Think Muppetly, act locally

It was his sixth birthday and he was getting a party with a Muppet theme, per his wishes. He had one additional request.

"I don't think we should eat meat at my birthday party."

"Why, are you a vegetarian?"

"No, but the Muppets are animals."

Chicken was served. (It was good enough for the Swedish chef.)

Favorite train encounters, summer '08

1. I saw my favorite Chicago online diarist, Mimi Smartypants, and her redoubtable four-year-old daughter Nora standing in my usual spot on the platform waiting for the same train as me. I had never met Mimi although I've read her site every week for at least five years. I discreetly did a double-take, only three times, and didn't approach them. Not a fan of the awkward. When the train came, I took a different car than theirs so I wouldn't be tempted to spy. Then, remembering all the entertaining posts Mimi has written about Nora, I imagined them performing a song-and-dance number to unanimous acclaim in the aisle of their train car, something like "Me and My Shadow," with straw hats and canes, Nora's accessories in the tiny kid size.

2. The little girl standing right next to me in the train was crying as she talked to her parents on her cell phone; she looked like Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. She had gotten on the wrong train and was surrounded by people twice her height, not knowing where she was going. She shut her tears off and got advice from her parents on how to get on the correct train and hung up. I asked if she needed any help but she was OK, just waiting for the train to stop so she could get on one going south. I said I had made the same mistake last year (true) and it was really embarrassing. She nodded along with my story and we had nothing else to say; then she got off and immediately disappeared in a crowd of grownups. I had never imagined that a mundane trainload of tired commuters could look so alien and menacing to a kid.

3. I've had enough of people seeking attention on the train just for the sake of attention (Link). So when a guy on the train last Memorial Day started moaning, I first looked to see if he was ill. He appeared healthy, about 20 years old, and was listening to a radio with earphones. He was moaning tunelessly, fairly loud, with the music. In the past I've ignored this kind of thing but this time I faced him and stared into the side of his head. He turned to me and explained that he was singing "God Bless America" along with the radio station; it was playing the song for the holiday. I smiled and nodded, not knowing whether the guy was serious. He appeared embarrassed and got off at the next stop. Did I ruin a patriotic holiday for a young citizen? Or did he get the attention he wanted? I still don't know.

Back to you, Walter

It's September 1964 and on the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite introduces a story by Roger Mudd, reporting from Ohio where Barry Goldwater is running as the Republican nominee for president. Due to a lack of preparation time, Mudd has to go on the air live with technical assistance from the local phone company.

Roger recalls that he had started his report: "...but the audience did not hear me say that, because Ohio Bell had patched me not into New York but into a local radio station, which happened to be playing an old Kay Kyser tune, "Three Little Fishies." What the audience heard when my mouth began to move was:
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam all over the dam.
It may be funny now, but back then nobody laughed. We swore and swore and kept swearing."

-- From the memoir The Place to Be, by Roger Mudd.