Friday, June 27, 2014

I LEARNED SOME PRETTY SILLY RHYMES WHEN I WAS A KID


The other day I was thinking about the games I used to play in the schoolyard when I was a kid. The most popular ones back then were hopscotch, jump rope and ball (as in bouncing a ball, not pitching one).

The rhymes we used to recite while playing these games – probably because of how absurd they were – still are stuck in my head even after all these years.

For example, I remember one rhyme, to which we would bounce a ball: “Bouncy, bouncy ball-y, I broke the leg of my dolly. My mother came out and gave me a clout, and turned my petticoat inside out!”

I’m pretty sure the mother in that rhyme would be arrested (or committed) if she did those things nowadays.

And there was the famous jump-rope brainteaser. While jumping, you had to go through the alphabet and think of a man’s name, a woman’s name, the name of a place and an occupation for each letter, in order. The letter B, for example, might have gone something like this:

B, my name is Barbara, my husband’s name is Bob. We come from Boston and we sell bananas.”  It wasn’t advisable to copy someone else’s creation, either. The next person who had to use the letter B had to think of something original, like Bonnie, Billy, Baltimore and boots.

When you couldn’t think of anything to fit a specific letter, however, you lost a turn and the next person jumping had to pick up where you left off. I always thought the game was pretty easy until it came to the letter X. No one ever wanted to get the letter X, mainly because it never failed to start arguments.

X, my name is Xena, my husband’s name is Xavier. We come from Xanthus and we sell xylophones.”

Someone inevitably would say, “Xena and xylophone start with the letter Z!”

 “They do not!” someone else would shout. “They only sound like Z-words!  They start with an X!”

“And there is no such place as Xanthus! You made that up!” another would protest.

“Did not!  I looked it up in the encyclopedia!”

Seeing we didn’t have a dictionary or encyclopedia out on the playground, we had to take the jumper’s word for it. But we always suspected that any place that started with the letter X had to be a fake (although I later did find out that Xanthus actually was an ancient city in Asia Minor).

The letter Q was no picnic, either. I always got challenged whenever I used “Quintella” or “Quarantina” for the female’s name.

Actually, it really didn’t matter what I said because I usually ended up tripping over the jump rope and nearly breaking my neck long before I ran out of ideas for the alphabet letters anyway. So I was doomed to lose my turn no matter what.

And then, when picking sides for teams for games, we didn’t use the regular “eenie, meenie, miney, moe,” rhyme. No, we learned a more complicated one that made no sense whatsoever: “Eenie meenie, ucastini, ah boo bumblini, acha-bay, acha-boo, out goes Y-O-U!”

There was one girl in the group, Diane, who, when the “out goes Y-O-U” part didn’t end up on the person she wanted, inevitably would continue to add words until it did. For example, “Out goes Y-O-U…and the cow says ‘moo!’”

I suppose it’s safe to say Diane liked to manipulate things in her favor when it came to playing games (that’s a polite way of saying she cheated.)

And I’m wondering about a rhyme I learned when I was really young, and if anyone else remembers it the way I learned it. It was supposed to be: “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”

Well, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered it was supposed to be “ashes.” I learned it as, “husha, husha, we all fall down!” Now I’m wondering if I might have learned it that way because my ears were full of wax and I misheard it, or if anyone else actually learned it that way.

Then, of course, there was the rhyme I heard more often than I cared to: “Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards, upside down. On the way, she met a pig – a silly pig. They danced a jig.”

So Sally was immortalized in rhyme for being backwards, silly, and for not knowing which end was up.

I’m pretty sure it was written specifically for me.

 

Friday, June 20, 2014

A PHONE SURVEY AND DATING ADVICE



I had an unusual phone conversation the other day.

It all began about 10 days before, when I received what looked like a piece of junk mail. I was going to toss it, but for some reason, I decided to open the envelope. Inside was a note and a crisp one-dollar bill. It was from a radio survey service and the note said someone would be calling me to take the survey.

The first thing I wondered was whether of not the dollar bill was real. Then I wondered how many people had tossed out their envelopes and the dollar bills along with them.  I had visions of hundreds of envelopes with dollars in them, all lying in the town dump.

As promised, the survey company called me. When I saw it on the caller ID, I ignored it. But the company continued to call – twice a day, every day, even on weekends. I figured they really were determined to get their dollar’s worth out of me.

Finally, I got so sick of the phone calls, I caved in and answered.  Let’s just say that when I did, my voice sounded about as friendly as a bear’s just after hibernation.

The woman on the phone introduced herself as Mandy. She sounded pleasant and seemed unfazed by my growl. She asked me which radio station I listen to the most often, and where I usually am when I do. At home? At work? In the car? Jogging? I grunted an answer to each question. Then she said she wanted to send me a survey in the mail, and for filling it out, I would be paid enough to buy a cup of coffee.

I wondered if she meant a 7-11 coffee or a Starbuck’s coffee.

Then she asked, “Are you affiliated with the media or radio in any way?”

“Yes. I write for several newspapers and I interpret people’s dreams on the radio.”

“Ohhh,” she groaned. “That disqualifies you from taking the survey.”

I wasn’t exactly heartbroken. I was just about to ask her if she wanted her dollar back when she said, “So, you interpret dreams?”

“Yep. For the past 30 years.”

“Well, let me tell you about one I had the other night!  It was about my ex-husband. I want to poison him.”

“In your dream, or in real life?” I asked.

“In real life!” she said, laughing.

She then described her dream and I interpreted it. After that, she told me about a new man she’d recently met who is so wonderful, he seems too good to be true

“Be careful,” I said. “He just might be.”

She began to explain how she’d had to kiss a lot of toads before she finally found her prince. I told her I wouldn’t know how to date nowadays – nor would I be brave enough even to attempt it.

She said, “Well, safety is the most important thing in this day and age. Let me give you some pointers…from experience!”

She told me that first of all, never tell a man you live alone.

“Invent a roommate,” she said. “And make sure the roommate is a male – your uncle, or a cousin who just got out of the military...maybe a Navy SEAL.  Buy some men’s shoes and clothes at Goodwill – in big sizes – and leave them strategically placed around the house.”

“Then,” she said, “Make sure to get a couple surveillance cameras, so you can see who’s approaching your place. Put one in one of the rooms, too, in case someone tries to break in.”

“And,” she added, “If you try online dating, make sure the first time you meet the guy, it’s in a public place in the daytime. Take your own car, but park it a few blocks away, and then take a cab the rest of the way. When the date is over, have a cab take you back to your car. Otherwise, the guy will want to walk you to your car, and you don’t want him, especially if he’s a creep, to get your license-plate number. He can trace it online and find out where you live.”

She made preparing for a date sound like basic training for armed combat.

“I don’t even have a cab company anywhere near my town,” I said. “If I called a cab, it would take a half-hour to get here.”

She asked where I lived. I said New Hampshire.

“I’ve never been there,” she said. “I’m in Baltimore. You need a roommate?”

She then said, “People tell me I have great intuition, and my intuition is telling me good things are going to happen to you. I can feel it!”

“I hope so,” I said. “And I hope your relationship with your new guy works out.”

“Well, I’ve been divorced twice,” she said, “So I’m hoping the third time is a charm!”

“Sounds as if your good intuition hasn’t applied to most of the men in your life,” I had to say.

“No, but it’s been right about everything else!”

So maybe there’s hope that something good will happen to me.

Actually, now that I think about it, something good already has…I won’t be getting any more phone calls from the radio survey company.

 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

MY TV DOESN'T HAVE GRAY STREAKS ANY MORE


My late husband and I always were notorious for wearing out televisions. After he retired, we became even more skilled at killing them off. He was a morning person and I’m a night owl, so he’d usually be getting up as I was going to bed. That meant the TV ran about 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

My husband also wore out remote controls on a regular basis because he was in the habit of changing the channels during every commercial, just in case he was missing a better program elsewhere. I’m pretty sure remotes weren’t meant to be used 50,000 times a day. Inevitably, the buttons on them usually ended up not popping back out after he pressed them.

So it came as no surprise a couple weeks ago when my TV, which is a little over five years old, started to shows signs of biting the dust. To be honest, I was surprised it hadn’t coughed and kicked up its feet (well, its TV stand) a long time before then.

I wandered into the electronics department of a large store a few days later and cornered one of the clerks.

“What does it mean when the TV screen starts to get gray streaks on it?” I asked him.

I could tell by his expression that the time had come for me to start picking out a headstone for my TV.

“It means your module is going,” he said. “It can be a gradual thing, where you’ll keep getting more and more streaks as time goes on. Or it can be sudden and the screen will just go blank.”

The thought of watching an exciting movie for two hours until nearly the end, when the detective says, “We’ve caught the murderer and his name is…” and having the screen suddenly go blank, prompted me to ask him what he’d recommend for a new TV.

“Well,” he said, “my preference would be the LG HD LED.”

I hadn’t heard that many letters used in once sentence since back when I was a toddler learning how to recite the alphabet.

“You watch a lot of sports?” he asked me.

I shook my head.

“Then you probably won’t need a Smart TV.”

“You’re saying I need a dumb one?”

He laughed. The trouble was, I was serious.

The TV he ended up selecting for me, based on my specific needs, was about $500.  He said, “I guarantee that ‘Wow!’ will be the first word out of your mouth when you watch it.”

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually said “Wow!” So I went home and decided I just might splurge and return to buy the TV. Alas, the next day, with fiendishly bad timing, my property-tax bill arrived in the mail. Suddenly the gray streaks on my current TV didn’t look all that bad to me.

A few days later I happened to be in another store and spotted the same TV…on sale for only $398.  I couldn’t resist. I bought it.

So there I was with a 42-inch TV in about a 100-inch box, stuffed into the back of my car. It wasn’t until I got home that I said to myself, “What the heck are you going to do with it now?”

I managed to drag it out of the car and into the breezeway before I grabbed the phone and considered dialing 911.  I soon learned, however, that getting the new TV into the living room wasn’t going to be my biggest problem. Removing the old TV was. It, according to the specs on the paperwork, weighed twice as much as the new one. I knew there was no way I’d be able to lift it from its current spot and then hoist the new one up there – not without my death certificate reading, “Cause of death: flattened by a TV.”

Luckily, my friends Nancy and Paul came to my rescue. Not only were they good at lifting things, Paul actually knew which of the 120 wires behind my TV connected to things like the satellite dish, my DVD player, my telephone line (I still live in the Dark Ages and need a land line to connect to Pay Per View) etc., without turning them into something that resembled the tangled mass of Christmas lights I have in a box in the basement.

After the new TV was all set up, Paul asked me what I was going to do with the old one. He, by the way, personally thought the gray streaks barely were noticeable.

I told him I’d probably put in under the “free stuff” listing on Craig’s List and then pray someone might want it.

His eyes lit up and he turned to look at Nancy. “We could use it,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger than the one we have now.”

“We don’t have room for it,” she said.

“We can make room!” he said.

I had visions of him taking a sledgehammer to one of their walls.

Nancy rolled her eyes and sighed. “Boys and their toys!”

Paul finally not only convinced her to let him have the TV, he also asked her to help him carry it out to their car, which was parked way out in the driveway. About a quarter of the way to the car, Nancy said her back was killing her and had to set down her end of the TV.  I was thinking it might be the perfect opportunity for her to “accidentally” drop the monstrosity, but she picked it up again and carried it the rest of the way.  My job was to open the doors for them and also the car door. In other words, I had the easy part.

So now I have my new TV, and the picture is so clear, I honestly can say I actually have said, “Wow!” quite a few times. I can see the freckles on an actor’s face or each of his individual nose hairs, even when I’m standing out in the kitchen. Which, I suppose, can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending.

And I’m hoping my old TV will give Paul and Nancy a lot of use before it conks out on them. I have the feeling, however, that if the TV does die in the middle of a really good movie or a major sporting event, it just might mysteriously show up on my doorstep.

 

Friday, June 6, 2014

GOOD MUSIC, BROWNIES AND FUDGE


 
My New Year’s resolution this year was to either do something new or go somewhere new every month, and so far, I’ve managed to keep it. I’m pretty sure it’s the only resolution I’ve ever kept.

So Memorial Day weekend, in keeping with my resolution, I went somewhere new that was only ten minutes from my house.

That Saturday morning, my friend Emily happened to mention she had gone to the Shire Vocal Summit in Pembroke Village the night before and was going again that night. She added, “Vinx and all of the entertainers were amazing. You should come with us tonight. My treat! Gotta rush!  I’ll talk to you later.”

I honestly had no clue what she was talking about. The last time I’d heard the word “shire,” it was in Lord of the Rings and was where the Hobbits lived – and I was pretty sure there weren’t any Hobbits in Pembroke. And what was a Vinx? Something Egyptian…like a sphinx, perhaps?

Curiosity made me rush to my computer and do an online search for Vinx to see if I could find out anything beforehand. I learned he actually was Vinx De’Jon Parrette, a talented musician, singer, songwriter, percussionist and professor at Berklee College of Music, who had released no fewer than 15 CDs and toured or recorded with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sting, Cher, Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow, among others. And if that weren’t enough, he also was a former Olympic athlete. This Vinx guy obviously was no slouch.

I also learned that he and his partner, Jennifer Lambert, had transformed the old Town-Line Printing building on Main Street in Pembroke Village into the Dreamsicle Arts and Entertainment Group, complete with a recording studio and soundstage. There, they hold workshops, songwriting sessions and provide mentorships for artists of all kinds. And they frequently spotlight the artists’ talents by holding performance showcases, which are open to the public.

And one of these showcases was where I agreed to meet my friend Emily and her significant other, Dan, that night.

The last time I’d been in the building, it still was a print shop, so I was surprised when we entered and it looked more like someone’s living room – sofas, coffee tables, artwork on the walls, and a big table of food and drinks. The only thing that distinguished it from a typical living room was the recording equipment.

We immediately were greeted by Jennifer, who made me feel as if I were a long-lost friend coming to visit. She introduced me to dozens of people, none of whose names I could remember 30 seconds later, other than Vinx’s (heck, I’m lucky if I even can remember my own name on most days). Jennifer then offered me fudge and brownies.

Instantly I knew I was going to like these people.

I wandered into another larger room where there was a colorfully lit stage with folding chairs set up in rows facing it. A drop-dead gorgeous guy was introduced to me (can’t remember his name, either). He smiled and said, “Hi! Are you a musician?”

“Not unless you count ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ that I played on my violin when I was nine,” I said.

He told me he was a guitarist. I tried to keep him talking for as long as possible, just so I could stare at him…even though I was pretty sure I was old enough to be his grandmother.

The overhead lights dimmed and the stage lit up. Emily, Dan and I took our seats as Pam, the emcee, took the stage. She was wearing knee-high boots covered with so much glitter, when the spotlights hit them, they nearly burned out my corneas. She had a terrific sense of humor and immediately warmed up the audience.

Then the performances began. First there was Flynn, a talented singer/songwriter with a thick Irish accent. His original song, “Human,” was sung by Cher in the film “Stuck on You.”

He began by singing a song called, "White."

"It used to be called White Horses," he explained, "but with my accent, everyone thought I was saying White Arses, so now I just call it 'White,' to be safe!"

He was followed by Emily Musolino from Durham, North Carolina, who sounded amazingly like Janis Joplin. And then there was Kenny Wesley, nicknamed the “Soulful Nerd,” who could sing in more than four octaves. One minute he was singing from somewhere down in his toes, and the next, high enough to shatter glass. His rendition of “Amazing Grace,” was indeed amazing. I don’t think it would be easy for any singer to duplicate his rendition of the song.

Following Kenny, Adam Falcon’s vocals and powerful guitar playing inspired a lot of people in the audience to get up and dance, especially when Vinx, playing a hand-drum, joined him onstage.

The woman seated in front of me really got into the music. She bopped her head, shook her shoulders and waved her arms in hula-dancer types of gestures. And then she stood up and wiggled…a lot. I decided to remain in my seat, but only because I thought the last thing the people behind me needed to see was my rear end wiggling. It probably would have blocked out their entire view of the stage.

The evening ended with a jam session where several of the artists seated in the audience got onstage and added something different and personal to the song, “Ain’t no Sunshine.” Somehow, they all blended together perfectly.

Afterwards, the guests mingled with the performers, enjoyed refreshments and were able to purchase CDs, if they wished. I told Emily Musolino I thought she sounded just like Janis Joplin. She smiled, rolled up her sleeve and showed me her tattoo of Janis. Then she said, “But fortunately I don’t drink a fifth of Southern Comfort, like Janis did, before I go onstage!”

Vinx thanked me for coming and said, “In the future, I’m hoping to draw more people here, especially the locals. Maybe I can get my friend, Sinbad, to come perform here sometime.”

“Sinbad, the famous comedian?” I asked.

He nodded.

I didn’t get home until nearly midnight. I hadn’t been out that late on a Saturday night in about ten years. My husband used to like to go out to eat at 3 in the afternoon and be home and in his pajamas by 6. 

So now I can add going to the 2014 Shire Vocal Summit in Pembroke Village to my list of “new things” I did, in keeping with my New Year’s resolution.

Do I plan to go again?  I’ve already added my name to Dreamsicle Arts’ mailing list so I can be notified of upcoming performances.

And the next new thing I want to try is zip-lining. That is, if I can find someone who’s brave enough to go with me (and who won’t lecture me about being too old and putting myself at risk for a broken hip!).