Comedians of the Past

With less than two weeks before election, I’m remembering past election campaigns.  I recall Michael Dukakis looking silly in an oversized military helmet. When Ronald Reagan told Walter Mondale that he, Reagan, wouldn’t hold Mondale’s youth against him, I laughed. For me, comedy is what I remember best. as a result, thoughts of humorous political debates and events remind me of the great comedians of the past as well as some of their famous punch lines.

The Great Comedians Had Long Lives

The comedians of the past began their careers before live audiences. Egged on by live customers, many were versatile. They often could sing and dance as well as tell jokes and stories. Sometimes they played musical instruments. As a result, they connected to people: their personal characters were on display and didn’t change.  Consequently, audiences felt they knew these people, as if they were neighbors or relatives.

I’ve kept the obituaries of various great comedians of the past, and they all lived a long time. Amazingly, Bob Hope lived to 100; Milton Berle died at 93; and Henny Youngman died at 91. Joan Rivers, the latest and best educated of the group, died at 82.

All of these great comics of the past left legacies of jokes and stories that were unique to them personally. Above all, they addressed everything, from health and doctors, to personalities, to family members and politics.  For example, Bob Hope left his collection of over a million jokes to the Library of Congress; Milton Berle claimed to have some 200,000 jokes and stories.

The Oldest: Bob Hope

Bob Hope’s career spanned nearly 80 years.  Born in England in 1903, he moved to the United States with his family when he was four; he grew up near Cleveland, Ohio. He began his career as a boxer, but subsequently moved to vaudeville and appeared in several Broadway productions in the 1920s. In the early 1930s he performed in radio broadcasts and after that moved to Hollywood.

Starring in 54 feature films, Bob Hope’s movies included seven “Road” musical comedy movies with Bing Crosby as costar. In recognition of his ability before audiences, Hope hosted the Academy Awards television show 19 times, more than any other host. He also authored 14 books.

Hope is best remembered as a comic, delivering rapid-fire one-liners, and, above all, entertaining American troops around the world during wartimes. From 1941 to 1948 he performed nearly all of his 400 radio shows at military bases.

Bob Hope USO Show for US Troops in Germany, 1945

 

Vincent Canby in his New York Times obituary of Hope says that “There was nothing Bob Hope loved more than an audience, and audiences responded in kind, particularly soldiers facing combat who desperately needed a laugh.” Canby describes Hope’s character as that of “a fast-talking wiseguy, a quaking braggart, an appealing heel with a harmless leer and a ready one-liner.”

Quotes from Bob Hope

Hope loved sticking barbs into politicians. For example, Canby relates Hope’s commentary on the 1984 election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale:

“I wonder if anyone woke up the president and told him.”

“Mondale knew this was gonna be a bad day when he called Dial-a-Prayer and the taped message answered him by name.”

“The farmers hate to see it end. All those campaign speeches were good for the crops.”

 

The Most Famous: Milton Berle, Mr. Television

Milton Berle, born in New York City in 1908, entered show business at the age of five when he won a children’s Charlie Chaplin contest.  Subsequently, he appeared as a child actor in silent films and claimed The Perils of Pauline as his first film appearance.

Berle appeared in vaudeville and Broadway shows and by the 1930s was a successful stand-up comedian. He wrote musical scores for films and appeared regularly on popular radio broadcasts. By the late 1940s, Berle starred in his own radio variety show, together with a cast of writers and performers who would move to his television show in 1948.

Lawrence Van Gelder in his obituary of Berle for The New York Times describes the revolution brought about by Berle:

“The uninhibited Mr. Berle almost single-handedly led the entertainment revolution that addicted the nation to the small screen by wobbling on his ankles while wearing high heels, flouncing in evening gowns, grinning to reveal blacked out teeth, braying “What the hey,” being whacked silly with sacks of flour after shouting “Makeup!” and invariably thrusting himself into the routines of his guests.”

Within two months after its debut on Sept. 21, 1948, Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater was so popular that it was the only show not canceled to make way for election coverage on the night that Harry Truman upset Thomas E. Dewey. After that, Berle dominated Tuesday night television for several years and reached a 97% share of the viewing audience according to Nielsen ratings.

Uncle Miltie, Mr. Television

 

Quotes from Milton Berle

Milton Berle was often accused by contemporary comics of stealing their jokes, and Berle didn’t deny it. For example, Walter Winchell hailed him as the “Thief of Bad Gags”, and Berle replied “God, I wish I’d said that, and don’t worry, I will.” Other quotes from Berle:

‘Folk who don’t know why America is the Land of Promise should be here during an election campaign.”

“Why are we honoring this man? Have we run out of human beings?”

“The human brain is special. It starts working as soon as you get up and it doesn’t stop until you get to school.”

 

The Greatest One-Liner: Henny Youngman

From Tom Kuntz’s obituary of Henny Youngman in the New York Times:

“Henny Youngman was a real musician, born with a fiddle in his hands and a bow in his legs. Youngman had more talent in his little finger than he had in his big finger. He had such a big mouth he could eat a banana sideways. Henny and his wife were a fastidious couple: she was fast and he was hideous. He thought of himself as a wit, and he was probably half right. Henny Youngman was an entertainer who needed no introduction; he needed an act. His last audience was with him all the way; no matter how fast he ran he couldn’t shake them.”

Henny Youngman was hailed by Walter Winchell as “the King of One-Liners.” In other words, a performance by Youngman might last only fifteen or twenty minutes, but would contain dozens of jokes in rapid succession.

 

Henny Youngman and Fiddle

 

Henny Youngman was born in London in 1906 and brought by his family to New York City when he was a child. Growing up in New York he began in show business as a musician. He led a small jazz band and often told jokes. Soon he became a stand-up comic and appeared mainly in nightclubs. Henny Youngman spent most of his life performing hundreds of shows per year, in small clubs and theaters around the country.

Quotes from Henny Youngman

After appearing on Kate Smith’s radio show in 1937, Henny Youngman became famous.   For example, when the New York Telephone Company started Dial-A- Joke in 1974, over three million people called in one month to hear 30 seconds of Youngman’s material—the most ever for a comedian.

Obviously, Youngman’s one-liners became very well known, not only to other comics who stole them, but to the general public. Here are a few:

“You have a ready wit. Let me know when it’s ready.”

“I haven’t talked to my wife in three weeks. I didn’t want to interrupt her.”

“Two dumb guys go bear hunting. They see a sign saying, “Bear Left,” so they went home.”

“I’d like to help you out. Which way did you come in?”

Youngman never retired. He performed at weddings and bar mitzvahs until the time of his death at 91.

 

Joan Rivers: First Female Host of a Late-Night Television Talk Show

Described in her obituary in the New York Times by Robert D. McFadden, as “the raspy loudmouth who pounced on America’s obsessions with flab, face-lifts, body hair and other blemishes of neurotic life, including her own” provided “five decades of caustic comedy that propelled her from nightclubs to television to international stardom.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, Joan Rivers attended private schools and participated in student theatrical activities. She graduated from Barnard College in 1955 with a B. A. in English literature and anthropology. Before entering show business, she worked as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center, a writer/proofreader at an advertising agency, and a fashion consultant at Bond Clothing Stores.

During the 1950s and 1960s Rivers performed in numerous comedy clubs in Greenwich Village. By 1965 she had a stint on Candid Camera as a gag writer and participant; she was the “bait” to lure people into ridiculous situations for the show.

After numerous auditions she made her first appearance on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show in February 1965. Subsequently, she became well known on television, appearing as a guest on numerous popular shows. She made prize winning record albums, directed films, and performed at Carnegie Hall. A permanent guest host on the Johnny Carson show, she was offered her own late-night television show in 1986.

Joan Rivers, Thinking?

 

Joan Rivers received an Emmy for her day time program, The Joan Rivers Show, in 1989 and authored 12 best-selling books and three comedy LP albums. In 2015, Rivers posthumously received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, for her book, Diary of a Mad Diva. She also marketed a line of jewelry and apparel on the QVC shopping channel. In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked her sixth on a list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.

Quotes from Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers projected a controversial personality. She could be self-deprecating, but always was sharp. She saved her most acerbic comments for celebrities and politicians. Here are some quotes:

“On Nancy Reagan’s hairdo: Bulletproof. If they ever combed it, they’d find Jimmy Hoffa.”

“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die, they will donate my body to Tupperware.”

“At my funeral, I want Meryl Streep crying in five different accents.”

“I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.”

 

Great Comedians: What We Can Learn from Them

Creating laughter must be a good thing. They all lived so long.  Almost all the photographs of the great comedians of the past show them smiling.

Laughter is infectious, imagine three million people in one month paying to hear thirty seconds of material by anyone other than a comedian, like Henny Youngman.  Only a comedian, like Milton Berle, could compete with Presidential election coverage.  Only a comedian like Bob Hope, could be remembered with such warmth by all the servicemen who saw him when he performed during the war years. The only woman in the group, will be remembered for saying what we all were thinking.  I guess I miss them all.

Letters and Understanding

Stuck in my house since March due to the pandemic, I now write short essays and letters instead of major 50,000 word pieces. I think short pieces are easier to follow, and from letters I seek understanding.

Last year, I completed a document detailing my experience being treated for lymphoma. Now I hate to remind myself about anything to do with that. I can’t look at the piece. It sits in my computer, like a sulking neglected child.  It cries to me and makes demands, but I resolutely ignore it.

Instead, I  started a blog. I also write letters to my grandchildren.  These are actual paper letters, written by hand, placed in an envelope with a stamp, and delivered by the post office. Remember what those are?

Last week I received my first response, from my fourteen- year- old granddaughter.  She writes, “It’s been forever since I’ve had to write a letter. Emails just aren’t the same.”

What a clever girl!!

She can write, and her handwriting is less cursive and much easier to decipher than mine.  My writing is cursive destroyed by years of practice and annoyance at how long it takes to put my brain on paper.  After all, there’s much more in my head than a few written words can say.

When I started my essay about lymphoma, I thought about my own personal history. For my generation, major events were communicated by letter. People understood what was happening from letters. I guess that’s why I write to grandchildren.

Understanding Letters and Family History

For example, in my family, letters went back and forth constantly.  My mother lived in New York City, as did two sisters and three brothers.  Two more sisters and a brother lived in Richmond, Virginia.  My two aunts from Virginia came to visit every year when my grandfather was alive.   They took the train and spent their time on board playing canasta, evidently with numerous other people taking the same trip.  Always arriving with pockets full of cash and newly minted silver dollars which they used for gifts to the children, they came with stories, gossip, and jokes.  The rest of the year, they exchanged letters with the New York family.

My mother wrote her letters using Hebraic letters, but they were not in Yiddish. She used the Hebrew script to write letters in English, as did her sisters in Richmond.  The Virginians always ended their letters with a “Love y’all,” phonetically written out using Hebrew script. They understood each other’s letters without difficulty, though I’m sure I couldn’t decipher them easily.

In contrast, my father treated a letter from a brother in Europe or a sister in Brazil as a major event. He wrote most of his correspondence in Russian and kept his family’s letters to himself. The letters told him about the events of World War II, the murders of his parents and his brother’s serving in the Russian army at Stalingrad.  He hid a few photos in a small drawer away from everything else, as though if we were to touch or see them they would bring harm of some kind. My father never spoke out loud about these letters, although in response to them we sent regular CARE packages to his family in Europe after World War II ended.

 

Letters, Meaning and Understanding

Letters aren’t like electronic texts.  When we understand them, they show force and strength, weakness and sorrow, love and happiness.  Every person has a unique handwriting and choice of how to say things. Understanding written letters allows us to know something personal about the person who wrote them.

Physical writing isn’t easy.  A writer looks at the blank page and knows that somehow it needs to be filled with something meaningful that another person can understand. The way a person writes can tell a lot about the writer, apart from the words being inscribed. Letters are about understanding meaning.

All of my historical novels introduce fictional characters who read and write authentic letters that carry the story.  The more recent the time period, the more material exists in libraries. Letters held in libraries sometimes are originals; sometimes they have been transcribed into typed versions.  Seeing the old letters, the wording, the size of the script, and the force with which script was put on paper, gives us some understanding of the character of the writer.

 

Revolution and History as Seen from an Understanding of Letters

My latest book, Washington’s Shadow, is based on the personal correspondence of Leven Powell with his family and about his work for George Washington. Powell knew Washington personally and worked for him in many capacities for over thirty years. In his later years, at Washington’s request, he ran for office and served as an elector in the 1796 election.

Washington Surveying the Field

 

Leven Powell was a supporter of revolution and an owner of a mill and a farm. Like Washington, he looked to the west. He wanted growth and expansion, and the settlement of new land. Serving as a colonel in the field during the revolution, he spent much time writing his wife detailed letters. Here is one excerpt, describing his feelings about a meeting of truce with representatives of his enemy, the British military:

I have been uneasy at not hearing from you for some time… Since my last letter, this neighborhood has been honored by the company of great men… As the head of a flag of truce…I had the honor of breakfasting on the best Hyson Tea with the Commodore, General Clinton, Lord Dunmore and several gentlemen Officers. I was received and treated with great politeness by the whole…On board the “Kitty” vessel I found 12 or 15 Officers, the most hospitable, kind people I ever met. …their treatment of me was so exceedingly kind that on my return I sent them a present of 20 bushels of oysters, 30 loaves of bread, a goose and a turkey. It grieves me to see men of such sentiments as those engaged in such a cause.

What His Letters Say About Leven

Understanding this letter tells a lot about Leven.  When he wrote it, he held the rank of colonel and led a small army.  Favoring the American cause from the earliest days leading up to the first hostilities, he’d served in militias and was a friend of George Washington. And he was a gentleman.  Leven didn’t see the British officers he met as monsters and enemies to be slaughtered. He found them to be kind, and favored them with a generous gift of food.

Washington’s Shadow is a novel, a story of Leven Powell’s children and the first wave of western expansion.  Washington’s presence permeates their decisions.  They took meaning from their father’s letters. The plot is mostly fiction, but the place and the events are historic and recorded in letters.

The Written Record and More Recent History

In 1940 Germany began massive bombing of Britain, known euphemistically as “The Blitz.”  Letters, films, and official and private postings showed the bombings and their effects. When we understand the personal letters, films and  postings we can see what it was like to live at the time.

For example, Britain’s Richmond Golf Club posted the following temporary rules after German bombs hit the course in 1940:

  • Players are asked to collect Bomb and Shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the Mowing Machines.
  • In Competition, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
  • The positions of known delayed action bombs are marked by red flags at a reasonably, but not guaranteed, safe distance therefrom.
  • A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.
  • A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty one stroke.

 

These written temporary rules meant, “Let’s muddle through.” Muddling through at this golf club meant keeping the game going, regardless of circumstances. They were serious. In golf, a player normally can replay a ball from the same place and take a one stroke penalty. Bombs, in this club’s rules, are to be ignored.

Learning about American History

My granddaughter, a high school junior, plans to take a course in which she’ll be learning about American history this summer. Likely it will be a virtual course delivered by zoom over the computer.

I wonder what constitutes history to today’s teenagers. Personally I can remember the end of World War II and its aftermath. Parades marched down the main streets and veterans returned home with missing limbs.  I hid under my school desk in drills to protect me from a Russian nuclear attack. The Cuban missile crisis felt like the beginning of World War III and I remember the assassination of President Kennedy.

My own children have no living memory of any major war: World War II, Korea or Vietnam. They and their children know nothing about the gas shortages of the 1980s and Jimmy Carter’s inflation that destroyed our small community banks. They do know about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the destruction of the twin towers in 2001.  My grandchildren don’t even remember that.

What do they teach in American history courses in today’s high schools?  I hope they do a better job than they did when I went to school. But I know they won’t be teaching early history.  I was told this by quite a number of history teachers when I served as a docent at Jamestown Settlement, a historical museum that commemorates the first landing of three English ships in North America in 1607.

Peter Minuit Buying Manhattan: Learning Early New York City History

 

What I Learned about Early American History

Growing up in New York City, I began learning about American history in kindergarten and the first grade. For instance, I remember learning about three ships arriving at Jamestown and the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. There, at Plymouth Rock, they apparently celebrated the first Thanksgiving.  I know we were shown a painting of Peter Minuit buying Manhattan Island from the Indians with twenty-four dollars in trinkets and a bottle of rum.

Look at the painting closely.  We can see that all of the Indians are covered head to toe in deerskins. Several wear elaborate feathered headdresses. An Indian woman wears a cotton print dress under her deerskin. We know that Western Indians in the nineteenth century dressed like that, but Manhattan Indians in the seventeenth century likely looked quite different.

No matter to the kindergartener.  We made deerskins to wear and feathered headdresses—all out of brown paper, colored and pasted together any way we liked.  I remember we also made pilgrim hats, but they were black and out of card board.  In comparison, it was much more fun to be an Indian; they got to prance around and make loud noises.

Whatever people learned in school, to most people the founding fathers fell out of the sky in powdered wigs and silk stockings. Therefore, the hundred and fifty years between Pocahontas and George Washington remain a blank.

American History and Genealogy

At Jamestown Settlement I met many genealogists, anxious to see if they had an ancestor on one of the first ships. Though they were interested in learning about American history, I had to tell them that those people were probably not people they’d want to meet.  My teachers never taught this in school, but the settlers came to fight and make fortunes. They fought with each other and the native tribes nearby, and most of them died early gruesome deaths from starvation, disease, warfare, and simply fighting with each other. These early sailors weren’t ancestors of anybody.

Descendants of Pocahontas (there are many) are generally not the genealogists; they know their family lines very clearly and don’t have to prove anything. While their “history” goes back to 10,000 B.C., they come to the museum to see history as relevant to today. They come to see the building of the country, from sailing up the rivers, establishing plantations, trading crops for credit, and developing a way for different people to live together.

About a third of the sailors on the three original ships “married” Indian women. The Indians helped to build James Fort, and Indian wives did most of the cooking. Indian-made cooking utensils have been found on the site of the original fort, and in the earliest days only the Indians would have known what was edible. The earliest surviving settlers learned a great deal from the Indians. If you date your family to seventeenth century Virginia, Pocahontas is probably your relative.

Some Perspective on Learning about Early History

Early history isn’t taught because little is known about it, and what’s written is partisan, controversial and probably incorrect.  We don’t learn about early American history in school, but where else can we learn about it?. Were the English barbarians, out to kill and rampage? Were the Indians savages, out to starve out the new arrivals? Didn’t they trade and learn from each other? How did they really build towns and colonies?

Let me end with a cartoon by James Stevenson (1966) from The New Yorker:

 

Learning about American History:  Indians and Settlers: Friends or Foes?

 

Cartoons don’t settle anything.  They just keep the arguments going.

A Virtual Graduation

On Saturday. May 30, my grandson received his bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University (CSU) in a virtual graduation ceremony.  For him it was a great achievement and represented long hours of preparation and work.  His degree is in computer science with a minor in mathematics.

 

Graduation!

May 30, many of us will remember, was the date on which Memorial Day used to be celebrated.  I remember some of my parents’ generation called it Decoration Day. That day families went to the cemetery to decorate the graves of the war dead.

For my parent’s generation, the war dead were near and numerous, not theoretical.  World Wars I and II in some way touched every family and Memorial Day was somber, not the beginning of summer as it is now.

Graduations used to come in June, and took place before large happy crowds of people.  This virtual graduation event was certainly the first of its kind for the university.

A Virtual Graduation

My husband and I sat in front of the zoom screen on my computer and listened to remarks by the president of the university, the mayor, the lieutenant governor of Ohio, and several previous CSU graduates. I was able to locate my grandson’s major department on the computer screen.

The names of all computer science graduates marched across the screen individually, with appropriate graduation day background music. When my grandson’s name arrived, we saw a video of him, in cap and gown, looking very happy. He smiled and thanked his parents and grandparents for help and support.

We have attended many graduations, and this was the first one where we heard every speaker and actually saw the face of the graduate. It reminded me of my daughter’s graduation from a small college outside Richmond, VA. Then we sat in folding chairs on a field on a very hot day, quite far from an outdoor stage. Nearby, a level railroad crossing bisected the town.

Amtrak kept its schedule that day.  Fairly frequently, a train came through the town at a slow speed, blowing its whistle all the way. We barely heard any of the speeches, but we did see our daughter at a distance.

My grandson is now a graduate and I’m grateful for the computer and zoom.  We were able to join the family electronically that evening to congratulate him.

Another Graduation Day: Me and Lymphoma

My grandson is not the only member of our family to face some final test results this early summer.  On Thursday, I am scheduled for a mammogram.  Two years ago a mammogram led to a diagnosis of an aggressive type of lymphoma for which I was treated over six months and for which I have undergone numerous lab tests and PET scans.

The doctor?

 

 

While I’m of the age that I may have avoided a mammogram two years ago, for some reason I didn’t.  My radiologist found something funky on the picture and that led to biopsies, CAT scans and further lab tests and scans. After three months the doctors came up with the lymphoma diagnosis.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to the mammogram, nor am I looking forward to a PET scan now scheduled for July. The PET scan is sort of a graduation day for me.  If they find nothing, I will be considered cured with no further tests or medical procedures.

For me, none of this will be virtual.  The tests will be done according to normal procedures and the results will either be good or bad.

 

Graduation, Old People and Old Jokes

As the grandmother of a college graduate, I am an old person.  Here is a story about old people:

“Six retired Floridians were playing poker in the condo clubhouse when Meyerwitz loses $500 on a single hand and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen partner, the other five continue playing standing up.  Finkelstein looks around and asks, “So, who’s gonna tell his wife?”

They draw straws.  Goldberg picks the short one.  They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don’t make a bad situation worse.

“Discreet? I’m the most discreet person you’ll ever meet. Discretion is my middle name. Leave it to me.”

Goldberg proceeds to the Meyerwitz apartment and knocks on the door.  The wife answers and asks what he wants.

Goldberg declares, “Your husband just lost $500 and is afraid to come home.”

“Tell him to drop dead,” says the wife!

“I’ll go tell him,” says Goldberg.

 

Social Distancing and Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in a lock-down requiring social distancing was bound to be different than the norm, but for me it actually wasn’t.  As in most years, I received phone calls and promises of future calls and maybe a future zoom meeting.

My children and grandchildren are busy people. I know they are stuck in their houses and they continue with school and music lessons. In time for Mother’s Day, I received a video of two granddaughters playing piano.  The video showed them individually and I could see their hands hit the keys.  They were socially distanced from everyone when the video was made.  Nobody heard me, but I applauded loudly for each of them, just like a grandmother should.

I received delivered gifts: a box of candy and a bottle of dessert wine from my daughter and her family; a box of candy and flowers from my son and his family.  I did not have direct contact with the delivery man, just as in previous years, but this time I practiced social distancing.

Since Mother’s Day was still “locked down”, the florist called to say he’d be delayed. The good flowers weren’t yet available. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I thanked him for the call and the information. The flowers arrived two days later and were worth the wait.  Here is a picture (including the box of candy):

 

Mother’s Day Roses and Lilies

 

The roses opened to about six inches in diameter, and a week later, the lilies were still open and wonderful to look at. But they didn’t compare to my outdoor Russian iris:

Russian Iris: No Social Distancing

 

Social Distancing: the New Normal?

We’ve had a warm and wet May and the birds and flowers are loving it. They have no thoughts of masks and barriers and social distancing.  Whenever I go out on the porch there is a jumble of tweets and loud sounds from a mass of small birds. I’m sure many of them are a lot closer to me than six feet.

We have been advised by the local authorities and some local businesses that we should get ready to go back to work, shop and live in the world again.  This will be different from before, if everyone takes these rules seriously.  For a haircut, there will be no shampoo; I will have to arrive with my hair already shampooed.  There will be no children or pets allowed in the place. I will have to wash my hands before being issued into wherever the hairdresser will be located.

Social Distancing and Health Care

The Cleveland Clinic sent me their directive on their “new normal.” They are ready to resume in person healthcare services, but they encourage patients to use “virtual” visits. The notice states that with a virtual visit the patient can see a provider right away, or schedule an appointment for routine care using the smartphone.

I’ve already had one virtual appointment with my doctor and it was hardly a medical exam.  There were no tests, and because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on my camera, the doctor could only speak to me. He saw nothing.  We both agreed to schedule a regular in-person visit in September. Likewise, my dentist will see me in October.  Maybe over the years I’ve been overdoing it with annual doctor’s visits and semi-annual dentist visits.  Routine care doesn’t have to be constant care.

As with my hairdresser, the Cleveland Clinic will not permit patients to bring anyone with them for an appointment.  On the other hand, children, elderly patients, those with special needs and those having surgery requiring an overnight stay may bring a guest.  That probably accounts for a large percentage of the non-routine procedures done at the clinic. The notice states that the clinic is among the safest places in healthcare.

A few years ago, after I was released from a hospital stay, I was taken by a nurse to the entrance of the hospital in a wheel chair.  As I got out of the wheel chair, the nurse said to me, “Take care, and don’t come back.” We both knew that hospitals are unsafe places.

Do the masks protect everyone? People now own them and wear them, but if you can’t see someone’s face, how can you trust him or her?

Insecure? It’s Happened Before.

I remember a Woody Allen story. Feeling insecure, Woody moved to an apartment building in the city because it employed a doorman for protection.  On his second night, when he returned to the building, Woody was mugged by the doorman.

Let me end this with a Henny Youngman story about doctors:

A guy says to a doctor, “I’m having trouble with my love life.”

The doctor says, “Take off twenty pounds and run ten miles a day for two weeks.” Two weeks later, the guy calls the doctor, “Doctor, I took off twenty pounds and I’ve been running ten miles a day.”

“How’s your love life now?”

“I don’t know. I’m 140 miles away!”

Birds and Flowers in a Lock-down

Spring has come to Virginia. The state still is closed down and we venture out only for groceries, about once a week. But spring has arrived: we have birds, flowers, warm sun and corona-virus lock-down.

We live in a marina where the docks, moorings and supporting structures have been under construction for about a year.  Staying outside, for example, on my porch, is an ear-bending experience. We have views of massive cranes and hear the sounds of giant generators. But the corona-virus lock-down has made staying at home more than a construction experience.

We have become much more vigilant about the immediate surroundings, and not just the construction.  This year we really saw the coming of spring, and the birds and flowers have been stunning.

The Birds

This year we see and hear the birds. Not that we could have ignored them. Over eighty varieties of birds have been counted by birdwatchers in my neighborhood. I really don’t know much about them, but this year one of our bird houses has been occupied by bluebirds.

They are amazing neighbors.  They sing to us almost constantly, and they seem to chirp to us personally. Every time we go out on the porch and say something, we are greeted by a loud song from some little bird. I’ve never seen the little loudmouth. The song is two notes repeated four or five times, but in a rhythm that sounds very much like conversation. We’ve gotten used to whistling back or talking to the bird.  In the evening we say good night.  It reminds me of having a two year old, a small living thing that talks all the time.

While I’ve never seen our talking companion, I’ve taken my camera to the water’s edge. This year brought some unusual sights. For example, for the first time I’ve gotten a shot of what I think is a young eagle, perched on a pole near my house.  He’s quite young, but has those white head feathers and an imperial beak:

Young Eagle

Young eagle

 

It’s spring, so I imagine that the birds I see are all young.  They chirp loudly and seem very happy. The eagle looked lost, not sure of what to do now that he was atop a tall pole. He stayed there for quite a while. I’m sure he can fly, but maybe he has no nest to go back to.  Eagles fly very high and coast like kites in the air. This one is bigger than a baby, but not fully grown. He’s like a teenager sent out into the world, not sure of what’s next.

I also took a picture of a heron.  We see lots of herons near my house.  They come to fish, and are striking when they dive looking for their next meal.  Here is the heron:

Heron

You can see the heron is also young and thin.  He has a beautiful takeoff and a graceful flight.  He hovers like a helicopter over the houses before landing near the water.

Flowers

In addition to birds, we’ve had to confront the spring flower situation. Since we’re stuck in the house, we have no annual flowers.  I usually plant some pots of petunias and geraniums.  I also normally prepare a few tomato plants in pots. Now I have to be content with the plants that carried over from last year.

We’ve had a very wet spring and seem to get rain every other day, but the weather has turned warm with temperatures mostly in the 70’s. I haven’t fed or watered anything.  We still have three pots of pansies from last fall, and they are spectacular.  About five mums never went away, and one seems ready to blossom (mums in May?). I also have a window box full of some light purple petunias.

We had a profusion of daffodils and crocus, and now a rainbow of irises and peonies, all from previous years. Here is a picture of some cut flowers, a peony and a few irises:

Peony and Irises

 

Coronavirus and Jokes

I’m sure we will survive this pandemic and remember the lock-down as a little overkill. But, like the birds and flowers returning from last year (or never leaving), old jokes are also making a comeback.  Here are some I received last week:

“A dentist and a manicurist married.  They fought tooth and nail.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationary.

If you don’t pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.”

I hope all are staying safe and healthy.