Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Season of the Cigar Box Smell

Reams of paper, books, new leather shoes, a box of crayons. The air is teeming with back-to-school smells right now. Walk into any big box store, drug store, convenience store, or office supply establishment, and all those fine, scholarly odors whack you right upside the head. Such memories!

Oh, the possibilities! (Yeah, those possibilities were usually dead by the mid-October, but still.) Just deciding which 3-ring binder to buy was a major kid-decision. I remember having a great zippered binder that was a laminated map of the world (very useful that year). So much to choose from: How many dividers? 16- or 24-count Crayolas? Paste from the school store or Woolworth's? Pencil box or vinyl case that hooked into a notebook?

And don't get me started on making the all-important school shoes and raincoat/windbreaker decisions! I repeat: Oh! The possibilities.
But the most evocative back-to-school smell has to be a fresh, clean cigar box. Sturdy and compact, a cigar box was the perfect container for school supplies. Seems like it was something that only Daddy could bring home (who knows where daddies got 'em?), and seems like the box was always King Edward brand. Ah, the smell! I don't like the smell of a cigar being smoked, but the smell of the cigar box is just heavenly. And so, well, school-y smelling.

I miss back-to-school shopping, but it's so much more complicated and expensive today. And, shoot, probably politically incorrect to keep one's school supplies in a cigar box. But back in the day, back when school didn't start until the day after Labor Day, we'd turn up in our neat school clothes with King Edward cigar boxes packed with pencils, erasers, crayons, paste, and scissors, all ready for some book-larnin'.

I think I'm going to stop by a smoke shop to see if I can get a free King Edward cigar box. For my "school" supplies, doncha' know.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Man With The Sign

It's good to remember in this time of clashing voices and absurd accusations, 1) there are lots of ideas and opinions on who owns the facts and truth, 2) polarization is the rule not the exception in our history, and 3) hey, the man (or woman) with the sign (with the message I abhor) is a friend of mine (though I hope none of them would hold the signs in the picture. Yikes!).

How many of us have good friends and family with whom we disagree about political, social, or religious issues? It's hard to keep these disagreements out of the limelight sometimes, but there must be something upon which we agree, right? For the sake of family and friendship?

No one explains it better than Sheldon Harnick in this song. Read it all, even sing along to the tune of Stars and Stripes Forever. And calm down.

The Man With The Sign
lyric by Sheldon Harnick/To the tune of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa

In a town today, not far away,
A shabby little man is marching proudly
Round about and quite without
The music of a marching band.
No drum provides the rhythm for his left---
(not a piccolo)
(not a clarinet)
Not a single Sousaphone in sight
Yet he marches on.

But as he goes around he shows
A shabby little home-made sign that tells me
Here's a man who favors
An unpalatable point of view.
It seems to me he's absolutely WRONG!
(his opinion is)
(my opinion is)
He and I could never get along
In a million years.

BUT the man with the sign's a friend of mine
All alone in his proud endeavor
And as long as I fight for this man's right
That's the glory of the stars and stripes forever.

Yes, the man with the sign's a friend of mine
All alone in his proud endeavor.
For the sign says to me, "This man is free!"
That's the story of the stars and stripes forever.

My flag is a full-throated choir
And it sings with the voice of a nation.
When each in a voice can be heard
Then the music is strong and clear.
My flag is a full-throated choir
And each voice adds a vital variation.
And this is the sound I revere:
The stirring music of the stars and stripes forever.

Time and time again, the voices clash!
(I hear the independent voices)
Time and time again, the cymbals crash!
(and time again, my heart rejoices)
When I hear the contrapuntal singing
Then I hear the sound of freedom ringing
When I hear the music swell
Then I can tell
That all is well
Because I know:

My flag is a full-throated choir
And it sings with the voice of a nation.
When each separate song can be heard
Then the music is strong and clear.
My flag is a full-throated choir
And each voice adds a vital variation.
And this is the sound I revere:
The stirring music of the stars and stripes forever.

© Sheldon Harnick

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Did you hear the one about the two lawyers who got married?"

Got a punchline for that? Anyone?

The family gathers this weekend for another splendid occasion, the marriage of niece Lizzie to her intended Collin. Both are lawyers, and Cuz came up with the great idea of finding suitable punchlines to the "two lawyers getting married" joke. Granted, lawyers are easy targets for jokes (just google "lawyer jokes"), but we don't want to be too offensive to the profession. After all, it's a good thing to have a couple of smart legal-eagles in the family, we figure.

Now, Cuz has come up with one pretty good zinger (which I won't share here, though I'm sure the Bride is much too busy this week to be following her Aunt Mary's blog). Alas, I've been remiss in offering anything worthwhile. I'm blaming the heat and humidity, which have dried up any smidgen of creativity that might've been mustered for the occasion.

That's why I'm reaching out to you, my Shorty PJ's public, to hit me with your best shot. Send in your punchlines. Don't be shy. Maybe you'll inspire me to come up with a couple of my own. All those legal terms . . . surely we can come up with few double entendres to raise a giggle or two, eh?

Wait! Here's something: "Did you hear the one about the two lawyers who got married? Their Aunt Mary missed the wedding because she couldn't decide what to wear!" OK. Not funny because it's too close to the truth.

So while y'all are channeling your inner Seinfelds, I'd better track down some wedding clothes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pride of Place

Confession: I'm a "place" snob. At least where book and movie locations are concerned. I don't care how fine the reviews or recommendations, if the setting doesn't, er, sit with me, I just can't get comfortable with it - like the whole feng shui is off. Even when I attempt to overcome my prejudice and plug in to something outside my comfort zone, I don't get very far. I get sort of itchy and unsettled, like I've forgotten something important or I'm coming down with a cold.

My place-snob list? East Coast and Deep South (and, occasionally, San Francisco) in the U.S., England/Scotland/Wales/Ireland, all of Europe, China but not Japan (go figure), Africa but not Middle East, Australia but not Canada (what's with that?), South America but not Central America (what?). Crazy, I know. No rhyme or reason, but there it is.

Yeah, there's probably some kind of psychiatric term for my weirdness. I proudly own my pathology. It is kinda crazy to be more concerned about setting than plot, though I do demand a good plot, as well, once it's in the right location. But at this stage of my life, I can live with my craziness.

Now, don't get me started on historical periods . . .

An August Saturday in Central Park

Finally! The humidity has cleared out for a few days, so I've ventured outside again. Yesterday was glorious in Central Park - a bright blue sky and a wonderful breeze. See for yourself:

Not many bright flowers in Conservatory Garden because of this summer's heat, but these seem to thrive.

Yes, yes, my favorite little fountain girls. The Untermeyer Fountain in Conservatory Garden.I never tire of their play.

A father and son get in a little fishin' time at Harlem Meer.

Conservatory Garden lawn and fountain.

The Secret Garden pool. Love the lily pads!

Blue sky and the Education Center at Harlem Meer.
Note the bird keeping watch atop the tower.