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Friday, March 31, 2017



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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 17, 2017



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 3, 2017



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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