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Wednesday, December 28, 2016



     We went to see the Bangles recently at the Ridgefield Playhouse, and it was quite a blast from the past. I'm willing to settle for that since I rarely get a blast from the future, and a blast from the present usually means I have to call the guy to fix the boiler.

     There was an opening act that seemed pretty good. They had a guitarist, a drummer and a singer. You could also hear bass and keyboards, even though there was nobody else on stage. Where were they that was so important? They had literally mailed it in. It was like Karaoke, only without having to hear "Summer Nights" sung off key.

     The singer was apparently going through some issues, and he brought out his Mom and Dad, who stood there for a song or two, beaming with pride. At the end  she gave him a hug and some words of encouragement. Do you want to know what MY Mom would have said? She would have said, "Honey, does it have to be so LOUD? Also, you make a funny face when you play the drums."

     Then the Bangles came out. They are an all-girl band that was super-popular in the '80s and '90s. One of their big hits, "Walk Like an Egyptian," wasn't their own song, and they didn't want to do it, but it turned out pretty well for them. I can't imagine that Egyptians thought it was too amusing, since it caused people to wander around with their opposite palms facing up and down for no good reason. Thank goodness people didn't try to drive like an Egyptian or worse, swim like one, since they could have drowned like an Egyptian.

     The band's name was originally The Bangs, but the record company made them change it. It turns out that record companies do not have a progressive attitude about women's hairstyles. Back in the '80s hair was so big and stiff because of the hairspray, and if you weren't careful, you could be pricked by somebody's curlicue.

     No one likes to see photos of themselves from the '80s- every Bangles video featured clothes with HUGE shoulder pads. You can laugh about it now, but if somebody pops into your backfield on a weak-side safety blitz, you're going to wish you were back in the '80s with those big shoulder pads. A set of thigh pads and a flak jacket wouldn't hurt, either. That way, when your career is over, and people are saying, "Well, look how far the mighty have fallen!" you will not sustain any serious injuries from the fall, thanks to your shoulder pads.

     I admit that I was checking out the girls to see how well they've held up through the years (pretty well), which seems like a sexist thing to do. I know I should be concentrating on the music, but it wasn't me who told them to come out wearing mini-skirts, although if they had asked me I would have told them to. And in fairness, if Kieth Richards walked out in a mini-skirt, I would check out his legs, and it would probably take my mind off the fact that his face vaguely resembles Ty Cobb's fielder's mitt. And I certainly do not mean that as an insult to Ty Cobb's fielder's mitt.

Friday, December 16, 2016



      As I write this today I am celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary. My wife coincidentally shares an anniversary this same day, and I don't know if she would use the word "celebrating" as much as say, "abiding." 30 years is a long time to spend with someone who doesn't eat bananas, coconuts, seafood, cucumbers, mushrooms or anything purple. Did I mention bananas? This disgusting little beast turns black if you leave it on your desk for 20 minutes. If you are foolish enough to unpeel it, you are left with this mealy fruit that has the consistency of an arm injury. BUT, banana lovers always brag, it is full of plutonium or some other useless item in the Periodic Table of the Elements that should only be eaten periodically.

      Anyway, 30 years is a long time- if you do the math, it's over 29 and a half years. It caused me to reflect on what makes a great relationship, and what it means to have longevity. They say that opposites attract, which is true. For instance, most women want a guy with a great sense of humor. Mine is just the opposite. Women are attracted to men with ambition. I'm just the opposite- I've been working at the same place for 36 years. Women want a guy who tries new things. I am just the opposite; at the mention of the words "new things" I start to sneeze. So if opposites really do attract, I am as close to a "dream man" as you could possibly get.

      Sure, women want a great-looking guy with a great physique and a great personality. But what I'm saying is that there are other traits that, in time, you might grow to see as much more important than those ethereal qualities mentioned above that will only be ravaged by time. Personality disorders that separate men like me from the rest of the pack. I meant to say personality attributes.

      When you are looking for a mate, consider how useful it would be to find someone who knows the words and melody to every single television show or commercial jingle of the '60s and '70s. What if you are being tortured, and your captives will only release you if you know the words to the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme from the FIRST season (hint: she does not turn the world on with her smile until the second season)? What if the person who knows every commercial from the '60s and '70s is the one torturing you?

      It's important that you and your mate agree on important decisions early in the relationship. We we first started dating, my future wife, who did not want to start a family, asked me if I wanted children. I said maybe one day, but not now. She thought it might be an immediate deal-breaker, until she realized that I meant that I wanted children just for that one day, and then they should go home. I have an aversion to screeching, and I don't like brightly colored objects, unless I can eat them. Plus, my wife would have to child-proof the home, and then I wouldn't be able to get into any of the cabinets.

      Over the years, you and your spouse should mold each other into ideal mates. My wife has fostered in me a love for "The First 48," a television show about murderers, and I have instilled in her a deep affection for "Forensic Files," a program that investigates homicides. We have truly kept our love alive through dead people.

      You should know how to compliment a woman. If she gets her hair cut, don't just say "WHOA! What did you do??" Turn it into a positive, like this: "Honey, you have such GREAT hair- it's a shame you left it on the hairstylist's floor." Or if she drags you out shopping for a new dress, and wants your opinion (she doesn't really), and says it's the latest fashion, don't say, "well, it's kind of ugly," just say, "Honey, let's wait around for 20 minutes, maybe a later fashion will come out."

      People say that familiarity breeds contempt, but I disagree. I believe that disharmony is caused when expectation is out of line with reality, and when you stay with someone who does the same annoying things for 30 years, you will never be surprised by that person doing something out of the blue that is not annoying. Because of that, I always strive to make the other person happy, even if she remains totally unaware that she is being made happy.


Friday, December 9, 2016



     Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to whack me over the head with a selfie stick. That is a poem I wrote when I went to visit the Statue of Liberty on Labor Day weekend. A lifelong New Yorker who has never been to the Statue of Liberty is kind of a loser, and I didn't want that hanging over my head. The ticket to the statue is free, and the ferry ride isn't much. Security is tight, so everything has to go through an X-ray, just like at the airport. I tweaked my wrist playing tennis, so I stuck my hand under the machine and asked the guy if he could see a hairline fracture or anything, but he gave me a look that indicated that he might hairline fracture my face.

     After you've been herded onto the ferry by a trooper with a cattle prod (it might have been a pen, but I am easily menaced), the ride to Bedloe's Island is only about seven minutes, during which you are treated to beautiful views of the downtown skyline.

     Approaching the statue, her pose looks like someone leading a tour group, an observation confirmed by looking around at all the people leading tour groups. But when you draw nearer her beauty is ethereal and hard to define. It's easy to see why people put her on a pedestal. She looks different from every angle. When you finally get around to her front, her expression has a far-away look, like she's still carrying a torch for somebody. A woman like that is hard to get close to, especially since that crown would poke your eye out if you asked her to dance.

     You could mistake the construction for a solid casting, but in reality, the colossus is an array of copper plates bolted to a steel infrastructure designed to exacting specifications by Gustave Eiffel, a guy who knows about towers. The plates are only 3/32nds of an inch thick, the width of two pennies. So if the Statue of Liberty ever comes up, you can throw your two cents into the conversation with that little factoid. Her toga-style garment cleverly avoids any possibility of body-shaming. "Does it seem to you like the Statue of Liberty has packed on a few pounds over Thanksgiving weekend?" Her figure will forever be statuesque.

     She was erected in a direction that was designed to face Europe, as an acknowledgement of France's generous gift, and as a subtle protest to the country's mistreatment of its own people, as perceived by the sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. In geographic reality, the statue pretty much faces Bensonhurst, but I think the symbolism still works.

     The The pedestal was designed and paid for by the U.S. and sits on the remains of Fort Wood, which was built in the shape of an eleven-point star. The surrounding area was beautified by Frederick Law Olmsted, father of the Olmsted Brothers who landscaped Katonah after it was moved to its current location.

     Once I had stopped gazing up at the statue, I started looking around at the other people who were there. It was nothing like the somber reverence you see at museums, but more like a playground. People were there with their grandparents, children running around, lovers barely noticed that there was a big green statue there. There were people there from countries I couldn't spell, wearing clothes that looked really uncomfortable, people of every color in the human spectrum. It was truly a melting pot, and since it was about 89 degrees, some of them had already melted.

     This is maybe the one place they all felt welcome at the same time, and there wasn't one thing anybody was going to say about it. Anyone with the urge to comment had only to look up at that ten-foot scowl to think better of it. After all, she is an immigrant, too.

Friday, December 2, 2016



     Last week we went on a mid-week vacation to Cape Cod, which we have been to a zillion times. One of the things we love about it is that it will never grow into the kind of annoying place where every restaurant is bragging about their "price points" and their "brand." Cape Cod will only swell to the exact size that people are willing to put up with the traffic on Route 6. The people whose head explode if they wait in traffic for twenty minutes will find someplace else to go on vacation.

     We always end up in Provincetown, at the tip of the Cape. Most of the year the place is 99.9% gay. But for three months in the summer, tourists descend upon the place, and everybody gets a chance to see what the other half is up to. There is no need for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy here. You don't even have to ask- nobody is shy about telling. Provincetown is surrounded by water and show tunes, so it pays to be both buoyant and flamboyant at the same time.

     Leave the car at the hotel, and ride your bike into town, because there are signs posted all over the place that your car will be towed at the owner's expense, even if you're driving it at the time. If you must take a car, take somebody else's, so if the inevitable happens they will have to pay for the towing, it's right there on the sign.

     We stopped in at Governor Bradford's tavern for some "queeraoke." The place is a mecca for people of dubious sexual orientation whose enthusiasm for music far exceeds their singing talent. The head transvestite who was running the show introduced Eric, who sang a version of Shania Twain's "I Feel Like a Woman." This was hardly big news- so did just about everyone else there, except for the women.

     For such a theatrical bunch you would hope that the singing would be better than usual, but instead it's only louder than usual. At the end of the performance the emcee said, "That was Eric- let's all give it up for him!" Even though it should be quite the opposite.

     Somebody else sang, "Killing Me Softly," only they sang it really loud, I guess they were thinking that if they killed me louder with the song it would be faster and more humane. You might as well strum my face with your fingers too, as long as you're at it.

     While we were sipping cocktails we played a game of chess- you can also play backgammon at the Governor's, there are boards at some of the tables. It wasn't my fault that my queen was a replacement from a smaller chess set and looked more like the bishop, but when I wasn't paying attention my wife swooped in and captured my queen. It dawned on me that somebody capturing somebody else's queen must happen fairly often here.

     The next morning when we were eating breakfast at an outdoor cafe, the Provincetown Town Crier came over, dressed in a Pilgrim outfit, ringing his bell and working the crowd. I was thinking what a great job that would be for when I retire, being a Pilgrim somewhere and Town Crying. Somewhere where it's hot, but low humidity, and the taxes are low and they tolerate Pilgrims pretty well. What qualifications would I need to Town Cry? Maybe I should just start out as a Town Whiner and work my way up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016



     A couple weeks ago Rio de Janeiro, a city awash in political scandal, Zika virus, rampant crime and economic upheaval, encountered a new problem it hadn't accounted for, and its name was Ryan Lochte. In the murky morning haze following a binge-ful bender, something happened at the intersection of alcohol, youth and invincibility when Lochte and three other swim team members stopped their taxi at a gas station.

     Or maybe it didn't happen. Was it a mugging? An extortion? A robbery? Or was it a case of some young athletes expecting to participate in the 4 x urinal relay, and possibly the restroom was locked? His exaggerated account of the details was disputed by footage from security cameras. Can you imagine what Ryan Lochte does when there are no cameras around? The answer is: Nothing. What a waste of time that would be.

     If it's all some sort of cry for attention I can't figure out what for. Not only does the guy have every medal short of the purple heart, but he's so unnaturally good-looking that he is probably invited to participate in breaststroke events that I don't even have a joke for.

     He had several sponsorship deals that have been terminated as a result of what started out as an alcohol-fueled prank and careened into an international incident. Speedo ended its relationship with him, even though he didn't do anything wrong from the waist down. The Gentle Hair Removal company also severed ties with Lochte, but if you dye your hair gray and it turns green, it's probably about to fall out anyway, rendering the product useless.

     By the time I was Lochte's age I had been undertaking stupid stunts for many years, which continued until about two weeks ago, when I did something dumb. But nothing since then, so it was probably just a phase I was going through.

     My friends and I were just talking about a swimming-related shenanigan that we pulled as teenagers, where a bunch of us trespassed onto somebody's property to swim in Mead Lake. "Trespassing" is a pretty big word that I arguably couldn't be expected to know with only half of a high school education, plus it's in the Lord's Prayer, so I figured it must be fine. Anyway, a couple of us swam across the lake, oblivious to the fact that those who had stayed on shore had been arrested by the police.

     Nobody thought to spin it into a wild tale of intrigue, so they just paid the fine. But now that I know that blaming things on Rio is an option, I plan on trying it next time I get a traffic ticket. "There were these two dudes wearing blue uniforms, and they had guns. They stopped me on the street and made up this story about how I was going 45 miles-per-hour in a 30 zone. They looked like they could be from Rio de Janeiro, so I just complied even though I was only going 43.

     What I'm saying is, don't judge too harshly. Because he who casteth the first stone knoweth not that a photo existseth of him passed out at a frat party with his underwear on backwards waiting to be instagram-ethed.

Friday, November 11, 2016

This is your day

Yesterday was the day after election day, and it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. This is not unusual for me, but usually it's because someone punches me in the stomach. This time it was due to the kind of shame and fear that comes from other people making bad choices for me that I have no control over. Aside from a joke here and there, anyone who knows me would tell you that I am not a political person. So I'm going to get this off my chest once, then hide in a corner for four years, hopefully not any longer.

When Barrack Obama walked through the door, he was the smartest one in the room. And the coolest. Michelle Obama was a shining light by any standard. The President knew what he was talking about, and if he didn't, he didn't say anything. And now he's walking back out the door, and in his place will be an orange-colored fatuous boob. I never thought I'd refer to the president of my country in those kinds of terms. Yeah, Bush senior was a little nutty, and George W. might have been a little goofy, but I liked them as people. This is new territory, a dangerous place. America has elected to its highest office someone who says something ill-informed, self-congratulating, misogynistic and indefensible every single day, sometimes all in the same sentence.

He's a weak-minded, psychologically unstable individual who can't contain his emotions if someone says something unflattering about him, whether it's true or not. His oratory has the sophistication of a middle school debate team member. And when someone professes to know everything, there is no  reason for that person to learn anything else. They don't know what they don't know, and don't have  much interest in finding out.

If you voted for him, this is your day to shine. He's all yours, and now America can move forward, if you think that moving forward is to try to bring back all those factory jobs that robots and free trade took away, or all the other careers decimated by the internet. It's a pretty dream, but you might get a wake-up call pretty soon.

Maybe moving forward means removing health care for about 20 million people, so that when they get sick you and I can go back to paying for it instead of insurance companies. Maybe progress means concentrating more on oil, gas and coal instead of those other silly renewable technologies. If common sense gun control sounds like a good idea to you, this is not your moment, either. Have you ever sat on the parkway behind serious traffic, and car after car passes you on the shoulder, and finally you give up and do it too? That's what gun ownership is going to look like, only now the country will be more polarized and less temperate. Did you like the financial collapse of 2008? Well less bank oversight might be the progress that you voted for.

Maybe it means rolling back civil rights a good few notches. And I'm not even talking about women's rights, minority rights, religious rights or gay rights. I'm talking about the right of one person to expect another to be civil to him. Civility has been tabled. The douchebag-in-chief has already set the agenda.

Now when a horrible tragedy befalls this country, instead of turning on the TV to hear a little bit of wisdom from someone smarter than me, I have to go it alone. Because he'll say something stupid. That's what he does, and he has no reason to change, since that is what got him elected.

This feels like a win for bullying, for making fun of the less fortunate, for not doing your homework and getting rewarded for it. For body-shaming, groping and taking things that aren't yours just  because you feel like it and you're bigger. It's a victory for cutting the line.

Douchebags, dickheads and assholes, this is a day to celebrate. The overwhelming majority of people who voted for trump are not douchebags, dickheads and assholes. They're your neighbors, your friends, and that made me call my own values into question for a moment or two. That moment passed. I don't think my feelings are a mirage, and I think America's reputation will suffer damage in the eyes of the world and of its own people that will take decades to undo.

So I have to grit my teeth for four years and hope he goes away, but I don't think he'll ever go away now that he's found his people. I'm in the unenviable position of hoping he does a horrible job as president so I don't have to see as much of his bloated face anymore. I don't want him to crash the country, that would be bad. I just want him to put a huge dent in the fender so that somebody takes the keys away from him.

Friday, November 4, 2016



     The Olympics rolled on last week, and I took in a healthy dose of it, even though I had to forego watching dead people on Forensic Files. Once you get a taste for dead people, they're hard to give up, but that's a topic for another day. As I watched the  competition unfold I couldn't help noticing that some of the events make you question what it really means to be an Olympian.

     Children all over the world are watching the games, thinking that someday maybe they will be the best in the world at their chosen sport. Will it be handball or ping pong? You might as well hand out medals for darts or skee-ball. Fencing is essentially trying to kill a guy with a sword, which is a weird thing to dream about doing when you're a kid.

     The people who compete in gymnastics are obviously nuts. No one should ever hire them for any other job, because they obviously will NOT follow directions. Think about it: How many times when you were a kid, walking along a balance beam that was actually a tree trunk that fell in the back yard, did your Mom say, "GET DOWN FROM THERE- YOU'LL BREAK YOUR NECK!" But these girls do it anyway, and somehow they don't get their allowance docked.

     My sister and I used to do backflips in the basement onto an old couch when we were kids, and if our Mother ever caught us she would have hit us over the head with a shovel. She never caught us, and maybe that's when we turned our efforts from gymnastics to long distance running.

     Women's diving was also on last week. If I was participating they'd have to wait for me to get into the water a little at a time, takes about 20 minutes. No sense just rushing right in in case the water's freezing. There would also be plenty of other questions about why I was on the team.

     Anyway, they dive from a platform about a million feet in the air, do a bunch of flips and turns, and when they hit the water not much happens. It's a little anti-climatic. I could make a bigger splash just walking into a room with a purple tie on. But I certainly wouldn't jump in the water from all the way up there. It's not that I'm afraid of heights, I'm just afraid of what happens when you fall from them. I'm also afraid of depths, so I'll stick to sports that are played at sea level, and events where I can only hurt other people.

     I've also been watching the women's beach volleyball competition, which seems to be contested on a clothing-optional beach, judging by their swimsuits. I was wondering why the sand never sticks to their cabooses when they take a tumble. I figured it must be some type of agent that they spray on themselves. It must be a secret agent, or else I would have found out about it by now so I could spray it on the bottom of my beer cooler.

     In equestrian sports or sailing, the athlete who stands on the medals podium is just a dude riding on something else that's doing all the work. Why not let the sailboat hear its national anthem and take a bow right from its bow. Let the horse be on a Wheaties box for once.

     Maybe your child is thinking of becoming a future star in the hammer throw. Good luck finding it in the neighbor's yard when you need to fix the mailbox. Come to think of it maybe Dad threw it there.

     So kids, if you're out there, dream big. Take in those victory pictures of athletes biting into a gold medal, since they are high in fiber. I'm already looking forward to the next summer Olympic Games. They will be adding some new events, a competition where participants pass a balloon back and forth without using their hands, an egg- rolling race and a contest where athletes guess how many jelly beans are in a jar.

Friday, October 28, 2016



Every couple years I always wish I had time to watch the Olympics, but I just don't. That's why I usually end up apologizing to my boss that some stuff didn't get done because I was watching the Olympics. I checked out the opening ceremonies, which were riveting, because I love the pageantry. I don't know exactly what pageantry is but I love it.
     My favorite is the "Parade of Nations." People walked into the arena from every country in the world, which was already amazing because not every country is within walking distance. There were oddly-dressed people on large tricycles leading each country's team in, people that looked like they would have been asked to leave if it were anyplace other than Rio. I felt like a character in "Alice in Wonderland," only I had eaten the wrong dosages of things. Sometimes it looked like a group of people had wandered in looking for Pokémon Go. Other times it looked like Pokémon had already gone.
     The athletes were videotaping everyone in the audience, and everyone in the audience was videotaping the athletes. There wasn't anyone in the arena with more than one eye showing. Which is sad because if you think about it, this is basically the cream of the crop of the human race; just about everyone on the floor of the arena has achieved great feats through their body and skills. Hardly anyone was there because of their great personality.
     Some countries were so small, they only had a couple athletes, maybe a ping-pong player and a guy who is really good at playing the trombone, which is not a recognized Olympic event, at least not yet. I don't want to seem like more of an ignoramus than usual, but there are so many countries that you just flat-out forget are even out there.
     Djibouti, for instance. The harder I try to pronounce it correctly, the harder I get slapped in the face. This might be a case of people assuming things about me that are primarily true. The Luxembourg team promenaded through the arena. That's a place where you always feel like you overpaid for something, but I can't put my finger on it.
     Spain entered, wearing Panama hats that made them look like they just came from somebody's 50th birthday party. Chinese Taipei was there, a country smart enough to include their blood type right in the name. You never know when there might be some kind of mishap with the javelin throw or something.
     Samoa, where they make great Girl Scout cookies by the way. Micronesia was represented. You have to root for their country to grow so you can at least see it. Kazakhstan had a team. I tried to use Kazakhstan in Scrabble once but it wasn't in the Scrabble dictionary and I lost my turn, so I am rooting against them, obviously. France strolled in wearing some slightly goofy-looking outfits. Those bon vivants looked like tourists for once.
     The president of the Olympic Committee gave a speech. I was watching it on television in a bar, and my Spanish language lip-reading isn't as good as it could be, but it was obvious to me that he was quoting from a Michelle Obama speech from 1998.
     There wasn't one person there who didn't look like they were having the time of their life, and that alone was refreshing. I heard all these stories that Brazil was in shambles, and the corruption, and the zika virus, and the pickpockets, and the doping scandals, and the blah-ba-di-blah-ba-di-blah. As each delegation walked in, and no one said the word "Trump" even once, I realized that Rio might not be so bad after all.

Friday, October 21, 2016



     I read here in the Record that Somers native Rachael Goldstein is competing in "American Ninja Warriors," one of my favorite television shows. It's a program that pits ordinary people against a series of tests of strength and agility. These events have names like "Salmon Ladder" and "Jumping Spider," which you can try to order at a Chinese restaurant just for fun.

     I love the show because it reminds me of a time about 30 years ago, when I was flipping through the channels with the remote control. I noticed this show where two dudes were poking at each other with a huge Q-tip. That got my attention. Then this gal who looked like she had blown her hair out for another 20 minutes after it was already dry started hunting people with a gun that shot giant Q-tips. I couldn't help thinking that this show could REVOLUTIONIZE aural hygiene.

     The show was called "American Gladiators," and it starred an assembly of steroid-swilling ex-football players and female body builders who vied against two guest competitors in various games and contests. I became addicted to it for six years, until I finally got myself into a 12-step program, where I took 12 steps away from the television and went into the kitchen, where I discovered Dove ice cream bars.

     At the end  of the show the two contestants would line up to run through an obstacle course with hand bikes, blocking dummies, rope swings and a balance beam. If you fell off the balance beam two female gladiators were waiting for you in a "penalty pit," and one of them would whack you over the head with a ball peen hammer and the other one would give you a wedgie.

     Rachael Goldstein apparently trained for only four months to be a Ninja Warrior. She successfully jumped across a bunch of rubber doohickies, swung on a rope, held onto a large cylinder attached to a huge key ring, ran across a bunch of massive ping-pong paddles, jumped on a trampoline and grabbed onto a giant wheel which she tried to spin with her hands, but that some weasel had sabotaged so that she couldn't get a good grip, and so she fell off.

     These are not just a bunch of useless skills, like math. Let's say you're out in the jungle of Costa Rica, and I mention Costa Rica because I saw a hotel there with THREE gorgeous swimming pools, and I can picture myself on a lounge chair, laying out in the golden sun, complaining that they don't have any Coors Light. But let's say the pools are on the fritz, and so there you are in the jungle, holding onto a log that's rolling downhill. I suppose you could just let go of the log, but then you'd have to walk all the way down the hill.

     Or let's say the tiki bar is closed and you're out in the jungle again, being chased by a three-toed sloth. First of all, if you can't outrun a three-toed sloth you're a complete idiot. But let's say this one has four toes and runs super fast, and all of a sudden a cargo net appears, which luckily doesn't have any cargo in it. So you zip up that cargo net like nobody's business, not realizing that a sloth climbs MUCH faster than it runs. Either way, you are sloth chow, so bad example.

     They also have this thing called the "warped wall," which was invented when we hired a contractor that we hadn't completely vetted. We might have gotten him from Angie's List, but it could have been her grocery list or something.

     Anyway, I actually saw Rachael's run on "American Ninja Warriors," and let me say she did REALLY well, finishing four challenges before falling off the "Wheel of Doom," which is a name I just made up. By virtue of her successful appearance in the American Ninja regional qualifiers, Rachael Goldstein will be moving on to the next round, so congratulations! I will be watching for her, and if they could find a way to work a giant Q-tip into the show they could kiss waxy build-up goodbye.

Friday, October 14, 2016



     Last week it was time for the Democrats to have their say. Hillary Clinton energized the party by choosing her running mate. To capture the chemistry of the moment, she did it through Twitter, tweeting, "I'm thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine...." She went on to say that she has known him for a long time, and that they are such good friends that she often calls him "@Tim," and sometimes just "@."

     When they appeared together, they showed perfect unity by conversing in two different languages. He spoke fluent Spanish to the crowd, and she smiled, hoping that he wasn't saying anything unflattering about her hair, which he would have had every right to do. Her eyes lit up when he said something that sounded like "burrito."

     They gaveled in the convention by accusing the Russians of stealing their emails and publishing them. What they should have said was the the Russians also wrote them. Every time I send an email at work that somebody might not like, I always sign "Vladimir Putin" at the bottom, in case it doesn't go over too well.

     The proceedings started with some disunity, to be sure. Bernie Sanders supporters were so disappointed that Bernie Sanders wasn't going to be their nominee, that they even booed Bernie Sanders, for not being their nominee. It seemed like they had just found this out, and they booed everything that happened from then on. It was a little like a Knicks game.

     Michelle Obama delivered a rousing and emotional speech that set the tone. If Melania Trump liked the one in 2008, she's going to LOVE this one. I don't know if Mrs. Trump is going to be speaking anytime soon, but if she happens to mention that she has two black daughters playing on the White House lawn, it would make me suspicious.

     Vice President Joe Biden used words like "malarkey" to show that Donald Trump is out of touch with the times. He then warned the delegates not to take any wooden nickels.

     When it came time for Hillary's speech I braced myself. Whenever she talks in front of large groups, she tends to raise her voice as she gets more excited, and it sounds like she is yelling at me for not cleaning my room. And as a result, even when she is in the middle of an oration about the economy, or foreign policy, I go and clean my room, and then I can't find anything for two weeks.

     If Secretary Clinton is elected she will have to overcome an appalling lack of any sense of fashion. One outfit she has worn appeared to be similar to the uniform of the Communist Party from the 1950s. Another time she wore an orange ensemble that made her look like she was incarcerated in a pumpkin patch. Once she wore what looked like really uncomfortable pajamas and a hat. If you need one reason to vote for Hillary Clinton, consider this: these clothes MUST be confined to the White House. If she loses the election she will probably donate them to charity, and we will be forced to feel sorry for underprivileged ladies wearing $22,000 designer pants suits. If there isn't an organization called "Clothing for the Blind," perhaps there should be.

     I don't have a crystal ball, and I can't tell you if Hillary Clinton and @TimKaine will be elected in the fall. And if I could see into the future, I would be concentrating on whether the Giants look like they finally have a running game or not. But I do know that if Hillary Clinton is president next year, my room will be a whole lot cleaner.

Friday, October 7, 2016



      So I was flipping around the television last week, and what did I find? A new reality show starring DONALD J. TRUMP! From what I could see, the premise of the show ist that he runs for President of the United States, and he tries to get people to vote for him by insulting them! It was on every night last week, and I couldn't take my eyes off it!

      His wife, Melania, showed up and gave a speech that summarized many familiar Republican values. They were so familiar that I remembered them from 2008, when they were valued at the Democratic Convention. She told the audience that "you work hard for what you want in life," and if you don't want to work that hard, you can just copy stuff. Those are the values that got me through elementary school, when I had to do a book report and just basically copied it from the World Book encyclopedia. I would have copied this column too if I could find our World Book encyclopedias.

      Melania is from Slovenia, or it could be the other way around. She delivered her speech with the kind of rousing flourish seen at beauty pageants when they ask the contestant a question about current events. She showed up in a white monotone dress, and you can fill in your own joke here if you want. Up until now she hasn't said much, and seemed as if she was treating her husband's campaign as something he was cooking up in the basement and would have to clean up himself when it was over.

      Then former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani came out, and he yelled a lot and looked like he might blow a fuse and all the lights would go out. Ted Cruz came out and implied that you might be better off voting for somebody else. Chachi came out, and said Donald Trump was the man he endorsed, since Scott Walker wasn't in it anymore. Then the guy from Duck Dynasty came out, or it might have been the guy from ZZ Top.

      Then Trump came out, and he was standing on this huge platform, so IN YOUR FACE to everybody who said he didn't have one. Trump repeated his vow to have a wall built around America, and that he's going to make Mexico pay for it. We had a wall built next to our driveway, and you know who built it? Three Mexicans, so maybe Trump is right about that. I think it would be cheaper to build a moat, fill it in with a garden hose, then put alligators in it. But then you would need a wall to keep the alligators from coming over.

      Trump painted a dark and bleak picture of America, a place that no one would ever want to live, including terrorists and illegal immigrants. So he already fixed two problems by the end of the speech! America is great again! By the way, Trump owns the trademark to "Make America Great Again," so if anyone else tries to make America great again, Trump can sue them. He also mentioned that the current administration has done nothing to curtail the proliferation of ISIS. He promised to build a wall around ISIS, and have Mexico pay for it.

      I read that a female protester was arrested for interrupting Trump. If interrupting people were a crime she would have had to show up at Sing Sing to interrupt him. She stood up and shouted, "Build bridges, not walls!" Whereupon the president of Mexico stood up and shouted, "And pay for them your OWN damn self!"

Friday, September 30, 2016



     Last Saturday a little piece of Woodstock came to Westchester, via the 12th annual Pleasantville Music Festival. Thousands of people showed up in spite of the iffy weather, and I was there at a booth for the Tarrytown Music Hall, where I volunteer as an usher from time to time. My shirt said "VOLUNTEER" on it, and a lady who thought I was with the festival came up to me and asked where the ladies room was and if there was a lost-and-found. I gave out a lot of misinformation, so I don't know where she went to the bathroom, but hopefully she'll turn up in the lost-and-found, wherever that is.

     There were still vestiges of the hippie culture in evidence. There was a girl dancing with two small Hula Hoops. From far away I thought they were the biggest earrings I had ever seen, but when I got closer, she had a whole routine going- half rhythmic gymnastics, half Harlem Globetrotters. She was way too young to remember Woodstock, and most who did would have had a tough time fitting one of those things around their waist. If you're going to ask her to slow dance you should plan to spot her about twelve feet.

     There was also a beach ball batting around up by the stage, I think one of the savings banks was giving them away at their vendor booth. The next time I turned around there were about 40 of them flying overhead. It was like a huge game of dodge-ball, and even K.T. Turnstall had to be quick on her feet, since if you get hit in dodge-ball, you're OUT.

     And for those of you who thought the tie-dye look was tie-dead, guess again! There were some people there who looked like they might start to cry if I happened to mention I heard that the Fillmore West had closed.

     There was a "beer garden" section to the south of the main stage, although the sky was so overcast I doubted whether any beer would actually grow there. It was fenced off to keep minors out, but instead created illusion of keeping all the alcoholics contained in one area. Some of them did not look as if they could negotiate their way back out even if they wanted to.

     Parents were scrambling to find the most time-consuming thing they could get their children interested in, so that they could enjoy a brief moment in time when it wasn't glaringly obvious that their kids were learning way more in school than they presently knew. They made plentiful stops to all the vendor booths that were handing out free stuff, the face-painting area, and the bouncy castle.

     I was once asked to man the face-painting booth at the Music Hall Family Day, which seemed like fun. When I suggested that we use an exterior grade alkyd paint I got re-assigned to the parking lot detail.

     By the way pre-teenagers will take anything you're handing out, if it's free. They're basically living on a fixed income, so they have a tight budget. They cleaned us out of key chains, so now they all have a place to keep their car keys. It doubles as a bottle opener, so in 12 years or so if they can remember where they put it, they can open a bottle of beer.

     No one lit their guitar on fire the way Jimi Hendrix did, which was a slight disappointment for the fire department. I was never convinced he did it on purpose, anyway- you smoke that many cigarettes and you're bound to light something on fire sooner or later.

     The weather held out pretty nicely until the last act took the stage. Their name was Guster, so when the wind picked up it was perfect symmetry. The crowd was still hanging around, still moving, still dancing. Sure, it may be a couple hip replacements since Woodstock, but that didn't slow people down any more than the knee replacements did. I hope that when I get my knee replacement, they replace my knee with someone's who danced a whole lot better than I can.

Friday, September 23, 2016



     The backstroke, of course. But the spate of recent bear sightings in upper Westchester is no joke. I consider myself something of an expert on ursine behavior, having watched nothing but television cartoons for about 14 years of my life. What I have learned is that they are frisky, adventurous, playful and speak perfect English. But they can also be dangerous if provoked or engaged close by their young.

     They feel understandably angry because their habitat has been breached and shrunk by Trump real estate ventures. They are also peeved about being portrayed in television commercials as disproportionately obsessed with toilet paper and underwear. So they may be more prone than ever to lash out at humans and human-related targets.

     It is best to avoid contact with bears whenever possible. The first rule is, don't leave anything near your house that a bear could construe as edible. That means food left on a barbecue, easily accessible bird feeders, garbage not properly secured or pet food bowls outside the home.

     For instance, my wife kept noticing a mysterious wild black cat hanging around our house for weeks, looking hungry and forlorn. She left a bowl of cat chow for it, and every once in a while we would see it out there taking a quick bite. One day we were at the neighbor's house and there was the cat, sitting on the couch, looking at us like we were idiots. Barbara told us how they hardly ever fed the cat, it was "living off the land."

     Anyone should be suspicious of a cat "living off the land." These are weird, delusional animals that kill a mole not to eat, but to play with. It's not as much fun to play with a dead mole, but at least you can remember where you left it. If a cat wants food, it's going to go home and make a grilled cheese sandwich or something.

     We once camped in a yurt at Yosemite Park, and they were very strict about the storage of anything that a bear might be interested in eating. We were told to lock these items in special bear-proof containers. The only thing we were able to keep with us was a batch of my homemade biscuits I had brought along, which I think are great but my wife says should only be used as fishing-line sinkers.

     If you do come into contact with a bear, it's important that you keep your wits about you and know what to do. First, of course, take a selfie if you have time. Be sure to check your hair and makeup before you enter the forest. To make yourself appear larger, open your coat and stretch it open. This will make you appear larger than you actually are. You should also brag about your 401K.

     Do not try to run away. Bears look like they haven't hit the gym in quite a while, but they can decisively outrun a human on any terrain. You should back away slowly, talking to it so that it knows you are human. Don't mention anything about toilet paper or underwear, or the size of its nose.

     If you are an avid camper you should have a canister of pepper spray with you at all times in case of a bear attack, and to keep the kids out of your stuff. I keep one handy myself. I'm not a camper, but it's easier than using the pepper grinder.

Friday, September 16, 2016



     Nothing makes you prouder to be an American than to see Old Glory swaying in the breeze on the Fourth of July. Regardless of what you thought Old Glory is, it's the flag.

     It's one of the symbols Americans cling to while they argue with each other about whether we should elect an annoying president, or an idiotic president. But Independence Day is a time to set all that aside and take pride in everything it means to be an American.

     Most people believe that Betsy Ross designed the first version of the flag, which  vexillologists have questioned. Most people also believe that there is no way I would ever be able to spell  "vexillologist." Apparently the whole Betsy Ross story was started when her grandson presented a paper to the Philadelphia Historical Society relating a meeting with her husband's uncle George Ross, Robert Morris and Colonel George Washington at her upholstery shop.

     According to his account passed down through family folklore, they delivered to her the design of the flag with the stars in a circle. There were 13 of them, just a star-smattered banner, not yet fully spangled. The story goes that she suggested the stars be five-pointed instead of six, because they are easier for a seamstress to make. Her point was well taken, and she was commissioned to sew as many flags as she could manufacture, which kept her busy for the rest of her life.

     But the flag is not our only national symbol. Did you know that America has a National Mammal? I would have thought that the National Mammal was the President's Seal. But it's not, it's the North American bison. They don't call it a buffalo, I guess to avoid confusing it with that place where you have to dig your car out of six feet of snow in the middle of June. I would have lobbied for a smaller National Mammal, something the Secretary of State could pack into a briefcase, like a mongoose maybe, and let it out when negotiations start to break down.

     Our National Bird is the bald eagle, which, although aptly named, would look funny with hair on its head instead of feathers. It may have been chosen because it has kind of an angry look on its face, as though someone jumped into the express checkout line in front of it with more than 10 items. For comparison purposes, the National Bird of the island Republic of Mauritius is the dodo, which has been extinct for 300 years.

     My wife made fun of me for trying to deliver the "Pledge of Allegiance," which I cannot do without putting my hand over my heart for some reason. If a person my age stands around for that long with a hand over his heart somebody usually starts to administer CPR. I started out on the wrong foot when I recited, "I pledge of allegiance to the flag..." Apparently the "of" is only in the title. Then when I got to the part with the word "indivisible" in it I started shaking. EVERYTHING is indivisible to me, since the last time my math skills were on even a 5th grade level was when I was in the 7th grade.

     At one point there was a big hubub about whether the words "under God" should be excised from the pledge, because six year-olds who were devout atheists didn't care for it. At that age I remember being much more focused on whether or not I could tie my shoe. Do they still make kids recite it in grade school? I have no idea. We did, I guess so they could root out the communist tots who might try to share their lunch with the proletariat.

Monday, September 12, 2016


This song still brings back every emotion I felt when I wrote it on September 12th, 2001, especially the ending.


"This Morning"

Friday, September 9, 2016



     When I was just a young lad my Dad used to take the whole family on a vacation to Atlantic City every year for a week of sun and surf. What's surprising is that he didn't book the trip during the winter when the hotels were cheaper.

     There were no casinos there back then, but just getting there alive was a gamble. We had four to six kids in a Mercury station wagon and two parents in the front seat with a shorter fuse and longer arms than you would think possible. The car seemed enormous at the time- it had a huge front seat, a huge back seat and two smaller seats that popped up out of the cargo area. It had wood paneling on the side, which was great camouflage if driving in our basement, which had the same paneling. When the kids in the back were small enough, you could fold them down with the pop-up seats and travel in relative quiet.

     It was slow going through the tolls on the Garden State before the days of EZ Pass. If you had a exact change you could "speed" through the exchange at about two miles an hour, TWICE the speed of the poor suckers who only had paper money. My Dad would toss the two dimes and a nickel into this thing that looked like a urinal, and if he missed, one of us would have to get out and retrieve the coins. His shooting skills were not great, but luckily our rebounding was excellent.

     My parents were desperate to keep some semblance of order on the trip, so they would try to get us involved with games like spotting license plates from different states. I'm still angry that no one from Hawaii will bother to drive to New Jersey. We would play things like "20 Questions," where I would try to guess what word my sister was thinking of, using "yes or no" questions. Why wouldn't she just tell me what the word was and save us all some time? I'll never know since that's not a "yes or no" question.

     When we arrived in Atlantic City my Dad would only pay for one room at the hotel, and there were six of us, so he would have two extra cots brought up while we hid in the bathroom. For some reason this all seemed fun at the time, the way a short-term prison sentence is fun. In the morning we all got up at the crack of dawn to bicycle on the Boardwalk. No matter which way we went we always seemed to be riding against the wind. We had to stop and pose for a picture, and it took a half-hour to make it look like we weren't posing.

     In the afternoon we would walk up to the Steel Pier. For ONE LOW ADMISSION price you could get into every attraction. If my Dad had his way we would have spent 16 hours on that pier so we could get our money's worth. If lion wrestling was included in the admission price, as god is my witness, the king of the jungle would have had me in a half-nelson, with my Dad snapping photos, telling us to look more "candid." We would do the best we can, but you can't hide your lion eyes.

     Then it was time to file into the grandstands for an aquatic spectacle presented by the "Diving Collegians," part circus, part clownery. The performance was capped off by the famous "Diving Horse." It was a bit of a stretch to insist that the horse actually dove; it wasn't like a swan dive or anything. The horse and rider would file up a long ramp to the top of a platform, and the bottom would kind of fall out. The horse would basically plummet into this huge tank, and emerge with sort of a surprised look on his face, like maybe they should get the top of that platform fixed.

     I know my brother and sisters remember those days as fondly as I do; when for one fleeting moment we seemed like a normal family. Every year we return to the shore as adults, and it's a trip down Memory Lane. And since I can't remember as much as I used to, the traffic on Memory Lane is much better than on the Garden State.

Friday, September 2, 2016



     "So guys, where should we go for dinner? Let's go out for Chinese food!" Those words are music to my ears. By the way, my ears would be the only place I would expect anything to be music to. Anyway, going out for Chinese is just the thing if you don't feel like something too fancy. And it's so convenient, much more so now that you don't have to drive all the way to China. There's a place five minutes away! So we went out with our friends Bob & Cathy on a Sunday night.
     I like to have a little fun with the waitress, chat her up a bit, tell some jokes. Have you heard the penguin joke? It's about 20 minutes long, but totally worth it. "The penguin is driving around in his car, see, and all of a sudden"- BOOM- our waitress is all the way over on the other side of the room THAT QUICKLY before the penguin has barely driven two feet. Penguins can be an acquired taste, I understand that.
     It usually takes me a while to figure out what to order. There are so many different sauces and vegetables. My wife's Mom used to cook Chinese food all the time, and she introduced me to all kinds of things. Tree ears are a kind of edible fungus, for instance. I never heard of them, but possibly my ears are not as good as theirs. Bamboo shoots- turns out they're not only used for torture. Water chestnuts are these little doohickeys that don't taste like much by themselves, but they're good mixed in with all the other stuff.
     Halfway down the menu, they announce that General Tso's chicken! This is not the kind of thing I would want to get out, if I were General Tso. And if this guy is such a military genius, how come nobody can agree on how his name is spelled? It's different on every menu.
     The waitress comes back to pour the water, and looks like she wants to pour mine over my head.... "So," I continue, "the penguin's car breaks down, and he notices there's a service station, and-" POW- she's taking someone else's order three tables down.
     So we take another look at the menu- there are so many choices. You could put just about any adjective before the word "chicken" and order it at a Chinese restaurant. Try it! What's the weirdest adjective you can think of? "Perpendicular?" "I'll have the perpendicular chicken. Only NO mushrooms." She takes everyone's order before they have finished saying it and immediately vaporizes. I yell after her, "AND COULD YOU BRING EXTRA-" She yells "OK!"
     There's crispy chicken, curry chicken, orange chicken. I saw an orange chicken once at a petting zoo, so maybe it was one of those. They have chicken with snow peas, chicken with broccoli, chicken with eggplant and chicken with baby shrimp. You have to eat that one quickly because the lifespan of shrimp is very short to begin with.
     The meal is good, and I feel like some coffee, but at Chinese restaurants they usually only have tea. I ask anyway, because a lot has changed in China in the age of the internet. "While I have you here, the penguin goes to the service station to ask about his car, see, and-" "No coffee, just tea!" She says, from where I don't know because I can only hear her, not see her.
     After the meal they sometimes bring an orange, supposedly to cleanse the palate. A nice tradition, even if nobody ever eats the orange. Americans would probably just spray some palate cleanser down their gullet and hope for the best. Then it's time to open the fortune cookie. It's pretty obvious that I get someone else's fortune by mistake, like, "Wealth awaits you today." So far all I have is the cookie, not the fortune.
     The waitress flies by and grabs the credit card slip just as I am dotting my i leaving a big line across the top of my signature. She yells out "Thank you!" before I even have a chance to finish the penguin joke. Write me and I'll tell it to you.

Friday, August 26, 2016



     National Doughnut Day was June third this year, and if you missed it there is probably a hole in your life. I assumed that this holiday was created by doughnut makers, or by greeting-card companies to tug on the heartstrings of people who wish to send a loving sentiment to their favorite doughnut. But actually, it commemorates Salvation Army volunteers who went to France during World War I to pass out doughnuts to American troops serving there.

     It was first recognized in 1938 in Chicago as a fundraiser during the Depression. Doughnuts can temporarily cure depression, in case you haven't noticed. These days many franchises offer free doughnuts to celebrate.

     My wife is so addicted to Dunkin' Donuts coffee that she can sense the location of any franchise in any town, and drive to it automatically. When I tell her that we just had coffee already, she looks at me with disdain and suspicion, as if I just turned state's evidence against her.

      Some people observed this holiday by taking selfies with their doughnuts. Cuties on the internet were snapped gleefully holding up their little friends, with a bite missing. There are those who will take a picture of themselves just about anywhere, but you look a little lonely if your companion is a doughnut. It kind of looks like you went on a trip together. "Here I am at the Grand Canyon with my new doughnut! After this we're heading to Vegas!"

     I don't eat a whole lot of doughnuts, but I like them even though they contain so many "empty" calories. By empty calories I mean any calories that aren't filled by chocolate candy. You could probably lose weight on a diet of doughnuts because of the hole in the middle- how many dessert foods are half full of air?

     I have seen swim floats shaped like doughnuts, and who knows- they have probably averted drownings. Every National Doughnut Day, people are browbeaten into telling the story about how their life was saved by a giant doughnut. Those are the ones who hide in the closet the first Friday of every June.

     Why do some people call them donuts instead of doughnuts? I'm not sure, since they actually contain dough, and rarely do they contain nuts. It might be a misguided effort to save time, like writing "thanx" instead of "thanks," which only saves you one letter. If you want to save me time, don't make me wait behind you while you pay for doughnuts using a credit card.

     I'm suspicious about the invention of doughnuts, the same way I'm suspicious of just about everything. For instance, I sometimes believe that Mother Teresa was in it for the publicity. I think that holes were probably put into doughnuts as a way to save manufacturers money. Companies are always playing this cat-and-mouse game with us: They figure out a way to save themselves a few billion dollars, and then try to pass it off as a product improvement. Take my underwear, for example, and I realize that's asking a lot. They used to have a tag in the back, so even if it was dark or
during an earthquake I could figure out where the front was by the process of elimination. Now some underpants genius figured out that Hanes could save money by leaving off the tag, and they launched an expensive ad campaign to convince us that those labels were a HUGE inconvenience. And now half the time I'm walking around with my underwear on backwards and inside-out, especially during an earthquake.

Friday, August 19, 2016



     In case you didn't notice because you were stuck in traffic, last week was Memorial Day. Many people seem to forget that long before Memorial Day was all about barbecueing and weekend travel, the holiday was about something much more important: opening your pool. But before THAT, it was about remembering those we lost while they were serving our country in the armed forces. This is a good time to take a silent moment to remember those people and what they stood for.

     It's also a good time to make a contribution to a veteran-related organization, to remember those who actually remember those who have fallen. I did it myself, so I'm not always a cheapskate, just usually.

     Those same veterans and their families have kept America safe for people like us to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. I'm not in any way suggesting that barbecuing is safe. On the contrary, I don't have any hard data on this, but I'm guessing that during the long weekend, whatever injuries are not caused by people pulling their hair out in traffic are caused by people who mistakenly think they know how to barbecue without harming themselves or innocent people.

     So I'm offering some tips to help start your barbecue season off with a bang that is not caused by a propane tank exploding. I actually prefer an "old-school" fire. You start with a bag of charcoal briquettes, which are made from female briqs. Most people douse the grill and surrounding patio area with lighter fluid, causing a conflagration that can be seen by satellite. My dad had this thing that looked like a cattle branding iron that plugged into the wall and sometimes lit the charcoal if you started it a couple days in advance. It also eventually branded all of us kids. Instead, get yourself a "charcoal chimney," it's safer and odorless, unless you left it near the catbox.

     Avoid serving an undercooked hamburger. You should have a meat thermometer handy to take its temperature. You don't have to take it in the same place my Mom did when I was a kid, but the meat should be heated to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything much hotter than that and your burger is probably running a fever, and should stay in bed with the TV on.

     By the way, overcooking your burger can result in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the chemical symbol of which looks like a map of downtown Singapore, and can be carcinogenic. Singapore I mean, not the hydrocarbons. Me doing anything well done is rare, so I won't worry about it.

     I know that vegetarians will put up a fuss about how you shouldn't eat red meat, blah, blah, blah. Well that's why you cook it until it's brown. You can clear a small space on the grill for vegetarians to cook their little burgers made from mushrooms or hummus or old Volkswagen parts or whatever they make them out of.

     To show you how dangerous the holiday is in the first place, I was once at a Memorial Day party where fire, parents and children were all in attendance. This is a recipe for disaster, which is something I have several different recipes for. We were all toasting marshmallows, and I noticed this kid wasting a whole lot of time trying to achieve perfection, and I figured I would show him how it should be done. So I grabbed a stick, skewered one of the spongy devils and immediately immolated it.

     After I blew out the flames I presented it to him with such a flourish that it vaulted off the stick and onto his arm, causing probably a second-degree burn. I hope that this kid doesn't go through life with a permanent scar on his arm. And I further hope that if anyone asks him what the scar was from, that he comes up with a better story than that some idiot attacked him with a marshmallow.


Friday, August 12, 2016



     There is a nasty little medical procedure out there, and it's got your name on it. It involves a doctor, and anesthesiologist and a nurse, all conspiring to stick a camera in an inappropriate place and make a reality show out of it. You can try to avoid it for a while, and tell the doctor how busy you are, and that there's a ping-pong tournament coming up, and your sister is going to be in town next month, not necessarily YOUR town, but the doctor is probably not checking on it or anything. And then your wife will chime in helpfully with some available dates, because she is concerned about your health, and because she is always telling you to store things where the sun don't shine anyway.

     We're not talking about an operation or anything, let me stress that. This is a procedure. Anything doctors don't want you to get nervous about they call a procedure, and if you're still nervous, they go ahead and proceed with the procedure anyway.

     My friend refuses to go in for this test. He considers the whole area a one-way traffic zone. He may have even put up a sign. I keep telling him you have to at least consider a yield sign, or maybe a four-way stop sign. And by the way, how come I have to do it if HE doesn't? I would ask my Mom if she were still here, but I'm sure she would come up with some dumb reason like "he doesn't know any better." My Mom always knew better than to not do something I didn't want to do.

     The admitting process at the surgery center has been updated since the last time I was there. They fit you with a paper bracelet- I have my own hashtag! Then they take great delight in scanning you with a bar-code reader at every opportunity. I felt like a bag of potato chips, only with worse cholesterol numbers.

     The nurse subjects you to a battery of questions, like your name, your birthday, nothing involving math. She asks you if you have any allergies, and more questions relating to your medical history. They asked if I had diabetes, and I scored big here- not even ONE diabete.

     Then the anesthesiologist waltzes in and asks the exact same questions, and just for fun, I mix up the answers. He doesn’t even notice. But I feel like he knows a lot of personal information about me, and I know nothing about him. So I ask him some questions: Who was the 27th president? (Taft) What is the capital of North Dakota (Bismarck). He got them both right so it was time to begin.

     I don't remember anything about the transaction since I was out like a light. They told me that as an option, I could remain awake and watch it on the monitor, but I figured I would Tivo it. I woke up 20 minutes later feeling like a new man.

     The things I was saying as I was coming out of anesthesia caused them to want to keep me under observation for a little while longer, but my wife convinced them that I was making more sense than usual.

     Afterwards they tell you not to operate any heavy machinery or make any important decisions. The nurse implied that I personally should NEVER do either of those two things. She said I could make any important decisions that my wife normally lets me make, limited to buttons on the remote control, but nothing involving clothing.

     Strangely, they present you with a contact sheet with color photos of your colon. Even weirder, the photos are wallet-sized. I imagine the ladies at the bridge club comparing them to see who wins the Miss Photogenic award.

Friday, July 29, 2016



     I just returned from my first trip to New Orleans, and I think that qualifies me to write a visitor's guide, as a public service. After you unpack your bags, get right out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the French Quarter. You can smell Bourbon Street all the way from Decatur. It smells a little like a dead animal that passed away from drowning in a vat of Long Island iced tea. But once you get there, you become part of a party that no one is excluded from. There are no velvet ropes, no VIPs, and every age, color and religion are represented.
     Live music is held in high esteem here, which is refreshing. We stopped into several taverns to listen for a while. There were comely-looking girls roaming around with alcoholic shots served in a test tube. I don't know what experiment was being conducted, but if it was not successful, no one seemed to care. Some people looked as though they may have been drinking all night from an Erlenmeyer flask instead of a test tube.
     At Pat O'Brien's we sampled the legendary "hurricane," which contains four shots of rum. The recipe is a well-guarded secret that tastes suspiciously like Hawaiian Punch. In New Orleans you can take your drink with you and sip it as you walk down the street, which saves bouncers the trouble of throwing you out.
     The buildings in the French Quarter look pretty nondescript from the street, with their shuttered windows and doors. They are Spanish style, not French; the Spaniards were in power when most of the Quarter burned during devastating fires in the 18th century. One door is usually bigger than all the rest, the one the horse carriage went through to deliver people and goods into the pretty courtyards, where the actual front doors of New Orleans are found.
     Take the trolley over to the National World War II Museum. It's a world-class interactive journey back to a time when uncertainty and fear were a nightmare you couldn't wake up from. Here, through a series of kiosks, you can follow the very intimate story of a soldier specifically assigned to you, as he or she navigates their way through the war. You learn from their own un-minced words about their lives and personal details, until finally their families take out a restraining order on you.
     At the Jean Lafitte National Preserve, we toured the swampland in a 15-person hydrofoil. We were able to observe, in their natural habitat, any species of animal that was completely deaf, since this boat raised a cacophony that sounded like a DC-10 taking off from your living room. Alligators don't care, and they will do anything for marshmallows, which our guide lobbed prodigiously off the starboard. I asked him why marshmallows, and he shrugged his shoulders and drawled, "They'll eat anything, marshmallows, humans... marshmallows are cheaper." FYI, alligators can run up to 32 MPH on land in a short sprint, and swim just as fast. I feel certain that I could beat one at tennis, but I doubt you get your choice of athletic events when push comes to shove.
     Like a bayou magician he produced out of nowhere a baby alligator which we passed around like we were in "show and tell," thank god it wasn't still breastfeeding or anything. I held it for a little while, but I didn't know if I should pet it or not. It had lots and lots of teeth, even if they were small- so does a saber-saw.
     If my brother Mike had been there he would have waited for a lull then grabbed me on the leg in the vise-like grip of a mother alligator, and I would have pitched the little beast 20 feet in the air, and we would have all watched in horror waiting for it to come down to see whose hair it would land in. My brother was famous for doing things like that when I was a kid.
     Everybody seemed to be expecting me to be the one to say it, so I finally said, "See you later, alligator!" Passed the smiling critter back to the guide, and we all moved on with our lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016



     To me, the month of May means the advent of real, palpable Spring. it also means hay fever, yard work, little bugs that fly up your nose and meteorological mood swings. And to escape it all, the family vacation. Ten days of fun and frolic in places we probably haven't seen before, and may never see again, if they're lucky. It's the perfect way to remove all the stress from your life, while at the same time replacing it with different stress. There are a million things to do before we leave.

     Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. If there is one lesson I've learned over the years it's that one. That's why it's always so surprising that I never leave myself enough time to get to the airport.

     Packing takes some patience and skill. My suitcase seems heavy. They probably have a gym at the hotel, so I take the 20-pound barbells out of the bag. You can't bring juiceboxes with you on a plane, because Hawaiian Punch is an ingredient in explosives. You have to make sure your toenail clippers don't look like a weapon. If your toenails are too sharp, you should leave them at home, too.

     Figuring out what to do with our dog is a major consideration. The famous Gidget just turned one year old, which means that her primary goal is to cause as much destruction as she can within the shortest amount of time. Her happiness is directly proportional to the size of the claim we make to our homeowner's insurance. Her idea of fun is to bite onto your sleeve and lead you out into traffic. And if destruction of personal property and vandalism isn't on the menu, petty larceny certainly is. The worst kind of criminal, clever and diabolical, she will steal anything that isn't nailed down. And the first thing she will steal is the hammer and nails, so you can't nail anything down.

     Once in a while Gidget is so quiet, sitting off in the corner out of sight. Then the adrenaline of sudden fear shoots up my body, and I realize she is only quiet because she is quietly destroying something. Once I caught the dog chewing on a D-cell battery. I called the vet in a panic, because the last thing I needed was for this animal to be pumped up with extra voltage. The doctor didn't think there was much to worry about, except that it was not too bright to leave batteries around where the dog could get them. I told him if you think that's not too bright you should see my flashlight now.

     This year Sarah from the gym has bravely agreed to stay in our house and keep the dog company. Gidget's favorite game is to leave a pile of shredded up stuff on the floor, and you have to guess what it used to be. You can ask any "yes or no" question. "Did this used to have stuffing inside it?" (Tongue out signifies "No.") "Did it come in the mail?" (Head tilted to the side means "Yes!") "Did it look expensive?" (Gidget remembers previous appointment, exits in a hurry, means "YES!")

     Meanwhile, at the airport, our flight is delayed an hour. We start game of Scrabble,  and no one beats me at Scrabble. Is it my command of English syntax? My superior intelligence? No, it seems to be the fact that I know only two and three-letter words, which are like gold in Scrabble. And chances are, if I misspell one three letter word, it correctly spells a different one that I didn't even know about.

      My wife is telling me that they're already loading rows J,K and L. I tell her to hold her horses, it's going to be another 15 minutes before they get to us in row W, and I'm just about ready to notch another victory. 20 minutes later they're calling out for rows X,Y and Z. That reminds me: "zax" is a word! But my wife has dumped all the tiles back into the bag and left for the seat assignment counter, and that is clearly a default.

Friday, July 8, 2016



     I was stopped recently by the Lewisboro Police for not having an inspection sticker or license plate on my motorcycle. This seemed pretty weird since I had had both the last time I looked. I could only conclude that someone must have stolen them. An inspection sticker is not likely to just fall off, or they wouldn't call it a sticker, and the license plate was bolted on. It's not like they were collector's items or anything.

     I chose to fight the ticket and appear in court, because of the principle of the thing. The principle of the thing involved the parting of about a hundred and fifty bucks. There was no parking at the Lewisboro Town Hall, so I pulled into a space at the shopping center. It was obvious that even if I had my ticket dismissed, I would be issued another on the way out.

     There was a lengthy wait. I looked around the room and most people seemed pretty guilty. A couple of the accused were asleep, which made me believe they were innocent, but only in their dreams. I noticed a few people who looked like they were working on an insanity defense.

     Some were normal-looking, well-dressed and quiet. Those are the ones you have to watch out for. I had neighbor once who never said a word. Whenever you passed him he never said hello, just nodded at you even though you didn't ask him anything. I don't know if he ever committed any crimes, but he certainly had the psychological profile for it.

     I was getting bored- I didn't bring anything to read. I was hoping to be interviewed by the court reporter, but she must have been working on another story, all she did was type and type. I thought that if I couldn't successfully fight this ticket and for some reason I ended up in prison, I could at least make myself a new license plate.

     The justice was a woman, and I immediately became very frightened, because I watch a LOT of Judge Judy. If my magistrate yelled out "YOU'RE AN IDIOT," what evidence could I possibly use to refute that? But her honor was extremely polite and respectful. Do I call her "your honor" or "my honor?" I wasn't sure whose honor it actually was.

     Sometimes Judge Judy makes a move where she waves her arms really fast as if there is a bee about to land in her hair, and this means you're in idiot. Other times she laughs maniacally and loudly, then all of a sudden stops and calls you an idiot. Once in a while she doesn't say anything at all and just looks at you, because it seems obvious that you're an idiot.

     None of that happened, and the judge had a much better disposition than my case, although she did seem a little disappointed that I could not come to an agreement with the prosecutor. I felt like telling her that even though we didn't agree on my case, we had similar taste in neckties.

     If it please the court, I started yakking away about my theory that the inspection sticker and the license plate were stolen at the same time, and that I always get my motorcycle inspected when I have my yearly service done, etc. etc., but the court didn't look that pleased. I think I was talking too fast and too loud, but I wanted to make sure she heard my case. She told me I would get a notice in the mail with my trial date.

     If I did end up in the "Big House," I would want to further my education. I graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor's degree, under the agreement that if they handed me a diploma against their better judgment, I would never return. But now that I am married I might want to upgrade the bachelor's degree in prison. If this plan involves the least bit of math, I may have to commit a couple more crimes because it may take a while.

Friday, July 1, 2016



     Recently the Somers Historical Society helped celebrate World Circus Day. As you know, Somers is the "Cradle of the American Circus." It is not the "Birthplace of the American Circus," since there are a bunch of towns fighting over that moniker. There will probably be some DNA testing, a custody battle and some shaming by Maury Povich, and it might get messy, so watch where you step. But even being a "Cradle" rocks!

     Somers has long been associated with the circus, and you have only to look at that pulchritudinous pachyderm on top of the granite obelisk in front of the Town House to know why. Hachaliah Bailey was a farmer and rancher in Stephentown, soon to become Somers. While at a tavern in New York on a cattle trade, Bailey agreed to buy what was probably the second elephant in America for $1,000 dollars. Was there alcohol involved? My research suggests that 9 out of 10 elephants bought at a bar are acquired after considerable cocktails.

     Some say the sea captain who sold him the elephant was his brother, and some say the elephant was his brother. The year was 1804 or 1805, and Hachaliah sailed the beast up the Hudson in his sloop and disembarked at Sing-Sing, now Ossining. He named her "Old Bet." This could not have pleased his daughter very much, whose name was Elizabeth.

     Bailey and the elephant packed up their trunks and started walking to Somers. About 10 or 15 miles into the journey, Bailey was thinking that if he had only gotten a little drunker, he might have held out for a tiger or something that walked a little faster. No one knew how many days it took him since he traveled only at night- he didn't want gawkers getting a free glimpse.

     It's unclear whether he might have bought the animal to help plow his fields, but he soon realized that the attention it got could translate into a better living than he could make on the farm, since money doesn't grow on trees. He knew that he had something huge on his hands, and once he convinced the behemoth to stop sitting on his hand, he began to charge money for the privilege of viewing it.

     The Somers Historical Society has a newspaper clipping from 1808 announcing that a "living Elephant" will be seen at the house of William Satterwhite from the 20th to the 31st of December. It didn't say whether William Satterwhite had any choice in the matter. Admission was 25 cents, which back then was only a quarter of a dollar.

     Bailey wanted to address the elephant in the room, and the address he gave it was 335 Route 202, where he built the Elephant Hotel. His enterprising idea of showing exotic creatures was copied by others, and soon there were traveling "menageries" touring the country. The exhibition of lions, bears and others grew into what we now know as the NFC Central Division.

     Unfortunately, Old Bet was shot and killed while on exhibition in Maine by a farmer who thought it a sin to display animals for money. He should have known that even in the wild elephants are known to charge.

     As of 2018, elephants will no longer be employed in the "Greatest Show on Earth." Whether or not they will appear in the greatest shows on any other planets remains to be seen, but Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has said that new local laws governing the transportation and housing of the animals has made it difficult to continue the tradition. The thirteen elephants now traveling with the circus will retire to the Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. There they will complain about their bad hips, knees, and how their kids never call them, like everybody else who retired to Florida.

Friday, June 24, 2016



     Last Saturday was electronic recycling day for many residents, a solemn occasion where we bid goodbye to the many devices and gadgets forced to leave the closets of Somers to make room for newer devices and gadgets. For five dollars a carload hundreds of people went to the Somers Intermediate School and dropped off what was either the worthless clutter around their house, or valuable artifacts that continue to define the history of their lives, depending on if you were a husband or wife. The proceeds went to benefit the Somers PTA.

     My friend Margaret from the PTA council was directing traffic and answering questions. The purpose of the event was to safely dispose of metal and electronic equipment, but people showed up with all sorts of things that haven't worked in years- one guy showed up with his nephew, for instance.

     Michael was there from City Carting, which donated four huge container dumpsters to cart away all the e-crap. I took a look inside one of them and it looked like my office, only a little bit tidier. There sat all these outdated electronics and computer peripherals that no longer talk to each other because the drivers are no longer supported by any company that still exists.

     There were a lot of items that were broken or damaged. I would estimate that 90 percent of the televisions in the dumpster were destroyed by people throwing the remote control at them during a Giants game when Eli Manning, WELL within field goal range, saw fit to throw an interception in a place where there wasn't a receiver within 500 MILES.

     There was both a humidifier and a dehumidifier that obviously did not get along together in life, now bound forever in eternity. You used to keep a radio or TV in your house pretty much forever, and if it broke, you brought it somewhere to get it fixed. You normally wouldn't consider taking it to the PTA. It was hard to believe that some of the stuff that was recycled ever had a cycle in the first place.

     But Michael said that most of the items people dropped off still worked perfectly well. It's just that everyone wants the newest gizmo with the most features. Everything now has all the bells and whistles, and for that reason nobody remembers anymore what a bell or whistle was. "See this? It's the best cellphone I ever had! I never lost it once since it's the size of a cinderblock!"

     My wife wanted to get rid of the washing machine. There's nothing wrong with it but she hates doing laundry. "Why don't we get rid of the iron while we're at it?" I asked. "I have to take extra vitamins because of the iron deficiency in my clothes." "What's an iron?" She asked. "And when are you going to get rid of that thing in the garage?" "What thing?" I asked. "EVERYTHING in there!" She yelled.

     I wish they had recycling events when I was trying to get rid of my Datsun B-210 back in the day. I couldn't give the thing away; junkyards didn't even want it. The brakes didn't work very well but the floor was rusted out so you you could stop the car by dragging your feet along the ground Fred Flintstone-style if you needed to. I would have driven it off a cliff if I could find one, but there is not actually a mountain in Mount Kisco. For five bucks a carload I could have just driven it up to the school parking lot and run all the way home before anybody from the PTA could
catch me.

Friday, June 10, 2016



     Someone once said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that might be why we were asked to refrain from bringing one along on a recent tour of Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. There are two ways to get into Sing Sing- the easy way and the hard way. We did it the hard way, with a full security check. I immediately started complaining about the baggage fees from force of habit, forgetting that I was not at the airport. The metal detector here is so sensitive that the alarm goes off  even if you happen to mention Led Zeppelin's fourth album. There was no cavity search or anything, which I don't agree to even at the dentist's office.

     My wife and I were there as part of a group tour arranged by an originative program called Rehabilitation Through the Arts. This is an organization that encourages prison inmates to become involved in the arts as a way to sublimate the personality disorders that brought them to this place and change the course of their lives. People who do not believe that time and resources should be spent on criminals do not understand that a very small percentage of incarcerated individuals remain there for life. The rest will be back in their and our neighborhoods at some point, and society would benefit if they knew their lines and could hit their mark on cue.

     The theater workshops culminate in a full-fledged production, complete with a professional director, and Broadway-caliber book made available by the playwrights themselves. This is all done on a shoestring budget, if shoestrings were allowed in prison. The group survives on private donations, so please contact me to find out more about he transformative work being done by RTA.

     Our tour was led by John, Assistant D.S.P., who took us through the halls of "the Big House." We passed by the commissary, where prisoners shop for snacks and personal items using an internal system of currency. Inmates get paid about the market equivalent of having a paper route, but their overhead is low.

     We saw the actual dormitories in Cell Block B where the residents live, and they are as small as you would think, each with its own bed, commode and not a whole lot of privacy. As bad as conditions were it was better than my first apartment, which was above an unpleasant-smelling fish store in Pleasantville.

     In the "honor block" we met inmates who earned the right to special privileges such as cooking their own meal. There were almost 70 residing there, including Morris and Tiger, two felines possibly in for cat burglary or some other cat on cat crime. We have two cats that lie around grooming each other nicely, and then suddenly violence breaks out because one of them can't hold his licker.

     We ended up in the Chapel auditorium, where several of the cast members were practicing scenes from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." If you can't believe prison inmates could or would perform Shakespeare, well neither could I. They rehearsed lines like, "If music be the food of love, play on!" Even though "food" and "love" are rarely heard in the same sentence this close to the prison cafeteria. Some of them stopped to talk with us and answer questions, then went back to work on the play, which they will perform to a captive audience of their fellow inmates, and then again to the public. I found out that it is not productive to yell, "Break a leg!" in a maximum-security prison.

     Once they had me safely off the streets, would I be allowed to leave Sing Sing? "They would  never let you to stay here, you'd be shipped off to Juvenile," my wife predicted. But they opened the gate, and the taste of freedom newly re-savored, we left the complex in our Ford (I kid you not) Escape.

Friday, June 3, 2016



     There is an area outside my house that some might refer to as my lawn, and which I affectionately call the "ungrassy knoll." And this is that dreaded time of year when it becomes quite apparent that this area and I disagree as to what color it should be. It looks like someone hit it with "agent orange," since it is more orange than green. At least during the winter I am able to brag about how nice my lawn is, because it is under three inches of snow.

     I finally found something green on the lawn, which was a patch of moss. I was watering the moss hoping to at least keep that alive, when Paul from next door strolled over. He's the one who has to come over and fix all the things that I manage to screw up, and he had to retire from his job because I kept causing so many problems he was afraid they would spill over onto his property, and eventually the entire neighborhood.

     "You gotta get rid of this moss. Did you put lime on it?" Paul from next door asked.
"Of course I put lime on it. Any idiot knows you have to put lime on it, and that's how come I know it so well. I also put some lemon on it just in case. Smell this lawn"

     I went down to smell the lawn and I almost tripped over a hole. There are all these holes in the ground around my house now, and they seem to lead to a complicated system of underground tunnels. I assumed that they were made by the infamous Mexican drug kingpin nicknamed "El Chapo."

     By the way, in case you do not have an extensive knowledge of the Spanish language, as I do, the English translation for "El Chapo" is "The Chapo." Also, not to show off, but "LL Cool J" means "The The Cool J." When I was in grade school they made us memorize the numbers one through ten in Spanish, but I kept getting them mixed up with the books of the Bible, which I had to learn for Sunday School.

     Anyway, Paul from next door took a look at all the holes in the ground and said I should put mothballs in them. How am I supposed to get those? The moths themselves aren't going to want to part with them easily. But I found them at the hardware store and tossed them down the holes, even though I doubt that moths dug them in the first place.

     If the tunnels are mixed up with the "El Chapo" operation, the infamous drug kingpin is going to have ZERO holes in his sweater from moths, so he's probably never going to leave. He may even get himself an infamous drug queenpin to move in with him. In that case, my idea is to get hold of Sean Penn and a Mexican actress, to talk some sense into him. I would do it myself, but if I mistakenly say "Leviticus" instead of one of the Spanish numbers, I'm going to look like a dope.

     "Hey Paul- come over here and look at these flower beds- they are SO much better than yours," I challenge.
"I haven't seen anything bloom over there since the early 1970s," he replies.
"That's what I mean! These flower beds are so comfortable that the flowers sleep through anything."
Paul looked at me with that look that he has, you know the one. But I didn't want to press the issue, since he has a HUGE wood chipper, and I haven't seen the guy from two houses down in quite a while.