Friday, August 31, 2007

Dirty Old Man

As I was driving around Westchester on Sunday, I had cause to motor past the old Carvel Inn on Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers. It looks like they are trying to put a fancy new spin on this dump, which is now called the Royal Regency Hotel. I was mentally capsized by a flood of memories of my days at this fleabag building, whose available rooms were usually used more often by sex-starved employees of the Carvel Corporation as opposed to tourists looking for a neat roadstop on the New York State Thruway on their way to much better locales than Yonkers, New York.

That was also the site of my first fulltime job after college.

I had gotten an entry level job as an all-purpose advertising assistant for the Carvel Ice Cream franchises. I was known as "send the kid." And that phrase was usually uttered by Tom Carvel himself, the founder of his little ice cream empire. The story of how he started his conglomerate is legend. His ice cream truck broke down on Central Avenue in Hartsdale sometime in the 1930s. Because his frozen treats were melting, he had to sell them on the spot. He realized people would come to a central spot to buy ice cream cones. The stuff is legend. As a matter of fact, out here in Hollywoodland, the chic thing for studios to now order for wrap parties, etc. are those goofy Carvel cakes. Hell, I was there when some of them were invented. Yes, I was present on the payroll for the birth of Fudgie the Whale---"a whale of a cake for a whale of a dad." Obviously, this was a Father's Day promotion. An interesting sidebar: these cake molds were very expensive for the Carvel dealers to buy. And, since the old fart kept churning out new characters for his cakes, they rebelled. So, Carvel had to figure out how to make future cake promotions by using the same mold. They would buy Fudgie but nothing else. So, they devised all these ways to make different creatures out of one mold. Indeed, the famous Cookie Puss is really the Fudgie mold simply cut differently. The man was a genius. Yeah, right.

To immerse myself into the custard business, I was forced by the old man to go into the dealer education program, which was more familiarly known as the "Carvel College of Ice Cream Knowledge." So, I got to learn how to prep machines to make soft ice cream, the correct amount of chips to sprinkle, etc.. And I learned how they made that secret cake crunch. Big freakin' secret. You take the Flying Saucer sandwich crumbs and mix it with some chocolate Magic Shell-like substance and then quick freeze it. Voila. Crunch. All the people who became franchisees were disgruntled former firemen or people who were tired of answering to some tyrannical boss. Little did they know.

You would think this merry old ice cream maker would be this larger-than-life storybook character. Wrong. The guy was an absolute pill. he was a cheap old bastard, whose gates were guarded by this old maid villainess named Mildred, who took out her spinsterhood on the employees. She resembled Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" and I was praying for a similar fire that would burn her to a crisp like a sugar cone. She held the penny while Carvel pinched it. Ultimately, I was fired by Mildred for not putting the cheaper paper in the Xerox machine. Yet, they pervaded this myth that the place was a virtual Willy Wonka movie. Meanwhile, I worked with the sleaziest of the sleazy. Secretaries were sleeping with bosses. Bosses were sleeping with their bosses. And "T.C." was the biggest perv of them all. If you were a young woman at the company, it was a matter of time before he tried to grope you in his lap. One of my regular duties was to drive the company car down into the bowels of Manhattan and pick up some specially selected skin flicks at a porno production house. Then, I would hand deliver them into a plain brown envelope to Mildred for messengering to Carvel's Dobbs Ferry palace.

One very icy day, I got the call from Mildred's bat cave. The old man's tape machine was busted. I had to bring his office VCR up to the house. He obviously had some new releases and a new box of Kleenex he was dying to crack. Okay, these were the days of the clunky tape players. When I got to Carvel's frozen lair, the cheap bastard hadn't bothered to clean the hilly walkway to his front door. As I mounted the icy tundra carrying a fifty pound tape player, I remember thinking to myself. If there ever was a time in my life that I would endure a broken leg, let this be the moment so I could sue the guy for all the hot fudge in the world.

I had to edit those stupid radio commercials he did with new dealers. The copy he voiced was always the same gravely nonsense.

"Where's your store located?"

"You gonna sell Thinny Thin?"

"You gonna carry Lo-Yo?"

It was a marketing ploy developed by Moses. Plus he would never expand his radio campaign beyond the stations he listened to. That's why he was wasting his money looking for new young dealers on WOR-AM, which was the flagship radio station of Woodlawn Cemetary.

For a first job, the experience was not rewarding, but certainly fruitful when it came to comical anecdotes. Once, there was some family of tourists looking to save a few bucks by staying at the hotel. There was always one room with clean sheets just in case this ever happened. Well, anyway, one of the family's younger members was carrying a tray of coffee through the lobby. I watched him trip and spill the hot java onto the floor. As luck would have it, TC was doing a walkthrough at the time. He promptly told the young boy to clean out his desk because he was fired. Probably the first time ever, a hotel guest was fired from the premises. There was another time where Carvel had found a cigarette stub on the floor and he promptly carried on a three day investigation to find who the sloppy employee was. I saw him literally going through office ash trays trying to match up the mysterious butt.

Tom Carvel viewed himself as some great philantrophist, despite being the biggest miser since Scrooge. He did have one charity he bend over backsward for. Dobbs Ferry Children's Hospital. Because he allegedly had this wonderful lifelong friendship with Bob Hope, Carvel decided to stage this benefit performance. He engaged Hope to preside over the evening. For the several weeks prior, no one in the company did a blasted thing that involved ice cream. Our complete focus was this stupid show. And Carvel had this dream that Bob Hope would spend the night of the event by sleeping at his beloved rat's nest, the Carvel Inn. All we heard for weeks was the sound of hammering in the hotel. Carvel was knocking out the walls of five hotel rooms to make a Bob Hope suite. Then, he moved furniture in from his home for Bob. I guess you have an idea where this is going. After the huge and costly renovation, Bob Hope did indeed stop at the Carvel Inn on the night of the show. To pee.

The old man died in 1990 after selling his company off. There are still rumors from his distant relatives that contend he was murdered. Gee, it would take at least 20 years to sift through all those with a motive.

Dinner last night: Shrimp Scampi at Duke's in Malibu.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Now I've Heard Everything....

Talk about a misguided focus. There are a bunch of Met fans who have started a website and a subsequent petition/campaign to make sure that club management includes the ultra-cheesy Home Run Apple in their plans for the new ballpark. Direct yourself to if you are so inclined and interested in maintaining relics from super horrible years in Met history.

The Home Run Apple went up in 1980 as the then-owners, the DeRoulet family, did their darndest to make Shea Stadium a fun place to come and watch terrible baseball. Beyond this contraption that came out of the black top hat every time a Met hit a homerun, they all brought in one of the worst gimmicks ever. Who can forget their team mascot, Mettle the Mule? Assholes, literally and figuratively.

For some bizarre reason, some Met fans are not going to rest until this hunk of junk makes the trip across the alleyway to new Shitty Field. Here's what the open letter I found on the website:

To: Sterling Mets and Fred Wilpon
We, the Undersigned, as fans of the New York Mets and Shea Stadium implore Sterling Mets and Fred Wilpon to
Save the Home Run Apple which currently resides in Shea Stadium from being auctioned or sold. We ask that the Home Run Apple be moved to Citi Field after the end of the 2008 Season so that on Opening Day 2009, the same Home Run Apple that has been with the Mets since 1980 remains with the Mets in their new home. We ask that only the normal amount of maintenance be given to the Apple and a fresh coat of paint would also be fine, but the Apple should remain as it has since it's installation. We have come to countless games at Shea Stadium, we all have different memories, but one things remains the same for all Mets fans, and that is the thrill of seeing the Home Run Apple rise out of its top hat slowly after a Mets home run. A new apple will not be the same. What makes the Apple special is that it reminds Mets fans of their youth, of their past and the Mets' past, of coming out to the ballpark and watching a game of baseball. We don't need any crazy gimmicks, shiny apples, bright lights, just a large red Apple coming out of a top hat. The same Apple that has come out of the same top hat for generations of Mets fans. We beg of you to Save the Apple and hope that you will take us seriously.
The Undersigned

To me, this is pretty laughable. And there are so many other things Met fans need to contemplate prior to the opening of their new domicile. For instance, how about a return to a more pleasant baseball experience? One that does not include a constant assault on the senses. One that does not make the broad-based assumption that everyone in attendance is Spanish? One that restores some easy-on-the-ears real life organ music to the endless noise pollution that envelops Shea these days.

Moreover, Met fans should be writing letters to the Wilpons about a bit more than some hackneyed and tired amusement park retread. They should be starting to address the fact that regular Met fans will probably be aced out of the new park unless they commit to season ticket plans. The prices will be astronomical and the graffiti is already on the outfield wall. I pretty much know that my Saturday plan, which has been in my family's name for 40 years in 2008, will go the way of Bruce Boisclair and Dave Schneck.

Yeah, let's waste our time worrying about the Home Run Apple. There's certainly a lot more at stake.

Dinner last night: At Disneyland's California Adventure, a great salad at Wine Country Trattoria.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tuesday, Wednesday, ...

Well, I had a miserable week in NY, so I'm going to have to take it out on somebody. From the looks of it, Major League Baseball is taking the brunt of me today.

---Driving leisurely through a residential neighborhood on Sunday afternoon, I had to slam on the brakes when two idiots walked out aimlessly from between two parked cars. The one guy was so startled that he dropped his bag.

---Which was full of those Awake pamphlets. I almost killed two holy doorknockers.

---The white shirts and black ties should have been the giveaway.

---Jehovah almost showed up faster than they expected.

---Saturday at Shea for the Met-Dodger game was a rarity for me. I didn't enjoy a single moment.

---There was no discernible air to breathe. The place was packed full of idiots who were barely paying attention to the game.

---Mr. Met made a rare appearance in my section. Up close, you realize they have not had that head dry cleaned since probably Mrs. Payson was alive.

---Overheard conversation between two morons on the Shea concession line: Moron #1: "Why are they playing Danny Boy?" Moron #2: "Because it's Italian Heritage Day."

---Yes, Saturday was Irish Appreciation Day. The night before it was Hispanic Night. They even had some chick doing the PA in Spanish.

---What the hell are they doing building a new park next door? They might as well move the whole freakin' franchise to Puerto Rico. I won't be going there either.

---You will be happy to know that Jose Reyes' antics during the National Anthem are not restricted to road games. There he was on Saturday stretching his legs during "Oh Say Can You See."

---This is Error: Willie Randolph. Don't tell me he doesn't see this going on.

---I bet if they saw Lastings Milledge was doing the same thing, they'd be all over him like beans on rice.

---The difference is Reyes is a star and Milledge is not.

---I watch Reyes and I just wish that Pete Rose would come back for one more slide into second.

---Wearing the sharpest cleats Rawlings makes.

--Thursday night, the cameras caught Reyes wearing a towel on his head during a rally like he was in the next graduating class of the Taliban.

---Listening to the obese Jon Miller and the pompous Joe Morgan doing Sunday night baseball on ESPN, I longed for the days of Kiner and McCarver.

---Even Kiner, in his babbling incoherence today, sounds better than those other two jackasses.

---Adrian Bel-tray. Carlos Bel-tron. Idi-ots.

---In the ninth inning of the Sunday night game, the cameras caught a shot of some ten-year-old holding up a sign that said "Stay Tuned for Sportscenter."

---Yeah, right. Because when I was going to Met games at that age, I was always bringing a banner that read "Kiner's Korner coming up after the game."

---Meanwhile, because of the despicable ESPN, the Sunday afternoon game was switched to 8PM and, as a result, killed one of the Mets' top promotions. The one where kids get to run the bases after the game.

---I guess that kid ran the bases dragging his Sportscenter sign.

---A leftover from my airport purgatory last week: A guy in Cincy told me that, during one trip to NY, he had so much trouble getting a return flight, he rented a car and drove ten hours.

---Aw, jeez, I have to root for David Wells now???

Dinner last night: the usual Philippe's french dip ham prior to the Dodger game.

And to Disneyland.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Pardon Me...

....but do you have time to talk with me about the Constitution?"

This is what I was asked not once, not twice, but three times as I wandered around Beverly Hills two Saturdays ago after a haircut. I always treat myself to a Starbucks after getting clipped. Who knew that I was walking into a petition-wielding hornet's nest. I watched these folks ambushing passerbys with the precision of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dealey Plaza. They found plenty of pigeons, most of them unsuspecting tourists who probably thought they could trade their signatures for a "Wheel of Fortune" taping.

Did I have time to talk about the Constitution? Yes.

Did I talk about the Constitution?

Well, I exercised my right to say no. And that is in the Constitution.

I know these folks are well meaning, but they have to realize that there are a variety of opinions out among the population. And there is no black or white when it comes to political opinions. They are all gray.

So, I take the path of least resistance. When somebody stops me with one of these causes, I take Nancy Reagan's old advice.

I just say no.

In this crazy country of ours, it is getting easy and easier to do so. I find myself almost adopting a personal "laissez faire" attitude to the nuts around me. I don't want to be the one having to extend myself because of somebody else's lack of common sense.

Take, for instance, my flight back to LA from Dallas three weeks ago. I was hanging around the gate waiting for my upgrade to not clear. I saw him first at the desk. It was a young African-American guy, probably in his mid 20s. He must have been 7 feet tall. I thought perhaps that he was a player in the NBA. But, he was wearing a real team jersey, and I figured somebody like Kobe Bryant doesn't actually wear part of his uniform out in public. I got to board before him, which then definitively classified his "nobody" status.

While I didn't get kicked up to first class, my American Airlines Platinum rank did merit my occupancy of the next best thing: an exit row seat on the aisle. Mucho leg room and, as long as you are wary of beverage carts, plenty of aisle stretch out space. I immediately put in my Earplanes and opened my book. My "leave me alone" facade. I did not keep track of where Stretch Cunningham was.

Then came the announcement.

"We have a passenger who's in a middle seat and he is seven feet tall."

Yeah, so, I thought.

"We're going to be looking for a passenger who's in an exit row seat on the aisle that might be willing to trade."Yeah, so, I thought.

Sure enough. I was target number one for the inquiring flight attendant.

And I pulled out my new favorite card.


I dismissed her quickly and politely. She moved on.

What I really wanted to say is why should I be thoroughly inconvenienced because this idiot didn't have the brainpower to grab an appropriate seat when he booked his flight. It's not like he grew 10 inches in the cab ride coming to DFW. He should have figured this out long ago. The plane is jammed as it is. I had a rough day and I want to get home in as comfortable a fashion as I can.

Bottom line: his stupidity is not going to be my problem.

It's not a moment I was proud of. I'd like to think I can be the best person I can be for my fellow man. There's stuff all over the Bible about that. At the same time, there's another adage that is proving to be more and more true in the mixed up United States.

No good deed goes unpunished.

I felt better when I realized that nobody else gave up their exit row seats either. The plane's takeoff was delayed until Joe Amazon could be accommodated. He refused to take another flight. But, he did somehow wind up with another aisle seat and his legs stretched out another two rows forward. Anyone trying to use the rest room had to use a sherpa to climb over him.

It would have been easier to say yes.

We all said no.


Dinner last night: Back in LA for a turkey burger at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 27, 2007


Dinner last night: turkey sandwich and salad.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pop Stars That I Have Known, Part 2

This is Chaka Khan standing at a microphone. The day I had a run-in with her, she was standing, thanks to a wall that was propping her up in a drunken haze.

Once again, an odd meeting, precipitated by my involvement with that entertainment company which specialized in concert tours. We had engaged Chaka to appear at an industry Christmas luncheon. That would be followed by a reception for clients at a suite in the Waldorf-Astoria. (Rhetorical question: was that hotel once in Queens, hence the name?)

By the time Chaka got upstairs to meet the client base, she was about as coherent as Kirk Douglas with a hairlip. But, the photographer was there. The clients wanted pictures. Who cares if the other person in the photo looked like she was on the express line at Betty Ford?

We all ended up on line getting her picture snapped with Chaka. Everytime the flash went off, she almost slid over and hit the coffee table.

When it was my turn, I ambled alongside her. She muttered "Shmerry Christshmas." Snap. Flash. Done.

This would probably be the first time I've been in a picture with someone completely drunk out of their gourd. I'm, of course, not counting family portraits at Christmas gatherings.

I do remember getting quickly distracted by one of our sales managers. He implored me to escort one of our sales people out of the party. It seems he, too, had been over-served and was swallowing hors d'ouevres without removing the toothpicks.

I never knew what happened to him either.

Dinner last night: Still in steamy and uncomfortable NY for some beef with garlic sauce at Pagoda in Scarsdale.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"If Branch Rickey Were Alive Today...

...he'd be spinning in his grave."

One of the many malaprops uttered by legendary Met broadcaster Ralph Kiner. He is probably second only to Yogi Berra in bizarro statements. You can add to this his innate inability to pronounce the word "Mitsubishi."

One of the misfortunes I will have by attending today's Dodger-Met game at Shea (other than that two-headed monster of bicoastal fandom will attack my insides one more time) will be missing the Fox TV telecast of the contest. Because they will be reuniting for a short time in front of the mike for perhaps one last time the play-by-play/color combo of Ralph Kiner and Tim McCarver. I will have resort to taping this monent.

Okay, growing up as a Met fan, I never thought the original trio of Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, and Bob "Happy Recap" Murphy could be topped. And, indeed, after Nelson's departure in 1979 and Murphy's subsequent exile to radio, it wasn't. Ralphie was alone on TV for a few years with a couple of nimcompoops until some genius in the Met organization pulled in Tim McCarver in 1983. When the two former baseball stars got together on air, it was pure serendipity. The younger McCarver was virtual broadcast Viagra for Kiner. The two melded as one. It was as if Tracy and Hepburn had hooked up at your local sports bar. For the first time in my life, I actually preferring watching games on TV as opposed to attending them in person. They were smart. They were funny. And, despite their age difference, they respected each other.

Their first years together coincided with the 80s rebirth of the Mets and that certainly helped. But, even when the team fell apart, these two pros had something to say. It was an education that should be offered as a college course for three credits.

My mother was one such graduate. She never had been a baseball fan. I vaguely remember her being in the living room on Wednesday, September 24, 1969, and wondering what all the fuss was on TV. The child had to explain to the parent that the Mets had just clinched the division for the first time and were headed to the lofty playoffs. She probably responded with a simple and monotone "Oh."

But, sometime in the 80s, she became a baseball fan. She started watching games broadcast by Kiner and McCarver and was suddenly totally conversant in the sport. When a son can talk baseball with both his father and his mother, it is an event for the ages. Her heart broke when Dwight Gooden got nailed for drugs. She lived and breathed the Mets and knew them inside and out. She credited Ralph Kiner and Tim McCarver as the sole reasons for her new appreciation. It was a special part of the later years of her life. I once wrote Tim and told him this and he sent back a response that showed how touched he was.

Even though it will only be for an inning or two today, I am betting she will tune in wherever she is.

Thanks, Tim. Thanks, Ralph. And you'll be happy to know that I do own a Snitumishi TV. Or was that Bitsunishi?


Dinner last night: roasted chicken and mushrooms at Carlo's.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Visit to the Queen City

Following Tuesday's roundtrip flight to Hell, my Thursday one-dayer to Cincinnati, Ohio, couldn't possibly be worse. And that was indeed the case.

Well, almost.

First, the good news. Not only did this trip officially end my lifetime boycott of Ohio, I also can cross the great state of Kentucky off my list as well. It seems the Cincinnati airport is just across the river in Kentucky. Predictably, there is nothing in Kentucky worth mentioning as it wasn't the first Saturday of May (Derby Day).

The downtown portion of Cincinnati is pretty much contained in about five city blocks. It is super clean, super uncongested, and super boring. I passed by the Cincy Reds' new Great American Ball Park as well as the football Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium. You can't miss either. They are right next door to each other. The football arena has this incredibly open feel. It looked like people sitting in the upper deck could easily fall out if they had one too many brewskis. If you try to get away from the stadium area, you can't go far. No matter where you turn in the downtown area, you see the freakin' light towers of the baseball park. It looks like a cool place. It is borderline antiseptic. And boring.

I got to Cincinnati/Kentucky/whatever in a lickity split style. The plane from LaGuardia left on time. I descended into the scorching Midwestern heat fifteen minutes early. American Airlines had returned like the Phoenix from my list of the dead.

But the efficient morning became a faded memory by late afternoon. Hell had thawed again.

I arrived at Cincinnati/Kentucky/whatever airport 90 minutes before my scheduled 528PM flight back to Flushing Bay. I was stunned by the screening process administered by their Homeland Insecurity squad. Apparently, these are the folks who took their training seriously. After placing your bag, shoes, etc. on the conveyor belt, you step into some contraption. The glass doors close and then air shoots up at you from the floor. It was almost as if Six Flags was now in charge. When I got past the guard, my backpack was flagged for "unknown objects." The attendant ordered me like Charlie Chan. "Touch nothing." I held my hands up as if I were being robbed in Shubert Alley.

So, what had aroused the Gestapo's suspicions? My Ocean saline spray. My pencil needed for Sudoku puzzles. And my Chapstick. All of which never ever leaves my bag when I travel from LA to NY and back. I walked away a little violated, but then impressed and confused at the same time. Indeed, this is how thorough these searches need to be. But, why the hell is it being wasted in Ohio/Kentucky? The only terrorists probably in play there are ticket scalpers for Ohio State football games. Meanwhile, I have walked through screenings unaccosted in New York and Los Angeles, as I amble by amongst the best and worst of the third world army.

More confusion ensued at the gate. It was announced that, due to air traffic congestion at LaGuardia, we would not have a plane available for a while. I looked out the window at the tarmac. A plane was sitting at the gate. Okay, I had an option to kill some time. A friend and former denizen of Ohio told me that I must sample Skyline Chili when I was in Cincinnati. And there's one in the airport. Given the alleged delay, I wondered how much time I had to do so.

Me: "Do you have a rough idea when we will be leaving?"

Agent: "Probably not for another hour and a half."

Me: "So I have time to go and get something to eat."

Agent: "Probably. But we could release the plane at any time."

Me: (looking at the empty plane at the gate): "But I thought there was no plane available?"

Agent: "There's not. But it could be released at any time."

I wondered how they could quickly release a plane they either did or did not have. I decided to find Skyline Chili. I walked toward the terminal.

Security Guard: "Where you going, sir?"

Me: "My plane is delayed. I'm going to get something to eat."

Security Guard: "Okay, but you'll have to go through screening again."

I looked to my left. The former Berlin Wall sentry was still on duty and probably dying to wrestle my Ocean saline gel to the ground once again.

Me: (to the Security Guard) "Where's Skyline Chili?"

Security Guard: "The other terminal."

I slouched back to my gate and resorted to a bag of potato chips for my repast.

Yes, the plane was released earlier. And, yes, the empty plane on the tarmac indeed was our plane. And, yes, I did hear the following announcement on the PA.

"Will United passengers on Flight 1540 please report to Gate 5 for your delayed on-time departure."


The ninety minute flight back to NY actually took over two hours as Laguardia air traffic controllers apparently diverted us to Spain.

As we banked over and over into huge circles over somewhere, I peered out the window and wondered just how dangerous Chapstick really is.

Dinner last night: The aforementioned bag of potato chips.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

I have proudly waved the "bicoastal" banner as if it were a National League pennant. For the past ten years, it has become part of my existence. And a cool one at that
In about two years, I probably will cease that lifestyle. And when, at that time, you wonder about the reason why, you can easily refer back to this date.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007.
Air travel in this country has become an embarrassment. Take a gander at the chart next door. They are shoehorning people in at a stupefying rate. And they can't handle it manpower-wise. The airlines will never tell you this, but their tough times post-9/11 resulted in some employee cuts. I have heard this from a number of American Airline staff members. So, it's more people flying in fewer seats with less personnel to service them.
Only in the great US of A.
Now, I've pretty much flown American Airlines exclusively during my bicoastal era. They have pretty much been satisfactory up until about six months ago. I know I will always encounter the usual hand-wringing drama when flying into Newark Airport, which is the Mack Sennett of air terminals. But, the travel crisis benchmark has risen dramatically of late. Along with several horror stories of my own, I have heard a myriad of nightmares from friends. There is something going on someplace.
I can only relate my 8/21/07 story as it unfolded in a timeline. I am simply attempting to fly from LAX to Newark.
6:00AM Pacific: Beverly Hills Cab picks me up at my Los Angeles home. I mention to the driver that I pay by credit card. He says he knows. All the drivers know me. That is sad. I feel like some old guy that gets picked up for his dialysis three times a week.
6:20AM Pacific: I get dropped off at LAX. American Airlines Terminal 4. I use the Platinum automatic check-in. My bag is overweight as usual. They ding me $25. My suitcase along weighs 30 pounds and they allow 50 total. The check-in lady is quite nice. She notes my last name is German and mentions that hers is as well. We chat each other up with some basic German phrases and ultimately sing "Au Du Lieber Augustine" together.
6:35AM Pacific: I get through Homeland Insecurity. The dothead in front of me jams the machine by trying to put a hula hoop through.
6:55AM Pacific: I seat myself down at Gate 48B for my 815AM flight to Newark. I am third on the upgrade list. I look outside and note there is no plane at the gate.
7:05AM Pacific: A plane pulls up to the gate. The pilots sit inside for several minutes.
7:10AM Pacific: The pilots back the plane from the gate and leave.
7:15AM Pacific: There is an announcement that Flight 114 to Newark has been cancelled. And we are to report to Gate 42B for personal assistance from AA.
7:20AM Pacific: The so-called "personal assistance" is some snarky Black woman who essentially gives you a piece of paper that apologizes for your inconvenience and tells you to call a 800 number for help. But, she tells you to first go to Luggage Claim area 1 to get your baggage which is being returned to you. The first reason given for the cancellation is weather. It is pouring in New York. And there is a hurricane headed for Mexico, which I guess is close enough to New Jersey. This will be the first of a series of bizarro explanations I will get today for the Newark cancellation. I will also hear blame put on weather, equipment failure, global warming, George Bush, and pilot outrage toward Met GM Omar Minaya's inability to pick up a quality starter at the trade deadline.
7:30AM Pacific: At the baggage claim, I first place a F-bomb-laden voicemail to my roommate. As I wait for my luggage, I place a call to American's help line, which is no help. She tells me I won't be able to get a flight to either JFK or Newark for three days. I could get to JFK on Wednesday if I spent Tuesday night at DFW in Dallas. Then, suddenly, there is an available seat on Tuesday's 415PM to JFK. I grab it. Another Newark passenger hears this and says he just got an available seat on the 12Noon to JFK. Huh?
7:45AM Pacific: Since it's essentially gone nowhere, it makes no sense that it takes almost 25 minutes for my luggage to show up. I pulled it off the turntable and head up to Ticketing for the real story.
7:50AM Pacific: At Ticketing, I run into my fraulein friend again who is most helpful. She tells me all flights to JFK are booked, but I probably could get out earlier than 415PM by going on the standby list. She says that, with my Platinum status, this should be a cinch. She tickets my luggage for the 930AM flight to JFK. My suitcase is going. At the moment, I still am not. At least not definitely until 415PM.
755AM Pacific: I head to the gate for the 930AM flight to JFK, but first I must make my second pass through Homeland Unsecurity. No hula hoop this time, but much confusion when some old bag refuses to remove her orthopedic oxfords.
810AM Pacific: I am becoming quite proficient at security screening. While doing so, I call Hertz Gold Club and move my rental pickup from Newark to JFK. I have a hard time explaining to some loon named "Kanisha" that I don't know what flight I am on. I fail to get a laugh when I suggest my suitcase come and pick up the car.
820AM Pacific: Now, at Gate 42B to check on my standby status for 930AM. I am seventh on the list of 47!
840AM Pacific: I have somehow dropped down to ninth on the list, while doing nothing but sitting quietly and doing my Sudoku puzzle in the LA Times.
905AM Pacific: Some AA martinet announces that there will be no standbys for 930AM. We are all being rolled over to the 11AM flight. She makes a plug for the Admirals Club by telling everybody it would be a good day to join.
915AM Pacific: I join the Admirals Club. I make friends with one of the attendants up there who promises to check in on my standby status every 15 minutes.
920AM Pacific: I head to the quieter business section of the Admirals Club.
930AM Pacific: I leave the quieter business section of the Admirals Club because of the noise. Two girls are screaming to each other across the room in French. I secretly wonder why the Nazis were even interested in that country in the first place.
945AM Pacific: Munching on cookies at the snack bar, I overhear some AA workers still buzzing over the fact that Brad Pitt was stuck there for five hours on Monday.
955AM Pacific: Just as I find a quiet place to camp out, in comes a couple with two strollers and babies attached. They, too, speak French. Was there an occupation and nobody told me?
1020AM Pacific: My counter friend finds me and announces that I will not make the 11AM but I have been rolled over to 12 Noon. Her sincere sadness at telling me this made her momentarily datable.
1055AM Pacific: I top out at Level 13 on my Black Berry's version of Brickbraker.
1100AM Pacific: I call my friend the Bibster in NY and quote my favorite alltime Billy Wilder line, which was used in two of his movies. "I feel like I'm in Hell with my back broken."
1120AM Pacific: My counter friend tells me that the 12 Noon is out for me, but I have been rolled again to the 1PM. A little less sadness this time. I think she has met someone else.
1215PM Pacific: I look out the windows and see lots of planes leaving with happy passengers. I feel like Tom Hanks in the Terminal. A new counter person finds me to say that the 1PM will not be an option. Apparently, my exile there has already outlived the other woman's shift. I have rolled over again to the 3PM. At this point, my confirmed 415PM really seems to make the most sense.
2PM Pacific: It dawns on me that I have no recollection of the last seventy five minutes. I realize that I had fallen asleep on a chair in a public place. If I live the day, I make a note to kill myself.
230PM Pacific: I use 5 bucks to get 15 minutes out of a massage chair. While getting my neck rubbed, the 3PM standby option gets rubbed out.
320PM Pacific: I head to the gate for the 415PM plane. Good news. I am number two on the upgrade list. Bad news: 29 of 30 passengers have checked in.
330PM Pacific: Knowing I won't be eating fancy on the plane, I seek out some prepackaged alternative in the airport. I opt for a ham and swiss sandwich from Starbucks.
345PM Pacific: I finally board a plane. Flight 180. An Arabic family of acrobats pushes past me to board first.
400PM Pacific: Sitting in the first row of coach, I get to watch all the more important people in Business and First. I can smell their food cooking. The seat next to me is now occupied by a young Asian guy.
402PM Pacific: I have a horrible realization. I have packed two films from the latest Charlie Chan boxset for my on-plane viewing and I am now sitting next to this Asian guy.
410PM Pacific: The flight attendant calls my name. For some strange reason, they can now upgrade me. I give the Asian kid my Starbucks sandwich and grab the seat improvement.
420PM Pacific: We finally take off. I immediately wish myself there by resetting my watch.
830PM Eastern: I polish off a meal of beef tenderloin and grilled asparagus. I eat it despite hating asparagus. I am just happy to do anything that involves forward movement. I heartily accept three offers to refill my glass of red wine.
1110PM Eastern: There is a French businessman across the row. He is playing with some loopy Powerpoint presentation. One of his associates comes from another seat and stands in the aisle to discuss it. As he keeps bending over to look at the computer, he props his ass squarely in my face. I use my elbow to poke him in the thigh a few times, but he doesn't get the message. I consider using my Sudoku pencil to help him get the point.
1125PM Eastern: The flight attendant finally tells the Frog to hittez les bricques. I applaud as he walks away and he gives the look of an evil guard at the Bastille.
1135PM Eastern: I notice that Frenchy has dropped his Black Berry holster on the floor. I get up to go to the bathroom and simultaneously kick it underneath some seats.
1245AM Eastern: We land at JFK! I immediately check for the baseball scores. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Pepe Le Pew looking around every which way. Did he lose something?
105AM Eastern: AA Baggage Claim is about two miles from the gates at JFK. The long walk makes me realize how weak my legs feel. Dodger Russell Martin has caught every game but eleven this season. His legs must feel like mine right now.
108AM Eastern: I approach some baggage attendant and inquire where I can find my suitcase which arrived six hours earlier. He points me to an area where there are at least five hundred pieces of luggage. There are dazed people all walking around looking for their belongings. Every suitcase is examined as passengers appear lost.
125AM Eastern: Unable to find my bag, I go to Baggage Claim, where the line is 15 deep. I chat amiably with a woman who just traveled 40 hours from Australia. Okay, your day is worse than mine, Aussie Chick.
130AM Eastern: Some huge Black cow barges in and cuts the line completely. The outback lady calls her out and Miss Fat Thing waves her off in her best Post Office dismissive style.
135AM Eastern: I notice that most of the people working the counter don't speak English. Losing your luggage must be an ethnic thing.
140AM Eastern: It is finally my turn. I show the guy my claim ticket. He takes me to a back room and immediately points me to my suitcase. It felt like a reunion after World War II.
155AM Eastern: As I wait for the airtrain to take me to Hertz, I look around at the others out and about. There is a cutoff time each day in NY. At some time around 1AM, there are no Caucasians out in public. I survey the platform and wonder if I am in either Bolivia or Kenya.
205AM Eastern: There's one poor slob manning the desk at Hertz. I might have been hard on Kanisha. My reservation was perfectly intact.
215AM Eastern: As I am exiting the Hertz lot, the warning light on the dashboard goes off. MAINTENANCE REQUIRED.
225AM Eastern: I exit the Hertz lot with my second shot at a rental car.
250AM Eastern: I arrive in my Westchester apartment.
300AM Eastern: I put in my nightguard and hit the pillow.

And, to think that I get to do this all over again when I head to Cincinnati today.
There must be a better way.

Dinner last night: honey baked ham with potato salad and cole slaw.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's Wednesday. Where Am I?

On the road again. Greetings from NYC, the perspiration capital of the world.

---Al Sharpton issued five commandments for Don Imus to adhere to now that he is going back to the airwaves.

---As much as I detest Imus, Sharpton's request is totally laughable.

---Okay, Fatpig, here's five things I need you to do for me

---Number One, admit to all that rape charge from Tawana Whats-her-face was a sham.

---Number Two, stop showing up like a fly on day-old garbage everytime there is the slightest hint of injustice done to an African-American.

---Number Three, if you want to ignore Number Two, then start showing up everytime there is the slightest hint of injustice done to anybody.

---Number Four, how about a freakin' salad bar?

---Number Five, please stop wearing all those stretchy sweat suits that come in the shades of Kool Aid flavors only available in Mississippi.

---Once again, the fact that this piece of slime is never censored by any African-American is appalling.

---And that includes you, Doogie Obama. That photo op with that medallion-laden hippopotamus a few months ago should have killed your future political career right then and there.

---You see what humidity does to me?

---Hurricane season. Time to buy stock again in Home Depot.

---Preseason football games are the most useless inventions known to man. All that ever happens is some team's season is destroyed before it starts when their quarterback breaks his leg.

---And usually some ultra-healthy 275 pound defensive end drops dead in a scrimmage being played in 100 degree weather.

---I hadn't see much of Diana Krall before, but she sure is an amazing artist. She gave a great show at the Hollywood Bowl last Saturday.

---I had no idea she could play the piano. She did a silky smooth rendition of the Bee Gees' "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?". It was so good that you gained five pounds listening to it.

---I can almost forgive the Elvis Costello connection.

---I'm still amazed how much trouble grown people can have finding their correct seats at the Hollywood Bowl. I witnessed another such drama just as the show started.

---About four knuckleheads were about four rows off from where their tickets were.

---Because, on a ticket stub, you can easily mix up Row 12 and Row 16.

---It makes you wonder how they cope when they're confronted with more complicated questions.

---Like the totally legit question I once received. "When do they hold the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?"

---Or..."do you have the number for 911?"

---Frankly, I blame it all on Oprah's Book Club.

---Had my worst day ever of air travel on Tuesday. You know that's coming on another day.

Dinner last night: Beef tenderloin and grilled asparagus on AA Flight 180. At least, I was upgraded.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The King of Kong

I pretty much slept through the video game craze of the 80s. I never dabbled in Atari, Intellavision, or arcades. Frankly, my hand/eye coordination is probably closer to one that would be the result of a procreation by Helen Keller and Harold Russell. The only game I ever got semi-good at was Frogger, and I must confess that happened in the last five years. The bottom line: on most of these other video games, I am strictly and perpetually on Level One.

Nevertheless, I was drawn to a new documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" by the subject matter, which is as nerdy as you can legally get.. Okay, I have never ever played a single game of Donkey Kong. I don't know what it is. I don't care what it is. It is as useless to me as cherry lip gloss. I actually had to go to the internet to get even a remote understanding of what the object of the game is. Apparently, this Super Mario guy must save a princess from the clutches of a grumpy giant ape. We're not talking J.R. Tolkien here.

But, at the same time, I have always been grossly fascinated by these "human interest" documentaries. I have already twice seen "Wordplay" which chronicles the National Crossword Puzzle competition. It is not the game depicted that draws me in. It is the human sideshow of life. I love to see how just amazingly bizarre my fellow American citizens can actually be.

And they are bizarre to the Nth degree in this flick. Here's the story in a nutshell. Back in the mid 80s, some video game mega-guro Billy Mitchell set the all-time world record for Donkey Kong. Indeed, his record remained uncontested until 2006, when some poor shlub from Seattle named Steve Wiebe broke the all-time high himself while sitting in his garage. Steve's such a video nerd that, while focused on the Kong screen, he virtually ignores his toddler son's plaintive wails for toilet paper. When Wiebe tries to submit his score to the "official" gaming commission (yes, there is such a thing), it's denied because he racked up all his points on a home-based machine. Apparently the only "legal" way to truly claim the record per the video game worldwide referee (yes, there is such a person) is to play the Donkey Kong machine that is inside a specific and approved arcade locations. But that doesn't stop the ultra-sleazy Mitchell from submitting his own video-taped record---and that score is surprisingly accepted by the goofy commission as yet another new world's record.

As this film unfolds, it becomes much more than a snapshot of a bunch of video game idiots with too much time on their hands. It unravels as very much a good guy vs. an evil empire story. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. Wiebe is a sad sack family guy who's an admired high school science teacher with financial problems. Meanwhile, the detestable Billy Mitchell, a greasy-haired Dennis Miller knock-off, fancies himself as this great American icon, when, in reality, he is nothing more than the owner of a chicken wings restaurant in Hollywood, Florida. As you watch their stories play out, you will grow to hate Mitchell, who winds up as one of the greatest film villains in history. His video game empire is loaded with dorky minions who are all bowing at his feet. And they will do anything to ensure that his world record status stays intact. They form a crew of wily henchmen, who are really nothing more than a bunch of geeks wearing pocket pen protectors.

As trivial as the video game that they embrace is, you can totally appreciate the passion and desire that is being portrayed in the fast paced 80 minutes. At first, the ending is quite unsatisfying. But, if you wait till the very end, there is some fun justice that does prevail. I still could give a monkey's ass about Donkey Kong, but this movie offers up an amazing referendum of how a nice guy can do battle with the evils of a conglomerate, in this case, the snarky Billy Mitchell empire. It gives you hope that, when you do something as minor as contest a charge on your phone bill, there are days where you actually might triumph.

Pull together as many quarters as your movie house will need for a ten dollar ticket and enjoy this smart snapshot of American persistance. Just forget about how truly dopey these people really are.

Dinner last night: the great BLT sandwich from Clementine's.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 20, 2007


Dinner last night: Phillippe's French Dip Ham Sandwich with potato salad and cole slaw after the Dodger 4-3 win over the Rockies.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My Shining Moment

Whether it be raffles, silent auctions, lotteries, or Fan Appreciation days, I never win anything. The only time my name is randomly called for anything is jury duty.

Until Friday night.

There I was at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers were leading the Rockies, 5-2. I was safely esconced in my season seats, Loge Aisle 144, Row G, Seats 1 and 2. (I wasn't sitting in two seats. I do have friends.) I was putting the final touches to Dodger lefthander Eric Stults' pitch count. I looked up from my scorebook. And found a huge video camera in my face. There was the stadium camera man and some other dweeb from the Dodger organization. He announced that he was going to give me a prize.


It turns out Loge Aisle 144, Row G was going to be that night's Islands Restaurant Row of the Game. He had a gift card in his hand. I reached for it. He pulled it back. First they had to use it to frame the shot for Diamondvision.


Me: "Please don't put me on Diamondvision."

Him: "We have to. You're in the first seat of the row."

That's probably the only time it doesn't pay to have the aisle seat.

Like a rectal exam, it was over quickly. And they passed the gift cards to the whole row. I was sorry to see that some of my season ticket regulars were not in attendance last night. The only ones there were young Andrew and his dad at the other end of the row. Also aisle seats that could have easily been selected. That would have still given me the freakin' gift card and spare me the sight of seeing myself on Diamondvision.

It is true. Television does add weight to your body. About 134 pounds!

Those of you who read regularly will note that Islands has been a dinner destination several times. A good prize. I remember once seeing a Bally gym membership being awarded to a lady who had to be 85.

I savor the victory. I finally won something.

Dinner last night: Hot dog and chips at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pop Stars That I Have Known, Part 1

It was actually a pretty big deal here recently. Paul McCartney, promoting his new album, gave a concert in the Amoeba Music store on Sunset Boulevard. Folks came out in droves to get upclose and personal with the former moptop (just love that word). Back when, you couldn't get within 500 yards of these legends.

But, I have been lucky enough in the past to have a few brushes with musical greatness. I will relate some of those yarns here over the next little while.

Back in the mullet-cut 80s, I was working at an entertainment company that made an awful lot of coin producing their own concert tours. Of course, at some point, the powers that be decided that the best way to entice top talent to tour with us was by having other talent on staff to do the luring. After all, they all talk to each other, right? I'm sure Boy George, George Michael, and Bono regularly got together to play Strat-O-Matic baseball. But, I digress...

The talent the company hired to be on staff was Rick Wills, one of the guitarists of the then-white-hot Foreigner. I think he stayed with the band for about ten years. (He's on the far left in the album cover above.) Well, anyway, they parked this guy in our very community office in a cubicle adjacent to mine. Over the first few days, you could tell that he was completely out of his element in an office setting.

"What's that strange noise?"

"That would be the phone, Rick."

He pretty much kept to himself, spending the day on the phone talking to whoever rock guitarists talk to during any given day.

I decided that ice needed to be broken.

Because the office was essentially one big area like the bullpen on Murphy Brown, one radio could provide the background music for everybody. One morning, it was tuned to the then-rock station icon in New York, WNEW-FM. Everyone is busy working in their little cubicles. The song comes on.

Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is."

You could hear a pin drop. We all knew that one of the guys performing on that song was sitting amongst us, counting paper clips like the rest of us. The song played on. The office sat in reverent awe.

This was my opening. I was going to roll the dice. Into the steely silence, I asked the following question.

"Hey, can somebody please turn that shit off."

If it was possible, the silence deepened further. For 15 seconds or an eternity, there was an inaudible gasp around the office. Until...

I heard a little British giggle coming from Wills' cubicle.

I had made a friend.

We did lunch.

Dinner last night: Grilled Bratwurst at the Dodger game.

Friday, August 17, 2007

So Sorry for Unfortunate Interruption

"Only clever man can bite into pie without breaking crust."

Fox Video recently completed the rollout release of all the Charlie Chan films that starred Warner Oland as the inscrutable detective from Honolulu. All three box sets are now on my book shelves. It's cinematic comfort food for me as if they ran meat loaf and gravy through a film projector.

Back when I was a kid, the wonderful Channel 5 in NY used to run these mysteries on Saturday afternoon. It was bonding time with my grandmother, who loved these stories. I can still remember the screen slide used. It was a stick figure cartoon of Charlie Chan, complete with two sloping lines for eyes. It was aptly called "Charlie Chan Theater."

In retrospect, these movies were produced very quickly and the production values were straight from Walmart. Not only were their very few exterior shots, but I doubt they even deviated twenty feet to the left or the right on the sound stage. Only one of the earliest films, 1931's "The Black Camel" looked pricey to produce. It was filmed mostly in Hawaii and sported a cast that included Bela Lugosi and Robert Young among the suspects. The mysteries themselves were often complicated and usually they introduced a hidden character or plot device in the very last reel to explain away all the confusion. They were usually about 75 minutes in length and, if they were longer, the production costs would probably skyrocket by another 100 dollars or so.

Still, we were held captive by the TV every Saturday afternoon. If it was the winter, it was even better. These films gave off a warm glow that no baseboard radiator could match.

Now, true Chan-o-philes will tell you that there was really only one actor that could play the detective. That would be Swedish actor Warner Oland. Yep, Swedish. Because I doubt there was ever a real Asian in these movies except for Keye Luke, who played Number #1 son. Oland did all the things actors did to portray an Oriental, which, of course, included some heavy duty tape around the eyes. Nevertheless, he was totally believable to me. He lasted till about 1937 when he left the series due to illness and his ultimate death in 1938. The actors that followed were horrible and couldn't pull it off. Oland had set the bar too high.

A few years, Fox thought they were doing a great thing by restoring these films which had more seams in them than Joan Rivers' chin. Subsequently, the Fox Movie Channel started to feature them in chronological order. Of course, seventy years later, there was a lot more whining about the stereotypes offered up in these films. Beyond the Asian portrayals, Black actors Stephin Fetchit and Willie Best show up in a few as characters named Snowshoes and Lightnin'. Let's face it, we've gotten politically correct to the extreme and are willing to forego cinematic history as a result. Fox had to pull the movies quickly.

Luckily, there's home DVD and political correctness is never an issue at the cash register. So, once again, I can watch Number # 1 Son light his pants on fire and be transported back to my grandmother's living room all in one glorious moment.

Suspect: "His story is full of holes and it won't hold water.

Charlie: "Correction please. Sponge also full of holes. Does hold water."

Dinner last night: the great BLT sandwich from Clementine's.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


On any given summer night on 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon, you longed for 8:45PM. You'd hear the bells first on 13th Avenue and then 14th Avenue.

The Good Humor truck was coming.

It was like our nightly version of the River City folks in "The Music Man" waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon. You had the buck or so in your pocket since dinner. You were checking it every once in a while throughout the night. Between innings of your softball game. During a break in the action of Monopoly. In the middle of an insult assault being thrown at someone. You didn't want to come up empty at 8:44PM when the truck turned down our block

Our Good Humor man was an African-American guy by the name of Coot. Lest you think that the name signified some old crony with tons of stories about the South, Coot was about 30 and nobody really knew how he got that name. Or was it a nickname? A mystery for the ages.

Coot pretty much always had a smile on his face, but I heard him utter only two phrases ever: "Whacha have?" and "Here ya go." This wasn't exactly Masterpiece Theater, but who cared as long as you got your designated nightly treat. My daily regimen of sugar/poison was the Chocolate Chip Candy stick. It was a regular chocolate-covered ice cream bar, but deep down in the center was a frozen chocolate bar. A challenge for the incisors, but so good.

At one point, Coot got a little competition. Some interloper driving a rival Bungalow Bar truck tried to undercut him by showing up an hour earlier. It was probably the first organized protest I was ever involved in. We boycotted this rat bastard, and gave major stinkeye to anybody who even dared run up to that truck with fifty cents in their hand. We even had a song dedicated to this inferior product.

Bungalow Bar. Tastes like tar. The more you eat it, the sicker you are.

Message delivered. We kicked his ass over the city line and let him work the gremlins in the north Bronx.

There was another ill-fated attempt by somebody to claim our neighborhood as their own ice cream domain. That wretched Mister Softee. With that maniacal logo of some guy with an ice cream cone for a head. And that awful droning jingle that played over and over and over. But, of course, Mister Softee completely misread our marketplace. They would show up at 2:30 in the afternoon. Puh-leze. Not ice cream time at all. The deranged conehead did not survive for long. But, it wasn't due to any moratorium conducted by the kids in the neighborhood. One day, this fat kid named Georgie fell in front of the truck and almost had a Phil Leotardo experience as the truck inched forward. He was pulled back at the very last minute, saving him from a truly ironic spin on the Mister Softee concept. After that, Mister Softee's tasty treat made a hasty retreat.

The winner and still champion. Coot! We'd even forgive his annual faux pas. We always went back to school the first week of September. That meant earlier bedtimes, a little homework, etc.. Nevertheless, Coot continued to show up at 845PM every night for at least two more weeks. We always sat in our respective homes, listening to the bells that went unanswered. Was he that out-of-tune with our lives? Oh, what the hell...

One Chocolate Chip Candy please.

Dinner last night: Super All Beef Dodger Dog at the game.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday's Child

We hope you will enjoy the show.

---Last Saturday, I attended the Hollywood Bowl's 40th aniiversary tribute to the Sgt. Pepper album featuring Cheap Trick and a host of others. It was awesome.

---Nothing like a little late 60s Beatles music to return a bunch of middle agers to their youthful roots.

---And those roots included quite a bit of wacky weed.

---Which may explain why this was my slowest Bowl exit in years. People battling silliness, the munchies, and arthritic knees all at the same time.

---A fun sidelight to the Bowl affair was our run-ins with Penny Marshall, who apparently was seated in an adjacent section.

---We watched her smoke, buy blankets at the souvenir stand, and then turn the top of a trash can into a table for her white wine bottle.

---All the while, she's hiding her face under a Yankee cap.

---But, when the mouth opens, the mystery is over.

---You never do lose the Bronx, do you?

---Unless the Dodgers can put together a decent second half of August, it will be a September to dismember.

---Met fans last weekend found out something that I did when the Marlins played the Dodgers a while back.

---Haley Ramirez is the best young shortstop in the National League.

---Sorry, Jose Reyes.

---And Ramirez does it in classy silence. He doesn't do his pre-game calisthenics during the National Anthem.

---Well, it finally made the news. Our country is being overrun with bedbugs.

---Old news to me. I heard about this last year when a friend in NY told me his house was saturated with these little creatures. They apparently had crawled into his suitcase during a stay at NY's posh Rhiga Royal Hotel.

---This is one more thing we get from our open door policy. These little suckers are coming in from overseas.

---These idiots fly over from Europe and Asia. They ooh and aah at all the wonderful sites of Times Square, including that "amazing" M&M store.

---Meanwhile, back at the hotel, their insect hitchhikers are disembarking from their Louis Vuitton conveyances and kissing terra Wamsutta.

---There was a huge computer glitch at LAX that prevented tons of international passengers from getting through customs.

---Well, that's one way to stop them. I'm hoping somebody goes down there with a pair of wire clippers and finishes the job.

---The only time Larry King's CNN show is worth a watch is after a celebrity dies. After Merv's checkout, he had Vanna White, Alex Trebek, Merv's kid and ex-wife, Seinfeld, Ed McMahon, and Joan Rivers.

---Does Joan go in for plastic surgery every week? Her eyes are so tightened that she's starting to look like Miyoshi Umeki.

---That name gets you 66 points in Scrabble if you hit a triple letter square.

---Too bad Phil Rizzuto checked out. Steinbrenner issued a statement.

---"I guess Heaven needed a shortstop."

---When Steinbrenner goes, I will issue the following statement.

---"I guess Heaven needed a rat bastard."

---My good friend, the Bibster, asks, "Has there been one season in the last 30 where the Yankees weren't wearing a black arm band on their uniform?"

---Aren't they already wearing one for Cory "Wrong Way" Lidle?

---Pretty soon, the Yankee uniform will be black with white pinstripes.

---If Phil got you a Money Store loan in the late 70s, the thirty year term is almost up.

---Pee Wee Reese died on the same day as Rizzuto several years ago. Bad day for NY shortstops.

---If I'm Bud Harrelson, I'm looking both ways when I cross the street next August.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

And Now The Dear Boy Himself...

With those words, Arthur Treacher, usually drunk or overindulgent with those blasted fish and chips, would bring out Merv Griffin for another 90 minutes of engaging talk and entertainment.

All the news reports after Merv's death dwelled on the obvious. His Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune fame. The CBS talk shows. The real estate holdings. All the stuff that made me wish I was his other son.

But, what I remember most was that syndicated nightly gabfest that aired on Channel 5 (then owned by the enigmatic Metromedia company) when I was a kid.

I can't say I was riveted on a nightly basis, especially if it was baseball season and I was glued to the Mets on Channel 9 (owned by RKO, thank you very much). But, I can tell you that, on two levels of my Mount Vernon home, both my mother and grandmother (watching separately, of course) had their TVs tuned into Mervyn.

To say that show was easygoing and free form is an understatement. I always felt like I was eavesdropping on a dinner conversation at Sardi's. And, while Griffin certainly got some dynamite guests (JFK, Nixon, Judy Garland) for some long and engrossing dialogues, it was all those regular visitors who intrigued me. Primarily because I never saw them show up anyplace else on television. It was sort of a Sunday afternoon at my grandmother's. The doorbell would always ring around 1PM and some relative was popping in for the day. And some of those Griffin guests were about as recognizable as my grandmother's third cousin twice removed.

There was some Israeli singer named Aliza Kashi, who talked in broken England and then would sing as if she was a graduate of Oxford.

There was a Black comedian named Timmie Rogers, who would punctuate the end of every joke by exclaiming "Oh, Yeah!."

There was this married couple named Jack Douglas and Reiko. He was supposedly a comedy writer, but was grossly unfunny. The main laughs came from his Japanese wife, who also butchered the English language like an expert Samurai. Today, she might be working at a nail salon in Van Nuys.

A frequent guest was Totie Fields, who was the epitome of a Borscht Belt Jewish comedienne. She was on a lot, despite the fact that everytime she appeared she seemed to be missing another limb.

Merv's show was so freestyle that guests were instantly comfortable talking about anything. Or trying their hands at new endeavors. Apparently, Patty Duke was so damn at ease that she used this as a venue to try and become a teen singing star.

Throughout it all, Merv was the supreme host. Oddly enough, he died one year and two days to the date that Mike Douglas checked out. Those two guys formed my knowledge of the entertainment world and I guess I can blame them for the nagging trivial tidbits that keep ping ponging around inside my cranium. And, there was certainly no mystery about what they were like off-camera. You never ever heard a bad word about either one of them.

Of course, every time she won an Emmy for that inane barnyard chatter of a talk show, Fat Rosie would thank both Merv and Mike for the formats that she liberally copied. I was curious to see if Rosie had made an entry on her blog regarding Merv. Nope. She was alternating between pictures of her latest gay cruise and rants about the military draft. Indeed, Merv himself might have done either of those himself. But only in that quiet and classy solitude that was uniquely his.

If he could have only figured how Kramer got hold of his TV furniture...

Dinner last night: BLT at Barney's Beanery.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 13, 2007

An oldie but goodie from the Howard Stern archives. The always hilarious Jeff the drunk.

Dinner last night: turkey sandwich on ciabatta roll with string bean salad.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Who's the Boss?

An incredibly sad moment for me. Former child star Alyssa Milano (of "Charmed" and "Who's The Boss?" fame) has a blog devoted to the Dodgers. The fact that she's spending part of her day doing exactly the same thing that I'm doing has a certain morose aura for me. Don't I have something better to do with my life than what this knucklehead is doing? And, if I had the incoming residuals she probably has from those two pieces of dreck she worked on, I certainly wouldn't be doing what she is doing. This is human defeat working on multi-levels.

Very recently, she posted an open letter to Dodger Manager Grady Little. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Little,Hi! I know you're real busy with the pennant race and all so I won't take up too much of your time. I beg of you, in the future please refrain from batting anyone with a batting average under the Mendoza Line in the CLEANUP spot. I'm all for [Olmedo] Saenz getting the start at first to get some more at-bats and give [James] Loney a break, but you may want to consider batting him appropriately for a .185 hitter. Just a suggestion. Call me crazy.Also, while I have your attention I've got another crazy suggestion: You may want to check out [Andre] Ethier's numbers against lefties (AVG. -- .329, OBP -- .372, SLG -- .466) and start him accordingly. With the way he's been hitting, there is no reason for him not to get the start against lefties unless he is hurt. Crazy right?Thanks,Alyssa MilanoDodger fanatic Peace,Love,AND BASEBALL.

My sadness continues. I agree with everything she is saying.

This must be what those near-death experiences are like. You go down a long tunnel. You see a bright white light. And you start thinking just like Tony Danza's TV daughter.

Given the fact that she's dated both Brad Penny and Russell Martin, the title of her blog takes on even more meaning.

She really does want to touch 'em all.

Dinner last night: Hot dog and chips at the phenomenal Beatles/Sgt. Peppers tribute at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Your August Weekend Movie Guide

Hey, just because I'm going to some Beatle thing at the Hollywood Bowl this Saturday night, that doesn't mean I can't help you find a movie selection for your weekend viewing pleasure. I'll go through today's LA Times and react to the film as I come across each ad.

Stardust: some magical thing with Clare Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer. The only critic mentioned in the ad is Gene Shalit. Is he still alive? Looks weird.

Rush Hour 3: about as necessary as power steering on a turtle. Has anybody ever seen this annoying Chris Tucker do anything else? Jackie Chan provides the Kung and Tucker does the FU. I'd have to be a hostage of the Taliban to see this movie.

The Simpsons Movie: even though this is proably nothing more than 3 episodes strung together, it is definitely on my list. The writing is always smart and funny. Anything that regularly lampoons Teddy Kennedy is aces with me.

Two Days in Paris: looks like two hours in Hell.

The Bourne Ultimatum: I actually saw this last week. A friend was visiting from Dallas and he had never seen the Cinerama Dome. I saw the first two movies and regarded them pretty much as cinematic frozen pizza. I couldn't remember a single thing I saw ten minutes after the credits stopped rolling. The third, however, is quite enjoyable and does tie up the three films nicely.

Daddy Day Camp: that hilarious mugger, Cuba Gooding, is at it again. No f-ing way for me. Side note---it was directed by the Wonder Years' Fred Savage. Meanwhile, his co-star from the show, Danica McKellar, is busy writing a middle school math book for girls. The only reason I know this is because the book is dedicated to a good friend of mine, who was her math teacher in the 7th grade.

Talk to Me: Don Cheadle's annual Oscar campaign.

Underdog: Paging Wally Cox.

Becoming Jane: another Jane Austen rehash. Only if your Rite Aid is completely out of Ambien.

Hairspray: I did the do and it was a bad hair day for me. Overrated.

Bratz: I have no idea what these are. Could be either teenage girls, sausage, or a brand of beer.

El Cantante: J-Lo and Marc Anthony show their home videos. Should be retitled "Who's Afraid of Immigration?"

Rocket Science: described as a cross between Rocky and Napoleon Dynamite. Actually, I would prefer it if it was a right cross from Rocky that landed on Napoleon Dynamite.

My Best Friend: some French comedy about the bonds of friendship. I saw it. If the theater is air conditioned, it's okay.

Skin Walkers: I don't recognize a single name in the ad. And it's playing at a lot of theaters in South Central LA. Do the math.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: I have been told by some gay friends that this movie is incredibly offensive. The fact that it is an Adam Sandler comedy is enough for me.

No Reservations: that chick flick about a romance between two chefs. The type of movie that I can recite most of the dialogue while waiting on line for a ticket.

Ratatouille: I highly recommend it. Makes you realize why it is so important to regularly take out the garbage.

Transformers: a friend of mine saw it and he had to have it explained to him by his four year-old nephew.

Harry Potter Blah Blah Blah: I am very proud that I have not been sucked into this cult.

Arctic Tale: March of the Penguins with Polar Bears. The trailer says it is told by "storyteller" Queen Latifah. Who died and made her Rapunzel?

Frankly, I'm glad I have Bowl tickets.

Dinner last night: Cappacola sandwich.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hollywood Is

Talk about sweet and sour. The two extremes of emotions. Hilariously funny and depressingly sad. All in one website.

There is something called Hollywood Is Calling. You sign onto this website. For $19.95, you can have one of their associated celebrities call your friend or loved one with a personal greeting. A happy birthday. Happy Anniversary. Get well soon. Hope that new leg works out well for you.

Imagine what a dynamite idea this is. I heard about it and signed on. I certainly had a host of friends I might use this on.

Then I saw the list of celebrities. I switched gears. I certainly had a host of enemies I might use this on. To say that this list of celebrities is pool scum would be insulting to anything currently residing on the bottom of a barrel. Try these gems on for size. You, too, could hear from any of them for $19.95.

Lou Ferrigno: Hasn't worked since the Incredible Hulk. Obviously now needs the green more in bills than in skin tone.

Larry Holmes: the famous boxer. If you personalize your greeting, you better write it out phonetically.

Dennis Haskins: he played the principal on Saved by the Bell. Suitable for those birthday celebrants born between the years 1983-1987.

Joseph Gannascoli: played gay Vito on the Sopranos. He's probably the only one on the site who has had a regular paycheck in this century.

Dean Haglund: he was on the X Files. There was a picture of him that looked like it was last seen on a taxicab meter.

Alex Michel: TV's first Bachelor. If you have the star of a reality TV show call a friend for their birthday, you need to be beaten to a pulp.

Paige Brooks: lots of credits but unrecognizable. Hell, I was on Murphy Brown. And I call people for their birthdays all the time. Where's my twenty bucks?!

Gary Jones: Anybody?

Russell Johnson: the Professor from Gilligan's Island. They probably have his caregiver dial the phone for him.

Richard Hatch: the dude from the old Battlestar Galactica. Last seen on the Love Boat.

Christopher Atkins: that 80's heartthrob who couldn't act unless he was wearing a Speedo.

Ron Palillo: Horschack, horseshit, whatever. Geez, you don't even get Travolta.

Jon Provost: Timmy from the Lassie Show. I'd rather have the dog bark into a phone receiver.

Greg Evigan: yes, BJ from BJ and the Bear. And I always wondered if the scriptwriter who wrote that pilot was enjoying a good little inside joke with that character's name.

Raven: some wrestler.

Brandon Cruz: Eddie from the Courtship of Blah, Blah. For three bucks more, they ought to throw in some psychic connection to Bill Bixby.

Rick Searfoss: a Space Shuttle astronaut. The sad thing is you only remember the names of the shuttle folks who crash.

John Fiore: Anybody?

John De Lancie: from Star Trek:The Next Generation. That was about five versions ago, right?

Marta Kristen: one of the daughters from Lost in Space. If it were Angela Cartwright, my interest level would be raised.

Pepe Serna: from the picture, he's either an actor or my gardener.

Candy Clark: the blonde from American Graffiti. She at least once went to the Oscars.

Tommy Habeeb: ANYBODY???

David Naughton: that "I'm a Pepper, You're a Pepper" guy. I think I leased my last car from him.

Butch Patrick: Eddie Munster. Probably needs the dough after he got cut out of Yvonne DeCarlo's will.

The amazing thing about this site are the rules. They warn you that the calls may be shorter than 30 seconds. Heck, if I'm shelling out twenty bucks on one of these losers, I want to spend at least a half hour discussing everything from the Dodgers to global warming. And you are also cautioned that these celebrities might take up to 7 days to call. It all depends upon their schedule. Uh huh. If I plunk down my jack, I better be hearing from Christopher Atkins faster than I get my pants back from the dry cleaners. Let's face it. They have had nothing in their Filofaxes since Paul Lynde was the center square.

Dinner last night: a great BLT sandwich from Clementine's.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


The baseball pennant races have begun in earnest. The false pretenders have fallen away to reveal the true contenders. Much to my chagrin, the Yankees have rebounded anew and promise to initiate my reflux gags from now till September 30 or, regretfully, beyond. The Mets have not run away with their division, but should prevail for at least one round of the playoffs. So, I will be assured of at least one playoff ticket seated somewhere near Saturn's innermost ring.

Right now, it's the Dodgers who are on the cusp. After a week or two of uninspired play and several games of consecutive goose eggs, they find themselves as the chaser as opposed to the chasee. Their pitching staff is being held together by dental floss and Elmer's Glue. A recent batting swoon has turned a a bad situation into a veritable SARS epidemic. But, it ain't over. The Diamondbacks are in first place, but are playing with house money at this juncture. After Brandon Webb, the Broadway Show League has better pitching. And batting orders are generally not constructed around the talents of Conor Jackson. They can be had. And the Padres are also not exactly re-inventing the sport down in San Diego. The Dodgers could still prevail. If...

While you really can't do anything about the pitching injuries the Dodgers have sustained, GM Ned Colletti has failed in one very important area. He has essentially butchered the construction of a solid bench. Wilson Betemit (who still had plenty of untapped upside) was dispatched for a reliever. Okay, I get that. But, that leaves you with...

Gulp. Olmedo Saenz.

The only thing former pinch hitter deluze Olmedo Saenz has hit in the last two months is the express line at Rubio's Fish Tacos. Once an integral bench player, the Killer Tomato has completely lost all evidence of being an athlete. The only way I want to see him at Dodger Stadium in the next month is if he's selling oranges on the offramp from the 110 Freeway. Seeing him come up to bat with runners on base in a tie game is the equivalent of a nightly viewing of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. The fact that Colletti kept him and released Marlon Anderson is one of the most confusing roster moves I ever have seen. Anderson is back thriving with the Mets, while Saenz sits with a pen knife trying to cut another hole in his belt.

Of course, Mike Lieberthal sits on the bench every night and never pinch hits, because he is the backup catcher. A solid hitter and he's nothing but an earthquake survival kit. You can't use it till it's absolutely necessary.

At this time of year, the only way you can make a deal is by passing somebody through waivers. Of course, at this time of year, everybody passes through waivers. I hear the Yankees tried to claim Tom Tresh the other day. But, I digress...

There is one player who just flew through waivers that could make the rest of the Dodger season successful. His presence would energize the team and the fans simultaneously. He could serve as either a backup or a late inning solid bat on the bench. And he can still hit. Of course, compared to Olmedo Saenz, my father can still hit. And he's been dead since 1991.

Yep, folks, I am suggesting a deal for Mike Piazza. Who cares if he can't catch? He never could. Who cares if he can't run? He never could. But, as a bat off the bench, he would be solid. And a return to his Uncle Tommy for one last hurrah would be dynamite.

There are those who would argue that you are essentially paying through the nose (at least for two months) for a player who can't play the field. Okay, I have watched Saenz play first and third. Your honor, the defense rests. The only market for Saenz right now may be Angels Stadium, where they need some extra personnel to sweep the rats off the hot dog grills.

With Piazza, you totally free up Lieberthal to be used off the bench. He can play first in a pinch (Met fans, you'll notice I am not suggesting Piazza for that position). Then, you plug in the rest of the reserve infield by bringing back Tony Abreu from Vegas and you're done. It also gives you flexibility to give Russell Martin more time off. Let's face it. He may be 23, but he has worn down over the season.

It's all possible, probably for nothing more than a mid-range prospect.

It's theatrical and it makes baseball sense all at the same time. Like when the Mets brought back Willie Mays in 1972.

Ned Colletti, you're welcome for the free advice. It's all part of my complimentary service.

And, yeah, I know none of this will probably happen.

Dinner last night: Had a big lunch, so I just enjoyed some fruit salad.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sorry, This is the Only Wednesday We Have This Week

Let the sideshow begin. Hurry, hurry...

---Good for the Mets' Tom Glavine, who earned his 300th career victory on Sunday night. Given the state of MLB pitching these days, he'll probably be the last one to achieve that plateau.

---Well, maybe Brett Tomko.

---Only 209 to go, Brett. I'm pulling for you.

---The only reason Tomko is still on the Dodger staff is because Don Newcombe can't find his cleats.

---And while I'm on the Blue Crew, will somebody please get Russell Martin to sit out a few games? I understand that the manager wants him to take a rest, but he refuses.

---You haven't been helping us lately, Russell.

---I'm starting to understand why Grady Little no longer gets the Boston Globe every morning.

---I've got September 3 in the pool for the next time the Dodgers will score a run this year.

---The only thing I wanted to see Barry Bonds break is his neck.

---It was absolutely nauseating to watch him do it last night. As he crossed home plate, he pointed to God for thanks.

---I didn't know that God worked for BALCO.

---His post game press conference was the biggest farce. He was denying everything. I was half expecting to hear him say that he did not sleep with Miss Lewinsky.

---Yet, nobody asked him the most obvious question.

---If he's not taking anything, how come he grew three shoe sizes in the past ten years?

---Speaking of rats, I finally caught up to "Ratatouille." Who knew infestation could be so entertaining?

---And you thought people living in slums didn't have any fun?

---The scenes of rodent stampedes were timely for me, given the news reports on the state of the Angels' concession stands. They got 133 food violations.

They apparently don't clean the stands until the next morning, so the garbage sits around under the seats overnight. It's like a nightly NYC garbage strike.

---Gee, if Anaheim's stadium is overrun by creatures, what must Yankee Stadium be like?

---They must have rats that go back to the days of Thad Tillotson and Ross Moschitto.

---Not counting, off course, the vermin that drinks beer and sits in the bleachers.

---Watching some local morning show in Chicago was a hoot. They had a remote from some yacht out on Lake Michigan. The people on the boat were all swigging down beer cans.

---It was 7AM. Am I the only one who sees a problem with that?

---I love all those dummies who spend a couple of bucks for some dreck called Vitamin Water.

---Take vitamins. Drink water. How hard is it to do that in two distinct and separate acts?

---Multi-tasking is only viable if you can perform both tasks well. Most people can't even manage one thing at a time with any degree of success.

---Summer TV is from Hell. Reality shows following every move of F-listers like Paula Abdul, Scott Baio, Corey Haim, and Corey Feldman.

---The only reason these jerks are on TV letting people follow them around is because, in reality, nobody is following them around.

---Scott Baio is a horrible actor even playing himself.

---This is the Walgren Pharmacist. Miss Abdul, your Paxil is ready.

---I keep thinking about seeing "Hairspray" last night. And I finally realized what Travolta's bad makeup job reminded me of.

---Remember when they put the fat suit on Courtney Cox in "Friends?"

---Overheard in the men's room at the Hollywood Bowl at intermission of "South Pacific:" some guy was very impressed that his wife recognized Michael McKean from "Laverne and Shirley" was playing Luther Billis.

---Your wife's not that much of a genius. May I introduce you to the concept of a Playbill?

---Looking at the audience that night just enhanced one more stereotype. It was obviously a good night to be a burglar in West Hollywood.

---You wonder if that Minneapolis bridge collapse brought back some odd sensations for Teddy Kennedy.

---That Chappaquidick incident was the last time he swallowed anything that was 100% water.

---You know it's slim political pickings when Hillary starts looking good to you.

---Too bad he died. This could have finally been Pat Paulsen's year.

---Memo to the mother sitting four rows ahead on my flight back from Chicago: yes, your baby's diaper was full.

Dinner last night: Spaghetti and meatballs at Palomino.