RICKSTER IS THE COLUMNIST FOR THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION, "THE SOMERS RECORD"

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Friday, August 4, 2017

ITS A JUNGLE UP THERE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-27-17)

     There are people who refuse to fly in an airplane because a thousand things that could go wrong play in an endless loop inside their heads. But there is always room for one more disaster. Or two or three. Last week a United Airlines passenger was forcibly dragged from an overbooked plane as horrified passengers looked on. The fallout from the incident has left a Chernobyl-sized wake throughout social media.

     The CEO for United had one of those public relations roller coaster rides where the car gets stuck on the rails and sits there for several hours until someone comes in a crane to rescue it. At first he said the passenger, who is a doctor, was a jerk who deserved to get kicked off the plane. That didn't fly any better than a DC-10 with a runny nose cone. About every hour or so he gave another press conference to send up a trial balloon that came crashing down through the Twitter-sphere. By the end of the day he was hailing the guy as a modern-day hero. That's how you go from CEO to "embattled CEO" in a few easy lessons.

     The executive, Oscar Munoz, assured everyone that he had "reached out" to the doctor, probably to try and drag him back onto a plane, since he has said he is now too terrified to fly. New company guidelines for dealing with overbooked flights hastily been issued. First, the flight staff is to cast a fishing line down the aisle with a $1000 dollar bill attached to it, and slowly reel it out the hatch to see if anyone follows it. If that doesn't work, they are authorized to toss a few expensive-looking carry-ons down the emergency chute. Under NO circumstances is the crew allowed to drag anyone from their seat kicking and screaming. They MUST wait until they are asleep, then curl them into a ball and roll them out.

     On a different United flight the same day a scorpion dropped from an overhead bin and landed on a man's lap. The crew immediately charged the man a fee for bringing a pet on board. Then they billed the scorpion for changing seats. They quickly assessed the arachnid another fee for the in-flight snack. Once they had its credit card information they hit it with a shoe and flushed it down the toilet. Which went so smoothly that United Airlines added it as a fourth option to the above procedures. Meanwhile the passenger was not stung, but as a precaution the flight staff called for any doctor who hadn't been forcibly dragged off the plane.

     A day later it came to light that a couple on their way to their wedding was tossed off a United flight for trying to upgrade into seats that didn't have someone already occupying them. They were expelled from the aircraft, thankfully before it had taken off. And since it was a destination wedding, they simply changed the destination to the tarmac. The wedding was really nice, with the word "United" emblazoned all around them, and an open bar with really, really tiny bottles of booze.

     Following these incidents, the company stock fell precipitously. But these and other fiascos could have been more deftly handled by a better public relations staff. There are some qualified people who are now becoming available, such as Chris Christie, Bill O'Reilly and possibly even Sean Spicer. From a promotional standpoint, you should have a specific direction in mind that you want to take the conversation to. If that direction is straight down, so much the easier. By the way, if you don't think that this column makes that much sense, it's because content may have shifted during flight. Please leave your seat belt fastened.

Friday, July 28, 2017

THE JUNK IN YOUR TRUNK

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-20-17)
 
     This Saturday the 22nd, my friends Margaret and Judy will be volunteering at the
third annual E-Waste Recycling Day at the Somers Intermediate School, along with Mike from City Carting. I will be there, personally overseeing the Easter candy recycling project. You don't need all those calories lying around your house, and besides, those chocolate eggs are wrapped in foil that may contain stronthnesium, a metal so deadly that I might have made it up. So bring the candy over to the school and I will see that it is disposed of properly.

     By the way, if you do have too much junk in the trunk, this is your lucky day, since it will only cost you five dollars to dispose of all the e-waste and scrap metal you can fit into it. Keyboards, monitors, appliances, electronics items, computers and televisions are welcomed. Even old washers and dryers will also be accepted. Take all the wet socks out of them first so that you don't air your dirty laundry all over town. Grief counselors will be on hand for those bidding a final farewell to their beloved CD players and VCRs. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose flip-phone's usefulness was taken way too soon. I thought the "E" in E-waste stood for "Electronic," but it actually stands for "EverythreemonthsApplecomesoutwithanewphoneandnowImstuckwiththisuselessthing."

     But how did we get to this point? In 1998 I was sitting pretty, with my 386 computer and a 20 MEG HARD DRIVE! How could anyone ever need more than that? Now a computer practically has an expiration date, and your laptop might start to go bad even before whatever used to be in that Tupperware in the back of your fridge.

     Don't just toss these items in the trash- Mike and his staff are professionals. There may be elements inside them that are dangerous, possibly criminal elements. Barium, for instance, is a metallic substance that becomes highly unstable when it comes into contact with air. I've known at least two guitarists with exactly the same properties, and they were hard to get rid of. We can help you with any other questions that you have, like whether or not you should recycle a tricycle more than three times.

     Your five dollar donation will benefit the Somers PTA fund, so it's an investment in our youth. I guess we'll have to wait several years to see if it was a great investment, but I spent a whole lot more than five dollars on Rite-Aid stock, which is tanking big-time at the moment. By the way, a few years ago on a whim I went to visit my own elementary school in Chappaqua, and all the chairs and desks seemed ridiculously small. When I was a kid going to school there, all the furniture was normal sized. I don't know why everything shrank so much, but maybe the PTA will look into it.

     So stop by the Intermediate School from 9:00AM to 2:00PM and say hello to Mike, Margaret and Judy. I'll be there at around 11:00, rummaging through your stuff and making fun of you for buying a Tandy computer. Gidget, the recycling watch dog, will be ready for anyone getting rid of tennis balls. I am even told that Rick Morrissey might be there, the Somers Town Supervisor. Which is good because I should not be running around unsupervised.

Friday, July 21, 2017

SEASON'S TEASINGS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-13-17)

     I know that spring officially begins on March 20th, but I always think that Easter marks the true start of the season. Even so, the way things have been going, you never know when a nor'easter is going to screw up your Easter. Usually by this time at least five Yankees are mired in atrocious slumps, the buds are on the plants, even the hydroponic ones, and three weekends worth of plans have been rained out, so I hereby proclaim that spring has sprung.

     When New Yorkers say that they love the change of seasons, the one they love to see change the most is winter. Now that the snow has melted I can see that the snowplow guy has taken out every single driveway light. In the fall I had driven some reflector posts into the ground next to each light so that he would know exactly where to aim.

     But all that is behind me now, and the arrival of spring has made me gay. I see a rabbit near the garage and I call out, "Hello, Mr. Bunny, if you were made of chocolate I would have eaten your ears off by now, and you wouldn't hear I word I'm saying." I just meant gay in the happy sense, but I still have to wonder why I love the Carpenters so much.

     When I was a young lad my sisters and brother used to get together the night before Easter for some old-fashioned egg decorating. We put the hard-boiled eggs in water that contained different colored dyes that were so weak you could wait until the Fourth of July for your Easter egg. Even our language was more colorful. The eggs were dying for so long that they were definitely dead when we got through with them. When we went to sleep my Mom would hide them around the house for us to find the next day. My Mom had limited powers of recall, and sometimes a few weeks hence a malodorous smell would waft its way out from the fireplace area, and we knew we hadn't located all of the eggs, causing a Cinco de Stinko around May fifth or so.

     They used to have a big Easter egg hunt at the Mount Kisco Country Club that my parents took us to each year. I spent the whole time hiding behind a tree, in case the eggs came to hunt me down- I didn't know if they were armed or not. I saw a bunch of golf balls and almost jumped out of my skin.

     In Washington at the White House they traditionally host an egg roll. Thousands of people show up, so they better get more than just one, unless it's huge. And don't forget the soy sauce. It's a chance for the president to let his hair down and show that he is human, if either are possible.

     The tradition started with First Lady Dolley Madison back in 1814. In 1878 during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, the festivities moved to the White House lawns after an act of Congress forbade children from playing on the grounds of the Capitol. During the Nixon administration, a staffer dressed in a rabbit suit was introduced as the Easter Bunny. He wandered around greeting children and possibly surveilling them. George W. Bush's Easter Bunny was none other than Sean Spicer. So if you are near the White House on the Monday after Easter, don't stand at the bottom of any hills, or you'll be walking on eggshells the whole day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

NO PAIN, NO GAIN, NO FUN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-06-17)

      It's been a few weeks since my shoulder surgery, and I'm doing just fine. I'm already operating heavy machinery- our blender weighs a ton and I need a cocktail. I'm in physical therapy now, and my shoulder is definitely coming along, since I didn't want to leave it at home.

      When I walked into the clinic there were five or six other people there, one was shrugging her shoulders 30 times in a row, another was standing on one foot throwing a ball against a net and another was pushing against the wall, seemingly trying to hold it up. It was like I was in a loony bin. Which I suppose is not a politically correct term- I should have said "nut house."

      The assistant started by putting a heat pack on my shoulder for 10 minutes, then he put an ice pack on me for another 10 minutes. If a low pressure system had blown through the room there would have been a hailstorm. Then the physical therapist took my arm and bent my shoulder into an acute angle. I winced in pain, she smiled a little, and while she had me in this position she got my credit card information, including the expiration date and the three-digit code. I started to confess some things that I am not proud of, and then I made up some things I didn't even do, but am not proud that I thought of.

      After I stopped weeping she tried to make it up to me by massaging the bones in my neck and shoulder area, but since I'm unbearably ticklish, I start giggling uncontrollably. I laughed, I cried, I was hot, I was cold. It was like going through menopause while watching "The Notebook" at the same time.

      When she left the room I looked around at the other inmates and said in a loud whisper, "Don't you people see what's going on here? They're TORTURING us! Didn't you ever see "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? We've got to get out of here!" They just kept shrugging their shoulders and throwing their balls around.

      I was about to make a break for it when the physical therapist returned and hooked me up to this machine that delivers little shocks to the affected area to stimulate it electrically. She asked me some questions, like, "How are you doing so far," and "Do you think you would recommend our program to others?" And depending on my answer, I got a bigger or smaller shock.

      I don't have one of these machines at home, so I improvised by trying to shock my shoulder with spurious allegations that I am wire-tapping it. At the physical therapist's there are electrodes hanging all over it, so the allegations may actually be true. My shoulder and I have discussed the whole wire-tapping thing. Why would anyone waste their time wire-tapping Trump Tower? This is someone who broadcasts even his dopiest thoughts to millions of people on an hourly, even minutely basis.

      There is a bird who tweets nonstop right outside my window at home. It tweets about 50 times a minute, every minute of the day, every bird-brained idea that it has, and rarely has it said anything useful. Certainly the same could be said about me, but I beat you to it, didn't I?
 

Friday, July 7, 2017

BLUE GENES

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-30-17)

     My wife got tickets to the Blue Man Group, which we had never seen and sounded like a fun and farcical evening. Beforehand we ate at a restaurant next door to the theater, I think the place is owned by Robert De Niro. I mentioned it to my wife and she says that every time we go to a restaurant I say that I think it's owned by Robert De Niro.

     All the waitresses there look like runway models, which means they are super tall and they have to bend way down to take my order. My waitress talks so low I can't hear anything come out of her mouth, but I can see her lips move. It looks like she says, "I love you," although she might have said, "veal cordon bleu." I started to wonder how many times in my past that people I thought loved me actually loved veal.

     Some of the tall models look like they could be transgender, and I silently thank god I don't have to go on dates anymore, because it's a whole different world out there. It doesn't seem like good form to ask someone you just started dating if they are transgender, it's like asking someone if they are pregnant. There are questions you simply shouldn't ask unless you already know the answer. I used to say the same thing to my math teacher in high school.

     At the end of the meal we argue over the dessert menu. I tell her that chocolate is a "super food," and my wife says it's not. Well what about a chocolate napoleon? Didn't Napoleon conquer Rome? Well it turns out he didn't, but I argued that nothing beats a Twix bar, so it should be a "super food."

     Next door the show was starting. The Blue Men are a lovely shade of royal blue, the same color I get if I try to blow up too many balloons before a birthday party. I don't know how they got that way, or if they came from some faraway place, like Ulster County. They maintain an emotionless expression the whole time, which is good, because if they got envious and mad at the same time, what color they would become?

     They got right down to business, playing a three-part drum solo while spraying the drums with colored liquids from squeeze bottles. They made such a shambles of the place I could see why they don't let you bring liquids onto an airplane. From there they did some audience participation gags involving oozing gunk, and at the end encouraged people to unroll massive amounts of toilet paper into the crowd. It doesn't hurt to be prepared I guess.

     I don't want to give the plot away since I was planning to charge you for it, but suffice it to say that there was none. It had the flavor of being back in kindergarten, where the best fun you could have was to make the biggest mess and the most noise. Most people eventually outgrow this type of behavior, and if not they run for Congress. But once in a while you just need some mindless mayhem. After they were done the theater looked like my office on a Friday.

     I think the take-away from all this was that no matter what color you are, whether you are black, brown, blue, magenta, or burnt sienna, you can make a mess and have fun with toilet paper. Even if you are an orange person in a White House, lighten up now and then!

Friday, June 30, 2017

LIFE IN THE ARCTIC

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-23-17)
 
     A couple weeks ago, spring was in the air. It was growing from the ground, it was singing from the pond next door. The crocuses were blooming and the frogs were squawking their furious mating calls. A week later the crocuses had croaked and the croakers, probably the same. Their betrothed, who were ribbited a week earlier were now croaking, "Dude, what the hell?" The arrival of spring was Fake News, and we fell for it yet again. It was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese and hacked by the Russians.

     The blizzard of 2017 was here. I took the day off, and when I turned on the television the propaganda machine was in full swing. You couldn't see them because of the snow, but reporters were on the street to report that it was snowing. Back in the studio meteorologists were plying their meteorology. Accumulations were predicted to be somewhere between seven inches and the End of Civilization. We were told not to leave the house for any reason, and if possible hide under the bed until June.

     All the airports were closed, and not one person entered the country. The president immediately took credit for solving the immigration problem. "Forget the wall. We're going to build a blizzard, a great, great blizzard, a wonderful blizzard. It will be the greatest blizzard in history!"

     It didn't used to be like this. Back in the old days, Mr. G would come on the air and tell you the weather. You never heard words like "polar vortex" or "cold advection;" the guy wouldn't even tell you the other letters in his name.    

Cheap as I am, my wife finally convinced me to hire a snowplow guy. But as a compromise measure, I went out and bought an electric snow blower, which plugs into an outlet in the garage via a huge extension cord. This device is not exceedingly powerful, but I figured it could handle the smaller snowfalls of about a quarter inch or less.

     Tuesday's accumulation was so voluminous, that I thought it would be a good idea to crank up the electric snow blower and try to get a jump on things before the plow guy came. It was the equivalent of emptying the lower Mississippi River into the upper Mississippi River a teaspoon at a time. The wind was gusting so hard that it blew the snow back inside the snow blower, and the snow blower blew it back out again. It was nature's way of saying, well I can't print exactly what it was nature's way of saying, but I wish nature had phrased it a little differently. Every time I use the snow blower with the huge extension cord I am amazed that I am not electrocuted. I will continue to be amazed by this until such a time as I am electrocuted.

     After all that, the power went out. It was still light out, and I thought it might be kind of nice to go old school- start a fire in the wood-burning fireplace, heat up some leftover pizza on top of it and curl up with a good book. I forgot to heat up the flue first, and smoke billowed out of the stove and filled up the room. I had to open up the outside door to clear the smoke, so it was freezing inside. Then, all of a sudden the power came back on. Thank god, because first of all, it was almost time for Judge Judy, and second, I don't know how to curl up a book.

Friday, June 23, 2017

THE COLD SHOULDER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-16-17)

     My shoulder has been giving me problems lately. It's really just one problem, IT HURTS. It's not the sort of injury I would need a first responder for- a second or third responder could handle it. If you were an ambulance driver, and you were watching "Dateline," and they were investigating the wife's disappearance, and the husband was helping with the search and crying during the press conference, I would tell you my shoulder is not such an emergency that you couldn't wait until the police circle back to the husband, who probably did it for the insurance money.

     My question is, how did this shoulder get injured in the first place? I didn't fall, or try to break down a door or try to throw a block during a running play or anything. It's not my tennis-serving shoulder, I already had that one fixed. This particular shoulder sits around all day doing nothing, except to help me get up from a sitting position, or put on my jacket. When I tried to explain to my doctor that I might have hurt my shoulder putting on my jacket, he looked at me like he thought I might be talking about a straight jacket.

     The surgeon was a little more understanding. Surgeons know how fragile the human body can be, and it makes them slightly giddy. He looked at me from top to bottom, and it was obvious he could pick out five or six things to operate on right off the bat.

     He sent me over for an MRI, and the technician made take everything out of my pockets, like I was going to a Yankee game. He asked me if I was claustrophobic, and I assured him that I am not. He mentioned it a few more times, to make sure I don't have a fear of enclosed spaces. By the time I was inside that thing, I felt absolutely sure that I was claustrophobic. Luckily I was able to go right to sleep, because the loud banging noises reminded me a little bit of my old Datsun B-210, which I loved.

     Looking over the MRI films, the doctor said I have a bone spur that is digging into my rotator cuff, and that he was going to have to shave it down. I told him that I don't care if there's a little hair on it, maybe just give it a Brazilian wax and let's call it a day. I waxed my car last weekend and there's not a hair on the thing.

     This made him even more determined. He pulled out a model of the shoulder area, and showed me exactly what he was going to do. A couple pieces fell off and landed on the floor, and I hope he washes them off before he sticks them back in my body. He said if he didn't like the looks of my rotator cuff, he was going to snip it and re-attach it. I've had rotator cuff surgery before, and I didn't like it much, so I said no thanks to that. I told him if he gets bored he can open up my cerebral cortex and fix whatever the reason is that I suck at math. He didn't laugh at that, but he made a note for the billing department that I can't add very well.

     Down at the billing department I tried to get a straight answer about how much this little setback was going to set me back. The doctor's office referred me to the surgery center, which referred me to the anesthesiologist's office, which referred me back to the doctor's office. As I was trying to figure it all out I realized that the deductible on my car insurance was much less than on my health insurance. I wondered if maybe I could park my car on a small incline, put it in neutral, climb out and gently run over my shoulder. But I knowing me, I would sprain my knee jumping out of the car.

Friday, June 16, 2017

SEVENTY-FIVE DOWN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-02-17)
 
     In February of 1942, a scant couple months after Pearl Harbor, the world was a scary place, even scarier than it is now, if you can believe it. The New York Times was a serious newspaper covering serious stories, but people needed a diversion. It was time for the Times to publish what it had previously considered a "sinful waste" of time.

     Last month marked the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword puzzle, and I have to say, completing the puzzle each week saved me. It saved me from cleaning the garage, it saved me from doing the dishes and it saved me from mowing the lawn. It also saved me from sudoku. I don't know if you would call sudoku a mathematical puzzle, but the damn thing is filled with nothing but numbers. It's the equivalent of water-boarding for someone who got a 425 on their math SAT, only much more addicting.

     I had always thought that crossword puzzles were silly, the way I think that everything I can't do is silly, like surfing or neurosurgery. But when my wife found out that I was filling in the wrong answers to her puzzles, we started completing them together so that she could keep an eye on me. As a team, my wife and I are a formidable puzzle-solving machine. She handles all the clues about geography, current events, art, culture, languages and literature. If a question comes up about "F Troop," that's when I spring into action. Picture if you will (I wouldn't if I were you), the symbiotic relationship between the sea anemone and the clownfish, where the clownfish knows a lot of commercial jingles and game shows from four decades ago.

     I convince myself that the puzzles are educational, and that I am warding off Alzheimer's disease with every answer I fill in. I have learned who Brian Eno is, why Mel Ott was so great, and a lot of names relating to rare birds. I now know what an ern is, and an ani and a nene. When I am 95 years old, muttering random three letter words etched into my memory, it isn't going to help convince people that I DON'T have Alzheimer's.

     Will Shortz has been the Times Crossword Puzzle editor for decades now, and I picture him sequestered in a dark, candle-lit room in the top floor of a castle, maliciously devising new ways to make me seem stupider than usual. Thursday and Sunday he embeds some sort of trick into the puzzle, as he laughs a sinister laugh: "MWA HAHAHAHAHA!"

     Whenever I feel like I don't have a clue, I open up the Times, and the crossword has dozens of them. What's a four-letter word for Will Shortz? Next time I see him I'll let him know. I actually have met Will Shortz, because he owns a ping pong club in Pleasantville. I only use the term "ping pong" because I know he would hate that I didn't call it "table tennis," and he has it coming to him. He's wasted more of my time than my personal trainer, who has never trained me to do anything but a bunch of dumb exercises. I'd like to say more bad things about Will Shortz, except that he was actually quite fun and friendly, and I couldn't think of a cross word for him.


 

Friday, June 9, 2017

THE DOG DAYS OF WINTER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-02-17)

     You may have been too wrapped up in the President's Day festivities to notice, but there was a dog show going on last weekend. A dog show is exactly like a car show or a boat show, if cars and boats could lick themselves. And don't laugh, because we already have self-driving cars.

     I'm going to flip all the cards and just tell you that the German Shepherd named Rumor won Best in Show this year. If a German Shepherd wants to win a trophy, and you happen to have one, just hand him the damn thing and get the hell out of there. When you compare an old English sheepdog to a German shepherd, you get the idea that German sheep are not nearly as polite as they look.

     The main event is the promenade in the ring during the Best in Show competition. The handler is looking for obedience and smooth execution. The judges are looking for distinctive characteristics of the breed. The dog is looking for anything that smells gross.

     The handler pirouettes around the floor in an unnatural prance, as if a swarm of hungry butterflies is chasing her. She holds the dog leash with her thumb and forefinger way up in the air, as if she was holding a teacup filled with gossip from the Hamptons. Smiling at the audience and drinking in the applause and attention, the handler fails to notice that the dog pulled off the track at a diner 15 minutes ago.This year three new breeds were admitted into the show: The pumi, the sloughi and the American hairless terrier. The pumi looks like a Brillo pad with a tail, the sloughi can hunt game as big as a gazelle (no one has a gazelle to test out this boast), and the American hairless is described as allergy-friendly, like myself. I have a close personal relationship with just about every allergy there is, and believe me, that's nothing to sneeze at.

     The dog show recently added an agility contest for those dogs who have "a great personality," and I think you know what I mean. I don't know if this qualifies as agility, but my dog Gidget can run around the dining room table 3,000 times in a row. If you happen to be having a dinner party, you have to time the seating just right or you could be seriously injured. She's also great with a tennis ball, and if I can teach her to play she will have two backhands, two forehands and an occiput.

     My dog is called a Eurasier, and it's a beautiful breed, look it up. It's not recognized by the AKC, but that's only because they don't have their glasses on. She's about 45 pounds. Anything smaller than that I consider to be a Yorkie. Every time I see a Yorkie I sneer imperiously, as if to impugn the owner's masculinity, especially if the owner is a woman.

     If for some reason the winner of the dog show is unable to fulfill its duties, Gidget is willing to step in. She is intelligent, clean and is a great watch dog. If a burglar broke into my house right now and stole all our belongings, Gidget would watch the whole thing. She loves people, and she would sit next to you and lick your hand for a length of time that is very uncomfortable for everyone, and eventually could result in a restraining order.

Friday, May 26, 2017

THE RESONANCE OF PAST PRESIDENTS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (02-23-17)

     As we celebrate the birthdays of two of our most important and influential presidents, 2017 seems like a good time to ask: who was the WORST president? Some say it was Richard Nixon, whose rampant paranoia during his reelection campaign compelled him to authorize a break-in of the Democratic National Committee's offices housed at the Watergate Hotel.

     Now, every scandal that occurs in America has the word "gate" attached to it, as if the word is a synonym for wrongdoing. If a cover-up happened there today it would be referred to as "Watergate-gate." In Florida I once wandered onto a nude beach, and I remember thinking that Nixon would have been hailed a hero if he had ordered a cover-up there. Using electronic eavesdropping to gain compromising information that could be used for political gain is something that, thankfully, could never happen today.

     The ninth president, William Henry Harrison, might have been one of the worst presidents in history. Then again, he might have been one of the best. He only lasted 32 days in office, then dropped dead of complications from pneumonia. As a writer, I can tell you that the most complicated thing about pneumonia is how to spell it. His grandson was Benjamin Harrison, who spent about 45 times as long in the White House. Luckily, a presidential term influenced by pneumonia is something that could never happen today.

     Many historians think that Ulysses S. Grant was one of the worst presidents. His storied military career was succeeded by a term marred by corruption and abuse during the reconstruction era following the Civil War. Although Grant was not implicated, graft was so rampant during his during his watch, it's a wonder they didn't steal his watch. Due to laws prohibiting conflicts of interest, there is no way this type of malfeasance could happen today.

     Even the worst presidents did something good every once in a while, even if it was by mistake. Grant expanded the Indian Reservation system, flawed as it is, and Nixon opened up long dormant relations with China. I even heard a rumor that the current president is looking to buy a large parcel of land at the top of Mount Rushmore, who knows, maybe to preserve it as a natural habitat.

     So take the day off, maybe do some shopping. these days a President's Day sale means something entirely different. It means that as a taxpayer, you are eligible to pay substantially inflated rates for Secret Service agents to stay at wonderful properties all around the world. These hotels will be carefully selected by the new administration, and they will be the best, absolutely the best. You can trust me on this.

     After the shopping, look into a mirror so that you can reflect on some important things that presidents have said in the past that resonate more than ever today. As George Washington once said, "It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one." Abraham Lincoln asked, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" Or, in the words of President Donald J. Trump in 2014, "Tiny children are not horses." Happy President's Day!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A GAGA HOOPLA

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (02-16-17)

     Last Sunday America sat in disbelief, wondering how in the world it came to be that what we all thought was going to happen, did not happen. America has been doing this a lot lately, and it's exhausting. I was so completely flabbergasted that I ran out of flabbergas and had to go get some more. It was a nerve-wracking football game that kept interrupting all the festivities and wasting everyone's time.

     It cut short a performance of the National Anthem by country star Luke Bryan, I'm not sure which country. Did you know that the Star Spangled Banner has four verses? After the bombs finish bursting in air, the song goes on and on, to foe's haughty host, foul footstep's pollution, the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave. We didn't get to hear any of that.

     The owner of the Atlanta Falcons, who is a tyrant and an ogre, jinxed himself by forcing his employees to attend the Super Bowl in person, thereby depriving them of the chance to watch the Super Bowl commercials on television, which are the best part.

     Lady Gaga performed at halftime. It started out quite badly, because she apparently could not find the entrance to the stadium, and had to jump in from the roof. First though, she sang "God Bless America" while brightly lit unmanned craft flew above the Houston skyline. They flew around for a while, delivered some stuff for Amazon, took out some enemy targets, then formed an American flag. Already amazing was the fact that Lady Gaga convinced a bunch of drones to all do the same thing, which is essentially the opposite of Congress.

     She pretended to fall from an opening in the roof onto a stage in the middle of the field. She was suspended by wires in midair for about two minutes, and she looked like she was having so much fun she didn't want to come back down to Earth. Her suspension was much shorter than Tom Brady's, but she used the time much more wisely, flying around and doing backflips.

     Then she pretended to sing, peeling off an article of clothing after each song. I once saw a similar act in New Orleans, but the singing wasn't as good. Some body shamers came out of the woodwork on Twitter, because Lady Gaga had a piece of skin that wasn't accounted for, peeking out of her bikini space suit. Let me say that there are so many out-of-shape body shamers on Twitter that they had to expand the woodwork over there. Let's see how THEY look in a space bikini. I'm not sure what beach Lady Gaga was on her way to, possibly the Sea of Tranquility, but I bet there was hardly any traffic.

     There was a posse of dancers behind her, and one of them came up behind her and picked her up, possibly carrying her to the trunk of his car. From above, the camera showed a crowd of people carrying lights and forming what looked like a map of my Verizon phone coverage. There were a lot of pyrotechnics, and many things blowing up, most notably, the Atlanta defense.

     Then Lady Gaga caught what looked to be a severely under-inflated football, and then fell to her death, unless somebody had the foresight to put an air mattress under her, hopefully she's okay. Football is a dangerous sport, but it's nothing compared to halftime.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A PARALLEL UNIVERSE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (02-09-17)

     Like many Somers residents I am interested in what's going on in the universe, so I tuned in the Miss Universe beauty pageant, and now I feel better informed. I watched with my wife and I didn't want to seem shallow, so I made sure to critique only the contestants' outfits, and whether the girls had nice personalities. During the swimsuit competition, their personalities were peaking to an all-time high, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

     Trump used to own the Miss Universe pageant, but sold it because he knew that when he was inevitably elected the leader of the free world, he'd never be able to host the pageant in America. Due to the travel bans, immigration bans and other policies, the only people left to compete in the Miss Universe pageant would be angry, unemployed white men. With good personalities, though.

     The evening featured a full schedule of events, including swimwear and evening gown competitions, a "Final Question" and "Final Look," which sound like they should be held at a funeral parlor. Steve Harvey hosted again, poking plenty of fun at himself for last year's debacle, when he mistakenly named the wrong winner at the end of the contest, only to have to correct himself, leaving two countries furious at him. "Body activist" Ashley Graham was the backstage host. I have always wanted to be a "body activist," but I have a hard time activating it.

     The swimsuit competition demonstrated how women would look if they wore high heels to the beach. It appeared that some of the ladies had extensive work done, and one looked like she contained more plastic than my local recycling center. The musical performer was Boyz II Men, aged to something more like Men II Old Men.

     There was a final question at the end, and all three women asked for an interpreter. My wife pointed out that it was a ploy so that they can have more time to formulate an answer even dumber than the one they first thought of. If it was me I would have answered every other word in English and the rest in my native language, and see if I could make smoke come out of the translator's ear. It looked to me like the translator was adding some stuff on his own, and I thought I heard some disparaging remarks in Italian about the craft services table.

     The winner was Miss France, Iris Mittenaere, but runner up Miss Haiti was ready to run up and yank the crown out of her hand at a moment's notice if Harvey botched it again. When it was clear that he didn't, she had the same look on her face that I did on November ninth.

     What will the Miss Universe pageant of the future look like? The use of artificial intelligence might make the Final Question easier to bear, as would the use of any intelligence. To prove that the contestants are beautiful inside AND out, maybe they will make an M.R.I. available. Perhaps someday there will only be virtual contestants. Siri, Alexa and my GPS lady might be in it, who knows? And when Steve Harvey asks the interview question at the end, they'll probably answer pretty much as they do today: "I am sorry, I am unable to understand the question."

Friday, May 5, 2017

A NARRATION OF AN INAUGURATION

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (02-02-17)

     Last Friday millions, possibly thousands, looked on as America installed its 45th president. With all the pomp and circumstance Washington could muster, a full day of activities highlighted a peaceful transfer of power in the world's premier democracy.

     Clerics from several different faiths offered words of prayer, but they all said pretty much the same thing: "God help us." A chorus performed an inspiring original piece. Then Senator Chuck Schumer offered some historical insights. When he found out the oath of office had to be administered before noon, he started to filibuster by backing up the history lesson to Adam and Eve. Finally, the new president was sworn in, using two bibles in case one was not enough. I did some swearing myself.

     Was Trump's speech unifying? That's what all the television commentators wanted to know. Some said it was unifying, and others said it was not unifying. They were not unified as to whether the address was unifying, so I guess it was not, which violates the "One America" policy.

     Melania Trump looked graceful and radiant, buttoned up in a stylish blue outfit that appeared to be designed to ward off any possibility of air. I don't know a whole lot about her, but she is reputed to be highly intelligent and can speak seven languages. I'm guessing she knows the word "miserable" in all of them.

     She has that same look on her face that my mother did when people would ask her what Rick was working on in the basement, and she replied that I got a chemistry set for my 14th birthday. I might be working on a cure for cancer, but more than likely I was down there trying to figure out ways to blow stuff up. Melania looks like she was wishing it was only a chemistry set that Donald had got his hands on.

     Former President Obama sat watching the inaugural address as Trump excoriated just about everyone within a three hundred-foot radius, and looked like he sat on a thumbtack.

     The day after the inauguration, President Trump was angry that the crowd assembled for the inauguration was not as big as Obama's, and he lashed out at the media for gleefully pointing it out. It's possible that many people showed up at the National Mall expecting that there would be a food court there, with a Chipotle's or at least a Banana Republic, and left when they found out that there wasn't.

     Newly inaugurated President Trump has already been able to fulfill the most important of the short-term goals on his agenda, which is to be the president with the most tweets. On his first day in office he amassed more tweets than all of his predecessors put together. This should have made him happy, but quite the opposite seems to be true; he has ended all of his messages with the word, "SAD!" Perhaps if he added a smiley face he wouldn't be so glum.

     All of them could take a lesson from presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway, who flaunts the mien of a patient undergoing root canal treatments, and is yet enjoying it thoroughly. Since she does smile a lot, the root canal treatments were worth it.
 

Friday, April 28, 2017

NEWS, VIEWS AND BOWLING SHOES

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (01-26-17)

     Since we don't have Super Bowl tickets we decided to do the next best thing, and go bowling. I haven't been bowling in years, and I remember it to be good, harmless fun. The kind of harmless fun that always involves me whacking myself with a fourteen-pound bowling ball in my one good knee.

     We hit the lanes with Paul and Krista, and queue up to change into our bowling shoes. I was a little nervous following the guy who bowled before me, because I had pretty big shoes to fill. In order to prevent the possibility of infection, the guy behind the counter sprays something into my footwear, but it might have been Pam. Just to be safe he sprays some into my mouth, since I have an infectious laugh. I have to leave one of my own sneakers at the counter to deter me from walking away with the bowling shoes.

     By the way, bowling shoes are SO comfortable that I toy with the idea walking away with them and leaving my sneaker. I could go bowling twice, wearing one good sneaker and one bad sneaker, and each time I could leave the bad sneaker, and then I'd have two good sneakers and two pairs of bowling shoes. My wife notices me trying to think and yanks me away from the counter.

     Then I go to look for the perfect ball. The key with me is not the weight of the ball, or even if I can get my fingers into the holes, but rather, if I can get them back out. I don't want to end up like Mary Tyler Moore, who, no matter what show she was starring in, always managed to get some part of her body stuck in a bowling ball. Even if she was in a documentary about the end of the world she could find some way to get stuck in a bowling ball.

     What size hole do I take? I have no idea. I think I wear a size 7 glove, or is that my hat? I wanted a lighter bowling ball so I could try to hit the pins on the fly, or in case I accidentally whack it against my knee, but the light ball had smaller holes, and I could only fit one little finger from each hand into it. Plus it was pink.

     You can request gutter guards if you forgot to bring your glasses. Paul kept hitting the gutter so hard that the ball rolled back out and hit more pins than when he rolled it straight. I was wondering if the gutter guards would be armed.

     This is something that happened about 800 times: I rolled the ball EXACTLY in the middle of the lane, and it struck the front pin EXACTLY in the middle, and all the pins fell like they were supposed to, except for one in the back which teetered and tottered like a drunk during a D.W.I. test. Except unlike the drunk, this one didn't fall down, defying the laws of gravity and physics. I hope that pin gets sick in the car on the way home, then gets arrested for D.W.I. and breaking the two laws.

     I can never figure out the scoring. If you throw a strike or a spare, you don't know what the score is until three or four frames later. If you do something REALLY good you may not find out about it for days. Luckily a screen keeps score automatically, and a little cartoon character lets you know you got a strike, if you didn't happen to notice it yourself. If you left a few pins standing, the screen offers advice on where to bowl the next ball. In my case, it suggested two towns away.

     For once I got through the evening without banging the ball into my leg, but my back still hurts from applying excessive body English to all my rolls. Apparently I speak passable English but my body does not.

Friday, April 21, 2017

I GOT AN AMAZON ECHO FOR CHRISTMAS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (01-19-17)

     The Amazon Echo is a personal electronic assistant, which are three words that never used to go together before. If you ask "Alexa" for the weather, or to play you some music, she will do so more expediently than most other methods. It looks like a small round cake, and I got one for Christmas.

     After I unsuccessfully tried to eat it, the first thing I did was to try to get Alexa into a fight with Siri. I said, "Alexa, who is the iphone online assistant, and doesn't she have a nasally voice?" Alexa lied and said she didn't know. So obviously there is some sort of code of honor. The second thing I did was to make a mental note to invite two friends over named Alexa. I think it would be fun to see which is the smartest, or get the three of them into a fight about their weight.

     Alexa is capable of making a "smart home" out of my house. For about six grand I can get a Samsung refrigerator that talks to me using Amazon Echo. The first thing I want to ask it is what is that green thing that's in a ziploc in the back of the top shelf? It's been there since the Eisenhower Administration. Or I can get an Amazon Fire TV that has interactive capability, so I can fight with yet somebody else over what show to watch. If having a "smart home" was so important to me I would simply move out, and the intelligence level of the place would go up at least 30 points.

     The Echo has microphones that are always active, waiting to hear the word "Alexa," whereupon it digitally records the following sounds, ostensibly to hear the subsequent question or command. The device has figured into a homicide investigation in Bentonville, Arkansas, where a bunch of dudes drinking and watching a football game somehow turned into a murder. Does Alexa know what happened? Was she possibly an accomplice?

     I'm not sure I want Alexa listening in every time I say I want to kill someone. That is going to be very time-consuming for her, and I want her to concentrate on important things like helping me find out who the hell Brian Eno is, so I can complete the Times crossword. I don't want Alexa subpoenaed as a witness in my murder case, and have to look at an artist's rendition of that smug little hockey puck sitting in front of a microphone, with me looking on in consternation that the courtroom artist has made my hair look like crap.

     Sometimes the Echo lights up by itself without anyone calling it, and then turns itself off, like it was going to add something to the conversation but thought better of it. Yesterday we were in the kitchen, and all of a sudden we hear Sinatra music crooning away in the living room. Alexa was having some kind of romantic moment that didn't include anyone else, unless you count Sinatra. I've certainly had to be creative with romantic moments from time to time, but I never took the extra step of providing background music.

     It makes me wonder what's going on when I'm not there. Someday when I have a self-driving vehicle, that little hockey puck is going to roll out to the garage and start giving orders to the car. The GPS lady is going to chime in, and all of a sudden they're going to decide that they're Thelma and Louise, drive of a cliff and I'm never going to see my car again. I'm going to miss her voice around the house, telling lame jokes, changing the TV channel to the shows she likes, turning the light in the fridge on and off just for fun. But I'm going to miss my car even more.

Friday, April 14, 2017

2016- THE YEAR IN REVIEW PART II

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (01-12-17)

The following stories exemplify the diverse nature of the kinds of topics that captured America's imagination, tied it up and locked it in a coat closet. They are so ridiculous that they have no choice but to be true.

TWO DEAD, VENOMOUS SNAKES FOUND IN PACKAGE AT POST OFFICE
In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, two dead poisonous pit vipers were discovered at a post office in a box marked as tee shirts. They probably came from Amazon, considering that the place is a jungle. My first thought is that the snakes may not be covered by Amazon's return policy. When I looked at the choices for "Reasons for Return," there was no box to check for "Snake Arrived Dead."

CAT SURVIVES EIGHT DAYS IN BOX AFTER OWNER ACCIDENTALLY MAILS HER 260 MILES AWAY
A Cornwall woman mistakenly sent her cat Cupcake to West Sussex, instead of the CDs she thought she was posting. When the cat was found days later in the post office, it displayed an expression of anger, disillusionment, and also relief that there were no pit vipers in the box. If I had known that you could "accidentally" put a cat in a box and mail it hundreds of miles away, there would certainly be less cats around my house. Further, if there is an open box anywhere in the room my cat will jump into it, proving that it is open to the idea.

BOATY MCBOATFACE WINS POLL TO NAME POLAR RESEARCH VESSEL
The Natural Environment Research Council held an online vote to name its new research ship, and the name "Boaty McBoatface" garnered 93,000 votes more than its nearest competitor. If the contest had been held in America, it is unclear whether the vessel would have been voted into the presidency. The NERC seemed relieved that voters were shown the front of the boat rather than the rear, or the name they chose could have been even worse.

CITIZEN SCIENTISTS CAPTURE VIDEO OF LARGE OBJECT CRASHING INTO JUPITER
This year amateur astronomers in different parts of the world caught video of a celestial body impacting Jupiter. Even though I know she isn't alive anymore, I swear this one sounds like an example of my mom trying to parallel park.

SPERM BANK’S ‘PERFECT DONOR’ WAS MENTALLY ILL
Georgia-based sperm bank Xytex advertised Donor 9623 as the "perfect donor," but when his name was accidentally revealed by the company, it came to light that he was a bipolar convicted felon with schizophrenia and other personality disorders. Records show that he fathered 36 children through this process, so many that the sperm bank may consider installing an ATM for withdrawals.

LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GARY JOHNSON STUMBLES ON GEOGRAPHY QUESTION
When asked during the campaign what he planned to do about the war-torn Syrian
city of Aleppo, Gary Johnson asked, "And what is Aleppo?" The interviewer, not thinking on his feet, missed the opportunity to inform Johnson that Aleppo is a cross between a leopard and a hippo. The fallout from the gaffe was immediate, and of course the American people rejected him as a contender for the presidency. Instead, they elected someone with a 140-character attention span, who said that “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me- consciously or unconsciously," meaning that they may have been napping at the time.
 

Friday, April 7, 2017

2016- THE YEAR IN REVIEW PART I

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (01-05-17)

Merriam-Webster has picked 'surreal' as 2016's word of the year. The following stories may be the reason why. You can look them up for yourself and decide whether you were better off not knowing about them.

‘ALIEN MEGASTRUCTURE’ STAR KEEPS GETTING MORE MYSTERIOUS
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope searches for Earth-like planets in the galaxy, because the world is running out of important resources, like chocolate. A star known as KIC 8462852 has been emitting strange light dimming patterns, causing scientists to speculate as to the reason. Some have theorized that an "alien superstructure" may be responsible, but I think it could be due to too many people using a hairdryer over on KIC 8462851. The scientists who came up with the former theory are much smarter than I am, but my idea is only slightly less goofy.

FOUR NEW NAMES OFFICIALLY ADDED TO THE PERIODIC TABLE OF ELEMENTS
In June of 2016, we welcomed four new bundles of joy into the world: Nihonium, Moscovium, Tennessine and Oganesson. You don't have to send a gift, but a card would be nice. These elements are considered super-heavy, heavier than Ozzy Osbourne's version of "Stayin’ Alive," and should be referred to only periodically.

MAN VOLUNTEERS FOR HEAD TRANSPLANT
Valery Spiridonov, of Vladimir, Russia, has Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease, which renders his limbs useless. He has volunteered for the world's first head transplant. The pioneering surgeons have listed the survival rate at 80%, same as crossing the street in Manhattan while checking Facebook. This medical feat is no easy thing to schedule, because you have to find someone willing to volunteer for the world's first body transplant at the same time. My wife has already put me on the waiting list, but whoever gets my head should be warned that my mouth will be attached to it, and I am prone to making jokes during the most serious part of a movie.

DRONE DELIVERY OF PIZZA TESTED IN NEW ZEALAND
In August, Dominos tested a drone delivery system in Whangaporaoa, New Zealand. If you've ever been to Whangaporaoa, New Zealand, it would not surprise me if a drone dropped you off there. The operation was successful, but all the kinks have not been worked out yet. If I reach up to give a tip to the drone and its rotor chops off two of my fingertips, I do not want to be charged for an extra topping.

FATAL CRASH PHOTO SHOWS SPIRIT LEAVING BODY
In Kentucky, a photograph of fatal crash site appears to show a nebulous figure near the deceased body, possibly its spirit. No charges were filed following the collision, but the spirit was cited for leaving the scene of an accident.

REPORTER STABBED WHILE DEMONSTRATING ‘STAB-PROOF’ VEST
In Israel, where small-scale terrorism is commonplace, the vice-president of a company that markets a "stab-proof" vest tested it by stabbing a reporter in the back. After the reporter was treated for his wounds at the hospital, the company said they had stabbed him in the "wrong place," a response which many in stitches. Incidentally, the vest goes with a tie that is supposed to prevent you from being pushed off of a cliff by your wife for the insurance money.

MAN SKIPS WORK FOR 6 YEARS, RECEIVES SERVICE AWARD
A Spanish water utility employee was set to receive an award for 20 years of faithful service, when it was discovered that he had not been to work in six years. Instead of giving him an award for 14 years of faithful service, the court ordered him to pay back 27,000 euros in wages. The mayor expressed surprise that "a person could be hired for years and collecting (pay) without doing anything whatsoever." The mayor had apparently never heard of the American Congress.

I'll be back next week with a further look at the year in review!

Friday, March 31, 2017

WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE?

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (12-29-16)

     We're going to a friend's house party. People probably don't really want to host a party so soon after Christmas, but they also don't want to admit that they have no plans, and they definitely don't want to drive out there on the mean streets with the maniacs of their fervid imagination. Plus it gives them a chance to get rid of all the food they couldn't get rid of at Christmas. Mythical confections like figgy pudding and fruitcake would never be consumed if alcohol were not conspicuously involved.

     Years ago we went to a New Year's Eve event at Beau Rivage in Dobbs Ferry, and it was fun. They served a nice dinner, some champagne, party favors and decorations, and they had a big band with a Sinatra singer. The big band was only a five piece, but they were all very tall. What you may not realize about Sinatra is that he eventually recorded EVERY song. He recorded a song about the coffee in Brazil, and he sings, "You date a girl and find out later, she smells just like a percolator." You have to be pretty selective with Sinatra, the guy would sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" if you stuck the sheet music in front of him, and when he goes off-script, who knows what hijinks Mary would find herself in?

     One of these days I would like to spend New Year's Eve at a fancy-schmancy to-do, which I have never to-done. It doesn't even have to be that fancy, as long as it's schmancy. I want a band with a string section, and top shelf liquor that is so good that no one can reach it without a step-stool. I want to see ladies arriving in a giant pumpkin driven by a bunch of mice, wearing glass slippers. Be careful in those glass slippers, especially if you're going to dance to anything faster than the Righteous Brothers. Plus, everyone can see if you're wearing a Band-aid on your heel.

     I am convinced that women love big balls, and I'll tell you why, if you don't already know. It's so that they can wear that fabulous gown that's been sitting in the closet for two years. The one that looked much better on the mannequin than it does on an actual person. The one that requires a lot of infrastructure in the way of undergarments that don't show in the places where there is no dress. And frankly, a lot of living has been done in the last two years since this dress was first tried on. Thankfully, there have been many innovations in the science of "shapewear," and the evening could still be successful, as long as the shape that is finally achieved is not an isosceles triangle or a rhombus.

     Before you know it it's time for the big countdown, and everyone flocks to the nearest TV, where whoever is the new Dick Clark yells, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" It seems too soon to tell whether it is or isn't, but I blow on my noisemaker, which gets stuck in somebody's hair. I go to kiss my wife, but she's already kissing somebody else. You're supposed to kiss your neighbor at midnight, but I don't feel like driving over there, and he's probably asleep anyway. One minute later, everybody's gone, because they all have babysitters that are now on "golden time."

     One place I wouldn't want to be New Year's Eve is Times Square, packed in tight like a shipping container, constantly looking around for suspicious packages, waiting to see if I see something, so I could say something. All this while trying to deny myself the fact that I REALLY have to go to the bathroom, and bathrooms are for customers only. I will have to buy a different dinner at Olive Garden each time I need to use the restroom. All this so I can watch a ball drop. If I was so interested in dropped balls, I could just stay home and watch the Giants. Last night I counted five. There's always next year, and it's right around the corner.

Friday, March 24, 2017

TOYS THE SEASON

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (12-22-16)

     I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that my birthday is on Christmas, and there are only three more shopping days left (you can shop online and have my gift shipped next-day air). Hopefully Santa and his helpers have been working on my list. The elves have to be pretty highly-skilled labor these days, it's not like they can just nail together some wooden cars anymore. They probably had to re-train, learn some computer code, and bone up on some special skills like working with robotics and 3-D printers. Kids are more sophisticated now, and if they don't get a Hatchimal they are going to trash your house, and who knows what else they are capable of.

     If you just woke up from a coma and need to do some holiday shopping for your kids, you are in for a rude awakening, which is probably how you got out of the coma. Things are different now. I have in front of me a modern toy catalog, and it's adorable, and somewhat frightening.

     First of all, if your baby is just sitting in a corner drooling on the floor, it's wasting valuable time when it should be learning something. There are plenty of toys out there that will challenge your infant's mind and help get a jump on pre-K physics. A pipSquigz will let your youngster "interact with exciting textures and rattle sounds," possibly against its better judgment. A Wimzle offers a "cluster of spinning, sliding orbs." All this is going to make your kid a star in school, and leave the other loser toddlers toddling around in the dust.

     When I was a kid I was quite the Civil War buff, and all I wanted for Christmas was a big set of toy soldiers with cannons and horses, so I could re-enact some pivotal battles, substituting some of my teachers. I was learning in my own slow way. I learned that war could break out at any time, even in the den. But I was far behind in exciting textures and rattle sounds.

     Secondly, there are no more gender-specific toys. There is a pink dump truck, for instance, to encourage young girls to consider a lucrative career in manual labor. If your boy wants to groom and bathe a plastic pony, it's all good, as long as he's happy, and the pony is happy.

     Thirdly, you should consider that no matter what you buy for Christmas, your kid is going to put it in his mouth. You could buy him a new car, and your kid will try to eat it. So make sure your gift is not in poor taste.

     There are a lot of ideas that can backfire on you. Buy your little urchin a Pop Pop Piano or a Super Saxoflute, and give the gift of music! Who knows, he may become the next Kanye West! Are you sure that's what you really want? Is your kid the outdoorsy type? Get her a Dueling Stomp Rocket, and watch as she launches a rocket 200 feet into the air, or three feet into your face, whichever comes first.

     I do believe that most parents love their children, and don't want any harm to come to them, maybe a little. But secretly, in that dark place that parents hold close to themselves, the thought must occur to them to buy their kid a hoverboard, a Galaxy 7 and a fire extinguisher for Christmas.

Friday, March 17, 2017

WARMING UP WITH A FIR

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (12-15-16)

     Last Sunday I joined with my Somers brethren and sistren in front of the Elephant Hotel to sing a few carols, have a sip of hot cocoa and let the lighting of the town Christmas tree officially usher in the holiday season.

     To kick of the celebration they had a 6' ruler near the tree so you could take your kid's picture next to the tree, and see which one grew faster. If you come back in a couple years and your kid and the tree are the same size, I would adjust the potassium content in one or the others' fertilizer. The first time I read the town's email I thought it said six-inch ruler, which cracked me up and I don't even need a joke for.

     The Girl Scouts were handing out hot cocoa, but the weather was a good bit chillier than I expected, and I would have offered a merit badge to anyone who could come up with something a little stronger, void where prohibited.

     Rich and Harry with a couple guitars were leading the Christmas carols, and a Hanukkah tune here and there. We walked in a winter wonderland, slept in heavenly peace, made a list and checked it twice, ran over Grandma with a reindeer and wished you a merry Christmas, all within statistical margin of error of the correct key.

     We sang "Deck the Halls," and as a songwriter, I am encouraged by the use of "Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la" in a high profile composition. I can't always find a word that rhymes with another word, and frankly I have other things to do than to sift through the alphabet all day substituting the first letter of each word to see if it rhymes with "orange." I have to feed the livestock, vacuum the front lawn, and try to find where my dog put my other sock. I'm satisfied that "La" rhymes with "Fa."

     Then we all stood around watching the tree, waiting with bated breath, even though I took one of those breath savers that looks like a post-it note. The countdown commenced, THREE, TWO, ONE, and I thought that the tree might launch into outer space like at the end of most other countdowns. Instead, it shone gaily with a constellation of multicolored bulbs, some twinkling in the twilight.

     Then Santa, escorted out by security, returned to his sleigh and headed back to the workshop, still plenty to do before the big day. I'm pretty sure I overheard the attending officer complaining about his SUV and telling Santa how good he has been this year. And that he was perfectly willing to overlook the fact that a sleigh and eight reindeer take up three parking spaces. Not to mention Blitzen, who didn't get the name for nothing, wobbling like he might have fueled up with that "wintery mix" that Santa brews out by the tool shed.

     There are a lot of toys to make, plus Santa has to read all the mail. He has to decide who has been naughty and who has been nice, a subtle distinction that husbands are always trying to explain to their wives. It's got to be at least a twenty-hour sleigh ride to the North Pole, and you'd think he would just charter a plane or something. But hey, I don't pretend to have all the antlers.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (12-08-16)

     We went with my sister, my niece and her husband to see a Broadway show last week, and it made me sit up and take notice of how much talent there really is, concentrated in a 26-block area of New York City. Actually, I was sitting up already because theater chairs are really uncomfortable, but the better the show, the less time you spend thinking about it.

     We saw the play, "Waitress," and it was a vibrant joy. I'm no expert on the subject, or any other, for that matter, but this show came highly recommended by my sister. I'm kind of picky about Broadway shows, especially musicals, but if people tell me I will like something, I usually do.

     The story revolves around a waitress whose life is transformed in every way by the baking, eating and giving of pies. That's the kind of thing that happens all the time on Broadway, and to make it even more believable, they break into a song and dance at the slightest provocation. Thank god this doesn't happen in real life, because a lot more stuff rhymes than you would think. They sing when they're happy, they sing when they're sad, they sing when they're jealous, they sing when they're mad. See? I just sang that, and I would have danced it, too, had I not been too close to the subway.

     For us, an evening at the theater starts at home, arguing about what time we should leave in order to give us PLENTY of time to get there. I say that you can make it to the City in 50 minutes if there is no traffic and if you break certain laws, some of which I feel are outdated. From the parking lot it's only a five minute walk if you run, plus by leaving way too late, we'll outsmart all the idiots who left early to give themselves plenty of time. To my surprise, when we get there we are REALLY late, and I have to run ahead to make sure we get in, and to outrun my wife, who seems to be taking the theater tradition of "break a leg" way too seriously.

     The show was at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on 47th Street. There about 40 "Broadway" theaters, but only a few of them are actually on Broadway. There are more Starbucks on Broadway than there are theaters, but the shows there aren't as good. I'm not sure who Brooks Atkinson is, but the name sounds familiar- I think he might be the manager of the Mets.

     I'm too cheap to get really good seats, which I think are a waste of money unless you get to keep the seats. So it's best not to sit with me if you have any type of averse reaction to high altitude. After taking the stairs to the upper tier loge mezzanine level 5, the air is so thin I wonder what it would be like to kick a field goal up here. I bet I could kick one 60 yards. My current record is nine yards. I start to get a little woozy and I'm hoping some oxygen masks will drop down like in an airplane emergency. Always put your mask on first before assisting others.

     Anyway, I really did enjoy the show. "Vibrant!" "Bold!" "A Tour de Force!" Said Rick Melén of the Somers Record. "Ubiquitous!" I also said that, because I actually know what it means and I never get a chance to use it. As the song goes, "Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square." You probably will  have forgotten me well before Bleecker Street, so consider this a gentle reminder.

Friday, March 3, 2017

THANKSGIVING DISHES

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (12-01-16)

     Due to the vagaries of newspaper deadlines, I fear this column will be published too late to help many of you navigate the treacherous waters of Holiday entertaining. So this is for those of you who are celebrating a late Thanksgiving. It's going to be tricky this year, especially since you didn't know that Aunt Millie voted for Trump. The whole rest of the family is likely to gang up against her in a loud shouting match even before the Pillsbury rolls come out of the oven. Here's the thing to remember: Aunt Millie brought the pie, and if she gets too worked up and leaves before dessert, we ALL lose. So I'm going to go over some simple rules that you can use to preserve the complicated bonds that hold families together in their tenuous orbit.

     First, think in advance of the possible land mines that might go off, based on past experience, and prepare for the worst. All sharp objects should be removed from the table. Dinner rolls should be rounded at the corners. No containers of liquid over four ounces should be admitted into the home. All luggage and bags should be checked for weapons, including nail clippers and scissors. If you have a metal detector or full-body scanner, this might be the time to get it out of the closet.

     Second, beware of triggers that could set off an argument. For instance, carrots are orange, and that could remind your daughter of you-know-who. If you happen to be wealthy enough to employ kitchen staff, maybe give your private server the day off to avoid any snide comments.

     Third, have some other topics of conversation ready to go. One possibility is the weather. "So Mom, how is the weather up by you?" You could ask. "Same as you, I live one mile away," she replies. "Yes, but you're in Heritage Hills, so doesn't the altitude there affect the weather?" You counter. "I'll tell you what affects the weather," she says. "Climate change. Did you know Trump doesn't believe in it?" Okay, that was a test. Emergency evasive action is needed.

     You could talk about the food itself. Compliment the chef. "Wow! That corn is expertly microwaved!" Or, "That stuffing is delicious. I think I taste a hint of either dill or part of a plastic bag." Don't say, "That gravy is awfully thin, like Hillary Clinton's lame excuses." That's going to start something only the Electoral College can finish.

     My wife emailed me a Home Handyman article on how to use your power drill for food preparation, so I'm going to use that as a "safe topic." I'm not lying about this, and I'll send you the article if you want. For instance, you put a spade bit in the drill and poke it into an apple, and as it's spinning round and round you put the peeler to it, and go through 10 apples in 20 seconds. Boom! You have all the apples for your pie, which tastes a little like birch veneer plywood, since I forgot to clean the spade bit.

     After the meal, go for a walk, that's what we always do, and it's a healing experience. When you get to the end of the driveway, in what direction are we going? Are we leaning toward the left or to the right? Maybe a walk is not a good idea.

     These dust-ups have been going on since the very first Thanksgiving, and even way before that, when Adam voted Republican, Eve was a Democrat and the snake voted for Gary Johnson. So it's nothing new, and now that we've finished arguing about the future of the country, maybe next year maybe we can get back to arguing about the things that really matter, like why the Mets suck and the Yankees rule.

Friday, February 24, 2017

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (11-24-16)

     America has just come out of a long, contentious election cycle and I'm pretty sure I speak for most of America and the rest of the world when I say, "Holy crap I need a shower." I wish the election cycle had just gotten up and pedaled itself into a tree somewhere far away from me. For some, the wounds are deep, and it may seem a little too soon to laugh about things. But history has yanked us down this road by our hair before, and the sooner you get up and dust yourself off, the better. So America, after all that's been said, yelled, implied and alleged, what have we learned for next time?

     Well, we learned that political campaigns are like Oprah's Give-O-Way days. Hillary says she will be giving free health care! Paid sick leave! Donald says he will do away with taxes! A brand new free wall! Actually an Amazon gift card would be even better, and if it's worth enough I am willing to vote twice. Political campaigns are like winning a new car on a game show, but when you get the bill for the gift tax a sound comes out of you like you sat on your cat.

     We learned NOT to say anything in an email that you wouldn't want Russian or Chinese hackers to read. Sometimes buried in my email I put a little something about how I don't like MSG in my Chinese food because it makes me sleepy, or how I wish Russia would annex my garage so I won't have to clean it. Actually, I just c.c. everything to China and Russia these days. In case St. Lucia has hackers, I write at the bottom of every email that I love to snorkel. If you have something top secret to say that you don't want everyone to know about, for god's sake whisper it in their ear after dinner. And give them a little kiss too, it couldn't hurt.

     We learned that it's okay to "double down" on indefensible positions, even if it makes you look twice as stupid.

     We learned that just about everything is rigged. I went on a sailboat to get away from it all, and even that was rigged.

     We learned that if someone tells you that he is a brilliant military strategist specializing in the area of the Middle East, you should probably believe them. Especially of the cornerstone of their foreign policy is to "Knock the hell out of ISIS, folks. Right?" A panel of experts have also issued a position paper on the subject, stating, "Duh."

     We learned what a pussy bow shirt is, and I must say that it's not a very good look. I also never knew that a pussy-cat had a bow and a stern in the first place, which is something I will have to confirm with my cat.

     We learned that it may be impractical to put a wall around the United States to keep illegal immigrants out. First of all, China put up a huge wall, you can even see it from outer space if you squint, and there are still people from other countries in China. Secondly, the same guy who wanted to build the wall to keep people out also wanted to deport millions of people who were already here. So you would have to bus all those people out, and then hurry up and build the wall before they came back. Thirdly, good luck even finding a contractor to return your calls. I know this because we wanted to build a wall, MUCH smaller, and it took us about a year just to find someone who didn't just laugh uncontrollably before hanging up the phone.

     But regardless of the outcome of ANY election, we must find a way to come together as a country and respect each others views, no matter how idiotic yours are. In the words of the great Alexander Hamilton, "Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot!" Actually, that was from the musical, but I'm sure the real Hamilton said something just as good, although I doubt he could break-dance while saying it. I'm Rick Melén and I approve this message.

Friday, February 17, 2017

GIDGET FOUND A DEER ANTLER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (11-17-16)

     Our dog Gidget was thrilled to find a deer antler in the woods, and she brought it home to play with. If the deer had still been attached to it I would have been much less enthusiastic about the idea. We looked it up on the internet and it's okay to give it to your dog as a teething toy, as long as you boil it in water first. My wife added a bay leaf for whatever reason she usually does.

     There is a whole market of barbaric-sounding animal body parts out there, sold as doggie chew toys: cow's hooves, and pig's ears and parts of bulls. The package doesn't say which part of the bull, and I don't ask. You can get "giant turkey feet" for your dog, if your dog is not satisfied with its own feet. The ad boasts that they are "USA giant turkeys," so no American turkey foot harvesting jobs are in jeopardy from this enterprise. You can have them delivered from Amazon, or they can just stroll over.

     We went into a pet store and found all kinds of weird things for your dog, like fish cartilage. What is a fish doing with all that spare cartilage, and I don't even have enough for my knee not to hurt three days after a tennis match? Which I probably lost? There was a bone made from yak's milk. Somebody is out there in Tibet milking a yak in the freezing rain so that your dog can have a yak's milk bone, I hope you're happy. There was also a 12-inch rib that looked fairly disgusting, it didn't say what animal it came from. When Gidget wants to play she pokes you in the leg with her toy. Have you ever been gored in the leg with a deer antler? It's pretty much the same drill if a deer wants to play with you.

     The cat is another teething toy at our house. The dog likes to chew on his ears, and he doesn't seem to mind that much. But it seems to be affecting his hearing, since he ignores even the most basic requests. "Hey, YOU- don't keep knocking that pen off the table! And don't stretch out on the newspaper!" I'm so tired of reading stories in the paper and trying to guess all the words that are in the shape of a cat.

     Is this all a waste of time and money? Yes. The other day I saw that she was chewing on... an expensive dog toy? A carefully selected bone? No, a pushpin from the bulletin board. I took it out of her mouth, and returned it to the bulletin board along with a memorandum reminding everyone in the household that chewing on pushpins can result in personal injury, especially when I whack them on the nose with a newspaper. When I can finally get the cat off it.

     Gidget is just not that discerning when it comes to toys. On our walk we ran into a toad on the lawn that she was extremely interested in starting a relationship with. I knew it wasn't going to come to much because I had read the book, "That Toad is Just Not That Into You." On the way back from our walk she wanted to rekindle the romance with a pine cone, thinking it was the toad. Gidget might not be the brightest dog on the planet, but she and the pine cone seem to have a nice thing going, and I'm not going to stand in the way of the relationship.

Friday, February 10, 2017

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (11-10-16)

     There are some who will say that when you reach a certain age you are "too old" for Halloween. To these people I say, "I know you are, but what am I?" I also say that we adults should do it for the kids. When I am reminded that I have no children, that's when I have to come clean. I do it for the candy. That's right, the CANDY. Are you happy now?

     Me and the candy industry are in this together. How else am I going to get my wife to buy three bags of candy? We go through the usual song and dance where she says she's not getting any candy this year because we never have any trick-or-treaters. "This year is different," I reply, "because of the economy. So many children are going hungry this year. How can we just forget them? How can we turn them away? Some of them are probably orphans. We must act. We must lead. This is our moment." Then I plagiarize parts of a Melania Trump speech that she already stole from "Finding Nemo." We compromise on two bags of candy. I take Gidget the dog out in her costume and go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.

     My favorites are Twix bars, Milky Ways, Kit Kat bars, Snickers and my new favorite, the Take 5 bar. Gidget likes chocolate-covered bacon. Don't try to pawn off on me the crappy candy that you don't like, things with coconut, or raisins or licorice. I don't want to fill up with a whole lot of empty calories, i.e. anything that does not contain chocolate. And if you give me an apple or any form of fruit, I am not "too old" to throw it at your mailbox.

     I would say that it's all harmless fun, except that every year I sustain some sort of costume-related injury trying to sew a llama head to a sweatshirt or attach chicken wire to something other than a chicken. Or, once the costume is on me I forget that I need to see through it, and trip over something, or someone who suffered from the exact same oversight of undersight.

     What were you for Halloween? Write and tell me. I went to Jenn and Pete's party dressed as a Basket of Deplorables. For my Deplorables I had pictures of Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khadhafi (or is it Gaddafi? Qadhafi? The guy's spelling is even deplorable), Genghis Khan, Bernie Madoff, O.J. Simpson and Mao Tse Tung. I also threw in Tom Brady and my cat Bitey, whose behavior was certainly deplorable.

     My box was only so big, and there are a lot of miscreants I left out. Like the person who first tweeted "I feel you," or people and bears on television commercials who feel the need to share with me exactly what they do with toilet paper, or whoever wrote the song, "My Humps." And by the way, quit feeling me. While I was at work, cutting out pictures of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden and Fidel Castro to put in my basket, I noticed some of my co-workers looking for the telephone number for Security in the company directory.

     There were some people at parties dressed as Donald Trump this year, including Donald Trump. These people were wearing wigs that weren't even close to the ungainly reality of his hair, which defies laws of fashion and laws of physics at the same time. I was thinking of including Trump in my Basket of Deplorables, but I knew that he would immediately try to take credit for my costume, then call me a disaster if things went horribly wrong.

Friday, February 3, 2017

CRYING WOLF

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (11-03-16)

     Lately there have been more and more incidents of coyote engagements in Westchester, as their population grows and their habitat shrinks. The problem is not so easy to deal with, so this is a good time to learn more about coyotes and how to deal with them. Back in the old days, you could just order an anvil from the Acme company and figure out a way for it to drop onto the coyote's head. Alternatively, you could paint a large mural of a roadrunner in front of a cliff and wait for it to break through the mural and fall to its death. But today's times are different and there are probably coyote's rights groups organizing a protest right now.

     Coyotes are most likely to attack at dusk and at dawn. Rarely do they do anything during brunch hours. We hear them sometimes at night, the howling that sounds like a car alarm going off just as the battery is dying. Coyotes howl to affirm their status in the group, or to communicate their presence to other groups. Unlike my dog, who barks incessantly at the sound of a doorbell on TV. If it rings in real life she couldn't care less, but in her defense, the people who ring the doorbells on television are more interesting.

     Coyotes sometimes travel in a pack. You wouldn't have to worry too much if they traveled in the same pack that batteries come in, where I need to get a knife from the kitchen drawer and stab at the plastic like a serial killer until the batteries come spilling out and roll underneath the cabinets, where I have to fish them out all full of dust and small pieces of bacon and little stab wounds from the assault and battery upon the battery. But I'm not going to get off topic and talk about how angry that gets me. Let me just say that if I had a 20 millimeter Vulcan anti-aircraft gun I would line up all the packages of batteries and blast them, if I could be sure that Vulcan anti-aircraft guns don't run on batteries.

     Anyway, the point is that coyotes are rarely interested in picking a fight with people; they are usually involved in territorial disputes with dogs, not humans. For this reason, you should not allow dogs, especially small ones, to run free. How much you should charge them to run is up to you.

     Coyotes are most aggressive during mating season, which runs from January to March. If a coyote hasn't hooked up by April, it may simply be coming to you for advice.

     Experts agree that once coyotes identify you as human, they will avoid engagement with you. Make human noises and try to look as large as possible if confronted by one, and open your coat or hold your backpack above your head.  Do things that only a human would do, so that the coyote is absolutely positive about whom it is dealing with. For instance, take a selfie of yourself salsa dancing during the encounter, or try to explain to the coyote why Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian is worth millions.

     Don't go running around in the woods wearing red cape like Little Red Riding Hood. Isn't that what a bullfighter uses to get the bull all riled up? So if there's a bull out there it's going to find her, the wolf is already penciled in, and with that picnic basket there is going to be an army of ants. There is probably a witch out there too, as if things weren't bad enough. If she thinks this is a recipe for a great day she is living in a fairy tale, let me tell you.

Friday, January 27, 2017

THE COLD WAR

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (10-27-16)

     I had a cold last week, and believe me it was nothing to sneeze at. I tried to feed my cold, like in the saying, "feed a cold and starve a fever." Or is the the other way around? I can never remember, and I don't want to end up with a big fat fever. If you feed the cold, won't it keep coming back, like the neighbor's cat?

     I wish there was an inoculation that would prevent the neighbor's cat from coming over stalking around in our yard, throwing off my complicated ecosystem. The cat scares off the birds, so that there are more flies and bugs, and eventually my lawn is going to become extinct. At least that's the story I'm using these days when my neighbor Paul comes over and smirks at the places where grass used to be. That cat has the markings of a cow, and from down the driveway my lawn looks like a small dairy farm that I should be getting subsidies for. Why buy the milk when you can get the cat for free?

     What caused my cold? I'm pretty sure that my immune system was compromised by watching too many "Kars For Kids" commercials before I could get to the remote control. What are Kids doing with all those Kars I'd like to know? This charity might be doing great work, but I feel that if I contribute to it I may be further subjected to that which I cannot unsee or unhear. Plus we could end up with a whole generation of underage drivers who can't spell.

     Anyway, the cold lasted only a few days but I was coughing for weeks after that. You're supposed to cough into your elbow, but I don't want to give a chest-cold or a head-cold to my elbow, which I use frequently. My chest I only use for non-essential activities like breathing, and my head is basically in cold storage.

     I know people at work who are total germophobes, and they are always spraying disinfectant into the phone, as if people who didn't have time to infect them in person are calling them up with their germs. I read someplace that you shouldn't use that hand sanitizer that OCD people carry with them all the time. Apparently there is "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria, and hand sanitizer can't figure out which is which, so it is voting Libertarian.

     Some on the internet say that to combat a cold and sore throat you should take raw garlic, which keeps the symptoms away. It also keeps away vampires, and just about everybody else. But if you haven't noticed, a veal saltimbocca at a really fine Italian restaurant rarely gets sick. People also take zinc, which is about ten bucks for a bottle of 25 capsules. A penny is about five percent zinc, so when you pay for the bottle of Zicam, you will be giving up about 100 times more zinc than you're getting back. It's enough to make you sick.

     And when you get a cold, not only are YOU miserable, but everyone at work treats you like some type of street vermin from "Les Miserables." "Stay away from me!" They yell, and then when I get a cold, they say even worse things. If I get another cold I think I will just take the day off from work and watch Forensic Files all day. It will be lonely and wretched, so I might as well eat a couple bulbs of garlic. Maybe someone will send me a card, or even a fruit basket. Even a basket of deplorables would be nice.

Friday, January 20, 2017

FRIDAY NIGHT SIGHTS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (10-20-16)

     I met my friends Tina, Judy, Margaret and Gene at the Somers High School to watch the Tuskers battle the Pearl River Pirates last Friday, and it was a beautiful night for a ballgame. As a writer, I don't get the chance to use the words "trounce" or "drub" too often, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so suffice it to say that Somers kicked some Pirate booty that night.

     It was breast cancer awareness day, but I did not wear any pink, I'm ashamed to say. Pink is not really my color, although I'm not sure what my color is. Maybe camouflage? That way I can fly under the radar. This has nothing to do with football but I always see armed forces members patrolling Grand Central Station wearing camouflage. I don't have the heart to tell them that there are NO jungle plants in Grand Central that they can blend into, so it seems like kind of a silly idea as a uniform choice. If they really want to fade into the woodwork, they should just dress as other commuters and carry a New York Times that has coffee spilled on it.

     I guess I could have worn my salmon-colored shirt that I wear to work sometimes. That's what men call pink when they don't want to sound too girly. Salmon are very manly, let me assure you, and I picture me and the salmon in the gym lifting weights. Sure, the salmon bench presses more than I do, but he has a dorsal muscle and I don't.

     But I did support the cause by buying several chocolate-related goodies at the bake sale booth. I am quite a humanitarian, and if I was an even better humanitarian, I could take in about 20,000 calories a day.

     I was chatting with Missy for a little while, she is a football-mom. A football-mom is similar to a soccer-mom, only with a much higher insurance deductible. She has two boys in the program, at least for now. That number could change- football is a rough sport. She was giving me the lowdown on the program, and which kids might have a chance to play in college. I certainly played in college myself, although I wasn't involved in any sports program.

     She was telling me that the coach is quite popular, and the kids trust him and buy into his philosophy. His philosophy obviously involves students running into other students as hard as they can, so he must have a way with words.

     At halftime they held a little spectacle whereby all the other members of the Somers school football programs charged the field in succession, from youngest to oldest. Afterwards, it was a touching opportunity for some of the kids to climb up into the stands and shake their parents down for money. For that reason Margaret says she only carries a dollar around with her, but the kids seemed willing to take a personal check as long as she could show two forms of ID.

     I reminded them that when I was a kid, we had to do chores for every dollar we got, and that they should be out there cutting the grass on the field. I understand that it's artificial turf, but they could use an artificial lawnmower. I used to get twenty bucks for mowing people yards. They said that the football field is a hundred yards, so they should get two thousand dollars. Actually, I haven't heard from Margaret and Gene since the game.