Category Archives: Humor

Spring Cleaning The Space Between My Ears

SPRING CLEANING THE SPACE BETWEEN MY EARS

Michael Nesmith, former member of the Monkees, had a mother who invented White Out in 1954. Bette Nesmith originally called her product Liquid Paper.

Now that’s the sort of completely useless information clogging up the synapsis in my brain begging me to do a Spring clean up of my cerebral cortex. Part of the problem with these pesky, trivial facts noodling around in my noggin are the ancillary, parasitical adjuncts which ride along with them.

For instance, thinking of Bette Nesmith’s invention reminds me of the horribly politically incorrect joke, “Why did they fire the blond receptionist? White Out on her computer screen.” Ba-dum-dum.

Should such trash take up any valuable storage space in the very finite allocation of brain cells I still retain? An emergency purge seems my only recourse, but where to begin? What do I sweep aside?

Do I still need to vividly recall the smoke billowing from the podium as Cardinal Richard Cushing gave the invocation at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration on January 20th, 1961?
Seems the motor which raised and lowered the lectern overheated and caught fire. Walter Cronkite provided the narration as we watched on black and white televisions.
If I don’t dump this quaint historical moment it will only lead me to remember how uncomfortable I felt, even as a young 14 year old boy, watching the aged poet Robert Frost attempting in vain to read a poem he had penned for the new President.The glare from the sun and freshly fallen snow was too harsh for his 82 year old eyes.

Nostalgia can be wonderful, even if the naive sheen of the 1960’s Camelot era has since been tarnished, but at a certain point doesn’t old news become old news? Modern technology now fires new data at us at break neck speed. Where will it all fit without a housecleaning?

Maybe a good place to start weaning things out would be stuff you were taught in school. Sorry, my many educator friends, but I’m trying really hard to recall a time when knowing the formula for the area of a circle, A = ¶ r2, has helped me in my life. Oh, perhaps if I had become a scientist in the space program and needed to design a disc that held a bracket which attached to the booster rocket, A = ¶ r2, may have come into play. But in my former three decades plus career spent trying to convince well-to-do New England folks to spend their money on exceedingly expensive (But, worth it!) luxury appliances for their homes never has knowing that A = ¶ r2 been an asset.

Just thinking about this mind pruning gives me hope. As I’ve entered my late 60’s I need to prioritize the things which I truly need to remember; Wednesdays are trash collection days, my wedding anniversary (Critical date to retain for oh so many reasons!), the grandchildren’s birthdays and where I left my car keys.

Maybe if I work really hard at this I will be able to even forget that the jeep in the Roy Rogers Show was called “Nellybelle”.

– END –

Contact: jraftus@aol.com

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Jim Raftus

I Could Drone On And On And On………

I COULD DRONE ON AND ON AND ON AND ON…..

So Amazon is trying to fly the drone’s nose under the proverbial tent flap. Jeff Bezos, CEO and Founder, has declared that the technology is available for Amazon to deliver products using their own drones. All Amazon needs are a few thousand legal permits, FAA approval, heavy insurance liability coverage, a fleet of drones and customers desperate enough to pay a steep premium to have goods delivered even faster than overnight.

Hey, Bezos has created a multi billion juggernaut in less than two decades, so, it all sounds good to me. Heck, he even recently bought the Washington Post! (And I don’t mean at his local news stand.)

I’m even willing, for a hefty fee, to help Amazon’s marketing efforts. I believe they need to show how history itself could have been changed if drone deliveries had been available “back in the day”.

TOWN OF MARATHON, GREECE – SEPTEMBER 18, 490BC:

The forward sentry was looking for Pheidippides a fellow soldier known for his running skills. The sentry found his way into a dusty tent near the river. The walls of the tent were adorned with Helen of Troy posters. Pheidippides was sitting at a table fashioned out of a slab of wood resting on two Grecian urns. The slab was cluttered with tiny whirligigs, springs and assorted crude tools.

“Pheidippides, is that you?”

The young man at the desk warily looked at the intruder.

“And, if I am?” he replied.

“The General needs you to do him a favor.”

Pheidippides stiffened. In his experience requests from generals were usually a pain. The sentry continued.

“We’ve won the battle of Marathon and we must let our allies in Sparta know the results.”

“So, you expect me to run to Sparta?”
The sentry nodded.

“Sparta.” Pheidippides mulled, “No way, that’s, like what, 26 miles and 385 yards away?”

The sentry persisted, “But, you are Pheidippides, fleet of foot.”

“Yeah, well, I haven’t run that far in, let’s see, about four years. I’m so out of shape I’d probably drop dead when I reach Sparta.”

Pheidippides stood up, a surprising paunch billowing his tunic, and waddled over to another work area where he uncovered a strange looking contraption.

“What’s that?” the sentry asked eyeing what looked like a featherless bird.

“My newest invention,” crowed Pheidippides “ I call it the Dronatasis. I’ll just write the message on some papyrus and this will fly it on the wind to Sparta.”

At that moment a courier delivered a huge basket filled with food from Pheidippides’ mother, Philomena Pheidippides. In truth he was a momma’s boy and she had been sending him sheets of baklava, bags of stuffed grape leaves and olives filled with ham ever since he’d been deployed to the front.
Pheidippides’ reputation as a gourmand and his renown for “putting it away” even brought him challenges from other well fed soldiers anxious to share in his bounty.

And, that it how instead of being honored as the “Father of the Olympic Marathon”, Pheidippides became known as the “Father of the Marathon Eating Contest.”

LITTLE BIG HORN, MONTANA – JUNE 26, 1876:

Lieutenant Colonel George Custer sat ramrod straight on his trusty steed. A picture of military macho except for the fact that he was twirling his finger in one of his long blond curls as he scanned the horizon. The Lieutenant was a bit testy. Three days out in the blazing Montana sun and not an Indian in sight. For this, his parents had shelled out for military school? Fey! Would have been better off apprenticing as a blacksmith like his Uncle Festus told him to do. Oh, well.

Suddenly Custer’s acute hearing, honed from years of eavesdropping on the troops back at the barracks to try and find out who kept writing, “Custer dyes his hair.” on the latrine walls, picks up a strange buzzing noise. Warily, his finger stops twirling as he spies a remarkable object which he first believes to be a small seagull even though he is 1,770 miles from any ocean. Mind you, this fellow did finish dead last in his West Point graduating Class of 1862. The astonishing apparition spun to a halt gently landing near his horses’ front hoof. Cautiously dismounting, the fearless leader tiptoed towards the now inert object which looked like a box with wings. To his astonishment the package was addressed to him: Lieutenant Colonel George Custer – 7th Regiment Cavalry, with the ominous instructions, “Open Immediately”.

So, open it he did and discovered a powerful pair of binoculars with a note attached: “Use these now! Reports from scouts say there are Indians at 9:00 o’clock, Indians at 12:00 o’clock and, yes, Indians at 3:00 o’clock. You are running out of time”.

The astonished Custer turned his regiment around and returned to the fort where he continued to incompetently command his crew of miscreants and vagabonds for another decade. Their shenanigans were much later immortalized on the television series “F Troop”.

CUMBERLAND, RHODE ISLAND – APRIL 8, 2015:

Well, I’m perilously close to my deadline for submitting this article for publication. Too late to mail, so I’ll use my own home built drone to send it. I’m having some problems with the drone’s latitude and longitude microchip, so, if it should smash through the windshield of your SUV on Westminster Street, PLEASE, deliver it to: Providence Journal, 75 Fountain Street, Attention: Editorials.

– END –

Contact: jraftus@aol.com
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The Final Page

THE FINAL PAGE

December 31st, 2030

Well, we all saw this coming. Now, here I am. The final page of the last actual non-digital newspaper being spit out of the now instantly obsolete laser printers here at the last print newspaper left, The Des Moines Register. It is the last day of 2030 and the end of an era. Tomorrow we also go online.

Happy New Year!

Johannes Gutenberg began this journey when he invented the moveable press in 1440. What he started then with the printing of indulgences for the church and his most famous work, the Gutenberg 42 Line Bible, was the conception of a print life which lasted 590 years.

For almost 6 decades the globe’s citizenry has held parchment in their hands to keep abreast of the world, to learn new ideas, to marvel at invention and to despair at mankind’s foibles.

What a glorious run it was! Nationally paid daily newspaper subscriptions in the United States peaked at 63,000,000 in 1987. By 2015 the number had shrunk down to 39,000,000 followed by 15 more years of rapid erosion as newspapers across the land went digital and the lines between newspapers and other video content became blurred.

Today as I am bundled together with the other meagre 26 pages of this final issue of The Des Moines Register and being transported to the mere 40,000 remaining subscribers, who will surely save us as historical artifacts, I reflect upon our heritage and our impact.

For generations newspapers presented the full kaleidoscope of emotions. Within one daily newspaper you would find the joy of birth announcements separated by only several pages from the report of a brutal murder. In the boldest, largest font possible our headlines have celebrated the end of wars and declared the shock of Presidential assassinations.

Avid newspaper readers may have railed at the dark smudges which tinted their fingertips in the 1960’s and 70’s, but I’d wager they now fondly recall them as badges of honor. The ink stained fingers of the well informed.
Oh sure, sometimes we got it wrong, even the headlines, “Dewey Beats Truman” in 1948 . A vast majority of the time though, we got it right and we became the most trusted source for information. The time and effort required to not only gather the story, but also assembling and printing the story gave newspapers space for consideration and correction. Todays frenzy of instantaneous, competing headlines leads to a feeling of confusion and mistrust by their consumers.

But, I don’t want to spend my final day kvetching. Time moves on. Rather, as I head for my own personal – 30 -, I’d prefer to reflect on the joy newspapers have spread across the country down through the decades.

For instance, on how many walls in how many homes, in and around Boston, do you think there hangs a framed copy of the Boston Globe headline for October 28th, 2004, “Yes!!”, celebrating the Red Sox first World Series victory in 86 years? It is usually right next to the John F. Kennedy portrait.

The number of newspaper sales at newsstands across America nearly tripled the normal amount on July 22nd, 1969 the morning the headlines touted Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.

The importance of newspapers is centuries old. In 1787 Thomas Jefferson declared, “ Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later.”

Now, even me, little ol’ page 26 of The Des Moines Register of December 31st, 2030, realizes there is more news, by far, being dispensed than ever before by the miracle of binary coding. However, it just feels so much more crass and divisive than what me and my paper compatriots presented. Call me a curmudgeon if you must.

Perhaps I’m just reacting to the final irony of today. For you see, I, page 26, am an obituary page.

– 30 –

Contact: jraftus@aol.com
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Hubris – The Slippery Slope Of Pride

HUBRIS – THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF PRIDE

Public speaking is said to be the second most common phobia, trailing only air travel. Well, I like flying. However, despite my career in sales and marketing, I have never been all that comfortable speaking in front of a group. A combination of deep research and multiple rehearsals allows me to, generally, get through these speeches unscathed. But the pre-day jitters are always present.

So circumstances aligned to make a business trip to Europe especially fraught with peril. A German manufacturer was convening a meeting of all major United States distributors at their facility in Baden-Baden. Distributor company owners and their seconds in command were to make presentations highlighting their accomplishments and showcasing future plans. The owner of the company I worked for, an elegant and natural speaker, had a prior commitment and could not make this trip. By default, I was suddenly the face of our company stating our case in front of not only the manufacturer’s executive board, but also, the principals of distributorships from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
Powerful, rich and worldly men were to be my audience.

We were staying at the luxurious Schlosshotel Buhlerhohe overlooking the magnificent Rhine Valley and our German hosts were gracious and generous. Our afternoon included a horse drawn carriage ride in the snow through the beautiful country side, while being warmed up considerably by liberal pourings of schnapps. The evening was highlighted by an amazing private fireworks display lighting up the adjoining mountains.

A memorable day for certain, but, it did not quell the mounting anxiety I felt when alone in my room that night fearing my next morning’s duty as the first speaker of the seminar. I tossed, turned, paced, rehearsed, sweated and cursed my way through most of the late evening and early morning before exhaustion finally forced me into three hours of fretful sleep.

Fortunately, with my penchant for preparation I had ascertained that there would be a video screen available and an electric current adapter so I could use my laptop. This was in 1999 and the other distributors did not think to ask. Therefore, my presentation was greatly enhanced with impressive slides, graphs and videos while my compatriots were left to do with xeroxed copies of sales figures and cut out ads they had run in their local newspapers. Not to sound too immodest, I’ll steal a Paul Simon line to say, “I blew that room away!”

Following our meeting and a late lunch we were flown to Paris for the second leg of our trip and an evening reception at the manufacturer’s showroom in the City of Lights. Unburdened by not having to make any more presentations, in fact buoyed by my performance, I was able to enjoy the grand festivities planned by our hosts. After a quick narrated city tour our luxury bus pulled into a large parking lot where two helicopters awaited our arrival. Much to our delight we boarded the whirlybirds and were soon aloft. The pilots circled us around the Eiffel Tower before following the winding path of the Seine River out to a country chateaux which had been transformed into an art museum with a lovely restaurant in the cellar. This was a true keep sake day.

Our hotel was on the the Champs – Elysees midway between the Tuileries Garden and the Arc de Triomphe. For the evening reception I broke out my Joseph Aboud suit from Nordstrom’s and a brand new just out of the box pair of Johnston & Murphy all leather dress shoes. I was about as styling as this guy from a small town in Rhode Island was ever going to get.

In fact, all things considered, as I headed for the lobby I was about as “puffed up” about myself as I’d ever allowed. I exited the hotel with my German hosts and the other guests to take the short walk up the Champs – Elysees to the event. We took a right after wheeling our way around the hotel’s brass revolving door. Stepping onto the sidewalk I became immobile. No, immobile would have been good. Rather, with each stride I attempted up the slight incline heading towards the Arc de Triomphe I felt myself slide backwards. The combination of incline, fine mist of rain, cobblestone surface and my never worn before shoes made the simple act of walking impossible! My puzzled companions silently watched as I struggled for traction. As soon as I stiff legged my way slightly forward physics
would kick in sending me back further than my starting point.

“New shoes.”, I sheepishly explained while pointing to the offending oxfords.

Germans have an unwarranted stereotype as lacking a sense of humor. My new friends disproved this stereotype with their “assistance” to my plight. Standing on either side of me, holding an arm, two of these gentlemen slowly pushed me up the mini-hill towards our destination. They, understandably, could not resist the temptation to occasionally shove me a bit further ahead of the group only to let go and cheerfully laugh as I silently slid back to them. Eventually, abetted by scratching the soles vigorously with a key, I was able to become self ambulatory.
Aside from much good natured ribbing the remainder of the trip was wonderful.

Two lessons learned; first, don’t let your lows get too low or your highs too high, second, always scuff up the soles before you wear new leather dress shoes.

Bonjour and Auf Wiedersehen!
Jim Raftus
Contact: jraftus@aol.com
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The Last Word

THE LAST WORD
It is the final chance to make a statement without fear of editing, rebuttal or even consequences. With proper planning and a flash of inspiration we can leave one final impression on the world. Of course, I am speaking of those cheerful words carved in stone; epitaphs.

Unfortunately, many times the deceased have not foreseen their demise leaving the writing of their epitaph to others. Warning, this can be dangerous! For instance the following is carved on a headstone at, appropriately enough, Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:

Here Lies
Lester Moore
Four Slugs
From A 44
No Less – No More

Often the name of the deceased seems to lead to some funereal puns. Here are two more actual examples, first from New Mexico:

Here Lies
Johnny Yeast
Pardon Me
For Not Rising

And from Jolly Old England we have:

On The 22nd Of June
Jonathan Fiddle
Went Out Of Tune

In order to stave off future embarrassments for well known celebrities I have volunteered to pre-scribe epitaphs which I feel appropriately reflect their auras and contributions to the world:

Here Lies Bill Gates
Taken By The Fates
Grew Up A Nerd
Invented Microsoft Word
Put Food On Many Empty Plates

How about homages to two musical icons:

Under This Dirt
Beneath This Stone
Lies George Thorogood
B-B-Bad To The Bone

And:

Paul Simon
Still Dead
After All These Years

Because I’m finding it a bit maudlin writing epitaphs for the living, I’d like to employ my handy-dandy time travel machine and memorialize the lives of two historic figures:

Christopher Columbus
Well It Looked Like India

Here Rests Julius Caesar
An Old Roman Geezer
Brutus Wielded The Knife
Cleopatra Erstwhile Wife
Said Just Put Him In The Freezer

For a more relatively recently deceased singer I offer:

From Dust Thou Art
To Dust Thou Shall Return
Dusty Springfield
Resting Now In The Dusty Urn

Now, before it is too late, it seems time to follow my own advice. However, before I pen my epitaph, I will leave specific instructions as to my burial site. Please inter me at the corner of a long dog leg right par five golf hole. No headstone so I won’t be in the way of golfers. Just a slab with a low hanging tree branch blocking the path to the green:

Jim Raftus
Unplayable Lie

– END-
Contact: jraftus@aol.com
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MY WHIMSICAL GOD

MY WHIMSICAL GOD (Unpublished)

My conviction that God is a whimsical deity can be proven by looking at one item; the tonsil. Even WebMD states, “Removal of the tonsil does not seem to increase susceptibility to infection.” Ergo, God stuck it in at the back of our throats out of whimsy. He had a little extra material left over, and not being a wasteful Creator, he used it.
Lo (or Lord) and behold he found one more little glob and there you have it, the appendix, or as it is sometimes called, the tonsil of the belly. Whimsical creation!

I realize the Bible, especially that nasty Old Testament, often paints God in a different light fueled by fire and brimstone. Genesis 19:24, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” But, I tend to think things like that were just on God’s off days, sort of His way of getting through hump day.

Today I am surrounded by another example of God’s whimsy. A day long snowfall is piling a projected 16” of new snow on top of the 24” already stacked up in my backyard. I can just imagine the Divine One in heaven thinking, “ Those New England folks don’t have tornadoes, major earthquakes, mud slides or wild fires to trouble them. I have to do something to keep them humbled, ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’ .” Personally, I’ve had just about enough of this particularly heavenly whimsy!

Sometimes the final result of God’s work can only be seen by tracking a long chain of creations which lead to their current conclusion. For example, when He popped out one of Adam’s ribs and created Eve it was with the good intentions of companionship and progeny. Sure, the snake and apple derailed part of His plan, but down through history God fiddled with the X chromosome and had some great successes; Joan of Arc, Madam Curie, Margaret Mitchell and Elle MacPherson spring to mind. But, as often befalls whimsy, things can go wrong which is the only way to explain Kim Kardashian.

Unfortunately, I present this thesis not from a strong personal position of religious comportment. In fact the fate of my eternal salvation will depend heavily on God’s whimsical nature.

Fifty two years ago I stopped attending Sunday Mass. It was not that I stopped believing, I still have faith. Sadly, it was for a more pedestrian reason; basketball. In 1963 as a high school junior I had a job at Apex, a local retail store. A group of older guys from the store were looking for some exercise and decided to rent a gym. Ironically, the first gym we rented was at Holy Trinity in Central Falls, right next to the church. For years while the good parishioners were kneeling and praying we were twenty yards away jumping and dribbling close enough to hear the hymns. I played Sunday morning basketball for more than 30 years, interrupted only by my Army service. In the later years my opponents were the teen aged sons of the young men I started out with in 1963.

I confess this not in any way as a good thing. It is just one of the facts of my life. So, despite my having lived a decent life, I can only hope that when I reach those pearly gates part of the Creator’s whimsy will be that he has a real love for March Madness.

God will be the final referee.

-END-

Jim Raftus
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Contact at: jraftus@aol.com

Disconnected – Published in the Providence Journal 2/8/15

Disconnected
The other day my bathroom plunger broke my Internet. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.
On the scale of tech nerdiness, I probably fall somewhere between a Luddite and Steve Jobs. This is true even though, in 1967, I became a certified computer programmer by completing a seven-month, full-time, government-sponsored programming course at Providence College.
We were taught, some more successfully than others, three languages: Basic, Cobol and Fortran. These are now computing’s version of Sanskrit writing on a cave wall. We punched chads out of stiff beige programming cards then placed the stack in the feeding chute of the class’s IBM 360 computer.
The 360 was a battleship gray behemoth about 4 feet long and waist high. The cards would feed into the 360 with an industrial “ka-ching, ka-chung” cadence. Unless they stopped in mid-feed. Stopping was not good. It meant the 360 had rejected the logic of the binary code your chad punching represented. Your program had crashed. I often crashed.
Despite my struggles, I managed to graduate and earn my certification. I also went for an interview at a large insurance company in Hartford. During a tour of the company, we spent some time in the programmers’ bullpen, a cluster of 20 small cubicles. Sixteen of the desks featured tins of aspirin or bottles of Bufferin plainly in sight. I decided, then and there, that programming was not for me. To this day I wonder what stronger narcotics may have been hidden away in the programmers’ desk drawers.
Flash forward 47 years, more specifically, to the other morning.
“Page cannot be displayed. You are not connected to the Internet,” read the message on my Dell monitor. Delving into the Help/Assist section garnered such advice as, “Input the IPS number of your Ethernet device into the dialogue box.”
Hello? While I certainly had to relearn some aspects of computers in my marketing career, at least enough to tell our company’s IT guru what I wanted to accomplish, those instructions on my home computer were way beyond my pay grade. So I poked around various System Preferences, Reset Options and other unsuccessful paths to no avail. I checked all the connections on the back of my system. Finally, at 6:30 a.m. I had an epiphany!
Our washer and dryer are in the basement of our home. If I go downstairs to check a load, and the timer shows a few minutes left on the cycle, I don’t like to waste the trip. So I keep myself occupied until the time expires.
Often, I’ll work on my golf game. I have found that the bathroom plunger is a wonderful swing simulator. It is short enough to swing without hitting the ceiling and the plunger part of the plunger provides just the right weight to duplicate the feel of my Cobra 460cc driver.
I’ve worked on my inside to outside swing path with this device numerous times without incident. The previous night, however, because of some holiday storage issues, I had to move several feet forward from my usual swing space.
“Whack!”
My first swing had snapped into a coaxial cable hanging between two floor joists. The cable showed slightly more slack than usual, but I paid no heed. Until 6:30 a.m. the following morning when, after an hour of frustration trying to solve my problems at the keyboard, I came to the startling conclusion that my bathroom plunger had broken my computer.
Sure enough — I swear on Steve Jobs’s grave — I found a downstairs plug had been disconnected by my golf swing. A quick reconnect and I was back to my Google-y, Facebook-y and social media universe.
Yes, computers can be frustrating, but I have vowed to not let them drive me insane.
After all, in 1967 I was certifiable.
Jim Raftus (jraftus@aol.com), an occasional contributor, is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland.

A Signature Move

A SIGNATURE MOVE

Certainly Kareem Abdul Jabbar had one, but so did Richard Nixon and the Lone Ranger.

I first saw Jabarr’s signature move when he was still Lewis Alcindor a skinny 7’2” high school basketball phenom. It was 1964 and his Power Memorial team was in Rhode Island for a tournament. I snuck in to the first few minutes of their practice at Alumni Hall on the Providence College campus. Early on in the intrasquad scrimmage Alcindor gracefully dribbled through the key, turned his left shoulder towards the hoop, raised his right arm in a high arc and flicked the ball, seemingly on a downward trajectory, into the basket. It was the shot that became known as his “sky hook”. As first Alcindor, then Jabbar after his conversion to Islam, he tortured all opponents with this signature move until his retirement from the NBA in 1989 finishing as the all-time leading scorer in the league. I still cringe at the memory of Jabarr’s sky hook over High Henry Finklel that eliminated my Celtics from the 1971 playoffs.

Our 37th president Richard Nixon’s signature move was so identifiable that the comedian/impressionist Rich Little made a fortune incorporating it into his act. In moments of exuberance Nixon would transform himself into an array of “V”s. Arms outstretched in a wide vector, middle and index fingers of both hands forming victory signs, he appeared to be relishing the conquest of his oft imagined enemies. Yet, strangely in the midst of this celebratory gesture Nixon’s head seem retracted, almost turtled into his shoulders. Even in his finest moments he appears to want to distance himself from close contact. Cartoonist captured this signature move on a nearly daily basis in newspapers and magazines.

Can having a signature move give one a competitive advantage? Just look at the Lone Ranger versus Hop-A-Long Cassidy television cowboys from the 1950’s. People still recall the Lone Ranger looking heroic as his white steed reared majestically on its rear hooves as his master commanded, “Heigh, ho, Silver, away!”. A signature move if there ever was one. Hop-A-Long on the other hand just quietly left the room and is now no more than a vague memory.

Is it possible for a person to have more than one signature move or is that a contradiction of the term? When Jackie Gleason would freeze frame his large body into his famous “quick exit” pose while enthusing, “And away we go!”, it was a signal to his audience that more hilarious hijinks were just around the corner.
However, his other signature move was a sinister, now deeply offensive, caricature. As Ralph Kramden in “The Honeymooners” he would clench his fist, feign an uppercut as he threatened his wife with, “To the moon, Alice, to the moon.” . In retrospect these opposing signature moves actually captured the essence of this brilliant, but troubled, performer.

Two other signature moves are more heartfelt and came shrouded with mystery; Carol Burnett’s gentle tug of her left ear lobe and Jimmy Durante’s donning of his fedora as he headed towards the exit door while closing his show with the gravelly invocation, “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”

Burnett finally informed fans that her gesture was a secret greeting to her mother and Durante eventually confessed that Mrs. Calabash was a nickname for his wife who loved the sound of the name of the town Calabash in North Carolina.

I have difficulty coming up with more contemporary examples of signature moves perhaps because the passage of time is required for the moves to become embedded in the public consciousness. Miley Cyrus tweaking? Tim Tebow tebowing? (To cite two extremely disparate examples!) Neither is time tested enough to determine the staying power of their imprints.

Must a person be a celebrity, or at least fairly well known, in order to have a signature move? Makes me wonder, do I have a signature move?

A signature move, by definition, has to be the image people conjure up when they think picture you.

Hmmmn, at the Christmas parties put on by the company where I spent most of my career videos were often part of the celebrations. In fact some years I helped produce these mini-movies which gently poked fun at our company employees and company culture. One year the tables were turned and I became the subject. A “friend” portrayed me. Now, I admit I had a propensity to prefer face to face conversations at work rather than just dialing an office extension or sending an e-mail with my questions. I easily feel desk bound. Oh, yes, I also drink a great deal of coffee. So, my “impersonator” was filmed endlessly wandering the hallways of our building, listing forward at about a 3 degree angle, with a coffee cup in each hand.

Is this my signature move? Oh, well, I guess it is better than the uncontrollable loop at the top of my golf swing which causes all those nasty pull hooks.

“Goodnight, Mrs. Raftus, wherever you are.”

– End –

Introducing the New 49th State – Published in the Providence Journal 1/9/15

Fellow Rhode Islanders, it is time to face facts. Our lovely state is in trouble. Little Rhody’s condition is the inverse of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There are major issues of high unemployment, horrible rankings for business climate plus state and local financial crises with no discernible solutions. We have become the little engine that couldn’t. It is broke and we don’t seem to know how to fix it.
How about a merger? Not a hostile takeover, but the creation of a new entity from the strengths of two neighbors, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“No way!” the parochials on both sides of the current border will scream. Let’s block out the cacophony and look at the mutual benefits.
Immediately there will be unique opportunities for some of Rhode Island’s most iconic companies. Imagine the Alex & Ani Aquarium of Mystic. How successful would Del’s Lemonade stands be at every service rest area on the Merritt Parkway?
Politically, Rhode Island suffers from our lack of punch. Who in Washington cares about a paltry four electoral votes? How much can a mere two-person representation in the House accomplish in a body with 435 members? We rank 43rd in population and are one of the very few states which have experienced a decline in residents in the past decade, putting even our minuscule representative number at risk.
Merged with Connecticut, we’d have a population of more than 4.6 million, making us 25th in size. We would have nine electoral votes and seven House members. In this formula, Connecticut gains two electoral votes and two representatives. A political win/win!
Economically, Connecticut shines. According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, it ranks first in per capita income at $59,000. Rhode Island comes in at a decent 15th with $45,000 per capita. There are a number of folks quietly making good money in our state, however, nothing like the mavens from Fairfield County the Gold Coast of Connecticut. Most of these Wall Street barons and hedgefund hotshots have rebounded nicely from the Great Recession and are once again practically printing money. What a boon they would be to our economy!
But, with all of Rhode Island’s woes, you may ask, “What’s in it for Connecticut?”
Two words; beaches and tourism!
For a state whose entire souther border is coastline, Connecticut has an embarrassing paucity of beaches. That’s why we Rhode Islanders can’t get into our own state beach in Misquamicut unless we arrive before 8 a.m. We sit on Atlantic Avenue in our overheating cars swearing at all the Connecticut license plates filling up our lot. Oh, Connecticut tries hard, calling spits of land like Hammonasset and Attawan beaches, but it is not fooling anyone.
With the merger, it could also lay claim to the wonders of South County (I know it doesn’t technically exist), Newport, Little Compton and Tiverton.
As for tourism, Connecticut would go from flat line to full vibrancy. Really, how many people a year can you draw to that Mark Twain home in Hartford? I bet more people eat at the Brick Alley Pub in Newport in one month than find their way in a year to Samuel Clemens’s part-time residence in Connecticut.
For this obvious merger to work, some petty but potentially contentious speed bumps would have to be navigated. What to call this combined entity? I suggest the new 49th state (addition by subtraction) be named Fairland.
“Fair” pays homage to the economic engine Fairfield County, which will drive the new state, while “land” denotes the beautiful scenic landscapes that Rhode Island brings to the marriage. As for the state’s nickname, common sense should prevail. Nutmeg State versus Ocean State? Even the most ardent Connecticut native would admit defeat here.
Fairland’s capital city? My vote is Hartford. It is more centrally located. But, cheer up, Providence. One reason to give the nod to Hartford is because Providence can still survive as a nice, sometimes vibrant, mid-sized city, while Hartford, never fully recovered from the shrinkage in the insurance industry, needs the cache of capital status to remain relevant.
Which elected officials should govern? Well, you could field a football team, both offensive and defensive squads, with Connecticut and Rhode Island politicians who have done the “perp walk” over the past two decades. So let’s start fresh and declare new elections for all positions.
Time is wasting. We’ll have lots of signs to change and license plates to make.
Fairland, the 49th state!

Jim Raftus (jraftus@aol.com), an occasional contributor, is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland.