JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Carol Channing Sets the Scene

Carol Channing died today, something that I didn’t think could possibly happen in my lifetime. Of course, that’s hyperbole, but it seems justified because Channing was famous for playing those larger than life characters like Dolly Levi and Lorelei Lee.

I feel a special affinity to Ms. Channing because in 1966 during my Junior year in high school, I along with a gaggle of my classmates (we called ourselves the Irregulars), set about to call her for an interview. I still have those tapes that we made, and I hope to release them to the world Real Soon Now (I’ve been saying that for years), but in the meantime, here is a little tidbit, a soupçon if you will, to tide you over.

Carol Channing making her entrance as Dolly Levi in the Hello, Dolly! number

We wanted to interview her because she was touring the country (she was currently in Chicago) in her most famous role in Hello, Dolly!, and we were in the process of putting together a program to be presented to the entire student body (“hey gang, let’s put on a show!”). The climax of that show was going to involve the title song from Hello, Dolly! and we thought it would be terrific to have Ms. Channing herself introduce the number.

The local radio station came to our rescue (as I recall Maryann Shelhamer’s dad had a connection there), and we obtained a recording that Ms. Channing had made to distribute to radio stations across the land. It consisted of Ms. Channing answering questions which the local radio personalities could feed to her as if they were interviewing her directly.

I don’t have the entire recording of all the answers that she provided, only the one bit that we used, but here, for the first time in 53 years, is that recording.

“Tell us, Ms. Channing, how does the song ‘Hello, Dolly!’ fit into the show?”

Memories 2006

On December 24, 2006, I sat my parents in front of a camcorder and asked them to do some reminiscing about how they met, etc. I was a bit disappointed in the results, although part of the problem was that I had not done my homework (a common failing of mine) and didn’t have a prepared list of questions to ask them; but another problem was that I had waited too long, and their memories had already faded.

Anyway, I didn’t think I had enough good material to do much with it, so there it sat on my hard disk. Waiting.

Well, with my mother’s recent death I finally took another look at it, and yes, there is a lot of me narrating a story and them reacting with a blank stare, but there is also some worthwhile stuff in there. I trimmed the video from 42 minutes down to just under 20, added a few little tweaks here and there and uploaded it to Youtube.

I was only going to circulate it among family, but after getting some positive feedback from some non-family members, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to put it on my blog (which nobody reads anyway).

So here it is.

In December 2006 Arlene and Tuffy sit down and reminisce

The Phillies Grandslam Jeepstakes Contest

My mother, age 94, died earlier today. She had been on the decline for some time and had been under hospice care for nearly a year and a half, so we’ve been expecting this news. As something of a tribute, I’m posting this story of what was one of the most exciting nights in my parents’ lives. It also contains another one of those “what are the odds?” moments.

Our story begins in the spring of 1988 (probably sometime in June) when I was in charge of the Information Center at DPSC, the Defense Personnel Support Center, as it was then known, located in South Philadelphia. As all of us were Phillies fans to one degree or another, I arranged for us to take an afternoon off to attend a Fan Appreciation Day game. There were probably about twelve of us altogether, including my boss, Bill Bevan.

Dave Palmer and Lance Parrish flanking my father

I’d like to note right here that this was the one and only time I’ve ever attended a Phillies Fan Appreciation Day game, or ever attended a Phillies day game in the middle of the week. During this period and for several years thereafter, my standard Christmas gift to my parents was four season tickets to all the Phillies Sunday home games, and I did sometimes use one of those tickets, but I never went on a weekday.

The Phillie Phanatic was part of the presentation ceremony

Anyway, we got to Veterans Stadium (it not yet having been imploded) and found our seats. As there was still time before the game began, some of us went to get refreshments. Meanwhile, there was something happening on the field, some sort of contest, they were drawing a name out of a drum, although I wasn’t paying it any attention.

I wasn’t paying it any attention, that is, until I heard them announce, “The winner is Arthur J. Troutman of Lebanon, Pennsylvania.” Because that was my father!

What are the odds?

There’s the Jeep Comanche as my parents are given the keys

I don’t recall anything about the game, but I presume they played one. Once I got home, I called my parents to congratulate them for winning the contest. My mom had just been notified a few minutes earlier about winning and couldn’t understand how I knew about it, so I explained the weird coincidence. She told me that she had seen the coupon for the contest in one of the mailings she got from the season tickets, so she filled it out and sent it in. This was a contest where you could enter as many times as you like, but she had only entered once.

Arthur J. Troutman tosses out the first pitch with Arlene at his side. My sister and I are sitting behind them.

Incidentally, the contest was the Phillies Grandslam Jeepstakes Contest and the prize was a 1988 Jeep Comanche. Plus the winners, along with two other persons of their choosing, would be special guests at the July 4 Phillies home game where they would be treated to dinner, be formally presented with the prize, toss out the first pitch, and get to watch the fireworks.

Well, my parents chose my sister and me to round out their foursome, and it was an exciting evening all the way around. At the dinner there was a surprise appearance by Dave Palmer and Lance Parrish, and my father had his photo taken with them.

Then the Phillie Phanatic was on hand at the presentation of the Jeep Comanche, and as promised, my father got to throw out the first pitch.

I have to admit that I don’t recall the game itself, other than that the stadium was packed and the crowd got The Wave going a few times. I did have the VHS recorder taping the game at home, but that tape has long gone AWOL.

Finally when the game was over, we were escorted into the Phillies dugout to watch the fireworks. And this was perhaps the most exciting moment of all, because that’s where we met Tug McGraw who was gracious enough to have his picture taken with my parents. For my mom, who was a rabid Phillies fan, possibly even more so than my dad, it just didn’t get any better than this. I mean, Tug McGraw!

All in all, quite a night to remember!

Tug McGraw with his arms around my parents. Probably the biggest thrill of a very thrilling evening.

Wayne Busbea, Etc.

As I was reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, which is a history of the early years of science fiction and a biography of some of its foremost writers, I was reminded of Wayne Busbea. Let me explain.

Our family moved to Richland, PA, in June of 1957, and for the first few months we lived in the apartment that Lynn and Isobel Klopp kept on the second floor of their house on East Main Street. That summer, as most summers thereafter, I spent a lot of time at the Richland Playground, and one day I heard someone on the shuffleboard court speaking with a distinctive Texas twang. I soon found out his name was Wayne Busbea (BUZZ-bee), and he had recently moved to town with his mother from Texas.

A few months later we moved to a house on West Main Street, and Wayne lived with his mother and stepfather in an apartment just a few doors up the street. Wayne was about two years older than I was, but we’d occasionally hang out together. I was fascinated by his accent, so I tended to hang on his every word, and like practically everyone from Texas that I’ve ever met, he had a tendency to compare everything to what it was like back in Texas. Everything was bigger and better in Texas, of course. Although after a few years that tendency faded, as did his accent.

I only recall a few specific incidents. One time, I’m guessing this was the winter of 1960 when I was in 5th grade, I came across him as he was throwing snowballs at the snowman in the Gass’s yard. This would be the yard of Polly and George Gass who had two sons, Frank (a year younger than I was) and Michael (two years younger than I was). So this was the snowman that Frank and Mike had built a couple days earlier, and Wayne was tossing snowballs at it in an effort to knock it down, the Gass boys not being home at the time.

I joined him. I don’t think I tossed any snowballs, but even if I did, I doubt they caused any damage. On the other hand, I didn’t do anything to prevent Wayne from destroying the Gass boys’ snowman either.

A few days later as I was walking home from school, Dale Sadler and Mike Gass confronted me. Dale was in my class and fancied himself something of a tough guy. In the one conversation that I recall having with him he said that he planned to join the Marines because that was the toughest thing you could get. Anyway Dale was a good friend of Wayne’s, but this day he was acting as a protector of sorts for Mike.

The only photo I have of Wayne Busbea from the 1963 yearbook

The only photo I have of Wayne Busbea from the 1963 yearbook

They confronted me on a sidewalk with snow piled up on either side. As Dale blocked my escape, Mike demanded to know why I had destroyed his snowman. (How had he found out? Probably neighborhood busybody Olive Geiss, who made the most divine cookies. But that’s another story.) I don’t know what my reply was, but before I knew it, Mike was attacking me. Fortunately, Mike had never learned to fight or punch. His idea of fighting was to just flail his arms wildly, and since he was two years younger, even I could defend myself against that. Happily, Dale didn’t actively participate or I might not have been so fortunate.

A few months later, some money was stolen from the Gass’s house. Stupidly, I blurted out in front of my mother that Wayne knew that the Gass’s kept their garage door unlocked so that Frank and Mike could get in if their parents weren’t at home. So my mother alerted Richland’s sole police officer, Donald Foreman. (In later years my mother couldn’t understand why I tended not to tell her anything.) I don’t think she realized that this information incriminated me as much as it did Wayne. Hell, I suspect half the town knew that the Gass’s kept their garage unlocked.

Anyway, the next school day I found myself hauled out of class to go down to the basement to repeat this supposedly incriminating piece of information to Officer Foreman directly. Then he brought Wayne down. While I was still sitting there! I thought I was supposed to be an anonymous tipster.

Well, Wayne denied that he stole the money. I believed him. I never thought he stole it in the first place. There being no real evidence against him, there was nothing to be done. We were each sent back to our classrooms.

Surprisingly, Wayne wasn’t angry with me. We walked home from school together that day, and he never held that against me.

So who stole the money? It was never solved, but really the most likely suspects were right under Polly and George’s noses. Not that I’m accusing anyone.

In 1962 when I turned 13 my birthday present was a membership in the Science Fiction Book Club, and one of the books in the introductory offer was Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. In those days my mother had a beauty shop in the rear of our house, and one of her customers was Wayne’s mother, whose name I no longer recall, but I do recall that she was a beautiful woman with thick red hair, and she still had her Texas accent. When my mother casually told her about my book club present, Wayne’s mother exclaimed:

"Science fiction? Why that’s the only thing I ever read. I have piles of books that’re just lying about gathering dust. You have your boy come round and I’ll fix him up with a heap of books.”

And so I did. She gave me a big box filled with a treasury of science fiction books and magazines. They kept me reading for a long time. Among the treasures were a bunch of issues of Amazing Stories magazine which had a series of biographies of science fiction authors like Campbell, Asimov, and Heinlein.

And that, Gentle Reader, is why reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction reminded me of Wayne Busbea.

I guess I shouldn’t end this without providing yet another example of my mother sending me on an embarrassing mission. She kept insisting that I should return the books to Wayne’s mother once I had read them. I tried to point out that they were a gift, but she wouldn’t have it. So one Saturday morning I went back with a few of the books in hand to see if Wayne’s mother would take them back. As I had known all along, she had wanted to get rid of them and didn’t want them back.

About a year or so later I noticed that I hadn’t seen Wayne for some time. When I asked about him, I found out that his mother had sent him back to live with his grandmother in Texas. Apparently, Wayne’s stepfather was not treating him very well, and she wanted to get him out of that environment. Wayne had never mentioned anything about his stepfather to me, but I had noticed that he did try to avoid him. It wasn’t long after that that Wayne’s mother left as well, and the stepfather continued to live in that apartment by himself.

Lynn and Isobel Klopp’s house in 2013

The Klopps eventually stopped renting out their second floor and expanded their living quarters to embrace the whole house, where they raised three boys, Randy (in my class), Dwight (in my sister’s), and Ross. They lived in that house for at least 60 years, and the last time I was in Richland in 2013 there was a For Sale sign in their yard.

Dale Sadler left Richland sometime after 5th grade, and I’ve never heard from him again, so I don’t know if he ever did join the Marines.

The Gass boys and I had our ups and downs, particularly after the Dieffenbachs moved in next door to us. Sometimes Frank and Mike and I formed a coalition against the Diefenbachs, sometimes the Gass boys and the Diefenbach boys ganged up against me. I don’t recall ever siding with the Dieffenbach boys.

George and Polly Gass bought the apartment building across from the railroad tracks and moved into one of the apartments themselves. They converted the basement into a laundromat, and the Richland Laundry was born.

Olive Geiss moved to Reading, but not before giving my mother the recipe to her cookies. Thereafter my mother always baked up a batch of Olive’s cookies around Christmastime.

The last I heard of Officer Donald Foreman, he had developed a urinary infection of some sort. I hope he recovered.

Eventually my parents bought the apartment building and laundromat from the Gass’s, but that’s another story.

Moving My Plex Media Server To a Mac Mini

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I moved my Plex Media Server from my iMac to a Mac mini, and it was an almost painless process. Actually the process was painless, the problem was that I had not done enough homework. Let me explain.

I had been thinking of moving Plex off the iMac for some time because there were just too damn many things running on the iMac, and I thought the Plex server deserved a dedicated home. I asked about it at the local Apple Store on Walnut Street and was assured that a Mac mini would be more than up to the challenge, and since I stored all my media files on an external drive, a base model mini would probably be all I needed. I knew that once set up, the mini could be managed remotely from my iMac, but I was concerned about the initial setup; they reminded me that the mini had an HDMI port, so I could use my TV for that. And I had an old keyboard and trackpad, so that took care of that.

At Plex’s website I found the instructions for moving a Plex server from one system to another, and so I felt confident to go ahead. I ordered the base model Mac mini.

The Plex Media Server folder

The Plex Media Server folder

When the mini arrived, I plunged into the move. Plex’s instructions were clear and easy to follow, and I had no trouble. Since all my media files were on an external drive, I didn’t have to worry about tinkering with the Libraries. Once the move was done, Plex recognized them instantly. Plex on the Mac mini was behaving exactly like it had on the iMac, except it seemed to be running much more smoothly.

There was only one hitch. The mini now had only about six Gigabytes of free disk space. That wasn’t enough space to install an OS update.

What I had neglected to find out was just how much space the Plex server files take up. They were using up about 90 Gigabytes of file space; as the base configuration of the mini only had 128 GB, they were hogging most of it. The main culprit was a folder called Media which had about 70 GB of files.

After asking on the Plex forums if their server files could be moved to an external drive and not receiving a prompt reply (it was Thanksgiving), I recalled that Apple had a 14 day return policy. So I ordered a mini with a 256 GB internal drive and returned the first one.

The move to the second mini went just as smoothly, and frankly I couldn’t be happier with the mini and the way Plex is performing on it.

Just a word to the wise: if you move Plex to a new system, check the size of the “~/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/” folder, and make sure your destination system’s internal drive is large enough to handle it with room to spare.

The One Where I Was Almost Killed—Twice

I was still living in State College and working for the Pennsylvania Mirror, the Altoona Mirror’s failed attempt to go head to head with the Centre Daily Times, so I’d guess this must have been sometime in the spring or summer of 1972.

My job was basically that of a glorified delivery boy, although there was no glory in it, and the Mirror being a morning newspaper, I started work at midnight just as the paper was going to press. I, along with the half dozen or so other drivers, would grab our bundled papers as they came off the line, load them into our car or truck, and drive off to deliver them to the various newsstands, grocery stores, and other outlets that carried the Mirror. We even delivered single copies to folks who lived in the countryside.

We’d get back to the newspaper’s building around 5:00 AM or so, maybe find an excuse to hang around for a bit to get some extra time (the pay being not much above minimum wage), and punch out around 5:30 or 6:00.

Usually Brian Galas and I carpooled, as we lived just a few blocks from each other in State College. Brian was a fascinating guy, probably the smartest fellow I’ve ever known. He had been a geology student, working on an advanced degree, when suddenly he became disillusioned with the field and the people working in it. The breaking point came when he realized that his professor had a paperweight on his desk and couldn’t even name the type of mineral it was made of. Now Brian was an aspiring artist with a wife and two daughters. Actually, Brian probably deserves a whole blog post or two devoted to him.

Anyway, on this day I was driving Brian home, but we had to deliver a single paper that one of the other drivers had missed.

The recipient lived in Park Forest Village, which was north of State College just off 322, so that’s where I headed. Now 322 was a four lane highway in that area, although because it was a fairly well developed section, the speed limit was probably about 45 mph. Since Park Forest Village was on the left, I was driving in the left hand lane and my eyes were on the street signs as I was watching where to turn off.

And that’s when I heard Brian say, “Hey…hey…hey…” His voice was calm but I knew something was wrong. In any case it was just enough to divert my attention away from where to turn off to look straight ahead at the car that was barreling directly towards us in our lane! I swerved just in time and it missed us.

I pulled over to collect myself, and Brian said he had tried not to shout so as not to put me into panic mode. In any case I think he did exactly the right thing, and as I thought about it, I realized that if I had been alone, I probably would not have seen that oncoming car in time to react. And no, I have no idea why that car was driving in the wrong lane.

So we delivered the paper, and I proceeded to take Brian to his house, which was on Westerly Parkway. This meant retracing our route by going south on 322 until it turned into Atherton Street when we got to State College.

Now once again the turnoff was going to be on the left, and having driven Brian home dozens of times in the past, I would normally have anticipated the left turn by getting into the left hand lane. On this day for some reason I did not. Why I did not I cannot say. Was I perhaps being just a little bit extra cautious because of the earlier incident? I do not know. All I can say for certain is that as I approached the turnoff to Westerly Parkway, I remained in the right hand lane.

As one drives south on Atherton Street towards Westerly Parkway, there is a hill, so drivers really cannot see oncoming traffic. And on that day as we went up that hill, just as we reached the crest, a huge tractor-trailer truck came barreling over the mound in our left hand lane! Had I been in the left lane as I nearly always was in the past, there would have been no time to react; we’d’ve been goners.

So there you have it. Twice in the space of less than half an hour, two drivers traveling in the wrong lane nearly plowed into the car that I was driving. And I lived to tell the tale.

Aaron Copland and the Swedish Prince

In 1975 during his 75th birthday year, Aaron Copland appeared with the Harrisburg Symphony to conduct his Appalachian Spring. Now the Harrisburg orchestra was not a particularly fine ensemble in those days. It had just gone through 24 years of being led by Edwin McArthur, whose main claim to fame was that he had been Kirsten Flagstad’s preferred conductor. I recall a performance of the Beethoven Ninth where the timpani missed their cue in the scherzo, leaving a moment of embarrassing silence that seemed drag out forever.

Aaron Copland

However, in 1974 David Epstein had taken over the orchestra, and he had begun the process of breathing new life into it. But the key word there is “begun”. Plus, the hall that the orchestra played in was notorious for its unruly acoustics.

But that evening when Epstein handed the baton to Aaron Copland to lead the Harrisburg Symphony in a performance of his Appalachian Spring, something wonderful happened. The musicians played with a crispness I had never heard before. It was a truly inspired performance.

But there’s actually another reason that I remember that evening so well.

I was still living in Richland in 1975 and wasn’t a subscriber to the Harrisburg Symphony and only decided to go to that concert at the last minute, which means I found myself standing in line for a ticket at the window where they were selling the tickets turned in by subscribers who couldn’t use them—and the line wasn’t moving.

Then a gent approached me with two extra tickets to sell; he was just asking face value for them. I told him I only needed one and he started to turn away. So I turned to the fellow in line directly behind me, a black guy, and asked him how many tickets he needed. Just one. So back I turned to the ticket offerer and told him that the two of us would gladly take the two tickets off his hands. For some reason he seemed to balk at first, but he did end up selling the two of us his extra pair of tickets.

I don’t recall the other fellow’s name anymore, so I’m going to refer to him as Kirby. Kirby was a pleasant fellow, a few years older than I was, with an easygoing manner. Anyway, when we got to the seats, I said something like, “Not the best seats perhaps—”

“But we’re in,” he finished.

Kirby and I had a good time chatting before the concert started and during the intermission, but the main thing I recall him saying is that although he was from the Harrisburg area, he now spent most of his time in Sweden.

“Oh, business or pleasure?” I asked.

“Pleasure,” came the reply.

This opened up many new lines of inquiry but I was reluctant to pursue them with such a new acquaintance, so I let the matter rest there.

Anyway, the concert came to an end, we chatted some more about what a great performance it had been, etc., etc., and then we went our separate ways, I back to Richland, he presumably on the next flight to Sweden or whatever.

And that, I thought, was that.

A couple years later I moved to Harrisburg, and a couple years after that I was talking to someone who seemed to know everyone in Harrisburg and was filling me in on all the details. I was only half listening.

Then I became aware that he was speaking about someone who apparently led a charmed life. This guy just kept falling into great situations. Currently his boyfriend was a member of the royal family in Sweden who was supporting him completely. I realized he was speaking of Kirby. I verified a few details. Yep, it was Kirby.

So the reason Kirby spent so much time in Sweden was because he was being supported by his boyfriend, a Swedish prince. Of course, that may just have been idle gossip or an exaggerated version of the truth, but I hoped it was true.

Dramatizing Asimov's Foundation

The front cover of my copy of Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy which I got from the Science Fiction Book Club when I was 13

For years several different producers, writers, and directors have attempted to bring Isaac Asimov's sprawling Foundation series to the TV screen, and all those efforts have faltered, so I was delighted to hear that Apple had actually green-lighted a production with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman as showrunners.

So this raises lots of questions in my mind. For example, are they going to adapt the entire series or just the Trilogy?

Asimov's Foundation series began life as a series of eight novelettes and novellas published during the 1940s in the pulp science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction. When Gnome Press gathered them into three volumes in the early 1950s, Asimov added a ninth, the story that opens the first book, to give the series a proper starting point.

Then in the 1960s Doubleday acquired the rights and published the three books as one volume, and it's been known as The Foundation Trilogy ever since. When I was 13 and joined the Science Fiction Book Club, one of my initial books was The Foundation Trilogy.

Much later in the early 1980s Asimov published a sequel, Foundation's Edge, which did so well for the publisher that Asimov was cajoled into writing still more, which he did by writing several prequels and trying (not very successfully, in my opinion) to tie in his Robot Series with his Foundation Series.

Anyway for me Asimov's Foundation Series is basically The Foundation Trilogy (which I have now read, by my recent estimate, at least eight times) and maybe Foundation's Edge.

Astounding Science Fiction for August 1944 featuring The Big and the Little, the third published Foundation story

Now I have no idea what the producers and writers of the forthcoming Foundation series have in mind, but with Robyn Asimov (Isaac's daughter) signed on as an executive producer I have high hopes that whatever they do they will at least be faithful to the spirit of Asimov's work.

Recall that the original stories were written in the 40s, before there were computers, so even though the series takes place tens of thousands of years in the future, there are no computers in the stories. When the characters need to perform complex calculations to navigate their spaceships from one star system to another, they do so manually with the assistance of calculators, a process that can take days. When they want to purchase tickets for an interstellar trip, they insert cash into a vending machine and receive change, credit cards not having been invented yet, let alone hand held devices like iPhones. You get the idea. The technology in the stories is seriously out of date. So whatever the showrunners do, they're going to have to make a lot of changes.

Not only will they have to decide whether to dramatize all the stories in the series or just the Trilogy, but another challenge will be the vast timescale and changing casts of characters. The stories of the Trilogy alone take place over a nearly 400 year period, and most of the stories feature completely different sets of characters.

Back in the 70s, the BBC did an eight part radio serial based on the Trilogy and they kept it very true to the stories. That worked well for radio, but I'm not sure it would work for today's TV audience.

Anyway, here's what I would do. The final story introduces Arkady Darell, the fourteen year old daughter of Dr. Toran Darell; the Darells, father and daughter, are actually descendants of the leading characters of a previous story. When we meet Arkady, she is writing a paper for school which goes on to recap the events of the preceding stories for those coming in late.

So my proposal is to make Arkady and her father the main characters of the series and greatly expand their story, during the course of which she would be researching the history of the Foundation and the role that her ancestors played in it. So the preceding stories could be told as flashbacks, with Arkady acting as narrator and interjecting some sharp commentary from time to time.

I would stick primarily to the Trilogy, in that I would end the series where the Trilogy ends, but I might incorporate some material from the prequels (it's been awhile since I read them and I have little memory of them).

So that's my framing device for the series. Of course, that still leaves a lot of work to be done.

The One With the Phoebe Buffay Salad

JT: Today I'm pleased to turn over my blog to my very special guest, Phoebe Buffay, to give her recipe for a salad. Phoebe, take it away!

Phoebe Buffay

Phoebe Buffay: Thanks, JT. Blog. What a silly word. Blog. Rhymes with clog. Or flog. Could you flog a blog into a clog? Say, I could write a song about that. [Singing] I'll flog this blog into this pesky clog...

JT: Uh, Phoebe. Salads?

Phoebe: Oh, right. Salads. Being a vegetarian, as I am, salads are very dear to my heart, because what's the main ingredient in salads? That's right. Vegetables!

So you want to start with the basics—a nice bed of lettuce. Just about any kind of lettuce will do, but not iceberg lettuce. No, no, no. Never iceberg lettuce. We wouldn't want to run the risk of a shipwreck, now would we? What? Haven't you ever seen Titanic?

Scallion, NOT spring onion

I also like to use baby spinach. Monica tells me that baby spinach is not really lettuce, but—who cares?!

Now once you have your basic bed of lettuce, you want to start adding more vegetables. I like to chop up some carrots and mushrooms and radishes and scallions. And while we're on the subject of scallions, I'd just like to say I lament this recent trend to call them spring onions. They are not onions, spring or any other kind. They're scallions! Get with the program, people!

Oh, pardon me. I guess I got carried away there.

Pronounced BAH-zil

Anyway, after I've added the chopped up vegetables, I season the salad with some chopped fresh basil. That's pronounced BAH-zil, as in Basil Rathbone or Basil Fawlty. Not, and this is important, not BAY-zil. BAY-zil reminds me of Baywatch. Sorry, Joey.

Now I add the salt and extra virgin olive oil and then I begin to toss the salad. This is the part I like. Tossing the salad. You should try it sometime.

Once the vegetables are nicely coated with the olive oil, then and only then, can you add some chopped up tomato. If you add the tomato earlier, its juices will give you a soggy salad, and believe me, there's nothing worse than a soggy salad. Well, actually, I can think of some worse things...but never mind!

The Phoebe Buffay Salad

Now some people like to use vinegar, but I'm in sort of a citrusy mood right now, so I like to take a lime, slice it in half, and squeeze the juice out that lime. Hey, do you know why British soldiers are called limeys? Well, neither do I, but I think it has something to do with limes.

Toss the salad again to really blend those juices, then transfer to a plate. For the finishing touch I like to add an avocado, but be careful when you put it under the knife. You don't want to get avocado hand, or you might get some unwelcome blood in your salad. Heh-heh.

And that's my salad.

JT: Thank you,  Phoebs. I think we all learned something today...

Phoebe: [reaching for her guitar] And now for some music. [singing] Smelly Cat, Smelly cat what are they feeding you? Smelly Cat, smelly cat it's not your fault...

My First Pet Rabbit—A Tale of Betrayal

I'm not exactly sure just when to date this, other than it had to be sometime before 1957. My best guess is either 1955 or '56, so I would have been six or seven. And I'm not sure where I got the white rabbit, but I probably won it as a prize at the Easter egg hunt at Richland, because although we were still living on my grandfather's farm just outside Womelsdorf, we had relatives in Richland and spent a lot of time there.


What I do recall is that my pet rabbit was kept in a cage in the barn with the cows. The farm was pretty large and had two barns; the one for the cows was near the house where my grandparents lived. That was really the main barn, and in addition to housing the cows, it had two silos, an open barnyard, and just generally had a warm and inviting feel. In fact, my grandfather's brother Miles, who helped out on the farm and had been living there since his wife died shortly before I was born, even slept in the main barn alongside the cows on a bed of straw during the warmer months.

Across the meadow was the house where we lived, and the other barn was adjacent to our house. It did not have a warm and inviting feel because that's where the steers lived. Steers, unlike cows, were not especially gentle creatures. So that barnyard was closed off. The pigpen also opened into that barnyard.

So my pet rabbit's cage was kept in the cows' barn. And that might be what led to the crisis. Or perhaps my being six or seven and not yet having developed a sense of responsibility. For whatever reason, the barn wasn't close enough to my house or I just plain wasn't responsible enough, I was accused of not feeding and caring for my pet rabbit on a regular enough basis.

While the charge was probably true enough, the penalty was much too severe.

For one day I came back from grocery shopping with my mother and went running to the barn to check on my pet rabbit only find Miles skinning the carcass of the dead animal. I had been given no advance warning that this might happen, and I was heartbroken. Well, heartbroken and angry. But of course, I had no recourse.

That evening I dined at my grandparents' house, as I often did in those days, as my grandmother usually made a big feast every evening for all the farm hands and one more little mouth to feed was no problem.

It was at the conclusion of supper that my grandmother informed me that the chicken that I had just eaten was, in fact, my pet rabbit.

So I learned a valuable lesson at an early age: Trust No One.