing but stand there and crap all day long and I mean all day!
Harv: It was hardly my fault that some kid fed the horse a pepperoni pizza when I wasn’t looking.
Sybil: If Harv uses this precious plate of my mother’s in his diner as a “work of art,” it will be returned in pieces; I can guarantee it.
Dr. Rosenfeld: Well, Harv, I’m sure you can understand your wife’s position. She seems to have a legitimate concern.
Harv (sighs): This is how it is in the world today. You have, on the one hand, the thinkers, the doers, the visionaries, the people who make life a little bit better for everyone, and on the other, you have those who do nothing, nothing but complain and hold up progress.
Dr. Rosenfeld: Sybil, how do you think this problem could be solved?
Sybil: Maybe he can rent a horse to eat off a blue plate.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Berowne's Big Break

Remember the movie “42nd Street”?

The star of the show sprains her ankle and is unable to go on. A beginner, a neophyte, is sent on stage by the desperate producer. The kid is a sensation, wows the audience; she goes out an unknown and comes back a star.
I lived through that very same situation – except for that last part. I didn’t come back a star, I just came back.
Time-travel with me now to the end of the year 1945. Suddenly the war I was involved with was over. I found myself out on civvy street, in desperate need of a job of some kind. I had gone off to the South Pacific when I was just a kid. Now I was still just a kid but four years older. What could I possibly do in civilian life? I had no experience, no training except training for war.
Well, I thought, I could talk; I’d like to try to get into radio.
As far as the field of communications was concerned, it was then a very different world. For all practical purposes there was no television. Most people not only didn’t have TV, most had never seen TV. A few folks in the major cities were fortunate enough to be able to watch “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” on their tiny black-and-white screens, but for everyone else, radio was all there was.
Believe it or not, I got a job as an announcer.
What kind of radio station would hire a guy as an announcer who had no experience and not all that much in the way of ability? A strange little radio station, that’s what.
In Asbury Park, New Jersey, a place I had never heard of before, there was a small station: WCAP – which stood for “Wonderful City of Asbury Park.” (I was to hear quite a bit about Asbury Park later, but at the time Bruce Springsteen hadn’t as yet shown up on the planet.) It was a small radio station indeed, a two-man operation, broadcasting with 250 watts. Now, 250 watts would make a satisfyingly large light bulb but it was tiny for radio, surrounded by the 50,000-watt network stations of the area. Our signal barely managed to cover the town – not that there were all that many folks listening. The station was obviously not very popular locally: we received several letters addressed to WCRAP, which I thought was uncalled-for.

The station was in Convention Hall, two little rooms on the ground floor. The engineer sat in one room, operating the console. The announcer sat in the other, playing records and speaking into a mike. At the end of a “program,” which consisted of nothing but the playing of records, the announcer would scurry into the other room to run the console and the engineer would suddenly become the announcer. This would persuade the audience, such as it might be, that this was a regular radio station with an actual announcing staff. At least, that was the hope.
I had been at this work for just a couple of weeks, trying to learn what it meant to be an announcer, when something incredible happened. It was a scenario that could have been written – and, indeed, was, a number of times – by a movie scriptwriter.
It was the age of the Big Bands. Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, traveled around the land with their large musical organizations.

And while I was just settling in at WCAP, Harry James and his band, perhaps the most popular of them all, were to appear in Asbury Park. They were to do a network show, coast-to-coast, from Convention Hall. This was big-time stuff.
I do not make up the following; it actually happened. The network announcer had an accident on his way to Asbury Park and phoned New York that he would be unable to make the broadcast. The network types there hurriedly searched through their sources and noted that Asbury Park had a radio station. They phoned. I answered. They asked if my station could loan them an announcer to emcee the Harry James program, which was supposed to go on the air in about twenty minutes. I said yes, we could take care of that.
I met with Harry James, trying to look like I knew what I was doing. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I had just started in this business, a total beginner, and here I was emceeing a network broadcast, coast-to-coast, of the top musical organization in the land.
It did not go well. Fact is, I suffered from a severe case of stage fright; I realized I was trembling slightly. As I stood by the mike, waiting for the cue to come down from New York, the script I was holding was shaking a bit. Harry James saw this and, as we waited, he began to make little jokes about this announcer to the guys in his band, who chortled in response.
Well, I got through the broadcast somehow and left. I never heard from anyone about it, not the network, not Harry James, no one. Probably just as well.
I went back to playing records for my 250-watt audience.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Magpie Entry 13

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
When the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood…

And lend the eye a terrible aspect!”

King Henry V, Act II

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Der Alte

Way back when Konrad Adenauer was Chancellor of Germany, he was known by the German Volk – the people they named the Wagen after :-) -- as “Der Alte” (the Old Man).
I have come to feel that this would be an appropriate title for me.
For the truth is, my dear friends of this cyber world, Berowne is not young. He has been around the reservoir a couple of times. As my old buddy Macbeth used to say: "My way of life has fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf…" So I have to confess that the picture of the young guy brushing his teeth at the top of my blog doesn’t resemble me at all.
But it’s nothing to be sad about. You remember the line: “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”
(“The best” might be a bit of an exaggeration. No, the best was in the past. Still, there’s a lot of good stuff yet to come.)
Fortunately, the fates have allowed me to wind up at an advanced age with a mind that, for some reason, has stayed supple and alive, if not especially brilliant. My mind thinks it’s about thirty-five years of age.
You remember that book, “The Greatest Generation,” by Tom Brokaw, a book that described the generation who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II? Evidently those folks were almost all heroic.
When I heard about that book I realized he was talking about me. I remember every day of the Great Depression and I spent three and a half years in WWII, mostly in the South Pacific, the difference being that I never did anything remotely heroic.
The reason for this post? Well, my family informed me that since I seem to be possessed of an endless number of stories, some of them even interesting, about the at times weird and at times comical situations that I found myself in during those many years, I should write them down. So I thought my blog would be a good place for it; I’ll be posting a few short chapters over time.
I hope there are a few bloggers who may be entertained by what Der Alte has to say. :-)
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