Friday, March 29, 2013

The Old Dinosaur; A Work In Progress

    As I explained in my very first blog entry in July 2010, I identify with dinosaurs because, as the last of my line of Mease’s, I too will become extinct. I’ve never married so there will be no little dinosaurs trotting around. It takes two to tango, they say, and I never met the right tango partner so childless I remain. When I’m gone, curtain closed, that’s all she wrote.

    However, I am not down and out. As in the song, Hey, Look Me Over, “The only way is up and I’ll be up like a rose bud…”  I am on the threshold of a brand new enterprise as an entertainer. My current card says only that I am a chanteur. (I was refreshing my memory of French when I decided to use chanteur instead of singer.)

    I have spoken several times about karaoke events I’ve enjoyed attending. The response to my singing has been so positive so frequently that I decided to strike out on my own and make myself available to sing at retirement residences, parties, receptions, lounges, company functions or wherever.

    To reflect my interests and abilities I designed a new card which will be a bit more informative than simply describing myself as a chanteur. On several occasions I have been called a “crooner”. That pleases me immensely since some of the great popular singers who have gone before me have also been called “crooners” — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and even Elvis Presley.

    These singers’ work is what I enjoy attempting to emulate. My current but continually growing play list includes:

    A Day In The Life Of A Fool
    All The Way
    As Time Goes By
    Drinking Again
    In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
    It Was A Very Good Year
    I’ve Got You Under My Skin
    Love’s Been Good To Me
    My Funny Valentine
    My Way
    New York, New York
    One For My Baby
    Send In The Clowns
    September Of My Years
    Summer Wind

    Arrivederci Roma
    Little Ole Wine Drinker Me
    Somewhere There’s A Someone
    Welcome To My World
    You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You

    I Left My Heart In San Francisco

    And I Love You So
    For The Good Times
    It’s Impossible

    Love Me Tender
    I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You

    We Have All The Time In The World
    What A Wonderful World

    I’m No Stranger To The Rain

Show Tunes
    Razzle Dazzle (Chicago)
    Mister Cellophane (Chicago)
    Music of the Night (Phantom of the Opera)

     I can’t fail to mention Jimmy Buffett, The Grateful Dead, The Ink Spots, Johnny Mathis, Leon Redbone, Leon Russell, Jimmy Durante and others. At this writing there are nearly two hundred titles on my growing play list. I practice several hours per day trying to “absorb” the flavor injected by the original singer.

My Current Card

The "Perversity of Circumstance Trumps All" phrase is my variation on Robert Burns' 

observation in his "Ode to a Mouse" that

"The best-laid schemes o’ mice an' men Gang aft agley,"

Initially I said "Perversity of Circumstance is more powerful than well-laid plans" but it works just as well in the shortened version.
My New Card

[Poor quality screen shot. Actual cards not yet delivered]

The front of the card below
 The Old Dinosaur
Crooner ala Sinatra and others
and includes my phone number, Facebook name Curtis Mease, email address
and the location of this blog.


    I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the people in the business who have encouraged and advised me in this brand new endeavor. First and foremost is Mike from  T and S Entertainment from nearby Lebanon county. Mike has offered the use of equipment he has as back-ups he rarely needs or uses. He has also provided access to the software this kind of business could not survive without. Thank you, Mike.

    Among the early encouragers are Greg, Bob, Sid, Adam and Bill from Impressions Entertainment in Lancaster. Tim from the group “Party Bomb” offered studio assistance and Chris from the Guitar Center offers continuing hardware advice and help. Thanks also to Midnight Mike and Jammin' Joyce of High Impact Entertainment. Later encouragement and advice came from L-N-B (Luke and Brandon) and Dwayne LBK (Lancaster's Best Karaoke.)

    I am sincerely grateful to all of these guys (and Joyce - she's one of the guys, too, but she's the prettiest!). Without their help my enterprise would take a much longer time getting off the ground. Thanks, guys.
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Penguin Revisited

    As promised I returned to the Penguin Hotel last evening for a very pleasant evening of karaoke and refreshments with a large group of people at least as friendly as the smaller group I met earlier in the week.

    Karaoke music was ably and amiably presented by a new friend, Chris, a mature gentleman who was no stranger to the sounds that aficionados enjoy. Aficionados included Simon and a few of his close friends. (Simon has never said whether he has perfect pitch but I’d be surprised if he told me otherwise. His vocal command is striking.)

    Simon and Karen and Sherry and I were joined on the “Come On Down” spot by Michelle (between bartending duties), Chelsea (after finishing up her waitress side work) and others and we all were pleased that the ‘A’ Number One Lady, Monica, was able to sit and enjoy the show since her business was well tended to by the people she trusts working for her.

All in all it was a "gotta-go-back" experience and I look forward to that.
 Try it. You'll like it.
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Critical But Not A Critic

    I am critical. I am cynical. I am skeptical. But, I am not a critic. In this blog I might often praise a person or an establishment. When I do that I am simply sharing the fact that I’ve had a pleasant contact or experience. I am not touting any business or attempting to curry favor. It is not my purpose in life or in this blog to sell any idea or service or product.

    If I have a bad experience which others could avoid with a bit of mature “Buyer Beware” awareness, I’ll probably not say anything. If, however, I see a lurking danger which could be stumbled on to or bumbled into, I’ll probably make a comment if it’s within the subject of the blog. Otherwise, I am not going to critique anyone or anything.

    If castigation seems called for, I’ll comment on Facebook or write a letter to the editor or to an appropriate contact further up the hierarchy. Since I am officially NOT a critic, don’t assume that my silence on any subject is tacit condemnation. I’m simply pursuing other ideas.
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Back Up Beepers and Barking Beagles

    Sitting at my console this morning preparing to write about yesterday’s revisit to the Penguin (later) my ears were assaulted with the loud, whining sound of a city vacuum truck cleaning debris from the storm drain on the corner. Yesterday it was the loud, whining sound of a commercial sump cleaner vacuuming something from a nearby restaurant.

    Once today’s city truck finished, the relative quiet allowed the invasion of yet another annoyance — the almost continuous beep-beep-beep of the back-up warning on a construction vehicle working on a street project.  It was this beeping that led me to wonder why this safety device had to be so loud it can be heard far beyond the safety area it was intended to warn about.

    On further thought it brought to mind the dog living on a property close to a laundromat I use. The dog lunges fiercely and barks loudly  when I walk past his fence — a solid fence - he can’t see me — even though I pose absolutely no threat to him or his property.

    These situations seem to confirm how neurotic our society has become. Neurosis, though no longer a favored term by the American Psychiatric Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is a significant over-reaction to a stimulus such as the construction vehicle owner’s need to warn far beyond the danger zone and the dog’s need to warn when not endangered. In essence, Neurosis is an over-reaction to reality. [Continuing with such over-simplification, Psychosis could be considered an under-reaction to reality.]

    It reminded me of my studies in Psychology. I am neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist but I have read works by specialists in those fields and one of the most highly regarded practitioners in that field was the late Dr. Karen Horney who founded the American Institute for Psychoanalysis in New York City in 1941.

    Neurosis and Human Growth and Our Inner Conflicts are two of the books Doctor Horney wrote. Her theories propose that inner conflicts between one’s real self and one’s idealized self create anxiety and efforts to cope with that anxiety can become “neurotic” when they become intrusive or obstruct social interaction.

    Some signs and symptoms of the disorders formerly considered among the neuroses are obsessive-compulsive disorder; anxiety attacks; hysteria; phobias; depression; irritability; low sense of self-worth; lethargy and others.

    Most people exhibit these signs at one time or another during their lifetime. It does not become a problem unless the means by which a person copes becomes their raison d’etre. If that occurs, the person has become their own worst enemy. It’s a matter of degree rather than substance.

    According to Horney, the needs a neurotic personality has in coping with their inner conflicts can be grouped into three categories:

        Needs that move you toward others — clingy, seeking affirmation and approval.
        Needs that move you away from others — cold, aloof, indifferent, anti-social.
        Needs that move you against others — being difficult, domineering, or unkind.
             [I believe there should be a fourth category. Needs that move you
             against self. This I have witnessed on more than one occasion
             with potential suicides. This would be at the extreme end of
             the neurotic spectrum — Impoverishment of Personality.]

    Karen Horney’s prescriptions for freedom from overwhelming coping mechanisms she referred to as “self-realization”. Doctor Horney was acquainted with doctor Abraham Maslow and her thoughts closely paralleled Maslow’s thoughts on “self-actualization”.

    He theorized that self-actualized people:

            — Have realistic perceptions of themselves, others and
                  the world around them.
            — Are responsible and ethical.
            — Are spontaneous and open.
            — Need independence and privacy
                 though still enjoying the company of others.
            — View the world with a continual sense of appreciation,
                 wonder and awe.

    I think I’ve achieved self-realization and I think I am self-actualized. 
Nonetheless I don’t like back up beepers at breakfast or barking beagles anytime.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Penguin Is Alive And Well

    The Penguin Hotel in Durlach just off Mt. Airy Road between Hopeland and Schoeneck is one of those serendipitous discoveries that you will always appreciate having made. In the mid-60s, Project 70 was in the process of acquiring land for the development of the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.

    It was on an afternoon drive through the countryside near Middle Creek years ago that I came around a corner and there was the Penguin Hotel. What a surprise! I stopped in then and enjoyed a brief visit. Years passed and eventually curiosity and a desire for a revisit took me to those back roads again but I was disappointed when I discovered weeds had overtaken the parking lot and the business was no more.

    Now, since the advent of the Internet and the possibility to chat “over-the-backyard-fence” with people who are miles away, I heard gossip that the Penguin had reopened. It definitely has. Welcome back, Penguin.

    It’s the kind of place where strangers do not remain strangers for very long. The terms “neighborhood tavern” and “country bar” could be considered equally descriptive for this pleasant place.

    Comfortable, friendly conversations can be enjoyed even when the TouchTunes digital jukebox is playing. The volume is kept reasonable. Toby Keith would find many reasons to sing about this place even though no Mason jars were evident. (He’ll get used to it.)

    An off duty bartender was being highly regarded for her sociability on the customer side and praised for her professionalism on the working side. And Chelsea, on duty, was wowing the customers with her prowess behind the bar. She particularly amazed Larry with her draft beer tapping skills. (For anyone who has never tended bar, tapping a beer IS a skill.)

       Larry, also a Navy veteran, and I enjoyed sharing some remembrances on our Navy days even though he served in the Pacific fleet and I remained in the Atlantic (and Caribbean and Mediterranean). He made the interesting observation that he had learned a lot about many things but not enough about any one thing to be considered “expert”. It’s an observation I’ve made many times. (But then, I remembered someone’s comment that there’s “No value in being an expert. An Ex is a has been and a spurt is a drop of water under pressure.”) Sour grapes? Or wise truism?
    The food at the Penguin looked and smelled scrumptious and next time I’m anywhere near there while hungry, the Penguin will be my choice.

    My next visit will be later this week. I learned that the Penguin has karaoke on Thursdays beginning at 8 PM. That’ll be a case of double enjoyment — singing some songs I like and doing it in a place I like.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Life On The Beat In The Real World

    Russell Rowley is a real cop. Actually, he’s a police officer or a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO). “Cop” is a cop-out word used most often by anti-social types who think the world is out to get them or that the world owes them something. To take the time to use a five syllable term - Police Officer - instead of Cop shows that you respect the officer and the job he does.

    I have enjoyed watching police shows on television beginning with Jack Webb in the original Dragnet, Broderick Crawford in Highway Patrol and Tom Tully and Warner Anderson in San Francisco Beat.

    At one time I even considered going in to a Law Enforcement career but decided I lacked the guts and the motivation so after the Navy, I returned to Penn State as a Chemistry major (initially).

    I never lost my interest in the law or law enforcement so when an opportunity arose to attend a local Citizen’s Police Academy I jumped at the chance. It was a public relations type of program which allowed civilians a glimpse inside a REAL police department.

    It was during this period I bought a radio scanner and was able to hear actual police calls. The local County-Wide Communication center was most accommodating in sharing with me their frequency assignments and the ten-codes they used. Since I had completed an enlistment in the Navy, I was familiar with the pronouncing alphabet the police used. (That alphabet was a modification of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) alphabet used by pilots.)

    Back to Russell Rowley — It was during the early days of my self-taught police scanner education that I came upon officer Rowley’s website which at that time was “Life on the Beat”. He has changed his web location but not the quality of the REAL stories about his work. His blog now titled Last Night’s Shift is available at:

    Officer Rowley’s site allows civilians an opportunity to witness and interact more satisfactorily with an officer than might be achievable with local police who, in maintaining a proper degree of control, need to be somewhat aloof. Officers (pointed out by one of the presenters at the Academy) have only two types of people in their lives — other officers or bad guys. Getting too close to a civilian might lead to a favoritism which could upset the professional equilibrium.

    The TV shows I mentioned earlier were, for that era, about as realistic as could be allowed. Moving forward to the more recent past, Hill Street Blues; Homicide, Life on the Street; NYPD Blue; Law and Order; Law and Order, SVU and Law and Order, Criminal Intent seem to have brought police drama realism to a new height. When intelligent, police-related humor was part of the picture we could always rely on Barney Miller and his squad.

    Whatever your experience with the law or law enforcement, I think you’d find last night’s shift a worthwhile read — sometimes funny, sometimes poignant but always true.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be

    Thus begins a John Keats sonnet which, sadly, was not published until 30 years after he had “ceased to be”. As far as the “fearing” is concerned — why fear? It’s going to happen! So observes Millay in her Dirge Without Music, “I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind”.

    This unavoidable awareness is what fuels my resonance with Frank Sinatra’s songs. They are, without being maudlin, so much in touch with reality.

        “Ah, yes. Fifty. September. Father Time with a frost warning.
        My leaves are turning. How green they were.
        And how bright they are. And, Oh, how wonderful my love affair
        with life.”
                — spoken intro to September of my Years

        “But now the days are short
        I'm in the autumn of the year”
                — from It Was a Very Good Year

        “And now, the end is near
        And so I face the final curtain…”
        “I've lived a life that's full
        I traveled each and ev'ry highway”
                — from My Way

Ode To An Old Man

Even with awareness of inexorable age
And without casting doubts upon your ability,
A woman one half your age you’re pursuing?
Seems surely a sign you’ve reached the last page
Of a wishful thinking senility.
Are you sure you know what you’re doing?

In answer to the wag who wrote, Ode to an Old Man, Frank did it his way. I’m doing it my way. I may not know what I’m doing but the possibility thinking is exhilarating! Oh, how wonderful my love affair with life.

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Papa Lima Three One Black

    World War One (WWI), The War to End All Wars, ended in 1918. Less than 25 years later, World War Two (WWII) started. It was the war that people born during or shortly after WWI would fight. These people of The Greatest Generation were now adults and called upon to maintain our heroic tradition of fighting wars.

    World War Two ended in 1945. Less than 5 years later the Korean conflict began. (It wasn’t a war. War was not declared. Of course the bullets and the bombs knew nothing about the lack of formal agreement to begin hostilities. And dead was still dead!) The Korean conflict is often called The Forgotten War.

    About midway between WWII and Korea, the political tensions and the capability for mutual nuclear annihilation ushered in the extended era referred to as The Cold War. Because of our involvement in Korea and with experience from World War Two, our US Army Air Force reactivated a Civil Defense program called The Ground Observer Corps (GOC).

    The GOC encompassed more than a million civilian observers at 12,000 or more observation posts to monitor any possible military threats from the air. This was a period before the construction of the Distant Early Warning system of radars called the DEW line.

    The observation post I served in was on a hill on the edge of town and our call sign was Papa Lima 3-1 Black. I assumed the Papa was the phonetic P for Pennsylvania and the Lima the phonetic L for Lancaster county. The three one black I never knew the specifics of but it seemed sensible to think it was simply our small piece of the big picture maintained by the control center we phoned our results to.

    Our job (we were unpaid volunteers working 2 hour shifts) was to identify aircraft by sight and sound (and, at night, by marker lights or exhaust glow), make note of their approximate altitude and their direction of travel and call the control center immediately upon acquiring the specifics to the best of our ability.

    Sergeant Bray, USAF, was our official coordinator and he was the person responsible for supervising the several observing outposts in Lancaster county. He also served as liaison for a group of Civil Air Patrol members who were on the observing team. My Meritorious Service Certificate for 100 hours of “faithful service” was signed by no less than Air Force General E. E. Partridge.

    I suppose what reminded me of this PL 31 Black was listening to my scanner where phonetic alphabet is commonly used to help distinguish between like sounding letters if a name is being spelled. The pronouncing alphabet in use by many police agencies today is a variation of the military alphabet which was necessary to prevent confusion over targets or meeting points — Is it a “B” or a “D”; is it an “M” or an “N”.
Calling them Bravo or Delta minimizes confusion - hard to make a listening mistake that way. Mike (M) versus November (N). Or Foxtrot (F) versus Sierra (S).

    And then there are the 10 codes but that’s a whole other story. That’s a big 10-4 Good Buddy. (Truckers don’t actually say such things. Actors pretending to be truckers say such things.)
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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Made in the USA

    I grew up in a very small town and in that town were several industries including two foundries, a friction materials manufacturer and the usual assortment of shoe stores, department stores, restaurants and one fast food establishment.

    In my youth, I spent much time in the industrial part of town meeting workmen, railroaders, merchants and other townspeople. In those years, Made in the USA meant something actually manufactured in my own backyard almost.

    Back then, there were four railroad tracks in the town’s railroad yard, one main line, one passing siding and two manufacturer’s sidings. The railroad served 8 or 10 businesses. Today, there is only one main track and one siding serving one customer.

    That was a lifetime ago. In the past twenty years as a truck driver, I’ve witnessed this devolution toward impotence and have finally concluded that this country’s primary product is no longer a product but a process — Planned Obsolescence!

    We don’t make, build or manufacture much of anything anymore. We import stuff, transport stuff and warehouse stuff but don’t expect to see a “Made in the USA” label.

    And as far as so-called Durable Goods are concerned, it seems if it lasts a year, it’s durable. Automobiles assembled in Mexico from parts made in China to specifications written by Japanese designers could be considered “durable” but they’re still not “Made in the USA” regardless of any American logo.

    It’s sad that it has become cheaper to throw away and replace than to repair. The day may come when we and our money are spurned by those who build stuff for us and cut us off. Will we have anyone with the know-how to build the things we’ve forgotten how to make?

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Waiting for a Text from Godot

    While sitting in a cocktail lounge last evening waiting for the arrival of the karaoke disc jockey I sent text messages to several people with whom I’ve had a friendly acquaintanceship during recent months. I wished to maintain some continuity of social contact after not seeing some of them for a time.

    After not receiving any response, it occurred to me that communication today has achieved what some philosophers have referred to as reductio ad absurdum or what playwrights have used as a basis for their Theatre of the Absurd. I was, it seemed, “Waiting for Godot”.

    In “Godot”, Samuel Beckett describes two characters who are waiting to meet an acquaintance neither of them knows well even to the point of not being able to recognize him should he arrive. The absurdist play continues without Godot ever appearing. It’s like an unanswered text message.

    In the old days (I thought I’d never fall into using that phrase but there it is) communication, in person, allowed people to see each other and view their response, word by word, to whatever was spoken about. The feedback, facial expressions or physical posture, could indicate degrees of acceptance or rejection or neutrality about what was spoken.

    Today, with text messages (or voice messages recorded for later retrieval by the recipient) heading out to the cyber cloud, the sender never knows whether the message was received, garbled, lost in space or simply ignored. Instead of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author it’s now “six texts in search of an answer”.

    It seems there is an estrangement from our global community and the degree of estrangement is directly proportional to advances in communication technology. The better the equipment, the less actual communication that takes place. Please leave a message after the tone. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. 

                                                            Can you hear me, Godot?

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