An image.
Home | The Paper | Subscribe | Contact Us | Community Events
Saturday, February 24, 2018

  • Friday, February 23, 2018 4:00 AM
    For the past several years I have had the pleasure of reading this weekly humor column on WFYI radio. In preparation for broadcast on a new station, I was listening to some old audio files and realized that, like so many other people, I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice. This reminded me of a dear friend who I wrote about five years ago when he passed away, a man who really did have a voice for radio.
    John Gillis was as tall as a grizzly bear, but as gentle as a teddy bear. The 40-year veteran of Indiana radio was an iconic figure. His loyal listeners looked up to him. “I guess being 6' 4" was a big help,” he once told me.
    John loved the sound of his own voice. I offer this as high praise, because each word that tumbled off his tongue was not only meticulously chosen, but it was savored by listeners for still another nanosecond before he went on to the next. “His 60-second traffic reports,” said longtime associate Jeff Pigeon at John’s funeral, “lasted about eight minutes.”
    John once told me: “I have 20 seconds to do what I have to do, read a sponsor’s name, and then if I can figure out a way to twist a word or inject my personality into it, that’s it—I’m a disembodied voice, and every 10 minutes I stop what I am doing and talk to my imaginary friends.”
    A disembodied voice? Perhaps. But it still embodied everything that was good about radio in those years. He wasn’t just a person locals recognized on the street, he was a person everyone felt they knew personally. Everyone liked him, but they knew instantly that he liked them, as well.
    John loved radio. It was his best friend. “Everywhere you travel, it’s there; it takes you places immediately . . . it exercises your imagination.” If there was any sadness, any remorse in John, it was that media had changed. “We went high tech and lost the high touch,” he told me. “Radio should be about content, character and personality.”
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, February 16, 2018 4:00 AM
    I was at home working late one afternoon on my column when the phone rang. My wife’s cell number popped up on my caller ID. “Hi, Mary Ellen.”
    “I adore you,” came the reply.
    How odd. My wife is a loving person, but she is not given to romantic declarations on her way home from work. And yet, she added, “Sometimes I can’t get through a minute without thinking about those romantic times we had in Rio, Fernando.”
    Ahhh . . . what could be more romantic than Rio? But there was a problem: I’ve never been to Rio. Of course, I don’t have the best memory in the world. I once slept through France on a bus tour, so I still swear I’ve never been to Paris. Also, this Fernando reference was going to be a pesky distraction for me the rest of the day.
    I kept listening: “While my husband is still alive, we will never find happiness. We have to get rid of him. Soon.”
    The Postman Always Rings Twice. However, I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. My wife has a delicious sense of humor. Maybe she was just having some fun—you know, pretending she had a boyfriend and that they were going to ice me.
    Then I heard a man’s voice: “You are the brightest star in my galaxy, the cherry on my cake, the rose in my garden.”
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, February 9, 2018 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen was frantic. We were expecting a special guest, and I had never seen her so meticulous about tidying the house—not counting, of course, the days before Nettie, our housekeeper, comes.
    Actually, Nettie had just been here to clean two days earlier. Mary Ellen originally wanted her to come just a few hours before our important visitor arrived, but the timing didn’t work out. So when Nettie heard that our guest wasn’t due for almost 72 hours, she had a very fair question for Mary Ellen: “Is Dick going to a hotel for three days?”
    Mary Ellen thought that was pretty funny, and the two of them had a good time trading stories about my messiness:
    “How does he get so much toothpaste on his bathroom mirror?” asked Nettie.
    “Or potato chips under his pillow?” asked Mary Ellen, doubled over in pain, laughing. “I bet you’ve never seen that before!”
    “And silverware under the dresser?” added Nettie, almost in tears.
    For the next three days, I was not allowed to cook anything or walk in the house with my shoes on. I could take showers, but I had to squeegee the glass doors each time. Oh, and by the way, I still had no idea who was coming. It was a secret.
    “I feel like we are adopting a child and Social Services is coming to inspect us,” I said.
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, February 2, 2018 4:00 AM
    They just reported on the local evening news that Indiana is the 10th fattest state in the Union. I wonder where they did their research. The State Fair? The Mini-Marathon? That could make a big difference.
    I’m never sure how they come up with these stats, but over the years I have made fun of scientific researchers for their fascination with bizarre and meaningless numbers. These are individuals who, statistically speaking, are among the unhappiest people in the world. About 75 percent of the studies show that 57 percent of statisticians are 49 percent unhappier than 75 percent of all other scientists. You probably knew that.
    Here are some odd facts the number-crunchers have come up with: redheads need 25 percent more novocaine in the dental chair than people with other hair colors; 67 percent of men prefer gas grills to charcoal grills; pet owners wake up 45 percent more often in the middle of the night. I have written humor columns on all of those things.
    But back to chubby Hoosiers, and the weirdest statistic of all: According to the University of Illinois, people who are overweight use more gas per mile than people who are thin. If no one were overweight, we could save a billion gallons of gas a year. What an astonishing figure! (I’m not referring to the out-of-shape figure that contributes to this excessive waste of precious natural resources.)
    0 comment(s)
  • Monday, January 29, 2018 4:00 AM
    Phyllis Baskerville passed away peacefully this past week. In my 35 years on Channel 8, she may have been my favorite guest. She was not someone to be toyed with—or she was the perfect person to toy with. You decide.
    I first met Phyllis in 2002 after doing a live TV segment in Fortville. As I headed for my car, the spunky 75-year-old woman in her pick-up truck approached me and asked me to follow her home. “I have somewhere else I have to go,” I told her. “This will be worth your time,” she shot back.
    Minutes later I pulled up in front of a Pentecostal church, which made me wonder if this was going to be an attempt to convert me. What I saw when I entered the sanctuary was heavenly. Taking up every bit of available space on the floor were thousands of classic toys, all in mint condition, and many in the original boxes. Memories flooded back as I saw board games, wind-up toys, lunchboxes, and dolls that I had not seen in 50 years. “This is a TV segment,” I told Phyllis, assuming that was her intent in bringing me to that place. “Not now,” she countered. “Not until I get everything on shelves.”
    We soon struck a deal. I interviewed her when the collection was still in disarray, then returned a year later to show the progress she had made. The next year she opened Dolly Mama’s Toy Museum in Fortville.
    There is more to this story, of course, beginning in Florida in 1998 where Phyllis and her husband, a former district fire chief in Indianapolis, had retired. When he developed Alzheimer’s, Phyllis was overwhelmed, as many caregivers are. “I went to a support group meeting,” says Phyllis, “but that wasn’t for me…I didn’t need someone else’s problems. I was living it. I needed something else.”
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, January 19, 2018 4:00 AM
    My wife noticed that I was continually swatting at flying bugs in the house. I told her that this one little black gnat had been bothering me for several days, but that every time I took a whack at it, it disappeared.
    "Those are not insects,” said Mary Ellen. “You probably have floaters.”
    "What's a floater?” I asked. I always thought a floater was a dead body the police found in the river.
    Mary Ellen explained to me that floaters are a common eye disorder that causes tiny specks to drift around the field of vision. Then she realized why, for the last several weeks, I was always waving at her while we were watching TV. 
    Over the past few weeks, the little gnat and I had developed a closer relationship and with proper eye-roll and head tilt, I could sometimes control exactly when and where Skipper would appear (yes, I named him). He still makes unannounced visits, like right now as I'm typing this, he’s kind of driving me CRAZY.
    0 comment(s)
  • Saturday, January 13, 2018 4:00 AM
    I have just finished reading Alexandra Horovitz’s marvelous new bestseller Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Know and Smell. The book is mostly about the incredible sense of smell our canine companions have and how as humans we often overlook this sense (we always overlook our noses). In one chapter she describes a sight-seeing tour that’s really more of a sniff-smelling excursion. The guide takes you through the streets of New York City and points your shnozz to all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) urban aromas—from sausage to sewage, from sourdough to subways.
    That book reminded me of a medical issue I have. I mentioned it several years ago in a column about growing old. I have pretty much lost my sense of smell. And it has gotten worse. Many people wrote me and said I had a serious medical issue. Medical advice from friends usually stinks. Not that I would know what stinks.
    There had been several indicators of this problem. When Mary Ellen, Brett and I used to sit in the living room watching the evening news, our dog was always at our feet. All of a sudden, both my son and my wife would start waving their hands in front of their noses. (The first time it happened, I figured I was blocking their view of the screen.)
    “You didn’t smell that?” they’d shout.
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, January 5, 2018 4:00 AM
    I'm not tech savvy, so when I received the Echo my brother-in-law Tom sent me for Christmas, I was hesitant to open the box. This gadget works like the computer that Captain Kirk talked to on Star Trek. You can pose a question (Who was the 13th president?), request a song or ask it to call someone. Your wish is her command. 
    The person selling these kinds of products always claims something like "It's so easy to use. Just plug it in." This is never true, although I got my new desk lamp working in under an hour. 
    When using the Echo, you must begin your command with her name, Alexa. I learned the hard way the importance of being precise when addressing her. A few days after I thought I had mastered my new toy, I said, “Alexa, play today’s phone messages.” When she successfully completed the task, I said, “Alexa, now play yesterday’s,” which resulted in her playing the Beatles’ 1962 hit. Then I said, “Alexie, stop the music.” “Alexie, shut up!” “Alexie, play something else.” Nothing worked. Finally, I ripped the plug out of the wall, realizing I would have to reset the darn thing. Unlike Paul McCartney’s, my troubles did not seem so far away. I was going to have to pester my son again to reload all the apps necessary to make the Echo work.
    I was saying Alexie instead of Alexa. The lady in the cylinder is very particular about this kind of thing, like when I mistakenly call my wife Shirley instead of Mary Ellen. 
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, December 29, 2017 4:00 AM
    This is my annual look back at, and appreciation for, all the people and events that inspired many of my weekly columns this past year. For example, thanks to . . .
    My brother, for getting married for the first time at a very late stage in life. When my sister called and said “Your brother is doing something no Jewish guy ever does for the first time at the age of 65,” I was confused. I thought I was going to his Bar Mitzvah.
    Whole Foods, where I bought an organic bar of green soap, wrapped in clear shrink-wrap. When I got out of the shower the next morning, I told my wife that I didn’t think it lathered very well. “Is it because it’s organic?” I asked Mary Ellen.
    “No, it’s because you just washed yourself with a wedge of cheese.”
    The waiter in New Orleans who told us we were not given bread plates because “We encourage guests to just enjoy the bread. We’ll tidy up your mess,” he said.
    "Are you saying this because we’re Hoosiers?” I asked jokingly.
    0 comment(s)
  • Wednesday, December 20, 2017 9:28 PM
    Men can’t gift wrap presents. They don’t know how. They don’t want to learn. And it annoys them when they watch women do it so effortlessly. The few men who do know how to wrap gifts certainly won’t admit to it. It’s like if the guy you go bowling with knows how to bake cookies, that would be the kind of thing you discover by accident. “Whoa! Sorry to barge in on you, Chuck. When Marge said you were in the kitchen, I figured you were downing a six-pack.”
    Christmas morning, everybody knows which gifts dad wrapped. In fact, it is a pretty universal notion that if the ends of the package are crumbled up like a big spit ball, it’s a present from dear ol’ Dad. If the package is wrapped in aluminum foil, it’s a gift from Pop. If a package reveals that not enough wrapping paper was taken from the roll to cover the whole box…gee, who could that be from?
    This year, I was really committed to learning how to gift wrap, so I went to YouTube for visual proof that a man could accomplish this. I tried several search entries with no luck:
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, December 15, 2017 4:00 AM
    This is part 2 of my favorite Hammacher Schlemmer offerings over the past 10 years. Many are still available in their unique gift catalog. So, for the person who has everything (or really doesn’t care what he gets), consider one of these necessities:
    The Best Talking Scale: This device speaks English, Spanish, Greek and Croatian. The good news is that the weight reading is very accurate. The bad news is that it starts with a joke: “One at a time, please,” which apparently is still funny in Croatia.
    Instant Pickleball Set: This game sets up in the yard in minutes. It combines the skills required for badminton, table tennis and regular tennis. I think we can all agree that when we want spur-of-the-moment enjoyment, the first thing we think of is combining three sports we are bad at. By the way, the national pickleball champion has been accused of deflating the balls in competitions. In pickleball, this is just not kosher.
    SHARK BAIT SLEEPING BAG: Your kids feel safe and secure in their bedrooms and are finally sleeping nightmare-free. Why not surprise them with a life-size shark sleeping bag? The brochure’s photo shows a toddler snuggled inside the bag with only his head sticking out of the shark’s mouth. According to HS, this neat gift “devours children with shark-induced slumber.” Soothing, huh? But there’s more: “It facilitates restful sleep even while the child is being digested.” My suggestion is to wait and buy this on Craigslist for one-tenth the price on December 26.
    0 comment(s)
  • Wednesday, December 6, 2017 4:00 AM
    Over the past several years, I have saved my Hammacher Schlemmer catalogs. These frequent mailings are from a company that offers unique gift items, many of which you cannot purchase anywhere else. I have poked fun at their products in my columns, and now to celebrate their 2017 Christmas edition, here are a few of my favorites. Most of these items are still available. And I threw in a few new ones. Of course, the question is: Are they still for sale because they were so popular, or does the company just want to finally unload this stuff?
    World’s Largest Gummy Bear: Still in the catalog from four years ago when I first reported on it, this gummy bear is 1,000 times larger than your average fruit bear. (Say that in Yogi Bear’s voice and it’s a lot funnier.) HS advises that it tastes best when kept in the fridge and then sliced into cutlets, which is a term that should really be left for veal. The giant gummy bear is cherry-flavored and serves 12 kids. Or 106 adults.
    Fish-Catching RC Boat: The perfect gift for the absolute laziest person in your life. It’s a pint-sized boat that fishes for you. Yes, it trolls the lake, sets the hook when the fish strikes and then brings the fish back to shore. It’s $69.95, and for an extra six bucks you can get a sign to put on your front door: Home fishing.
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, December 1, 2017 4:00 AM
    We were watching TV one evening last week when my wife asked, “Don’t you think it’s about time we moved?”
    “Sure,” I said. “I’ll stretch out on the floor with a pillow; you take the couch.”
    Apparently that is not what she meant. After 30 years in our house, Mary Ellen now thinks we should be living in a condo, a place where the owners don’t have to mow or water the lawn or shovel snow. My son will be disappointed if we move. He was making good money doing all that.
    My wife is certain we have many good years in front of us, but she doesn’t believe in having anything above us. Like rooms. Mary Ellen wants everything on one floor. I like going upstairs to go to bed. That’s my 12-step program from Exercisers Anonymous. If we buy a home all on one level, that’s the end of my 30-second evening workout. 
    So last weekend, despite my misgivings, we started looking for a new place to live. We have this great real estate agent who is the most effusive and energetic person I have ever met. He’s excited about everything. The first condo we looked at, Brad got very emotional about the baseboards that accented the tall walls and high ceilings, the inch-thick granite countertops, and the stamped concrete patio (whatever that is). He was quick to point out that there was an electrical outlet on the kitchen island where we could make frozen margaritas. And those slow-closing drawers and cabinets? He was ecstatic.
    0 comment(s)
  • Friday, November 24, 2017 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen and I recently exchanged a few words over mayonnaise. Sometimes condiments can be seen as an insult to the chef. Like ketchup, for example. When I pour Heinz over my wife’s beef bourguignon, we always get into a stew.
    Mustard? Yes, we have argued about mustard, too. Over the years I have attempted to season some of my wife’s dishes with a healthy dose of this condiment. What would her Pork Milanese have been without mustard? Uneventful. What would her eggplant parmigiana be like without a spoonful of Dijon? I shudder to think. What about that sesame-encrusted salmon without a dollop of you-know-what? Yes, Mary Ellen and I have clashed over mustard.
    But a fight over mayonnaise? Who would have predicted this?
    It all started one morning last week when Mary Ellen was searching for the sugar in our kitchen cabinets and noticed that I had accidentally placed the opened mayonnaise jar in the cupboard rather than back in the fridge the night before. Such absentmindedness is a part of my nature. I have found my keys in the freezer and my cell phone in the dryer, but mayonnaise in the cupboard was apparently a capital offense.
    Without the slightest hesitation, Mary Ellen tossed the jar in the garbage, along with this denouement: “It’s no good. We have to throw it out.” I begged to differ. I just couldn’t accept the product’s ruin in just a few hours. I say if you can’t fight off bacteria overnight, you’re not worth the preservatives you’re made of.
    0 comment(s)
  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017 4:00 AM
    Lately I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror, concerned that the years have taken a toll on me and that I have aged quite a bit. My wife says I'm crazy, and to be that obsessed with my own looks makes me appear very elfish. (I hope she meant selfish. My ears were the only part of my face that I thought hadn’t aged.)
    Now when I shave, I tilt my head down to look at my receding hairline. For a long time, people asked me if I was losing my hair, but I knew exactly where it was. It wasn’t lost; it was in the sink drain. About 25 years ago, I had a hair transplant, which is sort of like what happens when someone dies. "He's gone to a better place," friends will say. That's the same with my hair. I don't have more hair, but what I had, the doctor put in a better place. 
    While examining my new signs of aging, I noticed a chin I had not been aware of before. Even though I’ve lost weight, those extra chins are very stubborn. I was pretty happy with the two I already had. 
    This reminded me of a story I wrote many years ago about an item I saw advertised, called “The Miracle Neck Slimmer.” Was it a scam? The manufacturer guarantees a 68 percent reduction in neck wrinkles. I have achieved similar results by simply slinging my head back and looking straight up at the ceiling. Unfortunately, the results are only temporary, and I have slammed into several doors while practicing the technique, but it does work. Well, I think it works. It’s hard to look in the mirror in that position.
    0 comment(s)
Looking for something older? Try our archive search
Copyright 2018
The Paper of Montgomery County,
a division of Sagamore News Media 
201 E. Jefferson Street
P.O. Box 272
Crawfordsville, Indiana 47933


(765) 361-0100
(765) 361-8888
(765) 361-5901
(765) 361-0100 Ext. 18
(765) 361-8888

Software © 1998-2018 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved

Our app is now available!