Oh, those dating miscues

My wife and children seem to love stories about my dating miscues. I share them to impart an important lesson is to always carry with you a sense of humor. Laughing at yourself, means the world laughs with you. As I have gotten older, I think on some of my miscues, faux pas, etc. in the dating arena.

My loudest miscue occurred at a community theater which was held at a church hall. The fold out chairs were placed on elevated choral risers to give an amphitheater effect. My date and I were on a double-date sitting on the back row, about two feet elevated. After intermission, where we picked up a plastic cup of wine, we proceeded back to our chairs Unbeknownst to me, one of my rear chair legs had moved off the riser. So, when I sipped my wine, it appeared my date was moving forward. To my surprise, I was falling backward to a loud crash. Fortunately, I was alright, but the whole theater and my three companions got a huge laugh later.

Another funny incident happened at this same woman’s parents’ home, which I had to tell her about later. She had moved back home for a time living in a basement apartment in her parent’s house which was outside of the city.. Since she had younger siblings, her mother asked me to leave before the night was over, so as to avoid their seeing me the next morning. Leaving the first night, it was very dark outside and the drive way was near a fence. As I sheepishly opened my car door, a horse in the pasture close by snorted and scared the life out of me. If I had to go, I probably would have. The next day I called her and said “I did not know you had a horse”

Different woman, same city. I was supposed to be on a date with someone who I had gone out with a couple of times in college. I had traveled early with some friends back to the city before classes started and asked her if we could use her car, so my friends could use mine. She said no. After driving thirty minutes to her house whose drive way was diagonally up this hill, I learned my request to use her car was offensive, so she did not want to go. So, in a huff I tried to back down this diagonal drive way. Bad move. I ran off into a rock garden and my car got stuck. While she fumed at me from the window, her father had to tow me off the rock garden.

Blind dates can be a challenge. After moving after college, I met many good friends, many of whom were married. And, what married people like to do is set single people up on blind dates. I met a lot of nice folks on such dates, but chemistry was lacking in many cases. Of course, this goes both ways. My favorite story is about a lunch date who was quite the conversationalist, asking many questions about what I did and liked,. When I said, that is enough about me what do you do? She said I am minister. I did my best not to flinch. I am a Christian and have been a church goer, but meeting someone who is already minister is different than falling in love with someone who becomes a minister. I recognize this is petty, but I felt I would not measure up and lusting after a minister might send me to the bad place.

It is funny how different one can become. If I met the minister later, I would have been more mature and handled it better. My wife and I met at the right time. I had been through dating some folks who were very nice, beyond the blind dates, but was not ready for the one. The irony is my wife asked me for a drink as our first date joining her brother and his wife. Then, she asked her brother to join us. He came alone and they worked out a signal for him to leave if our date was working out. He left and the rest his history.

Laughter is the best medicine. It can salve many funny situations. And, it certainly can remind us of our frailties and shortcomings, then and now.

You have a “towards” problem – revised old edition

Since we are in need of humor, the following is a revised reprise of an earlier post from several years ago. Although I left out some of the more colorful metaphors, I did include one or two that might sit less well, so please forgive. My wife does not like the prom queen reference, for example, but I wanted to deliver the line as uttered.

Sports competition often provides us with comic relief. The more down time between shots or plays gives more time for one liners and jokes. Golf is ideal for comedy for this reason, especially when you fail more in golf than you succeed which offers fodder.

While golfing with an elderly couple with whom we were paired, my wife was apprised by the gentleman late in the round that he had diagnosed her swing  problem. On the 17th fairway, he quietly said she had a “towards problem.” A “towards problem” she exclaimed. “What is that?” He said, “Your are hitting the ball towards the wrong direction.”

On another occasion, yet another elderly couple played with us. I think we attract them when we play, but now we are the elderly couple. Again, the man said to my wife on the infamous 17th hole he also had diagnosed her problem. As she was all ears, he said, “You are standing too close to the ball after you hit it.”

I have seen some strange things on the golf course, some that I have done, as well. I watched the wife of a friend hit the ball and it went through her legs and struck a male friend in the face standing behind her, maybe two feet ahead. She swung and he sprawled leaving a golf dimple mark in his face – he was OK. I had a boss who could hit the ball a long way, but straight was usually not the direction. He would normally play the hole from another hole adjacent to the one we were on (a definite “towards” problem).

I used to golf with another boss, who had many one liners, some courtesy of TV evangelist Reverend Ernest Angley. If he hit into the woods, he would say, “Out Satan” or “Be healed” using his best Ernest southern drawl. If a tree knocked it back into the fairway, he would say “I played it off the tree.” Or, if he hit a ball into the water and it splashed out, he would say, “This game is easier when you know where all the rocks are.”

One of my favorite golfing buddies loved to offer his sayings. When he had a nice swing pattern going, he would say, “That swing was smoother than a prom queen’s thigh.” Another friend when he pulled the ball way left, would call it a “Babe Ruth.” When we asked what a Babe Ruth was, he said “It is a dead yank.” 

Another popular golf saying I think is traced to Lee Trevino, the very funny pro. He routinely hit a nice fade shot, not unlike Ben Hogan. Lee would say, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.” When my Ernest Angley quoting friend lived in Dallas, he saw Lee in a McDonalds the day after Trevino won the tournament in Dallas. My friend complimented Lee on a memorable chip shot, but Trevino responded “Thanks, but I really have to thank my five iron, as it is the club that keeps me from having to dig ditches.”

Some of the sayings are not very flattering, so I will leave those behind. It should not be a surprise when a guy says something that could be offensive. Much teasing can go on when your fellow foursome member tops it, hits it into the woods, does not hit past the ladies’ tee box, hits it out-of-bounds or misses an easy putt. It should be noted, my golf swing created many a comment like this.

But, the funniest line I ever heard on a golf course was by a sassy beverage cart woman. She did not take guff from anyone which served her well around her usual customer base. One day, she had a stone hanging from a necklace. When our group inquired about it, she said “It is a sex stone.”   We asked what it did to deserve such a name. After sufficient baiting and time, she said “You don’t get it. It is just a f**king rock.”

On that note, I will say sayonara. May you find your golf balls in bounds and on the green ground. Please share some of your favorites, whether they are golf or another sport.

A few needed work funnies

I have written about some of these stories before, but permit me to repeat a few much needed work related funnies.

  • An old colleague said he liked having the office right next to his mercurial boss. He said the boss would get so mad, he would storm out of the office, but the boss’ momentum would not allow his boss to turn quickly enough to come in his office. So, the person in next office to his got to hear the boss’ furor.
  • Long before social distancing, my boss’ boss would routinely violate personal space and get six inches away from your face as he talked. No one was free from this invasive practice. My boss had a recommendation that you needed to follow when meeting with his boss. Always keep a piece of furniture between you and him to avoid the invasion of personal space.
  • Another colleague told me of the funny story when he realized his boss had a major comb over. He was showing his boss something on the computer and his boss asked if they could switch places. My friend said he saw a long hair on his boss’ shoulder and thought he would do a kindness and brush it away. One problem, though, it was still attached and he jerked his boss his head to the side.
  • At the time, the CEO of the company was a learned man who wanted to read every piece of communication that went out to employees and customers. He had been a newspaper reporter just out of high school, so space and brevity was at a premium. He had a term called “widows and orphans” which meant one or two words on a line of type. He would reword things to make paragraphs more blockish, ending near the right margin and avoiding the widows and ophans.
  • This same CEO would keep a cup of very short pencils, as he would used them down to their last 1/4 inch of use in his hand. When he was rewriting paragraphs, I would look over and count easily a dozen or more pencils.
  • I have written before about some of the greediest CEOs in my work experience. There was one who had every perquisite known to business. He had a body guard chauffeur who would pick him up at home and drop him at the office, then go back and drive the CEO’s wife shopping. My boss was once talking with a building security guard and said the body guard chauffeur was not protecting the CEO at the right time. He told the security guard there were more people inside the building who wanted to kill him than outside the building.
  • Some folks believe a travel and expense budget allowed them to spend on things they could not do at home. The above CEO was just one terrible example. He charged the company for his daughter’s wedding, because he invited clients to the wedding. Another person I know would put speeding tickets on his T&E report, as he was driving fast on company business. After the speeder metered his personal mail with the company postage meter, our boss went in and put a quarter on his desk and said that is the last personal envelope I am mailing for you.

The stories are many. Please share your funny work stories or reactions to the above.

From Pirates to Parrot Heads – a tribute to Jimmy Buffett (a reprise)

Some of the most loyal fans in music are lovingly referred to as “Parrot Heads,” given the name by the focus of their attention, the wannabe pirate, Jimmy Buffett. The singer, songwriter and pied-piper romanticizes the rebel deep within all of us by envying the pirate lifestyle of few rules and more imbibing. From one of his reflective songs, “A Pirate Looks at 40,” Buffett sings:

Yes, I am a pirate two hundred years too late
Cannons don’t thunder there’s nothin’ to plunder
I’m an over forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

While it is truly hard to find a Buffett song where imbibing does not occur, his words are extremely reflective of humanity and our imperfections. Like a sailor away from port, he often thinks fondly of people, places and times. Since he is a sailor as well, this may be where his songwriting originates. My favorite Buffett song “He Went to Paris” is one of those reflective songs, where an old sailor retired to the islands recounts his story when prodded. He went off to Paris, full of energy and then… Here are the first few verses:

He went to Paris looking for answers
To questions that bothered him so
He was impressive, young and aggressive
Saving the world on his own

But the warm summer breezes
The French wines and cheeses
Put his ambition at bay
The summers and winters
Scattered like splinters
And four or five years slipped away

Then he went to England, played the piano
And married an actress named Kim
They had a fine life, she was a good wife
And bore him a young son named Jim

And all of the answers and all of the questions
Locked in his attic one day
‘Cause he liked the quiet clean country living
And twenty more years slipped away

This song is extra special to me as I would sing it to my kids as we rocked in the glider before they fell asleepProbably, my second favorite Buffett song and one of his bigger hits is “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.”  Here are a few of his reflections:

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
I’ve seen more than I can recall

But, Buffett had a fun side, where he explained his and our own foibles. One of those songs has a fun title “We are the People our Parents Warned about.”

We are the people there isn’t any doubt
We are the people they still can’t figure out
We are the people who love to sing twist and shout
Shake it up baby
We are the people our parents warned us about (do do do dooo)

I also enjoy some of the clever references in many of his songs which provide mental context, such as what Desi Arnaz wore in “I Love Lucy.”  In “Pencil Thin Mustache,” he sings:

That’s why I wish I had a pencil thin mustache
The Boston blackie kind
A two-toned Ricky Ricardo jacket
And an autographed picture of Andy Devine

Oh, I could be anyone I wanted to be
Maybe suave Errol Flynn or the sheik of Araby
If I only had a pencil thin mustache
Then I could do some cruisin’ too

Buffett has a huge inventory of songs that his Parrot Heads can sing word for word. I think that is why he chose the name of his fans. His biggest hits “Come Monday” and “Margaritaville” are surrounded by wonderful songs such “Boat Drinks,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “The Captain and the Kid,” “The Last Tango in Paris,” “Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit,” “Volcano,” and  so on. As this tribute could go on forever, let me end with our sailor theme with words from another classic “A Son of a Son of a Sailor.”

As the son of a son of a sailor
I went out on the sea for adventure
Expanding the view of the captain and crew
Like a man just released from indenture

As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin’ man
I have chalked up many a mile
Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks
And I learned much from both of their styles

I love Buffett’s ability to make us also romanticize, reflect, laugh and sometimes cry. It may be because he dared to be the rebel on occasion, but it his ability to tell us about it that brings us Parrot Heads along for the journey.

In a final note, Parrot Heads exist in all shapes and colors. In my business travels and meetings, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Parrot Heads I have met along the way. My favorite story is of a straight laced female HR person who had a picture of her and her husband with Buffett on her credenza. “I did not know you were a Parrot Head?” I asked and we had a much more jovial meeting.

Quirky traits or actions that add to a movie or television show

The movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a delightful film written by and starring Nia Vardolis. One of the charming recurring features of the story is her father, played by Michael Constantine, uses Windex to cure any physical problem. A funny moment is on the ride to the wedding reception, when she confides to her new husband, played by John Corbett, that she woke up with this big zit. He said he did too, but her father fixed it with Windex.

These little quirky traits make the movie a better window into real life characters. The trait may actually be a physical one, which can be even more endearing. In “Motherless Brooklyn,” starring and directed by Ed Norton, his detective role has Tourette’s Syndrome long before anyone knew to call it that. He would shout out uncontrollably things that popped into his head. It was done in great taste as part of the storyline and actually was a useful trait to endearing himself to people he wanted to interview.

There is a television series based out of Canada called “Coroner” starring Serinda Swan (not to be confused with a BBC show called “The Coroner”) as Dr. Jenny Cooper. Swan is recently widowed and moved her teenage son to take this job as a needed change. But, she suffers from PTSD and anxiety that we learn is due to her sister’s death as child. So, when her medications are not regulated, she has disabling attacks. To add further, she is a sleepwalker resulting from these issues.

Leaving the more serious traits aside, the most humorous quirky character contrived built on the skills of Don Knotts as Barney Fife in “The Andy Griffith Show.” The funniest example of Fife’s quirkiness is Andy would not trust him with a loaded gun, but Fife needed to have one. So, Andy let him carry an empty gun, with one bullet in his buttoned shirt pocket. So, the funniest scenes occurred when Fife had to go for his bullet when in perceived danger. The writers deserve a medal for that one.

Going back to the movies, our friend Hugh likes to bring up one of the best character actors around, Strother Martin. He appeared in two popular Paul Newman movies. In “Cool Hand Luke,” Martin played a corrupt warden in a southern prison where Newman was a detainee. But, the movie is accentuated with Martin’s great line after he would take action to quell an uprising from a rebellious prisoner. He would say “What we got here…is a failure to communicate.” Martin would use his drawl to elongate the words.

In the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” with Newman and Robert Redford, Martin shows up late in the movie that had started to drag a little bit. When the bandits went to Bolivia to try to have regular jobs, they worked to guard a payroll under Martin’s management. Martin chewed tobacco and as he rode his horse, he would spit the excess juice out. You learn after several spits, he would say “Dammit” when the juice dribbled onto his chin and “Bingo” when he successful expelled the juice. He also called his two man crew “morons” when they were worried coming down the mountain. He said “we don’t have any money coming down the mountain.”

There are many quirky characters on television shows that I have written about before such as Abby Sciuto on “NCIS” played by Pauley Perrette and Penelope Garcia on “Criminal Minds” played by Kirsten Vangsness. But, the quirkiest character may have been the lead in “Monk” played by Tony Shalhoub. A former police detective, Adrian Monk suffers from intensified obsessive-compulsive disorder and a variety of phobias since the murder of his wife. Yet, his OCD helps him solve crimes given his attention to detail.

These folks are endearing or maddening dependent on the role or scene. I recognize fully I skipped over many other great examples. Let me know some of your favorite quirky characters and why.

Are you watching “Casablanca” again? – a reprise post

This repeat blog from 2012 flows from a conversation between Roger, our British blogging friend, and me the other day. It was nice to add to our blogging friendship that he also likes “Casablanca.”

When my wife has caught me stopping while channel surfing on a showing of “Casablanca” as I did Friday night, she invariably asks “How many times have you seen that?” I usually answer “Not enough” depending on her mood. I was encouraged to write about my favorite movie when I stopped by a blog yesterday where the blogger did a wonderful job of talking about her favorite book and movie “Pride and Prejudice.” I should note my wife will do the same with “Somewhere in Time,” but since I appreciate the story and seeing Jane Seymour’s classic beauty it is a more than a fair trade – she of course has a thing for Christopher Reeve, but that is another story.

To me, Casablanca takes me to another place in time. It is a great story told well, set at a crucial time with a backdrop of Nazi antagonism, and played by great actors under great direction. You can go to Wikipedia and see the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards and the numerous nominations, so it is acknowledged for its surprisingly unexpected brilliance. Also, the fact that the movie is included as one of the all-time best movies confirms it is a classic. Yet, to me it is the dialogue and interaction between the starring roles, supporting roles and the many smaller roles, that make it worthwhile.

I enjoy the banter between Carl and Sasha, the head waiter and bartender, and their patrons as much as the dialogue between the lead roles. And, the most moving part of the movie includes only the third star – Paul Heinreid as Victor Lazlo with a brief nod from Humphrey Bogart as Rick – as Lazlo directs the band to play “La Marseillaise” to drown out the Nazi sing along in Rick’s Americain Cafe. This scene never ceases to give me chills as it shows what a heroic figure Lazlo is and why people look to him to lead and why the Nazis are so wary of him.

Setting aside this emphatic moment, it is the dialogue and story that deserve the credit more so than anything. The movie is a compilation of conversations leading us to the inevitable climax. You have little reason to like Rick at first, so the dialogue helps paint a better picture of this gray character – why he is bitter and how he was not always this way. At the same time, we see the grayness of Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault’s character evolve into someone who gives a damn at the end. Even Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund is not perfect, as she is torn between Rick and her devotional love to Victor Lazlo. So, the grayness of these characters and others (such as Sydney Greenstreet’s Ferrari) shows how imperfect we all are in our daily struggles between survival and doing the right thing. In fact, the only true hero and villain are Victor Lazlo and Major Strasser with others having many shades of gray in-between.

The writers, primarily Julius and Phillip Epstein with help from Howard Koch, deserve the Best Screenplay award. The dialogue reveals the characters in this struggle. The movie is remembered for its six classic quotes being included among the 100 Best Movie Quotes, but those quotes should not overshadow the dialogue that give them meaning. The classic “round-up the usual suspects” after Major Strasser has been shot is based on earlier dialogue. It has extra meaning to me as the writers initially did not know how the movie should end even after filming began. When one of the Epsteins blurted out “round-up the usual suspects” they knew Strasser had to be killed and that led them to Lazlo getting on the plane with Ilsa as Rick had to be the one who shot him.

Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson as Sam, Peter Lorre as Ugarte and Conradt Veidt as the villainous Strasser all are ideally cast in their roles. Plus, the many dialogues and scenes expose us to Rick’s handling of the essential sub-story of the Bulgarian couple trying to win their way to America while the young wife considers sleeping with Renault and Rick’s relationship with his casino boss, Sam, Sasha, Carl, Ferrari and Ugarte among others.

Yet, we should not forget the role of Michael Curtiz and his other directors who helped him when the Academy Award (he was not the only director used on the film). Focusing on the sadness and beauty of Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa shows that much can be said without a word even in this movie of words. And, it doesn’t stop with her as the facial expressions of the people listening to other people is very telling. There is a brief moment when the guitar playing female singer cannot hide a glimpse of her disgust over Major Strasser; note it is not overtly apparent, as in real life, he may have noticed it and said something to her. There are also classic scenes where the camera catches the silhouette of one of the actors in a dialogue, to let us see the other party. There are some very effective scenes like this in Rick’s office.

So, I watch again and again. Note, I do not stop every time, but I do enjoy parts of the movie so much, that I will at least catch a taste before I move on. If you have not seen it, I would encourage you to do so. I have seen it in a theatre and it is even more special as you can see more facial expressions than on a TV screen.  If you have not watched it in a while, please check it out again and look at the facial expressions and listen to the dialogue. And, if you love it like I do, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Please feel free to share your favorite moments, characters, etc.

A few work vignettes

Since we need distractions to take our minds off the negative news of the day, please consider the following work vignettes. They are all true, but the names have been changed to mask identities.

– The new state president of a company was a smoker, but the headquarters had just instituted a no smoking policy indoors. The HR director swears the new president called him one day, as all he heard was a lighter clicking and a sighed exhale of cigarette smoke.

– Before thinking too ill of this state president, he did have two funny introductions. He was smoking outside, when a female worker said she had not seen him before. He eventually mentioned he was the new president, to which the woman replied “And, I am the Queen of England.”

– While being taken around to the local offices, someone mentioned he resembled an office manager named Bob. Making remarks at Bob’s office to the staff, the president said “People say I resemble Bob, but that cannot be, as Bob is uglier than a pair of old bowling shoes.”

– A colleague and I once were in a meeting with the senior leadership of a company going through some comparative data on compensation. The CEO (who I had worked with for years) could not believe they paid relatively poorly on long term incentive pay and would not let it go. To get the meeting to move on, I took a chance and said, “Tom, no matter how you measure it, you are sucking hind teat on long term incentives.” When he said “I don’t think anyone has ever said that to me,” the CFO said “Well, he’s got a lot of data to back it up.”

– The sidebar to the story is my colleague was telling the story to others in front of me. He said, “Here I am trying to be all serious and Keith is over there talking about farm animals.”

– My friend Marie ran a very successful Health and Wellness program for our employees. During October (which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month), she was promoting our mobile mammogram program (which had helped eleven women learn they had an issue in and could get care). I was telling this story in front of her to a senior executive and referenced “Breast Awareness Month.” Not batting an eye, she corrected me, that would be “Breast CANCER Awareness Month.” Oops. We still laugh about that today.

– One of the better consultants (and mentors) I ever worked with had the misfortune of meeting with a heavy set client, who proceeded to have chest pains during the meeting. The EMTs were called in to help. It turned out to be a needed wake-up call for this man, so he improved his health afterwards. Yet, as teammates tend to do, we never let our colleague forget this episode. He was a perfectionist, so he was consistently making us redo work if he did not like a proposed solution’s results. So, we started feigning chest pains (in the manner of Redd Foxx’s character on Sanford & Son) when he was too demanding on the team.

– Yet, this consultant taught me many things, one of which is to celebrate good meetings or trips. So, as we returned home from meetings up I-85, we would stop at a Dairy Queen and get a Heath bar Blizzard (Exit #70) to celebrate. Unfortunately, the DQ was torn down a few years back. Yet, I love Heath bars to this day and will crumble them on ice cream.

So, the key takeaways are have fun when you can and don’t forget to celebrate little victories. Heath bars and ice cream are optional.

You remember that place next to the restaurant we liked – an updated version

This is an example of “couplespeak.” After years of marriage, it is entirely possible the other member of the couple will know precisely where the speaker is meaning. And, neither may actually remember the name of the place or the restaurant used as the landmark. This kind of conversation can surface in a multitude of ways. Here are a few more examples.

Oh, she is that actress who starred in the action movie with the guy we like.

This one usually requires some stumbling add-ons. Because the responding question will usually be, “Which movie are you talking about?” Nowadays, with Google, it is possible to come up with names and trace the movie to the other star. Yet, it is possible for the spouse to know after some add-on suggestions, who the actress and actor are.

Why don’t you make that casserole you made when we had some folks over?

Between the two, the name of the other couple can be surfaced which will help with the mental Rolodex of recipe names. Otherwise, it will be an ingredient hinting exercise. “I remembered it was a chicken and sausage dish.”

Was it Johnny, Susie or Joey that had the whooping cough or was it the croup?

This is not a fill in the blank question like the others. But, if you are a parent of more than one child, some of the younger child illnesses blend together. Your kids will laugh at you if you don’t remember, but they will cease laughing when it happens to them as parents. Also, the diseases do get mixed up some, which is why you keep a list.

What is the name of that singer that sounds like the woman we heard on the American Idol or The Voice?”

It is the “name that person questions” that come up the most. We know both of us know her, yet neither can recall her name. We do need to find some hint that will jog memory or facilitate the Google search.

Do you think the “Sun” or “Jellyfish” or “Popcorn” is that actress or singer who was in…?”

To get this reference, you have to be a fan of “The Masked Singer,” where artists dress in very creative costumes and sing in competition. Throughout their stints, the competitors offer clues. Yet, given the previous and first example above, it does test our couplespeak. Do you think that is the guy who starred in the sit-com about the young family with two dads?

To others, it will appear we have no sense at all. If you told someone that you could not remember a popular person or place, the other person would think you were crazy. “How can you not know that?” Yet, all couples will eventually migrate to this couplespeak at some point.

Tell me a few of your examples. Which ones did I not capture? When did you first notice this trend?

More of those trying English words

I recently wrote of the difficulties the English language poses with words that are similar, but have meanings that are so different. Since I do many a crossword puzzle, I come across words that remind me of this fact, but also encourage me to go find a dictionary. As I noted earlier, I like words that I actually might use or hear someone use in a conversation and am not too keen on words that only share how smart the speaker is or who would like to seem.

Here are a few more sets of words to ponder.

Divine and divine: The noun divine can mean godlike or sacred and it can also mean lovely or handsome. Yet, the verb divine means to surmise or guess the solution to a problem.

Seer, sere, sear: Homonyms anyone? Three similar words with different meanings. Seer is a prophet, while sere means dry or arid as in a desert. And, not to be outdone, sear means to char as in a steak.

Prescribe and proscribe: Another pairing where one letter changes the nature. Prescribe means to order, as in a doctor ordering a prescription. Proscribe means to forbid.

Vain, vane, vein: More homonyms. Vain conjures up a Carly Simon song meaning arrogant. Vane usually refers to a weather vane, but is a broad blade attached to a rotating axis. Vein of course is the vessel to return the blood to the heart, but could also mean a distinctive quality.

Prosaic and mosaic: The former is often confused with the latter, but prosaic means commonplace. Mosaic is not commonplace meaning artistic or painted glass placed into a stone setting.

Precede and proceed: They sound similar, but precede means to go before. Proceed means to begin. You should proceed, before someone precedes you.

That is enough confusion for one day. So, when Simon sings, “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you,” you will know how to spell it.

American Utopia – an excellent musical by David Byrne

For those of us who came of age in the 1970s, the name David Byrne may be familiar. Yet, the name of his group, “Talking Heads” likely will ring a few more bells.

For the past few years, David Byrne’s “American Utopia” has been well received on Broadway. Fortunately, before COVID-19 shut down Broadway, Spike Lee filmed a special performance with Byrne and his multi-national troupe. It is a memorable show that is airing now on HBO. Below is link to a HBO trailer.

Dressed alike in gray suits, sans shoes and ties, Byrne and his eleven performers blend their talents in a choreographed marching band of various drum kits, guitars, a keyboard, and various and sundry instruments.

Only two of the songs appear to be popular Talking Heads’ songs – “Once in a lifetime” and “Burning down the house.” The latter sounds better than the released version with added percussion.

He also adds new music and that of others. Byrne explains the songs beforehand and includes an introduction of the band as they build the next song instrument by instrument.

Another highlight occurs when he says he asked permission from Janelle Monae to do her song as a plea for justice for a list of killed black people. This was filmed prior to the terrible deaths this year, but Lee adds a memorial at the end of the song.

Byrne makes observations throughout about our country. In one telling moment, he encourages people to vote, using the audience lights to indicate how many 20% represents that vote in local elections. He also noted in the 2016 election only 57% of Americans voted. To me, this indicates the voting problem in America – it is not fraud, it is not enough people are voting.

Yet, the highlight is the wonderful music coming from the stage produced by many different nationalities, races and ethnicities. That is what America is all about.

https://www.hbo.com/specials/american-utopia