Giving Voices To The Choices




“We are our choices.”
Jean Paul Sartre

GORDONVILLE — So there we were, my mother and I, driving to the Jersey shore to take care of some business (no, we are not hit men, although it’s probably not bad work if you can get it).
She was behaving herself by not incessantly asking lame questions to illicit small talk that interferes with my holy communion with Sirius radio, which seems to have personal service contracts with Billy Joel and Loggins and Messina.
And a series of events got me about the choices we make, why we make them and the ramifications.
Among the them were:
Which bridge to take?
A) Walt Whitman
B-Ben Franklin
C-Tacony Palmrya
D- Betsy Ross  

Answer: My preferred bridge, presuming KYW’s latest report is accurate, is always the Walt Whitman. It dumps you on the right road that puts you on the right road that puts you on the AC Expressway. That said, we took the long way home, opting for Tacony Palmyra because … I like to torture myself. Actually, it was so we could eat at the Cracker Barrel in Marlton. When I missed that jug-handle thing, the target became the Country Club Diner in my native Northeast Philly. It was such a good suggestion by my mother, so I allowed her talk during the meal.
Side Note: We had a booth by the window, where we were able to watch the students leave Northeast High School, my alma mater, for the day. They were wearing school uniforms. My mother asked if I would have preferred that (a rare good question), and it occurred to me that I did have a uniform – worn-out jeans and a concert shirt with three-quarter sleeves.
How best to dry my hands after washing them – and there should be no choice of about that, especially considering that this dawned on me while at the rest stop (where you don’t really get much rest) on the AC Expressway – in the rest room (where you really don’t get much rest when wondering about choices)?
A-That high-powered, ineffective dryer thing
B-Paper Towels
C-My pant leg
D-Do nothing

Answer: I always go for the paper towels, but I had no choice this time but to use the dryer thing, as there were no paper towels (a sign on the wall had some psychobabble about going green). But I really loathe the drier thing for one simple reason – it doesn’t get my hands dry. It ranks up there with our cultural vampire obsession with things I don’t get. If I weren’t wearing a jogging suit, making me look like a hit man for Tony Soprano, I just would have gone with the pant leg and called it a day.

How about: Preferred Montgomery County shopping mall?
A- Plymouth Meeting
C- King of Prussia
D- Does another one even exist?

Answer: Used to be Plymouth Meeting, and it’s still OK, but the food court sucks almost as bad as the parking. Plus, Sofia wants to ride the carousel 153 times in a row. Pretty good place to mall walk on winter mornings, but I started to like Montgomery better when I had to return something there one winter morn (sounds like a Gordon Lightfoot song, does it not?). Aside from irksome hucksters every three feet down the middle of the first floor, I give it the slight nod. I really dig the humungous Dick’s Sporting Goods at the far end (there is a joke there, about size mattering when it comes to Dick’s, but I’m leaving it alone). The store almost makes me want to buy more exercise equipment to collect dust in the basement.
Side Note: I wouldn’t go to King of Prussia, battling that traffic across the Dannehower (or is Dan Howard) Bridge, if you told me the stuff was free. Honest.
Moving on from the realistic, albeit mundane, to theoretical:

The quarterback I would choose to start one game, assuming my life was on the line?
A- Johnny Unitas
B-Joe Montana
C- John Elway
D- Jay Fiedler

Answer: Not Jay Fiedler, but in lieu of going to Temple (the house of worship, not my beloved alma mater) on Yom Kippur (Sins? What sins?) I thought I would list a run-of-the-mill quarterback among the icons because he was Jewish. Obviously, Payton or Eli Manning would be solid options to list, but I would not pick them in the end, so why bother. My choice? Montana. Close, over Elway, but my life is still pretty precious. That’s why I check my blood pressure 64 times per week (103/72, despite being on the road with my mother, on Thursday).

Brass tacks (whatever the heck that means). The Eagles quarterback I would choose to start, assuming my life was on the line?
A- Donovan McNabb
B-Randall Cunningham
C- Norm Van Brocklin
D- Jay Fiedler

Answer: Fiedler? See above. Actually, he has more playoffs wins (one, with the Miami Dolphins, than Cunningham did with the Eagles). And I just wanted to remind the 0.8 of you who care that he began his career with the Eagles (no regular-season snaps, but he was a pre-season legend, leading a few comebacks). McNabb? Actually, I would have him start if … Rush Limbaugh’s life were on the line. Randall, buddy, loved ya – even named my beloved pooch after you – but clutch games were not your thing. That leaves Van Brocklin, which is pretty sad considering he was only in Philadelphia for two seasons (winning a championship).
Side Note: Tommy Thompson actually quarterbacked the Eagles to three title games (1947, 1948 and 1949) and won the last two. And, he did it with vision in only one eye. Then again, partial vision is probably all one needed to hand the ball off to Steve Van Buren.

Shifting gears back from sports to my other passion, music:
Favorite singer/songwriter … from Canada?
A- Joni Mitchell
B-Neil Young
C- Gordon Lightfoot
D- Does it really matter when you have to choose between those three amazing talents?

Answer: I’ll eliminate Joni Mitchell because her body of work, though oft-brilliant, doesn’t stack up. As a gentleman, let me open the exit door for the lady. The other guys? Can I flip a coin? Nope, this is about choices. Hard ones – which bridge to cross, how to dry your hands, leaving your life in the passing arm of a Notre Dame graduate or a guy whose last name begins with Van (not good for a Jewish kid, even if he is from Northeast Philly and wore concert shirts and jeans to school instead of khakis and golf shirts). OK … overall, Neil Young is better – he is a superior guitarist and crosses genres as easily as I slip on jogging suits to look like a hit man – but I have to go with any guy named Gordon. “If You Could Read My Mind” is one of the greatest songs ever written – then again, so is “Like A Hurricane” – and this was for “singer/songwriter.” As a singer, he seals the deal.
Favorite way to listen to music?
A- Casette tape
D- iPod/iTunes

Answer: This has changed over the years, mostly based on what I could do best while cruising (with chicks other than my mother), although listening to vinyl in the car would have been quite a trick. I grew up with records, so they will always have a soft spot in my heart. Nothing beats being in a record store, being lured in by the artwork and enjoying the lyrics in print a normal person can actually read. But it was a pain in the ass repeatedly getting up to change sides every five songs. Casettes were OK, and good in the car, but they would start to squeak — sounding like cuddly kittens in pain – and that was no fun (especially if you like cuddly kittens). CDs were cool, because they would play all the way through – without switching sides — and allowed for more songs per release (imagine Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” with “Silver Springs” or Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” with “Philadelphia Freedom” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” with “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart”), but they could also scratch and skip – like vinyl – after a while. So, until the next craze, let’s go with the iPod. It’s all your music, making you the programming director of your own station.
And this brings us back to where we started:
Favorite existentialist?
A- Kiekegaard
C- Nietzche
D- Sartre

Answer: Really? Who hooked me up with the quote to get this rolling? My mother wouldn’t even have asked that one.

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