Oh, happy day — December 8, 2021

Oh, happy day

My sisters and I have always enjoyed a close relationship. Sure, they hurl accusations of hatefulness my way and I deride Pam’s ear-splitting witch’s cackle and Kathy’s ability to fall asleep whilst holding a scalding hot cup of coffee.

No, there’s nothing like that sisterly bond.

But, a few years ago, a wedge developed between us, a wedge that threatened not only our relationship but my freedom of speech.

You see, I developed a theory, which turned into an idea for a column. I mentioned the theory to Pam, who said, “No, you can’t write about that.”

Since I value her opinion, I decided to remain silent. Yes, I decided to keep my readers in the dark. It’s a decision I grew to regret.

Anyway, a few days later, Kathy approached me and said, “Pam told me about ____. Don’t write about that.”

I held my pen for two reasons: We were celebrating the holidays and I wanted to prove to my family I’m not nearly as hateful as they believe. But I said to myself, “Self, how much longer are you going to allow them to silence you? How much longer are you going to allow them to abridge the freedom of the press?”

But after my sisters once again ordered me not to write about this controversial subject, I thought, “That’s it! No longer will I remain silent!”

So, at the risk of ruining my relationship with my sisters, I shared my theory with newspaper readers and now I’m sharing it with you: I think Fonzie and Mrs. C had an affair.

What, you ask? Arthur Fonzarelli, the cool, motorcycle-riding, leather jacket-wearing, thumbs up-giving, shark-jumping mechanic on Happy Days carrying on with the all-American housewife Marion Cunningham? Surely I jest.

Surely I don’t.

This is the Fonz. This is a man who could make a dead jukebox come back to life just by pounding on it with his fist. Do you think Marion could resist that kind of electricity?

Need more evidence? What about their nicknames for each other? She purred his first name “Arthur” as if she were auditioning for the lead in a Marilyn Monroe biopic and whenever he called her the scandalous sounding “Mrs. C.” she came running.

In a holiday-themed episode I watched around Christmas that year, Fonzie was frustrated because a blizzard left him stranded at Arnold’s restaurant and unable to reach Mrs. C. Meanwhile, she was stuck at her house, equally frustrated yet resplendent in a vibrant green floor-length dress and upswept hair. Oh, some might say her disappointment arose from her physical distance from her children and her cuckold husband, Howard. Not me. I recognize subtext when I see it.

Either my sisters refused to see the truth or they didn’t want me to share the truth with the world. For the sake of our relationship, I have chosen to believe the former.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Turkey TV — November 24, 2021

Turkey TV

When it comes to Thanksgiving TV, no sitcom approaches the hilarity of WKRP in Cincinnati’s 1978 classic “Turkeys Away.” Most of the episode sets up the reveal and Les Nessman’s description of the parking lot carnage. The episode is available on certain streaming services and cable providers. If you watch every year or if you haven’t watched in years or if you’ve never watched, do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving and find it. You will laugh and laugh.

Everybody Loves Raymond also aired a few classic Thanksgiving episodes during the show’s nine-season run. There was the Thanksgiving Debra decided to serve a fish instead of a turkey. There was the year Marie decided to serve a tofu turkey. Then there was the year the Barones spent the holiday in Pennsylvania with Amy’s family. These exploits played out in 2003’s “The Bird.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, Everybody Loves Raymond revolved around the aforementioned Barones, specifically Raymond, his wife, Debra, Ray’s intrusive parents, Frank and Marie, and his hapless brother, Robert. Robert dated and later married the aforementioned Amy.

I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t like the show because they consider it to be mean-spirited. I, on the other hand, consider it to be a documentary.

Of all the Thanksgiving episodes, “The Bird” is the best. Whereas the Barones are loud and obnoxious, Amy and her family are quiet and reserved. As you might expect, the two families clash on Thanksgiving Day.

Firstly, Frank is offended when he discovers that Amy’s family doesn’t own a TV. Things take a darker turn when a bird crashes into the house and Amy’s mom, Pat, takes care of it.

By takes care of it, I mean she kills it.

The Barones express outrage when mild-mannered Pat puts the bird out its misery. Debra, who had taken the children out of the room to prepare for a family pageant, returns to find the respective family members sniping at one another.

Next, Ray and Amy’s brother, Peter, (Schitt’s Creek fans will recognize the actor as the man who brought Roland Schitt to life) legit remove their shirts and … you just have to watch. You also should stay alert for an ironic line Frank utters at the end of the show. You can find Everybody Loves Raymond on various networks and Peacock TV.

By the way, although “The Bird” provides 22 minutes of brilliant TV, it’s not even Everybody Loves Raymond’s greatest episode. For that, you will need to watch “The Canister.” As you might expect, that episode is all about a canister. After you watch all the Thanksgiving episodes and WKRP’s “Turkeys Away,” find it. You’ll laugh and laugh.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hashing it out — September 29, 2021

Hashing it out

As I’m sure all of you know, Sept. 27 marked National Corned Beef Hash Day.

Then again, dear readers, you might be asking yourselves, “What the expletive is corned beef hash?”

If you’re asking yourself that question then, unlike me, you were not forced to endure The Little Rascals’ short film, All About Hash.

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, we watched The Little Rascals as we waited for the school bus to lumber up the holler each morning. We might also have watched The Three Stooges, but I wouldn’t swear to that in court.

I will swear in court that I never enjoyed the Stooges or the Rascals. But what could I do? I didn’t control the TV. Furthermore, we had only five channels. What else were we going to watch?

Regardless, the aforementioned hash episode has stayed with me. According to my memory, Darla was upset because her parents argued every week about…hash. It seems her mom made hash out of leftovers and her dad just could not deal.

My memory wasn’t entirely reliable. When I researched the episode for this-here post, I learned it was Mickey’s parents who argued about…hash. But when the rascals put on a radio show – I am not making that up – to teach Mickey’s parents a lesson, Darla played the mom. So, I did remember Darla being upset about…hash.

At the time, I had no idea what they were carrying on about. All these years later, I still don’t. Our friend, Wikipedia, didn’t have much information on corned beef hash, but a website called Days of the Year offered up this on the topic:

“This is a meal that became popular throughout and after the Second World War. Because of the rationing that occurred during these years, fresh meat was very limited in availability, which resulted in corned beef filling the gaps. Cooks used their creativity, experimenting with leftovers, spices, and herbs to make different dishes. Nothing was wasted during these years, with stretching meals a main priority.”

The website added that there are no rules when it comes to making corned beef hash and encouraged cooks to get into the spirit of the World War II era and use whatever is in their refrigerators and pantries.

As a fan of leftovers, I encourage that, too, but I will not be making hash anytime soon. I have also never had corned beef. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. I thought I had, but I was thinking of dried beef, which comes in a jar that’s not much bigger than a container of Vick’s. (By the way, my adorable great-niece calls Vick’s “gray rub.”)

Anyway, I’m semi-obsessed with meat that comes in jars. But I guess that’s a different post for a different day. Wonder if there’s a Meat in Jar Day?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Men in tights — May 12, 2021

Men in tights

As I might have mentioned, I’m a recovering professional wrestling fan. As I also might have mentioned, my former fascination with wrestling — pronounced rasslin’ at the Goff Estate – used to surprise certain people.

I never understood why. After all, wrestling is a soap opera, featuring men in singlets and shorts. And if there’s one thing I’ve always loved, it’s a good soap opera, especially one featuring men in singlets and shorts.

Of course, the professional wrestling my siblings and I grew up watching on WTBS didn’t feature the over-the-top storylines that came to dominate the genre. It did have storylines, though. Not that I can remember any of them, but I can remember being heartbroken by the turn of a heel or when one of my favorites lost an important match.

I can also remember watching wrestling with my poppaw, the late, great Rufus Goff, but not with my dad, the late, great Burton Goff. Daddy was not a fan. He never let an opportunity pass to tell his children that the entire enterprise was fake and ridiculous and not worth our time. He’d cross his unibrow and say, “You know it’s not real.” Well, yeah. “Then why are you watching it?” Because.

Later, when we were adults and wrestling had morphed into a dazzling display of loud music and rude behavior, he would shake his head, sigh, and glance sideways at his children and grandchildren whenever he had to so much as endure a 10-second clip of a show. He must have been wondering where it had all gone wrong for him.

Perhaps I should have suggested to Daddy, a serious soap opera fan, that it was like a soap and the wrestlers were simply characters. Then again, in my analogy, I’m not sure which one would have been the Undertaker — John Black or Stefano. So, maybe it’s just as well that I kept that to myself.

Anyway, although I’m not a prude, over time, I started wincing more and more whilst watching wrestling. One night, I legit said to myself, “Self, I can’t do this anymore,” and I turned the channel. I haven’t watched in years, but I have tuned into A&E’s “Biography: WWE Legends.” They’re profiling eight legends — Steve Austin, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Booker T, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Mick Foley, and The Ultimate Warrior. If you’ve missed the original airings and you’re so inclined, check your local listings for the reruns.

The bios have given me a chance to discuss wrestling with my niece, Valerie, who alerted me to their existence, and to reminisce about my days as an active wrestling fan. It’s also given me the insight that if John Black and Stefano had solved their problems with a cage match, it would have spared a lot of people a lot of pain and heartache.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Make use of — April 21, 2021

Make use of

Approximately six weeks ago – after months of deliberation – I cut the cable cord and switched to a streaming service that offers live TV as well as access to a library of shows and movies.

I can’t describe the process as painless. Indeed, there are aspects of cable that I miss including their handy onscreen guide and the old people TV stations. Otherwise, streaming and I were getting along fabulously until last Sunday night.

With a baseball game on the TV and the laptop in my lap, I was living the dream. Suddenly, an alert popped up on said laptop. It seems my Internet company was warning that I was danger of reaching the limits of my Internet usage.

Oops!

The company offered an upgrade – for a price – but any longtime reader of this-here space can predict my reaction to that offer. As soon as the game concluded, I stopped streaming and did not resume until my next billing cycle began six days later.

Yes, that means I missed Aaron Rodgers’ second week as guest host on Jeopardy!

At this point, you might be asking yourself two questions, “Self, didn’t she realize all that extra streaming would result in more Internet usage? Also, self, doesn’t she have unlimited usage?”

As for the first question, apparently, I hadn’t realized it.

As for the second question, I’m assuming you’re new around here. On the other hand, one of my besties, a person who has known me since college, asked the same question. As if I would pony up the money for unlimited usage.

For the final week of the billing cycle, I checked my usage obsessively. Thankfully, regular net usage doesn’t utilize many bytes. To be on the safe side, though, I didn’t watch any social media videos of cats and only accidentally shared gifs last week.

But I can’t live in a silent house. The over-usage was caused, in part, because I had been utilizing streaming music services during work days instead of listening to my music. I will not make that mistake again.

A bigger problem is that I was streaming nonstop the rest of the time. In fact, occasionally I streamed on the TV in the living room whilst simultaneously streaming music on my iPad as I walked on the treadmill in the evenings. I also streamed on the TV whilst reading. And cleaning. And cooking. And weed eating. And showering. And, well, you get the point. Such is my need for background noise that one weekend I streamed a lacrosse game. Or was it a match? Beats me because I know nothing about lacrosse.

I did have the good sense to turn off the TV and the streaming device when I left the house or who knows when I would have received the alert from the company.

Thanks to that alert, I didn’t go over. But if I had gone over because of, let’s say Aaron Rodgers, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But if I had gone over because of a lacrosse game/match that I didn’t even watch? Oh, I would have kicked my own expletive for that.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

It was a week — March 31, 2021

It was a week

This week, everyone was enthralled by the saga of a man who might or might not have found shrimp tails in a box of cereal and with a big-expletive boat blocking the Suez Canal.

As for the tale of the alleged shrimp tails…all I have to say is that I only buy brand name cereal when purchasing for someone else or purchasing for myself with a coupon. And I’ve never found anything but cereal in my boxes of cereal. You can extrapolate that to mean whatever you wish.

As for the big-expletive boat…I am not nearly as enamored with this story as are my fellow galaxy mates, but I do wonder how the big-expletive boat managed to become dislodged in the canal. Where was it going? Why was it turning in the middle of said canal? I dare say that Capt. Stubing never allowed the MS Pacific Princess to become stuck in a waterway.

Regardless, I haven’t spent much time worrying over these matters because I’ve been mourning the back-to-back deaths of actress Jessica Walter and author Larry McMurtry.

Walter amassed oodles of credits during her 60-year, Emmy-award winning career. But for many of us, she came to personify Lucille Bluth, the character she played on Arrested Development. Indeed, on the afternoon of Walter’s death, a friend messaged me that Lucille Bluth had died.

In the days since Walter’s passing, I have consoled myself by watching clips of Lucille and giggled again and again at her unparalleled ability to roll her eyes, judge another character with only her eyes and a frown, and deliver a biting line. All whilst holding a martini glass.

I was still mourning the loss of Lucille Bluth/Jessica Walter when the same friend messaged me about the death of McMurtry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove and oodles of other books.

The obituaries for McMurtry have described him as an unsentimental author of the American West. I’m simplifying it, obviously, but anyone familiar with his work would agree with that assessment. My sister, Kathy, has read dern-near every work of fiction McMurtry penned. This weekend, she told me she couldn’t finish one book in particular because it was too dark. I told her I can’t finish one series in particular because I know it will end with the death of the main character. As long as I don’t finish the last book, he will live forever.

Of course, no one lives forever, including McMurtry’s fictional characters. As I sit here, I can remember turning a page more than 20 years ago to discover the fate of a beloved character. I immediately threw the book across the room and I, a woman not prone to fits of sentimentality, began weeping. I briefly cursed McMurtry for killing the character and for letting the readers know her fate.

But he had to do so. He had to be true to his story. And such was the power of his stories and his characters that their fates still move me. I can always revisit the books, though, where I will find the characters alive and alluring.

Just as I can always re-watch Arrested Development and find Lucille judging everyone as she day drinks.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Come on down — January 13, 2021

Come on down

Well, 2021 is off to a terrible start, but one good thing has occurred this year. I’ve learned that Pluto TV now has a channel devoted to the 1980’s Bob Barker era of The Price Is Right.

You might have some questions, including what the expletive is Pluto TV and how do I access it?

I researched the Internets to find a good description of Pluto TV, but I found the explanations sorely lacking. Here’s the best that I can do. If you can access the likes of Netflix and Hulu, then you can add Pluto to your buffet of platforms. It’s free, offers live TV-ish, and has oodles of channels. Don’t ask me how to add it or you’ll end up in Denmark. Instead, ask a loved one or a neighbor or that pesky feller who keeps offering to upgrade your car warranty.

Anyway, Pluto added TPIR on Dec. 1, but I didn’t learn of its existence until Jan. 1, which means I missed the holiday marathon. (Fun fact, as a wee lass, I thought the TPIR anagram stood for trip. I also thought announcer Johnny Olson was saying cars came equipped with California ignition instead of emission. Yes, even as a child, I was a candidate for a think tank.)

Many of the episodes haven’t been seen since they aired back in the ’80s and, during my down time, I do my best to make sure I watch as many as possible. It reminds me of when my family first got the MTV. My siblings and I tried to watch the channel around-the-clock, as if we expected it to disappear if we turned off the TV.

That’s me and TPIR on Pluto. There are so many aspects of the ‘80s episodes I had forgotten. These include the train, a few of the retired games, and the fact that women didn’t wear much clothing back in the day. I also wince at some of the remarks Bob Barker makes to the female contestants and models, who were known as Barker’s Beauties.

But I’ll give the man his due. He brought energy and pizazz to every single episode and never acted like he was too good or too cool for the show. Other game show hosts act(ed) like they’d been lobotomized, but not Barker (or the recently departed Alex Trebek). Barker maintained a repartee with the contestants and the studio audience that was fun to experience.

Another fun fact: whilst watching my first Pluto episode, I wondered in what year it was set. So, I studied the skimpy clothing, the hairstyles, and the TPIR merchandise and decided on 1982. Then, I watched the credits to see if I was right.

I was.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me because the showcase showdown is starting.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Soap gets in your mind — December 30, 2020

Soap gets in your mind

During normal times, I take down my tree and the other holiday decorations the day after Christmas. As of this writing, however, my family has not celebrated Christmas. What’s more, I’ve enjoyed taking in the tree against the backdrop of the snow that continues to blanket my yard. So, for now, the decorations shall remain within my view and not hidden in a closet.

Anyway, my decision to wait a few days to un-decorate has led my mind to one obvious location – soap operas.

Although I no longer watch soaps, I, like most people who were raised right, grew up watching stories, as they were known to some. Thus, every year at the holidays, I was flabbergasted by how the characters waited until Christmas Eve to decorate their trees. (I was also flabbergasted by how they wrapped presents. They wrapped the top of the box and the bottom, but not the entire present together. So, this meant that characters simply lifted the tops of the boxes to reveal their gifts. It seemed like a waste of dramatic effect to me.)

Back to the subject at hand – procrastinating until Christmas Eve to trim the tree. If you were/are a Days of Our Lives’ viewer, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, once they gather together on Christmas Eve, the Hortons decorate the tree with ornaments bearing their names. It’s a tradition. What’s she got against traditions?”

Nothing. And while I might be persuaded to grant you the Hortons’ tradition, what about all the other families on Days and the other soaps? Trust me, at one point I tried them all, so I can safely say that the lot of them wait until Christmas Eve. I know they’re busy having affairs and plotting revenge and world domination, but you’d think at least one or two of them could squeeze in a few hours to decorate a tree. Or, I don’t know, have a servant complete the task.

Because decorating takes time. One of the reasons I do it around Thanksgiving is because I’m not expending all that effort to create a masterpiece that will disappear in two days.

Speaking of masterpieces…once my mind settled on soaps, it also started thinking about how the genre’s villains tend to have giant portraits of themselves in their homes. I’m not sure if they commission these portraits or if they’re gifts from minions or family members who don’t know what else to give a super villain for birthdays and Christmas.

I do know that there’s a present adjacent to my mom’s tree – it can’t fit underneath – that could be a portrait. Although I usually avoid mirrors and likenesses of myself, I won’t be disappointed if a loved one has commissioned a giant portrait of me. I’ll keep you posted.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Not missing out — August 5, 2020

Not missing out

On occasion, I tell the person to whom I am talking that I miss video stores. As a movie aficionado, a trip to the video store represented an event to me. As an experienced video store visitor, I knew they might not have the titles I wanted to rent, so I always went armed with a list – sometimes in writing – of alternative selections.

I’m sharing this “thing I miss” with you, my dear readers, because I recently stumbled onto a discussion about things people don’t miss. For example, the subject of video stores reminds me that I don’t miss having to rewind VHS tapes. Yes, I was kind and always chose to rewind.

In fact, I splurged on a rewinder to aid in the chore because someone told me doing so would help save the VCR heads. By the way, I have no idea if that is true, what it means, or how many heads an average VCR boasted. For all I know, the person who offered the advice could have owned stock in a company that produced rewinders.

Of course, the rewinder didn’t help if I had recorded a week’s worth of TV and/or movies and needed to rewind or fast-forward until I located that sweet spot on the tape that featured the latest episode of “Alf.” All that rewinding and fast-forwarding couldn’t have been good for the VCR’s heads. Maybe that’s why most of the VCRs in my past eventually malfunctioned, mangling tapes in the process.

So, no, I don’t miss VCRs, VCR tapes, or, for that matter, cassette tapes. Sure, I miss making mixed tapes for myself and friends and receiving mixed tapes as gifts. But you never knew when a hungry tape player would eat a cassette, either homemade or brought on. And I don’t miss 8-tracks and the annoying way they interrupted songs, either.

Nor do I miss rotary phones. What’s more, I shudder when I consider how we tempted fate by answering the phone without already knowing the identity of the caller. What were we thinking? Literally anybody could have been on the other line.

Anyway, when I moved into my house nearly 16 years ago, I found a rotary phone in a closet. It eventually found its way to the garage and, back in the spring, into the car of the family hoarder. Although they initially seemed flabbergasted by the relic, my great-niece and great-nephew eventually became enamored by it. They took turns dragging it across the floor and making calls.

Someday, I’ll tell them about pay phones. I’ll explain that although pay phones saved me a couple times, the reception was poor and I always wondered about the hygiene of the people who used the phones before I did. And I’ll make sure they know I don’t miss them.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Watching the wheels — April 29, 2020

Watching the wheels

If my TV was on in the 7 p.m. hour during my pre-pandemic existence, then it was usually tuned to some sort of sporting event. Alas, just as with not being able to see my great-niece and great-nephew or make random trips to Dollar General and Big Lots, sports represents something else I’ve had to learn to live without. Well, sort of. I’ve taken advantage of a free subscription to NFL’s Game Pass and I’ve devoted dozens of hours to classic Olympics coverage. What’s more, as of this writing, my TV is tuned to a classic Major League Baseball game.

But during the aforementioned 7 p.m. hour, I’ve returned to two old favorites – “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

Indeed, for decades I had a nightly date with “Jeopardy!” The show was also a favorite of my dad, who pronounced it as Jefferdee. At some point, though, I fell out of the habit of watching every evening. Oh, I would watch both game shows here and there and sometimes for several nights in a row, but I can’t say that either resumed being part of my daily routine.

That is, they weren’t until the coronavirus.

One evening, with no sports on and with “Magnum, P.I.” airing an episode I had seen a couple weeks prior, I decided to flip the flicker to “Wheel.” It comforted me to see that Vanna White was still lovely and sweet and that Pat Sajak was still ingratiatingly sarcastic.

But I have two complaints with the show. Firstly, it has too many toss-up puzzles. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it means the puzzle is revealed one letter at a time and the contestant who correctly guesses wins $1,000 or $2,000.

To the best of my recollection, the last time I watched they had only three toss-up puzzles, which was already excessive. Sure, toss-ups throw money at the contestants, who don’t have to spin the wheel and, thus, run the risk of hitting a bankrupt or lose a turn. But it also reduces the drama because viewers know the contestants won’t lose any money or turns.

Secondly, the rules regarding winning $1 million make me borderline angry. In order to win the million bucks, a contestant must hit the million dollar wedge, call a letter, successfully solve that puzzle, win that round, and win the game without hitting bankrupt.

If you assume that the contestant will then win $1 million if he or she successfully solves the bonus round puzzle, you would be wrong. If you haven’t watched in several seasons, during the bonus round the winning contestant spins another wheel containing envelopes that represent money and prizes. If the contestant has hit and held onto the million dollar wedge, the envelope that usually represents $100,000 is replaced with a million. This means that the contestant still has to correctly solve the puzzle, which I endorse, and hit the million dollar envelope to win the big bucks.

I do not endorse that nonsense. If a contestant makes it that far and still has the million dollar wedge, he or she shouldn’t even have to spin the second wheel.

Somehow, this extra hurdle has not rendered it impossible to win a million on “Wheel.” In fact, three contestants have done so.

Of course, I guess I should just be happy that they’re not throwing a million dollars at contestants who solve those ridiculous toss-up puzzles.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.