Hungry, Hungry Hyundai

ElantraAs you all probably know, (You do all subscribe to my blog, right?) I have been known to stop at Chick Fil-A just about every morning for coffee. It’s really preparation in case I run into traffic, which only starts the second I leave my house. If I have time, I will go inside for a spicy chicken biscuit. I must go inside to eat a CFA sandwich, because their biscuits, delicious as they are, tend to explode into a cloud of crumbs when you bite into them. You should know that my car doesn’t do crumbs.

When it was McDonald’s—and I don’t stop there much because their coffee always tastes like cigarette smoke to me—I could get a Sausage McMuffin, and if I was in a hurry, I could grip the sandwich by the wrapper (much as a migrating sparrow might grip a coconut by the husk) and munch the last couple of bites while driving the back roads of Great Star Drive, carefully calculating my last bite to be finished before turning onto the wild and crazy Rt. 32. McDonald’s doesn’t tend to put things on their breakfast sandwiches, like the ½ cup of mayonnaise, 93 pieces of chopped onion, and 13 pickle slices that they put on their lunch sandwiches, all ready to squirt onto my console.

But, not everyone has the same high standards as me (That should probably be “same high standards as I,” but that sounds stupid). I’ve seen many people on the roads who have highly developed multi-patella-dexterosity, aka, the ability to use both hands and steer with your knees. The left hand is to hold the sandwich, and the right is for holding the steering wheel, phone, cigarette, dog, lipstick, or stickshift (depending on your preference or bad habits), leaving your right foot to accelerate wildly while steering with your left knee. Believe me, this is WAY harder than it sounds.

I have seen women applying makeup in the sun visor mirror (which is wrong on a couple of levels), and a guy shaving with an electric razor. I’ve seen dogs in laps, their heads sticking out the open driver’s window. But the strangest thing I’d seen until today was a guy eating a piece of cake. With a fork. Off a plate. On the highway. I can’t even imagine trying that without scraping the paint off the Kenworth T680 semi in the next lane. What’s worse is, he was so nonchalant about it. The plate was level, he was probably steering with his knee, and every once in a while, the fork would stab a piece of cake and he’d gulp it down like Augustus Gloop turned loose in Wonka’s factory.

Tonight though, on the way home from work, there was the Hyundai Elantra in the next lane. The lady behind the wheel was talking to the little microphone in the roof of her car, even occasionally waving her right hand around like she was trying to dry her nails (Okay I haven’t seen that one yet). But in her left hand was a ginormous, completely peeled orange. She took a bite. There was a lot of traffic, so we passed each other several times over more than five minutes, a couple of miles, and every time, there was the orange. A couple of bites taken, but most of the orange was still there. She’s probably on her sofa right now, watching reruns of the Golden Girls, talking to her sister Amoeba on the phone, gripping that stupid orange in her left hand.

All I could think about while we passing each other was that juicy, sticky, nasty orange leaking all over the seat and the carpeting, juice getting all over her hand and running down her arm, little droplets dripping off her elbow and oozing into the power window controls. I imagined her in front of me at Chick Fil-A the next morning trying to buy her coffee, handing the cashier a handful of sticky money through the open door because her window no longer works. And that’s when it dawned on me where I went wrong. I should have hit the horn and put the window down and yelled, “Gladys! Yeah, you in the Hyundai! Eat that damned orange!”


Volmares: Roots of the Central Maryland Urban Dialect

There are many lost languages in North America, including Apalachee, Mohawk Dutch, Tilamook, and Yurok. But some have not become completely extinct. A few hundred years ago in this very region, the original settlers of Baltimore practiced a very rich dialect that is still spoken in many areas in and around the city. It was in 1608 that Captain John Smith explored the upper Chesapeake Bay, specifically the area surrounding the Patapsco River, which means “backwater” in the Algonquian dialect.

The original settlers of that area blended their English with sounds from the local Algonquians, and that evolved into the dialect originally called, “Vol-ma-res” which in Algonquian, translates loosely into “Majestic Waters.” The settlers mimicked their language, right down to the pronunciation of Valmareese, and it is this Valmareese accent that has given the region around Baltimore City its rich lexicon and vibrant treat for the ear.

The diacritical marks have all but disappeared from the written language. Most notable among them is the ewmlaut (not to be confused with the German “umlaut”). The ewmlaut (pronounced “EWWM-lowt”), uses two backward slashes, typically over the vowels “O” or “U” (e.g. ȍ), also seen as a conjoined O and E or U and E, such as “Œ.” The “auhawn” diacritical mark is expressed as a small circle beneath the A (e.g. “ḁ”) and is typically pronounced as “ehhAY.”

An exception to most of these rules seems to be a diversion of the original Algonquian. When a U with an ewmlaut (an accented long U) follows certain consonants, everything after the U is slurred. The most widely known example is the English word, “ambulance.” In its original Algonquian, ambulance (any form of conveyance of the infirmed), would have been pronounced as AM-byu-lantz. As the language evolved into Valmareese, the pronunciation changed to Am-b’-lamps, and is still used widely throughout the urban centers of Baltimore.

All of these pieces have helped form the modern day dialect which evolved from the original Valmareese, into what is now called “Bawlmorese.” You may have heard traces of this dialect near the neighborhoods of Baltimore. For clarity, I’ll avoid all the diacritical marks in the following examples, but will attempt to phonetically express the sentences, although it is impossible to express Bawlmorese accurately in written form.

“Yewse awl better come ouwn in here an’ giyt yewur dinner, ouhr it’s gohna git cold.”

“Hey, did’a Owh-ri-oles win dere heome owhpener, th’other day?”

“When yewse hiear a amb’lamps*, yewse better pewhl owhver to da sahd of da rowhd.”

(* Also pronounced “am-blantz”)

“Hey Jimmie, bring me a glayss o’ wuhrter ouwt o’ tha zink.”

It is still very common to hear the Bawlmorese dialect in use even today. To hear it in its native glory, it’s best to visit the Hampden, Bel Air (also pronounced “B’lair), Canton, Fells Point, Locust Point, or Highlandtown (also pronounced “Hollin-town”) regions of the city, particularly diners, grocery stores, beauty shops, and lottery ticket sales terminals.

By now, you should realize that this whole thing is complete BS. But if you’ve made it this far down the page, “Awww. Gawd love ya, hon.”

Here’s a link to help you:



Five liters of unbridled anger roars in the lane beside me. The red glow of the traffic light reflects off the glistening black paint of the Mustang’s hood. The driver grins behind the cloak of dark-tinted windows, no doubt assessing the worthiness of my machine. I am undaunted.2015-gt-mustang-doing-a-burn-out

I pull my front wheels to the stop line, cautious of the changing light, watching it, for I know my vengeance is coming. The Mustang revs, loudly boasting its readiness. I sneer, tightening my grip on the leather-clad wheel. It’s on.

My right thumb finds the “ECO” button on the steering wheel, disabling it. I won’t be saving fuel this time, friends. My left foot depresses the brake pedal, holding back the 190 horsepower that paces in its stall, trying to escape, waiting to throw its rider. My right foot sends more revs to the orange tachometer needle. My eyes study the traffic light. My ears ignore the wail of the stallion to my right.

The Mustang eases to the thick white line, our bumpers neatly aligned. We do not make eye contact. Our cars taunt each other. The amber light on the cross street glows, and I know I’m seconds away from victory. Three. Two. One. Green.

I release my left foot and jam my right to the floor. The Traction Control warning lights up on my dash as the tiny front wheels lose traction in the remnants of loose salt, spread so profusely a week earlier in anticipation of a quarter inch of snow.  Damn it!

The chrome horse on the Mustang’s fender rears up and kicks its hooves as steam blasts from its nostrils. The Mustang leaves two trails of black evidence in the street, visible only until the tire smoke blocks out my view of his taillights as he blisters into the future, leaving my Kia Optima coughing and embarrassed. The engine wheezes like a turbocharged leaf blower. By the time the Mustang has reached the next county, I’m traveling at a speed of almost 25 miles per hour.

Until we meet again, Mustang. I will turn off my traction control, and we’ll see who’s boss around here. Oh yes, we’ll see.

Coexisting with Civility

ChooseCivilityLet me explain what prompted this post. It’s been a few months now, but it’s something I saw on my way to work that made me laugh. I had just taken the exit from Rt 100 east onto I-95 south, and was approaching the ramp full of cars blending in on the ramp coming in from Rt 100 west. People began doing what people always do in this situation—they started to protect the little piece of road reserved just for their vehicle. They won’t let you in, because then you get there 20 feet before they do. They have the right of way. It’s their road, damn you.

I know this rule. Of course I know this rule, because everybody knows this rule. I have even, on occasion, enforced this rule. Stupid, I know. Childish, for sure. But, what can I say. You’ve done it too, haven’t you? Uh-huh. . . Anyway, on this particular day, I was being very patient. I had coffee, and there was a good song on the radio, and I was happy. A Jeep flew past me on the left, and then tried to pass the van that was in front of me, and that’s what set them off. The two vehicles inched closer and closer together, nearly trading paint, waiting for just the right moment when the more brazen of the two could floor it and merge recklessly onto I-95 ahead of the other. Victory!

Absolutely, it was fun watching this contest. But the very best part, by far—by a country mile—was their choice of bumper sticker. The Jeep had one of those “Choose Civility” stickers, and the van had a “Coexist” sticker. Priceless.

But you know, it got me thinking about traffic etiquette. There is an intersection of two roads that qualify as “the back way” to work that a lot of people use. Two of the streets feed a lot of vehicles into a four-way stop. Your turn, his turn, your turn, his turn, your turn, MY turn. But at this particular intersection, the traffic moves more efficiently than at a roundabout. I just have to slow down a bit, nod at the guy in the Toyota Tacoma, and go. Smooth.

Want to mess that up? Add a Honda Accord coming the other way from one of the other two stop signs. That’s when the trouble begins, because now a nod is insufficient. Now, you have to make eye contact. Is he nodding to me, or the other guy? No, wait, he’s just checking to see which way I want to go. So you want me to. . . oh wait, now he’s looking at the Accord. I look too. That driver’s looking at the radio. Now, Tacoma nods to me, and I take the signal and go. NO STOP. Geez, are you gonna go now? I flash the lights. Tacoma starts through the intersection. Accord missed him by inches. Sigh.

Now, we’ve all suffered through driver’s education or the written test, and we know the car on the right has the right of way. So here’s the start of a joke. “Four cars approach a four-way stop at the same time.” Which one of those cars is on the right? All of them! Bing! Bing! Bing! Who goes first? The pickup truck, that’s who.

Here’s why. The gentlemen in Buick behind the super dark glasses is focused on performing the perfect stop, signaling the turn and waiting for the blinker to blink sixteen times before deciding whether it’s safe to proceed. Nissan minivan is waving her hand like she’s swatting flies. She’s hoping that every other driver will go before her, leaving the intersection perfectly empty for her to safely pass. The lime green Civic has vaped inside with the windows up, and now he can’t see out the windshield or past the extra-large brim of his DC hat pulled down over his eyebrows.

The F-250 hits the accelerator, the truck rocks to the right, black smoke rises from the 10-inch diameter smokestack protruding from the center of his truck bed. The roar of the diesel engine scares the kids in the back of the minivan. The other three will still be waiting at the stop sign five minutes later.

Drive safely, my friends.



The Baltimore Civic Center

Image result for baltimore civic center
I was at Monster Jam yesterday at a place they now call the Royal Farms Arena. Call it whatever you want, but it will always be the Civic Center to me. Standing there amidst all the trucks, I started recalling all the times I’ve been to the Civic Center, and it has been the most random of events.
Maybe the first thing I remember was a car show, which included the Batmobile, fresh from the TV series. Burt Ward was signing autographs. I also remember the Bonnie and Clyde movie car was there.
Hard to say what was next, but it was either the Royal Highland Guards (Scottish Military Tattoo with bagpipes… Dad loved them), or it might have been a Baltimore Clippers Image result for baltimore clippershockey game. I was still very young for both of these, but I do remember standing for the Clippers “fight” song. I still remember the general tune. I think I even had a Clippers seat cushion.
In 1976, it was Elvis in one of his very last performances. The Jordanaires carried most of the show, as the King was rather sick. I can’t remember if the big stamp controversy was before or after he died, but there was the “thin Elvis” stamp and the “fat Elvis” stamp. In concert, we saw fat Elvis. At the time, we thought it was cool, but my brother and I weren’t super Elvis fans. We knew of him, of course. Everybody did. Nowadays, it’s pretty cool that we got to see Elvis in concert.
Next was probably the Baltimore Skipjacks hockey team. They rolled in after the Clippers, and I don’t think they held the same place in Dad’s heart.
There was the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus (with elephants, of course). We also saw the Shrine Circus there a couple of times. For a while, the Shrine Circus was held at the Fifth Regiment Armory, but I suppose it outgrew the place and moved to the Civic Center.
We saw a Rock and Roll Revival there, with such people and groups as Bill Haley and the Comets (Rock Around the Clock), Little Richard, and tons of others I can’t remember.
Next was the Tractor Pull, where a bunch of guys with big trucks compete to see who can pull a 22-ton weight the farthest. In those days, the hero truck was the Orange Blossom Special, which was loud and really cool. I seem to remember a loud train whistle blaring just before he hit the accelerator and the truck literally jumped off the ground. Awesome! Oh, and the guest star was this relatively new monster truck called Bigfoot or something like that.
Image result for orange blossom special pulling truck
Later on, Mary and I saw Alan Jackson in concert there. Of note, I’m pretty sure my brother saw Led Zeppelin at the Civic Center.
There was the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer league, and I had a surprisingly good time. “Goran Hunyak!” I think he was the goalie at the time. I don’t know. The crowd yelled his name, so I yelled too. We went to the game because of a British guy we worked with who wanted to see indoor soccer. (Crazy Americans…)
My daughter graduated from UMBC at the Civic Center.
And that brings us back to Monster Jam, 2018. The place is still going, and it still looks exactly as I remember it from my first trip there in probably 1968 or 69. The seats are definitely the same ones that were installed in 62, and the bathrooms look about as you would have expected from back in the sixties.
A word of caution though, if you go back now, hot dog prices have increased by 1,000 percent, give or take.

I Siriusly Miss My Kia

I’ll explain. My wife is driving my Kia, and I’m driving my truck this week. This probably sounds crazy, right? I love my truck! My truck is awesome. Why do I miss my little, itty-bitty Kia? It’s the radio.

Damn you, Sirius! (See, it wasn’t a typo after all) You’re like nicotine for my ears. You’re like the extra chunky chocolate chip cookies that make me eat more than one. You’re that salty deliciousness in Utz potato chips that makes me want to eat the whole bag. And the saddest part is… you’re not even all that great anyway.

I am on glorious Rt. 32 for about two hours each day, and what else is there to do besides yell at the other cars, than to sing along with the radio? Sirius has several channels that play music I like, and very few interruptions. For about five bucks a month, I get to hear a wide variety of music, clicking past songs I don’t like with the little magic button on my steering wheel. That song again? Click. Hasn’t Blake Shelton named those damned dogs yet? Click. “Oh, oh, oh, oh, sweet child…” Click.

I equate Sirius to Safeway though. If I find something I really like at Safeway, like Bertolli’s Stuffed Shells, or Finlandia Swiss Cheese, or Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Burritos, Safeway is legally obliged to stop selling it. I have data to prove this. Well, I don’t, but I don’t care about that. Now if I find a new product that I really like, I just tell Richard the store manager that I hate it and can’t understand why they’d carry such an awful product. It buys me time. Oh yes, it buys me time.

Sirius is the same way. Let’s take the most awesome song out at the moment, “Shoot Me Straight,” by the Brothers Osbourne. I’ve now heard it three times on Sirius. Lee Brice’s “Boy,” 154 times. Keith Urban’s “Female,” 732 times (That’s just this week though). Blake could have named the Dalmatians twenty times over by now. Finally, “The Rest of Our Life,” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, which is a beautiful, heartfelt love song, that I’ve heard… Click. Slowest, most boring song ever, and I grew up when the Carpenters were on the radio. AM radio for crying out loud!

But now, I’m in my truck. A fine specimen of a 2004 Dodge Ram (Yeah, it’s got a Hemi in it), with 20-inch wheels, an imitation hood scoop, and an AM/FM radio which has commercials, announcers, interviews, and interruptions. I can’t stand it anymore. It used to be all I had. Hell, AM radio was once all I had. WCAO played everything I needed at 600 kHz on the AM dial on my Panasonic radio. It was just fine.

Now that I’ve had a sip of that uninterrupted music, that Hair Nation hit, that toke of The Highway or Prime Country, or that Classic Rewind of ambrosia, I can’t stand hearing commercials. There are literally millions of channels on Sirius. (That’s an exageration) I have even stopped on the French pop channel up in the Canadian band when I get bored with the other 173 channels. You do what you gotta do, right? I don’t necessarily want my car back. I want my radio back. Sirius, you win. You’ve dangled your little shark fin antenna in front of me and I took the bait. I am weak.

If you see me along Rt. 32 and I’m pounding away on my steering wheel drums, or if I’m belting out a tune behind those closed windows, you can be sure of a couple of things. First, you should know that I know the words to very few songs, so I’m totally making stuff up. You should know that I’m probably headed toward work, because A.) That’s when I’m more likely to be doing those things, because B.) if I’m going home, it’s dark and you can’t see me, and I’m probably not in the mood anyway. The last thing is, you can be sure I’m not listening to the news channels which are full of Zyppah (Anti-Snoring Thing) and Erectile Dysfunction (You know what that is) commercials.

If you see me in my truck, however, you should know that I can also do a burnout if I have to (for emergency maneuvers only, of course) because the truck does NOT have traction control. Maybe I’ll just keep that truck after all.

The Blanket Chest: Craftsmanship is simply recovering from your mishaps. Repeatedly.

Sometimes, things work our really well, and my projects fly by. Other times, I make a blanket chest. I started this thing two years ago by gluing up the big pieces… the top (lid) and the bottom. Planed, jointed, glued, and sanded flat. Then they warped. I cut them apart and re-glued them two additional times. When they warped again, I put them into a pile in the basement until last month.
Then this guy I work with (Let’s call him Jeff) practically insisted I go to the Maryland Woodworkers Show, and I finally did. It was awesome! I watched a demo and got sprayed with man glitter (sawdust), and then I was hooked again. I decided to give the blanket chest another shot. Started off great. I re-sanded the big pieces nice and flat and moved on to another piece, which I promptly messed up. I wanted to use biscuits in the mitered joints of the base. I had the blade set too deep, and it poked through the front. I made another one. I moved on.
The sides will be raised panel construction. I set up my ShopSmith in “Shaper” mode (like a drill press), cut a practice piece like you should, and it came out perfect. Then, on the very first cut on the very first of eight raised panels, the motor (which is heavy, and on the fastest speed setting) vibrated itself a bit loose, and the motor dropped, gouging the bit into the panel. Oh well, these things happen. 20180203_112017.jpg
On about panel number 5, the bit dragged against the grain and tore a chunk out of the edge (where the guide bushing needs to ride). I patched this with a sliver of walnut, some glue, and high-performance wood filler, just to give a smooth edge for the bit to ride on. That worked. Phew!
“Panel-raising bits” are large, and they remove a lot of material, so I cut a little bit on the first pass, then lowered the bit to cut a little more… then on panel 7 or 8, I cut the panel with the wrong side up and ruined it. (This is a mistake, by the way, and not a mishap). I cut apart all of the problem pieces, glued new pieces on, cut them to size, re-sanded them flat, and cut them again. When one of those panels was going through, a big chunk got ripped off the edge.
That’s when I told my wife that she is not meant to have that blanket chest that I promised her when we got married 34 years ago. But, I did finally make progress (See wood shavings), and I finally did get to the point where I’ve now glued up three sides to go onto the finished base. I’m getting there. If true craftsmanship is the art of recovering from your mishaps, then over the past couple of weeks, I have given myself ample opportunities to improve my craftsmanship. Sadly, I’m not done quite yet. Stay tuned.