Monthly Archives: September 2017


What’s new pussy cat?

Whoa whoa whoa whoa.

The Curmudgeon has never been much of a pet person.

Okay, that’s an understatement:  the truth is he doesn’t like animals at all.  Doesn’t hate them but doesn’t like them.  He’s very fortunate, he should add, that in addition to finding a spectacular wife so late in life he also found a pretty great dog, the very lovely Sable (pictured right).  Sable understands the terms of the relationship, which The Curmudgeon states often:  “No nose, no tongue.”

That’s a reference to the dog’s nose and tongue, by the way, not The Curmudgeon’s.  Sable gives him a quizzical look when he says this but uses neither her nose nor her tongue when showing affection, so The Curmudgeon considers this a small victory and continues to tolerate the presence of this canine in his life.

You have to take the bad with the good.  Mrs. Curmudgeon is worth it.

In the past The Curmudgeon generally preferred cats to dogs, mostly because cats have generally been so indifferent to his presence.  When cats encounter you for the first time they come over and check you out.  If you show no interest in them, they show no further interest in you.  The Curmudgeon’s mother, for example, has a cat, and Tomas hasn’t come within ten feet of him in years.

But it turns out that those sweet, innocent cats are pretty destructive creatures, or so The Curmudgeon learned when he read a review of a book about cats and their role in our natural habitat.

It isn’t pretty, as illustrated by the following excerpts from the New York Review of Books review of the book Cat Wars:  The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer.

You wouldn’t want to meet this guy in a dark alley

Free-roaming domestic cats… are an environmental menace of staggering and still-escalating proportions. They are “cuddly killers” that butcher tens of billions of songbirds, small mammals, reptiles, and lizards each year and push vulnerable species toward extinction. Cats hunt when they are hungry and hunt when they are full. “In the United States,” the authors write, “more birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats than from wind turbines, automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windows, and other so-called direct anthropogenic causes combined.”

 And this:

 …attribute about a third of the annual cat-linked carnage to pet cats that are allowed to come and go as they please. The rest is the work of unowned cats: former pets that were abandoned or wandered off—otherwise known as strays—and the feral offspring of strays. The loose-cat problem is not limited to the US. The prestigious International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Felis catus as one of the hundred “worst invasive alien species” in the world, right up there with the Anopheles mosquito, the zebra mussel, and Dutch elm disease.

 And there’s more:

 For island-bound species, cats of all colors are a sign of bad luck. In a 2011 review in the journal Global Change Biology examining wildlife crises on 120 islands, Felix Medina and his colleagues concluded that cats helped cause the decline or extinction of 123 species of songbirds, parrots, seabirds, and penguins; twenty-five species of iguanas, lizards, turtles, and snakes; and twenty-seven species of small mammals, including a lemur and a bat.

Mmmm, lunch!

More on the impact of cats:

… up to 4 billion birds, 22 billion small mammals, 822 million reptiles, and 299 million amphibians are killed by free-ranging cats each year—and that’s just in this country.

While much of this damage is done by feral cats, surely cat owners are willing to do their part to limit the damage their own animals do, right?

Well, not so much, apparently.

The number of cat owners who allow their cats to roam outside is about 50 percent, and the figure shows scant signs of declining. In 2015, when Scottish researchers presented cat owners with proof of their pets’ habitual killing sprees, 98 percent of the owners said it didn’t matter, they had no intention of keeping their cats inside full-time, and 60 percent denied their cats were really harming wildlife—surely there were enough chaffinches to spare.

Who knew our feline friends – make that YOUR feline friends because they’re no friend of The Curmudgeon – were such incredibly destructive animals?

Shame on Amazon

And the cities and states that are about to fall all over themselves for the opportunity to knuckle under to it.

The online retail giant recently announced that it’s growing so big and so fast that it needs to establish a second headquarters to go along with the one it already has in Seattle. With this in mind, the company sent out a request for proposals to American and Canadian cities giving them six weeks to get back to Amazon with their explanation of why the company should choose their location for its expansion.

In this request for proposals the company lays out some of the things it’s looking for in a new headquarters city, including a metropolitan area of at least one million people, a diverse population, on-site access to mass transportation, a location within 45 minutes of an international airport, easy access to major highways, good cell phone coverage, strong local colleges and universities, a skilled workforce, appealing cultural and recreational opportunities, and more.

And oh, yes, one other important thing: money.

Or, as the Amazon request for proposals puts it,

Incentives offered by the state/province and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process.

This is nothing new for Amazon. As described by the New York Times, the Institute for local Self-Reliance reports that between 2005 and 2014 the company received more than $600 million in local and state government subsidies for 40 of the 77 warehouses it built during that period and another $147 million for new data centers.

“Brother, can you spare a dime?”

And to be fair to Amazon, which really doesn’t deserve fairness, it’s not alone in receiving such subsidies, as the New York Times reports: the state of Wisconsin is giving Foxconn $3 billion in tax credits to build a $10 billion factory in the state; Washington state, where Boeing has had a major presence now for more than 100 years, is giving that company $8.7 billion in support for projects through the year 2040; Tesla received $1.25 billion in tax credits from the state of Nevada to build a battery factory there; and Aetna will abandon Hartford so it can take advantage of $24 million in tax breaks offered to the company by New York City.

But still…

Let’s put this in a little context.

How much a business is worth is known as its market capitalization. That number comes from multiplying the number of shares of stock a company has issued by the value of that stock on any given day. The higher the market capitalization, the more valuable the company. Based on market capitalization, Amazon was the fifth most valuable company in the world as of September 7, behind only Apple, Alphabet (which is Google), Microsoft, and Facebook and just ahead of Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett’s company). Amazon is worth $465 billion.

Again: Amazon is worth $465 billion.

Amazon is pretty high up in revenue, too: 26th highest in the world, with revenue of $135 billion in 2016.

And last but not least, Amazon’s CEO and largest shareholder, Jeff Bezos, is now the third richest person in the world, behind only Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. How rich? Try $73 billion worth of rich. ( By the way, both market capitalization and individual wealth ratings fluctuate daily based on the value of the stock these rich folks own at any given time. For one day this summer, Bezos briefly was the richest person in the world.)

Again: Bezos is worth $73 billion.

Yet there those Amazon folks are with their greedy hands out, looking for government to subsidize the expansion of one of the richest companies in the world led by one of the richest men in the world. It’s not enough that the company is fabulously successful and the man is incredibly rich. No, they demand to feed at the public teat and pursue greater success and greater wealth at taxpayers’ expense. Can they afford to pay for what they want on their own? Of course they can. They may be more capable of doing so, in fact, than any company and any individual in the world. But why would they, why should they, when they can put out their hands, cry poor, and demand that government give them a handout they neither deserve nor need.

Is it disgusting?

Of course it is.

Is it going to happen?

Of course it is.

Doesn’t it make you feel good, as a taxpayer, to know that even though your government is struggling just to cover its own costs it can still find it in its heart to lend a hand to one of the most valuable companies in the world that’s run by one of the richest people in the world?


President Trump Visits Hurricane-Ravaged Florida Today

To assess the damage to Mar-a-lago.

And if he has both the time and the inclination, he may even check out other parts of the state that were damaged by the storm.

Ten Years

Twice as good as Five Years

The Book’s Just Out…

…and it’s not the kind of book The Curmudgeon would read, but based on the press accounts, a few reviews, and her own words in a CBS interview, it seems that instead of naming her book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton just should have called it Sour Grapes.

The Trump Watch: Mid-September

While The Curmudgeon was away The Donald did play.

There Will Be No Apology

… from Agent Orange for his unsubstantiated, pulled-out-of-his ass accusation that the Obama administration wiretapped him at Trump Tower. After investigating the fabrication, the Justice Department has concluded that it was just that: a fabrication.

That is, a lie.

But we’re getting used to that, aren’t we?

Killing the Messenger

“Wow, what a crowd, what a crowd,” Agent Orange declared when he addressed a recent rally in Phoenix. (He doesn’t make appearances or speeches; he just does rallies.)

He also declared that “You know I’d love it if the cameras could show this crowd, because it is rather incredible. It is incredible.”

That may be what he was saying but it wasn’t what he was thinking.

What he was thinking was “What a lousy crowd.”

We know that now because after the rally, Trump fired the guy who was responsible for the logistics of the event – a guy who was one of his longest-serving aides.

Because it was the guy’s fault that Phoenix didn’t turn out for the fading president and because with this president, loyalty is always – always – a one-way street.

Speaking of Lack of Loyalty…

 Sunday’s Washington Post had some interesting observations on Trump and the subject of loyalty:

 In agreeing to tie Harvey aid to a three-month extension of the debt ceiling and government funding, Trump burned the people who are ostensibly his allies. The president was an unpredictable – and, some would say, untrustworthy – negotiating partner with not only congressional Republicans but also with his Cabinet members and top aides. Trump saw a deal that he thought rf4was good for him – and he seized it.

 The move should come as no surprise to students of Trump’s long history of broken alliances and agreements. In business, his personal life, his campaign and now his presidency, Trump has sprung surprises on his allies with gusto. His dealings are frequently defined by freewheeling spontaneity, impulsive decisions and a desire to keep everyone guessing – especially those who assume they can control him.

 He also repeatedly demonstrates that, while he demands absolute loyalty from others, he is ultimately loyal to no one but himself.

“It makes all of their normalizing and ‘Trumpsplaining’ look silly and hollow,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist sharply critical of Trump, referring to his party’s congressional leaders. “Trump betrays everyone: wives, business associates, contractors, bankers and now, the leaders of the House and Senate in his own party. They can’t explain this away as [a] 15-dimensional Trump chess game. It’s a dishonest person behaving according to his long-established pattern.”

It’s gonna be a looonnnng four years, folks.

With This President, Size Matters

The Donald’s sensitivity about the size of his hands didn’t begin during the 2016 presidential campaign. Newsweek magazine – really, Newsweek is still around? – explained earlier this month:

[Current Vanity Fair editor Graydon] Carter threw his first punch in 1984, when he described Trump’s hands as “small and neatly groomed” in a GQ cover story. But the fight really began four years later, when Carter called out Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in the now-defunct Spy magazine, which Carter co-founded with Kurt Andersen. That one phrase ripped open a wound that’s lasted decades: Trump’s insecurity about the size of his hands.

“You see? All this talk about my hands is ridiculous.”

And there’s more:

In 2015, Carter addressed Trump’s decades-long obsession in an editor’s letter titled “Steel Traps and Short Fingers”: “To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby.” Carter went on to explain that, right before Trump decided to run for president, he sent Carter yet another photo, circled his own hand and wrote in gold Sharpie, “See, not so short!”

That’s astonishingly juvenile, when you think about it: that a grown man would allow himself to be driven to distraction by such a silly (and apparently very little) thing.

But there’s more: you’d think that someone who has long been on the receiving end of mockery about his size would be reluctant to engage in such mockery himself.

Well, if you did, you’d be wrong. We all remember his references during the 2016 campaign to political opponent Marco Rubio as “Little Marco” (who, at five feet nine inches is, like The Curmudgeon, of exactly average height for an American male), and now, Trump has renewed these shenanigans with a new target. At the same Phoenix rally cited above, the president referred to a number of what he considers his enemies: the “failing New York Times,” “pathetic” CNN, and now, “little George Stephanopoulos.”

The guy is unbelievable.

The Wall

Agent Orange is all over Congress about failing to produce a budget that includes funding for his wall between the U.S. and Mexico, even threatening to shut down the federal government until he gets his money.

Like a kid threatening to take home his ball and bat unless he gets his way.

But then, if you stop and think about it for a second…

Didn’t he tell us that MEXICO would pay for the wall and not American taxpayers? So why do we need a budget with money for a wall that Mexico is paying for?


What can you say? He might as well have been wearing a white hood when he talked about the blame being “on both sides.”

“Very Fine People”

Agent Orange thinks that among those marching in Charlottesville were some “very fine people.”  If so, the man has a very strange idea of what constitutes a “very fine person.”  There may be some way of justifying the presence of some “very fine people” at the event, but once its purpose became clear, once the crowd made its true feelings known, any “very fine people” who were in attendance would have walked away – quickly.  One suspects that if the president had been among them, he, too, would have walked – to the front of the crowd, to cheer it on.

Finding the Silver Lining in a (Thermonuclear) Cloud

North Korea is attempting to show the world its nuclear power and issued an explicit threat to Guam, a U.S. territory. So what does Agent Orange say to Guam’s governor? He finds a positive spin to put on the threat of nuclear annihilation. As reported by the (failing) New York Times:

Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”

Maybe Firing Comey was Only Plan B

We learned recently that candidate Trump viewed FBI director James Comey’s statement during last year’s campaign exonerating Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing in the matter of her private server as proof that the system was “rigged.”

Which leads to an interesting question:  if Trump thought Comey had rigged the system, why didn’t he fire him the day he took office?

One curmudgeonly theory:  maybe Trump thought that once he was president, Comey would rig the Russia investigation in Trump’s favor.  That would have been Plan A.  And when Trump realized that Comey had no intention of sweeping the Russian connection to the Trump campaign under the rug, he had to resort to Plan B:  firing Comey.

Who Roots for the Hurricane?

Agent Orange, that’s who.  Here’s what he told reporters in Houston when he came to look at the damage Hurricane Harvey wrought.

It’s been really nice.  It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.

And when he left town:

Have a good time, everybody.

Seriously. People were suffering unprecedented misery and he wished them a good time.

It’s All About Him

Trump’s visit to the area affected by Harvey began when his plane landed in Corpus Christi, which suffered little storm damage. It was a serious occasion, but he treated it like a campaign rally (because he doesn’t make appearances or speeches; he just does rallies).

Thank you everybody. What a crowd! What a turnout!

Because with hundreds of thousands of Texans suffering, it’s still all about him.

Taking Credit

Agent Orange appeared to act as if the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey somehow has something to do with him being president, as if things are bigger and badder because he’s the current occupant of the White House. So he tweeted that

Even experts have said they’ve never seen one like this!

And then, inexplicably, while sitting down in front of the press with the president of Finland:

It’s the biggest ever. They’re saying it’s the biggest ever. It’s historic. It’s like Texas. It’s really like Texas, if you think about it. But it is a historic amount of water.

As if that’s why the president of Finland flew nearly 5000 miles to meet with him.

State of Mind

The Washington Post published an interesting piece on the president’s state of mind and disposition.

It wasn’t pretty.

Behind the scenes during a summer of crisis, however, Trump appears to pine for the days when the Oval Office was a bustling hub of visitors and gossip, over which he presided as impresario. He fumes that he does not get the credit he thinks he deserves from the media, or the allegiance from fellow Republican leaders he says he is owed. He boasts about his presidency in superlatives, but confidants privately fret about his suddenly dark moods.

One can only wonder what he thinks he’s done for which he is being denied the credit he is due.

Does the ridiculous national conversation about Melania’s footwear count?


“He’s having a very hard time,” one friend who spoke with Trump this week said of the president. “He doesn’t like the way the media’s handling him. He doesn’t like how Kelly’s handling him. He’s turning on people that are very close to him.”

 Amazing Results, Achieved Single-Handedly

The U.S. apparently now has a nuclear capability that’s far superior to what we had nine months ago, and guess who’s claiming credit for it?

Last month Agent Orange tweeted that

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.

In just nine months! How did he do it? Did he (and Jared, perhaps?) design and build new nukes in their spare time? Is that what they were REALLY doing when they let us believe the president was goofing off on the golf course yet again?

The assertion, of course, is absurd. Yes, he DID direct his staff to review the country’s nuclear capabilities, but that review hasn’t even been finished yet, let alone acted upon. So today, those capabilities are the same as they were when he took office – although actually, a little less because a few intercontinental ballistic missiles have been decommissioned in recent months

But a true huckster is never going to let the truth get in the way of his boasts.

Passing the Buck

Attorney General Jefferson BEAUREGARD Sessions

Trump is usually all about taking the credit, whether it’s deserved or not, so it was conspicuous that when he ended the DACA program he made his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, make the announcement.

For a guy who’s always talking tough, it was kind of gutless, don’t you think?








Sometimes the Press is so Stupid

If you were planning to spend the weekend in New York City, you wouldn’t tell someone you were going to the Hotel Edison Times Square.  No, you’d say you were going to New York City.

If you were going to, say, Key West, you wouldn’t tell people you were going to the Parrot Key Hotel and Resort.  No, you’d say you were going to Key West.

And if you were going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you wouldn’t say you were going to the Hotel Monteleone.  You’d say you were going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

So why does the news media, whenever the president who said he would wouldn’t take vacations (and criticized his predecessor for doing so) jets off on his weekly three-day vacation, always explain that he’s going to Mar-a-Lago?  Why doesn’t it just say he’s going to his home in Florida?

Or to his home in south Florida?  Or to his home in Palm Beach, Florida?

But no, the press feels this apparent compulsion to give free advertising and publicity to the same guy who used free publicity to win the White House.

The press, of course, has a long history of letting politicians walk all over it and tell it how to do its job.  During the Bush Junior years the press naively bought into the administration’s explanation that sending more troops to fight in Iraq was a “surge” rather than an escalation, the word that was used when Lyndon Johnson kept sending more soldiers to Vietnam and that instantly inspired protests against the war.   More recently, the press permitted politicians to convince it that there was something inappropriate or even corrupt about Hillary Clinton, while a private citizen, taking fees for speaking engagements from large corporations.  On the other hand, the press never uttered a peep about Ronald Reagan spending eight years between when his acting career hit the skids, in 1954, and his first run for office, in 1962, going around the country giving speeches about public affairs, mostly consisting of anti-communist screeds, courtesy of generous payments from General Electric.

And of course GE never, ever benefited from the Reagan presidency, right?

When I hit the ball I holler “Five!” because five is so much greater, really greater, than fore.”

The press needs to get its act together and stop rolling over and playing dead to Agent Orange and his Brigade of the Unqualified and Ill-Intended.  This, admittedly, is just a small thing, but the press really needs to stop giving free publicity to a billionaire who pretends he’s not paying attention to his business anymore by reporting, whenever that billionaire gets on Air Force One for his weekly three-day vacation, that he’s jetting to his home in…


Or South Florida.

Or Palm Peach.

But not to…you know where, because every time it does that, the press is being played like a violin and the Unqualified and Ill-Intended are laughing at them – and at us, too, for adopting the same language the press inappropriately insists on using.



Why Not Just Tell the Truth?

The mattress store quotes you a price for a mattress set.

And then tells you the frame isn’t part of the set.

The hotel quotes you a price for a room.

And only informs you about the “resort fee” when you’re standing at the registration desk.

The contractor quotes you a price for a new shower.

And then later adds that the cost of the shower door is not part of the quote.

The pharmaceutical company tells your doctor that its new painkiller will help her patients.

But doesn’t mention that it is highly addictive.

When did businesses decide that the only way to succeed is by repeatedly misleading their customers?

Notes From a Trip (part 2 of 2)

(During his month away The Curmudgeon traveled with his bride and stepson to San Diego, where various members of Mrs. Curmudgeon’s side of the family gathered from three cities across the country. The following are some observations from that trip. This is part two; part one appeared here on Tuesday)

The non-stop flight from Philadelphia to San Diego departed at 8:00 – okay, 8:30, it was American Airlines, which, as a descendant of US Airways, views schedules as strictly advisory – and about an hour later The Curmudgeon visited the restroom and was amazed to see how many people had alcohol on their tray tables, leading him to wonder:

What’s the deal with booze at 9:30 in the morning, people?

*      *      *

Same deal on the way home, although in a way a little worse: that flight was scheduled to depart from San Diego at 7:45 and there were people at the airport bar nursing beer and more at 6:30.

Seriously, people?

*      *      *

The last time The Curmudgeon flew to California was four years ago to bury his father, who died of liver disease. On this trip he was reading the novel Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. The first scene is set in the mid-1960s and features, among other characters, a burly, 30-ish police officer at the christening of his daughter at his home in Downey, California. The Curmudgeon’s father was burly and 30-ish in the mid-1960s and after he moved to California he spent a few years living in Downey. The next scene in the book is 50 years later, with the child who was christened in the opening scene taking her father, who we later learn is the same age as The Curmudgeon’s, for his chemo treatment, his cancer having spread to his liver. They put her father on a scale and he weighed 133 pounds. At that point The Curmudgeon pretty much lost it and was grateful that at that moment he had a window seat and that both his wife and stepson were fast asleep and did not witness the spectacle.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has always wondered about the signs in airplane bathrooms suggesting that “as a courtesy” to the next passenger, users wipe out the bathroom sink. In what alternative universe do people wipe out bathroom sinks after using them?

*      *      *

To get from home to the airport, the family used Lyft. The driver was nice and polite and accommodating. To get from the San Diego airport to the hotel the family took a taxi. The driver muttered under his breath the entire way. The next day the family took two taxis that meandered to a distant destination, led by drivers who weren’t quite sure where they were going or how to get there, at a one-way cost of $35 for each taxi. On the way home the Uber rides cost half as much, the cars were nicer, and one of the drivers offered excellent advice on destinations to avoid on the weekend because of crowds and also regaled his passengers with the tale of his guest appearance on a season one episode (“Marine Down”) of NCIS and offered the reassuring news that Mark Harmon is as nice a guy as you would imagine he is.

Lesson learned. From now on, when there’s a choice, it will be Uber or Lyft.

*      *      *

And when there’s a complete choice, Lyft. Over a dozen rides over five days the drivers were almost unanimous about being treated better, and more fairly, by Lyft.

*      *      *

The hotel room was on the 24th floor – an oversight on The Curmudgeon’s part. He has no fear of heights but does have a fear of fire and his view is that if a fire department’s hook and ladder can’t reach his floor then he needs to be on a lower floor. That won’t happen again.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon’s kind of restaurant

After checking into the hotel Mrs. Curmudgeon needed a nap so The Curmudgeon and his stepson set off in search of lunch. The plan was to walk to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, an area with blocks and blocks of restaurants, but directly across the street from the hotel entrance was a place called Kansas City Barbecue.


While waiting for our food, we learned that the bar scenes in the movie Top Gun were filmed at this place.

The barbecue was outstanding. The brisket? To die for. The Curmudgeon is serious about his barbecue and this was absolutely, positively the real deal.

*      *      *

Message on a restaurant receipt:

Your check includes a 3% surcharge to help offset the cost of state and city minimum wage increases.

Now THAT takes balls – from people who don’t have the balls to put a notice to that effect on their menus or, even better, to increase their prices three percent and explain why on the menu.

*      *      *

Restaurant charge: $5 for an onion bagel.


*      *      *


This was the first time The Curmudgeon ever encountered a Ghirardelli store. He felt like he’d died and gone to heaven.

And when he tasted the brownie he purchased he knew he had lived and gone to heaven.

*      *      *

A member of the family suffered an injury during the trip and The Curmudgeon and that family member had the privilege of spending nearly four hours in a hospital emergency room. They were definitely the ethnic minorities in the ER, several people who spoke very little English, and a young couple from Germany (whose English was very good). There were two people bleeding after getting into fights, two were accompanied, in handcuffs, by law enforcement officers (police in one case and what appeared to be border guards in the other, the latter not so surprising considering that you can pretty much walk from San Diego to the border with Mexico), and a woman who was told that she would need to wait her turn because doctors had determined that she was not suffering a potentially life-threatening problem. Once in the exam area, the woman in the next cubicle was coughing so much that it sounded as if she had TB.

In other words, just like home.

*      *      *

NOT named after Rocky

When he started this piece The Curmudgeon was determined not to offer tourism suggestions but he’ll make one exception to speak to the virtues of a visit to San Diego’s Balboa Park. While the rest of the family visited the San Diego Zoo – The Curmudgeon grew up in a big city with a terrific zoo and has already spent enough time for one lifetime gawking at caged animals – he spent a few hours at the San Diego Museum of Art. Both are located in Balboa Park, as are about a dozen other different types of museums, cultural institutions, and performance venues. You could visit San Diego for a week and never leave Balboa Park. The Curmudgeon may be one of the least-traveled people you’ll ever meet and he’s never heard of a place like this. If he ever flies again – he’d really, really, really rather not – he’d gladly return to San Diego so he could spend more time in Balboa Park.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has heard about selfie-sticks and read about selfie-sticks and has even seen selfie-sticks advertised and in stores but until he went to Balboa Park he’d never actually seen a selfie-stick in use. There, he saw plenty of them – all, for reasons he does not know, operated by people of Asian descent.

*      *      *

Something else The Curmudgeon observed in San Diego that he has never encountered in such numbers: people who not only have tattoos but have tattoos covering a significant portion of a limb or their body. He was amazed both at how many people he saw with large numbers of tattoos and that at least 95 percent of these people were women.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has not yet reached an age at which he considers walking to be exercise but the health app on his phone informed him that he walked between five and 9.5 miles every day on his visit.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon considers himself as chocoholic. Among his chocolate favorites is a company called See’s, which he first encountered when his father moved to California in 1983. It’s a mostly but not-entirely west coast company and The Curmudgeon is accustomed to seeing See’s stores in airports. When the traveling party arrived they walked for about a minute before briefly stopping for his stepson to use the restroom, and while Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon waited, The Curmudgeon complained about not finding a See’s store. Mrs. Curmudgeon looked on sympathetically, humoring her curmudgeonly husband. When they resumed walking they spotted a See’s store within 30 seconds.

Columbus was no less elated, you can be sure, when he spotted the shore of what he believed to India.

*      *      *

When the vacation began gasoline in New Jersey was about $2.20 a gallon – except at Shell stations, where it’s always 25-30 cents more for reasons no one has ever adequately explained. In Pennsylvania it was about 20 cents a gallon more, as is usually the case. In southern California? As much as $3.29.

*      *      *

Everything seemed to cost more in southern California. The climate in San Diego is so wonderful that The Curmudgeon and his wife briefly mused about the possibility of retiring there. Their hotel was just across the street from a series of high-rise condominiums, so a quick Zillow search was in order.

As a point of reference, The Curmudgeon’s bachelor home was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo of about 1200 square feet, and when he puts it on the market later this month he suspects the asking price will be about $140,000.

A similar condo in the San Diego community that interested them? $800,000.

Another dream dashed.

*      *      *

Mrs. Curmudgeon flies often enough to benefit occasionally from airlines rewards programs, and those benefits are multiplied because she also has a credit card from the airline she flies most often. Some of the upgrades are free, and the day before the return flight home, when she went online to check in the family, she found that all three members of the traveling party had been upgraded, at no cost, to first class – and to seats in the front row, which meant even more leg room than regular first class, a not-inconsiderable benefit for a five-hour flight.

The extra leg room is great but most of the rest of the benefits of sitting in first class are lost on The Curmudgeon: he doesn’t drink, the whole hot towel thing mystifies him, and he has an ironclad rule that if the airlines cook it he absolutely won’t eat it. (And he didn’t need that rule on this flight: the smell alone…)

One thing, though, surprised him about flying first class: they showed a movie! The Curmudgeon hasn’t had the option of an in-flight movie for years. His hopes for an easy way to kill a few hours of such a long flight were dashed, though, when he saw in the movie’s opening credits – he never did catch the title – that Chris Pratt was in it.

Has there ever been a better sign that a movie will be total crap than the presence of Chris Pratt?



Notes From a Trip (Part 1 of 2)

(During his month away The Curmudgeon traveled with his bride and stepson to San Diego, where various members of Mrs. Curmudgeon’s side of the family gathered from three cities across the country. The following are some observations from that trip. This is part one; part two will appear here on Thursday.)

The Curmudgeon isn’t much of a traveler, especially if that traveling involves flying. Ironically, the parts of flying that bother most people – take-offs and landings – don’t bother him at all. What he dislikes is the whole flying experience: navigating through the airport, dealing with airline, government, and airport personnel, security checks, the unpleasantness of air travel, and the manner in which airlines treat their customers – that is, with near-total disdain. Flying, he must admit, brings out the worst in The Curmudgeon, on occasion transforming his usual low-key public demeanor into a surly, obnoxious, occasionally loud jackass whom he barely recognizes himself.

*      *      *

The Lyft car showed up a little early – 5:50 a.m. and not 6:00-6:15, as scheduled – so The Curmudgeon didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast at home. Once the family settled at its gate in the airport he went off in search of a muffin and found instead a cup of yogurt with about three tablespoons of granola.


Welcome to Philadelphia International Airport.

*      *      *

Sometimes it makes sense to keep your mouth shut about the prices. On the way home The Curmudgeon ordered a muffin for himself and coffee for Mrs. Curmudgeon at a concession stand in the San Diego airport and was told the cost would be $6.29.

“You have to be kidding,” he suggested.

“I’ll check again,” the cashier replied and then took a closer look at the register tape.

“No, you’re right, I was wrong.”

The Curmudgeon smiled.

Prematurely, it turned out.

“It’ll be $6.67.”

*      *      *

Mrs. Curmudgeon flies often enough to make it worth her while to invest in TSA pre-check (five years for $85). For your money you get to skip the ridiculously long lines that are a living, breathing testament to government incompetence in favor of shorter lines and a less rigorous screening in which you don’t have to surrender your shoes and your belt – and along with them, your dignity. The help there is nicer, too. An unexpected but welcome benefit: anyone flying on the same reservation as the person with the TSA pre-check is treated as if they have TSA pre-check, too.

Call it a marriage dividend.

*      *      *

Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to do a cavity search, officer?

Alas, The Curmudgeon spoke too soon about not needing to surrender his belt: on the way home he was asked to do so. It was all he could do to refrain from his pre-9/11 practice of, when feeling harassed by airport security personnel, unbuttoning his pants, starting to lower them, and asking if they’d like to perform a cavity search.

The Curmudgeon is a joy to fly with, no?

*      *      *

As the plane sat at the gate well beyond the scheduled take-off time, The Curmudgeon turned and could see the air being piped into the cabin. Surely that was not a good sign: one is not supposed to SEE air.

*      *      *

When you pay $300 or $400 or $600 to fly across the country, don’t you think the airlines could at least give you the whole bottle or can of water or soda or juice instead of rationing you to about five ounces?

*      *      *

This flyer’s best friend

Another reason The Curmudgeon isn’t a happy flier is that he suffers from two pretty serious in-flight maladies: motion sickness and ear pain during take-off and especially during descent. For years he suffered from the drowsiness caused by the Dramamine he took for motion sickness, until a travel agent told him about ginger pills: two ginger pills every 75 to 90 minutes offer the same benefits as Dramamine without the drowsiness, glassy eyes, and general loopiness. For five years after The Curmudgeon started using ginger pills in this manner he insisted on bringing Dramamine with him, just in case, because he feared he was benefiting from a placebo effect that would wear off in mid-flight and leave him suddenly heaving in the aisles. It never happened: the ginger really works.

The Curmudgeon has long suffered from motion sickness. As a child he once discharged his recently completed dinner over a white dinner jacket his father was wearing while mom and dad were driving the kids to their grandparents’ house so they could attend a formal affair. So bad was The Curmudgeon’s motion sickness, in fact, that his grandparents, who already had all of the furniture in their home covered by those awful clear plastic slipcovers, actually had plastic slipcovers installed on the back seat of their 1969 Chevy Impala.

The ginger took care of the motion sickness but there remained the problem of the ear pain. When this issue first arose The Curmudgeon visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist whose first name was “King” – his parents no doubt had big plans for their boy – who said that one trick he often performed for pilots and flight attendants who had the same problem was to – get ready for this – put a slight pinprick in their eardrums.

“It doesn’t affect your hearing,” King insisted.

After The Curmudgeon described the unusual meteorological conditions that would be necessary for him to agree to such a procedure, King recommended a less invasive approach: a regimen of Sudafed, starting 24 hours before take-off, and a saline nasal spray every hour while airborne. He also taught The Curmudgeon how to pop his ears. It helped, but only to a limited degree, and descending was still quite uncomfortable.

This flyer’s second-best friend

Then The Curmudgeon discovered a product called Earplanes, which look like earplugs that you screw into your ears. The Curmudgeon uses the word “screw” in its literal form: the devices have threads, just like metal screws, and you literally screw them into your ears. Between the Earplanes and the ear-popping, The Curmudgeon gained a good measure of relief, even if he kind of repulses the unfortunate people seated near him on his flights.

No, you do not want to be seated next to The Curmudgeon when you’re 30,000 feet above terra firma. Think: Felix Unger honking.

But to this regimen The Curmudgeon has added one more trick of his own to help stave off ear pain while descending.


Yes, Skittles.

This flyer’s third-best friend

You probably know about the benefits of chewing gum during ascent and descent but what you may not realize is that it’s the swallowing when you chew that gum, and not the chewing itself, that provides all the benefits. So anything you put in your mouth that produces more swallowing than chewing gum will help you more than gum. So The Curmudgeon experimented.

M&Ms? Not enough swallowing.

Red licorice nibs? Pretty good, a worthy alternative to Skittles, but not always easy to find.

Nuts? Too many calories and they don’t last very long.

Starburst candies? Not bad.

But in the end, the best gum alternative proved to be Skittles, which The Curmudgeon had never even tasted until this little experiment. Skittles proved – not to get all technical on you or anything – to have a higher ratio of swallows per minute than any other food he tested.

Your results may vary.

So why the long discourse on in-flight ear pain?

Because for the flight from Philadelphia to San Diego, The Curmudgeon forgot his Earplanes.

Oh, he bought them, all right.

He even recalls taking them out of their little cardboard box on the morning of the flight.

But he left them on the table at home.

A discovery he made only when the plane started to back out of the gate.

Ascending wasn’t much of a problem, but descending, well, that was one pretty painful experience and all The Curmudgeon could do was keep nibbling his Skittles and popping his ears, nibbling and popping, nibbling and popping…

*      *      *

Since you can no longer bring your own beverage into an airport terminal for fear that someone may blow up a 747 with a Diet Dr Pepper, passengers are held hostage to whatever the rip-off airport vendors feel like charging for their wares. The Curmudgeon recalls an effort by Philadelphia’s mayor in the late 1990s to attempt to compel airport vendors to engage in street pricing for their merchandise, but if what The Curmudgeon encountered on this trip was street pricing then that street surely must be Rodeo Drive.

$3.29 for a Diet Snapple, anyone?

*      *      *

And the lines move very slowly at airport stores, too, because for reasons The Curmudgeon cannot fathom, more people than not are using a credit or debit card to pay for that $3.29 Diet Snapple.

Seriously, people?

*      *      *

Of course, The Curmudgeon would have been grateful to find even a $3.29 Diet Snapple in the San Diego airport. Four stores, no bottled or canned iced tea of any kind.

Way to go, San Diego!

*      *      *

One of the benefits of standing in those slow-moving airport concession-stand lines is listening to fellow passengers talk about their purchases. At one point The Curmudgeon noticed a woman ahead of him looking at Dramamine but then she put it down and picked up a package of Benadryl and then a package of Nyquil. From a purely medical perspective, you don’t need to be a doctor to know that just doesn’t make sense. She then engaged another woman in line on the subject and The Curmudgeon realized that people buying these products at the last minute aren’t looking to fight motion sickness or colds: no, their objective is to find the concoction that will be most effective at helping put them to sleep for as much of their flight as possible.

P.S. She went with “The nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine” even though the sun had just risen an hour earlier.)

*      *      *

Speaking of sleeping through the flight, The Curmudgeon’s stepson slept for four-and-a-half hours of the five-hour flight. He spent nearly half of that time turned toward his mother and with his forehead on her shoulder. The boy is nearly 17 years hold and more than six feet tall and has a beard that calls to mind Scooby Doo’s sidekick “Shaggy” and if you think that didn’t elicit a lot of “isn’t that adorable?” looks from the other passengers you’re sadly mistaken. The Curmudgeon made sure to take pictures, and the one with the boy sleeping with his mouth wide open will make an excellent poster-sized birthday present.

The Curmudgeon, for his part, is a terrible sleeper, and it’s getting worse with age. He can only sleep at night, in bed, under the covers, and in the dark, and even then, he now considers seven hours of sleep a moral victory and takes comfort that seven hours appears to be all he needs. So when his stepson finally awoke, The Curmudgeon told J that he considers the boy a sleep god and bows down to his greatness.

(more on Thursday)