Monday, February 19, 2007

President('s)(s'(s) Day

I have long been confused about this annual Monday Holiday. I grew up getting a free day on Washington's birthday, but some time after my final school years, Washington's birthday had morphed into President's Day, and always on a Monday.

But which President? Since Washington still had his special Day when government offices were closed on February 22, whether Monday or not, which President was being honored by America's retailers and vacationers on February's only three-day weekend? Surely not Lincoln, whose birthday comes much earlier in the month; or William Henry Harrison's which comes even earlier in the month. Not to mention Ronald Reagan who was not even elected yet, much less dead and honorable.

The question was hardly cleared up by different retail advertisers headlining "PRESIDENT'S DAY SALE" ads. alongside "PRESIDENTS' DAY SALE" and "PRESIDENTS DAY (no apostrophe at all) SALE" proclamations. But finally, Hendrik Hertzberg, courtesy of The New Yorker has set me straight. There is no legal holiday designated as President('s)(s')(s) Day. Washington's Birthday has simply been co-opted by our retail establishment and given a nickname that induces more Americans to rush out to our stores and entertainment complexes than our first President was able to entice. I may not feel greatly enlightened by this new knowledge, but at least I no longer feel like an historical dunce every February.

Poor George; relegated to the dustbin of fallen logos. The U.S. Mint is even planning to retire the dollar bill and replacing it with a small coin bearing the entire array of presidential images. A tune pops into my head, "I've got Presidents who jingle jangle jingle as I go, rattling merrily along."

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Martin ___________________ Peter


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

This day started off sunny and bright, but a pleasant dockside lunch at the Marina led to some gloom. This email to Peter explains it:

Howdy Pal!

I had lunch today with Ernie Loewy and Bob Galvan. Bob's son Robert is a SMPD cop. We were talking about the youth soccer days and Bob told me about Martin Schmidt. He had been doing well in Real Estate, but then got into drugs. He robbed his neighborhood convenience and liquor store a few times and even took a baseball bat to a woman he mugged.

The SMPD, but not Robert, went to his home to arrest him. His mother said he was in his bedroom. The cops entered and Martin got up from his bed, arms held out, and said he had nothing--no drugs or weapons. Then he turned and leaped head-first out the window, crushing his skull when he hit the ground.

Joe and Harry came to dinner tonight. When I started to mention about Martin, he cut me off to tell us that he had been approached by Martin about that time. This guy came up to him and asked if he wasn't Peter Merholz's brother. Joe so acknowledged and they had a nice chat. Martin asked Joe to say Hi to you. Joe went out of town for a few days and when he came back, he heard about Martin's death, drugs and criminal behavior.

I always like to hear about how well some of my youth soccer kids are doing. This is the flip side and a tragic expression of an unimaginable torment that can infect a mind. Yet when he thought of you on that day, it had to be with a memory, however brief, of the happy days he spent on the Santa Monica playing flelds.

And then another bungled robbery, and the window.

I found this item on Google:

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Oscar Watch

I can't say that I thought much about LITTLE CHILDREN. What I thought was that it was a pretty intentional AMERICAN BEAUTY wannabee. It does present some fairly accurate but generally cliche observations of dysfunctional families in suburban America, but I didn't see any arc of purpose or resolution in the story or character development.

I thought the peformances were fairly good, but nothing I would vote any award to. The best performance was by an unseen actor. The FRONTLINE style narration by FRONTLINE narrator Will Lyman is skillfully modulated, inflected and droll, and the movie seems flat when his wry, anthropological comments are not there to enliven the soundtrack and guide us into amused reaction.

This is in that category of films that gives audiences and critics a chance to feel superior to their friends and neighbors. Since we see how badly they suck, it is obvious that we don't. That pandering to the reader and viewer is the only thing this movie is about, it seems to me.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Kasbah

There is some amusing Rest Room grafitti popping up on email, which reminds me...

My favorite and most memorable toilet graffiti was scribbled on a dirty wall of the funky Men's room in the Kasbah Bar on Chicago's Black westside in 1951 or '52. My recollection is that a couple of young squirts named B.J. and George were the only two white folk who hung at the Kasbah's horseshoe bar, usually till 2:am when the spirited bartender sang out, "You don't has go home but you gots to leave here!"
The basic attraction at the Kasbah was the small band that played the blues every Friday/Saturday until closing time. But when she was on duty, a beautiful bartender named Inez was a major attraction in herself. I can't say that I remember her exact looks, but I do know that I've never seen a dark-skinned model, singer or actress that I thought was her equal in physical attraction. I made my play for her, of course, but I didn't do any better than the soul brothers and the word was that nobody scored with Inez. She was courteous with most patrons, sometimes friendly, but always aloof.

Which brings me to the toilet wall. It was covered with the usual gross suggestions and personal slurs but right above the urinal was scrawled: INEZ IS SELF-CONSCIOUS! Psychology is where you find it.

The photo above is a real connection to the Kasbah. On one side of the room was a small bandstand where the piano player and drummer worked. On the planks beside them sat an amplifier. It's cord stretched across the floor to the electric guitar being fingered by a young man, just as depicted in this recent poster.

The band was good and the young guitarist really seemed special to my ears. Ladies often bought him drinks and sometimes sat with him, but he, like Inez, played an aloof hand. I never spoke to the guitar man, but I did ask Inez if there was something going on with them. She almost rolled her eyes and shook her head on that thought.

Uhn uh! She said. That man is too full of himself for room for a woman.

Oh yeah, psychology is indeed where you find it.

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