Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dinner at Delores W's and a stroll through Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Linda and I just returned from a nice walk through the neighborhood. We took the walk after getting home from the excellent dinner up at Delores W's place in Sanatoga. The owl is hooting out there; but it didn't swoop down on us when we walked out and back in the driveway.

There was great food and great conversation up at Delores' place; the apple and peach pies were particularly noteworthy. But, as sometimes happens, one learns things one perhaps preferred not to know.

For instance, Sam and Marianne admitted that they regularly eat creamed chipped beef on toast. I wish I hadn't learned that. It calls into question everything I think I know about genetics. Sam and Marianne are not only Italians, they are among the last of the purebred Marche'Gians; and now I learn that they willingly eat shit on a shingle.

Sam and I met Charlie A, an 87 year old former B-24 engineer and gunner, in the parking lot. One of his jobs on the B-24 was to crank the ball turret down into position after the little ball turret gunner got into it. Uncle Frank was a ball turret gunner who flew thirty or so missions. The fact that once the ball turret was cranked down he was stuck in that turret with no way to escape until it was cranked up again by the guys like Charlie A in the plane may account for some of his quirks in later life. Charlie A also told us that his grandfather's name was John A.

What are the chances of wandering out into the parking lot of a retirement community and meeting an old fellow riding a little battery powered tricycle who used to crank ball turret gunners down into position and whose grandfather's name was the same as your father's name? Sometimes you get the feeling that you've wandered into Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Of course, strange things can and will happen in real life. For instance, I once met a fellow aboard the Enterprise whose name was also Sullivan A. He was a Filipino whose last name came down from Spanish ancestry, not too surprising if you do some thinking about the likely origin of the last name "A". I've always thought that a lot of former Roman legionaries came to be known by some variant of "A" as a last name in honor of their padrino when he arranged for them to get grants of land as a form of retirement pension.

That Filipino fellow and I may well be the only two Sullivan "A"s on earth, assuming he's still alive. What are the chances that perhaps the only two Sullivan "A"s in the whole world once found themselves serving on the same ship at the same time, even if the ship had a crew of about 5,500?

Lest you too quickly toss aside my conjecture about the rarity of Sullivan "A"s: all of the first thirty or so hits on a search for "sullivan a......." on Google refer to me, except for the mistaken hits that lead to folks whose last name is "Sullivan" and whose first name is "A". Go figure. There are apparently lots of people with the last name Sullivan who give their offspring the first name "A", which is interesting of itself; but people with the last name "A" apparently almost never name their offspring Sullivan.

Google did find one lonely reference to a "Gen. Sullivan A....." attending a fundraising dinner; and I've never been a general, so that isn't me. I looked pretty carefully for more references to a "General Sullivan A..." and couldn't find any. I think his name was listed backwards in that dinner announcement.

I think it's possible that there's another Sullivan "A" in the world who has dodged having his name appear on the internet; but I'd be willing to take a bet on very long odds that there is only one Alexander Sullivan "A" in the world. Linda and I didn't set out to do it but I think it's possible we created a new unique name in the history of the human race when we named Alex.

But back to the old bomber crewman on the tricycle; he told us his grandfather was Italian but that he came to this country from France. You should know that Charlie also told us he had forgotten to put his hearing aids in before he jumped on his tricycle for an evening spin, so all facts from our conversation with him are suspect. One thing's for sure. If his grandfather really was an Italian named John A who lived in France I doubt he ever ate shit on a shingle unless he was starving.

During the course of the evening we also learned from Deb that Mr. Rogers wore long sleeved sweaters made by his mother because he had tattoos on his arms from his time in the military. During his time in the military he won the Medal of Honor. That was while he was a Navy Seal.

Snopes has a problem with that set of "facts." Snopes says Mr. Rogers was never in the military, and didn't have tattoos on his arms. Snopes doesn't address the question of whether he had a nice little butterfly tattoo on his buttocks. Snopes also doesn't address the question of whether Mr. Rogers' mom made his sweaters. It does address and debunk the question of whether Mr. Rogers got into doing childrens television because he was assigned to do childrens shows as a result of a conviction for child molestation. Snopes thinks someone started that rumor because of the Mr. McFeely character on the show. It is just a tiny bit odd to our current suspicious sensibilities to have a character named Mr. McFeely on a childrens show.

Snopes says that Mr. Rogers named the character Mr. McFeely because his middle name was "McFeely." Would you trust your kids with a babysitter named McFeely?

But who knows whether Snopes can be trusted. If Big Brother is secretly running things he's certain to have taken firm control of Snopes. He may even have invented Snopes.

A couple thousand years ago Juvenal warned: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Several hundred years before that Plato also warned about the problem, but I couldn't quickly find his quote; and anyway Plato's quote probably includes characters I can't type here without installing a Greek language symbol pack, which I'm too lazy to do. For the record I couldn't have been sure of accurately quoting the Latin until I looked it up; but I knew the English to use on Google to find the Latin. You'll just have to do the reverse if you want to know what it means. Of course the quote may not be accurately spelled anyway since we only know the quote because it was copied over many times by monks who spoke church Latin that's pronounced very differently from Ceasar's Latin, or at least that's what I understand.

It's a little like that riff by Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. "You say Tomahtoe and I say Tomato." Caesar said "Keyzzarr" and the Popes said "Seeser", which explains why the world has had Kaisers and Czars instead of Seesers and Seesirs.

But I have digressed. Back to Mr. Rogers, or rather Sam. I don't think Sam has tattoos on his arms either; but I'm not sure because he's always wearing Mr. Rogers type sweaters. This year Sam's been wearing his Mr.Rogers sweaters over a shirt that's just like the top of those old union suit long johns, which led to an unresolved discussion last night about whether Sam was wearing the bottom of the union suit as well.

Turns out I was the only one who remembered that the old union suit bottoms had a back flap which could be unbuttoned so as to make use of the outhouse easier on cold nights. That led to a discussion of outhouses. And that led to remembrance of the Redpeppers picnic since there was an old outhouse at the picnic grounds. That led to us remembering the time Matty drank a whole case of eight ounce sodas at one of the picnics. It also led to us learning that Dave M grew up on a farm that had an outhouse still in use, although the house had an inside bathroom. And I shared the fact that Aunt Mary and Uncle Chick's house next to ours in Norristown still had a functioning outhouse in the early 1950's. There is a picture of me and Medio playing next to the outhouse.

Again with the digressions. Back to Sam. Last year, when we shared a bathroom at Matty's, Sam didn't have tattoos on his arms, and he didn't have a tattoo of a butterfly on his buttocks; but I haven't seen his bare arms or buttocks since then, so only Deb can answer the question of whether he has tattoos on them now. Anything is possible in this Brave New World. I've known that since Joey R and Sonny started showing up at family gatherings wearing earrings.

Update: that giant horned owl is perched high up in the big silver maple down by the creek this morning, swivelling his head around ominously. I think I'll put up my hood when I muster up the energy to walk out the driveway and get the paper. If I had a battery powered tricycle I could ride out there.

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