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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

HOW WAS YOUR CHRISTMAS?

So how was your Christmas? Did Santa bring you everything you wanted? Santa brought me everything I ruined in the past year. I spend an entire year destroying just about everything I come in contact with, and Christmas is when it all gets replaced. That is, if I don't get to it first and try to fix it. If I try to fix it, it goes on next year's list.

But I do enjoy the whole seasonal schpiel leading up to the big day. I like rating everyone's Christmas decorations outside their house. I have a strict code, and I would love to have the power to fine people who violate my rules: 1.) Nothing on your lawn should be full of air. Whenever I travel in December I usually bring an extra cat with me just in case I see one of those inflatable snowmen. 2.) If you have only two strings of lights, don't try to put them on a 30-foot spruce. Put them on your mailbox or something. 3.) Don't use those crappy lights that look like a net that just captured a shrub. 4.) Our neighbor Dennis had these nifty neon-looking moving lights, but they looked vaguely like anti-aircraft tracer fire, and I think the Navy made him take them down because I don't see them anymore.

I like the singing, except for that horrible Carol of the Bells. I have a funny feeling that the reason it's in every commercial is not because it's so wonderful, but because it is now in open copyright. It goes on forever, the same four tones, and two of them are the same note. I can usually operate the mute button on my remote in just two notes.

Christmas songs are great for my little game of "Maim that Tune." I like the one that goes, "Do you see what I see?," because I always sing in response, "Not without my glasses!" Try it- you'll be hooked. I also empathize with the song, Angels We Have Heard While High. Whenever carolers carol Silent Night I think of that Holy Infant, so tender and mild (like a steak), and I wish that just once, in this lifetime or possibly the next, I could sit next to one of those on a plane.

I like the Christmas cards. Everyone sends a picture of their kids, which is nice, but I would rather see the whole family- Usually the kids look pretty much alike until they are old enough to know that their parents don't know how to help with math homework anymore.

I don't even mind the weather. It's not the cold, it's the lack of humidity that gets you. For Christmas day, you want a coating of pristine white snow when you wake up, say about three inches. Then by 10AM or so, you want the temperature to shoot up to about 70 to melt the snow, then back down to like 40 by noon, when the company comes so you can have a fire. I can create a warm and cozy masterpiece, but apparently only in the toaster oven.

We will have opened our stockings by then, which were hung by the chimney with care. The less care you use, the more likely you are to have to explain to the insurance company the role hosiery played in the five-alarm fire you caused.

The cats and dog get their own stocking. The fish don't get a stocking because: DUH! Fish don't have legs. This year the cats got some high-tech gifts: a battery-operated toy bird that chirps, and a little laser shaped like a mouse. We had to take them both away; one cat obsessed on the talking bird and now both the cat and the bird are in therapy, and the other cat kept pointing the laser mouse at flying aircraft.

We spent Christmas Eve with Paul and Barbara next-door and their family, as we always do. I was informed that I was to be recruited next year to play the part of Santa, since the kids are old enough to recognize all the family members now through the disguise (some of them are in their 20s). I embrace the idea, since I don't picture Santa letting exercise and diet get in the way of his work. Also, as Paul will realize, just about the only natural talent I possess is the ability to use children to insult their parents with pinpoint accuracy. I have to work on the belly laugh though, since I always confuse him with the Jolly Green Giant. I don't think it's unethical for Santa to accept tips, I'm just throwing that out there in advance.

I ate most of the dessert table as they were exchanging gifts utilizing the "Yankee Swap." I tried to picture how Jorge Posada would get along with Nick Swisher's wife (good), but it has nothing to do with that. This one is like a more sophisticated "grab bag," where you can trade the loser gifts for something better. In an evil allegorical twist, one poor sap opened a box filled with canned anchovies, artichokes and Spam. There was more Spam in that box than coming home after two weeks of vacation. He pawned it off to the fellow next to him, a veteran Spam-lover from way back. As we all chuckled, the originator of the gift chimed in, "There's an envelope at the bottom...." A fifty-dollar gift card! Which just goes to show: don't look a gift-horse in the mouth. Why? Because it would be virtually impossible to hide a fifty-dollar gift card there!


Incidentally, the Carol of the Bells was originally titled Shchedryk, named during a time when vowels were in severe shortage and saved only for emergencies. It was composed by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, although “composed” may be overstating it. I could have composed the damn thing by lobbing pebbles at the half-full glasses left on the table after dinner, and that’s putting it optimistically.

Friday, December 2, 2011

THANKSGIVING WITH THE KIDS

This Thanksgiving when my sister came over, as she does every year with her kids, I took time to be grateful that they had grown up. I don’t have any idea what to do or say around little kids. True: infants don’t seem to know what to do or say around me either, and they don’t seem to make much of an effort to keep me amused. Especially when they are REALLY little. They don’t get my jokes, for instance.

Every time somebody brings the new baby, we all sit around smiling, looking at it, waiting for it to DO SOMETHING. An amoeba could surprise you all of a sudden by splitting into two cells. Watching paint dry is boring but at least once it’s dry it stays dry; a baby? Quite the opposite. “He looks a little like his mom,” I stutter. He would be a dead ringer for her if she was a Don Rickles bobble-head doll, but I leave that part out. “He has his dad’s eyes…” Meaning he will be legally blind by the time he is 12. I wonder which traits he will inherit, and from whom. Will he get his alcoholism from his side of the family or from hers??

Clearly I am being too hard on babies, because they eventually grow up and become engaging, smart and a source of unwavering pride. That first sentence that comes out of its mouth is a major milestone. Junior formulates one word, then another and yet another, until in a couple months he is able to ask to borrow money. Now that he is talking, will he be able to finally get my jokes? Why do I have to constantly explain that you have to just TRUST that a penguin can drive a car?? After I explain, still no laugh, a feeling that I am disproportionately accustomed to.

One time when we threw a party and one of the neighbors brought their children, a little boy approached and he looked pissed. At ME. “You don’t have any toys,” he indicted. “Because you don’t have any KIDS.” I felt like such a jerk and I told him to check back with me later. Why DIDN’T I have kids? I know a lot of parents, and whenever the kids are with them they have that dazed, tired look on their face like you just came out of the bathroom and didn’t realize that a tornado had flattened the neighborhood. Didn’t you know it was going to be like this? “Oh I wouldn’t trade them for the WORLD!” They say. “What about for a Mercedes SLS AMG?” I goad. “Does that come with the extended interior carbon fiber package? And power windows?” Mom asks.

It still doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with the kids when Mom skips out the back door to have a smoke with the other moms who don’t even smoke, leaving me with a bunch of babies who don’t know how to shoot pool. I try discussing the Giants horrible pass defense, which goes nowhere, and venting about the Kardashians, which at least makes ME feel better, but I end up stumped. When I was a kid all you needed to have a perfectly good afternoon of play was a sandbox, a hammer and some unspent shotgun shells. Nowadays, of course, you would never even suggest such a thing because nobody wants that sand all over the place. I think of trying to pass off the cat litter box as a play area, but reject it immediately because the cat would throw a shit fit, literally. The cat has made a big stink over a lot less.

But it gives me an idea, and I try to get the kid interested in the cat toys. I get him to chase a catnip mouse for a while- the cat watches from the couch, rolling his eyes. The baby starts to get a little woozy from the catnip, and sharpens his claws on the side of the chair. When the baby starts to eat one of the houseplants I abandon the idea.

What about playing with the cat itself? Kids love animals, and I wish I lived on a farm, where every day, really disgusting things happen that kids would love. I picture milking the cows, squirting milk at each other until I remember that I am lactose intolerant. We watch a new foal being born: the kid watches rapt and amazed as I vomit uncontrollably. We play with the goats, which eat the child’s coat, mittens and hat as a prix fixe package. Anyway, I point over to the couch, where the cat immediately shows a look of terror, and disappears into the bedroom. I let the kid take the fish out of the tank and pet them for awhile, but he wants to play with the eel and I begin to wonder how Consumer Reports would rate it as a toy.

That’s another thing- you can’t let children play with anything anymore that might be dangerous. Which is tremendously and unfairly restricting. They are always recalling things that pose a danger to infants- a beach ball? NO WAY! The kid could swallow it and CHOKE! Matchbox car? NO THANK YOU! A really small child could get inside it, drive to the 7-11 and get BEER! Barbie Doll? DEFINITELY NOT! I don’t want to have to have the conversation about how her breasts got that big until my kid is at least 40.

When Melissa’s kids came over one time and realized that we had no toys that were suitable for children, the toddler started playing with the stereo system. “Isn’t that cute?” We all purred. 20 music-free minutes later, with my reading glasses on and the instruction book out, I learned that my receiver has a little button called “Tape Monitor 2” that is so simple even a child could use it.

I went to the bathroom at somebody’s house and they ran out of toilet paper. I couldn’t get into the cabinet under the sink because it had childproof locks on it, and had to use the shower rod to pry it open. It made me realize how many poisonous things there are under my sink, and also how cheaply made shower rods are.

Guests used to bring a portable playpen with them, which looked like a little jail cell with bars around it, and you could keep an eye on the baby, let him out once in awhile to get a prison tattoo or something. When you want to do Jaeger shots you just re-incarcerate the baby and jiggle his mobile.

Finally I decide on a game of “Nap and Seek,” where the kid searches for the perfect hiding place, and remains there for a couple hours until Judge Judy is on.


Incidentally, there were several children’s toys recalls in 2011. The “Pottery Barn Kids,” Chloe, Sophia and Audrey, were recalled due to “strangulation hazard.” How many children these evil dolls strangled I have no idea, but steer clear of these sluts. The Radio Flyer “Scoot ‘n Zoom” riding toy was taken off the market due to “fall hazard,” but I bet they’ll be back by spring. The “Gripper Musical Shaker” percussion toy was withdrawn due to “choking hazard.” It’s unclear whether the children were being choked by the toys or the parents. If anything was recalled before 2011 I can’t recall it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

YOU GOT POWER?

So I was at the bar and this girl was there with her husband, I’ve talked to her before, she leans over and whispers, “You got any power?” Our lights came on Tuesday so I temporarily didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, so I quickly improvised myself a power. I said, “Yes I do.” I looked into her eyes and said, “You are getting sleepy, your eyelids… are getting heavy. Soon, you will drift into a deep, deep sleep. When you awaken, you will remember nothing of what has taken place. When I snap my fingers, you will take on all the characteristics of a small dog. You will look like a dog, act like a dog, think like a dog. You will feel refreshed, alert, and wanting to take a ride in the car with your nose out the window.” I snapped my fingers, and she barked, “Get outta here- that didn’t work!” Although I did see her later lapping an apple-tini out of a bowl, could be coincidence.

Man, that storm was a confluence of nasty winds and heavy snow and just went on forever. I was supposed to go to my 35th High School reunion the night of the storm. They actually held it, and of course the power went out. Leading me to believe that the only people motivated to show up were the ones who are REALLY REALLY successful or those who have done literally nothing in 35 years, leaving a huge “normalcy gap.” I was focused on simply trying to get back to my house- the snow was falling hard, and the trees were falling harder. Remember the ending scene of Hooper? Where Burt Reynolds is driving the rocket car through the chaos and mayhem, snapping his gum and grinning at Jan Michael-Vincent, who is whooping and holding on for dear life, as smokestacks are falling down all over the place just missing the car… That’s what it was like, only I didn’t even have any gum.

There are people in Connecticut who still don’t have electricity from a storm two years ago- the power company is predicting that all their customers will have full power in fourteen months. Connecticut has become the leading importer of fleece. And there is price-gouging going on, so make up your own joke and let me know what it is.

“Isn’t this romantic?” I asked my wife…. Snuggling in a blanket, sitting by the cozy fire, the candles, the radio playing softly, Monday Night Football…. She agreed that it was, and if it was more than 48 degrees in the house she would be willing to part with one and only one layer of clothing. The fire seems so hot when I am adjusting the logs and one goes POP and an ember lands on my foot and I dance like Chaz Bono only more femininely. But boy I get more than five inches away from that thing and icicles start forming inside my nose. I always figure that the fireplace’s poor efficiency is the result of bad Fire Administration. I ask my wife, “Did you screw around with this thing?” I stick the poker in there and adjust the logs, increasing the maximum oxygen flow based on a scientific algorithm that resides only in my head.

Everyone is planning to buy a generator. “When you get, hook it into your buss bar!” My neighbor, Paul explained. “You have a bar in your buss? Why don’t we just live in there for a couple days?” I asked. I talked to a guy who just bought a 20 kilowatt generator. “20 kilowatts!” I sneered, “That’s not even going to run a battery-operated flashlight! I am throwing FOUR THOUSAND WATTS of power at this problem, and I am running every goddamn thing in my house,” I testified. “I am running my HAIR DRYER! You are going to see me using a CUISINART and I will have FLUFFY HAIR! My house is going to be lit up like a Christmas tree, and so is our Christmas tree!” I have never used the Cuisinart, but I picture an increased need for it when the power is down.

There are going to be arguments about what our priorities are as a people. You only have so few watts to work with, and so many appliances vying for attention. I was going a little stir-crazy in the dark after my wife went to bed. The blender whispered to me, “Psst: margarita. 400 watts, out the door and it’s yours.” I started to walk toward it when I heard, “Incandescent lighting. Look at that pathetic candescent lighting over there- you make the call… 100 watts and you can screw the bulb, too.” “Hey hey hey! Cable box! The power is out at Cablevision but start rebooting now you know how long it takes!” “Ring Ring Ring! Sound familiar? Don’t forget you still have to go to work tomorrow! You will need 60 watts worth of alarm clock. Look at your wife sleeping like a baby. Her job is not NEARLY as important as yours…. People will be depending on you!”

Apparently, we are the only cheapskates on our street that don’t own a generator. It’s embarrassing, and my wife looks at me with a hybrid look combining pity and disdain. So I got up off my ass and did something about it. I purchased a battery-operated stereo system, set it up outside, and it plays a deafening tape loop that sounds like a generator running. It is very convincing.


Incidentally, I wanted to explain the difference between watts, amps and volts, but in researching it, the definitions involved a quantity of even more abstruse words, such as coulombs and joules. These words are barely even useful in Scrabble. For the purposes of my explanation we will use the analogy of a garden hose. Voltage describes the potential difference in the electricity of a circuit; the force that drives the electricity through the circuit. Consider voltage to be like the water pressure in the hose. Amperes, or amps, represent the amount of current in the circuit, like the amount of water in the hose. A watt is a measure of consumption of power: one watt is equal to one volt multiplied by one amp. So the watt is like the amount of water that comes out of the hose. The force that drives a person to turn on the garden hose in the corner of the garage near the circuit breaker in order to understand how electricity works is called stupidity.

Friday, November 4, 2011

TWIB VIDEO BLOG- POPULAR UPRISINGS

TWIB VIDEO BLOG- POPULAR UPRISINGS

Laurie and I produced a video blog from one of my formerly timely blogs… I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks to the New Castle Community Media Center~

http://www.ncctv.org/index.php?option=com_jvideo&view=watch&id=466&Itemid=2#.TrQ9lfp2IaA.aolmail

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND FIREARMS

I went to my very first skeet shooting and wine tasting party at Julie’s farm last week. You never know when your first skeet shooting and wine tasting party is also going to be your last. I wasn’t listening that closely when I was invited and heard something about shot this or shot that, and I thought it involved Alabama slammers, kamikazes, or maybe, sex-on-the-beach with an orgasm chaser. But this thing actually involved a fairly large arsenal of handguns, shotguns, rifles and of course a pink BB gun. It seemed like everybody in the place was packing. Mike had a .357, a police special .38 and what looked like a Kevlar vest just in case someone else had outgunned him. I thought I saw him pull a taser when I was reaching for the last chicken skewer.

I brought an appetizer, my shotgun and a couple of bandolero bullet belts. I was wearing a duster to affect a slightly menacing look, and also in case the place was dusty. It looked like we had barged in on a gun amnesty program. I thought I saw a hand grenade on the buffet table but it turned out to be a pineapple.

Lew and Rob ran the target shooting areas with safety in mind, and no one was killed or seriously hurt. Or even humorously hurt. I shouldn’t say no one, since I tripped up the stairs twice at the barn. Everyone had earplugs to use against the noise, and I noticed several people even wore them later on as I was talking to them, I’m not sure why.

Many guests had never fired a live weapon, and seeing so many women with guns was both exciting and unnerving. I myself had never shot a handgun, so I stepped up to the target area. I waved off the instruction, since I had watched the beginning of every James Bond movie at least 50 times. The target said to me, “So, Mr. Bond, we meet again- and this time, the cards are in MY favor. HA HA HA HA HA!” I wryly responded, “You had better check your hand once more, my friend… perhaps you hadn’t counted on THIS!” I spread my feet, lifted my sidearm using both hands, and emptied the clip. The target did not go down, so I threw the gun at it, momentarily confusing James Bond with Superman. Lew pried the gun out of my hand, saying something about having to re-sod the lawn now.

I fared a little better with the shotgun, since I have shot skeet before. Luckily, most of the clay pigeons broke coming out of the thrower, and if I shot quickly and winked I could create the illusion of success. Most of the birds fell harmlessly into the lake, and when I say harmlessly, I’m not counting all the fish who were beaned in the head. I asked Julie if she could put some of the fish into a barrel so we could shoot them and see if it was as easy as people say.

The estate was spectacular and beautiful. The grounds so big they could only be navigated by Segways with knobby tires. If you have never ridden a Segway, it’s quite a treat: you simply get on, and after you chase it about 20 feet trying to get on, you just lean in one direction or the other to turn or go forward or backward. The property slopes to the west, so several Republicans fell off the thing trying to turn left.

The wine tasting was also lovely, except for a tense moment when somebody popped a champagne cork and everybody hit the deck, still a little gun-shy. The venison was quite tasty, and it turned out that the boys had killed it themselves. No one would actually admit that they ran into it with their car, but I did see an antler-sized dent in the fender. There was a beautiful duck on the table that the menfolk had shot and stuffed. They said it was a hooded merganser, but I couldn’t tell one way or the other with the hood on.

Everyone brought an appetizer, and my wife made a delicious chicken and ginger offering. I kind of wished we had shot the chicken ourselves, but it was already dead so it seemed pointless. I did however empty some lead into the ginger.

I hope Julie doesn’t mind, but on my way to the party I took the liberty of stopping by the neighbor’s house to feign asking directions, and I let them know our two families were having a nasty blood feud and we were still pretty pissed off that the North won the war. When the gunfire started I pictured them shivering under the bed pretending to be dead.


Incidentally, the Puckle gun was unveiled in 1718 by James Puckle. Some say that “necessity is the mother of invention,” but it’s possible that having a name like Puckle is, instead. It fired square bullets, an upgrade over his previous design, which fired bullets in the shape of a parallelogram. Samuel Colt was the first to apply modern machining and mass production to the manufacture of firearms, his patent for the Colt revolver issued in 1836. Muzzle-loaders went out with the Crimean War in 1856, with the exception of my dog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

OCCUPYING WALL STREET

OCCUPYING WALL STREET

Have you ever been to Wall Street? It is impossibly small and difficult to navigate as it is.

A few weeks ago a small throng of protesters assembled there to rail against greed, avarice and people with high salaries. They intend to stay there until their demands are met. What are their demands, exactly? Well, they don’t actually have demands. They just don’t like the people who were already occupying Wall Street, the ones with occupations. Let me say straight away that I don’t like stockbrokers any better than they do, because even when I buy high and sell low, they STILL make money, and that pisses me off. I don’t know what a hedge fund manager is, but if they are the ones with those long spines and beady little eyes, I don’t like them any better. I don’t like the fact that people can buy on margin, using some poor sap’s money (mine) to make a losing investment.

There is a certain type of people that is attracted magnetically to a protest that doesn't actually have a goal. You know who I'm talking about: People with a lot of earrings through their nose, mouth, eyebrows (although not ears). If they drink a glass of milk next to you stand two feet away so you don't get soaked when it leaks through all the frigging holes.

The vegetarian type who would eat rhubarb or cauliflower just because they are supposedly edible. By the way, can a vegetarian eat horse radish??

The ones who express themselves through "body art." I like to ask people with a lot of ink, "What is your absolute WORST tattoo?" And see if I can get them to admit that they might have evolved since they let a fat guy with a beard etch a picture of Pebbles Flintstone onto their ass.

People who were a little too weird to get into PETA.

These are the type of people who go around chaining themselves to things. I chained up my bicycle in Atlantic City and it was gone in two seconds, but you could chain up these people with a feeling of complete safety, even at Oriental Avenue, where you cannot extract a penny of Monopoly rent money.

Crowd control is difficult now because you have to be pleasant and not hurt anybody’s feelings or else it's bad PR for the Mayor. They don't use water cannons anymore, even though I bet they would be quite effective- chicks HATE getting their hair wet. I was at a pool party where the kids had super-soaker squirt guns, and I dispersed after the very first salvo was fired. Then again, if you turn the entire demonstration into a wet T-shirt contest, would anyone leave? I say let the cops cuff everyone together by their nipple rings.

They call themselves the 99 percent, referring to the idea that one percent of billionaires in this country (actually about 380K per year qualifies you) control about 50 percent of the wealth (actually about 35 percent). I first thought this somehow had to do with one percent milk. I do not qualify to be in lofty financial elite, but we do live fairly comfortably, because we can afford pillows in every room. Also we do not need to use crude oil like the poor people do, and we use only refined sugar. I stick my pinkie finger out when I drink tea, but only because my fingers don’t fit inside the handle.

Leave it to Americans to organize a huge action to protest something that every single one of them would secretly like to be a part of. It’s like me organizing a protest against Dana Delaney. If she happens to come to my sit-in and crook her finger at me, I may have to leave in a hurry and turn my bullhorn and clipboard over to you. But that’s a big “if.”

Occupy Wall Street? How about occupying your time more constructively? They don’t really seem to want to have a purpose. But I'll give them one anyway:* How about we save the American Political System with just one rule: a campaign budget limit of two million dollars (or whatever you like that's not more than the GNP of small countries), the same for all candidates. Spend it on TV, tours, whatever you like. That would level the playing field, although you would need a slight slope for drainage, hobble the big business contributions and get rid of the two-party model. A two-model party is a different story. Let voting blocs form as they will, and align differently on different issues. Spend all those wasted campaign billions on something useful like luxury resorts in the Mediterranean and first-class airfare. And let's not invite ANYONE who eats kale!

I don’t know what this Twitter revolt will ultimately accomplish. But I do know that there seem to be WAY too many people with too much time on their hands. I have a funny feeling that the unemployment rate will soon be approximately 99%. I also know that those in the top 2 and 3% are not pulling their weight at the protest. Further, I know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that this will all result in me NEVER again finding a parking space downtown.


Incidentally, in 1685, New Amsterdam Director-General Peter Stuyvesant oversaw the building of the wall for which Wall Street is named. It was built to keep out the Indians, which is ironic since now you can’t find a cab without them. He also presided over laying out Broadway, but if it was supposed to keep out the broads it didn’t work. Stuyvesant was known as “Old Peg Leg” after he lost part of his right leg to a cannonball during an attack on Saint Martin in 1644. We were in Saint Martin four years ago, but we didn’t find anything.


*I don’t do a lot of politics; there are people even more annoying than me for that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME

WHAT'S IN A NAME

I am headed to my high school reunion in a few weeks, and I wonder if anyone will recognize me. Not because I have changed that much, but because I was hardly ever there. At the time I considered myself home-schooled. Now you may say that I was probably involved in “extra-curricular activities,” but if you only knew what was in my curriculum you would have to admit I stuck to it pretty faithfully. Anyway, it's possible that someone at the reunion might remember my name, if it was the same, but it isn't. I'm sorry, parents, but I never thought of myself as a "Dave." These days everyone calls me Rick, even though that's not my name either, legally. I had my middle name officially changed to my first name, and as a result, most officials call me Eric. Those at work figure Rick is somehow short for Eric, even though they are both four letters. Sometimes they address an email to "Ric," thinking that I am just too lazy to make the effort for the extra syllable. But Rick is an assumed name. I assumed it in college, at the risk of making an ASS out of U and ME (mostly U).

The process parents use when they choose a name for their baby is both inscrutable and scary. Howard Stern is always complaining about his name: What parent looks at a little baby and thinks it looks like a "Howard?" I wonder if the baby actually looked like a Howard to them, or if they were thinking ahead to some day when it might. Black moms favor a name that is 1.) three syllables, 2.) seems unpronounceable just by looking at it, and 3.) ends in an "a." This is no joke: once on Judge Judy a mom introduced her daughter as Latrina. That one was clearly not thought through. They also like something with some punctuation in it. Another true story: my sister's friend is a teacher, and when she saw the name "La-a" on her roll call she was stumped. "Is your name pronounced 'La-uh?'" She asked. "No!" the girl replied, "It's La DASH uh! The DASH is NOT silent!" I was channel surfing and came across a movie starring someone named “N’Bushe Wright.” What is supposed to go between the “N” and the “Bushe?” I can think of a lot of different things to put in there. YOU think of some and let me know.

Celebrities are no better, possibly worse. Gwyneth Paltrow named her kid Apple. I guess to instill core values? It’s almost worth having another kid and naming it Orange, then compare the two. Angelina and Brad named their kid Maddox. Is Brad is a big Atlanta Braves fan or something? Let’s see just HOW big if he names one Smoltz. Frank Zappa, I guess trying to be funny, names his kid Dweezil. This name is easy enough to understand when you realize that he combined three of his favorite things to form the name: dwarfs, weasels and tweezers.

Parents: think ahead to the torture your kid will go through. My grandmothers' and great aunt's names were: Gladys, Mildred and Blanche. Is that sexy or what? How did grandchildren ever get born back then?

I think the Indians had a better idea on how to name a baby, basing it on how the baby’s physical qualities might be represented in nature. If it catches on, expect more names like: “Rains from Wrong End,” or “Gurgles like Aunt Mary’s Stomach” or “Shrieks like Faulty Car Alarm.”

Now that soap operas are being cancelled right and left, who is going to provide America’s children with popular names? Dylan, Chase, Lance…. Connor, Shane, thank god Ridge never caught on… I know if I had a kid I would name it Victor Newman, even if it was a girl, just so I would have an excuse to do my world-famous imitation.

Also, Mom & Dad, consider all the angles. These days celebrities take the first initial from the first name and the first syllable from the last name, and combine them: A-Rod, J-Lo, YOU try it! So Mom, if your last name is Nussbaum, don’t name the kid Anthony. If your last name is Bagnotti, Duane is out….

Grownups don’t fare any better with their own names. Prince, whose name really is Prince, decided he didn’t like that name, and changed it to some goofy symbol. What was that thing? A theta? A beta? A Catherine Zeta? No one knew what the hell that thing was so they just called him “the artist formerly known as Prince.” Then he didn’t like the theta thing so he changed it back to Prince, and was called “the artist formerly known as that squiggly thing.” He hasn’t had a hit song for awhile, and now he is simply called “the artist formerly known.”

Getting married and taking your husbands name presents all kinds of other issues. I told my wife when we got married I didn’t mind if she wanted to keep her maiden name, since so many of the other maidens were doing it. But PLEASE no hyphenates. Jesus- who can fit it on a check? And what if you have children, and your hyphenate kid marries another hyphenate? Your name starts to look like the Morse code and before you know it somebody is rescuing you for no reason.


Incidentally, they keep a list of the most popular name combinations for twins. Number four on the girls’ list is Faith and Hope. Clearly Mom is looking for some guidance. Number 18 is Heaven and Nevaeh, and I am not kidding: 16 dingbat moms and dads named their poor girls that. Dumb and rebmud. London and Paris clocked in at number 21. I don’t know where Cleveland and Omaha check in, but they have to be right up there. Mia and Mya, at number 23, is cute, but what about triplets: Mia, Myselfa, and Eya....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

HURRICANE IRENE

HURRICANE IRENE

Rarely does a major hurricane venture up this way. The big storms fancy the Caribbean, where the weather is nice and the water is warm. Who can blame them? But every once in a while we get slammed, and scientists get together with meteorologists and ask themselves: “Why the hell would anyone live so goddamn close to the Passaic River?” Then the meteorologists ask themselves: “Why are we wasting so much time studying meteors when there are friggin’ hurricanes out there?”

MUCH more fascinating than the weather event itself is the television coverage leading up to it. Of course there is the obligatory interminable Bloomberg press conference, where the mayor asks himself questions and then correctly answers them. Would it be much more interesting if he used “true/ false” questions? True. Does he often ask/ answer the same question more than once? Yes and yes. Does he have a very nasal twang as if a moth flew up his nose? Doh questiod aboud id. Would the moth make a more interesting press conference subject? Uh-huh. Does New York City have the finest policemen/ firemen/ sanitation workers/ street sweepers/ hot dog cart guys in the world? Of course.

Ever since that one snowstorm where Bloomberg refused to come out and plow everyone’s driveway the human suffering and loss of life just from the press conference is immeasurable. In Ocean City, Maryland, they stopped selling alcohol, hoping people would leave, and I am not making that up. By contrast Governor Christie came out and DEMANDED that no one leave their homes. He implied that he would be waiting outside if you did, and that he would kick your ass. It is more than a week later, and I never actually heard him say that you were allowed out of the house yet.

Back at the weather center, the local TV news girls are looking grim. The storm is 72 hours away and the stage manager is making the hand signal for “Fill! Fill! Fill!!” Luckily there is a correspondent occupying every square cubit of the Earth, waiting to interview someone who is in a hurry. They chased one guy all the way to the hardware store, where he finally lost them by hiding under a storm door.

At the Doppler Rader terminal, everyone is putting together the weather models, and that glue is making them a little goofy. They are carefully tracking the movements of the storm, as it collects off shore. It hurtles towards the Outer Banks, throws a couple jukes to try and lose the trackers, does a spin move and careens toward North Carolina, where it spins its wheels over a McDonalds to gather strength, sucking up all the Big Macs and Apple Pies before heading to a local stripper club.

The coverage dragged on into the small hours as we all waited for the damn thing to get here. The weather girls had to make their splash now, because by the time we actually needed to hear what they had to say, there would be no power to about a fifth of the country. The sideways reporters stood by the beach and derided the irresponsible surfers. Brian Williams showed up, and he seemed drunk. Sue Simmons looked stoned. The experts were making up phrases like "cone of uncertainty." They had greatest hits from past hurricanes, which all look pretty much alike.

At our house we heeded the warnings: we filled our tub with Hawaiian Punch in case the stores were sold out of it. We stocked up on batteries, lest we need to remove them from small appliances that will remain nameless. We put together an emergency kit that included a radio (the Yankees are only a game out of first place), Scrabble (plus the dictionary, since no one ever believes me that “qat” is a real word), a candle (not for light so much, more to annoy my wife by singing the chorus of “Candle In the Wind” to it, with much emotion) and a bic lighter (if Bloomberg comes on one more time I can light myself on fire).

We lost power, and could not find it again for two-and-a-half days. During that time we did a crossword puzzle or two, went for a walk with our dog, played some crazy windblown post-hurricane tennis, held a cook-out at home…. Monday, with no way to get to work, we went for a motorcycle ride into the calm August sun to visit the churning, debris-laden Hudson River. It hearkened back to a time as a college grad when my Mom and I would hop in the car with no particular destination, point ourselves in a direction and enjoy the ride and each others’ company. Monday night was so quiet that all you could hear on our street was the low hum of gas-powered generators and the sounds of people hearkening. They hearkened with their children, they hearkened with their friends, they hearkened with their wives. We hearkened with our neighbors, who never seem to tire of saving our ass in one way or another. The next day the power returned, the TV returned, the IPads returned and our camping trip to nowhere was over. It served as a reminder of how nice nostalgia used to be.



Incidentally, an average of six storms escalate to hurricane status each year. Two of these will hit the U.S. coastline, and four will result in gnarly waves. A weather event added to a tropical environment with warm water and light winds for an extended period of time can result in a hurricane. It is a form of cyclone and in the Northern Hemisphere results in a storm system that turns in a counter-clockwise direction. This means that if the winds blow fast enough, they can turn back time to a much more innocent period when generators were still available at Home Depot.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SECOND CAREER

SECOND CAREER

I don't know much about rap music, other than that I never hear the term anymore except when uttered by people who don't know much about rap music. It seems to be called "hip-hop" now, which could give a person the serious misconception that it is written and performed by bunnies. The lyrics don't bear this out, since they deal in very un-bunny-like themes, such as self-glorification, cop-killing, drugs and fornication with large rear-ended women. It's all part of "hip-hop culture," and how those two words found themselves in the same sentence is one of the great mysteries of the world.

Live performances of these artists rarely result in actual music being played by actual people. Luckily, there is singing. Well, not exactly singing, but there is lip-syncing during the parts where a tune is in danger of forming. It's as if the artist considers himself extremely fortunate to have hit the correct notes one magical time when they were recording the song, and doesn't want to press his luck at the concert. If the singer is feeling brave enough to attempt to actually sing, the microphone he uses is always a "pitch-correcting" device that figures out the closest note to the one he is trying to hit and nails it! A less gifted singer myself, I tried a pitch-correcting mike, and when it actually shrugged its shoulders I got the hint.

You don't need to know how to play instruments, as long as you know how to play records. The "DJ" can usually be seen wearing a pair of headphones on one ear only. If you talk to an off-duty DJ, make sure you stand on the non-deaf side. The DJ is the one who makes those god-awful scratching sounds incessantly during a perfectly good song. Another piece of advice, don't lend him any of your records.

If the group does not have a DJ, odds are that it will instead employ an "MC," or Master of Ceremonies. Most of the ceremonies include self-glorification, cop-killing, drugs and fornication with large rear-ended women. The foremost MC that I can think of was MC Hammer. The ceremony that he is most famous for mastering was the pilferage of Rick James' "Super Freak," which he took credit for writing, since he yells out "U can't touch this!" (he wrote that!), smack in the middle of the chorus.

Rap music has spawned an entire industry on the creation of beats. You can now buy a beat, if you don't have any of your own. When I found that out my heart skipped a beat, and I had to buy it back. The service comes in handy if you use the "rhythm method" of birth control. You can now even lease a beat, provided you return it in good condition. Back in the olden days there was a device called a drummer that provided much the same service, but it was unreliable and was expensive to lubricate.

If there are no instruments or live singing, you are probably wondering what all those people are doing onstage. Those are professional gyrators. If the rap artist is a male, there are at least five female gyrators with large rear-ends, and if the artist is female there are a minimum of five male gyrators, hoping to at least pass for bisexual.

And it works: all the dancing is infectious, and without an antibiotic it is impossible not to dance to some of these tunes. One time I busted a move out on the dance floor, and since no one could fix it I was forced to return to my seat.

There are certain bands that perform a mixture of rock and hip-hop, like Linkin Park, for instance. These hybrid bands are intriguing in the way they cross over socio-artistic boundaries, and also because they save on gas.

I didn't know who Usher was when he first burst on the scene, but I knew he was much more talented than those others who didn't make it: Valet, Gas Station Attendant, Electronic Integrated Systems Mechanic, none of them had what it takes.

But I think I do. In every rap song, during the un-rapped parts, there is always a guy going "UH-UH-UH" in the background, as if someone was repeatedly dropping a D-cell battery on their foot. Sometimes he repeats what the rapper says, in case you didn't realize how important it was. I am mastering the art of ceremonies, including the posturing. I made the mistake of practicing those rap hand gestures outdoors, and a plane landed right next to me.

I will need a name. "Lil'" this or that is popular, "Lil'" being short for "Litl'." I am not small enough for that: "Me'm" would be better. Anything with a "Q," "J" or other high-scoring Scrabble letter is good. If your name sounds goofy, change it: Puff Daddy thought his rap name sounded foolish, so he adopted the much more intelligent-sounding "P-Diddy." Work the word "ice" into it if possible, to symbolize street toughness. You never know when you might encounter death on my street, since deer are not as swift as one would think. Use "z" at the end of anything plural and "K" to replace anything that starts with a "C." So call me "MC DJ Kool Ice Q-bez," especially if you are the I.R.S....


Incidentally, some historians believe that rap music came to the U.S. from Africa, and others contend that it arrived from the Caribbean. Either way, it's doubtful that it had a valid passport. The "hip-hop lifestyle" is said to include four elements: rap, graffiti art, break dancing and DJ-ing. For me, any type of dancing is considered break dancing, and my orthopedist will back me up. So if you ever hear that "MC DJ Kool Ice Q-bez is in da house," den itz time to change da lockz.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SOLO VACATION

SOLO VACATION

Every year I go on a solo vacation to the Jersey Shore. I am a creature of habit, and I always stay at the same hotel in the same town. 200 million years from now they will find my skeleton in a tar pit and they will be able to figure out what a creature of habit looked like, but they will not be able to figure out what I was doing in that tar pit of all places, when there are so many good bars around.

I take Friday off, hop in my car and get in line: The Garden State Parkway on Friday in the summer is basically just a queue for the beach parking lot, and it's a long one.When I got there it was almost 100 degrees- so hot that people didn't even want to go to the beach. They seemed genuinely bummed that there was no air conditioning. There was a lot of talk on the radio about hyperthermia, and heat indexes, and hydrating and real-feel temperature. The real-feel temperature on Friday was two thousand degrees. By the way according to the weatherman they took the temperature that day anally. Citizens were told to stay in their homes and try to do things that would make them feel cool, like piercing their tongues. Little children and old people were warned that even opening the window could cause instant death. I remember when I was little Mom would say it's hot out there, then kick us the hell out of the house without even any sunblock. I should have had the wherewithal to call Child Protective Services.

I enjoy body surfing, and at the jersey shore body surfing means that there is often an actual dead body next to you. Sometimes the beaches are closed due to the washing ashore of assorted medical waste, and if you go at the right time you can window-shop for organs that people have generously donated. Usually there is just a jelly-fish here and there, at least you hope that's what they were.

Anyway, I caught a wave and it was so strong it turned me over in a somersault, then it continued on to force me into a perfect double axel. Since it was underwater nobody noticed, but I stood up and did a bow anyway, until I realized that there was snot coming out of my nose and a crab hanging from my suit.

Incidentally, I was thinking of bringing a hermit crab back home as a gift for my cat Porkchop, but I wondered: by giving the hermit crab a home, wasn't I essentially putting it out of a job? I don’t think it would have forgiven me for it as long as it lived, or two days, whichever came first.

I like to hit the bars at night, and my favorite one is Bar A. It's a lot of hot Jersey chicks with thickets of hair and brightly colored nails, and since they all talk with their hands it looks like a laser light show at the planetarium. Listening to them is enervating but watching them is certainly a noble pastime, although if they see me looking they shoot me a look of piercing disdain as if I was carrying a dead opossum. I don't even notice it. The look, not the oppossum.

The guys there are well-muscled, especially in the head area. They still say things like "awesome" and "bro," and if you get to talking to them for any length of time you sense that you will be involved in a tasing sooner rather than later.

Saturday I am back at the beach. I have my sun-shelter, my umbrella, my cooler, my knapsack, my beach chair, my towel selection, my radio, my crossword puzzle, my book. I'm sure I'm leaving something out. After everything is set up and in order, I pretty much go right to sleep until I wake up at about six, freezing my ass off.

Incidentally, I did not see any lionfish, but they are apparently taking over the entire Eastern Seaboard. The lionfish has no natural enemies because it couldn't be more polite, and also because its spines are venomous. But it will eat anything that swims in front of it- the opening of its mouth creates a vacuum, which is more than I can say for our vacuum. I can vouch for this because I have one in my fish tank; its name is Fluffy, because it's cute for a poisonous animal. Scientists have gotten together with ecologists, marine biologists and chefs, and have decided to eat them. If you remove the poisonous appendages, the lionfish can be a tasty treat. If you do not, don't bother to leave a tip. My only concern is, what if we give the lionfish the same idea? Man has no natural enemies either, except for some women. The lionfish does not even need to remove any nasty spines, either. Just some food for thought, or vice-versa.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

FINE DINING

FINE DINING

Every once in awhile I think, "What would it be like if I were rich?" Well for one thing I would have to change one letter in my nickname. come to think of it, if my nickname were Nick I wouldn't have to change anything. If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. What would I do all day? Of course there would be the usual biddy biddy bum, but seriously how long could that take? The rest of the day I would be playing polo, even water polo if I could find a horse that could swim; a seahorse if you will.

I would have to learn to drink wine and fawn over French names and pronounce them with that French sound that you make through your nose as if you just dove upside down into a vat of lemon juice.

Worst of all, I would have to eat things that I really would rather leave under a rock, where they belong. When Amy, Jamie, my wife and I went to a restaurant that I would consider fancy schmnancy, I realized what an awesome responsibility it is to be positioned so high on the food chain. Literally everything below you is open for your consumption, and if you don't go on about how great it was, you will end up looking like a schmuck.

I won't mention the name of the resaurant (I Trulli in Manhattan) because I don't want to embarrass them. You can look up the menu online if you don't believe me. This is the first time I have dished so literally.

You might start with a salad: Insalata Mista is a good choice. It contains baby mesclun, which I tried once in high school and didn't return to Earth for about 5 hours. Or try the Carciofini- shaved baby artichokes, which is hot! I don't remember them to be particularly hairy, but better safe than sorry. Pulpo couldn't be more aptly named. It's grilled octopus with endive. Where in the world they found an octopus with an endive I will never know. It could have been even worse had he been found with EIGHT endives, whatever an endive is. Salsiccia is a housemade grilled lamb sausage with beans, sun-dried tomatoes, mint. I wouldn't have bought it if it was in anything less than mint condition and you shouldn't either.

Apparently, this chef is all about eating anything that's really cute and adorable. Is that your new kitten?? Poof! Flambe! Are you going to eat that Teddy bear? Slice! Dice! I am! Look! Ming and Ying just had a new baby Panda! Who the hell is that guy in a chef's hat scooping it up and running towards that wok?? It's frigging Hannibal Lechter, that's who!

After the appetizer, how about some pasta? "Dora's handmade pasta" I believe to be actually made from peoples' hands. Try the ravioli- it's a sheep’s milk ricotta-filled pasta. How a lamb got old enough to become a sheep around here is a mystery. Malloreddus is sardinian saffron dumplings with sausage. I didn't try that since is sounds a lot like "malodorous." Maccheroncini Grano Arso boasts duck sausage. If the duck were still around he would boast about it himself. This chef can make a sausage out of anything that sits still for more than a minute or two. I saw a giraffe taking a nap at the zoo, and BOOM! This chef whizzes out of a eucalyptus tree and sausagizes him! I had the Orecchiette. It is an ear-shaped pasta in a rabbit ragu. Ear-shaped pasta? The whole meal I had to watch my language just in case my pasta could hear me. Ask me what it smelled like. Go ahead. You want to. YES! It smelled like nose-shaped pasta! The rabbit ragu was a little more troublesome. I thought they would grind up the little cottontail into a sauce of little teency bunny pieces, but I was wrong: it was big rascally rabbit chunks that you could almost reassemble like a jigsaw puzzle. I think I ate its foot, and was a little disappointed that my luck wasn't any better than usual.

Are you in the mood for seafood? Spigola is a wild striped bass with spring vegetables and herbs in umido. I don't know what umido is but you can stick it innuendo as far as I'm concerned. I asked the waiter how wild are the stripes on the bass, but he didn't know and when I asked how fresh are the spring vegetables considering it's July, he gave me a look like he was double-parked back in the kitchen and ran away so fast all of our napkins flew off the table.

Polletto Al Mattone is a whole baby chicken cooked "under brick." The cook uses the word "baby" no less than ten times on the menu. This guy will raid your Easter basket and saute anything that looks the least bit friendly. Would it surprise you if he popped your actual baby right into his mouth? Stopping of course to add some fresh dill, let's not get ridiculous.

For dessert: tiramisu mascarpone, cheese mousse layered with espresso-soaked ladyfingers. Don't ask, and keep your hands in your pockets.


Incidentally, the oldest restaurant in Manhattan is considered to be Fraunces Tavern. Here, George Washington gave his farewell address to his officers in 1783 following the Revolutionary War. Even though they had the address do you think they wrote him once? While the United States Capitol was located in New York until 1790, the building served as the headquarters for the Departments of War, Treasury and Foreigh Affairs, which believe me, there were plenty. In 1775 the British warship Asia launched a cannonball through the roof. Whereupon the chef shaved it, added some baby fawns and ate it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

REVISIONIST HISTORY

REVISIONIST HISTORY

Yes, it's true: Sarah Palin is a blogger's dream. Meaning that I have had a lot of dreams about her, some involving produce. Why is produce called "produce," when it is the only thing not actually produced, but instead, grown? In one of my dreams Sarah Palin meets Paul Revere and they sit down to lunch and talk about American History. Mrs. Palin asks him about his famous "midnight ride," and Paul Revere picks her brain about things that have happened in history since his death. Well, he doesn't exactly pick her brain, it was kind of assigned to him since it's my dream.

Sarah: What time of day did you go on your midnight ride?

Paul: I have no way of knowing since I was on the watch.

Sarah: What exactly did Paul Revere shout?

Paul: I cried, "The regulars are coming!" Well, I didn't actually cry or anything, come on, Sarah, I'm not a friggin baby over here. I didn't want to yell that the British were coming, since the British already knew that. They were all over the place, and they had big ears. Some of them had big noses too. So "the regulars" was kind of a code word. Those who suffered from irregularity, we didn't give a crap about them.

Sarah: Were you alone?

Paul: No. I was with Dawes. William Dawes. Great guy- I miss him. He has been dead for 212 years but it seems like only 133. William Dawes. For short I called him Willia Dawe. He was a tanner by trade and he-

Sarah: He did have a great tan. Why were the colonial militia known as "minutemen?"

Paul: Sarah, I don't think the answer would be pleasing to you.

Sarah: What do you think of the idea that you actually rode to warn the British that the colonists had arms, and that in their arms they would be holding guns??

Paul: No, that's a great idea, Sarah. Yes I agree with that. And why don't we actually take the guns and also shoot ourselves so that the British can take over and put their feet up and raid the refrigerator? Remember, sarah, if it wasn't for me you'd all be speaking English right now.

Sarah: So were you actually warning the guns themselves?

Paul: We were trying to prevent the British from getting their hands on our arms. We had four small cannon, about 3 inches or so, and stores of weapons in Concord that the enemy knew about.

Sarah: What about that whole "one if by sea, two if by land?" That's not it, is it. I never get that right, or "Fool me once, shame on me, fool me another time, and shame on me then, too."

Paul: We needed a way to let the colonists across the Charles River at Lexington know that the British were on the move. So in the steeple of the North Church we hung one lantern to let the patriots know that the British were coming over the bridge, and two lanterns to tell them that they were coming across the river by boat.

Sarah: What did NO lanterns mean?

Paul: That meant that we need two new lanterns over at the church.

Sarah: What were you wearing?

Paul: This sounds a little like a phone-sex call, Sarah.

Sarah: That's ridiculous. Did you have a shirt on? Was your horse nude??

Paul: I had on one of those colonial hats.

Sarah: And nothing else? Never mind. I once saw you in a band: Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Paul: Yes, that was me. The sons of bitches kicked me out and formed a football team.

Sarah: Speaking of sons of bitches, weren't you also in a group before then called the Sons of Liberty?

Paul: Yes. Me, Samuel Adams and many others organized protests and actions against the British, usually after quite a few beers. We were the ones who came up with the slogan, "No taxation without representation."

Sarah: Taxation even WITH representation kind of sucks. Did you know that Longfellow wrote a poem about you after your death?

Paul: Longfellow... Did you know his feet smell?

Sarah: Why, because of that little taunt?

Paul: What little taunt?

Sarah: Because of Longfellow's poem, everyone has all kinds of misinformation about you.

Paul: Like that I warned the British that the patriots were armed?

Sarah: Well that wasn't specifically mentioned. Mainly that you were the only one riding, and you were yelling and clanging bells and stuff.

Paul: By the way, what do you want to eat for lunch. I could eat a little Mexican, and in fact I have done so once on a dare.

Sarah: I would like a Caesar salad. And a Napoleon for dessert.

Paul: So tell me, Sarah, what's been going on since my death?

Sarah: Paul, you even can't begin to imaginate it.

Paul: No, but I bet YOU can. This should be infotaining....


Incidentally, Paul Revere and the Raiders was started by organist Paul Revere, whose name really was Paul Revere Dick. He kept the organ but eventually lost the Dick, and was joined singer Mark Lindsay. Their hit "Kicks" was reportedly written for the Animals, an anti-drug anthem ispired by Gerry Goffin's excessive lifestyle that cost him his marriage to Carole King, and his carreer as a songwriter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

LOUNGE MUSICIANSHIP

LOUNGE MUSICIANSHIP

After we had amassed what we deemed a sufficient amount of cat hair on our laps sitting around in front of the TV watching “Cops” on a Saturday Night, the wife and I were looking to get out of the house. We prefer to see live music- if the band is good there are no complaints, and usually they do not perform rap music or techno music, so we are spared at least that. If the band is horrible, it’s even better.

Last Saturday, the local Holiday Inn was just the place to go for cocktails and dancing. Dancing is a great way to stay in shape, so we avoid it, but the cocktail part appeals to us greatly. The band was a wedding-style combo with a female lead singer. They were fairly annoying, but on the whole not too objectionable for the genre. But then we noticed him: there he was, resplendent in a satin jacket with a red tie, his tastefully graying hair coiffed in a ‘70s mobster style. He did not sing, nor did he need to. He snapped his finger, elbow cocked at the same height as his head. He smiled in response to an imaginary joke. He pushed up air with both hands above his head to raise the roof. He cha-cha-cha-ed, he mambo-ed, he rhumba-ed, he samba-ed, all without the unnecessary bother of a partner. I knew this had all the ear-marks of a magical evening. Little did I know that my ears would actually be marked by this experience.

Then he sang. He piped into “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” with all the zeal and alacrity of someone test-driving a Lamborghini on a road with a bridge out. He was at least an entire whole-step sharp. No one in the band seemed to notice it, or they may have been used to it. No one on the dance floor noticed it; they had other things on their mind, perhaps like what might happen if the roof were to suddenly raise. My wife and I noticed it, and we looked at each other, wide-eyed and making the same face that signifies the presence of seafood that longs to go back to the sea.

He was undeterred. He pointed to fictional friends in the audience. He soft-clapped along to the music during the solos, with the microphone in his hand. He closed his eyes on the high notes, palm upstretched towards the heavens. He winked. My wife thinks he winked at her, but I think he winked at me. This guy could wink, and it’s not easy to pull off convincingly (when I try it I look as though I popped a contact lens). He did not ooze charm so much as he oozed ooze. He looked like Will Ferrell doing an impression. He was unctuous, fatuous and gratuitous all at the same time. When the song was over we clapped, because we enjoy music sung off-key. He asked us to tip the waitresses and bartenders, since they work so hard, even though they didn’t seem overly taxed by industry when I went to get a drink.

What was this man doing there? He did not play an instrument, although he may have at one time. And that one time was all it took for someone to take the instrument away from him. They did not even trust him with a tambourine. Seemingly useless band members down through the ages have always been given a tambourine, as long as they promised not to make any noise with it, and had big cans. From Suzanne Crough in the Partridge Family, to Wrangler Jane in The Termites, the tambourine has always been the traditional prop for those with little musical talent. Which makes me wonder that when Bob Dylan musically asked the Tambourine Man to play a song for him, would he have known which song it was? It’s awfully hard to tell on a tambourine.

When they finally called “last call” and turned the lights on I felt cheated, mainly because I had just ordered a drink.




Incidentally, Melody Patterson was only 16 years old when she played Wrangler Jane on F Troop the first season. I rank her second in the “Who is the Hottest 60’s Television Babe” contest: 99, Wrangler Jane, Jeannie, Mary Ann or Samantha?? The Indian tribe in F Troop was named the “Hekawi,” when they became lost one time and, after someone asked “Where the heck are we?” was misheard to say, “We’re the Hekawi!” What I did NOT know is that the name of the tribe was originally to be known as the “Fugawi,” but the censors nixed it once they heard the backstory…

Thursday, May 5, 2011

INTERNET COMMERCE

INTERNET COMMERCE

So the doohickey that I clean the dirty dinner plates with is apparently known as a dish mop. It looks a little like Phyllis Diller, only it's funnier. In our household, the wife cooks splendid meals every night, and the husband eats them, usually while yelling at the Yankees, an untidy combination. When I lift up the plate after dinner, there is a ring of salt and pepper that looks like a lunar eclipse. There are remains of a carcass (a zebra?) littering the table, and a brown-looking sauce that may have been once been red. Afterward the dishes go in the dishwasher, and the pots and pans fall under my jurisdiction. Lately my dish mop is resembling one of those over-zealous reporters who is too stupid to come in out of a hurricane. All the mop hairs are on one side, and only half of the pots and pans are clean.

My wife tried to get a new one at the supermarket, and there were none to be found. It's possible that there are politics involved, and somebody is not greasing the palms of our district's dish mop sales reps. We have run into this before with Cocoa Krispies. No one will stock them anymore- they are toast. Luckily we can still find bread, or bread would be toast. We looked at the hardware store, the drugstore, even the deli, no luck. Dish mops are just not in style anymore, possibly because people now do all their dish mopping online.

Which gave us the idea to look online for a dish mop. I told her to look for a "Dishmop Town," "Dishmop City," or any dishmop municipality. "DishMopsRUs.com." or a "Just Dishmops," or even "Just Dishmops, Too." We finally turned to Amazon. Yes, they had dish mops, but only in bulk. You had to buy 600 dish mops, at a total cost of $3,000. We kept looking, and eventually found one for sale, for $5.99. It was no Phyllis Diller. More like a Janeane Garofalo, not even in her prime, or a Moms Mabley. But we bought it, and with tax, shipping and handling, came to $19.29. We also got an extended warranty for $25.00, should anything go wrong within the first year. It should be here in a couple weeks, and by then I will have a lot of dirty dishes to clean.

There used to be a thing called the "Fuller Brush Man." It was a salesman who came door-to-door to sell cleaning products to a wife whose husband was not home at the time. The husband, as the theory goes, would return to find the house clean, and the wife would have a few new uses for brushes that would make your head spin. I mention this only because I would bet anything that the salesman would have had a dish mop in his sample case. But someone figured out that they had brushes at the store, and that was the end of the Fuller Brush Man.

Every time I turn around there is a new television ad for an innovative plug-in device that makes your house smell of something different than whatever it smelled like before. Now there is a motion-activated stink-swapping device that springs into action whenever you pass by, and releases a little volcano plume of potpourri into the air. I thought to myself that if the people in that commercial only had a dish mop, their house probably wouldn't smell so disgusting.

So I go on, making do with a pot scrubber, or playing dishwasher roulette, where I guess if an eating receptacle is dishwasher-safe. If I remove it after the dry cycle and it looks like it's from a Dali painting, I lose.

ps: The thing finally arrived, and because there was nothing else in the website photo to compare it to, we couldn't have known that it was only four inches long. Any five inch pots will have to fend for themselves. In all fairness, Phyllis Diller is also much shorter in person.


Incidentally, even though Alfred Fuller died in 1973, the Fuller Brush Company remains the largest employer in Barton County, Kansas. When we were young children our mother used to smack us on the behind with a hairbrush when we misbehaved, approximately 20 hours out of the day. As far as I know, the hairbrush was never used on hair, and photos of me during those years confirm this.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME

MUSIC PRODUCTION THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
I was telling my friend Phil that I would like to throw a party and perform Stairway to Heaven, each of our friends playing a small part of the song, and never once practicing it as a group. After he called the police and I passed a sobriety test, I had the idea to record a version of the song as an exercise, to show what a piece of cake it is. As an exercise, doing 150 sit-ups would have been easier.

I started with the drums, which was the only part I was adept enough to play straight through. I have always been self-realistic about my own musical talents: mediocre bass player, decent drummer, on guitar I have an unhoned skill here and there. My voice is usually somewhere near on-key, with an almost uselessly limited range and horrible timbre. The one thing I do possess is a well-tuned musical ear, and I would rather have that than any of the other stuff. I can pick out each and every part of any arrangement, and hear thirds and fifths in my head for any melody line. Maybe all musicians can hear those things, I’m not sure.

I recorded the drums on a 4-track cassette deck with less than stellar microphones, and mixed them down to stereo on my 8-track digital recorder. Since the drums come in over halfway through the song, I had to keep a click track on the hi-hat for the whole first part of the song, and try not to make any noise while I read the NY Times. I had to base the click track on the song itself, since it increases in tempo throughout the song.

Then I recorded the acoustic guitar, and my fingers were close to bleeding after about a hundred takes.... As far as picking goes, guitar is the thing I have the LEAST success at.

I have a cheap MIDI keyboard that happened to have almost the exact flute sound at the beginning of the song (bassist John Paul Jones used real recorders, overdubbed). I had to record them one at a time- as a drummer my hands seem to have a supportive relationship, but using a keyboard they refuse to work together, and I end up playing the parts like a boss whose typist is out for the day.

Surprisingly, there is an electric piano in the song. My cheap electric piano, unsurprisingly, does not make a sound that sounds like an electric piano. So I had to play it on guitar, using a guitar synthesizer. I was spared the indignity of using the electric piano to play guitar parts.

I needed three spare tracks to deal with the guitar solo. Due to my prowess on the instrument, I had to play the lead break in a total of 16 different parts. Two of 16 consisted of only one note. Some of the fingering was so intricate that I had to try it several different ways, as I often do whenever fingering is involved. I did the slide guitar part using a small mayonnaise jar. I don’t know anything about playing the slide guitar, but thankfully I know quite a bit about mayonnaise.

Then it came time to sing the part at the end. Oddly enough I was able to hit most of the notes, fairly drunk, in falsetto by dropping a live hermit crab down my pants. On the minus side it hurt like hell, but on the plus side, the crab is no longer a hermit and seems to be quite happy there.

The vocal parts at the beginning and middle I recorded sober, without incident. The lyrics are sometimes unusual. The other day I saw a bustle in my hedgerow, and I got excited: It’s a spring clean for the May Queen! But it was only a raccoon. I was surprised that I knew all the lyrics just by osmosis. Although there is a note here and there off-key, I did not bother to fix them so that people would be able to tell my version from the original. Also I have some advice for all recording studio engineers: feed the cat before you record anything using a microphone. An unfed cat who, admittedly, sounded MARGINALLY better than I did in one small part in the second verse, was eventually edited out in the final mix.


Incidentally, what a pain in the neck is the part where a phalanx of 12-string electric guitars mark the end of the middle of the song, going into the guitar solo. A composition analyst in Wikipedia describes that the section’s “time signature switches between common time and several other time signatures: 3/4, 5/4 and finally 7/8.” In an interview in 1977, however, Jimmy Page says that, “for some unknown reason Bonzo couldn't get the timing right….”

PS: The song accompanies various random shots taken on vacation in Greece, California, Las Vegas and who knows where else. ~R

PPS: For some reason Google blogs cannot upload videos or MP3s, so here it is on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3No9BYluDLE


video

Monday, April 4, 2011

GAMBLING

GAMBLING

They say that it’s better to be lucky than good. At least that’s what people say who aren’t very good at anything. My wife and I went to Empire City casino a couple weeks ago, as we do once in awhile if nothing else is going on. The evening goes like this: We enter the casino and have a couple of drinks near the bandshell. When we have drunk ourselves down to 20 bucks we head to the slot machines where my wife feeds the hungry maw. She presses the “play one credit” button five times, and gets three credits back. This goes on for about half an hour until she has one credit left, and when she presses that, she wins 40 credits, and I quickly press the “cash out” button, grab her by the hair and drag her from the area just as she is about to put the credit back in.

There used to be “one-armed bandits” that you had to pull a lever on to run the machine, but now there are too many handicapped people that need to squander our Medicaid money. People with one arm who were left-handed complained that they couldn’t lose money fast enough, and now the machines just have a button. Even if you are an armless, legless torso you can press it with your nose and cash out with your teeth.

Casinos don’t have gambling anymore, they have “gaming,” since they lost the “b” and the “l” in a card game. Empire City doesn’t have roulette or Baccarat, or anything that James Bond would play. If you look around the place, nobody looks a whole lot like James Bond. There are a lot of large people wearing plastic bedroom-slipper-looking footwear that look like they won plenty of money for food, but not for rent. They look very comfortably dressed, as though they may need to do some things that might require heroic range of motion, and therefore very unrestrictive clothing. Some even look like they may be wearing pajamas. I realized that the slot machines were only a penny. This seemed dumb until I saw a guy win 300 credits. A 300% return on your investment? Try that on Wall Street. So I took all the pennies that were underneath the seat cushions in my car, which turned out to be $8,149 dollars, and played them in the penny slots- I won 8 bucks, not bad!

I always make sure that my manners are impeccable when I am at a casino. I don’t want someone in the security room looking at me on a hidden camera slowing down the video going, “Did you see that? He just put his dirty Kleenex on the bar!” People who can’t afford a camcorder go to the casino with their kids and steal something so that they always have memories on tape to look back on when they get out of jail. If you misbehave in any way, the "eye in the sky" will find you, and when it does, the Pit Boss will be in your face in a second. I'm not sure what the Pit Boss does, other than quickly change all your tires and gas you up, unless I am mixing it up with a pit bull.

They don’t have poker or blackjack here at Empire City, not even craps. Who would name a game “craps” I wonder? Sometimes, depending on what I eat, it really is a crapshoot sometimes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to make a game of it or anything. In Atlantic City I used to try to play blackjack, but the game moved so fast, and everyone was waiting for me to add up the cards, pointing to each diamond, and carrying the one, etc. They were “counting the shoe,” and I was removing mine in order to count using my toes.

Empire City is also the old Yonkers Raceway, so we "played the ponies" for a while. They won of course, since they are good at poker, especially stud. During the race, the horses pull those little chariot carts. I'm not sure why they need the humans at all, I guess just to steer. In a dog race it's just the dog, and it's up to him to find the finish line. Horses only ever run around the track- why not a horse marathon? Anyway, you pick a horse with a name that either sounds really dumb, or relates to some uncanny coincidence in your life. When we looked at the card, ALL the horses had names that were really dumb, which seemed to me an uncanny coincidence in my life. So I bet on all of them, and just my luck, the race ended in a 9- way tie, all for third place.

So after my wife won her 20 bucks in the slot machine, I stuck in a $20. I won $405 dollars, which I do NOT plan to pay taxes on so HA! I immediately went over to the redemption window, expecting a religious experience. I did not find one, although I was asked what denominations I liked to receive money in (I said Christian only because I was born on Christmas). In the end I took the money in one $400 dollar bill and a $5.


Incidentally, to change the subject, a remake of the 1945 classic Mildred Pierce debuted last week on HBO. The mini-series was shot largely on location in Peekskill. When my wife and I went there for the Cinco de Mayo celebration, we realized one thing: If your town is chosen as a site for a depression-era movie, you should probably congratulate yourselves, and then schedule an emergency meeting of the town board as soon as possible. We were amazed at how they had transformed the shops into quaint facades with old-timey advertising slogans on them, until we discovered that the production had wrapped three weeks ago.

Friday, March 18, 2011

in memoriam

I wanted to acknowledge the passing of a friend who was taken off life support Tuesday night after suffering a sudden brain aneurysm.

To know Russell was to know the dramatic peaks and valleys that any life could achieve. A mercurial and capricious life lived at times to excess, and at others in spartan simplicity, he laid it all out for anyone to see, unapologetic. His passion and creativity was inspiring, his personality so strong it often left turbulence in its wake.

I once had the whim to write and produce a cable access television show starring all my friends, and Russell was one of the first I thought of. He is somewhere cringing that I should show this now, but his easy and understated talent shows through even here.

Russell wanted nothing more in life than his ultimate brand of freedom. He would sacrifice anything to find it, and in the end, that's just what he did.
video

Friday, March 4, 2011

WORLD EVENTS

WORLD EVENTS

Popular uprisings have never been more popular. It seems as though the will of the people is finally being heard all over the world. Which is why it pays to make out your will, just in case it finally gets heard. In Egypt they filled the square and wouldn't leave until their demands were met. Once their demands were met, they hung around anyway thinking of more demands. It turns out that life in the square is less demanding than going to work.

I pictured thousands of people storming the plaza with their hands in the Bangles' “Walk Like an Egyptian” configuration. Years and years from now, there will be pictures in a cave in Egypt depicting people massing in the square checking their email. In Libya they are trying to oust strongman Maomar Khadafi, but they can't find him easily because sometimes he goes under the name Muammar Gaddafi, or Qaddafi. They keep trying to look him up in the phone book but every year he is under a different letter. His first name is so close to Mallomar that I every time he makes the news my mouth starts to water like Pavlov’s dog. He is a slippery individual, just like Saddam Hussein, who evaded the entire U.S. Army because he looked so much like the guy who "makes the doughnuts" in that ad campaign.

Anyway, the first place I would look for him is the gym- a strongman has to be able to bench press at least 200 pounds or he damn well SHOULD be ousted. Khaddaffi recently delivered a rambling speech where he mentioned things like, "Freedom is a tree watered with blood," and "... those rats that move in the dark." Many of these themes can be seen explored in better detail in a Roger Corman retrospective, only the acting is not as good. Coincidentally, Charlie Sheen said much the same thing in a tweet, and he was ousted, too. He added some odd items about fire-breathing earthworms and some other news flashes that really should be analyzed at length for possible greatness.

Kadafi doesn't seem like the type that ever bothers to check in the mirror before he leaves the house. He usually looks as though he just smoked an ounce of crack, then dropped his comb down the toilet. I don't know much about Hosni Mubarak, except that will all those billions, he never misappropriated one dime on a nose job. But I'm not here to make fun of political leaders' looks. I’m here to make fun of their wives.

Ghaddafi doesn’t seem to be interested in endearing himself to the people, either. In every speech he insists that his people love him and would die for him. The truth is that most have de-friended him on Facebook and many have died FROM him. Incidentally one of my wife’s Facebook friends is President Obama. I don’t know how often they hang out together, but they do stay in touch. I assume he gets a cat video from her once in awhile and it gives him a chuckle.

In the Middle East it's one faction of Islam against another. I always say that I am fundamentally suspicious of all religions, but really I'm just holding out for the best deal. If I'm going to get up early and go to church every Sunday, and act like a civilized person, I have my own set of demands. Not only do I want eternal life after death, but also before death, and possibly during. I don’t need 72 virgins- if you spring a leak in your sink, would you call 72 plumbers who never fixed a leak before? Also, I would like better food during communion. It’s fine if you want to keep the bread and wine to represent the body and blood of Jesus, but let’s make M & Ms represent something, and beer too. The music is already decent, but they could put the words up on a screen like they do at Karaoke, and let re-enactors cheesily present the gist of the song.

There are many lessons here for future generations of dictators. For one thing, don't put a square in the middle of your city. That is the first place people will go to complain about you. Put the palace smack in the middle of a trapezoid, and call it a name so long that it won’t fit on Twitter. Secondly, if you must have a square, make the traffic signage so lousy that you would have to risk your life just standing on a corner, like in Paris or Rome. Third, offer better concessions right off the bat: tacos, Knicks tickets, making "Dictator's Day" a national holiday. Quell the movement before it gains momentum. The U.N. is thinking about installing a no-fly zone there, which would probably go a long way towards calming things down. I had no idea that the technology was available for this, and I would like to install it on our deck if possible, where the mosquitoes are ridiculous right around dusk. I don’t know how bad the raccoons are in Libya, but they might consider a no-raccoon zone there also, and then the place would be pretty close to paradise.


Incidentally, Libya was annexed by Rome in 74BC, which means they knocked down part of the living room to expand the kitchen. Oil even then was a major export, only it was olive oil. During the 5th Century, after the decline of the Roman Empire, the place was Vandalized; the Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that invaded Rome, destroyed artworks, and sprayed graffiti all over the place. After the Arabs took over and ruled for 900 years or so, the Ottomans moved in and rearranged the furniture again. Ghaddafi staged a military coup when he was 27 years old, and removed the newly-officially-named Libya from the Italians, who ruled after World War I.

Friday, January 28, 2011

LOCAL WEATHER

LOCAL WEATHER
Today, following another major snowfall I went outside with a yardstick and measured: we had a ZILLION INCHES OF SNOW! It is the first time in history that a zillion inches have been recorded. It was another nor’easter. It seems like no matter where I happen to be, the weather sucks. We went to Florida last year, and what did we get? A sou’easter. We are going to Texas this year, where I expect to be hit by a mi’wester, and on the way, a sou’sou’easter.

The snow seems pretty at first. It’s a winter wonderland of pristine white until the dog turns half the yard yellow like an old tee shirt. Here in the Northeast we spend insane amounts of time and money to clear things away that fall on the ground. I just got through raking up the last leaf from autumn, and I turn around and the entire place is covered in snow. I heard that New York City blew half its snow removal budget on that one storm after Christmas.

The worst part of any major storm is the Mayor’s press conference. You’re just sitting down to watch Judge Judy and the dopey local news breaks away to Mayor Bloomberg. First of all, the lowest a microphone stand can go is about 4 feet, which lands the microphone straight at Bloomberg’s forehead. So he nasally twangs statements like, “We have the finest people in the business in charge of keeping New York’s streets clear and safe!,” and, “If you don’t absolutely have to be somewhere, stay home!” He twangs exactly the same nuggets every single time, and for that I have to miss Judge Judy. Apparently the same guys who pick up the garbage are the ones that remove the snow, so you have to put all your snow in plastic bags, and separate the ice in different bags since it is recyclable.

Bloomberg queries, “Are we going to get to everyone all of the time?” Before I can say, “I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of you doing that…,” he chirps, “NO!” “Are we going to make mistakes?” I start to answer, “Well, we ALL make mistakes, and I think-“ when he yells, “YES!” If he knows these answers ahead of time I fail to see why he asks us.

Not to mention that he is still backtracking after getting lambasted about the poor response that first snowstorm, where everyone learned what the word “tertiary” meant (it means any road in Staten Island). Now I use it in Scrabble all the time, and it gives me a fresh chance to skewer Mayor Bloomberg about not plowing our driveway.

We have to hire our own plow guy to come every time it snows because our driveway is so steep. The old plow guy quit because it was annoying to get up our driveway with all that snow there. The new guy plows a perfect half inch of ice from top to bottom, like a luge course. If my car doesn’t make it all the way up, it slides backwards back down to the street, bouncing off the snowbanks like a pinball. So I go out there and salt it even though I am supposed to be cutting down. My wife wants to get one of those electric heaters that sits underneath the pavement, so we can just move the TV out there and hang out.

Even if you got sick of all the snow and leaves falling, where would you move to? A lot of people move to Florida, where snow and leaves don’t fall as often as the property values do. Plus every year you have to board up your windows with plywood while the hurricanes blow through. The Midwest has tornadoes, and way too much corn. You would still need a plow guy to get all that frigging corn out of your driveway. Plus you will pull your hair out trying to find a decent pizza. The West has earthquakes and wildfires, and a much higher proportion of weirdos. Yes, you could move out of the country, if you could only get down your driveway.

At least the weather forecasting is much better than it used to be. Just before this last storm, meteorologists correctly predicted the time that it would begin, approximately how much snow we would get, and that the Steelers would not cover. Oddly enough, they can’t seem to tell you one damn thing about meteors.



Incidentally, There are several theories as to why we are experiencing higher snow totals this year. One is that since the polar ice caps are melting, less cold air is reflected into space, thus affecting the cold air patterns. Experts liken it to leaving the refrigerator open, so that the food inside gets warmer while the rest of the house gets colder. By the way, I notice that you are almost out of beer. Another theory holds that the warmer Arctic has resulted in more snow in Siberia and the surrounding mountain ranges, thus “bending” the jetstream further south. Still, no one has been able to explain to me why Iceland is so green, and Greenland is full of ice, other than that somebody left the fridge open.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

This Christmas Season, as is my tradition, I enjoyed by complaining about the bad taste of others.

We went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, and it was spectacular and everything, but we were surprised at how many dead spots there were in the lighting. It was as if nobody took a look at it from far away. Isn’t there a Dead Spot Manager assigned to this project? Even Da Vinci, as he was creating the Mona Lisa, took five paces back and looked at it from far away, where he needed his glasses to even see it at all. Then he realized that it was making a face like someone who had just committed a murder and put the body into a wood chipper. But that was the look he was going for, so DONE.

My sister was the DSM when we decorated our tree as we were growing up. I was usually assigned to the lights, sisters to the ornaments, and we all chipped in with the tinsel. It was a complicated production and to this day I am very particular about Christmas adornments and displays.

I don’t like garlands for instance. Especially those constructed from edible items. Popcorn garlands: do you microwave? Butter or no butter? For god’s sake don’t put on a movie-if you were to put on the Godfather trilogy for Christmas Eve you’re pretty much guaranteed of a bare tree by the time Sonny Corleone gets nailed at the toll booth. Chili pepper garlands? Too felice navidadish. Cranberry garland? All we have are those cranberries that come in a tin, and when you pour it out it looks like a quivering purple can. I don’t even like Judy Garland.

I like a tree where the lights are evenly spaced, around and around the circumference. Don’t start at the top and drape the lights down in a straight line- the thing looks like a bird cage. If you don’t have enough lights to make a good showing, pick a smaller tree. And don’t put a fake tree on your lawn, how stupid is that- there are more than enough real ones out there. It’s a carbon footprint slap in the face. Fake fir is even worse than fake fur. Swirlies are lame, those little spiral plastic cones of light. Something in between Snoopy’s tree and Charlie Brown’s would be perfect.

Rockefeller center is lined with large deciduous trees that had bright blue lights wrapped around every limb. They were almost more impressive than the big tree.

I’m not much for inflatable stuff on the lawn. It always makes me wish I still owned a BB gun.

We went to a friend’s house and they had reindeer made of lights with heads that bobbed up and down. Judging by how bright they were they must have eaten all the daffodil bulbs on the property. From a certain angle it appeared like they were having sex, which looks more festive than it sounds. I would love to mount a reindeer myself, but only for my den.

Sometimes I see a nativity scene on someone’s lawn and it reminds me of the small one we used to set up on the bookshelves as a kid. We cleared out the entire World Book Encyclopedia shelf to accommodate it, so I could not write a book report for two weeks, which was okay with me. Everything went fine for a few days, but then the poor baby Jesus would find himself in all sorts of ungainly predicaments. If he ever thought the manger was smelly and uncomfortable he should try dangling from the Christmas tree, or hanging out in the butter dish. Poor Jesus had worse luck than Jimmy Olson, or Lassie’s family, except that he didn’t have Superman or Lassie to rescue him. The only way he got out of one mess was for someone to think of an even worse one. My Mom usually took pity on the poor baby and saved the Savior, replacing him gently in his bed. The little Lord Jesus once again lay down his sweet head.

These days hardly anyone is born in a manger. A taxicab sometimes, and probably there are instances of a baby being born while waiting for the officials to review a play where it looks like Eli Manning has once again fumbled the ball. And sitting a baby in a bunch of hay seems irresponsible- any one of those hard stalks could poke his eye out as sure as I’m sitting here. At least put an old tee-shirt in there or something- all those sheep standing around and no one could scare up a sweater?

The three wise men found out about the blessed event awfully fast- Mary must have gotten the birth announcements out in jig time- how much did Jesus weigh? Is it in the Bible somewhere? IT’S A BOY! Joseph and Mary are pleased to announce their new bundle of joy! Birth cards always include the weight, but subsequent birthday announcements never do, especially after age 50. Waist size, shoe size, hat size, none of those helpful statistics on the baby. Sometimes they give the length of the baby, in case it is very light but several feet long, and might look like a snake. When you are a baby you have a length, since you’re lying down, and your height would basically be your width. One of the wise men then lights up a cigar around all that hay and almost burns down the manger. WHO’s the WISE GUY? The one with the gold says, “Now Jesus, this is a DOUBLE bar of gold- for Christmas AND birthday.” The other wise men were a little pissed off because they had agreed to do a “secret Santa,” or a grab bag and this jaboney shows up with gold.

Anyway, we used to do the whole big Christmas tree, and all that but over the years we have scaled down to just some lights in the living room. The lights last one and 364/365 years, whereupon one light in the chain breaks as I am trying to untangle it and half the strand is kaput. So now I pay about 15 dollars more, and get a string that is guaranteed to keep working no matter how many bulbs burn out, and as a result all are dead except for three.

Sometimes I look at a Christmas-lit shrub next to a house and it looks suspiciously like a net of lights has simply been cast over it, like on "The Deadliest Catch."

Incandescent lights are taboo now; everyone uses LED lights. Light-emitting diodes don’t really emit a whole lot of light. They were invented mainly for telling you that your transistor radio was on in case you couldn’t hear it. And thank god diodes didn’t start emitting sounds or smells, or there would be no reason to have children, and then good luck trying to get a diode to mow your lawn.


Incidentally, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” may not have been a carol at all, but instead a fanciful memory game, where each singer would have to remember all the previous versus before he sang his own. The phrase “four calling birds” was probably meant to be “colly birds,” or blackbirds. The “golden rings” would have meant ring-necked pheasants, not jewelry. The twelve days start with December 25th and end with January 6th, the Epiphany. If it WAS meant as a memory game, it is important to note that “twelve drummers drumming” is not a very important thing to remember, since it is never repeated during the song. So there.