One of the things my lovely wife and I have always wanted to do is visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Wouldn't you know it the cards fell into place for us to go this summer, which was great, except for my wife still being on chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment. This added dimension made the trip especially interesting.
The museum is situated right on the shore of Lake Erie, a very beautiful location. The building itself, a glass tower designed by architect I. M. Pei, is not the style I would have chosen for a rock-and-roll museum. To me, something more along the lines of a big, funky barn would have been much more fitting.
Also, I would have added some kind of parking close by. You have to park by the science museum next door, which is fine if you can walk, but not everyone can do that.
When you're on chemotherapy for cancer treatment, you have good days and bad days. That's over-simplifying it greatly, but that's basically what it is.
On the day we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, my wife would never have been able to do all the walking required, so we brought along a borrowed wheelchair. She's wheeled around other disabled people before, but she'd never needed to be wheeled herself, and I'd never used one in any fashion, so it was all new to both of us.
After paying to park in an enclosed garage, I got the wheelchair set-up (took me a while to figure out how to do it). Then I loaded my wife in and proceeded to try to find my way to the hall of fame.
Finding anything for the first time can be a challenge, but doing it while pushing someone in a wheelchair? Now, that's just taking it to the next level.
For example, when we got out of the parking garage and up onto street level, we could see there were several ways to make it to the hall of fame. However, it was impossible to determine, just by looking, which would be the better way to go while dealing with a wheelchair.
All it takes is one link in the chain to be broken — an escalator, say, or a narrow passage or steep curb — and all of a sudden, you can't make it anymore. This is something you never have to worry about when you're a normal pedestrian, but is hugely important when you're not.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is described as being "handicapped accessible," and, sure enough, when we finally got there, there were ramps and wide doorways where the wheelchair could fit. Still, handicapped accessible does not necessarily mean you won't have any problems if you're dealing with a wheelchair. Three issues especially come to mind:
— 1. The museum itself has seven levels. There are escalators, stairs, and elevators. We, of course, needed to use the elevators because we were dealing with a wheelchair. The problem is that not all the elevators go to every floor.
So we found ourselves crossing the rather large expanse of the museum many times, back and forth, in attempting to switch to the widely separated elevator banks so we could see the various exhibits. I eat my spinach so I'm strong enough to do this, but for others who might not be, all the extra walking and pushing could be quite taxing I'm sure;
— 2. There was a long circular display featuring the early legends of rock and roll. Included were many sets of headphones and tablet computers. The idea is you first read about the artist, then put on the headphones and make selections on the tablets to listen to samples of their work.
This is all wonderful — if you're not in a wheelchair. The problem is the tablet computers are mounted waist-high for when you are standing. My poor wife had to sit up stiffly in the chair and crane her neck just to be able to see the display.
Clearly, whoever designed this wasn't thinking about users in wheelchairs, who, let’s face it, paid their full admission price just like everyone else so should be able to enjoy all the exhibits fully just like everyone else; and
— 3. The museum has lots of rooms and auditoriums where films highlighting various artists are shown throughout the day. One of these rooms is gotten to via a hallway where the walls feature signatures of many of rock's greatest performers. The hallway is long, curving, and dark, and there is special lighting that really makes the signatures stand out.
Here's the problem: the hallway itself slopes downward at somewhere between a 5- and 10- degree angle. If you're walking, you can easily deal with it; if you're with someone in a wheelchair, it's not so easy. Going down the hallway, you are forced to pull back on the wheelchair so it doesn't take off; going up the hallway (and it's a long hallway, remember) you are now pushing the wheelchair all the way up.
Again, I'm in shape and my wife is not heavy, but if I weren't in shape, or she were heavy, or if she were alone and had to move the chair's wheels with her hands, this would have been quite the ordeal, believe me.
Consider again that this place is advertised as being "handicapped accessible." Truly, after this experience, I would strongly recommend anyone dealing with any kind of walking issues to call first when visiting a new place. That's the only way to make sure you'll be able to handle it.
Quite frankly, I'm shocked that a place described as handicapped accessible was in so many ways problematic for a person in a wheelchair.
Before taking this trip, I had no idea what wheelchair users have to deal with on a daily basis. After this experience, I have much more respect and admiration for both the handicapped themselves and their caregivers in consideration of what they have to deal with.
All it takes is one un-crossable curb or stairway or whatever to just ruin their day. Long ramps and wide doorways may not be the most architecturally attractive building design features, and I hate walking from the back of the parking lot in the rain when all the handicapped spots are empty as much as anyone else, but we need to support handicapped accessibility in every way that we can — it's the only way to make sure all of us can safely get where we need to go.
Think about this, too — you or I are only one fall, sickness, or accident away from needing to use a wheelchair ourselves.
If you like music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is definitely worth the trip. I'm very glad we finally got the chance to go, even though we had to use a wheelchair.
I guess, when you consider some of the bumpy pavement we had to negotiate using the wheelchair, you could say we literally "rocked and rolled" our way through the Rock and Roll museum. How about that.
One time, I had a long-term thing going via phone with a female deejay from a college radio station. I was a big a fan and we'd developed quite a rapport.
Then we decided to meet, and I brought along my buddy. Despite our friendship, once she met my buddy, she was "off me" and "on to" him quicker than you can say "and now for a message from our sponsor." Strike one.
Then there was another girl that I liked. Again, we'd been friends for a while and I wouldn't have minded if it went further. One day, I introduced her to another one of my buddies and that was it for me. She even wound up marrying him. Strike two.
Finall,y I went to a bar with a guy I work with. There was a barmaid there. Before we even sat down, she took out a slip of paper, wrote down her number, handed it to my friend, and said, "Call me."
Even though I wasn't interested in her, I'll call it strike three anyway just as a matter of principle. I mean, it starts to hurt after a while.
Guess what the common denominator in these three incidents was, and I'll give you a hint it's not that I'm that bad looking or un-funny or don't use deodorant. All three of my buddies who "got the girl" have blue eyes.
Yep, big shiny blue orbs like "Old Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra himself. If I didn't see it happen so many times, I wouldn't have believed it, but twice is a coincidence and three times is a trend as the saying goes.
What really sticks in your craw about something like this is there's really not much you can do about it. You are what you are, warts and all, including having non-blue eyes.
Yes, you can try and change things about yourself (plastic surgeons, for example, make a fantastic living) but truly you are what you are. The bigger question is, why does something seemingly so trivial like eye color make such a difference to the ladies? I've given it some thought, as you can imagine.
If you walk around any office, you can't help but notice the wallpaper or background on all the computer screens, and the wall calendars and hanging photos. Many times, it'll be a picture of a sunny shore with perfectly blue water, or a cozy blue lake, along with the requisite clear blue sky, of course.
Blue is not only beautiful, but there's something calming about it as well. When your eyes remind a gal of the heavenly beauty of nature, you're one lucky dude, I'd say.
Then there's the scarcity factor. I haven't verified this, but I'd have to think there are many more guys with brown eyes than with blue.
That means that a blue-eyed guy is kind of rare, maybe not as rare as a blue lobster but rare all the same. So, like gold, blue eyes not only look good but they're relatively scarce, which can only increase their attractiveness.
Interestingly, when you're sad, you're said to be "blue," but if, when I was younger, I was getting the kind of action that my blue-eyed buddies were getting, I'd have written to Random House and told them to at least add an alternate definition for blue, for Pete's sake.
They say the eyes are a portal to the soul; must be the soul looks a lot better through a blue filter!
Remember the Bobby Vinton song "She Wore Blue Velvet?” Well, now you know why she did — she was obviously hoping to match up with a guy with blue eyes.
Now, I'm not saying ladies are shallow or anything like that in giving a guy's eye color such high regard. We all know guys can be much more shallow than that
But, as a brown-eyed guy who had better jobs and was funnier than not one, not two, but three guys who, seemingly only because of their annoyingly blue peepers, got the girl, it just gets frustrating after a while. Maybe if Van Morrison had sang about a Brown-Eyed Guy instead of a Brown-Eyed Girl, things would have been different — who knows, but I doubt it.
I know online dating sites are immensely popular. They spend lots and lots of money trying to come up with algorithms that can predict a good match. I can save them a ton of money right now — just add a check box to say if you have blue eyes or not.
From what I've seen, that should streamline the process big time. Let's face it, there has to be a physical connection for two people to hit if off anyway.
Apparently, for ladies, blue eyes is one very desirable trait in a guy. I've seen it with my own eyes, pardon the pun.
Now I'd like to end with some disclaimers, being that this is a sensitive issue:
— If you happen to be married to me, know that none of the ladies involved were as charming or sweet or intelligent or beautiful as you;
— If you happen to be a guy with blue eyes, know that I hate you (only kidding — not!);
— If you happen to be a lady, consider giving a guy with brown eyes a chance. Just like your cat, a guy with brown eyes can give you unconditional love if you'll only let him, and you won't even have to clean his litter box.
Crystal Gayle had a huge hit with "Don't it Make my Brown Eyes Blue." Well, don't it?
One time, when we'd been married about 10 years, my lovely wife and I were in a store looking for window treatments. At one point, my wife asked me if a certain colored curtain would match well with our bedspread.
I looked at her, and, in all honestly, told her I had no idea what color our bedspread was. Her response was succinct and to the point: "You're pathetic."
I know, you'd think I should have known something so obvious, but my male mind just doesn't register some things like it should, I guess.
I bring this up because, factotum that I am, I've again been forced to deal with window treatments on a grand scale. My son and parents both moved into apartments recently and I've been tasked with doing all the window-treatment installations. As taxing as that sounds, in many ways it's the easy part. The hard part is picking out and buying them in the first place.
My wife has really gone above and beyond in this regard, which is totally amazing when you consider she's on a chemotherapy regimen for breast cancer. She's supposed to be taking it easy between treatments, and she does have good and bad days, but the work she's done for my son and parents has been phenomenal. If you've ever shopped for window treatments you know what I mean.
Shopping for window treatments is quite a bit like shopping for cars. You have low end, high end, and everything in between. You can even buy used (think Craigslist), and sometimes a home or apartment's prior residents will leave them behind. Mostly though, buying window treatments involves lots of visits to lots of stores and a lot of standing around talking to helpful employees with a pad of measurements (and you hope you measured right!).
Picture a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. What you really want to be doing is pre-heating the grill and getting the drinks iced and the burgers made.
Instead, you're standing in a packed, narrow aisle under bright fluorescent lights, looking at all manner of shades (wood, vinyl, and more), curtains (tall, short, simple, fancy), and related sundry items like valences, rods, and drapes, in a seemingly unending assortment of sizes, shapes, styles, colors, and patterns.
Here's where I have to give my wife credit — you look at her standing there deep in thought and imagine the almost infinite combinations taking shape in her head, jugging the various permutations of style, color, and cost, while I'm standing there thinking of where the best place to watch opening day of football this year would be.
I just don't have the interest, ability, or desire to work out all the possibilities — what matches what, what's better for this room, room darkening versus room-lightening, etc. I get tired and bored just thinking about it. When you drive around a college housing area and see newspapers and sheets inside of windows, don't be surprised.
Interior design is like chili powder. You can only take so much.
When you finally find something you like, you have to then order them. Many times, this will involve custom cutting or sizing.
You really, really better have measured the windows correctly, because, if you don't, you'll wind up with an expensive mistake for sure (though if you order them too wide they can usually be shortened without too much trouble). Ordering window treatments correctly requires concentration and fortitude.
They should make it an Olympic event, with judging and everything. You know, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" — window treatment shopping has all that in spades.
Once the products have been purchased, it's always my job to install them. Since I've done many of these, I know what tools to bring — tape measure, drill, etc. The goal is to bring just enough tools to get the job done but not so much that you're breaking your back and then have a lot to put away later.
I thought I'd had it covered until I went to install the first bracket. Sometimes you're installing these brackets in the space above the window, which is usually just painted drywall. When you install anything into drywall, unless you're lucky and happen to have a wood stud right at that location, you have to use some kind of drywall anchor for the screws.
If you don't, the screw will simply pull out of the drywall the first time you put any pressure on it, like when you pull the shade open. Always in the past, the manufacturer has included several of these little plastic thingies, often extras, too, just to be safe.
This time, there were none! Is the economy really that bad that they can't just for the heck of it include these little plastic anchors, which probably cost them pennies apiece, and that you almost certainly will need? Give me a break.
So now it's drop everything and run home to get some drywall anchors. That's the problem with doing anything like this on an occasional or part-time basis.
A "good man" would have some anchors with him in his tool belt, tool box, or, at worst, out in the van. Sigh. At least both of these apartments aren't too far from my house.
When I finally got these huge patio-door sliding blinds installed, I ran into another problem: The provided brackets were not long enough, such that, when you tried to open the slats perpendicular to the door, to let the most light in, they would rub on the door casing.
There was no adjustment possible; the brackets were at the maximum length. What's needed is to get those brackets further out from the wall.
The store agreed to provide some wood, but, even with that, now we're into making custom bracket extensions will all the attendant measuring, cutting, fitting, and, yes, swearing. I mean, first they don't provide the wall anchors, and then the brackets are too short? I don't know what gives, but I sure know I've had enough of it.
The window blinds we purchased came with this little plastic thing that's supposed to act as the pull. The thing is, it's split in the middle, and the only thing holding it together is a tiny plastic hook.
You're supposed to insert the three separate cords into this thing in such a way that it stays closed when you pull. Of course, it's so poorly made that it often splits open when you pull the cord.
Again, it would be easy to either purchase a proper pull, or fashion one out of wood, but why should you have to? It's tough enough dealing with this often-flimsy hardware in the first place; when the design is inferior, it makes it even worse.
Buying and installing window treatments is one of the times in a married man’s life when that Talking Heads song with the lyric "How did I get here?" comes to mind, like when you're waiting endlessly outside a ladies’ room, or holding your wife’s purse while she tries something on, or trying desperately to keep your mind from drifting during a "chick flick."
It just comes with the territory, I suppose. I have to admit, though, that, when you're finished, the windows do look nice, so there you go.
One of my heroes in journalism is Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" heard locally on WRPI 91.5 FM. I've had the good fortune of hearing Ms. Goodman speak in person several times.
One story she loves to tell is when she got invited to appear on the daytime TV talk show hosted by Sally Jesse Raphael. Instead of thinking about the significant implications of suddenly having access to a huge audience, her only thought was: "What should I wear?"
I bring this up because the other day one of my other heroes in journalism, the Enterprise's superlative and award-winning editor, Melissa Hale-Spencer, contacted me about stopping by for a photo and asking me to come up with a name for my column. How exciting!
Just visiting The Enterprise is such a nice experience. Main Street in Altamont is so beautiful. Then when you get to The Enterprise, you see that lovely porch with the inviting Adirondack chair and you just feel like putting up your feet and settin' a spell.
That welcoming and bucolic imagery changes when you go inside and see a busy office with so many journalism awards on the walls. We really are lucky to have such a fine local paper. Being a part of it personally in some small way is quite an honor as well. That's why I really wanted to get the photo and column title right. Let's start with the photo.
My wardrobe basically consists of two things — dress shirts I wear with ties at work, and T-shirts for everything else. The only constraint I had to follow was to not wear anything black, since the photo background would be black.
You'd think this would be an easy choice, but, since this photo was going on the newly revised Enterprise website, it was kind of a big thing. If you know what I look like, you know I'm not working with much to begin with so anything that would give me an edge was called for.
First, I thought about wearing a T-shirt. I have tons to choose from, mostly motorcycle related. The problem is, if I wore a Norton T-shirt, my BMWs might get offended. If I wore a BSA T-shirts, some might think that stood for Boy Scouts of America when what it really stands for is Birmingham Small Arms. Then I thought about wearing one of my Minnesota Vikings T-shirts but, living in Giants country, I opted against that as well.
Why upset anyone, right?
Since virtually all of my T-shirts have some kind of saying or message on them, I quickly realized they would not work. It's not hard to see why Ms. Goodman was so worried about what to wear.
I finally settled on a dress shirt, but without a tie, to appear less formal and more casual. Of course, then you have to make sure the buttons are opened in such a way that you get just the right amount of chest hair showing.
I had my daughter give me a haircut the day before, and I scheduled my dental cleaning that day, in an attempt to look as sharp as I could. If you check out the photo, you can be sure that's about as good as it gets, believe me.
I'm sure glad I'm not on TV or anything like that. The stress of choosing clothes and dealing with grooming would be too much for me.
There are many reasons why some of us are happier behind the keyboard.
What’s in a name?
The next issue was coming up with a name for my column. For years, it just ran with the title "Commentary," which was a little generic but it is what it is. So now I had to think up some potentially good names for my column. Here's what I came up with:
— Observations: I liked this one but I think I saw it used somewhere else, too bad;
— Running with Scissors: Good name for a rock band, too, but a little too clichéd;
— Crank it Up!: I use this one when I write for motorcycle magazines (it ties in with my nickname "Cranky Frankie"), so I decided against it;
— The Oblique Angle: I like this but no one except my math-loving daughter knows what oblique means;
— Ordinary Things: Has a nice ring to it, but it's too low energy for me;
— The Bard of Banality: Wouldn't it be nice to be the Bard of something;
— Skipping Stones: Beautiful imagery, but I rarely get to skip stones and, when I do, I'm not even that good;
— Carrying On: I like this one a lot but it's a little too British, right Guvnor?;
— Just Looking: That's what journalists do all the time, after all;
— Memories: I like this but what would I do when my own memory starts to go?;
— Serenity Now: Yes it's a Seinfeld in-joke but it's just so good;
— Watching and Waiting: Nice but it's too tied in to needing to use the bathroom on a crowded plane or train;
— From the Park Bench: Too bad the image of a creepy guy in a trench coat comes to mind;
— The Side of the Road: Anyone who's ever had a flat tire wouldn't like this I'm sure;
— A Bag of Onions: I really like this one. It's about the time when my in-laws brought us a bag of onions from their garden, and I wound up mistakenly taking the bag to work as my lunch. My whole life is like having a bag of onions when you really need pastrami on rye. I only decided against it because I'd hate to have to keep telling the story over and over again.
So to help think up a name for this column, I decided to analyze how I come up with them anyway. What happens is I'll be running, or in the shower, or in bed half asleep, and just be thinking about something.
It could be anything, like why it's so hard to get that last drop of soda out of the can when it wants to hide behind that little lip; or why you go to bed fine and wake up with a cold; or how come, no matter how much space you have in your house, you tend to fill it up.
So that's when I realized my column name had to be Thinking about Things, because that's exactly what I do. In fact, many times it will appear as if I'm either not interested, sad, bored, or rude, but in reality, I'm just thinking. About things. So now you know.
Of course I'm extremely happy to be a part of the Enterprise team as this grand little paper reaches out to cyber-space. What a ride it's been so far, and what a ride it'll continue to be. I think.