Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things That Make Me Wonder On a Thanksgiving Morning

For more than a year, when I arose at 430 in the morning, I was thankful that there was a pale green plastic bag on my doorstep containing the San Jose Mercury News (the Merc) to help me began my day. About two months ago, it started arriving after 7, and I wondered why. When it did arrive I also wondered why it sometimes landed on the lawn or in the bushes.

At 455 on this Thanksgiving Day morning when I opened my front door there was the familiar pale green plastic bag but it looked far larger than any I had seen before. I lugged the hefty bag to the dining room table and unfurled its contents. There were two separate, rubber band encased sections; the first had nineteen separate items and the second had a mere fourteen. I meticulously searched through each and every item and to my dismay I couldn’t find the newspaper, only advertising inserts proclaiming the virtues of shopping early for fabulous Black Friday sales.

The earliest beat Black Friday opening was for three of what we used to call drug stores who were open all Thanksgiving day. I wondered why Walmart held off ruining Thanksgiving for its employees by waiting until 10 on Thanksgiving night when other more benevolent retailers waited until 4 AM Friday for their own “door buster” or “early bird” specials. By that time, it will be too late to rescue any of 43 million birds that will be devoured today across our great land.

The bulging insert don’t wait winners were jcpenney with one seventy-two page entry, tied with Macy’s with two inserts of 56 and 16 pages, Sears totaled 68 pages in two inserts, and Kohl’s added a 60-page one. As usual, all of Kohl’s models were wearing their forced smiles as they leaned to the left or the right. None was able to stand up straight and I wondered why. I also wondered why there wasn’t any model who was within fifty years of my age.

Since it definitely would not be me doing the shopping, I wondered who would be one of the estimated 152 million people hurrying off with inserts in hand in the middle of the night. These perhaps guilt-laden individuals would be in the forefront of the masses participating in the annual frenzy known as holiday shopping. The National Retail Federation is hoping that they at least spend the predicted $465.6 billion during the season to help retailers feel jolly.

At 755 AM, I saw the newspaper person pull up again in his beige Jeep and I met Dan and wondered why the paper started coming so late. At first he had to learn his new route with 500 customers who subscribe to either my hometown paper the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which I never read, or the Merc or to both.

Both newspapers are part of the same media group and the Merc is delivered from their plant about 40 miles to the north. When the Sentinel was acquired, the group disposed of all of their printing presses here. It is now printed by another of the group’s newspapers in Monterey, some 40 miles to the south and it is delivered to Dan nearly two hours later than before.

I don’t envy Dan and his early morning work but it’s better than not having any source of income. I doubt if he will be occupying anything in the early morning other than his Jeep early every day for as long as he can.

Wonder Who Is In Charge?

Along with advertising inserts, every Thursday the Merc has a section called “eye” which is labeled as their Entertainment Guide. In today’s 32-page “eye” dated November 24, 2011 there are advertisements for everything from musical shows, concerts, plays and movies coming up during the holiday season. A one-third page one that caught my eye was for a grill promoting several different events. On November 11 2011 they were presenting Rhythm District, the next day, November 12, there was wine tasting on the afternoon and a concert that night for Southern Rock with the Beach Cowboys, followed by Vegas Nights on November 19, 2011.

It is obvious that this advertisement ran much earlier this month and you might wonder was it someone at the grill or at the newspaper who forgot to withdraw the advertisement after the events were over.

The I’s Have Id

I doubt if it is the same person or persons who proofread an advertisement that once ran (or ran once) in national magazines in the 1970s with a headline that proclaimed that Chevrolet was the car for “Amerca.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Air Is Human

It’s A Lock

On November 17, the captain of a Delta flight to New York City accidentally locked himself in the bathroom. A passenger with an accent tried to alert the co-pilot in the cockpit, and the co-pilot panicked and radioed, “The captain has disappeared in the back, and I have someone in a thick foreign accent trying to access the cabin right now, and I’ve got to deal with this situation.” There are two ways to avoid such terrifying situations in the future. Pilots and co-pilots should be trained in how to avoid profiling people as potentially troublesome solely by their accents, unless the accents emanate from either New Yawkers or Texans. The airlines could also have port-a-potties installed in larger cockpits and have bedpans available in the cockpits of commuter planes. Then the word “cockpit” would be a more befitting name.

Fare Enough

Hundreds of passengers on a flight from India to Great Britain were stranded for six hours in Vienna when their charter service ran out of money and needed $31,000 to pay for the rest of the flight to Birmingham, England. A cabin crew member told them “We need some money to pay the fuel, to pay the airport to pay everything we need if you want get to Birmingham.” A collection was started and passengers who were cash-strapped hurried to the airport’s ATM machines. The flight continued after enough money was collected. This may be the beginning of an exciting new method of fund raising during a sour economy.

There's No Place Like It

With the holidays approaching and you might mull over these apropos lyrics found in John Howard Payne’s 1823 song “Home! Sweet Home.” The second significant line reads, “be it ever so humble,
there’s no place like home.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

A VW Convertible, an MGB Convertible, Sterling Hayden and I

At the end of our last entry, you were promised that in our next one we would tell you the story of what happened in 1964 when two red convertibles ended up parked side-by-side in a restaurant’s parking lot on the Connecticut Turnpike.

That year I went back to Newport, Rhode Island where I had worked the year before and I drove there in my 1964 red MGB roadster. When you travel alone and are open to whatever comes your way, you may encounter the unexpected whether that may be an unexpected occurrence or individual that for a short while makes the journey well worthwhile.

I stopped at a Howard Johnson-like restaurant on the Connecticut Turnpike for lunch, and when I was done, as I headed down the elongated steps to the parking lot, I saw a red VW convertible park next to my car and watched a familiar face get out and start walking up the stairs.

It was Sterling Hayden; sailor, actor, activist and author. His autobiography Wanderer had been published the year before, and his latest film was released in January 1964. His role was General Jack D. Ripper and the film’s complete title was also captivating to the imagination: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

He now stood one step down from me, and at 6’5” to my 5’10” we were almost on the same level when I greeted him with “Mr. Hayden, read the Wanderer and sorry that I didn’t arrive in the Bay Area until 1960. Would have loved to have sailed with you.” In 1959 he “kidnapped” his children and sailed off to Tahiti from Sausalito on the Wanderer.

Since I knew something about him from the book, we talked about his life as an adventurer and as an actor. I had seen “Dr. Strangelove” and we talked a bit about the absurdity of the then current and frigid Cold War situation where a mad man could accidentally set off an atomic bomb.

We talked about life and living and what a great adventure life was, and after thirty minutes I had to move on and so did he. He offered me his huge hand and we shook and I said, “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Mr. Hayden.”

Before he let go he asked, “And what is your name, young man?” I answered “Harvey Gotliffe.” We shook once more and he held on as he said, “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, too, Mr. Gotliffe,” and we parted. He headed up to the restaurant and I down to the parking lot where his red VW convertible sat next to my red MGB roadster.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney Was Our First Paid Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator Subscriber

Just after I launched the Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator in October 2004, I mailed out the 16-page Volume 1, Number 1 to relatives, friends, acquaintances and to people of consequence in the media. I had hoped that among those in the latter category, there might be some who would write about my latest venture and in doing so might help publicize and promote the publication.

A subscription solicitation box on the back cover offered the next four issues for $12 for “regular middle-class individuals in the U.S.” It would cost $16 for “companies and more affluent individuals in the U.S.,” and issues would be “free for those with limited income.” I received more requests for the latter “subscription,“ primarily from relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Soon after I received a business envelope with a CBS logo and address in the upper left-hand corner dated October 28, 2004 by U.S. Postage Meter #7112220. The cost then was 37¢. I knew that this could be a “lucky letter” since the meter contained the numbers “122” which was both my birth date (January 22) and the number I used when I raced sports cars in the 1960s.

My eye drifted back to the CBS corner and there in a steady pen and ink writing I saw the words “Andrew A. Rooney.” When I opened the envelope there was a two-paragraph letter, typed by Andrew himself and began “Dear Mr Gotliffe,” with no period after my designated title, and this was the letter that followed:

“I came close to pitching out your envelope containing The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator without looking at it. I get a ton of junk. I did look at it though, in part because The Practical Cogitator by Ferris Greenslet and Charles Curtis is my favorite book. You got me for half an hour – which is pretty good, considering my attention span. Where have you gone wrong in life – including leaving The Village (Ho-Ho-Kus) for Santa Cruz?

Although I don’t have confidence there will be four issues, am sending my Unlimited Income subscriber’s check for $16. Please dont (sic) send me a funny letter.


Andrew A. Rooney”

His hurried signature appeared to be “Andy Rooney” but I couldn’t say for sure.

To tell you the truth (as my wife prefaces some pronouncements), at the time I didn’t know if there would be four more issues either, however the latest issue was Volume 5, Number 1, the eighteenth.

Andrew A. Rooney was sent his four paid-for issues, and with each issue I duplicated his original letter and wrote a brief note while being extremely careful to respect his wishes and I refrained from writing anything funny on any of them. When his four-issue subscription expired, I solicited a renewal explaining, “according to my records this is the final one of the four in your subscription that you doubted would ever be published. I guarantee you four more with your subscription renewal.”

Andrew never responded to this one nor did I ever receive any more correspondence from him. That didn’t stop me from sending him every subsequent issue along with his original letter, and each contained a benign note written on it.

Among my verbal missiles through the years was one in September 2005 where I complimented him on a piece he did on Peter Jennings who had just died. When I sent him Volume 2, Number 4 in April 2008. I wrote “Ah ye of little faith, you have now received 8 ½ issues for the price of four. A funny letter would be acceptable.” In August 2009, along with Volume 4, Number 1, I wrote in green ink on his original letter “Issue Fourteen is enclosed, Andrew A. Rooney. Binders will soon be available to hold all issues. As you see on p. 12 — you are receiving it free — Best to you always.” The latter referred to the word “Free” on the back page that I had checked off for him in the subscription box.

On January 12, 2011, Volume 4, Number 4 was published and I sent it to him two days later along with what would be my last correspondence to him. “HAPPY 92 – Mr. Andrew A. Rooney. Consider your $16 sent more than six years ago a lifetime subscription, and here’s the seventeenth issue. Hope you will be receiving many more issues; after all I only turn 75 this month. Best to you.”

I never had the opportunity to send him the most recent printed issue and although he never responded to any mailings other than the first one, I would like to think that he read parts of some of them. I will always consider him my first and only lifetime subscriber. However, subscribers like subscriptions, have an expiration date and Andrew’s was November 4, 2011.

For free copies of the online version of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator, please send an email to If you are the first to reply, we will send you the next issue of Andy’s lifetime printed version that “is published regularly on an irregular basis.”

A VW Convertible, an MGB Roadster, Sterling Hayden and I

We would like to tell you the story of two red convertibles parked side-by-side at a rest stop on the Connecticut Turnpike in 1964 and the chance meeting with actor Sterling Hayden. But that’s next time.