Gatsby Moving Rubber

So far I haven’t bothered much with grocery store snapshots, as amusing as the labels can be. But not long ago I was in a small, mostly Japanese grocery store in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and I saw something I’d never heard of before.

That’s a great example of a Japanese product’s English name. You think about it for a while, asking yourself, why did the makers pick that name? You think some more and ah ha! No… it made some kind of sense for a moment, and then it didn’t.

According to the product’s English-version web site, “Gatsby” is explicitly after the fictional character. Hair oil for wistfully dreaming of lost loves, I guess.

Mid-February Natterings

Remarkably foggy day Thursday.
Above freezing, too, reducing the snow cover and making random puddles.

Reading a book about Lincoln’s assassination puts me in a counterfactural frame of mind. Not so much What If Lincoln Lived — a lot of consideration has been given to that — but what would have happened to Booth had he capped his murderous impulse that day, and not gone through with it? What would have happened to him?

I picture him living into the early 20th century, since he was only in his mid-20s in 1865, a star of the American and European stage in the pre-movie years, so he was mostly forgotten by later generations. He did have a small part as an elderly wise man at the court of Cyrus the Great in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (but nothing in The Birth of a Nation, which was never made). Also, one of Booth’s sons founded Booth Studios in the early 1900s, which was later acquired by MGM.

In his memoir, published in 1899, Booth confessed that he had a strong impulse to murder Lincoln right at the end of the war, and was glad he never acted on it.

Got a form letter from the chancellor of the University of Illinois the other day. Let’s call it a worrywart letter. It seems that the public houses in old Champaign-Urbana are encouraging students, perhaps tacitly, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a blotto state of mind. The university frowns on such goings-on and wants me to know it will do what it can to educate the students about the perils of demon rum. Or more likely in this context, whisky.

Not that alcohol isn’t a form of poison, with risks. I expect that a handful of students manage to off themselves across the years under its influence, mostly via reckless driving. But do I need a form letter about this?

Versus 1981-82

Today was faux spring. That happens occasionally even in darkest winters. The aspects of spring we got today were non-freezing temps, drizzle and mud. The dog at least is happy. And it is better than a subzero day.

Last year, when looking up William F. Hagerty, a VU alum who eventually became the current U.S. ambassador to Japan — succeeding such notables as Caroline Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Douglas MacArthur II, Joseph Grew, Townsend Harris and arguably Commodore Perry — I also came across this photo in the 1982 Vanderbilt Commodore yearbook.

Pictured are staff members of Versus magazine, the student magazine, 1981-82. Actually only about half of the staff; the editor for that year is not even pictured. I’m third from the left, top row. Or third from the right, come to think of it. These days I’m on Facebook with four of the people pictured, including Dan, bottom row right. I correspond by postcard and email with another person in the picture who doesn’t do Facebook.

The present generation of VU student journalists will not know the joys and irritations of producing a paper magazine. At least not Versus, nor a paper version of the student newspaper, The Hustler. At some point in the current century, those were unceremoniously dumped, as was the terrestrial radio station, WRVU, though that was sold for a mess of pottage.

Mid-January Debris

Never mind what the Rossetti poem says, the bleak midwinter is about now, in mid-January, which is bleak, and which is smack in the middle of meteorological winter.

Dogs don’t mind, though. They’re already wearing coats.

One more pic from Mexico, a statue on Paseo de la Reforma.

“El Angel de la Seguridad Social,” a bronze by Jorge Marin, erected in 2013.

As gob.mx says, “Como parte de las actividades conmemorativas por el 70 Aniversario de la fundación del Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS),” the Mexican Social Security Institute. That’s the branch of the Mexican government in charge of public pensions and public health, established in 1943.

My brother Jay got me a Suprematist tea cup and saucer for Christmas.

On the bottom, something unusual: Imperial Porcelain – 1744 – St. Petersburg – Made in Russia. I’d probably have to look high and low around my house to find anything else made in Russia, and even then there might not be anything else.

Campaign Cards Are Coming

There’s no official moment when it happens, but I think it’s happened all the same. We’ve passed into the Pit of Winter. All days in the pit are cold, as in well below freezing, but they come in varieties: cold sunny days, cold overcast days, cold snowy days. With the potential for a blizzard thrown in for grins.

We can only fondly recall High Summer days, or imagine ones to come, at the remote opposite end of the calendar. They looked like this, at least from my deck.
The first political postcard of ’18 came in the mail a few days ago, sent by a candidate for a relatively minor local office. Not particularly creative: a touch of “next to of course god america i,” a dash of tough on crime, a serving of motherhood (in this case, the candidate is a woman. For a male candidate, a serving of loving family man.)

It’s easy to be cynical about that sort of advertising, as you can see, but it’s the formula that inspires contempt. I don’t really know anything about the candidate. In any case, I expect I’ll be seeing more soon, since the primary is March 20.

YouTube ads for Illinois governor have already started appearing. But at least we won’t hear campaign trucks making noise with loudspeakers, as you do before parliamentary elections in Japan.

Pre-Christmas Christmas Items

Got a card from old friends Wendy and Ted today.

They do amusing handmade cards every year. I like this year’s, but my favorite, which I don’t have handy, was about Santa having to enter the Witness Protection Program.

Earlier this year, when Christmas wasn’t dead ahead, I acquired this card among a mass of old postcards that I bought from a resale shop that was going out of business. I was sorry to see it go, because the resale cartel — Goodwill, Salvation Army — doesn’t seem to deal in postcards.

Sent in Chicago in 1938.

From Dorothy to Violet May — at least I think that’s Violet, not Violit.

The 2300 block of West Montrose, and I assume the sender meant West Montrose, since east would be in the lake, probably doesn’t look so different nearly 80 years later.

One more thing, not related to Christmas, except this is the time of year when new calendars enter the house.

A desk calendar: The JAL Fleet Calendar 2018. It takes a different approach than yesterday’s fastener-oriented calendar, which was full of verbiage to mark the days. Except for making Sundays red, none of the days on the JAL calendar are distinct from any other — no holidays, nothing.

At 3¼ by 6¼ inches, it’s an unusual size, but I think I’ll use the months as they go by for postcards.

The Global Fastener News Calendar 2018

Just today I got my hands on a copy of the Global Fastener News Calendar for 2018. A year ago, the first time I ever came across such a calendar, I wrote about it at some length. I wouldn’t be so expansive about the calendar this year, but I will hang it on the wall again.

If you’re in the fastener biz, it seems, you can sponsor an entire month. In order, beginning with January 2018, the advertisers of the month are: Nucor, Brighton East, Tortoise Fastener, Star Stainless, Ken Forging, AZ Lifting Hardware, Darling Bolt, XL Screw, inxsql, Unbrako, Rotor Clip, and Lindstrom.

Tortoise Fastener Co. of Denver is my favorite, even if they forgot the hyphen in the slogan: “Stocking a full line of slow moving hex heads.”

The calendar also offers a lot of detailed information about fastener organizations, such as the Canadian Fasteners Institute, the Fastener Industry Coalition, the Industrial Fasteners Institute, the International Fastener Machinery & Suppliers Association, the Metropolitan Fastener Distributors Association, the Mid-Atlantic Fastener Distributors Association, the Mid-West Fastener Association, the National Fastener Distributors Association, the New England Fastener Distributors Association, the North Coast Fastener Association, the Pacific-West Fastener Association, the Southeastern Fastener Association, the Southwestern Fastener Association, Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors, Women in the Fastener Industry and Young Fastener Professionals.

And that’s just in this country. Mention is also made of the Association des Distributeurs Francais Specialistes en Elements de Fixation, Deutscher Schraubenverband e.V., the Hong Kong Screw & Fastener Council and the Nederlandse Vereniging van Importeurs can Bevestigingsmaterialen, just to name a few.

We Don’t Care, We’re the Phone Company (Or, I Ain’t Afraid of No Phone Cops)

There’s a fair amount of clutter in my mother’s house, which is characteristic of my family, but not at the level of hording. For instance, no one saved all of the phone books that have come to the house over the years. But there was one tucked away in a cabinet that I came across last week.

This one.

The Southwestern Bell Telephone Directory for San Antonio, published in September 1967. With a model of the Tower of the Americas prominent on the cover, rising above a model of HemisFair, which would run during in 1968. When the directory was published, the tower was still under construction.

Why was the directory saved? Maybe as a kind of souvenir of that world’s fair. Or because it was the first phone book we got when we moved to San Antonio, which was in the summer of ’68. Since phone books used to be published annually, we would have gotten a ’67 edition.

The back cover advertises the Bell System Exhibit at the fair with a painting that looks as 1967 as can be.

Those skyride cars are the artist’s fancy. The actual skyride cars, which I remember because they lingered at the site of the fair for years afterward, looked more like these.

Naturally, I had to spend some time looking between the covers. Just turning to any random part of the white pages — people named Green, in this case — you see the following.
Name, address and an alphanumeric for a phone number, though a few of them are all numeric. So I’m not imagining things when I remember being taught as a seven-year-old, after we moved to San Antonio, that our new number began with TA4. At some unremembered moment in the ’70s, that became 824.

I looked up the parents of a few people I knew in high school. Interestingly, none of them yet lived in the houses I would remember them being in, which would be about 10 years later. Also, per custom of the time, only the man of the house was listed.

Something else that’s gone: this is the white page listing for all of the Handy-Andy grocery stores in San Antonio in 1967.
Twenty-eight all together, and there were probably more in smaller towns in South Texas. My grandmother traded — interesting old-fashioned choice of verbs — at the one on 5930 Broadway. The store gave away coffee and little doughnuts. She’d drink some coffee, I’d eat some doughnuts. After moving to town, my family frequented the one at 1955 Nacoghoches all through the ’70s and ’80s.

These days, there are zero Handy-Andy supermarkets. In the struggle for regional grocery dominance, HEB won. The 1955 Nacoghoches location is now an HEB, and probably some of the others are as well. This article tells about the last gasp of Handy-Andy.

On to the yellow pages. Actually, all of the pages are fairly yellow, considering that the book is now more than 50 years old. Anyway, here’s an industry that isn’t what it used to be.
This industry is flourishing as ever. But the terminology has changed.
And there were house ads in the phone book. Direct dialing was a relatively new thing in 1967, I understand. Definitely cheaper than paying human operators, but DDD as a shorthand for it never caught on.
Here’s something for those of us who remember the difference between person-to-person calls and station-to-station calls, which was relevant into the ’70s. I see that the Phone Company (always caps, always) was encouraging station-to-station.
I can only speculate why. Person-to-person calls were more expensive, so you’d think the Phone Company would want people doing that.

But there was a way to game the system, if you only wanted (say) your family to know that you’d arrived somewhere safety. You’d call person-to-person and ask for someone that didn’t exist, or maybe yourself. The person who answered would know it’s you, but say that person you asked for wasn’t there. In that case, there was no charge for the person-to-person call.

I don’t ever remember doing that, but I know people did (and who probably weren’t afraid of the Phone Cops). By contrast, station-to-station was guaranteed revenue for the Phone Company.

Tuesday Before Thanksgiving Leftovers

Back on Sunday, November 26. A good Thanksgiving to all.

At about 9 p.m. on November 21, I went outside and there he was. Orion, just rising in the southeast. Winter’s here. Fitting, since it will be well below freezing until tomorrow morning.

Visited the library again recently. Did another impulse borrowing: a box set with five Marx Brothers movies on five disks. Their first five — The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers and Duck Soup. I’m going to work my way through them over Thanksgiving because it occurs to me that, except for Animal Crackers and Duck Soup, I haven’t seen any of them in more than 20 years. Maybe 30 in some cases.

A booklet comes with the box, including reproductions of the movie posters. The Cocoanuts is praised on its poster as an All Talking-Singing Musical Comedy Hit! Talkies came along just in time for the Marx Brothers.

I’m glad the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville is a long-standing success. I remember visits there as far back as 1984, for meals or music, such as a show by Kathy Mattea sometime in the mid-80s, and always chocolate chunk cheesecake. But I wasn’t glad to read the following in the Washington Post this week:

Nashville, first on ABC and now CMT, has made the 90-seat venue so incredibly popular over the last five years that it’s impossible to get in unless you have a reservation (snapped up seconds after they’re available online) or wait in line outside for hours.”

Hell’s bells. Not that I visit Nashville often enough for this to affect me, but still. The thought that the Bluebird has lines like a Disneyland ride bothers me.

Still, I have many fond memories of the 1980s Blue Bird, along with a number of other small Nashville venues I used to visit, such as the Station Inn, Exit/In, Springwater, 12th & Porter, the Sutler, and Cantrell’s.

The Station Inn offered bluegrass. One fine evening ca. 1985 I saw Bill Monroe himself play there. Some years earlier, I went now and then with friends Neal and Stuart. After ingesting some beer, Stuart in particular was adamant that the band, whoever it was, play “Rocky Top” and “Salty Dog.” Usually the band obliged.

Something to know: the Osborn Brothers released the first recording of “Rocky Top” nearly 50 years ago, on Christmas 1967.

While putting the “detach & return” part of my water bill in the envelope the other day, I noticed in all caps block letters (some kind of sans-serif): PLEASE DO NOT BEND, FOLD, STAPLE OR MUTILATE.

Two of the classic three. Poor old “spindle.” As neglected as the @ sign before the advent of email. As for “bend,” that’s an odd choice. I bend paper a lot, but unless you fold it, paper pops right back.

Correction: Not long ago, I recalled a kid that came to collect candy at our house one Halloween in the late ’90s, dressed as a Teletubbie. I had the time right: it was 1998. But oddly enough, I actually saw two little kids as Teletubbies, at least according to what I wrote in 2004:

“That year, all the kids came during the day, and I have a vivid memory of two kids aged about three to five, dressed as Teletubbies in bright costumes that looked like they could have done duty on the show itself.”

Odd. Memory’s a dodgy thing. How much remembering is misremembering? Or are the details that important anyway?

Thursday Havering

A lot of the ads popping up lately on YouTube have been to promote Canadian tourism. Mostly the ads depict, in music video style, young people doing the kind of vigorous activities that (some) young people must imagine is the essence of traveling to exotic places like Saskatchewan. Actually, one today featured the Yukon.

I’m all for visiting Canada, and encouraging people to do so, but the ads don’t really speak to me. Besides, Canada’s not really top of my mind in November. Then again, it’s good to plan ahead, so you can visit Canada, and even the Yukon, during that short window of opportunity when the place is pleasantly warm.

I never knew until recently that The Proclaimers did a charming version of “King of the Road” back in 1990. No one does it like Roger Miller, but I smile when I hear lyrics like, “destination Bangor, Maine” in that burr of theirs.

“King of the Road,” in the way things go on the Internet, soon leads to a song stuck in mid-60s amber, “Queen of the House.” Even better, the song is done in a Scopitone.

I was in the city not long ago with a camera in the front seat, so I took a few pictures while stopped at traffic lights. Such as this place. So very Chicago.
Then there was Thunderbolt.
It’s an ax throwing venue, only the second one in Chicago, according to the Tribune, opening this spring.

“Ax throwing — indoor or outdoor — is a skill-based sport; [owner Scott] Hollander likens it to pool or darts, where participants can take the competition as seriously or lackadaisically as they please,” the paper says.

“Easygoing ax throwers can book an hour at a lane for $15 per person Wednesdays and Thursdays, and for $20 per person Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Food and nonalcoholic drink is allowed and can be consumed at the plywood stands behind each pair of lanes or at the picnic tables in the building. Thunderbolt also is available for bachelor or bachelorette parties, birthday parties and corporate events.”

What do I think of when I hear about ax throwing? Ed Ames, naturally. Tomahawk, but close enough.