Overheard At The Movies #1LinerWeds

In 2006, I really wanted to see Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as the new 007, and Mary said that she’d go with me, provided I accompanied her to a “chick flick” of her choice. Her choice was The Lake House, starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we had seen the two stars in Speed, and I liked that. So we went to a “bargain matinee” (remember when they had those, and they were actually a bargain?). There weren’t that many other people in the theater, but two of them were a teen couple. I guess he asked her out, she said she wanted to see it, and he reluctantly agreed.

We spent the next two hours trying to understand the movie. A lot of it was filmed in Chicago, so we knew a lot of the landmarks, and the stars were good. On the other hand, the plot, which involved two people separated by a number of years communicating through letters left in the mailbox at the lake house he had built years before and she now owned, was hard to keep up with and, by the end, Mary had a headache and I had absolutely no clue what the movie was about.

As we’re getting ready to leave, the teens walk past us, and the girl says

You’re such a boy!

I wish I had heard the rest of THAT conversation…


One-Liner Wednesday is sponsored each week by Linda Hill, who has the rules and pingbacks on her blog.


And this is also an entry for Wednesdays for My Wife!

A Bizarre Bus Ride


Talking about buses the other day reminded Mary of a bus trip she took when we lived in Chicago. It’s one of our favorite stories.

One day, Mary got on the bus to go downtown, and saw a man sitting on one of the front seats beside a pile of newspapers. “Don’t touch my newspapers! Those are my newspapers!”

She thought, “okayyyy,” and found a seat a safe distance away from him.

She watched him, and noticed that he’d pick up his stack of newspapers and move with them to an empty seat before every stop along the way, and when a new crowd of people got on the bus, he’d repeat, “Don’t touch my newspapers! Those are my newspapers!” It was a fairly long ride downtown, and soon everyone on the bus was watching him as this drama unfolded.

Finally, at one of the stops in the Loop, the man gets up and gets off the bus.


Leaving his newspapers on one of the seats.

As Mary (and probably everyone else on the bus) was thinking it, a woman said, “Hey! He forgot his newspapers!”

Wednesday for My Wife: The Most Popular Kid At St. Ignatius High School


My brother Patrick told Mary and I this one about his father (Mom’s second husband), who was a Jesuit for about thirty years before he left that job and married Mom. We called him Tex, because his last name was Christian (i.e. Texas Christian, like the university) and because they used to hang around the seminary quoting from old Western movies.

Jesuits go through a lot of training, about twelve years’ worth, before they become priests, and Tex said he was a scholastic at the time, one of the early levels of his training, so this would have been in the late Forties, early Fifties. He was stationed at St. Ignatius High School, an all-boys school which at least one of Chicago’s mayors (Richard M. Daley, son of Richard J. Daley) had attended.

At the time, desks were made of wood (as opposed to Formica and steel) and, if a class got boring (which they inevitably did), carving your name and/or other graffiti into the top of the desk with a ball-point pen was a good way to kill time. As you can imagine, one of the favorite expressions was a two-word phrase that starts with “f” and rhymes with “cluck flu.” The diligent and bored-out-of-their-minds boys of St. Ignatius carved it into roughly two-thirds of the desks over the years. (Okay, maybe not that many, but a lot of them.)

One day, Tex and a friend of his were called into the office and were told by the principal that theirs was one of the sites for a standardized test to be administered on a Saturday, and that the girls from a nearby high school would be taking it at Ignatius. He noted the graffiti that had been scratched into the desks, and told them to “do something about it.”

Tex and his friend hemmed and hawed about what they would “do” about the graffiti on the desks, when one of them had a brainstorm: with a few strokes of a pen, they could change that message to something totally innocuous. Several days later, they were able to report that they had “done something about it.”

Saturday rolled around, and when the test was finished, the principal of the girls’ school visited the principal of St. Ignatius and thanked him for his hospitality, then said, “Several of the girls were asking: who is ‘Buck Young’? He seems to be very popular. His name is carved into so many desks…”

Karma’s A Bitch, But Sometimes You Have To Love Her


Not a family story, but one Mary likes anyway…

I’ve mentioned several times now that I used to play the bagpipes. Mary and I were in Scotland in 1979, and somehow ended up in the shop of J&R Glen on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and before I knew what was happening, I was walking out with a set of bagpipes. I came home, learned to play, and joined a pipe band, the Invermich Gaelic Society Pipe Band, which had eight to ten pipers and about half a dozen drummers.

Man playing the Great Highland Warpipes (a/k/a the bagpipes) on the street in Edinburgh. (photo: Postdif/Wikipedia, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) This isn’t me; I don’t think any pictures of me playing exist anymore.

We were a pretty serious group, and spent most of the spring and summer running all over Hell’s half-acre and being contestants in piping competitions. Bands are sorted into grades, with Grade Four the lowest and Grade One the highest, and your band competes against other bands in your grade. At the end of the day, during the closing ceremony (including the Massed Bands, or as a friend of mine called it “mashed bands,” where all the bands involved in the competition get together and play a few tunes together), the winners of the graded competitions are announced, and then it’s party time. Our band had a rule of no drinking before we compete, including the night before, so we were pretty well rarin’ to go by the time the competition closed.

There were a few competitions that stretched over two days, like the one held at Alma College in Alma, Michigan. Most competitions are one-day affairs held on a Saturday; theirs took up the entire weekend. Saturday was the graded competition, Sunday was an open competition where all the bands, regardless of grade, competed against each other. The party, or ceilidh (“kay-lee”), was on Saturday night, which meant that if you did a little too much ceilidhing on Saturday night, you were in pretty bad shape the next day and still had to play.

One year, one of the bands decided to bring the ceilidh back to the dorm after the official one ended at about eleven o’clock. Until about three Sunday morning, they ceilidhed their rear ends off, including their drummers, who, given two sticks, will bang on just about anything. Of course, given the noise, we couldn’t get any sleep. At one point, one of our older members went down and yelled at the band, ordering them to stop. Which they did, until the guy got back to his room, after which they started pounding and being noisy again.

The next day, we were all exhausted, and more than a little p.o.’ed at the guys in that band. We weren’t alone; several other bands had been kept awake by the partying band. That didn’t matter, though: there was competing to do and money to be won.

Standard procedure for a competition band is to march into the playing field while playing, form a circle with the drummers together on one side and the bass drummer standing in the middle, play the competition set, then re-form ranks and march off the field, playing. A band is judged not only on how well they play but on their marching, their uniforms, and their discipline. We were on fairly early, so we were able to get coffee and watch the rest of the bands play.

Somewhere in the middle of the competition, the band that had kept us up half the night got to play. They were clearly feeling the effects of all that booze and the lack of sleep, but they formed ranks and marched shakily onto the field, playing. Halfway through their set, one of the snare drummers felt ill, stepped into the middle of the circle, and threw up. Needless to say, they didn’t do that well (certainly not on discipline and deportment).

As I said, karma’s a bitch, but sometimes you have to love her.

Dad, the Disciplinarian

Mary hasn’t talked about this week’s WFMW, so I guess it’s up to me.


We loved our Dad, mostly because he wasn’t the one that disciplined us. He wasn’t especially good at it.

Not that he didn’t try…

One time, we were acting up, and he lined the three of us up and started lecturing us. He was really getting into it when all of a sudden Jim stuck his hand up.


“Sir, may I go to the bathroom?”

Mom, who was watching all of this from the couch, started laughing. It kind of took the wind out of his sails.

Another time, we were being noisy and horsing around in the living room. Dad, who was alone with us because Mom had gone somewhere, came in wearing his angry face. “John, go sit in the desk chair,” he said, pointing. I sat down. “Jim, go sit in the easy chair.” Jim sat down. “And Kip, sit on the couch.” Kip sat down. “Now, I don’t want the three of you to move. Understand?”

“Yes, Dad.”

Having done his job, he left the room. After a couple of minutes, I turned to Jim. “Jim, let’s switch seats.” When we had done that, Jim and Kip switched seats. Then, Jim and I switched again, and so did Jim and Kip. Now I was on the couch, Jim was on the desk chair, and Kip was in the easy chair. We were ready to switch again but Jim saw Dad coming.

Dad came into the room. “You three better behave yourselves.”

“Yes, Dad.”

He left the room again. And we moved again. I was now in the easy chair, Kip was on the desk chair, and Jim was on the couch.

We were giggling, and Dad came back in the room. “What are you giggling about?”

“Nothing, Dad.”

This went on until Mom got home. I don’t think he ever caught on. Or, if he did, he didn’t let on.