The View From the Peanut Gallery   3 comments

I recently came across an obituary. Rhoda Mann Winkler died. She was 87.

You may not think you know her but if you are “of a certain age.” You know her moves. Ms Winkler was a puppeteer on The Howdy Doody Show. Just reading those magic words, The Howdy Doody Show summoned a parade of characters. Howdy Doody, of course but also Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring, Flub-a-dub, Mr Bluster, Don Jose Bluster. These characters who visited homes late on weekday afternoons via tiny screens (television screens, not smart phone screens!) were all puppets.

whole gang

There were also two humans, well kind of –  if you count clowns as humans. Clarabell liked to squirt people with a seltzer bottle and communicated only by means of a loud bicycle horn, the kind where you squeezed a rubber ball on the end. The mere sight of Clarabell on our 10″ black and white screen usually sent the 3 or 4-year old me fleeing into my bedroom. He is probably why, to this day, clowns make me nervous.

The other human was Buffalo Bob Smith who dressed in a fringed buckskin suit which, as I now picture it, was part cowboy and part safari suit. He tried valiantly to keep rein over all these characters.

Allow me to interrupt myself for  a second – if my mentioning the 10″ screen and the fact that I was 3 or 4, didn’t tell you this was long, long ago, ponder this. Clarabell was played by Willard Scott, who now entertains people even older than me by wishing them a  Happy Smucker’s 100th birthday on The Today Show.

willard scott

Despite the dangerous prospect of Clarabell, my deepest desire, at the time, was to view the show live and in person, seated in The Peanut Gallery; “peanut gallery”, being the name given to the studio audience composed entirely of children who appeared to be about my age.

peanut gallery

Alas, the closest I ever got was second-hand. I once lived, for a short time (not short enough!),  with a young man who had actually been a member of the The Peanut Gallery, but it didn’t end well (our relationship or his adventure!). His mother was so late coming into the studio to pick him up after the show that he was the only child left, and he started to cry. And guess what!? He got to sit on Buffalo Bob’s lap until she finally got there. As for the lap, it was a far more innocent time than the present.

It took me a long time to get there, but I finally got to sit in a modern day Peanut Gallery. There were no clowns –  only comediennes – well, three, anyway. The fourth was a former George W Bush aide. Yes, it was the daytime show, The View. A friend secured tickets and invited me.

Well, it started off bad and got worse. We had to line up two hours before the show – on the sidewalk outside ABC studios …….

ABC studio

… the rain. We were lucky on two counts: we’d come prepared with umbrellas, and it was a warm September morning. Since everyone else came prepared with umbrellas, it was a colorful mass of jostling, bumping, and dripping but at least everyone had to keep their distance from the person in front of them.

Finally we were herded inside by ABC personnel so young that I imagine even their parents were too young to remember Howdy Doody. Dressed in black with ABC badges clipped to their lapels,  these millennials barked at us to walk fast, stay in line, and remain in single file. In short, they treated us like we were kindergarteners headed for The Peanut Gallery, and speaking of kindergarten, when we arrived in the next holding area  we were given snacks of apple juice and popcorn!But the worst was yet to come.

Finally seated, we were “warmed up” by a comedian who after a reasonably good job of getting our laughter pumped and primed, proceeded to put us through a drill of responses. We were to keep our eyes on the stage manager. When he raised his right hand and waved, we were to utter AHHH , when he waved his left hand over his head we were to laugh.  And when he clapped his hands over his head, we were to break out in wild applause. Not content to merely tell us, we had to practice it again…….and again………and again.

Suddenly Whoopi, Big Rosie O’Donnell, Little Rosie Perez, and The Republican proceeded to their seats.


And at every break, assistants flurried out with powder puffs, combs and light meters


But the best part was there were no horn-honking seltzer-squirting clowns. The bad part is I can never view an ebullient “live” audience anymore without wondering which arm the stage manager is raising.

But  you know what? I wouldn’t mind dancing with Ellen!

Why Me? Our New Prayer   2 comments

In the course of my studies of one thing or another, I recall reading that early man invented the concept of gods to give a face to the forces of nature they feared and against which they had no defense. In the course of this recent abomination also know as winter,  I’ve come to the conclusion that the people of today – yours truly included, have turned this around. As each of the snowstorms lined up from here to Oshkoshimowobegonissippi descended upon us, we looked up to the heavens and moaned. “Why me? Why me?” And we took it as an affront each time the warm temperatures predicted and promised by the technologically dependent weather priests of TV somehow froze over with not a word of explanation or apology. “But you said,” we cried, as sub-zero wind chill numbers filled the screen “But you said.”

I personally have developed my own spring ritual. It’s called my parking lot prayer, and last time I checked it’s kept me sane – well, realtively sane. If you recall, last summer I reported how in the course of my Saturday errands I always make it a point to explore the classic car show assembled in front of the McDonald’s in the shopping center . Well, ever since this spring should have arrived, I glance over and picture the proud owners lounging in their beach chairs, the summer breeze warm and gentle replacing the biting wind blowing in my face, and as I get back into my car I whisper “This is one last Saturday to freeze through.”  But you know what? Each Saturday brings more snow – even last Saturday – Palm Sunday.

My last errand takes me to the supermarket and another parking lot. Last Saturday I was running a little late and it was dark as I emerged from the store. As I wheeled my groceries through the swirling snow,  my mind conjured up Christmas lights and Salvation Army kettles. But then a glance back at the store snapped me back to reality. On the other side of the sheer curtain of snow, potted tulips and daffodils huddled and shivered against the supermarket wall and I heard them cry in unison, “Why me, Why me?”

As for me? I raised my eyes toward the heavens and shook my head. “This is not right,” I declared, “It’s just not right.”

Posted April 2, 2015 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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The Name Game   4 comments

Last week I found myself smack dab in the middle of The Name Game. For those of you too young to remember The Name Game, although it sounds like a television show, it wasn’t. The Name Game was a song that was popular back in the 60’s. Although it was pretty ridiculous ,it was catchy and somewhat of an ear worm.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term ear worm it’s a song you should run screaming from because once it gets into your head, you can’t get it out.  It bores into your brain and you find yourself humming, singing, whistling – whatever – all day long. Ear-worms are patient. They can  lie dormant for  long periods of time, but once awakened – watch out!  The Lion Sleeps Tonight has been dozing in my head since high school. Drat, now I’ve gone and let him out!

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Oops, Sorry for the digression ….oh yes, The Name Game

The name Game

. It went like this

Shirley, Shirley bo Birley Bonana fanna fo Firley
Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!
Lincoln, Lincoln bo Bincoln Bonana fanna fo Fincoln
Fee fy mo Mincoln, Lincoln!
Come on everybody!
I say now let’s play a game
I betcha I can make a rhyme out of anybody’s name
The first letter of the name, I treat it like it wasn’t there
But a B or an F or an M will appear
And then I say bo add a B then I say the name and Bonana fanna and a
And then I say the name again with an F very plain
and a fee fy and a mo
And then I say the name again with an M this time
and there isn’t any name that I can’t rhyme
Arnold, Arnold bo Barnold Bonana fanna fo Farnold
Fee fy mo Marnold Arnold!
Luckily there are no sound effects to this blog or the song would be loose in your head by now,
but bear with me, this is all germane to my story.
(And for you information, I can hear you, whoever just said “This better be worth it!”)
…………OK on to ……….tada !!!!…… story………….
I was speaking to  a young lady recently. Her name was N. Lipscombe. I immediately thought of Sharon McLean, my bestest BFF in all the world back in fourth grade. I thought of Sharon because she had a cousin named Rudy Lipscombe. I asked Ms Lipscombe if she had a grandfather by that name (sigh yes, grandfather, time marches on) Her face lit up and she said she did have a great-uncle (double sigh) who passed away a couple of years ago (triple sigh), and although Rudy wasn’t his given name she thought he may have gone by it. I told her I didn’t think Rudy’s given name was Rudy, either but I didn’t remember what his real name was.
She told me her family was from Virginia, and now I was getting jump-up-and-down excited because I remembered Sharon’s grandmother, who was also Rudy’s, was from Virginia. Ms Lipscombe said she was getting goosebumps and as soon as our appointment was over, she’d text her father and ask him. As I left I gave her a whole set of names our conversation had unleashed – Mrs, Ryals (Sharon’s grandmother);
Aunt Louetta (Sharon’s aunt  – Rudy’s mother)
Young fashionable Aunt Fannie who had a handsome boyfriend.
And oh, yes – Uncle Robbie who was in the Air Force and brought home a real German wife —  with an accent and everything!
Can you tell I spent a lot of time at Sharon’s?
It wasn’t until I arrived home that afternoon that the most important name popped -into my head – Giscombe. Rudy’s last Giscombe – not Lipscombe!.

Posted March 19, 2015 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

A Warm Surprise on A Frozen Day   2 comments

If you recall, back in January, I posted a blog titled Wood you Believe Number 19? If you don’t here it is. I’d related how  the USPS deposited a Christmas card addressed to #19 Wood……. in my #19 Wood………mailbox. The only problem was the sender in Hialeah Florida thought it was en route to #19 Wood……. in Jamaica West Indies. I felt bad since the sender had gone to the trouble of going to the airport and spending the money needed for foreign air mail postage. So I put it in an envelope along with a note explaining why it was arriving late, and went to the post office (Not the one that had obliviously delivered the wayward card) and sent it on its way to Jamaica.

Happy ending to the story — or so I thought.

But a happier yet ending was yet to be –  a warm one that arrived on a single digit day

I stopped at my #19 mailbox  a few weeks ago and extracted a large card addressed to #19, and immediately my eye went to the colorful stamps.

DSCN1853Inside I found

DSCN1852It was from Mrs Enid Wiggams, who resides at #19….. in Jamaica.

She added a lovely note and made a point of including her address. Do you think it was a hint she’d like a Christmas card next year? Probably not, but I’ve saved the card so I can send her one.

Posted March 2, 2015 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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Tell It Like It Is   4 comments

Warning: I feel a rant coming on.

Does anyone else have a problem with today’s weather forecasters’ obsession with the Wind Chill Factor, or am I the only one?  It’s getting so bad that I can watch an entire weather forecast, and if my attention wanders for one second, I miss the the actual temperature.

Note To Al Roker and his biddies. (Freudian slip. I meant buddies, but they do go on like a bunch of old biddies, don’t they) Sorry, but I warned you this might be a rant, Now where was I. Oh yes, Note to Al Roker and his buddies:

I do not want to know what it feels like outside. Call me old fashioned, but I just need you to tell me the real temperature. I’ll find out how it feels when I actually go out.

(For  my West coast readers, who may not know about such things, according to the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, “Wind chill temperature is a measure of the combined cooling effect of wind and temperature. As wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, driving down both the skin temperature (which can cause frostbite) and eventually the internal body temperature (which can kill). The Wind Chill Temperature index is the measure of this relationship.”)



Do you see that top set of numbers, the ones in the black border under the word temperature? In the old days, that’s all we needed to know.

But you know, all this histrionic hype may actually work to my advantage. Yesterday I was actually worried. Listening to the news, I began to picture the Arctic Express as a frost-breathing dragon bearing down on the House of Mars. But I had to go out and slay it. Rafael Miranda, my Sunday meteorologist said if I didn’t shovel the snow that fell overnight, it would freeze to ice. I got up my courage, quadruple-layered up,  and waddled to the door.


Hey! I wondered, Is the Arctic Express Monster masquerading as a beautiful day?

Rafael had done me a favor. The real temperature could never measure up to his hype. I was pleasantly surprise. So much so, that when I was finished, I decided to go to the gym. When I arrived there I had another pleasant surprise, the always (pardon the word) wind-chilled parking lot,  felt no colder than it did on any other winter day.

Only the sight of poor Mighty Mouse reminded me of how cold it was.DSCN1861

He was even wearing icicles on his old boo-boo


Back home again, Mighty had a message for Al Roker.

DSCN1855“Never mind how the cold feels. I’m out here all the time and I’m dressed for it, but I’m lonely and cramped down here.”

DSCN1858“When will this path become  my driveway again? I want to go home?”

I didn’t have the heart to venture a guess. What do you think? April? May?

Riding My Wildhorses   2 comments

I must say, I do come across Walmart displays that stop me short. A few weeks after coming across the dreaded pot holder loom that was the subject of my last post, I stopped short at this pair of foot massagers.

DSCN1826I wasn’t about to buy them but they certainly took me to another place. Allow me to explain, even at the risk of revealing, to those who don’t already know, just how strange I am.

It all goes back to 2005 when the House of Mars was down to one cat. No that’s not right. Technically,there was no House of  Mars, so let’s just say the house without a name was down to one cat, Niles.

Niles had always been a cat who needed feline company, but 24 lb Fremont, who had always looked after him, had died of cancer in 2004,

Niles, left; Fremont, right

Niles, left; Fremont, right

and pugnacious Dino who liked to fight with him went out one morning, never to return.



Oh, I didn’t mention Niles also had cancer, did I? So when he started howling and pacing around the house, my first thought was that the end was near. Always one to seek escapist routes  I also thought  He’s never been alone before. Maybe he’s just lonely. Since it was Saturday evening, a trip to the vet wasn’t possible, but a trip to an adoption fair the next day was – an adoption fair that just happened to be at the pet cemetery where our Fremont rests in peace.

So after a quick stop at Fremont’s grave to solicit his guidance, I found my self walking straight to a cage holding a spooning Marcel and Marceau who were an almost exact copy of Fremont and  Niles.

Marcel, left; Marceau right

Marcel, left; Marceau right

I brought The Brothers Mar home, and after a brief hissy orientation, they took poor sick Niles under wing. Marceau also took to chasing Marcel through the house, and even though they probably weighed all of six pounds each, they sounded like a herd of wild horses thundering across the  hardwood floors. I wish I could say the three of them lived happily ever after, but I do like to think Fremont and Niles are. Niles succumbed to his cancer three months later.

(And since the house now belonged to The Brothers Mar, The House of Mars was born.)

I hear you screaming So what about the cat foot massagers ????? I’m getting to that; but first  –  two more things you need to know.

  1. Of all the cats I’ve had to put to sleep Niles death struck me hardest, as he was only 5 years old and the only truly sweet cat I’ve ever owned. (My apologies to the other eight, past and present).
  2. Since eighth grade, or thereabouts, I’ve found it comforting to link painful experiences to rock and roll songs. Its my process of letting go and accepting.

Not long after Niles’ passing, I happened to be driving to work when the Rolling Stones’ classic “Wild Horses” came on the radio. I share with you the lines that I associate with Niles last three months.

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted I bought them for you
Graceless lady you know who I am
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away

The things Niles wanted were Marcel and Marceau, his own private wild horses. And the last line?

Wild, wild horses we’ll ride them some day

So when I saw those massaging slippers, all I could think of was me,riding the Brothers Mar like a pair of water skis up in the celestial realm

……But not quite yet. – I hope.

Posted February 5, 2015 by virginiafair in Cats

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Looming Trouble   3 comments

They say the sense of smell has the greatest power to evoke memories, and this may be true. I have only to get a whiff of lemon furniture polish and I’m four-and-a-half again, and entering a freshly scrubbed kindergarten for the first time. A newly opened box of Crayola crayons can take me there, too. Sight comes in a close second. However it’s not quite so instantaneous. Deciphering a visual memory can take a few seconds. I’ll show you what I mean.

There I was, in Wal-Mart, minding my own business, on the way to buy bottled water  when I walked past this display.

DSCN1007i proceeded about 20 steps before I stopped short, a silent screaming n-o-o-o-o echoing through my brain. The dreaded pot -holder-making-monster!!!!!

My mother used to go shopping on Wednesday’s, my father’s day off, and it had always been her habit to bring me back a book of some sort . Sometimes it was a story book, other times a coloring book, a connect-the-dos book, or as I got older, crossword  or puzzle book with wonderful maze puzzles. I was always quite happy with these but when he got old enough, my younger brother Jimmy instructed my mother to “buy toys, not books”. So I think I’ll blame the loom on Jimmy.

I must have been about eight when, thanks to Jimmy, my mother  brought home a handy-dandy little loom kit – for me of course. Jimmy probably got a car or toy soldier. It wasn’t quite as big as the one that jolted me in the store. As I recall, there was a green metal square loom, about 8″x8″ with these serious looking “teeth” on top. Also in the box was a plastic bag of cloth loopy things, all different colors, and I guess, there must have been some sort of hook, maybe like a crochet hook.

It was probably November or thereabouts because right away, my mother started me on a Christmas project , or as she put it……….

“Wouldn’t it be nice if you made a couple of pot holders for Nanny?”

Maybe she had hopes that I’d become a master crochet artisan like my grandmother. who could spin perfection while watching a movie in a darkened theater.

I guess my pot holder was passable because next year “we” were starting in October, making pot holders for Aunt Edrie, Aunt Gladys, and Aunt Stell. Future years would see our downstairs neighbor Mrs. Vanderveer, who put up with the ceiling noise of three kids being kids, added to the list. Later, came  Mrs, Shirley, my girl scout leader, and Mrs. Edgecombe, my piano teacher. Since everyone from previous years remained on the list, receiving a new improved (or not) pot holder, “we” were starting “our” project during the summer.

Once the memory ran its course, I shook off its effects, and proceed to the beverage section, Well, maybe not quite directly. I stopped to ponder taking this on.


Posted January 26, 2015 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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