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Monday, December 28, 2015



     Halloween kind of crept up on me this year, and I didn't get a chance to decorate our house or carve a pumpkin. I felt a little bad about that, even though we NEVER get any trick-or-treaters. Our driveway is so steep that even when somebody showed up by mistake, they were tired, angry and borderline violent. It didn't seem wise to amp up their blood-sugar level with candy. This year somebody showed up in a great costume, but it turned out to be just the UPS guy.   

     So we decided to leave the pumpkin carving to the professionals, and visited the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson. We strolled through the grounds and marveled at the number of intricately decorated jack o' lanterns, most of which marveled back at us. Marveling is much more fun when you share it with inanimate objects.

     There were all kinds of  themed displays, including pumpkins depicting dinosaurs, circus clowns, aliens, dragons and skeletons. Some of the pumpkins are real and some are polyurethane. All are the brainchild of former Syracuse University art major Michael Natiello, the creative director of the Blaze. I've always regretted that doctors have told me I am unable to have brainchildren.

     Some of the jack o' lanterns were intricately and cleverly sculpted, and others were carved in the more traditional style, two eyes and a mouth with a couple teeth. Pumpkins always have horrible dental work, I guess because of all that candy around. I wonder if when a dentist carves a pumpkin they do a little better job on the teeth.

     When I looked around at all these pumpkins, I started to feel sorry for the employees of Historic Hudson Valley that have to decorate these gourds, who probably start calling in sick around August. I felt sad empathy not because of the "carval"-tunnel syndrome they must suffer from, but because a human being can only eat so much pumpkin pie in three months.

     It turns out that there is a recipe out there that substitutes pumpkins for just about anything you can think of. There is pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin tarts. I have even heard of pumpkin beer.

     There is a whole subculture of people who will make beer out of just about anything, and then gloat about it. These are the same people who use word "hoppy" more times than a kangaroo wrangler. If the only thing on Earth to make beer out of was pumpkins, I guess I would learn to like it. But as it is, we already have Rocky Mountain spring water, so there. By the way, I once read that Rocky Mountain spring water is the most polluted water there is, because of all the strip-mining that went on during the 1800s. So maybe I shouldn't be so hard on the pumpkins.

     As far as I know, tradition dictates that if there is a lit pumpkin outside your door, you explicitly enter into a contract that stipulates that when I ring your bell, you have to give me candy. As we ambled up to the Van Cortlandt Manor House I noticed that there were about 7,000 lit pumpkins outside the door. The amount of candy in there must be staggering, I thought. When I rang the bell this big dude in a VERY authentic security guard costume answered, and suffice it to say that this guy not only didn't have any candy, but could run pretty fast for someone who looked like he ate a whole lot of pumpkin pie.

Friday, December 18, 2015



A scant 20 miles from Somers, a legend was told of a headless horseman who haunted one of the townspeople in a fictional place called Sleepy Hollow. Was he the ghost of a soldier who lost his head to a Revolutionary War cannonball? Impossible to say, since if you have no head you have to hold your tongue. If you can find someone who's all ears you can probably work it out.

It is said that the specter of the headless horseman rides every Halloween night terrorizing all who find themselves in his path. Myself, my wife and friends Carmel and Charley decided to recreate our own version of the story, 25 miles south of the real Sleepy Hollow, in New York City. Instead of horses we used bicycles, and rode the beautiful Hudson River Greenway toward the West Village.

You can see just about anything bicycling along the Hudson. Once I saw a plane land in the river, and I thought two things: One, that it was astounding that everyone got out alive, and Two, that I bet you 10 bucks they actually got their luggage faster than usual.

On Halloween you can see even more things you never saw before, and frankly had no desire to. In order not to get costume-shamed we wore some nominal scare gear. I had on a Rastafarian wig, thinking I might get away with more because of my religion. I figured it would caught in my spokes within the first five minutes. Every time I ride a bicycle, something gets caught in my spokes- my pants cuffs, my jacket, a pizza, a rhododendren. My wife had on a pair of cat ears. I told her she had put them on backwards, and she said, "What did you say?"

You think of Manhattan as a diverse place, but it's actually a city full of aspiring rappers who drive for Uber. But on Halloween everyone has a new job, if only for one day. It's a great chance to try out an occupation you think you might be interested in and see how you like it. Also, you can see other peoples' reactions to your new career choice.

A four foot-eleven girl who weighs 91 pounds can be an NFL quarterback, and even with the odds stacked against her, I can almost guarantee she won't get flagged for as many delay-of-game penalties as some people I can think of.

A burly construction worker can be transformed into a beautiful girl in a gorgeous gown for one magical day. I always wonder how many lifestyle transitions start on Halloween night.

You can also see how you look with a tail. I once read that a cat uses his tail for balance, but I can tell you this: from what I saw on this Saturday night Halloween, the presence of a tail did not help anyone's balance very much.

The whole thing looked like a logistical nightmare for police, who were allegedly using high-tech facial scanning equipment to keep track of the crowd. FYI: if the police point the scanner at somebody wearing a Frankenstein mask, and your name pops up in the database, you need to start making some serious changes.

But in reality the police had so much help, they could pretty much take the night off. On duty this night in the Village were 324 Supermen, 439 Spidermen, 610 Batmen and a guy who looked like Gene Hackman. There were also 932 extra police in uniform, although most of those were costumes. My wife said she recognized some of them from a bachelorette party she went to, and yet I bet some of them still put in for overtime.

Monday, December 14, 2015



     So I was in the self check-out line at CVS the other day, and when I was done I realized two things: One, that I hadn't  had a haircut in about a year, and Two, it turns out that the self-checkout line is for purchasing items, not checking yourself out, who knew.

     I secured an appointment at a salon on 57th Street near where I work to have my tresses shortened. I'm much more comfortable in a saloon than a salon, and I'm not used to having a guy wash my hair. He offered me a drink. There was soft music, sensual video, scalp massaging, there was shampooing, there was conditioning... It seemed like I might be dating the guy. I told him, "Why are we spending so much time on this hair? It's going to be sitting on the floor over there in ten minutes."

     Am I supposed to tip him? I decide against it- I never tipped anybody I went on a date with. Well, except once, but that was a special occasion. All this attention was starting to make me feel a little bit girly, but maybe it was just hormones.

     If I was feeling girly, cutting my hair was against my Rule No. 98, which says that 85% of all women look best with shoulder-length hair. I've done several studies on this matter, and I'm pretty confident in these numbers. 10% wear long hair best, and about 3% can get away with short hair. That leaves a couple percent for the wildcard factor, which includes Sinead O'Connor with her bald look, Princess Leia with the reverse snail shell situation, or Bo Derek with those dreadlocks.

     Every once in a while one of those 85 percenters goes haywire and cuts her hair short, and her hairdresser is practically slobbering over her telling her how great she looks, and she either has to believe what he is telling her or admit to herself that she wasted $120 bucks. So she shows up at work beaming, asking everybody, "So? What do you think???" And before any of the guys can chime in and say they kind of liked it better before, another girl in the office vaults herself onto her lap and gushes, "OMIGOD!! I LOVE it!" And the guys have to hold their tongues or risk office disharmony.

     "It's so low maintenance!" She raves, as if she was a 2010 Toyota Corolla. The hairstyle is called a "bob," and I wonder how it got its name. It's possible that some model in the 1960s (who no doubt looked better with shoulder-length hair) chopped her hair off in a fashion-forward frenzy, and a guy at the agency chimed in: "You know who you look like now? Bob!" (And he points over at Bob, who doesn't look so happy about the comparison either.)

     Anyway, my stylist combed all my hair forward so that I looked like Cousin Itt, then started snipping away. Soon I looked more and more like Wednesday Addams, but on the negative side, as the hair was falling in front of my face I inhaled most of it. I like to think my hair even looks great inside me, because inner beauty is most important to me.

     I told him that he could contribute my hair to Locks of Love, the wonderful charity that makes hairpieces for children who have suffered medical conditions that cause them to lose their hair. He said he could not, because you need ten inches to make a donation. I told him that ten inches seems like a tall order. I didn't think it was necessary for him to add that not that many children would look great with my gray hair.

Friday, December 4, 2015



     I have a rule, Rule No. 67, that states, "What doesn't kill you, usually really, really hurts." This was certainly true a couple weeks ago when I ended up in the emergency room at Northern Westchester Hospital. I will spare you the sordid details of how I ended up there, but if I had started there, it would have saved me a lot of time.

     I had sustained a laceration to the proximal phalanx of my digitus minimus manus. Okay, I cut my pinkie finger on a beer glass. The EMT told me it couldn't be saved- my beer, not the pinkie. I was whisked away by ambulance, and if you've never been whisked, you don't know what you're missing. Since it wasn't that serious, they didn't use the siren and considered stopping at 7-11 for some snacks.

     Let me tell you that a real E.R. is nothing like the television drama. For one thing, my nurse did not look like Julianna Margulies. My nurse was a dude, and he looked like he knew his way around a Harley pretty good. Also, no one yelled "Suction!" during my visit, although I did yell "This sucks!" a number of times. My vital signs never flat-lined, although some of my jokes did. I thought I heard the doctor say "Stat!" But it turned out he said "What's that?" (the nurse had the new iphone).

     The doctor explained that he was going to use a local anesthesia, and that it was going to hurt. Well what's the point of that? I told him to use the express, and let's get it over with. He said he could knock me out using his shoe, it was all the same to him.

     When he stuck that Lidocaine needle into my finger, I screamed like a seven year-old girl. A seven year-old girl who, very mature for her age, knew a LOT of disturbing words that say pretty much the same thing. A seven year-old girl who was not going to earn a merit badge in bravery.

     I know the E.R. doctor has heard everything there is to be heard, and I know that he did not take all the things I screamed about his immediate relatives personally, because his expression did not change. If he did take them personally, he did not seem to particularly disagree with them.

     He spent a good long time stitching me up. I thought to myself (I never think to anyone else) that this guy must have spent hundreds of hours in a classroom training for this moment. He probably spent some time in medical school, but I'm talking about home economics courses here. This guy could really sew. I could swear he put a hem in my pinkie.

     Now, there are some things in life that look best with a minimum of dressing. The Miss America swimsuit competition, for instance, or a really expensive salad. But a laceration is not one of them. He was goint to stick a couple band-aids on the thing, but I made him doll it up a couple of gauze pads short of "The Invisible Man." I am okay with wearing white after Labor Day.

     I had some minor nerve damage, and I was referred to a plastic surgeon who could fix it. The doctor told me that I would have a scar, and when he saw the look on my face, he said that on the bright side, he could do a procedure to take fat out of my butt cheeks and put it near my eyes that would make me look happy about it. Luckily, I have enough back there to put a happy face on every man, woman and child in the state of Rhode Island.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015



     So I was reading a couple pages west of here that due to the amount of traffic on Route 139, the town has voted to erect a traffic light near the Somers High School. We had the same problem when I was growing up, and in order to help alleviate the situation, I generously opted not to show up at my High School all that often. This resulted in me graduating with a 1.7 grade point average. In my defense I think that number was on a scale of 100, not 1,000 like you were thinking.

     The New York Department of Transportation decided that a traffic light would be the best option, better than redesigning the entrance to the school, better than constructing a roundabout on Route 139, and better than unleashing a bunch of teenagers with a 1.7 GPA.

     They discussed the rotary for a while at the town meetings, and they went around in circles on that . The Fire Department said that it would hamper its ability to respond to calls quickly, and I would have to agree with them. The fire engine is so long that if it missed the exit the first time around, the front end might pass the back end and the truck could end up at two different locations.

     If they do put a signal 139, I hope they will have enough sense to run it as a flashing yellow light when school is not in session. There are so many annoying traffic lights now it makes me want to pull my hair out. Well, not mine but yours. The worst is the traffic signal on Route 100 at Route 134. You could drive up to that light at 4:00 in the morning, and it waits until you take your eyes off it to adjust the radio, then turns red before you can do anything about it. I try to pull up to it quickly so that it will "see" me, turn green and let's all get on with our lives. But no, it's busy making all its nowhere plans for nobody. I have to wait for a green arrow on the other side, where no one has made a left turn since 1956. By this time even raccoons are laughing at me, and one of them even made a left turn to mock me.

     Now is a good time to go over the responsibilities of the driver when approaching a traffic signal. If the light is green, proceed at normal speed. I do not recommend that you speed up on the off-chance that the light might turn yellow. If the light is yellow, slow down and prepare to stop. Do not speed up even faster than you were going when you sped up at the green light, on the off-chance that the light might turn red. If it's a red light, come to a stop. Don't roll slowly up to the intersection preparing for the off-chance that the light will turn green, then have to suddenly jam on the brakes if it doesn't. I guarantee this will cause an even bigger fight with your wife than refusing to stop for directions.

     By the way, if your wife is always mad at you for not stopping for directions, I offer this compromise that I sometimes use. I roll down the window and ask a local resident for directions, but I don't actually stop the car, so I can usually hear the first couple of turns before the voice drifts off into the rear-view mirror, then I repeat the process a few times so I don't have to ever admit I broke the long-standing male code of ethics.

     If you're ever behind me on my way to the train station, you'll notice that I slow down six different times in order to let stopped cars through ahead of me. This is not because I am extremely polite, although I did hold the door open for a lady recently. It was a revolving door and it resulted in minor injury, but the thought was there. It's for self-preservation. If we don't band together and let each other through, we will end up with a traffic light at the end of EVERY STREET.

     There will be a speed bump in your garage and a four-way stop sign at the end of your driveway. And if that doesn't work maybe a FIVE-way stop sign. I only know one way to stop, so don't get me started.

Friday, November 20, 2015



     Last year I went to the doctor and I asked him what's new, and he says with a frown, "The bird flu." I ask him, "Where did it go?" And he says, "where did what go?" He looked at me like I was crazy and I looked at him like he was nuts, then he said, "Did you already have a shot or would you like a shot?" And I said, "It's a little early in the day but the idea is growing on me." He took out a little rubber mallet and started hitting me with it.

     He told me that influenza deaths are on the rise this year. I said, "Oh my god, they should be concentrating on that instead of the flu!" Then he frowned again, and looked in both of my ears with that microscope-looking device. He said he didn't see anything, I assume he was looking for my brain.

     I got my flu shot last year, but I'm a year older now, and I heard that the symptoms of the flu are exacerbated by aging. Now I'm not one to sit around exacerbating all day, so I went to get my flu shot.

     They were offering them where I work, so I stood on line, and they gave me a form to fill out as I waited, which had a bunch of questions on it. The first question should have been: Did you bring your glasses with you? Answer: NO. The form asked if I had a condition known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but if I had something known as that I certainly didn't know it.

     There are people at work who think I'm crazy for getting the flu shot, because they think that the flu shot gives you the flu. These are the same people who think you can catch a cold from being cold. They probably also think you can catch whooping cough from a whooping crane, or chicken pox from a chicken. Actually, I'm not sure you can't.

     So I sat down next to my nurse. There was this whole flap about a Miss America contestant using the fact that she was a nurse as her talent. She walked out with a stethoscope around her neck, and I thought she was going to do something cool with it, like use it as a yo-yo or slingshoot something with it or something, but instead she just started yakking about being a nurse. And people on the internet who don't have any hobbies started asking why she had a stethoscope if she's not a doctor. Well of course she has a stethoscope, so she can count the number of steths coming out of my chest, although I could swear I can hear Kings of Leon coming out of the earpieces.

     I asked her if it was going to hurt, and she said not too much.
"Not too much? What do you consider too much? On a scale of one to ten, what is the pain between?"
"It's between your shoulder and your elbow," she deadpanned.
"Would you say it's like somebody stomping on your foot if they did it on your arm?"
She said, "I would say it's more than a tiny prick but less than getting run over by a car, although I wouldn't know anything about getting run over by a car."
She told me to roll up my sleeve, the shot goes right in the upper arm.
"Don't you think it might be too muscular up there? You might not be able to insert the needle because of my biceps?"
"No, not at all,"she said.
"You didn't have to say  the 'not at all' part." I offered. "Isn't there somewhere else you can give me the shot, like Aruba?"
But before she could answer she was assaulting my arm, and I yelled out in surprise.
"That was just the cotton swab with the alcohol on it."
"Could you put some into my coffee cup?" I was going to stall for a little while, maybe ask to see her credentials, where she went to school, ask if she knew any yo-yo tricks with the stethoscope, etc., but she said she was already done.
"Wow, I didn't feel any pain at all!" I exclaimed.
"I can keep trying." She said.

Friday, November 13, 2015



     My friend Bill has been a Somers resident for about a decade or so, and like me, grew up in Chappaqua. There he became involved in something that has become a community institution. It's called Take It Or Leave It, and it's part swap meet, part recycling center, part museum and part block party.

     It happens every Saturday morning from 9:00AM to 12:00PM from May to November. People show up with things that have been lying around their house or garage for so long the original patent has expired. For example, a wife might come by with a VCR that has been flashing 12:00 ever since a power failure in 2007. Town residents rummage through the articles, and almost always find something they need, even if it's not what they came for. For instance, a husband might find a VCR similar to one that went missing a week ago, which was working just fine as far as he knew.

     Bill told me it was a win-win situation, so I went over there expecting to win something. Which I didn't, thank you very much, but I did find a thriving, bustling circle of people who each had something to gain from what started as a nifty idea and has grown into a social happening.

     There were all kinds, shapes and colors of people there, and all sorts of merchandise. Sports equipment- there were lots of balls. There were more balls than debutante season in Savannah, Georgia, and this sentence could have come out way worse.

     There was a wake board, which was good because 9:00AM on a Saturday is awfully early. There was a huge children's Busy Box that kept me occupied for a little longer than is prudent to say. There were cassettes, there were record albums. Did you know that Yo-yo Ma put out a record with Bobby Mcferrin? I can make up a lot of stuff but I couldn't make THAT up.

      Looking around, I was reminded of the time my wife tried to throw out a garbage can. It's not as easy as you'd think it would be, and I thought I noticed smoke coming out of the ears of the trash collector. Could they refuse our refuse?

     While I was there, one woman showed up with a stroller and no baby, another woman had a baby and no stroller. They both left happy. Let me clarify that they exchanged the stroller, not the baby.

     Someone left a Kaypro II, which was the first transportable computer ever made, from the early 1980s (I looked it up). It looked like it might have been transported from the Smithsonian, but don't you know? Somebody took it. Probably someone who had a Kaypro I and was looking to upgrade.

     Take It Or Leave It is like a tag sale, only with a slightly smaller profit margin. Then again they don't have to pay for the tags. I held a tag sale when my mother died and found the experience slightly demeaning. You could be selling a set of King Louis XV chairs for a dollar, and people will dicker with you.
"Will you take eighty cents for these? The yard sale down the road has them for 60 cents, but I'm already here."
"These are original Louis XV chairs!"
"If they're so great why is he getting rid of them?"

     I asked Bill what was the weirdest thing they had ever accepted, and he said without hesitation, a cow inseminator, used for the purpose of fertilizing cow eggs. Which does answer the age-old question of which came first, the cow or the egg, but doesn't answer the question, "Am I going to need larger toast with this breakfast???"

     Bill (and I and probably plenty of others) would love to see a version of Take It Or Leave It in Somers, and he would love to hear from anyone who is interested in this idea- it runs with about six dedicated volunteers and the good graces of the town. You can reach him at wihaku@gmail.com. I waited around a little while longer hoping that someone had a pizza they were no longer using, and possibly the unused portion of a Coors Light 12-pack.

Friday, November 6, 2015



     Being a suburban commuter can result in some of the darndest sights, and this is certainly one of the darnder ones, and I swear to god the first two paragraphs are true: I was grabbing some coffee before work at the coffee cart on 57th Street, when my coffee guy picked up his iphone and started videotaping me. I was very flattered, but I realized that I hadn't been into hair and makeup yet, or done any preparation in the green room or anything. But I was about to give it my best until he put up his hand and waved me to the side. When I looked behind me, I saw that an endless parade of beauty queens was streaming out the door of my building, complete with sashes and tiaras.

     They came down the steps in single file and boarded three buses, although I would swear they went out the back of the bus and back into the building through a side door, because they just kept on coming. Don't we have only 50 states? Or 51 or something? Was this the beauty pageant where they include Guam? Does Puerto Rico have a Miss, too? I didn't see Trinidad and Tobago, but I heard they were no longer together. I saw Tobago out with Caicos recently, which is no longer speaking to Turks.

     Thank god the buses didn't park next to a subway grate, or all of them would have left Manhattan without their heels, a rookie mistake. I noticed that one of the girls had a sash that said, "Washington, DC." Is that a state now? That would mean we had TWO Washingtons, which is confusing, unless one is a sequel with Bruce Willis in it.

     I didn't know which pageant they were from, so I yelled out to one of them, "Miss America?" And she said, "No! I live here and I don't miss it at all!" I wanted to ask them each a question: "If you could choose any single issue that presidential

candidates today are are discussing in their platforms, what would it be, and why?" I wanted to get a jump on picking the winner, maybe place a bet or two with my bookie. I tried it out on Miss California, and she said, "Presidential candidates are wearing platforms? That's hot." I couldn't repeat the question fast enough to all the others before they got on the bus, and I actually didn't know the answer myself.

     I knew it wasn't Miss Universe, because all the candidates looked like they were from Earth. One girl was very short, so she may have been from a dwarf planet.

     Things have certainly changed since the pageants of yesteryear. For instance, some of the ladies looked like they may have had some work done. I detected a nose job, several bust enhancements, a new rear fender, and one of the contestants admitted she had her kitchen remodeled. My coffee guy also had a nose job by the way.

     They all have handlers now, who tell them what to do and say during the pageant. I think that would be the perfect job for me. The first thing I would say is, let's see the face you're going to make when they announce the winner, and it's YOU. You burst into tears with this UGLY face of surprise and abject weeping as if they didn't cut the thorns off of the roses, and everyone in America looks at you in horror and says, "WHOA! THAT'S not the face we voted for!" So you need to come up with an expression that says, "Check this out! I just won Miss America, yet one second later I am still gorgeous!"

     The "Swimsuit Competition" is now called "Lifestyle and Fitness," I guess to judge how well the bathing suit fits. For those of you scoring at home, it counts for ten percent of her composite grade, even if it only covers five percent of her body. By the way, if you're scoring at home, turn of the television for goodness sakes.

Friday, October 30, 2015



     August is behind us, and we are now in the dog days of summer, when Sirius the "Dog Star" rises with the sun, wreaking mischief and mayhem. Or so the legend goes (I looked all this up). In our house the dog star rises with the sun, barks incessantly and then makes a whimper like an expiring Pac-Man until you let her out of her crate. That's when the mischief and mayhem begins. Gidget the dog is now seven months old, and her training is going along great. She has us doing exactly what she wants at just about all times.

     We've entered an era of general lawlessness. She is like a supermodel let loose in Europe with a drinking problem and no chaperone. The dog hangs around looking cute, waiting for opportunity. When we let down our guard, she strikes quickly, stealing whatever she thinks she can sell on eBay. Now I understand why dogs chase cars.

     Gidget seems to favor underwear, and so far she is at least waiting until we have removed it. If she is secretly trying it on, I'm happy it's a secret. She has been on more panty raids than the 1956 graduating class out of Sigma Tau.

     Another canine pastime is pulling paper products out of the garbage and chewing them up into thousands of pieces. So far we've been able to make good use of her talents by shredding my columns, all of our tax documents and Hillary Clinton's emails, which by the way consist mostly of links to cat videos. Once she chewed up an entire novel and scattered it all over the floor, and I'm talking about the dog here, not Hillary Clinton, although she might have also done that. She seems a little gun-shy these days.

     Gidget has the "Here!" command down, as long as I accept that "here" is usually somewhere over "there." And if she ever gets lost she has a micro-chip embedded into her. I don't know how many bytes it is, but I do know that she mega-bit me about a hundred times before we got around to it in the training.

     But the real test is housebreaking. During the time it takes to get everyone onto the same schedule, your dog is a ticking time bomb and your house is a minefield. So we take the dog out to do her business about every ten minutes, and let me tell you, she is quite a businesswoman. She could be a member of the Small Businesswoman's Association, but for the fact that some of the business is not that small.

     To make things even more complicated, When the dog is not creating poops, she is looking for snacks from the cat litter box, which by the way resemble chocolates covered with chopped nuts. You may ask why would a dog want to eat a cat poop? The answer is it's a real time-saver on your dog's digestive system. The input equals the output. It's kind of like the "got-a-penny-leave-a-penny, need-a-penny-take-a-penny" situation at the deli.

     So we are still trying to figure out which behaviors are signaling that she has to go to the bathroom. Sometimes she runs around in a circuitous mania about forty-two times in a row, so afterwards we take her outside. She doesn't go to the bathroom but instead runs around another forty-two times outside. Then we bring her in, and BOOM-landmine. Afterward she gives me a look as if to say, "what did you expect- I just ran around the property EIGHTY-FOUR TIMES!"

     We have a book called "Dog Training for Dummies," but it doesn't say which one of us is the dummy. The good news is that I think the housebreaking period is finally over. Which only means that there is nothing left to break in our house.

Friday, October 23, 2015



A couple weeks ago I was at Reis Park for their Saturday Summer Concert Series, where my old friends Andrea and the Armenian Rug Riders were playing.

     Lovely weather meant a nice turnout, and everyone was there with their folding chairs and kids. I didn't mean to imply that people have folding kids, but it would be a space saver if they did. Actually, I saw parents there who bought a HUGE octagonal playpen, and there were two kids in it. From far away it looked like a tiny Ultimate Fighting contest, but the tots were quite peaceful so I would have been mad if I spent a lot for it on pay-per-view.     

     We brought our little pooch Gidget with us, and immediately got in trouble with the law, as no dogs are allowed in the park. I tried to pass her off as a service dog. She was pulling up grass and spitting it out, so I implied that she was part of the landscaping crew. She is a purebred dog, a member of the non-working, non-sporting, non-herding, non-sitting, non-staying, non-obeying group. She had to listen to the concert from the car.     

     Some people looked like they were tail-gating as if they were at a Jets game. They had coolers, some wine, some cheese. The only thing they didn't have was a tailgate. There's no such thing as "hatchbacking," but everyone was in a good mood because the Jets were not there to disappoint them.     

     I'll run over the songs they did in case you weren't there, and it will be almost as good. Let's see, they did "You're So Vain," the Carly Simon song. Carly Simon won't reveal whom the song is about. The whole point is that he's so vain he THINKS the song is about him. Once she reveals who it was, and he knows the song really WAS about him, then he wasn't just being vain, was he? Some weird lyrics in this one, something about clowns in my coffee, an underworld spy and the wife of a clothespin. I'm not so good with lyrics.     

     They did "Mustang Sally," Wilson Picket cover. I guess the song was about the first American woman in space, Sally Ride. It doesn't seem too flattering, considering all you have to go through to get picked to go on a space mission: "All you want to do is ride around, Sally...." She's an astronaut, for god's sake.

     "One Way or Another," the Blondie tune, they always do that one good. I have a feeling it was written about my GPS, which is an older model, to put it nicely. Recently it took me on a wild goose chase up this mountain near Route 9W, and I followed along stupidly, because you couldn't make this route up if you tried. I must have made about forty left turns, and one right turn, and finally ended up back where I started about 20 minutes later. I swear this really happened, and I thought I heard the sound of electronic laughter. Sometimes the GPS says, "make a legal U-turn," which I learned the hard way, because I used to think it said, "make illegal U-turn."     

     They played "Highway to Hell," I guess that one was also about my GPS. They did "I Got You Babe," by Sonny and Cher. I read someplace recently that when she first heard Sonny sing her that song, she didn't want to record it. How would she have even known what the tune was? Sonny Bono couldn't sing to save his life, although I don't think that had anything to do with his death.
     "Southbound," by the Allman Brothers- maybe One Direction should cover that song? They also played "White Room," the Cream song. A white room with black curtains.... Eric Clapton is a great guitarist and all, but I wouldn't look to him for interior decorating advice, that's for sure.   
     "Mystery Achievement" was another one, by the Pretenders. Why all the mystery? Just tell us what the achievement was. In my case it was graduating High School. They did "Feel Like Makin' Love," the Bad Company tune. They don't mention in the song whether the other half also feels like it, so that's another mystery.      I hope this has been helpful. They did some more songs, too, but when I thought I heard the band do "Who Let the Dogs Out," I realized it was Gidget barking from inside the car....

Friday, October 16, 2015



     The sun is starting to plant itself lower in the Somers sky. There are only a couple weekends left before the chill in the air tells you that autumn is approaching, and also that you left your air conditioner on "hold." Before the leaves start piling up and I have to figure out how to work the lawn blower, it was off to Belmar, New Jersey for a weekend at the shore. After a beautiful day at the beach I like to hop on the bicycle and explore the sights, smells and sounds that have made the Jersey Shore a favorite destination of mine.

     I ride up Ocean Avenue by the Shark River Inlet. I did see some fins, but it was just a '64 El Dorado. I pass through Avon-by-the-Sea, which is pronounced "Ahhhvahhn." They're pretty particular about this, and if you're asking for directions and say it wrong I'm sure the police will give you a ticket. Just for kicks I always say the "Avon" part correctly, but butcher the "by-the-Sea" part. Why are you asking directions anyway? Just travel east until you get to the-Sea, and Avon is by-it. We have the same thing in Westchester, and I say a quick prayer for those poor people who drowned tragically looking for Croton-on-Hudson, not realizing that Croton is BY-the-Hudson, not ON-it.

     Walking my bike along the boardwalk at Asbury Park, I stop to watch a five-on-five beach volleyball game. It's nine guys and one girl, and every time the ball comes her way, a guy jumps in front of her to save the day in a sandstorm of glory. Never once does any of them make the play. America invested a lot of money in Title IX, guys- it's time to reap the benefits.

     I wallk a little farther and there is a jazz band set up at an outdoor tiki bar, with a great guitarist and a mean trombone player. No he really was mean- he almost knocked over a drink every time he hit a low note.

     Back on my bike I head north to Deal. When the name of your own town tells you to get a grip, you'd better re-examine your life. While I was getting an ice cream I heard a clamor erupting from the church across the street- it was a drum circle. I'm a drummer, so I went over to investigate. Drum circles remind me of the first grade, where they gave everyone a hat and something to bang on, and we paraded around the room until recess. I got a little egg to shake, and I remember thinking that when it comes time to hatch this thing, there's going to be a lot of finger-pointing. I'm not much of a church guy, but everyone was having fun, so during the break I asked the timbale player if they knew, "Smoke on the Water." "That's the one we just did," he said. "I thought we played that two songs ago," the conga guy offers. I turned to a guy with a tambourine and said, "Hey, Mr. tambourine man, play a song for me."  He said, "How about 'Mr. Tambourine Man?'" But when he started playing it, it
sounded a lot like "Smoke on the Water."

     I realized I had no feeling from my waist down, due to my uncomfortable bicycle seat, so I make a U-turn onto E Street and head back. Bruce Springsteen permeates the air at the Jersey Shore like a kind of musical smog. His presence is everywhere- even a bus parked at the senior's center had a sticker on it announcing that it was paid for by Bruce. By the time I pointed my car back onto the Garden State I knew every word to every Springsteen song every written, and a few that he was still working on. I was cruising along until I got to somewhere around Matawan, and then all of a sudden the highway was jammed with broken heroes and there was no place left to hide. I made that noise that Bruce makes right before the saxophone solo, and just like that, the summer was almost over....

Friday, October 9, 2015



     I've lived in Westchester County all my life, and I've never taken a plane to go on vacation between the months of June and September. There's no need to- the summer is when the Northeast blossoms with activity. Somers is within striking distance of the Jersey Shore, Cape Cod and the beaches of Maine. And then there's The Hamptons. I've never been to The Hamptons by myself, because I'm afraid that somebody on a neighborhood watch patrol would take one look at me and know that I had no business being there. So I wait until I'm invited to someone's home, and if we go out they pretend I'm the recipient of a charity fundraiser.

     I usually spend the entire time thinking that everyone I see is a celebrity. "Isn't that Robert De Niro?" I ask my friends as we are shopping for snacks at the deli. Five eyes are peering at the poor guy from behind a bag of potato chips (one of my friends is only halfway interested). "Nah, De Niro has a big ugly beauty-mark on his cheek- that one looks like a pimple," my friend insists. "And he has a tattoo on his calf I think," one-eye offers. I'll settle it once and for all. "Excuse me, sir, can you lift up your pants leg? And also, is that a pimple or an ugly beauty-mark on your cheek?" Turns out it wasn't him.

     Every summer we take a trip out to Eastern Long Island to visit with some High School friends. They have a house that straddles the line of propriety perfectly, but you don't have to go too far to experience palatial gaudiness, and if your property has a Chinese opera theater on it, and you don't live in China, you've crossed the line. The Hamptons is like a whole different world, where different rules apply, and people just travel from restaurant to restaurant, ordering cocktails until a major tragedy befalls them, like they run out of ice and the store is closed.

     The only thing that seems to get people excited is feuding with their neighbors. Everyone out there has a beef with the property next door: The "new money" people resent the "old money" people, the "old money" people disdain the "new money" people, and everyone hates the "no money" people. If you buy a house in The Hamptons, chances are good that your neighbors are going to hate your noise, hate your landscaping, hate your dust, hate your friends, hate your house and eventually hate you. And you seem like a nice enough person, except for that landscaping.

      Madonna bought this horse meadow, and all the neighbors are up in arms because she pulled some fancy footwork and had it assessed as a farm or something, so she and her horse would pay less taxes. The townspeople are more angry that they didn't think of it themselves, and of course they started calling her "Material Girl," and they probably called her horse "Material Horse."

     It's no surprise that everyone seems nuts out there, if you think about it. When you're on the L.I.E., crawling along, and a slug passes you on the side of the road, you say to yourself, "You'd have to be CRAZY to go through this every weekend!"

     And if people aren't fighting with their neighbors, they have an active feud going with at least one or more animal species invading their property. Even when the town mandates that hedges should be maintained at a certain height, deer believe that they should be lower, and set out to immediately remedy the situation. Do they even realize that they are dining in such an exclusive area? 
"Dahhhhling, DO be a deer and hand me that rhododendron branch, puhleeze...." My friends have these little burrow hills all over their lawn, so they got an animal informant to find out who the culprit was. After they hired this mole, the problem got worse, go figure.

     By the end of the weekend I've had enough. I'd like to eat something that DOESN'T have any chipotle or dill sauce. Or somebody's kid that isn't named Hunter or Parker.

     And every road sign in The Hamptons says "Old Sag This," and "Old Sag That." Thanks for the reminder. When I get to Gray Wrinkly Osteoporosis Road I turn back onto 27 and go home. And on the way, mired in two hours of traffic, I have some choice words about Madonna, her landscaping, and the horse she rode in on.

Monday, September 28, 2015



      One of the great joys of living in Somers is the fact that, with its close proximity to Manhattan, fostering an enduring love of the arts is easy and convenient. Which is another way of saying we hardly ever do anything remotely cultural. The last dance performance I went to I wondered what that pole was doing onstage, but that mystery, among others, was revealed until there were very few mysteries left.

     I haven't been to any poetry readings lately. To me, poetry is like jazz: it's for people who can't color inside the lines. If I go to your reading and your verse doesn't even rhyme I'm probably going to shout out my own suggestions. I do know a good poem about a lady from Dallas, which I'll tell you later.

     I find opera annoying- why would they let people ruin a perfectly good symphony performance with all that loud bellowing? Ballet seems kind of pointless to me, except for the toes, which are pointy.

     We do go see a play once in a while, and last Saturday we went to see "It Shoulda Been You." at the Brooks Atkinson. Walking from the parking lot, we soon realized that the real show was outside the theatre. A sea of humanity stretched before us, and I'm just talking about the street performers. There were nonstop buskers from 42nd street to 50th street. By the time I had walked five minutes, I had been busked within an inch of my life. I had been tickled by Elmo, explored by Dora, sponged by Bob and accosted by Minions. Judging by the elaborateness of the costumes, this was no Mickey Mouse operation. We got caught in a riptide of Cookie Monsters and had to walk with the flow for two blocks to break free of it. There was a guy who looked like Homer Simpson, but it turned out to be just a guy who looks like Homer Simpson. All of this took place right in front of the U.S. Army recruiting station, so that it appeared as though we had suddenly raised our standards for induction into the Service.

     Everyone knows the Statue of Liberty says, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...." Which aptly describes every tourist I saw in Times Square at the end of their vacations. Then the smaller street version also adds, "Give me your money," because if you take a photo with your mass huddled up next to it and fail to offer a tip, you will be cursed deeply and loudly. And should you speak fluent Venezuelan you will hear things about yourself that you didn't know and may not find flattering. So don't be selfish after your selfie.

     Some characters were not as I remembered- Minnie Mouse was not looking that mini. Spiderman looked like he was checking out some unwholesome web sites on his spider-phone. Batman was wearing a fanny-pack instead of a utility belt.

     Then there is the "Naked Cowboy," a guitar-picking bronco-buster with who just kind of hangs out waiting for people to notice him. He's not really naked, since he sports a pair of tighty-whities, and I guess the guitar could be considered an accessory. He's more like the Underpants Cowboy, and let me tell you, if there ever was an occupation that was ill-suited to wearing only underwear, it's being a cowboy. Suppose you have to catch one of those calves with a lasso, tie his three hooves together, and you get the rope caught in your underpants? It's going to be embarrassing for everyone, for the calf who has only one foot left to escape with, and for the nude dude, chasing his skivies around with no ranch dressing. It's gonna be pretty scary out on the prairie.

     The play ended up being GREAT, and the Broadway experience was inspirational to me- I have been working on a script myself, and you can tell me what you think: Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, girl meets Elmo, is tickled to death, Elmo meets Lady Liberty, kills her too but the statue of limitations runs out, marries Hello Kitty but she soon says Bye Bye. Finally he meets the Naked Cowboy, and well, I guess they already made "Brokeback Mountain."

Friday, September 18, 2015



     I belong to a very well-regarded racquet club in Mount Kisco, and I consider myself something of an athlete, more "something" than "athlete." My game is tennis, which I favor because it is a non-contact sport, meaning that my racquet only rarely makes contact with the ball, and even then only by phone. After the game I hit the showers, where I can say anything I want about anything and anybody with total impunity. I can curse the inability of my body parts to work at the same time, and swear at all the infirmities that occur during a so-called non-contact sport. I can engage in that scourge of parents and teachers, "locker room talk."

     But alas, when I turn on the hot water and step into the stall and pump the soap dispenser, it isn't soap at all, but "body wash." I never heard such hogwash. Where is the bar of Lava soap with a hair in it? Then I look closely at the dispenser and it says, "green tea and lemongrass." Am I supposed to scrub my armpits with this stuff or season a pasta dish? The shampoo container had the same label on it, thank god, or I would come out of the shower smelling like a 5-course meal. Are these scents or are they active ingredients, because if you've actually seen lemongrass you don't want your hair trying to emulate it. I went over to the sink with my razor to foam up my face, and this time the canister was labelled "shaving balm," as if to soothe the violent act of chopping down hair with a sharp instrument.

     And the talk in the locker room? Where is the vitriol? Where is the foul language? Some chatter about foul balls, for you baseball types I mean? All I hear about is real estate or your kid's piano lessons. I caught myself whistling "Moves like Jagger" the other day, and that is something that should NEVER HAPPEN in a sports-related environment.

     All of a sudden my locker room is a day spa. Are men's manis and pedis next? No pedicure for me, thank you, I have athlete's foot. My wife says I should see a doctor, but I am loathe to get rid of it, because it's the only part of my body that has the word "athlete" attached to it. As far as manicures go, I cut my own nails with a clipper that is closer on the evolutionary scale to a pair of hedge trimmers.

     Men shaving their backs in the locker room? I hope I never see it. My cat has hair all over its back and no one ever complains. Except ME when he gets up and leaves every single follicle on my lap, and then I have to shave my pants. Should I shave my legs too? I even went to a restaurant and they had a dessert with shaved ice in it. It's gone TOO FAR.

     I think the problem started when women were allowed into men's locker rooms so they could cover sports teams and conduct interviews with football players and such. And gradually, over time, instead of Bill Belichick grunting a few expletives, and various players expelling air from various parts of their bodies, you now have sports stars wearing an unfortunate suit and glasses with no prescription. Their 4-year old and 2-year old sit in front of them banging on the mike and shouting random exclamations they heard on a video game. In between that the players praise the opposition and say politically correct phrases that are designed not to hurt anyone's feelings. This continues until they run out of questions, or until somebody needs a diaper change.

     My wife has a picture of Joe DiMaggio in the locker room after a game, with a beer and a cigarette. Now no one ever even gets a drink from the water fountain anymore. Instead they "hydrate," using pink-colored water with vitamins and flavorings in it, designed not to hurt anyone's feelings.

     So if you see me on the street go ahead and hurt my feelings- I WANT you to. Say something about my toenails, or the fact that I've never actually thrown out a tee shirt, or the fact that my hair looks like a nationally-protected nesting habitat. Actually, please don't say anything about my hair. Oh, and feel free to tell me to get out of the street- there's a car coming.

Friday, September 11, 2015



    It was hot last week in the suburbs, and absolutely scorching in the City. It was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even hotter in Celsius, and don't get me started on Kelvin. To find out how hot it was in Kelvin, I added 459.67, as one should, then multiplied by a factor of 5/9. It was 311 degrees last week. The "real feel" temperature in Kelvin was 572 degrees.

     Weathermen love things like "real feel" temperature, which takes into account not only the temperature, but the humidity, the wind chill and other factors, such as weathermen constantly telling you how hot it is. To me the "real feel" temperature was that it felt really hot. The "heat index," which is located next to the "heat table of contents," also concurred that it was hot. A heat wave is considered to be three consecutive days of at least 90 degree temperatures. If it's two days, it's only LIKE a heat wave, burning in my heart.

     All of this prompted Mayor de Blasio to call a press conference to let everyone know that it was hot. He outlined some common sense guidelines to help us all deal with the situation. First, he said not to go outdoors if you didn't have to. If it's hotter indoors, you probably shouldn't go there either. I just stood in my doorway for a while until it was time for Judge Judy. He also said to cut down on using appliances during the day, and if possible wash your clothes and dishes at night. Makes sense, that way they have the whole day to get dirty. He suggested that you set your air conditioning at 78 degrees. My house was only 76 degrees, so I turned on the heat to get it up to snuff. He asked that you check on your neighbors, so I took the opportunity to do a little snooping. I waited until they were out, and made a little investigation to see what was in the fridge: Cookies! I wrote de Blasio personally to thank him for that suggestion.

     As he was yakking away, I noticed that his interpreter for the deaf was working up quite a sweat translating everything the mayor said using a wide array of hand and mouth movements. It looked like she was coaching somebody who was trying to parallel park into a really small space.
     Then de Blasio repeated the whole thing in Spanish, but I thought I heard the words "Nicky Minaj" and "loco glùteos." I could be wrong. Also, there was no Spanish interpreter for the deaf, so that was an oversight.

     Yes, it was helpful for the Mayor to point out that it was hot out, but since I had to use an oven mitt to get into my car, I was already aware of it. And when I tried to hop on my motorcycle, I heard a hissing noise like a hamburger searing itself to the grill, and I had the toasted buns to go with it. Was it hot enough to fry an egg? Yes it was! After I ate I was informed that I was supposed to fry it not on my stove but on the sidewalk, which seemed unsanitary. I then tried to make bacon out on the sidewalk, and I learned that breakfast foods are poor indicators of weather conditions. I also found out that dogs do not mind lukewarm bacon at all.

     As a public service, I would also add the following tips to help keep Somers residents cool:

1. Do not should not stand next to places where hot air could blow out, such as diesel buses, subway grates and Republican fundraisers.
2. Don't do anything that will make you sweat unnecessarily, like lying to the police about how fast you were going, even though did you ever actually TRY to go only 30 miles per hour?
3. Don't do anything that will make your "blood boil," like sit next to a guy on the subway perched in the "crotch ready" position, legs spread wide, taking up three seats as he waits for a free gynecological checkup.
4. Do not stand next to anything hot, such as Heidi Klum. Instead, try to stand next to something cool, like Johnny Depp or Dave Grohl.
5. Do not try to toast anything in my toaster oven, which could result in fire, but rarely results in toast.
6. As a favor to those around you, do not greet people warmly.
7. It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to hang out in the fridge, no matter how many of your neighbor's cookies are in there.


Friday, September 4, 2015



     So I went across the river to a place at the marina in Haverstraw- there was a good Springsteen tribute band playing, and it was a beautiful night. They launched into a faithful version of Rosalita, which, if you know the song, doesn't seem like a song at all but a bunch of parts from other songs tossed into a hat and picked out at random. But the end result is good. The band was smoking, and people were dancing up a storm in a magical fog. That's when I realized that it wasn't a magical fog at all but the combined output of everyone's cigarettes. They allow smoking outside, and since the bar and the band were outdoors, the smokers were everywhere. Word must have gotten around, because literally everyone had a cigarette.

     There was a staggering amount of second-hand smoke, but cigarettes cost so much these days I was at least gratified that getting the smoke on a pre-owned basis was saving me a bundle.

     I'm not one to preach, unless I have something to say to the choir, and I generally believe that you can go ahead and do unto others whatever you can get away with, unless it affects ME. But It did not seem like a very healthy environment- how is puffing on a cigarette any different than smoke inhalation?

     The only way I could escape was to stand upwind, so I licked my finger and held it in the air. I couldn't remember how that was supposed to tell me which way the wind was blowing, so I eventually segued into a disco pose and sashayed towards the bathroom. That held the only smoke-free air in the place, a shocking change from my high-school years.

     On the way back the visibility was so bad I narrowly avoided an eight-person pileup near the waitress station. I ordered a cocktail and asked a her if it was always like this and she said no, but she may have been just blowing smoke up my glass.

     I haven't seen that much smoke since the last time I tried to make toast. Scientists can send a probe to Uranus, no offense, but they can't develop a toaster oven that actually results in a viable sandwich. It sits in there for 10 minutes disguised as bread, and 20 seconds later I am sticking ham and cheese between two slabs of bituminous coal, too proud to admit that my toast is, well, toast. One guy exhaled this gigantic plume of blue gas that looked like he had blown a piston ring, and I realized that he was puffing on one of those vaporizers. My mother had one 40 years ago that created this stinky fog that was supposed to cure your cold if you stayed home from school. My Mom was decades ahead of her time.

     My friend Jenn has a vaporizer that looks like a pen- I thought she kept it around to do the crossword or something. But then I saw smoke coming out of it, and I couldn't believe how fast the must have completed that puzzle. I always keep a pen around to "jot down my thoughts," but so far I've never had occasion to use it.

     No one seems to know what's in this vapor. E-cigarettes are not are regulated by the government, so maybe they're good for you. I have no idea if they can e-harm you or even e-kill you. I would guess that if you analyzed the vapor, and compared it to whatever comes out of Donald Trump, the ingredients would be similar: vaguely toxic, but the effects of which may not be known until it's too late. Maybe they could put in some of whatever they used to have in my Mom's vaporizer, and then even if you are sucking in a lethal dose of arsenic, asbestos and lead, at least your cold will be cured.

Friday, August 14, 2015



     Last Sunday I participated with my wife in a nature walk at the Angle Fly Preserve. I wanted to find out why Angle Flies needed to be preserved, and thought it would be a good opportunity to interact with the community while learning about our surroundings. I didn't have any delusions that I would be at one with nature; I just didn't want to be at none with it. Maybe I would see a great blue heron, or even one that wasn't that great.

     Angle Fly is a huge 654-acre park presided over by the Somers Land Trust. The park is named after the Angle Fly Stream, which flows to the Muscoot Reservoir. Our guide Michael, Lori,
Brendan, and Jan and some of the other directors from the Land Trust  took us on one of the many trails on the way to the brook to learn about the different components that make up the water table.

     As we walked along, I recognized that pesky plant that keeps making a mess of our garden, and I was about to rip it out when Michael said, "That is a milkweed plant there, very beneficial to the butterfly population. You certainly don't want to remove those from your property." "Of course not," I said, "how are the baby butterflies going to get their milk?"

     We made it down to the stream, and I learned a lot about how the stream and all the plants and animals that live there actually support it and help it to remain healthy. I couldn't see into the stream because of all these bugs running around on top, and I was about to whack four or five of them on the head with my shoe when Michael said, "Does anyone know why these water-striders are so important to the stream?" "Because the water needs to be strode?" I offered, helpfully. "Actually, it's because they are a plentiful food source for the water life indigenous to the habitat," he said. "That's what I meant," I salvaged.

     Ann from Teatown, another environmental organization, reached into the stream and picked up a crayfish, which looks like a teensy lobster. Soon she had it eating out of her hand. Actually it might have been eating her hand. I thought you could make a nice crayfish bisque out of that thing, and it would only be about 5 calories since it only makes about two tablespoons.

     I was just thinking that you sure could see a lot better if they chopped down some of the trees and let some sun in, when Michael said, "The most unique thing about this stream is that this great canopy of trees keeps the water cool, and allows one of the few migrations of brook trout in this area."

     As we were all standing around in a semicircle I fantasized about tossing my empty lemonade cup over my shoulder into the woods, just to see what would happen. But I realized that the intense, wordless stare of their piercing eyes would cause me to disintegrate into a cloud of smoke. And instead of missing me after I was gone, one of them would say, "Smoke isn't really even good for the environment."

     Brendan is a forester, the only one I ever met that wasn't a Subaru, and he was pointing out some of the local tree varieties on our way back to the car. There was a large beech, thank god, because it was a hot day. "That tree over there is poplar," he said. "I can certainly see why, it's very nice," I replied.

     We didn't see much local fauna. It reminded me of the time we went to the Bronx Zoo, and we decided to take the monorail that circles the big park so that you can observe animals in their natural habitat. I don't know how many wild animals have a monorail in their natural habitat, but I do know that we didn't observe any living thing for about 20 minutes, until a rabbit darted across an access road and received a lengthy ovation.

     Back on the trail we heard a loud chirping noise. A red-eyed vireo? Nope, it was somebody's cell phone. I was thinking it would be great to see a bald eagle or something. Even a bird with a combover would be nice. Then I noticed some movement around me. I looked closer: it was humans! They were friendly, dedicated and knowledgeable people who cared enough to procure and improve this fantastic natural space for all of us to enjoy. Even my wife was impressed; she judges everything, animal, vegetable or mineral, on how it would do in a salad.

Friday, August 7, 2015



     We just got back today - there's nothing better than getting in the car and hitting the road for a fun-filled Fourth of July weekend! The thrills! The action! The excitement! And that's just trying to get to the freeway. On our way to the Poconos this year we encountered just about every dangerous and time-consuming misfortune that it's possible to endure in a motorized vehicle. The only thing worse would have been to drift onto a street where they were having the running of the bulls.

     We weathered an attack from girl in a Subaru who decided to change lanes into the lane where our car was, and thought better of it just in a nick of time before she nicked our car. Then there was the guy who decided to jam on the brakes and pull a Steve McQueen U-turn onto the divider and over into the eastbound lane, forcing four of us behind him into an array of evasive maneuvers performed on the shoulder of the highway. The final perilous oddity was an entire WHEEL sitting in the middle of the exit ramp. Some guy probably bragging that his car has front-wheel drive has no idea where it drove to.

     When we were kids we used to kill car-time by counting the license plates from different states. There's one from Colorado! Look at all the smoke coming out of that car - looks like he blew a piston ring. But why is it coming from the passenger's side? Here's a car from Hawaii! How did it get here? We went to Hawaii two years ago, and all the plane transfers took so long we probably could have driven there faster.

     All we saw this time were license plates from the tri-state area, and we had finished the Times crossword puzzles for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So there was nothing left to do but argue about what route we should have chosen that would have been better than this one. "We should have taken the Tappan Zee," my wife offers. "Sure, we would have gotten slammed, but it's better than THIS." "No - the Newburgh Bridge would have been the right choice. NOBODY goes on that piece of crap," I counter. "Yes, but there was construction last time." "Yeah, but it was in the other direction." "The Rip Van Winkle Bridge would have done the trick - we could have gone two hours north, hit the Winkle, then BOOM we're right back on 22 in no time flat."

     In the future I can picture my self-driving car in hours of traffic, arguing with the GPS lady, while I sleep comfortably. Self-driving car: "I told you the Bear Mountain would be a disaster - everyone left early because of the rainy forecast!" GPS lady: "I factored that in with an algorithm! All this traffic is from people trying to leave early to beat the traffic!"

     I heard the situation was even worse in other states. The roads were filled with people trying to get away from Iowa and New Hampshire, where all the presidential candidates had massed, forcing people to take "selfies" with them. Even in Pennsylvania, before every photo I took of us with the beautiful Pocono Mountains in the background, I had to make sure Ted Cruz wasn't in the frame, making that face where he looks like he's about to cry.

     Then miraculously the traffic cleared, and I started driving at 90 mph to make up for lost time. I threw our SUV into four-wheel drive, because I figured we would go faster if all four of them were on the case. By the time we made it to the rotary near Bear Mountain we were going so fast that centrifugal force almost threw us off at the wrong exit.

     But I've learned my lesson, and from now on, on the Third of July,  I'm setting the alarm to get up an hour before we go to bed. Then we travel at four AM and get there in jig time. We hit the beach at 10 PM to avoid the crowds. After a quick nap, we get up in time for dinner at 3 in the afternoon, get the best table in the place. Afterwards, we arrive at the fireworks five hours early and get a great spot. We leave just before the fireworks start to beat the rush, and then it's off to the concert in the park. We find a great seat for that and use the time to catch up on our sleep, and PRESTO! We're back in the car at two in the morning! We may not even need to unpack.

Friday, July 31, 2015



I can't believe I almost let the week pass without acknowledging the observance of National Eat Your Vegetables Day, which is celebrated on June 17th. As holidays go, it ranks just below Athlete's Foot Awareness Day but above Politician Appreciation Day. Somers has the perfect weather for growing a little "victory garden" with lettuce, beans and spinach. After a siege by bugs, birds and bunnies, ours went down in a resounding defeat.

I think that if people knew what was actually in vegetables they would think twice about extolling their virtues for an entire day. For instance, Did you know that Broccoli contains folic acid? Picture that stuff eating away at your insides. Carrots contain something called zeaxanthin. Look it up on Wikipedia- it looks exactly like that caterpillar that ate all my rhododendrons.

What do you think the first Belgian who noticed something sprouting out of the ground in Brussels did? He stuck it right in his mouth, although it tasted awful. He probably didn't even know that it contained sulforaphane, which sounds like one of those drugs that they sell you to cure pimples, but in a low voice at the end of the commercial tell you will probably kill you. "Do not take sulforphane if you are pregnant, know someone who is pregnant or just look pregnant." (By the way, there is a drug for people who are always pregnant, but don't take it if you have pimples.)

Americans love to overdo something, and recently it's kale. Every party we go to I have to set ten minutes aside so my wife's friends can fawn over their kale salads and how much they love kale. A year ago no one ever heard of kale, and this year it can just about cure cancer. I don't want to upset the kale community- everything has its own community these days, and if you say something disparaging they rise up in a twitter rant as if they were Charlie Sheen. But the bottom line is that for all the fuss, kale looks like something that you should pull out of your lawn before it takes over the place.

I don't think a banana is a vegetable but I feel it is my public duty to warn you away from this offensive little item. I read somewhere that the banana has a high concentration of plutonium. Or was it potassium? What's the difference- whatever it is is the same junk that turns the smelly thing pitch-black after it sits on your desk for fifteen minutes. I actually slipped on a banana peel once and it wasn't as funny as I thought it would be.

Even the most popular vegetable in America is not immune to the perils of dangerous additives. I tried to buy a bag of potato chips recently at the supermarket, and all they had was sour cream and onion mesquite barbecued kettle-fried sea-salt jalapeno cheddar-flavored extra-vinegar with recycled carburetor parts potato chips. But they were gluten-free I must admit.

All this is more than enough evidence that vegetables should be removed from the bottom of the food pyramid and replaced with beer. If I went to Egypt to see the pyramids, and saw that they were constructed using vegetables, I would be sorely disappointed. However, if I found out that they built using beer, I would hardly be surprised.

Monday, July 20, 2015



I can't think of anyone who enjoys Father's Day more than good ol' Dad. Wait- yes I can: the kids. The third Sunday in June was the one day I could be sure that Dad would be otherwise occupied, and too busy to focus on whatever it was I screwed up that day. Dad was something of a disciplinarian, and the something that he used to discipline most was ME. His child-rearing mostly revolved around my rear end.

Corporal punishment was in fashion back then, especially if your kid was a Major disappointment or a General pain in the derriere, pardon my French. Sometimes we were put on the rack or drawn and quartered, at least that's the way I remember it. Dads aren't around as much as Moms are, so it seems like their punishments are administered in concentrated form.

There were no "time outs' back then, which is too bad. It's the perfect opportunity to take a breather and discuss strategy. Then when the fight resumes, you're energized and clear on the game plan. If I played things correctly I would hear the magic words, "GO TO YOUR ROOM!" You mean that place where all my toys are? Okay, but it's not necessary to raise your voice.

There were other methods of torture, such as sensory deprivation. I distinctly remember being sent to bed with no ice cream for instance. There was water torture, where I was compelled to take a bath even though I could see no evidence of dirt on my body. There was The Chair- I distinctly remember being told to sit in it and keep my mouth shut. I was able to defeat the punishment by coaxing a variety of sounds from other parts of my body, sometimes in Morse code.

My dad was particularly obsessed with me learning how to ride a bicycle. Perhaps he figured that with this skill I could get farther away from him in much less time. His style of instruction was to find a place with a hill and no witnesses, and push me down it atop the bicycle until I reached the bottom either on two wheels or a stretcher. Another not so fond memory was him teaching me how to take a pill- why that was so important to him I have no idea, but I must say that aspirin did come in handy, especially after the bicycle incident.

I was coerced into indentured servitude at an early age, pushing a lawn mower in defiance of child labor laws. I was made to take out the garbage and perform other tasks of drudgery. Later on he forced me to attend an expensive university and left me there unsupervised until I emerged with a college degree. In his insidious way, using advanced mind control techniques, he filled my unsophisticated head with ideas like "work ethic" and "values." Concepts that I still have not been able to shake off.

I don't have any kids so I take great pride in disciplining my dog. He only sits or stays when there is nothing good to steal from the laundry hamper. I assume he sell these things on Ebay because we never see them again. I can't even get him to mow the lawn; he eats a fair quantity of grass, but it never has a happy ending, trust me. I have no way to pass along what I got from my father, and I'm including asthma in that.

So all you Dads of Somers: don't make the same mistakes your fathers did. Think up brand new ways to make your kids think you are making their lives miserable. And the day they realize that they are perfectly capable of making their own lives miserable without you helping is the day you will know that they have finally grown up. In the meantime, my lawn still needs mowing.

Monday, July 6, 2015



I read an interesting story in Forbes Magazine that reports that the Chili's Restaurant chain is spending big money to make its food more photogenic. The idea is that people now routinely take pictures of their orders at restaurants and share them on social media. This is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more common as people attend events not for their inherent value, but to show off to others what a good time they are having without them. And by the way, if you are having a good time with your food at a restaurant, I want you to imagine what BETTER time you would be having if me and MY food were there.

Anyway, Chili's reportedly spent almost a million dollars for an egg wash that makes their buns glisten. Or was it the other way around? Certainly an egg wash for their eggs would be a great idea also. They are going to serve their fries in stainless steel containers. I guess the regular containers had stains on them. There is a Chili's at the Somers Commons, and I would love for you to email me a photo of you with your shiny buns, for the purposes of comprehensive journalism, of course.

So people are snapping photos while they are snapping up dinner. This all begs the question: Does this burrito make me look fat? The answer is: yes, eventually, and you didn't even have to beg the answer.

Can you invite your own food onto your Facebook page? Can you email your smoked quail? Can you hashtag your hash browns? Can you Instagram your glazed ham? Can you tweet your meat? I'd like that last sentence stricken from the Record, I'm not sure why.

I'm not sure I want to "friend" my French fries just yet. I consider some foods "frenemies," depending on the ingredients and calorie count. If you photograph that steak with a macro lens you can see the actual LDLs lining up to get a crack at you.

If my food is going modelling, it's going to have to ramp up its game. Extensive hair and makeup for both of us- assuming that my food has hair in it. What is my side order's best side? My porkchop is looking a little porky these days- time to hit the gym! This salad- can you BELIEVE the way it's dressing? That meatloaf is going to need some liposuction- LOOK AT YOURSELF!

We're going to need to bring in a lighting director, a stylist and a set decorator. WHERE IS THE STUNT BURGER?

I am not on social media, for obvious reasons, but if I was, I would clog up the internet with photos of me and my food, and leave it to you to discern which is me and which is the food. Here is a picture of me with a blackened whitefish. Here is a shot of me with a whitened blackfish. Here is a black & blue redfish, I had to rough it up a bit. Here is one of me and a pig with an apple in its mouth. Just before this pig was killed and roasted, he tweeted a picture of himself with this great apple that he was just about to eat.

At some point the food is just going to start communicating with each other, and cut us out of the loop. That is just the natural progression of things. Entrepreneurs will step into the fray. There will be Fritter Twitter, and there will be Snackchat. And when that happens, get ready, because our food will be revolting.

Friday, June 26, 2015



Somers Central School District had a budget vote last week, and I realized that I know very little about the whole process. I can't even budget my time correctly since I always overpay for it. Is there a campaigning process where one budget goes on television and trashes another budget while depressing piano music plays? What makes a bunch of numbers qualified to be my budget? Where does this budget stand on gay marriage? Can I propose my own budget as a write-in candidate?

I don't have any kids that I know of, but I can be kind of forgetful. Even if I did have children they would have graduated high school by now. If they haven't then they are definitely mine. Even without kids I pay quite a bit for the education of our youth in the form of taxes, thank you very much. So when I went to the drugstore to pick up something that might help my lousy memory and saw a high school kid at the check-out counter, I knew what I should do.

I forgot what I came in for, so I decided to get something for my lack of energy, and found what I needed in the candy aisle: a "Family Size" Kit Kat bar that was about 18 inches long. Since I have no kids and my wife would only eat it if it was in a salad, it seemed like the perfect size.

I decided to hit the kid at the register with a pop quiz as he rang me up, to see if my tax dollars were being spent wisely. I asked, "If I bought eight of these Kit Kat bars, gave one of them away (this is hypothetical), and ate four of them, what would I be left with?" "Uhhh, diabetes?" He replied. "What is the square root of 1100?" I queried. He said what sounded like "I don't know," as if it were one word. I said, "Are you aware that 'I don't know' is at least two words?" He said, "What?" That's an old trick, and I called him on it: "When you say 'What?' you've heard me just fine, and you're trying to buy time to think of an answer."

Then he said, "Huh?" So I figured he might not actually speak English. I consider myself a multi-linguist, since I am learning Swedish for my vacation, and I also speak the international language of love. "Ursäkta mig, var inns toaletten?" I asked, but he didn't know where the ladies' room was. "Do you have a rewards card?" He asked, trying to turn the tables on me. "If you get one today I can take a third off your purchase." Once I filled out the paperwork he took a bite out of my candy bar equal to exactly 33%.

Anyway, I did some looking into the Somers school budget and found some proposed capitol expenditures, and I have some ideas that could save us all some money. Such as this new carpeting they are planning to buy. My idea is to put in a red carpet, which could pay for itself by advertising on one of those shows where they dish on all the fashions:

"Look! Here comes Dina! Dina, who will you be wearing to 3rd period today?"
"I'm going to be wearing Dolce. I couldn't afford both Dolce AND Gabbana. I'm also going to be wearing this Versace band-aid to detention later."
"Fabulissimo! And wow! Allison, you look stunning! What do you call this look?"
"It's my gym uniform."

I see they also want to be put new turf on the High School football field. Is this necessary? When I was a kid I fell off the jungle gym on a blacktop playground right onto my head, and I did a little better in math after that.

They are also planning to build a Security vestibule. I don't know about you, but the word "vestibule" does not sound like something that could thwart any type of criminal behavior, so maybe we should re-think that.

They want to resurface the track at the High School. Every time I look over there, there are people running on it- so I would suggest that they find someplace else to run, and that way we can squeeze a little more life out of it.

Well, I think I have some great ideas here, and I tried to persuade the School Board into them, but I couldn't budget.

Friday, June 19, 2015



Last Monday we drove into town for the Somers Memorial Day Parade. We got started a little late, so we fell in behind a bunch of ambulances and fire trucks. Turns out that WAS the parade, so we had to make it look like we were supposed to be there, conducting whatever official business could be conducted in a Dodge Dart. I tried to look important, waved to the crowd and pointed here and there for effect.

People brought their kids, their dogs, their Cub Scouts. We walked over to the cemetery, where after the parade some local dignitaries helped us pay proper respect to the those interred around us. Celebrating the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country reminds us that we all are capable of minor acts of heroism. Ordinary things that happen every day can plant the seeds of honor in every American man or woman at any time.

I believe that the bravest one in the parade is the guy who stands right in front of the trombone player. Playing a clarinet while walking on eggshells is not easy. Guess what instrument I played when I was in middle school? That's right, the trombone. Our dad wanted us all to learn an instrument, and he asked me what I wanted to play. The drums, of course, but he said no, every other kid was going out for the drums. So he made me sign up for trombone. I was like "Dad, there are 76 trombones in the big parade- do you really think it's imperative that they have a 77th?" The band teacher was easily talked into it since I was five-foot nine in the sixth grade, and the only kid who could reach seventh position on the slide.

If you've never known the joys of working a spit-valve, or taken a whiff of a mouthpiece after a couple of Sousa tunes then you'll never understand what I saw in the drums. But once Mr. Oliver got a hold of me and I grew another two inches during the year, he strapped me into a sousaphone, which is like a cross between a tuba and a radar dish. This went on for two years until I could figure out how to get out of the damn thing. I couldn't play it to save my life, so it's lucky it didn't come to that.

I should have taken up the lyre for the school band, that thing that looks like a glockenspiel, whatever that is. It would have been worth its weight in comedic gold just in pants-on-fire jokes alone. Plus you can rap the mallet over the head of the trombone player if he gets too close.

There's always a person of valor working the barbecue on Memorial Day, usually someone of vague military bearing, wearing an apron and issuing orders. An everyday hero who, when the lighter fluid is applied haphazardly and incinerates the entire grill area, runs toward the fire while the rest of us run away, towards the dessert table.

If you're like me and not known to be the courageous type, showing up at the parade is the smartest thing you can do. If during the procession I happened to run my car onto a rock, then closed the car door on my hand just before the car burst into flames, all I would have to do was get all those police cars, ambulances and fire trucks to stop and turn around. As they simultaneously train a fire hose, antiseptic spray and a can of mace on me, I'm thinking that they might ask me to stay home next year.

Friday, June 12, 2015



Championship fight comes to Somers! Well, it didn't actually come all the way here; it made it as far as Vegas, and cable television did the rest. I watched the big fight with some Somers buddies. It cost our host an arm and a leg for the pay-per-view subscription, but we propped him up with a bag of Doritos so that he could see. There was no shortage of action: well-placed jabs, posturing, jockeying for position and hurling of insults.... Then luckily somebody remembered to turn on the TV.

The feed began at 6:00PM, so they essentially had six hours to kill until the main event. Boxing is not like team sports, where you have a lot of people to interview. There are only two contestants, and by 6:20 we had begun to realize how fruitful it is to spend that much time with two people who have been punched in the head nonstop for almost three decades.

Finally it was time for the celebrated rivals to make their way to the ring. Manny Pacquiao looked fierce, ferocious and focused as approached the stage, taking some practice cuts along the way. He was all business and no-nonsense, unless you count Jimmy Kimmel jogging along behind him, wearing a goofy hat, tee shirt and gold chains. Floyd Mayweather, Jr., looked calm, carefree and cunning. Nothing could take away from the magnitude of the moment. Nothing except for the creepy Burger King inexplicably tagging along as part of the entourage. At least during the weigh-in, the Burger King could accurately count how many quarter-pounders it would take to bring you up to the proper weight class if you came in a little short.

After the Mexican National Anthem, the Philippine National Anthem, and probably a few other countries that I can't remember, Jamie Foxx performed the Star Spangled Banner. It was a wonderful duet between Mr. Foxx and his index finger, which he yet waved, following the progress of his voice up and down the scale at an alarming rate as it wended its way through the song, artfully avoiding every single note that was originally written. It was one of the many bombs bursting in air that evening.

The two combatants fought for a $100 million purse. At the time I thought it was a little much to spend on a purse, but when the fight was over, did you get a load of the belt that goes with it? Good luck fitting that thing through the belt loops in your pants. Boxing is a sport where you win the thing that you had to do to win it. In a championship fight, if you belt somebody enough times, you win a belt. Simple!

It was an interesting contest. There was some dancing, some feinting, some defiant head-shaking and about every 20 minutes or so a punch was thrown. It was a lot like every date I have ever been on. And yet, the conflict still seemed kind of polite, like no one really got hurt or even mildly inconvenienced. Even an hour after the fight was over, Pacquiao did not realize that he had lost, and seemed crestfallen at the news.

In the end, the man from Manila was no thrilla. No one floated like a butterfly, no one stung like a bee. No one even bit anyone's ear. But with the Burger King in your corner and $196 million dollars in your pocket, wouldn't you rather snack on an order of fries instead?

Friday, June 5, 2015



Last week we took a day to honor the hardest job in the world: being a full-time mom! Actually, digging ditches is probably harder, or being a nuclear physicist, but motherhood is in the top ten, for sure. Especially if you have six children, like my mom. Come to think of it, if my mom could have dug a ditch, none of us would probably have ever been seen again. Certainly, if you have that many kids you have no one to blame but yourself, so why were we always getting blamed for everything?

I can imagine that keeping us all in line was a tactical nightmare. I'm glad tasers weren't invented during the time of my childhood, or she would have dropped us like a sack of flour 10 times a day. She might have called in the canine unit as a means of crowd control, but our dog was a small white poodle named Scooter, about as threatening as a dust-mop, and pretty much the same hairdo. Yes, it could menace you by peeing on your shoe. but it was more like a trickle, and could not effectively be deployed as a water cannon.

So Mom had to resort to verbal assaults, which were even less effective. "I've had it up to HERE!" She would say, while raising her hand level to a spot near her clavicle. If she had given us a little warning, like maybe when she had had it up to her belly-button or so, we would have known exactly how many bad things we could get away with before we had to start running. "GLORIOSKY!" she would exclaim, and none of us really knew what to say to that.

It didn't help that she couldn't actually remember our individual names. She would just yell all of our names at once, and sometimes even a name we hadn't heard before: "Back up, Mom- who is Sam?" You never know everything there is to know about your parents....

If we did let down our guard and she was able to capture one of us, she would "give us the hairbrush," and on the bottom, not the top. Mom was a pioneer in child-rearing, using our rears as her laboratory. She would say, "God, give me STRENGTH!" And lo and behold, God would, because she wielded that thing with surprising dexterity. She never used just her hand, which could have given her carpal-tunnel syndrome, considering that there were six of us. I have heard of dads using their belt to discipline their children, but if their pants fall down it's a teaching moment that's lost forever.

Some of our local establishments celebrated Mother's Day with specials for that special lady. Michele Lisa Salon offered gift certificates that included a complimentary blowout. Luckily the tire store did not propose the same offer. Somerfields had a festive Mother's Day Champagne Brunch. Ramiro's restaurant extended their happy hours to include the entire day. The thought of my mother drunk for an entire day is at once intriguing and frightening, and a lot like Thanksgiving. My mother's cocktail of choice was the whiskey sour, and after a few of those, when my mom and the turkey came out of the kitchen, if at least one of them was sober it was considered a minor miracle.

And that is why we love them. Every Mother's Day is a chance to reflect on how important it is to remember the sacrifices strong women made on our behalf, and on how they never let us forget it. And how bribery in the form of gifts and expensive dinners can be incredibly effective, at least for one day. And when you see ill-behaved children with great-looking hair, consider how hair maintenance products could have been put to much better use.