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Friday, January 27, 2012


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 Slightly obnoxious, often funny and usually drunk by the 3rd quarter and asleep by the 4th, all these guys have been replaced by the one-percenters, people who represent the real class inequalities in America.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-à-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


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.