Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - A Dead Mayor And His Connection to My Mom

Okay, this is going to sound a little bitter.   I don't care.   It's a long time in coming.

The guy on the right is the current mayor of my home town, Mount Vernon, New York.   He's Richard Thomas and it's apparently his job to preside over the impending death of this once great town.  If you've driven through that place lately, you will know it's an inoperable malignant tumor.   Destroyed by years of political corruption.

The scumbag on the left is the former mayor Ronald Blackwood who actually accelerated the city's cancerous state back when it still had a chance to survive. Blackwood might not have been the final nail in the coffin, but he certainly was the first twenty.  

Blackwood died this week and there are no tears on my pillow.  For those of you who think it's horrible to speak ill of the dead, why don't you sign off this blog right now and go play Words with Friends?   The following words will not be your favorite cup of coffee on this Sunday.

In the obits on this shithead, Ronald Blackwood was remembered as the very first African-American to be the mayor of a city in New York City.   Woot woot. Being first doesn't necessarily mean you're good.  In my world, a lot of politicians are sleazy.   And they come in all sizes, shapes, and...yes, colors.

You see, in an indirect way, Ronald Blackwood destroyed my mother.   And the so-called teachable moment here?   Racism actually is a two-way street.

A little backstory on Mom.  As soon as I was out of the third grade, my mother chose to go back to work.   She had always earned a salary her whole life.  I guess she was progressive in her own way.   Or, more likely, she needed the money to continually pay down her charge account at Bromley's Dress Shop on Fourth Avenue.   She was very much the clothes horse.

Once I got in high school and became pretty self-sufficient, my mom wanted to branch from the small factories or offices she worked at in Mount Vernon.   Her girlfriend's husband was a big wig at a major accounting firm on 42nd Street in Manhattan.   It was your standard bookkeeper position, but my mother really relished the opportunity to go down into the city every day via Metro North.  I don't remember her being as happy as she was during those years at the company which later became part of the famed Ernst and Young. 

As she got older, the commute became a bit tougher.   One morning while walking to a different office, she got mugged on 48th Street and Fifth Avenue at 7:30 in the morning.  That made her think that, as she entered her 60s, there might come the time to consider a job closer to home and not dependent on the 5:31PM express to Fleetwood.

As luck would have it, a golden opportunity came out of the blue.   The son-in-law of a good friend was starting out his small business, a custom bakery and he had already rented space on Sixth Avenue in Mount Vernon, a veritable five-minute cab ride from my mom's apartment.   He needed somebody to do the books and financials for his enterprise.   My mother jumped at this.   She resigned from the accounting firm after almost 20 years.   This was going to be her perfect "final" job as she still wanted to stay vital and work with a bit less travel.

There were good-bye parties and lavish farewell presents as the old firm sent my mother off.   Here's a photo with her showing off one of the lovely parting gifts.
All was good.

And then the bottom fell out.  The son-in-law called.   The city of Mount Vernon had denied him the necessary food preparation license.   You see, at this time, then new-Mayor Blackwood was only allowing small business licenses to go to African-American or, more specifically, Haitian entrepreneurs.   Of course, all others could still get licenses if they had the exorbitant money to pay for them. The son-in-law didn't have the coin.  The bakery never opened.

Suddenly, my mom was unemployed.   And forced into an uneasy, early, and unwanted retirement.   Ill-prepared to handle this, she fell into deep depression.  She was routine-less for the first time in thirty years.  With less activity, her manageable arthritis became less so.  There were pain killers.   There was a bit of alcohol.  After an accidental overdose, there was a prolonged stay in a hospital.   

After about two years of total despair, my mother rebounded a little bit.   But, ultimately, she was never the same until her death.   Hastened, I believe, because she did not get to finish her working career the way she wanted.   Sped up, I feel, because of Blackwood's rather discriminatory stipulation.   

Yes, there are consequences.   

So that's why I show no sympathy in the death of Mayor Ronald Blackwood.   And, since readers turn up on this blog all the time because of Google searches, I can only hope this tale will be a sobering view of one local politician who is being mourned and saluted this week.

Sorry.

Dinner last night:  Pot roast and vegetables.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - February 2017

It's Oscar weekend and this movie won a bunch of them 70 or so years ago.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a sandwich.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Your Winning Oscar Ballot Part 2

And the Oscar for the Dumbest Looking Dress ever goes to Big Mouth Babs when she won for "Funny Girl" almost fifty years ago.   In 2017, the only way she could slither into this thing is with a tub of butter.  That is, unless she eats it first.

It's Day 2 of your winning Oscar ballot.   As I wrote yesterday, I'm not playing in a pool this year.   Blame Donald Trump.   But I wanted you to have my picks so you can win like I probably would have this year.   Today I am focusing on the big categories.   Woot woot.  If you remember, yesterday's predictions wound up with La La Land getting seven Oscars.   Will there be more?

BEST DIRECTOR:  Of course there will be.  I mean, the guy is so super clever in the story he laid out.   There's no denying DAMIEN CHAZELLE FOR LA LA LAND.  Oscar #8.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Oddly enough, one actress nominated here is in the wrong category.   Let's face it.  They knew she had no chance for Best Actress with Emma Stone tap dancing her way around Mulholland Drive.   Plus VIOLA DAVIS is really the only reason to see FENCES.   

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  As much as I liked the work of the always reliable Jeff Bridges in Hell Or High Water or the young Lucas Hedges in Manchester, MAHERSHALA ALI has been taken about for this Oscar ever since MOONLIGHT opened.   A very good performance that will be boosted by the fact that there were all those pickets at last year's Academy Awards.

BEST ACTRESS:  How the hell did Meryl Streep get into this category for that dreadful piece of crap, Florence Foster Jenkins?  Plus Amy Adams was left out despite being the best thing in that otherwise dull Arrival.   I mean, do they have to nominate Streep every year??   They're liable to honor the year she gives an order at McDonald's drive-through.   It's all a moot point because, despite the fact that she really can't sing or dance, EMMA STONE was the star of LA LA LAND.  Her audition scene at the end of the movie helped her to nail this Oscar.  Oscar #9.

BEST ACTOR:   I got into an interesting discussion about Denzel Washington recently.   Okay, admittedly, I know way too much about him personally and I have a distinct bias against this guy who is a bad, bad man.  A friend argued that, whether I like him or not, he's a brilliant actor.   I countered that he used to be when he was younger.   But, over the past ten years, I contend that Denzel has gotten very lazy with his acting choices.   Everything is starting to come out the same way.   And, in this current performance, I will also argue that the despicable character is really an extension of Denzel himself.   Yeah, sadly, Casey Affleck, the winner will be an incredibly hammy DENZEL WASHINGTON for his overrated vanity project FENCES.  The real reason he will win?  The Academy doesn't want to see Al Sharpton walking around with a placard on Hollywood Boulevard.

BEST PICTURE:  While there are other nominees I did enjoy (I'm thinking of you, Manchester and Moonlight and Hell Or High Water and Hidden Figures), LA LA LAND gave me my most enjoyable time in the theater the past five years. And there it is.  Double digits.  Oscar #10.

Let me know how you did.   And please pass the Doritos.

Dinner last night:  French toast and bacon.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Your Winning Oscar Ballot Part 1

Here we go again.   If you've been on this blog in past years, you know that I am an expert Oscar prognosticator.   I regularly won the pools with my pals.   This year, however, we didn't play because my two friends are still, in part, suffering through some malaise from the recent election.   

At the same time, why should I deprive you of my expertise if you've got an office pool to enter?   So, here we go.  Today I tackle all the categories that your Oscar party guests talk over.  But they still count so get out your pencils.

SOUND EDITING:   Wait, what?   You went to go get more potato chips already? The winner for this award is...I think...HACKSAW RIDGE.

SOUND MIXING:  Hey, you forgot the onion dip.   The winner for that glorious musical production number on the freeway is LA LA LAND.   You'll be seeing that a lot, I think.

ORIGINAL SCORE:  Of course, it's the only musical nominated.   The winner is LA LA LAND.   That's Oscar #2.

ORIGINAL SONG:  As much as they would like to hear a snarky and political acceptance speech from Lin-Manuel Miranda for that dopey tune from "Moana," the obvious choice is "City of Stars" from LA LA LAND.  Admit it.   You're humming it right now.   Oscar #3.

VISUAL EFFECTS:  Even I'll admit that those CGI animals were plenty scary in THE JUNGLE BOOK.

PRODUCTION DESIGN:  It had the most imaginative look of any movie I saw all year.  The winner is LA LA LAND.   Oscar #4.

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING:  The winner is STAR TREK BEYOND.  Why? It's the only one of the three nominees that I actually saw.

COSTUME DESIGN:  The winner is LA LA LAND.  I love anything Emma Stone wears.  Oscar #5.

FILM EDITING:  This just won't stop.  The winner is LA LA LAND.  Oscar #6.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE:  If La La Land was in French, it would win here, too. There is a nominated film whose director is boycotting the Oscars because of President Trump.   What a sneaky way to ensure you get an Oscar.   The winner is THE SALESMAN.

ANIMATED FEATURE:  I haven't seen any of the five nominees.  Where's Mickey and Bugs when you really need them?  The winner is ZOOTOPIA.

ANIMATED SHORT:  If I didn't see any of the animated features, do you really think I went to see the shorts?  I see something with a cute bird.  The winner is PIPER.

LIVE ACTION SHORT:  No clue.  Throwing a pencil.  The winner is ENNEMIS INTERIEURS.   Is that French for "enema?"

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:  I hear the buzz is for JOE'S VIOLIN.  Without the buzz, I would have no idea.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:  Okay, two films that didn't make into the five nominations were my favorites in this category.  "Weiner" and "The Witness."   These were terrific stories.   But I also saw OJ: MADE IN AMERICA and it is on the list.   Sure, it's nine hours long but, even watching it in eight parts, it's as captivating.   And disturbing.   What a freakin' dumb jury.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:  Los Angeles never looked more colorful on screen.  My God, you can't see any dirt.  The winner is LA LA LAND.   Oscar #7.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:   One of the few movies I liked in 2016 has to be thrown at least one bone.  The winner, as grim as it is, will be MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:  For its ingenious story about three stages in a young man's life, the winner is MOONLIGHT.  

You'll have to come back tomorrow to see the major categories.   And find out if I think La La Land will crack the double digit Oscar club.

Dinner last night:  Pork chop with sauteed spinach and mushrooms.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

This Date in History - February 22

Live from New York, it's "Happy Birthday, Don Pardo!"  That is if they celebrate that stuff in heaven.

1371:  ROBERT II BECOMES KING OF SCOTLAND, BEGINNING THE STUART DYNASTY.  

If being king of some place where men wear skirts is your thing, go have at it.

1495:  KING CHARLES VIII OF FRANCE ENTERS NAPLES TO CLAIM THE CITY'S THRONE.

And pick up a large pepperoni pizza.

1632:  GALILEO'S "DIALGOUE CONCERNING THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS" IS PUBLISHED.

Yeah, but it wasn't one of Oprah's book picks of the month.

1797:  THE LAST INVASION OF BRITAIN BEGINS NEAR FISHGUARD, WALES.

The last invasion?  What was the Nazis in 1939?  A class field trip?

1819:  BY THE ADAMS-ONI TREATY, SPAIN SELLS FLORIDA TO THE UNITED STATES FOR FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

And they have been sending their people to live there ever since.

1847:  DURING THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR, 5,000 AMERICAN TROOPS DEFEAT 15,000 MEXICANS.

That's 3 Mexicans for every American soldier.  Meanwhile, I don't think this war is over yet.

1855:  THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY IS FOUNDED IN STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA.

When were the boys' showers built?

1856:  THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OPENS ITS FIRST NATIONAL MEETING IN PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA.

Why are these political groups called "partys?"  They don't look like much fun to me.

1862:  JEFFERSON DAVIS IS OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED FOR A SIX-YEAR-TERM AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.

A six-year-term?  Yikes.  For me, four years is way too long if the guy stinks.

1872:  THE PROHIBITION PARTY HOLDS ITS FIRST NATIONAL CONVENTION IN COLUMBUS, OHIO.

Prohibition?   That is definitely not a party in my book.

1879:  IN UTICA, NEW YORK, FRANK WOOLWORTH OPENS THE FIRST OF MANY FIVE AND DIME WOOLWORTH STORES.

And, on this day only, you probably could buy something in there for fifteen cents.

1889:  PRESIDENT GROVER CLEVELAND SIGNS A BILL ADMITTING NORTH DAKOTA, SOUTH DAKOTA, MONTANA, AND WASHINGTON AS US STATES.

Well, that probably added about 27 people to the country's population.

1907:  ACTOR SHELDON LEONARD IS BORN.

Psst, hey, buddy....

1907:  ACTOR ROBERT YOUNG IS BORN.

Father knows best...and, in this case, also drinks most.

1915:  DURING WORLD WAR I, GERMANY INSTITUTES UNRESTRICTED SUBMARINE WARFARE.

You mean it was once restricted? 

1918:  BASEBALL OWNER CHARLIE FINLEY IS BORN.

Is it redundant if I call him a jackass?

1918:  TV ANNOUNCER DON PARDO IS BORN.

He worked till he was 90.   Hopefully, it wasn't because he had a lousy pension plan at NBC.

1924:  US PRESIDENT CALVIN COOLIDGE BECOMES THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO DELIVER A RADIO BROADCAST FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.

So he was officially the first one not to have anything to say.

1930:  SINGER MARNI NIXON IS BORN.

Really not a big deal until the day that Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood were born.

1932:  POLITICIAN TED KENNEDY WAS BORN.

Can you imagine the labor pains when little Rose had to push this fat load out?

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT ORDERS GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES AS JAPAN'S VICTORY BECOMES INEVITABLE.

That's an awful quick hook, if you ask me.

1958:  EGYPT AND SYRIA JOIN TO FORM THE UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC.

The last moment of unity ever in the Mideast.

1965:  JUSTICE OF THE US SUPREME COURT FELIX FRANKFURTER DIES.

Hot dog!

1974:  SAMUEL BYCK TRIES AND FAILS TO ASSASSINATE US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON.

Talk about blowing your chance at immortality.

1976:  SUPREME FLORENCE BALLARD DIES.

She was stopped...in the name of love.

1980:  IN LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK, THE UNITED STATES HOCKEY TEAM DFEATS THE SOVIET UNION HOCKEY TEAM, 4-3. 

Do you believe in miracles??  Nah!

1983:  THE NOTORIOUS BROADWAY FLOP "MOOSE MURDERS' OPENS AND CLOSES ON THE SAME NIGHT.

That's what I get for buying tickets for February 23.

1984:  DAVID VETTER, THE BOY IN THE BUBBLE, DIES.

Symbolically, he died during the closing credits of the Lawrence Welk Show.

1985:  VIOLINIST EFREM ZIMBALIST DIES.

77 Sunset....no, wait, this is the father.  Never mind.

1987:  ARTIST ANDY WARHOL DIES.

In his memory, I ate a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup.

1995:  ACTOR ED FLANDERS DIES.

He killed himself.  Sad.  A terrific performance on one of my favorite TV shows of all time, St. Elsewhere.

1997:  IN SCOTLAND, SCIENTISTS ANNOUNCE THAT AN ADULT SHEEP NAMED DOLLY HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY CLONED.

So, well, hello...  Any need to finish this obvious joke?

2002:  CARTOONIST CHUCK JONES DIES.

That really is all, folks.

2016:  SONGWRITER/SINGER SONNY JAMES DIES.

From Young Love to Old Corpse.

Dinner last night:  Chopped salad.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reunited

Christmas week 2016 was a lot different than most years with the untimely passing of Carrie Fisher, followed quite dramatically by the death of mom Debbie Reynolds one day later.   In show business, timing is everything.   And, if you remember the film "Postcards from the Edge" written by Carrie in a semi-autobiographical mode, you certainly understand why Debbie wanted to go and be with her daughter.

And if that Meryl Streep-Shirley MacLaine movie didn't demonstrate that enough for you, the HBO documentary "Bright Lights" is final validation about the intense connection between mother and daughter.  Filmed over a two year period from 2013 to 2015, this magnificent film chronicles the world of Debbie and Carrie, but son Todd as well.  The women are followed around by cameras as they toddle around on the same Beverly Hills compound where they both lived, separated by a hilly walkway.  Originally, the documentary was to run on HBO in the spring.   The recent developments prompted them to move up the premiere and wisely so.

Your emotions will ping pong back and forth from sheer laughter to tears.   Carrie, always fiercely funny, is a scream as she deals with her own career as well as bringing casseroles over to Mom on a nightly basis.   Their banter is so organic and funny that it couldn't possibly be conjured up by a writer.   At one ironic moment, Carrie asks Debbie if she's getting more than her brother in the will.  

Meanwhile, Debbie is desperately trying to keep performing and you watch as she makes some tour stops on days when she is certainly becoming more frail and forgetful.  At one point, she is motoring around a Vegas casino in a motorized scooter.   Carrie worries constantly about her mom and dotes over her.  At the same time, you can see how totally eccentric she is with a home full of memorabilia and enough junk to make Fred Sanford envious.

Punctuating the current day footage are magically candid home movies of the kids growing up in Hollywood.   Plus there is an incredibly poignant conversation from 2010 between Carrie and dad Eddie Fisher in his final days that will rip your heart out.  Their lives are all laid out in front of us with no curtains drawn.   As a result, you learn so much about the inner workings and psyche of a show business family.

Debbie's fervent connection with her daughter is so strong that, one more time, you completely understand how her daughter's death broke her heart.   On the flip side, you can also see very easily why Carrie is no longer with us.   In virtually every scene, she is either eating junk food, drinking a can of Coke, or smoking a cigarette.   Even without the publicized past drug use, her body was being battered from within daily.

This should be a must watch for you this winter.   Find it on HBO as soon as you can.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a sandwich.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 20, 2017

Anger management...

Dinner last night:  Grilled ribeye steak and pan roasted tomatoes in balsamic jam.