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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 There sat all these outdated electronics and computer peripherals that no longer talk to each other because the drivers are no longer supported by any company that still exists.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.