Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poetry Corner: Tom Jones

Some great performers are never forgotten …

The guy who does the weather on the noon television news that I often watch has a holiday for every day of the year. It was through his broadcast that I first heard of National Cat Herders Day, the official holiday of Five O'Clock Somewhere.

So today I was watching the weather report, and learned that today is Remember September Day. Nice.

I'm sure this holiday was inspired by the song "Try to Remember" from the musical The Fantasticks. The original singer of this song was Jerry Orbach, whom most people knew as the wisecracking Detective Lenny Briscoe on the television series Law & Order. But long before that show ever hit the airwaves, Orbach had a successful career on Broadway. The Fantasticks premiered on May 3, 1960, with Orbach in a leading role.

Here are the lyrics for the song, written by Tom Jones:


Music: Harvey Schmidt
Lyrics: Tom Jones
Book: Tom Jones
Premiere: Tuesday, May 3, 1960

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December, our hearts should remember
And follow.

Thanks to STL Lyrics for the words.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Programming note

There's a new item in the links ...

I don't often add new links to the list over on the left, but there's one that I have decided is worthwhile: Food ... have you eaten today? For those of you whose primary interest is sailing, it might be disappointing. It's the blog of a retired schoolteacher in Ohio, and it consists mainly of memories of the past, especially as applied to food, and especially as applied to the years when she was growing up, the end of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. Times may have been tough, but she was too young to know that.

She was one of three children of a single mother who worked in a factory. The family was never starving, but they did all have to work to get the most out of the food that they had. Many of the techniques they used were very similar to what I've heard my mom's Arkansas relatives describe from that same era. The food may have been dictated by austerity, but it still had a wholesome quality about it.

Her most recent post was about the little grocery store in the neighborhood in Dayton where she grew up. (No, it's not the one in the picture above; that's a grocery featured in a wonderful assembly of WPA photos that was published in the Denver Post not too long ago, that Patty's blog post immediately brought to mind.) I could easily imagine my dad's Ohio relatives visiting such a store -- my grandfather's German family would get the sauerkraut and pumpernickel bread, but my grandmother's Irish family would definitely go for the Wonder Bread.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

European road trip

For nearly thirty years, I have wanted to go back …

Those who know me know that I have wanted a Mercedes-Benz for a very, very long time, since I was in primary school. I especially love the ones with the diesel engine, not just for the fuel economy but also for the way they run, not like the brutish American trucks, but ticking smoothly along like a European taxi cab. Someday, I hope, I may have one.

The company offers a wonderful package for people who have a lot of money. The customer can order a custom-built car through a dealer in the U.S. Then the customer can travel to Germany, take delivery of the car at the factory, and drive around Europe for a month or so. Once the vacation is over, the customer flies home and the car is put on a boat back to the U.S.

This arrangement, of course, is suited to people who have both the time and the money for an extended European vacation, as well as the money to order a custom-built Mercedes. It isn’t exactly something ordinary Americans can do.

Besides, I’m not so interested in a brand-new Mercedes. I like the older ones, with the distinctive classic lines. The newer ones have become more streamlined, and they’ve lost that unique Benz look. I’m also not so interested in racing around on the autobahns. I like traveling on the little roads and visiting the small places. The experience of a country is much more authentic when one gets away from the standard places the tourists go.

So my car-buying journey would be lower-budget and less flashy. I’d fly over to Europe, find a nice used Mercedes for sale in a village somewhere, wander around the countryside for a while, and then put myself and the car on a boat home – not a cruise ship, but a freighter; many have accommodations for a few passengers, not fancy, but nice enough.

The year after I graduated from high school, I spent a year in England with my family; my dad exchanged jobs, houses, and cars with a scientist at the Rutherford-Harwell scientific laboratories. We were in a Victorian stone cottage in a small village that consisted of about sixty houses, three pubs, and one church. That was a very authentic experience.

While we were there, of course, we took some road trips in the car – a Citroen, not a Benz, but overall a nice car. We journeyed to Scotland on one trip, Wales on another. For spring break, which in Europe is typically two weeks rather than the usual American one week, we headed over to the continent. There was no tunnel back then, so we began the trip by driving to Portsmouth and taking a ferry to Cherbourg.

Our first stop was a country inn in a small village along the Seine, somewhere near Rouen. The owner was a Cordon Bleu chef, as well as a friend of the travel agent in England who had helped us plan the journey. It made a great base for driving around the countryside, and, as to be expected, the food was heavenly. One day, I was not feeling well, so I stayed in the room to rest while the rest of the family went touring. The staff of the inn were very attentive and frequently checked how I was doing; at lunch time they brought me a bowl of hot beef broth. At first, I didn’t think I wanted it, but then I caught the aroma of it and decided I’d take it after all. It was wonderfully restorative; by the time I finished it, I was feeling much better.

In Paris, we were in a small hotel owned by another friend of the travel agent. We left the car parked in the hotel parking garage and either walked or took the Metro wherever we wanted to go – a sensible way to get around, given the city’s serious traffic congestion. One evening as we were wandering around in search of a place to eat supper, we ran across a wonderful Italian restaurant. (Yes, an Italian restaurant in Paris!) It was run by a pair of little old ladies, and most of the customers were clearly regulars, chatting and joking with each other and with the owners, and generally being cheerful. The little old ladies were especially taken with my kid brother, who was about 9 at the time, calling him “un petit choux” (no, they weren’t calling him a cabbage; that’s a French idiom that translates roughly as “sweetie” or “cutie”). The restaurant served up enormous bowls of spaghetti and meatballs; we did not leave hungry.

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to my French pen-pal, who lived in a small village outside of Strasbourg. She took us to one of her favorite spots, a ruined castle on a hill overlooking the village. From there, we could see into Switzerland and Germany, and the Black Forest spread out before us. This was not a touristy spot; except for us, the only people up there were a few locals.

At this point in the trip, I came down with laryngitis – not a good thing, as I was the only member of the family fluent in French. My pen-pal took us to a pharmacy, where the pharmacist took my temperature, looked at my throat, and determined that I had garden-variety tonsillitis rather than strep throat. He then prescribed some throat lozenges that restored my voice and killed the pain.

We continued the journey driving up into Germany, to Heidelberg and then to the Rhine. The drive along the river, in its steep valley, was stunningly beautiful. We stayed in a small inn right on the river, so close, in fact, that the owner was able to point out the high-water marks left on the walls by various floods over the years. On crags above the inn, facing each other across the narrow valley, were two castles; if I remember correctly, their names were Katz and Maus.

On the way back to the coast, we had a slight problem. From underneath the car there came a loud bang, and suddenly the noise of the engine was deafening and the car was filling with fumes. A piece of the car’s exhaust system had broken. We limped along into Belgium, in search of a Citroen repair shop, which we finally found in Bruges. As we came up the road toward the shop, the mechanic stepped out of the front door, holding up in his hand a replacement for the part that had broken – he had heard us coming, long before he had seen us, and he knew exactly what was wrong.

We finished our journey by heading to Calais, where we took a ferry to Dover. When we got home to our village, we discovered that it had snowed, something that almost never happens in that part of England, and there was still snow on the ground.

By the way, if you’re interested in the car in the photo above, there are some like it for sale. You can read about them at Mercedes Motoring.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

When machines rebel

Open the pod bay doors, Hal ...

For quite some time now, our aging Ford Expedition has been having problems. Mostly these have been little quirky things, like insisting that a door is open when they're all solidly shut, or randomly turning pieces of the instrument panel (gauges, lights) on or off.

According to the owner's manual, this vehicle has a fairly sophisticated brain. It even does such things as monitoring driving habits so as to be able to adjust engine settings to maximize fuel efficiency given the way the vehicle's regular drivers drive. When we first bought the truck, Pat commented that it sounded like the Expedition was smarter than he was.

But lately, the brain has been slipping, and this evening, it had its biggest slip yet -- as we were on our way to the lake for the Rio Grande Sailing Club's Desert Classic Regatta, as well as a club board meeting and a club general meeting and a potluck dinner, the antilock brakes decided that the truck was NOT going to move. Amid fumes of burning brakes, we found ourselves stranded on the shoulder of the interstate.

The way the truck's brain has been slowly going insane reminds me rather much of HAL, the supercomputer controlling the space ship in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which started out with minor lapses and gradually became worse, eventually to the point of killing off nearly all of the crew (and trying very hard to kill the last one).

We used to call the Expedition Babe (as in the big blue ox); I'm tempted to rename it HAL.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

So where IS it five o'clock right now?

Here's a device to answer that question ...
One of the most frequent searches (perhaps even THE most frequent) that brings people to this blog is, "Where is it five o'clock right now?"

Some years ago, I had an idea for something I could sell as a fund-raiser for the Rio Grande Sailing Club -- a clock that would tell its viewers the answer to exactly that question. I ordered clock parts from the Internet, got a couple of sheets of photo-quality printer paper, and put together a couple of prototypes, including the one pictured above. This is definitely a rough version; it needs some adjustments to the alignment of various elements. Also, each clock would have to be customized to the time zone of the purchaser, and I would personalize each clock by putting the customer's home waters in the five o'clock spot.

The price for the clock parts starts at $7 each, with the unit price going down for larger quantities. The photograph-quality paper runs $1 a sheet, and there'd be some printer toner consumed for each clock face as well. I was figuring I could sell the clocks at $20 apiece and make some money for the club.

Well, that idea never got off the ground. But I still like it, especially since there seem to be a lot of people out there who want an easy way to answer that question. Maybe I just ought to remove the sailing club logo, sell the clocks myself, and make some money. I could put Pat to work printing out customized clock faces. (Interesting customization idea: put the customer's home sailing club logo or burgee in the center of the clock, for a small additional charge. Or maybe offer quantity discounts for sailing or yacht clubs that want to order lots of clocks with their logo.)

So .... if you had the opportunity to buy a clock like this, would you? Or is this a "get-poor-quick" scheme for me?

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