Favorite Quotes from It’s a Wonderful Life

I recently watched a colorized version of this classic, and was amazed at how far the art has come. It didn’t resemble those Ted Turner monstrosities of the 1980’s. The skin tones were perfectly natural, and you could almost forget it wasn’t the original black and white.

Also, this time I used subtitles. It was cool to see dialogue that just hadn’t registered before. Like when Cousin Tilly looks at two dollar bills in a wire basket and says, “I wish they were rabbits.”

One last thought. The script was created by five people, including the director, Frank Capra. The story came from a Christmas card. How do you expand a super-short story into a two hour movie?

Somehow they did it, and very well. And now, the quotes.

And here comes the scare-baby, my kid brother, Harry Bailey.

You don't like coconuts! Say, brainless, don't you know where coconuts come from?


Avast, there, Captain Cook! Where you headin'?

Are you running a business or a charity ward?

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Now, look, Joe. Now, look, I . . . I want a big one.

Avast there, Captain Cook. You got your sea legs yet?


Oh, this old thing?  Why, I only wear it when I don't care how I look.

Annie, I'm in love with you. There's a moon out tonight.

Maybe you were born older, George.

Oh, why don't you stop annoying people?

What's the matter, Othello – jealous?


What'd you wish when you threw that rock?

Well, I wired you I had a surprise. Here she is. Meet the wife.

All right, Mother, old Building and Loan pal, I think I'll go out and find a girl and do a little 
passionate necking.

Hee-haw! Hello, Sam, how are you?

By the way, where are you two going on this here now honeymoon?


Joe, you lived in one of his houses, didn't you? Well, have you forgotten? Have you forgotten 
what he charged you for that broken-down shack?

Who wants to see liver pills on their honeymoon? What? They want romantic places, 
beautiful places... places George wants to go.

I own the house. Me, Giuseppe Martini. I own my own house. No more we live like pigs in 
this-a Potter's Field.


That old George . . . he's always making a speech.  Hee-haw!

There's the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. 
Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned 
by suckers who used to pay rent to you. 

So long, George. See you in the funny papers. 

(To be continued.)

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A Million Books

“Books are heavy things,” author James Herriot once wrote. And he should know, having schlepped 24 of them to a streetcar in downtown Leeds. But if you’ve ever tried to pare down your collection of books, you’ll know this to be true. Yesterday, I gathered all my books, one million of them (more or less) into a pile on my living room floor.

Soon, I was sweating.

It’s all part of my scheme to magically change my life using the KonMari system. You do it in stages. First, clothing. (Check.) Second, books. I was told to lift each book, sometimes wiping away years of dust, to see if each sparked joy. I did cheat a bit. I touched each book, but instead of waiting for Joy or No Joy, I quickly made a decision based on the title. My speed was incredible.


Three piles quickly formed. One for Goodwill. One for the community bookshelf where I work. And one for keeping. The Goodwill stack was by far the largest. The second largest was the co-worker pile, and here I was judicious. For them I wanted only the best, books that I thoroughly enjoyed but knew I’d never read again. And the small pile by my coffee table? Keepers that I knew I would read again, and just kind of grabbed me somehow.

Was it joy? I’m not sure. But I couldn’t part with them.

So I plugged away, making a few discoveries as I went. Surprises. I found things in the pages that made me gasp or sit up straighter.

Lots of old bookmarks. Where did I get them all? Concert ticket stubs from years past. A photograph of two young children, circa 1984. Some of the books had things written on them, on the first blank page where an author would sign. My friend Sally inscribed one of her books for me, back in 2015.


At the end, I boxed and bagged the donations and took a picture of what remained. I felt good. Lighter, cleaner, somewhat joyful. It was nice to put those books back on the shelf, the official ‘spark joy’ shelf. What were they?




I won’t present you with my whole list. Just to say that my favorite authors are well represented: James Herriot and Bill Bryson. Plus my favorite writing book writer, William Zinsser. And some odds and ends; a large edition of Alaskan wildlife, a present from my brother. The Complete Hitch Hiker, bought in 1973 when I was doing a lot of that. A collection of Herblock editorial cartoons. The guy was a genius; he drew Nixon, Ford and Carter hundreds of times. Many are relevant today.

So now, books are done. Next month, papers. Oh Joy.



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Blue Jay Yay

If anyone were to inquire about my favorite bird, I have an answer ready. The Blue Jay. It’s a beautiful bird, makes a variety of sounds, and has a feisty reputation. I love a bird with personality.

I lived in Lexington, Mass from the ages of five to twelve. Our two story house was surrounded by lush oak trees, producing lots of acorns the jays and squirrels would fight over. Outside the kitchen window was a large deck, and the Blue Jays would often perch on a nearby branch or the deck railing. I liked watching them. Perhaps the previous owners fed the birds, and the jays were patiently waiting for a handout.


All we ever tossed them was bread. It turns out that’s not the right food for birds.

Here in central New Hampshire, if I’m walking under a stand of trees and hear the jays’ unmistakable calls, I’ll look up. But I won’t see anything. They’re just too far away. If I do catch a glimpse, it’s a shadowy thing at the very top of a tree, way way up. Kind of frustrating. Not like the Lexington days at all.

Once again, it’s YouTube to the rescue. (Is there anything that site doesn’t have?) A nice woman named Lesley has created a years-long series of bird videos, many featuring the striking Blue Jay. She calls herself the Bird Nerd, but that’s not accurate. She’s more of a bird enthusiast.


Lesley lives on the western coast of Labrador, and each day she fills her backpack with birdseed and peanuts, and tramps into the nearby woods. There she finds the feathered friends she’s made over the years.. Many have names, and she can tell them apart from long practice. Although she takes a tripod along, many videos consist only of her outstretched hand filled with treats, while her other hand holds the camera. The birds do the rest.

My Crazy Blue Jays in 4K

I can’t imagine how it would feel to have these familiar Blue Jays flying up to you: Blue, Sweet Girl, Feisty Jay, Abbey, or Hermoso, grabbing a peanut, and then flying off again. Up close and personal. Some of the smaller birds, like nuthatches, even try to hide seeds in her coat, as if knowing she’ll be back, and they can count on her to keep their seeds safe.


I mean, look at these guys.

Lesley herself muses on this, wondering how these little guys have come to trust the ‘friendly giant’ who offers them food each day. She has a wonderful Canadian accent, full of ‘oots’ and ‘aboots’, and does her Marlin Perkins type narration with clarity and style. Her dedication makes me want to retire, fill my backpack with seeds (and not bread), and go out and about myself.


Will it happen? I dunno. Not many birds in my area, so I’d have to travel. And it’s likely I wouldn’t see a moose or a fox, although Lesley spots them often.

But I want to see Blue Jays, man. Not on a screen, not in a boat, not with a goat. Just right there, in living color. Blue Jay? Yay.

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Juno, What Are You Doing To Me?

Remember 1999? Email seemed like a miracle. Sending messages around the country, around the world! And no stamps needed – it was free. I loved email then and I love it now. But there’s one thing email has that I don’t love. All together now: Spam.

I opened my email account with Juno on a warm summer day around 20 years ago. It didn’t cost a cent. They were happy to have me, and I tolerated their ads, which were scarce. How did they make money? I don’t know. But they never bothered me that much. A match made in heaven.

There were only a few spams in the beginning, and that number grew with time. A few years in, even those spams started to decrease, and almost came to a complete stop for many years. Well done, Juno.


Then, about a year ago, it’s like they turned a switch. Imagine a huge lever that swings from NO SPAM to SPAM, and imagine someone at Juno giving the order: “Open the floodgates!” From that point on, it’s been a constant torrent of spam, far outnumbering actual, real email. It’s a chore to sort through this mess every day, and not only on my computer, but my phone too.

What gives, Juno?

Spam today is as ridiculous as ever. For example, the saga of Kelly Ripa. Kelly is doing just fine, as far as I know, doing her talk show and exploring her Italian heritage. All is well in Kelly Ripa land. I’m happy for her.

But the email subject line says differently.  “Breaking NEWS: We Say Goodbye to Beautiful Kelly Rippa.”

Oh no! I opened this obvious spam out of curiosity, to be greeted by her excited, smiling face and an improbable black eye. Also included was a short blurb about her ‘storming off’ the set of her talk show. So, she’s not dead but evidently someone gave her a shiner, which made her storm away from her show with a happy smile. Good grief.


I have deleted this particular piece of nonsense at least 15 times, always taking care to Block Sender. Yeah, block sender. A fat lot of good that does. Whoever is sending these things just changes up the email address every time before unleashing new rounds to me and countless others.

Oh yes, and those Russian Babes. Looks like 30,000 of them are dying to meet me. Delete, delete, delete.


So why am I getting these? Why, Juno? Juno had a first rate spam filter for many years, which now seems not to exist. I’ve gone into my own settings several times, and there’s really not much I can do there. It seems Juno might have actually removed some tools that I once used to keep the junk out. My Block Sender list is there, and I can always add to it, but what’s the point?

So I ask again. Juno, what are you doing to me? I want my Inbox back, looking more or less the way it did in 2003. Spam spam spam…free.


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Nice and Neat

As far as keeping my apartment straight and organized, I think I do better than most. I’m about 85 percent Felix and 15 percent Oscar. A random pile of newspapers, a coat slung over a kitchen chair, a bed that might not get made. Otherwise I’m okay with my level of order.

Which is why I surprised myself for selecting an unusual (for me) book, about tidying. I had heard of the author, Marie Kondo, and her bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Once I got into it, I was charmed by her direct and refreshing take on this mundane (for most of us) task.

Woman with a full closet

I wasn’t always nice and neat. As a kid I shared a bedroom with my older brother, and we were both pretty messy. One day I was told to clean, and I really put my heart into it. An old fashioned floor lamp had a rat’s nest of stuff all around it; when I was done I could see the floor again. Very satisfying.

Later, working in restaurants, I found out the meaning of clean. There was no mess at the end of the night because there couldn’t be. All countertops cleaned, food put away, floors swept and mopped. One supervisor actually pulled out each work table (they were on wheels) to check the floor for crumbs. I always passed inspection.

In the Coast Guard, I learned about ‘gear adrift’. You couldn’t leave a towel lying around, because it could drift into and clog a water pump. Then the ship would sink, killing all aboard. I can still hear the barrel-chested drill instructor: “You don’t want that to happen, do you? DO YOU? No gear adrift!”

Fast forward to today. I came across Marie’s book and wondered about the life changing-part. And the magic part. I’m always up for changing, enhancing or revolutionizing my life. So I educated myself in the KonMari method (her word).


Step one is to gather up all your clothes in one spot, then hold them one by one to see if they ‘spark joy’. If yes, back in the closet or dresser they go. If no, bag them for donation or the Dumpster. Simple enough, although it sound exhausting. The key is to do it all at once, that means everything, but in a certain order. Personal mementos, such as photos, go last because they are the hardest to toss out.

Marie has a few strange customs, such as kneeling in the center of each client’s house to commune with it, as if visiting a Japanese shrine. She likes to fold clothes so they stand on end and you can see every tee shirt you own, for example. The trouble is I know one way to fold, and I’d need to learn her convoluted six-step folding pattern to accomplish this.



Also, and I’m being serious, she says we should treat our possessions as living things, and thank them for the service they provide us. “Thank you, sweater, for keeping me warm today. Good job!” Charming. What the hell, maybe we should.

Eccentricities aside, I plan to implement the KonMari system in my own place, and let the life-changing magic commence.

Just not today. Someday. Although, as Marie says, “Someday means never.”

Darn, she has me there.



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Radio Radio

It’s a remarkable invention, one that I’ve taken entirely for granted all my life. It’s always there, in the corner, on a kitchen counter, in my car. The radio: reproducing sounds, music and the human voice.

In my early years, radio songs would float around, those such as “Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer,” or maybe “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.” This would be the early sixties. It was tame, safe, took no chances. I didn’t know rock and roll existed.


I want to say 1967 is when everything changed. We had discovered WRKO in Boston, who played the top forty all day, every day. A lot of Motown, some Beatles, some Doors, some bubble gum. A nice variety. Funny disc jockeys who talked a mile a minute and pushed the envelope, such as the great Dale Dorman.

The trouble with WRKO, though, is that it was/is an AM station, and we all know FM is better. WBZ-FM came in on my bedroom radio, even though it was 100 miles from Boston. For the first time I was hearing not only top forty, but deep album cuts, with NO COMMERCIALS. Once in a while, a cool DJ like Clark or Captain Ken would inject some humor, and that was it. Pure simplicity, and I loved it.

At work, after school in a family restaurant, our food-encrusted radio would pull in WBLM from Maine. Now we’re talking! Deep, deep album cuts, a vast array of unusual artists (hello, Frank Zappa), and not even a nod to the top forty. Commercials, yes, but they were funny and home-grown. It was hard to drag ourselves to the kitchen when “Lucky Man” or some other classic came on.


Time marched on. I graduated high school, took a few years off, and joined the military, ending up in Boston. WRKO was still there, but seemed like an antique piece by then. WBCN on FM was the way to go, with great DJ’s (including Captain Ken) and the best music I’ve ever heard. Pink Floyd, the B-52’s, the Pretenders, and a tsunami of ‘new wave’ musicians.

As the 80’s went by, things changed. I got married. The music got weirder, not better. There was less to listen to, and more to watch (videos on MTV). Bands discovered hair and makeup, costumes and smoke machines. I yawned and dialed in talk radio. I am not proud of this. Some of these people were right wing nutcases and are still poisoning the airwaves to this day.

I can see why people listened, then and now, but I broke free and never looked back.

In the mid-nineties, I made a new and lifelong friend, public radio. Here in New Hampshire, it’s WEVO in Concord, just down the street. News you can trust. Opinions of all sorts. Game shows and Car Talk on weekends. I miss Car Talk. “Don’t drive like my brother.”

default dreamstime_car_radio

WSPS is the station from St. Paul’s School, a prep school with a computer run playlist. I assume humans choose the songs, though, and they’re good. You’ll hear everything from Bluegrass to World Rhythms to Blues, with hardly a peep from a DJ. Like a song but have no idea who it is? Just check the webpage. This is how I found Varttina and others, a gold mine of new music.

As I drive around the state, I sample other stations, but usually stick to the two last mentioned. I still love FM radio, satellite not so much. And the music? “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” still comes on sometimes, but it’s not Andy Williams. It’s the English Beat.


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Gentle Giant Lives

I was tooling around on U Tube a while back, and came across an amazing video. Some teens (and their teacher) took it upon themselves to learn a Gentle Giant song. Then they recorded it, filmed it and had fun with it. Last I checked, there were 500 comments and 96,500 views. Have a listen.

Just the Same – A cover by students at Eskilstuna Musikskola (Sweden)

What is remarkable is that they picked a hard song, slowed it down a bit, but did it well. The video seemed to strike a cord with GG fans in particular. Most of us had thought we were the only ones, and that all interest in our beloved band was officially dead. It’s as if a little-played Mozart composition had been found 40 years after his death and given new life.




The whole thing got me thinking about the band, and the music I listened to as a kid. My friends and I didn’t call this music ‘progressive’, it was more like “good tunes”, or “stuff you don’t hear on the radio.” We liked it though, in varying degrees.

Gentle Giant first came to my attention at age 16, when my friend Ray bought their album, The Power and the Glory. He thought it was okay, but hated the second song, “So Sincere”. I loved it. It was so different. He gave me the album, I took it home and almost wore out the grooves. See what you think.

So Sincere – Gentle Giant

It was one of those cool concept albums. A despotic king (based on Richard Nixon) is going mad and alienating his subjects. The people hope for something/someone better (“Aspirations”) but it’s not to be. Nope, no comparisons to 2018, none at all.


There were a few good ones after that. Free Hand (which includes “Just the Same”) and Interview were both excellent. But then the band, which began in 1970, began to submit to pressures from within and without to release something more “commercial.” That didn’t work, and they officially wrapped things up in 1980.

Some diamonds from their early days still get attention. Their second album, aptly named Acquiring the Taste, now sits atop my phone’s library. This tune is inhabiting my brain at the moment – I can’t imagine why. Close to Halloween?

The House the Street the Room – Gentle Giant

That sums up my Gentle Giant experience. Perhaps there will be future concerts of their work by a full symphony orchestra. Or maybe their cover band, Three Friends, will tour North America. Or a high school band will post another video. Whatever keeps the music alive.

Three Friends – Gentle Giant. You might want headphones for this.



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