RICKSTER IS THE COLUMNIST FOR THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION, "THE SOMERS RECORD"

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Friday, January 12, 2018

FINAL TOUR OF THE GOLDEN SHORE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (09-28-17)

     We spent last weekend in the Hamptons with our friends Laurie and Mark. It was our last hurrah for the summer before we fold up our folding chairs for good. The weather was so nice I actually said "hurrah" several times, and when I said it the last time I knew summer was over.

     I always come back from the Hamptons reeking of suntan lotion and over-privilege. I feel a little guilty that I'm having such a nice time while there are so many bad things going on in the world, and I make a mental note to look into adopting some children from a country whose name I can't pronounce, like Angelina Jolie. Then I consider the child's feelings, and I realize it's a bad idea. But I think me and Angie (I call her Angie) would make great parents together. We hand the kid some brochures to pick out a private school to go to, while we argue about who's hair is better (she's entitled to her opinion). Gotta go now, we're on our way to walk the red carpet for yet ANOTHER award for our mantelpiece: Columnist of the Year!

     On our way to the beach I'm checking out the homes along the way, which are so large that my entire house could fit into the wine cellar. That might be a slight exaggeration, but if not it would save us a trip to the liquor store. Everyone has a rich neighbor it seems, although no one will admit to being rich themselves. I can only clearly identify those who are NOT rich, though I have a few things percolating over in Nigeria that I'm hopeful about.\

     I keep my eyes out for celebrities, who stand out like a sore thumb wearing sunglasses and a really ugly hat. WOW is that hedge fund manager Phil Falcone??? Everyone has a hedge out here so he must be literally raking it in, with an actual rake. False alarm, it wasn't him, it was only one of the Baldwin brothers.

     We get out to the beach and the water was so choppy because there was a hurricane out there somewhere. Even though it was sunny and didn't look like anything was going on, there was a tragedy at the beach. So this seems like a good time to remind people that if you do get sucked away from the beach by an undertow, don't try to fight your way back in. Just keep swimming parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. I went over it with my wife just in case, and she said, "You know what's parallel to the shore during a hurricane? Route 27."

     This time of year the temperature drops about ten degrees each time the sun goes behind a cloud, so you have to keep a sweatshirt handy. But I have a solid and loyal base tan, and I don't want to do anything that won't appeal to my base. I ventured into the water on the bay side, and it's bad form to make a fuss about how cold the water is. "Wow it's SO refreshing!" I exult. "You've been in there a long time!" They reply. Yes, I'm actually looking for one of my fingers which froze and broke off.

     There was a guy with a metal detector at the beach, but this time the guy was actually in the water dredging around, which I never saw before. I wonder what kind of riches he was after in there- who knows, maybe the goldfish in Westhampton really are made of gold. If he's looking for a silverfish I saw one in my garage. I told him if he finds my finger to let me know, because I'm planning to give it to the next guy who cuts me off on the LIE on the way home.

Friday, January 5, 2018

MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESSES

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (09-21-17)

     Somers Celebration Day was held by the Chamber of Commerce last Saturday at the Towne Center, right in middle of towne. It was a chance for local businesses to set up a booth, interact with people and present their goods, or their services if they didn't have anything good. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I brought my dog, the world-famous Gidget, to stroll the festivities.

     Walking with Gidget is a time-consuming affair, because people love to stop and chat with her. She looks like a stuffed animal, and god only knows what she stuffed herself with when I wasn't looking- I happen to be missing a pair of socks. Moms with their kids approached one after the other to say hello. "Aren't you cute! And so friendly! Gorgeous!" They say it in our general direction, and some of the compliments miss Gidget and fall near me, so I scoop them up quickly, but I'm sick of being ignored. "She sheds, you know." I point out. "And she has a hairy back." They ignore me and exchange phone numbers with Gidget.

     But we're here to celebrate Somers. The first thing we came to was a zeppole food truck, which was a good reason to celebrate. It also told me we were working in reverse alphabetical order, so I was going to have to walk to the other side if I wanted Asian food.

     There was a DJ there, playing some tunes and making general announcements. A DJ can make just about any event sound like a radio call-in contest. If there was a lost set of car keys he would have announced it, and I bet if I had been the 25th caller I would have won them.

     The Somers Democrats were there, as were the Somers Republicans. And I must say that it was heartening to see that both sides of the political spectrum could come together in the spirit of bipartisanship. Failing that, at least no one was hurt seriously, or even humorously. I think a lot more could get done in Washington if a zeppole truck was introduced into the negotiations.

     There were a bunch of bouncy houses set up over near the bank parking lot. Looking closer, these were luxury bouncy townhomes with a bouncy eat-in kitchen and bouncy master bath suite. There were bouncy slides and bouncy central air conditioning. I wanted to go in and see if there was a bouncy TV in there to check some bouncy football scores, but I was too tall.

     Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey was there hanging out, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts had a tents set up, probably the only ones properly assembled. The Young Explorers were also in attendance. Few people know that Ponce de Leon was an original Young Explorer. He discovered Florida for the Europeans while looking for the "Fountain of Youth," so he wouldn't have to join the Old Explorers. There were cheerleaders, Irish dancers, a teenage rock band and other attractions.

     There was a real estate company there, and I hope they made a sale or two. I've been a resident of Somers for almost 20 years, and I think it's a great place to live. I'm thinking of investing in a second home, possibly an upscale bouncy house. I plan to pay for it with a bouncy check.

Friday, December 29, 2017

IT'S A SMALL WORLD

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (09-14-17)

     We recently took a little tourist trip to Gulliver's Gate, an exhibit near Times Square that depicts world cities in small scale. We began our tour right in New York, since we were already on 44th street. We had a much better view of the Manhattan skyline than from our hotel room. Little Italy is even littler than we thought, the High Line not as high, and traffic whizzed by beneath us in amazing detail, right down to a tiny traffic jam caused by an accident. Even in a scaled down car you're always running into someone you haven't seen.

     As I stand in front of the miniature Manhattan with my hands on the railings, I fantasize that I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld in a James Bond movie, and I hold in my hand the fate of the entire free world. I can scan the cable TV channels at any time of the day or night and find a 007 flick. "Look, Honey, it's 'Gold is Not Forever Again, Twice!' I don't think we've ever seen this one!" I gush to my wife (we've seen every James Bond movie approximately 87,000 times). She rolls both eyes for the 87,001 and 87,002 times.

     "Sooo, Meesteer Bond, I see you have joined us just in time to witness the TOTAL DESTRUCTION of NEW YORK CEETY! If you look closely at these leetle people, you can almost see the terror on their leetle faces!" Then I laugh nefariously, which is something that I do practice on my dog. I'm just about to press a button on the bottom of the railing that will drop Bond into a vat of deadly piranha fish. First, I ask the commander how much he weighs, because if you know anything about keeping a fish tank you know NOT to overfeed the fish.

     Well, Bond escapes again, using a watch with a tiny Milwaukee Sawzall inside of it, so we continue around the room, touring the world without having to worry about our flight connections. We visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa (complete with tourists trying to right it with ropes), the Kremlin, the Great Pyramids and the Taj Mahal. There were even miniature renderings of the major monuments in Washington, DC, although Trump's hands and political accomplishments were shown in actual size.

     A member of the staff was demonstrating how they make the various parts of the exhibit using a 3-D printer. I don't know about you, but I have enough trouble getting a 2-D printer to work, and I can picture me trying to print out New York, and I end up with two Empire State Buildings stuck together, hoping nobody will notice. "Does anybody know how to change a 3-D toner cartridge??"

     Each country was assembled in its own location, where it was decided that the native model makers knew best how to represent their own part of the world. The cars and other vehicles that move throughout the display are driven by computer using sensors. The more than 100,000 tiny humans (they like to be referred to as "little people") are shown in all walks of life, including the Beatles walking on Abbey Road.

     The attraction is very kid-friendly and photos and social media sharing are encouraged. The name, of course, comes from Jonathan Swift's 18th century satire. I ran into Gulliver recently, who is now retired, and I asked him for any advice he might have on the subject. "Whatever you do, DON'T travel. What a disaster that was, but that's another story...."
 

Friday, December 22, 2017

AN IN-TENTS EXPERIENCE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (09-07-17)

      I don't really consider myself a "sportsman," even though I love sports and watch the Yankees and Giants religiously. By that I mean that I pray quite a bit, and sometimes I might even use the Lord's name in vain, because it never does any good.

      I'm not a fisherman because I don't eat fish, and I remain dedicated to making sure that the opposite is not true either. I know how to scale a fish, but only in Photoshop. As a hobby, fishing doesn't seem that much safer for the fisherman than it does for the fish. I was just reading the other day that a man was killed by a swordfish. I can't remember where this happened, but if it was at a restaurant it's even worse, especially when it came time to figure out who should pay the check.
      I don't hunt because I don't particularly like killing things. Yes, I may have to swat a mosquito, but at least I offered it a last meal: my arm. As a precaution, my thoughts and prayers go out to the mosquito's family during this difficult time.

      So, I'm quite the indoorsman, but I do think it's fun to go camping every once in a while. I'm not talking about hiking deep into the Adirondacks with a backpack and a two-man pup tent, or even a two-pup man tent. The only thing I can rouse any support for is a family-friendly resort campground two miles from the Jersey shore, with a pool, electricity, wi-fi and tiled bathrooms. We bring a queen-sized air mattress, two fans and an electric cooler. Since we don't bring a blender for margaritas, we are technically "roughing it."

      At the tent clearing, it's time to set everything up. I was never in the Boy Scouts, so I'm pretty much self-taught. I rig up some tarps in case it rains, using ropes and some knots I kind of made up myself. I make a loop, then another loop, add some of my hair and two fingers and BINGO! I have a hairy knot with two fingers in it, and that tarp is not going ANYWHERE, and neither am I.

      That evening we relaxed around the campfire, drinking fresh coffee from the Avalon Dunkin' Donuts. What fun it is to tell tall tales over the crackling flames. I couldn't remember any tall tales, so I just used some "alternative facts" I got off Trump's website. Communing with nature is a restorative experience. There was a Yorkie two campsites over that communed all day and all night, and I wish I could have zipped it up inside a sleeping bag.

      We didn't see any exotic wildlife but there was a guy with a really hairy back at the pool. I didn't shave either; that's one of the great things about living in the wilderness. At the end of the four days I looked like a mountain man with the full beard of an 8th-grader. I let my grammar go to hell, the way nature intended it, and didn't even bring one apostrophe on the trip.

      I'll be honest here, women sometimes aren't as into the great outdoors as men are. Women tend to overlook some of the conveniences of camping. Not shaving, for instance, holds less allure for them. Also, the fact that cooking breakfast on an open flame is a time-saver when it comes to burning the toast, which usually takes five minutes or more using a toaster.

      Before the trip I asked my wife if she would be able to blow up the air mattress, and she said yes, if she could find some dynamite. I asked if she remembered how to pitch the tent. She said she was pretty sure she could pitch it into the neighbor's yard while I was asleep, but if she does at least my neighbor Paul could figure out how to put it up. I figured I may have to bivouac there for a few days if the camping trip went haywire.

Friday, December 15, 2017

WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (08-31-17)

     Where were you when the lights went out? For two minutes and thirty-eight seconds last week, the Earth was plunged into blackness. It was thrilling, it was awesome and it was slightly darker than usual. I was in my office during the Great Eclipse of 2017, looking out my window across the Hudson River, waiting for the big show. The light dimmed a little, but it just seemed like a cloudy day with an eclipse in the middle of it. I was somewhat whelmed, but I wouldn't say that I was overwhelmed.

     If you did get a good look at this eclipse you may not be able to see the next one, since it's unhealthy to look directly at it. It could cause severe eye damage, like looking directly at a Trump press conference. You can't just throw on a pair of sunglasses and view it, because it won't be sunny out. You must purchase special glasses, certified ISO 12312-2. 

     This was bad news for me, because I have a hundred different pairs of glasses for everything. Sometimes I'm nearsighted so I have glasses for driving. I have a different pair of readers in every room of the house for looking at the paper. I have sunglasses, regular and prescription, and also reader sunglasses. I even have 3-D bifocals in case I go to a movie. So I needed prescription ISO 12312-2's, and then readers to look at the directions. Once I finally figured everything out I couldn't even see the sun because the damn moon was in the way.

     Of course, if you didn't have special glasses you could look at the eclipse with a "pinhole camera," and all you need is a small prick. Just poke a hole in a cereal box lined with white paper, and view a rendering of the sun from an opening in the other side. Another website said you could view the event through holes in a Ritz cracker, but did not mention that you might feel stupid doing so.

     According to Neil Degrasse Tyson you could look through an ordinary colander to see the eclipse. By this time I figured the scientists were just goofing on everybody- hey, I saw "Revenge of the Nerds." But it turns out that you can look directly at the sun  through a colander, as long as you don't first remove all the wet spaghetti. If you do, you have to hold it above a piece of paper, and you'll see a bunch of little eclipses projected onto it through the holes.

     Animal behavior supposedly goes haywire during an eclipse. Judging by our animals' behavior there has been an eclipse going on for the last eight years at the very least. My cat is 8 years old and still chases its tail. If I was still chasing my tail at age 58 people would think I'm an idiot, or at least idioter than I already am.

     People were bragging about their location. "Do you have totality?" They asked. "Yes, of course I have totality. I have total partiality. Anything less would be-" "You're not in the swath, are you? I can tell you don't have totality just by looking at you. You're pathetic, although for other reasons. You wish you were in Carbondale, Illinois, like me," they sneered. I never pictured myself wishing I was in Carbondale, Illinois until that moment. I was stuck here with only partial totality and not even any carbon.

     I felt a little guilty that I had not been left in the dark, and vowed to not see the light next time. The next total eclipse is coming up in 2024, which is when I will be subsisting on a diet of wet spaghetti and Ritz crackers with a hole in them. It's only seven years away, so mark it on your colander.

Friday, December 8, 2017

ADVENTURE ON THE HIGH SEAS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (08-24-17)

     Last week my friend Dave took me and a couple other friends out for a very pleasant tour of the Long Island Sound on his boat. He has a peppy little bowrider that he tows over to the Norwalk boat launch at Veteran's Park. The term "boat launch" brought back some vivid memories of when Dave and I owned a boat together. Dave taught me everything I know about how to pilot a boat. However, no one who's boat has been hit by mine should hold that against him, since he taught me a lot more than I learned. One thing that did sink in is that a boat is not something to sink in. When properly launched, it should not go straight into the air like a rocket ship.

     Do you know why it's called the Long Island Sound? Neither do I, because whatever the Sound sounds like, I couldn't hear it over the roar of the engine once we got out of the channel. We aired that baby out to the tune of about 40 miles per hour after we cleared the no-wake zone. Do you know why they call it a "wake?" Well, we flew over a big one and went airborne for what seemed like a few minutes, and when we landed it woke me right up from a nap I was planning two days in the future. We were out of the no-wake zone, but there should be a no-fly zone posted there instead.

     We cruised around for a while and took in the sights. There are extensive oyster beds in the area, but I doubt they got a whole lot of sleep. You can tell where they are by flags that stick up above the water, which makes the place look like a golf course made up entirely of water hazards. We motored by Westport, Sherwood Island and turned around near Fairfield.

     By this time everyone was getting hungry so we taxied into shallow water near what looked like a deserted island so we could eat our lunch. "Get ready to drop the anchor," Dave called, "and try not to scratch the paint with the anchor chain." Tony grabbed the anchor while I held the chain, and through a carefully-coordinated effort we were able to scratch most of the paint off the bow, but to our credit we didn't scratch any off the anchor chain. It was a beautiful day, and we had a bite to eat, drinking in the natural beauty of the area since no one remembered to bring beer. Here the quiet was interrupted only by the chatter of the herring gull and the call of the double-crested cormorant, which I took on my cellphone. Life on the deserted island didn't look like it included dessert, which was disappointing.

     But soon the cove started filling up fast with other boaters. People jumped in the water and began floating around on inner tubes, outer tubes, inflatable floaties and paddle boards, which are the new craze. Every time I see somebody on a paddle board they look as if they mistakenly thought that they would be having way more fun than they presently are, standing around on a surfboard. One guy looked at my sandwich forlornly, and then started paddling away in the general direction of Domenick's Deli.

     If I've learned anything at all from Gilligan's Island, it's to prepare for every eventuality before you board the boat. Sure, everyone made fun of the Howells for bringing a trunkful of cash with them on an island tour, but there are no ATMs at the sand bar, and I doubt they will take a personal check. Also, that transistor radio is going to be invaluable if we get shipwrecked and the Yankees play a day game. I'm guarding that radio with my life, because if somebody busts a transistor in it I have no idea where get another one.

     As the afternoon wore on and the shadows started getting longer it was time to weigh anchor and get back to the boat launch. Dave hopped onto the bow to retrieve the anchor before Tony and I could volunteer, and we powered up and headed towards shore. It was a short ride at top speed until we got to the channel, where you can only go five miles per hour, and I was expecting the guy on the paddle board to pass us.

     I have a friend who has a giant sailboat, and I can't imagine what happens if you get all the way out past the bay and the wind dies down. Well actually, I can imagine it, that happens to be my strong suit. I picture me and two other couples, drifting out from Long Island for a few days, and now we're somewhere near the Galapagos Islands. "I'm pretty sure I can get us back home, if you'll just let me generate some wind by telling a few stories about how I got kicked out of my high school math class for not baking cookies." "That's okay, I think the wind is about to pick up," they all reply, almost in unison, though weak from lack of food and water.... 

Friday, December 1, 2017

DECONSTRUCTING A DECONSTRUCTION

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (08-17-17)

     My sister Kathy got tickets at Jacob Burns Film Center for a filmed performance of Scott Freiman's "Deconstructing the Beatles." There are only two Beatles left, so he may be ahead of schedule. Mr. Freiman is a composer, musician and producer, and he's carved out quite a little side career for himself by giving lectures about the group, and how their most famous songs made the journey from inspiration to vinyl. 

     I have never been to a deconstruction before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I dissected a butterfly once in science class, but when I put it back together there were still some parts leftover, a thorax, a leg and and an antenna, although the antenna turned out to be from somebody's car.

     This presentation covered "The Beatles," more commonly known to fans as "The White Album," in some ways their most complex, in some ways their most simplistic, and in most ways their hardest to keep clean. The Beatles wanted to return from the psychedelic trip they went on with "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," where they took production and cover art to extremes they had not explored before.

     Scott Freiman explained that the Beatles longed to get back to a simpler form of songwriting, so in some ways they deconstructed themselves. They packed up and left for an ashram in India to learn how to meditate, and by the time they finally got back to recording, their manager Brian Epstein had died, George Martin briefly left, Ringo walked out, their engineer flew the coop, Yoko infiltrated the studio and basically all hell broke loose.

     But from those sessions came some of the group's most enduring music, and Freiman told the stories behind them. For instance, "Dear Prudence" was written about Mia Farrow's sister, who was also at the ashram, and meditated so assiduously that she wouldn't come out of her room. There is probably a fine line between assiduous meditation and agoraphobia, but I'm just thankful that Mia Farrow's sister wasn't named Debbie or Lulu.

     The real revelation is that as original as the Beatles were, creativity doesn't happen in a vacuum. The Beatles' influences came out on the White Album maybe more so than any other, since much of the material was written individually. Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys inspired "Back in the USSR," Donovan taught John Lennon the picking style used in "Dear Prudence," Eric Clapton provided the guitar lead for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," a Nigerian musician lent Paul McCartney the phrase, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and none other than Bach donated the form Paul used in "Blackbird."

     Freiman didn't get into that whole conversation about whether Paul is dead or not, so I thought I'd pick up the ball here. Back in the '70s every Beatles album supposedly had a boatload of clues supporting the theory that McCartney had died in a car crash and was replaced in the band by a look-alike. At the time you could hear all sorts of references to his untimely demise if you listened closely. John says, "I buried Paul" at the end of "Strawberry Fields," but it's kind of hard to hear and sounds more like "I married Paul." My friends told me to play the record backwards but I couldn't reach the tonearm when I stood that way.

     There are other clues, too. On the cover of "Abbey Road," Paul walks barefoot in a funeral-like procession. It is well known that people who are dead walk barefoot. Also, on "Magical Mystery Tour" Paul is dressed as a walrus, which is a sign of death, although if you ask any walrus about it they'll say it's news to them. I've seen McCartney in an interview recently and he looks fine to me but I am no expert. Abe Vigoda was rumored to be dead many years before and after his death, and even during his death, so it's nothing new.

     Still, there are many other mysteries about the Beatles that are still unsolved, like who really was the fifth Beatle? Was it Pete Best? Was it Stu Sutcliffe? Billy Preston? George Martin? Mia Farrow's sister? That's already nine Beatles, and I can sense some controversy coming about who was the tenth Beatle. Also, 20 years ago today, when Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play, why didn't he just hire people who already knew how to play? So, Mr. Freiman, if you're so smart, let's hear some answers, and while you're at it you can tell me what "Love Me Do" means.