Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve Plan

By now everyone has seen the TV pleas that people not Drink and Drive. My plea is a little different. Please do not ride with a driver who has been drinking. The passenger seat in a car has not been nicknamed the Death Seat without reason.

I want you back to read all the fascinating blogs I have planned for 2006. If you look in everyday you may see adventures like: How it felt to kiss the King’s wife, The day I had to land a crippled plane on an aircraft carrier deck – after only one lesson, Two weeks alone on the African veldt. Stay around long enough and I may recount falling over-board in the Artic Ocean.

So PLEASE, DON’T RIDE WITH A DRUNK DRIVER! Think what you will miss.

Love ya! Ralph says, "you'all come back! Ya hear?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Unappreciated Heroism

Truly Horrific Badges

These were worn on chests and caps by the most feared, deservedly, troopers of the Nazi Armies, the SS Among the SS, those with the worst reputations were the Hungarian troops.

Now, take you mind back to the day after the Axis had surrendered. Yours truly was carrying a bunch of paperwork from our company HQ back to Battalion HQ. It was a beautiful day, but cold. In fact, we had had snow just a few days before. So I was wearing my field jacket. To be in military fashion I had it snug around the waist to cause it to flare out at the bottom. I was admiring the freshly green Bavarian hills and the farms struggling along. I whistled while I walked. I didn't carry my carbine, just a German Luger Pistol. It was in my belt under the very snug field jacket. After all, the war was over.

On my right was an open field extending up a hill to a pine forest on top. It looked just like a field I knew at home. In my euphoria, I hardly noticed the soldiers stepping out from the pines and advancing down the field. When I finally registered that their uniforms were unfamiliar, I struggled for the Luger. But my mind quickly took in the number of long rifles pointed in my direction and decided that my pulling out a tiny pistol would not clarify the situation in my favor. I really stood petrified as I realized I was out-numbered and out-gunned. As they came closer I saw they were wearing the insignia of the SS and the uniforms of Hungarians. I froze!!

Four who were clearly officers and one who clearly was not, lined up across the country road, came to attention, and saluted --- saluted ME? I nervously returned the salute. The very small bedraggled non-officer came closer and spoke - in perfect Brooklynese. He said, "Can you take us to your commanding officer?' Without a thought I said, "Sure, follow me!" and headed on to Battalion HQ. The GI Joe cartoon character walked with me and told me he had been a taxi driver in New York. He had returned to Hungary to bring his mother to the States just before the war. Too late, he was drafted there and used as an interpreter. Seemed like a nice guy. After all, I was born in Brooklyn and knew the language.

When we were close to HQ, I "SUGGESTED" they stack their rifles. I explained that we would all probably be safer. We went into town with me walking and them marching stiffly behind me. The Colonel was among those that came out to see what was going on. I saluted and said, "Messenger. Reporting with prisoners, Sir."

Expecting congratulations, his reply was instead along the lines of, "What the blankity, blanking, blank, blank, am I supposed to do with them?" I hope it was a rhetorical question, because I stayed silent. I shook the little guy's hand and waved good-bye to "my" group. They waved back (turned out there were only 37 of them) . I went about my business.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another Story about My Life in Paris

A Disclaimer: I was in France thirty six years ago. Thus, my stories and my impressions are very old and probably bear little if any relationship to modern times. Further, in my brief time there, I made little effort to become a part of the local life. I was in effect a long-term tourist and I saw things from that viewpoint. More, I lived in a section that the American Military had just recently moved their headquarters away from. Abandoned, the locals said. This left the economy of the area in tough straits and Americans were not popular there –with good reason from their perspective.

With that introduction I will now recite a story about Americans (in France). The streets of the old suburbs of Paris are narrow – one explanation of the small cars most popular among the commuters I traveled with morning and night. There were traffic jams there daily that out jammed anything LA or NYC has ever experienced. But the French are resourceful, when they tired of blowing their horns, they bump over the curb and try to out-run the stoppage by cruising down the sidewalk. The popularity of this maneuver makes it self defeating and the sidewalk traffic moves only slightly faster than the legitimate traffic. I was in such a grid lock (in my proper lane) when in my mirror I could see an enormous vehicle inching up on me from the sidewalk. It was a big shiny, black limo with a small American flag attached to the fender and with diplomatic plates. The chauffer was trying to cut in front of me to get back on the road. I more or less “lost” it. I yelled, “I don’t give a G--- d----- tinker’s dam about your G-- d----- diplomatic plate! I want to get home and have supper as much as you do!

The fellow driving glared at me. But in the back seat a guy with a Homburg hat doffed it with a big smile, said a few words to the driver who, grudgingly it seemed, slowed down to let me pass. But he did push his way in behind me.

After I got home and had a drink with pate and crackers, it dawned on me that diplomats in official limos were probably driven by the CIA. I was glad the car I was driving wasn’t registered to me.

But several weeks later, a big monkey-monk of the embassy staff invited my wife and I to dinner at his home, ostensibly because our ten year old son was a friend of his son at the American School. I got a trifle paranoid when I imagined that he was quizzing me about details of our life before Paris and his wife was in another room quizzing my wife about the same things. I got over it after drink or two and decided he was just a nice guy. At worst, he was just trying to make sure his kid was associating with an OK kid.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Generation to Generation

Tis the season --- when generations are thrust together to make conversation while waiting for a holiday meal or holiday drinks. It is the time when you can find yourself face to face with relatives you barely remember from their last visit a year ago. It can be painful even with generous potions of eggnog or single malt. The worst situation can be the pairing of young folks with the fossils up from Florida for the holiday week.

Some young people have a hesitancy to treat the over eighty bunch as though we were real people. We are… our noses and ears may be long, but we are real people. Most of us are not former presidents, generals, nor ambassadors due any special deference. Neither are we freaks nor stumbling sufferers of severe dementia. And what if we were the latter? All the folks you know don’t qualify as brain surgeons and you talk to them like residents of this planet. Please act yourselves around us. We stopped talking to you with baby talk, please return the favor. We know we are almost historical landmarks, so if you run out of conversation, ask about our youth of many years ago. One question about Christmas before there was television will get us going and get you off the hook for long enough for the dinner bell to ring. If that doesn’t work, start recounting your recent adventure at a rap concert. That will put us old-timers to sleep.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Disney Candlelight Processional

The Disney World Candlelight Processional was again marvelous. The professional Disney singers and orchestra provided the beautiful base for the almost 300 high school chorus members from around the state and out of state. We attended the early performance which began at 5PM. There was still light at that hour so we lost the effect of the massed choirs filing in, each carrying a lighted candle. But the strength and beauty of the music soon overcame that disappointment.

Every three days there is a new narrator of the Christmas story. In the past we have heard some wonderful speakers. Perhaps surprisingly, the best we’ve heard was Phylicia Rashad. This three days Jaci Velasquez tried to do the reading. Unfortunately, she just didn’t “get” it. Her laid back, informal approach was out of phase with the nature of the music. Although she is a popular Christian singer, she was a misfit for this program.

As I sat like a slug in my wheelchair, I was touched by a young lady helped on stage in her wheelchair as a part of the processional. She sang with vigor and enthusiasm that truly reflected the meaning of “celebration of Christmas”. I thought how hard she must have worked to get to that stage. Truly inspiring.

Never before did I know that so much emotion and feeling could be expressed in sign language as was accomplished by an unnamed gentleman who stood almost silouetted in front of a lighted Christmas tree on stage. He added visual enjoyment to the evening.

God willing, we will go again next year.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Electric Parade

We are here at Disney World and it is early in the morning. S- is still asleep so Iam typing in the dark. Not very well, I must admit. Again we seem to have brought rain along on a trip. Seems to be our fate. We went over to the Magic Kingdom last night to see the evening parade. It has a new name now which I have forgottrn. It used to be called the Electric Parade, but I can't look up the new name in the dark. Quite spectacular! If I were to go several more times I might get the hang of photographing it. But fun to watch. More later

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Disney Bound

If you look upstairs, it says that these are the “musings of an old goat”. Well this musing old goat is off to Disney World tomorrow for our annual (sometimes) visit to view the fabulous decorations that this display case of living creativity puts up each year. We are also will attend the annual (really) Candlelight Processional with the 400 member chorus. Originally I was not going to take the laptop, but the forecast is for three days of rain. That suggests that lolling and strolling will be impractical while people watching from a park bench will lose its charm. Sooo, there doubtlessly will be room-time and Disney has a good dsl hook-up. I sort of resent their charging for it, unlike most hotels today. But what the hey, this is the outfit that hides their 800 numbers so if you don’t use your toll free cell phone, making a reservation can cost a fortune in wait-on-hold time charges.

We have room reservations at the Beach Club and breakfast reservations at the Crystal Palace one morning. Drop in and see us. We plan to have fun!

I have been this ambitious before and didn’t succeed, but we’ll try this again.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christmas - Gone, but not Forgotten

For years I have been on the side of preachers and others who have decried the increasing commercialization of Christmas. I was not a loud supporter, but I was standing on their side of the field. Now I have a problem. The big department stores, at least in this area, have deleted the word “Christmas” as well as angels, stars, and other reminders of the origin of Christmas from their decorations and promotions of the season. Am I to believe that they are advancing the idea that Mr. Macy started Christmas? The principal display at the Wellington Mall is an advertisement for a movie. Are kids now expected to believe that the season is a product of Hollywood?

Am I to be a victim of the old saw, “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it”?

Merry Christmas!