Sunday, February 26, 2012

ABC Wednesday, Magpie 106 and Three-Word Wednesday

"G" is for "Grocery Store"

A few years ago – quite a few years ago – your friend Berowne was a 19-year-old student struggling to put himself through college by working in a grocery store.
The year was 1941. Politicians, the media, everybody was then assuring us that the Great Depression was finally over: jobs were available.
So I got one. I learned the skill of stacking shelves with cans of Campbell soup and other sundry items – and not just sundry; the other days of the week too.
Though the depression was over, no one had gotten around to notifying whoever was responsible for figuring out what an adequate salary should be. My pay was thirty-three and a third cents an hour. You worked three hours to make one dollar.
It may no longer have been the Great Depression, but as far as I could see it was a pretty good imitation.
Anyway, as I mentioned, I eagerly learned the art of filling the grocery shelves and the even more demanding skill of building displays.
Ah that, building displays, that was the exciting, intellectually-challenging work! Just putting cans of soup on the shelves was small-time stuff; being able to build an effective display was the major leagues.
Surely you have, at one time or another, gone into a grocery store and been greeted, just as you entered, by the sight of a magnificently-constructed display of toilet paper, or boxes of macaroni and cheese, or perhaps by a huge, awe-inspiring structure made up of large cans of tomato juice. It’s something you don’t forget. In some stores the displays are so crowded it's hard to navigate through them.
It is at least possible that you may have taken a moment to appreciate the engineering skill that must have been involved in such productions. That’s why anyone who could plan and construct a truly effective grocery display was always in demand.
And usually for a lot more money – forty cents an hour, in some cases. Anyway, to get on with my story, I was the new guy in one grocery store and during my very first week there I was startled to learn that I was to be given the assignment of building an important display.
It was to be in the front of the store, the most important spot, and should be built to a height of some ten feet. A blockbuster, in other words. My guess was, they were testing me, trying to see what the rookie could do.
In addition, the display was to be made up of huge jugs of Dad’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer, a prestige item in that store. These came in cases, four jugs to a case.
I went to work. Le Corbusier himself never planned better or worked harder to produce an architecturally perfect construction. I first set up a huge rectangle of cases of Dad’s stuff as a base, then built on these cases, using the ancient pyramids as my example. Up, up went the cases, and then, toward the top, I threw caution to the winds and used the jugs themselves for the crowning glory of the display.
It was superb – “magnificent” might almost have been an appropriate term for the structure. Until…
It seems that some of the cases that I had used for the base of the display had been empty; someone had removed the jugs. I had had no idea. When the base collapsed the result was disaster.
The massive juggernaut came hurtling down, the large number of jugs crashing on the cement floor. I stood there transfixed. My eyes were crinkled in panic; I was unable to utter a sound.
The store in that area was suddenly flooded with Dad’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer, up to everyone’s ankles.
After the screaming and shouting had died down, the manager of the store thanked me for my service and wished me well in my next job.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ABC Wednesday and Magpie 105

"F" is for "False Alarm"
Young Berowne phones home:
Mom, I just heard. They accepted me at UCLA! I’ll be starting in the mid-winter semester.
Yeah, it’s great. It means there’s a lot to do. I haven’t even decided on a major yet.
Oh, I’ve just been out riding my bike. I spotted this phone booth so I thought I’d give you a ring with the good news.
Well, it’s a state university so the tuition shouldn’t be too bad. I hope we’ll be able to handle it. I’m excited; I feel my life is just about to begin. No more of that high school stuff; I’ll be a college man!
What? No, I hadn’t heard. I’ve been out riding my bike. So there was some kind of bombing? Where? I never heard of it.
The whole Pacific fleet of the U S Navy? Oh, that’s just wild talk. They have these incidents and then try to make something big out of them – sells more newspapers. They say things like that to try to encourage Roosevelt to get us into war. It's a false alarm; don’t listen to ‘em. Anyway, I’ve got to concentrate on getting ready for college. Getting ready for college, Mom; isn’t that great?!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 104 and ABC Wednesday

"E" is for "Effort"
I’m not sure why, but this week’s prompt reminded me of an old French drinking song…
(Usually sung by old French drunks.)
So, in the interest of fostering better international relations, and since civilization is going to rack and ruin anyway - :-) - here are some angelic lines:

Ah, ah, ah! disait le trottoir.
Qu'est-ce qui va s'passer ce soir?
Disait la mariée, ohé.
Qu'est ce qui va s'passer ce soir?
Disait le trottoir.

Ah, ah, ah! disait la serrure.
J'savais pas qu' c'était si dur,
Disait la mariée, ohé.
J'savais pas qu' c'était si dur,
Disait la serrure.

Ah, ah ah! disait la pendule.
On avance et on recule,
Disait la mariée, ohé.
On avance et on recule,
Disait la pendule.

Here's the rest of the story: with a little effort it's kind of fun to try to figure out the meaning without an English translation nearby...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 103 and ABC Wednesday

"D" is for "Discussion"
Berowne has been having another discussion with his muse.

Here is a rare picture of her – rare because she does not usually seek publicity. Berowne is a bit upset because his muse has been absent for quite a while.
Berowne: “Where on earth have you been? I’ve been waiting around for weeks for you.”
Muse: “Well, if you think about it, I wouldn’t have been anywhere – on earth. We muses, or musi, live not just in a separate world but in a separate universe.”
B: “Oh, come off it. Stop trying to make yourself into something special and supernatural. We all know you’re just a figment of my imagination, not someone of flesh and blood, and what that means is that you should show up when you’re needed. You don’t seem to know the rules.”
M: “True, I don’t. Are the rules printed out somewhere? And do they mention pay, benefits, vacations and so on?”
B: “That’s rich. You seem to have just been on vacation for almost a month. What is this, France? At times I just don't feel I have control. But let’s get down to work. Willow has just posted another enigmatic prompt; to answer it I need inspiration.”
M: “Inspiration? Ah, that’s an angry equine – a horse of a different choler.”
B: “H’mm. Good thing I don’t depend on you for puns.”
M: "One of these days it’s going to come out that you depend on me for everything. What I was going to say, before I was so boorishly interrupted, is that what I do is come up with ideas. Most of them are like the children up in Lake Woebegone – above average – but I have to admit that maybe some of the ideas are not that great. However, they’re just ideas. Inspiration is something else. As Jack Nicholson might have said in ‘A Few Good Men,’ you can’t handle inspiration!”
B: “Oh, I could handle it all right, if you’d just come up with it. Anyway, here’s this week’s prompt. What do you make of it?"

M: “Good heavens! Where did you get that?”
B: “I didn’t get it; it’s a prompt. You’re familiar with it?”
M: “Why of course. To us it’s famous. It’s a tribute to us, to me, to the literary muse! It powerfully exemplifies our lives, our struggles. Pushed down, kept in the background, often ignored, we nevertheless manage to bring forth gems – note the powerful symbol of an avant-garde ruby that represents the razor-sharp product of our labor.”
B: “I have to admit I’m impressed. It’s true, I haven’t been as appreciative as I could have been for your efforts. And I know I’ve been a bit churlish in the past…”
M: “A bit?”
B: “But this wonderful picture changes things. I’ll be properly grateful for the invaluable work of my muse in the future.”
M: “Good. Now, could we get back to that discussion of pay and benefits?”
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