Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Not-So-Magnificent Seven

Well, Philly tagged me with this meme in which I’m supposed to list seven unknown, weird, or unusual things about myself. Thinking about it, I decided I’m alarmingly ordinary. But here goes:

1. My mother was the world’s worst cook, and I was an extremely skinny child. I’m still not sure if these two facts are related. But friends’ parents felt some kind of holy obligation to try to fatten me up. I never turned down an invitation to dinner, of which I received at least two a week, because there was no doubt that it was going to be better than the underdone chicken and burnt canned stringbeans my mother would serve. When I’d get home, my mother would make me describe in glorious detail every single thing that had been ladled onto my plate, and she’d say, “Boy, were you lucky. Why didn’t they invite me, too?”

2. My Jewish-Russian grandfather told me his favorite joke in broken English every single time I saw him when I was a child. He would laugh uproariously when it was over and wait for me to respond accordingly. Here’s the joke, exactly as I heard it: So vwatz de deef’rens bitveen meshed pittaytahs en’ pyee soup? I don’t know, Grampa. What IS the difference between mashed potatoes and pea soup? You ken mesh pittaytahs ... [long, long pause, while he got his finger in perfect position to emphasize the punchline by poking me in the chest] ... but you ken’t [poke] pyee [poke] soup [poke]. I still find that funny nowadays when I think of it, and it hurts a lot less.

3. My first hero was Davy Crockett. My second hero was Perry Mason. I haven’t had a hero since then.

4. I always get teary during the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It moves me so much, but for reasons I can't verbalize. That's saying a lot, because, obviously, I have no compunction about verbalizing at great length on most other subjects.

5. My last full-time job was as the “fine arts” writer and reviewer for a rag in a cultureless small Southern city. I complained all the time about the general lack of standards for theatrical and musical performances, and was kind of infamous in town as “the guy who never likes anything.” One fall, when I was ordered to write a chirpy news story previewing the upcoming “arts” season, I did so — except that the first letters of the sentences, when read in order, spelled “Help! I’ve been lobotomized! Help!” (The “Z” was “Ziegfeld,” as in “Ziegfeld, himself, could never even ....”) I was so proud of myself that I made sure everyone in the newsroom heard about the joke. Oddly enough, I was not fired over this incident, which I think disappointed me. I heard very recently that now, thirteen years later, the legend is still repeated at the newspaper. But the people who tell it, none of whom were there at the time, claim that I’d spelled out “Fuck this shit.” That’s not clever at all and I’d have considered it beneath my wordplay skills. But I must admit, it’s not completely out of character.

6. I’m afraid of heights. My wife is afraid of enclosed places. We did very poorly as a couple when we stayed at a hotel with an elevator attached to the outside of the building.

7. I lied once in a post on No More Hornets, just for humorous effect. The truth is: I actually like Brussels sprouts. They’re not my favorite vegetable by any means, but I don’t hate 'em. However, try to understand. It’s much more fun to say “Brussels sprouts,” than French-cut canned stringbeans (although now that I read it aloud, I realize that FCCS is a pretty funny term, too). Anyway, that’s the only vegetable I really hate. On the other hand, I stand squarely by what I’ve always said: There is absolutely no dessert in the world superior to a Hostess Sno Ball.

I really hate tagging people. I think the original version of this meme asked the writer to pass it along to seven others. Fortunately, the half-assed version that came to me from Philly via chappy (who shamefully neglected to tag her own husband) seems to require only three. I’m gonna further whittle it down to one.

SARGE, I hope you’re reading this, because YOU'RE IT! You can leave your response as a comment here, or as seven separate comments, one for each thing. Get busy, buddy.


Anonymous said...

I’m afraid of heights. My wife is afraid of enclosed places. We did very poorly as a couple when we stayed at a hotel with an elevator attached to the outside of the building.

It might not be the nicest thing to say, but that one had me laughing so hard I nearly p*ssed my self.

Anonymous said...

I liked "Help! I've been lobotomized! Help!" It's particularly impressive when one considers that, when you wrote it, you were functioning with only half a brain.

About the tags: I saw one version of this meme with seven tags, and Brian's version (in which I was tagged) had five. I figured I could make up my own rules as I went along. I see you've done the same.

PhillyChief said...

Didn't someone write here not long ago that we don't need rules, we're atheists? Maybe not those exact words, and maybe not even this blog. Whatever. Tag as few or as many as you feel. I just mindlessly followed Chaplain's example.

Sorry to hear about the childhood food issue. I was the anti-you. I was a butterball due to my mother's quality and massive quantity of food.

The lobotomy was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

OK, here goes:

1 I must confess to a heresy which many find appalling and completely unforgiveable: I do not follow, watch, care about, or participate in sports such as baseball, football, basketball, soccer, etc. on any level, pro or amature. When I was eleven (stationed in Germany) my father insisted that I play Little League baseball. Got on a team, played, it was alright, but, as they say nowadays, "meh". There was a directive, though that the sponsoring parent have some duty involving the team/sport in which the child was involved, and my father, then a captain in the army, was placed on the commission. All that season the phone started ringing about the time he got home and didn't stop until after nine PM. I don't think he got a hot supper in all that time. Next year, well, he "wasn't going to push" me if I didn't want to do it. That was a hint so broad even I could twig.

2 I have only been married once, we are in our fortieth year of marriage. That I've told before, but my wife was my very first date, ever, and a blind date. I was fifteen, she was just turning sixteen at the time. I'd have quit school if it hadn't been for her. Don't think I've mentioned that. I lived in Virginia, she lived here in Pennsylvania, and when we came up to visit the family I would get...edgey. Anyway, it got me out of everyone's hair and I had something to look forward to.

3 I have mentioned that I have learning disabilities and that I am multi lingual. Revelation: I can obviously read and write English, but I am much more comfortable reading and writing Cyrillic than Roman letters. Even the Russian is more comprehensable at first. I find it easier to read German 'Fraktur' than Roman as well. Numbers are pretty much hopeless, but I have no trouble with music, can read all clefs.

4 Among the musical instruments I play are some that are very seldom seen today: keyed trumpet and bugle, bass serpent, ophicliede, shaum, racket, cornetto, and a type of lute just sitting and thinking about it.

5 My first job in the army was as a marine engineer. I was qualified to operate diesels, steam turbines, and I actually got certified on a triple expansion steam engine. Went to South America and saw Manaus and Brazilia. Back then they were pretty empty and rather spooky places.

6 I still have a pretty decent dressage seat, I can do both English and Spanish schools although when I go out on horseback now I generally simply throw on any saddle at hand and away we go. I love to take kids with me on the trails, and firmly agree that "There's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." Well, drag racing and old cars, too, I guess, but I haven't run at the drags since I was eighteen.

7 I have actually eaten a "dumb supper". That is eaten a meal ofthe chest of a dead person to take his (it was, in fact, a he in my case)"sins" upon myself. Happened when I was seventeen when I was hiking in southern Virginia.

PhillyChief said...

Much of what you say Sarge begs more info, but I think your #7 requires a bit more to be told. Please go on

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of a "sin eater"? This is a celtic tradition in which a meal is eaten from the chest of someone who has died. This is a symbolic thing in which the diner takes the 'sins' of the dead person to themselves. It was at one time not uncommon in some parts of southern appalachia where I spent a lot of my time when school gave me a, uh, furlough and being around home would be less than a satisfying soujourn due to this turn of events. I also showed and rode in those areas, and I used to race at Bristol, so I knew the area pretty well...I thought.

I was hiking down through some "coves" and I stopped to get some water at a small farm, and they said help myself, and would I do a bit of a kindness. An elderly person had died the night before, and it would be a mark of respect to eat at their house. In the room with him. Off a tray over his chest. To honor a good life. So I did. It was pretty unusual, but when in Rome, you know, and as I was alone in the area and there wasn't even electricity back there, you don't really want to make waves. I slept in their barn they gave me breakfast, and about the time I went my way they took him to town in their truck for the undertaker, I guess. Didn't think much more about it.

A couple weeks later I was at the farm where I trained horses, and I mentioned what had happened to my boss. He was from that area, and his jaw dropped and he said, "Son of a bitch! They tricked you into eating a "dumb supper"!" I agreed that eating it off the chest of a dead man probably wasn't too wise, but it sure went down well, but he told me then what it was all about. I'd never heard of such a thing. He told me it was done back of beyond when he was a kid (I'd been down where he was from, places HE thought of as 'back of beyond' must have felt the wedge, lever, and fulcrum were too high tech for the average joe to really wrap their minds around)and he'd known of some people who actually charged money to do it. There are apparently different traditions dealing with it, though I have't really bothered myself about it.

Funny thing was, he was also an atheist but what had happened seemed to concern him more than a little on my behalf.

John Evo said...

Ex said: French-cut canned stringbeans...Anyway, that’s the only vegetable I really hate.

That's because of your childhood memories of mom burning them. I can't believe you made me argue over the fine qualities of Brussels sprouts.

I don't usually like these memes (either to participate or even to read them), but yours was quite interesting and well written. You avoided the obvious angle of your atheism entirely. And I actually learned things (about you, and about life).

Is Beethoven's 9th the one with Ode To Joy? If so, I feel a similar visceral emotional response. I've always felt something when hearing it, but after seeing the movie "Immortal Beloved", it hits even harder.

The Exterminator said...

That one had me laughing so hard I nearly p*ssed my self.
If you had, you could have used that fact as one of your not-so-magnificent seven.

I'm glad the tag number slowly evaporated on its road to me. I would have just refused to pass it on, but it seemed like such a natural for Sarge. Which was obviously correct. I'm sorry I didn't tell him he had to supply fifty items.

Well, I'm a butterball now. Childhood ideas can linger forever, so I still think of myself as a person who needs to eat as much as possible, whenever possible. I've noticed, though, that no one seems to want to fatten me up any more. Too bad.

I knew you'd have a list of seven fascinating things, and that we'd all be begging you to expand on some of them. So here are just two of the questions I have:

1. How did you happen to have a blind date with your wife if you lived in Virginia and she lived in Pennsylvania? And how did you feel, beforehand, about having a blind date?

2. I see that all the instruments you play, except for the lute, are either winds or brass. I think you've said you're mainly a harpist now, and began to study it "late" in life, although I remember you mentioning the tuba, too. I may have all those facts wrong, but if not, what made you switch from blowin' to pluckin'? Also, with the serpent, shawm, and racket, I'd think you were doing some heavy-duty renaissance consort work. Are you?

"Ode to Joy" is the last movement of the 9th. It's probably my single favorite piece of music. I can remember, in the 7th grade, singing a silly "Brotherhood" song to the main chorus. I've long ago forgotten the words. But I do know a variation in Yiddish, which was written by one of the leaders of the 19th-century Yiddish-lit movement, I.L. Peretz. Even singing that one -- which I trot out occasionally as a parlor trick -- makes me teary.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned, I am an 'army brat', and my family is from Altoona. I was, in fact, born here, but my father got out after the army after WWII, stayed out long enough to to see that the town and employment with the PRR was a pretty precarious position to take with a family. Besides, he'd seen a bit of the world, had some responsibility (he was a master gunner in a 90mm multi purpose gun battalion during the war)so he went back in the army and we moved around about the world, but in the US we were usually stationed in Virginia (Washington area)or Maryland so we'd come up to visit grandparents and other relatives. My cousin and future wife were freinds, went to the same church, were in Rainbow, and as I was pretty antsy hanging about the old folks, she set up a date with her friend. We dated all through high school (well, when I got up or she came down for a visit) and when I was about to quit school, she said she wouldn't see me any more if I didn't finish. So, I sucked it up, finished in summer school, and she went to college, I went in the army in 1965, and then we broke up. Resumed communication, I went to Viet Nam, stopped, we got engaged, I survived, came home, we got married. We've had our differences, ups and downs, but never over religion.

Music, well when we got to Germany in 1955 school had been in session for a while all the instruments were taken but one. I was somewhat undersized, but there was a viola, full sized take it or leave it. No one told me that it isn't good to start that instrument like that. You had to teach yourself pretty much, and as the only thing that I seemed able to do that didn't annoy my parents and other authorities was practice and play the instrument. For some reason the army took them back, and if I wanted to continue I'd have to get my own. My father was a first lieutenant at the time, but he knew where there was a luthier, so we went to see about a viola. Dad found out how much one would cost and said, "Wouldn't you like to play the trumpet like your uncle Jack??!!" indicating that if I wanted to continue in music. So, we rented a horn, I got an Arban's, and learned that. Branched off into all the other brass instruments, played in many groups, had to learn all the clefs. I played in Bramwell Smith's brass choir and I got to do some branching from there. I played with an all black group on tuba, these were very elderly men who had played in the Clef Club, at Castle's By the Sea, been with James Europe, had played the "coon" music (they were members of a church which was "sister" to
the one I went to) and there was a college student who had as a project music from the 1790's to the 1840's and that was where the Serpents and keyed trumpet/bugle/serpent/ophicleid came in. Also, it was the time of the folk craze so I learned guitar, banjo, fiddle, and the dulcimers. Back in my younger days they discouraged crossovers between brass and reeds, but they don't now.

I got interested in the harp while I was in Valparaiso, Chile when I was 19. Had to learn to do that one of these days. When I was stationed in Germany I got into the rennaisance/baroque wing music so I did the lute, recorders, shaum, etc. I retired on disability in 1980, got back into music locally, and started taking harp lessons when I was 47. Great teacher!

At present I'm assistant director and play French horn in our community band, I am the director and sergeant major of the 46th Pennsylvania Infantry band (look for logan guard band and you can find our web sit) which I also arrange for, and I am part of several local ensembles with fiddle, recorders, banjo, guitar, and dulcimers.

I have spontanious bleeding problems so I'm advised to take it easy and avoid the horn playing as they're worried about what it might cause, so while most people are looking I usually play the harp.

Ute said...

I love Brussels sprouts... my family hates them, so I never get to eat them. Yes, that's actually all I have to say today. No other worries in life... :)

But hey, I'm alive.

The Exterminator said...


I suppose since your family is German nobody ever dreamed of eating French-cut canned stringbeans.
Do they even have such a thing in Germany?

Anonymous said...

I saw them in Nurnburg 1976 - 1979 but they came from Canada. There was a little store chain called the Norma Markt and their buyers would get what was literally going cheapest that day and that's what would appear on the shelves or simply on pallets. Quality control wasn't what Americans would be used to, you could have woven a tolerable flack vest out of the fibrousness of some of the beans, and there were other things. Common Market and other things. Tomatoes seemed to come from Bulguria, wine from Romania.

Still, I can't deny the rather pleasant disconnect you'd feel when you bought honey or peanut butter from Georgia...the one that was still part of Russia.

Just Another Atheist said...

You know, heights never scared me much. Marsupials scare me, though. Cause they're fast.

No, seriously, heights, I have no problem with. Flying, tall buildings, bridges. But, for some reason I'm terrified of ladders. Our minds are so very interesting.

Anyway, I also want to thank you for the kind comments on my blog. I took your suggestions to heart. Love the site.

Ute said...

LOL... Ex... no, I'm pretty sure I never ate such a thing. French cut... I never did understand that. :)

John Evo said...

@ Ute - a fellow Brussels sprouts lover! Most of our family doesn't care for them, but they are a traditional dish on our Thanksgiving table.

@ Just, who said: Marsupials scare me, though. Cause they're fast.

We only have one species on the North American continent. All the others were killed off by mammals (including man) over the past 30 million years. Ours is the Opossum and they aren't fast in the least. Man, they are ugly (especially when angry) but they are S..L..O..W..! Think Koala Bear. They certainly aren't Wallabies.

Just Another Atheist said...

It's a bit from the Bob and Tom radio show. Kevin Pollack is doing this Christopher Walken bit about how he says random things. The exact quote is, and you need to imagine Walken saying this, "Frankenstein never scared me much. Marsupials scare me, though. Cause they're fast."

Babs Gladhand said...

I just like to say the word marsupial.

I do not like Brussels sprouts.

I'm indifferent about French cut green beans.

I loved your "Help! I've been lobotomized! Help!

I'm still dazzled by the fact that Sarge ate off a dead guy's chest.

Anonymous said...

Miss Babs, it was actually on a tray OVER the gentleman's test, he certainly didn't have halitosis, and face it, I was aaaaallll alone down there. Plus I was damn hungry, and "doing a kindness". A few years before I'd been among people in Etheiopia who regarded incivility and disrespect as a capital crime, so that kind of influenced my thinking as well. Couple years later I ate meals (I say this loosely) in surroundings and conditions that made that experience downright mundane and pleasant.

tina FCD said...

Sarge is one interesting person to say the least!

JP said...

Come on now, brussels sprouts are nasty.

I'd rather eat the can that french-cut stringbeans come in.

PhillyChief said...

Slice up the brussel sprouts and saute them with onions and bacon, and maybe add some soy sauce. They're essentially baby cabbages. Downside is wicked nasty gas.

Btw, I am talking about the fresh ones, not the frozen. The frozen are soft, soggy messes.

The Exterminator said...

Brussels sprouts are not nasty unless you saute them with onions, bacon, and soy sauce. I'm not necessarily talking about taste. I'm talking about: WATCH OUT, NEIGHBORS!

Philly's recipe would have served Le Petomane well.

PhillyChief said...

Fucking 3 min setup for a joke! If I ever get to meet you in person pal, I know what I'm eating beforehand.

The Exterminator said...

No joke, Philly. As incredible as it sounds, Le Petomane was a real performer.

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law told me that he saw Le Petomaine perform during WWI. He told me that the artistry was superb, that there was a well known actress in the audience as well because she was playing to pretty much an empty house and came to see who stole her audience.

Most of us are viewed with contempt and even anger for doing what that gentleman was famous and beloved. Such is the way of the world, I guess.

Sigh. I cuddah bin a condenduh.