Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shea-ing Bye Bye

With about forty tropical rain squalls descending upon the New York metropolitan area, I winged east with a mission.

I was going to say goodbye to the home ballpark of my youth. And a lot of my adulthood. It was the last regular season baseball weekend at Shea Stadium. Indeed, the Mets were still in the running for a wild card berth that would extend the life of the Flushing arena for perhaps a few weeks longer. But, nevertheless, this would be the last Saturday I would ever sit in those seats that my father and I picked out in January of 1968. Loge, Section 7, Row E, Seats 1 and 2.

The air was damp and so were my feelings as I walked up that Section 5/Section 7 ramp one last time with my high school best friend Danny, who would be an appropriate attendee for this last game. Oddly, for perhaps the first time ever, I hoped for extra innings. A four or five hour contest with a three hour rain delay. A stay of execution in a state where the governor is legally blind and can't dial a phone. But it was not to be. The Mets' Johan Santana put together an ultra-efficient complete game shutout that kept the Mets in the hunt and got me out of the stadium in 2 hours and 17 minutes. So, my time to relish anything more than the hot dog was limited. But I got to savor the view one more time from a mental treasure chest of delight.

From the famous Cowbell man who banged his way past our section one last time. Bang-bang-bang. Let's-Go-Mets. Bang-bang-bang.

To one last glimpse of the scoreboard where we watched Milwaukee's progress on Saturday, but I can recall many days of tracking similar scores from the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Atlanta Braves, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pennant races of days gone by.

To one last pitch and one last out and one last fist pump and wave to 41 years of "owning" this very special location on Saturdays at Shea.

And one last get-together with my seats' "next door neighbors" for the past 15 years, Debbie and Craig. Not knowing whether the Mets will offer partial plans in the new place come 2009, we have pledged to come together at Citi Field for several Saturdays anyway. If the Mets won't have us officially, we can at least still have each other. As we lingered longer than usual after the game before our long walk to the soggy parking lot, Danny tapped Seat 2 several times as you might touch the casket of a loved one when saying goodbye. It was my first teary moment of the weekend.

There would be more. I wanted Shea to go on for just a while longer. I didn't have tickets to the Sunday finale, and a friend of mine was not able to score reasonable seats on Stubhub. But, I vowed to get there, even if I was destined to go by myself. And, surely, there was at least one seat still available on Sunday morning via the internet. It was up in the Mezzanine around third base. The mark-up was about 400%, but I dickered silently with the financial advisor who resides in my right frontal lobe and we reasoned together that this would be worth it.

For a last drive to Shea Stadium, I went out in grand style. Traffic was backed up to the Whitestone Bridge. I got off the parkway and took the surface street route. I found myself following the Q44 bus, which brought me back to the days of my collegedom when I would ride that same conveyance from the Bronx to Shea. Figuring that parking would be a nightmare around the ballpark, I sought out the municipal lot in Flushing a subway stop away. I remembered we parked there for all of the playoff games in the World Championship year of 1986. In the 22 years since, that area, however, has morphed into Seoul, Korea. There are so many Asians driving and walking the streets that I was waiting for Mothra to sweep down for its next battle with Godzilla. I wound up driving aimlessly around as I got to watch an episode of Oriental Wacky Racers play out in front of me. Luckily, an ongoing rain storm had delayed the game start for about an hour. Somehow and some way, I parked in the garage for the NY State Department of Labor, which inexplicably is open on Sundays.

My mezzanine seat equivocated to the upper deck at the new Citi Field. But, I didn't really care. I was part of the 56,000 jammed in the old park, perhaps the first time this year that the Mets' announced attendance matched the actual throng. Of course, given the notion that the Mets could be eliminated from post season play that afternoon, the prospects of a post-game Shea closing ceremony loomed as the ultimate fan injustice. Most stadium closings occur after the last game. Even, the Yankees would have probably done that had ESPN not changed their game time to an ungodly Sunday night.

Naturally, when it comes to bad luck, the Mets have long had it in spades. Within three hours, the Milwaukee Brewers were the wild card winners for 2008 and the Mets were headed off to the golf courses across the United States and Latin America. There would be no last "two out, two strike" miracle at Shea Stadium.

Most sat in numbed silence. Perhaps about 10,000 Met fans were so disgusted that they left before they got the chance to see alumni such as Jack Fisher and Ron Hunt grace the Shea field one last time. You sat there waiting, but you didn't know why. Waiting to celebrate the end of Shea twenty minutes after watching the end of the 2008 Mets was something akin to having a doctor pronounce your wife dead and then asking her out for a date. But, I didn't leave. I couldn't leave. I was there for life. Or at least one more hour.

First, there was Mr. Met removing the game count on the centerfield wall. One game left would become none. But, behind the "1" was a cheesy logo of Citi Field. Could they have had something better to show there? I thought that great photo of Casey Stengel winking at the camera would be ideal. Indeed, of all the Met history shown on Sunday, the "Ole Professer" was oddly absent. But, this would be the only misstep in an otherwise idyllic hour.

One by one, Met greats entered from the bullpen areas. 1964. 1969. 1973. 1986. 1999. 2000. And others in between. I noticed some older fans around here had tears streaming down their faces. When Dwight Gooden was announced, so did I. I was thinking about my parents, both who became Met fans. My mother, who learned about baseball from Tim McCarver, started rooting for the Mets in Dwight's rookie season of 1984. She absolutely adored him. Her heart broke when the drug problems started. As he walked down the warning track, my mother was in the seat beside me. When my father's favorite Met, Lenny Dykstra, entered, I felt him in the seat on the other side. And, up and down the road, I imagined all the friends I had gone to games with over the past 45 years. Some still in my life. Others are not. Sunday, we were all back together again. Along with Rusty, Yogi, Willie, Keith, Gary, Darryl, and Wally.

They first lined the infield and then, one by one, they all symbolically walked up to touch home plate one last time. The last two to do so would be Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver, who then proceeded to form one last battery. One more pitch from the mound. One last ball to the catcher behind home plate. They walked out to centerfield and closed the gate. Lights were turned out. Blue and orange fireworks rimmed the stadium. The ladies in front of me were now a mess.

So was I. Tears flowed like the cheap Budweiser at the concession stands. And, when it was over, many people lingered about. Digital cameras abounded. One last look. One last picture. One lasting memory.

My best friend from college was also there and we cell phoned plans to meet again in the loge level. First, we ventured over to Sunday plan seats he held for several years. Then, we walked over to Section 7. To Row E where the area underneath my seats looked like the morning after a college kegger. Regardless, I wanted my seats for one final sit. Unless something changes, he and I would be the last people to sit in Seats 1 and 2, Row E, Loge. We posed for a picture of us and the view I had for 41 seasons.

I look awful in the picture, but excess humidity and sadness has a way of doing that to a person. I turned back to my seats. Another look. A final snapshot. So long and goodbye. You served me well.

On Monday morning, I looked at this picture and made a decision. Prior to them dismantling the park brick by filthy brick, the Mets are pretty much selling anything that is or isn't nailed down. Bathroom signs, napkin holders, soap dispensers. You name it. And you can buy a pair of seats allegedly cleaned up and mounted on some metal frame that is not as rusted as the ones above. The cost for two is $869...wink, wink, nudge, nudge, the price tag is so clever. I had known about this for a while and wondered how to justify this expenditure and just where the hell I would put these suckers. But, Sunday, the heartstrings got all tangled up with the purse strings. I decided to buy my seats.

Sadly, I discovered that all the blue seats are sold out. And, for me, no other color will do.

One final Shea Stadium disappointment. Goodbye.

Dinner last night: Vegetable beef soup.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 29, 2008

From the days long ago when SNL was funny.

Dinner last night: Leftover sausage and peppers.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite TV Shows: #1!!!!!!!!!

Okay, who's surprised by this? Can I have a show of hands please? If you are at all taken even slightly aback by this choice, you should not be. No TV show has played such an important part in my existence on this planet than "I Love Lucy." From my very earliest age, the Ricardos and the Mertzes have been there with me and for me.

To this day, there are classic lines from this series that I still drag up when situations warrant. When a dessert cart passes by in a restaurant, I always say, "Oh, I'm gonna have a piece of that." That comes from Ethel when they are dining in the Brown Derby during the "LA at Last" episode. When work gets a little complicated, I have been heard to utter, "If I could only cut these ties that bind me." That comes from Lucy in the "Ricky's Screen Test" episode. When somebody says they have an idea, I will always respond with "How can you stand there in the middle of all this and utter those four horrible words, 'I have an idea'?" Again, words from Ethel in the "Ricky Gets An Agent" script. And, of course, whenever anybody mentions "Riverside" on television, my writing partner exclaims, "Riverside?!!" The famous train ride home from LA when Lucy kept pulling the emergency brake.

"I Love Lucy" formed my comedic psyche and nurtured every creative bone in my body. Beyond its place as the very best television situation comedy ever, "I Love Lucy" was pure entertainment that I first saw in reruns when I was 5. And the educational process began at that point. I can watch episodes over and over and over. I wait sometimes for that one line or look or nuance that seems so fresh and so original all over again. It's been part of our lives for 57 years now and it will never go away. In a world where complication now reigns, "I Love Lucy" persists. Because it is so inherently simple.

While everyone remembers the classic slapstick moments essayed by Lucy and company, I choose to recall its other facets. The multi-camera "shot in front of a live audience" process invented by unsung genius Desi Arnaz---an innovation used to this day. The wonderful supporting characters and actors that became equally ingrained in our beings. Mrs. Trumbull. Carolyn Appleby. Lucy's daffy mother.

And there are the scripts. When you follow the seasons of "I Love Lucy," there is a maturation process at work on the written pages. The first two dozen or so episodes are primitive and very silly. Indeed, the production was making it up as they went along. There was no previous blueprint to follow. But, once you got to the candy conveyor belt and the birth of Little Ricky in the second season, the scripts offered up perhaps the best comedy writing ever to be heard on television. Oddly, there was an amazing sophistication that one often would not connote with a plot revolving around somebody getting their head stuck in a loving cup.

All credit and hosannas go to the show's executive producer Jess Oppenheimer. And "I Love Lucy" creators, our friends, the late Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis.

When I entered back into writing with my current partner about 16 years ago, we did the usual novice writer thing and crafted spec scripts for existing TV shows. One script we concocted for "Mad About You" had so many Lucy-like moments that we even referenced it in the dialogue. We were pretty proud of the work and I especially wanted to note the influence that Bob and Madelyn had on this particular script. So, I resorted to a now much forgotten way of communication.

I wrote a letter to them. Since they had long since retired, I simply mailed it to them in care of the Writers Guild in California. I thanked them for the writing education their work had given me. Short, sweet, and concise.

About a month later, I got a letter back from Madelyn. In her most professional and yet thoughtful style, she thanked me for remembering her and Bob abd wished me all the best. As it turns out, she was the one from the team who answered all the correspondence. More importantly, the envelope included her home address.

Standing there in the middle of all this, I had another idea.

I packaged up the "Mad About You" script and sent it to her. Begging such presumption, I wanted to share it with her given all the Lucy-like bits that were embedded within.

Two weeks later, another letter back from her. This time, it was a bit more personal. And, more importantly, it was a glowing review of our script. I later learn that such compliments from Madelyn did not flow like cheap beer. She wanted to know how she could help us.

My feet didn't touch earth for about two days.

From that point, we began a correspondence via mail and then by telephone. Being a bit removed from the business, her contacts now were admittedly limited. But she worked hard at connecting us to whoever she could. And she would read everything we wrote.

At that juncture in NY, we were working on the development of a kids sitcom for Nickelodeon. So jazzed were we about our newfound connection to TV writing royalty that we named the unseen character of a faculty advisor after the Lucy writing staff. Mrs. Carol Oppenheimer-Davis. After several years of gestation, that project died. Our ties to Madelyn, however, did not.

When we started the migration west, we made a test trip to try on the city. And, of course, we wanted to meet Madelyn. Indeed, we were invited to lunch at the legendary Hollywood restaurant, Musso and Frank. Not only were we to dine with Madelyn, but she brought Bob Carroll Jr. along, and he promptly spent the entire two hours eating French fries off my partner's plate. Sometime around dessert, Madelyn asked a very simple question.

"Are you seeing a TV show while you are here?"

We were a little confused. "You mean like Wheel of Fortune?"

Before we knew it, we were hosted at a filming of "Murphy Brown" by her stepson, who happened to be one of the producers. And another connection is made. We spent three hours with him after the show sitting in the backstage area behind Murphy's townhouse.

As time went on, we would lunch with Madelyn periodically until her health stepped in. But, we also wound up partnering with her stepson on projects that still exist to this day. Of course, there was the aforementioned "Mothers-In-Law" article. For about a year, we all worked on a proposed PBS documentary dedicated to "I Love Lucy." Since checks never got written or cashed, that project didn't see the light of any day. But, for us, there was still always a life and a future. Bob has passed on, but we still remember Madelyn every Christmas with a holiday floral arrangement. And there's always one more correspondence and connection that still seems illogical to me. Because I remember seeing their names and their credits when I was five years old. And because they were writers I had admired for years. And here I am with their home phone numbers in my Filofax.

All because I did the simplest of acts. I wrote a letter.

I could go on and on and on. But let's have the work speak for itself. The chocolate dipping scene. Which, by the way, was completely scripted by Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis.

In this countdown, there could be only "I Love Lucy" at the very top.

Dinner last night: The wonderful sausage and peppers at Carlo's in Yonkers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Classic Newsreel of the Month - September 2008

And here comes Seabiscuit.......

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken and broccoli rabe at the NY abode.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Final Days as a Met Fan

I'm on my way to New York where I will most certainly shed a few tears as I sit in my Saturday seats, Loge Section 7, Row E, for the final time. And, unless Fred and Jeff Wilpon show up in my section tomorrow to personally escort me to an equivalent seat in a similar Saturday plan at Citi Field, this weekend will also mark my very last days as a fan of the New York Mets.

Just writing those words caught in my throat. Just thinking those words makes my eyes glisten a tinge. This is something I never thought would happen. It was always me and the Mets. The Mets and me. A passion for a baseball team that I thought would last forever and forever. There are probably readers out there wondering how I could even write that. Or think that. Or feel that.

Remarkably, it is very easy. I am done. If my 40 year plus tradition as a Met Saturday plan holder is coming to an end, it effectively severs my emotional ties to the team. Even living 3000 miles away and only going to several games a year for the past decade, those Loge seats were mine. My stock options in a baseball team. I was tied to them in a financial marriage. And, since they may not be interested in me in a world behind Shea Stadium, I also won't be interested in them in a world behind Shea Stadium.

Oh, ultimately, they will invite me to the party. Once they sort out how much dough they can soak from full season ticket packages, there will be a few crumbs left. Probably in December, I will get a heartfelt note from one of the Wilpon stooges. They will tell me how much they appreciate my support. And here's a Saturday plan for you. In some nifty seats out in the upper deck circa left center field. Yes, it's not the "behind home plate" location you have had since 1968. But, really, cherished Met fan, there's not a bad seat in the house. And more leg room. And cup holders! How could I refuse to continue?

Easy. I'm at a point where I am ready to let go. No longer valued by the organization which I don't really value myself anymore. I've documented before how I can't connect with this latest concoction of bloated egos. They've pushed for a pennant this season, but acted almost criminally in the process. With a faction commandeered by possible MVP and definite dirtbag Carlos Delgado, the lights went out and Willie Randolph was found dead on the clubhouse floor. Despite how the Mets played the second half of the season, I know why those chips fell into place. And the ugliness behind them.

Oh, sure, there will be probably be some future Met teams that I could love as much as the ones I held dear for almost 45 years. But, for me, 2008 was the perfect storm. All the factors coming together at this time and this place which brings me to trade in my blue, orange, and regrettably black.

While the present saddens me, the past does just the opposite. Going up that escalator to the Loge Level on one final Saturday prompts so many visions and thoughts and mental pictures. Of a life well spent at that land fill on Flushing Bay.

I remember my first ever visit to Shea. A rainy July Friday night. My dad's friend was married to a woman who worked for Rambler which was, at that juncture, the Official Car of the New York Mets. We got a field level box behind the Braves' dugout. In my youthful obnoxiousness, I was merciless in my taunts toward their third base coach Jo Jo White. But, he had the ideal way to occupy my mouth for the rest of the evening when he tossed me about a dozen Bazooka Bubble Gum pieces.

I think of my first Saturday game in my seats in April of 1968. Oddly, their opponent is the Los Angeles Dodgers. I remember going to a weekday doubleheader against the Houston Astros in July of 1969. The Mets got creamed in both games with levels of lethargic play that would make the Bad News Bears cringe. Manager Gil Hodges walks to left field to take Cleon Jones out of the game. What gives? A school chum with me had the answer. Jones was leaving because he was scheduled to appear with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. That night, I anxiously awaited for Cleon to pop out from behind Johnny's curtain. It never happened. I never went to a game with that kid again.

Yet, the moments and games and memories blurred together into one massive smile. Games with my dad. A single game attended by my mother, who learned all about baseball from watching Met announcer Tim McCarver. More importantly, there were games with my friends. Leo. Danny. The Bibster. Malcolm. I probably saw more Met games at Shea with that quartet than anybody else. Over time, there would be others. And a foulball caught by me in Seat 1. A foulball caught by Danny in Seat 2.

I wrote about all of this much more eloquently in that article for the Shea Stadium commemorative book. But, as my Shea and Met life comes to an end, I realize that those memories are all snowflakes. Each one unique unto itself. And will never be duplicated.

I have another team in my life. A second wife, if you will. And, as a full season ticket holder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, I'm making new friends and new memories there that may find mental shelf space for the rest of my life. Perhaps Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully will take me out to center field of Chavez Ravine for an official baptism. I will now be a practicing Dodger fan.

But I was born and raised a Met fan. And I will never ever forget a single moment of that very special journey.

Dinner last night: Fittingly, a super Dodger Dog and onion rings at Chavez Ravine, the home of the 2008 NL Western Division Champions!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Classic TV Theme of the Month - September 2008

Another 70s classic. Show producer Madelyn Davis has told us that, if she had known us then, we would have been writing for her on this series. Not one of my favorite series, but I would have cashed the check for sure.

Dinner last night: BLT from Clementine's.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Best Wednesday in a Supporting Role

Given the Emmy ceremonies I saw on Sunday, it's an honor NOT to be nominated.

---It's always amazing to me that an award show devoted to television excellence is usually the worst TV program of the year.

---I have no idea what was going on with that opening that features five reality hosts. It was about as funny as Parkland Hospital at 1PM on November 22, 1963.

---All those goofballs who accepted awards for their work on "John Adams" used the platform to make veiled speeches for Barack Obama.

---If these goofballs had bothered to read the book about Adams, they would have realized he was all about a limited federal government.

---I do wonder how many of those people who voted for the John Adams thing actually go all the way through it without having their chins hit their chests at least once per hour.

---I watched the first hour myself and thought that ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

---But I did love producer Tom Hanks' new hair piece.

---Will somebody please get Mary Tyler Moore a pair of those long gloves Kitty Carlisle used to wear on "To Tell The Truth?"

---Her arms looked like brisket that had been on the stove for a week.

---Don Rickles won an Emmy for that documentary on his life and that was the most deserving recognition of the evening.

---Looking out at the audience, Don probably didn't know where to start. So many dummies and hockey pucks.

---When it comes to hosting an awards show, Heidi sure is Klumsy. The second thought she will have in her life is due in 2016.

---I spent Sunday dial flipping from the Emmys to the last game at Yankee Stadium, which ended sometime in the middle of the night.

---While the Yankees usually do these ceremonies well, this one was a mess. They pulled out all these Central Casting actors to play old legendary Yankees.

---Which begs the question: who plays Bernie Williams in 80 years when George Steinbrenner XII wants to move for even more luxury boxes?

---In their covering of Yankee Stadium history, was I in the bathroom when they mentioned Roger Clemens?

---And where was that freakin' bird they used to fly around the place? I'm guessing a new Chinese restaurant opened up two blocks away.

---Please don't tell that big-eared Irish bartender/singer where the Yankees are moving to.

---For my taste, the singing of "God Bless America" should not be longer than the American Revolution itself.

---By the time he was done, two more old ex-Yankees had died.

---Did they mention Roger Clemens yet?

---Joe Torre was also ignored by the thoroughly classless Steinbrenner boys. Those two are as endearing as a rectal itch.

---So, now that the federal government now holds a lot of the property mortgages, we are now living in a country that's run by Old Man Potter from "It's A Wonderful Life."

---Teacher says, "Everytime a bell rings, an asshole gets bailed out."

---Note to all those tools who borrowed money: the fine print is there for a reason. You're supposed to read it!

---And it's also fascinating that two of the corporate moguls involved in this mess have donated beaucoup bucks to Obama. And they were on his Vice Presidential search committee.

---McCain says that he has no answers on the economic crisis, but reminds us all he was a POW and proud of it.

---Wait! Do I hear the Yankees finally mentioning Roger Clemens?

---Well, I know this for sure. Bullwinkle won't be voting for Sarah Palin.

---For sheer hilarity this election season, don't miss the comedy stylings of Joe Biden. This dope has made one stupid statement after another.

---At a rally, he asked some crippled guy in a wheelchair to stand up and take a bow.

---Then, as he waxed on about the stock market problems, he reminded us that Franklin Roosevelt immediately got on the television and reassured the country.

---If you were able to tune into one of the five experimental TV sets in the country during 1929.

---And, even then, you might be asking the question: who's this guy and where's President Hoover?

Thank you to all those important people who made this happen for me. Good night.

Dinner last night: Homemade lasagna.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fancy Eats at Dodger Stadium

One of the great perks about being a full season ticket holder with the Dodgers is the ability to occasionally partake in the Stadium Club. When I was a kid, I remember there was the Diamond Club at Shea Stadium. I went there only once because, at the time, you still had to slap on nice clothes and a sports jacket to get in there. Who wants to go to a baseball game dressed like you're burying your Uncle Louie?

The Dodgers have hit on a great formula. Now, there's a Dugout Club behind home plate and that's available to those who chose to pay a couple of hundred bucks for a field level seat behind home plate. And then you also wind up rubbing elbows with the likes of Shia LaBoeuf and the ultra-shriveled Larry King. But, for the less exclusive set which includes me, there's the wonderful Stadium Club overlooking right field.

Now I do believe that, if you're a season ticket holder and want to dine during the game, there is a membership due that is probably something akin to Junior's freshman year tuition at Fordham University. But there is a pre-game seating for a buffet dinner that is absolutely scrumptuous. And, apparently, all you need to do is call the place a week in advance to reserve. Every time I have done it, they just took my name and never really bothered to verify anything about my season ticket account. Perhaps, it's the availability of the actual phone number that separates you from the dirty riff raff.

You show up two hours before the game and, if you're lucky, you can a table near the window. You can look down and watch batting practice, as well as some of the early fan arrivals who are all climbing over each other to get Jason Repko's autograph. And then you pick up your plate and commence to chowing down.

There are several meat carving stations. One features buttermilk fried turkey breast with maple sauce and this most assuredly must be available in God's great kitchen. There are about a dozen different salads, assorted vegetables, pastas, chili, pizza, and muffins. You load up and then go back to your table to suck it all down. As soon as your plate is clean, your waiter runs over to give you another plate. And then you sample what didn't fit on your plate the first time. It's all incredibly sinful for a single price of about forty bucks. I usually don't venture past the second plate, but I did go up for a third pass the other night.

If you don't have time for dessert, you can go back up there from your seat around the seventh or eighth inning. This works only if the Dodgers are being blown out as they were last Friday night. A 7-1 loss to the hated Giants is a lot easier to swallow when it's going down with megadoses of something chocolate.

When your waist has expanded sufficiently, you simply waddle down the club level and take the escalator down to your seat for the game. If you're lucky, you can still fit into your seat and/or clothing.

For me, there is nothing like the energy in the stands. A hot dog in one hand and your scorebook in another. But, for a decadent change of pace, there is nothing like the Dodger Stadium club. By the way, on my plate's clock above, that would be the aforementioned sinful turkey breast at ten minutes past the hour.

Dinner last night: Chicken with noodles in peanut sauce.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 22, 2008

A great Top 10 List from David Letterman.

Dinner last night: Salad bar from Gelson's.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite TV Shows: #2!!!!

When this "Dallas" spinoff first went on the air in 1979, I was one of the only people in my life circle that watched it. By the time "Knots Landing" went off the air in 1993, I had converted so many folks over time that I should be getting an annual holiday gift from Joan Van Ark. And, to me, Thursday night television has never been the same since we stopped seeing the adventures of those denizens of Seaview Circle, the cul-de-sac which actually exists right off the 405 Freeway in Granada Hills. I should know. I've been there and I have the pictures to prove it.

For many seasons, Knots' competition on NBC were those "must see" dramas, namely "Hill Street Blues" and "LA Law." Frankly, I can't identify with dirty cops or dirty lawyers, so those two shows did nothing for me. I could, however, connect with the McKenzies and the Ewings and the Averys and the Williams, because they resembled in some way people I actually knew. Somehow, Knots left those other two programs in the dust and my friends eventually came over to my side of the neighborhood.

Oh, don't get me wrong. "Knots Landing" was a Lorimar soap of the 80s and had all those juicy trappings. There was always the season-ending cliffhanger and Knots did them way better than the others. Because, like in life, there was unexpected turns that you did not even imagine. Early on, solid citizen Sid Fairgate, played by Don Murray, was featured in the last shot of the season as his tampered-with car went over a cliff. Now, you fully expect that the first few shows of the next season will be devoted to Sid in a coma, Sid perhaps facing paralysis, and wife Karen serving up some crocodile tears. But, the audience was totally unaware of the news that Don Murray had chosen to leave the series. So, Sid has surgery and a major character dies on the table right in front of your eyes. It was perhaps the biggest shock I ever endured as a fan of television. How they kept that all quiet is beyond me. But it paid off in great dramatic dividends.

Seasons later, Knots pulled this off again in a different way. When they wrote out the character of Laura Avery, essayed beautifully by Constance McCashin, they did it with an off-screen brain tumor. But, the real meat of the situation came through during a two episode wake and funeral with dialogue that was 80% improvised by the other cast members. The reactions were all spot-on and you felt as if cameras had been trained on funerals in your own family. It was amazing television and Knots never ever got credit for doing it.

Of course, there was all adultery, embezzling, cheating, corporate takeovers, murder, child abuse, alcoholism, teen drug abuse, unwanted pregnancies, and even more murder. And, in this clip from one of the best season enders, babies stolen at birth and then found about 20 episodes later.


Okay, so maybe that doesn't happen to everybody. But, somehow and some way, "Knots Landing" made it all work. A lot of that credit goes to the totally believable cast. They were all incredibly plausible characters, even if the women's plastic surgery over time got a trifle out of hand. But isn't that just like real life, too? People trying to be somebody they're not.

No discussion of "Knots Landing" would be complete without mentioning one of the most layered characters ever created for television. That would be politician/corporate mogul Greg Sumner as played by William Devane. The portrayal is rich and diverse. The guy is evil. The guy is funny. The guy is totally likeable despite a myriad of faults. Each week, I waited anxiously for Devane's scenes as he did things with this character that certainly were not on the written page.

Frequently, Knots also turned to music in order to tie some plotlines together. One holiday season, they did so to the strains of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," arguably the best ever rendition of the song and done magnificently by series star Michele Lee. Here's another segment where you are caught up on some plot points via a song on the radio.

Again, a creative device that advanced television drama to a higher value. And "Knots Landing" got no credit for it.

In its later years, "Knots Landing" was my NY office's ultimate water cooler show on Friday mornings. So, it would be no surprise how excited my writing partner and I would be when series stars stopped in to our studios to do some satellite interviews. Donna Mills was beautiful and gracious and posed for a picture with us, which I can no longer find. Michele Lee went one better. During one of her interviews with a radio station, she put us on the air with her to talk about Knots.

Which, obviously, I can still do for days and days and days and days. A descendent today is "Desperate Housewives" and our friend Marc Cherry certainly does intimate the Knots brand well.

But it still isn't Thursday nights at 10PM. When my world stopped for an hour.

Dinner last night: Chicken with garlic noodles at CPK.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - September 2008

Here's the one for "Frenzy." It's almost as good as the movie itself.

The wonderful buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yankee Stadium Memories

Note to all readers: this is the first blog entry composed at 35,000 feet, compliments of American Airlines' new in-flight Wi-Fi service. If it makes no sense, blame it on the asshole behind me who keeps poking my seat.

Sunday marks the last ever baseball game to be played at baseball's greatest cathedral, Yankee Stadium. This momentous game will be preceded by some pomp and circumstance that the Yankees always do well. Of course, it's on ESPN which means that first pitch won't be till 9PM. Unless you have a TiVo or you're unemployed, few will be alert at home to see the final pitch.

Pour moi, the closing of Yankee Stadium doesn't have the same cache that the soon-to-be-auctioned-off Shea Stadium has. But there are some thoughts that are leaking out of my mental pores about the House That Ruth Ate A Lot of Hotdogs In.

Indeed, my first even baseball game was a Wednesday afternoon day game at Yankee Stadium. I had no clue about the sport at that time. All I knew was that the Yankee post game used to pre-empt Officer Joe Bolton and the Three Stooges and I absolutely hated the Yankees for that injustice. Back in those days, my father was a Yankee fan, prior to seeking and receiving redemption and salvation from God several years later. His cousin's oil burner company had season tickets, so off we went. I had been home all week from school with an ear infection, and I had enough cotton in my ear to keep Q-tips going for years. I also got my first ever baseball cap. I probably didn't wear it once again that day. The game was a blur and the sounds were muffled to boot. I know Astronaut Gordon Cooper was orbiting the Earth and they kept mentioning his progress underneath the Ballantine Beer logo. Years later, I tracked back to read what I saw that day. A Mickey Mantle homerun. But I was more intrigued by the megaphone I got. Once you finished the popcorn inside, you could shout through it. I used it frequently at home until it wound up being placed on a very high closet shelf by my mother.

Once I became officially married to the New York Mets a year later, my visits to Yankee Stadium were infrequent, usually when a Yankee fan friend had tickets and wanted impartial company. I recall taking the subway there in days when you didn't have to be armed to do so. One tme, we were making the change at 149th Street and Grand Concourse and I accidentally knocked my buddy's brown bag lunch onto the tracks. A 10-year-old Puerto Rican heroically jumped down as the train was coming to save the PB and J. This earned him fifty cents from me---officially little Jose was the first person I ever hired.

One hot summer day, my neighborhood chum Leo and I were sitting in the first row of the field level behind first base when an army of gnats flew in to catch the second half of the game. They were seated on our faces. When pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered the same indignation during last year's playoffs in Cleveland, I had a rare moment of emphathy for a Yankee.

A bunch of my little friends and I went to the last game at Yankee Stadium before they closed it for that two year renovation. For the last three innings, the sounds of hammers and wood breaking drowned out all reality. Nobody left empty-handed. I have no idea what I did with that wood slat that used to be part of the seat behind me.

I was at the playoff game against Kansas City when Chris Chambliss hit a homerun in the ninth to win the series and the only way he could get off the field amid crazed fans was by punching several in the face. And, for some inexplicable reason, I was in Yankee land the night Reggie Jackson hit three homeruns against the Dodgers to win the World Series. I, of course, was wearing a Dodger cap and that was the first of many other times where they would make me feel terribly Blue.

It was all around this time that Yankee Stadium became my place of summer employment as a vendor which I did for parts of two baseball and football seasons. When you wore that little badge, you had amazing access to crevices of this old ballyard---places I never knew existed. I used to comp sodas to the pitchers in the bullpen, which was verboten. But I got my punishment when, one day, I tripped down about five stairs carrying a full tray. There was applause and even more laughter. The Clown Prince of Vendors. From then on, I think I got stuck selling those little containers of Sun Dew orange drink, which had much less spillage. Not a big seller amongst the baseball fans, but I loved selling that shit during football games. People were buying two and three at a time, asking me to pour them directly into their thermos which had been pre-filled with vodka. Get your screwdrivers, get your screwdrivers right here!

There were many, many years in my adulthood where I didn't go to Yankee Stadium. I think I was there for a few playoff games in the mid 90s, but the memories are fuzzy probably due to my denial of being there. Of course, there was one last hurrah for me there. Or, indeed, a last very-much-less-than-hurrah. Game One of the 2000 World Series versus the Mets.

I was seated in the bleachers amongst those animals in the Bronx not housed in the Zoo. I wore nondescript clothing. Not a speck of blue or orange to give away my allegience. And that was a good thing to do, given the treatment other Met fans got from the Amazons in right field. There was one poor little kid wearing a Met hat and he was so derided by this menagerie that I am convinced he has spent the last seven years in analysis. Or maybe he's simply locked up in a basement making some dirty bombs.

You may remember that this game went on and on and on as the Mets blew the game and ultimately the Series in extra innings. Within seconds of the Yankees' game winning hit, I was out of the park. Let the animals celebrate as if there was just crowned a new Lion King. I ran up to the Jerome Avenue El and there was an empty train waiting. I sat down and muttered back and forth as if I were an autistic child. "Close the door, close the door, close the door, close the door." And we waited.

I could hear the sea of humanity makes its waves down the street and up the stairs. "Close the door, close the door, close the door, close the door." I didn't want to be near any of them. I felt like the Beatles probably did when they were trying to sneak out the back of a hotel. Several cretins reached the top of the stairs.

The doors closed and I was headed north.

I never did go back to Yankee Stadium after that. And yet I hate to see it go.

Dinner last night: Eggplant parmagiana back in LA.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Photos From Hell

Bad pictures of some very strange folks. These people actually might be registered to vote?

What are the parents of this gremlin thinking? Talk about trying to instill a career path for little Jimmy at an early age. If there's any justice, this kid wound up as a cashier at the Red Lobster down on Highway 20. You know the one I mean. The restaurant right across the street from the Piggly Wiggly.

This just goes to show that future Una-bombers can go to Sears for a photo shoot. And get a date to boot. Look at all those books in the background. You were wondering what happened to all those Reader's Digest condensed novels. The ones that collapse "Crime and Punishment" into 43 pages.

Handy Holiday Tip: Please remember to first remove your child before hanging up the American flag next Memorial Day.

I'd hide my face, too, if my parents looked like these two peckerwoods.

Two extremes of the size spectrum. How long will it be before Miss Chubbs plops herself down on the couch with a can of Pringles, totally unaware of where little Taco might be napping?

From the days in this country when there was no such thing as Supercuts or Fantastic Sam's. Just how long does it take these two knuckleheads to comb out the kinks when they wake up in the morning? It all screams out the rhetorical question: Whatever happened to Jennifer Beals? You also know that this couple's favorite movie every Valentine's Day is Footloose.

And, today, I fly back to LA over the part of the country where all these yahoos live.

Dinner last night: Chicken Teriyaki.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday, Can You Spare a Dime?

I'm in NY. And apparently just in time to watch it close down.

---And I thought it was just Yankee and Shea Stadiums that were shutting down.

---Excuse me while I check my Washington Mutual account on-line.

---Okay, whew, still solvent.

---I knew Citibank was paying too much money on that ballpark for the Mets.

---The Met bullpen can now breathe a sigh of relief. They're not the only ones collapsing.

---The economy is sucking, but that didn't stop a bevy of idiots from boarding my AA flight east.

---Where the "food for purchase" sandwich even went up a buck.

---There was one family going ahead of me through security and they were traveling with not one, not two, not three, but four strollers.

---Birth control please! It's available in all the stores.

---It was the first time Mom was on her feet in five years. As she walked down the hall, she looked like one of those calves just out of the womb.

---Back to the Mets bullpen. Is it me or do they all look like an apartment building janitorial staff on the Upper West Side?

---Okay, so maybe it wasn't Willie Randolph??

---And, with the Yankees out of the playoffs for the first time and the Dodgers apparently headed in, maybe it was Joe Torre??

---On the 25 minute drive into Manhattan during the morning, I dial flipped through the radio and never found a single song to listen to.

---New York radio sucques. One station is a clone of the next. And the morning chatter lulls me into a coma.

---Scott Shannon is still working????

---And you still have Mr. G the weather man, who will never be out of work because...well, after all, there's always weather.

---Whatever ever happened to that Black character on WHTZ about 20 years ago? Mr. Leonard.

---Now that was funny. And a trifle racist.

---Oops, we can't go there anymore. Barack Obama, you know.

---LA radio is a bit more diverse. Except for Sunday mornings where there are about five stations all playing Beatle music.

---Can't the program directors sync this up a little better? Maybe one of them could switch to all Cowsills tunes.

---The opening sketch on the season premiere of SNL featured Amy Poehler as Hillary and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. The jokes were so obvious that I swear I thought up the same lines earlier that day while grocery shopping in Ralph's.

---Michael Phelps as host was a disaster. Not even a bronze this time.

---Michael's performance looked sort of like he hit his head on the side of a pool while doing a flip turn.

---The Presidential race now resembles a reality TV show. We have six weeks of pre-lims before America votes somebody off the island.

---Show of hands: Bush Doctrine anybody??

---The funny thing that goes unreported is that Charles Gibson had that wrong, too.

---Shame on whoever subjected John McCain to sitting with those bitches on "The View." When did those yentas become political pundits?

---Barbara Walters should be blindfolded and offered a last cigarette. That dried-up old hag has no business being involved in any political discussion.

---Especially when the last viable news story she reported on was when the cave men discovered fire.

---Remember the days when Presidential debates were serious events anchored by only the best journalists around? Now, it's nothing but game show hosts with the most inane of questions.

---"Mr. McCain, if you were a tree...?"

---Michelle Obama is going to be a guest cooking something on Rachael Ray's show. How much of a show can they get from watching somebody press a button on a microwave?

---The last thing this scummy ex-lawyer probably cooked was some books.

---Last night, Obama went to see first hand the devastation caused by the sagging economy in Beverly Hills. Barbra sang at a fundraising dinner which cost donors $28,500 per plate.

---For that price, I hope they gave you a couple of sides. And an open bar.

My bar, however, is closing right now.

Dinner last night: Chinese BBQ pork.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bottle Shock

Here's another movie nobody knows about, but should.

Great small films are like walking on a dirt road and looking down to see a diamond in your path. Unlikely. Unpredicted. Certainly welcomed.

I knew little about "Bottle Shock." Indeed, it was sampled primarily because a Saturday night movie was in order and we were still seeing the dregs of summer populating the big screens. Essentially, it was really the only movie out there that appeared to have developed by a person with a brain.

Brain, indeed. You also see one to see "Bottle Shock." Because it is sharp, intelligent, and educational. The movie tells the tale of when, back in the polyester-laden 70s, the Northern California wine industry made its first inroads. And beat the scummy French in a blind taste testing that was initiated by famed wine expert Steven Spurrier. Naturally, any story that winds up with France on the losing end of any argument is aces in my deck. But, this indeed did happen and was the watershed moment in making Napa Valley and its wine-growing environs a viable entity when it came to harvesting the grape.

I really knew little about wine myself. I learned a bit from one friend several years ago who liked to collect it. And there's another friend who does PR for some wineries overseas. But, I had no previous concept of anything that I learned in "Bottle Shock." All this education went down as well as the finest Cabernet. Heck, I even learned what the title means and you will have to see it to figure it out for yourself. Let's just say, it refers to a very significant plot turn.

Alan Rickman is marvelous as Spurrier and I can't ever remember a film where he wasn't perfect as a British snob. My biggest fear is that he really is one. The rest of the cast is spot-on and there's not a clunker of an acting choice in the bunch. They all come together to provide a throughly fascinating diversion for any evening. I am sensing there is strong word of mouth. The theater was packed and there was applause at the end. A great reminder that films can work. And move you and teach you and entertain you.

And leave you longing for a hearty glass of red.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken and vegetables at the NY abode.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 15, 2008

Amid all the devastation endured by Galveston and Houston over the weekend, there is a little levity. Especially when it happens to renowned dirtbag Geraldo Rivera. Watch and enjoy.

Dinner last night: BLT sandwich.

Tomorrow: Live from NY, it's Tuesday morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite TV Shows: #3!!!

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" came around about the time I could actually tell the difference between a great television show and a bad one. Smack in the middle of CBS' Saturday night block of the best shows ever telecast together in one single night, MTM, in its own quiet way, raised television comedy writing to a level that has never been achieved since. Forget "Seinfeld" and "Cheers" and "The Office." This was the pinnacle of it all and will never be topped again.

Although I personally try. Because this show has stayed with me so deeply that it cuts into my own work. There are many times when I am working on something with my writing partner and he will chirp "You can't do that line. It was on Mary." Or I will resort to what I call a Ted Baxter moment. You know, somebody says a line about something being stupid and in walks Ted. Big laugh. Ha ha. Then I hear it all over again.

"That's what they would do on Mary."

I usually take out the reference, but now wonder what's so bad about that. Is using "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as your writing textbook such a negative? Especially these days when one lousy sitcom is a direct and unfortunate copy of another lousy sitcom.

Okay, maybe I have gone too far with my reliance on the MTM world. Actually, I started doing that at a much younger age. Apparently, imitation and borderline plagarism has no age restrictions. I'll splain....and, yes, there I am copying a line from another great comedy.

When I was going to Fordham University in the Bronx, I hung out at the college radio station WFUV which has been previously heralded in this blog. I didn't really have a focus or a concentration there. I did a little celebrity interviewing. I tried baseball play by play. I did some on-air news reporting. None of it provided a solid niche. Some of it I was downright awful at. I was a little lost. I needed something I could take my own personal pride in. And I hit on an idea that was perfect for me.

A radio version of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Well, not really a direct copy. But so many elements of "Diploma City" were lifted from the MTM show that I realize there's a very fine line of difference between heist and robbery. I created characters and locations very similar, but placed them as college students in a Philadelphia college. Character names were derived from the writing staff of the MTM Show. There was a male version of Rhoda and a female version of Lou Grant. I had a girl Murray and a resident advisor like Phyllis. The only non-gender switch was in the Ted Baxter character. My version was named Milton Harper and the buffoon transferred intact. I even mimicked the format of the MTM show. Scenes switched from the dorm to the newspaper office back to the dorm and then maybe to the local college hangout. If anybody from MTM Enterprises had cause to put on their car radio while driving through the Bronx, there would be a certain lawsuit.

Of course, while the TV show had such pros as Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, and Edward Asner, my casting coups rotated around my circle of friends. "Hey, you wanna be on a comedy show?" Before long, the weekly party was on. Intially, we would try to rehearse prior to taping. Eventually, we realized that rehearsal didn't really make a difference as that is reserved for professional actors of which I had none. Zip. Nada. Now, several of those cast members are still in my world to this day. A few even post comments here on this blog. They are all dear friends.

And lousy actors. Indeed, revisiting some of these tapes today, I could easily publish a book entitled "When Bad Actors Happen to Good Scripts." On second thought, perhaps that should be "When Bad Actors Happen to Mediocre Scripts." Yeah, I wasn't exactly the comedic hotshot I thought I was.

But, for three seasons of 90 episodes, we sure as hell had a lot of fun. The same merging of talent that happens over time on an ensemble comedy TV show also happened on "Diploma City." The acting and writing did improve the more we did it. And the tapings were great weekly gatherings for a great bunch of friends. Several started to date each other. If somebody in the cast started dating, we'd cast the new girlfriend or boyfriend as...the character's new girlfriend or boyfriend. Nepotism was rampant, just like in Hollywood.

There was one time where we absolutely had no episodes in the can and we needed one for the following week. But there was no studio time booked. We rolled a ton of equipment over to the dorms and actually taped it in somebody's living room. We flew by the seats of our pants. And, at least for me, it was pure exhileration.

In the first year, our little half hour show usually came in a lot shorter than that. No one paid attention to time and I had no concept of how scripts should be paced or moved along. But, eventually, I got my creative chops down and then often had trouble confining the plot and dialogue to 30 minutes. We just got so good at what we were doing that we paid little attention to time constraints, which was fine if you weren't the host of the rock music show that followed. Now, he's also a blog reader here today, but, back when, he was pretty steamed every week as he would interrupt our program continuously in some faux British accent because we were apparently delaying his audience from hearing the latest album by Foghat. Nevertheless, we pressed on undaunted.

To tighten the MTM connections even further, I hit on a 150 watt light bulb of an idea to promote our show during the station's annual fundraising marathon. What if I got somebody from the MTM Show to be on our show and make a pitch for WFUV? I called MTM's publicist in Hollywood and this was surprisingly easy to set up. Per my specific request, I was given the appropriate time and phone number so I could engage Ted Knight for the task.

We awaited the appointed day and time as if it were Christmas morning. In advance, I fashioned a scene of dialogue that would break the fourth wall between one of our cast members and Ted. Then, Ted would go into his plug for listeners to send dough to WFUV. At the hour of our reckoning, I called Ted and he was incredibly gracious. I essentially explained to him what we were doing and I recited the dialogue so he could copy it over the phone. We rolled tape and it went well. For about a minute. Suddenly, Ted's mind veered off the road as if he was trying to avoid hitting a deer with his car. He started to ramble about WFUV and Fordham, which made virtually no sense in the context of the show. Amazingly, my actor followed Ted down into Confusionville and what resulted was a hilariously funny but impromptu conversation that I ran virtually unedited. Besides, I felt I had no creative license to ask Ted Knight for a second take.

We were very proud of "Diploma City," but I now realize we could never hold a candle to the work they were doing on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." There are comedic moments in the body of that series that could only be crafted in heaven. Witness below excerpts of perhaps the best written episode in television comedy history. Chuckles The Clown bites the dust.

God, I wish I could write like that. And, as much as I try, I can't.

Dinner last night: Turkey wrap at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wedding Invitation from a Jewish Mother

Dinner last night: BBQ Pork at Panda Express.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Your Fall 2008 Movie Guide - November and December

Now this is a screen. And those were the days when Radio City Music Hall used to have something good on it. Here's what is headed our way the rest of the year. It might be time to hunker down for the winter.

November 7:

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: A sequel to the earlier cartoon. Bernie Mac is in it. Like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he's gone now, too.

Quantum of Solace: The next installment of the totally ruined James Bond franchise. The first one, Casino Royale, was a mess. Paging Oddjob please.

Repo! The Genetic Opera: Paris Hilton in a sci-fi rock music comedy. I didn't know she couldn't sing. I know she can't act.

November 14:

Australia: Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman running around down under. You could skip the movie and just go to Outback. Baz Luhrmann directed. You definitely should skip the movie and go to Outback.

A Christmas Tale: Some French dreck about the parents of a dying son. Leave to the French to ruin the holidays as well.

Lake City: Southern family drama with Sissy Spacek. Think of the TV show "Brothers and Sisters" with Loretta Lynn in the Sally Field role.

Nobel Son: Even the trailer put to me to sleep. Something about some Nobel Prize winner whose son get kidnapped. Or maybe it was about a guy running a Carvel store in Helsinki. I just couldn't tell the difference.

Nothing Like The Holidays: Christmas with a Hispanic family in Chicago. I'm only interested if Grandpa gets used as a pinata.

The Road: I know nothing except the book was one of Oprah's selections. This will be one not traveled.

Role Models: Two energy drink salesmen who have never quite grown up. Paul Rudd stars and wrote it. And he whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies for Craft Services.

Soul Men: About a R & B group. The double whammy. It has both Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes. How did they miss out and not cast Bobby Murcer, Cyd Charisse, and Estelle Getty?

November 21:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Still more???? Why?????

The Soloist: Jamie Foxx as a musical prodigy who winds up schizophrenic and homeless on a LA street. A dime a dozen.

November 26:

Bolt: A cartoon with John Travolta as the voice of a canine TV star. Lost in Koreatown perhaps? Watch for those subliminal Scientology messages.

Four Christmases: A look into a family over four consecutive years of holidays. This is a really intriguing idea that hopefully is not ruined by the inclusion of Vince Vaughn in the cast.

Milk: Major Oscar buzz for Sean Penn as that gay SF politican who got wasted. Don't cry over spilled...

Transporter 3: Another Jason Statham action film. Which will signal to me that there have been others?

December 5:

Frost/Nixon: Ron Howard directed this film adaptation of the play about the Nixon/Frost interviews. A must see on my list.

Punisher: War Zone: A must-not-see on my list.

December 12:

The Class: About a high school class in France. Probably revisionist history. No, that was not the Nazis who we caved to. It's just an oompah band with panzers.

The Day The Earth Stood Still: Another senseless remake. Now I'm waiting for somebody to write a sequel to the New Testament.

Defiance: Jews vs. the Nazis during WWII. Note to France: Somebody did put up a fight. Strange holiday release, but then again Schindler's List was released on December 25.

Doubt: ...I will see this. No, wait, it's about child abuse in a Catholic school. Enroll me please. Oscar buzz again for Meryl Streep, who's a little old to play an altar boy.

Seven Pounds: What I need to lose by next Tuesday. Actually, it's Will Smith's annual campaign for an Oscar. I can't think of a better reason to stay home and get the mildew out of my bathroom shower tiles.

Twilight: Apparently, this is based on some series of books that 15 year-old girls have been clamoring over. Does anybody know what the hell ever happened to the Bobbsey Twins? I'm just asking.

December 19:

The Tale of Despereaux: It's a cartoon about a mouse in France. Pixar Legal on line 2.

Yes Man: Jim Carrey. No, man.

December 25:

Bedtime Stories: A Disney movie with Adam Sandler as a magical handyman. The film is geared toward 10 year-olds, which means Sandler will be working up.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Brad Pitt as a guy who ages in reverse. Which means he'll eventually be the same age as those urchins he just adopted.

Hurricane Season: Forest Whitaker as a New Orleans high school basketball coach right after Katrina. When the parents could watch the games on their new FEMA-funded high def TVs.

Marley and Me: That famous dog book with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. I'm hearing it's weepy and has Oscar buzz. So, maybe Timmy doesn't get out of the well?

The Spirit: Some sci-fi comic book comes to life with Samuel L. Jackson. It will be good to reconnect with him since it's been, what, two days since his last movie.

December 26: Revolutionary Road: A contemporary romantic story that reunites Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. If they get wet this time, it's their own stupid fault.

The Secret of the Grain: This won't make a lot of bread.

Waltz with Bashir: An animated film about an Israeli soldier who witnessed a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees. Merry Christmas to you, too.

December TBA: Clint Eastwood directs Clint Eastwood. A bigoted Korean war vet lives next door to some immigrants. Dirty Harry meets Archie Bunker. One on the aisle please.

Dinner last night: Chicken cutlets with pasta and broccoli.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Noontime Walk - A Photo Essay

In an effort to keep my weight down to a manageable 20 pounds overweight, I use a noontime break several days a week to take a two mile walk. I head down one block and come back another. I just went back to this regimen after taking the summer off. During July and August, it's so hot in this neighborhood that I'm convinced I've seen Hitler and Hussein outside doing yard work. Yep, it's pure hell.

Well, today, the iPod is juiced up and I hit shuffle. Join me for the sights and sounds of one of my daily constitutionals around Sherman Oaks, California.

Playing on the iPod: The Theme from the Virginian by Percy Faith. The first half of my journey is through a residential area. The shittiest bunch of condos and apartment complexes you'd ever want to see. Most are like this dump. All advertise the usual amenities. By the way, these community jacuzzis are never used by tenants. There are bugs in there as big as your head. Most are old enough to carry on whole conversations with you.

Oddly, the landlord neglected to include this in his sign. No apartment complex should be without shopping carts to lug your groceries in from the garage. This one obviously got away and will be arrested for vagrancy by Sherman Oaks police later in the day.

Playing: Anything Goes by Patti Lupone. Just how bad is this building that so many people are desperate to get out?

Playing: I Really Wanna Know You by Gary Wright. For some bizarre reason, my walk is always disrupted at this spot because the pinheads in these homes have not bothered to put in a sidewalk.

Playing: Small Town Girl by Steve Wariner. It gets a little better a half a block away. At least, these people elected to put in some stones for you to walk across. How much is cement these days? Am I truly out of touch on this? Is there a shortage I haven't read anything about?

Playing: Enough Is Enough by Donna Summer. When I reach this classic old newsstand, I know that I have finished the first mile of my walk. I never see anybody ever buying anything here. Mostly, folks stand around, wrinkle up some magazines as they read them, and then shove them back in the racks. The second mile for me is through a business district. Always great people watching.

Playing: Shower the People by James Taylor. And people watching people sleeping. Proof positive that, if you have to be homeless, there is no better place to do it than in Southern California. Right after I snapped this one, I was approached by two college students/global warming hysterics to sign their petition. One was juggling several rubber balls and I asked him how many billows of smoke resulted from the plant that processed the rubber for those balls. There was no response. He didn't want my signature after all.

Playing: Theme from Lawrence of Arabia. If you're wondering what happened to that lunatic from South Africa, he's selling Pokemon games on Ventura Boulevard.

And this is from the card store right next door. Insert your own joke here.

Playing: Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. It's not even September 15 and whole stores are now devoted to Halloween. Obviously, Sherman Oaks is not known for its classic architecture.

Playing: Listen People by Herman's Hermits. You've got trouble, my friends. You've got trouble right here in Sherman Oaks. With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.

Playing: Up, Up, and Away by the Fifth Dimension. How much would you bet that, on any given day, somebody goes into this store and asks them how late they are open?

Playing: Bellavia by Chuck Mangione. This was apparently the original place and the inspiration for the movie "American Graffiti." The roller skating waitresses are, alas, history.

Playing: Golden Lady by Stevie Wonder. This restaurant is noteworthy only because that's where I lunch with my former TV child star/financial advisor when he explains to me how much money I used to have.

Playing: If You Leave Me Now by Chicago. There are banners for this annual telethon all over town. It is well known that Johnny Carson used to host dinner parties where people gathered to watch this ultimate train wreck of a TV show. Everytime they change the dollar total, the rabbis dance for ten minutes. Change the total and the rabbis dance again. This goes on for six whole hours. And that's the show. It's oddly co-hosted by Jon Voight, who graduated from Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY. Who knew??

Playing: Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. Now I'm passing one seedy strip mall after another. The second store prompts a rhetorical question. Do they mean to imply that all dead people are out of shape?

Playing: My Sweet Lord by George Harrison. I didn't bother to cross the street to find out what this new store was all about. I just hope it wasn't Korean food.

Playing: Pleasant Valley Sunday by the Monkees. Another crummy strip mall and, my goodness, you can do almost anything here. Buy a cigar. Have a root canal. Get your back cracked. Buy a new tennis racket. And, apparently, order a suicide cupcake to send to one of your friends.

Playing: Sail On, Sailor by the Beach Boys. For those who have any lingering questions about Johann Guttenberg...

I told you those Chabad banners are EVERYWHERE. The dollar total changes, the rabbis dance. Over and over and over and over.

And we are back in the cool, cool lobby. Thanks for the walk. See you next time.

Dinner last night: The salad bar at Gelson's.