Friday, June 24, 2022

Insight: A summer of never-ending re-runs

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

It seems so long ago now, but each time I hear the theme music to certain popular television comedies of the 1960s, I’m brought back to the summer of 1965 and my mornings experiencing humor at its finest. 

The cast of television's 'Dick Van Dyke Show.'
For many years while growing up, my brother and I would ride our bikes two streets over to an elementary school in Brighton, New York, and participate in summer camp activities, but in 1965, the camp was called off because its director was having surgery. With my father headed out to work as a mechanical engineer each morning at 7:15 a.m. and my mother not driving, my brother and I tried to stay cool during the heat wave that summer with school out until September.

My mother suggested that we watch television to pass the time in the mornings and CBS was airing re-runs of four of their most beloved classic situation comedy shows back-to-back weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m.

I sat and watched each one and ended up knowing the characters, stories, and jokes from these programs by heart. Having an early bedtime during the school year, I hadn’t watched these shows previously and all the episodes were new to me. .

At 9 a.m. “I Love Lucy” aired and my favorite jokes from that show didn’t involve Lucy or Desi, instead I enjoyed the witty banter between their landlord neighbors, Fred Mertz (William Frawley) and his wife, Ethel (Vivian Vance). Their sharp-tongued pronouncements usually revolved around Fred’s penny-pinching ways or his longing for the time when he was single and not married to Ethel.

As a fan of the syndicated television series “Superman,” I liked the “I Love Lucy” episode that featured the actor who portrayed Superman, George Reeves. Lucy tries to get Reeves to appear at the fifth birthday party for Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux). When it looks like that is an impossibility, Lucy puts on a superhero costume and crawls onto a ledge outside her apartment to surprise Little Ricky and mayhem ensues.

Then at 9:30 a.m. “The Beverly Hillbillies” came on. Of all the quirky characters on that get-rich quick sitcom, including hillbillies Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), Elly Mae Clampett (Donna Douglas), Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr.), Granny (Irene Ryan), Jane Hathaway (Nancy Culp), and Milton Drysdale (Raymond Bailey), I loved the minor characters such as Milton Drysdale’s snooty wife, Margaret, portrayed by Harriet MacGibbon. Her posh lifestyle and disdain for her new backwoods neighbors was always entertaining.

I also loved “The Beverly Hillbillies” episodes that featured Wally Cox as Professor P. Caspar Biddle, an expert on bird watching. Up to that point, I knew Cox from his appearances on the “Hollywood Squares” and as the voice of the Saturday morning cartoon character, Underdog.

“The Dick Van Dyke Show” aired at 10:30 a.m. and it never failed to make me smile, even to this day. I found the trio of scriptwriter Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam), and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) and their non-stop jokes about the lack of hair of their supervisor, Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), extremely funny.

Of the many episodes that I watched, my favorite and most memorable of the series was the show where the characters improvised taking on parts as musical instruments in the song “I Am A Fine Musician.”

Lastly at 10:30 a.m., CBS would air “The Andy Griffith Show” and like the other comedies, I had my favorites on that program as well. I related to Andy Griffith’s son Opie (Ron Howard) because I was closest in age to him, but two characters really sent me over the top with their zany antics, Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), and the occasional appearances of the rowdy hillbilly Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris).

My favorite Andy Griffith episode was the one where Buddy Ebsen guest-stars as a hobo drifter who fills Opie’s head with ideas such as foregoing his household chores to go fishing instead or swiping someone else’s bag of sandwiches left unattended. It’s a lesson in proper parenting for Andy because as a father he must explain to Opie the importance of honesty and finishing a job once it’s been started.

All in all, watching those re-runs of classic comedies guided the development of my sense of humor and provided me many unique stories that I probably wouldn’t have heard otherwise. The writing, timing and delivery of jokes, outlandish situations that the characters found themselves in, and lessons about everyday life proved to be invaluable to me as I started to formulate my own approach to the human experience.

There are probably some who will scoff when I recommend these comedies from the 1950s and 1960s to younger viewers, but they made me laugh and cry and made me think about my family, my friends and my life in general.

Through the years I rewatched each of these shows many times and find them as fascinating and entertaining today as I did way back in 1965. Communications expert Marshall McLuhan once suggested that “television is nothing more than an extension of technology,” but for me that summer, it led to a lifetime of appreciation of simple humor. <

Andy Young: Able to see, but no eyes

By Andy Young

We educators sure look forward to our summers, and our two-month break has begun. That should be cause for joy. My personal landscape ought to be utterly uncluttered by stress, hassles, squabbles or any other undue burdens. My days should be chock full of laughter, contentment and fun.

But unfortunately that’s not the case. So far summer’s been a downer. A bummer. A drag. Resentment, annoyance and regret are all constant presences. Too bad; those scourges should be replaced by enjoyment, amusement and play. And let me be clear: when one portrays me, one doesn’t see somebody who carps about a perpetually half-empty glass. True, Andrew Young may not be perfect, but he’s no Eeyore.

Joy, pleasure and glee would all be preferable to sadness, woe and gloom. But sadly, that’s not my current real world, thanks to a perpetual adversary: technology. My prolonged battle regards a problem that recurs constantly, whenever a computer’s needed. Absent a remedy to the present quandary, nonstop troubles are guaranteed. And there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer to my personal conundrum, thus no decent or thoughtful scholarly output can be expected from here for the foreseeable future.

You see, over the summer my pals and I enjoy the exchange of messages every so often. But presently there’s a major snafu at my end of our correspondence group.

My dreadfully elderly (and somewhat treacherous) computer presently has a flaw that has made the job of on-paper thought development become unusually arduous. The problem’s centered on the keyboard. And because there’s no easy, trouble-free remedy, my power to construct cogent essays for my network of pals (and for the Eagle) faces a great challenge. There’s a severe danger here, because whatever talent any author possesses about penned words can be greatly reduced unless a cure for any relentless problem can be created. Plus, the panacea (should one actually be found) also must remedy the headache accurately and permanently. Because of my problem there’s currently no access to gerunds, and that’s all but death to a purported person of letters. The obstacle that haunts me can truly be called a bear.

So what exact subject currently troubles me, you ask?

A computer key that doesn’t work, that’s what. Just one. But the defect concerns what’s clearly a “key key.”

There are many reasons our alphabet has 26 letters. Each one plays a fundamental role, so that humans can clearly exchange both cogent and casual thoughts. But when even a lone letter evaporates, to adequately get one’s thoughts across to another can be a very tough task. An absent X? No problem. Could we make due were the Q (or the K) to fly the coop? Absolutely. But when there’s a vowel atop the flawed key? That’s a major obstacle. A huge, colossal, tremendous problem. Bereft of one of the 5 vowels, even a veteran author’s sentences look as though they’ve been formulated by some sort of mutant quadruped.

So how does one express clear thoughts, let alone prepare an essay for a local newspaper, when there are only four usable vowels? The other one’s not reachable at the moment, due to an awkward, troublesome, and somewhat cumbersome snafu.

Eye suppose phonetyk spellyng yz a posse bullytee, butt as u can see, that can be a tryfull confuse zyng.

Me are frustrated, that’s for sure. Why? Hey, have you ever attempted to type (or construct, should you prefer an alternate verb) a 600-word essay, sans access to the 9th letter of the alphabet?

Does anyone assume such a chore would be easy? Really?

Thynk uh ghen. <

Friday, June 17, 2022

Andy Young: Wrong place, wrong time, wrongly suspected

By Andy Young

Certain persons had better hope practitioners of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have a mistaken impression of the afterlife. That’s because if there actually is a Hell, some people are going to be spending eternity sharing space with Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Osama bin Laden in cramped quarters equipped with barbed wire walls, rusty-nail floors, acid-spewing showers, and all where wintertime temperatures rarely drop below 180 degrees.
Litterers, be they cretins who toss garbage out their car windows or pedestrian trash strewers unwilling to find an appropriate receptacle in which to deposit their rubbish are also amongst those doomed to an eternity of perpetual suffering in torrid, sociopath-infested surroundings.

Another contingent doomed to eternal damnation: people who don’t clean up the odorous, often squishy deposits their pets leave on sidewalks, or on other surfaces where human beings frequently enjoy hikes, ambles, or strolls.

And after an incident last week there’s at least one additional person who would, were I in charge, be bound for eternal damnation. I don’t know this individual’s name, but whoever it is attends and/or is employed at the high school where I teach. Relating the specifics of the incident that has aroused my ire may be a bit indelicate but refusing to acknowledge life’s more unpleasant aspects doesn't make them any less real.

It was shortly after lunch when I received a call from nature that quickly escalated from gentle to strident. Fortunately, my classroom is conveniently located near the public boy’s bathroom. Right next door to it is a private faculty bathroom that requires a key, and next to that one-seat, lockable facility is an identical one that’s open to any student or adult, assuming it’s vacant when the need to use it arises.

Given the nature of my business I felt privacy was called for, and since the faculty restroom was occupied, I headed for the open-to-anyone facility, which thankfully was vacant.

I entered, locked the door behind me, and almost gagged. The previous occupant had neglected to do their due diligence prior to leaving, and as a result the inside of the toilet bowl looked and smelled like a porta-potty that hadn’t been emptied since last month.

Many people reading these words have clogged a toilet at one time or another.

Depending on the situation it can be embarrassing, demeaning, mortifying, or sometimes all three simultaneously. But despite the humiliation factor, such plights need to be dealt with quickly, and with neither a plunger, a bottle of Drano, or a plumber’s snake available, I backed away from the horrible scene of the crime, opened the door, and left unobtrusively, intending to go seek a custodian.

But what I didn’t notice until it was too late was a girl coming up the hall, apparently needing to use the facilities. Opening the door that had just closed behind me, she entered the bathroom. Seconds later she backed out, gasping and horrified. I turned to see what was the matter. Our eyes met. Then hers narrowed. Presuming I was responsible for the nightmarish sight she’d just witnessed, she gave me the sort of utterly disgusted look one normally reserves only for drug-dealing child molesters or child-molesting drug dealers.

Whoever left the unflushed toilet that led to my undeserved humiliation has no reason to fear, for I am neither a violent nor unusually vengeful person. In fact, the only request I’d have for the craven invertebrate whose cowardice put me in a terribly awkward position is for them to please give my regards to Adolf, Jeffrey, and Osama when (not if) they next see them. <

Insight: Overcoming inevitable evolving friendship dilemmas

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve observed a meme circulating on Facebook and other social media that challenges participants to list the number of years of their longest friendships and speculates nobody has friendships lasting longer than 20 years. As someone who’s been around a long time, I think the question is silly, as I have friends that I made in first grade back in 1959 and many others I met throughout school more than 50-some years ago.

Ed Pierce, right, and his friend Mickey Justice during Reforger
military exercises in Germany in 1978. COURTESY PHOTO
I also have friends I made while serving in the Air Force in the 1970s and 1980s and others from college and early in my career working for newspapers. Although I may not speak directly with many of my friends that I’ve accumulated every day, I do follow some of their social media posts and try to catch up through activities such as attending my high school reunions or by telephone.

Driving home from work a few years ago, I listened to an NPR podcast on the radio in which a relationship consultant suggested if you want a friendship to last a long time, it’s inevitable that changes with your friendship will occur over time and people have to be flexible to remain friends.

She said that the longer a friendship lasts, the more it becomes susceptible to becoming uncomfortable. According to her, people inevitably change, and that evolving friendship dynamic can strain relationships such as when your best friend in high school marries someone you don’t like, and you don’t see them much anymore, or you get a new job, and you now work a new schedule and hardly ever see your former co-worker pals now.

But do situations like that spell the end of friendships? I tend to disagree. I have played in a fantasy baseball league with many of the same friends for the past 19 years and we have all gone in many different directions since the league was originally founded in 2004.

One big change was I moved from Florida to New Hampshire and then to Maine a few years back. But my friend Jack, a mortgage broker from Florida who also plays in the league, and I have remained friends even though I haven’t seen him in person since 2013. I just had a long text exchange last week with him wanting to congratulate my schoolteacher wife on her retirement and I asked him about potential tax incentives for her tutoring a few students in our home and how the real estate market is fairing in Florida these days.

I also post my newspaper columns on Facebook and Twitter every week and many of my high school friends are among the first to read them and make comments about how they can relate to the column’s topic or what they thought about the content of the columns. Some of these individuals are friends that I made while attending Carlton Webster Junior High School way back in 1966.

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from someone that I supervised in the Air Force in 1983, a co-worker of mine from a newspaper in New Hampshire in 2014, and a college fraternity pal from 1972 in New Mexico. I learned something new about each of these friends through our latest conversations and we picked up almost from about the last time we spoke, in one case nearly 15 years ago.

I’ve lost touch with friends that I wish I could speak to again but because of distance or circumstance it’s not possible. My Air Force buddy in Germany, James Smith, is a great example for instance. We were close friends from 1977 to 1979 but the last time I saw him was when he was flying home a few months before I left Germany myself in 1979. I never saw him again and have no idea what he’s been up to for the past 43 years, but it does not mean we couldn’t be friends again if I ever track him down.    

Having reached the advanced age I now am, I can also say I’ve lost many wonderful people over time that I’ve been close with and not because they no longer wanted to be my friend.

I’ve learned that the longer a friendship goes on, you must accept that life is fragile, and nobody lives forever. In the last 20 years, I’ve said goodbye to many high school classmates, former co-workers, and people I’ve met through the years that I’ve liked and admired.

It’s a fact that long lasting friendships will change and the changes that do happen won't always be comfortable.

I’ve also found out that in my lifetime I have gone through many different versions of myself. I’ve evolved from a Little League baseball player to a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, to an inexperienced reporter and sportswriter to a husband and stepfather to a newspaper editor and now a grandfather.

It means that the friends I make in each experience are part of  individual chapters of my life and it’s up to me to blend them all into a friendship tapestry that is woven from all the various experiences of my life. <

Friday, June 10, 2022

Windham: Progress to be proud of

By Jarrod Maxfield
Windham Town Council Chair

The last few years have been challenging and when we look around the world some days it seems like nothing is going right. But narrow that view down to what’s in front of us, our Town of Windham, and we see great things happening all around. 

The biggest opportunity we have is the North Windham Sewer System, which is on the June 14 ballot, but there are other projects moving forward that are important to know about. It’s difficult to stay informed on everything but it’s important to hear positive news and be proud of what Windham is accomplishing and celebrate these successes as a community.

East Windham Conservation Project - While it seems everything is only about growth, it’s not. Conservation and preserving rural Windham are town goals. Windham staff have been working diligently and those efforts combined with support from outside groups are making it a reality. This project will preserve approximately 700 acres in East Windham for recreational use, making Windham a premier nature destination. This land will be preserved forever from development and will be an asset to Windham’s future generations. This land boasts spectacular views, wildlife, trail access and once completed will have a fire tower at the top with views spanning from the ocean to Mount Washington. The total cost is approximately $3 million and will be paid through grants and growth impact fees, meaning this project will not increase taxes. In fact this week we were awarded our first grant of $998,000 from Land for Maine’s Future!

North Windham Access Roads - We have all said it, North Windham traffic @!%$@$! In partnership with Maine DOT, help is on the way. After decades of study, access roads will finally happen. These roads will create new routes to move traffic around Boody’s Corner and create opportunities for motorists who want to go through Windham and a chance to do so efficiently and to make it easier for those who want to access and utilize North Windham businesses to do so. This will also open new portions of North Windham for development that will benefit us all; from new tax bases to alleviate our town-wide residential taxes to creating growth areas that take pressure off our rural areas. Combined with the smart light system and other changes, relief is coming. The best part is, the current agreement in its final review, projects Windham’s cost of this $16,000,000 project is 10 percent, which we will pay from TIF funds, again not increasing taxes.

North Windham Sewer System - Last but not least is the sewer. Long studied and long needed, now is the time to move forward and vote yes on June 14. For decades we have been polluting the groundwater aquifer and denying ourselves economic opportunities, a double loss. This strategy has harmed our environment and our wallets. This project is something to be proud of as it will bring Windham from the back of the pack to a leader in Maine in wastewater management. We will be an example to other town’s on how to protect our environment and create economic opportunity. In terms of financing, we will never see more outside options helping us. In partnership with Portland Water District, we were awarded a $39,000,000 clean water loan at 1.5 percent over 30 years. This award was out of $100 million available to 76 other applicants. Our needs scored #2 and awarded us almost 40 percent of the total funds. With millions in loan forgiveness and grants, combined with our TIF financing already established, this project is on its way to success without overburdening our taxes. When outsiders are willing to support us and invest in us with their dollars, then it is time we step up and move this forward with a yes vote and invest in ourselves.

There are many other projects to speak of so stay tuned and stay engaged. It's an exciting time to live in Windham and be a part of our growing community and continuing to work together and solve these long-standing issues will benefit us all and our future generations. Thanks for reading and being a part of the process and don’t forget to get out and vote on June 14. <

Insight: Exploring weird, strange, and unusual song titles

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I happened to be driving my wife’s car last week and had the 70s on 7 channel playing on her Sirius XM radio. The cover of an old Randy Newman tune by Joe Cocker “You Can Leave Your Hat On” began to play and I thought to myself what a ridiculous title for a songwriter to come up with.   

Through the years I’ve listened to many songs with weird, strange and unusual titles, far too many to list in this space, but it prompted me to jot down as many odd song titles as I could recall at the time. I share them with readers here, mindful that this is a family newspaper and I’ve dropped song titles overtly relating to human biology or alcohol consumption.

“You Can Leave Your Hat On” is an exception for this list despite it being hailed as a traditional anthem for striptease artists. I include it because a version recorded by Tom Jones was featured in the 1997 film “The Full Monty.” The original absurd song was written by Randy Newman (“Short People”) for his 1972 album “Sail Away” and the video for Cocker’s cover includes Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger from the 1986 movie “9 1/2 Weeks.”   

My father was a huge fan of singer Roger Miller in the 1960s. He knew all the words to his songs and would belt them out while driving across town while listening to the radio in his 1962 Chevrolet Impala. Although I preferred Miller’s classic “King of the Road,” my father once told me that his favorite Roger Miller tune was “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd.”

Can you imagine the creative songwriting process that went into coming up with that idea? Extremely silly but very poignant, as the song delivers a message that everyone can be happy if they have a mind to be. In this 1965 masterpiece, Miller’s lyrics mention driving around with a tiger in your car, swimming in a baseball pool and taking a shower in a parakeet cage. Truly makes me wonder about what’s actually involved in coming up with a hit song.

My list intentionally avoids discussing a bevy of nonsensical titles such as “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles, “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” by The Police, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by the Crash Test Dummies, and “MMMBop” by Hanson. It also discounts obvious drivel such as Brian Hyland’s 1960 hit “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” with such memorable lyrics as “one, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore.”

I was on my way home from serving in the U.S. Air Force in Germany in 1979 when I heard an unbelievable song by Lorretta Lynn and Conway Twitty playing in the airport in Frankfurt while I waited for my Lufthansa flight to New York City. “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” has to rank right up there on my list of weird, strange and unusual song titles and the lyrics match that sentiment as well.

They’re certainly no Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, but country stars Twitty and Lynn capture the essence of a marriage gone bad by proclaiming in the song, “And that's the reason my good looks and my figure's gone. And that's the reason I ain't got no hair to comb. An' you're the reason our kids are ugly, little darling. Ah but looks ain't everything.”  

Along the same line, I have included on my list titles such as “I Married Her (Just Because She Looks Like You)” by Lyle Lovett, “My Lucky Pants Failed Me Again” by Tom Rosenthal, and “She never told me she was a Mime” by Weird Al Yankovich.

As a 20-year-old in 1974, I remember buying Elton John’s double-length album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” on 8-track cassette and hearing the tune “This Song Has No Title” by lyricist Bernie Taupin. Thought it was highly unusual for such a prominent singer to record such an odd song and I wasn’t disappointed when I listened to it.

It featured lyrics such as “And each day I learn just a little bit more. I don't know why but I do know what for. If we're all going somewhere let's get there soon. Oh this song's got no title just words and a tune.”

Rounding out my list are a group of song titles that pretty much need no explanation including “Satan Gave Me A Taco” by Beck; “The Voice of Cheese” by Frank Zappa; “Shoplifters of the World Unite” by The Smiths; “Washing Machine Heart” by Mitski; “Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks” by Panic! at the Disco;Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba; “I’ve Been Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart” by Johnny Cash; and “She’s got the Gold Mine and I got the Shaft” by Jerry Reed.

As for me, I always turn up the volume whenever Napoleon XIV’s 1966 classic hit “They’re Coming to take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” comes on the radio. And if you’ve never heard its sequel tune, also from 1966, "I'm Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!" by Josephine XV, you are indeed missing some genuine schlock humor. <

Andy Young: Stay vigilant, America!

By Andy Young

It’s incredible how many silly conspiracy theories there are out there. 

Some people actually believe that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin never landed on the moon; that Princess Di was assassinated at the behest of the British royal family; that Paul McCartney was decapitated in a 1966 car wreck (but subsequently replaced by a lookalike Beatle), and/or that the condensation trails behind airplanes are actually toxic biological agents being spread by rogue scientists to keep America’s population down (or to manipulate the weather; take your pick).

Phony conspiracy theories are just plain stupid.

Except for a genuine one that’s currently hiding right under our collective noses.

A longstanding elite cabal is bent on controlling America. They’ve taken over the United States government on several occasions in our nation’s history; in fact, they held the White House for a dozen consecutive years nearly a century and a half ago. But after their seeming demise, this covert group’s descendants have returned, more determined than ever to undermine our democracy. They’ve controlled the White House since January 2009, and there’s no end in sight to their clandestine reign.

The original plotters, led by Thomas Paine and 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Adams, Sam Adams, Samuel Chase, Abraham Clark, William Floyd, Elbridge Gerry, Joseph Hewes, Francis Lewis, Thomas Lynch, Robert Paine, James Smith, Thomas Stone and George Wythe, for those who need to know), forced George Washington out of the presidency in 1797, installing John Adams in his stead. But fortunately, Thomas Jefferson wrested power back in 1801, and except for the presidencies of John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) and John Tyler (1841-45), these furtive, elitist American illuminati were kept at bay until Ulysses Grant's ascendancy in 1868. The Civil War “hero” and his successor, Rutherford B. Hayes, were both secret underminers, but fortunately their evil faction’s domination ended with James Garfield’s election in 1880.

For a time it appeared the mysterious, traitorous cult that had controlled the White House for those dozen years had been eliminated. In the 87 years following Garfield’s assassination in 1881, the Svengali-like secret society actually ran their own candidate for the presidency eight times and did multiple times under the cover of each major American political party! Fortunately Democrats William Jennings Bryan (1896, 1900, and 1908), John W. Davis (1924) and Al Smith (1928), along with Republicans Thomas Dewey (1944 and 1948) and Richard Nixon (1960), were all rebuffed by a reasonably savvy American electorate.

But the election of 1968 proved America’s long-concealed usurpers were still alive and well, and had it not been for vice-president Spiro Agnew stepping down in 1973, they’d have kept power after President Nixon’s ignominious resignation the following year. Thankfully Gerald Ford’s taking office ushered in over three decades of traitor-free presidencies.

But like other scourges throughout history, this one wouldn’t die, and after unsuccessfully attempting to claim the White House through John Kerry in 2004, the schemers regained power with Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and have held it continuously since then.

The scoundrels who’ve been running America recently intend to keep power indefinitely, and with Mike Pence and Marco Rubio waiting in the wings, they just might. For the first time in United States history, the White House has been occupied for more than 13 consecutive years by presidents with exactly five letters in their last name.

Men with five-letter surnames intend to hold power forever, and until such time as concerned citizens rise up to defeat them, they just might. Wake up, America!

Rational persons should know enough to dismiss every outlandish conspiracy theory.

Except this one. <

Friday, June 3, 2022

Insight: Fashion trends to fashion outcasts

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

It may seem mundane to many but cleaning out my closet this past week and sending clothing items no longer wanted to the thrift store may show my lack of regard for fashion, but I’ve never really been overly trendy. 

As a child growing up, I watched my father rotate the three suits he wore to work each day. He owned a dark blue suit, a black suit and a brown suit and combined them with a white shirt and either brown or black wingtip shoes.  

If there was one area where my father chose to explore fashion more extensively, it was in neckties. He had a friend who worked for a necktie company in New Jersey and twice a year, a large box would arrive containing about 75 different and colorful neckties of varying widths, fabrics and patterns.

I determined about the age of 17 that I was never going to become a model and had little time or money to pursue costly apparel that stood out from the crowd. I preferred simplicity and owned several pairs of denim bib overalls that I found comfortable when paired with an old t-shirt and Addidas sneakers.  

After high school, I came to loathe the men’s fashion trends of the 1970s. I detested patterned polyester shirts with long overextended pointed collars and belts so wide they wouldn’t fit through the belt loops on your pants. I rejected the “Super Fly” pimp-style hats and blinding orange, bright yellow or lime green colors popular for men’s fashion during Watergate.  

I hated wearing men’s satin shirts, anything with ruffles, crushed velvet, tunics and nearly broke my ankles trying to walk around after buying a pair of boots with Cuban heels during the Disco Era. I wasn’t into jackets with fringe at the bottom and on the sleeves as they always seem to get stuck in the car door during cold weather. I also gave up trying to stay warm in winter wearing sleeveless sweater vests of the day.

By the end of the 1970s, I threw out all my shirts with oversized collars, scarves, velour shirts, tuxedo jacket, Madras plaid shirts and a hideous ascot that I bought once to wear to a wedding.

For full disclosure, I did retain a pair of red platform shoes I wore once on the floor of my closet with the hope that someday they would come back into style. They did not and those went to the thrift store 30 years later before the onset of eBay and nostalgia collectors.

When the 1980s rolled around, I tried my best to keep up with trends and loved my denim jackets, preppy sweaters, Hawaiian shirts (ala Tom Selleck’s Magnum PI), tube socks and chunky sneakers. I had a closet filled with colorful rib-knit shirts and turtlenecks, pleated plaid pants with suspenders, colorful painter-style pants, and shaker-knit sweaters.

When the pastel shades of Miami Vice on television were all the rage, I found a light pink suitcoat I would wear when my wife and I would go out dancing on Friday nights. But by 1989, the pink suitcoat met its untimely demise when it got motor oil dripped on it in the trunk of my car and my abstract print shirts became obsolete as I abandoned them for more practical and less controversial dress shirts to wear to work.

For a while in the 1990s, I bought into the whole trendy men’s fashion scene, owning several crop-top shirts, a Members Only jacket, MC Hammer parachute pants and had both a puka necklace and a chunky turquoise necklace. Of course, that was when my waist size was still a 30 and I had the energy to peruse department stores on Saturdays looking for exceptional bargains.

I still have and wear the Members Only jacket but thankfully there are no remaining photos of me wearing parachute pants. The turquoise necklace was banished to the bottom of my jewelry box permanently when I met the current Mrs. Pierce. I also wound up giving away my pairs of green, blue, and red Reebok high-top basketball sneakers as I moved firmly into middle age.

As the dress code relaxed for the newsroom that I worked in during the 2000s, my own collection of neckties and suits dwindled down to only a handful. And as my waistline expanded over the age of 50, those suits became unwearable and were donated to thinner thrift store shoppers.

My last fashionable purchase, so to speak, would have been a new suit to wear to an event where I was asked to be the Keynote Speaker. I spent a few hours at stores in the mall looking at suits but couldn’t find my correct size. I then went online and ordered several that I liked but I had to wait for several weeks to have them altered.

Now that I’m heading into the golden years, I have little desire to return to the pursuit of anything trendy and am thrilled to receive a fleece zip-up at Christmas.

The world of men’s fashion passed me up a long time ago and it can continue by on its merry way without me. <

Andy Young: Sunshine, vacation, and trepidation

By Andy Young

June began this past Wednesday, and I ought to be happy about that. If a single month were to be designated as the year’s best (at least in the northern hemisphere), June would be among the favorites. 

Already warm, bright days keep getting warmer and brighter. Roof rakes, snow shovels and similar winter necessities have been relegated to the shed, and bicycles, even those equipped without lights, can be ridden safely pretty much any time between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. for the next six weeks or so.

High school graduations take place in June, as does the start of summer vacation and locally, the onset of strawberry-picking season. Discerning sports fans look forward to June for three reasons: 1) Little League baseball is in full swing; 2) The Stanley Cup will be awarded, a noteworthy event even if the winning team’s home arena is located in a city where no one’s ever played pond hockey; and 3) it’s the calendar year’s last month when there will be little (if any) daily news concerning the overhyped, exploitative, multi-billion-dollar industry known as the National Football League.

My sister’s birthday is in June, as are those of a significant number of others who’ve positively impacted my life, all of whom (hopefully) know who they are.

But despite all that June has to recommend it, my siblings and I all feel a bit of apprehension when the sixth month of the year begins.

When I was growing up our family of six (Mom, Dad, brother, sister, me, and our paternal grandfather) lived in a modest home that was reasonably free of any abnormal heartache or strife until the morning of the first Saturday of June in 1969. I clearly recall a parent (though oddly I can’t remember which one) coming up to our bedrooms and telling the three of us not to come downstairs, because “We think Grandpa died last night.” Grandpa Young, who had lived with our family since before any of his three grandchildren were old enough to remember otherwise, had indeed died during that overnight, although by the time we arrived for breakfast his earthly remains had been transported to wherever 83-year-old earthly remains were consigned to back then.

Five years later, also during the first weekend in June, Grandpa Young’s only living child succumbed to pancreatic cancer at a chronological age that was more than a decade shy of the one any of his own children is today. The memory of being told that our father had passed away on what was outwardly a sunny and beautiful Sunday morning remains burned into my memory to this day, where I expect it will remain (albeit against my will) for as long as I have a memory to possess.

Our father’s premature demise transformed my mother into a widow with three teenage children, but she soldiered on. More than three memorable decades and six grandchildren later she too went to meet her maker after suffering a massive stroke … on a Saturday morning in June of 2007.

I now live thousands of miles from my two siblings, both of whom also live thousands of miles from each other. It doesn't surprise me one bit that both of them noticed the same connection June has had with our family's mortality as I had; after all, we all grew up in the same household.

I’ll try to savor everything good that transpires this month. But like my siblings, I won’t be able to fully enjoy the onset of summer until 12:01 a.m. on July 1 when each of us heaves our annual sigh of relief. <