Thursday, August 31, 2006

When we went to France to work, I was already starting to lose my hair. However, I still needed to get a haircut occasionally. I don’t really like to get a haircut (read the archives). But in the USA I did it when needed in a shop that featured barbers with hairy arms,“Field and Stream” to read and a strong odor of Witch Hazel and Wildroot. Soon after we settled in near Paris I started looking for a barbershop. Anything I saw that looked like the right kind of place also looked very expensive. I don’t really remember, but I think I didn’t ask the guys at work because I didn’t like their hairstyles. My wife suggested that I go where she went to get her hair done. I protested, but she insisted that there were men getting their hair cut while she was there and that there were male stylists that did it. She did smirk a little as I left, but I was slow witted that day. What she hadn’t told me was that these male stylists were more feminine than the women stylists. Arnold Swartzenager would have had a hissy fit and I felt a lot creepy-crawly. They chattered on in a French I couldn’t begin to understand and flitted about like butterflies. Once was enough.

Three or four weeks later I flew to Frankfurt for a big hush-hush meeting between our top brass and a large European company. I was there as camouflage I think. Another obvious American was also there and he and I sat on each side of our CEO. The meeting was being conducted in English and I was taking the minutes for our team. What the people we were negotiating with never figured out was that my counterpart spoke their language fluently. While he appeared to be doodling on a legal pad, he was actually writing notes to our boss about what the other team was saying to each other in their language.

But I digress. After the meeting we were standing around the Frankfurt airport and I said that I was going to find an airport barbershop. For reasons I have never understood, our chairman and CEO volunteered to show me the way. He led me upstairs and into a shop and in excellent German (sounded good to me anyway) instructed a gruff old barber how to cut my hair.

I became the only American I knew that lived in Paris and flew to Frankfurt for his haircuts. Of course, I had to have another reason for the trips so my schedule was a bit ragged and often so was my hair.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Seeing is Being

Anyone that has perfect vision without enhancement by glasses, contacts, lasik surgery, implants, etc., is indeed fortunate. I am envious. But I will say that you have missed one of the truly amazing examples of medicine and the physical sciences working together to accomplish what was surely considered impossible as recently as my youth. When I was about in third grade it dawned on the rest of the world that I could not see the blackboard. It mattered not much because I couldn’t see to write either. After a flurry of doctor, optometrist, and ophthalmologist visits, I was equipped with two pairs of glasses, one for distance (the blackboard) and the other for close-up.

When I had my physical for the army, we stood in line wearing the official physical uniform (nothing). One by one, we were asked to cover alternate eyes and read an eye chart with each eye. Since, as we waited our turn, the eye chart was right there to be read with both eyes, I easily memorized it and passed. Proud that I had cheated my way into the service, I since have long suspected the army knew what it was doing all along. Hey! I got an expert marksman medal in training.

By the early ‘80s it was time to worry about my fast forming cataracts. The basic operation had been developed, but still entailed a three-day stay in the hospital and four weeks out of work. They wouldn’t put in an implant because “they didn’t yet know how long the implant might last”. By the time I was ready to brave the second eye being done I was very tired of the contact lens that substituted for the real lens they removed. I insisted on an implant. More hospital time and no-work rest time. Today, it is a zip-ZAP-zip process and “stop at the deli and bring home something for dinner”. Measuring for the implant in the old days took up to an hour of the ophthalmologist staring through a telescope. Today you rest your chin on a support and look into a magic device. There is a click and the technician says “Thank you. Good bye.”

Thursday when we came down from the ophthalmologist’s office, the valet parking guy asked how I was doing. I told him my eyes had tested well and I didn’t have to come back for a year. He said I was lucky because his contact lenses were driving him crazy with all the perspiration involved in his job. He was planning to go for lasik surgery so he could go without any lenses. Miracles happen.

Friday, August 25, 2006

This is being posted via a widget on the dashboard of my iMac computer It is very difficult to keep track of technology these days. But if I don't sign-off soon that thunder storm outside is going to end my adventures with new and different things.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I Lost It

We all know how one thing leads to another and another and so on until we have completely forgotten or lost interest in the first thing. That happened to me this last few days. I had a blog all blocked out in my mind and was about ready to start typing. I thought first that I would locate an old picture to use as an illustration. I remember it clearly. It was of me sitting on the loading dock in front of the A Company supply room in Camp Livingston, Louisiana in 1943 or 1944. I failed to find it anywhere in the computer and had to conclude that it wasn’t there. So I started thumbing through old albums and boxes of loose photos. Naturally, it was impossible not to get fascinated by the pictures. So, I decided to upload a bunch of them to the computer. Ok, no sense of just adding them helter-skelter so I undertook to classify them and then assign dates (mostly guesses at the year, no actual dates) . Of course, this led to day-dreaming about how when I am King of the world, I will declare it a felony to have pictures in one’s possession that do not have associated, by whatever appropriate method, data as to the subjects, date, location, camera, etc. A glitch then came up in my process for scanning that had me climbing the wall, To relax, I started watching the PGA Open Thursday.

So I apologize. I can not post a blog this night.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing

Back when I was working for the big soap company, “line extensions” were the big thing. Anything to expand your brand’s “shelf space”. The more “facings” the better. Put in aloe and call the extension “for tender skin”, for instance. Of course, every variation had to go through all the safety testing, patent clearance, trade mark clearance, legal approval of the label, ad infinitum. The one relatively easy line extension was a new size. Nothing in the product changed except the box or bottle it was in.

So we thought that getting all the approvals for king size bar of an existing soap brand would be a breeze. I practically ran – ranting and raving - to the office of the top safety guy when I received his rejection of our request for approval. When I cooled down enough to ask how he could reject a product that had been tested over and over again, he allowed how there was one more test to be run. He had assumed the answer. He told me to take off my shoe and sock. As I sensed what the test was he had in mind, I agreed to assume with him that a one pound bar of slippery soap dropped on a toe might be a hazard. I put my shoe and sock back on. I went back to my office to give marketing the bad news.

(Thank you, today’s Dilbert, for reminding me of this sad day.)

Heat Breeds Chills

The world is full of incongruities. For instance, in the height of the hottest season here in South Florida, look in the back of most of the senior citizens’ cars. You will see nice warm jackets and sweaters. Stand in front of a movie theater or a restaurant and you will see those warmers over the arms of incoming patrons. Managers of such places adjust their air conditioners to suit a younger crowd and we oldsters shiver. I am at the stage where I sigh with pleasure when I get in and sit down in a car that has been sitting in the sun for three hours. Great for arthritis!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Unwarrented Panic

In the Department of: Nothing is Easy. We had an appointment at noon today to pick up our new car. Putting together the paper work on the car we were turning in, I realized we didn't have the current registration. We had a pack of old, out-of-date ones in the glove compartment, but not a valid one. When I looked at the old ones, I suddenly knew where the current one was. In the trash. While cleaning out the car, I had thought it was just a useless piece of paper that the license plate sticker came on. I threw it away. That I remembered clearly, but which waste basket?

We arrived at the dealership and recognized the new car parked right out front. I explained to the salesman the missing registration expecting to be told the deal was off until a replacement was available. He scoffed and dismissed my concern with a quick, "Aw, we don't need that."

It would be nice to remember this day for the fun ride home inhaling lots of new car smell and stopping for ice cream to celebrate. Instead, my memory is of us unsucessfully pawing through dirty trash containers. Tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Now that I have remembered that cruise I mentioned a few days ago, I may be writing more about it in future days. Word got out in the community where we lived, that we were going on a Caribbean cruise. We got a call from a woman that said her daughter had recently married a man from Martinique. The woman was an artist and had painted a picture of the church in which the couple was married. She was afraid that it would get damaged if she mailed it, plus she said mail service was terrible to Martinique. Would we hand deliver it? What could we say? Of course, we would. We didn’t know that it would be about 3X4 feet. Big enough to be a constant conscious presence in a small ocean liner cabin. The cabin steward said storage with the luggage was “hazardous to its health”. So we put up with it and planned to just jauntily waltz ashore and , if necessary, tell customs what it was and take a taxi to deliver it.

But , Aha, the steward was a snitch. We receive a note to please, see the bursar post haste. He explained that at Martinique the custom officials come aboard prior to anyone being allowed ashore. And then nothing but personal property like camera and purses would be allowed off the ship. He suggested that perhaps we could bring the article to the ballroom where the custom officials would be going over the ships papers and passengers’ passports (all of which were in the possession of the bursar). When the officials had visibly finished their work we could slip in the room and ask one of them to check our parcel. This last was spoken with a tone of voice that a goofus like me did not “get”. I didn’t understand even when we realized that the officials duties included consuming a banquet-like breakfast. This was followed by stuffing their safari style uniforms with multiple sack style pockets with cigarette packs passed among them on huge silver trays.

When the orgy appeared to be slowing down we entered the room. We went up to a table and asked if we could take the painting ashore. “Oh,no,no,no. If you try it will be confiscated and go to a state warehouse.” Despite my pleadings, the answer was repeated several times. At the very moment that I “got” it and started to reach for my wallet, one of the French speaking custom fellows looked at the address on the package, grabbed the package away from me, and practically yelled, “Never mind, never mind! I will confiscate it right here and deliver it to Monsieur ‘I-forget-the-name’ immediately. We are sorry we did not understand.”

So it was that we learned that the artist’s daughter had not married a simple cane cutter, but a high government official. Ashore, we took a taxi to the groom’s office ("What an office”!) to tell him what was going on with his painting. He interrupted to inform us it had already arrived, he had looked at it, it was beautiful, and he had had it taken out to their home to his wife. She was thrilled and wished us to come to dinner. We had to decline due to the early departure of the ship, but I sure would have liked to see where they lived.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Doggone it; I’ve done it again! All my life when it was time to get a new car, I have planned to pit brand against brand, agency against agency, and salesman against salesman. Invariably, I would walk into an agency and walk out having bought a car. A terrible record for a guy whose career was a large part negotiating.

Yesterday, we stopped at an agency just for information on whether GMC was allowing people out of leases early (as we knew from experience they sometimes did). You know the rest. We left after signing the papers for a new, pretty, blue, crossover SUV.
Those guys are good.

This Day

This modern world!! The two youngest grandkids decided to set up a lemonade stand at the end of their driveway today. They live on a cul de sac that sees little traffic, but their optimism was high. It was so high that on the table holding the lemonade they also placed a small bowl labeled “Tips”.

Monday, August 07, 2006

For the last week or so I have been checking out blogs and websites that originate in Baghdad and in Iran. Don’t ask me why or what got me started. It’s the kind of thing you are apt to do when long retired and bored. I did find it interesting but fraught with suspicion and questionable origin. One, Riverbend’s “Baghdad Burning” is a first person journal of life in the city. It is written in English by a 27-year-old girl, educated overseas, who was a computer programmer before the arrival of the Americans. It doesn’t take much reading to understand that she is anti-American, but just a little more reading and you understand why. Her blog is beautifully written and has received awards for the writing and the content. I quickly learned, when I dared to suggest on another site that she be read, that many are convinced that she is some sort of latter day Tokyo Rose. My problem with that is I can’t figure out who might be her sponsor. She appears to be an equal opportunity people-hater. But whether she is amateur or professional, her blog is fascinating insight into every day life in a big city in Iraq.
( )

It all reminded me of when, around fifty years ago, we went on a cruise that stopped at the island of Martinique. With another couple we hired a taxi driver to take us into town on an errand. I will tell that weird story sometime in the future. When that was done, the driver convinced us to let him drive us on a scenic ride around the island. While a so-called overseas department of France, the Martinique people had no say in their government. We were conversing with the driver about the lack of any real traces of democracy. We passed a mean tropical hovel. He stopped the taxi and leaning back over the front seat to speak to us face to face. With real emotion, he told us that twelve people lived in that little shack. He said they spent everyday trying to obtain food to keep themselves alive. He almost shouted that they did not know what a vote would do for them when what they wanted was food and a decent place to live.

That was the day I learned that democracy was not the be all and end all in some parts of the world. I suspect Riverbend is trying to make the same point.