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

Search The World... In Briefs!

Friday, July 21, 2017

SEASON'S TEASINGS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-13-17)

     I know that spring officially begins on March 20th, but I always think that Easter marks the true start of the season. Even so, the way things have been going, you never know when a nor'easter is going to screw up your Easter. Usually by this time at least five Yankees are mired in atrocious slumps, the buds are on the plants, even the hydroponic ones, and three weekends worth of plans have been rained out, so I hereby proclaim that spring has sprung.

     When New Yorkers say that they love the change of seasons, the one they love to see change the most is winter. Now that the snow has melted I can see that the snowplow guy has taken out every single driveway light. In the fall I had driven some reflector posts into the ground next to each light so that he would know exactly where to aim.

     But all that is behind me now, and the arrival of spring has made me gay. I see a rabbit near the garage and I call out, "Hello, Mr. Bunny, if you were made of chocolate I would have eaten your ears off by now, and you wouldn't hear I word I'm saying." I just meant gay in the happy sense, but I still have to wonder why I love the Carpenters so much.

     When I was a young lad my sisters and brother used to get together the night before Easter for some old-fashioned egg decorating. We put the hard-boiled eggs in water that contained different colored dyes that were so weak you could wait until the Fourth of July for your Easter egg. Even our language was more colorful. The eggs were dying for so long that they were definitely dead when we got through with them. When we went to sleep my Mom would hide them around the house for us to find the next day. My Mom had limited powers of recall, and sometimes a few weeks hence a malodorous smell would waft its way out from the fireplace area, and we knew we hadn't located all of the eggs, causing a Cinco de Stinko around May fifth or so.

     They used to have a big Easter egg hunt at the Mount Kisco Country Club that my parents took us to each year. I spent the whole time hiding behind a tree, in case the eggs came to hunt me down- I didn't know if they were armed or not. I saw a bunch of golf balls and almost jumped out of my skin.

     In Washington at the White House they traditionally host an egg roll. Thousands of people show up, so they better get more than just one, unless it's huge. And don't forget the soy sauce. It's a chance for the president to let his hair down and show that he is human, if either are possible.

     The tradition started with First Lady Dolley Madison back in 1814. In 1878 during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, the festivities moved to the White House lawns after an act of Congress forbade children from playing on the grounds of the Capitol. During the Nixon administration, a staffer dressed in a rabbit suit was introduced as the Easter Bunny. He wandered around greeting children and possibly surveilling them. George W. Bush's Easter Bunny was none other than Sean Spicer. So if you are near the White House on the Monday after Easter, don't stand at the bottom of any hills, or you'll be walking on eggshells the whole day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

NO PAIN, NO GAIN, NO FUN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-06-17)

      It's been a few weeks since my shoulder surgery, and I'm doing just fine. I'm already operating heavy machinery- our blender weighs a ton and I need a cocktail. I'm in physical therapy now, and my shoulder is definitely coming along, since I didn't want to leave it at home.

      When I walked into the clinic there were five or six other people there, one was shrugging her shoulders 30 times in a row, another was standing on one foot throwing a ball against a net and another was pushing against the wall, seemingly trying to hold it up. It was like I was in a loony bin. Which I suppose is not a politically correct term- I should have said "nut house."

      The assistant started by putting a heat pack on my shoulder for 10 minutes, then he put an ice pack on me for another 10 minutes. If a low pressure system had blown through the room there would have been a hailstorm. Then the physical therapist took my arm and bent my shoulder into an acute angle. I winced in pain, she smiled a little, and while she had me in this position she got my credit card information, including the expiration date and the three-digit code. I started to confess some things that I am not proud of, and then I made up some things I didn't even do, but am not proud that I thought of.

      After I stopped weeping she tried to make it up to me by massaging the bones in my neck and shoulder area, but since I'm unbearably ticklish, I start giggling uncontrollably. I laughed, I cried, I was hot, I was cold. It was like going through menopause while watching "The Notebook" at the same time.

      When she left the room I looked around at the other inmates and said in a loud whisper, "Don't you people see what's going on here? They're TORTURING us! Didn't you ever see "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? We've got to get out of here!" They just kept shrugging their shoulders and throwing their balls around.

      I was about to make a break for it when the physical therapist returned and hooked me up to this machine that delivers little shocks to the affected area to stimulate it electrically. She asked me some questions, like, "How are you doing so far," and "Do you think you would recommend our program to others?" And depending on my answer, I got a bigger or smaller shock.

      I don't have one of these machines at home, so I improvised by trying to shock my shoulder with spurious allegations that I am wire-tapping it. At the physical therapist's there are electrodes hanging all over it, so the allegations may actually be true. My shoulder and I have discussed the whole wire-tapping thing. Why would anyone waste their time wire-tapping Trump Tower? This is someone who broadcasts even his dopiest thoughts to millions of people on an hourly, even minutely basis.

      There is a bird who tweets nonstop right outside my window at home. It tweets about 50 times a minute, every minute of the day, every bird-brained idea that it has, and rarely has it said anything useful. Certainly the same could be said about me, but I beat you to it, didn't I?
 

Friday, July 7, 2017

BLUE GENES

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-30-17)

     My wife got tickets to the Blue Man Group, which we had never seen and sounded like a fun and farcical evening. Beforehand we ate at a restaurant next door to the theater, I think the place is owned by Robert De Niro. I mentioned it to my wife and she says that every time we go to a restaurant I say that I think it's owned by Robert De Niro.

     All the waitresses there look like runway models, which means they are super tall and they have to bend way down to take my order. My waitress talks so low I can't hear anything come out of her mouth, but I can see her lips move. It looks like she says, "I love you," although she might have said, "veal cordon bleu." I started to wonder how many times in my past that people I thought loved me actually loved veal.

     Some of the tall models look like they could be transgender, and I silently thank god I don't have to go on dates anymore, because it's a whole different world out there. It doesn't seem like good form to ask someone you just started dating if they are transgender, it's like asking someone if they are pregnant. There are questions you simply shouldn't ask unless you already know the answer. I used to say the same thing to my math teacher in high school.

     At the end of the meal we argue over the dessert menu. I tell her that chocolate is a "super food," and my wife says it's not. Well what about a chocolate napoleon? Didn't Napoleon conquer Rome? Well it turns out he didn't, but I argued that nothing beats a Twix bar, so it should be a "super food."

     Next door the show was starting. The Blue Men are a lovely shade of royal blue, the same color I get if I try to blow up too many balloons before a birthday party. I don't know how they got that way, or if they came from some faraway place, like Ulster County. They maintain an emotionless expression the whole time, which is good, because if they got envious and mad at the same time, what color they would become?

     They got right down to business, playing a three-part drum solo while spraying the drums with colored liquids from squeeze bottles. They made such a shambles of the place I could see why they don't let you bring liquids onto an airplane. From there they did some audience participation gags involving oozing gunk, and at the end encouraged people to unroll massive amounts of toilet paper into the crowd. It doesn't hurt to be prepared I guess.

     I don't want to give the plot away since I was planning to charge you for it, but suffice it to say that there was none. It had the flavor of being back in kindergarten, where the best fun you could have was to make the biggest mess and the most noise. Most people eventually outgrow this type of behavior, and if not they run for Congress. But once in a while you just need some mindless mayhem. After they were done the theater looked like my office on a Friday.

     I think the take-away from all this was that no matter what color you are, whether you are black, brown, blue, magenta, or burnt sienna, you can make a mess and have fun with toilet paper. Even if you are an orange person in a White House, lighten up now and then!

Friday, June 30, 2017

LIFE IN THE ARCTIC

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-23-17)
 
     A couple weeks ago, spring was in the air. It was growing from the ground, it was singing from the pond next door. The crocuses were blooming and the frogs were squawking their furious mating calls. A week later the crocuses had croaked and the croakers, probably the same. Their betrothed, who were ribbited a week earlier were now croaking, "Dude, what the hell?" The arrival of spring was Fake News, and we fell for it yet again. It was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese and hacked by the Russians.

     The blizzard of 2017 was here. I took the day off, and when I turned on the television the propaganda machine was in full swing. You couldn't see them because of the snow, but reporters were on the street to report that it was snowing. Back in the studio meteorologists were plying their meteorology. Accumulations were predicted to be somewhere between seven inches and the End of Civilization. We were told not to leave the house for any reason, and if possible hide under the bed until June.

     All the airports were closed, and not one person entered the country. The president immediately took credit for solving the immigration problem. "Forget the wall. We're going to build a blizzard, a great, great blizzard, a wonderful blizzard. It will be the greatest blizzard in history!"

     It didn't used to be like this. Back in the old days, Mr. G would come on the air and tell you the weather. You never heard words like "polar vortex" or "cold advection;" the guy wouldn't even tell you the other letters in his name.    

Cheap as I am, my wife finally convinced me to hire a snowplow guy. But as a compromise measure, I went out and bought an electric snow blower, which plugs into an outlet in the garage via a huge extension cord. This device is not exceedingly powerful, but I figured it could handle the smaller snowfalls of about a quarter inch or less.

     Tuesday's accumulation was so voluminous, that I thought it would be a good idea to crank up the electric snow blower and try to get a jump on things before the plow guy came. It was the equivalent of emptying the lower Mississippi River into the upper Mississippi River a teaspoon at a time. The wind was gusting so hard that it blew the snow back inside the snow blower, and the snow blower blew it back out again. It was nature's way of saying, well I can't print exactly what it was nature's way of saying, but I wish nature had phrased it a little differently. Every time I use the snow blower with the huge extension cord I am amazed that I am not electrocuted. I will continue to be amazed by this until such a time as I am electrocuted.

     After all that, the power went out. It was still light out, and I thought it might be kind of nice to go old school- start a fire in the wood-burning fireplace, heat up some leftover pizza on top of it and curl up with a good book. I forgot to heat up the flue first, and smoke billowed out of the stove and filled up the room. I had to open up the outside door to clear the smoke, so it was freezing inside. Then, all of a sudden the power came back on. Thank god, because first of all, it was almost time for Judge Judy, and second, I don't know how to curl up a book.

Friday, June 23, 2017

THE COLD SHOULDER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-16-17)

     My shoulder has been giving me problems lately. It's really just one problem, IT HURTS. It's not the sort of injury I would need a first responder for- a second or third responder could handle it. If you were an ambulance driver, and you were watching "Dateline," and they were investigating the wife's disappearance, and the husband was helping with the search and crying during the press conference, I would tell you my shoulder is not such an emergency that you couldn't wait until the police circle back to the husband, who probably did it for the insurance money.

     My question is, how did this shoulder get injured in the first place? I didn't fall, or try to break down a door or try to throw a block during a running play or anything. It's not my tennis-serving shoulder, I already had that one fixed. This particular shoulder sits around all day doing nothing, except to help me get up from a sitting position, or put on my jacket. When I tried to explain to my doctor that I might have hurt my shoulder putting on my jacket, he looked at me like he thought I might be talking about a straight jacket.

     The surgeon was a little more understanding. Surgeons know how fragile the human body can be, and it makes them slightly giddy. He looked at me from top to bottom, and it was obvious he could pick out five or six things to operate on right off the bat.

     He sent me over for an MRI, and the technician made take everything out of my pockets, like I was going to a Yankee game. He asked me if I was claustrophobic, and I assured him that I am not. He mentioned it a few more times, to make sure I don't have a fear of enclosed spaces. By the time I was inside that thing, I felt absolutely sure that I was claustrophobic. Luckily I was able to go right to sleep, because the loud banging noises reminded me a little bit of my old Datsun B-210, which I loved.

     Looking over the MRI films, the doctor said I have a bone spur that is digging into my rotator cuff, and that he was going to have to shave it down. I told him that I don't care if there's a little hair on it, maybe just give it a Brazilian wax and let's call it a day. I waxed my car last weekend and there's not a hair on the thing.

     This made him even more determined. He pulled out a model of the shoulder area, and showed me exactly what he was going to do. A couple pieces fell off and landed on the floor, and I hope he washes them off before he sticks them back in my body. He said if he didn't like the looks of my rotator cuff, he was going to snip it and re-attach it. I've had rotator cuff surgery before, and I didn't like it much, so I said no thanks to that. I told him if he gets bored he can open up my cerebral cortex and fix whatever the reason is that I suck at math. He didn't laugh at that, but he made a note for the billing department that I can't add very well.

     Down at the billing department I tried to get a straight answer about how much this little setback was going to set me back. The doctor's office referred me to the surgery center, which referred me to the anesthesiologist's office, which referred me back to the doctor's office. As I was trying to figure it all out I realized that the deductible on my car insurance was much less than on my health insurance. I wondered if maybe I could park my car on a small incline, put it in neutral, climb out and gently run over my shoulder. But I knowing me, I would sprain my knee jumping out of the car.

Friday, June 16, 2017

SEVENTY-FIVE DOWN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-02-17)
 
     In February of 1942, a scant couple months after Pearl Harbor, the world was a scary place, even scarier than it is now, if you can believe it. The New York Times was a serious newspaper covering serious stories, but people needed a diversion. It was time for the Times to publish what it had previously considered a "sinful waste" of time.

     Last month marked the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword puzzle, and I have to say, completing the puzzle each week saved me. It saved me from cleaning the garage, it saved me from doing the dishes and it saved me from mowing the lawn. It also saved me from sudoku. I don't know if you would call sudoku a mathematical puzzle, but the damn thing is filled with nothing but numbers. It's the equivalent of water-boarding for someone who got a 425 on their math SAT, only much more addicting.

     I had always thought that crossword puzzles were silly, the way I think that everything I can't do is silly, like surfing or neurosurgery. But when my wife found out that I was filling in the wrong answers to her puzzles, we started completing them together so that she could keep an eye on me. As a team, my wife and I are a formidable puzzle-solving machine. She handles all the clues about geography, current events, art, culture, languages and literature. If a question comes up about "F Troop," that's when I spring into action. Picture if you will (I wouldn't if I were you), the symbiotic relationship between the sea anemone and the clownfish, where the clownfish knows a lot of commercial jingles and game shows from four decades ago.

     I convince myself that the puzzles are educational, and that I am warding off Alzheimer's disease with every answer I fill in. I have learned who Brian Eno is, why Mel Ott was so great, and a lot of names relating to rare birds. I now know what an ern is, and an ani and a nene. When I am 95 years old, muttering random three letter words etched into my memory, it isn't going to help convince people that I DON'T have Alzheimer's.

     Will Shortz has been the Times Crossword Puzzle editor for decades now, and I picture him sequestered in a dark, candle-lit room in the top floor of a castle, maliciously devising new ways to make me seem stupider than usual. Thursday and Sunday he embeds some sort of trick into the puzzle, as he laughs a sinister laugh: "MWA HAHAHAHAHA!"

     Whenever I feel like I don't have a clue, I open up the Times, and the crossword has dozens of them. What's a four-letter word for Will Shortz? Next time I see him I'll let him know. I actually have met Will Shortz, because he owns a ping pong club in Pleasantville. I only use the term "ping pong" because I know he would hate that I didn't call it "table tennis," and he has it coming to him. He's wasted more of my time than my personal trainer, who has never trained me to do anything but a bunch of dumb exercises. I'd like to say more bad things about Will Shortz, except that he was actually quite fun and friendly, and I couldn't think of a cross word for him.


 

Friday, June 9, 2017

THE DOG DAYS OF WINTER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-02-17)

     You may have been too wrapped up in the President's Day festivities to notice, but there was a dog show going on last weekend. A dog show is exactly like a car show or a boat show, if cars and boats could lick themselves. And don't laugh, because we already have self-driving cars.

     I'm going to flip all the cards and just tell you that the German Shepherd named Rumor won Best in Show this year. If a German Shepherd wants to win a trophy, and you happen to have one, just hand him the damn thing and get the hell out of there. When you compare an old English sheepdog to a German shepherd, you get the idea that German sheep are not nearly as polite as they look.

     The main event is the promenade in the ring during the Best in Show competition. The handler is looking for obedience and smooth execution. The judges are looking for distinctive characteristics of the breed. The dog is looking for anything that smells gross.

     The handler pirouettes around the floor in an unnatural prance, as if a swarm of hungry butterflies is chasing her. She holds the dog leash with her thumb and forefinger way up in the air, as if she was holding a teacup filled with gossip from the Hamptons. Smiling at the audience and drinking in the applause and attention, the handler fails to notice that the dog pulled off the track at a diner 15 minutes ago.This year three new breeds were admitted into the show: The pumi, the sloughi and the American hairless terrier. The pumi looks like a Brillo pad with a tail, the sloughi can hunt game as big as a gazelle (no one has a gazelle to test out this boast), and the American hairless is described as allergy-friendly, like myself. I have a close personal relationship with just about every allergy there is, and believe me, that's nothing to sneeze at.

     The dog show recently added an agility contest for those dogs who have "a great personality," and I think you know what I mean. I don't know if this qualifies as agility, but my dog Gidget can run around the dining room table 3,000 times in a row. If you happen to be having a dinner party, you have to time the seating just right or you could be seriously injured. She's also great with a tennis ball, and if I can teach her to play she will have two backhands, two forehands and an occiput.

     My dog is called a Eurasier, and it's a beautiful breed, look it up. It's not recognized by the AKC, but that's only because they don't have their glasses on. She's about 45 pounds. Anything smaller than that I consider to be a Yorkie. Every time I see a Yorkie I sneer imperiously, as if to impugn the owner's masculinity, especially if the owner is a woman.

     If for some reason the winner of the dog show is unable to fulfill its duties, Gidget is willing to step in. She is intelligent, clean and is a great watch dog. If a burglar broke into my house right now and stole all our belongings, Gidget would watch the whole thing. She loves people, and she would sit next to you and lick your hand for a length of time that is very uncomfortable for everyone, and eventually could result in a restraining order.