Category archive for ‘The View From Planet Kerth’ rss

  • Make America “safe” as it used to be? Careful what you wish for

    Who doesn’t long for those lazy, hazy days of their childhood?

    I was raised in quiet Elmwood Park, just a stone’s throw from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, and I have always thought of my 1950s childhood as idyllic, calm, and peaceful.

    And yet…

  • ‘Tis the season for hay, straw, and a sweet-smelling dog

    It’s autumn, and as the Halloween-and-Thanksgiving season approaches, folks in my Illinois neighborhood like to decorate their front porches with pumpkins and corn stalks sitting on hay bales.

    And every time I see that, I can’t help but think of Schatze, the sweet-smelling dog of my youth.

  • Welcome to America, where it looks just like it does on TV

    My buddy Mike just got back from a week in France, and we took to the links for a quick nine holes so he could tell me a few lies and tales about his trip. His wife, Sandy, had been there before, and they were meeting an old college friend of hers with whom she had spent some time in France years ago, hoping to recapture a bit of the fun they had way back then.

  • Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about you, dummy

    You’re probably a complete idiot.

    Or if not, then I’ll bet you’re a dummy.

  • Learning to speak American is a piece of cake

    Some years ago, as I sat chatting with a young couple from the Netherlands who spoke fluent English, I took a quick glance at my watch. I had a job my boss wanted me to do, and my time was running out.

    “Sorry,” I told them, “but I’ve got to take care of this. You know how Ed is. I don’t want to get called on the carpet.”

  • The enlightenment that comes with endarkenment

    OK, people, the eclipse is over. Time to come back down to earth, wipe the awestruck tears from your eyes, and stop OMGing the wonders of the natural world as you ponder your place in the universe. Let’s put the spiritual tizzy behind us, shall we? It’s all fun and games until somebody becomes a druid.

  • A tick-tale of terror — and tender love

    I trace my phobia of ticks back to that day in the wooden rowboat on Lake Nicaboyne in northern Wisconsin. I was probably eleven or twelve at the time, and I was spending the day as usual during our annual weeklong vacation: rowing by myself along the shoreline, casting for bass.

  • Uncovering a conspiracy of sinkholes and sausage-bombs

    The United States is under attack! It’s being torn apart!

    Well, not the United States per se, but Florida — that wet, wacky addendum attached to the southeastern edge of the United States. But it’s still a cause for concern, because a lot of folks from the actual United States like to go there in the wintertime.

  • Some pointers on picking your path to probiotic health

    I got “the look” this morning at the grocery store.

  • Another week-long waltz with the trickster gods

    We were driving south on Route 53 through Wisconsin, making good time, when Jim looked at the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the other side of the road, crawling north for miles on end, and said: “Wow, I’m glad we’re not on that side of the road.”

    I gasped and said: “Jim! What are you saying!?!!”

  • When it comes to knowing stuff, my brain is for the birds

    Me? I’m a bird guy.

    I don’t know when or why I became one, but I guess everybody’s got to be some kind of “guy,” and for me it’s always been birds.

  • Have today’s teens found a cure for summertime blues?

    When I was a teenager, the radio was filled with songs about working in the summer, like “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, or “Summertime Blues,” by Eddie Cochran.

    But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than a third of American teenagers these days have a summer job, which means (among other things) that none of them will ever be able to write a column like this one 50 years from now.

  • All it takes is one joyous step to fix our broken system

    So much anger.

    So much venom.

    So much disrespect.

    And at the heart of it all are the American media outlets, which both feed from and generate all the bad blood between us.

  • Celebrating the end of the Great Depression in our kitchen

    As I was pushing my shopping cart through the grocery store yesterday, getting ready to head to the checkout line, a strange sensation came over me. It led me to the “paper and plastics” aisle, where I grabbed a total of eight food storage containers of various sizes, but with the same size lids to fit them all.

  • Kids can drive you crazy — even if they follow the speed limit

    A couple weeks ago, when I read about that 8-year-old Ohio boy who slipped out of the house while his parents slept, and then drove a mile and a half to McDonald’s with his 4-year-old sister in the car, I reacted as any typical American would.

  • Twisting, pinching and rolling your way to magic

    If you’re a faithful visitor to Planet Kerth, you may recall that a couple weeks ago I told you about a magic trick I like to perform.

    Well, as I explained, it’s not a magic trick exactly, because it doesn’t really take any magic to turn a simple napkin into a long-stemmed paper rose with a single delicate leaf halfway up the stem.

  • A magic trick that’s both absorbing and absorbent

    Call it a magic trick if you want, but it isn’t. Not really. A magic trick needs magic to make it happen, but I can do my trick without needing magical powers.

    But then — after the trick is over — that’s when the magic happens.

  • Leaving America to learn what an American is

    Besides being a high school teacher for more than thirty years, I spent about fifteen years helping young Americans learn for themselves what it means to be an American.

  • Taking time to see the moon and other miracles

    As the full moon rose just after sunset a few weeks ago, I stared at it and wondered: “What if the moon happened only once? What if, in the deep black immenseness of the night sky, this pale beautiful face appeared only once, and this was the night that it happened?”

  • Recalling the name of the famous you-know-who

    I just opened my email, and the first message at the top of the list was for a brain strengthener that is “Proven to double your IQ.”

    Well, that could be useful. As a writer, it would be nice to be smart enough to be able to spell IQ correctly.

  • We’ll be back right after these soul-searching messages

    Plato said: “Know thyself.” Socrates said it, too. So did Aeschylus. And although those guys were a few graduation classes ahead of me, I always believed they were talking about me when they said it.

    Because I always thought I knew myself.

  • ‘Twas the season to go MIA with a TIA

    The first hint of trouble came as I got out of bed the day after Christmas at 6:30 a.m. I stumbled because I had gone all weenie-legged on the right side.

    “Well, that’s strange,” I thought. “Must have slept funny.” I flippered off to the bathroom.

  • Just one more purgatory to add to the pile

    I was more than a bit surprised when my wife pointed to the car just after breakfast on Black Friday and flashed me that “Buckle up, Bucko” look. After all, she knew my policy about hitting the mall on the worst shopping day of the year.

  • The tolerant testimony of molasses and vermouth

    I don’t know how old I was when my curiosity kicked in, but I finally asked Mom: “Who is that, anyway?”

    She had given me a chore to do that I attacked with my customary zeal — which is to say that I dragged my feet and mourned my tragic station in life.

  • Of famines and feasts, minnows and beasts

    When a century-old curse finally gets lifted, it’s hard not to look for whatever other curse might be lurking beneath. At least, that’s what a die-hard Cubs fan does.

  • Is ending the streak a cursed blessing, or a blessed curse?

    At long last the question has been asked and answered: Is 2016 the year that the Cubs break the curse and win the World Series?

  • A memory of the (almost) perfect Halloween costume

    It was the perfect Halloween costume.

    Well, that’s what I thought when Mom showed me the Frankenstein mask I would be wearing that year when I was eight or nine years old. But I should have known better right from the start.

  • It’s October, when creatures of the night come calling

    It’s still several weeks until Halloween, and already the creatures of the night have come calling.

    Our first visitor last night was that toad — as big as a tennis ball — who likes to sit next to the screen door just outside the back door. He’s been showing up now and then just after sunset to sit in the same spot, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what he wants.

  • The appliance with something insistent to say

    My clothes dryer has become pretty opinionated lately.

  • An early morning walk out where the sidewalk ends

    I took a walk this morning out where the sidewalk ends.

    Ask any city kid how to get to the end of the sidewalk, and he will thumb his nose at you, because any city kid knows that the sidewalk has no end.