A Baker’s Half-Dozen

If you’ve ever been to an IKEA home furnishings store, you know the shopping experience is more about navigating a vast warehouse than a cozy “store”.  IKEA retail covers several football fields worth of showrooms and merchandise, with clever navigation arrows projected onto the floor so you don’t lose yourself in the maze.  Before or after your purchases, IKEA offers a spacious sit-down cafeteria, so you can fuel or restore your energy levels as needed.  And it is here – in the IKEA cafeteria – where I can’t help but picture the Swedish Chef from the The Muppet Show.

You remember Swedish Chef, don’t you?  Even if you only occasionally glanced over the shoulders of your children as they watched The Muppet Show, Swedish Chef left an indelible impression.  Chef had those big, bushy brows completely covering his eyes.  He always had a handful of utensils, inevitably launched into the air of his kitchen as his gibberish songs ended with “… BORK, BORK, BORK!”  Chef sported a colorful bow tie, a white apron, and the distinctive toque blanche (white hat) on his head.  Swedish Chef was always my favorite Muppet.

Chef could be working behind the counter of the IKEA cafeteria, because naturally; IKEA serves Swedish food.  My favorite entree (as if I dine at IKEA regularly) is the Swedish meatballs in brown sauce (köttbullar), served with a side of the crepe-like potato pancakes (raggmunkar) and a dollop of lingonberry jam (Sweden’s famous “food freshener”).

There’s another fellow in the States who reminds me of Swedish Chef, and he doesn’t work in the IKEA cafeteria.  Ever heard of Mimal, “the Man in the Middle of the USA”?  Mimal lives in the Midwestern states, and he’s a big boy.  In fact, Mimal’s so big he barely fits between Canada’s border to the north and Mexico’s to the south.

Have a look at the map.  Mimal (sometimes called “the Elf”) is a silhouette of a chef, represented by the outlines of seven American states.  MIMAL is quite literally (M)innesota, (I)owa, (M)issouri, (A)rkansas, and (L)ouisiana.  He holds a pan (Tennessee) of fried chicken (perfectly represented by Kentucky).  Mimal can thank the west bank of the Mississippi River for the shape of his five-state body.  He also looks like he’s about to march his chicken right off the map, over the Atlantic Ocean, and on into Europe.  Maybe he’s headed to Sweden?

Whoever discovered Mimal hiding in America came up with a clever way for children to memorize a handful of states.  Appropriately, Mimal the chef is made up of a baker’s half-dozen of them.  A baker’s dozen (13) began in the 11th century, when an extra loaf was added to the bread basket to guarantee the minimum sales weight.  A baker’s half-dozen then – rounded-up – is seven loaves.  Or seven American states.

Leave it to Americans to deny Mimal his innocence.  Based on one or more unsolved mysteries in the MIMAL states, the elf-chef was once connected with a real-life kidnapper/murderer.  The legend claimed if you drove straight from Minnesota to Louisiana – through each of Mimal’s five “body” states, you’d be abducted (never to be seen again) once you crossed Louisiana’s northern border.  My logical brain asks how said abductor knows you made it through all five states?  But this is legend we’re talking about, much like the monster in Scotland’s Loch Ness.  Tabloid fodder at best.

Educators expanded on Mimal’s seven-state profile, including all fifty American states in a story designed to help students memorize names and locations (would’ve been helpful back in my school days, when I’d confuse Wyoming with Colorado).  Still, I prefer to limit the game to Mimal’s baker’s half-dozen.  I can’t help but see a big chef every time I look at a map of the United States.  I also can’t help hearing him sing, “…BORK, BORK, BORK!”

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”, and the Laughing Squid blog.

Ever Eat a Pine Tree?

If I ask you to recall a catchphrase – a word or statement you heard repeatedly and probably won’t forget – you could come up with several examples. Movie quotes, for instance. (“I’m the king of the world!”)  Song lyrics. (“I get by with a little help from my friends.”)  And television commercials; where the product or “jingle” yields a branded catchphrase. Just this week I learned a new one: bindle stiff, which describes a homeless person through the bag of personal items (bindle) on the end of his/her stick. I’m no hobo, but Euell Gibbons once was. And Gibbons once uttered one of the most famous catchphrases ever.

Who the heck is Euell Gibbons?  Any American kid growing up in the 1970’s would know.  Gibbons was the spokesperson for Post Grape-Nuts cereal, made instantly famous by a single television commercial where he uttered, “Ever eat a pine tree?  Many parts are edible.”  That statement was so bizarre – and laugh-out-loud to us kids – it spread like wildfire (and sold a ton of Grape-Nuts cereal). But it was only recently I learned Gibbons wasn’t just a hired bindle stiff, but a man ahead of his time.  He had a lifelong interest in foods foraged from “nutritious-but-oft-neglected plants” (surely learned from an impoverished and transient childhood).  He wrote several successful whole-foods cookbooks, including “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” (1964) and “A Wild Way to Eat” (1967).  In his later years, Gibbons and his wife joined a community of Quakers in Philadelphia, where he cooked the daily shared breakfast (of course he did).

“Many parts are edible.”

I love Grape-Nuts cereal, back to when I was a kid.  I’m not sure if Gibbons gets the credit, or because Grape-Nuts just tastes good (“…reminds me of wild hickory nuts…”, as Gibbons also said).  Admittedly, Grape-Nuts was a little off the beaten path of children’s cereals.  Very low in fat and sugar, Grape-Nuts looked and crunched like a bowl of light brown gravel.  Add in milk as a softener and sugar as a sweetener however, and something about the cereal just clicked with me.  After college I forced myself to give up Grape-Nuts, because I developed jaw pain from too many hard foods.  Maybe that’s why Post developed Grape-Nuts “Flakes” cereal, or Grape-Nuts “Trail Mix Crunch Cranberry Vanilla”.

GORP

Speaking of trail mix (convenient segue), Euell Gibbons comes back to the conversation.  Trail mix was introduced about the time Gibbons was born (1910), as a combination of dried fruit and nuts.  Trail mix was lightweight and therefore easy to carry on long hikes.  The carbs and fat created a quick energy source and an ideal snack food, and the mix became immensely popular to outdoors-people, especially sugared up with a few M&M’s or yogurt coverings (which Gibbons never would’ve approved of).  Yet it wasn’t always called “trail mix”.  In another word familiar to 1970’s kids, Gibbons coined the acronym GORP, which either meant “good ol’-fashioned raisins and peanuts”, or “granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts”.  Yep, I ate a lot of GORP in my childhood.  Might’ve even had my first taste at Hadley Fruit Orchards, a place in the California desert my parents like to frequent.  Hadley – alongside others – claims to be the “inventor” of trail mix.

Euell T. Gibbons

As if “Euell Gibbons” is not unique enough for an American, his middle name was “Theophilus”.  The only Theophilus I’m aware of lived in biblical times, when Luke wrote his Gospel (and the book of Acts) as letters to an individual by the same name.  Perhaps Gibbons should’ve lived in biblical times.  As God’s people sought the Holy Land he could’ve helped them with his foraging skills.  Or at least introduced them to Grape-Nuts.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Cruise (out of) Control

Ever since the Ferris wheel debuted (at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago), there’s been an unofficial competition to design and build a taller version.  The original topped out at 80.4 meters all those years ago, while today’s leader – the “High Roller” in Las Vegas – rotates over twice that high.

The “High Roller” in Las Vegas

To complicate the matter, there’s great debate about what defines a Ferris wheel.  The tallest wheels for example – including the High Roller and the London Eye – are labeled “observation wheels” because they’re more than just an amusement.  Newer designs eliminate the spokes and hub to give the illusion of a free-wheeling ring.  Whatever.  Thanks to my acrophobia, even a kiddy amusement park Ferris wheel is thrill-ride enough for me.

Go figure – I enjoy the highest, fastest roller coasters anywhere, but I wimp out when it comes to a standard Ferris wheel.  Why?  Because Ferris wheel gondolas are neither enclosed nor replete with safety bars.  You’re just sitting up there in the open air, 250 feet off the ground, realizing nothing is preventing you from falling (a peek into the mind of an “acrophobe” – you’re welcome).  Conversely, when the roller coaster safety bar ratchets down to the waist, almost taking your breath away, there’s a sense of being one with the coaster, like you can’t possibly fall out.  Much better.

I will never be this guy

Let’s change the channel and focus on big ships.  If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you should be able to name one or more “amusements” you didn’t expect to find in a floating hotel.  Golf driving ranges.  Skeet-shooting.  Water slides.  Again, it’s an unofficial competition.  But what about a roller-coaster, traveling up to 37 mph, with an elegant sweep out over the ocean?  Yep; coming soon to a Carnival Cruise Line ship near you.

I hereby retract my earlier statement about tolerance for roller coasters.  Riding the rails, plunging down towards the ocean and back up to the sky, two hundred feet above the keel of a moving ship – Carnival’s “Bolt” is too much for me and my acrophobia.  Almost a little too much for the coaster’s engineers, too.  They faced a pile of challenges with the design.  What would be the impact of a moving vessel on the gravitational requirements of a roller coaster?  Will the weight of seven hundred feet of track twenty stories above the water tip the ship?  How will the vessel’s structure tolerate the forces of heavy cars speeding here and there?  And what about all that noise?

Put the cart before the horse – as Carnival did – and things get easier.  First design the coaster; then design the ship.  Make the roller coaster cars self-propelled so they don’t depend on gravity.  Eliminate the chains and sprockets in favor of small booster engines to reduce the noise.  Then design a ship keel three football fields in length.  Reengineer the structural elements – from the water up – to accept the distributed forces of the coaster.  Overweight the whole thing so coaster cars can go almost vertical and still not tip the ship.  Behold Carnival’s Mardi Gras – a virtual floating amusement park – breaking the champagne bottle next winter.

I still think a roller coaster on a ship is nuts, but I seem to be out of touch with the latest amusements.  You can already partake in “Sky Pad” – also on Carnival – a bungee-jumping-trampolining-virtual-reality mash-up.  Or Royal Caribbean’s “RipCord”, a column of air for skydiving simulation.  Or Norwegian’s “Ultimate Abyss”, a four-story sort-of toilet bowl, where you’re flushed in circles and dropped down a 200-foot water slide.

If you’ve ever seen Katy Perry’s music video, “Chained to the Rhythm”, you probably laughed at the outlandish amusement park rides, like the coaster with the heart-shaped loop-the-loop, or the pseudo Ferris wheel catapulting riders out into the air.  But considering Carnival’s “Bolt”, maybe Katy’s got a keen eye on the future after all.  As for me, I’ll stay grounded in my local kiddy amusement park.

The future of amusement?

Some content sourced from the 1/8/2020 Wall Street Journal article, “They’re Putting a Roller Coaster on a Cruise Ship”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

The Twenty-four Days of Christmas

The Christmas season seems to begin a little earlier each year. Stores decorate and start their sales around Halloween. Lights go up on houses well before Thanksgiving, while Christmas cards show up in mailboxes by Black Friday.  The longer the season though, the more abrupt the conclusion. Be honest; who among us sings Christmas carols (or watches Hallmark movies) on December 26th?  Not many.  We worry and scurry for weeks about a single day – then suddenly it’s over.  Here’s a better approach.  Let’s focus instead on the one, true Christmas season preceding the day. Let’s focus on Advent.

For most Christians, Advent refers to the twenty-four days before Christmas (not to be confused with the song-famous Twelve Days, which come after Christmas).  Advent begins four Sundays before December 25th.  The word literally means “coming”, as in the (first coming) birth of Jesus at Christmas, and the (second coming) reappearance of Jesus at the end of time.  If you’re looking for the season’s theme song, go with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.  It’s the one, true Advent carol.

Once upon a time Advent included fasting, penance, and daily prayer, but today the season seems to be nothing more than a countdown.  Even in Sunday church services, the four candles of the Advent wreath are lit as the four Sundays pass by – a weekly countdown to the Christmas candle in the center. Here’s a more efficient idea.  Let’s add another ball in Times Square; one that takes twenty-four days to drop instead of sixty seconds.  Might save a lot of wreaths and calendars.

Speaking of calendars, maybe a countdown is enough to signify a season.  Advent calendars are all the rage these days.  I had one when I was a kid; the flat, cardboard kind with twenty-four numbered doors of varying shapes and sizes.  Oddly, the doors were never arranged numerically, as if the calendar was made more appealing by having to search for a given day.  Not so oddly, each door fronted a bit of chocolate.  As if waiting twenty-four days for Christmas wasn’t hard enough, Advent calendars forced a kid to wait twenty-four hours to “open” each piece of chocolate.  A test of patience.

       

If cardboard and chocolate don’t catch your attention, perhaps you’d prefer a more elaborate version of an Advent calendar.  Consider Fran’s Chocolates of Seattle (above left), which produces its annual calendar fronted by an original watercolor.  Add in twenty-four delectable chocolates in twenty-four drawers, and this calendar sets you back $175.  Or how about Liberty London’s “Beauty Advent Calendar” (above right), which includes twenty-four wellness products – many of them full-size – like probiotic deodorant, essential oil candles, and skin bronzer?  This one sets you back $275, with the price justification you can re-gift whatever items are not to your taste.

Lest you think a fancy (or not) calendar is the only way to acknowledge Advent, I can’t close without mentioning the Christingle.  I don’t remember creating one of these as a kid.  A Christingle is made up of an orange, a candle, a bit of red ribbon, and four sets of dried fruits or sweets, skewered on cocktail sticks.  It’s a strange-looking assembly, but the Christingle gets an “A” for symbolism.  The orange represents the world.  The candle represents Jesus as the light of the world.  The red ribbon represents God’s love (or Jesus’ blood).  The fruits/sweets represent the gifts God gives us, and the cocktails sticks represent the four corners of the globe.  Lots going on in one sort-of-neat package.

Austria may lay claim to the biggest Advent calendar in the world!

If you’re reading this post before December 1st, you have the entire twenty-four days of Advent ahead of you.  Twenty-four days to slow down and appreciate the meaning of day twenty-five.  Sounds more like a season than a single day, doesn’t it?  Mark your calendar then.  Advent is here.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Media Meltdown

Nope, not that media.

A few weeks ago, I gave Legacybox a try.  Heard of ’em?  Legacy converts old home movies – the ones you may have on VHS or 8mm tapes (or even reel-to-reel) – into clean, digitized formats. I sent Legacy a heaping box of my tapes (reel-to-reel was slightly before my time), and a month later received a single, tiny thumb drive in return. Remarkable really: dozens of hours of precious video memories packed into a bits-n-bytes “box” the size of a fingernail clipper. If I’d chosen a digital download instead of the thumb drive, I wouldn’t have received anything (physical) in return.

We’ve flash-landed into a digital, live-stream, can’t-hold-it-in-your-hands world of multimedia these days.  Phonograph records, celluloid film, audio and video cassettes, and optical media like CD’s and DVD’s spin firmly in the rear-view mirror; collectables reserved for only the most nostalgic.

[It’s not a stretch to say print media – books, newspapers, magazines, and photographs – aren’t far behind, but that’s another post for another day.]

For those of you born in the last century – literally, not figuratively – let’s eulogize some of these once-upon-a-time physical media formats.

The “8-track”

I’m old enough to remember 8-track tapes, are you?  Before I owned my first “LP” or “45” record, I was regularly subjected to my dad’s music choices on his car stereo 8-track player.  In hindsight, there’s something endearing about the bulky, inefficient format of the 8-track tape (except when your only memory is your dad’s music).

The smallish 45 “single”

Before the 8-track tape gave way to the compact cassette, I built up a pretty good collection of 1970’s 45 rpm records (“singles”) – 100 or more.  My older brother – who built a sizeable collection of 1970’s 33 rpm records (“LP’s”), understandably disdained my choices in music.  His flavor was “classic” rock (ex. Rick Wakeman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) while mine was “bubblegum” (ex. Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow).  Appropriately, I have Olivia’s “Let’s Get Physical” re-running in my head as I cover today’s topic.

The cool thing about compact cassettes was – of course – you could record things (birthing the concept of the “playlist”).  Just as noteworthy, you could play cassettes in your car’s “deck”.  Your records had to stay home.  It wasn’t long before my 45’s were stashed in the closet and I was all-in on “tape”.  I spent countless hours recording and listening as I hugged my very first tape recorder.  I spent countless weekly allowance dollars on the Columbia House Record and Tape Club.  When the ultra-compact Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, cassette-tape music went everywhere you did.

Right about the same time as the Walkman, JVC (VHS) and Sony (Betamax) figured out how to put video on tape.  My early memories of movie rentals at the video store include renting the video player too.  After all, the price tag on first-generation “VCR’s” ran into the thousands of dollars.  I can still picture myself lugging a bulky VCR down the street to my apartment, with a pile of cables, an instruction booklet, and a stack of videotapes to watch.  Then, twenty-four hours later, I’d pack it all up and lug it back to the store.

The colorful “laserdisc”

Compact discs (CD’s) and digital versatile discs (DVD’s) felt like space-age technology in the ’80’s and ’90’s.  But press the Pause button for a moment.  Did you forget laserdiscs (LD)?  LD’s were the first optical disc storage medium, and man did I buy into the hype of those rainbow Frisbees.  By the time I invested in a (bulky) LD player and loaded up on (pricy) LD’s themselves, DVD’s were beginning to take over the home video market.  Sadly, I still have my LD collection today (along with my no-longer-functioning LD player).  I figure the whole setup isn’t even worth the time to advertise on Craigslist.  In hindsight, laserdiscs were the very definition of unwieldy.

Finally (for physical media), I never graduated from DVD’s to Blu-ray discs, but “cinephiles” claim Blu-ray looks and sounds even better than its digital successors.  Regardless, Blu-ray should be considered the final frontier in a history of physical media dating back to the 1800’s.  Check out Wikipedia’s timeline of audio formats (player-piano rolls!) here.

Thanks to companies like Legacybox, Netflix, and Spotify, digital media is here to stay.  But I must concede, there’s little pride in perusing a collection of utterly un-physical files and folders on my laptop.  Maybe Olivia Newton-John knew what she was singing about after all.

Or maybe that’s why I’m still hanging onto my laserdiscs.

Some content sourced from the 10/11/2019 Wall Street Journal article, “Streaming Is Killing Physical Media.  Here’s Why You Won’t Miss It”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Vowing To Be Different

When my son and his wife were married five years ago, there was a moment in the planning stages where I realized their wedding day would be anything but “traditional”. Credit their beautiful outdoor venue (no church), the “mixed-up” wedding party (ladies aside the groom; men aside the bride), their Keds canvas sneakers (no formal shoes beneath the tuxes and dresses) or the trays of truffles after dinner (no wedding cake) – they found dozens of details to make their day unique and memorable. But given the most recent wedding trends, perhaps my son and his wife were more old-school than I thought.

Hindsight being what it is, my own wedding to my wife thirty-two years ago now seems downright formulaic.  We were married in a church, accompanied by an organist and harpist.  We exchanged rings and vows before a priest.  We lit a “unity candle” at the altar.  Our reception was in a hotel ballroom, with an open bar and live band.  Dinner was served, wedding cake was cut, and the only time the dancing stopped was to toss the bouquet and garter.  Our one and only off-script detail? We included a contemporary John Denver song in the ceremony (much to our priest’s dismay).  Otherwise ours was a carbon copy of just about every other wedding of the 1980’s.

I’m sure you have examples of just what makes weddings different these days.  Let me guess.  They’re no longer just outdoors; they’re now in backyards or in barns or at faraway “destinations”.  The ceremony is facilitated by an officiant (“basic online ordination package” – $29.99!)  The bride grooves down the aisle to something more like Metallica than Mendelssohn.  The vows – far removed from the dusty “to have and to hold” – could double as songs or poems.  The receptions take place in twinkly-lit tents.  The food is more likely “finger” than “buffet”.  The wedding cake has been replaced by a cupcake tower.

“Non-traditional” should be a non-surprise when it comes to modern-day weddings.  After all, the average age of today’s marrying couples is 29, which typically follows years of living together or even a purchased home.  Four of five couples who marry are millennials, and millennials are all about personalization.  Thus, 44% write their own vows, and only one in four have their ceremony in a religious institution.

Fido bears the rings?

Let’s dig deeper, shall we?  If you’re not convinced the traditional wedding has gone completely off the altar, check out the Chapel of the Flowers website (“Voted Best Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas!”), particularly their article, “New Wedding Traditions to Trade In for the Classics”.  Perhaps you and your future spouse will consider the following from their list of suggestions (not that I would):

  1. Rings – Skip the jewelry store and head for the tattoo parlor.  Your wedding band tat will never fall off and the ink will remain… “until death do you part”!  For that matter, your tattooist might also be an officiant, so you can have the whole shebang right there in the parlor.  I’m sure the biker dude in the next chair will be happy to witness the signing of your marriage certificate.
  2. Wedding Dress – Skip the white in favor of pastel hues or bright, tropical colors.  After all, the “innocence, purity, and light” of white may not be – ahem – the appropriate statement.
  3. Pocket the Phones – As in, ask guests to refrain from taking their own photos.  Really?  Is the Force with you or something?  Unless you hand out physical restraints as your guests walk through the doors, those phones will keep on a-clickin’.  Moving on…
  4. Smaller Wedding Parties – 1-3 family/friends at most.  This suggestion is either overlooked, ignored, or most likely mocked.  If anything, wedding parties seem to be getting bigger these days.  Moving on again…
  5. Gifts – Out with the wedding registry and in with “donations to a good cause”.  Say what?  I get that modern-day couples live together and already have most everything they need, but what about cash?  Clearly, money dances have fallen by the wayside.  Donations to good causes works for funerals but not for weddings.  Hard pass.
  6. Delayed Honeymoons – Don’t delay… I repeat, don’t delay.  I know several couples who never had a honeymoon because, well, “more important” things got in the way (i.e. real life).  I also know a couple who divorced before they even made it to their honeymoon.  Don’t delay.  Have some fun while you’re still carefree and unconditionally happy.

No matter how you feel about “new traditions” at weddings these days, there’s an underlying positive to be gleanedAt least we still have weddings.  The vows may raise your eyebrows.  The food and festivities may not be your particular glass of champagne.  But those details don’t really matter, do they?  At the end of the day, you still have two “I do’s” and one “I now pronounce you…”, sealed with a kiss.  You still have a marriage.

Some content sourced from the Wall Street Journal article, “They Solemnly Swear Their Wedding Will Ditch Tradition”. (8/6/19)

Trilling on the Trail

An old friend stopped by to visit the other day. He appeared at my front door without warning, taking me back almost fifty years to the moment we first met. He is still quite the singer. His stride is supremely confident. Most annoyingly, he finds unqualified joy in every blasted thing he sees and hears. My friend is, after all, The Happy Wanderer.

If you’ve encountered The Happy Wanderer at some time in your life, you know exactly who I’m talking about.  He is Mr. “Val-deri, Val-dera”.  Those words alone should revive the sing-song tune fried into most brains since childhood.  “The Happy Wanderer” could’ve been quarantined within Germany were it not for its award-winning performance by the Oberkirchen Children’s Choir (and subsequent radio broadcast by the BBC), in 1953.  Then, Mr. Wanderer went worldwide-viral and there was no turning back ever.

Oberkirchen coat of arms

According to his lyrics, The Happy Wanderer (we’ll just call him “Hap”) takes hikes into the mountains and alongside streams, his hat on his head; his knapsack on his back.  Hap points out blackbirds and skylarks along the way, and his journey brings him unbridled giddy happiness and laughter (as in, “Val-deri, Val-der-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha…”).  Our boy smiles the entire time and boldly invites YOU to join in the singing.  In his final verse, Hap wants to wander (and sing) until the day he dies.  That’s a little extreme for a children’s song, don’t you think?

Speaking of childhood, Hap and I first met way back then.  He entered the “UK Singles Chart” on January 22, 1954, eight-years-to-the-day before I was born.  Eight years after I was born, I henpecked Hap’s tune as I learned to play the piano.  “Chopsticks”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and “The Happy Wanderer” were almost assuredly the first three pieces I ever memorized.

Hap wandered into my life again in the Boy Scouts.  I recall a lot of singing on weekend hikes (not sure why – who’d be happy backpacking forty pounds towards some distant campsite?)  Besides “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” and “The Ants Go Marching…”, we Scouts unabashedly sang “The Happy Wanderer” through mountains and alongside streams.  Hap’s tune even made the official list of “Scout songs” (see here.)

I thought I was done with Hap years ago (it took me decades to forget his slaphappy song), but recently he resurfaced.  First, on a cruise down Germany’s Rhine River, at an outdoor dinner in the little town of Rüdesheim.  I was volunteered by my fellow travelers to play with the band.  I manned a big oom-pah-pah drum while another poor soul clanged the cymbals.  A band member played the clarinet.  And our one and only performance – naturally – was “The Happy Wanderer”.  To add shame to the silliness, we marched between the tables as we played.  I did my best to look “happy”.

Hap’s other revelation may be a little more prolonged.  On the same Rhine River cruise, in Bavaria, my wife and I bought a handmade cuckoo clock.  The clock was shipped and arrived in the States two weeks ago.  Imagine my delight when I wound the clock and the cuckoo bird busted through his little door, the dancers twirled, and the tiny music box played “Edelweiss”.  The “sound of music” every hour on the hour!  Er, every other hour on the hour.  Turns out our cuckoo clock has two songs.  Hello, Happy Wanderer.  If I choose to, I hear his gleeful melody twelve times a day.  Or, If I choose to, I can flip a switch and I don’t hear anything at all.  I expect I’ll be flipping the switch any day now.

If you’d like to add to my hap-aberration, go to 1-800-FLOWERS and have a hardenbergia violacea delivered to my door.  HV is a species of flowering plant from the pea family.  Some call it a lilac vine.  Others give it nicknames like “false sarsasparilla” or “purple coral”.  It’s also lovingly referred to as “The Happy Wanderer”.

Heaven help me.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.