Monday, April 29, 2013

Chip Kelly, Eagles, and the tea bag

     “I’m going to steal a quote from [former Cleveland Browns head coach] Sam Rutigliano and he used to say, ‘With a quarterback, it’s like a tea bag,” Kelly told reporters.  “You don’t know what you have until you put it in hot water."

     Well, we know what you have with a tea bag, before you put it in hot water.  One day, in Honolulu, we went into the extensive Chinatown area and browsed the stores.  To our surprise, there was at least one store that specialized in loose tea.  So, we walked in and looked at the vast array of teas.  The leaves were kept in enclosed tin drawers with labels for the customer to select.  There were the flavors that we knew such as Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe, Gunpowder, Oolong, Darjeeling - and there were also some rare names that we could not pronounce, probably because most of the characters that described them were Asian writing.

     We bought a sampling of each of the teas that we mentioned and were leaving when a couple of mainland tourists (like us, only much louder) walked into the store and asked what we found.  We explained and they turned up their noses and said in a voice that was much too loud, "we drink Lipton's."  with that, the shopkeeper, an elderly Asian, looked at them with disdain and said "you drink wood."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Fighting "Days"

     If you remember Barbara and Philip Day from my crime novels set in Hawaii and on the Main Line, you'll understand this blog.

     As some background, new water mains are being installed on the Main Line and, like all contractors, the object is to do the work safely, follow the township guidelines and regulations, and complete the job as quickly and cheaply as possible.  So, when the house shook, Barbara Day ran out onto the street and waving her arms, yelled "Stop!  You are breaking my house."  And the work had barely begun.  The workers said that they couldn't stop but they did.  And someone pulled out a phone.

     Barbara returned to the house, found the phone number of the management team, and Philip called.  His persuasive style convinced the man in charge to make an in person visit to the site.  During the ensuing conversation between Philip and the company man, he looked Barbara right in the eye, lied to her face, and said that the township required his workers to use the equipment that would cause vibrations.

     "I don't like you and I don't like your cute eyes and slimy smile."  At least, that is what Barbara felt like saying to the same company  man who stood in front of her and lied to her face.  Thank goodness for her experiences with Marion Dell who said, on more than one occasion, that people will believe whatever you tell them.  Another one of her tightly held expressions and beliefs, which has stood Barbara and Philip in good stead was "is, was, will be; what difference does it make?"

     The company man told the Days that he had put in thousands and thousands of feet of new mains, using this method.  Barbara, always keeping her eye on the goal, said "that number doesn't matter.  The only number that matters to us is one.  We have only one house, this one, and we don't want you to destroy it."

     A little detective work from Barbara resulted in a conversation with the township official who confirmed Barbara's assessment about the lying contractor.  Then the township man told Philip that the material and equipment that will be used, in front of their house, will not cause the vibrations that would shake the old stone house, with plaster walls, and old pipes. This concession to the Days might increase the cost of the job both in money and in time.  Apparently, the rest of the home owners will have to fend for themselves.

     If this had taken place in Hawaii, Barbara had no doubt that Madam Pele would take care of them and see that the liars got their just comeuppance.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Conversations with Robert Wagner

     We have been lucky enough to see and interview Robert Wagner three different times.  He has been my favorite actor since the 1960's when he starred in It Takes a Thief.  He was gracious, kind, and friendlier than our neighbors when he answered our questions and discussed his acting career.

     We asked him about his acting career and how his costars were chosen.  He proudly said that he selected Stephanie Powers for Hart to Hart and never regretted it for a minute.  He also said that Hart to Hart was filmed in Canada - money reasons - and that, by the time we saw him, the show had been canceled.  That time, we saw him in Love Letters at the Valley Forge Music Theater, a show that we saw before, also with Ms. Powers, and after, in Honolulu, at the Hawaii Theater, with Jill St. John (his wife).  At the first Love Letters show, Jill St. John stuck out her hand and introduced herself to us as Mrs. Wagner.  She also turned on more lights in the dressing room for a better photo.

     At the Valley Forge Music Fair, he took one look at our paper, The Main Line Life, and asked, "what's this about?  drugs?"  with that darling smile and twinkle in his eyes that no amount of lessons can teach.  Also, "terrific" and "beautiful" - his pronunciation of those words in It Takes a Thief, Two and a Half Men, and NCIS should be patented.

     In Hawaii, after the show, he introduced his high school theater coach and credited that man with the successes he had in show business.  As I said, nicer that some of our neighbors who insist on grabbing all the credit for themselves.

     I wish I had asked him about his grace and poise, especially in It Takes a Thief; although he still exhibits that quality in his occasional appearances in NCIS.  Some of his movements are right out of ballet, while others appear to be choreographed from fencing and wrestling.

     He read my first crime novel that takes place in Hawaii, Hula Kapu, one of four, and returned it to me with a note that said that it would be perfect for Hart to Hart but that show had been canceled.  He ended his letter with "I hope our paths will cross again."  So do I.  Oh well.  What could have been - and maybe still will be - if anybody is interested.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Norden Bombsight, the Nazis, and NCIS

     We just watched an NCIS rerun with Robert Wagner.  As I'm sure all of you know, he is my all time favorite actor.  The story reminded us of a real life adventure that was told to us by Colonel Norman Vaughan in the Sleepy Dog Cafe in Trappers Creek, Alaska.

     We sat at a booth, drank black coffee, with the 90-something year old adventurer.  He regaled us with his 1928 adventures with Admiral Byrd, told us how he arrived in Alaska at the age of 67, with $5.00 that he tucked between two socks in his shoes.  He stayed at the Y, borrowed a shovel and started removing snow.  He was homeless and raised himself to a multimillionaire through hard work and ingenuity.   He was not very successful in  marriage though with 3 divorces and 4 wives.

     To get to the Norden Bombsight.  This was a technological breakthrough for precision high altitude bombing during WWII.  In fact, the technology was also used in Korea and Viet Nam instead of the area bombing that was advocated by our European Allies.  The bombadiers were told to guard it with their lives rather than let it fall into the hands of the enemy.  They were told to shoot it and burn it.

     A bomber went down in Greenland and U. S. intelligence indicated that the bombsight was intact and that the Nazis were trying desperately to find it and remove it.  Because of Colonel Vaughan's experiences in Antarctica, he was asked to get it. He led a successful and dangerous mission to rescue the top secret Norden bombsight from the American planes forced to land in Greenland.  And thus prevented it from landing in the hands of the Nazis.

     Now, to NCIS and Robert Wagner.  We just finished watching the show entitled "Broken Arrow" that had, as its plot, a downed bomber with a hydrogen bomb that had been missing for years.  Through intrepid detective work and the help of Robert Wagner's character, the NCIS team found the submerged hydrogen bomb and kept it out of enemy hands.  Not that the bomb itself would work, but the nuclear material would still be viable.

     Norman Vaughan has since died but NCIS owes him a debt of gratitude.  By the way, he was a very charming and handsome man with connections to the Philadelphia area.  He played professional football with the Frankford YellowJackets.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers and the U S Post Office and Me -

     Yesterday, Saturday, we went to our Bala Cynwyd post office to mail a letter.  The post office opens at 10:00 on Saturday and we did not know how much postage to put on this letter with about 8 pages in it.  The insurance company enclosed a self addressed envelope, but the envelope was not stamped.  So, we arrived at around 30 seconds before 10 and waited and sure enough, at a little after 10, the iron gate was raised.  But, the 3 employees who were standing behind the counter started, then, to get ready to take care of us, the customers.  They counted their money, sorted their stamps, straightened their things, and then said "next."  By that time, there were at least 10 people who were waiting in line.  In the olden days, a 10:00 opening meant that the workers were ready and prepared to take care of the customers.  But, it's worse in Hawaii.

     Anyway, I used the self help kiosk while I complained to a young woman who was standing at an island and stamping her envelopes and packages.  She offered me a stamp, but I told her that I had no idea  how much postage it required.  So, the first woman in line weighed her package, put the stamp on her package, took her receipt, and just about did a jig because she figured out how to use the automated system.  Then the man behind her, and in front of me, repeated the process.  Finally, it was my turn.  I put the envelope on the scale, answered the questions, entered the zip code, and found out that it required 66 cents postage.  Great.  Except, I couldn't buy one 66 cent stamp.  The minimum purchase was a dollar.  I complained out loud and the woman with the stamps said that she had a bunch of stamps, put two 34 cent stamps on the envelope.  I thanked her, reached into my wallet to pay her, and she "no.  Pay it forward."

     See, it's what I have said forever and ever.  On the whole, most people are wonderful and nice and polite and generous.  There are just one or two bad guys who ruin it for everyone.