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Code Blur

 

            When a store detective tried to arrest my pal Sam Goldfarb for shoplifting, the guy had no idea that within an hour the FBI, the CIA, the White House, and the national news media would get involved in the case.
            Sam is a member of the our Maridos Club, a social organization for people whose spouses drag them to the mall all the time.
            As he plods through the department stores behind his wife Molly, Sam keeps his eyes open for interesting displays that the department store decorators prepare.              Decorators at our mall create displays with stuff they find in flea markets, second hand stores and yard sales.
           There are 1930-era gadgets, home appliances from the 1950s, and stacks of books with titles like, “The Economic Impact of Disk Plow Technology on Rural Platt County Kansas 1874-1876.”    The decorators arrange these treasures with swatches of fabric  or set them beside  sheaves of wheat  and  vases of pussy willow.
            While your spouse is trying on clothes, you can contemplate a gadget or  pick up a book from one of the displays and improve your mind.
            On the day of the incident, Sam and Molly Goldfarb were in Blevins Department store in the mall.  Molly was trying on clothes. While he waited, Sam wandered over to a pile of junk that the store decorator had artfully intertwined with some plastic bougainvillea.
            There was a beat-up electric iron, a telephone circa. 1937, and a gadget that looked like an old fashioned adding machine.  The device was about half the size of a shoe box and was sitting in a black metal case. On the top of the machine were rows of typewriter keys with strange symbols on them.
            “Sweet Matilda,” cried Sam when he examined the apparatus.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  Lying there in plain sight was the top secret World War II Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.
            Sam recognized the device immediately.  In 1943, Sam, then a bright young Air Force  first lieutenant with a Ph.D. in physics, was assigned to work with Weird Wendell Montcleef, the inventor of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.
            Moncleef, who was Sam’s age, was a hotshot young professor at the University of Chicago before World War II.  He left academe for the corporate world, an during his stay with corporate America, Weird Wendell developed a prototype of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.   Then, before he got the thing working, Weird Wendell abandoned the project, quit the corporation, and moved to Kansas City to play in a jazz band.
            A couple of years after the war started someone in Washington—rumor had it that it was President Roosevelt himself—appealed to Weird Wendell’s patriotic nature, and convinced him to get back to work on the Codemaster device.  The Codemaster when it was perfected, was supposed to be able to encode, decode, slice, dice, fold, staple and spindle any message you threw at it.
Weird Wendall toyed with the government for months and months. He kept telling them he was days away from perfecting the Codemaster.  Then he’d say there was a snag.  Finally the government dispatched Lt. Sam Goldfarb to work with Wendell, and spy on him.  Weird Wendell knew that Sam was a government spy, but he thought, egotistically, that he could fool Sam as well as the government.
Meantime, Weird Wendell, a bachelor, got involved with Ernestine Duval, a Kansas City jazz singer of great beauty and charm.  Ernestine Duval was really Feda Von Gubler, one of Germany’s top undercover agents.
Soon after he began working with Weird Wendell, Sam Goldfarb discovered that the Codemaster would never work  Sam realized that  Weird Wendell had perpetrated on everyone.  Sam sent a detailed report to his superiors.  Two days later the government shipped Sam off to a remote weather station in Greenland where he spent the rest of the war.
A few weeks after Sam Goldfarb was banished to Greenland, Weird Wendell let it slip to Ernestine/Freda, his German spy lover, that the Codemaster was operative and was being deployed to all Allied commands.  That sent the Germans and the Japanese into a code-changing frenzy which fouled up their communications systems for weeks and hampered their ability to react to crucial Allied military initiatives.
Weird Wendell and his Codemaster device were a small, but significant footnote to the war effort.  The prototype of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster that Weird Wendell used to fool U.S. government bureaucrats and, through Ernestine/Freda the German high command, was placed in top secret storage at a site near Kansas City.
Somehow, decades later, it turned up at a local flea market where a decorator from Blevins Department Store bought it and put it on display, surrounded by fake bougainvillea.
And that’s where Sam Goldfarb saw the device for the first time since the just before he was shipped off to Greenland during World War II.  When Sam saw the Codemaster  sitting there, he reacted instinctively and somewhat irrationally.  He grabbed  the machine, stuffed it into a shopping bag and covered it with a couple of blouses that Molly had just bought.  Then he hustled Molly out of the store and out of the mall.
A mall security man stopped Sam and asked him to open the bag.  Sam smacked the guy in the jaw, and ran.  Sam made it to his car and burned rubber out of the parking lot.  He led police on a merry chase through the neighborhood until they ran him into a cul de sac.
 When he saw he was trapped, Sam jumped out of his car, and, holding the Moncleef Crtographic Codemaster above his head,  threatened to blow the neighborhood to smithereens.  Then he jumped back into his car and slammed the door.
At that point the whole thing turned into a made for TV movie scene: police cars, helicopters, bullhorns.  The media from all over the area were giving feeds to national networks.
            Sam’s  cell phone rang.  He demanded to talk to the President.
            A few minutes later Sam’s cell phone rang again, and a familiar drawl said, “Hello Sam. This is the President.  Is it all right if I call you Sam?”
          “Yes, Mr. President,” said Sam.
         “Good. Now, Sam, what can we do for you?”
        “I want the government to apologize for shipping me off to Greenland to freeze my buns off for three years for just trying to do my job during World War II.”
        “Tell me about it, Sam,” said the President, “I’ll try to help.”
         Sam told him the whole story.
        A few minutes later the phone rang in the office of a gray-haired spymaster at the Central Intelligence Agency.
       “Wendell,” said the President, “We’ve got a situation.”
       “Tell me about it, Mr. President,” said Weird Wendell Moncleef,  director the
O.O.O., the CIA’s super secret Office of Oddball  Operations.
            The government opted for what is known as a modified hang out—a damage control initiative perfected by the CIA.
            That night the network news shows carried the story of a heroic World War II veteran who risked his life to save his fellow shoppers from a booby-trapped World War II device that had somehow turned up on display at a local department store. Print journalists crawled all over the story the next day, but the government’s version held up long enough for the next “barn burner news event” to show up on the media radar screen. After three days the Codemaster incident was old news even in Kansas City.
       Sam and Molly can shop at the mall again without being approached for autographs.
-30-
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.
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Bound For Buenos Aires, Part II

Hello, All!!

Here is the long awaited second installment of last month’s story of  trolling through the high seas. Enjoy the next part of “Bound For Buenos Aires”.

We sailed that afternoon.  As we got out of the Gulf of Mexico and into the Caribbean the sea got rough.  The Caribbean wasn’t as “smooth as glass,”  as my Dad had experienced.  It was rolling and pitching.  The captain said, “I’ve never seen this part of the Caribbean so rough.  Chris said, “That’s because I’m on board.

Passengers ate in the dining room with the crew. There were eight passengers on our freighter:  Chris and me—the young marrieds; a mother and her late teen daughter; a Brazilian couple bound for their home in Santos; a pair of  American Catholic priests,  bound for Rio de Janeiro to spend the rest of their lives in in church service in Brazil.  One priest was in his fifties, the other in his late twenties.  The younger one, like Chris, didn’t have “sea legs.”  He said that he belonged to the “Railroad Irish,” who didn’t respond well to travel on water.  The young priest and Chris didn’t come up on deck much during that Caribbean crossing, and neither came to meals in the dining room.  The captain told me to tell Chris to limit liquid intake and to eat hard rolls.  I took hard rolls to our cabin for Chris after every meal.  Somewhere off the northwest coast of South America the sea became calmer and both Chris and the young priest got feeling better.

Dr. Larry Day is a former potato picker, reporter, copy editor, foreign corr., Fulbright lecturer, coach of journalists on 3 continents, author & now, he’s an ol humor writer. You can pick up his latest book of short stories, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia on Amazon.com

 

 

 

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Kaybe’s Trick or Treat©

Hello,

If you are looking for my November column, this is it. Yes, I am celebrating Halloween in November!! Move over Tom Turkey!! I write for The Kaw Valley Senior Monthly and it just so happens that with printing and mailing schedules, this month’s column landed on doorsteps and in inboxes on Halloween!! It was only fitting I write a spook-tacular piece so goofy it lasts ’til Thanksgiving.Enjoy!!

Early one Halloween night I was nursing a soft drink in a back booth at The Enchantment.  That’s a dingy roadhouse north of here. I was on my second bottle of pop when Kaybe rolled up.

KB 11.2 (Kaybe for short) is my alien friend from outer space.  He  looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set arms sprout from the curved sides of his body. Three spindly legs drop from the flat underside of his stainless steel torso.  He has ball bearing wheels for feet, and three sensor-eyes wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top of his lid.  Kaybe eats drinks and communicates telepathically.

No one at the Enchantment even looks up when Kaybe rolls in.  If fact, some of the patrons, including Harry the Hulk and his diminutive pal Miniature Mike, are also aliens from outer space.   So is the waitress, Four Finger Fanny.

Kaybe gave me a telepathic “hi,” and joined me.

“Kaybe, where’ve you been?” I asked.

“Doing some business in a galaxy far away.”

“Well I’m glad you’re  back.  Let me buy you a drink. Fanny, please bring Kaybe a Sarsaparilla.”

Just then four costumed customers walked in and sat down at a booth near us.  There was a green-faced witch wearing a pointy black hat; a short, potbellied Frankenstein monster with a realistic looking bolt in his neck; a realistic looking Chewbacca, and an aging Princess Leia.

With all three eyes, Kaybe  stared at the newcomers.

“What galaxy are they from?” he asked.

“Those are earthlings,” I said. “It’s Halloween. Those folks are just wearing costumes.”

“Is it some kind of holiday?”  Kaybe  asked.

“Yes.  It used to be called “All Hallows Eve,” and was started to honor the dead.  Nowadays children dress up in costumes and go door to door saying  ‘Trick or Treat’ and hold out sacks.  People give them candy. After people put candy in their sacks, the kids run to the next house.  They go all over the neighborhood gathering sacks full of candy.”

“The folks in that booth over there look pretty old to do trick or treat,” said Kaybe.

“Halloween has evolved, and now adults celebrate Halloween too. They put on costumes and go to parties, or out to bars and restaurants.

“WOW!”  said  Kaybe.  The words appeared  telepathically in capital letters in my head. “That sounds like fun.  I’ve always wanted to go around town and see the sights, but the way I look I’d cause a fuss.  Tonight   I can roll around and no one will think anything about it.”

“Hey guys,”   Kaybe communicated telepathically with Harry the Hulk and Miniature Mike and three strange-looking aliens in the bar. “Let’s go trick or treating.”

“Will you be our guide?”  Kaybe asked.

“Of course.  Parents take their kids trick or treating. The parents stand out on the sidewalk while the kids go up to the doors.”

“You want to go trick or treating, Fanny?”  called Miniature Mike.

“No,” she called back.  “I’m still on duty.  Beside my feet hurt.  But you can take my truck.”  Fanny tossed me the keys.  “It’s the old blue pickup in the back corner of the parking lot.”

I boosted Kaybe into the passenger seat, and the others jumped in the back of the truck.  I drove by a supermarket and picked up trick or treat sacks for everyone.  When we got there, my neighborhood was awash with goblins, ghosts and phantoms.

My alien friends were  shy at first, but Kaybe encouraged them.

“Come on guys. This will be fun.”

At the first house, I stood out on the sidewalk.   Harry the Hulk put Miniature Mike on his shoulders and marched up and rang the bell. Kaybe and the other aliens crowded on the steps behind him.

A woman came to the door.

“Trick or treat,”  said Harry the Hulk.

“Wait just a minute,” said the woman.  “George,” she yelled, You’ve  got to see this. These are the best costumes I’ve seen all night.”   -30-

Dr. Larry Day is a retired foreign correspondent and KU J-School professor. He is now the author of countless short stories and the author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia. http://www.daydreaming.co

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Don’t Move

Hello, All,
 As promised, I’ve decided to share some adventures of my time as a foreign corespondent.
1962 during Argentina’s experiment with a post-Peron elected president–Arturo Frondizi.
“Dark cobble stoned area of low end metro Buenos Aires.  A 2nd rate radio station had been taken over by “rebels” who broadcast a proclamation calling for everyone to take to the streets and opposed the government..  A bus was jammed cross wise in the middle of the narrow street.  As I slid around between the bus and the wall, I heard a voice above me,  “No se mueve,”  (“Don’t Move”) I froze and looked up.  The nose of a stubby machine gun was 14 inches from my nose…
Dr. Larry Day is the author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia, a book of humor columns that have NOTHING to do with old age!!
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How I Became A Writer, Extended

Hello, All!!
I came across the following.  I’ve probably sent it to you before.  But it’s a humorous bit of writing that fits into the GENERAL theme of how I became a foreign correspondent.

Miss Bunker  (I can’t remember her first name)  was principal of East Side School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, circa 1945,  when I was in Miss Melton’s (I can’t remember her first name) fourth grade class. Dean Larsen, who sat in front of me in Miss Melton’s  class, wrote a smart aleck note and passed it back, unnoticed, to me.  I wrote “Screw You!” on another piece of paper and passed it back.  Miss Melton saw me pass the note back to Dean, and told me to bring the note up and put it on her desk.  She went on with the class.   I forgot about the incident until the next day when Miss Melton told me to go see Miss Bunker.  In the Principal’s Office, Miss Bunker had the note in herhand.
Miss Bunker: “What does this mean?”
Me: (scrubbing my foot on the floor and looking down) “I don’t know.”
Miss Bunker:  “What does this mean?”
Me:  “I don’t know.”
Miss Bunker:  “I’m going to call your mother on the phone.”
Me: (in desperation) “It’s the title of a story.”
Miss Bunker: “A story?”
Me:  “Yes.  I’m writing a story about a boy who gets a tool box for Christmas.”
Miss Bunker:  “I want to read that story.  Bring it to my office by the end of the school day or I’m going to call your mother.”
That’s how I became a writer.  From that time to the present I’ve written a lot of fiction. Some of it was written for  newspapers and international new  services.  I’ve reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register, The  Deseret News (Salt Lake City) The United Press International  (from Buenos Aires), the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, The Miami Herald, the Kansas City  Star, Universal Press Syndicate. Everyone knows that newspaper stories aren’t supposed to be fiction. But  with tight deadlines, and because  journalism is more art than science,  a  lot of  creativity is involved in covering the news.
I’ve written news stories from the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean (including Cuba), the Sudan (Africa) Botswana (Africa) (the old) Yugoslavia, England, Hong Kong, and Letongaloosa (a fictional  town in the U.S. Midwest).  Many news stories, carrying my byline,  were actually published by newspapers or by news services.
For the past dozen years I have been writing  humorous fiction for the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly of Lawrence, Kansas.  Do I notice a difference between the fiction  writing I do now and the news writing I did as  a journalist?  Yes, I do.   Fact checking is more rigorous on the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly than  fact checking  was during the days when I  covered coups and earthquakes in Latin America.
-30- (that means “the end” in journalese)

Dr. Day’s book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia, a collection of fun and goofy short stories is available on Amazon.

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I Was A Potato Picker

Hello All,

Many of you may or may not know that before I was a humor writer, I had multiple careers. I was a hand model/ copy writer, a foreign correspondent, and a J-School professor. Now, I’m a humor writer. But before ALL of that, my FIRST job was being a potato picker in the potato fields of Idaho..

My Life As A Potato Picker

I had a whole youthful career in the potato fields of Idaho.   From about age 8 a neighbor girl and I were “partners,”  in picking potatoes. The school district shut down school for two weeks in (I lived in Idaho Falls) October and all the kids got their year’s spending money picking potatoes.  The plows turned up the potatoes in rows and the pickers went up the rows with half-bushel wire baskets. Each partner picked a basket full and then the two poured the potatoes into a burlap potato sack (distributed along the rows by the tractor driver who was plowing the field).  We were paid 6 cents a sack (between us that meant 3 cents each).  We sometimes made $12 a day which was big money for 8-12-year-olds in those 1940-ish days Later in my youth I was a potato sack “bucket”  who followed a slow moving horse-pulled or truck pulled trailer and hoisted potato sacks onto the flat bed of the back of the truck or trailer.  The loaded trucks were driven to “potato cellars” l(long earth covered holding areas) where the potatoes stayed through the winter and well into the next summer and were sold by the truck load on the potato market.  That’s more than you wanted to know about potato picking.

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Don’t Look Now

By Larry Day

Some years ago a stand-up comedian who was known for his self-deprecating humor, was arrested for fighting in a bar after his show. The comedian had smacked his opponent in the face. When the case got to court and the judge asked the comedian how the fight started.

“He laughed at me,” said the comedian.

There are nearly five billion websites in cyberspace. There are more than a billion unique You Tube users on the planet. There are six billion hours of video in 61 languages on the World Wide Web.

In this interconnected world, millions of people use Internet to invite total strangers into their lives. They invite everyone from elderly Mongolians in Ulan Bator, to Argentine teenagers in Mar del Plata, to connect to their websites and view intimate details of their lives. Then these website owners are stunned to find out that crooks, scam artists, identity thieves, Internet marketers, and digital sales representatives have honed in on their websites and have exploited the information they found there.

That comedian became rich and famous by inviting audiences to laugh at his fabricated foibles. But when a stranger in a bar laughed at one of his real foibles, the comedian doubled his fists and started swinging. Lots of folks are like that comedian. They spread their personal information all over the Internet. But they get mad as hell when they hear that authorities are analyzing Internet data flow patterns to see if they can find information that might thwart a terrorist attack. Whoa. Whoa! That’s a violation of people’s privacy.

Finding out what constitutes acceptable government surveillance and what is considered unacceptable prying, is a valuable process. Most of that process is serious, but sometimes it can be funny.

*******

Consider this story: Back in 2010 forty-year-old Ginger Pitchfork of Mound Tree, Texas, phoned the U.S. Census Bureau to lodge a complaint. She said a census worker had called and asked about her marital status and her vaccination history. Ginger said that Census call was an unwarranted government intrusion into her privacy. What was hilarious was that at the time Ginger was operating a website that chronicled intimate details of her love life.

++++++

And how about this?: A herd of pigs broke out of their sty on a Midwest farm and ran down to a four lane highway. Kurk and Wadley, a couple of forty-something city dwellers, were driving along in a heavy duty pickup truck and saw the pigs. They decided to round up the pigs and put them in the truck and drive them to a nearby stockyard.

Kurk and Wadley figured that since they had found the pigs on the highway it was a “finders keepers,” and they offered to sell the herd to the stockyard manager for $200.

The stockyard manager declined their offer, and retrieved ownership data from tattoos on the pigs’ ears. He called the owner. The owner was looking for the pigs and was not far from the stockyards. When he arrived, the owner thanked Kurk and Wadley, and gave them each$40. Then he loaded up his pigs and drove back to the farm.

Wadley and Kurk were fascinated and amazed. They didn’t know how the pigs had been identified. They jumped the conclusion that there was a government surveillance system so powerful that it could even keep track of an obscure herd of pigs.

Kurk and Wadley organized a series of workshops to tell their story. They told those who attended: “If the government can spy on a herd of Midwest pigs, what do you think it’s finding out about you and your family?”

After that, Wadley and Kurk found what they considered evidence of government surveillance in virtually every aspect of U.S. life. So they set up a network of vigilance websites to warn people of an impending dictatorship that would take over the country as soon as the government had processed all its surveillance data. Kurk and Wadley shut the website down after it become a target for stand-up comedians and late night talk show humor.

Larry Day is the author of Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia available for Kindle on Amazon.com: . Retailers e-mail Larry: day_larry@yahoo.com

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