Times have changed. Years ago, comedians who feigned drunkenness, and milked their inebriated state for laughs, were commonplace — and successful. Now, the increasing sensitivity about the societal costs of alcoholism and the focus on drunk driving, among other changes in our cultural mores, have made the drunk comic a thing of the past.
In my view, there was no better drunk comic than Foster Brooks. If you ever watched a Dean Martin celebrity roast, you saw him — and I bet you laughed out loud. This clip of Brooks at a Don Rickles celebrity roast is a vintage illustration of his act.
I’m drawn to train tracks. I love the feel and look of the tracks, with their brightly gleaming steel rails and their heavy wood railroad ties on the rough gravel beds. I love the railroad crossing gates, with their x-shaped railroad crossing sign, their clanging bells and flashing lights, and their striped crossing bars. But most of all, I love standing at a crossing — after carefully making sure no trains are approaching from either direction, of course — and looking down the tracks.
Have you ever thought about how evocative train tracks are? You can stand at a crossing in rural Ohio and look to the right or to the left and see the tracks disappear into the far distance, touching the horizon, a perfect study in artistic perspective. It’s almost as if you can look into infinity — and infinity can be found either direction.
In my basement clean-up project, I’ve uncovered some interesting stuff. One item of note, coffee-stained and curled with age, is the purported von Webner family crest.
The Webner family (in our branch, at least) is not exactly filled with genealogists. Family lore is that, at some point in the past, our name was actually von Webner. There was never much clarity in exactly how the “von,” if it ever existed, was dropped. One bit of legend had it that when the first von Webner stepped onto the shores of the land of the free and gave his name, the immigration agent either mistranscribed it or decided the “von” was too weird and unAmerican and declared that it had to go. Of course, in a family of go-getters some highly motivated person would decide to check all of this out and either confirm or deny it. With the Webners, however, indolence and an apparent desire to hang onto a good family yarn have led us to avoid any investigation of this hazy back story.
The von Webner family crest that I found is, I suspect, a work of imagination rather than history. Notably, there is no record of the Von Webner family crest in the House of Names.com website. The crest also seems a bit . . . odd. Consider, for example, the pair of oven mitts above the shield. Were the von Webners a family of bakers? (If so, I need to find the family Christmas cookie recipes.) What’s with the elaborate ostrich plumes paired with the Prussian eagles? Am I descended from avid birders? And what of the Stars of David and the mail box slots on the shield? Could a family of Jewish mailmen who baked ostrich-filled pastries for Prussian royalty somehow have been elevated to the nobility before deciding to make their way to the New World?
Worst of all, what’s with the colors? Maize and blue? My God, did the von Webners harbor dreams of being “Michigan Men”? Talk about having awful skeletons in the family closet! Uncle Mack, can you help me out here?