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…Only to Find Gideons’ Flatscreen

23 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              


Well, I’m back, my fellow existential exam-takers. Just flew in from the far reaches of my psyche, and, boy, are my neural dendrites tired. Actually, I’ve been in Baltimore, but it’s about the same.


Although I was encamped in the city’s trendy Inner Harbor for bidness purposes, I did partake of some of the local tourist fare, which involved, in various proportions, many images of Fort Wipken WayMcHenry, the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, mounds of Maryland blue crabs (and all the accompanying crab hammers and pliers and crab-innard removers and bibs and things), and thousands upon thousands of orange-clad Orioles fans. Note: Every third street, boulevard, and/or quasi-large building in Baltimore proper is named for Cal Ripken, Jr. There’s Cal Ripken Road, Cal Ripken Way, Cal Ripken Hair Restoration Clinic, you name it.


For those of you non-baseballites, Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” played for the O’s for something like 173 years, and he holds the major league record for consecutive games played. He Call Calsuited up and took the field for—seriously, now—2,632 games without so much as a potty break, or something like that. Anyway, the folks of Baltimore worship the guy. There’s even an Our Lady of the Shortstop Catholic Church near Camden Yard, where parishioners bless themselves with the sign of the 8 and refer to themselves as Cal-tholics. OK, not really. I kid.


Anyhow, the city its own self wasn’t nearly as crime-infested as I had pictured it. For many years, Baltimore carried a not-so-savory reputation with regard to one’s personal safety. The pro basketball team wasn’t called the Baltimore Bullets for nothing. They were going to be called the Baltimore Brick Upside the Heads, but they couldn’t fit it all on the team jerseys. However, I must say that during my brief stay near the Chesapeake, I was accosted not once—unless you count the very large, very moist man with the Phil Spector hair and leopard-print thong singing Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” at the top of his lungs. I wasn’t sure if he was panhandling, making some sort of pro-life statement, or on the run from the Cal Ripken Clinic for Mood Disorders, but I ponied up a fast fiver and got the hell out of there.


A bit off topic from Baltimore per se, but I have to report—the Spouseman not having lodged at the finer inns on my own dime for a good while—that I was thoroughly gobsmacked with regard to one particular aspect of my accommodations. Hotels, I have come to conclude, are absolutely convinced that their guests cannot go one fraction of a second without access to a television. Gads, man. There was a TV in the bathroom—built into the mirror, mind you—a TV in the elevator, a tiny telly on each treadmill in the fitness room, a TV on every wall of the lobby, several in the bar, TVs in the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. CNN, Fox News, and General Hospital were everywhere. Live with Kelly and Michael was practically ubiquitous. I didn’t really need that last sentence to make my point, but I enjoy using the word “ubiquitous” whenever possible. I can be obsequious, dare I say insouciant, like that sometimes.

gotta have

With the preponderance of boob tubes, I found it a tad ironic when I read the little sign in the john that instructed me to please reuse my towels. The hotel explained on its quaint recycled-paper missive that it was trying to help the planet and save money—which would, of course, keep their rates lower—by asking that visitors gently reuse their towels during their stay. I kinda figured they could save a bit more if they gently stopped cramming high-dollar television sets into every conceivable space they could find. I, for one, do not require a flatscreen, high-definition TV built into my toilet paper dispenser.


On the plane ride home, I actually considered writing to the hotel manager about my concerns, but the tiny little TV in the seatback in front of me was gently playing an Andy Griffith Show rerun. So I got sidetracked. It was a really good one, though. The one where Aunt Bee enters her kerosene-flavored pickles in the county fair…


Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit





Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.


Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle


Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near



Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick


Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.


Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s





Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four



Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and


Dear Julia. I’m trading it



Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit

If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body . . .

13 Oct

by Roger White 

I read in the newspaper the other day that Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will soon be one of only 30 or so airports in the country to be blessed with the latest and greatest version of the full-body security scanner.

Are we special or what?

Apparently responding to travelers’ complaints that the scanners currently in use are, now let me find the exact wording so I get this right—hang on a minute, here it is—“too invasive because TSA officials behind curtains could see contours of genitalia,” your friendly TSA folks have devised the so-called millimeter wave machine. Before I get to the new-fangled millimeter wave machine, why do you suppose the TSA people needed to be behind curtains to view our genitalia? Are they too embarrassed to view our genitalia right out in public? If I know that somebody is scanning the contours of my genitalia, by golly, I want that person out in the open. To think that someone is gawking at my boys behind a curtain is a bit too lurpy for me. In fact, in all fairness we should be able to view the contours of the TSA person’s genitalia at the same time they’re looking at ours. What do ya say? Tit for tat, so to speak.

Anyway, this new contraption, according to its handlers, will not show exacting details of your naughty bits, but instead will display a “generic form with arms and legs, similar to a gingerbread man with its arms raised.” And, as we all know, gingerbread men with their arms raised don’t have naughty bits, so this should quell all the hullaballoo and rhubarb about genitalia. And anytime I can use the words “rhubarb” and “genitalia” in the same sentence, I consider it a good day.

According to the article I was reading, if this millimeter wave machine thing sees what it thinks is a potential weapon, it will zero in on the part of the body involved. It will then proceed to destroy that part of the body with a death-ray gun. I’m kidding, of course. That area of the body is then subjected to a pat-down, according to the TSA. Or, as we called it in middle school, the feel-up.

Ya know, we pay darn good money to go to the airport to be leered at and fondled, so I say it’s high time the airport people pony up some perks for the privilege. For example, if these security scanners are so precise and techy, why don’t they employ them for double duty as mole detectors?

“Mr. Davis, step right through. You don’t seem to have any weapons or terrorist liquids on you, but you do seem to have a suspicious-looking freckle below your left nipple. You might want to have that checked out. Next.”

And the little conveyor belt scanner that looks over all your personal items? They could easily fashion that into a buffer and polisher, no? So while your shoes and belt are being irradiated to see if they are concealing a nuclear bomb, they could also be enjoying a nice wax job so that they come out on the other side fresh and supple.  

Last but least, the friendly TSA folks themselves. Now look, I’m as patriotic as the next guy; I know we have to sacrifice for freedom and security; I understand we all must compromise to keep the mighty eagle soaring and to maintain liberty and justice for all and to keep Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels selling gimmicky records and all that. But, honestly, the whole attitude, TSA folks. That’s gotta go. You’re not on the front lines in Afghanistan. You’re not guarding the president or maintaining a SWAT vigil outside a desperate criminal’s hideout. You’re a half-step up from driving around the Wal-Mart parking lot in the goofy blinking golf cart, okay?

So a little courtesy, please? In fact, why can’t TSA people do some double duty themselves? I mean, we’re in the airport, the alcohol is duty-free here (whatever that means), we’re in an hour-long line. I say we have the TSA folks take drink orders while we wait.

“Please have your identification ready and remove all jewelry. And we’re having a special on top-shelf margaritas for the next half-hour. Thank you.”

That might get me flying again.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit