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Friday, March 25, 2016



     We finally had our first major snowfall of the year, and we weren't even sure we were going to get that. The weatherman keeps you on pins and needles the whole time so that you will keep tuning in. He pointed to a chart that might as well have said, "You're on your own." The HRRR forecasting system called for 1.4 inches. The GFS said 24 inches. The WRF said 12 inches. The European model said, "Zees is BOR-ing!" Weatherpeople want you to believe that the weather is unpredictable, and they did a great job of unpredicting it well in advance.

     But the snow eventually did arrive, and so we decided to go skiing in the lovely Poconos. I made sure to put a lot of layers on; I had long underwear, short underwear and medium underwear. In case I got too hot I wore a bathing suit underneath. I had one of those ski masks that people only use when they are robbing a bank. My scarf, it was apricot. And vice-versa.

     We secured our tickets and waited on the lift line. Per the sign, I made sure I was not wearing any loose clothing. If any of my long underwear got loose, I was sure I could catch it before it got into any trouble. Another sign said "Keep Your Tips Up," and I didn't know what that meant, but just to be on the safe side I handed a guy with a shovel two bucks.

     As I ascend the mountain snug in my ski-lift chair, I evaluate the runs with my wife. "That's Soaring Eagle right there, isn't it? I think I'll try that one. Hold on a sec- has it been groomed? It looks a little like an unkempt poodle. What about Bounding Gazelle over there- that's a black diamond? Forget it- I think I see a leaf on it. What about Brazen Bear? That's a blue slope right? Wouldn't you say that's a darker blue though? Like a navy blue? Almost black with just a little bit of blue pigment in it, don't you think? Still pretty tough. Does that look like a mogul on there?" I wouldn't mind skiing over a mogul if it was Donald Trump or Bernie Madoff or something, but in this case it doesn't look too safe.

     The ski lift is taking forever. We pass a tree with about three hundred bras hanging from it. I'm not sure if this is a naturally occurring phenomenon or not. Yet I couldn't think of a reason why anyone would go tree-climbing on a ski mountain carrying three hundred bras. It could be a case of someone ignoring the "No Loose Clothing" warning.

     As we near the top of the hill, feats of gallant heroism have disintegrated into an episode of "Gilligan's Island," where Gilligan tries to avoid more knee surgery.

"Is there a pink slope? Like a double pink diamond? I feel like challenging myself a little bit." I settle on Napping Kitten, but this run looks a lot steeper from the top than it did from the bottom. Did you ever poke a kitten while it was sleeping? It's more dangerous than you might think.

     Small babies barely past the fetus stage are passing me going about a hundred miles an hour. Another guy is skiing backwards. I think I spot a grizzly bear in the distance, but it turns out to be somebody's hat. People are laughing and carrying on, not realizing the perilous situation I've found myself in. About halfway down I remember that I only know how to turn in one direction, but I forget which one. I keep making left-hand turns and end up back at the top near the ski lift. My wife is making pretty good progress doing the snowplow, and by that I mean that she has removed most of the snow from the mountain. I make a mental note to try her out on the driveway when we get home. Maybe I can hook up some sort of a sander, too.

Friday, March 18, 2016



     Last Saturday New York City was hit by an epic, apocalyptic, 100-year blizzard the likes of which we have never seen and are unlikely ever to see again, possibly resulting in the doom and destruction of an entire way of life. In other words, it snowed. Every time it snows these days, the Mayor of New York assembles his top advisers for a press conference, and local news breaks in with a special report at the most inopportune time: during "Judge Judy."

     He had every member of his cabinet there with him, including the people in the cabinet that you hardly ever use, the human equivalent of bay leaves. The Mayor wouldn't say the phrase, "We're totally screwed," but you could read it in his face.

This time they went so far as to issue a travel ban, meaning no one was allowed to come into New York or travel around, except for illegal immigrants, of course. He made it clear that he would personally tase your car if he saw you out driving in the snow.

     De Blasio said we should stock up early on milk, bread, eggs, etc., to avoid having to go out during the storm. We bought 15 gallons of milk. How many people die of lactose intolerance during a blizzard? I convinced my wife that Twix bars have the same ingredients as military MREs, so I got her to buy a 30-day supply of those too.

     Don't forget to buy batteries- if you forget what size to buy, just remember that they are roughly the same as bra sizes. You have your "D" batteries that fit into those huge emergency lamps, and "AA" cells that you use for your small pocket radio. Don't feel embarrassed if you have to pick up some "AAA" batteries- more than a flashlight-full is wasted, I always say.

     I thought I remember that you're supposed to fill up your bathtub, I forget why. Is that what all the milk is for? Buy plenty of baby supplies to ride out the storm. I am able to persuade my wife that babies can eat Twix bars, so we pick up some more of those even though we don't have a baby.

     If you are hard of hearing, you probably didn't hear that it was going to snow. In that case the Mayor had a sign language interpreter there. I don't know if he had too many espressos or what, but he looked like he got most of his moves from a Weird Al Yankovic video. Now, I'm not an expert, but I know some sign language from years of cutting off other drivers at intersections. I've seen just about everything a person can do with two hands, and I believe that de Blasio's hearing interpreter signed, "It's going to be total crap outside so just stay in." Then he proceeded to do an entire Marcel Marceau set where he was trapped in a box, started a lawnmower and cradled a baby, with de Blasio yakking away about alternate side of the street parking. When he started the crying clown routine de Blasio glanced over and the interpreter had to cheese it for a little while.

     I begin to drift off myself as soon as the Mayor starts to repeat the entire press conference in "gringo-Spanish." I start fast forwarding ahead to a week after the storm has passed, and everyone from Queens is shouting angry epithets at the Mayor for not plowing their street. It's their own fault, of course, for living on a "tertiary road." I start imagining de Blasio holding a press conference right before Mount Vesuvius erupts and covers Pompeii. "All businesses MUST shovel their sidewalks after the disaster. I repeat: Get your ash out of there!" As a half hour drags on to forty-five minutes, I'm rooting for local news to break in with a special report that's even more special: "We interrupt this breaking story with an even more important bulletin: Judge Judy is about to render a verdict in the dog bite case...."

Friday, March 11, 2016



     Last Saturday my wife signed us up for the Martin Luther King Day of Service with the Volunteer New York! organization. Back in 1994 President Clinton signed legislation providing for a day when people could give back to the community by teaming up with charitable groups. I'm hoping to give so much back to the community that the community is going to owe me BIG TIME. I will remind them when it comes time to rake my leaves.

     Born Michael King, Martin Luther's father chose to change his own and his son's name following a trip to Germany and learning of the Protestant priest. Before becoming a great orator Martin Luther King, Jr. sang in his church choir at the premier of Gone With the Wind in Atlanta at the age of 10. I'm not sure what they sang, but I would have recommended a couple of things we were working on in Sunday school, such as "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," although for years after that I was scared to go near a water spout. "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" is another tune we performed pretty well, but it's kind of an audience participation song, and everything in it takes place so early in the morning.

     Anyway, our assignment with Volunteer New York! was to visit with some of the seniors over at Somers Manor. It was time for bingo in the rec room, and I immediately plopped down at a table with Victoria, Joan, Georgina and Kate, because I heard they were the big winners on bingo days. The game commenced, and I imagined that the conversation would go something like this:

Rick: So Victoria, did you have a career when you were younger?
Victoria: I was a dietitian's aide at the hospital, but back then there were no dietitians.
Bingo Caller: B-4!
Victoria: Before that I was in high school.
Rick: What about you, Kate?
Bingo Caller: I-64!
Kate: You're 64? You don't look bad for 65. I would have said you were 66.
Rick: I'm 57.
Joan: I-57?
Kate: Oh.
Joan: O-57?
Rick: What about you Joan, where did you work?
Joan: I worked in the County Clerk's office with that lady over there, what's her name again?
Bingo Caller: G-9!
Joan: Oh yeah, Janine.
Bingo Caller: I-2!
Joan: You too? I don't remember you there, but it was a while ago.
Georgina: U-2? There's no "U" in "bingo!"
Bingo Caller: I-1!
Georgina: You won! Congratulations! Dinner's on Rick!

     But in reality the gals were quite with it, and I was the only one without it, my hearing pretty well shot from years of playing rock and roll music. We chatted about where they lived and what they did, and a little about their kids. Our table had five winning bingo cards, each awarded a prize of candy. Not enough to ruin your dinner, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on whom you ask.

     It was a pleasant afternoon, certainly more so for me than for them, and it made me think about a few things, something I could use more practice in. I know that sometimes our society tends to ignore or marginalize older people, but really, what is "older?" There is always somebody older than you are, and somebody younger. We focus so much of our attention on the first few decades of life, but the younger you are, the less you can teach anyone about history or experience.

     When I get a little older, I want to look back and say, "Ha! I forgot more about life than you'll know in a lifetime!" But I know that when the time comes, I will forget to say that.

Friday, March 4, 2016



     New Year's Day has come and gone. It was a chance to reflect on the latest year of your life, think back, and ask yourself, "Why on Earth did I drink shots of Goldschläger last night?" By the way, Goldschläger contains actual flakes of gold, so if your New Year's resolution is to drink less Goldschläger your chances of getting mugged on the street for your liver will theoretically decrease.

     In fact, many people make "drinking less alcohol" their New Year's resolution, and for very good reason: because they drank so much in the past year that they didn't remember that "drinking less alcohol" was their resolution LAST New Year's. The tragic irony of it all is that when people give up drinking they tend to fill the empty spaces with activities that one should only attempt while drunk, such as ballroom dancing, taking self-help courses or learning to use a "Bedazzler."

     The tradition of making promises at the beginning of the year may have started with the Babylonians around 4,000 years ago. Historians have found evidence that they made oaths with the gods in order to put themselves in good stead. They promised to right wrongs, improve their character and to stop lending money to the Phoenicians. Also to stop talking so much- the place didn't get the name "Babylon" for nothing.

     The Babylonians would have done well to make a pact to give up smoking. Back then, tobacco was not at all common, so if you were smoking you were probably very close to bursting into flames. People attempting to quit smoking try everything- nicotine patches, hypnosis, 12-step programs. According to the American Cancer Society, as soon as two weeks after stopping smoking your circulation will improve, so I am hoping that this paper quit smoking on New Year's Day.

     There are all kinds of resolutions out there available for use. Criminals may resolve to give up giving up. Television manufacturers may make a resolution to provide more resolution. But the promise many people make to themselves and to others is to get into shape. I belong to a very nice tennis club in Mt. Kisco, and every year around this time I notice an influx of new people in the gym trying to get into shape. The shape they start in is roughly triangular.

     I know who they are because they come in wearing brand new work-out clothes, full make-up, carrying a clipboard, and worst of all, smiling. Anyone caught smiling at a gym casts the cold glare of suspicion upon themselves, and should be hit over the head with a clipboard. But they are in it for the long haul, approximately two weeks, during which time their shape will have progressed from an isosceles triangle to an obtuse triangle. The resolution to work out just didn't work out.
     This New Year's I promised myself to watch fewer television shows about dead people. Pretty much every program I watch directly involves someone who was alive at one time but isn't anymore, possibly as a result of someone else's New Year's resolution.

     Already that resolution is broken. It turns out that dead people are irresistible! And they rarely disappoint you. Dead people on reality shows never knock themselves over trying to cry so that they can improve their ratings, which is a quality I value very much. Since I can't give them up I am changing my resolution, and instead, I hereby resolve to drink less Goldschläger, and drink more Jägermeister. During Lent I may switch back.