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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.