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  • Dear Pippo,

    I hope this letter finds you well and free of rips in your seams. I am fine.

    This week I am attending a workshop in Austin, Texas. It is a series of lessons on fund raising for non-profit entities (No, not like “Dear Pippo”).

    The trip to Austin (some 100 miles or so) was decorated by the spring crop of bluebonnets along the edges of the highway. Those of our readers (both of them) who have not been to the Texas Hill Country during the spring should do so. There are so many bluebonnets, even on a dry year like this, that the honey bees have to get therapy for workaholism (Don’t look for that word in the dictionary, I just made it up. If this frustrates you, start using this word regularly in everyday conversation and promote it to all of your friends who would in turn promote it to others themselves, then you will be able to find it in the dictionary in a few years. Sorry, that’s the best I can do.).
    While on the trip to Austin, I happened to take note of a number of new businesses along this frequent path I take. However, the real estate boom in this area has made for some strange bedfellows (and I meant that in real estate terms so you should be ashamed of yourself for what you were thinking). I mean, before the boom you would have never seen some of these businesses side by side, such as:

    A sports bar and an auto collision center—Who came first? Either the body shop guy was an optimist or the sports guy was a pessimist with good customer relation concepts.

    An ice cream store and a nutrition bar—Yeah, I think the nutrition people were there first. If I were an ice cream vendor I would put my store next door to the nutrition center—for all those folks who had just about had it with all of that seaweed, colon purge pills, and vitamins. I would go in the nutrition center’s bathroom and write in the stall, “If what you did just now scares you, come next door. We have the cure. (Lactose intolerance tolerated here).”

    A yoga salon and an insurance agency—A sharp insurance agent would be pushing his health insurance line here. After the first day of yoga classes, the agent’s office should be filled with next door patrons who realized that sitting in the inverted pretzel position would later require coverage that includes chiropractor visits.

    A garden center and a chain saw retailer—This, to me, would be like raising minks next to a furrier or pigs next to the meat locker business. No wonder the aspens were quaking.

    The other unusual thing that I saw was an Episcopal church set on a hill almost adjoining another smaller hill that housed a cell phone tower. The tower and the church building were almost even with each other. One could look out the church window and be eye level with the top of the tower. Probably some serious phone reception in that sanctuary. I’ll bet no one there sneaks a peek at Facebook on their iPad during the sermon…right?

    It reminds me of the time back in the 1970’s when our church back home built a new building right next to the AM radio station tower. For the first year, the radio programs would, at random times during church services, bleed over into the church’s PA system. My dad, who was the minister there, often had to compete with Tammy Wynette singing, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” or Conway Twitty singing, “Tight Fitting Jeans”. Didn’t exactly go with the announced sermon topic, but I have to say that attendance was pretty good. It’s a good thing that the Dallas Cowboy games weren’t on during that time of day or we might have broken out in revival on the Sundays that they played Green Bay. Eventually the novelty wore off and the PA system ended more foil insulation and metal reflectors around it than an Apollo spacecraft. Superman could have stored Red Kryptonite in that cabinet from that time on and not have been affected by its radiation.
    But I digress…as usual.

    I’m staying at a different hotel from what I’m used to. It’s farther from my seminar, but cheaper than the hotels right downtown (and my comptroller loves the word “cheaper”). It’s unusually decorated. Most hotel rooms have the bed, the desk, and the perfunctory “easy chair” all facing the television. Supposedly that has been the norm since the inception of TV for everyone, like maybe, 1957? I think the decorators of this hotel were in denial about the whole TV fad since the desk and the chair are both turned away from the TV set. In order to watch something while I am writing this very entertaining blog, I had to prop my iPhone up against the TV remote on the desk and use its reverse camera lens to see the TV screen. It took me fifteen minutes to set it up. If there hadn’t been a great show on TV, I wouldn’t have gone to all that effort, but after all it IS the History Channel. Enough said.

    I’m thinking about inventing a shoulder mounted apparatus to hold my iPhone for just a situation as this. One could also use it for watching unruly children get in trouble in the back of a plane, reading the front page of the newspaper held by the guy sitting behind you in the breakfast nook of the hotel (if anyone really reads newspapers, especially USA Today), or substituting for the broken rear view mirror in your car when that little bracket falls off your windshield on a hot day.

    That reminds me of the house where I grew up. It was an old house built in the 1920’s before the invention of insulation. Ok, it was insulated. It had a layer of cheesecloth between the outside boards and the actual paper part of the wallpaper. When the wind blew, the wallpaper would “breathe”. Yeah, scares me still when I think of it. What has the old house got to do with a shoulder mounted iPhone with the reverse camera angle set on it? Grab that rope, the ski boat is coming back around to catch you up.

    You see, the house was cold in the winter and it had a wall heater on the same side of the wall as the television set. We were too addicted to the wall heater to leave its warmth in order to watch TV. To remedy the problem, my siblings and I found an old mirror that we would lean against the couch in such a position to see the TV. As long as you didn’t mind seeing everything backwards it was satisfactory. However, it would really mess you up to see the movie again in reruns in the summer since everything that was “stage, right” would be “stage, left” and so on. The upside to watching TV backwards is that I learned to write backwards, then off-handed (left), and then upside down. I can tell you that I made plenty of milk money betting on that little trick in junior high. The school conversations would usually sound like this:

    Friend of Dan (FD) to Unsuspecting Schoolmate (US): Hey, I’ll bet you a quarter Dan can write his name with his left hand.

    US: Aw, lots of people can do that.

    FD: Okay, what if he wrote it backwards?

    US: Nope. My brother in kindergarten can write letters backwards.

    FD: Yeah, but can he write left handed, backwards, AND upside down?

    US: I’m in.

    I’m just guessing, but I think I would have done pretty well on those WWII aircraft carriers where the guys stood behind the glass maps and wrote stuff down for the guys in front of the glass to read. However I would probably been court-martialed for drawing pictures of animals and airplanes and such on the glass along with the necessary data of incoming bombers or torpedoes. It’s just my way. Don’t judge me. I have rights.

    Slightly related to the writing backwards issue, does anyone remember back in the late 50’s or early 60’s a product called Serutan? I’m not sure, but I think it was a laxative. Their slogan was, “Serutan! That’s Nature’s spelled backwards!” (No, I am not kidding. It was on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. Didn’t you watch…What?...oh, yeah, you are much too young to remember.)

    Oh, great. Now I’ve filled up the whole article with stuff and I haven’t even made my projections for the seminar tomorrow. I promise I will make notes if there is anything I think is worth writing to you about during class. After all, I have to do something in there.

    In the meantime, Dear Pippo, I am counting on you to take care of things at the office. Don’t pout because you didn’t get to come. Only a rotten banana would do such a thing.


    Random Lee Tallkin
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