Tippy Toe

Marianne, who has watched every Seinfeld show, reminded me of an episode where George Costanza used his invented code word “Tippy Toe” to signal Jerry that somebody was entering the room. It was right at the beginning of Marianne’s annual St. Patrick’s and Birthday party. I was talking about my latest big interest, James Buchanan. She told me that she would use the word “Tippy Toe,” if she thought I was talking too much about James Buchanan.

Then she said, “Tippy Toe” and went back to her other guests.

Eventually, other people at the party picked up on the signal, and I got a total of 24 “Tippy Toes” over the course of the evening. In my defense, I was wearing a James Buchanan T-Shirt (an item which can only be found here in Lancaster, his hometown). It was a conversation starter.  Many of Marianne’s guests are theatre people, so I was talking about the play I’m writing to boost the poor image we have of our 15th President. “It takes place during the Civil War,” I said.

“Oh, so it’s a musical,” Liz quipped.

“No,” I said, laughing, but then after a moment in thought, I said, it might contain some songs by Stephen Foster. Why not? He’s from Pennsylvania, too – and the same era as Buchanan, and his songs are in the public domain.”

“Tippy Toe.”

“Old Folks at Home?

“Tippy Toe.”

“Battle Hymn of the Republic?”

“Tippy Toe.”

I got the most “Tippy Toes” from Patrick, who gave me four of them. The last one was just for looking like I was gonna start talking about Buchanan.

It was a learning experience for me, as I searched for the episodes in Buchanan’s life that most interested a theatre-going audience. I found out what worked.

Very little.

Cool, I thought. Edison spent years testing over 10,000 elements, eliminating them until he was able to find Unobtanium, or whatever was the one substance he would use for a filament for his new light bulb. In just one night, I found out 100 things that the audience doesn’t want. A very famous sculptor, maybe it was Michelangelo, once said, I take a block of marble and chisel off the parts that are not whatever it is I want that statue to be. Me, too. I just have to chisel away the parts of my Buchanan’s story that the audience doesn’t like, which is pretty much everything between, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen” and “Good night. Drive safely.”

They liked the funny stuff, but there wasn’t a lot of funny stuff.

That settles it. Buchanan, a Rock Between Two Hard Places will now be a musical comedy.

I’m just gonna need more funny stuff.  Way more funny stuff.

Did you hear the one about Buchanan, a priest, and a rabbi walking into a bar…?

I know. Tippy Toe.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Sprechen Sie Deutsch


I eked by in High School.  My SAT scores were good enough, though, to get me into Queens College.  There, my poor study habits doomed me to failure.

It was 1966, and I was in my second month of college when my German professor, Miss Ives, asked me to her office.  She levelled with me.  “You’ve been in school for two months,” she said, “and you’re two months behind.  Are you sure you want to be here?”  I had to admit that I wasn’t ready for college.  I dropped out and decided to enlist in the service.

The Vietnam War was raging, and I was naive.  I thought that only the Army and the Marines were involved in the fighting, so I joined the Navy.  I soon learned that Vietnam was an equal-opportunity war.  Anybody could wind up there.

After boot camp I went to Communication Technician School in Pensacola, Florida.  I figured this was safe.  Again, I was wrong.  Communication Technicians, it turned out, were spies – Not James Bond type spies, but electronic eavesdroppers.  It was classified at the time, but since the end of the Cold War it’s been declassified, so I can write about it.  The targets of our snooping were usually hostile countries, and this involved getting close to whichever country you were monitoring.  This was not good news.

Then, I learned that the U.S.S. Liberty, which had been attacked by the Israeli Air Force in June of 1967 was a Communications Technician ship.  Next, the U.S.S. Pueblo, another Communications Technician ship was captured by the North Koreans on January 23, 1968.  Communication Technicians were not safe.

Just before I graduated from Communications Technician school, they asked for volunteers to go to Alaska for a one-year tour of duty.  Volunteers would be given their choice of duty station afterwards.  I had three years to go on my enlistment.  Germany was one of the duty stations available for selection, and it was a two-year tour of duty.  By volunteering for Alaska and then going to Germany, I wouldn’t have to worry about going to Vietnam.  So, I volunteered.

The Alaskan duty station wasn’t on the mainland.  It was in Adak, Alaska, way out in the Aleutian Island chain, close to Russia.  (Even closer to Russia than Sarah Palin’s house.)  There was plenty of snooping to do while I was working, but there wasn’t much to do in the off hours.  To make matters worse, the drinking age in Alaska was 21, so I couldn’t even drink.  I started to take studying seriously.  I got a stack of Armed Forces German language records.  I listened and learned passable German.

In Germany, there is no drinking age, and drinking is one of the most popular things to do.  A lot of my fellow servicemen were hesitant to go to town, though, because they didn’t speak the language.  I became the translator for the group, and we always went to town as a group.

One night we were all sitting at a big table in a German discotheque, when one of my buddies fell in instant love with a girl sitting at a table full of German girls.  He asked me how to say, “Would you like to dance?” in German.  I knew it was “Tanzen wir?,” but I was feeling playful.  I taught him to say, “Wilst du mich heiraten?”  He practiced and then went over to the girl.  He got a stunned look from the girl and laughs from our table.  I had told everyone that I had just taught him how to say, “Will you marry me?”

He didn’t know what to do when the girl just sat there, so he pantomimed asking her to dance and she accepted.  They danced all night.

I felt very slighted six months later when I wasn’t one of the guys they invited to their wedding.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Sometimes You Eat the B’ar


In one of my favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, the mustachioed Sam Elliot tells the Dude, “A wiser man than me once said that sometimes you eat the b’ar, and sometimes the b’ar eats you.”   Saturday night was opening night for Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby in Lancaster.  In their first game, The Dutchland Rollers ate the b’ar, handily defeating the South Delaware team.  In the second game of the doubleheader, the b’ar ate them.

Normally, I get there just before the match starts and walk right in to the arena, but on Saturday I wound up at the end of an extremely long line of people waiting to get in.  Many were local fans of the Dutchland Rollers coming out to support the team in their season opener.  Some were fans of the South Delaware team, but a whole hoard of people were there supporting the team that would play in the second game.

In the second game the Rollers faced the Jersey Shore Beatdown, and it was a hell of a game.  The Dutchland Rollers faced a well-drilled team that had brought a lot of talent, their own cheerleaders, and a huge fanbase.  They must have come by the busload.  They also had three spectacular jammers, Horror Quinn, Silicone Valkyrie, and Misbehaving Maven.

I’m a diehard Dutchland Rollers fan, and one thing I’ve learned from the ladies is that they enjoy the game and that playing hard and improving themselves with each game is what this is all about.  They’re amateurs, in that they don’t get paid to play, but they’re professional in their attitude, and they put forth 100% effort all the time.  Playing up to your potential is more important than winning.  The league is set up so that the winningest teams wind up advancing to tougher and tougher divisions.  Because of their winning record last year, The Rollers are now playing against some of the finest Women’s teams in Flat Track Roller Derby, and the games are competitive and intense.

They also have some fun with makeup.  Dash Ketchum, one of our finest jammers, wears dark makeup around the eyes that make her look, well, deadly.  When she pulls up her bandana like an old-time train robber, you know she means business.  Mega Pixel, with her torn fishnet stockings and bright red bloomers under her short uniform skirt, looks kind of cute, sexy, and harmless, until she furiously busts through a wall of opponents to rack up points for her team.  They were in the first game, which the Rollers won.

In the second game, Kis’t Kis’t Bang Bang was the Rollers’ top jammer.  She skated very well, but her opposition was just overpowering.  They were the previously mentioned, Horror Quinn, Silicone Valkyrie, and Misbehaving Maven.  My favorite was Horror Quinn.  She wore a costume that was part Harlequin and part The Joker.  Even her bright white mouth guard added to the look.  When she flashed that great big smile, just before she crashed through a wall of determine, but doomed, Dutchland blockers, she looked like a female Jack Nicholson, though I guess she was actually going for the look of Harley Quinn in the Batman stories.  The rollerskates have a round rubber piece in the front that can be used as a brake to stop a skater, though I’ve never actually seen a skater use it for that purpose.  Horror Quinn was able to stand on that piece like a ballerina, and use the added traction of the rubber to plow through the defense like a fullback.

Later, at the after party, I sat at a table with Kis’t Kis’t Bang Bang and Horror Quinn, the top jammers of the two opposing teams in the second game.  There was no lingering blood feud between them, though.  It was just girls having fun, which is what this league is all about.  And having fun is what I’m all about, so I loved every minute of it, and I also loved the cheeseburger and fries they served at 501 West.  The next game is April 13th.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,