Years ago I was dealing with a computer company about a problem, and got to know many of their employees in India so well that I felt like inviting them to drop by for a visit if they were ever in the States.

So I can identify with Gladys Ford’s story:

“While trying to make an upload to Amazon, I always asked the person on the help line, ‘Where do you live?’

“During this two-week-long ordeal, I spoke to customer service reps in Cape Town, South Africa; England; Uruguay; Costa Rica; and the Philippines.

“When giving my address to the last rep, I started spelling ‘Denham Springs’ for her.

“She said there was no need to spell it, because she lived in Denham Springs, too.

“Her subdivision is three miles from my house. Amazing world.”

Gracias, Felipe

Just heard from Phil “Felipe” Cangelosi, who’s been spending time in Mazatlán, Mexico.

He offers these “little-known observations” about his second home:

“Uno: Cinco de Mayo isn’t nearly as popular in Mexico as it is in Baton Rouge.

“Dos: In Mexico your last name is actually your middle name. Mucho confusing.

“Tres: The finest tequila we sell here in the States is not considered very good.

“Quatro: Mexico City is simply ‘Mexico.’ Drop the word ‘city.’

“Cinco: Sushi is incredibly popular among the locals. It is, however, served with tortilla chips and chili peppers.”

Black salve revisited

Spike Barras was the first of many, many contributors to identify that stinky black ointment mentioned by a nostalgic reader as ichthammol, also called ichthyol.

It’s ammonium bituminosulfonate, sold under a variety of brand names to treat acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin diseases, and as a “drawing salve” to help remove splinters.

Ross DeNicola, DDS, figures creosote was one of the ingredients, which would account for its aroma. But George E. McLean, of Metairie, says it’s fish oil that makes it stink.

Lionel Jardell says, “We have a tube of this magic medicine in our house that is so old one cannot read the label. Works great on the grandchildren, but grandson Emerson says it stinks.”

Adrain E. Johnson Jr., professor emeritus in the LSU Department of Chemical Engineering, says, “My wife, Betty, and I used this ointment throughout our childhood, and continued using it for many years after we married in 1949, until antibiotic ointments became available.

“The antibiotic in today’s ointments can, of course, help prevent infection from a cut, which is not a ‘minor skin irritation.’”

And John Torbert says of the ointment, “My grandmother said it would do anything but raise the dead.”

The right way

We’re still getting comments on ways to sing, or not sing, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’:

Elliot Bourgeois says, “Wayne Messmer sings the national anthem, like it should be sung, at most major Chicago sporting events. Watch the opening of Cubs games on WGN-TV.”

Thank-you notes

Past Commandant Richard Ulrich says the Choctaw Detachment of the Marine Corps League thanks “everyone for their donation to our Rose Day event at the Wal-Mart on O’Neal Lane.”

Backyard rainbow

“Bird Nerd” says, “My backyard in St. Gabriel has become a gathering place for some exquisite birds: brilliant blue indigo buntings, rainbow-colored painted buntings and bright yellow American finches.

“Socially, they’ve blended right in with the existing year-round population of local birds — very multicultural. I feel like I’ve won the avian lottery!”

Worthy causes

The Fourth annual Red Bug Hill Challenge for Spina Bifida will be held Saturday in memory of Jordy Rourke, of Baton Rouge, who was born with spina bifida and died in 2008.

There will be cycling routes of 5, 20, 40 and 60 miles, a 5K trail run and one-mile fun run, “in the beautiful rolling hills near St. Francisville.”

There will be lunch, music and a bicycle raffle. Go to, e-mail or call Mike Rourke at (225) 937-5800.

Special People Dept.

  • Charlie “Honey” Rihner, of the Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans, celebrated his 103rd birthday Sunday at his annual Cinco de Mayo birthday party given by his family. He’s a World War II veteran.
  • Phyllis Sobers, of Flannery Oaks Guest House, celebrated her 92 birthday Sunday.

Thought for the Day

From Algie Petrere: “Before you open your mouth to speak, make sure it’s an improvement on the silence.”

Riding the Tide

“I think I need an LSU football fix,” says Cindy Black Bouchie, of Pineville.

“The other day when you had an item titled ‘Take that, Tide!’ I was ready to get defensive about the laundry detergent, some of which is made at the P&G plant in Pineville.

“Then I saw it was a hilarious comment about Alabama’s football team.”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.