No Respect

By Larry Teren

I don’t wear a white dress shirt with a narrow tie nor is my hair combed grease-back style. I don’t stare bug-eyed and bloodshot. Still, I get no respect.
rodneydangerfield
You see, I’m the guy who has to press the button on the car remote one extra time to induce that flatulence-sounding noise. You know what I mean. It does more than reaffirm that I locked the car without putting the key in the door while standing twenty or so feet away. I’m trying to let all others within earshot know not to mess with me. My car is locked and anchored to its resting place until needed again. Okay, I do it to annoy others who don’t care about me or my car. Or maybe they just went through the same ritual and flatulated their own vehicle not far from mine. You can say it is another way of marking my car’s territory in a sea of other automobiles at the mall parking lot.

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Do You Still Pleasure Drive?

By Larry Teren

The early afternoon of July Fourth seems like a good day to take a pleasure drive around the Chicago metropolitan area. Pleasure drives are something I do rarely these past few years, what with the cost of gas as it is. Now that a gallon is about 90 cents cheaper than it was a few months ago at its highest, I guess I can afford this one luxury on a day no one will be calling me at an inconvenient time for computer help.

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Things That Make Noise in the Night

By Larry Teren

 

Ready to retire for the night, I head first to the kitchen and grab a swig of chocolate soy milk out of the fridge before the other rituals and head to the bedroom. After a minute or so of lying down and reading, despite being absorbed in a good book, I start to hear dull, rhythmic noises, vague to my sense of recognition.

 

I’m immediately reminded of that Dick Van Dyke Show episode where Rob is working late in the evening at his Manhattan office. He hears peculiar sounds coming from the water cooler and begins to believe it is trying to communicate with him. After investigation, it turns out to be a scientist secretly working on a toy rocket ship at night on the floor above his.

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Moody Blues

by Larry Teren

The big news in the financial markets the other day was the lowering by Moody’s Investor Service of fifteen major banks ratings. To most of us, the news elicited a big shrug of the shoulders. After all, banks haven’t been paying out much interest to depositors for the past few years. I think the monthly interest I get on my personal checking account is at .01 (or 1/100th of a) percent. I look forward to the eight cents added to my account each month (yawn).

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No Man is an Island

By Larry Teren
nomanisanisland
Some expressions take on a life all of its own. Consider this: “No man is an island.”
In the early 1960’s our family had by now comfortably situated ourselves in a large two flat in the Austin neighborhood on the far west side of Chicago. Our first floor apartment was laid out so that on the far north end was the kitchen, enclosed backroom parlor and the dining room. Walking south through a corridor on the right or west side were two bedrooms and on the left was our only bathroom and our parent’s master bedroom. It was in that latter room where they hid all the presents we received on various special occasions until the time was right.

At the south end was the living room, which in those days we also called the front room, and a small front parlor where one could sit in an upholstered orange colored fancy chair and look through the three sided bay windows in the parlor to the action going on outside on the sidewalk. Believe me- that was important to a burgeoning ten year old to make sure that he was not missing opportunities to play with friends and neighbors outdoors.

At that point in time we had only one television- a so-called portable Zenith sitting on a stand with rolling coasters. This meant that sometimes the set would be in the front parlor, other times several feet away in the living room in front of the fire place, in our parent’s bedroom or even all the way to the dining room.

But there was one instrument of entertainment that stood its ground. It was the Zenith Stereo H-Fi Console that anchored the north wall in the living room. It was at least four feet wide and three feet (if not more) off the ground, made of wood with cloth covers over the speakers. It was state-of-art with solid-state electronics, AM/FM radio, AFT (automatic fine tuning) and an automatic record changer that allowed one to stack several 33 1/3 lp’s as well as antiquated 78’s using a special adapter.

Dad seemed to enjoy making it a family thing to go to major department chain stores such as E J Korvettes and Sears in the recently opened shopping malls in Oak Brook further west and Golf Mill all the way out to the hinter lands of the northern suburbs. While Ma was busy looking for kid’s clothes or a new appliance, Dad was sneaking off and taking whomever didn’t need to try on the merchandise with Ma to the record collection section. He would peruse the album covers for quite a while until he found either something affordable or, what the heck, something he knew all of us would enjoy.

One album he brought home that we played over and over again was songs performed by Dale Lind, a well-known local Chicago celebrity. His signature song which played last on the album’s second side was “No Man is an Island”. Most songs Dale sang usually were played in minor mode, or musical half steps. This lent the feeling of whatever came out of his mouth as if he was in conversation with the guy upstairs but the listener was allowed to eavesdrop.

The only other person I heard sing that song was Jan Peerce. When we got a second television set and the opportunity to watch our favorite shows became more available, I drifted away from the once-beloved Stereo Hi-Fi. Of course, there was also high school to focus on when I didn’t watch Batman twice a week or Laugh In or whatever other campy, short-run popular culture phenomena.

Time has a way of moving along rapidly, especially if you are not having any fun with it. By the late 1960’s, we had moved to the far north side of the city and the Zenith had found a new location anchoring the west wall of our townhouse. Although there were three floors in the new abode- a basement and an upstairs- as well as a second bathroom, there was less privacy as the main area on the first floor was a combined dining and living room. If one wanted to watch television while another wanted to listen to the fancy record player (after all, that’s what it really boiled down to), a fight equal to the shenanigans prior to the Liston-Clay bout broke out.

When our parents finally purchased a color tv in the early 1970’s, that was it for the Stereo Hi-Fi. It was moved to the basement and its space taken up by a bookcase. I don’t remember too many of the other four siblings going downstairs to listen to a record when they could buy a cassette tape and play it in the comfort of their bedroom.

The new millennium was not kind to Dad. In October 2002, on his eightieth birthday, he fell down and broke two ankles and spent the rest of his life in a nursing home outside of one night when we took him home to give him a breather from being institutionalized. We understood very quickly that it would not work out as both his ability and desire to stand on his own two feet no longer would happen.

Ma and I recognized how much he enjoyed the handful of cassette tapes I bought for him to hear. She casually said how it was a shame that he could not listen to all the old 33 1/3 lp’s he cherished that were still sitting in the basement. At that very moment I replied, “why not? How do we know if the Zenith works or not unless we try it?  If it does, I can try to record blank tapes by placing the cassette recorder as close to the cloth speakers as possible and see how it goes.”

There were a couple of impediments- the cloth speakers had water stains from all the mini floods the basement experienced as well as the unit had not been plugged into the wall outlet in more than ten years. We were clueless if the stereo speakers were functional.

I put in a blank cassette into a tape recorder and grabbed a handful of record albums and chose what to play. One was the Dale Lind album. I plugged in the Hi-Fi power cord into the outlet, opened the cabinet lid and placed the album onto the turntable. The auto-changer was broken but who needed it anyway? I turned the knob to the ‘on’ position and forty years returned with the snap of a finger. I immediately pressed the ‘record’ button on the cassette and let it go for a minute. I then stopped it, pressed the rewind button back to the beginning and pressed ‘play’. I was a kid in a candy store. With a successful sound check, I was able to determine how far away to hold the cassette recorder in my hand while the record played, scratches and static nevertheless.

Even though it meant I had to hold my hand up to the record for twenty minutes or so and not waver, it was well worth the trouble. I brought the recordings to Dad and he listened as if it were still forty years ago and he could strut around and lead the imaginary orchestra accompanying Lind. When “No Man is an Island” played, Dad sang along as if in a duet, on key and with the right tempo. Afterward he said that Ma would love it if she could hear it as well.

Yesterday, I was viewing a YouTube recording of a “To Tell The Truth” game show episode from May 13, 1962. The first set of three contestants was of one where each claimed to be the real George Tweed who evaded capture in the early years of World War II on the island of Guam. Up to 28,000 Japanese soldiers combed the island looking for him and a handful of other sailors who had not yet been taken as prisoners of war. The others were eventually found and killed. He successfully hid out with the help of natives for two years before he was able to signal American troops out at sea.

After the real Mr. Tweed was revealed, the host, Bud Collyer, mentioned that a movie had just been made about the incident. It was called, “No Man is An Island.” No mention was made during the give and take by the panelists and the three contestants as to why Mr. Tweed survived the ordeal. The premise of the movie, though, was that he had been a self-centered person who had a spiritual awakening and learned to trust the Guam natives.

The original expression of “No Man is an Island” is credited to John Donne, an English poet who lived from 1572-1631. The poem ends with another famous phrase, also turned into a movie title, “for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

The lyrics to the song written in the early 1960’s are attributed to Joan Baez.

Diversity is a street between Belmont and Fullerton

Diversity is a street between Belmont and Fullerton. More precisely it is smack dab in the middle (2800 north in Chicago navigational parlance) of several streets between Belmont (3200 north) and Fullerton (2400 n.) . And, as long as we are being truthful, it is Diversey and not Diversity. Tell that to all the El train conductors who used to announce the next stop along the way after the Fullerton stop to give those of us in the 1960’s a chance to switch to a B train. Of course, nowadays the human conductor has been replaced by an authoritarian robotic command. Regardless, herein lies the irony.diversey
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The Music Man or Every Good Boy Does Fine

My first formal introduction to music was as a 3rd grader in 1960. Mr. Applebaum was hired at our school to teach us music appreciation. Apparently, someone made a donation to our poor private school to give us this luxury beyond mere reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Applebaum was a roly-poly guy but with an authoritative attitude. Even though he looked like an easy mark, no one messed with him. Besides, he carried a long wooden pointer (but with a rubber tip) to emphasize the words that came out of his mouth. Or maybe he was just a creature of habit as he also conducted a band.

Mr. Applebaum never called us by our first names- it was always mister or miss so-and-so. Even though he was dealing with eight year old kids, it was all business. His life was music and he expected everyone else to share the same enthusiasm.

Fifty years later, I still remember the music associations that were drilled into the deep recesses of my mind: EGBDF- or “every good boy does fine”, as well as FACE. Both of these acronyms are notes in ascension placed in between each other. In other words, it starts with E, then F, followed by G, then A, B, C, D, E and finally F. Supposedly, you can place the first E on one the of lower lines or spaces on a musical graph and you will never forget how to sight read music. Okay, if you say so.

Mr. Applebaum wanted to show the school authority as well as parents that his charges were getting bang for the buck. He organized both a choir and a small school band. His trademark conducting method was to arrange all songs that were to be played with musical instruments to start with the same two beat staccato lead in as he waved his magical wand. It was very common and comical to witness the Star Spangled Banner start like this: “one, two, one two, one two, (slow down the beat) Oh.. Oh.. say (pause) can (pause) you (pause) see…”

Years later, good old Applebaum convinced the private high school board to let him put together a play production for my senior class. Nine and a half years after I first observed his baton waving shenanigans and marching band staccato, he was at it again and for four performances of My Fair Lady, the audience heard songs like “Loverly” and “I Should Have Danced All Night” start with the ubiquitous “one, two, one, two, one two..” I was one of the few who was in on the secret as only a couple of my 3rd grade classmates had gone on to the same high school. I guess Mr. Applebaum thought of himself as another Professor Harold Hill.

The next year as a freshman in college I took Music 101. I could read the sheet music and play half well a recorder but the lady music teacher did not share my sense of rhythm and gave me my first D. I had one more in Speech and Performing Arts but for the next three and a half years in a normal discipline of coursework I got mostly A’s and a couple of B’s and ended up graduating with honors.

About a dozen years later, I decided to take voice lessons as a lark. Again, I had to get used to sight reading a musical composition sheet. This time, though, there were words in Italian all over the page. My instructor, a Doctor of Music no less, kept on telling me to sing from the diaphragm. The next time I came to his place for a lesson, I brought one with me and asked him how I could sing through it. That’s when he threw me out and that was the end of music as a hobby. I don’t sing in the shower but I do in my car. Now that people talk on their cell phones while driving, with the window raised, most people can’t tell if I am making a fool of myself or breaking the law. Aren’t the two mutually exclusive?

Running From Presidency

My fellow Americans, I come to you today to announce that I am throwing my hat into the ring and running for President. I am the candidate of the Enough Already Party. This is our platform: Don’t vote for me if you fall into any of the following categories-

You smoke. You are not only killing yourself, but also stinking up the place. Do you really think that when you walk outside to puff that the stench that clings to your clothes magically dissipates when you go back inside the building and come in contact with more intelligent people?

You have a tattoo. Does that make you a man- or I guess nowadays, too- a woman? Audie Murphy got more medals for killing the enemy and taking slugs than any other soldier during World War Two and he didn’t have his skin etched. Nor did George Washington. Toughness is an inner strength, not bragging about your permanently artistic statement.

You talk on the phone or text while driving. Yesterday I was five cars back in the right-most lane on the expressway. It was moving at a clip at least 20 miles per hour slower that the other two lanes. Why? Well, when I was able to finally switch to the middle lane and close the gap, I saw that the lead car contained a female driver who was holding her precious I-Phone in one hand yapping on it oblivious to everyone else while proceeding at forty-five miles and hour. The car in front of her was 15 lengths in front. I wanted to run her off the road onto the shoulder or worse. If you use a hands-free device- never mind.

You switch lanes without signaling. Your lack of consideration causes the driver behind to slam on the brakes because you decided to dart in front to be king of the lane.

You go into a self-service checkout lane or walk up to an ATM device with no freaking clue how to use said equipment. So, you just stare hoping that the machine will figure it out for you and couldn’t care less how long everyone standing behind you has to wait. Oh, I forget- at the checkout line, you have 18 items in your basket and the fellow doing the dance behind you has only two.

You work for a telemarketer. Enough said.

You think beer commercials are just grand.

You own oil stock.

You think “you know” is a conjunction and”okay” is a preposition that leads into all questions.

You think the baseball season should start before May and sitting in an open-air football stadium with the temperature below 25 degrees is proof of your virility.

You believe that when someone apologizes they truly mean it.

As for the rest of you, I expect all twenty-five remaining registered voters will give full support to my candidacy.

Thank you.

A Bridge Too Close

skyway_bridgeEveryone has their phobias. One of mine is traveling over a bridge, presumably even over non-troubled waters. It all started when I was a little kid in the late 1950’s. We lived on Chicago’s Far West Side a few blocks from the newly constructed Congress Highway (years later it would be renamed the Eisenhower Expressway). On Sunday family outings, Dad would take the Congress (until today I still call it this) east towards the Loop, the downtown area. The end of the highway was signified by the gigantic US Post Office built smack dab on top of it. I understand that they built it with the cutout for the normal height of semi-trailer truck traffic in mind. After you went under the building tunnel, you were immediately hit with crossing over the Chicago River. At that spot, the river was no more than fifty or so feet wide. For a kid it was terrifying going over the steel waffle-like bridge pavement rather than solid cement. I was convinced that the ground beneath us was not sturdy and that we would eventually fall into the river.
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