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

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Monday, September 28, 2015

WHO'S WHO IN THE CAST

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (8/20/15)

      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

THE WUSSIFICATION OF THE LOCKER ROOM

 SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (8/13/15)

     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

HOT IN SOMERS

 SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (8/6/15)

    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 gl├╣teos." 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

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S IRE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (7/30/15)



     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.