Birth of the Sandwich

“HELLO THE HOUSE,” shouted the Earl of Sandwich. After the cottage door opened, he rode his his Percheron mount into the house and then thundered: “I’M HUNGRY!”

“Yes M’lord,” replied the wife. Turning, she kneaded a ball of sourdough until it was flat. Then she placed it on a flat rock lying on the hearth to and waited for it to bake. When it was done she covered it with scraps bird flesh and whey curds. Then she rolled it like a jelly roll.

‘I WANT IT ON A PLATE,” roared the knight.

“We have no plates, M’lord. You took them for taxes owed during you last visit,” said the wife.

“oh,” replied the knight, taking what she offered. “Wow! This is good. What is it?”

“We call it a sandwich,” the husband replied.

My Name Was On the List

This morning, while putting my groceries in the pickup a man near my age who also could have used a haircut and a beard trim pushed his cart nearby and began loading his groceries. On the strap on the back of his cap were the words “Navy Retired”.

“Have you visited the carrier tied up at Corpus Christie?” I called to him.

“Yes, I have,” he replied. pausing as though he expected me to say more. And I did.

“I was in the air force, After visiting that carrier I came away thinking I might have missed something,” I added.

“You did. I was a submariner,” he said.

We shook and went our separate ways. But our conversation lingered. I remembered Al Ricci, a friend I’d met in a late-night coffee shop a decade ago. Al had been a submariner. After World War II he earned an aeronautical engineering degree and retired from Northrup.

Al was older than me, perhaps by 20 years though he did not look or act it. We met often and when weather conditions permitted, we sometimes sat at an outside table at a Carl Jr.

Then one evening a stranger rang me on the phone. He said he was Al Ricci’s son. “My dad passed away, you know,” he said.

“No! I didn’t know!”

We didn’t talk long, but before we ended our conversation he said: “While going through my dad’s things I came across a book on when the words “important people” was written. Your name number was included in the list.”

Counter-Steering A Bicycle

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Most people don’t realize they’ve been counter-steering a bicycle – pushing the left handlebar forward to go right and the right one to go left. The phenomenon is caused by the rotation of the wheel that reacts to that force by turning the opposite direction. It is more pronounced as the revolutions increase. Having bought my first bicycle in 1946 and riding it hundreds, if no thousands of miles, I first became aware of this phenomenon until I bought my first motorcycle in 1957 when I was 20 years old. If you think I’m spoofing you, try it.

This month, July 2019, I took delivery of Raleigh Tristar Tricycle. The purpose for the trike is to make it mobile radio trike so I can live up to the standards of the Bicycle Mobile Hams of America. I was challenged with the assembly (one would never dream I worked two decades as a line mechanic).

When it was ready I took it for a spin and promptly drive into a fence. Not once, twice. That was when I recalled the counter-steering phenomenon. Unlearning something so deeply embedded is a tall order. To accomplish this I must say the word aloud, “turn”. It’s working. But I still must stay out of traffic until it has become a habit.

A Canterbury Pilgrimage

 

About 25 years ago I discovered a rare book published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1885. It described a  journey taken by tandem bicycle during that year.

I found the book quite by chance in the rare book section at the Knight Library, University of Oregon. I was not allowed to take it from the section, so I took extensive notes. Much to my delight, I unearthed these notes this morning.

Elizabeth Robin Pennell, author, and Joseph Pennell, Illustrator, Bostonians, both, celebrated their honeymoon pedaling a tandem from Ye Old Tavern, London to Canterbury. They followed the path of Chaucer’s Pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, at least as best they could manage. They were disappointed that some the route had changed during the passage of 500 years.

At one point, while ascending a long, difficult grade and being passed up by mule-drawn wagons and surly drivers, Joseph accused Elizabeth of backpedaling.

My bride and I owned three tandem bicycles in younger years and we remember the old adage: Wherever a relationship is going, it will arrive at the destination more quickly on a tandem  bicycle.

This book was so well crafted I was able to experience Elizabeth’s agony.

 

The Blue Heron

Barb and I set out on our Tandem Two’sDay bicycle before sunrise one June morning of 1989. Our goal was to enjoy ham and eggs and a biscuit at a cafe 14 miles from home.

Not yet in the groove, as it were, we were both deep in thought rather than conversation. We’d traveled about four miles when we came upon a blue heron feeding in a roadside stream. He failed to notice us until we were about ten years away.

Unfortunately, the vegetation made his escape difficult. But he soon made enough room for his wing span and beat a hasty retreat across a grassy meadow, croaking like a frog.

And we had something to discuss.

The Furlough

by Scott B. Laughlin

Copyright 1996

Most young men seem willing to go

Right to the line howbeit they know

‘Twas no different for Marv and me

Adventure was for both I and he

It began in the spring of fifty-eight

That we took leave on the same date

And set out for a Missouri farm

Practicing curiosity and charm

Our furlough sped past in a great flash

As did most of our borrowed cash

A week later we met in Rich Hill

With between us a five-dollar bill

We wiped the tears of our Maids’ dread

Then toward Carolina we both sped

If late returning to base we were

Trouble for us would surely occur

But we signed in just in time

With but a penny and one thin dime.

Word Power

In a novel I’m reading two young British men travel to Spain in 1937 to help win World War II. Condition are poor and they both often go without basic needs. Hardly a page passed but what one doesn’t suggest having a cup of tea. The other agrees and suggests two lumps of sugar, or “I’ll get the spoons.” Of course there is no tea, nor is there any sugar or spoons.

When the older one returns to London he uses the key to his parent’s house and let himself in. His father weeps with joy at seeing him. When his mother comes down from upstairs she says: “Son, you’ve lost so much weight. You must be starving. I’ll fix you something.” “Mum. I’ve been starving for a year. A few more minutes won’t matter. I would rather have a cup of tea.”

I didn’t anticipate the last statement. I put the book down and brewed myself a cup of tea. It has never tasted better.

What About the Question Mark?

My wife and I read a chapter in the New Testament every morning. Well, actually, we have it on iPad. We listen and follow along. This was how I noticed the first letter of the first word following a question mark is always lower case. At least I haven’t found one that wasn’t. In the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal. But I wondered what kind of rules were scholarly people were following?

I’ve asked a number of folks claiming to have earned English degrees. No one provided a satisfactory answer.

Last winter while poking around our local library I came across a book that provided an answer. The correct answer? I can’t be sure because the event in question occurred more than 700 years ago. Everything is hearsay, kind of.

Apparently, before Aldus Manutius, a Venetian editor, arrived on the scene manuscripts had little punctuation, if any at all. The written word must have resembled Jack Kerouac’s initial draft of On the Road: one word after the other until it was finished. The translation of the New Testament may have been what set the project in motion.

When he was finished, Aldus Manutius offered four punctuation characters: colon, semi colon, comma, and period. The question mark was not addressed. Therefore, the first letter of the first word following a question mark did not warrant an uppercase, as it does today.