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Friday, March 23, 2018



      Honey, if you're reading this, don't read this. Skip over to the Tuskers' sports scores, because I need some advice on how to shop for your Christmas present. Back in the olden days I used to drive over to Macy's at the mall, full of vigor and holiday spirit. Since there was no available parking within a 10-mile radius I would have to drive slowly around the lot, following a random guy and his kids who are carrying packages, hoping they will lead me to his space. Other people have the same idea so I have to follow at a distance of a couple feet so no one pulls in ahead of me. When the kids turn around I pretend I am reading the paper. Then the family  starts to run and scatter to try and lose me, but I follow Dad since he has the keys.

      I have thoughts that it might be worth it to run myself over with the car, not a lot, just a little, to slightly maim myself and get myself a handicapped space. I can use one of the new self-maiming cars. Then I could race around the food court in an electric scooter, only to find that it's just as hard to park INSIDE the mall. Plus it wouldn't be fair to those people who are legitimately handicapped, possibly from doing something just as dumb.

      But this is the age of the internet, and I don't have to deal with inconveniences like helpful sales people and personal attention. So I will try to navigate the dangerous mine field of gift-giving from the comfort of my own home.

      I wanted to get my wife a jacket, and as I browsed the vast universe of the internet I uncovered more questions than answers. I found a nice cargo jacket that would be perfect for her, since she comes with a lot of baggage, especially after shopping. The jacket comes in "dusty olive." I had no idea what color that was, so I left an olive on the counter for three weeks, hoping that it would collect some dust, but instead it shriveled up and turned an unflattering color for a jacket. It also comes in "true indigo," "which may rub off onto fabrics, leather, and upholstery." I didn't like the sound of that, but it's easier than buying a lot of true indigo upholstery and waiting for it to rub off onto the jacket.

      The jacket has a Mandarin collar, which is interesting news. "Mandarin" is either a dialect of the Chinese language or a type of orange. I'm not sure how either relates to a jacket collar, and I hope I never find out. Ironically, the jacket doesn't come in orange, but maybe the collar does.

      It's made of  lyocell. This sounds to me like something that could possibly explode if left in an unventilated area. To make sure it was safe, I did some research. Lyocell is a type of rayon containing cellulose fiber made from dissolving pulp using dry jet-wet spinning. This certainly reassured me, but I'll tell her to keep a window open just in case. If this goes wrong I may have to jump out of it.

      Pretty soon I was an educated consumer. I checked the customer reviews, and the jacket got four-and-a-half stars. One user gave it one star, but she sounded like a complete idiot. I would give that user two stars if I had to rate her, just based on her sense of narrative style alone. Her knowledge of the facts was also lacking. She wouldn't know an A-line from an A-bomb. She wouldn't know a princess seam if it jumped out of the Royal Palace and bit her on the nose.

      I was starting to get post-traumatic shopping disorder. When you show up at a real store, after a couple hours you get tired and you want to go home, so you buy something. This online exercise in futility is the gift that keeps on getting given. I was still in front of that screen long after I started to get carpal tunnel syndrome and a bunion on my buns. The one thing I do know is that I am not going to do all my shopping from the comfort of my own home unless I can find a more comfortable chair.

Friday, March 16, 2018



     Sadly, as of last Saturday our next door neighbor has finally run out of marriageable children, so we're going to have to find something else to do with our time other than going to their weddings. A wedding is the perfect opportunity to get dolled up, show off your dancing moves, have a nice dinner and see some people that you haven't seen in a long time, perhaps because they preferred it that way.

     I have five or six suits, so that part is no problem. One is purple, and it's only a matter of time before the eighties come back, so I'm saving that one. Two others are double-breasted, three-piece numbers, which I have been told are out of style. Unfortunately, I was told that about a decade after they went out of style. Out of all of them, only one suit has a pair of pants that still zip all the way up, and they only fit up to and during the wedding ceremony itself, as long as I don't sit, breathe or look down. If I happen to ingest a communion wafer on purpose or by mistake all bets are off. Anyway, my goal is not to look so good that I upstage the bride.

     Once the service starts and everyone else sits down, there are a couple of readings from the Bible. The apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians is a staple of many weddings I have been to. I'm not sure which Corinthian in particular Paul had it in for, but he speaks of the power of love, and to paraphrase, you had better get your act together or you'll sound like a clanging cymbal. I'm a drummer and I'm clanging cymbals all the time, so I don't take it as personally as the Corinthians probably did. By the way, nobody mentions the fact that reading other peoples' mail is a federal offense.

     The ceremony goes splendidly, the bride kisses the groom and we all clap based on the degree of difficulty. We say hello to everybody on the receiving line and look around to see if anyone is going to throw anything at the bride and groom. It turns out that nobody throws rice anymore because it gets caught in birds' throats and gives them agita. People tried throwing birdseed at weddings and it turned the happy day into a scene from a Hitchcock movie, so now we just blow a few kisses.

     At the cocktail hour, the hors d'oeuvres are sometimes better than the main meal. My wife was literally stalking the waiter who came around with the fried shrimp-on-a-stick, and he was this close to taking out a restraining order on her. I was partial to the fried chicken-on-a-stick with sesame seeds. As far as I'm concerned you could take some carburetor parts from my car, deep-fry them, sprinkle them with sesame seeds, skewer them on a stick and I probably wouldn't know the difference until I tried to start my car.

     Once the reception begins to hit its stride you better keep your camera ready because you never know when something newsworthy is going to happen. The volatile mixture of high emotion, high fashion and an open bar can lead to many different types of misdemeanors or crimes against humanity. At my own wedding we asked that no videotape be used, thinking that there might be less evidence to be possibly subpoenaed. But opportunities for photojournalism and/or blackmail are there for the taking.

     If you didn't happen to bring your camera, they had a photo booth set up to commemorate that fact that my pants had not spontaneously combusted quite yet. There were some hats and props on hand, but I couldn't figure out when the shutter was going to snap, so I have six pictures of me preparing to do something clever.

     At this reception there was also a fire-eater, a limber lass with a lot of fishy-looking tattoos and no eyelashes. As she pranced around swinging blazing torches she swigged prodigious mouthfuls of what looked like J├Ągermeister. She spit out half of it in a ball of flame; I'm not sure what happened to the other half but I have my suspicions. The fire-eating looked like fun, actually, and I would have tried it myself but I just had dessert. The fire marshal had posted a sign that listed the maximum occupancy of the place, but I doubt he factored in that one of them was a fire-eater.

Friday, March 9, 2018



     My wife had been involved in volunteering for many years when she asked me if I might be interested in it myself. Of course I want to give back to the community. I want to be a part of something that benefits something other than myself, and in doing so, possibly benefit myself.

     Some volunteering options were out of the question. For instance, volunteering as a "big brother" would probably be a bad choice for me, since I have some lingering anger issues left over from being a "little brother." In my house, if you got on the bad side of my brother you could expect him to turn on the washing machine while you were taking a shower, resulting in storm conditions caused by freezing rain. What about working with older people? Turns out that I AM older people, and people should be over here working with ME.

     I became a volunteer usher at the Tarrytown Music Hall about eight years ago, and it has been a great choice. It combines my interests in history, music and being involved in somebody else's community. I wouldn't say that I'm now a full-fledged do-gooder, but it's been a rewarding foray into the field of do-gooding. I was already an experienced usher, since I've been in a few wedding parties. This has gone even smoother, since I don't have to dance with any bridesmaids, possibly injuring them.

     The theater itself is the oldest in Westchester, and will remain so until someone builds one that is older. It is on the National Register for Historic Places, built in 1885 to stage flower shows, which were popular at the time. I've seen a lot of flowers in my day, and they never did anything besides just sit there, so I can't imagine that the shows involved much complicated choreography. During this golden era, millionaires such as Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller attended extravagant cotillions there. These were powerful men and they had big balls. After falling into disrepair and closing in the 1970s, today the theater is run as a nonprofit organization and remains a flourishing asset to the community

     I have worked many shows, and seen some great performances. Olivia Newton-John took a sip out of a glass and said "Cheers!" after each song. I don't know what was in the glass but she seemed cheerful. When the Psychedelic Furs played, the line to the bar went all the way across the balcony and down the stairs. Blood, Sweat and Tears were just as I remembered them, even though not one performer was in the original band.

     Last Saturday night I worked a performance of comedian Jackie Mason. No one knows his exact age, but the carbon dating process puts his birth somewhere in the Mesozoic Era. So I was not expecting a rowdy crowd, but we did have some drama when one patron claimed that he couldn't get into his seat. We were finally able to accommodate him, but I am much more concerned with people who can't get OUT of their seat. So I keep a pair of tire irons and a set of jumper cables handy just in case.

     I hope to see you at the show, you can look for me in the balcony. And for anyone out there thinking of volunteering, giving back is its own reward. That being said, community, if you're out there, please remember that I gave back to you, and when April 15th rolls around, I hope you'll be a little more understanding than you were last year.

Friday, March 2, 2018



     There is nothing more peaceful than the second week of November. The busy summer is over, the leaves are mostly off the trees and most importantly, election day has come and gone. I take a deep breath, a long, hot shower and weep a little  for our ineffective political system.

     Grown men and women debase each other and themselves in television ads for an embarrassing four months leading up to election day and expect us to feel good about them afterward. I first got wind of the situation somewhere around July. Candidate Blue was planning to RAISE my taxes! I couldn't believe the news. I'm a hard-working guy and I pay my taxes religiously, meaning that I pray that they will someday be lower. I don't mind paying taxes, I just don't want my money to go towards something stupid, like paying the salaries of people who want to raise my taxes. I would rather somebody hit me over the head with a ball peen hammer than raise my taxes.

     I didn't want any part of that, so I made my decision to vote for Candidate Red. THEN I heard that Candidate Red was planning to actually hit me over the head with a ball peen hammer. AND he was involved in political cronyism. That made me angry, and even angrier once I found out what a political cronyism was.

     Then I found out that Candidate Blue was planning to take away my Second Amendment rights. I don't remember which one that is but it could be my right of free assembly. I remember that assembly was the best day of the school year, and you could get out early after it was over. And I do recall that it was free. So I say NO to that.

     Candidate Red is preventing immigrants from coming into the country! Who's going to take care of my lawn? Before you say "kids from the neighborhood," please be aware that I can't even get "kids from the neighborhood," to show up on Halloween for free candy! And what does Candidate Blue have in mind? He's planning to let a bunch of immigrants into the country! Gang members, no less! And do you think anyone in the gang owns a lawn mower? I say NO!

     I don't really care about all the other stuff, what I really want is a candidate who is great at shaking hands and talking to old people. And suddenly, there he was on the TV! Candidate Blue! But every time Candidate Red came on, he had nice music playing, and when Candidate Blue appeared he had depressing piano music in the background.

     I've thought about running for office, since I've always wanted a better relationship with oligarchs. But I know the campaign is going to be brutal. That awful picture of me, worse than my driver's license photo, that showed up on Facebook that I did NOT authorize the use of is going to be plastered all over the place. Then they're going to scour my records for evidence of misdealings in my finances, but I know they won't find any. They might find the misdealings but they won't find the finances.

     YES I admit to a conflict of interest: I love the Giants and own articles of clothing on every part of my body with their logo, except for underwear, where the word "Giant" does not seem humble. Yet after every game I want to hit them over the head with a ball peen hammer. It's eventually going to come out that my campaign was heavily influenced by early exposure to "F Troop" and "Get Smart." I'm surprised more people don't consider running FROM office.

Friday, February 23, 2018



     Remember when it used to rain "cats and dogs," and you might step into a poodle? Well, those days are over. It never just rains anymore. Instead we have "weather events," which make them sound like something fun that you could show up to with a folding chair, a pair of binoculars and some potato chips. I don't know whether this is due to climate change or the rampant hyperbole of our times, but you can't leave your house anymore during a rainstorm, because torrential downpours, gusting winds and severe conditions are out to get you. If you do chance it, don't stand next to anything that looks remotely unstable, and that includes Charlie Sheen.
     We had a rainstorm last Monday, and it blew down trees, utility poles and knocked out power all around Somers and elsewhere. Don't just stand around and wait for things to blow over, because the thing that blows over might be YOU. The next day if you turn on your TV you'll see pictures of oak trees that fell through peoples' attics and cars sitting in the middle of flooding in the street. The good news is that you won't see any of that if a tree fell on your TV.
     And then there is lightning. The odds of you being struck by lightning in your lifetime are approximately one in 3,000, but if you ARE struck the odds just went up dramatically. People are always saying that whatever dumb thing they're trying to get you to do has less of a chance of hurting you than being hit by lightning. And after you've signed that disclaimer and the bungee cord snaps over the ravine and you go plunging toward the raging river, you have the comfort of knowing that at least you weren't hit by lightning.
     Lightning is a little like nature's short circuit. Negatively charged particles that form by movement and cooling within clouds are attracted to positively charged objects on Earth, and a release of electrostatic energy occurs in the form of lightning. You may be charged yourself, but you can just put it on PayPal like I did.
     There are some facts and fallacies about lightning. Wearing rubber shoes will not protect you from lightning, nor will they protect you from being looked down upon by people with more stylish footwear. People talking on landline telephone are the most likely to get hit by an indoor lightning strike. If you have caller ID make sure the call isn't coming from a rain cloud.
     People performing outdoor chores such as mowing the lawn are also at greater risk. That's why if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing lightning you should head indoors. For the sake of safety I stop mowing the lawn just before I start in case I can't hear the thunder. Those involved with organized sports should be prepared to take cover sooner in the event of an electrical storm. Those involved with disorganized sports should be prepared for just about anything.
     All of this is making it hard for romance to blossom during inclement weather, as it once did. Remember that song "Laughter in the Rain" by Neil Sedaka? Neither do I because I'm way too young, of course. But if he wrote it today he would be singing the popular refrain, "Ooh, I hear laughter in the weather event, walking hand in hand during a wind advisory." Do you know how many words rhyme with "wind advisory?" Enough for Neil Sedaka to have a flourishing career at Home Depot.

Sunday, February 18, 2018



     I get that question every Halloween because I refuse to go the lazy route and just buy a costume from the store. So I make my own, and the vision I have in my head does not necessarily translate to reality. "What are you supposed to be?" To that I answer, a little more well-adjusted, better at math and probably too old for this kind of thing.

     This year I went as "Hurricane Maria." I already had a dress for the occasion from past costumes, although it did seem a little fuller in the bosom this year, make of that what you will. I accessorized with some fiberfill "clouds," and I used a battery-operated fan and a plant sprayer to simulate actual hurricane conditions as a maelstrom of detritus and debris rotated above me. As weather systems go, if a qualified meteorologist had evaluated me I would have been downgraded from a "category 5" to a category somewhere near "personality disorder."

     The costume party was at a really nice house on the Island, all decked out for the occasion with cobwebs and spiders all over the place. I realize now that my garage celebrates Halloween all year round. My wife told me there was a huge spider in the basement, and that I had to deal with it. Don't kill the spiders, I said, they eat all the bugs. She insists that a spider IS a bug, only bigger and stronger from eating a bunch of bugs. How big could this thing really be? I went down there with a Kleenex to flush it down the toilet. Turns out this spider was GINORMOUS, and it looked like a tarantula with hairy legs and everything. Might need some heavier artillery, perhaps an anti-tank gun or something. All I had was a newspaper, and it wasn't even the Sunday section. I was sheltering in place behind the pool table until I could figure out what to do, and I ended up pleading with it to spare our lives and leave us in peace, or at least shave its legs now and then.

     Anyway, the party was fun, they had a band, a food table and an open bar. I like seeing people exercise their imaginations, especially people with fat and out of shape imaginations that haven't seen any exercise in a while. There were pirates, priests, witches, superheroes, monsters and ogres, all acting as if everything was perfectly normal. It was like a joint session of Congress. There were people dancing with the devil, cats were cavorting with mice, Freddie was chatting with Jason.

     As I looked behind me I noticed that I was hemorrhaging little pieces of fluffy fiberfill all over this guy's house. Incidents like this are precisely the reason I don't store any data on the cloud. I had a ping pong ball shaped like an eyeball that I got off the internet sitting at the top of my costume, but it almost dropped into the baked ziti. On the floor were feathers, body parts, colored hair and bits of clothing. As the evening wore on it started to look less like a party and more like a crime scene. I was starting to get some blowback because of the plant sprayer. I thought it might be time for this hurricane to make landfall at home before the cops roped the place off with yellow tape.

     I realize Halloween is just an excuse for adults to be something or someone else for a day. Maybe you've always wanted to be an astronaut. Perhaps you've always wanted a tail. Does this Grim Reaper sickle make me look fat? Yes, last Saturday I wore a lovely gown, but I wouldn't read too much into it. It's not like I had a Louis Vuitton bag to go with it or anything. That being said, Christmas is coming up and I wear a size 16 dress, just mentioning it.

Friday, February 9, 2018



     We stopped by the Somers Fire Department Annual Open House last Saturday to check in with our local fire-fighting professionals who keep us safe day after day, and sometimes at night. After making sure I didn't park in front of a hydrant or anything, we got out of the car and immediately noticed some smoke coming from the rear of the firehouse. My wife asked one of the fire-fighters if he knew there was a fire in the back of the building. "Yes, we started it!" He exclaimed as he rushed by toward the smoke.

     He didn't seem at all embarrassed, and I told my wife that it was probably a brush fire started by a hairbrush placed too close to a hairdryer or something. Bravely, I continued on into the firehouse to check in with Jody, the Somers Fire Chief. He informed me that one of the things they do during Open House is a controlled burn in a specially constructed house designed to demonstrate how fires start, where they start and how quickly they spread.

     Chief Jody is also the Fire Inspector. He told me that you should have a smoke detector within 10 feet of all sleeping areas. I'm pretty sure that includes the conference room at work where I get most of my REM sleep. He went on to say that soon smoke alarms will have a lithium-ion battery in them that lasts 10 years. When the battery is about to die, it beeps and you just throw it out and get a new one. If it contains the same lithium-ion battery that bursts into flames in hover-boards and e-cigarettes, it will certainly cut out the middle-man, but I'm sure they'll get that straightened out.

     At Open House they touch on other fire safety subjects, too. For instance, you should have your chimney cleaned regularly by a qualified professional. We had ours cleaned a while back, and I was expecting a British bloke with a top hat who could sing and dance. Instead this really tiny guy appeared, who looked like he might have been nesting there all along. In case he wanted to break into a couple numbers, I started him off with a little "Chim Chim Cher-ee," but he just asked where the bathroom was in a language I couldn't understand, possibly English.

     Did I ever tell you about the time I burnt down our kitchen? I was living at home with my parents after college, and I was cooking some frozen French fries on the stove. Now, I don't know how they do things over there in France, but my technique was to let the oil pre-heat for a while, say, approximately until just before the house burns down. Luckily, something told me to drop what I was doing and check back in on the pre-heating process, which had progressed all the way to the conflagration stage. That something was my Dad, yelling at me to call the fire department and get the extinguishers.

     Chief Jody told me that's about the dumbest thing you can do, trying to fight anything more than a little flare-up with a fire extinguisher. Just get out, he said, get your loved ones out, and let the fire-fighters do their job. I can think of something even dumber, which is a specialty of mine: fighting fire with fire. Whose bright idea was that? Thank god the fire extinguisher manufacturers didn't buy into that idea.

     The most important safety feature that there is is common sense. There is a goofy scene in the movie "Gravity" where George Clooney propels himself through space using a fire extinguisher. It's just the sort of thing Clooney would do. Thank god that when I was busy not using common sense and leaving something unattended on a heated stove, that George Clooney hadn't made off with our fire extinguishers to go gallivanting around in the solar system.