Archive for December, 2008

The Happy New Year Dick Summer Connection

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

What a Christmas. I told you about that last week. Santa brought all four of our sons Indiana Jones hats. And two of the guys, Eric and Mark came to visit. We made what I would call a memorable sight walking into the diner together. My Lady Wonder Wench, and Eric’s wife Brenda have other perspectives on it (there are simply some things that women don’t seem to understand) but everybody had a lot of fun.

So now we have another new year. Another new beginning. I like new beginnings.  Especially the small ones that only one or two other people share with you. Those small new beginnings are fragile. If you’re not careful, they can get drowned out in the every day noise of your life. I think that’s one of the reasons we have dreams. Dreams come in the quiet of your sleep…and they are sometimes full of those images of half forgotton new beginnings.

Like your first kiss. I don’t mean some loud sloppy thing your maiden aunt planted on you when you were two. I mean your first KISS. I got mine from Jeannie Cambell when she was six and I was seven. Good start. Jeannie was on to something. She didn’t give me one of those little girl pecks on the cheek. It was a real smackerooo…right on the lips. It was a reward for teaching her which way the hat goes on “Mr. 7.” She was just starting kindergarten, and I was a worldly first grader. I really liked that kiss. I followed up on it when I was 14, but that’s another story.

Who gave you your first kiss ? Who was your first girlfriend or boyfriend ? Mine was Mary Skillings who lived on the third floor across the street. Mary taught me a simple box step so I would be able to dance the slow dances with her at the record hops. That was nice.

How about when you have teenagers of your own…and they all go somewhere at the same time leaving you and your lady all alone in the house ? Doesn’t it make you feel like the first time your parents left you alone in the house with your date when you were the teenagers?

Some firsts you can have lots of times…like the first sniff of a real Christmas tree…or the first whiff when you open a new container of coffee…or when the lady next door is baking bread.

Then of course, there’s your first day at school. How was that ? Mine was full of the smell of chaulk and crayons, and trying to remember which door was my classroom. And how about the first day you bring your own kid to school…and have to leave her there…all day? Not easy. But the real clincher first time…is when you go to a parent/teacher meeting and you are the parent ! And the teacher is younger than you are…and calls you “Mr. or Ms.”

I’ll never forget the first beginnings of my work life. My first job was Saturdays in my Grandfather’s butcher shop. My Grandfather taught me what the word “work” really means…and that was a help to me all my life. And how can you ever forget your first pay check. Mine was for $8.00. What was yours ?

I don’t think girls have the same first time experiences as guys. I remember winning my first fight. It was at the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn…I was around six years old, and some older guy…he was probably at least eight…stepped on my sand castle on purpose. I jumped on him and bent his little finger back till he howled for his mommy. I loved it.

Then there was the first time I walked into a major league ball park…up a bunch of stairs…down a long corridor…and wham… there was Yankee Stadium. And Mickey Mantle. Back home in Brooklyn, I remember hitting my first stick ball home run against Eddy Kelly. Eddy was the Carl Erskine of 61st Street. He wound up and threw the ball and I closed my eyes and swung…and socked it. What a thrill.

And breathes there a guy who’s so cold and dead that he doesn’t remember driving his own car for the first time ? I bought mine from that same Eddy Kelly a few years after my home run heroics. It may have been Eddie’s revenge. It could do…tops… about 30 miles an hour…down hill…with a good tail wind. But it was MINE !

I’m a pilot, and no pilot ever forgets the first time the instructor pilot gets out of the plane and says, “Take her around the pattern three times, and try to bring her back in one piece.” And suddenly you are flying an airplane all by yourself. I loved it.

I have all kinds of first times that most people don’t have. For example, I remember the first time I could wiggle one ear at a time. My Dad could do that, and I’d been trying forever. Then one day…it just happened. And I remember the first time I was able to get the milk and the cereal to come out even in my breakfast bowl. Now it’s a challenge I face every morning at breakfast…seeing to it that the last scoop of milk has at least one piece of cereal in it. And I’ll never forget my first time on the air at WNEW Radio in New York.

Those of you who are non-guys will probably have about the same reaction as my Lady Wonder Wench has to that kind of stuff.  There are just some things women don’t understand. But if you are Lady Wonder Wench material, you’ll have a good enough sense of humor, and enough flat out love…to just smile and say, “Good for you. I’m proud of you. I’ll bet Randy next door can’t do that”…and pump your fist up and down.

On this week’s podcast, I had another first time. For the first time in years, I sat down at my keyboard to play Auld Lang Syne. I don’t know the literal translation of Auld Lang Syne. But to me it always meant, “Hey, we made it through another another year together. It wasn’t always easy. But we made it. We tried lots of things that didn’t work, and a few things that did. The important thing is that we tried. And we helped each other the best we could. That’s all you can do…give your best…to each other.”

A couple of voices that sang Auld Lang Syne with us last year are missing this time. That puts a painful hole in the harmony. But it’s worth the pain, because it was so good for so long having them singing along. And we know that after a while…the pain won’t go away…but we’ll get used to it…and it will be ok. We’ll help each other with that too.

I almost lost my Lady Wonder Wench when she had that horseback accident last summer. I want to say, “Thank God she’s still with me.” But to be honest, I’d thank God a lot more if he hadn’t let that accident happen to her. She’ probably the only person I know who has never…as far as I know…never…hurt anybody on purpose…and I thought God was all loving. Never mind. I’ll just say “Thank God” anyway. I don’t need more trouble.

The important thing is that she still giggles when I wiggle one ear at a time, and she still pumps her fist and says “congratulations” when I finish my cereal and milk together with the last spoonful. She’s never going to ride her horse again, but she’s driving her car again.

And the other night…there was another first time beginning. For the first time since the accident, she was able to climb up on the wing and sit in the right seat of our little airplane…looking like a pretty little girl…and put on those big co-pilot headphones and go flying with me.

So… the surprise I promised you is right there in this week’s podcast. My Lady Wonder Wench…able to stand right there at the microphone…and right out loud…wish you a Happy New Year.

It’s a genuine new start. And I always liked new starts. May this year be gentler on all of us than the one we just endured.

Happy New Year.

Dick Summer

The Dick Summer Christmas Connection – 2008

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

“The Christmas cards have all been sent…” I like Karen Carpenter’s voice in that very gentle Christmas song. There’s something very important about the yearly Christmas card ritual. It makes us sit down and think about people who were…and are…important to us…at least long enough to address an envelope and sign a card. And you’ve GOT to personally sign the card. That’s a small enough effort to make to give something of yourself to somebody you care about. It’s like wrapping a Christmas gift. Even if you do it badly…just doing it says something important. My Lady Wonder Wench was badly injured this past summer. She’s recovering…slowly…every day. And I watched her…painfully wrapping presents this year. She’s just learning to use her left hand again. I hope the people who get those presents will understand how much of herself she had to give to get that job done.

My buddy Dick Stadlen takes great pride in wrapping Christmas presents. He does it enthusiastically if not very well. He claims “You can’t be a cynic while you wrap pretty paper around a box, just so somebody else can tear it off just a little while later.” His lady Diane doesn’t give him a hard time about it…because she loves him….even though the results of his wrapping often look like green and red spitballs. Dick says, “If there had been wrapping paper on the first Christmas, The Gospel would have said…’and lo the Magi’s gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throw it away. But Mary sayeth unto him…holdeth it…that’s nice paper…saveth it for next year ! And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was far more interested in the paper than in the frankincense.”

Before you put your Christmas cards away…take a moment to send one more. Here’s the address:

A Recovering American Soldier

c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center

6900 Georgia Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20307.

Actually, that would be a good address to keep long past the holidays. It wouldn’t hurt to send a note, or some goodies, or a letter doused in cheap perfume with lots of lipstick kisses on it once a month or so. If you do go the cheap perfume route however, I think I’d address it to a Male Recovering Solider.

Santa is lots of things to lots of people. But he pretty often gets a bum rap. He gets the blame for all the tasteless, crass, loud tv commercials for “The Biggest Sale Of The Year.” He also has to take the fall for “Taking Christ out of Christmas.” I think he deserves better. I think it’s time to thank Santa, because that stuff is not his fault.

Santa is a connector. Every year…no matter how old you are…he connects you to who you were when you got your first electric trains… a sled…or a bike under the tree…or your first Christmas kiss. And most important, he’s the connection to that distinct Christmas Eve “tuck you – in – so – Santa – can – come – with – his – reindeer – and – presents” feeling that your parents gave you. It was so safe…and happy…and real. And Santa helps you pass all that along to your kids…every Silent Night.

Of course, “He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Not a bad reminder for us “Louie-Louie Generation” folks. Sometimes we slip…and a reminder at Christmas is very much in order. “You better not pout, you better not cry…” yeah…we do too much whining and not enough smiling the rest of the year. Christmas is a good time to turn that around too.

My Lady and I went for our traditional Christmas flight in our little airplane the other night. We have a little four seat airplane that flies low and slow. Most of our friends think we go out looking for Santa Claus. But that’s not what we do. I guess you could say we’re looking for Christmas Gold. And we always seem to find it.

Our little airport is a few miles west of Philly. As usual on a cold, clear, pretty close to Christmas night, when my Lady and I got there, it was dark and deserted, except for the white runway lights and the blue taxi way lights, the spotlight on the wind sock, and the revolving beacon. We strapped ourselves in…fired up the engine…and climbed up into the black and white magic midnight. If you heard a small plane engine late the other night, and looked up…and saw small wingtip lights playing in the stars, that might have been us. Moonlight was shining into the cockpit…the city’s Christmas lights sliding under our wings.

Those city lights were Santa Claus bright. You could almost hear the hustling and the ho-ho-ho-ing from all the crowds, and the music and the parties going on down there. But that’s not what we were looking for.

So we turned out over the suburbs…the lights get gentler out in the neighborhoods. Instead of the city hustle and bustle…the Santa Claus jingle bell sounds…you get houses carefully decorated with Christmas lights…and there’s the feeling of carols playing softly on stereos, and fancy paper wrapping around personal presents…and cups of hot chocolate with cold whipped cream…and kids trying to pretend they’re really asleep.

Then, a little farther out…we floated over some farms…mostly Amish…no electricity…real candles in the windows…and a few horse drawn wagons. We could see a few lanterns swinging from side to side on the dark roads. It was like flying slowly backward into time. It was quiet. So quiet.

My Lady was sitting in the right seat, looking like a lovely little girl, wearing those big co-pilot headphones in the moonlit cockpit. She started to smile…and then she started to cry. And that’s when she did it. Again. She said, “Thank you for this. I love you.”

And as quietly as the sound of Ancient Angels, the black and white midnight turned into…Christmas Gold.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 13th, 2008
Wanna know why Herald Angels get all the attention and we don’t get any? It’s the word HARK! That word gets your attention. I like attention. That’s why I spent so many years on the radio, I guess. The attention… and the girls.  

I even met the girl who is now my Lady Wonder Wench because I was on the radio. She was in charge of the program log at the station I worked at in Boston.I used to screw up the log on purpose because I knew she’d have to come into the studio and throw me one of those “What IS the matter with you?” kind of looks, with those big baby blues turned up to stun. Then she’d look down at the log book and hide behind a curtain of that long, soft brown hair, and fix the mess I’d made. I actually caught her sneaking a look at me sneaking a look at her, one day. She thought I couldn’t see her behind that hair.

If I were a little faster in the head, I would have said, “HARK !” But some naturally occurring chemicals originating in places somewhat lower than my head always seemed to hinder my thinking when she was around.But, as usual, I digress. “How” you will ask, “can I work the word HARK into my everyday conversation, thereby becoming more Herald Angelic?” Well, have you ever noticed that when most of us are asked a question, we almost always start our answer with the word “WELL”? Even people on tv do it, as in… (Host) “Well, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow, Al?” (Al) “Well….probably nice if it doesn’t snow or rain.” Even our leaders talk that way. (Vice President) “Well, what are you going to do today, George?” (President) “Well, Dick, mmmm… let’s check out those Iraqi oil wells.”You even hear it in hospitals, where nobody is really well. My buddy Al had a serious operation the other day. Fortunately, it was successful. We know that because when we asked the doctor, he said, “Well, he’s going to get well.” Swell.

So, as Big Louie his own bad self, always tells the members of the “Louie-Louie Generation”… “Say the hell with well… light a spark… with ‘hark.’ ”

Think what the word “hark” did for Jamie Lee Curtis’ father Tony… when he played the part of an arab sheik, and he uttered that unforgettable line… “Haawwk. Yonda lies da castle ov my fadda.” Were it not for that Brooklyn translation of the word Hark, Tony would be totally forgotten. And think how absolutely classy Rocky Balboa would have sounded saying “Hark” instead of “Yo.”

“Hark” is one of the reasons the herald angels got away with rhyming “Proclaim” with “Bethle-haim.” When you start a statement with HARK, you can say anything you like after it. Try it. “Hark, I’d like a raise.” “Hark, I found lipstick on your collar.” “Hark, I’m pregnant.” “Hark, I got fired.”

Saying “Hark” gets you attention. Of course, you’ll also get some attention when the weather outside is frightful, by going around dressed in your gay apparel, telling one and all, “fa-la-la-la-la.” Another way to get attention is to feed your guests roasted chestnuts. Have you ever tasted those things? Yeeech. Going for a ride in a one horse open sleigh on US-95 will do it too.

But HARK…maybe it’s because I’m an ex radio guy, but as much as I hate to keep harping on it…and as much as I wish them well…I see no reason at all why the Herald Angels should get all the attention…and the girls.

Dick’s Details Quiz. (All the answers are available in the current podcast at

1- What will my Lady Wonder Wench and I be looking for while flying in our little airplane this week?

2- What did Father O’Connell give all the good little boys and girls in my grammar school? (”Hark…He must have skipped you” is not the answer.)

3- What was my Mom’s last Christmas gift?


3 – right – Hark !

2 – right – Well…

1 – right – Yo !

0 – right – ahhhhh….

Lots of mail about Christmas this week. Thank you for everyone who wrote. Proud PodCast Participant Lisa has a wonderful project going to help our troops on active duty. She’ll be glad to explain. Her email is   . Lisa is a good lady.

 I’d like to hear from everybody…your memories…the things you “wish you could do again” in this season. My e-mail is

Whooops…HARK…I must include some of the wit of the season from Proud PodCast Participant Jim King:

What is Santa’s primary language? North Polish.
Where does Santa go swimming? The North Pool.
If Santa rode a motorcycle, what kind would it be? A Holly Davidson
What is Santa’s favorite breakfast cereal? Frosted Flakes.
How do Santa and Mrs. Claus get around? On an icicle built for two.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas from my Lady Wonder Wench and “BigLouie, his own bad self.” Me too. Dick Summer

The Dick Summer Connection – December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

There’s Christmas music all over the radio again this year. The Eagle’s “Please come home for Christmas” is the fifth most played Christmas song on the radio this year. Number four is Andy Williams “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano comes in at number three. Nat Cole’s “Christmas Song” is number two. And The most played Christmas song this year is Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas.”All those artists had lots of hits in their careers. But the most popular Christmas song of all time was a one hit wonder. Lots of artists had one hit wonders. Gene Chandler who legally changed his name to “The Duke of Earl” never had another hit. And how about the Singing Nun? What a disappointment she must have had. She left the convent to pursue a singing career, and she never had another hit. And don’t forget the lawyer by the name of Frank Key. He couldn’t sleep one night, so he stayed up and composed his one big hit…the Star Spangled Banner. Then there were Mildred and Patti Hill…a couple of kindergarten teachers, who wrote the third most performed song ever composed in the English language…”Happy Birthday to You.”

The most popular Christmas song of all time is so beautiful, that for a long time lots of experts thought it must have been written by Beethoven. But they were wrong. Other experts said, “No it was Brahms.” Some said “Mozart…of course it was Mozart.” Wrong again Fruitcake Breath.

Christmas’s biggest hit was written on Christmas Eve 1816, in Oberndorf, Austria. Father Joseph Mohr wrote a poem that he wanted set to music for midnight mass. The church organist, Franz Gruber, said, “Ok.” He did a very simple arrangement, because the church organ wasn’t working, and the song would have only a single guitar for accompaniment. Franz and Josef sang the song together that night. Can you imagine…you write only one song in your life…and it’s “Silent Night.”

My Dad was a church organist in Brooklyn, New York. So I know what a big deal midnight mass is for guys like Herr Gruber. Dad had a huge choir…around 40 men, 50 women, and God knows how many kids. It was a big church…it’s a Basilica now. And right after Thanksgiving every year, Dad would double choir practices. And most of all, he would go to the dark church at night, and practice on the big five keyboard organ with the 32 foot tall pipes. Some nights he’d take me with him. I was just a little kid. We had to use flashlights to find the stairs because the church was dark, except for the candle that’s always kept burning by the altar.

It was cold too. Mom knit him a big black wool sweater to keep him warm when he practiced. He always finished his practice by playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. You probably know it. It features one of the lowest notes on the organ pedals, played at church rattling volume. Dad would look over at me just before he hit that note, and his little mustache would twitch. I think I enjoyed that more than a visit from St. Nick.

Dad’s musical talent skipped me. But three of our sons got their share. Our son Eric plays bass, guitar and sax professionally…our son Mark plays and teaches guitar and keyboards. And our son Dave has a degree in music as well as in computers. Dave plays everything. Well. He does a family Christmas album every year. He gave me the ok to post one of the cuts on the album in the current podcast.

I love Christmas. I’m not religious at all, but I really love Christmas. And I love Santa. Santa is the connector. But he gets a bum rap. He gets the blame for all the tasteless, crass, loud commercials for “the Biggest Sale of The Year.” He also has to take the fall for “Taking Christ out of Christmas.” And he deserves better.

Santa is the connector with who you were when you got your brand new electric trains…your first Christmas kiss…a sled…or a bike under the tree. And most important, Santa is the connector with the distinct and absolutely personal “tuck-you-in-so-Santa-can-come-with-his-reindeer-and-presents” feeling you remember from your Mom or Dad. And you can remember that so clearly…even if your Mom and Dad are only memories now. And Santa helps you pass all that feeling along to your kids…that absolutely safe and excited Santa feeling you had so long ago, every Silent Night.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping…he knows when you’re awake.” That means Santa is around all the time…and he’s paying attention to you. My Lady Wonder Wench says “Women have to talk twice as much as men, because men don’t pay attention the first time.” And she’s probably right. But Santa is there…all Christmas season…paying attention…day and night.

Thank you Santa.

Proud Podcast Participant Pastor Mike, as usual puts it as well as anything can be put. He says, ” I think the problem religious people and secular folks have over Christmas is that they don’t realize there are really 2 different celebrations going on at the same time. There is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the joys and miracles of that wondrous night. But over the years, the story became ritualized, and made solemn; and it became a believe it or else scenario. The wonder, the joy, the significance of the gift we’d been given were lost. And people missed that. So they found other ways of expressing the joy the ritual had taken away in Christmas trees, and Santa, and Rudolph, and Frosty…and most of all in the giving of gifts, to honor the Greatest Gift. Religious people of course hated this. “They’re not real” they said. No, they’re not. But the truths they represent are. The generosity of Santa. The loyalty and courage of Rudolph. The magic and happiness of Frosty…those things are real. And we should bless them.”

Pastor Mike is my kind of Pastor.

Some people don’t believe in Santa Claus. They’ll tell you Christ was born in the spring, not on December 25. And they’re right. But the truth is, I really don’t care when Christ was born. I don’t even care if He was the “Son of God.” He gave us lots of good ideas, and lots of love. And I figure that even if you don’t believe in Christ at all, you have to admit that his birthday celebration is a blast. So is Hanukkah, Quanza, Solstice, and any other holiday that involves candles, music, getting people close together, some laughs that your really need, and a few tears you can’t help, good stuff to eat, and most important…some great loving.

I especially like that last part.

Would love to have your thoughts on Christmas. Send them to: ….  please.

And Merry Christmas.