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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.