Monthly Archives: February 2011

An 88-year-old’s recollections

In past columns I’ve devoted much lineage to the way things used to be, to my childhood and the dogged determination of hundreds of boys who worked six days a week to earn a few bucks selling Optics.

I’ve made fleeting references to the Optic sellers and carriers who’d spend hours in an alcove at the rear of the building, waiting for an unreliable press to churn out 80 copies a minute, to be distributed first to the carriers with established routes, then to the more tenured street sellers, determined by money, age, size and bully-ness quotient.

It was harrowing for us improperly dressed boys who’d remain on the streets from 2 p.m. (or whatever time the press run began) to 7 p.m. Five hours on some mid-winter days with temperatures like those we experienced three weeks ago, for a dozen sales and a quarter profit, including tips — unless, however, Cristobal or Carlos jumped you and stole your papers and your day’s earnings. Continue reading

An eckalectic reading list

After years of having graded essays of kids all the way from seventh grade through their senior year, I encountered my share of words like “nuke-you-lerr” when the students meant “nuclear.”

Why is it so difficult? Why does this combination of nasals, plosives, vowels and glides make even scientists struggle — sometimes not even realizing it’s grating on others?

It’s easy to recall the criticism purists directed to George W. Bush, for whom that word may have been the most important in his mini-arsenal of verbiage.

Is the ex-President’s inclined cable railway known as a funicular? Continue reading

Don’t go there

As a student at Immaculate Conception School in the late ‘40s, I recall social studies units on The Great Depression, the Stock Market Crash of ‘29, and the concomitant suffering that ensued.

Well in those days, we were a lot closer to the tumultuous times of the early 20th century, and the biggest lesson I took home — and into my adulthood — was the fact that many people lost their fortunes. “Many millions of people lost everything they had,” intoned Sister Macarena, our fifth-grade teacher.

“But if so many people lost their life’s savings, didn’t some people get rich at the same time?” I once asked Sister. Barring things like crop failures, famine, pestilence and other terms we pluck out of the Bible, how does it happen that suddenly everyone’s poor?” We can’t blame it all on Bernie Madoff, who made off with billions, can we?

Accordingly, each day’s headlines refer to budget cuts, and it seems our elected officials are doing what they can to stop the financial bleeding, provided it doesn’t affect their turf. Continue reading

First, tell us who’s playing

It’s not exactly a case of generalized apathy, but the zeal that’s usually apparent around Super Bowl season just isn’t there.

The column of Super Bowl predictions lacks the wide-eyed passion we expect. And to no one’s surprise, some said, “I’ll tell you my prediction if you’ll tell me who’s playing.”

Glad you asked. I’ll tell you: It’s the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, both teams having made the Super Bowl trip many times and come out ahead almost as many.

Most pick the Steelers to cart off the Vince Lombardi Trophy; most believe Pittsburgh has too many weapons, including and especially Ben Roethlisberger, the 28-year-old quarterback who has won two Super Bowls.

Let’s move to the prognostications. Continue reading