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T. Buckingham Thomas: a personal website

 

MAY 27, 2016    WINDOWS ’62

  

Meet Milo, an incredibly cute Jack Russell terrier.  He belongs to “PittGirl” @JanePitt, local writer Virginia Montanez.

But notice also Milo’s window.  It looks exactly like the casements that my family installed when we built our new house in Richwood, Ohio, 54 years ago!

The Andersen Corporation’s products still use the same locking handle on the side, the same crank to open and close the sash, the same screen that clips into slots on the inside of the frame.  I also observed these features recently in a doctor’s waiting room.  It’s a good design, so why change it?

This is all by way of introducing this month’s 100 Moons article.  There you’ll find almost two dozen construction photos from our 1962-63 project — from drawing the floor plan, to preparing the lot, to placing my mother's African violets beneath the bedroom window, to relaxing with coffee in the kitchen.

Therein I note that, except in the living room and family room, “the windows are high on the walls, with sills about 4½ feet above the floor.  This allows more flexible furniture placement, because even tall pieces like dressers can be located directly in front of windows without blocking them.  It also provides privacy, because anyone on the outside (looking in) can't see much except the ceiling.”

Click the box on the left to go to that photo album.

 

MAY 23, 2016    ON THIS DATE

That is I on the right, 51 years ago today, all suited up for high school graduation.  My golden National Honor Society pin is in my lapel.  I didn’t know this photo existed until a few weeks ago, when I was in need of Terry Rockhold’s senior portrait for the item dated MAY 1 down below.

In 1965, Cubberly Studios pasted all our portraits on a poster.  It’s displayed at class reunions, as you can see here.

They also printed smaller 11” by 14” photos of the poster, one of which I have.  I removed it from its frame to scan Terry’s portrait.

Apparently — and the following is all conjecture — the frame also contained an odd-shaped piece of a color print, hidden behind the main photo.  It must have fallen out unnoticed and landed on a nearby magazine.  I didn’t discover it until four days later.

It appears to have been taken by my father in our back yard after church on Sunday, May 23, 1965.  That evening the high school baccalaureate service would be held in the Baptist church, and the actual commencement ceremony would take place the following evening in the high school auditorium.

Later he trimmed the print to fit in the bottom half of an elliptical frame.  (No clue as to what was in the top half of the frame.  A baby picture?)  Now I’ve enhanced the photo, as you've seen above.

That same weekend, I also donned my black cap and gown for some black-and-white Polaroids.  I later colorized this one.

Something else that I’d forgotten came back to me while watching a “Peanuts” special on TV last fall.

During the Apollo 10 mission to the moon, “Charlie Brown” was NASA’s communications handle for the Command Module, and “Snoopy” was the name of the Lunar Excursion Module. 

In that spring of 1969, “Snoopy” (or his Sopwith Camel?) swooped down to an altitude of 44,000 feet above the lunar surface, in a dress rehearsal for that summer’s actual landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.  I’ve since looked up the exact dates and times.

I remember the morning when “Charlie Brown” left lunar orbit to carry the astronauts home.  Around 7:30 A.M. on Saturday, May 24 — that would be 47 years ago tomorrow morning, and nine days before my college graduation — I was hosting the semiannual Classical Music Marathon on Oberlin’s student radio station, WOBC.  Perhaps I was finishing up an all-night shift.  I stepped outside the studios briefly to visit the restroom at the other end of the third floor of Wilder Hall.  Somewhere in the building I caught sight of a TV set with live pictures from the spacecraft.

When I returned to the microphone, I mentioned this to my listeners (assuming I had a few of them, up at dawn after studying all night for finals).

I reported that the astronauts were showing us a large part of the face of the Moon, gradually growing smaller as they sped away from it on their return to Earth.  They were only the second group of humans who had traveled that far from our home planet.

It was quite a view, for those of us who were awake to see it.

 

MAY 19, 2016    DOORMAN AT THE LADIES’ ROOM

“Pardon me, ma’am, may I see your birth certificate?”

“What?”

“State law.  You can’t use a restroom if it doesn’t match your original God-given gender.”

“But you let that other woman go in with her two little girls.”

“All their papers were in order.”

“Well, I don’t carry my birth certificate with me.  But I’m obviously a woman.  Can’t you see that?”

“You look like a woman, but they’re doing evil things with hormones and surgery these days.  You could be like Caitlyn Jenner.  You could really be a man wearing a dress so you can go into the ladies’ room and molest those little girls.”

“That’s ridiculous!  I need to go to the bathroom!”

“Sorry, it’s the law here.  I’m just doing my job.  You can try the gas station on the corner.  Next?”

 
Ken Jennings tweets:  Now is the time to invest in TransSit, my chain of all-gender pay toilets located just across the state line from North Carolina.

 

MAY 15, 2016    WELCOME TO 1,376 NEWBIES

I'm told that this website has had 1,630 total visitors since the middle of January, 84% of them new.  In an average week, 109 people each viewed two pages for 3 minutes 39 seconds.  A typical visitor was in Ohio, used Google Chrome, and reached the site via a search engine.

 

MAY 13, 2016    BROADENING MY BASE


JULY 24, 2006

Ten years ago I flew into Milwaukee to televise baseball, Pirates vs Brewers.  But the top of my left foot was puffy and swollen, from the middle toes all the way back to the ankle.

After the game I returned to the Pfister Hotel and painfully removed my left shoe, which had been pinching the top of my foot.  In case I needed to explain the problem to my doctor after I returned home, I took the photo at the left.

The swelling was even worse later that week, as shown below.  Eventually a different doctor determined the cause to be gout.

JULY 27, 2006

 
I’m now on medication to control my uric acid, and there have been no further flare-ups.

However, when I recently turned 69 years old, a new problem developed.  I became reluctant to walk very far because my toes were complaining again.

This time there was no visible swelling, but I did develop a corn on the outside of my left little toe, as though my shoes had become too small.  I hoped maybe the difficulty would go away.  Then last Saturday I read the following on Mark Rothman’s blog.  (He’s a retired sitcom writer about my age, co-creator and producer of Laverne & Shirley.)

Everything was going along swimmingly until a few months ago.  I was starting to develop trouble with my feet.  They had both gotten bigger!  I used to wear an 11 triple-width, but now my right foot required a 13 triple-width and my left foot required a 12 triple-width.  With two different sized feet, I had to get a pair of size 13 and a pair of size 12.

I mentioned all of this to my sister, to see if this seemed unusual to her, and she regaled me with tales of her own growing feet.  Not too long ago she was a size 8.  But recently, within a very short amount of time, her feet expanded to a size 9, then size 10, then size 10½ wide.  She says she now wears “clown shoes.”

Unlike her, I don't consider my shoes to be disproportionate to my overall leg.  I'm just glad they make them that big.


JULY 24, 2006


MAY 12, 2016

I Googled around and discovered it’s not unusual for senior citizens’ feet to spread out.  In my case, my smaller toes (especially on the left foot) are now pointing outward, leaving a huge gap between themselves and the big toe.

Yesterday, therefore, I paid a visit to the shoe store.  The kindly clerk helped me replace my 9½ narrows with 10½ mediums.

My feet are much happier now, and I’m walking everywhere again!

 

MAY 7, 2016    MOTHER'S DAY QUERIES

This sketch depicts the Grandmother of Our Country.  Did her son George actually say he owed everything to her?

More generally, when we find a quotation is it really real?

See my article Washington's Mother.

 

MAY 5, 2016    CAST OF HUNDREDS

On the HBO comedy series Veep, the self-important young politico smirks to the undistinguished stranger at the bar, “Remind me again what it is that you do that’s so interesting.”

She replies, “I work at CVS.”

He perks up.  “Really?  CBS?  I would love to work at CBS.”

“There’s always openings.”

“Do you seriously think that you could get me something?”

“Maybe late night.”

Late Night’s perfect!”  And off they go together.

I always did think CVS and CBS sounded alike.

I noticed one actor who looked familiar, so I consulted imdb.com to find his name, which turned out to be John Slattery.  It wasn’t that easy.  Veep has aired 40 half-hour episodes, and how many actors do you suppose have appeared?  I counted 713 names.  On average, a new face shows up every 101 seconds.

 

MAY 2, 2016    TERRY

Terry Rockhold, my best friend from high school, has been gone almost ten years now.

Last May, with our 50-year reunion coming up, we were asked to recall the members of the Class of 1965 who are no longer with us.  I wrote Remembering Terry Rockhold.

Now you can read it, in a slightly-revised version, on this website.

 
APRIL 28, 2016    SPIRALING OUTWARD

It started as a discussion group for Methodist college students.  However, “the traditional concept of God no longer seems real to many people,” we observed.  “We found that for us, at least, the creed was relatively unimportant so long as we all had a common purpose, namely to share our experiences with each other in order to give each other strength for meeting the world.

“A member of our little group could freely discuss his thoughts, no matter how controversial.

“Openness encouraged even more openness, in a process we dubbed the ‘Non-Threat Spiral.’”

And that’s what we renamed the group.

My letters from the 1960s tell the Non-Threat Spiral story.  It's this month’s “100 Moons” article.

 

APRIL 24, 2016    BACK TO THE TRACK

Yesterday, for the first time in three decades, I paid a brief visit to The Meadows.  That’s a harness track near Washington, Pennsylvania.

When the track began televising its races in the 1980s, I often operated the graphics, as shown at the left and described here.

Since then it’s become The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and non-racing gambling (mainly slot machines) provides most of its revenue.

There is still live harness racing.  The familiar voice of Roger Huston still calls the action.  And when the sulkies are on the backstretch, the video screens still feature the “Branch Buxton wipe.”

Branch was a local driver who suggested this effect to us more than 30 years ago.  To see how your horse is doing, especially if he’s not doing very well, you need a wide view of the whole field.  But that wastes a lot of screen space above and below the horses.  Branch’s split screen fills the unused half with a closeup of the fight for the lead.

When I visited this weekend, there weren’t many people in the lower grandstand watching the races.  The two huge garages were mostly filled with the vehicles of slots players.  In the background you can see one of those garages.  Its location had a different purpose back in the day.

It was where we parked our TV trucks, as in my 1984 photo below.

To be fair, racing attendance isn’t always as sparse as it was yesterday.  I did find online a shot of the crowd on a “Friday Fun Night,” which you see below.

But I had come on a Saturday afternoon in April.  Few fans crowded the rail to see the close finish of the second race.  Maybe when the weather gets warmer . . .

 

APRIL 20, 2016    CAST OFF THE LINES!

The war is over, and these men are ready to sail for home aboard the General W.P. Richardson.

So is my father.  Along the way, he will take nearly 20 photos that appear in Homeward Bound, Part Two, which I've just posted.

Take a cruise through the Suez Canal with Vernon and Signe!

 

APRIL 15, 2016    FISH FOR BREAKFAST

Once again I’ve rewritten an old tale.

Although it has nothing to do with Ernest Hemingway’s novel, I’ve alluded to his title by calling my story The Old Mann and the Sea.  Besides the geezer, we’ll also meet the meathead and the pointy guy.

 

APRIL 10, 2016    PRÊT-À-PORTER

In a snobbish April 6 essay for the New Zealand Herald (not on my usual reading list), Rachel Wells wrote in part, “On Thursday, Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M will launch its first ever bridal collection.  The most you will pay is $599.  The launch of the affordable wedding gowns comes just weeks after fellow fast fashion giant ASOS launched its first bridal collection to the Australian market.  Prices for ASOS’s wedding gowns start from as little as $137.

“I think it’s a little tacky.  I am well aware that not every bride can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a bespoke wedding dress, but I can’t help feeling that wedding dresses that cost less than your weekly grocery bill somewhat trivialise the significance and sanctity of a wedding.”

A cheaper garment is “ready to wear” or “off the rack,” while a custom gown — the only kind worthy of a bride — evidently is “bespoke.” But that word bothers me.

I guess it’s the proper term if you’re a tailor.  “No, you can’t buy this suit I’m constructing.  It’s not destined to hang on the display rack.  I’m not making it ‘on spec’ to a standard set of measurements.  It’s bespoke.  I’m making it on the request of a specific client who has already spoken for it.”

But until very recently I’d never heard the word outside Albany’s line in the fifth act of King Lear:

If you will marry, make your loves to me;
My lady is bespoke.

Shakespeare means the lady is engaged.  Someone’s already called dibs.

To describe clothing designed for a particular person, let’s use “custom made.”  The word “bespoke” is bespoke.  (Besides, shouldn’t it be “bespoken”?)

 

APRIL 6, 2016    BURNING DOWN THE COUCH

Shortly after Villanova's exciting victory in Monday night's NCAA Tournament championship, arsonists uprooted campus shrubbery to fuel this celebratory bonfire.  A sofa and other small items were also ignited.

Police in riot gear were on hand.  At least six people were arrested, two of them for hitting a police horse.  One report says that 30 were injured, five of them hospitalized.

This is nothing new.  Following the 2002 title game, for example, rioters at both schools assaulted police and committed other mayhem.  At joyous Maryland, there were 17 arrests and four injuries; at enraged Indiana, 30 arrests and 40 injuries.

In 2002, Dick Moreland told Ron Cook, a sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  “People are basically uncivilized.  [They’re] held in check only by fear of punishment.”  Moreland, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, does research on social behavior in groups and organizations.

Cook remarked, “People are nameless and faceless in a mob.  That leads to courage they wouldn’t have in another situation.”

Moreland concurred.  “Even nice people will do these kinds of things when they’re in a group.  To be influenced by your conscience, you have to turn your attention inward.  That tends to happen when you’re by yourself.  But the acts of a group draw your attention outward.  That tends to short-circuit guilt when it comes to your values and beliefs.

“We’re basically selfish people who are prone to misbehave as long as we can get away with it.  We’ll try almost anything if we think we won’t get caught.  ...And even if [we] are caught, the punishment probably won’t be as severe because, well, everyone else was doing the same thing, weren’t they?”

So go ahead and break the speed limit and cheat on your taxes, right?  It’s okay.  The rest of the mob is doing it.

 

APRIL 3, 2016    DRONING

Dustin Gilliland, North Union High School class of 2008, used to live in my old hometown.  He moved last year to Dublin, Ohio.  But he returned with his drone and shot aerial video of Richwood, especially the school and its athletic fields.

Jim Blue shared a link on Facebook, which is where I discovered Dustin’s edits.  One is here, another is here, and the third is here.

UPDATE:  The village looked even nicer after the trees put out their leaves.  Dustin's fourth edition is here.


I now live outside Pittsburgh, which is currently making a big deal about its bicentennial.  The 200th anniversary of its founding is long past, but this time we’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of the day when the state legislature promoted the town to full “city” status.  The Borough of Pittsburgh became the City of Pittsburgh — a mere legal distinction.

This is another example of something that mildly annoys me:  the pompousness of local government employees who wear silly hats and give their agencies officious names like “County of Allegheny” or “Department of Fire.”


Although snow coated the windows of my car last night and lightning flashed, Major League Baseball can’t wait any longer to start its 162-game schedule.  Today will be Opening Day in Pittsburgh.  The latest forecast I’ve seen calls for a balmy 37 degrees at game time with a wind chill of 25.

As usual, the Pirates have come up with new ways to distract fans while making a little extra revenue.

At the Riverwalk Grill, you can get a Cracker Jack & Mac Dog on naan (Indian flatbread) with deep-fried pickled jalapeños.  “A fantastic creation,” the food concessionaire’s manager called it.  “People eat baked beans on a hot dog, right?”

Well, I don’t.  I prefer my baked beans in a little dish on the side, and my Cracker Jack in a little box.  You can spice up my macaroni and cheese with jalapeños if you like, but I want to eat those “nachos” separately from my hot dog.

Others may like to add as many ingredients as possible to a sandwich, but I find such a pile very messy to handle.  Of course, as a kid I was the kind of finicky eater who didn’t want the gravy on my plate touching the broccoli.

 

APRIL 1, 2016    FICTION IS STRANGER THAN SPORTS

Because sports is merely the “toy department” of news media, sporting types sometimes play hoaxes.

• In 1941, a group of stockbrokers wondered about the many college football results that were listed in tiny “agate” type in the New York Times.  They suspected the newspaper was making up games to fill space.  “Slippery Rock State Teachers College”?  Come on!  That can’t be a real school, can it?

So the guys invented Plainfield Teachers College and began phoning in its scores.  “Plainfield Teachers?”  “That’s right.”  “Where is that, in New Jersey?”  “Uh, sure.”  There’s no fact-checking in the toy department, so Plainfield’s fanciful results got printed.  Bill Christine relates in this article how readers were regaled with tales of stellar performers like Johnny Chung, the greatest Chinese halfback ever to wear the mauve and puce.

• A quarter century later, George Carlin as sports anchor “Biff Barf” asserted, “I call ’em the way I see ’em.  And if I don’t see ’em, I make ’em up!  No games today; however, we’ve got a few late football scores still coming in from the Far West.  Guam Prep 45, Tahiti 14.  Mindanao A&I 27, Molokai 10.  Cal Tech 14.5, MIT 123.  And here’s a partial score: Philadelphia 29.”

In the fall of 1965 I was a freshman on a campus near Cleveland.  And this is not fiction: The Cleveland Browns were actually the defending champions of the National Football League.  I had no TV in my dorm room, so I listened to local sportscaster Gib Shanley calling the Browns games on the radio.

Cleveland was also the source of my daily newspaper.  Every morning, I bought a copy of the Plain Dealer for a window on the wider world.

The PD covered American college and pro football, of course.  But it also had its own football scores coming in from the Far West.  Each week that fall, columnist Bill Hickey reported on the exploits of the Pusan State Panthers.

The Pusan State fullback was Won Sok Hung, “the Sun Prince of Korean football.”  Once Hickey included a photo like this of the 4’11” 128-pound Sok in his golden helmet.  I thought he looked more like a Fighting Irishman, but what did I know?

I read with raised eyebrow that the Panthers’ quarterback was Kim Dip Thong and the coach was Nu Rok Nee.  Finally, when Hickey quoted an enthusiastic comment from announcer Gib Chan Lee, I caught on.

Pusan State won the Sake Bowl in a thrilling upset but was never heard from again, except for a mention in this Scorecard column in Sports Illustrated.

• That was not the end of imaginative sportswriting, of course.  Two decades later, George Plimpton wrote about a Mets rookie with a 168-mph fastball.  The story of Sidd Finch ran in SI on this very date in 1985.  The date, of course, was April 1.

 

 

 


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