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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.