Search The World... In Briefs!

Thursday, December 2, 2010



I went to a club recently, not knowing that it was a salsa dancing Mecca, playing only Latino music. I don’t really like the music that much; the songs all sound alike to me after a while, but hey at least it has a great beat and actual lyrics which I can’t understand since they’re in Spanish. Even though I took TWO YEARS of Latin in middle school, it is utterly worthless for Latin music. Some Spanish I know from song lyrics, mostly Santana and Ritchie Valens. For instance, “Oye Como Va,” I think means like “Oy vey.” Or “La bamba,” which means, “You have big cans.” Or “Amore,” which is when somebody hits you in the eye with a pizza, so I think it means assault in Spanish. I can understand the general gist of things, since Spanish is a romance language and I speak the International Language of Love. My native tongue by the way is red.

People come from far and wide to show off their dance moves. It’s nothing you don’t see Ahmad Bradshaw do on a weekly basis, but the difference is he often scores.
Some of the guys looked admittedly light around the loafer area, like they were filled with two-parts hydrogen and one-part helium. One guy spun around and pranced the length of the dance floor then vaporized into thin air. His partner was like, what the hell?

There were some other guys who actually danced slinkily but manly, and not too gayish. I always preferred Gene Kelly to Fred Astaire, who didn’t dance differently enough from Ginger Rogers for my liking.

My friend Wal is from some country with an “-istan” at the end of it, and he was dancing up a storm. He literally was, because all this fog came out of nowhere and I thought it was going to hail. The song ended and he looked winded, so I asked him if wanted me to get him an oxygen mask, and he said, “No thank you.”

I never for a moment considered that I should learn to dance this way. I picture myself spinning the wrong way with her hand firmly in mine, twisting the girl’s arm completely off. I drop it on the floor in horror, blood spewing all over the place, and somebody by mistake kicks it down the stairs where it gets into the revolving door and ends up outside, where a cat drags it to the curb and it falls down a storm drain. Meanwhile the girl is looking at me like I am a complete loser, and all I have is a disarming smile.

Sometimes couples who have been dancing this way for many years spin and turn as if they are on a track, like an expensive clock that plays music when it chimes. One couple dance so close I assumed one of his buttons was caught in her hair. Another guy took his girlfriend by the hair, whipped her in the air and snapped her like a damp gym towel.

One caballero had his partner turning so long he actually spun her into a cocoon. On the plus side she emerged a beautiful woman, but unfortunately during her metamorphosis she got a parking ticket.

Which reminds me they replaced all the parking meters in New York City with these “muni meters” which of course don’t take any money that goes clink. I don’t mind that but what I do mind is that at night I always have on contact lenses and I can’t read the menus. I don’t know how much money to put in because I can’t read my watch with my contacts in. My watch says either 7:03 or 12:35. But did I reset it for daylight savings time? In which case it’s either 8:05 or 20 of 1. I push a couple buttons and hope for the best.

Back inside the club I check out the sad dudes in the VIP area. I swear to god these people always look bereft, cordoned off behind velvet ropes. Four guys and a bottle of champagne chilling, waiting for someone to waste it on. They look like they wish they had thought to bring a deck of cards or something. Out of force of habit I get in line next to the velvet ropes in order to open a low-interest checking account.

I can see dancing supernovas going nuts on the floor. These are the ones that will burn brightly for a very short period of time. They will hit the wall fast, some quite literally. They will approach the hour of midnight like Cinderella, when their faces will start to fall like a Salvador Dali painting.

I order a cuubbrrrra libbrrrre, rolling my “r’s” in a very whitebread manner. A girl comes up to me and asks me if I’d like to dance. Sure. I put my drink down and warn her that I don’t know what I’m doing, which is a warning I use in just about every endeavor. I start dancing from side-to-side like I usually do, but she is dancing front-to-back and she puts a dent in my thigh with her ass. It is quickly ascertained that we are totally incompatible, like an octopus trying to teach a snake to ride a bicycle. An old guy with pomade in his hair gives me a dirty look and whisks her away like a dust devil. At this point I realize I have over-quandoed, somebody has taken my drink, and I just want to hear some Stones.

Incidentally, “Salsa” is a Cuban style of dancing popularized in the 1920s. It is characterized by three steps within a four-beat measure, the fourth beat observed with a kick or tap. That is the beat that is usually directed at my bad knee. One of the steps is usually a “break step,” which changes direction, often towards the bar. In Salsa the upper body remains stationary while the lower half is running around with who-knows-who, usually up to no good. Salsa differs from Meringue in that Salsa has no eggs in it.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I hate talking about politics since it makes me so angry I could spit. I would only discuss it here, where no one can interrupt me, or while using chewing tobacco. This way I can kill two birds with one stone. By the way, I don’t need to kill birds at all- they will do it themselves: There is a cardinal who lives outside our house that flies into the garage window on an average of 40 times a day, and that is no joke. If the “No-Fly List” ever needed to be expanded, this is who it should be expanded to include. Somebody said, “he probably sees his own reflection in the window.” So what? I see my reflection in the mirror 5 times a day, and I don’t try to attack the mirror every time, I would say every other time though, since my hair has taken on a life of its own and often goes places without me that I have no interest in visiting.

So now that the elections are finally over, what does it all mean? The Republicans have answered the call of the American People: We want LESS government! Quit bailing us out of all our messes that we got ourselves into! Wouldn’t it be cheaper if we were bonded out instead? What if congress bails out Freddie Mac, and Freddie Mac jumps bail and changes his name? So the Republicans have issued the following promise: As YOUR representatives, we will do even LESS than we did before. In fact, we’ll go one further: we will do NOTHING! This election American politics held a giant mirror up to our society, and we looked into it and asked ourselves: “What the hell is that thing? Was that there before? That is GROSS.”

Candidates who were flash heroes will fade back into the gloaming. Carl Paladino will have return to whatever he used to do before. I fantasize that he was a Sunday School teacher:
“Kids, our last field trip we saw a bunch of sick animals all oiled up wearing Speedos. It’s disgusting.”
“But Mr. Paladino we were at the beach!”
I went around my house checking all the woodwork lest something else come crawling out of it, and I urge you to do the same.

The girl who said she was a witch or thought she was a witch or whatever, lost. Ding-dong, the witch is dead.

Linda Macmahon is headed back to the WWE. There are a lot of bald fat dudes over there who wear startlingly revealing clothing, and it’s probably a lot like Congress. Men should not wear unitards; men do need more than one tard. Wrestlers yell at everything and everybody, and abuse the referees, who don’t even carry whistles to protect themselves. If they are taking all those steroids (and you can tell that they are because their voices sound like a vacuum cleaner sucking up acorns) don’t you think they’d be in better shape?

The law to legalize marijuana did not pass. They figured they could slip it through by saying it would help the economy and create jobs. It WOULD create jobs because stoners are kind of slow on the uptake, so it takes two of them to do the same job a drunk guy usually does. There are a lot of laws that prohibit things that really don’t need prohibiting, and they tie up valuable police resources that should be going towards tasing people. For instance, “criminal mischief” should not be a crime. This is a catch-all term for all the crimes that don’t really belong in an existing category. It’s like when you go to a wedding, and there is one table where all the misfits are who aren’t really family, aren’t really friends, aren’t acquaintances, don’t work with the bride and groom, and are pretty much annoying, but they gave a REALLY expensive shower gift. What is criminal mischief? Example: you tie a guy’s shoelaces together, then run over him with your car. OR pull the chair out from under him just as he is about to sit, and grab his wallet on the way down.

Nor should “menacing” remain a crime. I mean Dennis was a menace for god’s sake. There is a face that I make when I’m on the subway and I encounter someone who might be violent and/or nuts. I consider it to be menacing, but it only cracks my wife up.

The new Health Care Law is in danger of being repealed. God forbid the nation should heal the people. In Amsterdam, they give out free syringes, but YOU have to figure out what to put in them. I was at a bar and a girl came around and asked me if I wanted shots, so I got one for diphtheria, a tetanus and one for my distemper, since the Tea Party has gotten me in the habit of being ANGRY.

The Bush Tax Cuts are scheduled to expire soon. I had NO IDEA that there was a tax on that in the first place, and I only hope that if they check my records they don’t go back too far.

The election did nothing to make Sarah Palin go away. In fact she even has her own cable show now, where she rides down rapids in an inflatable raft while she fires mortar rounds at elk from a 60 mm muzzle loader. Which is fine because she’s hot, but when she opens her mouth her hotness is instantly replaced by an annoying, shrill voice that puts my fantasies in reverse without having a chance to go to neutral first. Suffice it to say that I picture performing unspeakable acts with her, namely any act that during which she does not speak. In terms of gun control, I myself went out and bought a gun. Isn’t that proof enough that we need tighter laws?

Incidentally, The drug policy in the Netherlands remains widely watched by other countries interested in instituting similar legislation. The Dutch idea of “gedoogbeleid,” or “tolerance,” is easy to remember because it spells “dielebgoodeg” backwards. Cannabis is technically a controlled substance there, but its sale in coffee shops is widely tolerated, mostly because the coffee is so bad. A recent poll said that 60% of Dutch citizens were in favor of legalized marijuana, while only 15% were against it. Oddly, 5% supported a write-in choice of Twinkies.
Also incidentally, I only mention the Netherlands because this blog had 37 hits there last month. I thought that it was very exciting that I was so popular in world markets until I realized that the phrase “thewor ldinb riefs” means “Brittney Spears nude in the vegetable aisle” in Dutch.

Monday, November 1, 2010



Americans historically are fond of crowing about how they enjoy the finest political system in the world. We don’t even believe that ourselves. It is of course among the worst. I think about this subject once in awhile, and I have come to the conclusion that the best political system may actually be a benevolent dictatorship. When you leave things in the hands of a bunch of committees, and let people who are not especially bright vote on them, what you get is the lowest common denominator. Subtract a couple denominators from that, and what you have is American politics. This is not a political blog, this is a place to make fun of things that seem dopey to me. And what is dopier than American politics!

Anyone who knows me knows that I never pick up the phone at home, even if I am the one making the call. The only people who DON’T know this are Bill Clinton, Ed Koch and this Southern guy who talks so fast that I could hardly understand him. I decided to leave all the phone messages from political robots on my machine so I could dissect them later and find out what makes American politics tick. When I tried to find out what makes American politics tick, what I found out was that if American politics was an alarm clock, we would continue napping until we have that dream where we are falling off a cliff and wake up just before we hit the bedroom floor.

We have 15 messages on our answering machine as I write this, a day before the elections. The Democrats are poised to have a mid-term showing that ranks right below mine during my junior year of high school. But that is not deterring the robo-callers. Here is what they have been robo-talking about:

The fast-talking Southern guy cut right to the chase: “Cat-fried mice” is KILLING our economy! “Cat-fried mice” built 750 low-income housing units right in MY neighborhood! Just say NO to “cat-fried mice!” When I heard this I couldn’t believe it: I think I have had cat-fried mice at the Chinese restaurant and it was pretty damn good. On the menu it’s called “General Tso’s chicken," and I couldn’t believe that it was killing our economy so I asked my wife about it. She said, “The guy is saying ‘Tax-hike Mike,’ you dummy.” Just to be safe I will be voting against both of them tomorrow.

Then Ed Koch called and told me to vote for Nan Hayworth, since she signed a petition for New York Uprising, whatever that is. The guy is about 90 years old, and I give him credit for just finding my number, since phone books are heavy. So I listened to the whole message, and just when I thought he was going to explain what New York Uprising was, he lost his train of thought and started talking about “Dancing with the Stars.” Then it sounded like his teeth fell out and hit the microphone, and then he hung up. The petition that he is talking about, as I heard from a reliable source, has names on it like “Zorro,” “Morris the Cat,” “Ed Crotch,” so I don’t think I’ll be voting for Ed. I’m not even going to mention television political ads, I’m saving that one for when I run out of ammunition. But suffice it to say that on TV, Ed Koch is starting to look a lot like Grandpa Munster.

Sue called from the AFL-CIO. Apparently John Hall is completely anti-union, or might be totally for them- I couldn’t really tell since robo-callers rarely robo-enunciate. She went on and on for about 3 minutes, of which I understood about 2:53. She gave a website in case I needed more information, but what I really wanted was a website that would give me less. By the way she didn’t even mention Daryl Oates, so I guess they are no longer together.

Somebody called whose name I couldn’t make out, and went into great detail about something-or-other. It had to do with exposing outsourcing. And then in order to make things even clearer than that, he plays a clip from a recent Town Hall meeting (he doesn’t say which town), and through my answering machine sounds exactly like when parents talk to Charlie Brown.

Jim Bartkowski wanted to phone and tell me that he is running for Assembly. I remember that I spent most of my school years running FROM Assembly, so I’m not voting for him.

Greg Ball called to remind me of what a great guy he is. It sounded like something I always got picked last for in grade school, so I am not voting for him, although I may be thinking of dodge ball.

Greg Andrews assumed that I might like to be hooked up to a live teleconference so that I could ask questions, and so even though I wasn’t there, he hooked me up for a good four minutes. As it turns out I DO have a question: ARE YOU FUCKING NUTS???

One guy called and wanted me to “stop throwing shoes at my TV set” and show up to a “traffic jamming, pig throwing (or something like that) hoedown” at the Putnam County Courthouse and to “bring my pitchfork.” This sounds like something I made up, but it is not. At the end of the message he went, “WOOO HOOOO!”

Claire rang from the DNC. I don't think it was even a robo-call. She sounded a little lonely and I think she just wanted to shoot the shit.

Since the average American attention span is no longer than a Twitter post, the television spots are getting shorter, like this one: “Linda MacMahon’s a slut!” And many ads run right in a row, democrat following republican, and vice versa. One ad says, “Dick Blumenthal raised your taxes, so that he can upgrade his cable.” Then the next ad says, “He did NOT!” The next ad says, “Did TOO!”

They recently had a gubernatorial debate, so that we could get a load of the people who want to become our gubernor. There was Andrew Cuomo, Paladino, another guy, a woman, and a black guy who looked a lot like a walrus. Jerry Springer was the emcee, and there was a lot of name-calling and some hair-pulling, and accusing each other of cheating and having each others’ babies. The Democrats declared that they had set the bar very high, and the Republicans complained that it was making it harder for short people to get a drink.

I am so annoyed with these calls that I think I will just vote against anyone who called me, regardless of what their party affiliation might be. I’ll be really glad when the election is over so that I can delete all these messages, but I probably won’t be picking up my phone anytime soon just in case. I’m Rickster, and I approve this message.

Incidentally, The Revolutionary War ended with the signing of the Peace Treaty of 1783. It was signed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and British representative David Hartley, who used to host Good Morning America. After the signing George Washington rode a victory lap on his white horse from West Point through Westchester and into Manhattan. Now that they had won the war, his military officers wanted to install him as king, but he quashed the idea, "as every Man who regards liberty…undoubtedly must." When they went to raise the flag at Fort George (now Castle Clinton on the tip of lower Manhattan) they discovered that the British had greased the flagpole!

Thursday, October 21, 2010



Everyone loves a wedding. A wedding on Long Island is an acquired taste, and it takes a long time to acquire it. It took us about an hour and a half to get to Westhampton, and another hour and a half to get to East Hampton, 20 miles away where the church was. I imagined the wedding party stuck in the same traffic, having a road rage incident and spending the night in jail. How does a funeral get through? Besides the deceased, another two or three of his friends could die of old age in that traffic. I tried putting on my lights just in case people would let me by, but they just assumed I had been on Route 27 the entire night and forgot to turn them off.

There are people who attend church religiously- attending any other way would be silly. I am not a pious person. I used to go to Sunday School when I was a little kid, which was only a thinly-veiled excuse to rid all children from the service, so that it would be quiet enough to hear my mother’s stomach growl, echoing around the cavernous room, the statue of Jesus rolling his eyes. Then at the completion of Sunday School, when I was about thirteen, I was told that I must get confirmed. I envisioned getting an inked stamp on my arm or something, but instead you had to take a test, which included reciting, in order, the books of the bible. I knew I didn’t stand a chance of passing- Genesis, Nemesis, Tetanus, Leviticus, Schlemiticus, Meticulous, Deuteronomy, Dermatology, Phlebotomy, Chronicles, Barnacles, Monacles, etc., etc., etc., so on and so forth, I think I covered most of the major ones. In the end I borrowed a cheat-sheet from my sister and kept an eye on the weather report in case lightning might strike me dead on the spot.

Anyway the ceremony was lovely, some readings, a hymn or two, the priest telling you when to stand and when to sit, like the scoreboard at a Giants game. Thank god we didn’t have to suffer through the Corinthians again- “Love is this, Love is that, Love never leaves its underwear around, Love understands how to load the Dishwasher correctly, Love never leaves the Toilet Seat up…. Incidentally, why is it the man’s job to put to put the toilet seat down, and not the woman’s job to put the toilet seat back UP?

This passage is actually Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (which is where they get that rich leather from). Paul who? Doesn’t say. Who actually opened the letter? I have no idea, it was simply addressed “Corinthians,” no zip code or anything. Nowadays Paul would just shoot off an email, and CC all of the Apostles, let them forward it to whoever they thought should get it. If my dad was a Corinthian he NEVER would have opened it; any time the phone would ring at our house our dad would yell out: “It’s not the guy from the church, is it? Tell him I’m not here.” They were always calling for fund drives.

The priest was working the crowd: if you didn’t say “And Also With You” loud enough, he made you do it again. He did most of the talking, and every once in a while the celebrants (that’s us) would chime in and say something like “Hosanna in the highest.” The celebrants all seemed to know what that means except me. Everyone was invited up to take communion, and the priest charged me for the crackers and wine- is this normal?

As usual the bride and groom mumbled through the vows. I couldn’t make out much of what they were saying, but I thought I heard the words, “veal piccata,” and “Operation Repo.” We all said some prayers and promised to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t do any of the dumb things we’ve been doing.

As the happy couple sprang from the narthex, instead of throwing rice at them, which is bad for birds unless you cook it first, or birdseed, which runs the risk of a Hitchcock-like scene where birds flock the church and start pecking at peoples’ hair, we blew bubbles instead, at the approximate rate of one every 5 minutes or so.

At the reception things perk up after a few drinks. I won’t even go into dancing here- that really needs its own blog. Suffice it to say that I spend much of my time on the dance floor trying to get away from those over-enthusiastic acrobats who are determined to whack into my one good knee.

After dinner it’s time for the usual wedding reception traditions, like cutting the wedding cake. There is a song for this: “The bride cuts the cake, the bride cuts the cake, hi-ho the dairy-O, the bride cuts the cake.” American lyricists left with a gaping hole in their train of thought will always fill it with, “hi-ho the dairy-O.” In the modern world of texting, “hi ho” means something totally different than it used to. Sometimes the bride and groom force-feed the cake to each other. If you’re going to complain for most of the marriage about how your husband is constantly stuffing his face, why would you teach him how to do it the very first day? And when are they going to wake up and serve chocolate lava cake?

They avoided the whole garter situation, which is creepy. In what other culture do a man and woman embark on their new life together by having a stranger feel up the bride’s leg and dress her with articles of underwear? And even so he only puts one garter on, so the other stocking is flapping in the breeze. You might as well put half her bra on while you’re at it. That way the cups are half full, if you’re an optimist.

Incidentally, Many wedding traditions have stood the test of time, as long it’s graded on a curve. For instance, the custom of wearing a bridal veil dates back to a time when marriages were arranged. If the betrothed had a face that looked like the surface of the moon, hiding it for as long as possible was only common sense. Misplacing the groom’s glasses would also be a good idea. Showering the newlyweds with rice also has historical basis. Since for the ancient Egyptians and Assyrians rice was a symbol of fruitfulness, throwing it at the new couple was a wish for their future children. Conversely, throwing fruit was a sign of ricefulness. Carrying the bride across the threshold stems back to a time when brides were actually stolen from their families. The best man was enlisted to help in the theft, and possibly a forklift if the blushing bride was also a paunchy princess.

Friday, October 8, 2010



I feel I can tell you this since you are 12 of my closest friends (although one of you is the website operator and is paid to be one of my closest friends).

I had a little moment as I exited the train recently. There were some idiots standing in front of the opening door who were not de-training (this is a technical term that means “getting off the train”). They were just standing there clogging up the door, and the people in front of me who were actually trying to get off were not moving with what I perceived to be the appropriate urgency. I thought the guy in front of me was lolli-gagging (this is a technical term that means “choking on a lollipop), and I kind of pushed past him.

He took offense to that, and thought I was the idiot, which proves that HE was the idiot. He compared me to an animal, and not one very high on the food chain. This only made me hungrier. In retrospect, he handled it pretty well I guess, berating me in a very sarcastic manner- I actually had to admire it but I was still on the offensive for my offensive conduct.

There was no excuse for my behavior, although I said at the time that my dog ate it. I consider carrying a note with me that says, “Please excuse Rick, as he has a temperature,” which is technically correct.

Sometimes I am short with people, and I really can’t figure out why, although 9 times out of 10 it makes conversation less painful on my back. Other times I am cross with people, if not lengthwise. I can’t figure out why I am in such a hurry- my mother had the patience of a saint. I was always trying her patience, but I must not have liked it too much. It must come from my father’s side, the one I was a thorn in. My father seemed vaguely like Ralph Cramden, putting up with things for a short while and then bitch-slapping you into alacrity. I even rush to places where I have to sit and wait once I get there.

There are never enough hours in a day, even during leap years. So I walk very fast, eat very fast and work very fast. Even when I am fasting for religious reasons, I do it fast, and I’m done in an hour or so. I constantly multi-task. You would be surprised at the things I can do simultaneously: I do back exercises while I use the water pik. I floss as I read my book before bed. You would be amused and appalled at what I do while I brush my teeth.

I feel I must educate people on the proper decorum in everyday situations. If someone would only ask me to write a book I could transform the world into an orderly set of cogs and pulleys. For instance, if you are riding on the same subway car as me, don’t stand in front of the goddamn door until it’s your stop! I will blow past you with only the sorriest excuse for a “sorry.” And if you must use one of those ridiculous oversized golf umbrellas the size of a circus tent, it’s your responsibility to keep it from poking my eye out. Incidentally, why do some umbrellas have what looks like a little milk bottle on the top? I can’t tolerate those either, because of the lactose.

And if I come to your store and somebody calls on the phone, put them on hold until you have taken care of me! I went to all this trouble to come to your stupid store in PERSON, and then you just ignore me like that? Shame on you. Even though I was only here to find the right size so I could go buy it online for cheaper.

I would hate to become one of those people in a political ad, where the piano starts to play in a minor key, and the photographs of him depict a confused and contemptible individual, a slumlord who benefited by government bailouts and failed to provide ANY jobs. I would hate to be compared to someone who went to Washington and wanted to give people HEALTHCARE, something which we DID NOT WANT! We are SICK and TIRED of that kind of thing, although it might be symptoms of the flu- I won’t know until the new healthcare laws fully kick in.

I want to be thought of as the kind of person who is accompanied by music played in a major key, preferably something in G that I might sing along to, with lyrics like “This Land is Your Land.” Sometimes I sing this song to the neighbor when it’s time to rake the leaves.

Incidentally, The umbrella has been around for thousands of years- at least mine has. Essentially unchanged through the years, it’s one of those inventions that time seems to have forgotten, at least every time it rains. The word comes from the Latin root “umbra,” which means, “shade.” As early as 1611, English traveler Thomas Coryat wrote about “umbrellaces,” leather “canopies” with wooden hoops “for shelter against the scorching heat of the sun.” In 1852, another Englishman named Samuel Fox invented the modern version, using corset stays for the steel supports. That is why English women were much drier, but less shapely. It is bad luck to open an umbrella in the house, since that usually means that your roof is leaking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010



We recently went camping with our neighbors at lovely Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Park area of upstate New York. If you really want to get away by yourself and get in touch with the outdoors, take your family camping once in awhile. What is lovelier than sitting in the shade, reading the paper as nature hustles and bustles around you? Eventually the rest of your family will find your campsite, but you might be able to get through the Sports section. There is nothing like the aroma of burning wood to greet you as you unpack your car. To be honest that burning smell turned out to be our clutch. The sounds of the wild permeate the scene: mostly other couples arguing. I thought how it would make a great reality show: “Housewives of Schroon Lake.”

It takes a little while to set things up, and I’m sure most of the couples were arguing about where to put up the tent, hanging the tarp, how to situate the kitchen facilities. But at our campsite, I am for once the king. The reason? I am the only one who knows how to tie a bowline knot. No campsite can long survive without a bowline knot holding everything up. At the campsite I answer to NO ONE, which basically means that I don’t know how to work my cell phone. As it happened there was no cell service there anyway, and we had to resort to communicating the old fashioned way: email.

We sat around that evening drinking beer by a fire, wondering if the office was supposed to be on fire. Normally we would tell ghost stories, but we didn’t know any ghost stories. Instead we recounted all the ways in which we had abused children. Paul admitted to spilling beer on a baby. He was carrying a full cup in one hand and a bulky bambino in the other. My guess is that someone asked him what time it was and that’s all she wrote. If he wore his watch on the other hand that baby would have a welt on its head the size of a golf ball. I told about the time I was at Kenny and Claudia’s party and I felt that the children were not toasting the marshmallows correctly on the fire. I tried to demonstrate the most efficient method (basically sticking it into the coals and singeing it beyond recognizability), and when I went to grab the kid’s marshmallow stick the little white cylinder went careening about 10 feet and landed on another kid’s leg, where the gooey meteorite stuck long enough to give him second degree burns. All night long, moms were pointing at me, whispering to one another and shaking their heads.

Campground restrooms are not a welcoming sight. Every visit is a new opportunity to commune with all types of bugs and other wildlife. I saw this cootie climbing up my commode that must have been four inches long. This creepy crapper crawler must have been training for this day for months, his Mount Everest moment. He was prevented from reaching the summit by the Times crossword puzzle. During that time a spider had built a web from my leg to the door. Then when you go to wash your hands, there are never paper towels in any campground. If you’re lucky they have a blower, which sounds a lot luckier than it actually is. The thing takes a half hour longer than just wiping your hands on your pants. At least there are no automatic paper towel dispensers. When did we, as a society, become too weak to remove paper towels from a holder? I put my hand under one of those and NOTHING EVER HAPPENS. Then as I am walking away I hear the noise, I turn and there is the towel. I run back over and the machine sucks the towel back up. I coax it back out, dry one hand and try to get another out to wipe my other hand, but it feels I should have gotten the job done with one. I have to go away and return disguised as someone else. On the plus side I pass by the urinal and set off the automatic flusher 3 times.

That reminds me I am thinking about putting separate men’s and women’s rooms in my house. Our bathroom requirements seem to overlap only minimally. For instance whenever I’m at someone else’s house and go to take a pee, I find that the wife has installed a fuzzy cover over the toilet seat. Guys: you know what happens next. You put the toilet seat up, and let her rip, and right in the middle the thing falls down and the startling sound causes your directional gyroscope to go haywire.

Anyway, it was time for bed. You don’t realize that your tent is pitched on an incline if you’ve been drinking; you assume it’s just YOU listing to the left. But when you wake up you are both huddled in one corner, and everything round in shape that you happened to bring along has rolled there too.

One time we heard some rustling noises outside our tent. It sounded like something large, and we speculated quietly as to what it might be. I suggested that it could be a rustler, because of the noise. My wife thought it might be a skunk or an opossum, but what if it was a coyote or a bobcat, or even a bear? Luckily we were armed, since I had one of those camp tools that has a pair of pliers and a knife that I can’t actually get my fingernail to coax out of its niche. My wife thought I had better go chase it away whatever it was, or vice versa, either way she is a winner. It turned out to be a cat, but it was pretty big and possibly wild, and there was a shape in its belly that might have been that of a six year-old boy, so I let it be and got back in the tent. I thought it was best to err on the side of caution, although I am not picky and will do it just about anywhere.

Cooking breakfast at the campground is one of life’s little pleasures. Food in general tastes so much better, maybe because you have to work so much harder for it. The last time we fired up the cookstove, there was a tiny ripped gasket and the whole thing caught on fire and almost blew up the propane canister. I knew we were almost out of gas, so I was reluctant to put out the fire before at least cooking the eggs, but hysterical screaming and yelling really inhibits my creativity in the kitchen. As a public service let me remind you always to plan an escape route before starting any fire around an open propane tank.

Incidentally, the Adirondack Park is really a system of private and public lands that according to my map spans an area approximately six inches by four inches, although much bigger in person. The State of New York sought to buy up the almost 3 million original acres because it was thought that deforestation would destroy the Erie Canal and economically cripple the state. The Iroquois Nation occupied a good portion of the land. For the most part they had sided with the British during the Revolutionary War, not realizing that there would be hardly a decent restaurant if they won. As a punishment, most were displaced to reservations in the Midwest, yet if they had left them where they were (namely our campsite) they would have been more effectively punished by the constant barking of a little white poodle-type dog that I am ashamed to say I often called a particular disgusting name in its own language.

Thursday, September 9, 2010



Through the miracle of facebook my wife re-connected with her old girlfriend from high school, who coincidentally (perhaps not) used to be my first girlfriend in high school, before I knew my wife, whom I met through the girlfriend. She was my first SERIOUS girlfriend, if you put two and two together.

We met for the very first time as I was surfacing from the Croton Reservoir. I had just jumped about 40 feet off the railroad trestle on the abandoned “Old Put” train line. It was something we used to do for fun, although in retrospect it would have been a lot more fun had I worn a cup. Chris had brought her swimming, and we hit it off immediately once I climbed ashore. She was artsy, vivacious, kind of Carole Kingy. I wasn’t that artsy, but at least I wasn’t that fartsy.

It was amazing to see what divergent paths we took after high school. She embarked on a wild ride that took her from the Northeast to the Southwest to the Northwest. It’s obvious she didn’t suffer from a lack of direction. I remained in the Northeast, although every once in awhile I drifted to the north Northeast, the south Northeast, or the east Northsouth. Usually due to holding the map upside down.

It seemed that she remembered things, details of our short relationship that my porous mind could not hold onto. I know some people that live in the past, and they remember everything from years and years ago. Some people live in the future, Captain Kirk for instance. I tend to live in the present, which means by the time I get to the end of a sentence I have forgotten what the beginning was. I don’t have the memory that she does, nor do I have the memory that she does.

Although we dated only for a year or so, back then it seemed like a long, long time. I guess if you have only existed 16 or 17 years, each of those years ages you disproportionately. I believe that the first two years of your life you age in squirrel years, which have a life expectancy of sixteen years. Then after you learn to talk but before you get married you age in box turtle years, which live a hundred and forty years. After that the time really flies, and a whole year goes by as you are cleaning out your garage.

One thing that was obvious from our talk was that if we did not have parents, we would have no one to blame our problems on. I usually tell anyone who blames me for anything that my dad was an alcoholic, and that I came from a broken home. The last part is true, since our basement always flooded after the flimsiest rainfall.

Now that I realize what a negative influence parents can be, it’s a wonder people allow them into their homes at all. It possibly started with Jesus- his father, God, is Mr. Perfect. Knows everything, sees everything, infinite wisdom, blah, blah, blah. That’s a lot to live up to, and it’s a wonder Jesus didn’t turn to drugs, drop out of school and become a total fuck-up.

Anyway, she got into Wellesley, and a few other good colleges, but her mother and stepfather couldn’t wring out the money to send her. She ended up hitchhiking across the country, sleeping in cars, the side of the road once in awhile. Dumpster-diving now and then for lack of money or inertia. She married young, divorced young, had children she wasn’t emotionally ready to throw herself into. But she did what she wanted to do, on no one else’s command or behalf.

Then she asked what we’ve been up to. We have spent the last 36 years moving slowly up the Harlem Line, with higher school taxes hot on our heels. We couldn’t think of much that compared to the excitement of her post high-school days, although we did see an episode of “The Office” recently that we hadn’t seen before. Our days are fun and eventful to us, but a side-by-side comparison reveals that life is full of choices and compromises. What I have given up to have a healthy 401K is a treasure chest full of experiences you can only collect once upon a time; there are many different ways to be rich (I missed being Rich by one letter).

Had I remained with her, I wondered what it would have been like for her, trying to concentrate on our next meal, with me saying things like, “do you think we could dumpster-dive for a toenail clipper?”, or, “It was really nice of that diner to give us this food for free, but that looks like a mushroom- do you think I can get this without?” Or would she have been satisfied traveling the world in one-week-a-year increments?

It was great to see her again for the first time after all these years. Back then you could jump right into a lake not knowing was underneath. A freefall straight down, with unfailing confidence that everything would be fine when you landed. I wouldn’t try it now…. But she seems happy, content, at peace with her past, and willing to share her feelings honestly, including the fact that when we broke up, her mom missed me more than she did….

Incidentally, the abandoned New York Central Putnam Division rail line is now the North County Trailway bicycle park. From the late 1800s to the 50s and 60s trains carried freight and passengers to New York City. Since there was only one track, I assume it left them there, and they should be back soon. One spur connected the “Old Put” to the Harlem Line, and ran through Lincolndale to a depot 3,000 feet from my house. The freight trains carried milk through now defunct NYC tracks directly underneath the Sheffield Milk processing plant on the west side of Manhattan. The railroad owned the right-of-way and the milk plant owned air rights above the tracks. The milk plant is now the CBS Broadcast Center, where I have worked for the last 30 years, and evidence of the railroad connection are still visible in the videotape archives of sub-basement floor “A.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



We had our annual Hamptons Getaway last weekend, where our group from high school gets together and catches up. And it was a relaxing time as usual. By relaxing I mean nonstop people yelling at each other. In between the yelling we often have time to gloat about how little we have changed, which is great for now, but before you know it we will be gloating about how few of us are dead. I don’t want to be one of those people who when they die you go, “Jesus he was even still ALIVE?”
We sit around the table outside with our drink of choice and chat. Sometimes we talk about old times, but very rarely, since now everybody brings their kids, and the only things we ever did in High School together happen to be the very things that everybody is trying to convince their kids not to do.

Sometimes we talk about current events, like whether they should build a mosque next to Ground Zero. On one hand I don’t know why in the world they would WANT to build a mosque next to Ground Zero and risk having dopey people say bad things about them, if they are trying to show how loveable they are. On the other hand I got a mosquito bite, so I went inside.

The Hamptons is a funny place. If you look around, you can find an example of everyone in the song, “You’re So Vain,” by Carly Simon. For instance, I saw a guy with a hat strategically dipped below one eye. I also saw someone with an apricot scarf. There was also a guy who was with an underworld spy, or the wife of a clothes-pin. Okay I was never that good with lyrics.

Steve made his usual fabulous filet mignon on the barbecue. All of us are very health-conscious and do not eat red meat, so we had Steve cook it until it was maroon. I would like to get one of those rotisseries for our home barbecue, but I can’t imagine cooking anything other than beef on it, because anything smaller than a cow and you risk having it look at you with its stunned face as it comes around each time on the spit. It seems so barbaric, and there’s just no way to dress it up. I find it odd when they cook a whole pig and stick an apple in its mouth, as if to say, “We caught this fucker trying to steal an apple, and that was the LAST STRAW!” Or when they take a chicken and stick an entire lemon up its ass as if to say, well never mind what they would say.

There is a lot of fawning over wines, everybody saying that this one is very rich, or that one is a little fruity. Personally I think fawning over wines is a little fruity, but that’s mainly because wine gives me asthma, not to mention a hangover that is very rich.

As we eat and drink with spirited conversation, intelligent points-of-view, an exchange of ideas, I can’t help thinking what a dynamic group we were and are. Then I eat something with a bee in it and all those good feelings go out the window.
The next morning my wife and I made crepes, which is to say that we were trying to make pancakes and forgot one of the ingredients. Since everyone is so health-conscious, we made sure to bring some fresh fruit as toppings, hoping no one would be interested in the chocolate sauce. But there was a boatload of children there, and while adults can be easily fooled, children never fall for such basic tactics.

We got to the beach in record time. Usually it takes one to two hours to pack the coolers and figure out who is going in which car. This time it took two hours and seventeen minutes, including the fact that their car was literally out of gas. I won’t mention any names, since I would find myself on my own list, but there are people who will pass by a gas station for 2.79 a gallon, thinking that they have enough gas to make it home and then, by coasting down hills with the engine off, squeak over to the 2.77 gas station. Unfortunately, a change of plans takes them instead right by the 3.11 station, clearly unacceptable, but everyone knows that the gas gauge has a built-in margin of error of a quarter-tank. Those of us willing to drive five miles out of the way to spend two cents less on gas are the same people who overpaid by $25,000 on our house without blinking an eyelash.

Anyway we get to the beach and start our Scrabble game, and all of a sudden there is a big dust-up because the Clintons walk by. It is almost impossible to tell it’s them, since they are so unassuming, strolling by slowly, hand-in-hand, followed by a bunch of guys in bathing suits with a wire coming out of one ear. One of them tackled a kid with an Uzi squirt gun just to be on the safe side.

While everyone is yakking about the Clintons and what they’re wearing (Hillary is wearing red from top to bottom, which is making her caboose look like an actual caboose), I’m looking at my Scrabble letters thinking, hey, since Hillary knows about foreign policy, she probably knows how to spell the word, “foreign.” I thought it was “i before e except after c,” but there’s no “c” in “foreign,” and spelling it “foriegn” looks foreign to me. Maybe the word “foreign” is foreign and the rules don’t apply?

But the Clintons saunter away and I’m left with no Spell-Check and Steve’s really bad Bill Clinton imitation. Everyone else is dishing about how much better Hillary looks on TV. If I was on TV I would have the make-up girl make me look worse than I usually do, so I could hear those words that the litigants say after a Judge Judy trial: “TV doesn’t do you justice!” I think about braining Steve over the head with a Kadima paddle, but I don’t want to ruin my Kadima paddle.

Incidentally, Hillary Clinton is the 67th Secretary of State. Thomas Jefferson, whom Hillary’s husband is middle-named after, was the first. Jefferson waged the Tripolitan Wars from 1801-1805 to prevent piracy of American ships off the coast of North Africa. Killed in action during a heroic maneuver in this war was one Captain Richard Somers, whom my town is named after, even though he never set foot in it. If he did, I believe he would have liked it, even though there are far too many traffic lights.

Sunday, August 15, 2010



Against my own better judgment I organized a softball game in which 40 and 50 year-old idiots were invited (harassed) to compete. The last softball game I participated in was maybe 15 or 16 years ago when I was about 35, if you’re buying that. If not, I can certainly offer you a discount, or perhaps you’d like to see something in a different size? In that game I learned that the term “softball” was clearly coined by someone who never got hit by one. “Hit by one” means that you made the mistake of trying to catch one. The ball after being hit by someone (usually fat and out of shape, the most dangerous of all softball athletes) travels with a generous amount of “English.” My glove, which took “English as a Second Language,” is always in the slightly wrong place, so it bounces off my mitt and usually hits me in the chin.

We had only a couple serious injuries, mostly humorous ones. It’s all fun and games until someone breaks a nail. I was the one who broke a nail and I JUST had them done. I know some guys who get manicures and pedicures. Well I don’t actually know them but I’ve heard of them. I would never get a pedicure and risk the girl going, “Dude you have stuff down there that actually needs to be CURED.” I picture my pedicure crossing over several fields of study… anatomy, geology, possibly botany.

Anyway we warm up and then pick teams. I can make a game out of any number of people. Even primary numbers I can split into teams. If there are 12 people we make 3 teams of 4. One team is at bat, the other two are in the field. I can make a game out of the square root of 2 on one team, an isosceles triangle on another, and a raccoon on another. The triangle pitches for both teams, and supply your own raccoon when the other team is in the field.

So I count the legs of all the people present and divide by 2 two find out how many people are there. I end up with an odd number, so I just count heads instead. I think I screwed that up too unless somebody has two heads.

We had enough to play a game leaving right field vacant, so any ball hit there was considered foul. It wouldn’t have mattered; factoring in our fielding percentage, not having anyone in right field was statistically the same as having someone in right field.

We wouldn’t have had enough for two teams at all except that Norm brought an entire half of a genealogical tree- a ton of cousins it looked like, and most of them were teenagers. They played in a carefree and loose manner, as if they were totally unconcerned about the massive weight of the budget deficit we are going to leave their generation.

One of them dusted me for a home run, I think it was the only one of the game. The kid really tagged it, and I ran it down pretty well, then seemed content to let it just fly past me. I tried to get it ruled a foul ball, but I was playing center field. Then someone else hit another one out there and I was like trying to find my inhaler and asking around if anyone brought a defibrillator.

Even more embarrassing was that nobody from my generation seemed to know which base to throw to. Someone would hit the ball and the infielders would in turn throw to each base that the runner just left. The throw to first base always assumed a 12 foot-tall first baseman. Invariably at every softball field I have ever played on, first base is right next to a patch of poison ivy. Thank god you only get one base on an overthrow, or you could itch and scratch out an inside-the-park home run every time.

I thought my team was going to get shellacked, and I even brought some paint thinner just in case, but after the first couple innings our defense settled in (meaning no one hit any towards me) and the game became pretty competitive. The last couple innings my team really started to come around. Maria lobbed a ball in between three infielders who looked like a meteorite had just landed in front of them and they couldn’t believe it. By the time they picked it up Maria had a chance to round first, pull a hamstring, apply a tourniquet and administer the Heimlich maneuver before she limped into second base. What if she needed a medevac helicopter? I wondered if the pilot would mind stopping at third base- we do have a game going on here. I got a seeing eye single and Dave doubled us in. Next inning Norm led off with a double and three hits and three outs later we tied the game. Then Norm and the family with all the cousins had to leave and the game was over.

Incidentally, the game of softball was originally invented to be played indoors, and the first game on record was thought to be between Yale and Harvard alumni tossing around a boxing glove and hitting it with a broomstick, in 1887. I’m not sure who thought of the idea that the ball should be too big to fit inside my mitt, but it was certainly diabolical. Every play I made in the outfield (another misnomer, since I recorded so few outs there) I caught on the second try, because it immediately bounced out the first time. I tried to get it scored a double-play, which was instantly met with scorn, even by my own teammates.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Friday, August 6, 2010



Every year I like to go to the Jersey Shore by myself, to recharge my batteries. I suppose I could get a battery charger here at home, but I wanted to see if I could find the dangerous and highly ubiquitous cast of “Jersey Shore,” and maybe get into their crowd. I wasn’t sure what Snookie looks like; when I think of a Snookie, I picture something a plumber might use, for what I don’t know. I didn’t know how to find “The Situation” either. I have run into many different situations in my time, some with my car. It could look like anything. So I figured I would rummage around, look for a little trouble, and let them find me.

The beach seemed like a great place to start. I love the Jersey shore. We have been to some beautiful places in the world: Ibiza is gorgeous but the beaches there are rocky. The Caribbean has lovely warm, water but usually no waves. In Cape Cod and Maine the frigging water is so cold your nipples freeze and break off. We went to the visually stunning volcanic black beach in Santorini, but no one there factored in the reality that the color black does not reflect heat, it absorbs it- it is like running over the coals in a motivational seminar only without the increase in confidence. The New Jersey parks have nice, clean sandy beaches with good waves, boardwalks and let’s not forget the girls with big hair and nails, and a lot of bad ink.

My wife hates going to the beach with me because I insist that we pack EVERYTHING. I take two knapsacks, since I take two naps. We take two coolers, because we are 2 cool. A Milwaukee Sawzall seems extraneous at first glance, but you’d be surprised how often it comes in handy. Cooking supplies are a must- people are stranded at deserted beaches all the time with no food. Speaking of which I think I sprayed myself with Pam instead of sunscreen.

I actually saw fewer bad tattoos than usual. One girl had pictures of two bluebirds on her lower back, flying south. Maybe they had a nest down there. The lower back is a very popular tattoo destination- a girl had one that said “dance,” her way of furthering the arts (she furthered the arts farther down than usual). I guess the idea is to put your message right near your ass, where people are looking anyway, in order to get the most saturation. How long before girls start selling corporate sponsorships?

At one section of the sand people were surfcasting, and I have to tell you the difference between surfcasting and doing nothing at all is not much. I resisted the urge to tell them that if they want to liven things up try broadcasting.
I overheard one guy say, “Dude those waves are SICK!” I thought the surf seemed well-behaved, and I can’t imagine what that wave must have done to that guy other than pull his shorts down.

There was a sign that said, “SWIM BETWEEN GREEN FLAGS ONLY.” Between the green flags was nothing but sand, so unless I’m a complete idiot that sign was totally unnecessary.

I heard a lot of parents yelling at their kids- don’t stick your finger in there, don’t put such-and-such up your nose, don’t get sand all over this or that. The kids were generally allowed to play whist or read the Times, and not much else.
Many girls had gone out of their way to find suits that showed the maximum amount of skin legally allowed at the beach, and then spent most of their time stretching the material to cover the exposed skin.

It got late and I was getting cold- thank god I brought a turtleneck sweater and my slippers. I hadn’t seen Snookie or The Situation, so I figured I might try the local drinking establishments. At Bar Anticipation the band was good, although they played the exact same 28 songs that every other band plays, and someday I will write a separate blog on that sore subject. Luckily I was entertained by a great tennis match on ESPN2. And by great, I mean the two hottest tennis chicks in the world, both over 5’10”, and since they are both Russian neither one speaks a word of English- there is nothing sexier than a girl you have no way to communicate with.

There was one gal there more or less my age, and I considered talking to her, but as I ran the dialogue ahead in my mind I realized how difficult it is to have a normal conversation with me without years of experience. Then I noticed that her looks were striking, and for safety’s sake I got the hell out of there.

Sunday it was time to go home. Usually, using reverse psychology, I plan my exit to hit the most amount of traffic possible. Normally I would theorize that most idiots will leave in the afternoon to squeeze every ounce of vacation possible. The dullwits that leave at night don’t worry me. The morning schmucks will have already left, so I usually leave late morning to avoid the rush. But since it was raining, I had to switch things up 180 degrees. I figured that the evening dickheads will think that everyone has left, and leave early. The afternoon morons will jump the gun and leave in the morning. Knowing that the morning knuckleheads will wait until the afternoon to let the evening asswipes cycle through, I left in the late morning. I still got slammed with traffic, but at least I avoided the morning ass-faces and the numbskulls that leave at night.

The one place I didn’t look for Snookie is the one place I should have looked first: she was detained in the Seaside Heights municipal jail in a town right next door.

Incidentally, while I was relaxing at the beach, the legislature of Bridgewater Township in New Jersey was hard at work. They passed a new ordinance that made relieving oneself in public a misdemeanor crime. It seems to me there are several different ways that one could be considered to relieve oneself. I guess you could try all of them in front of the police station, see which one you get arrested for and rule the others out; that’s probably what Snookie did. I’m not sure if you’re actually relieving yourself if someone else holds it for you, but it’s something to think about while you’re waiting for arraignment.

Friday, July 23, 2010



So I got a call from the neighbor’s son’s girlfriend the other day- she was minding the dogs (I know those dogs and it wouldn’t work the other way around). She said she just them out back for a walk and came face-to-face with a mountain lion, which hissed at her and scared the crap out of her. We live in a residential neighborhood which abuts a tract of land about seven acres in breadth- not really a wild jungle situation. Which made me think that if the hiss could be interpreted it probably meant, “Do you have any idea where there’s a mountain around here?”
She said she called 911 and they told her to go back into the woods and take a picture of it (and what- post it on Facebook?). Animal Control wanted no part of it either since technically it had broken no law.

The idea of a wild animal in our backyard that you woudn’t normally run over in a car was at once fascinating and frightening to me. My wife walks our dog back there all the time, and although I don’t think a mountain lion would attack a human for no good reason, I wondered if their system for rating reasons might be different than ours.

I thought I had better get out there and… well I didn’t really have a fully constructed plan in place. I put on a jacket and long pants even though it was about 90 degrees, thinking that if it bit me, neither of those garments had been recently laundered, and I would have the last laugh as I sat in the hospital. I put on a hat in case it bit my hair, and I took along a weapon- the deadliest thing I could find in the garage was a pickax.

Once I was in the woods, I looked down at my hand and said what the fuck am I going to do with a pickax? I may as well plan to conk it over the head with a ball-peen hammer, or jab it with a shish kebab skewer. I went running back to the house and found my father’s Winchester 94 (“The Gun That Won The West,” he never tired of telling me). I started keeping the gun in the bedroom ever since I saw that home alarm system commercial where this girl is alone and her old boyfriend with a snarly face breaks in and terrorizes her and her kid. I always thought that the same thing could happen to me: that that girl's snarly-faced boyfriend could break into my house. I have a dog, but the dog always looks like it’s smiling, and the only way it could ever harm a stranger is if it licks his skin off, causing all his organs to flop around the room.

I dug up the shells to go with it, and even though the box said, “best if used before 1974” (I should have asked my Dad- wasn’t the friggin’ West won by 1974???), I figured what’s the worst that could happen? Well I could shoot and kill myself, or be mauled by a mountain lion, but I only thought of those things later.

I thought I better test fire the weapon to see if it still worked after all these years- what if this friggin’ wildcat pounces on me, and I pull the trigger, and the thing makes a “doink” sound and nothing comes out? Or worse yet, the mountain lion puts its finger in the barrel and the gun backfires into my face? I know my father went on hunting trips, but I only remember him dragging his own carcass home with him.

I put a shell into the chamber and picked a place along the path to fire the rifle- I could just see me pointing it at a rock, and the ricochet comes back and kills me, with the mountain lion snickering away. I pulled the trigger and jesus the noise was an echoing cacophony that must have been heard for miles. I hoped at the very least I may have struck oil like Jed Clampett, and I could move to Beverly Hills where the mountain lions are better behaved.

When I continued into the woods, I heard a sound and spun around to a pair of eyes staring at me- a large fox. It did not seem frightened of me, and started circling my position as if to say, “I think I left my glasses somewhere around here.” I theorized that the mountain lion had made a play for the fox’s young, and perhaps I posed a similar threat in its mind. So far I did not see any evidence that wild animals are “more scared of you than you are of them,” and I think I even saw the fox give me the finger.

I continued on, and noticed a deer blind, which I climbed, toting the gun. I saw movement in the distance- a deer. I turned to call my wife- she would get a kick out of being called by an idiot with a gun sitting in a deer blind 15 feet up a tree. When I turned back I saw something that looked like the tail of a mountain lion, although I was far away and it also looked a little like a dinosaur.

I started thinking, what would Commander McBragg have done in this situation? I started thinking of amusing things to write in a blog. It dawned on me that I better focus here, this could turn into a life-and-death situation for one of us. I wondered if I would actually kill it if I saw it- the thing hissed right at the neighbor; that seems pretty threatening to me. Is a mountain lion an endangered species? Would I get in trouble if I killed it? I thought of getting a restraining order on it, or possibly trapping it. The pickax might come in handy after all if I dug a hole and put leaves over it. After about 45 minutes I popped the shell, climbed back down and watched Judge Judy.

Incidentally, a mountain lion is the same as a puma, a cougar or a panther. Its range is extensive, from Canada down to South America. A black panther is not a panther at all, but more likely a jaguar. The mountain lion cannot roar, but will growl, hiss and even scream, if someone steps on their foot. If you see a Cougar or a Jaguar on the highway, move out of the way, especially if it honks at you. The bobcat is much smaller, and gets its name from “Robert.” The jaguar and the leopard are much bigger, and indigenous to more tropical climates. A leotard is a cross between a leopard and a retard.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Thursday, July 15, 2010



Last week our friends Caryn & Chris took us fly fishing on North South Lake in the Catskills. North South Lake is just East Northwest of South North Lake, only more so. We were in a canoe, and they were in a little dinghy, which seems like more of a description than a noun.

We have never been fly-fishing before, and never fished at all in a canoe, which is an either/oar situation. Don’t ask us if we got any bites, because you really don’t have to fish for the flies at all- they come right over to you and bite the crap out of you. Chris explained that the fly is used to catch the fish, which is a shame because I can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, except in center field.

I asked what we were supposed to do with the fish if we caught one, because I don’t eat anything with bones. Unless the fish is such a friggin coward that it is basically a spineless jellyfish, I won’t touch it. I might consider a peanut-butter-and-spineless-jellyfish sandwich. But Chris assured us that this is a catch-and-release lake. I wasn’t sure if there was a “happy ending” or anything like that involved, so I just kept my mouth shut and kept rowing.

I told my wife that she could just sit back and look pretty, and I would do all the rowing. After traveling in a large circle 22 times, I realized that you had to alternate sides. So I rowed once in the front and once in the back. Luckily the wind blew us over to the side where we couldn’t do much harm.

The very first thing that I almost caught actually ate the lure, the sinker and the hook, possibly on a bet. Chris looked a little pissed- he said it was an expensive lure. I asked why don’t you use real flies? They’re free! All you have to do is catch them! He shot me a look that I interpreted as: “The fish are supposed to catch the flies- that’s how the food chain works.”

He fitted the line with this thing that I swear looked like a small dustmop, and I’m thinking this will appeal to a fish that is a real neat freak- I figured I was done for the day.

The next thing that happened was that I cast the line far and wide, and the top of the pole came off and went flying into the lake- no one told me it was supposed to come off so you could fold it up. So I spent the next half an hour going through the tackle box trying to figure out what might attract the top of a fishing pole.

After I got the pole back together I finally caught a fish. It was a large-mouth bass. You can tell this fish immediately in the field, because it started dishing about its in-laws. Unfortunately only its mouth is large, the rest of it is puny, so even though I wanted to take it home and stuff it, they made me throw it back. I asked Chris if he ever mounted his fish, and he dialed something on his phone that looked like 911.

Then I caught a catfish, which Chris & Caryn told me was a fluke. I said make up your mind. They meant that is rare, so I sent it back until it was well done. If a catfish is anything like my cat at home it will chase a fly for its entire life expectancy, which is one day. Then the fly dies of natural causes and the cat struts around like Lady Gaga.

After that I caught about 20 pounds of seaweed, which I have to say puts up a hell of a fight. The trick is to let it tire itself out as you give it some line, and reel it in slowly- don’t give up any slack. Once you get it into the boat it’s as valid a meal as any fish, at least for vegetarians. I also caught a stick, but that’s not going to make you a big hero- I’m just glad it didn’t run off with another lure.

The whole time I was living in abject fear that I would wind up and catch their dingy on my backswing, puncturing the pontoon and perforating their pleasure craft. But when I looked over at them, they were fighting with some kind of sea serpent or something that actually took Chris overboard, along with their lunch. I have to tell you I just started rowing and didn’t stop till I reached Ulster County.

Incidentally, If fishing in New York State you are required to have a fishing license in your possession unless you are under 16 years old. Which means that you don’t have a driver’s license, and probably cannot afford a boat, so it’s probably best to float there. If you are fishing for an “alewife” you will probably need a fishing license, a marriage license and a liquor license. I will send a gift.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Thursday, July 1, 2010



Due to the proliferation of Facebook I was able to reconnect with my long-lost bandmates from high school. Some of them actually were lost, but due to advancements in GPS technology, ended up finding our house by traveling along the railroad tracks.

The reunion was a lot of fun- I had assumed some of them were weird and reclusive for not getting in touch with me all these years. It turns out that they just had sound judgment. The guys are all still talented, and have been playing all these years. Kenny used to play bass once in a while, and his brother Jeff plays bass now in a band. Chris switched from keyboards to bass in 1984. I wasted most of my adult life playing bass. And Ronnie, our bass player, coincidentally also plays bass. I thought about suggesting that we all play bass on one song, which would have been funny probably only to me.

Since no one else was foolish enough to volunteer to sing, I was forced back into action. Back in 1975 I could sing very high. Meaning after smoking half an ounce of pot. These days my range is much lower, possibly because that is where I have set my sights. I seem to have the same range as Frank Sinatra, only with a horrible timbre. When I sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” I have to start it so low that only whales can hear. One time someone said, “Shut your blowhole,” which I assumed was a snarky whale. If Frank Sinatra were alive and knew “China Grove,” believe me I would have suggested him.

Plus I still don’t know the words to any song ever written. I had to go online to find the lyrics to each song, which was a headache, because what these sites desperately want is for you to download a ring tone. Silly-sounding ring tones and people snoring are all I hear on the train these days. Everyone wants to show off a little piece of their personality that is usually better kept under a rock. Am I smarter and more cultured than I look, with my mullet and lower lip pierced so that from far away it looks like I have a social disease? YES! Because I have Beethoven’s ninth as my ring tone! Sorry I fell asleep and Beethoven’s ninth runs an hour and five minutes! Hey what about ME! Even though I work for Geek Squad and wear a bow tie, I am friggin’ JAUNTY because my ring tone is “Pop Goes the Weasel!” Now you can download a ring tone that sounds like a telephone ringing, but no one recognizes the sound anymore. I would prefer if people downloaded a ring tone of someone snoring on the train since I am used to that.

My annoyance radar senses that this is just the beginning of silly ring tones. Where will it end? When my microwave goes off, will I hear, “Come and Get It?” Will my alarm clock sound James Brown’s “Get Up Like a Sex Machine” every morning? If I really had a sex machine I could sleep later, by the way.

Not being able to remember anything makes giving a speech unfathomable. I cannot imagine being a politician back when you had to memorize the speech: “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth… Let’s see… they brought a fifth of vodka, probably a beach chair, a snack... to be honest I can’t remember what they brought. I’d like to take the remaining time for a short Q & A period.” That empty feeling when the next line of the song comes and you remember NOTHING is a glimpse forward to Alzheimers. So I usually sing the line like Gregg Allman, and nobody notices. We did two Allman Brothers tunes, and I didn’t have to learn the words to either one of them.

It seemed very natural and easy to jam with the old crew again. But there are some important distinctions between now and then: Back then it was still a dream to become an overnight sensation. Now you are more likely to be an overweight sensation. Back then the purple pill was mescaline. Now the purple pill is Prilosec (what would happen if you take acid and an antacid at the same time?). Back in the day you could garner a large following and make a splash in the record business. Now you can garnish a salad and hope not to make a large splash in the pool. Back then you could still believe that practice makes perfect. Now it just makes you perfectly exhausted.

There is a commercial for Blue Cross or something where this gray-haired rocker is jamming out with his buddies. His keyboard player is in a wheelchair, his drummer is bald with a pair of readers on, his bass player is blind with a seeing-eye dog and his rhythm guitarist is just a torso with no head, arms or legs. At least that’s the way I remember it, and I would look at it and go jeez I hope I don’t look like that, so I always remove my readers when I play. The words “rock and roll” and “Medicare co-payment” should never appear together in any sentence other than this one.

Anyway, the reunion was a lot of fun. Even all these years after high school it seemed that with a few hours of work we could make sense of the material. Could the same be said for trigonometry? I have enjoyed music every day of my life since graduation, but I have never enjoyed one sine or cosine, and it hasn’t been for lack of opportunity. I know what you’re thinking: I am off on a tangent this very minute.

Incidentally, Beethoven’s ninth symphony was completed in 1824, and contained the famous “Ode to Joy,” which is based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller called “To Joy.” The poem was written in 1785 and revised in 1803. I wonder what he thought of 18 years later that he forgot? I’m not sure, but he might have been thinking of our reunion and added this line: “And whoever was never able to, must creep Tearfully away from this band!” The fourth movement contains the choral elements that approach the climax of the piece. Every once in a while I bring in a chorus near climax too, so it doesn’t get too lonely. Beethoven wrote the symphony when he was completely deaf. Quite an achievement, but to be fair, he had the use of a hearing-ear dog. Which explains why many of the passages refer to bacon.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Friday, June 4, 2010



From Amsterdam we took the train to Paris, where our hotel room was very, very small and made me wish I was a Barbie. Plus there was a sign on the elevator that said, “All Children MUST Be Accompanied,” so I always carried two harmonicas in different keys.

There was a language barrier- In Amsterdam, I could make out some of the words. Since everything they say in Dutch sounds like a Beatles record played backwards, I thought I could make out the words, “Paul is dead,” so I considered that a minor victory. But in Paris, the trick is that they pronounce a word, and then add several syllables at the end in parentheses. Take “Montmartre,” for example. As an American, I pronounced it as is should be: “Mount Marty.” The Parisian says “Mo-mah (cheeseburgerandfriesmakingyourasslargerthanlifeitself).” One thing I did pick up right away is that “la” means “the.” So around Christmastime when you hear, “Fa la la la la, la la la la,” it is French for, “Fa the the the the, the the the the.” You really have to pay attention, but we got through, since my wife speaks a little French and I speak a little English. We went to a Chinese restaurant, which NEITHER of us speaks. Luckily, I am fluent in the international language of love. So I took the waitress in back and made passionate love to her, since we were hungry, but it took forever since she had a stutter.

It is impossible to find really good coffee in Paris, or Europe in general. It comes in a teensie-weensie little cup, a little bit bigger than an adult dose of cough syrup. So even if you COULD find good coffee in Paris, you never WOULD find it since it is so small. In America, we enjoy an enduring friendship with our coffee. We want it to sit beside us the entire duration of the newspaper, steaming faithfully. By the time you finish the coffee at the café here, you have read this much of the story: “BP Successfully Caps Oil Well….” In America, your coffee would have lasted long enough to read more: “BP Successfully Caps Oil Well Liability at One Million using 1886 Law.” Reading further, you learn that BP will be making another attempt to plug the leak in the Earth by using a giant cork. This method has proven successful in the past, but it has only been tried on very large champagne bottles, and never at this depth.

The museums in Paris are legendary. We skipped the Louvre, since it is so huge you could spend a week there (which I should have thought of before I booked the hotel). Plus I hear the Mona Lisa is really tiny and she looks kind of stoned in it. The Louvre is a beautiful building, a former imperial palace, but for some reason they had I.M. Pei design a goofy little pyramid in the middle of it, which everyone is impressed with. If I.M. Pei had designed the one in Egypt I would be impressed, or even that big thing that looks like a cat wearing a football helmet.

The George M. Pompidou Center is their museum of modern art. It is for really creative people, not for the rest of us. In college I roomed with an art major, and he was always picking up pieces of garbage to use for a project. While I was looking around at sunsets, cute girls and hot cars, he was scouring the landscape for garbage- to him it was like gold. Modern artists can see things the rest of us don’t. Here is a quiz:

1. When a band plays “Sweet Caroline,” do you go, “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” during the chorus?
2. Do you clip poodles for a living?
3. Do you have a tattoo of a butterfly anywhere on your body (if you ARE a butterfly answering yes to this, exempt yourself from this quiz question)?
4. Do you say things like, “It’s ALL good!” (although once an existentialist asked me what I thought of his work, and I said, “It is what it is,” so I am exempting myself from this quiz question)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your work cannot be shown at the Pompidou Center.

One of the problems I encountered in France was what I call “pulchrivertigo.” This alarming condition occurs when the whole country is so beautiful that you don’t know where to look, and there is nothing to contrast each other with. There is little joy in proclaiming, “I am marginally better looking than you, so HA!” In New York every good-looking, well-dressed woman is balanced out by a fat woman dressed in a 300 dollar Nike jogging suit pushing a double stroller of overweight children old enough to walk by themselves. Or an over-tattooed Jersey boy shouting into his walkie-talkie phone, not realizing that he is actually gossiping. I have gross images in my mind of every race and religion of Americans, so don't think I'm bigoted. I think there is a whole different "No-fly List" for flights to Paris. Between all the art, the architecture, and the beautiful people, we vowed to pay more attention to the unattractive things back home that we took for granted all these years.

Incidentally, Gustave Eiffel designed the tower that bears his name for a 1889 world exposition marking the centennial of the French Revolution. It was ordered by Hitler to be destroyed along with the rest of Paris near the end of the German occupation, but his own military governor of Paris refused to execute the order. Eiffel also designed the armature (or infrastructure) for the Statue of Liberty. It is visible by visitors from below the statue, but you have to look up her dress, which is kind of embarrassing. If you do, don’t forget to say, “I see England, I see France, I see the Statue of Liberty’s underpants.”

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Thursday, May 27, 2010



We recently returned from Amsterdam, which I feel compelled to tell you, is a wonderful city. You might guess from looking at commercials for Amstel and Heineken, that everyone in the city is always drunk. This is absolutely false. The truth is that they are always stoned. If you look around, you can see entire families bicycling into Dam Plaza together. Then they get that look on their face that says, “Shit- I forgot what we came in here for.” They are completely stoned. Even the little children are stoned from secondhand smoke, which I think is a great thing for those who can’t afford to buy it new. Here they call it “Certified Pre-Owned.” Unfortunately, an hour after the cafes open there is a run on Fritos in all supermarkets, and many people are trampled each day. If I was a brilliant entrepreneur I would market a package deal of a gram of hash and a pint of Häagen-Dazs Heavenly Hash together for 20 euros.

Dam Plaza is kind of a congregating point in the middle of town, where tourists can go if they want to look lost and not feel so out of place. The problem is that you are steering your rented bike with one hand, holding the map with the other, and you finally find your destination, which is on Luijkeliedseprinsensplaat. You look up at the sign, and by some miracle, you are on that road! Then a huge trolley car slams into you and knocks you to kingdom come. And when you recover, the street sign now says Luijkeliedseprinsenstrasse. So you are back to square one. If you eventually do get onto the right road, in two blocks it changes to Kaiserspleidenrijkelgracht and you’re lost again. If you are stupid enough to ask for directions, they will tell you, “it is over by the canal.” Every street has a canal next to it in Amsterdam. There are displaced people over here, but I don’t think they are homeless. They just have no idea exactly where they are.

Whenever I am at Dam Plaza I always stick my finger in a dyke, and yes, I have been slapped for it plenty hard.

While we were here, we visited plenty of museums. One we did not get a chance to visit was the Anne Frank house. Which has to piss off the owners, because it wasn’t her house, they were just nice enough to let her stay there. The whole story is a little depressing, since she dies, but I guess if you wait around long enough every story has that same ending. The room is supposedly exactly as it was when she was living there, which made me wonder what would happen if I was Anne Frank, and MY room had to be preserved for many generations exactly as it was when I was living there. That is a LOT of pressure on a teenager to clean up your frigging room. Millions of visitors a year filing past my room behind a velvet rope going, “Gross! Is that a ginormous pile of underwear over there? When was he planning to launder it? I doubt the Nazis will occupy THAT! And what is that tacky blacklight poster of Farrah Fawcett doing there? Her nipples are practically poking my eye out.”

I never even read Anne Frank’s diary, because it seems nosy. What if there is stuff about her and her boyfriend getting to third base or something? She should have locked it with that little key if she didn’t want idiots like us reading it.

On a lighter note, there is plenty to do here. If you go to Max Euweplein square you can play chess on a giant board. The good news is that I was able to castle using an actual castle. The bad news is that on my opening move I think I killed a squirrel.

The van Gogh museum was great. Van Gogh is what I like to call a lasting impressionist. He himself was very impressionable, and soaked up techniques from other painters, such as Renoir, Gauguin and Japanese influences. The onset of mental illness caused him to do strange things, and eventually committed himself to an asylum. Whereupon hearing a voice in his head, he started removing his buttocks with a razor blade. The voice quickly corrected him: “I said cut off your EAR, not your REAR! Are you NUTS?” His fame grew even after his death, which is when he did some of his best work.

We went to the Concertgebouw and saw a kick-ass symphony concert. We were seated actually behind the instruments, facing the conductor. It was interesting to watch him work. With one hand, he was alternately keeping the time and cueing different sections of the orchestra. With the other hand he was texting somebody. Every once in awhile he made a motion towards the woodwind section, gave the finger, and mouthed the words, “F the bassoon player,” so I don’t know what that was about. At the end of the concert a page came out and gave a bouquet of flowers to the first violinist, and he yanked them out of her hand and gave them to the flute player, so I think he is banging her. One thing noticed is that the tympani player is grossly overpaid. He sat reading the paper for most of the program, clicking his tongue at the financial section, and every once in awhile he would turn the page of the music just for show.

Incidentally, Rembrandt van Rijn, who was in his painting heyday at about the time that New Amsterdam was discovering its New World identity, is purported to have painted over 300 works. Included among them are about 40 self-portraits, although in some of them he portrayed himself as looking remarkably like Brad Pitt.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010



Today is Earth Day- did you get a gift? I must admit, I did not get anything. I have no idea what to get- I will probably just get a plant or something. I think I read somewhere that this Earth day the Earth is 40 YEARS OLD. And I must say it looks pretty good (although I think it has had some work done). Yes there are some cracks and crevices- Haiti looks a little wrinkly, and some of the tectonic plates definitely need to be replaced.

That’s why we all have to do our part. I am thinking of getting a Hybrid car- it’s a cross between a Yugo and a poodle- it’s called a Poogo. But I can’t even trust a battery to run a flashlight let alone my car.

Which reminds me: every time I buy a new package of batteries I go through the same stages of grief. First, Denial. I firmly believe that this will be the first package of batteries ever manufactured that I will be able to open with just my hands. I look for the little tab that says, “OPEN HERE.” I look all over for it. “PULL HERE, STUPID!” I can’t see anything. “NOT THERE, OVER HERE- ARE YOU A FUCKING MORON OR WHAT? YOU GRADUATED FROM SYRACUSE? FIGURES….” There is no tab. Next, Anger. I want to meet the person that designed this package. I want to butter him up with a little small talk, how’s the wife, the kids, etc. and make him feel at ease and light-hearted as we walk in the park, admiring nature. Then I shove him into a 10-foot pit that I have dug and covered with leaves. At first stunned, he regains his senses and pleads with me to throw down an i-phone so he can call for help, or at least pass the time surfing for internet porn. I say nothing for two hours, then throw in the i-phone, wrapped in hard seamless plastic. I watch and laugh diabolically as he ruins his incisors trying to gnaw the package open.

Then, Bargaining. I plead with the batteries to just come on out of the package willingly. Just this once. They decline. Then, Depression, where I just don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning, knowing that I can’t get those goddamn batteries out of the package. Finally, Acceptance, where I realize I will have to spring for another 20 bucks for the AC adaptor.

Anyway, alternative power is becoming a much higher priority. They are considering building a wind farm off the coast of Nantucket. Indian tribes are against that particular location, since some Indians were buried on the planet Earth, where they are thinking of building the wind farm. Congress has provided for tax credits for the proliferation of alternative energy, but what they should do is put the turbines right there in the Senate chamber where the wind is. Growing up on a wind farm is much less work than a regular farm- no milking cows, planting things, picking things. You just water those big wind things every once in awhile and they’re good to go- it’s a breeze. I have seen a giant hi-tech wind generator on top of our neighbor’s barn. It has a rooster on top and the letters, N, S, E, and W, which probably stand for something to do with the output or amperage.

Clean coal is another option that’s getting a lot of airtime these days. But clean coal is very expensive to produce, since it comes out of that mine so darn dirty. If you toss it in the washer (NOT with the delicates) using a little Tide you should be fine.

Hydro-electric power uses current to provide current. For instance, the two generating stations on the U.S. side of Niagara Falls provide 2,700 kilowatts of power, enough to supply one quarter of the electricity in New York State, as long as they don’t use their hair dryers all at the same time.

So if you live next to a coal mine, with a raging river on your property, with no trees to block the sun and constant 60- 65 mile-per-hour winds, chances are you will never have to pay one cent to run your appliances. But I have to tell you that sounds like an awful piece of property, especially in this real-estate market. Plus, one day you are going to wake up and say, “I have ZERO energy today,” and no one is going to feel sorry for you. You sound like a bit of a whiner to me.

Incidentally, Solar energy is produced in photovoltaic cells. The sun excites the electrons in these cells, possibly by telling them that they are going to Disneyworld. The cell produces DC power, which is then transformed via inverter to AC voltage. This AC/DC conversion is similar to taking kilowatts that enjoy Liza Minnelli concerts and changing them into ones that like working with power tools.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.