Monday, November 30, 2015

Is Dayton the Boondocks of Ohio?

by Rose A. Valenta

Is it just me and logistics, or is Dayton the boondocks of Ohio?

Every other year, I go out to Ohio, to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop at the University of Dayton. So, just this morning, I was online checking rates and times for United Airlines and Amtrak to Dayton, OH. Registration for the Workshop opens tomorrow, December 1st.

I don't know why I checked airfare; no one has been able to get me on a plane since I took AirSick Flight 19 to St. Thomas several years ago, and those Northwest pilots in Chicago probably got caught playing Facebook games on their laptops overshooting the airport.

I prefer train travel, but Amtrak only goes to Cincinnati via Kentucky where you can hail a taxi, hop a bus, or rent a car for the last 56-green-miles to Dayton.

Coach or room, the train arrives there at 1:30 am. I considered how dangerous it might be to find myself alone in a train station at that hour. I did that once in NYC and was accosted by a street person, who wanted half of my potato skin. It was dripping with butter, sour cream, and bacon bits. Not willing to give up my bacon bits, I gave him a small bag of Nachos instead. I nixed the train ride idea. Plus, on the way back, the only train leaves Cincinnati at 3:29 am Sunday, April 3rd, or else you have to wait it out until the 7th; at which time the train leaves the station at 3:29 am. The trip takes about 16 hours by way of Kentucky and West Virginia whiskey and paw-paw stops. I tried entering Ashtabula as my destination, hoping that the Underground Railroad would be faster, but it wasn't.

The plane, Tattoo, goes all over the eastern seaboard, with layovers in Hoboken, DC, and Atlanta; taking 5 to 6 hours.

How in the hell did explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle manage in a dugout canoe during the 17th Century looking for a route to China via Ohio?

Since Dayton is only 545 miles away, I drew a straight line on a road map from Philadelphia to Dayton, and decided to check out Enterprise Rent-a-Car to drive. I've driven there in my own car before, getting it tuned up, tires checked, oil, brake fluid, window washer, and a fill-up; only to arrive at the same time as my friend, Joy, was leaving the Dayton Marriott bar in her bunny slippers and I looked as disheveled as she did, except I was sober!

It all started on Route 70 between Columbus and Dayton... you guessed it, flat as the world my Italian ancestor was told he lived in, right?

My Italian heritage stunted my growth, but I managed to get to be 5 feet tall. Consequently, I have to practically do a tarantella on the lug wrench to loosen the tire.

I detest lug nuts!

Do you remember the scene in "A Christmas Story," when Ralph utters an expletive while helping his father change a tire and ends up sucking on a bar of Lifebuoy?

That was me on Route 70. If there were any good Samaritans around, they all accelerated to get away from the crazy woman, who even looked like a deranged bunny out on the highway.

You have to know that the entire time I'm changing the tire, visions of Hervé Villechaize yelling "Mr. Rourke, the plane! the plane!" kept dancing in my head, while I'm berating myself with coulda shoulda woulda.

Try a little self-love, I thought, that always works. So, I priced the Enterprise leasing rate on a real classy Lincoln for a week. The cost is the same as airfare or room accommodations on Amtrak.

Oh yes! and a box of Godiva chocolates for the road. Whoo-Hoo!

Have audio books will travel.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

When Santa Had to See a Man About a Reindeer

by Rose A. Valenta

For as long as I can remember, Black Friday and Cyber Monday never meant Jack Schitt in my house. Those are the days everyone in my family stays away from the shopping Malls, clogged traffic arteries, and shopping cart demolition derbys. The only exception being our teenagers, who like to hang out at the food courts, eating pizza, and watching all the viral shoppers knock each other over like yulefest Weebles to save a yuletide dollar.

Occasionally, the kids report back to the house with their iPods that someone took a header out in the parking lot; some sweet little old lady whacked a kid with a candy cane because she thought he was memorizing her PIN number, so he could treat himself to another beef jerky; someone was seen jumping around Starbucks like the police seargent at 13th and Chestnut Sts. in Philadelphia, who was denied the restroom facilities for not buying a red cup of coffee first; or somone just got pepper-sprayed in the long sale line by a frustrated shopper.

Additionally, nobody ever said that after hundreds of servings of milk and cookies, Kris Kringle wouldn’t have to tinkle. However, according to this Reuters photographer at a shopping mall in Hamburg, Germany, who wanted to preserve the moment for posterity, Santa had to see a man about a reindeer and he didn't appreciate the Tabloid paparazzi!

Santa was pissed!

No one knows if the photographer was shooting for a new line of American Greetings, a Coca-Cola commercial, or was developing a new and improved 'Twas the Beer Before Christmas clip for YouTube, but he made Santa’s naughty list and will not be getting that expensive Canon Super Telephoto Lens that he wants for Christmas.

Santa angrily ajusted his zipper and pointed out that his sleigh broke down during a pre-Black Friday holiday dry run and a Coca-Cola 18 wheeler rescued him and the reindeer over Hamburg, They drank a lot of Coke, and if the photographer was doing his homework he would have spotted Rudolph and Comet doing the same thing over by the old Elm tree just outside the Mall.

"That's not going to win you the Deeper Perspective Photographer of The Year Award, son," Santa said. Then, laying his finger aside of his nose, he added, “You don’t want to mess with Santa!”

© 2010-15, Valenta, All rights reserved.
To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Part That Goes Over the Fence Last

by Rose A. Valenta

All of us have fond memories of Thanksgiving get togethers with family and friends. It’s just like the old days, when we watched “Walton’s Mountain.” People that we have not seen in a year or more come over with an overnight bag and a side dish; then, we all sit around, eat, talk, bicker, bring up all the reasons we only see each other once-a-year; and actually fight over the Pope’s nose "Naso del Papa," also known as “The part that goes over the fence last.” I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a Vatican dispensation for calling the turkey tail the Pope's nose. I never broached the subject in a confessional. Why spoil everyone's fun?

Murphy's law kicks in, and someone forgets to add the egg to the pumpkin pie mixture and it turns out runny. We drink the recipe (in our case a keg of beer in the garage), a fight breaks out, the Yorkie takes off with grandma's dentures in its mouth, one of grandpa’s suspenders ends up dangling off the piano, somebody screams in the bathroom about sitting on cold porcelain, and Uncles Harry and Dick are still arguing about whether our politicians ignoring the mafia have given corrupt politicians temporary sanctuary and the Middle East an edge over domestic terrorism in the media. This is a typical American traditional Thanksgiving party (and everyone worries about whether or not the kids will behave).

This year, in preparation for the annual holiday fiasco, Uncle Harry Googled all the Middle Eastern websites trying to find Calabrians and Gambinos. “I know they're behind it, if they're out there, I’ll show him!” he bellowed.

Another interesting tidbit to add more fuel to the fire, the Eagles got hammered during the Thanksgiving Day football game. I can still see Uncle Dick in his mascot hat, munching on a left-over wing, rapping Beck's "Loser," while pouring himself and his bald eagle mascot a beer.

I was looking over Uncle Harry's shoulder online today, and found something of interest that I’d like to share, a video that shows how to pick out a tender turkey.

Watch yourself at the Mall.

© 2010-2015, Valenta, All rights reserved.
To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Plans - Remember the Titanic!

by Rose A. Valenta

Seize the moment, remember all those women on the ‘Titanic,’ who waved off the dessert cart.” ~ Erma Bombeck.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and everyone is frantically making plans. Although, it has been my experience that the best made plans often end up like the Titanic, seat a few icebergs at the dinner table and you're sunk.

Those who are hosting are worried about seating arrangements and folks, who get along; as opposed to those you need to take sharp instruments away from when they sit next to each other like my Uncles Harry and Dick.

Others are planning to bring side dishes, which reminds me of the famous Forrest Gump quote “Life is like a box of chocolates...”

“Hey Rose, are you keeping an eye on the weather forecast?” my husband asked. “You can’t make Harry sleep out in the barn in a sleeping bag unless you let him have the kerosene heater. Then, if you do that, you have to get one of the kids to go out there and clear out the debris. I think paintballs, hay, and boardwalk souvenirs are flammable.”

“Why don’t you do that,” I answered. “They will listen to you. If I ask them, they will pile it all in one of the spots that leak when it rains. Empty bucket and pot locations are not clues to them. Besides, I’m busy trying to figure out my Grandma Chappell’s pumpkin pie recipe. She left out an ingredient on the list, gave it to me, and then she died.”

“Okay, men, hit the deck and put on some old clothes, we are going out to the barn for some exercise.” He said to our 14 and 11-year-old grandsons, who were spending the week with us while their parents are in Atlantic City trying to hit the tuition to send them to Harvard.

My husband has been a gung-ho Marine his whole life and has a few choice expressions that he learned in boot camp. He yells some of them to keep the kids in line. He cussed and they all went out to the barn.

I found myself alone in the kitchen looking at an 8x10 photo of Grandma Chappell over the spice rack, in a white apron, holding a large blue 1st prize cake ribbon, appearing to laugh at my predicament.

I remembered those summers that I spent with her in Olean, NY, when I was very young and she was the head baker at the Olean House. Her high-rise cakes were known and enjoyed in practically every county in the State of New York and Pennsylvania. People traveled for miles to get her desserts. I haven’t seen anything like that again since they closed Olga’s diner on Route 73 in NJ. At Olga’s, it was the lemon meringue pies that caused the pilgrimage; at the Olean House, it was her orange bundt cakes with orange glaze icing.

The first time I ever experienced an excruciating blow to my ego, was when she stood me on a chair in her kitchen, with an electric mixer, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and some other ingredients and watched me like a hawk while she dictated the recipe and method of creating one of her famous orange cakes. She had the scientific process down to the number of times each ingredient was even touched by human hands, let alone the number of turns in the mixer.

After all that, when the cake came out of the oven, it would have made a great paper weight advertisement for Steve’s Oversized Crullers over on Route 17.

She never forgave me for that one. She was on the telephone all morning bragging to her friends about how I was making the orange cake, under her supervision, for their afternoon tea.

Me and my bruised ego helped her serve store-bought cookies.

I think that’s why she left out an ingredient in the pumpkin pie recipe, just to get even.

So, now with Thanksgiving bearing down on me like Hurricane Joaquin, I Googled all the pumpkin pie recipes and compared them to the one she gave me.

I still couldn’t figure it out, so I seized the moment, dialed our local bakery and ordered two pumpkin pies and a mincemeat. I can hide the empty bakery boxes alongside Uncle Harry out in the barn, before guests arrive.

I’m sure everyone will be smiling, except for the turkey!

© 2010-2015, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Sunday, November 8, 2015

‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’

All the recent publicity about Hillary's email server, the ensuing FBI investigation, and Hillary telling her Secret Service agents to "shut the F*** up! to Ronald Kessler," reminded me of the WWII saying “Loose lips sink ships.” Not only did the military mandate the rule to soldiers writing home during war time, but my grandmother took it a step further and enforced it at home, when the “dirt” or “scoop” pertained to a family member. You know, tell an outsider about family business and your ass is grass.

This is truly a violation of our freedom of speech, but most of the time it is for a good reason. People can actually die if you spill your guts. In the military actual lives are at stake. At home, one could die of embarrassment if anyone found out that Uncle Harry has a pair of red sequined stilettos and a votive candle on his night stand.

No, it has nothing to do with "don't ask, don't tell." Uncle Harry has a foot fetish. Grandma blames his podophilia on the fact that they had to live in a basement apartment in the theater district during his formative years. In Hillary's case, Bill told his mistress that she is gay and has been wooing her own White House intern since 1996.

This is the directive our military issued during WWII:

1. Don't write military information of Army units -- their location, strength, material, or equipment.

2. Don't write of military installations.

3. Don't write of transportation facilities.

4. Don't write of convoys, their routes, ports (including ports of embarkation and disembarkation), time en route, naval protection, or war incidents occurring en route.

5. Don't disclose movements of ships, naval or merchant, troops, or aircraft.

6. Don't mention plans and forecasts or orders for future operations, whether known or just your guess.

7. Don't write about the effect of enemy operations.

8. Don't tell of any casualty until released by proper authority (The Adjutant General) and then only by using the full name of the casualty.

9. Don't attempt to formulate or use a code system, cipher, or shorthand, or any other means to conceal the true meaning of your letter. Violations of this regulation will result in severe punishment.

10. Don't give your location in any way except as authorized by proper authority. Be sure nothing you write about discloses a more specific location than the one authorized.

The military penalty for violating these rules was the court-martial system. My grandmother’s penalty was a bit simpler but more violent – the cat o' nine tails. The State Department is "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," pretty much like Hillary ignoring a semen stain on a blue dress with Bill's DNA and blaming it all on a right-wing conspiracy.

The common denominator here is “common sense.” You have to ask yourself about the repercussions of being a magpie or just plain irresponsible with classified information in your closet, while all other government employees follow the GSA rules for Alternate Work Arrangement approval and encrypted government-issued devices.

I don’t feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. Not only is she disloyal to the cause – the war on terror, but she is making a small fortune for her foundation as a seedy politician. She has given terrorists access to classified information, indirectly caused cyber attacks and sold our uranium to the Russians. She is a role model for women, who choose to stay in psychologically abusive relationships with cheating husbands.

You can tell she needs a course in anger management.

As a final blow, the GOP Benghazi Committee submitted this video to Congress in a lame attempt to prove that she is not competent to handle buggers either:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ahl al-Fatrah: or Cover Your Butt

by Rose A. Valenta

In Malaysia, it is illegal for a Muslim to smoke. However, the faithful are not listening. Over half of the 27 million citizens of Malaysia are Muslim, and more than 50% of them smoke cigarettes.

Part of the problem is attitude and motivation. Muslims are read the Holy Despicable Cow! Riot Act, while Americans are given educational commercials, like the one shown below, and treated as if they have some intelligence.

Nik Aziz, a top Malaysian cleric and leader of the Pan-Islamic Party (PAS) in Kuala Lumpur really let his flock have it, by saying “Muslims who smoke and try to portray themselves as pious are worse than cows which defecate in the street.”

I’m sure someone could be intimidated by that.

"...a cow which defecates in the middle of the road, we cannot take legal action against it because it has no brain and cannot think." But human beings, who have brains, for them to do something which is wrong in religion ... when they are in an attire which symbolizes Islam, they can be regarded as being more despicable than cows," he told Malaysia's news agency, Bernama. He added that ”smoking is forbidden by Islam,” and there is a fatwa banning the habit.

That did not stop 80-year-old Sama Abdul from selling "how to" booklets, while wearing a burka, at BB Plaza and Sungei Wang Plaza, called “Ahl al-Fatrah: or Cover Your Butt.” It describes over 30 ways to remove the nicotine stains from burkas before the husband comes home from work; as well as 10 shoe odor-busters, 10 breath sanitizers, 100 great hiding places for hard packs, 100% guaranteed makeup and tattoo removers, and a whole chapter on "The Joys of Sneaking a Pulled Pork Sandwich."

I like the American way best:

Pick up my book, “Sitting on Cold Porcelain,” at SMASHWORDS.COM

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Police Don't Deserve To Die

by Rose A. Valenta

No one hit home on the topic of black lives matter better than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word” during the Civil Rights movement. Also, the great American novelist, Alex Haley, who shed a light on our ignorance and brought the sins of our fathers into the focus of public awareness during the 1970s. Many Americans of color will find humor in that, but that’s the way it was for white folks living up North.

I spent most of my life living in an integrated working class neighborhoods in Philadelphia. I was never exposed to the atrocities happening in the South. Those conversations never came up. I knew our personal history as part of the Underground Railroad and knew that my second great-grandfather on my father's side of the family served in the Civil War in Company E, 1st infantry, Michigan. He was from upstate, NY. Prior to that, we had ancestors, who were indentured servants as early as 1634 in Connecticut. None of them were wealthy and did not own slaves. Later, some served in the Revolutionary War and fought for our freedom (I read Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in later years). My grandmother always taught me that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and that we are all children of God, regardless of race. She based that on what she read every night in her bible.

I didn’t know how different things actually were until I entered the work force and met people of color, who once lived in the South. I’m glad they moved. I was appalled at some of their stories: public hangings without a trial, the KKK and unbelievable discrimination and torture. I verified that these stories were true with a few friends, who did not shy away from the topic in front of me. About then, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came along and I cheered the Civil Rights movement. I would have marched with them, but my family wouldn’t permit it. They feared for my safety. Had I been blessed with a more rebellious nature, I would have gladly participated.

A cross was burned on Dr. King’s front lawn in 1960. It made headlines.

Many years later, I mistakenly assumed that the KKK had been disbanded. No, I wasn’t wearing horse blinders, the KKK was not in Philadelphia recruiting people and I was not in the South. Our media conveniently lacked adequate coverage about things that needed to be shoved under the carpet or go away. One of my friends, who is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) and writes for a major Philadelphia newspaper, calls it “compliant conspiracy” on the part of the media. The same folks, who forgot to tell us that Jackie Kennedy was a chain smoker or how sick FDR was when he ran for his 4th term (Not that some columnists didn't want to write about controversial topics, but the editor would nix it before it went to print). If the media doesn’t cover it, people are kept in the dark like mushrooms and never get the whole story. Yellow journalism often finds a window of opportunity here, as well, and you still don't get the truth. I don’t plan to move forward as a shroom.

I have tremendous respect for and give credit to the late Dori J. Maynard and her father, Robert C. Maynard, who founded the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which advocates diversity, so that we can now get information from all voices on virtually any topic in the media. I ask myself why it took us so long to figure out that we shouldn't have segregated media, nor one that will C.Y.A. when you are up to no good.

When Ferguson happened, I realized that the KKK still had a strong foothold there, like dust bunnies left over from the Civil Rights Movement. I had a vision of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in D.C. and Dr. King saying "Time to clean house, Ferguson."

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the KKK has not been classified a domestic terrorist organization and their leaders arrested. Of course, I’ve been told on many occasions that they are protected by freedom of speech. Yes, except for speech that incites violence.

Last summer, I saw a video that showed 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, armed with a knife, getting shot and killed by police in St. Louis. That did it for me. I was nauseated. How can the police, armed with guns, kill a guy armed only with a knife that a nightstick could easily knock out of his hand? My husband actually did that very thing 25 years ago, with his nightstick, when he was attacked by a knife-wielding young man in West Philadelphia, while he was working on the Philadelphia Police Department. No one was killed. The man suffered only a wrist injury.

My husband is retired now and when I showed him the Powell video, he sadly shook his head. He too was raised to respect all people as fellow human beings and always chose to do the right thing, deadly force being the last resort.

"Police training" he said, but he is also a former Marine and was trained in martial arts and how to disarm when attacked. This is a recruiting issue that needs to be studied by many police departments. Apparently, the laws governing deadly force have changed and a knife is considered as deadly a weapon as a gun. Kajieme’s death was ruled “suicide by police.” His mother and grandmother didn’t agree. Me either. He could have been talked down.

Social media allowed me to follow what was going on and I was somewhat relieved when Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey went to Ferguson to discuss police body cameras. I decided that if I was black and a mother of teenagers, I would never live there. I would move north.

Many fatalities later - God rest each and every one of their souls, we have taken down the Confederate flag -- albeit 150 years late -- have "0" tolerance for bigots like Donald Sterling and have a Black Lives Matter movement. We are seeking solutions. I have no problem with the movement. It will bring awareness onto the front page of newspapers and open up dialog. Hopefully, it will be a diverse dialog providing us with the entire picture. What I do have a problem with is the negative, criminal influence of Minister Louis Farrakhan on the movement. I want to know the name of his plastic surgeon. Anyone who can camouflage that much evil has to be good.

I have heard Farrakhan speak. He is a powerful speaker, but he is wasting his God-given talent on sending the wrong message.

God said “Thou shalt not kill.” Farrakhan said about a month ago that he is looking for 10,000 strong men to do his bidding and says things like “If the government will not intercede in our affairs, we will rise up and stalk them! and kill those who would kill us.” These are not God’s words, these are evil words and could be interpreted as seditious conspiracy (18 U.S. Code § 2384), especially when people are actually dying and police targeted. He has freedom of speech to call white people "crackers" but he is not protected by the First Amendment to advocate murder. He wants people killed.

Although our First Amendment does not protect speech that incites violence, Farrakhan does not pledge allegiance to the American flag nor does he recognize American citizenship, he says he has “left the plantation,” whatever the hell that means. He thinks he is above the law and is not making progress nor seeking to improve our future. We must respect our judicial system, or lobby for change. If our young people listen to him, they will end up in jail or worse.

Farrakhan can recount black history better than the Empower Encyclopedia and claims that we are "400-year-old enemies." While knowing about black history is important, we live in the here and now and need to move forward. We are not enemies; we all want the same things for our children. As radio host, Jesse Lee Peterson, asked recently, "where is the white tyranny?" We have black leadership in many cities across the country, in Congress, as past Secretaries of State and even our POTUS is biracial. How many years does he expect folks to pay for the sins of previous generations, when all he needs to do is admit that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. set us on the right path to progress when he said “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us...” and my personal favorite “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”? We do not need the negativity or hate rhetoric coming from folks who advocate murder and choose to divide us. He is corrupting our youth.

His rhetoric is also sexist. Women are not "second" anymore we are equal (Mary of Bethany).

Farrakhan is obviously brainwashing his immediate followers and should be arrested and put in jail for sedition. Why else does he need to come packing and have a team of bodyguards to enter and exit a speaking engagement in a house of worship?

I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement should distance itself from Louis Farrakhan and align with someone like Alveda King because ultimately all lives matter. We are all important and deserve respect from each other. We can change laws through proper channels; vote for public officials, who act on our behalf and complain if we are not happy with the service police and first responders are providing in our communities.

The only time the police are your enemy is when you are up to no good.

Typically, substance abusers don't like the police. Parents have to understand that the police do not make the laws, they only enforce them. They are the wrong targets. If you don't like the laws, petition your legislators and get your kids off drugs.

Our dedicated police officers don’t deserve to die because angry, impressionable, often emotionally distraught individuals are listening to the misguidance of an unlicensed minister with an agenda, who is living in the past. Any mother of young men can tell you how easy it is to lead them down the wrong path at a certain age when all they want to do is rebel against authority and the system. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center has Farrakhan under its radar.

The Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit in the 1930s. Look at Detroit today, it is in ruins. If I was a zealot, I could say something about wrath.

Minister Farrakhan knows he is wrong. You can be sure he is lining his pockets. I believe in the Constitution and First Amendment rights as much as anyone, but he has sold his soul for a microphone to incite. I am urging all good people, who believe in the real Word of God and value the spiritual well being and eternal soul of your son or daughter, to boycott his event at the National Mall on October 10th.

2 John 1:10-11 "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works."