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Scraps of information

Bernie Grauer

My desk is covered with papers of all sizes, old envelopes, torn menus, old airplane ticket covers, and matchbook covers on which I have written notes, observations, or ideas that I might be able to put to use some day. The stack has reached new heights recently and my wife was threatening to throw them away if I wasn’t going to use them.On the back of a torn menu I found a note that read, “Three generations of one family in a very expensive restaurant wearing baseball hats at dinner.” They were all wearing them backwards! Two of them had saved $800 each by not buying top-of-the-line toupees, and the 19-year-old son with the beard and muttonchops looked too dumb to take off his hat in a church. At $10 a hat, the father and grandfather could buy 80 different hats for the price of one toupee.Another note read, “Airport, man in Levis, cowboy boots, and 10-gallon hat going through security.”Anything that exasperates me becomes story material.This guy took forever to get through security because the chain that went from his right earring to the ring in his nose kept getting in the way when the security person waving the wand couldn’t get a clear reading on his head. Finally, the cowboy got out a mirror, unhooked the chain from his nose, then his ear and then security got a clear reading. Then he had to take off his cowboy boots and his socks.While I was watching all of this, they pulled my granddaughter out of the lineup for a full body scan.She is four-foot-six, weighs about 60 pounds and apparently really fits the profile of a terrorist.Maybe they are doing random full-body searches of every 13th person. (She passed the screening as a potential terrorist, while I waited without being searched.)Here’s a note on the back cover of a nine-year-old copy of Time magazine: “A laptop computer is 100 million times more powerful per unit cost than what an adding machine or typewriter cost in 1900.” This had something to do with the conversation I was havingwith Mike Brown, the former CFO of Microsoft. (I know I’m supposed to put a ‘C’ with a circle around it to note that the word Microsoft is copyrighted, but I don’t know how to do that on my computer.)Anyway, getting back to the 100 million times more powerful per unit than in 1900. If the same formula applied to the evolution of the automobile, a car today would cost about 1/100 of a penny and travel at the speed of light. What all this means in my normal day-to-day living here on the island is not much, but it’s significance is probably on another note somewhere in my pile.”Richard Pearse, New Zealand, flying.” This note is on an old stained napkin and is about a man who lived on the South Island of New Zealand and had already flown his airplane one year before Orville and Wilbur flew theirs for the first time. His plane was powered by an internal combustion engine that he had made in his barn. The plane was made out of bamboo and silk, the cylinders for the engine were made out of iron soil pipe, the remains of which were found in a dump behind his farmhouse 1947.His flight has never been recognized by the international body that recognizes things like this. The tourist office in Kitty Hawk, N.C., where Orville and Wilbur first flew their airplane, probably campaigns continuously against recognizing it as the first powered flight in history.There is such a thing as simultaneous invention of stuff in separate parts of the world. To confirm that theory of simultaneous inventions, you only have to watch the evening television and realize that the same terrible TV shows are being invented at the same timein New York, Chicago, Hollywood and anywhere else were there is a screenwriter. And we all know that every waiter in Hollywood and New York, as well as 73 percent of the taxi drivers in Los Angeles, are members of the screenwriter’s guild. They are just working theirsecond job until someone discovers them.My last note is on one of my only three remaining matchbook covers. It’s from a truck stop in Butte, Mont., where I picked it up almost 50 years ago. The note gives advice that I have followed ever since I wrote it so long ago:”Never eat in a restaurant that has a bowling trophy on the cash register.”


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