A Side of Beacon

An article about Einstein Simplified triggered my Google alert for my own name and a Twitter notification that the group’s handle had been mentioned. The story appeared in The Daily Beacon, the student newspaper at the University of Tennessee.

I can tell from the story that reporter Eric Gibson must have attended our show on Tuesday, January 6. He described a scene in which I played a patient at the ER. I remember the scene better than most because I recognized the voice of the audience member who suggested my quirk. It was my friend, retired Einstein Simplified member Todd Covert. The reporter must have interviewed Todd before the show.

“They started off … in a bar called Manhattan’s which was over in the Old City years ago,” Todd Covert, a retired troupe member, said. “There was a guy who came down here from Second City in Chicago who put an ad saying, ‘If you think you’re funny, come and audition.'”

“So they started the group and were always looking for members to come in.”

After watching one performance, Covert’s wife went up to troupe leader Paul Simmons and confessed that Covert was funnier than any of them. Simmons called him over to talk.

“I auditioned and joined the group, and I was in the group for 10 years,” Covert said.

The group is currently made up of eight regular members. Like other similar versions of improv comedy, they use games between the members, and sometimes the audience, to make people laugh.

One popular game audiences can expect is “Doctor’s Office,” where one member has to determine the ailments suggested by audience members. Frank Murphy, a troupe member as well as a local radio personality, was plagued by a condition that forced him to repeat every question he was asked, but in reverse.

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New Moon

Before taking a MoonPie, I asked the convenience store sales clerks twice to be sure. The treats were, in fact, free at the new Weigel’s in LaFollette during the grand opening celebration. I was interested in sampling a new flavor, Salted Caramel.

The free MoonPies were double-deckers, which made them all the more enticing. I liked the caramel color of the coating and had to keep myself from taking a bite before taking a photo.

 I could tell that my MoonPie was fresh by the softness of the cookies. They weren’t dry either. I tasted more caramel than salt, which was okay with me.

I could imagine warming a Salted Caramel MoonPie in the microwave and serving it with ice cream on top. It’s a great way to eat a MoonPie that I learned at the RC-MoonPie Festival in 2004.

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Glazer Pointer

The Weigel’s store in LaFollette sells a grilled cheese sandwich made with a glazed doughnut. I learned about the “Sweet Glazer” on their Facebook page as I was preparing to do a remote broadcast from the store.

When I got to the store, Roni offered to let me sample a Sweet Glazer. She said that they had started adding bacon or ham to the sandwich. I chose bacon.

She started by slicing a plain doughnut and placing the sliced side down. Roni applied some sugary glaze and put slices of cheese on what used to be the outside of the doughnut. She put bacon slices on top of the cheese.

Roni closed the sandwich and put it on the panini press. She applied glaze to the outside, which used to be the inside of the doughnut. It was ready in a few minutes.

I asked Roni to cut the Sweet Glazer into four pieces instead of two. It made it easier to eat and easier to share with my colleague Todd Roberts, who was there to assist me with the remote broadcast.

As we ate the Glazer, I told young Todd a story about the late Jermaine Stewart. One year, the pop singer was the headliner at Adams-Morgan Day in Washington. Don Geronimo, Mike O’Meara and I went to his trailer to meet him before the WAVA morning deejays would introduce him on stage. Stewart was not yet dressed for the show. An assistant delivered a Big Mac to him. I’ll never forget Stewart, clad only in briefs, looking at the Big Mac and saying, “That’s too big! Just give me half!”

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Booyah or Nah?

Because of everything else that happened in December, I almost forgot that my car window came off its track on Christmas Day while I was in the DC area. The same thing had happened to the driver’s side window last summer here in Knoxville.

The cost to get it repaired was prohibitive. Instead, I told the guys at the shop in Knoxville to close the window permanently and disconnect the switch.

Obviously, I couldn’t drive all the way home with the window slightly open. I found a repair shop near my son’s apartment in Maryland and had them permanently close the passenger’s side window.

While we waited for the car to be fixed, my son and I walked to a nearby discount store, where I was able to purchase some pfeffernüsse at post-Christmas prices. Elsewhere in the store, I saw a wall full of DVDs in the “buyouts” section.

 They had dozens and dozens of ESPN SportsCenter Year in Review 2006 discs. I can understand why nobody was buying them. I don’t know why the store was trying to sell the eight-year-old DVDs. Maybe they should have put a sticker on there to remind me that it was the year of George Mason’s Final Four appearance.

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Does Eat Oats

Starbucks has been offering me bonus stars for certain purchases. Every time I earn twelve stars, I get a free drink.

One of their recent offers promised two free stars with the purchase of a breakfast item. I often get their turkey bacon sandwich but I felt like having something else on Sunday.

 As I ordered an oatmeal, I asked the store manager if they could make mine with coffee instead of hot water. She thought about it for a second and said, “why not?”

It wasn’t my first time. I tried the tasty combination at a Pilot Travel Center almost five years ago.

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Car Pray Diem

Fr. Michael Woods delivered a presentation about the Home Campaign before each of the Masses at All Saints on Sunday. He chose to speak about the fundraising effort before Mass instead of talking about it during his homily. To stay on time, he cut a few hymns and used spoken parts of the Mass rather than the musical versions. As a result, the Mass ended earlier than it usually does.

My wife and I can relate to the theme of the Home Campaign. We participate in a lot of parish activities which makes All Saints feel like home. Fr. Michael is a good friend who is like a family member to us. He offered to show us the construction progress in the parish hall after Mass.

As we walked out of the building, I had no reservations about asking our friend, “Do you have a used car blessing?” Fr. Michael said, “Sure, let me get some water.” He ran back into the church and returned wearing a stole and carrying a bucket of holy water.

On Saturday evening, my wife and I had purchased a used car to replace the vehicle that hit a deer last month. I thought it was a good idea to ask for God’s blessing on Sunday morning. Fr. Michael led us in a prayer. He prayed for my wife and for those she might encounter on the road. He sprinkled holy water on both the inside and outside of the vehicle before dumping the remaining water on the roof.

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Not So Small Talk

“How were your holidays?”

I’ve heard the question many times in the past week now that people are returning to their normal routines. I want to give an honest answer without completely ruining the mood.

I generally respond, “We had some challenges but we had some nice times too.” Most people ask for more details.

I then explain that my wife’s mother passed away on Christmas Day but that we got to visit her in the final days. Depending on the situation, I may also explain that my mother-in-law was 90 years old and that my wife sang the Hallelujah Chorus to her mom within the hour of her death.

In other circumstances, I may be asked to explain why we had a rental car or why we were shopping for a used car. In that case, I explain about the deer that jumped in front of my wife’s car in Maryland and how the insurance company decided that the car was a total loss.

The people who ask are very gracious and supportive. As I’m describing all that happened, I think about two other difficult situations that cropped up in the past month but I stop myself from talking about those. They’ve heard enough for now.


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Faulty Seasoning

Before the Christmas season ends on Sunday, I dialed up some Christmas music on my WiFi clock radio. My wife and I heard some favorites and a few less familiar tunes tonight.

They played “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” which mentions the weather but not the holiday. The song reminded me of several secular songs that only get played during Advent. For example, the lyrics of “Winter Wonderland” sound more appropriate for Valentine’s Day song than for Christmas.

Almost all the songs about cold weather and snow would be more fitting during January and February than in December. As is the case with songs that are actually about Christmas, weather-related songs like “Sleigh Ride” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” disappear on December 26.

It always sounds weird to me when I hear songs such as “Summer Breeze” or “Summer in the City” during the winter months. The same goes for “School’s Out” and several others. I wonder why airplay of those songs isn’t restricted to June, July, and August.

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Green Hot Peppers

As a GMU alumni, I was happy to hear the latest good news about my alma mater.

The Green Machine, George Mason University’s pep band has been named the best in the nation by the NCAA. The band, under the direction of Doc Nix, is known for adding instruments and voices not usually found in a pep band or a marching band.

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Ready for Twenty Figteen

  When the sales clerk at Dollywood finished wrapping my purchase, it looked like a burrito or sub sandwich. In fact, it was a jar of Fig Spread. My wife spotted the product as I was reading the ingredients on a jar of fig preserves. We bought the one that did not contain high fructose corn syrup. It does contain white grape juice concentrate, figs, pectin, citric acid, and lemon juice concentrate.

 For Christmas, my wife gave me a jar of Aunt Berta’s Fig Preserves. Its ingredients are figs, sugar, pectin, citric acid, and elderberry. I’ve already started enjoying it.

 My wife and I stopped off at a Whole Foods Market in Northern Virginia on the day after Christmas. We needed to pick up a few things to bring to my mother’s house for dinner. I also bought something for myself, which I will probably save for Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a Mitica Fig Almond Cake.

 I also bought two Holiday Bixby Bars. The price was discounted after Christmas. Although they had two flavors available, I chose to get two of the Figgy bars, which have dark chocolate, sweet fig, walnut, and gingerbread spice. I’ll have to eat the candy bars before Lent begins on February 18.

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A Batman a Day

As of the sixth day of the new year, I have watched the first six episodes of Batman: The Complete Television Series on my smartphone. My family gave me the Blu-ray box set for Christmas even though we don’t have a Blu-ray player. The set came with a download code that lets me watch online.

 The quality of the video is great, as you can see in the screen capture from my phone. The audio sounds great too, although I usually don’t bother using my earbuds for best quality. It’s more convenient to set the phone on a counter while I make breakfast or get dressed.

As of now, the best way for me to watch the episodes is on my phone using the Flixster app. I had hoped to be able to watch them on my TV using the Sony SMP-N100 that I bought three years ago. The box allows me to watch several online video sources including Flixster’s movie trailers. However, it doesn’t let me log in to my Flixster account.

When I tried watching my collection via Flixster on my Chromebook, I got the following error message: “Your screen configuration does not support protected playback in HD. Playback has toggled to SD. For more information, please visit our FAQs or contact support for additional assistance.” I will have to research that another day.

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Bam Bambi

When the phone rings at 5:15 in the morning, it’s usually bad news. In fact, the first thing I said was “what’s wrong?” when my wife called me at 5:15 a.m. on December 16. She had hit a deer on a highway in Maryland. Fortunately she was not hurt.

My wife had traveled to the D.C. area to visit her ailing mother. She was getting an early start on her return trip to Knoxville when two deer ran in front of her car. She was able to avoid the first one but hit the second one.

The front of my wife’s car sustained significant damage. Our son drove to the scene to help unload my wife’s luggage and to give her a ride back to his place. The car was towed away.

The crash gave her a few extra days to spend with her mother, which turned out to be a blessing. My wife’s mother passed away on Christmas Day.

With the funeral and the holidays, we haven’t had much time to deal with the car situation. The insurance company decided that the cost of repairs would exceed the value of the car. Now we have to begin the process of shopping for an affordable used car.

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Light Years

The lighting display at the hardware store made me think. How many more times will I need to buy light bulbs?

Advances in technology have resulted in modern bulbs with a life expectancy of ten or twenty years. If they keep developing new light bulbs with longer and longer lives, at some point the bulbs will be expected to outlast me.

I can currently buy bulbs that will last into my seventies. When those burn out, I will probably be able to buy bulbs that will still shine after I’m 100.

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Holly Jolly Dolly

Today was the last day of the season at Dollywood. The theme park is now closed until March.

During the park’s Smoky Mountain Christmas festival, they featured characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the Reindeer Games area, I saw an employee dressed as an elf who was trying to drum up business at the ring-toss. I snapped a photo as the red ring was in the air.

I stopped outside the inflatable snow globe to get a look at the Sam the Snowman statue. I once spoke with Burl Ives by phone when I was a young, aggressive radio producer. Click below to hear my favorite part of the conversation.

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