Blind Mumbling

A compilation of writings that never got anyone excited.

Name:
Location: N. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, United States

Former teacher, co-editor of Total Football and the author of more than 20 books and over 200 articles, most about sports history. His credits include Pro Football: When the Grass Was Real, The Hidden Game of Football (with John Thorn and Pete Palmer), Baseball Between the Lies, The Importance of Napoleon, and the Battle of Stalingrad. He is presently Executive Director of the Pro Football Researchers Association.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Overheard on the Bus

"I thought you were going to change your underwear. How come you’re still chafed?"
"The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."

"My grandma had hip replacement surgery."
"Cool! What did they replace?"

"It’s easy as shooting fish in a barrel."
"Wouldn’t it be even easier if you got out of the barrell?"

"You’re lazy; you believe in the conservation of energy."
"You’re a neo-con; you believe in the conservation of empathy."

"When are those old guys going to give up and retire?"
"The Rolling Stones gather no mas."

Monday, September 19, 2005

THE CLOAK ROOM ESCAPE

Looking back, it wasn’t all Miss Scott’s fault. You have to think of the whole picture.

Like in a picture, suppose you want something – say a ball -- to look really, really red. What should you put next to it? Well, right away you think orange. Orange is almost red so if you make the background orange, it’ll make the ball the very reddest, you think.

Wrong.

That orange sucks the life right out of red. You don’t want a background that’s kind of like the ball; you want a background that’s as different as possible. The most different from red is green. Put in a green background. That will make the ball look the most red.

Notice that you haven’t changed the red at all. You’ve changed what was around it.

The background for Miss Scott was that she wasn’t Mrs. Rice or Miss Rice. That wasn’t her fault; it’s just the way things were.

Mrs. Rice was my beautiful, wonderful, redhaired teacher in kindergarten. I planned to marry her until I learned of certain difficulties related to her being called "Mrs." She liked the pictures I drew in class. One time she called me her "little artist." I felt a chill up my spine.

Miss Rice was an older lady but just as nice as Mrs. Rice. She always talked softly and said "Please" and "Thank you." Miss Rice got me interested in music. I played first triangle in our first grade band.

Miss Scott wasn’t pretty like Mrs. Rice or as old as Miss Rice. The thing I remember most was she had two frown lines between her eyes. They were so deep that even when she wasn’t frowning, she looked like she was.

After Mrs. and Miss Rice, whoever taught second grade was almost sure to seem meaner than she really was. But Miss Scott was pretty mean. She never said please. Like she’d say, "Take out your books," not "Please take out your books." When we were done, she never told us thank you.

Judy, one of the girls in my class, whispered to me, "Mrs. Rice and Miss Rice are both nice, but Miss Scott is not." When I didn’t say anything, the girl hissed, "It rhymes!"

"Do you have something to share with the class, Judy?" Miss Scott asked suspiciously from across the room.

"No, ma’am."

When Miss Scott asked questions and we put up our hands to answer, she always gave the easy questions to the dumb kids. A fair way would have been to let all of us have some of those easy questions.

By my second week in second grade I was having second thoughts. I’d always liked school until then. Now I wasn’t so sure. I started giving Miss Scott some mean looks, but she never seemed to notice. Then I would look out the window and all of a sudden I’d hear her call my name and tell me to pay attention. That was embarrassing. Did she think I couldn’t watch a bird in a tree outside and still listen to what she was talking about, whatever that was?

Things were building up. On a Friday afternoon, everything blew!

The whole second grade had just returned from a bathroom break. Miss Scott started walking around the room asking questions about the story we’d read before our break. A couple of kids answered easy things like "Jane" and "Spot." I had my hand up, but she didn’t pick me until she had a hard question.

When she finally called on me, I said, "Puff."

"That’s wrong," Miss Scott said, and she called on another kid who gave a different answer. I still think Puff was the right answer, but that wasn’t the point. She didn’t have to announce that I was wrong in front of everybody! If she really thought Puff was wrong and didn’t just want to embarrass me, she could have waited and talked to me about it at recess. Or even on Monday.

I felt like I was going to jump up and say something I shouldn’t. I raised my hand. I didn’t wait for her to call on me. As soon as she looked, I said, "Miss Scott, I have to get something out of the cloak room." Before she could say anything, I was on my way.

I don’t think schools have cloak rooms anymore. They were little rooms off the classroom where kids could leave their coats, hats, and boots when the weather was bad. Cloaks too, if anyone ever wore one. And if you went to a school where you had to bring your lunch, you could leave your lunch box there too.

Once I got in the cloak room, I walked back and forth until I calmed down. I could hear Miss Scott asking her dumb questions. I wasn’t in any hurry. I sat down. Miss Scott finished her story questions and told the class to take out their arithmetic papers. Then she raised her voice. "Are you coming out?"

I decided not to answer.

The next thing I knew, she was standing beside me. "Out!" she said.

"No!" I said. "You’re not the boss of me!"

Yes she was.

Miss Scott wasn’t a very big woman. Maybe she lifted weights or worked out. In what seemed like seconds, she had me out of the cloak room, down the aisle, and into my seat. The other kids looked at me as though I was a bomb.

"Put your head down on the desk and keep it there," Miss Scott ordered.

I was more than willing because I knew tears were coming to my eyes and having my head down would hide me. I cradled my head on my arms and shut my eyes. I kept my head down through arithmetic and spelling.
The kids lined up and went home, but I stayed there with my head on my desk while Miss Scott saw them out safely. She came back and spent a long time at her desk. I knew that when she let me put my head up, she’d really lash into me. I dreaded it and hoped I wouldn’t cry.

At last, she said, "You can go now." That was it. No lecture. She was writing something. She didn’t even look up.

"Miss Scott?"

She leaned back in her chair and stared at me while those two frown lines aimed down her nose. "What is it?"

"I’m sorry," I said. "I won’t do it again." My lip trembled just a little.

"Words are easy," she said. "Now go home."

I ran for home. That apology had always worked before. There’s just no pleasing some people. It was going to be a long year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

TOMMIE

I was seven when my cousin Tommie died. That was right after he saved me from a strip poker game.

Tommie was the son of my Aunt Ange and her husband Tom. My mother and father got together with them every couple of weeks to play euchre for an evening. When that happened, Tommie was stuck with babysitting me. Of course I never thought of it as "babysitting." I just thought my cousin Tommie, who was twice my age, was there because he wanted to play with me.

Tommie wasn’t fat, but he was solidly built and about a head-and-a-half taller than I was. He had a mop of curly black hair that he always had to brush back with his hand. The thing that I remember most was that he was always grinning. When he’d push back his hair, his hand seemed to be uncovering his grin. It gave me a good feeling.

When my parents hosted the card game, I had some games in my room that Tommie and I could play, although he usually wanted to listen to the radio instead. Sometimes we pretend-wrestled. What made it pretend was that Tommie usually let me win.

When we went to his house, he sometimes took me out to walk around his neighborhood. On this day I remember, we stopped at one of his friend’s homes where there were four bigkids playing cards. I’d watched my parents play cards. "Can I play?" I asked.

"I don’t think that’s a good idea," Tommie said.

The other boys disagreed. They said I could sit in, and one of them dealt me a hand. I saw a four, a six, a nine, and two face cards. That didn’t look like any euchre hand I’d ever seen.

One of the boys asked me, "Do you know how to play poker, Kid?"

I’d heard of poker so I said, "Sure."

Tommie jumped in. "He hasn’t played very often. I’ll help him with his hand."

I knew Tommie and my parents played their cards for money, a dime a game. On a big night, one of them might come away fifty cents ahead. "How much are we playing for?" I asked.

One of the boys laughed, "We’re playing for clothes. This is strip poker, Kid." I’d never heard of strip poker, but when I had to take off my belt after the first hand, I understood. When you lost a hand, you had to put an article of clothing in the winner’s pot.

Within a couple of hands, I was down two shoes and a sock, plus the belt. I was getting nervous. I thought of myself sitting stark naked while all those bigkids pointed and laughed. I could feel my mouth going dry and my face turning red. One of the bigkids laid down two kings. "You lose again, Kid." I thought I was going to cry.

Tommie spoke up. "I think he better stop. It’s drafty here, and he just got over the flu."

"I didn’t –" I started, and then I realized Tommie was saving me. I coughed. Twice.

On the way back to his home, Tommy said he’d teach me to play poker next time.

He never got the chance. A couple of days later, I came home and my mother announced that Tommie had died. Somehow he’d got a rope caught around his neck. I overheard my parents talking. My father said it might have been suicide, but my mother said no because her family was all Catholic. I think it must have been an accident just because Tommie never seemed that sad.

We all went to see him at the funeral home. I’d never seen anyone dead. Everyone kept saying Tommie looked like he was asleep. I thought, no one sleeps in a room filled with people talking, even if they’re keeping their voices hushed. Besides, the smell of flowers was so strong it would have waked him up.

My mother took me up to the casket so I could "say goodbye." I didn’t know if I was really supposed to say it out loud or just in my head. I decided to keep quiet because I knew he wouldn’t answer.

When I walked back to where everyone was gathered around Aunt Ange who was crying, I remembered I could have thanked Tommie for saving me in the strip poker game. Then I also remembered that Tommy had told me not to mention the game to any grown-ups. I turned and faced the casket. I thought, "Thank you, Tommie." If he was going to hear it, he’d be able to hear me whether I was beside his casket or on the other side of the room.

After awhile, Aunt Marge who was married to one of my father’s brothers, told me to get my coat. We were going to a movie. We saw "White Savage" with Maria Montez, Jon Hall, and Sabu. There was a crooked card game in it, but Jon Hall saved the day. For a minute, I thought of Tommie and strip poker, but then there was an earthquake and the movie got really exciting.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

THE JOYS OF FOOTBALL

When I was a freshman on my high school football team, I had the best seat in the house – the bench -- for every game but one. I’d spend the week getting mauled by the regulars and then as a reward I got to watch them play on Friday night. I tried hard all week, but I never got in for a down in any of those games. We had a pretty good team, and the coach didn’t want to risk a win by putting in any of us subs.

I’m not sure what he didn’t want to risk in the game we lost 28-0.

For the Bridgeport game, our most one-sided win, I didn’t even get my usual seat. It snowed all week, and when we left the locker room and went out to sit down, we discovered six inches of solid ice encrusted on the bench.

"This week," Fritz said, "we won’t benchwarmers." By the fourth quarter, we were just praying for the game to be over so we could go some place and be warm.

We stood the whole game. "We ended up with our ends up," Pudge cracked later. That night I really hated football.

I didn’t have to be there. I almost didn’t go out for football as a freshman. I knew that it would be a whole year of never getting into a game. Practices began at nine o’clock on a Monday two weeks before school started. It was August and burning hot. I stayed home and listened to a baseball game on the radio.

That evening I got a phone call from the coach. He asked if I was ill.

"Uh – no." I didn’t expect him to know my name. Wow! I told him I’d forgot about practice.

"Then you will be at practice tomorrow," he said confidently.

I assured him I’d be there. I mean, if it was going to get personal!

I suppose he just needed enough bodies to scrimmage at practice. Every day I lined up against Big Ernie, our star tackle with the concrete elbows. My nose was chronically bloody all fall.

Looking back, I’m glad I was on the team. There were three rewards: the assembly before the final game, the trip to the pro game, and the football banquet.

The banquet didn’t happen till well after the season, just before Christmas. It was full of speeches, but I’ve had worse times. First we had a big meal of chicken, baked potatos, and green beans, with cake for dessert. They gave us our choice of milk or water.

After we ate, the coach gave out the big team letters to sew on sweaters. You had to play half of our forty quarters to get a letter. I was twenty short. He also handed out a lot of special awards. Big Ernie got a couple. I thought I deserved one for scrimmaging against Big Ernie every day – maybe one like an Oscar with the nose smashed in. Actually, they did give one out for best sub, but Fritz got that.

Then the coach introduced the featured speaker. One year, they said, the speaker had been an All-American. Another year it was a famous coach of some college in Ohio. This year we just got the assistant sports editor for the local newspaper. He told us that in life as in games we had to try hard.

The last thing, the coach got up and said as much as we’d miss the players who were graduating, we’d still have a good team next season because we had a lot of good players coming back. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated.

That was why I liked that final assembly.

The morning of our final game, the whole school was in the auditoreum. The principal got up on the stage and said how hard we were going to try that night, and then he introduced the coach who said how hard we were going to try that night.

One-by-one, the coach called the players up onto the stage with him. He started with us subs. There was a smattering of applause for each player. We never mentioned it to each other, but each of us subs ranked the amount of applause we got against that of the others. I did better than the kid who was absent with strep throat. I’d never stood in front of such a big crowd. It was exciting to be there with the whole school looking at me until the regulars came up on stage and stood in front.

When subs left their seats to stand on the stage, the clapping would peter out by the time they reached the steps. The regulars got up onto the stage and waved before the cheers stopped. When the coach called up the team captain, the yelling, whistling, and clapping was so long and loud the coach had to hold up his hands. Then the captain said that we were going to try hard.

I know I was enthusiastic, but I couldn’t figure out how I could sit harder.

On the Sunday of the weekend after our last game, we got to see a professional football game. The whole team piled aboard school buses and went to watch the Steelers up in Pittsburgh. The Steelers were not a very good team in those days. They were still using an old-fashioned singlewing offense while every other team in the league used a modern T-formation. Even the high school teams we played against all used the T. Pittsburgh’s opponents, the Redskins, were almost as weak as the Steelers, but they quickly built up a three-touchdown lead in the first half.

The game was at old Forbes Field where the Pirates and Steelers both played. Had we been there to watch the Pirates play baseball, we’d have had ideal seats – lower level, right behind home plate. Unfortunately, when the field was laid out for football, those same seats were behind an endzone. We watched everything through the goal posts.

Maybe that would have been okay on a decent day. On this frozen Sunday, the temperature was in the low 20s with an icy breeze. Every once in a while, we’d get snow flurries. It was colder than Bridgeport.

Near the end of the second quarter, Henry, another sub, shivered over to me and asked, "Do you know what’s on the other side of that big lot our buses parked in?"

I’d never been to Pittsburgh, so I had no idea.

He leaned in and whispered, "The Carnegie Museum."

Henry and I debated sneaking over during the second half. After all, we couldn’t see much of the game, and it wasn’t a very good game anyway. I’d heard of the Carnegie for years. It housed all kinds of treasures. We’d learn all kinds of wonderful things. Wasn’t the whole point of a school trip education? We were almost obligated to go there.

God willing it would be heated!

The Carnegie was even more wonderful than I’d expected. There were statues that made you wonder how anyone could carve rock so exactly, and paintings that made you wonder how anybody could get colors so vivid. A lot of the statues and people in paintings made you wonder how anybody could be so naked. Henry’s eyes got big as footballs, but I’d looked at artbooks in the local library. "That’s art," I told him.

The dinosaurs were huge. Most of them were just bones, but you could imagine. The best part of the whole museum was the Egyptian display with its mummies, pharoah’s coffin, and pyramid exhibit. Just joking, I pointed to a mummy and said, "I guess he was in a real bad accident." Henry started explaining about how Egyptians buried their dead even though we’d both just read it on the sign.

I changed the subject to the pyramids. "Henry, did you know that the pyramids are still standing after thousands of years?"

"How can you knock over a pyramid?" he asked.

Henry wasn’t much fun. "What’s back here?" I said to get away.

I walked around a corner and right into the coach. He wasn’t happy. Neither Henry nor I was wearing a watch, but the coach was kind enough to inform us that we were an hour past the time the buses were supposed to leave. He informed us of that in a voice that was more of a growl. We’d kept everyone waiting. The snow was building up on the road. I think he said something about the Donner Party. The coach said that because we hadn’t told anyone where we were going, they’d spent an hour searching all over Forbes Field. Which was really cold!

I told the coach I was sorry. I tried to look sorry. When we got to the bus, everybody was angry. Henry and I scooted to a rear seat. The coach had a team rule about cussing people out, but I guess he wasn’t listening to what everybody called us just then.

I didn’t care. It was worth it. The Carnegie was great! I still remember some of the statues.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

SOLVING THE PROBLEM

It’s a disaster,
Master!
Who can we blame?
Who can we frame?

We’ll put our talks
On Fox.
Hannity’s tame.
He’ll buy our claim.

Fox always flies
Our lies.
That Coulter dame!
She has no shame.

Use the Swiftboats!
More votes!
Although it’s lame,
Keep a low aim.

It works for us.
No fuss.
That’s our game!
It brings us fame!

(in unison)
Sing polly-wolly-boondoggle
All the way.

Monday, September 05, 2005

DELAHANTY'S DENOUEMENT


Guest Blogger Dr. Charles T. Gregory
Professor of Leisure History and Comparative Phrenology,Mountebank University

My visitor looked vaguely familiar -- mid-thirties, stocky, staight brown hair combed flat to one side, an Irish grin -- but when I asked his name he shook his head. "Later," he said. He told me he was in need of someone with a vast knowledge of baseball. A lady at the library had suggested me. "First, I want to talk to you about the death of the great battin’ star Edward James Delahanty."

"Ah, yes," I said. "‘Big Ed’ Delahanty. Rookie season 1888. Led both the American and National Leagues in hitting. Lifetime batting average of .346. Drunk. Fell off a railroad bridge at Niagara Falls and was swept over. July 2, 1903, if I’m not mistaken." Not that I wanted to parade my vast knowledge.

"You got the battin’ average and the date right, Doctor," the stranger said, settling into my favorite easy chair. I noted he moved with the assurance of a powerful athlete. Perhaps I had met him while doing research on my book, A History of Balls of the Base Variety.

"But there’s more to the story of Delahanty’s end, Doctor. Much more."

"Have we met before?" I asked. "You look so familiar."

"We’ve never met."

"You’re certain?"

"I came here to tell you about Ed Delahanty."

"Usually I’m very good with faces. I’m sure I’ve seen ...."

"Do you want t’ hear me story or waste time blatherin’?" the stanger snapped.

"Of course," I said, turning on my tape recorder.

He stared at it with alarm. "What’s that hellish thing?" he growled. When I explained, he shook his head. "I don’t trust them newfangled doohickeys. Take notes. That’s the way. Plain pencil and paper was good enough for that high-toned English scribbler Will E. Shakespeare."

I took a number 2 Faber Castell from the drawer, but I let the tape run while I sat poised at my desk.

"I don’t mean to be contrary, Doctor," he said in a softer tone. "I am a wee bit short-tempered of late, I admit."

"Perhaps you haven’t been getting enough sleep," I suggested sympathetically. Surprisingly, he burst into laughter. He laughed so hard that it was several minutes before he was able to go on. I took the time to rewind my tape recorder. Waste not, want not.

"Believe me, Boy-oh, I have had plenty of sleep," he finally managed. "More than enough!" Then a crafty look came to his eyes. "But perhaps we could use a little stimulation to wake us up. Would ye happen to have a drop of somethin’ perhaps?"

I told him I was all out of No-Doze. He seemed puzzled but then shrugged and cleared his throat. "In April of 1903," he began, "Delahanty was recruited as a special agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency by himself, Allan Pinkerton, no less."

"Allan Pinkerton died in 1884," I said.

"Who says?" he roared.

"I says, er, say. I’m very good with dates. 1884."

He stared at the wall above my head, mulling that over. At last he said, "It was the son. Pinkerton JUNIOR! Do ye know when HE died by any chance?"

I admitted I didn’t even know the famous detective had a son.

My visitor nodded in satisfaction and went on with his tale. "Mr. Allan Pinkerton -- Junior -- got word in early 1903 that a master criminal had made his way to this country after accomplishin’ several wicked deeds in England. This arch-fiend, it was suspected, planned to play fast and loose with the National Pastime by fixin’ the outcome of the American League pennant race, that league then bein’ in only its third season, don’t you know. Arrg! The Saint Louie Browns was goin’ t’ win!"

"Fixing?" I gasped. "How?"

By the various nefarious ways these master criminals have. Bribery, blackmail, threats, even assassination. This same rogue was suspected of havin’ his crooked finger in all sorts of monstrous pies. Moriarity was the name he went by, but I doubt that was his true handle. Supposedly an educated man. He was in Cuba when the Maine blew up. In South Africa when the Boer War began. In Buffalo at the Exposition when the McKinley conspiracy took place ... "

"That was a lone gunman," I said.

My visitor gave me a pitying smile. "Oh, Doctor, Mr. John Q. Public wasn’t told about the events that took place on that grassy knoll next to the Paraguayan Pavilion. Pinkerton told ... Delahanty all about it. Huge cover-up! Perhaps later we can discuss it. Right now there’s more important matters. Pinkerton and Delahanty met one night in the cellar of a carriage barn in Washington, District of Columbia, don’t you know. Pinkerton chose him because, as the greatest batter in the American League, he was sure to be approached by this devil Moriarity."

"Was Delahanty assassinated?"

"Hold your pants on, Doctor. I’ll get to that. Now, nothin’ of a suspicious nature happened through the first part of the 1903 season. No sign of Moriarity. Delahanty was hittin’ up his usual storm for the Washington ball team, o’ course."

"His average was .333 after 42 games," I said.

"And that don’t allow for some good fieldin’ and bad umpirin’ neither! Then, just as July began, Delahanty spotted the arch-fiend in the grandstand at a game in Detroit. The unspeakable demon was sittin’ alone down the leftfield foul line. Aye, foul it was that day! Dressed all in black he was. Delahanty, who had the sharpest eyes in the league, recognized him from the discription he’d been given by Pinkerton Junior but even more by the palpable aura of evil that emanated from the cursed man."

"Had Delahanty been drinking before the game?" I asked, ever the seeker of truth.

"What’s that have to do with ANYTHIN’?" my visitor roared. "Before, durin’, after! It don’t make no difference. Delahanty could carry his load better than any ten men you can name!"

I apologized.

"Any twenty men!"

I apologized profusely.

"Where was I now? Oh, yeah. When the game ended -- and a darlin’ affair it was -- Delahanty dressed fast and rushed outside the ballpark. Moriarity was not to be seen. What to do? What to do?"

"Perhaps he could hire a detective," I suggested.

"Cleverly, Delahanty went to the nearest saloon, suspectin’ that the loathsome criminal might well have been drawn there to wet his wicked whistle. Many’s the time evil men are at the mercy of strong drink."

"Actually," I realized, "Delahanty was a detective himself since he was employed by the Pinkertons."

"Well, it took a couple of hours of hard questioning in several taverns, but he finally learned that a man dressed in black had been seen sneakin’ toward the railway station. There, he discovered that a black-clad stranger had purchased a ticket for New York City. Knowin’ he had little time to spare, Delahanty bought himself a ticket on the same train and boarded just before it pulled out of the Detroit station."

"The story was that he jumped his team after being suspended," I said.

"Aw, that surely was fixed up just to put a good face on it. Would any sane manager suspend his best hitter? Jumped the team? I ask you, Doctor darlin’, which was more important? Playin’ one dinky game against them silly Tigers or savin’ all of baseball from the clutches of that dastardly Moriarity? Delahanty was a HERO, an’ you want t’ make him a renegade!"

"I didn’t ...."

"A hero, Doctor!" The stranger leaped to his feet and pounded his fist on my desk. For a moment, I actually thought he might attack me. Then, he regained his control and sat down again. "So, once he was on the train, Delahanty started going from car-to-car, seaching for the villain."

"But wouldn’t Moriarity recognize him? Ed Delahanty was rather famous." I tried to picture the famous batsman’s face in my mind.

"Arrg," my visitor said. "O’ course, he was famous. And justly so. But there’s where Delahanty was smart. He happened to have with him a little flask o’ the good stuff as prevention against frostbite. And every time one of them train passengers looked at him, he’d tip it up in front of his face."

"Fascinating," I said. "Frostbite in July?"

"Which reminds me, Doctor. All this jabberin’ has parched me throat. Would ye happen to have a little nip of something now just to loosen the vocal cords?"

I offered a coke, coffee, milk, tea, water, Gator Ade. My visitor sighed. "You know," I said, "Delahanty probably didn’t have to worry about being spotted after all. Quite often famous people are not recognized when seen out of context. Moriarity wouldn’t expect to see a famous baseball player on a train."

"That he wouldn’t," my visitor agreed. "Now Delahanty was almost to the end of the train, no doubt drawing near his quarry, when the conductor, obviously one of Moriarity’s paid henchmen, begun to make a fuss. Accused him of being under the influence! I ask you, Doctor, as a fair man, could YOU walk a straight line down the aisle of a lurchin’ railroad train even if you was sober as old Ban Johnson himself?"

"So then," I interjected, "the conductor put Delahanty off the train on the Canadian side of the falls."

"Well, with the help of a couple -- TEN! -- burly ruffians he did. They thought they were rid of Delahanty, but they never reckoned with his fightin’ spirit. Undaunted! He started followin’ that blasted train on foot, don’t you know."

"Across the railroad bridge?"

"Right ye be! Then, as he reached the middle, a huge and evil silhouette loomed up in front of him. Moriarity!"

"Silhouettes are named after an 18th Century French minister of finance, Etienne de Silhouette," I explained. "The term was used in mockery of his petty economics."

"Fascinatin’," my visitor said. "But, as I was tellin’ you, Delahanty and Moriarity were locked in mortal combat on the bridge above the roarin’ falls. What a titanic battle! Good versus evil, don’t you know! A great athlete against the epitome of wickedness! First one had the upper hand and then the other."

"Did you ever see that movie Night of the Hunter," I asked, "where Robert Mitchum has ‘good’ tattoed on one hand and ‘evil’ tattooed on the other? He hand wrestles with himself and ...."

"But slowly, Delahanty began to gain."

"It’s a great movie. The only one Charles Laughton ever directed."

"At one point, Moriarity shouted in mortal fear, ‘Take my money. Just let me go!’"

"Perhaps not an Oscar-winner, but nevertheless ...."

"Just then, a railin’ gave way! Still locked cheek and jowl Delahanty and Moriarity plunged into the raging river together!"

I was on the edge of my chair. "And together they were swept over the falls!"

"Not quite," my visitor said. "By the way, Doctor, you shouldn’t sit on your chair like that. It causes piles."

"What do you mean ‘not quite?’"

"Only one of them went over the falls, Doctor. His fearfully mangled body was discovered a few days later and identified as Delahanty. But the condition of the corpse was so bad that it could just as easily been dear St. Patty himself."

"Which one went over?" I asked.

"Meanwhile, the other combatant managed to swim to shore. An iron constitution the man had! Exhausted, he sought only the merest shelter to lay his poor head to rest. He staggered along the shoreline until he at last he met up with the wall of what he thought was a barn. He crept inside."

"But which one ...?"

"And then came the final irony, Doctor. The place he had entered was an ice house."

"You mean one of those barn-like structures where, in the days before refrigeration, they used to store ice blocks cut in mid-winter from rivers and lakes for later use during the summer?"

"What else?"

"Well, you might have meant an igloo. Or perhaps you had run your words together and actually said ‘a nice house.’"

"IT WAS A -- SPACE -- ICE -- SPACE -- HOUSE -- SPACE -- COMMA, BY GOD -- DOCTOR!"

"I only wanted to be certain."

"Aw, bitter cold it was! Filled with ghostly moonlight reflectin’ eerily off them silent ice blocks. The poor man shivered, blinded by his own steamy breath. A maze in ice!"

"See?" I said, "It’s unclear whether you just said ‘a maze in ice’ or ‘amazin’ ice.’"

"His life-preservin’ flask had been lost in the struggle on the bridge. Desperately, he tried to find his way out of that freezing quandary but only drew himself deeper among those fearsome walls of ice. Suddenly, he slipped headfirst into a crevasse. Ice all around! He was trapped! The end had come."

"Hypothermia?"

"There weren’t no needles involved. Just cold!"

"Are you saying that Ed Delahanty froze to death?" I asked.

"No, Doctor, I ain’t sayin’ that at all. Delahanty didn’t go over the falls an’ he didn’t freeze -- at least not to death. But it brings me to why I come to see you today."

The stranger took a folded tabloid newspaper from his coat. Surprisingly, it was a respected journal sold mostly in supermarkets. I’ve used it often in my research. The editor had once been kind enough to publish my interview of a neighbor whose back yard was regularly frequented by Martians.

My visitor pointed to the headline: "ICEHOUSE BURNS; ENTOMBED MAN DEFROSTED! LIVES!" According to the amazing story, a well-known ice house landmark near Niagara, New York, had burned to the ground only a few weeks before. Amazingly, a healthy man in his mid-thirties had walked unharmed out of the ashes and disappeared into the crowd before he could be questioned. The paper speculated that he had been frozen for decades. Why hadn’t Fox reported this!

"So, Doctor, here’s why I came to you," the stranger said. "I saw in the newspapers that baseball teams today are payin’ ordinary talents millions of dollars. I may be 135 but I’m in my prime and I can still hit. I’m lookin’ for a big bonus contract. Can you find me a good agent?"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

ADAGES R US

It is better to light just one little candle than to let everyone know how many really belong atop your birthday cake.

Never jump off a 50-foot cliff with a 60-foot bungee cord.

It’s important to understand the difference between Viagra and vagina – especially if you chew your pills.

Women flock to a guy who can comb his eyebrows with his tongue.

I had a good job as a Tour Guide at the Grand Canyon, but it got outsourced to India.

There’s a language gap. I told a beautiful Chinese waitress what I wanted to eat, but she brought me a fried cat.

A naif is a guy who thinks Hooters is a restaurant that serves owl.

"I’d vote for a woman for president" is the new equivalent of the old "Some of my best friends are Jewish."

When it comes to pleasing women, I stop at nothing. I might have better luck if I did something before I stopped.

Many people would have sex with pigs were it not for a lurking fear that the pigs won’t respect them in the morning.