The More Things Change…

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Among the crowds welcoming President John F. Kennedy to Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, were some folks whose litanies sound very familiar to even the casual observer of American politics. Tea, anyone–while you read?


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Thanksgiving Countdown Day 5 (late)

It’s actually the morning of Day 6 because, on the heels of my my vapid post ever I was too 1) Shell-shocked with shame, 2) Quietly Bemused, or 3) just distracted doing a bunch of other crap, that I didn’t the Day 5 post out.  On behalf of the entire Old Road Apples staff, which is pretty much me and the geriatric dog, we beg your forgiveness and understanding.

Bad puns, anachronistic but appealing garters and hose on the pilgrim lass, and foreshadowing of the coming strife betwixt colonist and indigenous, and some Freudian imagery –I dare say this photo has it all: history, pyschology and literary instruction as well as the obvious sex appeal.  God bless America and pass the sweet potatoes. Also, interestingly enough, not a turkey to be seen.

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Please Explain Kim Kardashian To Me

I don’t understand Kim Kardashian, or any Kardashians, really (it seems like there are a lot of them.)  I seem to recall something about basketball players, and I did see that video with Kanye West–it makes sense they’re together, because I don’t “get” him, either, but at least I know what he does. What else? I know Bruce Jenner is involved in here somewhere–and that guy, I know about him: Olympic hero when I was a kid, his name used to be on my sneakers and his face on the Wheaties box, and he still rocks the same haircut as he did in 1976.

What I experienced searching for this picture was equal to an entire semester of sex education, with midgets--I wouldn't recommend it to the faint of heart.

What I experienced searching for this picture was equal to an entire semester of sex education, with midgets–I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart.

I also know what there was a Kardashian Television show, but our TV only goes up to channels with numbers I can count on my fingers and toes, so I’ve never seen it.  And there was Porn, right?  Maybe that’s why she’s popular–everybody loves porn, especially the people who say they don’t.

So is that it?  Is she a porn chick? I was thinking the porn was a later thing, but I don’t know.

I could look.  I know that I could look, with a few taps of the keys upon which my fingers now dance so merrily, and use the magic of google to learn far more about Kim Kardashian than any right-minded person should know.  The interwebs are that strange and powerful, but I don’t’ want to use them in this instance because I’d rather hear from you, gentle reader,–and because if I used google I’d have to come up with something else to write this morning.

My big question about this Kardashian character is–how do I put it delicately?–the juxtaposition between what I’ve learned and experienced about perceived societal norms and relative beauty standards, stereotypes, and (here it comes) her butt.

I’m sorry, but for all of my life I’ve experienced the men around me going nuts for ccgirls and women who engender a lean, shapely, but not overly curvy stereotype.  The icon of my generation was Cindy Crawford–a tall, leggy, athletic looking woman who, while still emerging from the generation of models who actually ate food rather than living on cigarettes and coffee* resembled a healthy, vibrant human being–not a quasi-human living coat hanger.  There were aberrations, of course–Dolly Parton springs to mind–but beauty, for my generation of young men, was pretty much dictated to us by Sports Illustrated, with a little help from Farrah Fawcett.  Okay, a lot of help.

Then came the skinnies–girls that were more difficult to lust after because, frankly, they looked like mannequins and just as fragile, and it was a pretty good bet that underneath all that make-up was some 14-year-old schoolgirl from West Covina, CA into which all of her mother’s unmet ambitions and bitter self-loathing had been poured, since birth.  Ewww.

And now, I’m hearing about “Kim Kardassian breaks the internet” and seeing her photo all over my news feeds, and I’m confused. All of my life, since about 5th grade, I’ve heard guys make fun of, ridicule, and reject girls with big butts.  For nearly as long, I’ve heard girls and women do the same, generally behind each others’ back but not always. Since I’ve been involved with women on a more intimate level, I’ve likewise had them complain to me, and to anyone close enough to hear, that their butt is HUGE. I dated a girl was was 5’2 and 101–she incessantly ranted about her “bubble butt.”  A few years later, I was involved with a 5’11, 130 lb volleyball player who, you guessed it, complained about her butt.  Every woman I’ve been involved with, right up to my wife and including many friends, has expressed butt issues or, just as bad, butt snarkiness.

kim-kardashian-buttSo, tell me: what the hell am I supposed to make of this?  I mean, right on for breaking the mold and (one of my favorite phrases) subverting the dominant paradigm but really, what the hell?  Just when I think I have everything figured out, this girl with this giant, gelatin-coated butt goes hyper viral.  Is she so charming and wonderful that people are willing to give up their time-honored unrealistic body ideals for someone built like someone you’d actually see in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store? I hope so, but I’m a little cynical.  I keep thinking that there is something at work that I’m missing.  If so, what is it?  Has the world really changed for the better because a woman who, as far as I can tell, is famous because some marketing geniuses decided to present her as something who was famous, has a stupendous posterior?

If that’s true, then the marketers have succeeded where an entire generation of feminists have failed, and by a precisely opposite methodology. Fascinating, isn’t it?–and tangentially related to my post about acting like you know what you’re doing to convince others what you’re doing is what you’re supposed to be doing.


1. Girls with big asses aren’t sexy and should be mocked, except…
2. Kim Kardassian has “got back’ like you freaking can’t freaking imagine, and…
3. Kim Kardashian is freaky popular enough to “break the internet” so…
4. Big bottoms must be sexy to more folks than just Queen.

*Let’s be honest, coffee is, and cigarettes would be, staples of my own diet if I knew the smokes wouldn’t kill me–so apologies to Kate Moss and her spiritual descendents.

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Gate A-4


if you read one post today, read this one. I am in love with this story. It is awesome and so is the writer for telling it, and making my day in the process. I’m reminded of those youtube videos from Russia called “the video that made the whole world cry” or something like that, each of them six or seven minutes of clips of people helping other people in random public crises as minor as crossing the street to life-threatening floods and car accidents. Why we don’t all live our lives this way every day is even more baffling to me than Fox News.

Originally posted on Live & Learn:


Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be…

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Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 4; Is Thanksgiving A Relic?

So, who is stoked for Thanksgiving?  Besides me.  Word has it that another of my wayward distant nephews is making the drive up from North Carolina, 9 hours each way, just to spend late afternoon and evening with us. Boo-yah.  He’s has to work Wednesday and Friday, but he’s coming–and that’s a whole lot of over the river and through the woods to deal with. We’re looking at about 90% attendance, and that rocks–and while we’re down one niece and nephew, we’ve added a niece-in-law (is that a thing?).

Thanksgiving 1The only thing that comes close to the excitement of seeing all these little kids who have suddenly grown into young men and women is the sight of a blunderbuss-toting, hyperopic ballerina ia a french maid outfit hunting vainly for next Thursday’s dinner.  Family love is great and wonderful and all, but the right to a well-armed ballerina is one of the basic tenants of our Great Union. That and the right to run cattle on public land.

But I digress.  (It’s not like you thought that I wounldn’t–digress, I mean).  I recently participated, albeit somewhat tangentially, in a discussion over at coldhandboyack following the host’s blog asserting that “Thanksgiving is dead,” a depressing but well-reasoned consideration of the changes and social trends that have led to a marked diminution of the holiday from sacred family event to pre-Christmas commercial opportunity.  I agree with his assertions; however, my own opinions are considerably more bitter, cynical, and nostalgic.  I’m not ready to see Thanksgiving fade off into that good night, replaced by the vapid superficiality of something like Halloween.  In these regards, I fully embrace a conservative stance, the irony being that pro-commerce conservatives would like nothing better, I think, than to keep nothing about Thanksgiving except for the idea of the thing, as a scaffolding upon which to hang brighter and ever-gaudier solicitations to endless heights of consumerism.

Well, fuck that.  For many years our ears were pummeled politicians droning on about “family values,” despite our nation’s collective rejection of some of the most traditional and visible markers of those values.  Now granted, the commercialization of Thanksgiving isn’t the same as inequities in wages, healthcare, housing, and so forth, but it’s a big glowing example of our priorities.  It was pointed out over at Boyack’s page that it’s all about shopping, but that social media hasn’t helped either, what with texts and tweets and even email relieving some of the longing for contact with loved ones we once had, while providing the illusion of interaction.  A tweet does not a turkey dinner make, however.

black-friday-walmart-620jt111512Another interesting point someone made was that Thanksgiving has had a commercial element for the better part of a century, serving as a practical gateway to Christmas, and I concur.  I’ll be writing in a few weeks about my family’s Christmas traditions and youthful memories, one of which was a trip to the “big city” where they had this wonderful place called a mall, an indoor sort of main street in which we could take off our coats and cross folks off our Christmas lists in perfect, 72 degree comfort.  Black Friday, the commenter observed, isn’t about buying thoughtful gifts for others, it has become about scoring awesome cool crap for bargain prices for ourselves. 

Now, I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the word.  When I step into a church the paint peels off the walls and my shoes leave smoking footprrints on the carpet, but I know sins, and what we’ve done with Thanksgiving is a sin.  Indeed, I’d argue that it is three–envy, greed, and gluttony. Not to mention the complete and total abandonment of any semblance of pride.  Look at the photo above: I would never, ever, run for the opportunity to save a little money on crap I don’t need.  It’s grotesque, there’s nothing else to say.

4126841964_2ee5bce3cf_o-1There is no reason why a holiday like Thanksgiving should dissolve–although many people instill it with religious overtones, the seeds of the season are cooperation (however exaggerated), perseverance, gratitude for what we have, and ultimately the establishment of our nascent country.  No one who lives here, or loves the USA and it’s promise, has any excuse not to embrace it.  Even indiginous, Native Americans could make a case for honoring the generosity and benevolence of their ancestors.

I would go futher in arguing that we MUST struggle to reclaim the simple, supposedly archaic values reflected in ths stodgy old chestnut of a holiday as a starting place from reclaiming the essence of what we can be.  Melodramtic?  Sure it is.  That doesn’t make it bad.  Now to do this, we need more than silly photos of our grandmothers’ generation posing in underwear with poultry, and I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

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Thanksgiving Countdown Day 3


It just occurred to me that my “countdown” is actually counting up–Thanksgiving will end up being Day 12 or something because, quite honestly, I have no frakking reason why I do some of the things that I do.  Fortunately, I subscribe to the philosophy that dictates she who acts like he knows what she is doing will get away with most of that with which she hopes to get away.  And ain’t that a sentence!  I have a story I’ll use to explain, but first I’d like to give a shout out to the contributor of today’s themed photo selections.  That’s right–real, actual, submissions from a reader named Don.  Thanks for playing, Don.

Now, I once worked for a company with a spacious, beautiful, professionally designed and decorated lobby filled with modern, well-made and carefully maintained upscale furnishings.  One weekend, a semi truck pulled up the the front and several guys in overalls got out of it and an accompanying van.  One of them strolled up to the front desk with a clipboard with a stack of invoices attached.  “We’ve got your new furniture,” the man said.

The guy at the desk was confused and said that he hadn’t heard about any new furniture, but the delivery guy showed him page after complicated invoice page on his clipboard while explaining that “corporate is replacing everything–half of the locations this winter, the rest next fall.  Must he nice,” he added.  “They’re sending everything back to Richmond, Virginia to auction it off.”

Man Eating Turkey on AirplaneIt all seemed to make sense to the desk clerk, but the security staff, the weekend auditor, and three other various employees putting in Saturday hours agreed it was probably not wise to antagonize the corporate offices, so when the delivery guy asked if they should just bring in the new boxes and stack them or “take all this old stuff out first and then arrange the new stuff as we unpack it,” the answer was “whatever works best.”
For the rest of the morning, while the staff went about their business four men in overhauls unloaded roughly 75 large cardboard boxes–most of them refrigerator sized or bigger and carted off all the other furniture.  After three hours the delivery guy walked past the desk and said “we’re taking 30 for lunch.”

A half hour passed, then 45 minutes, and then more than an hour.  Slowly, it dawned on a pair of custodians that they were going to get stuck unpacking all those boxes, and the resignedly went to work–although not for long.  The first box they opened held a ragged armchair, the next a broken lamp that even a thrift store wouldn’t sell.  Growing frantic, they ripped into the boxes : more decrepit, threadbare garbage.  Deeper into the array, the crates and boxes were simply empty.

The loss was set at around $175,000, but the actual replacement costs were over a quarter million–in early 1990′s money.  Sofas, arm chairs, side and end tables, lamps, even the carpets.  I was not associated with that company for very long, but at the time I departed the authorities had yet to gain so much as a clue.  The truck seemed to disappear, the fancy furniture with it.

So, yeh, it pays to just act like you know what you’re doing.

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Pittsburgh. Mighty. Beautiful.

More Pittsburgh propaganda in my continuing obsession with hyping my favorite city.

arabia picklesWe just spend another Saturday in the city.  Our justification for the day was to visit the Heinz History Center, because admission was free (how cool is that?) for the weekend and they are currently hosting the traveling exhibition of the Steam Packet Arabia, an 1850′s era steamship that sank in the Missouri river 160 years ago and was found a few years back, it’s contents wonderfully preserved by the river mud that quickly sealed it into a cold, anerobic tomb.  The artifacts include Pickles that are so well preserved they could be eaten today.  I’ve had a visit to the full exhibit in Kansas City on my “to do” list for years, so when a part of it came to Pittsburgh for free, there was no way we’d miss it.


Photo From PA Macaroni Co. Facebook page

There was a practical element to our trip as well–we scored imported canned tomatoes, pasta, and cheeses for the upcoming JunkChuck Holiday Lasagne (from grandma’s worn and yellowed recipe–not my grandma, mind you, but someone’s) at the legendary PA Mac–that’s the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. Of course, it’s worth the time just to go into the place and breathe–it smells that good. Other stops included Reyna’s Mexican Groceria, one of the several Asian Markets, the delightful Pittsburgh Popcorn Company, where hipster employees joke, tell stories, and engage those enduring the inevitably long lines for the best gourmet popcorn in the world.  We’re talking crazy good popcorn in all manner of varieties.  Mrs. Junk and the Junkettes favored “zebra stripe,” freshly popped popcorn coated liberally with chocolate and white chocolate, but I’m an old school cheddar man.  They make literally the best cheddar popcorn I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried my share.

ppcThe weather was cool and crisp, but clear and sunny enough to keep things comfortable. My favorite part of the day, despite the popcorn binge, was our visit to the Pittsburgh Public Market, where we perused vendors whose wares ranged from handmade ravioli to custom flavored olive oil to alpaca knitted goods to–oh yes–the Growler Shop for the legendary East End Brewing Company. For a buck you can sample a brew, all of which are delightful and some more than others. I opted for one of my favorites, the Nunkin Ale (a Pumpkin ale without the pumpkin–get it?). eebcBesides awesome brew, the best thing EEBC has going for it is the guy who mans the tap, who treats everyone like a long-lost friend, offering broad smiles and handshakes with each tranactions. I’d buy, and probably drink, used motor oil from this guy (blue and white striped shirt.)

And, please add this to my Christmas List. That’s right, it’s a vacuum-insulated 64oz black_mock_up1_grandebeer thermos.

Hell yes.


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