Adventures In Busing.

In-Flight Entertainment.

I haven’t got any immediate plans to fly anywhere but the other day something popped up that reminded me that whenever I do fly I’d take British Airways if I could. It wouldn’t matter where I was going. Even if it were some ridiculously short flight, like from Nashville to Dickson, Tennessee, which I’m not sure is even possible since it would take less time to drive there than it would just go through security, but that’s another story.

I’m not trying to promote them or do a commercial—I’m certainly not being paid, and, well, for me flying is like getting my teeth cleaned. I don’t hate it but there are other things I’d rather do. Thirty years ago I went to Britain for the first time I flew British Airways.  What stayed with me most, aside from the fact that drinks were free, was the in-flight radio. This was before airlines put video monitors on the backs of seats but they did have a headphone jack in the armrest and a dial with a selection of channels. Most other airlines only offered this, like free drinks, in first class but British Airways made it available to everyone. I had my Walkman with me so when I got tired of listening to my cassettes of Kate Bush and David Bowie I could plug my headphones into the armrest and listen to, well, Kate Bush and David Bowie. But they also had a comedy channel. Since it was a transatlantic flight it was like getting my teeth cleaned for eight hours, so I guess they figured I needed a laugh. The channel only had about an hour of material it would cycle through, but, oh, what great material it was. There was Bob Newhart and Allan Sherman, and I was also introduced to Jasper Carrott and Tony Hancock’s “Blood Donor”, and I’m pretty sure I listened to it at least five times, finally falling asleep to Steve Martin’s “Grandmother’s Song”.

Anyway here’s what popped up on some feed or another of mine that reminded me of that. Why it popped up now is a mystery. I guess someone figured I needed a laugh.   

 

Full Circle.

Source: Nashville Public Art

It won’t be long now before I start going back to my office which is kind of a strange thing to contemplate, especially since the only thing that’s really changed over the last thirteen months and counting, aside from now knowing I can work from home if I have to, is that my wife will be working from home permanently and after thirteen months and counting she’ll be really glad to get me out of the house, but that’s another story. For most of our respective careers we’ve worked in buildings that were close enough together that we’ve been able to share a morning commute. We’d park in the parking garage next to where she worked and I’d have a nice morning walk. I’d take the bus home while she’d work a ten-hour day and then on Fridays I’d drive in by myself and she’d have one day with the house to herself.

Now that she’s permanently working from home we’re looking at cheaper parking options, probably in one of the lots near where I work, which is fine with me because I have a love-hate relationship with parking garages. Or rather I love to hate parking garages and would be fine with an open-air lot. Even if it’s cold or raining, or cold and raining, at least I won’t have as far to walk. And on nice days, well, there’s nothing preventing me from taking a nice morning walk before I start the workday, and the best part is that, unlike the current arrangement which has me stuck walking only one direction, I can ramble wherever I want. I’ve even thought about where I’d go—a walk I’ve taken many times on lunch breaks because when it’s a nice day I like to just get out and walk, and many times I’ve found my way down Division Street, which takes me past The Red Door Saloon and the local Gilda’s Club, a place for anyone who’s been affected by cancer, and sometimes I even walk up to the famous, or infamous, Musica statue.

Designed by local sculptor Alan LeQuire, who also made the Athena sculpture in the Parthenon, it’s nine naked figures dancing. It’s very tasteful, done in a classical style, but it’s a little bit controversial. I guess the city has a love-hate relationship with it: some people love it, some people hate it, and some people have put clothes on the statues, which I love because it’s hilarious and I hate to have missed it.

The only problem with walking that way is the Musica sculpture is in the middle of a roundabout and I have a love-hate relationship with roundabouts. As a driver I like roundabouts—they make everyone slow down and be conscious of where they’re going and if everyone behaves no one has to stop. They’re actually safer than four-way stops and the Freakonomics podcast just did an episode called Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished? that looks at just how much safer roundabouts are and tries to answer the question, why aren’t they more popular in the U.S.? Spoiler alert: no one knows.

Except as a pedestrian I hate roundabouts because, well, no one has to stop. The roundabout that surrounds the Musica sculpture is called The Buddy Killen Circle and I think it could just as easily be called The Pedestrian Killen Circle. Or maybe I should just skip the walk and drive there.

So Happy Apart.

Source: Wikipedia. I didn’t have my phone with me so I didn’t take a picture of the turtle but this is what he looked like.

So I was walking to the mailbox after approximately forty days and forty nights of rain which is supposedly the amount of time it rained when Noah took all the animals into the ark, but if you’ve ever read Julian Barnes’s A History Of The World In 10 and ½ Chapters you know that much rain is “an average English summer”, but that’s another story. And it reminded me that one of the things I won’t miss when I finally go back to the office, which I’m pretty sure is going to happen in a matter of weeks since I’m getting my second shot soon, is a giant puddle that forms around a corner next to my building and which I have to navigate around if I want to get to the other side of the street. That giant puddle forms every time it rains, even if it’s just forty seconds of rain, and it’s right around a fire hydrant which makes me think that when it rains the hydrant is sitting there saying, “I’ll just let out a little to release some of the pressure, no one’s going to notice” and it ends up flooding the area.

All this is completely irrelevant to what happened next: I found a box turtle in the middle of the street. Turtles traditionally are seen as wise creatures, and, admittedly, it took some brains to write “Happy Together”, a song that I’m pretty sure has made a mint because it’s been used in so many commercials. Seeing a turtle out in the middle of the street, though, is enough to make me question their intelligence, especially since this one had gotten to the middle of the street and appeared to have decided to take a nap. It might have been in the sweet spot to avoid cars going either way but I didn’t want to take a chance and picked it up and carried it to our yard. I took it all the way to the wooded area beyond our yard so it would be safe from our dogs and hopefully other predators. And while I was doing this the turtle apparently woke up and came out of its shell, waving its legs and hissing at me, maybe saying, “Okay, this is fine, this is past where I was headed, buddy!” but I kept going anyway.

When I got back my wife asked what I was doing at the back of the yard. I told her I was relocating a box turtle I’d found in the middle of the street.

“Oh no,” she said, “now you’ve taken him out of his range and he’ll be confused.”

At least I carried him in the direction he’d been heading—when I found him he was facing our house, and I felt guilty for a minute but then I started thinking, hey, how much of a sense of a direction or place do turtles even have? Why would he even care? Wouldn’t he be happier in the woods anyway? Maybe he’ll find some other turtles—I know they’re back there because I’ve seen them—and they can have a reunion tour.

All this is completely irrelevant to the fact that this happened about halfway through last week and I’ve just realized I forgot to pick up the mail.

 

Fast Walker.

So I’m a fast walker, at least when I’m going somewhere. Back before the lockdown, before everyone started working from home, we’d regularly have work meetings in a building other than the one where we normally worked because I work for a library and we have departments spread out all over the place, not only because there are multiple library branches but also because some departments were moved out of the library long ago to, well, make room for more books. We were working remotely before it was cool, but that’s another story. Anyway when we have those meetings in other buildings sometimes the people I work with will tell me, “You go on ahead, I’m not going to try and keep up with you!” And what they don’t realize is there’s coffee and pastries at those meetings so I walk fast because I want to get there before all the cheese Danish are gone.

To be clear I’m not a speed-walker and I’m not going to win any Olympic race walking competitions—which really is a thing. I’ve got fairly short legs and I’m not that athletic. It’s just that when I get walking I set a pretty good pace. Once when I was taking a bus somewhere I got off at the wrong stop, and rather than sit and wait for the next bus I decided to walk back to the bus station. I wasn’t in any great hurry and enjoyed what I thought was a leisurely stroll through some nice neighborhoods. Later, just out of curiosity, I used Google Maps to figure out how far I’d walked, and, having checked how long I spent walking, I calculated that I’d kept up a pace of about four miles an hour. That’s no four-minute mile but it’s not too shabby either. At that rate I could walk from New York to Los Angeles in less than two years which, yeah, may not be the best illustration.

Anyway I do have a point here even if I’ve taken the scenic route getting to it, and it’s this from Science Daily:

Slow walkers are almost four times more likely to die from COVID-19, and have over twice the risk of contracting a severe version of the virus, according to a team of researchers from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre led by Professor Tom Yates at the University of Leicester.

That’s really good news, or at least it would be if I hadn’t already gotten my first vaccine shot and I’m scheduled to get the next one before the end of the month. I’m glad to know that for the past year while I’ve been avoiding people and not going out so much I was at least doing something that reduced my risk even if I didn’t know I was doing it. And while I don’t want to jump the line I will be walking briskly to get my second shot, although mostly because the place where they’re giving out the shots they also have free coffee and if I get there early maybe I can get a cheese Danish.

Soda, So Good.

So I an errand that took me by where I used to catch the bus, not far from the historic Elliston Place neighborhood, and I couldn’t resist getting out and walking around to see how the area was faring. And I was a little sad to see that the old Elliston Place Soda Shop was closed. I know it’s been a hard time for restaurants and other venues that depend on people actually coming in—Exit/In, another historic place, which is just up the street, has been struggling to stay open too.

Except the Elliston Place Soda Shop isn’t exactly closing. It’s moving. To the building next door.

That may seem a little odd, but then it’s been in the same building since 1939, and that building has been around since it first opened as a pharmacy in 1912. It’s a place that’s seen some history, including two world wars, large and small economic downturns, and fifteen presidents. Still the old building is kind of cramped and narrow, so it makes sense that, even before COVID-19, they were planning to expand so they could serve more people at a time. And it’s now got this newfangled drive-thru window!  

I have my own history with the Elliston Place Soda Shop. The first time I went in there I was an adult. It may seem strange that I grew up in Nashville but never went there as a kid but, well, it was just not a place we ever went. It was a little before three in the afternoon, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. I sat down at the old-fashioned chrome counter. An older waitress with her hair up in a bun and wearing old-fashioned cat eye glasses studded with rhinestones smiled at me and said, “Well, what can I get ya, hon? How about a cheeseburger?”

“I think I’d just like a milkshake, please,” I said.

“Fine,” she snapped, glaring at me and snatching the menu out of my hands. I’m still not sure what I did wrong, but the milkshake was really good—one of the best I’ve ever had, but I didn’t go back for a long time. I’d been out to dinner with a friend and we decided we’d go to the soda shop for dessert. When we stepped in there was a guy in a white apron shaking a broom at us.

“Get out! Get out!” he yelled. “We’re closing in five minutes!”

Well excuse me for not knowing the hours. If they were closing up he should have locked the door.

One day not too long after that when I went to catch the bus I saw they were shooting a music video at the soda shop, only they’d covered up the signs and turned it into a place called Awful House. Well that’s fitting, I thought.

Maybe now that they’ve expanded their service will be a little more expansive, and eventually I will go back. I loved that milkshake and I’d really like to have another one, although I’ll get it to go.

Hey DJ!

Source: Thursday Review

So I was driving around running a few small errands and listening to a local DJ and marveling that there’s still such a thing as local DJs. We don’t have satellite radio—my wife listens to a lot of audiobooks—and there is at least one “local” station that doesn’t have DJs and even prides itself on not taking requests, but there are at least a couple where you can call in and talk to an actual person which always gives me flashbacks to my high school days when I finally got out of the misery of riding the bus and rode home with friends who had cars and we’d listen to the radio, and then once we got home we’d go in and turn on the radio in the house—running if there was a song we really liked on. Sometimes we’d call up the DJs. It always amazed me that my friends could get into long conversations with DJs, sometimes ten or fifteen minutes. One local station had a promo where they’d play the call of the Tookie bird from George Of The Jungle and if you were the first caller you won something. One time my friend was on the phone with the DJ for about fifteen minutes and he heard it in the background and said, “Hey, I’m the first caller, right?” And the DJ laughed and sent my friend a couple of movie tickets. Every time I called the DJs always cut me off for some reason. Maybe it was my song choices.

“Could you play Hourglass by Squeeze?”

“Yeah, we don’t have that anymore.” Click.

“Could you play Bohemian Rhapsody?”

“We played that earlier this week. It’s too weird to play more than that.” Click.

“Hey, could you play—”

“Sorry, kid, we’re not taking requests right now.” Click.

In college I had a couple of friends who were DJs for the campus radio station. One even put me on the air, briefly, one night. I only announced one song and did a Casey Kasem impersonation. It was pretty good but not good enough. The next day I got a call from the student manager who told me I had to go through training and orientation before I’d be allowed on the air again, so that was the end of my radio career.

Riding the bus home from work I mostly had an iPod then my phone loaded up with songs and podcasts, but for just driving around I still like regular old-fashioned radio. I like the surprise of not really knowing what song is coming up next, even if—sometimes especially if—it’s not a song I’d pick.

Between songs the DJ chattered away and finally I pulled over into a parking lot and called. There was one ring, then two, and then somebody picked up. It didn’t sound like the DJ—maybe they use a different on-air voice—but I just asked if he’d play a song I wanted to hear.

“Okay, maybe, I’ll see if I can find that, it’s a little out there, hey, thanks for calling.” Click.

Well, it was a bit perfunctory but a few minutes later the song I asked for came on.

 

Please Tip Your Waiter.

Over the past year my wife and I have gotten a lot of takeout from local restaurants. It’s our way of doing what little we can to help, and, fortunately, most of our favorite places are still around while too many others have gone out of business. And I do all the picking up rather than using one of the numerous delivery services. I haven’t crunched the numbers but I think more money goes to the restaurant, which is also kind of a family tradition. I had a great uncle who, when his father had a heart attack, called the undertaker. When people asked him why he didn’t call the doctor he said, “I could have but I got a bigger inheritance by cutting out the middleman,” but that’s another story.

I know it’s tough for restaurants even now but there’s one thing I absolutely can’t stand: when I get home and find that something’s been left out of our order. With most things I’m pretty easygoing but finding that something’s missing from a takeout order sends me into a boiling rage, and the worst part is I can’t really do anything about it. I’m not going back to the restaurant because by the time I’ve driven there, picked up the order, and driven home I’m usually cold and hungry and tired, and also they might not believe me when I tell them something was missing. And in fairness to the restaurants I get that. I have a brother-in-law who used to be a general manager at a restaurant that served prime rib on weekends. One Wednesday night someone called in to complain that they’d picked up a to-go order and their prime rib was missing. He said, “Maybe that’s because we’re not serving prime rib tonight.” The caller hung up.

I also get that mistakes can happen although repeated mistakes turn me off a place no matter how good it is. Several years ago my wife and I got sushi from a favorite local place—it was where we had one of our first dates, in fact, and even after it changed hands the food was still good but their takeout service took a nosedive. Our orders were always short and always took longer than they said. If they told me the order would be ready in half an hour it would take at least an hour, and I’d spend most of the extra time standing there in the restaurant like a schmuck. Finally I complained to the manager who said he understood and that they’d gotten a lot of complaints and said the next time our order would be free. The next time there was a different manager on duty who said he’d never heard of any problems but that if I were willing to come in he’d be happy to discuss it. I knew I was getting cold fish and it wasn’t sushi.

Anyway one night I got takeout from a nearby Chinese restaurant and started pulling everything out and was surprised to find things I didn’t order in the bag: egg rolls and extra dumplings. I couldn’t figure it out. It was all in one bag and the receipt with my name and number was stapled to the outside so it wasn’t as though I’d picked up someone else’s order along with mine. I hoped they hadn’t made a mistake and I felt bad about some poor schmuck getting home and not finding his egg rolls. Then I checked the receipt again and written at the bottom was, “Extra dumplings/egg rolls-FREE” right above “THANK YOU!”

Yeah, with that sort of service I will go back—again and again.

It Could Happen.

Source: Sitcoms Online

Certain corners of the internet are exploding with the news that the new streaming service Blitz will launch with a reboot of the classic sitcom My Mother The Car. The show’s premise was typical of the ‘60’s, and perhaps even less ridiculous sounding now: attorney David Crabtree, played by Jerry Van Dyke, buys an antique car, specifically a 1926 Reichenbach, only to discover that it’s inhabited by the ghost of his deceased mother. She talks to him through the car’s radio and only he can hear her. She helps him through various difficulties with his wife and career as he evades the unscrupulous Captain Manzini, who’s determined to acquire the valuable antique car.

With its moody lighting, lack of a laughtrack, and muted performances My Mother The Car continues to be widely acclaimed as the worst sitcom of all time but still managed to develop a loyal cult following. It even spawned a series of comics published by DC with Crabtree and Mother becoming crime fighting quasi-superheroes.

Most attempts to bring back My Mother The Car since its 1966 cancellation have failed. Perhaps the most notable was Steven Spielberg’s 1986 big screen adaptation. Because of the film’s raunchy humor, including a subplot of Mother working for an escort service, it barely got by with a PG-13 rating and posters of Mother sporting an oversized cigar under her hood were quickly pulled from theater lobbies. Fans who continued to hold occasional “car-ventions” at Jerry Van Dyke’s Ice Cream Soda Shoppes around the country lamented the steady decline of their beloved franchise.

Then in 2018 interest was renewed with the cinematic release of the four and a half hour superhero epic Justice League: Quantum Fracture, which pulled together a vast range of DC characters, including David Crabtree and Mother. Although Jerry Van Dyke, who sadly passed away before the film’s release, was too ill to appear as himself he did record the dialogue and the onscreen David was played by a digitally enhanced Andy Serkis, who also provided Mother’s voice.  

The new series features a cast of largely unknown actors and, while the producers say they want to remain faithful to the original, will feature greater diversity and much less reliance on mother-in-law jokes. They also describe the new series as “a mashup of Herbie The Love Bug, Knight Rider, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Speed Racer, Wonderbug, The Magic School Bus, Speed Buggy, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”.

Environmental concerns will be addressed too. Reichenbachs of that era operated entirely on whale oil, an issue that will be dealt with both in the series itself and through the Blitz service’s new sponsored conservation program My Mother The Narwhal.

I’ve now watched the three screener episodes Blitz provided to critics, social media influencers, members of the official My Mother The Car Fan Club, and pretty much anyone who asked and I think it’s safe to say it will be universally acclaimed as not too bad.

What Goes Down.

Amalie Drive, Nashville. Source: Google Maps

There have been a few kids out sledding down our street which took me back to when I started seventh grade at a new school that was close enough that I could walk home from school. That’s how I found Amalie Drive, a steep hill that seemed perfect for sledding, even though, in late August at the start of the school year, any chance of sledding seemed a long way off. And I’d also outgrown sledding, which is how I know I won’t have a “Rosebud” moment on my deathbed. I might look back wistfully at something else but it won’t be a treasured sled that I left behind when I was whisked away and sent to a boarding school by a wealthy banker, mostly because I never had a treasured sled—I had one but would only get to use it once or maybe twice a year—and also I was never sent to a boarding school.

Amalie Drive may not look like much on Google Maps, although you can see there’s a red British phone booth on the corner that’s been there since phone booths actually had phones in them. It rises gently on one side and then has a drop on the other side that’s so long and so steep I thought it would be perfect for sledding. That’s what I thought one August afternoon as I was climbing Amalie Drive on my way home, and I focused on that rather than Kevin, a school bully who’d tormented me all through sixth grade, and who was coming up Amalie behind me, although he was far enough away that I don’t think he recognized me, or maybe he just didn’t think I was worth the effort of running a quarter of a mile uphill. After that I took a different route home, cutting through yards and woods, and it was not only more scenic but less of a climb and probably shorter than sticking to the road.

As perfect as Amalie would have been for sledding it had, for me, a downside that wasn’t so great. It was far enough away from my house that it wasn’t worth dragging a sled all the way there, especially since I’d also have to drag it back uphill. Besides my next door neighbor’s backyard was almost as good: just past his driveway it sloped downward all the way to my friend Tony’s house, so I could not only sled down to see him but get him to drag the sled back up the hill with me. The neighbor was Mr. Rick, a nice guy who didn’t mind kids playing in his yard as long as we didn’t bother the pot plants he grew on his deck. Then he was killed in an accident while flying his private plane and the house was sold to another guy, Mr. Howard. Mr. Howard didn’t want kids in his yard and sometimes came out and stood on his deck with a drink in his hand and told me I’d better stay away when I was in my own yard, and I wish he’d kept Mr. Rick’s pot plants because he could really use something to mellow him out, but that’s another story.

That winter there was a big snowstorm. Like I said I’d outgrown sledding by that time but apparently Kevin hadn’t. I’m not sure why he came around to my neighborhood—it was a pretty long walk for him even when he wasn’t carrying a sled, but maybe he’d heard about this perfect hill for sledding and decided to give it a try. I was shoveling snow off my driveway. He looked over at me but I was so bundled up I don’t think he recognized me, or maybe he was too interested in sledding to bother me. He perched the sled at the top of the hill and was about to get on it when Mr. Howard stepped out, drink in hand, and yelled, “Hey kid, get out of my yard!”

Kevin’s whole body jerked and he slipped and fell a little bit down the hill.

“Didn’t you hear me?” said Mr. Howard. “Get out of here before I get my gun!”

Kevin had looked like he was about to make a smartass remark but at that threat he picked up his sled and trudged as fast as he could through the snow and left.

I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow finding that funny.

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