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

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Friday, October 13, 2017

SINGING A FEW BARS BEHIND BARS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (06-29-17)

     I'm one of those guys who thinks that too much exposure to Broadway show tunes can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, inflammation, stomach pain and blotchy skin. Please use only as directed, by a qualified stage director. Last Thursday was different. I was privileged to be among a select audience invited to hear a recital of songs performed by inmates of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. The roles were reversed, and we were the captive audience. I was curious to see if music could survive there, on a diet of frozen meatloaf and spaghetti.

     The place is a maximum security prison, so first we had to wait on line to be processed. That means we empty everything out of our pockets, and store our cellphones in a locker. Mine is still in there, but it's up for parole in six months.

     They waved us with those metal detector wands. I remember when security guards used to search you manually, and I almost got myself taken down plenty of times when I got too fidgety during the pat down. It would be so ironic to get tased for being ticklish, when there are so many other good reasons to tase me. There was no cavity search, but I had just been to the dentist the week before. After I was processed I felt a little better, like cheese but without the holier than thou attitude.

     Then it was showtime. The songs were presented in a cafe setting, which the inmates had painted and decorated themselves. They offered a sentence or two about the artist or the songwriter, and "sentence" is not a word to toss around lightly here. They belted out songs by Carole King, Johnny Cash and Leonard Bernstein. They covered "The Lion King," "Wicked" and "The Color Purple." They poked a little fun at themselves with "Ain't Misbehavin'," and provided some situationally-updated lyrics for "If I Were a Rich Girl."

     The girls were fantastic. All of them could carry a tune, although some carried it quite a bit farther than others. Judging by some of their reactions, some of the songs hit close to home, especially those about children, family and time lost. Led by Broadway veteran Anne Twomey Lloyd and ably accompanied by arranger/composer Michael Minard, they all shared a heartfelt enthusiasm, and a genuine feeling that special moments in life are found wherever you make them.

     Prison is a pretty regimented place. Every note that is sung there has to fall in line and play by the rules. You can't have quarter notes wandering around where only half notes are allowed, and you can't have a rest in the middle of a measure unless it is approved in advance. And yet even in a highly regulated environment, music rose from the auditorium. What probably seemed like growing a tree on the dark side of the moon when they started, blossomed into a magnolia by showtime.

     The program was made possible by Rehabilitation Through the Arts, a non-profit organization that runs programs in New York prisons through which inmates can express themselves through the arts and transform their lives from outwardly-based to inwardly-based.

     These are women who have done bad things in their lives, and there are those who would question why we should point resources in their direction, when so many other sectors of society go without. It's a good question, as austerity sucks the arts out of school and community budgets. The answer lies in the fact that most prison inmates eventually return to a life outside these walls. And while they are inside them, they can either learn skills that will make them better at what they did before, or they can learn self-discovery and self-worth. That choice is mostly up to us.

     If music follows these women around for the rest of their lives, it has been proven more likely that that the police will follow someone else. I'd like to thank them for an enjoyable evening, and I'd also like to thank them for not singing "Tomorrow," because you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd be singing that damn thing until somebody locks ME up and throws away the key.

Friday, October 6, 2017

LOFTY VIEWS ON A RIVER CRUISE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (06-22-17)

     I've never gone on a cruise before because I've had recurring nightmares about all the things that could go wrong. In one nightmare I board the ship, and notice that the other passengers are wearing legionnaire's hats, there are legions of them and they all have runny noses and a persistent cough. In another the captain announces that we'll be experiencing some rough weather due to the confluence of a hurricane, monsoon and tornado occurring directly above the ship. In a third, I am singled out of the audience during the staff show and forced to wear a blonde wig and dance with a French woman to the song, "Barbie Girl."

     But I finally went, on a river cruise up the Rhine, and thank goodness none of those nightmares came true. Except the last one. And now I'm appearing in the nightmares of others. I expected to be forced to walk the plank sometime on the third day.

     I'm too cheap to travel first class, so we were in a small berth, more like a child berth, on a low level probably in between the boiler room and the cargo hold. We did have a nice big window, but it was right at sea level. You'd be surprised how many angry ducks there are on the Rhine river. We passed castle after castle, but we could only see into the basement. I could make out a dungeon, with a lot of torture devices, but it could have been a home gym.

     The castles were lovely but I don't see why they were built at all. If the Normans, for instance, came over from Norm or wherever they're from, and wanted to conquer our house, first they would complain about the driveway. Then they would raid the fridge, turn on the TV and ask, "Why does this couch smell like cat pee?"

     We boarded the boat in Strasbourg, which is the biggest city in the Alsace region of France. An Alsatian is the same as a German shephard, and that applies to all dogs and some humans. The next day we stopped in the wonderful little town of Rudesheim, overseen by the statue of Germania, which represents the unification of Germany. If you take the gondola up to the pedestal the views are breathtaking, although that might be the altitude.

     We proceeded on up the Rhine, our cameras working overtime, along with our barmaids. Greg, one of the only other Americans on the boat, noted, "Castle, church, village. Repeat as necessary."

     On the fifth day we reached our destination, Amsterdam. If you've ever been to this lovely city, and all went right, you probably don't remember a thing about it. Or so you allege. There are so many ways to get yourself killed in Amsterdam, and all of them involve crossing the street. If you can maneuver in between the bicycles and pedestrians, cars and buses, the tram suddenly appears out of nowhere and you have to dive for cover. Don't dive into the canal, because the traffic there is worse.

     Then we were off on the train to Berlin. We traveled the country of Hamburg and Frankfurt, and I got to thinking how nice it would be to get back to the States and get myself a hamburger of frankfurter. I dreamt of a REAL American breakfast. And by that I mean a Belgian waffle, French toast, a cheese Danish and an English muffin.
 

Friday, September 29, 2017

AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGOTTEN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (06-15-17)

  Last month the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus gave its swan song performance. Who would have bet that it all might have begun with an elephant in Stephentown (later to become Somers), New York, known as Old Bet? Certainly not Old Bet, walking along carrying a full trunk, quietly thinking, "Dude, I'm not that old."

     Her owner, Hachaliah Bailey, was a farmer who heard about the elephant while he was at a bar. Perhaps you heard of it too: two elephants walk into a bar, with a priest, a rabbi and a parrot. I haven't got time to explain it all, but take my word for it, the parrot has the best line of the story. Anyway, Hachaliah bought the elephant for $1,000, so the story goes, not the one with the parrot, thinking that it would do twice the work of an ox on his farm. As it turned out, the elephant became such a sensation that he ended up exhibiting the animal for money, and purchased other exotic beasts, possibly monkeys and bears, to add to his collection.

     Together they formed a touring "menagerie," and these menageries became very popular in the 1800s. They were the precursor to the modern circus, and Somers became thought of as the "Cradle of the American Circus." It would have been nice to be called the "Birthplace of the American Circus," but another city took that name first. They also took "Jungle Gym of the American Circus" and "Diaper Bag of the American Circus."

     Although Barnum and Bailey circus impresario James Bailey wasn't related to Hachaliah, his name was. James was an orphan who was given a job by Hachaliah's nephew, and eventually took his name, probably when he wasn't looking. The circus grew into an American institution, with many facets and incarnations. But the public's fascination with elephants never wavered.

     When the time came that tastes changed and people became concerned for the welfare of circus animals, revenue dropped. The circus' days were numbered, and now that number is up, after 146 years.

     Imagine the types of skills that are now available to be re-assimilated into the work force. What jeweler wouldn't want a ringmaster in his shop? Sure, he already has guys who know about rings, but have they MASTERED them? What about hiring a contortionist for your business? You can stick him inside a box, and he'll let you know if you are thinking outside of it. If you're running a local fire department, get yourself a fire eater and don't feed him for a couple of days. A fourth grade teacher in the New York City public school system with experience as a lion tamer could prove invaluable.

     And then there are the clowns. I was a class clown for many years, but never pursued it as a profession. Many people did, and now clowning is not a career path anymore. Specifically WHERE will these people clown, or will they just clown around? Will there be an overabundance of circus performers at children's parties, or will they simply run for Congress?

     Closing the circus is also a game changer for people running away from home. To have no circus to run away to is the worst news for any kid who doesn't live in a mobile home. If you run away from a mobile home, a potential embarrassment awaits you if you find it parked next to you 20 minutes later.

     I once ran away from home, although I didn't actually run, I sort of moseyed away from home. I packed up my belongings in case my parents wanted to rent out my room the next day. I did it to take a stand- my father wanted to cut my hair. You may think that a haircut is not much of a reason to leave home, but you haven't seen my father's haircuts.

     So let's raise a glass to the sword swallowers, the jugglers the trapezers, the knife throwers, and the original fat lady, Old Bet. The fat lady has sung. And now if you'll excuse me I have to go work out with my trainer. She's teaching me to balance a ball on my nose.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

DANCING AROUND THE TRUTH

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (06-08-17)

     Once every month a Somers eatery transforms itself into a drinkery AND dancery- It's Disco Night! I try to attend if at all possible. The turnout is good, and I can at least expect to see a few other poor souls there born under the Eisenhower administration, and even some from the Roosevelt administration. If anyone in my rock band knew I secretly like disco music I'd be kicked out in two seconds, so keep it under your hat.

     Dancing itself has a point of diminishing returns. You want to be competent enough not to hurt other people, but sometimes it looks like people are trying too hard to impress, instead of just flowing with the music. I was watching this one gal, and she was so fluid and effortless. I was thinking that she had great punctuation; she knew where to put a comma and she knew where to put an exclamation point, and sometimes she just shook her asterisk.

     Usually it's four or five girls dancing together, and some poor sap will try to infiltrate the perimeter. I think to myself (since it's inconvenient to think to others), good luck dude- I've been married 30 years and it's hard enough to please one person, let alone five. Even if one of the girls kind of likes you, the other four are going to shame her out of it, unless you look like Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear.

     The night wears on and everyone's latent alcoholism kicks in. Women have been drinking bright green drinks that look a lot like anti-freeze, and they're ready to go for a higher degree of difficulty. That's when I have to make sure nobody makes a dangerous dance class maneuver anywhere near my one good knee. It's never a plus-sized gal dancing out of control, or even a  multiplication-sized gal, they usually have everything moving in the same direction. It's the athletic girl who wouldn't be able to put one foot in front of the other ten times if she was asked to by a cop with a flashlight, who tries for a triple axel so close to my face.

     The DJ was pretty good, at least sometimes he played a whole song. Peoples' attention spans are so short now that they seemingly cannot sustain an entire song anymore. You don't even need a lead guitarist these days, because the DJ is going to be moving on right after the first chorus. And if you're a lead guitarist, don't give me that long face, because we don't really have time for it. You're going to have to shorten your face.

     Anyway, the DJ played that Rihanna song that I like where she finds "love in a homeless place. "Hey dopey, it's 'hopeless place!'" My wife said- I can never remember lyrics too well. If it's "hopeless place" I assume Rihanna is referring to our garage.

     Let's see... he played that "Get your sexy on" tune. I was going to do exactly that, but once I get my sexy on it's hard to get it back off again. Then the DJ took the mike and started chanting along with the song, but his diction wasn't that great and it sounded like he was singing, "I got chicken hands!"

     He played that Robin Thicke song, which consists of two chords. There are only TWO chords in the entire song, and he had to collaborate with the guy who wears the Smokey the Bear hat to write it. TWO CHORDS, and he was successfully sued for STEALING THE SONG! Did he write one chord and the guy with the Smokey the Bear hat wrote the other one?

     All through the night the waitresses are shuttling in and out, they are super efficient, really cute and all under five feet tall. There's a whole society going on down there that I know nothing about. If these girls were in charge of the government, when all was said and done, a lot more would get done.

     Then they played Sinatra's "New York, New York," and I knew that either the enchanted evening was over, or the Yankees won. When you hear that song you have to slip out quickly before somebody turns on the lights and exposes those mysteries that are better left untold.

Friday, September 15, 2017

THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUM

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (06-01-17)

     My friends Jamie and Ana invited me along to a drum circle in Katonah that they had come across on Facebook. It's diversion that has become popular due to the simple joy that people experience when they hit something that is disinclined to hit them back.

     I pictured a bunch of dudes playing the drum solo from Moby Dick on bongos, all starting at a slightly different time. But it wasn't like that at all. This group employs a West African tradition called djembe, which translates to "gather in peace." Makes total sense except for all that racket from people banging on drums.

     Our instructor Matt taught us about them. In West Africa the bongo is an antelope, not a drum. These drums are made of cherry or aspen wood, and covered with goatskin. Here's a word of caution: goatskin sounds great, but wait until it is stretched over a drum before testing it out. I tried doing paradiddles on a goat at a petting zoo, and the damn thing chased me all over the place and I had to hide under a llama. If you ARE a goat, consider leaving your skin to a drum maker upon your death, and give back to the community.

     While we're on the subject, I signed an organ donor card, but I want to make clear that not all of me should be used upon my death. Most of my organs are holding up okay, but my eyes are quirky, my knees are a disaster and you might want to stay away from my brain. If anyone wants to stretch my skin over a drum I think I'd be okay with that. While I'm alive, I don't think I'll be donating a kidney or anything, because it would be just like me to develop a kidney problem the week after I donate one, and then I will have to ring on somebody's doorbell and ask for it back with a sheepish look on my face. I do have an electric organ that I'm trying to learn how to play, and my wife has offered to donate that as soon as possible.

     Anyway, Matt taught us some simple phrases to play, using the three different sounds, a bass sound hitting the middle of the head, a tone that produces the tuned pitch of the drum, and a slap that fills in beats by hitting towards the rim.

     In Mali culture, the drums are used ceremonially, and not for communication, which was good news for me. I pictured myself drumming something entirely inappropriate, such as your daughter needs braces, and having a tribe elder come by and hit me over the head with a kudu antler or something.

     Some of us, and I'm not mentioning any names here (Rick Melén) had trouble remembering the rhythms, and so Matt had a saying: "If you can say it, you can play it." Meaning, just come up with a simple phrase to help you feel the beat. In this case, he chanted, "Please pass the chicken sandwich," and we all played along perfectly. Except that then I couldn't remember if he said "chicken salad sandwich," and then I started thinking how great chicken parmesan would be for dinner. After everyone else ended I had about 13 extra beats while I straightened out the menu. Never play the drums on an empty stomach.

     What about people who can't keep a beat? I knew a gal who used the rhythm method of birth control and she had six kids. But Matt said that everyone has a sense of rhythm at its most basic form: your heartbeat. If you can't get THAT together, you're probably not going to live long enough to pass the chicken sandwich.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A DOG DAY AFTERNOON

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (05-25-17)

     Two weeks ago Gidget and I attended the 12th Annual Dog Walk and Pet Fair at FDR Park in Yorktown. The event was billed as a fund-raising event for dogs of all shapes and sizes, but most of the participants were dog-shaped. Gidget is the feisty, impertinent, gorgeous, 45-pound, natural redheaded actress that I've been seen around town with. You can see her in her starring role in "Gidget Gets a Package" on YouTube.

     We arrived a little late, and fell into the procession of canines and their friends strolling the perimeter of the park. As we were walking the parade route I noticed that a fire hydrant along the way was running. It was running as fast as it could, and the last I saw of it it was headed towards the Taconic Parkway.

     We made it to the main tents and sponsor area, where there were many vendors and booths. There were people selling dog accessories, dog tattoos (not sure if the tattoos were for you or the dog), "dog sports and training (not sure if the training was for you or the dog)," and all kinds of treats (these were for the dog, I found out the hard way).

     There was a real estate booth there, I'm not sure why, but if you get home and find that your dog has entered into contract on your house, at least you'll know how it happened.

     Of course the SPCA was sponsoring adoptions of many fantastic animals. Many people there had taken in dogs, from the SPCA or other shelters and rescue operations, which is certainly commendable. I was turned down when I even tried to adopt a highway, since I told them I wanted to keep it in my garage and use it to avoid traffic at the shore.

     Everyone loved Gidget and we made a lot of friends. A cold nose in your rear end on a chilly day once would be startling enough to cause you to jump two feet into the air. When it happened 20 times in a row, the other dogs assumed Gidget was a kangaroo and gave up. It even happened to me once, I didn't turn around but I'm guessing it was a dog.

     This may offend some dogs, hopefully only small ones that I'm not as scared of: I consider every dog that is smaller than mine to be a Yorkie. I don't care much for Yorkies.
"Well, this is not a Yorkie," you say. "It's a scnipperschnoodle. It's half Schipperke, half Pekingese, half schnauzer and half noodle."
"What about the other half?"
"The other half is a cheese Danish."
"What's that in the back?"
"Trailer hitch."
"It sounds like a mutt."
"It's not- It cost $3,000 and I had it designed specifically for my needs using a questionnaire from the internet, and produced with a 3-D printer. I had to pay for it with bitcoin."
"Well, where is the origin of the breed?"
"DuPont Laboratories in Tonawanda. So it's part lab."
"It looks sturdy."
"It has on-demand 4-wheel drive, so it's great in the snow. You attach a sled to this dog and I guarantee you you'll never see either the dog or the sled again."
"How's its disposition?"
"Dreadful. You have kids? Your kids won't even know it has a horrible disposition if they're not old enough to know what a disposition is. They'll just think it has an awful personality, and you're good to go. By the way, my mother-in-law has one, too."
"A scnipperschnoodle?"
"No, an awful personality."

Friday, September 1, 2017

SOMETHING MY MOM BROUGHT UP

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (05-18-17)

     I was just thinking of something my Mom once brought up: ME! I consider it one of her greatest achievements, not because of how I turned out, but because in spite of it, people who knew her thought the world of her. Everyone has a story like that, and last Sunday we got a chance to remember them. Without Mother's Day, would any of the other Days have been born?

     Let me tell you what my Mom had to put up with: Quite a bit. She was the one standing in between me and my father, who usually wanted to slap me for something I did. My Mom usually wanted to slap me for something else I did, and it must have cost her plenty to defend me so often.

     Not every mom would put up with a kid who played the drums. I would practice in the basement, and if she needed to get my attention she would turn off the basement lights. I wondered if she would use the same technique if I was practicing axe juggling.

     Parent-teacher night was another shame she had to endure. I discovered early in my academic pursuits that the academia that I was trying to pursue was moving quite a bit faster than I did. The teachers always tried to convince her that I had a lot of untapped potential as a student, but she finally had to admit that maybe they might have been mistaken on that one.

     I used to try to thank her with a Mother's Day gift, but even though I am great at giving gifts, I will admit that I am horrible at picking them out. I would get her a box of my favorite candy, and if she was on a diet, I could make the gift even more valuable by taking it with me when I left.

     Sometimes we would take her out to dinner, and once we went to a ritzy restaurant in Chappaqua. My Mom lived through the Great Depression, when they ate dust bunnies as a snack. We are not fancy people. So when the waiter tooktwenty minutes just to seat us, refold our napkins, move our silverware around and re-style our hair, we were already in a precarious state. Then my Mom's dinner finally arrived, and the waiter uncovered it with a giddy flourish, and it resembled a hot dog, and we realized we may be in a Martin Short skit.

     My Mom eventually said that she didn't need a gift, she just wanted to spend a little time with me. I thought the perfect thing might be for us to mow my lawn together. But I realized that even though I wanted to spend a little time with my Mom, I didn't want to spend ANY time with my lawn, and if you've ever met my lawn you'd know why.

     It was only after my Mother died that I realized I'd been shortchanged in my inheritance. I have five siblings and I jealously wondered if they received more than I did. I'm not talking about money, I'm not talking about things. I'm talking about DNA. I could use a little bit more of what she had: patience, gentleness, friendliness, empathy and the ability to smile through just about anything. If I were half the woman she was I'd be two-foot eight, look better in a skirt and be a little bit more well-adjusted.

     Every man, woman and beast has a story about their mom. Even a horse remembers that his mom was a nag, and used to scold, "Don't be a foal!" and "Cut out that horseplay!" How many sons received that warning, "Get down from there, you'll break your neck!" How many daughters heard those words, "If they told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that, too?" Or, "I'm doing this for your own good." It's only decades later that we found out she was usually right. So to all the moms out there, thank you again for all that you do. And to the idiot who didn't get down from there, and DID break his neck, thanks for ruining it for the rest of us.

Friday, August 25, 2017

LOOKING FOR MISS WRIGHT

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (05-11-17)
 
     Last Saturday we stopped by the Somers Library to help mark the 50th anniversary of the bequeathment of the farmstead that became Reis Park. If you're unfamiliar with bequeathments, my advice is to swallow first before saying it out loud. Some informal  booths were set up to help celebrate the event and the town. The Friends of the Somers Library were there; they sponsor various programs and performances. I am a Friend of the Library and we're going out for cocktails on Friday, and we may gossip, just in case anything gets back to you.

     There were some local authors in attendance, a folk-rock duo, some games for the kids and a face painting booth. For my particular face they suggested vinyl siding instead of paint. All of this took place on land given to the town of Somers by lifelong resident Caroline Wright Reis upon her death in 1967.

     We walked through the back of the park up to her house, now a museum opened on this day for visitors. Even though Caroline Wright Reis lived her entire life there, the early American period furnishings have been restored to the grounds. If they wanted a museum with 1967-era decor, the house I grew up in had plenty of linoleum and wood paneling, and historians are still trying to explain why.

     Caroline Wright was an orphan at the age of 12, a fact that possibly explains how she became a leading figure in the community. She graduated from Pratt Institute at a time when college-educated women were relatively scarce. After that she ran her farm as a successful businesswoman, her new husband away much of the time. Walter Reis was a button salesman, and if he didn't travel to support the business, sales fell, not to mention everyone's pants.

     She was active in local politics as a member of the Civic Club, and in her later years became a philanthropist who donated substantially to local causes. She was an artist, and her works hang on the homestead walls. She never had children, but she pictured herself with a family, literally. A self-portrait of her rocking a cradle sits on an easel behind the very same cradle, unless that was the cat's cradle.

     A rare and impressive contraption called a megalethoscope is displayed on the second floor. Through it, specially prepared photographs play tricks of light and perspective that are unlike anything digital photography can produce. Do not miss it.

     Caroline Wright Reis seemed to have no use for conventions and gender confinements. A photograph depicts her with her bicycle, and back then it was considered un-ladylike to ride one. I STILL consider it un-ladylike to ride a bicycle, especially if I haven't shaved. Caroline Wright Reis may have been an early feminist without even knowing it.

     To see the material connections to her life spread before you is to put yourself in her shoes for a short moment, which is as much as I can take since I wear a size 11. That's what museums do, and in this case, as in all others, you can imagine life in history's continuum and notice that the trappings are different, but the people are the same.

     By the way, if I die, and I'm planning not to, and if I decide to leave my land to the town of Somers, they are going to take one look at my lawn and say "Thanks, but no, thanks." They might even skip right to the "No, thanks."

Friday, August 18, 2017

I HEAR A SYMPHONY

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

     A few weeks ago we attended a performance by the Westchester Philharmonic at Purchase College, an experience I recommend highly. It's a slowly dying art. Not the playing of classical music, which is carrying on as strong as ever, but the listening to it, which requires you to get up out of your soft, comfortable chair, turn off that re-run of Columbo that you have seen at least three times (the one with Robert Vaughn) and get into your car without spilling your coffee.

     The orchestra is not going to come to you, you have to attend the performance of the philharmonic in order to hear all those instruments playing in philharmony. It's a whole lot different than going to see a a concert today, where a pop-goddess lip-syncs an entire performance while dancing an extensive broadway-style choreography with a snake, wearing hot pants and a bra top (the singer, not the snake), writhing around completely naked (the snake, not the singer), all that trouble for a very mediocre song.

     Back in MY day, no one would stand for that kind of crap at a concert. You went to hear the MUSIC, and if Alice Cooper happened to bite the head off of a chicken and spit it into the audience, well I can't be held responsible for that. I don't know if the chicken was real, I don't even know if the audience was real, but certainly the music was.

     Kids, if you're listening out there, I don't want to sound like your Dad, so go find your own Dad to give you this speech. Wake him up- he's probably in the den right now taking a nap, or out mowing the lawn while listening to Beyoncé on his iPhone. By the way, it wouldn't kill YOU to mow the lawn once in a while.

     Anyway, the performance featured the formidable talents of one of classical's premier trios, Jaime Laredo on violin, Joseph Kalichstein on piano and Sharon Robinson playing the cello. The orchestra presented very accessible works by Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, whom you may have heard of. Mozart was a child prodigy. I know what a burden that is, because I was considered a child prodigy when I was 40, and everyone was amazed at how advanced I was for a 12 year-old.

     Beethoven was completely deaf for the last ten to fifteen years of his life, when he wrote some of his most important works. He was even more deaf when his wife asked him to take the garbage out. Because he was deaf Beethoven's other senses heightened, and for instance he smelled really, really good.

     There was no maestro for this performance, so everyone was on the honor system to play only their own notes, and it looked like everyone was conducting themselves appropriately. But pay closer attention the next time you go to the symphony: the bass violin player is over there looking at the piccolo player with palpable disdain. He has to haul around an instrument the size of a Chevrolet Silverado, and the piccolo player produces a tiny flute the size of a magic marker from his dress shirt pocket, and starts prancing about the place doing somersaults.

     And the first violin player, whom the soloists faun over as they pass by, stands up at the end of the performance. Did you ever look at the second violinist while all that is going on? Her face tells you that she thinks SHE should be standing at the end, or at least slightly stooped over.

     All of them want to beat up the triangle player, who gets paid a full share for playing one note in the middle of the performance that sounds like someone passing you on their bicycle- he doesn't even have to know anything about music, just a little geometry. Why, excuse me, but isn't that an isosceles triangle you have there? If there was a conductor there he wouldn't put up with ANY of it, and if you don't like it you can just make other arrangements.

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.