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

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Friday, November 30, 2012

AFTER THE ELECTION*

Now that the dust has settled after the elections, one thing seems clear: we have a lot more dust than we thought. I exercised my right to vote, and now I have a cramp. State senators, assemblymen, district judges, what do all these people do? I guess we need circuit judges, for instance, since circuits pretty much all look alike to me.

The voting process is different now: it basically resembles a multiple choice test, so I’m pretty sure I failed it. You fill in a box with a number two pencil. I tried to copy my answers from the guy next to me, but an old lady from across the room wagged her finger at me. My fly was also down, so it might have been because of that. If they had made it a true/false ballot I think I would have done better.

You used to pull a few tabs and then pull on a lever, like a one-armed bandit, which always amused me because it made the whole thing seemed like a huge gamble, and you never knew if you won or lost until 2 or 3 years into the term. Maybe we should vote using a pair of dice.

My voting choices were limited by the behavior of the candidates. A politician named Justin Wagner had THREE old ladies call my home one day while my power was still out from the hurricane. They will probably tell you that they learned a few new words that day. He was the only candidate that I was not on the fence about.

I have to admit that I’m glad we don’t have a president named “Mitt.” “Barack” does nothing for me either, but Mitt sounds like it might be short for “Mittens,” leading me to believe that Romney might have two black feet like my neighbor’s cat. I don’t even want to think about a president named “Newt.” Presidents named after pets is just wrong for America.

I am happy that I will no longer have to hear politicians try to guess what is right for America. Several Republicans weighed in with their knowledge of women’s private parts. The consensus seemed to be that abortions can be condoned if a woman is raped by a ghost, or a cartoon character who is a registered Democrat. Women’s private parts should STAY private, and they should be password-protected.

Many states voted to allow the use of marijuana, a direct result of the powerful Doritos lobby. You can have all the Tea Party you want, but it’s going to be a snorefest unless somebody brings something to smoke up with. Most states agreed that it should be for medicinal purposes only, although these same states have accepted “rockin’ pneumonia & the boogie-woogie flu” and “Bieber fever” as legitimate ailments. Some municipalities are also considering medicinal crack.

We elected our first openly bisexual member of Congress. Doesn’t that seem like a little more than we need to know? What’s next? How long until we elect our first member of Congress that likes anal? And how open is “openly bisexual”- does it mean that virtually NO ONE is immune from receiving sexually harassing texts from this person? When will we finally elect an openly bipartisan member of Congress??

On the negative side, we are fast approaching the “Fiscal Cliff,” a Congress-invented taxpocalypse that is supposed to frighten itself into making a bunch of compromises that are just as bad as whatever is at the bottom of the cliff. What the press does not tell you, is that as soon as Congress settles that issue, looming on the horizon is the “Fiscal Up Shit’s Creek Without a Paddle,” and even worse, the “Fiscal Mongolian Clusterfuck.” Both involve draconian measures designed to take money out of one of your pockets and put it into another one that has a hole in it.


Incidentally, the ascendency of “superpacs” has resulted in a firestorm of controversy regarding the funding of political campaigns. “Restore our Future” raised over $131 million dollars to get you to vote for Romney. If you were going to vote for him anyway, you should give some of it back. “Winning Our Future” drummed up about $24 million for Gingrich. Gingrich did not win, so it’s doubtful that your future did either. “Texans for America’s Future” supported Obama to the tune of about $650,000. It seems to me that all that money for the future would make one nice present.

*Disclaimer: I am not one of those annoying political people that can’t talk to you about anything else, although I am clearly annoying for other reasons; this column is for entertainment purposes only




Friday, November 9, 2012

HURRICANE SANDY

The last thing anyone would want to do is try to make light of a dangerous and heartbreaking hurricane, so I will not attempt to do that. In the northeast, we haven’t seen anything even closely resembling a hurricane since, well, last year.

I thought about leaving before the storm got here, in order to protect my home and family, since an emergency situation is when I would be most likely to do something stupid that would harm them. My wife suggested a few places I could go and promised to write to me. In the end, we stayed put, but our electricity evacuated to higher ground.

This was not the time to “ride it out.” Those who did actually rode it right out of town and ended up in another state. The weather system was downgraded to a “superstorm,” but it was long and scary. And still, it could have been worse: what if it had become a “super-duper storm??”

After last year’s weather drama we finally went out and purchased a generator, and we have been generating since Monday. We had the electrician wire it into the circuit-breaker panel, and each time we turn something on, the generator groans like, “Dude, did you just turn on the oil burner? Was that ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY? Ever hear of a SWEATER?”

Power was so haphazard in our town, with every other street lit up, that it seemed like it had been wired the same way as a string of Christmas lights.

The utility crews came from far and wide. We had been without power for days, and every time my wife saw a truck of any kind she started to exhibit signs of hysteria, and wanted to stop the car and promise them things if they would restore our power. Nice things, things I have been asking for for years.

The lack of electricity cast a pall upon normal activities. Peoples’ smiles just weren’t as bright, mostly because they could not charge their electric toothbrushes.

I always like to look at the bright side of things, since that is where the power is back on. For instance, after the storm we didn’t have to rake the leaves. They were still on the trees, which are across our back lawn. All we have to do is cut up the branches and haul them away.

Many people have been displaced by the storm. I hope they don't give them those FEMA trailers like they did after Katrina- the ones that they found all this mold in the walls? When they got rid of those they should have thrown away the mold- you hardly need me to tell you that.
                                                                                                     
Around Thursday or so things started getting a little dicey trying to find gasoline. By Friday it was like a Mad Max movie. I went out to the bar to smuggle some alcohol out to mix with my gas. I felt like a gasoholic- I’d hide a little here and there that my wife didn't know about.


On top of that, I drove around wasting precious petrol because no one had bothered to place a sign at the beginning of a road that you couldn't get through. A lot of people just plowed right through the yellow tape and tried to drive under the downed utility poles; in some cases it was a tight fit. I drove past a barrier once or twice myself but only after somebody else did it first. I didn't stop to read the yellow tape- It’s possible that I drove through a crime scene- I might have even left some DNA.

We have learned a lot from this storm. We learned NEVER to name a storm something that might prove to be prophetic. Hurricane Sandy dumped three feet of sand in the middle of every town in the Northeast. Thank god they didn’t call it Hurricane Dick.

We learned to keep things in perspective: for those of you whose mortgages are the only things underwater, it could be a whole lot worse....

I am a big fan of the Jersey Shore (the shore, not the show), and it was sad to see an entire amusement pier vanquished into the ocean. Maybe it will become a water park. For miles around all you can see is devastation, except for a few places where there is only havoc. But the shore is still there, and when the summer rolls around, I will be there too.

Our electricity came back we embarked upon an orgy of power consumption. We turned the dishwasher and the clothes dryer on at the same time in a defiant message to the gods: “WE STILL HAVE NOT LEARNED OUR LESSON!”

I wanted to perk things up so I bought some flowers on the way home from work today. My wife’s face lit up, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that they were for the tree guy.

And to those of you in neighboring unaffected states, our sediments are with you.

 
Incidentally, there have been more powerful storms in the Northeast throughout history. The “Long Island Express” of September in 1938 blew sustained winds of 120 miles per hour through Massachusetts, making a decent game of tennis virtually impossible. Hurricanes Carol and Edna struck within two weeks of each other in 1954. Hurricane Katrina of 2005 remains the most expensive in U.S. history, costing an estimated $75 billion. It seems to me that with a little haggling we could have gotten it for less, but it’s too late now.


Monday, October 22, 2012

MY NEW CAR

I sold my car about a year ago, figuring that I would just waltz right out and get a new one. After about 6 months I realized two things: 1.), that they don’t currently manufacture a car that I wanted to buy and 2.), that I can’t dance very well. 

The car had to be relatively inexpensive. I see a lot of people driving around in Escalades or Mercedes that don’t look like they could pay the mortgage on a refrigerator box. With the bass turned up so loud that some of the fillings in my teeth fall out when they roll by. I like to pull up next to them playing the same song only with the treble boosted to 10, so I can get a decent mix. 

It had to have some styling. Did you ever see a Scion? It looks like you’re driving around in a Kleenex box. And that little Chrysler thing that looks like a tiny little gangster car for little tiny gangsters. I can’t be in a pookie car; I’m a 6’2” guy, and I can’t be in any car that says “Mini” right in the name. A Smart Car? If you get hit by a pickup truck in that thing it’s going to smart. 

I like a sports car, since I play tennis. The sports car has never really helped on the court, but we also have a sports utility vehicle, and it’s very convenient for storing my sports utilities, which are a can of balls and a tennis racquet. 

It had to have a well-appointed cockpit. It seems to me that a cockpit should have an altimeter. If I notice that I am driving at 2,000 feet above sea level I’d like to know why. I’m not sure exactly when cars started having cockpits. It used to be called the front seat. I have four sisters and a brother and you had to get out to that car quick, possibly the night before, if you wanted to sit in that front seat. I picture the co-pilot of a plane busting ass to get out there early before all the passengers try to sit in the front.  

It has to get decent gas mileage. I wanted to decrease my carbon footprint, while increasing other parts of my carbon anatomy, if you know what I mean. I can’t wait around for more fossils to become fuel. And by the way, it irks the crap out of me that somebody a million years from now is going to be driving around in a Kleenex box with gas from MY FRIGGING FOSSILS. Shame on you. 

I already have a separate GPS so I didn’t need that, and I purposely did not order the “voice-activated command center.” I could picture the GPS telling the voice-activated command center to do things, just to yank my crank. The GPS has already sent me down a one-way street RIGHT IN FRONT of a police station- no lie. And when I looked at it it was like, “Dude that was an honest mistake but you have to admit it was funny.” The car salesman asked me whether I had a Bluetooth, which was weird because my dentist asked me the same question. 

The salesman was very low-pressure, I have to give him that. He didn’t even seem to think that I needed a new car at all. He gave me the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, and he suggested some other prices to add onto that. I had a couple of suggestions too, which I would rather not repeat here, but I made an offer and he disappeared to go check with his manager. It turns out he WAS the manager, so we struck the deal.

He handed me a goofy plastic thing instead of a key. It opens the locks, closes the locks and has an alarm signal to call for help. It’s huge, like having a trout in my pocket. So if you happen to ask me, “Is that a trout in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” the answer is probably both. 

Warranties are much better than they used to be. My first car had a warranty for 3 years or 6 months, whichever came first. My second car was a Nissan Sentra which came with extensive "power train" protection, but I just knew they would never honor it. The car had about 120 horsepower soaking wet, and I pictured them dickering about if that could actually be considered a "power train." This car comes with one year of "roadside assistance," and I have already used it, since I needed some help with the leaf raking. 

I love driving the car; it handles well, I like the turbo-charger, once you get used to it. A couple things: I have all kinds of allergies, and I drive with my knees about 70 percent of the time so I can sneeze. This car has so much crap mounted on the steering wheel that when I am in the middle of an allergy attack, I change the radio station, set the cruise control and open the gas filler cap. 

So I get the car home and go to back it into the garage, and I can’t get the damned thing into reverse. I tried jamming it hard, I pushed down on the lever, I pulled, I yanked it hard to either side, I even considered that they had installed the knob upside down- nothing I did would make it go backwards. I was about to key my own car, but all I had was that stupid thing that looks like a trout, so I hit the alarm signal, and my wife came out of the house. “Did you press the release button to get it into reverse?” She asked. “Of COURSE I pressed the release button! I PRESSED and PRESSED the release button! Do you happen to know where the release button is?” I don’t know if you’ve ever been whacked on the head by a trout but it hurts. 



Incidentally, the car I ended up buying is a 2013 Dodge Dart. My family owned not only a Dodge Dart when I was in High School, but a Dodge Dart SWINGER! It was neon yellow, and it was a great make-out car because it had bench seats. You stick a girl on one side of the thing, and if you don't have enough time to bother with foreplay, you just make a hard right and she slides into your lap for a threesome with the gear-shift lever, and both of you end up fighting over her. It was a great car- the "slant-6" engine with a "three-on-the-tree" automatic. I liked the car more than the girl, but one summer I deflowered both the girl and my mom's garden while my parents were away for the weekend, and the Dart was involved in both.
 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

THE REPLACEMENT REFS

They have finally reached a deal to replace the replacement referees in the National Football League, and NO ONE is more upset about this than I am. I was watching the game on Monday night, and the calls by the officiating crew at the end of the contest were so comical that I actually laughed out loud. I was guffawing! I woke up the cat, the dog and the eel, which may have already been awake; it’s hard to tell. Good comedy is hard to come by on network TV, and this was good.

It was the last play of the game, and Seattle was down by 5 points since Green Bay had tried an unsuccessful 2-point conversion earlier. You have two choices in that situation: 1.) you can go for a running play where you combine the games of “Keep Away,” “Hot Potato” and “Kill the Carrier.” The person with the ball waits until he is about to be hurt very badly, then throws the ball at the last minute to someone else who notices that he is also about to suffer bodily harm, and this goes on for ten or fifteen minutes while the team with the ball moves steadily in the wrong direction, since you are not allowed to throw the ball forward, only backward. Or, 2.) try a “Hail Mary” pass, where you throw the ball 50 yards into the end zone, where 20 people have gathered to try to catch the ball, some not even on the team.

If you are a person named “Mary” sitting in the bleachers you stand a statistically equal chance of catching the ball for a touchdown as anyone on the field, given a margin of error of three percentage points.

So the quarterback makes his desperate heave, and everyone queues up in the end zone to try to catch it. Everyone is there except the two replacement officials, one of whom is doing his taxes and the other is watching a cat video. Meanwhile as the ball is in the air, the players are all engaging in bad behavior. There is some name-calling, some pushing, some disorderly conduct, some aggravated assault, and even some on-line bullying and troublesome tweets. NONE of these things are allowed, and at the last minute the Seattle player simply shoves the defender out of the way while one of the referees is busy lining up three beanbags. The offending Seahawk doesn’t even catch the ball with more than one hand and part of his chin. The Green Bay guy has two hands and an ear on it for the apparent interception, and they hit the ground like a pair of Siamese twins. Ten players are on the ground with the twins trying to perform that difficult operation that may save their lives, where they extract the ball without anesthesia.

By this time the zebras have galloped into the area- one referee waves his arms over his head for a touchback, and the other hikes them straight in the air for a touchdown. Even as they are making these signals, they are two feet from one another, looking into each others’ faces and thinking, “YOU A-HOLE! You have just cost me an official’s job that I never officially had had!”

One year at the TV network where I work, the stagehands went on strike, and we management personnel had to fill in and do their jobs. We schlepped scenery, we dressed sets and we adjusted lights. I was told to man the catwalk, and I thought I was going to get to model something. We got yelled at by directors, lighting directors, and goofed on by Connie Chung.

We were useless enough, but I remember thinking, WOW- what a lot of pressure to be management personnel at a hospital during a doctors' strike. I just know I'm going to drop that goddamn gall bladder on the floor and look like a total dipshit. What about when the hookers go on strike? That is NOT going to have a happy ending.

The NFL during this infamous period has taken on the flavor of a high school math class with a substitute teacher. The players were all pushing the envelope of unacceptable conduct, trying to figure out exactly what they can get away with.

They held, they encroached, they ran into the kicker. Why would you run into a kicker? It's almost suicidal unless you run into him with your car on the way out of the stadium. They falsely started, they roughed the passer, and they illegally used their hands. Mind you, these football players aren't just flagged for using their hands against the rules of football; whatever they are doing with them is actually ILLEGAL! God only knows what mischief four fingers and a thumb can get into. They deliberately batted or punched a loose ball. Enough said there.

And they got away with just about all of it.

Whenever my high school had a teacher’s illness they would call upon the ever-vigilant Mrs. Levy, who seemed about 100 years old, but in reality was only 90-something. Usually if there was a substitute teacher you would just skip the class, but you would NEVER skip Mrs. Levy’s entertaining appearances; you might miss something good.

I remember one time we pulled the old “bee swarm” routine, where someone pipes up a subtle buzzing sound, and one-by-one the rest of the class picks up the cue, until an ersatz plague of biblical proportions engulfs the room. That was the day we found out that Mrs. Levy was pretty close to completely deaf. We continued to attempt other minor assaults on her remaining senses, and finally concluded that she was completely senseless. Still, you couldn’t get away with much. She seemed to have eyes in the back of her head, but it turns out her wig was on backwards.

Meanwhile, Green Bay refused to come back for the kicking of the extra point, and had to be coaxed out with a dog biscuit. The crowd was definitely abuzz, but it could have been the old “bee swarm” gag, who knows?

Incidentally, there have been many labor actions that have changed the course of history, and others, not so much. There was an actors’ strike in 2001, where those filling in the roles were only acting actors. In 2008 there was a communications strike in India. For one magic day, people could understand how to fix their computers. The city of Leeds in England saw a refuse workers strike in 2009. The city asked for them to come back to work but they refused.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

CRUISING THE HUDSON (part II)

So where was I? Oh yeah- the wife and I went on our annual Fourth of July boat ride to historic Newburgh, New York. The holiday fell on a Wednesday this year, so we went the weekend before. Why can’t we always observe the Fourth of July on that Monday, so that we can take a long weekend and celebrate the birth of our nation the way our forefathers did: drunk?

We packed up the bikes and the Cookie-dog and motored up the river. We passed under the Bear Mountain Bridge, cruised by West Point and lingered near Pollepel Island, where the majestic ruins of Bannerman’s Castle dominate the landscape.

My wife noticed an inordinate amount of mud churning around the back of the boat. “Is that supposed to be there?” she asked. “Beats me- could be something down there causing that disturbance, maybe a flock of eels or something.”

Turns out it was our propeller, looking around for a rock to hit. It found one, our starboard propeller was cooked, and we had to limp into the marina at Newburgh on one engine at about one mile an hour. Finally at the Newburgh Yacht Club, we were told that because it was low tide, we wouldn’t be able to get into the slip. I assured him that whatever was on the bottom of our boat wasn’t there any more, possibly including the bottom of our boat.

By this time my wife and my dog were not speaking to me, so they communicated with me by Morse code, tapping out messages on my head with the fisherman’s gaff. Once in the slip our neighbor, kind enough to lend us the electrical cord we had forgotten, pointed to the side of the boat, where water was cascading out a small hole.

My wife saw him pointing, and, still a little on edge, politely asked, “WHAT! WHAT! WHAT! WHAT?” He said, “Your bilge pump is running.” “Is that good or bad????” “Depends,” he said. “Good that it’s running. Not so good it’s running right now.” “HOLY CRAP WE’RE TAKING ON WATER!” I yelled, and prepared to abandon ship by walking over to the vending machine. My wife accused me of going overboard, and my dog took a crap on the poop deck.

I pictured Gilligan’s boat sitting on the beach with a big hole in the bottom, and cursed myself for not thinking to bring a trunk full of money and a transistor radio. He said, “I think it’s just a puncture in your outdrive bellows- lower your propeller and you should be okay.”

Things were a little tense. I suggested we get some dinner and a few drinks, and possibly smoke some crack, and things would seem a little better with a clearer head. We went to Billy Joes’s Ribworks on Front Street, and after a couple cocktails I tried to lighten the mood with a joke or two. “Billy Joe’s Ribworks,” I said. “That’s more than I can say for our propeller.” That went over like a lead balloon. “Do you think that thing has sunk by now?” My wife asked, hopefully. “No, it’s low tide so it’s probably actually a couple inches higher than it was,” I assured her.

The next day we decided to chance the trip back to Cortlandt. We were in for a four or five-hour ride, chugging along on one engine. Even though it was sunny out, nasty weather was in the forecast, and a humongous barge was behind us. We had about 1/8 of a tank of gas, and now a headwind was picking up. I calculated that we had just enough fuel to make it to the narrowest part of the river just as the barge was positioned to overtake us before we ran out of gas in a thunderstorm.

We made it back to our marina, against the wishes of our marina.

The next day Dave and I went over to the boat to assess the damage. Ours is a “twin-screw” boat, which sounds like a hell of a lot more fun than it actually is. I said, “Dave, I think one of our twin-screws is screwed, so we’re going to need at least a screwdriver.” Dave sits in the engine compartment and looks over the motors. He calls out the names of tools and I hand them to him, like a nurse, only with more attractive shoes. “Pliers…. Phillips-head…. Hemostat….” If he asks for suction, I wonder what I would do.

The propeller was cleaned completely free of all three blades. Dave looked at the forlorn-looking item as if it was a dinosaur bone, muttering “I have never seen anything remotely like this….” Which I assume was a tribute to my thoroughness. All I could think was, thank god I wasn’t piloting a plane.



Incidentally, George Washington’s headquarters was located in Newburgh, at the Hasbrouck House, during the last days of the Revolutionary War. He announced the “cessation of hostilities,” which sounds kind of smelly, but actually just meant that the war was over. It was here also that George Washington received a letter from the officers of the army suggesting that he be installed as king of an American monarchy. Washington felt that this letter needed to be addressed, why, I don’t know, since it got to him. He quickly dispelled any such notion, replying that it would be one of “the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country.” Plus he could make zillions of dollars on a speaking tour, and each one would have his picture on it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

OLYMPIC RECAP

I hope you are enjoying the Olympics as much as I am- I wish you could watch it here on my sofa with me. Sometimes I get so excited I can hardly contain myself, and I have to put some of myself into a different container.

From the opening ceremony I was hooked. The spectacle of the lighting of the torch, the pageantry of the parade of nations, (warning: any time you hear the word "pageantry," you can hit the snooze alarm....).

If I was the President, which would be the best thing for this country, believe me, I would rename the country AAAmerica. That way, you're the first into the stadium and boom: you get a great seat right next to the third base dugout. Make yourself comfortable, fire up the grill, and let all the other nations parade around like idiots while you make a hot dog. By the time Vanuatu strolls in you'll be eating a Chipwich from the cooler for dessert.

Some of these countries- are they really legitimate countries when there is no Olympics? Djibouti, for instance, is only in it because people like saying the name out loud. Togo sounds less like a country than a dinner order. Micronesia is too small to be seen by the naked eye. Saudi Arabia had one athlete- shooting of course. The Syrians had a guy in the torture medley event. Trinidad never goes anywhere without Tobago- it’s embarrassing.

I got engrossed in the swimming, and I really wanted to root for this Ryan Lochte- fantastic athlete, huge dimple, seemed nice. Then he puts in these diamond dentures, and I thought to myself: INSTANT DOUCHEBAG! My sisters had shit like that in their mouths for two years and couldn't wait to get it out! The more I thought it through, I figured out that a bunch of diamonds in my mouth cut at sharp angles? You could devour a whole Angus steer carcass in 15 minutes, even medium well. You could puree a pesto on the side, and make crushed ice on demand for a margarita. Then I pictured a peanut butter sandwich, and the deal was off.

In the swimming events they just dive right in and no one says "Jesus Christ that is goddamn freezing!" Would the rest of the swimmers wait for me while I wade in a little at a time from the shallow end? I guess you are allowed to run by the pool all you want in the Olympics, I never once heard the lifeguard bust anybody's balls about it.

I was watching women’s weightlifting at a bar. I turned to a girl next to me and said, “Those Chinese girls have some snatch, don’t they?” Guess she didn’t think so.

The women’s track events had Muslim contestants for the first time, covered from head to toe. It's not really fair; these women are from countries where if you hear a gun go off you run REALLY fast just from habit.

I got sucked into the synchronized swimming again. I like the legs, but the smiles are disturbing. It’s the kind of pasted-on smile that bespeaks of a serious lack of oxygen. I swear it looks like these girls had to be heavily medicated to get them to do this. Whenever I see somebody wearing a smile THAT disingenuous, I usually have to shell out thousands for a new car. Which I cannot afford, since it’s only been four years since the last Olympics.

Someone told me that water polo is played on a seahorse, don't know if that's true or not. They didn't mention anything about Marco Polo.

I felt sorry that the guy with no legs didn't win his race, but they had him in the wrong events. I picture him on the trampoline, or maybe diving. Instant medal. It was the first time a guy from the Paralympics competed with prosthetic devices. The closest thing before that was a sprinter with fake boobs. She didn't win a medal, even though she had a great time. I think next year you will see a horse with those prosthetic legs in the jumping competition.

Those badasses of badminton were caught cheating by intentionally losing. Hey- if Chris or Jonas wants to throw me a match here and there at tennis, I promise no charges will be filed.

Watching the medal ceremonies made me so proud that we had a National Anthem that nobody knew all the words to. I can read lips, and athletes were "twilight's last gleaming" where they should have been "gallantly streaming." It got worse when I thought I saw some of the Lord's Prayer. One gal looked like she was singing the second verse to "Rocky Raccoon," and another guy, bits of "the Thong Song."

In a flash it was all over, and the closing ceremonies were upon us, meaning that I would have to go back to watching "The People's Court" every damn day. The highlight of the party was the reuniting of the Spice Girls. When I look back at all the great British rock & roll acts that might be reunited, the Spice Girls were right there on the list tied with Milli Vanilli.

Incidentally, the first Olympics in Greece was thought to take place in the year 776 BC. The pentathlon that year consisted of the broad jump, where the contestants leaped over several women from the audience; wrestling; foot race; javelin; and discus throw. The discovery of marijuana resulted in the invention of "ultimate discus." In the interest of reviving the games centuries later, Baron Pierre de Coubertin formed the International Olympic Committee in 1890, and the first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896. French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Games although extensive cursing can be done in German, Russian and Braille. The International Language of Love may also be used if rooming next to the Swedish volleyball team.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CRUISING THE HUDSON (part I)

Is there anything more relaxing than cruising your own boat up the majestic Hudson River? Yes: sitting inside a bunker in the mountains of Tora Bora as concussion bombs rain down around you.

There is an old adage that quips that the two best days of a boat-owner’s life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. But what about all the magical days in between, when he has narrowly escaped death? Every day that I cheat the Grim Reaper (which happens more often than you might think, especially if we play Scrabble) is the best day of my life.

My friend Dave and I have co-owned this boat for 11 or 12 years. It’s a 1988 27-foot Carver yacht. Dave is an engineer, he knows about motors, systems, boating safety and rules of the sea. I bring to the table the skill of explaining to the insurance company why there is an uncharted shallow coral reef in the middle of the Hudson River.

My mental picture of a yacht is one of a large, pristine vessel with portholes and a small helicopter pad, a guy with a mustache and a captain’s hat at the helm (the fake helm; the real captain is piloting the boat from the bridge), with eight supermodels basking on the bow. These are girls who have had their actual bodies airbrushed free of any imperfections, and go “WOO-HOO!!!” while they shake their outstretched thumb and pinkie at me.

In real life, our boat leaks a little from the bottom and a lot from the top. Basking on the bow is mold. The craft is extremely sleek and streamlined, the result of me breaking off everything that stuck out even a little bit, over the years.

Yes, of course I saw the episode of Dick Van Dyke where Rob and his neighbor, Jerry the dentist, buy a boat together. Of course, Rob knows NOTHING about boats and screws everything up, and they crash the boat and he and Jerry the dentist have a falling out (don’t have a falling out while on a yacht by the way), and even Millie Helper has some disparaging words for Rob.

In real life I play the part of Rob, and Dave plays the part of Jerry. My actual neighbor, even though not involved in any way, insists on making a few comments about my nautical skills.

Learning to dock the thing was an experience in itself. In teaching me Dave was so patient, I wondered how he was able to remain calm. Looking back, I realize now that he was attracted to the comedy of the situation. There are no brakes on a boat, not even a friggin’ parking brake. As soon as the other boat owners could recognize my face at the controls they quickly abandoned what they were doing to take up their defense positions next to their boats. People who might have thought that they wouldn’t touch our boat with a ten-foot pole were forced to reconsider just to keep our vessel from broad-siding them. I could sense that Dave wished that we had purchased a submarine instead, where people couldn’t see me approaching without SONAR.

So I brushed up. I boned up. I honed my skills. I got a captain’s hat. The first thing I learned was how to tie a decent knot. A bowline knot makes an ironclad loop that will not slip. I practiced it everywhere in the house. It’s a great knot to know, but now I can’t lower the blinds. A fellow boater called out to me the other day and said it looked like we could do about 25 knots. I replied that I could do four, including both my shoes.

I learned where the life vests are located, under the driver’s seat. How they knew that I would be hiding there at the first sign of adversity is a mystery.

I learned what horn signals mean: three short blasts means you are going into reverse. Five short honks is a warning, meaning stay clear, you may not be sure what the danger is. Five short honks followed by a loud crash means: “Yup, just found out what the danger was.”

I learned what the flags on the boat mean. We keep a pirate flag ready in case we need to commandeer and board a jet ski, which looks like fun.

I learned what the buoys signify. The old saw, “red, right, return” means that the red buoys numbering higher should be on your right as you return to the harbor. This makes the liberal assumption that you will eventually return to the harbor.



Incidentally, a cabin cruiser is a vessel usually 24 to 40 feet long, with at least one sleeping area below and an area on the bow for sunbathing. Sometimes a larger one carries with it a small dinghy, a light craft for going ashore. Often the girl sunning herself on the bow is a little dinghy also.

Friday, June 29, 2012

THE BEAR IN THE GARAGE

I was sitting with the wife, cat on my lap, ranting about people with excessive tattoos trying to attract a disproportionate amount of attention to themselves without really doing anything intelligent or creative to earn it, or like bikers who ride extremely loud Harleys, or teenagers who blast the bass in their cars so that you can hear it three blocks away trying to make people look at them without providing any good reason to do so, and that’s why you should NEVER look, when I noticed that the cat was looking at me with rapt attention, as if I had a bunch of tattoos or a loud car stereo. The cat seemed to be thinking, “Yes! Right! You nailed it!”

This is the same cat who normally spends its time trying to create puncture wounds in hard to reach places, such as behind the couch. I looked back at it and it winked at me, so I realized that it might be yanking my crank. Humans are transparent; my wife she did a slight eye roll then “Yes, deared” me. But cats are an inscrutable lot, and my crank is much more easily yanked by them.

I enjoy playing with the cat; he likes strategic board games with a lot of game pieces. Sometimes we play a simple game where I just annoy the crap out of it, and it tries to bite the fleshy area between my thumb and forefinger, where it’s the most painful. Where did it learn this- are there a lot of animals out in the wild with a fleshy area there? I thought most animals don’t even have a thumb. This cat, angry that it does not itself have opposable thumbs, vehemently opposes mine. It is purring loudly when we play this game, which leads me to believe that a cat is happiest when it is trying to kill you.

Unlike a cat, other animals don’t want to hurt you, they just want to eat you. For instance, a snake doesn’t go for the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger, it just kicks you in the balls and then swallows you whole. You know exactly what a snake just ate because it takes so long to digest. If you’re looking for that roast beef sandwich with a coke that you just bought at the deli, check the snake. There he is, looking up at the ceiling trying to avoid your eyes, with a big bulge in EXACTLY the shape of a roast beef sandwich and coke, traveling slowly down his body.

When I was looking for the possible Mountain Lion in my back yard that time, I never thought once that it would lunge at the fleshy area between my thumb and forefinger. I thought of the old adage, that the wild animal is more frightened of YOUR thumb and forefinger than you are of ITS thumb and forefinger.

I read that if you encounter a wild animal in the wild, you are supposed to open your jacket and hold it out by the sides, widening your profile so you can look more threatening. In my case I was wearing only swim shorts, but I figured that when I held the shorts open to widen my profile, the sound coming from me enduring a major-league wedgie would scare the thing off even before it looked at me.

The one thing you are not supposed to do is run, because the tiger will immediately think that you are going to get THE LAST piece of wildebeest at the cafeteria, and wants to get in the line before you.

Animals in general are becoming less fearful of humans. Did you see the video of the bear cub climbing around in someone’s garage? It scared the hell out of me, because there is so much crap in my garage, how would I even know if there are bears in there? My brother-in-law Jeff encountered a bear while napping in a hammock at his house in the Poconos. The bear gave him a look like, “Dude, you’re in my hammock,” but Jeff had already run into the house so fast that now there is a hole in the wall shaped exactly like him.



Incidentally, you should NOT try to suck the poison out of a snake bite. Because then it’s in YOUR mouth, and when the guy you sucked it out of slaps you on the back to thank you, you’re screwed. Instead, apply a tourniquet above the bite so that the poison does not spread through the bloodstream. If you must suck poison, suck the poison out of the snake itself- that would be a public service.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A REPORT FROM THE MOTHERLAND

On our recent trip to London I came to the realization that it would be much easier to point out all the differences between our two countries, but more rewarding to revel in our similarities. I choose the former, of course, since I don’t have all day over here.

The first thing is the language. I consider myself a student of English, about a C- average. Over there they have a different word for just about everything, so any knowledge of English is a waste of time. “Water closet” means the bathroom, and as a reminder, everything is smaller over there, so it may not be a walk-in closet. “Pissed” means drunk, not angry. Once I ran into an angry drunk and I had no idea how to describe him. “Fanny” means vagina- they don’t know whether they’re coming or going over there, enough said. Enough except for this: “bangers” means sausage, first sensible thing they said all day.

Currency is another tricky issue- the British pound cost us about a dollar sixty-five, not very friendly. The money itself is actually that much bigger, so it doesn’t fit into your wallet. The coins are fairly easy, a two pound coin is bigger than a one-pound coin, but all those little ounces or whatever they’re called don’t have any logical rhyme or reason, so you have to look closely to make sure you aren’t over-tipping. The bills all have a picture of either Queen Elizabeth or Harpo Marx, it’s tough to tell which without my glasses.

Of course driving on the right side of the road is something I missed very much over there, since I wasn’t in a car. There they drive on the WRONG side of the road, and almost ran me over about 50 times. Sometimes they actually had to chase me onto the curb to make it a close call. Spray painted onto the pavement at all pedestrian crossings is a sign that says, “LOOK RIGHT.” I tried about 10 different looks and settled on one that made me look witty, urbane and continental but I still was almost killed daily.

Fashion: girls here wear high heels, four to five inches, even if they are out jogging (no one jogs in London). Women are the same height standing or sitting down. Contrast with America, where people are often the same size lying down as standing up. All the men were wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and I have to say they did look smarter. I often see NBA athletes wearing fake glasses now at their press conferences, and it does NOT make them seem smarter, since you can still hear what they’re saying.

People don’t seem to have their noses buried in their electronic devices as much in London as they do here. I will never forget when I went to a New York bar one time and there were four girls sitting around a table, each one attentive only to her phone. I fantasized that they were texting each other: “Isn’t it great that we FINALLY got together?????”

People in London will come up to you and say something. I was startled by this odd practice, and it took me a while to get the hang of it. In New York if someone talks to you, it is often to ask if they can squeegee your windshield, even if you are walking. I’m used to being in my own little world. Even when I had just finished a major temper-tantrum at Heathrow Airport because there was NOT ONE sign telling us where to go when we got off the shuttle, and I was sulking in the corner, no less than THREE people came up to me and asked me if I was all right. Which made me feel even worse.

Mass transit in general was much cleaner and well-organized, other than Heathrow. The subway seats are cloth, something you couldn’t get away with here, because people need a place to put their gum. You can’t have any nice public furniture here in the U.S., because people draw penises on them. Americans will draw a penis on just about anything, and a person who is apt to draw a penis is never the same person who is great at art. Thousands of years from now when people are trying to decipher hieroglyphics in subway cars they will ask themselves, “Who is this guy with the big nose?”

History itself is something that Europe does awfully well. We visited the Tower of London, which was originally built in the 11th century when the Normans conquered England (there were many more people named Norman back then, so it wasn’t as embarrassing as it seems now). The Yeomen Warders (known as Beefeaters for no discernable reason) recount the comings and goings of various notorious kings & queens. I learned about King Henry VIII; my previous knowledge of his life was limited to the fact that he married the widow next door (she had been married seven times before). It’s a great place to take children, since the focus is on torture and death.

At the British Museum they celebrate centuries of British colonization resulting in the amassing of untold treasures of history. The exhibit on Mesopotamia was an eye-opener, especially since they apparently had the iPhone in 150 BC, eons ahead of their time. Ironically, they still do not have the iPhone II.

The weather wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We went to Kew Gardens with our friend Mike, who is celebrating (if that’s the word) his and Jess’ first year anniversary living abroad. He is an expatriate now, just like Gertrude Stein, only taller. She was a broad too, obviously. Kew Gardens is in Queens in the States, and ironically it is the Queen’s in England, since it is a Royal Botanical Garden. There were more people saying the word “blooming” than there were plants actually blooming; instead it was like a really nice park. But since it is always cloudy and chilly they built a place called the Temperate House. It’s all glass and was probably sponsored by Windex. The indoor habitat gardens were also really neat, with some wonderful succulents. I just like saying that word, and I urge you to try it also. There was also a man-eating plant exhibit, and I tried to stick Mike’s finger down a pitcher plant. He almost took the bait, thinking there might be beer in it. There was a sign by the Venus fly traps that said, “Unless you are a slow-moving fly please stay away from me.” The same could be said by Nick Swisher in the outfield.

Everything is smaller in Europe. When our hotel room was discovered, during the Elizabethan Era, people were only four feet tall, having just finished evolving from cats. By the way, what an idiotic theory that is, that evolution. If people evolved from bugs, why are there still bugs? And why are there so many of them in our kitchen? And why did God consider it an improvement to have only two legs instead of six or a thousand, or not to be able to fly? I’m still angry about it. Hey at least we get to walk around erect.



Incidentally, the British Empire once reigned over one-fifth of the world’s population at the time, and at its height was over 70 feet tall. Begun in the late 1600s, the Empire had territories on six continents, with important colonies in India, America, Australia, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and many other locations around the world. After the end of World War II, Britain realized that it had spread itself too thin, and could not adequately defend all its holdings against internal and external pressures. In 1947 India was granted its independence, and throughout the next half-century Britain divested most of its peripheral interests, concluding with the independence of Hong Kong in 1997.

Monday, May 14, 2012

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

We are always looking for something different and interesting to do for a date on a Saturday night, a practice which I am ending right now. Why do you need to do something different all the time? Every time we go out to eat, as I am ordering my veal francese, someone invariably says to me, “Why don’t you have something different for a change?” Sometimes it’s even the busboy or someone from another table who says it. And I say, “Because I LIKE veal francese!” And the busboy says, “Well good luck because this is a Chinese restaurant.” Only he says it in Spanish.

Anyway Courtney & Bob from our double-date foursome had the bright idea to check out the new ping-pong place in Pleasantville, since they had a coupon. I don’t use a whole lot of coupons unless I’m on vacation and get one of those coupon books at the hotel. “10% off every large pizza.” Then I get the pizza and there is half a slice missing. You don’t usually get a coupon for anything good, like a home, or a Rolex, but in this case we jumped on the idea, since a night of ping-pong sounded like fun, and in all the years that I have visited Pleasantville, nothing unpleasant has ever happened to me there. Except I did get kicked out of a bar once, but since I was drunk even that was pleasant. This ping-pong place is co-owned by Will Shortz, who edits the New York Times crossword puzzle, so we figured we could be in for a celebrity sighting also.

What I did not realize until I got there was that this is NOT a ping-pong place. This is a Table Tennis Facility. Any time you walk into a Facility, you know they mean business. We saw a bunch of guys (there were no women) who looked extremely serious about Table Tennis. As we looked around at the tables, laughing and smiling, they looked upon us with disdain and scorn, and stuck us in the “dipshit area,” which is where they put the players who look like their balls might disrupt the other players, and you can stick your own joke here. My wife was wearing heels, which was a dead giveaway. The only sport played in high heels is women’s beach volleyball. Or did I just imagine that??

Immediately I could see that nothing I know about the game of tennis would translate to ping-pong. The net seemed ridiculously low for one thing, until the security guy came over and told me to get the hell off the table. We played mixed doubles, and it felt like good-natured fun for a while, one couple against the other. Then things started to get serious, and I got down to arguing every line call, like I do in tennis. Since we didn’t have instant replay I suggested we play the exact same point over, really slowly, and get another look at it.

I dusted off my famous “no-look” serve, where I cagily pretend to look off to the side where there is no earthly reason to look, and fire a ridiculously fast serve that barely clears the net and sails effortlessly past the opponents paddle. I banged the first five tries off the side of the table whereupon they bounced backwards and hit me in the nuts. This is the kind of harmless fun that always results in injury to me, and I knew I should have worn a cup or at the very least a bicycle helmet.

At that point who should walk over but Will Shortz. My wife recognized him immediately which impressed me for a few moments, until I realized that his photo does not actually appear anywhere in the New York Times, and she would have no reason to know what he looks like, other than that she might be stalking him. Guess what he was wearing? That’s right! Shorts! And a Sudoku tee shirt. Which led me to believe that he may be starting a clothing line. Shortz’ Shorts!

By force of habit I almost called him “Will Shortz, that Son-of-a-Bitch,” since I have never mentioned his name without the qualifying phrase. This is a guy who has made my life miserable every day for years, trying to stump me with his abstruse clues. Does the question mark at the end of the clue mean he is making a joke or is it part of the puzzle’s theme?

Before I could stop myself I asked him if he knew a four-letter word for Scandinavian goose. He made a face to Bob and Courtney as if to say, “No, but I know a four-letter word for ‘idiot.’” At least I refrained from asking him if Brian Eno has ever thanked him personally, and unless you do the Times puzzle every week you won’t know what I mean by that. He actually seemed willing to hang out and chat, and he played a few points with us. I wanted him to teach me how to put topspin on the ball, and he said that the pips on our paddles were not up to snuff. I hadn’t even considered the paddle pips before, and wasn’t sure if he was just yanking my crank. He told us that they were facing inward instead of outward, like the Gladys Night variety.

I gave him a gander at my patented “no-look” serve. “Ha!” I whispered to Courtney. “He didn’t even get a paddle on that one!” “It never hit the table!” She pointed out. “Even on YOUR side! You almost broke the fluorescent light!” After he blew about twenty past me I started with the name-calling, and he finally left.

We were late for our dinner reservation, but on the way out Bob noticed a ping-pong serving machine. We went over to check it out. Bob set it to “20,” not knowing what the number referred to. We switched it on, and it turns out the “20” meant “20 zillion MPH.” Before he could pick up a paddle the thing hit him five times in the forehead. He spent the next ten minutes hitting balls as fast as he could move the paddle, just in self-defense. They were coming so fast he couldn’t finish the sentence, “TURN THE GODDAMN THING OFF!” All he could get out was, “TURN…” so I kept turning around in 90 degree increments as I laughed my ass off. Finally I regained my senses and unplugged the thing, since I didn’t want to get too close to it. Everyone who had been playing before was at the front desk as we were leaving. They couldn’t have been nicer, wishing us a pleasant evening and inviting us to return any time, by which I could tell that they really meant, “Don’t ever come back here, at least without a pair of shorts and a Sudoku tee shirt. The heels can stay.”

Incidentally, ping-pong was originally played in England at the end of the Victorian Era, when people had a lot of time on their hands, and little to use them for. It was originally called “whiff whaff”, but since that sounded dumb they changed the name to the much more sophisticated-sounding “ping pong.” Europeans dominated the game in the early 1900s, but in the 1960s, Japan became the world champions, followed by the Chinese in the 1980s through to today. That started to change in 1988 with the introduction of table tennis as an Olympic game. The Olympic Committee is now also considering tag and see-saw.

Monday, April 23, 2012

MUSIC UNDER THE STREETS

So I get on the Times Square shuttle and this guy is sitting there with an electronic piano taking up three seats and noodling extremely loudly. He was not a particularly good noodler either. If a cat had chased a
squirrel onto the keyboard it would have come closer to tuneful. He wasn't playing jazz music, where you can hit a bunch of wrong notes and claim you did it on purpose because you were trying to form a complicated dissonance. Plus he had a tip jar there and I thought: Jesus he should be paying ME to suffer through these non-musical stylings- At least make him swipe his metro card twice more for taking up three seats. I took a couple dollars out of his jar just to cover my expenses.

That early in the morning I just want to be left alone with my thoughts. After a little time alone with me, my thoughts tactfully find another place to be. After I wake up and trudge out of the train into the station, the Judy Collins lady is chirping away with her very thin, wan, nails-on-a-blackboard voice, which sends me into a sneezing fit. I've looked at her from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, I want to brain her with a golf umbrella.

Sometimes playing in the station is the blues singer dude, who is actually pretty good. His voice sounds like 30 yards of unpaved gravel, so it's hard to tell when he is actually singing and when his setting forth a snarky diatribe about how cheap we commuters are. He has an air of authenticity, and if you can see somebody's air you're probably standing too close. I'm not absolutely positive he is the real deal, since he is not skinny. I think to REALLY LIVE the blues, you have to have missed a meal once in a while. I wouldn't qualify since although I've missed a meal here and there, it can usually be attributed to bad aim.

Now and then there is a lady singing a capella REALLY loud. Today she was singing, “Killing Me Softly With Your Song,” which might have been true if only the homicide were quieter. If this annoying lady actually appears on the coroner’s report as my cause of death you heard it here first. The songs sound vaguely religious but it's hard to decipher it through her Island patois. My only experience with religious music is when we used to sing "Jesus Loves Me, Yes I Know" in Sunday School. How do I know Jesus loves me? 'Cause the Bible tells me so! All you have to do is read the Bible and Jesus will LOVE you! How many people would commit to that? You can have a zillion friends on Facebook who “like” you, but if they had a button for "love" they would run for the hills, no offense.

Jesus loves everyone the same amount, too, it’s very suspicious. It's like when you are a parent and you have to pretend you love all your children the same, when EVEN YOU have to admit that one of them is a complete mini-douche who should be on house arrest with an ankle bracelet. I want Jesus to love me less than, say, Mother Theresa, but more than, say, Hitler. That seems fair.

The street musician guy who wears a gold crown is an enigma. He plays an extraordinarily tinny-sounding guitar, and sings in an extraordinarily tinny-sounding voice. I guess it’s a Caribbean thing, the whole crown-wearing thing. I suppose he certainly could be the actual leader of a small island nation somewhere, somewhere where the subjects are too loyal to tell him he can’t sing, but he looks like he just took his family to Burger King. The kingdom also needs a new PA- the station announcer blaring, “THE NEXT TRAIN WILL DEPART FROM TRACK FOUR” had better tonal quality.

A real subway treat is the Ebony Hillbillies. These guys can really play. Energetic bluegrass music, even in the morning, can literally put a smile on your face. The fiddle player is so talented. The percussion guy plays the washboard, and he has the abs to prove it. Between him and the guy who plays washtub bass, their laundry has probably gone to shit, but check them out, these cats are a lot of fun.

This is not a musical act, at least yet, but I did see a small crowd gather around a housecat who was perched on top of a guy wearing a hat. I took a photo of him, and a lady yelled, “TIP HIM!” So I did and he almost fell right off. I quickly realized he meant a cash tip, but I had no idea whether I should tip the guy or the cat, or how much. The guy was just standing there doing nothing, but then again, so was the cat. The service wasn’t that great, since my dinner had not even arrived yet, not that I ordered one.

People kept coming up and paying the guy so they could take their photograph. I walked up and whispered to him that I wanted a piece of the action, for doing nothing. He told me to take a friggin’ walk. I patiently explained the situation to him, and he reluctantly issued an apology and struck a deal with me. In the end, he gave me twenty-five bucks and I kept my laser pointer in my pocket.


Incidentally, the term “bluegrass” music was popularized by the Blue Grass Boys, a band started by Bill Monroe in 1939. Once Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatts joined the band, its popularity took off, in some part due to Scruggs’ innovative three-finger picking style, which I sometimes use on my nose. What used to be called “hillbilly music” or “mountain music” now had an iconic sound, and enjoyed nationwide popularity. Monroe named his band after his home state of Kentucky, the “Blue Grass State.” Had Bill Monroe discovered bluegrass music while playing guitar on my lawn, it would have been known as “crabgrass music.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TWIB VIDEO BLOG- THE MOUNTAIN LION

Here is another video blog that Laurie & I put together based on the true and frightening story of my almost run-in with a vicious mountain lion....

Thanks to the New Castle Community Media Center~

THE WORLD IN BRIEFS VIDEO BLOG:
THE MOUNTAIN LION

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

HAPPY ST. PADDY’S DAY TO YA

St. Paddy’s Day, short for Saint Padrick, is, let’s face it, pretty awful. The music is awful, the food is awful, and the only way to get through it is to drink to excess. What is corned beef for instance? I like regular beef- I don’t want people going around corning it. I also like corn, and if you should get the urge to corn that, it’s okay with me. Also all the food is dyed green, making it, a.) resemble vegetables, and b.) gross-looking. On the other hand, at least when you go out for a drink there are plenty of people there, and I can watch drunk people all day long- they are SO CUTE!

My wife made me promise to DRIVE CAREFULLY on the way home- drunk people are like little kids on a ski slope- they have no sense of danger, and it's inevitable that one will slam into you at some point. The whole way home I fantasized that instead my car would be hit by a deer, only the deer would also be drunk, on some frigging fermented berries or some crap, just my luck.

We WERE in a car accident on St. Paddy’s Day many years ago, hit by a drunk driver. We sustained some serious injuries, and of course some humorous ones. We settled a lawsuit with the other driver; this was in the days before lawyers came on TV telling me how they were looking out for MY rights. One TV lawyer wears a huge hat- have you seen this guy? It’s not raining or snowing, but this guy has a ginormous hat as though he might ride a horse into court, dismount and then brand the defendant after tying three of his legs together. Another TV lawyer looks like an undertaker, wearing a big handlebar mustache. Basically every lawyer is rooting for your bad luck.

But I went out anyway. On St. Patrick's Day your feet stick to the floor of the bar. Most of it is beer, but anywhere you turn could be spit, vomit, urine... I think I saw some amniotic fluid at one point, and some stuff that might have come out of someone's duodenum. Everything is dyed green so who the hell knows. I realize now where the Earth's crust comes from. God forbid there is a murder on St. Patrick's Day, because there is so much DNA on the floor you'd be testing it for months. Luckily there is my big fat footprint sitting in it so the cops could finger me that way, the least fun of all the ways they could finger me.

I tried to walk from one end of the bar to the other so I could go to the bathroom, but the bar was so crowded I ended up being extruded at the other end like from a tube of toothpaste. I was man-handled. I think I was also woman-handled, and possibly leprechaun-handled. I checked to see if my wallet was still there. Not only was it there, but I actually had picked up another one, too. I was touched in an inappropriate place, namely the coat-check room. I felt cheap, especially after looking in the wallet. Drunk girls were getting caught in an eddy of green, going around in concentric circles for about 20 minutes before the tide shifted.

There were a lot of firemen, I guess left over from the parade. I think it's good to have a day for the firemen to feel appreciated, because they could be in danger at any given time if somebody did something stupid like leave French fries cooking on an oven burner on high and walk away for about half an hour and start a nice fire in the kitchen cabinets. I'm not mentioning any names, but I don’t think I ever got full credit for sending my little sister through graduate school on the insurance money my father got. I thought I noticed some other weasels trying to ride in on the wave of good tidings for people in uniform. People were wearing bell-hop uniforms, gas station-attendant uniforms, I thought I saw a McDonald's uniform.... It's going too far if you actually have a medal on one of those. Or a rank- sometimes I see a doorman with three stripes on the uniform, and I wonder if he got a promotion from door-corporal.

It seems a shame to celebrate the heroism of firefighters on a day when everybody is too drunk to realize it. I scoured the calendar to find a different day that we could use. By the way, since when did Secretary’s Day become Administrative Assistant’s Day? Remember when you had to stop calling people stewardesses and start calling them aerial wait-staff? This seems like a rare case where all the male secretaries got together and wanted to seem a little less girly, and got them to change the name. Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State and she doesn’t seem girly, does she? You don’t hear her complaining that she wants to be called Administrative Assistant of State, do you?

I had a friend Dave in high school who was a volunteer fireman. He had to pay for his own scanner and emergency lights. When a call came over the radio he had to jump in his car and get moving- his emergency lights were a strobe and a UV light- I think they were from a discotheque. To this day every time I see those lights on the dance floor I pull over.

Anyway, I finally made it to the bar. There was a barmaid there who looked just like Sean Young- right down to those cute nostrils of hers. Am I the only one that noticed that Sean Young has cute nostrils? That's probably why she smells so good. However, Sean Young had that aura about her where she might be bipolar or even tripolar, like you might wake up and she would be hovering above you on the bed with a little-used garden tool, your whole life flashing in front of you and all you can think of is that if you had used that damned bulb pruner ONCE and left it out there to rust like all the others you wouldn’t be in this predicament. Plus the garden would look a little better than it does….

Incidentally, Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of the “Patron of Ireland.” Saints sometimes become “patrons” of the city or place where they were born, and unlike regular patrons, can get service even though they are not wearing a shirt or shoes. Often Spanish or Portuguese explorers named a newly discovered town after the saint who was born on the day they first visited the place. Saint Patrick’s Day is sometimes seen as the end of Lent, when you can resume doing whatever disgusting thing you gave up 40 days ago. Legend has it that Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain to the Irish pagans what the Holy Trinity was. Knuckleheads STILL didn't get it. Finding a three-leaf clover is still considered lucky, as long as you don’t have to sit through the whole Holy Trinity story.

Friday, March 2, 2012

ASH WEDNESDAY

Every year around this time Ash Wednesday takes me by surprise, when I walk up to somebody at work and go, “You have some schmutz on your face,” and I try to wipe the ashes off their face with my shirt sleeve, thereby almost compromising their religious beliefs. Just before my sleeve makes contact with their forehead, I notice that the schmutz is in the shape of a cross, and I think WOW: what did this guy stick his face into that resulted in a perfect ash-cross?? This minor holiday, of course, signifies Jesus’ inability to locate an ashtray. It is considered a “moveable fast,” meaning that alternate-side-of-the-street rules may be in effect.

In the NFL, players are now sporting plastic stick-on “lampblack,” those ashes that they put underneath their eyes to avoid the harsh glare of public opinion following their DWI or handgun arrest. I was wondering how long it will take for someone to come up with stick-on Ash Wednesday ashes. Let’s face it: if you live in the City, what are you going to have to go through to get your hands on some ashes when the nonfunctioning fireplace in your apartment is a planter, and even the planter doesn’t work that great? I fantasize about what had to lose its life to become that black cross on somebody’s face: a hastily burned Valentine’s Day card from your mistress? An evidentiary stack of documents implicating you in insider trading? Part of one of my Mom’s potroasts?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, when Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days. They make Jesus look like a big hero for fasting- it’s not like there is a food court in the desert by the way. If you’re lucky you might find a cactus or something, and you can squeeze some moisture out of it if you can endure more pricks than a Hummer showroom. You can pinch off the rear end of a scorpion and pop it right in your mouth; it tastes like a poisonous chicken. Saw it on “Man vs. Wild,” where the guy can remove the ass of just about anything and eat it. I can’t even remove the packaging from a candy bar.

Nowadays, since Americans don’t want to give up being fat, you can symbolically fast by giving up something that you really love during Lent, such as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” since it’s in repeats anyway, or Brussels sprouts. Many people give up alcohol, and by extension, sleeping with ugly girls, aiding & abetting, passing out on golf courses, jumping naked into the Trevi Fountain and hitting on their mother-in-law.

Like most of the stuff in the Bible, it’s probably meant to be taken figuratively, but people are always stupid enough to plunge right in. It’s a lot of tall tales that got stretched WAY out of proportion as one person tells another, and before you know it, it’s a friggin’ miracle. A guy does a perfect can-opener from the high-diving board, and all of a sudden it’s the parting of the Red Sea. You’re on vacation and the weather sucks, you’re stuck in your hotel room for what seems like 40 days and 40 nights, even though you were only there a week.

What an idea to think that you could line up animals two-by-two on an ark and think that they are even going to get along, much less repopulate the Earth. I have two cats that haven’t stopped beating on each other since the day they were whelped, if cats are even whelped. Walking up the gangplank 40 days worth of animals bickering and carping begins… Is it my imagination or does everything in the Bible take 40 days? Nothing really gets done in a great hurry.

What would happen if Jesus lived in our time? Would the Bible ever be written? No, because the truth would be out there on video. There is Cain loitering around wearing a red Yankees cap. The video is grainy but you can tell it is him. You don’t see the actual smiting on the video but you can see Cain fleeing, and it looks like he has just smoten somebody. And for god’s sake don’t wear a RED Yankees cap- if you want to wear red move to Boston.

Video is everywhere, waiting to rat you out. God forbid Jesus should have some cellulite on the beach, the next day it’s all over the tabloids. “Jesus & Judas show up at the Last Supper in the same toga! See who wore it better!”

I read that they are soon going to require video cameras installed on the back of all cars. That way, you can find out if where you just were was as boring as you thought it was.

All the prophets and disciples are watching their every move, lest they be crucified in the Twitter-sphere. The Twitter-sphere has more helium than oxygen, which explains why the thinking there is so addled. And of course, Fox News putting a nefarious spin on every move Jesus makes. “Today Jesus turned water into wine, throwing a temporary monkey-wrench into the Alcoholics Anonymous fund-raising car wash. A spokesperson for Jesus did not return our calls.”


Incidentally, in Ireland, National No Smoking Day is on Ash Wednesday. So when you snuff out your last cigarette on Fat Tuesday evening, you can snuff it out right on your forehead. I read that you are actually supposed to use the ashes from palms that you burnt the week before. How they knew that I burnt my palms the week before I'll never know, and THEY will never know how I burnt them- that's my little secret. The Bible says you're also supposed to wear sackcloth, but you're going to have to buy a hell of a lot of whatever is in that sack to get one in your size- try Costco. Ash Wednesday follows the last day of Mardi Gras,
famously celebrated in New Orleans. I haven’t seen anything in the Bible about flashing your tits for plastic beads, but I haven’t finished it yet.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

THE BIG DANCE

The Giants walked the walk, they talked the talk, and they made it to the big dance. They took it one game at a time, they took what the defense gave them, and they went all the way. I have to use the words "big dance," since the phrase "Super Bowl" is trademarked, and every time I use it I have to write a certified check for two and a half cents. I hear they are also trying to trademark the phrase, "Big Dance," "Big Game" and every pair of words that might refer to the Super Bowl, so that in the future you can only mention the game by winning at charades.

We have had five really lousy Super Bowl parties over the 29 years we have thrown them. Those were the ones where the guests were basically left to fend for themselves while we yelled at the screen as the New York Giants either did something INCREDIBLY stupid, or something INCREDIBLE. Those five times they have been trailing at halftime, making for grand theater but a really sore throat.

Speaking of halftime, what is going on there? I'm trying to come down from a semi-violent, testosterone-fueled rage, and all of a sudden the football game turns into "Glee." There is an awful lot of dancing these days at the big dance.

But they did it, and the game was great, again. It came out afterwards that Coach Belichick LET the Giants score that last touchdown, the one where Ahmad Bradshaw scooted right up to the end zone, paused in a position that looked like he was taking a crap, then realized that 80 billion people now knew what he looks like when he is taking a crap and then just fell into the end zone. It must be a great feeling to take a crap while falling into the end zone, a feeling most of us can only imagine. Then Belichick further let it be known that he let the Giants score all the other touchdowns too, so that Brady would have EVEN MORE time to come back and win the game.

Supermodel Gisele B√ľndchen is Tom Brady’s girlfriend, and she was tearful after the loss. She blamed the receivers for not catching the ball when Tom threw it to them. Then Wes Welker’s girlfriend blamed Brady for throwing that damned pass from the end zone that caused the safety. An acquaintance of the kicker’s questioned the zone defense at the end of the game. It was a mess. By the way in order to get that “u” with the two dots over it in "Bundchen" you have to hit the “num lock” button on your computer, press “alt” and then the numbers 1-2-9. Would you go through all that if Gisele was a regular model and not a supermodel?

Two days later the players rode through the "Canyon of Heroes." We learned a couple things at the parade as the ticker-tape rained down: Number one, the Giant fans have an undying love for their team. Number two, my Rite-aid stock is basically in the toilet. Everyone ended up at City Hall, mostly to try to fix a number of parking tickets, but also to hear a few very nasal words from Mayor Bloomberg, and accept the keys to the city. If they ever lock up the city, the only ones who will be able to get in are the people who remember where they left their keys; it will probably be Sean Landetta, Lawrence Taylor and a bunch of astronauts. I wonder what they will say to each other?

The fans were in a great mood as the floats floated by. People elbowed for position so that they could get video camcordings of all their favorite team members as they video camcorded the crowd video camcording them. Eli Manning held up the trophy, and there were a bunch of other big, fat looking dudes with huge necks that I couldn't clearly recognize without their jerseys on. There was a flatbed with Justin Tuck and Dave Tollefson. Another one rolled by with Osi Umenyiora and Dave Tollefson. The receivers’ float sported an ecstatic Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Dave Tollefson. I’m not sure who Dave Tollefson is or whether he is even on the team, but he looks good on a float.

The entire crowd was salsa dancing as the confetti fell from the sky. Either that or they had to go to the bathroom- I didn’t see any port-o-potties around… That salsa dance looks like they missed a step and had to go backwards to retrace it before they can go forward again, looks like a knitting stitch.


Incidentally, there is usually a bet on the outcome of the game between the two mayors, something that has to do with the major export of the city, like if Boston wins we get a year's worth of baked beans, or if New York wins you get a couple whores, or something like that. This year, they decided to perk things up with boring little prize packages so that a fan from each state could have a "night on the town." Tickets to a Broadway show, an amphibious Duck Tour.... This is the SUPER BOWL for god's sake! You could do better on "Ellen!" A suggestion for Bloomberg: Next time bet CASH so we don't have to hike up the bridge tolls again.

Friday, January 27, 2012

CHAMPIONS OF THE GRIDIRON

What is the leading cause of heart attacks this time of year? Shoveling snow? No. Holiday stress? Not even close. It’s the New York Football Giants. They still refer to the team that way so that they don’t pack the station wagon full of baseball bats and drive 3,000 miles by mistake.

Every week I look forward to a relaxing Sunday where I put on my bathrobe and slippers, light my pipe, a cup of coffee next to me, and my wife and I do the Times crossword puzzle while we check in on the football game. This fantasy doesn’t even last through the National Anthem before I start to go nuts. This time it was Steven Tyler. He actually looked drunk as he yakked his way through the thing. It was almost as if the song was an antibody that his body was trying to reject. Afterwards there was a military flyover where they tried to drop a bomb on him and strafe him with a 50 caliber machine-gun, but both missed. I just know he will be man enough to skulk back to American Idol and critique his own performance.

Usually it’s one of those patriotic, silky-throated croon-muffins who wants nothing better than to honor America by trying to draw as much attention as possible to herself, taking that BORING old song and JAZZING IT UP! Does this flag make me look fat??? Who are all those dudes with khaki uniforms that clash with my shoes???

It all started with Whitney Houston when she sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 1991. Every songstress, warble-ette and Idol-aire has been trying to top it ever since, and now the pre-game performance sounds like it is sung while falling down a flight of stairs. Not one note is ever left to suffer by itself without a trill or a glissade. And if you make it to the Land of the Free be prepared for that obligatory adventure where she tries to hit the octave. And all this is possible whether the twilight is gleaming or streaming, whether the night is perilous or the fight is perilous- LOOK: who the hell cares as long as I hit that octave, smile brightly and look HOT!

I’m spent by the time they flip the coin. I scan the stands for a familiar face. Where is the guy who always sat behind us when Phil used to have his great seats? Slightly obnoxious, often funny and usually drunk by the 3rd quarter and asleep by the 4th, all these guys have been replaced by the one-percenters, people who represent the real class inequalities in America. I can’t picture the Giants being effectively rooted on by people who say “kew-pon,” and use words like “vis-√†-vis,” and spell “Shiitake” mushroom with two "i”s. Now you have to have a “seat license” to be a Giant fan. Even if I could afford the thousands of dollars, would I pass the parallel parking test?

I do a quick inventory of the crowd, and I still don't see anybody I know. Instead, I see about 70,000 actors that are currently on Fox sitcoms that will be cancelled soon, brushing up on their football jargon so they can just happen to be ready when someone comes by to interview them.

The game begins and all the pre-game blather and hoopla fade into the background. I can tell how the first series will go: Give to Bradshaw for three, and he had to fight for every one of them. Pass to Manningham, incomplete: he broke the wrong way. 3rd and long, Manning from the shotgun, pressure coming. They grab his jersey, flush him out of the pocket but there’s a linebacker there and Manning makes that face like he just stepped on an octopus, and throws the ball away just before he hits the ground in a heap. Does this sound familiar? Sometimes there is a completion on second down, but always negated by a holding penalty. Already my cats and dog are under the table, because I am throwing all the remote controls at the TV set. I will eventually have to retrieve them, because each one of them performs one function that the others do not.

My pulse is racing, and it is ahead at the moment. The announcers go on about the weather- it's raining, and traction is going to be at a premium. The running game will surely be ineffective. Hopefully the receivers will not have to run at all during the game, or we will have to rely on 80-yard field goals to win the game. The players are wearing a muff with a "Sham-Wow type product" in it to dry their hands. They ordered 11 of them and got 11 FREE (paying only shipping and processing).

The 49ers score early in the first quarter, and already I have pulled most of my hair out, luckily in places you can't readily see. The receiver crosses the end zone and climbs up onto the TV camera stand and poses like Geronimo, receiving a penalty for Unnecessary Douchiness. At least he didn't slither around trying to dance. If you find yourself unable to keep from dancing for any reason, and there are no women around, only a lot of dudes in uniforms, it's a lot like I picture prison to be.

I can tell that this is going to be a long game, one of those where the final two minutes lasts an hour. I settle onto the couch with my pipe and try to relax. I don't usually smoke a pipe, and it smells funny. I wonder whether PVC was a good choice....

Incidentally, the G-men ended up winning the game, they’re going to the Super Bowl, and I am pretty damn proud of them. I certainly wouldn't call them the "G-men;" that's what Russ Salzberg called them. "G-men" sounds like a part on a woman that I doubt Russ Salzberg could find without stopping to ask directions. By the way, if you can't find one of those parts yourself just do what I do and imply that SHE is the one who doesn't know where it is.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

Happy New Year to all of you! This is the time of year when we reflect on the year that has passed, and look forward to the year we are heralding in. I have successfully heralded in the first couple weeks and I am looking to get ahead now in my heralding.

The media are awash with the images of those we have lost over the previous 365 days, not counting GPS malfunctions. They dissolve across the screen one by one, and every year, invariably, you say, “WHAT? He’s not dead yet? I thought he’s been dead for 20 years!” I could swear that Abe Vigoda died for seven years straight. They left us way too soon. They will be missed.

Stories that dominated the news are re-hashed, like dorm room brownies. The Arab uprisings, the crazy weather, the tsunami in Japan; this is the time to sigh and say, in spite of it all, we made it through another year. Except for the poor bastards listed above, and possibly Abe Vigoda. By the way, when I die, I don’t want to leave us way too soon. I want people to say, “He hung around about 20 years too long, and not only that but my purse is missing.” I do want to be missed, though, especially if my death is to be by firing squad. Sometimes I think about my existence and I start to wonder if I will ever get out alive.

Thanks to last year’s resolution, I watched more news, and I’m sorry I did. I finally learned how to say ACK-MA-JIN-a-DAD, the Iranian leader, although I still have not learned how to spell it. Every year around this time there is a special re-cap just for ACK-MA-JIN-a-DAD, where he blames homosexuals for many of the world’s problems (especially homosexuality). This undoubtedly signifies that he himself is a homosexual, under the “He Who Denied It, Supplied It” rule. But over there they don’t have any republicans to try to root out all the skeletons, which remain in the closet along with the homosexuals. Even ACK-MA-JIN-a-DAD’s father, ACK-MA-JIN-a-GRAND-DAD, doesn’t know the real truth.

We take a moment to relive the weird news stories from 2011- Maybe a kid who had a pencil lodged in his ear and still completed his SAT. Or a cat who walked 1,500 miles back to his owner’s house, a huge inconvenience since now the owner has to drive even FARTHER or maybe schedule a trip to Hawaii scrunched on a plane with a cat for 22 hours.

And of course, it is a time for resolutions: a simple phrase that will completely change our lives for two or three weeks. There are the obvious ones: “This year I am finally going to quit smoking!” Whenever there’s a fire and someone dies of smoke inhalation I start to wonder if smoking is really safe.

Getting in shape ranks high on the annual list. Every year from January 2nd (my gym is closed on New Year’s Day) to about the 12th the fitness room is teeming with new members doing 36 reps at each machine, at a weight of ten pounds. They are like ants, only with a larger thorax. My wife calls them the “resolutionaries,” and they bring all the gravity and dedication of a high school Starbucks barista. You know exactly who they are because they are fat, but to their defense, they only work out two weeks a year.

Many people aspire to diet. On Regis & Kelly, a nutritionist comes on to tell you how to make “healthy food swaps.” Instead of a pizza, try a paper plate with tofu with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on it. Even less calories if you eat the paper plate. One bagel is worth 12 English muffins except in England, where the pound is so high. Forsake the Frosted Flakes, and start your day with curds & whey. Did you ever see a picture of Little Miss Muffet with a big tuffet?

I asked my wife to poll her Facebook friends and find out what their resolutions are. Jim promises to be nicer to animals. Yeah, when they start being nicer to us. One of our new kittens has adopted the attitude that, in return for reducing every stick of furniture in the house to a pile of random molecules and scratching our bodies so that it looks like we just played kickball in a field of bramble bushes, it will pose for royalty-free photographs in which its eyes are the color of a neon Budweiser sign and sit on our lap at the most inconvenient moments in order to point out our weaknesses.

Jenn wants to “Sell my house and meet the man of my dreams, not necessarily in that order.” I believe that getting a new house should also be a priority, since it is not advisable to meet the man of your dreams at a homeless shelter.

Mimi wants to do the Broad Street Run in Philly this year. I am training for it also, but I will do it widthwise instead of lengthwise.

Obama has yet to respond.

As for me? This year I resolve to take better photographs. My New Year’s resolution is 30 megapixels.


Incidentally, every year I hate trying to sing Auld Lang Syne, when all you know is the first line, kind of like trying to sing Oye Como Va. The song is of Scottish origin, credited to Robert Burns, although it is widely known that he either adapted it from an old folk song or copied it from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Once you know the lyrics it doesn’t get that much easier. The chorus, “For auld lang syne, my jo” might be translated to mean, “For old time’s sake, my dear.” And even if old acquaintance be forgot, do not forget the word “jo,” for I guarantee you it will win you a game of Scrabble.