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Museum Madness

2 Aug

 

 

Last week we received a call from our daughter, who seemed to be getting cabin fever from being confined indoors with her four young children, due to the heat and air-quality alerts. Noticing the desperation she heard in her voice,  my wife Diane, who  is still recovering from surgery, agreed that we would  go with her and the children on a three-day visit  of Indianapolis area  museums.  Our daughter lives near Cincinnati and after seeing all their  local attractions, in a outburst  of Hoosier hubris, we had bragged about the wonderful  Indianapolis museums.  Little did we know it would come back to bite us.

 

Our first foray was to the Indiana State Museum on Friday morning. Before it heated up the children and their mother went on a paddle boat ride on  the White River Canal.  Diane and I opted out and found a shady bench overlooking the canal. Next to us was an older  Japanese  gentleman, playing some instrument that resembled a gourd.   This  impromptu  concert was entertaining for the first 40 minutes or so,  but after that it required a couple  of Tylenol.

Inside the museum proper,  the kids weren’t all that  interested in the  “Birth of the Earth” or the “The Ancient Seas” .   These exhibits consisted  mostly of   of rocks, and fossils that  looked like rocks.   It’s probably for the best that they didn’t pay much attention to the overhead  models of a gigantic  primitive squid, an enormous pincher-wielding trilobite,  and  a fearsome prehistoric shark. These things could be the stuff of nightmares. The kids did spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits in the Naturalist’s Lab, where they  imitated animal sounds, something at which they excelled.

On another floor we learned all about famous people from Indiana (they weren’t impressed)    and  how the television evolved  from primordial radio sets.  It was depressing to see many of the things from my childhood on display in the pop culture section. From the  kids’ perspective record players and Easy Bake Ovens were in the same class as  tyrannosaurus  bones and ancient Egyptian mummies.

For lunch we  ate  at one of Diane’s favorite restaurants, the  Ayres Tea Room, which has been re-created  on the third  floor of the museum.  This team room   operated in a large department store in downtown Indianapolis from 1905 to 1990 and was famous for its “hobo lunches” for kids, which were wrapped in bandannas. Our preteen  granddaughter insisted that she have a pot of tea. like the adults and then complained constantly  about how bad it tasted. Although none of them were on their best behavior,  the children all got  small wrapped prizes  from a large treasure chest by the entrance to the restaurant.

I was   hoping the top floor exhibit  would be impressive enough to pull our  fat out of the fire and  justify our bragging. The Abraham Lincoln exhibit, however,  was gone and had been replaced by “Amazing Maize”. It may have been   stereotypical for Indiana, but to paraphrase David Barry,  it was the best corn-related exhibit I’ve ever seen.  The kids barely glanced at the stuff, but they fought over who got to sit behind the wheel of the big tractor.

 

Undaunted we set out the next morning for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children’s museum.  Besides dinosaurs busting through the side of building, the first thing I noticed was the incredibly loud  noise level. I can believe that this is an international attraction, since I must have heard tantrums in at least six different languages

.  Our  five year-old grandson was duly  impressed by the gigantic Bumblebee Transformer  robot, displayed in the entrance hall,  as well as the Spiderman figure perched on the wall.  All them  enjoyed the Treasures of the Earth Exhibit,  where they got to  pretend to   scuba dive and search for pirate artifacts;  scan a mummy for clues to its identity, and help excavate ancient Chinese terra cotta warrior statues.  The Lego and Hot Wheels exhibits featured familiar toys, so they were especially popular, crowed, and noisy. My favorite activity was the “How I Became a Pirate” show, based on a children’s book.  It was a professionally produced musical in a nice comfortable,  cool, and snoozable theater.

The Power of Children Exhibit lent  an unexpected  serious note to the Children’s Museum. It featured the   stories of trio of heroic  children: Anne Frank,  Ruby Bridges, and  Ryan White. It was difficult to explain the Nazis, bigotry,  and discrimination to preschoolers, so we didn’t spend a lot of time  there. It reminded me of   the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. in terms of style and the  solemn tone.

Since it was 91o  and the humidity was approaching 100%,   we decided  to spend our last day in Indianapolis  outdoors at the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. Due to the heat, the hot air balloon ride was  cancelled,  along with   the candle dipping (they kept  melting).

We first visited  a rather dusty Indian village, where the kids sat in a dugout canoe  and  crawled in and out of wigwams. The interpreter was a little concerned that kids were being too rough with the antique wood shaving tool, which Diane had told  them was a spanking machine.

The kids did a  basket weaving activity,  which turned out pretty well, but caused them to just  miss the guided tour of the Conner House.  Conner Prairie  is a stickler when it comes to punctuality.

We spent a lot of time in the 1836 Prairietown part of the park. This re-creation of a pioneer village had a lot of enactors, all of who stayed in character, whenever you spoke to them. I don’t how they tolerated the heavy clothing in the stifling heat. Children were given roles to act out. Many of them did chores of the era like sweeping floors and carrying around heavy buckets of water.

Our last stop was the 1863 Civil War village where we saw an army encampment and some of the damage done to the town of Dupont  by General Morgan’s Confederate raiders. A recruitment center for militia volunteers was  set up in one of the houses.    The children especially enjoyed   the River Crossing Play Area  that include civil war costumes, water play and a kid-sized model of the Alice Dean, the  Howard built steamship   Morgan used to cross the Ohio River and then burned.

Thankfully we rode a tram back to the  Visitors’ Center, with just enough time to  purchase some souvenirs. Our grandson had decided on a coonskin cap and canteen until he caught sight of  some older boys playing with a wooden rifle.   It seemed unwise to provide him with a club-like object he could use on his three sisters. Diane put her surgery at risk wrestling him down as we left the gift shop.

We were all exhausted and more than a little dehydrated when our daughter buckled the kids in her van. One child was saying she had to throw up and the boy was still crying,  as we left them. In the grand scheme of things; a pretty good trip.

Orginally appearing in the Southern Indiana News Journal.

 

 

Accent on Indiana

6 Dec

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Like most Midwesterners, I always thought that only  other people had funny accents.  I imagined that I  sounded   like  Walter Cronkite. Growing up near St. Louis,  it took a long time before I realized that I pronounced “fork” as “fark” and that our first president was not George “Warshington”. Someone  once  said that all those “r’s”  they drop in Boston (where they say “paak yaa  caa ”  instead of  “park your  car” ) migrated  southwest  and are alive and well in Southern Illinois. 

According to Dennis Baron, a University of Illinois professor of  linguistics, our speech is the most important thing that people judge us on,  aside from physical appearance.  Accents are those noticeable  differences in speech sounds,  rhythm, stress, and emphasis.   Dialect refers to  broader variations   including things such as vocabulary,  syntax, and grammar. Both are related to  where we come from, our primary social group, native language, and social-economic status.  

A study in the  Journal of Employment Counseling  found that speakers with accents or dialects were routinely given  lower employability ratings by a panel of human resource  professionals.

Experts  disagree about just how many dialects there are in theUnited States. Typical estimates range  from 3 to over 24,  depending on what you consider to be a “language community”. Language communities  are   groups that share a common dialect and some radical scholars contend that there may be  thousands of  dialects  inAmerica.

On dialect maps,  Southern Indiana usually  falls in the  South Midlandregion. Dominated by Appalachia,  common speaking  conventions include   pronouncing  “th” as “f’  ( It’s my birfday”),   leaving out the word  “are”,   and placing  an  “a”  in front of words ending in “ing” and dropping the “g” (“I’m a-goin to town”). This  region has also  retained  a large number of words from the Elizabethan English  spoken at the time  of Shakespeare,  such as “reckon”,  “sorry”  (meaning inferior) , “trash”, “well” (meaning healthy),  and “guess” (meaning suppose).

According to Matt Campbell at East Central Oklahoma University,  about 59%  of Hoosiers routinely use the word “pop” as the generic name for a  soft drink, but there are some significant regional differences. Northern Indiana uses “pop” almost exclusively,    but in  Indianapolis and  Southern Indianathe more southern term,  “coke”, is often used. When I worked in Mississippi  I frequently  heard people refer  to Seven Up®  as “white coke”.

I noticed that  St. Louis and Eastern Wisconsin, where my wife Diane grew up,    both use the word, “soda”—  maybe that’s why we are compatible. But don’t ever ask Diane  where she is from,  unless you are prepared  to hear her formal presentation,  which includes the use of her hand as a visual aid to understanding the geography  of Wisconsin. The  base  of the thumb is Green Bay,  the thumb itself is  “DoorCounty” and she is from a knuckle.   When we visit the knuckle,  Diane’s accent changes abruptly and I have trouble following it when she and her brother start talking. I can discriminate  Wisconsinfrom   Minnesotabut I am still fooled by a U.P. Michiganaccent.        

At PBS’s Do you Speak American website(http://www.pbs.org/speak/), linguistics professor  Dennis R. Preston  (who once taught  at  IUS)  reports that Americans believe  that some regions speak better English than others. He found that while some areas favor  their own speech and others  don’t, there is wide consensus that New York City and  the South are on the bottom of the barrel.

When we lived inFloridathere  was a jumble of accents because of all the transplants, although we always found the native southern accent charming. When our middle son was in kindergarten,  we moved and he unfortunately  was assigned  to a teacher fromNew Yorkat his new school. Her voice must have sounded harsh and demanding in comparison to the dulcet tones of his previous sweet southern teacher.  Her speech somehow communicated an urgency that put him under tremendous pressure. Before we were able to rescue him,  he pathetically kept bringing home stacks of pictures to color.  He felt like he had to work all night, just  to  keep up in the rat race that was his kindergarten class.

Professor Preston had Southern Indiana residents rate  all the states for  both  speech correctness and pleasantness. Southern Indiana residents ranked the state  of Indiana on top for  pleasantness  and ranked New York, Arkansas, and New Mexicoas the least pleasant.  However, for speech correctness,   curiously Southern  Indiana residents rankedWashingtonState  on top, with a score of  8 out of 10. I have no idea how they even talk out there.  Indiana was in the middle  with  6 out of 10,  and the southern states (except for Florida) were  rated  lowest with scores of 2  out of 10.

Southerners  don’t do very well on international  comparisons either.  A paper  presented  the International Communication Association  described a study  in which   Northeastern American  college students rated speakers from England, India, Jamaica, Russia, and the southern United States. They were rated  for attractiveness, friendliness, and intelligence. The posh-accented British speaker  ranked  highest in  all three categories. The American Southerner ranked lowest in both intelligence and attractiveness.  Despite some evidence that Southern speech patterns are spreading nationally, there still seems to be considerable prejudice.

Some career counselors even recommend that people  with “maximally perceived” accents or dialects, undergo accent  and dialect modification therapy in order to be more  competitive in the job market.  While it’s  very important to be able  to communicate effectively, this homogenization of our language  somehow just seems wrong. We need the color and spice of diversity.  Maybe we should be teaching tolerance instead of pronunciation.

  Well I reckon that’s all. H’it’s time to be a’goin for a coke, I guess.  And when youse go to bed tonight don’t be a’ forgetin to pull up the kivvers to keep warm.

Based on a News Tribune column.

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An Indiana Night Before Christmas: Hoosier Style

3 Nov

 

A Hoosier Night Before Christmas

 Twas the night before Christmas, and all across the state,
Nothing was improving, not even  the unemployment rate;
From the banks of the Ohio to the top of the  Knobs,
All they could talk about was the economy and jobs;
The residents were nestled all anxious in their beds,
While visions of toll-free bridges danced in their heads;
All the sidewalks were covered with ice and salt granules,
As they braced for more budget cuts from Governor Mitch Daniels;

Down at the New Albanian,  the people had drank a few brews,
But were now settled down for a long winter’s snooze;

Then out in my backyard I heard such a clatter,

 I expected to see some wild turkeys scatter;
The toys in the yard were all covered with  snow,
  In the moonlight I could barely see anything below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an all terrain vehicle  and a bevy of deer;
With a chunky little driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment twas an Indiana St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles the four wheeler flew,
And he yelled, and  he shouted, at the domestic caribou;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Blitzen and Donder!
Let’s get this crate up into the wild blue yonder!
Like mobile homes before the wild tornado fly,
The ATV took off and mounted the sky;
So up to the roof-top the whitetails they flew,
With a bag full of goodies and Indiana   Nick too;
And then, in a twinkling, I heard overhead.
Prancing and pawing like a Kentucky thoroughbred;
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Indiana Nick came with a bound;
He was dressed all in camouflage, from his head to his toes,
 And the aroma of pork tenderloin permeated his clothes;
A bagful of presents he carried on his broad back,
He looked like a trader opening a gunny sack;
His eyes sorta glared! His smile kinda   scary!
His hair was disheveled, his nose like a strawberry!
On his belt hung a flashlight and a old hunting bow,    
And the hair on his chin was as grey as the snow;

A dip of Wintergreen tobacco, he held tight  in his cheek,
And the minty smell encircled him like a peppermint wreath;
He had a oval face and a big round belly,
He was  clearly well acquainted with the Kroger deli!
But he was  friendly  and honest– a typical  Hoosier,
  I  thought  to myself, “Could he be a  boozer?”;  
But a wink of his eye and flick of  his finger,
Said all was ok but I better not linger;

The miraculous gifts  were what we had hoped for,
  Lower taxes,  no tolls, and federal bailouts galore;
He brought money for schools and a ball team that was splendid,
Then with his work complete up the chimney he ascended;
He sprang to his vehicle to his team gave a whistle,
Onward to Muncie he flew like a missile;

And I heard him exclaim as he soared out of sight,
“Happy Christmas Indiana and to all a good night!”

 

(From a column in the New Albany Tribune)

It Just Slippered My Mind

9 Jun

                    The other day when I got out of the car going into  Barnes & Noble’s   I was appalled  to see that I was wearing a slipper on one  foot and a shoe on the other. I immediately thought of the All in the Family episode in which Archie Bunker told the   story of how he was so poor as a child that he had to wear one old boot and one worn shoe to school.   All the other kids teased him–  calling him Shoebooty.  There I was– Slipshoey.

                    For me just thinking about something has become the  equivalent of doing it. When I think about something I plan to do,  it seems as if I already did it and my thoughts get stored like a real memory. 

                  Evidently I was distracted while changing shoes.  I was only glad that  none of our   children were around to witness this, since it would have been conclusive proof that I had completely  lost my mind, as they have long suspected.  Wearing one slipper in public would be the final nail in  the coffin of my credibility.

                  When they were little they would ask me all sorts of  questions and considered me the fount of all knowledge and wisdom.   Now they regard me as completely clueless and  ignore any of  my advice,  while completely subscribing to any claptrap they find on the internet or hear from one of their peers. Even when they think I might actually  know something, they say,  “Just leave your expertise at the door.” I know this arrogance of youth  helps them establish  an independent  identity, but they still seem a little too eager to abandon me on some ice floe.

              When I noticed the two different shoes, I considered staying  in  the car, but I really wanted to look at   books, so I told my wife, Diane that  I was going to pretend that I had a sprained ankle.  I limped around Barnes & Nobles, taking pains to never look  at my shoes and  occasionally giving a subtle grimace.  I am fairly proficient at limping. I learned to do this convincingly at  high school football practice, just in case our coach was in one of his frequent  foul moods and was looking for someone to take a an extra lap.  

           Having one dark brown slipper and one light brown shoe was like wearing two different colored socks.  When comedian Steven Wright was asked why his socks didn’t match,   he said they did,  because  he went by  thickness instead of color.   

            Such faux pas  are  pretty common for me.  Like the time in high school I discovered the macho green beret I was wearing came from my sister’s old Girl Scout uniform or a few years ago  when I went to an important meeting wearing my sweater inside out. I may not be  Einstein, but I  do occasionally dress like him.

             Regarding embarrassing shoe mishaps, back in the days when we were young and poor,  we attended a church where you had to kneel  at the altar railing during communion. In this position  the rest of the congregation  could get a good gander at the bottom  of your shoes. It seemed like  this  would always happen on the Sundays when I was wearing my only pair of dress shoes— ones  that had a noticeable hole. Evidently all was not well with my sole. I would be anxious during the whole service and  tried, without  success,  to edge out a couple of old ladies,  so I could get to the side railing to decrease my potential audience.

            I suppose I do need to pay more attention to things.  Just the other day I  lost my wallet, again. This usually happens just as we are about to go out the door. Then I wish I was able to call my wallet,  like I do my cell phone,   when I misplace it. After the usual five minute of  hysteria, I finally found it–  in the washing machine. Our kitchen table is still cluttered  with ID cards, dollar bills, scraps of paper, and unreadable debit card receipts that are drying out.  

                Diane (Miss Perfect) is always warning me to check my pockets. I graciously  do not mention the numerous occasions she has left her purse somewhere,  or the time  it was mailed back to us in a bright red and white three-piece box, from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant  inSpringfield,Illinois. Everything was intact. Miss Perfect certainly lives a charmed existence at times.

             I’ve been thinking  about the Barnes and Noble fiasco and maybe I should just give up and wear some of those bright yellow Crocks®  all the time.

 

Brother-Hood: Another Steeltown Story

3 Jun

 If you ever had a big brother like mine you are familiar with the horrors of nuggies, paralyzing punches in the shoulder, the Dutch rub, and the dreaded Indian burn. The Communist Chinese had nothing on my brother Norman. But where he really excelled was in the area of psychological torture.

Many of my earliest traumas relate to my brother and food. For example when I was about five years old, I learned that eggs come from chicken’s rear ends or as he put it– “butt-holes”.Normantaught me this, just as I was sitting down to breakfast. My mother believed that an appropriate  stick-to-your-ribs breakfast consisted of two eggs, four pieces of bacon, and about half a loaf of buttered toast, all washed down by a heavily sugared cup of milk with a teaspoon of coffee added so that I would feel like a grown-up.  I ate this breakfast with relish for several years until that fateful morning whenNormanexplained to me where eggs came from. While his anatomical knowledge of poultry may have been limited, it was close enough for me and I stopped eating eggs for the next 15 years.

Norman also taught me that mustard was harvested from dirty diapers. This lesson came one day while I was eating a mustard and bologna sandwich.Normanalso went on to tell me how health inspectors had found rats crawling in root beer bottles as well as tiny white worms   in my favorite candy bar. Wally Cleaver would never tell the Beaver such things. It   dawned on me that I was stuck with Eddie Haskell for a brother.

When I switched from root beer to cola,  Norman described how the company that made my favorite cola had a terrible accident one day, when a worker fell into a vat of cola and drowned. Of course the carbonation dissolved the poor fellow’s eyeballs and the company didn’t discover the body until the entire batch was bottled and shipped out. Bottles from this batch remain on grocers’ shelves to this very day. My mother must have wondered if  I was developing anorexia by this time.

In the  days before convenience stores, Steeltown have several  corner stores. My favorite was an establishment about two blocks from my house. It was called Baxter’s and they not only carried Superman comic books, but also served Chapman’s ice cream. Kindly old man Baxter would puff on his pipe patiently waiting for you to decide on what flavor you wanted. Baxter’s was much friendlier than Pepper’s Confectionery, where the paranoid owners treated everyone like a shoplifter. One day I was eating an ice cream cone, whenNormanarrived home from one of his frequent  delinquent forays. He was riding my black Schwin bike and as usual he jumped off before it stopped and the bike continued on, crashing into the side of the garage.  He had already ruined his own bike doing this and was well on the way to demolishing mine as well. “Didja get that cone at Baxter’s?” he asked. “Yeah”, I admitted reluctantly. “You know why those cones taste so good, doncha?” “Oh, no!” I thought, “I don’t want to hear this.” “It’s because old man Baxter slobbers pipe drool all over the ice cream.” “Oh Yeah?”, I said, without much conviction. “See for yourself.” he grinned.   I never finished that cone as I could swear the vanilla ice cream seemed to develop an aromatic tobacco tang.   The next time I was in Baxter’s I carefully kept an eye on old man Baxter scooping the ice cream, while I pretended to look at the comic books. Damn it if  Norman wasn’t right.

My parents often went out on Friday nights, leaving me completely at Norman’s mercy. He insisted on watching the Spook Spectacular movie—  a television show consisting of  old Universal Studio’s horror movies that completely terrified me. One stormy night, when I couldn’t stand to watch another second of Frankenstein strangling a little girl, I retreated to the back bedroom where I hoped I could avoid hearing the grunts and screams. I crept into the back closet and shut the door. This was an odd closet that had a window that overlooked our back porch. I opened the window wide and stood in the darkness, glad I couldn’t hear the television. 

Except for the lightening,  it was pitch dark.Normanmust have though I went to bed. About 15 minutes later, he strolled out on the back porch to smoke a cigarette, so my parents wouldn’t smell it in the house. It was so dark thatNormanstood right next to open window where I was standing, not six inches away, but failed to see me. Looking jumpy he lit his cigarette and anxiously scanned the stormy skies. The movie and the piercing thunder must have unnerved him too.  I knew I’d never get a chance like this again so I waited until next loud crash of thunder and leapt through the window yelling and grabbing atNorman. He dropped his cigarette– screaming in terror, like a little girl. When he recovered enough to realize it was me, he started chasing me through the house, swearing and threatening to kill me.  I ran into the bathroom and locked the door.Normanswore at me and pounded violently on the door until my parents finally came home and grounded him for a week for keeping me up so late and having a cigarette burn on his shirt.Normantried to play dumb saying he didn’t know where the cigarette burn came from. Maybe it came from an Indian burn that backfired, I suggested.

Motel Indiana

26 Mar

                   I’m staying in Indianapolis for a conference and I’m wondering why they held meeting this at a hotel so close to the airport. Nobody is actually flying in to attend it and according to my calculations a window-rattling flight takes off approximately every seven minutes. I have enough trouble sleeping away from home. I should have suspected something was up, when I saw the compact disc player next to the bed with a special CD that played relaxing sounds. There were also sleep tips printed on the CD jacket and it came with a little pouch containing ear plugs and an eyeshade. It seems like our rooms always have something wrong with them, like noisy air conditioners or toilets that overflow.

                Once coming back from picking our youngest son up at college, we stopped at one of the low cost national chain motels. The AC was so loud, I had to ask for another room. I always feel embarrassed and am not very assertive in such situations, but the noise was unbearable. We moved to a new room down the hall, that was quieter, but a few minutes after we hauled in our suitcases, I noticed something usual high on the wall. After studying it a while we determined it was a live bat, so I had to tramp back down to the front desk to beg for yet another room.

                       When I first came to southern Indiana several years ago, I stayed in a motel for a couple of weeks, while we tried to sell our house in Florida. We were economizing, so the accommodations were far from luxurious. I remember that for entertainment there was cable television and domestic disputes in the parking lot. The cabled tended to fade in and out, but the fighting was pretty much nonstop. When the cable would go on the fritz I could play “Name that Stain” as the carpet was a veritable Rorschach of undeterminable splotches. I was afraid to walk around the place barefoot, so I always put my shoes back on whenever I got out of the shower. I laughably had what was called a “no smoking room” and occasionally I would walk out to the nearby highway for a breath of fresh air. Once I found a cigarette butt actually tucked into the sheet. I believe the “no smoking” referred to fact that the room was not actually on fire when I moved in. I also had to change rooms after the large bathroom mirror fell off the wall scattering minute glass particles all over the room. Dodging the shards, I felt like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, trying to maneuver so I could get to the phone to report the disaster. Scott, the unfortunate teenager the office sent over to clean up the broken glass, said that a new mirror usually cost $55. Evidently they replaced quite of few of them in this establishment. I was impressed as Scott seemed very experienced handling hazardous materials. The night manager, a tough and dangerous looking girl of about 19, skeptically accepted my story that the mirror just fell off the wall, and moved me to another room without a hassle. Scott said they were probably just happy that I didn’t have my next-of-kin suing the place for negligent decapitation.

                     According to Scott, who was a fount of information regarding vandalism, a new front window ran $330. He said a trucker, a few doors down from me, had recently broken one by flinging a hammer at his partner, an ingrate who had the audacity to duck. Afterwards the trucker staggered over to the office and slapped down four one hundred-dollar bills, like he had been through this drill before and it was an everyday room service charge. I was happy to switch rooms. In my old room everytime some motel guest would dial an 800 phone number my phone would ring. I got calls all night long since most of the motel clientele was unable to grasp the “dial 9 first for an outside line” concept.

                        In my new room the phone was completely inoperative, which was fine with me. I was also glad to get away from my neighbor. He was a man about thirty years old, with a week’s growth of beard, and dark sunglasses, who would squat barefoot in front of his door smoking cigarettes for hours at a time. I didn’t mind the smoking, but all that squatting and those bare feet started to creep me out. I quickly learned it is best not to look inside other people’s motel rooms as you pass by. My neighbor’s room, for example, resembled the high cluttered van of a serial killer on the lamb. After I was there a week or so I decided that it was too risky to use the motel laundry room. First I had to walk by “squatty” on the way over there, and on one visit I was accosted by a guy trying to sell some kind of super duper cleaning fluid for $40 a bottle. Before I could stop him, he sprayed the fluid on one of my tennis shoes. Unfortunately it worked so well, that my shoes no longer matched. I wasn’t about to pay forty bucks to clean the other shoe, so I had to walk around for weeks with one gleaming white shoe and one yellowish grimy one. The funny thing was that my room wasn’t all that cheap. We ended up renting a pretty nice duplex apartment for much less money. There must be something I was missing. Perhaps they replaced the stale cinnamon pinwheel breakfast with Eggs Benedict and didn’t tell me, or maybe that was a piece of chocolate on my pillow, not a blood stain.

Terry Stawar Semi-Finalist in 2010 Robert Benchley Society Humor Writing Competition

11 Feb

February 9th the Robert Benchley Society  announced the  it’s Top Ten Semi-Finalists   in it’s 2010 Robert Benchley Society Humor Writing Competition. Among this illustrious group is Terry L. Stawar of Georgetown, Indiana, for his piece entitled The Strange Case of the Wayward Beef Roast. At last some of the fame and recognition he hungers for.

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