Every time I think I’ve got things under control, I am reminded I don’t. This was the week a couple of simple things were supposed to happen. One of them was that Owen was going to install my new faucet for the kitchen sink. He found the basin tool so when he showed up to do it, he was psyched. We had already taken all that stuff out from under the sink.

When Owen got down there and looked at it, he came back up.

“You need,” he said, “A plumber.”

All the stuff that was under the sink. And the Duke.

He showed me why. Every fitting and pipe was covered with rust and that crusty green stuff. Everything that was supposed to turn was grafted into place. When we had last taken stuff out from under the sink,  it hadn’t looked bad, so what had happened? It was dry. No pools of water. We had a leak, but the leak was on the faucet itself and flowed into the sink.

I sighed. Owen gave me the name of his plumber, said the guy was honest and reasonably priced — something you don’t usually hear about plumbers. I brooded about money for a while, but ultimately, there wasn’t any choice. We needed a plumber.

Under the sink …

And so, I called the plumber and he came. It turns out there were leaks all along the old pipes. Very tiny leaks … just big enough to corrode everything.

He replaced all the valves and the copper pipes from the basement to the kitchen and bathroom and installed the faucet. $365 later, we had shiny new pipes and each worked like it was supposed to. I’m not sure they were working this well when we bought the house 19 years ago.

I wrote a check, sighing even more heavily.  At least I hadn’t yet started the work on the chimney, mainly because it was raining every day. You can’t mortar in the rain. Not to mention the cold and the wind.

New faucet!

Then there was the remote control that makes our bed go up and down. The bed is 15 years old. I discovered this by removing the innards of the remote and reading the label which clearly said 2004.

Fifteen years.

But for all fifteen years, the bed has worked flawlessly. It came with a lifetime guarantee, too … except that the company that made it went out of business three years ago, leaving a lot of distraught bed owners of which I am one. I knew that one day, something would happen.

Every other time something happened, I rebooted the bed. It’s just like rebooting a computer. Unplug it. Count to 30, slowly. Then add another 10 — to be sure. Plug it back in. Voila! It’s fixed.

Springtime in Uxbridge

For some reason, the idea of rebooting the bed always makes me laugh.

If that didn’t work, the remote needed new batteries. Which made me realize that we are — again — out of AAA batteries. Everything used to be AAs, but now everything is AAA. I ordered more rechargeables as well as a set of regular lithiums because sometimes, rechargeables don’t work. Don’t ask me why. I do not know.

I changed the batteries in the remote. The bed still didn’t move.

I hauled the mattress sideways so I could wriggle behind it to unplug and re-plug the bed again. That didn’t seem to work. I figured the remote wasn’t doing its thing, so I went looking for a replacement remote. Amazon had one and the remote they showed in the advertisement was identical to the one I was holding in my hand. A new version of it would cost $120 — a lot of money for a remote, but a lot cheaper than replacing the bed.

The day after the plumber left, the remote arrived. I took my last four recharged AAA batteries and put them in the remote. I unplugged the bed and then plugged it in again– after hauling the mattress off the bed and feeling the muscles in my shoulders go rigid.

The remote didn’t show any sign of life. Forget about whether it made the bed move. It didn’t light up when a button was pressed. It was broken.

I called the number printed on the back of the remote. They said I needed to push the light on the black brick-shaped thingie under the bed.  There was no black brick-shaped thingie under the bed or at least, I couldn’t see one.

Our bed is really heavy. Garry and I together couldn’t move it. I’m pretty sure that Garry, me, Owen and a couple of other people couldn’t move it either. It’s all wood and the “engine” is steel. The mattress weighs 100 pounds. At least.

It turns out this was the right remote, but it was broken. But, it turned out that there were a lot of models of this bed. Mine was an early model — one of only TWO models that would not work with this remote. Not to fear, they would sell me one that would work — for a less than half the price of the one I’d bought from Amazon. I could return the broken one.

So I ordered another remote, put in for a replacement for the remote from Amazon … and just on a whim, I took the newly charged batteries and put them back in the OLD remote.

The bed worked. Perfectly. I considered banging my head against the wall, but I was too tired.

Garry said it was a miracle.

I think I’ll turn the heat down and go to bed. It has been a long week.


It’s been a while since I finished reading the Bert Lahr biography, “Notes on a Cowardly Lion“, written by his son, John. I am still emotionally involved.

Why does a book which was written more than 40 years ago about a show business figure who peaked more than 70 years ago sit front and center in my mind?

I’m a retired TV and radio news reporter with more than 40 years in “the business”. The “news biz” is journalism, but it’s also performance, even for those of us who strive for objectivity.

Part of the job is celebrity. When you appear on television five or six days a week for more than four decades, you become a household face. People ask for your autograph. You receive special treatment in stores and restaurants. Eighteen years into retirement, folks still recognize me, tell how they grew up watching me on TV and ask for autographs.

Mine is a regional celebrity although I’ve encountered fans almost everywhere I’ve traveled in the United States and overseas.

I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated my celebrity. I miss it a bit when I’m not recognized but I don’t get depressed if I go unnoticed. I needed to share a little of my life because it puts my feelings about the story of Bert Lahr’s life into perspective. I really understood in a very personal way where the man was coming from.

I enjoyed the biographical side of the book. It speaks to history, the history of vaudeville and burlesque, show business venues that are frequently misrepresented.

As a self-proclaimed trivia maven, I received a little education. Case in point: Clifton Webb, long perceived as a middle-aged effete, film actor actually was a well-received song and dance man in vaudeville.

I learned the difference between vaudeville and burlesque. I came to appreciate the art form of Bert Lahr’s overly broad slapstick comedy. I understood how Lahr’s art form suffered at the hands of Hollywood film directors who tried to minimize his well-honed craft and squeeze it into a musical comedy.

Lahr’s comic genius never had a chance to shine in Hollywood. “The Wizard of Oz” was the exception. But that success also spelled disaster in Tinseltown because Lahr never again received a film role like the Cowardly Lion.

Years later, he would find similar frustration with television which tried to restrict his comedic moves in variety shows. Lahr didn’t think much of TV comic legends like Milton Berle and Sid Caesar.

Ironically, both Berle and Caesar spoke highly of Lahr in lengthy interviews with me — even as they lamented the fading of their celebrity. But that’s another story.

Back to Bert Lahr.  Born into poverty, Lahr was always worried about financial security.

BertLahrEven when he returned to Broadway where he found his greatest success over the years, Lahr never felt secure though he was earning top star salaries.

In later years, as a TV pitchman for Potato Chips, Lahr earned more money for a thirty-second commercial than he did for starring in a play, movie or TV special. He still didn’t feel secure.

Bert Lahr did find some unexpected late professional success with surprising turns in work like “Waiting For Godot” co-starring E.G. Marshall. Lahr savored critical acclaim but was never satisfied. It was never enough. For all of his professional and financial success, he was an unhappy man. He was insecure as an aspiring comedian/actor seeking stardom.

He was insecure as a star sure that others were trying to undermine him. He was insecure as he aged, a respected legend. He always believed people had forgotten him even though he was recognized everywhere he went. Lahr was miserable as a husband and father, demanding but not giving.

Lahr desperately needed the audience — the laughter, the applause — throughout his life. Sadly,  he never appreciated the love and admiration he got from his family.

As the curtain closed on his life with his loved ones gathered around him, Lahr still longed for his audience, their laughter, and applause. He couldn’t let it go and move on, nor could he appreciate the good things life offered him. Lahr’s loneliness haunted me. The deeper I got into the book, the more painful I found reading his biography.

I know first-hand how intoxicating and addictive celebrity is, especially when you fail to appreciate real life. Bert Lahr was never able to see the joys and sorrows of family and friends as “the real thing” that makes the rest of it all worthwhile. It’s the celebrity that is unreal and ephemeral.

It’s the people who love you who will sustain you after the curtain closes and the audience departs the theatre. That Lahr was never able to recognize what he had and accept the love that was there for him was his personal tragedy.

It’s a fine biography, but not a joyful reading experience. It is in many ways a cautionary tale, a reminder of how important it is to keep one’s perspective and one’s feet on the ground.


So, THE WAY THEY TELL IT, God wanted to get rid of all those who had experienced slavery. To accomplish this task, he made the twelve tribes walk around the Sinai wilderness for forty years.

Forty years? Seriously?

That area isn’t all that big. To keep walking for that many years, they had to have crossed their own paths repeatedly. Didn’t anyone shout out: “Hey, Moses. I’m pretty sure we’ve been here before. Levi, haven’t we already been here? Look, here’s where we put the tents. I think there are a few poles lying around  …”

By: Rick Baldwin

If the idea was to get rid of the “slave mentality,” why couldn’t they just make a nice camp and hang out until the time was up? Stop walking. Play guitars. Sing some songs. Play cards.

Why did they have to keep walking?

Was there a fitness or exercise requirement? Was it like a jail where you have this hour or two a day during which you have to keep moving? Why 40 years? That’s a pretty long time.

Garry says we have this same conversation every year, usually immediately following our ritual viewing of “The Ten Commandments.” But we didn’t watch it this year. It was the first time I can remember NOT watching it, but I think it’s possible I’m one viewing over the line, even for a Cecile B. DeMille classic.

This never stops making me laugh, please enjoy this short video of “Life with the Twelve Tribes.” I’m sorry I can’t embed the video, but it’s worth a few minutes of your time to give this a look. Not only is it funny, but it is oddly timely in this strange period in which we are living.

I know the holidays are over, but not by much, so forgive my tardiness. Whatever you celebrate, something or nothing, I hope the food was good and the company even better.


David Archuleta Tour, a review, by Rich Paschall

If you wanted to know what was on the mind of a singer-songwriter, pop star, this was the event. A formerly-shy guy, who let his singing do his communicating, had plenty to say on his Spring 2019 tour. Some of it may have been a bit surprising, coming from the singer who came to prominence as a teenager on Star Search and runner-up on the 2007-2008 edition of American Idol.

The 25 city tour included stops at a number of City Winery locations across the country. These smaller venues allow for an intimate relationship between performer and audience.

City Winery, performance venue.

The Chicago location includes a restaurant and wine bar, and a separate 300 seat performance space where you can order food before the show and drinks throughout. If you arrive an hour or more early, you can chat with your waiter about the food on the special menu and the long wine list. Some patrons arrive closer to show time for the performance only. There is no need to order anything, no minimums required. You do have to have a show ticket, of course.

Archuleta’s tour was basically in support of his 16 track album, Postcards In The Sky. Originally released in 2017, the Official Music video for the title track was not released until March 2019.

Postcards in the sky
Saying what’s inside
Hoping you will fly away
And find a way to you
Postcards in the sky
Hoping you will fly away
And find a way to you

After a few songs, Archuleta explained to the audience the journey his life has been on. He rose to fame as the cute kid on American Idol and became a pop star with songs on the radio and requests for personal appearances. He toured the country, recorded albums and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Then he surprised everyone at the end of 2011 with the announcement that he would do missionary work. He needed to do “Something That Has Nothing To Do With Me.” 

In March of 2012, he was off to the back roads of Chile and putting his singing career on hold. On his return two years later, he made some appearances and eventually moved from Utah to Nashville to work on music. But when he went to work with his producer on songwriting, as he explained to our audience, he was not sure he wanted to write, record, return to pop music. He just could not get back into it. It was suggested when he went to a previously scheduled session, that he write about what he was feeling.

“It occurred to me that maybe I can actually write about what I’m really going through instead of teenage love songs because that’s what people want to hear.”

I don’t wanna feel numb
Falling over all of my shadows
Yeah, I’m all done
‘Cause none of that ever really mattered
It hurts to live so wide awake, oh
But it’s a chance I can take
I won’t run run run
‘Cause I don’t wanna feel numb

Archuleta performs the songs from the Postcards album, and particularly Numb, the first song written for it, with an intensity you might not expect from the young artist. These are his personal messages. Postcards that he has sent off into the sky. They are there for you to grab. He is hoping that some of these messages will reach you and maybe you will send back a postcard of your own.

Now at 28 years old, David retains the boyish charm that made him a teenage sensation. He seems eager to share his story and explain the meaning of the types of songs he is writing now. He seemed at ease with the audience and even chatted with some of the fans close to the stage. One brought a poster depicting all his albums and David chatted for a few moments with the fan.

Postcards in the Sky

For those who followed David for the past dozen years, he sprinkled in a few early hits. Certainly, the boys and girls who followed at the start and are now young men and women would have been disappointed if they were not treated to a few memories. In this regard, he did not disappoint. A Little Too Not Over You was there early on and near the end, he reached back for Touch My Hand.

Here is the original music video for Touch My Hand from 10 years ago.  Just as he does in this array of video clips, he reached out to the crowd at the Chicago performance. I suspect he was not just trying to shake hands with those by the stage. He was really trying to reach them, as well as the entire room, with this show.


More from the Red Cactus – FOTD – 05/05/19

It’s lucky I have indoor plants because it is so miserable and cold outside, it’s very hard to persuade me to go anywhere. I’m cold ALL the time. My feet need constant defrosting … but the Christmas cactuses are busy setting buds.

I don’t know what has made them bloom so much this year. I haven’t done anything differently than usual. I don’t re-pot them. I don’t trim them. I don’t fertilize them. I occasionally turn them so they grow evenly, but otherwise, I water them when they are dry. That’s it. The totality of my relationship with them.

The big red one is getting ready to bloom again and is setting a lot of buds. I swear they are trying to make up for the miserable weather outside!

Setting buds
And you can see my new Norfolk Island Pine. I have never had much luck with them, so maybe I’ll get lucky this time