Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Ties to the OJ Simpson Murders

No uncertainty in the title of today's entry. "The O.J. Simpson Murders." Yep, crimes tied to him. No dispute. A homicidal maniac.

Coming up on the 15 year anniversary of this dual mutilation, I am thinking about several odd ties I have to the event. And it didn't take me long after my move to LA in 1997 to get sucked into these coincidences.

When my writing partner and I first settled in SoCal in 1997, we were first isolated out in an Oakwood Apartments complex out in Woodland Hills. We might as well have lived on the moon. As soon as we got there in the Valley, we desperately started to figure out how to get to the other side of the hill. The fun side. That would be the apartment on Clark Drive. Not exactly in Beverly Hills, but on the border. Not exactly in West Hollywood, but on the border. When there was a reason to call the police, no cops wanted to claim the neighborhood. Our apartment was in Nowhere Adjacent.

But, early on, we found out just who we were adjacent to when we got on the elevator one night.

Famed houseguest Kato Kaelin.

Imagine our surprise that day when we loped onto the lift and heard a familiar voice utter "three, please." He even sounded stupid just saying those two simple words. Not only was he going to the same floor as us, his apartment was only two doors down. The first couple of weeks, we would purposely bump into the wall of his unit, just like OJ supposedly knocked into his air conditioner on that fateful night.

Over time, we were able to discern some interesting factoids about our neighbor. He didn't seem to work. No surprise there. Sometimes, he would simply bide his time by sitting on the street curb outside the building. A professional dodo. We learned from other tenants that Kato actually lived in the building during the trial, which meant that papparazzi were camped outside for two years.

About a year into our tenure there, we noticed Kato with a packing tape gun. He was either moving or perhaps trying to hold his brain in. And, suddenly, like a carpetbagger in the night, he was gone. Except for one last calling card left behind.

He decided to dump a lot of scripts in the ;aundry room. We immediately brought them upstairs and began to digest them. All were essentially soft porn projects offered to this D list star. Most of the screenplays had notes on the title page.

"Kato, you're going to be Danny, the horny pool boy."

"Kato, you're perfect for Marco, the horny tennis pro."

"Kato, we want you for the horny horn player. Get it? Wink wink."

I am guessing you can see any or all of the above during the overnight hours on Cinemax.

Moving on from Katoland, I simultaneously developed another bizarre OJ connection at work. A data input guy in the office and under my management looked damn familiar in both looks and name. There was something very, very nagging about Steven. And then it finally came to us third hand.

Steven was the guy who was walking his dog and found Nicole's dog with the bloody footprints. His testimony was memorable because he was the one who verified his movements that night by what shows he was watching on TV Land.

If you remember him and what an idiot he sounded like, trust me when I tell you he was as moronic in the office as he appeared to be during the trial. Ultimately, even the E list celebrity status he brought to my work life was not enough. His work habits were atrocious and I got to fire him a year later.

The final connection is probably the best, but sadly before the days of my digital camera.

I saw O.J. Simpson himself.

My writing partner and I were in Westwood and sitting in the window of a restaurant that sold nothing but French fries (don't ask, it's closed since then). As we alternately dipped the taters into ketchup, ranch, or barbecue dressings, we suddenly felt a pair of eyes staring at us through the window. It gave us a jolt like a 7.5 tremor.

There, on the other side of the glass, was a murderer. Or so everybody but 12 numbskulls think. Watching us dip French fries. He didn't look for more than 15 seconds but it seemed like an eternity. And then he was off.

As we watched him limp up the street, I could see a guy who did have that crippling arthritis which was a major part of his defense. Here's a dude who couldn't get around well at all. Hmmm, maybe....

Nah, he did it!

Dinner last night: Sausage caccatiore at Miceli's.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - May 2009

Still with the greatest movie song of all time. And the most stereotypical portrayal of a Japanese man. Thank you, Mickey Rooney.



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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Perfect Disharmony

There's a fabulous new show business documentary playing at some isolated theaters. "The Boys" is a wonderful look at the famed Disney songwriting team of Robert Sherman and Richard Sherman and you should see it if given the opportunity. My guess is that it will be on DVD in a few weeks, so you'll have no excuse then.

I was fascinated by their story. Two brothers on different career, life, and personality paths who came together on a lark to write a song. Then another. And another. Several became hits in the 50s and I was shocked to learn that one of them was "You're Sixteen" which years later became one of Ringo Starr's signature ditties.

Naturally, Dick and Bob (you feel like you know them personally after you see the film) hook up with Walt Disney and write a bunch of novelty hits for Annette Funicello. All were supposed hits. None are ever played today. But, then they penned "Lets Get Together" for Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills in "The Parent Trap" and they are off to the races, culminating with Oscars for doing the words and music of "Mary Poppins."

The Shermans' prolific careers are captured here on film by their respective sons, who amazingly did not have much of a relationship when they were younger. Why? Because their fathers barely socialized. Cousins didn't see each other even though they lived less than seven miles apart.

And what family member can't identify with something like that in their own backyard?

The Sherman Brothers were inherently different individuals. Dick was an extrovert, gregarious to a fault and a bit headstrong. Bob was an introvert, reserved and overly analytical. Two peas in separate pods. Diversity soon transcended into conflict. Yet, despite it all, they worked and worked and worked. Together. Writing some of the greatest film and stage music ever done.

In the movie, you learn why and when they clicked and when they didn't. You start to see that another factor in their shaky relationship was their wives. When the women don't mesh, how can the husbands?

And, once again, what family member can't identify with something like that in their own backyard?

As did the compatriots that saw "The Boys" with, I began to think about my family and its spiny tentacles. Holiday dinners that, as people got older and bolder, were less harmonious and then ultimately non-existent. Every boxer retreated to their corner, but never came out again for the next round.

I thought about my father's relationship with his own three brothers. I have no clue how he got along with the one who was killed in WWII. He was very close to another who also died at a very young age, leaving my dad (the youngest) and another brother (the oldest). And they seemed to be as diverse and polar opposite as the Shermans. Not so oddly, they didn't even speak for the last ten years of their lives, which ironically ended within three days of each other. So, after all the drama, where did they ultimately wind up at almost the same time?

It's all the same. Whether you're living on Paulding Avenue in the Bronx or on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. Whether you're dirt poor or Academy Award rich. Family discord. A tie that apparently binds us all.

Chim Chim Cheree indeed.

Dinner last night: BLT sandwich at Islands.



Thursday, May 28, 2009

There Used to Be a Ballpark Right There

One more chipping away of childhood memories as provided by the New York Mets and their new food court called Citi Field.

The championship banners that used to adorn the Shea Stadium outfield wall have finally gone up at the new home. Plastered onto that bridge to the Land of Gluttony. You certainly can't seen them from the playing field but that's okay since I don't think there are a lot of people focusing on that part of the stadium.

I noticed it on my initial visit to Citi Field. Astounded by the newness of it all, I saw a lot of people simply milling around. A baseball game? Feh. Most folks seemed to be filling their gourds. And those who weren't chomping down on a pulled pork sandwich were at one of about two dozen clubhouse stores, buying a Mother's Day Met keychain for Aunt Betsy. David Wright could have hit for the cycle and nobody would have noticed. Or maybe even cared.

And, from my current perch 3000 miles away and looking in via television, the phenomenon is not going away.

Tuning into some of the Met games earlier this week, I had a sudden jolt. Except for the fact that they were wearing their white home uniforms (or whatever passes for a home jersey on any given day), I couldn't tell that the Mets were playing at their home park. The audio was noiseless, except for the increasingly over-exaggerated ravings of Met announcer Gary Cohen. "Carlos Beltran holds his head back....and he sneezes!!" The crowd seemed to be in their seats more often, but looked more like corpses on slabs in front of Dr. Thomas Noguchi. Even the crazy scoreboard cheerleading appeared to be subdued. "Everybody, clap your hands!" Not many were.

Has Citi Field been so over produced that people are just numb to it all? Did the common fan, who used to pay a couple of bucks to sit in Section 1 of the Shea Upper Deck with Fuzzy and Igor, get so priced out that they simply don't bother anymore? Granted times change. It's not like I tuned into the game, expecting to see that old lady sitting behind home plate and rolling her rally arms like she did all through the 1986 playoffs. But, still, there is something missing. An intangible. Is it temporary or is it forever? I need to see for myself when I next return in person on Saturday, June 20.

Maybe the answer can be found in all those commercials they have been running about this special "Night with the Mets." The ad airs right alongside the promo for T-Shirt Night. Call the number or check the website for tickets, viewers are told. I did. The cheapest price for this "fan event" is 500 bucks.

How many nails do you need to put in a coffin before it is officially sealed?

Dinner last night: Franks and beans.



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dog Day Wednesday

Now where did I put that fallout shelter?

---So, North Korea is blowing up shit. And you thought it was all so innocent when you went into Chinatown every year to buy your Fourth of July cherry bombs?

---I might be wrong but I'm pretty sure I saw that Kim Jong working for KAOS in an episode of Get Smart.

---And it's now official from the picture above: North Korea has their own Golddiggers.

---I doubt they'll shoot anything towards Los Angeles. Too many of their cousins already live here.

---And, of course, why target an area which features your favorite meal? Dodger Dogs.

---I watched President Urkel give a statement on this Korean nonsense and noticed a few isolated gray speckles in his hair. Which means there are a lot of gray speckles in his hair that have already been touched up.

---I say that, in about a year, Obama atarts to look like Benson from the TV show Soap.

---I love when Presidents pick Supreme Court nominees and try to portray them as unbiased, non-political choices.

---Because they are anything but.

---Now we might have the first Latina wearing a black robe. And she's from the Bronx to boot.

---A Hispanic from the Bronx? Yeah, throw a pencil.

---With a Puerto Rican headed to the Supreme Court, there is now no way that an innocent White woman survives this year's parade in New York.

---I wonder how the new Justice rules on groping and raping done by her fellow countrymen.

---This chiquita also went to Cardinal Spellman High School and now I want my friends who went there to dig up the real dirt.

---I want to know that she didn't pay for her Sloppy Joe sandwich during Tuesday lunch period.

---And there's bonus points if her gym shorts weren't clean.

---She is not in touch with the common folk. I don't care how many cockroaches were running around her kitchen.

---All these Justices are an embarrassment. On top sides of the fence. From that professional Oreo Cookie Clarence Thomas to that shriveled-up old harpie Ruth Biddy Ginsburg.

---Let's face it. There is no bigger joke than the Supreme Court.

---Well, maybe one. The United Nations.

---What did that bunch of kooks ever do besides make us kids walk around with orange coin containers on Halloween?

---The way the UN reacted to North Korea, I saw Ricky Ricardo show more muscle when Lucy bought a new hat.

---Quick, anybody! Nancy Pelosi is overseas in China. How do we revoke her passport today???

---If you're a Met fan looking to buy a player's jersey, I am guessing that the last one you want to wear is one that reads "Putz."

Dinner last night: Frankfurters and salad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Much Patriotism is Too Much?


My grandmother adored Kate Smith and absolutely loved it when the hefty songstress would sing "God Bless America." Back when, it was a truly special song and you craved the Fourth of July when that would be the one time every year you would hear it.

Not anymore. And even my grandmother would probably be joining Donna Summer in saying, "Enough is enough."

We all got caught up in loving our country after 9/11. Flags waving from car windows. Stars and stripes proudly displayed on store windows and residential porches. And Kate Smith and songwriter Irving Berlin had an amazing rebirth with their little ditty which really should be our national anthem. Suddenly, everybody was doing it in concert. "Ladies and gentlemen, with their rendition of God Bless America, here's Foghat!"

No matter where you turned, "God Bless America" was the land that you love over and over and over and over. And then Major League Baseball hopped on the bandwagon.

First, it was the Yankees who used it for the seventh inning stretch, sometimes done by that goofy Irish cop/bartender Ronan Tynan. His version would take hours to get through and Paul Revere was finished with his ride in less time. Opposing pitchers would lose their stuff during the half hour delay and usually wind up giving up several walks before the seventh inning was over. I've even read that one fan got tossed from the old ballpark for actually daring to go and pee during the song. Yikes. Patriotism apparently supersedes a full bladder in this land of the free.

Fox and MLB now drag it out across the board during the postseason. "Ladies and gentlemen, with her rendition of God Bless America, here's 24's Kim Bauer, Elisha Cuthbert!" A great song now doubles as a sledge hammer. From the mountains to the prairies. Bang, bang, bang. Is this over soon?

This season, the nausea hits my stomach directly. For some inexplicable reason, the Dodgers have added it to their seventh inning stretch. Whoever has sung the National Anthem returns to do the Kate Smith song. This is followed by the traditional "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" tooled by the wonderful organist Nancy Bea Heffley. The seventh inning pause becomes so long that you could actually make a chiropractor appointment if you really do want to do a proper stretch. When I'm at games, I usually like to watch Vin Scully in the TV booth, singing along with the crowd and air-conducting. Last Sunday, because "God Bless America" lasted so long, even Vin couldn't wait. He disappeared from sight, obviously to release some previously ingested Sparkletts water. I wonder if Yankee authorities would ask him to leave the premises as well.

We boil it down to one sad fact. Once, America pounds something cherished into the ground. Not content to enjoy a good thing once in a blue moon, we have to endure what is now an annoyance on almost a daily basis. And the unbelievable has happened. "God Bless America" is no longer special.

Sorry, Grandma. It wasn't my idea.

Dinner last night: Salisbury steak at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 25, 2009

Memorial Day is the official start of summertime fun.


Dinner last night: Turkey pastrami melt at Cafe 50s.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Smiling for the Camera


I revel in awkward photographs. Except when I'm in them.

And I don't have to go further than the one at the top of today's post.

The children of one of my dad's cousins were cleaning out their drawers and found a bunch of pictures that they thought would be of interest to me. Most were.

Except the one at the top of today's post.

Okay, I'm maybe three or four. A cute red suit. A bowtie from the Bud Collyer collection. My overbite is still not in full Bugs Bunny mode. Adorable.

And I'm fully armed. James Bond of the pre-school set. Or perhaps one of the youngest members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, except I hadn't been kidnapped like Patty Hearst.

Maybe I should have been.

Back in those days, the annual photograph of Len was a huge production. My mom would drag me kicking and screaming down to Genung's where some old guy who smelled of nicotine and vodka would put me in some weird poses. One year, I was caressing a stuffed animal that was supposed to be Lassie. Another year, they had ditched the formal wear and dumped me into a striped shirt and some overalls. My homage to Dennis the Menace.

As a result of these photo ops, my mother would wind up with various options for distribution to relatives and friends. Table frame size. Wallet size. You name it. They were scattered all over the Bronx and Mount Vernon like cow manure in the spring.

I have most of these photos in storage back East. Except this one which showed up in the mail the other day.

A lifetime neurosis begins anew after a multi-decade dormancy.

I want to think about what happened that day at Genung's. What was the creative thought behind turning a four-year-old into Elliot Ness?

A drunk photographer? A given. But did my mother actually think this was a cute shot? And, since this went to one of my dad's cousins, Mom obviously had no qualms about sharing her little gunslinger with the world. And was this a deferred remorse over the staging of this photo? When I sifted through my mother's own memory drawer, I found about five years worth of Genung's photos. But not this one. Was it just misplaced by accident? Or lost on purpose? Yet, it was found buried deep in the memory drawer of another relative. Obviously, at one point, it had a shelf life.

Here I am in 2009, posting this travesty on my blog. It will live here for easy access for about a week. After seven days, you'd have to search for it.

As for the actual photo itself, it's going into another kind of drawer. The one with the T-shirts and the socks. The unmentionable being hidden by other unmentionables. A most fitting burial.

Dinner last night: Bacon cheeseburger at Pig N'Whistle.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Classic Newsreel of the Month - May 2009

The last days of Babe Ruth.




Dinner last night: The wonderful buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Your Holiday Weekend Movie Guide - May 2009


If you think this is a nifty looking movie theater, keep in mind that it's gone. Well, not really gone gone. But divided up into three smaller rooms in what is now the Bronxville Cinema. One of my favorite places to see a movie when I was in college. And, as multiplexes go, the Bronxville Cinema remains as one of the less obnoxious. But, still. Look how glorious it used to be.

Here we go again. Len flips through the entertainment pages of the LA Times and gives his knee-jerk reaction to what's playing this weekend. And what shouldn't be playing this weekend. Good luck and godspeed to all of us. This is shaping up to be a horrible cinematic summer.

Star Trek: Already discussed on this blog. I enjoyed it if you suspend all logic and intelligence. Worth the price of admission. You could do a lot worse. And will if you read on...

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: The title alone is a nightmare for me. The movie featuring that lunkhead Matthew McConaughey is probably a nightmare for everybody.

The Soloist: The trailer for this has been running in theaters since 2006. Never a good sign. It looks incredibly sappy. Even Robert Downey Jr. fans are avoiding it.

Angels & Demons: What did the Catholic Church ever do to Ron Howard? Was he at one time an altar boy? Frankly, the Dan Brown books are unreadable. I read "The DeVinci Code" and swore off fiction for life. That became a horrible movie and so apparently is this. I am hearing that Tom Hanks is sorely miscast. Indeed, these days, Hanks' perfect role would be that of the whale in "Moby Dick."

Terminator Salvation: There is none in California given the way that Arnold's tax propositions were soundly rejected this week. I hope he sees this movie because he will be available to do the next one.

Easy Virtue: Certainly nobody I know. Sadly.

O'Horten: A train engineer retires after 40 years. The Bucket List if it were shot on Metro North.

The Girlfriend Experience: Director Steven Soderbergh looks at the life of a $10,000-a-night escort. Also certainly nobody I know. Regretfully.

Dance Flick: A Black comedy and I'm not talking about dark humor. Dancing with the Homies.

Every Little Step: Reviewed here previously. A documentary about "A Chorus Line." God, I hope you see it. And I hope you get it. You really get it.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Please let Hollywood run out of comic books soon. Unless, of course, we're going to get to see a Cyborg version of Little Lulu.

Management: Four words that automatically translate to a bad script. "Jennifer Aniston Romantic Comedy."

Tyson: A documentary on the punch-drunk boxer. When was the last time you spent ninety minutes with somebody who can't read?

Night at the Museum/Battle of the Smithsonian: I hasten to admit that I saw the first one and enjoyed every minute of it. But, I am guessing what was bright and original in the first one will be dull and repetitive in the second one.

Obsessed: A Black drama and I'm not talking about a mood. A low income housing version of Fatal Attraction.

17 Again: Isn't that 34?

Earth: Saving the planet one polar bear at a time. Only interesting to me if one of them eats Al Gore.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story: A documentary about the famed Disney songwriters and where is the ticket buyers line, please?

The Brothers Bloom: Why is that, when I think of Adrien Brody, I don't automatically think "comedy?" Yet, when I look at Adrien Brody, I laugh hysterically. Please send in your theories.

Next Day Air: FedEx comes to Harlem.

Folks, it's slim pickings and I am not talking about the actor.

Dinner last night: Sausage pizza at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Visit to Awkwardville

Some more family photos that were better off left out of the album.


I'm not sure what's worse here. The fact that Dad is wearing incredibly short pants. Or that Mom's head actually can be easily detachable.

A fun night at the Renaissance Fair.. Obviously, if you looked like Wilford Brimley, you got in free.

Some lost Obama relatives. Cousins Shecky and Quanisha.

I'm sure her mom and dad love having this on the fireplace mantel. Hey, watch your hand, buddy.

The end result of having sex and doing LSD at the same time.

Even I have nothing to say about this one...


Is that a tree limb or is Dad that impressive???

Dinner last night: Dodger Dog and onion rings.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Take One Wednesday with a Glass of Water

From the picture above, I think Nancy Pelosi will soon have a lot more to worry about than just a couple of swollen glands.

---Or maybe she's just checking the adhesive on her face tape.

---After her torturous week, I've seen her future. There's a bag of clothes pins and a big bottle of Fab.

---If you're just two exhales away from the President, how can you tell anybody you didn't know anything about waterboarding with a straight face?

---Of course, from the picture above, I don't think Nancy can do anything with a straight face.

---Bye bye, Nancy. What time does the canasta game start?

---And what's all this fuss about torture? Nobody was complaining about what Siegfried was doing to Maxwell Smart years ago?

---And, if everybody is worried about inhumane treatment, why is "The View" still on the air?

---I'll repeat what my mom used to say when I got dunked at the beach.

---"It's only water."

---I love these handwringers who talk about America needing to be above the fray and not be barbarians like everybody else.

---Uh-huh. Like that would have worked on the "Little Rascals" when Alfalfa was getting beat up.

---"Hey, Butch, can you be above the fray and not be a barbarian like everybody else."

---I'd probably start hitting him harder.

---And, by the way, let's have a show of hands. Who wants to see Nancy Pelosi waterboarded?

---Wow, folks. I can't count that fast.

---Let's face it. If people hate us and want to hurt us, do we simply take it?

---I'm reminded of this Muslim woman who came to talk at my church a few years ago. She told us all how America is the only one to ever use weapons of mass destruction and we should be ashamed of that.

---Huh??? Lady, if we don't do that during World War II, there is no way you have a sniff of this country.

---If we didn't finish the clean up then, this broad's probably still out in the desert, beating her laundry against a rock with her husband's other four wives.

---Meanwhile, on that day, this bitch drove up to the church in her Lexus.

---Uh-huh, America is a very, very bad country.

---Bottom line: bring on the ten gallon tank. And have it boiling, please.

---The real torture this year has been watching American Idol. With shows that run too long, judges who talk too much, and contestants with way too much make-up.

---And that's the guys.

---This year's Idol anthem was written by judge Kara DioGuardi and about ten of her friends. If you put music to today's blog post, you'd have a better song.

---The competition of the two finalists mirror the class divide in our country. Red state vs. Blue state. The country bumpkin vs. the Goth homosexual. The local paperboy vs. some guy who styles his hair like Joey Heatherton.

---I guess the way the vote turns out will be the true national referendum on Obama's first 100 days.

Dinner last night: Turkey and bacon club sandwich.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Church - A Photo Essay

Another slice of my Los Angeles life. Another Sunday at Village Lutheran Church. Or, as the big column here reads "Village Lutheran Church of Westwood." Interesting, because the church itself is not in Westwood. Who knows how that all got screwed up in 1946 when the place was built?

I've been a member of this now dwindling congregation since my first year in SoCal. I'm now on the church council and also the treasurer, which means I get to financially juggle all the bill payments every month. Since 1998, the church has slowly and methodically fallen apart both structurally and spiritually. The pastor, an ordained lunatic and raging liberal, has driven more people away with her idiotic political stances. She works to eliminate people as well as Combat works on cockroaches.

So, what the heck am I hanging around there for? Well, I actually love the challenge of keeping the organization solvent as the place is still reeling from years when the pastor was in charge of the finances and had us about two years behind on the phone bill. And, more importantly, I have made several wonderful friends there who will be with me for life. Definitely worth the pain and frustration of what can only be called heavenly dysfunction.

The front door to the brick edifice which grows ivy just like the outfield wall at Wrigley Field. There is a lot of history inside here. I've heard that, in the Forties and Fifties, my church was quite the celebrity magnet. Fred MacMurray was a regular visitor, which means there was little money in the collection dish back then as well. Rumor has it Marilyn Monroe, who lived nearby, used to stop in to pray for guidance. A lot of good that did. In my own time at Village, I assisted in giving communion to congregation member Tony Franciosa one Christmas Eve. He died two weeks later. Another Christmas Eve, I lit Harvey Korman's candle. I was the delayed Angel of Death that time. Korman died two years later. I understand that celebrities now avoid the church simply because word has gotten around about me.

In the narthex (that's a church vestibule for you Phillistines), there are two rest rooms. They haven't worked in years. No water attached. Yet, this hasn't prevented some goofy renters from using them. How do you use a toilet bowl that has no water in it? Quite easily if you're an idiot.

Even duct tape hasn't stopped these dopes.

The sanctuary and chapel is not huge. It seats probably 200 people uncomfortably. The only time you see 200 people there is if somebody dies. More likely, on Sundays, you can field a softball team without the extra outfielder. But, the altar is stunning and very reminiscent of the Bronx church my family helped to build in the Thirties. The set design is always exquisite. Why? Because I do it. I always provide the weekly challah bread and wine for communion. The service every week is like one of those old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musicals. "Gee, kids, let's put on a church. My dad has the barn. Jesus will bring the disciples."

About five feet to the right of the altar in the picture above, you'll find the Torah. Huh, you say? Well, the only way our church can survive is by renting out the facilities the rest of the week to other organizations. In the community hall on any given day, you can find alcoholics, drug addicts, food addicts, sex addicts, and yoga addicts. On Saturday mornings, our chapel is converted to a temple. It reminds me of what they used to do at Madison Square Garden. A hockey game in the afternoon and the circus at night. The temple covers any Christian inferences on the windows and the wall. And the Torah is portable. On wheels. Works well on our carpet. Probably not so good centuries ago on the desert.

One more element of the weekly Jewish transformation. We've gone to a few of the temple's events and they are an incredibly unorthodox congregation. One Passover, they were singing song parodies. "There's No Business Like Moses' Business." I wish I could tell you I was making that up. In the picture above, I have no idea what religious significance there is to that cartoon character on the floor.

One more hybrid by-product. If you're in the pews, make sure you're picking up the right book. If you're Christian, go for the green hymnal. If you're with the temple, the red book is for you. I am guessing some people have picked up the wrong book for the wrong service and didn't even notice a difference. Oddly enough, we also have two Muslim groups renting the place during the week and I am waiting for them to conflict with one of the Temple events. Fighting over spaces in the parking lot. The Gaza Strip. All the same thing.

Our Fireside room where congregation menbers have coffee and cake after the weekly service. As a matter of fact, there's a couple of folks who sometimes show up just for that, skipping the worship altogether. Praying to the God of Entenmann's Ultimate Coffee Crumb Cake. In this room, you'll find our pastor making one of her super-stupid liberal pronouncements and driving one more person out of the congregation forever. I now like to egg her on, sort of like what the Meathead used to do to Archie Bunker on "All in the Family," just in reverse.

Our pastor's office looks like Yucca Flats after the atomic blast. Anybody looking to pull up a chair and get some spiritual counsel from her would be hard pressed to find, well, a chair. But, you can find half-consumed cups of soda with Pepsi logos that were retired ten years ago. Also strewn about are her shoes, which I playfully always like to hide one. A church friend and I made her sign an agreement that she would clean up her office for Lent. She essentially neatened the piles. Oscar Madison would come in here and be appalled.


Here's one of the neat piles on the other side of her office, complete with the Easter Bunny's hat that leads the lone child through an egg hunt every year. Jimmy Hoffa might be in one of the drawers. And this also might be the exact spot where Osama Bin Laden has been hiding since 2001.

Still, I come back. Week after week. And our church has touched so many people, especially when our towering cross provides a shining beacon for those driving past on the 405 Freeway. Except it hasn't been lit in four years. Right now, we are staging a fund drive to get that cross illuminated again. We are raising money through the sale of commemorative bricks that will adorn the base of the cross. A wonderful lasting memory for those who enter these doors. And those who haven't. Two bricks will remember my parents and grandparents who never ever set foot in California.

And I will also contribute one other brick. "Dedicated to President George W. Bush."

Just to piss off the pastor a little more.

Dinner last night: Turkey Burger at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 18, 2009

Another vintage SNL commercial. Thirty years old at least. That means it's funny.

Dinner last night: Had a huge lunch, so nothing really.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My First Car

Having now my eighth straight Toyota vehicle, I thought this was an opportunity to remember the first one. The picture above, while not my car, comes close to what it was. A 1980 Toyota Corolla. Shitty Brown.

I was done using Dad's car, a 1971 Buick LaSabre which used up as much gas as you would get from a steady diet of sausage and peppers. Besides, it was uncool to drive and also not advantageous when chauffeuring friends who lived on narrow streets. I remember picking up a friend, the erstwhile fellow blogger Djinn from the Bronx, on her razor thin street in the Bronx. I seemed to scrape another car as I carefully steered the barge down Giles Place. I asked her to check for damage.

"You were most fortuitous. No damage whatsoever."

Her eyesight was obviously no better than my driving. When we picked up the next friend, he extolled. "What the hell happened to your car???" Yep, I was done with the LaSabre.

So, I had a little money saved. The first sell job would need to be on Dad himself. I got the usual compassionate response.

"What the hell do you want to do that for?"

Thanks, Dad. As always. Nevertheless, I was primed and armed with lots of back-up information, thanks to my friend, the Bibster, who had already trailblazed the purchase of a similar car at Toyota City in Mamaroneck. Back in those days, you usually didn't drive off with the new vehicle. You had to wait for the next shipment to come in. And my car would take a little longer, as I requested a stick shift.

Not that I had ever driven a stick shift before. But, the price for a non-automatic transmission was about five hundred bucks less and every saved dollar counted on my budget.

Why I selected this crappy brown color is beyond me. But, this car was apparently so in demand that it took three months to show up. Finally, just before the July 4th weekend, I got the call. My car was in. Now I had only one more person to clear this news with.

Grandma.

If there was going to be a strange car in her driveway, she needed to know before she had it towed. Of course, the biggest surprise came when I was leaving to pick it up. I remember the scene as if it was yesterday. She was sitting in her "TV chair." With a wad of bills in her hand.

"Here, this pays for your car and you can take me shopping every once in a while."

I looked at the money. Five hundred dollars. Probably the cost of her car in her mind. Back in 1942. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the Corolla was going to cost fifty-five hundred dollars more.

Despite having taken stick shift lessons from Tony Maurino's Auto School, I couldn't get the new car home on my own. Nope, Dad had to do it, while I manuevered the SS Buick back to Mount Vernon. And, for the rest of the holiday weekend, I struggled to get the new vehicle out of the driveway. I was lost. I had no feel for the car and how the gears meshed. Finally, my dad returned me to the place where he had taken me for driving lessons several years before.

Woodlawn Cemetery.

"You can't kill anybody here. They're already dead."

Up and down the hills of the Bronx graveyard, I learned how to drive my Corolla. And I did so for the next ten years. As the vinyl seats ripped. As the roof rusted. As the antenna struggled to pick up FM radio.

But it was the car that I drove home from Game 7 of the Mets' victorious 1986 World Series. And, for that alone, I loved that Corolla.

Dinner last night: Chicken Marsala at Cafe Montana.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Classic TV Theme of the Month - May 2009

When I was a kid, the music scared me. Now, I just plain love it.



Dinner last night: Cervelat sandwich.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Live Long and Paramount Will Prosper

Confession time. I'm not a Trekkie.

Oh, I watched the original series on NBC when I was a kid. I liked it. After it was cancelled, I probably never watched another episode ever again. My life was tribble-free.

When the original cast of Shatner and Company started churning out theatrical movies, I went to see them. The first one sucked. The second one with Ricardo Montalban wearing a Joan Van Ark wig was great. The rest were mediocre.

But still not a Trekkie. I didn't remember every line of dialogue. I didn't consider the Enterprise crew as members of my immediate family. I didn't go to the conventions where everybody shows up in those pajamas that look like the spacesuits they wore.

I was still not a Trekkie.

There were about five dozen other iterations of the Star Trek TV show with different casts and different titles and always the same plots. By 1995, I think every single actor in Hollywood had made at least one appearance in something Star Trek or another. Life ends eventually for everybody except Star Trek.

Now, even though the creator Gene Roddenberry has been dead longer than Abraham Lincoln, the galactic journey begins again. In theaters. The powers that be at Paramount have their hands out again. And the willing public now forks over another fifteen bucks to see how it all began for Captain Kirk and Mister Spock.

I saw it. I liked it. But still not a Trekkie.

In 2009, the Star Trek backstory can now be told with oodles of technology. tons of CGI, and little logic. Remembering the original NBC series which barely got off the corner of Melrose and Gower, there is something very strange seeing these characters perform with lots of production coin behind them. Hell, the original producer of the show was Desilu and they barely sprung for leather-upholstered seats at the control console of the Enterprise. For Pete's sake, it was Lucille Ball who originally greenlit the series. I can hear and see her now watching the pilot. Dragging on her favorite Chesterfield and croaking, "I don't know what the fuck is going on, but the kids will like it."

The new movie shows you how it all began for the crew of Enterprise when they were kids. The dude playing Kirk is a better actor as a youngster than Shatner was as an adult, but who isn't? Watching Zachary Quinto as Spock quickly reminded me how much the character of Sheldon on TV's "Big Bang Theory" mirrors the mysterious Vulcan if the latter happened to be living in a Pasadena apartment building with a broken elevator.

I was captivated by the portrayals and realized that there is still some life in their stories. They drag out Leonard Nimoy to play future Spock or old Spock or Dr. Benjamin Spock. By the last third of the movie, I started getting confused but I don't think it made a difference. As soon as the filmmakers consider that you might be thinking too much about the holes in the plot, they blow up something and divert your attention. I've since learned that there was one action sequence that was actually filmed in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, noteworthy because they don't even allow tailgating there.

Some weird stuff happens that I don't remember from the series. For instance, Spock starts making out with Uhura and I can only think this is the producers' way of saluting President Obama and all the great strides he has made in race relations. But, even if something bothered me, it wasn't long before something else exploded and my mind was forced to wander some more.

It's an action film and perfect for a late Spring/early Summer night's cinematic entertainment. You're amazed one more time that these characters will probably last longer than some of Shakespeare's best. For that, you've got to hand it to the original creators. Star Trek, which ran only three seasons when it first ran on NBC, is going to live forever.

Despite the fact that I'm still not a Trekkie.

Dinner last night: German salami sandwich.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

That New Car Smell

Goodbye, old friend. Navy blue Toyota 4/Runner that served me well for exactly three years.

Tuesday was my D-Day. I had waited to the last possible day to deal with my car lease. I figured that, with the economy, there would be no problem. Tons of great deals would be awaiting me as I pulled up to Longo Toyota in El Monte, which is situated somewhere between Los Angeles and Pluto.

Okay, first we must backtrack. How the hell do I drive an hour outside of LA and civilization to get a car when there are oodles of Toyota dealers near my home? This grizzly journey, which happens every three years when my lease terminates, began in 1997 when I first moved to SoCal. I was in the middle of a NY car lease and had shipped my car West. By rights, with California emission standards, there was no way realistically that Toyota should have let me turn in that car in the Pacific time zone. But, luckily, my NY dealer had met another sales guy at a national convention. Turns out they both won awards. A connection was forged. The only problem was that Jules, the LA salesman, was based in the Land of Never.

Jules has done right by me and my roommate ever since. The quintessential Jewish salesguy who loves to use the word "schlep" and "meshuggah," you could always count on him for the best deal.

Until Tuesday.

I had done my homework and wanted to switch to a Highlander. The SUV that is not so much a SUV with great gas mileage. From past experience, I would have tons of choices. Longo is the largest Toyota dealer in California.

Well, not on Tuesday. With car sales at a standstill, inventory is low. I had more cars in my Matchbox collection when I was five. And the Highlanders on display? There was more in Mother Hubbard's cupboard.

The one Highlander that met my needs had one problem. The color. Blue. Bright, bright blue. Bozo's costume without the buttons blue. Blue that could be seen via satellite on Google Maps.

The light blue color I craved was found on just one Highlander. A Hybrid. A car that had a MSRP of ten thousand dollars more.

I know now what a panic attack feels like.

I looked at other makes. The new and incredibly hot Venza. Correction: the new and incredibly hot and wildly priced Venza. Even my old favorite, the 4/Runner, was a tough get with lousy gas mileage to boot.

I was turning shades of blue that were even brighter than the Highlander I was considering. Do I settle or spend more a month for a Hybrid, given that I don't give a shit about my carbon footprint? And, if I did the Hybrid, would my closest friends shun me for validating that bloated idiot Al Gore?

As it turned out, I discovered that, by ditching the running boards, the monthly cost on the Hybrid would come down fifty bucks. And, with the gas savings, my every-thirty-day epxenditure would net out at only $150 more.

Gasp, $150 more! You want to know what that looks like? Here you go.

The car is nifty. When you are in reserve, a little TV screen shows you what you are backing up into. That comes in handy because there have been times when I do back up into something. And this is a keyless car. As long as you have this little device in your pocket, you simply hit the "power" button to turn on the car. It's called the Smart Key. Not to be confused with the Smart Car, which is not so smart to drive because I already know three people who have had theirs totalled. An empty can of Spam is a safer vehicle. Of course, having no key means I can't key a car that parks too close to me in a garage. Anti-theft and anti-vandalism all rolled up in one.

So, essentially, a more expensive day but one that should even out over time. Just don't tell Al Gore.

Dinner last night: Meat loaf at the LA Beach Club.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Way We Wednesday


"People. People who are Liberals. Are the luckiest people in the world."

---So, big nosed, big mouthed Barbra's personal assistant got pinched for driving with drugs and a loaded gun.

---If you worked for her, you'd also be driving with drugs and a loaded gun.

---And I'm thinking that Barbra's lunkhead of a husband, James Brolin, is sleeping with the aid of drugs. And a loaded gun under his pillow.

---She's an amazing talent.

---And an insane sociopath. There are websites devoted to people who have had the misfortune of dealing with her.

---Hotel workers who felt her wrath if they looked directly at her.

---People who have to walk backwards when they are leaving a meeting with her.

---Yeah, she's really normal.

---But, heck, when I had my moment with her at the US Open about 15 years ago, I bumped into her, said "hi," and she was, oh, so pleasant to me.

---If she only read this blog...

---Watching President Urkel (you heard me, Barbra) at that roast over the weekend, I began to wonder. Does he go anywhere without those windshield teleprompters???

---My God, even the cast of SNL adlibs once and a while.

---Can he put a complete sentence together without outside help.

---I wonder if this is uttered nightly when he and the First "Lady" go to bed?

---"Good, er, night, um, Michelle."

---Once again, this is one of the only public places you can go for an Obama joke these days.

---A leftover from my Citi Field visit: A Subway billboard in right field yaks up foot long sandwiches for five bucks.

---Except the Subway store in the park sells them for $6.95.

---For the second time in a year, somebody got happy with my debit card. Got a fraud alert about a 300 dollar expenditure at a CVS in West Covina.

---That's one smart bank computer. Knowing that there is no way in Hell I would ever be in West Covina.

---Of course, this necessitated a morning trip to WaMu/Chase for a new debit card. And multiple encounters with everybody over the age of 75 in Los Angeles.

---Seriously, at 9AM, cabs show up at banks to deposit some back numbers who feel the need to check on their money daily.

---And those that are under the age of 75 don't speak English.

---They should hang a sign. "Only English Spoken Here."

---Except the sign would have to be in Spanish.

---The way American Idol has shoved Adam Lambert down our throats, it would be hilarious if he got voted off tonight and missed the finals next week.

---Of course, the only way that would happen is if there was a cell phone outage last night in West Hollywood.

---And it won't happen because I finally figured out that the show is scripted. They want him in the finals for the red state/blue state battle. The hayseed from the Midwest vs. the gay guy with the black fingernail polish from the big city.

---I'm done with Idol. And I'm done for today.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken cutlet and salad.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunday in the Park with Dodger Fans

Wish I could claim authorship of this line, but Sunday's game at Dodger Stadium was perfect for Mother's Day. An excruciating 13 inning loss to the Giants, it seemingly took nine months to complete. And you needed an epidural to ease the pain.

But, nevertheless, it was fun. Because it was Dodger Stadium. And it was a Sunday with my friends.

After seeing the documentary "Bluetopia" and learning so much about the very special baseball team fan base I now claim as my number one allegience, I started to think about how this New Yorker, a fervent Met fan, got sucked into Dodgertown. Well, I blame these ladies pictured with me above, about four hours before the Dodgers would lose.

These three wonderful women, Barbara, Sue and Debbie, had been doing the Sunday afternoon game for years. I believe they were officially baptized with Dodger blue water when Fernando Valenzuela started creating his mania almost 30, gasp, years ago. They'd get regular tickets down the left field line as soon as they went on sale every spring. And that would be the tradition. Wearing Dodger chochtkes like caps and pins. Scorebooks always in hand.

About eleven years ago, enter me. New to California, almost friendless. Definitely baseball team-less, as I was trying to manage a long distance love affair with the New York Mets. I found Barbara first, sitting in the pew ahead of me at church. As a matter of fact, since we always sat in the exact same spot every Sunday, it was natural to strike up a dialogue and a friendship. One Sunday, she mentioned having an extra ticket for the Dodger game that afternoon. Was I interested in coming with them?

Recoiling in shyness, I declined.

Two weeks later, another offer.

Recoiling in shyness a little less, I hesitated first, but declined nonetheless.

I didn't say no the third time.

I immediately got absorbed into the unique camaraderie and weekly routine that enveloped Sundays at Chavez Ravine. The pre-game Dodger Dog. The scorebooks on laps across our row. The fact that two of our crowd generally sat there listening to the game on headphones so they wouldn't miss Vin Scully's play-by-play for the first three innings.

Eventually, I grew as a fan on my own. The Mets slowly faded. The Dodgers quickly emerged. For a while, there was room for both of the teams in my life. Until one of the teams decided there was no room for me. I wound up with full season tickets in great seats on the West Coast. I wound up with partial plan tickets in lousy seats on the East Coast.

But, even in my new Dodger Stadium location, we have kept Sundays intact. Thanks to a well-placed contact in the ticket office, we always get extra seats adjacent to mine so we can still Sunday together. With the pre-game Dodger Dog. The scorebooks. The headphones. My contribution to the group is that I wear binoculars to catch nuances going on in the dugout and the bullpen. And I am now the official chauffeur every game.

I don't know how it all happened. I am glad it did.

Thanks, Barbara, Sue, and Debbie for including me that first time.

Dinner last night: Cervelat sandwich.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 11, 2009

I know some people who desperately need this.

Dinner last night: German cold cuts and German potato salad.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Mother's Day


Here's Mom and me feeding some ducks at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. This was a popular Sunday afternoon destination for my family. Our own little theme park. Six Flags Over Dead People. I have some other photos of us and the ducks and the thing I noted in all of them: my mother's always on the side of the pond in high heels. Barbara Billingsley lives. Except I never saw her vacuuming the hallway in them.
Looking at vintage snapshots, I am always blown away over how well dressed she always was. Now that I recollect, my mother was a clothes junkie. Her closet was constantly filled with new stuff. And shoes, shoes, and more shoes.
I got dragged at least once a week by her as she checked out the new offerings at Bromley's on Fourth Avenue in Mount Vernon. One of those dress stores that made me feel incredibly uncomfortable as I sat there quietly as Mom tried on one outfit after another. I always wondered how we could afford it all.
I got my answer a little later on when the weekly shopping jaunts included a stop at the Mt. Vernon Loan Company on Fiske Place. My mother would go up to the window, hand over an envelope, and then turn back to me.
"Don't tell your father."
Gotcha.
Over time, I noticed that the Mt. Vernon Loan Company never really disappeared from my mother's anointed rounds. When I got a little older, I was entrusted with delivering the little white envelope myself. The loan place was conveniently located in the same office building as my dentist and my orthodontist. One stop shopping. Get the rubber bands or the bite plate adjusted and pay off Mom's deficit. No fuss, no muss.
In retrospect, my mother was one of the original liberated women. Because, as soon as I was about six or seven, she was off to work. First at a pen manufacturer, then at an electrical supply place. Finally, she made the great leap to the big time. Commuting to Manhattan for a job at a major accounting firm. Meanwhile, I was hanging with the grandparents while Mom and Dad worked. And, as long as I can remember, the envelopes to the loan company kept coming.
I never questioned it all. Except I could always tell that money, as usual, always seemed to be a big discussion point between Mom and Dad. Which is why she kept working. Once she was working "downtown," the wardrobe in her closet expanded at geometric proportions. Essentially, Mom never had a dollar she couldn't spend. I learned this more and more years later when she was retired and on a fixed income.
I financially supplemented her a lot in her post-working era. She used her Social Security and her pension to pay for her rent and her food. I covered the other stuff: electric bill, the phone, the cable. It should have given her a comfort zone that was pretty cushy. Except for those months where she ran out of cash before we hit the 30th of the month. And our conversations were always the same.
"Can I borrow fifty dollars? I'm short this month."
I'd dutifully go over everything she paid for and I was always suitably confused. I could never understand how she went over budget. I'd ask the same question and get her knee-jerk reaction.
"No, I'm not paying off the loan company."
After several short months, I started to dig around. In her apartment building, she had a passel of retired friends who were also not doing their best at living check-to-check. But, instead of asking their own offspring for bailouts, they'd come to my mother. And she was more than happy to lend out some cold cash. While the budget in all the apartments on Fleetwood Avenue were balanced, my mother was building a shortfall worthy of the federal government. Forget Reagan. My mother was the true inventor of "voodoo economics."
After squelching the stimulus package that my mom was extending to her cronies, the spending returned to normal for a while. And then short months returned.
"No, I'm not paying off the loan company."
And?
"No, I'm not giving money out to the building."
Once again, I had to impose a thorough investigation of my own mother. It didn't take long to find the answer.
In a kitchen cabinet, I found over five hundred expired lottery tickets. Some weeks, she had spend more than 100 dollars, attempting to "be in it to win it." Outed as the newest member of Gamblers Anonymous, my mother tried to make nice.
"If I win the big prize, I'll give you most of the money."
Nice try, Mom. In retrospect, I guess it could have been worse. It wasn't like she was spending her money on fast living and cigarettes.
Well, she did a little of that, too.
Dinner last night: Pulled pork sandwich at Boho.























Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bear Left...

Dinner last night: The Friday night tradition of a ham French Dip sandwich at Philippe's.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Manny Being Barry

Well, so much for the Dodgers' promotion of Mannywood. Two field level seats steps behind the leftfielder plus two t-shirts. Quite a deal. On hold. At least until after the All-Star break when he is due back. For the time being, maybe they can work some sort of promotion around "Pierrewood." Because that's who will be playing left field at Chavez Ravine for the next little while.

It's old news already. Manny Ramirez suspended for 50 games because he took some kind of sexual enhancement drug. Actually one of those female pills that increases testosterone after you've gone through a steroid cycle. Heck, maybe Manny's simply trying to get his current main squeeze pregnant. How do you say "yeah, right" in Spanish?

Whatever. These days, the ideal baseball fan is one who works the counter at Walgren's. I don't understand any of it, except that it's all cheating and I'm sure a lot more bigger names do it as well. Albert Pujols, there's a pee cup in your future . And, you, too, Big Papi---that dumbbell on the Red Sox who has inexplicably not hit a homerun since last September.

Manny claims his doctor prescribed this and did not realize it was on the MLB no-no list. Do I believe this? Maybe. Maybe not. I can't believe that the Commissioner's office doesn't have a website where players and doctors can check to see which drugs are verboten today. How stupid are they? How stupid are we?

Hell, Manny's physician just might actually be as dumb as a doorknob. We do know that Manny isn't using his off days to develop theorems on quantum physics. Is this innocence, guilt, or simply Memorex? We will never ever know. But the more I read and see of Manny, he strikes me as just a big kid who loves to play baseball. The type that might do or take anything to keep that world spinning at warp speed.

The Dodgers have gotten off to a monstrous start in 2009, due in part to Manny. But, not exclusively due in part to Manny. He is a big component of the team, but not the only one. I'm astounded by the handwringing that I heard yesterday. The team is destroyed. Boo hoo. They will never recover. Boo hoo. Do you offer any refunds on those season tickets you sold me? By the way, no, I don't.

Last I looked, baseball was a team sport. Played by a team. A team that picks one end up when another is down. If the 2009 Dodgers are resilient, they will hold together until Manny and his pill-swallowing self returns. Forget his nightly doubles into the corner. The Dodgers need another starting pitcher more than they need Manny at this juncture. If we suddenly learn that pitcher Chad Billingsley has tested positive, then we have ourselves a Titanic and an iceberg.

The key to the Dodgers enduring a Manny-less May and June is Joe Torre. This is the type of situation where he thrives. A manager who knows how to deflect all the bullshit and media hype from his players. If anybody can keep this team on a level course until July 3, it's Joe.

At the end of the day, I'm not devastated. Or suicidal. Or even surprised. This is what baseball has become in the post-Mark McGwire era. Like everything in our society, it's flawed and you are asked to accept that. Everybody cheats---from our baseball players to our potential Presidential Cabinet members. You have to take the lemons and the pits and somehow wind up with a delicious lemon drop martini. If baseball is truly like life, then the Dodgers just hit one of those many bumps in the road.

We press on. A little wearier. A little wiser. But, fans of our favorite team nonetheless. Rooting for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.

Dinner last night: Louisiana hot sausage at Dodger Stadium.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bluetopia


While it went straight to DVD, “Bluetopia” is a documentary that is so good and so wise that it could have played screens bigger than your living room plasma. It’s technically about the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2008 season, but, at its heart, the movie is about so much more. There were points during the 90 minute running time that my eyes started to well up with tears. Not because the Dodgers lost to the Phillies in the NLCS. Indeed, even if the team had finished behind the pack in 2008, this film would have told the same story. About the fans and the truly unique folks that inhabit Chavez Ravine.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. The “Bluetopia” filmmakers fill the reels with the requisite baseball stuff. The arrival of new manager Joe Torre. The surprising trade-deadline appearance of Manny Ramirez who singlehandedly transformed the Dodger season from water to wine. The usual ups and downs of a 162 game baseball schedule.

But, this is not where “Bluetopia’s” director Timothy Marx wants to concern himself. Nope, he’s looking at the people in the stands and under the stands. The fans and those that attend to the fans. You follow the Dodger season through their eyes and it is the most humanistic view of a baseball team that I have seen.

There’s the police detective who arrives in the bleachers two hours prior to game time so his son can try and snag a batting practice home run or engage Chan Ho Park in a game of catch. There’s the three ladies who come adorned with Dodger caps and pins and bleed the consummate blue. They reminded me so much of the gals who sucked me into Dodger fandom ten years ago and now, for me, there is barely any other team to follow. There’s the lifelong season ticket holder whose cancer battle is noticed by an attentive usher and she winds up throwing out the first ball last Mother’s Day. Later, she schedules her chemo treatments around the Dodgers’ postseason schedule. Sadly, we learn that she has since passed on. You meet another season ticket holder whose father was the first one in Los Angeles. When Walter O’Malley first announced the move from Brooklyn, his dad sent the first $25 deposit for tickets.

You get a wonderful look at rookie Clayton Kershaw’s first major league start (hey, I was there, too) through the eyes of his family and friends in the stands. You watch his girlfriend greet him after the game with so much love and warmth that you want to hug them both. You watch Manny introduce himself to clubhouse workers, forgetting to say hello to his new manager. No Dodger documentary would be complete without some Vin Scully, who addresses some Asian journalists with the only thing he knows how to say in their native language. “I’ll have scotch with a little water and some ice.”

At its core, “Bluetopia” shows you what it means to be the fan of a baseball team. Not just the Dodgers. Any team. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I lived and mostly died with the New York Mets. When I knew every uniform number and birthplace of every player. Jim McAndrew from Lost Nation, Iowa. Nolan Ryan from Alvin, Texas. I realized that there is still some baseball love for me to give even if it’s in another time and another place.

”Bluetopia” showed me that baseball is never outgrown. Because baseball keeps us as we should be. All kids at heart.

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich from Clementine's.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WTF Wednesday!!


Like the absurdity of the picture above, our world today is a goofy place. And none of it makes any sense. All of it makes you scream...WTF!

---Did we all get enough details on Mr. and Mrs. Urkel's date last weekend? We haven't had that much information since Gidget and Moondoggie hit the Shake Shack at Muscle Beach.

---WTF.

---Does anybody except Us Magazine give a shit about what these two are doing with themselves? Or with each other?

---All the news about their big date excluded the one thing I wanted to know.

---Did he get any?

---The more I see the media make these two into the typical American couple, the more I realize they are anything but.

---Just ask anybody who dealt with the missus in their old Chicago neighborhood. Two words keep coming up over and over.

---"Raving lunatic."

---WTF.

---But, a raving lunatic with 600 dollar sneakers. And you don't find those draped over telephone lines on my block.

---Can you imagine the media frenzy and backlash that would have happened if Barbara Bush bought 600 dollar sneakers?

---Can you imagine the media frenzy when Barbara Bush tried to fit her swollen feet into 600 dollar sneakers??

---Now we're getting press coverage on Mrs. Urkel's old lady who has now plopped her ass into the White House as well.

---She's trying to carry on a normal life. With season tickets to all the important Washington DC events.

---WTF.

---If she really was trying to carry on a normal life, I'd expect to see her down at the Fluff N' Fold doing her unmentionables.

---A story in the LA Times yesterday talked all about how late night comics and writers are staying away from doing and writing jokes on the President because they don't want to appear racist.

---If Bob Hope was alive, I bet he'd be doing Obama jokes.

---No moratorium here in this blog. Bob Hope would be proud.

---For instance, if you're one of those who say that the day there was a Black president, pigs would fly, guess what?

---Last week, swine flu.

---But I wanna tell you...

---No, really, jackasses got up into the air, too. Until Joe Biden realized he didn't want to fly in a confined space.

---But I wanna tell you...

---Did you hear that Obama is going to tax aspirin? Yep, it's white and it works.

---But I wanna tell you...

---There's a documentary on HBO this month that you should see. It was even nominated for an Oscar. "Trouble The Water."

---It's supposed to be a look at Hurricane Katrina through the eyes and the video camera lens of two schmucks who rode out the storm.

---While it's allegedly poignant, it actually plays like a Wayan Brothers comedy with every racial stereotype you can imagine.

---Until you realize it's all real.

---But the two assholes have the last laugh when they use their FEMA money---and our tax dollars---to start a hip hop record label.

---WTF!

---Sad that a true talent, Dom DeLuise, passed away. He was on a Murphy Brown episode when we were there and he stole the show.

---Except I'm surprised he lasted this long. That night, he was so fat that he couldn't stand on his own two legs.

---It was Classic Rock night on American Idol and I finally decided that I don't give a shit about this season. They are too busy pimping that annoying Adam Lambert as the future winner. And he has a better shot at selling eyeliner than his own record album.

---The mentor last night was Slash from Guns N'Roses and how do you take career advice from somebody with staples in his nose?

---Judge Kara DioGuardi was dressed for the night as a biker chick and she looked like she was playing Rizzo in the Sioux City VFW production of Grease.

---Yawn...and WTF.

---My guess is that clean cut Kris goes home as his attempts at hard rock sounded like the Cowsills doing Def Leopard.

Dinner last night: Teriyaki chicken cutlet and side salad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Orphans

While I was in NY last week, I had a dinner with two college friends who stand alongside me in a very unique club.

We’re all orphans.

Not orphans like the little red-headed curly-topped kid at the top. None of us are running around with a dog, a bald guy, and some dude named Punjab. But, we’re on our own nonetheless. Only children whose parents have passed on to their eternal timeout.

We talked about our lots in life. The positives and the negatives of being sibling-less. As I look around my world, I realize that I have twelve such friends who grew up the same way I did. Forced to make your own lonely fun. Staging basement shows where you play all the voices. Being the only reason your parents need to adapt their schedules. Being the sole recipient of punishment because you have nobody else to point at and say “he did it.”

We’re a resilient bunch. None of us locked ourselves away in our attics to make pipe bombs. Nope, we worked harder to forge friendships with others. We appreciated those bonds that were formed with our pals in school or, in my case, “up the block.” If our parents weren’t going to bother to give us brothers and sisters, we damn well had to create them ourselves. Indeed, we relish our friendships more than others. We appreciate what we have because we know what we had not. And, oddly, we gravitate to one another. Only child and only child and only child. Makeshift families that are hardly makeshift at all.

Not all of my friends sailing in this special boat are orphans. But, those who are can understand the intricate dynamics that arise at the end of their parents’ journeys. Being the only one to get the midnight call when breathing is labored or simple steps have failed. Sitting in some nondescript emergency room. Alone with nothing but a year-old People magazine as your emotional support. That’s the darkness of a world when your brother and sister has the same name. "Nobody."

At the same time, when Mom and Dad pass on, your decisions on how to move forward---with funerals and beyond---are uniformly your own. You don’t have to fight with anybody over what time the burial should take place or what dress Mom should wear in the casket. Nope, you alone decide. 12 Noon and the blue one.

Perhaps, this is our just reward for being a parent’s sole offspring. Is it worth all the loneliness that precedes it? Who knows? A few years ago, a very good college friend of mine lost his brother at a very untimely age. When we were talking after the fact, he told me that, now, he was alone. Just like me.

Oh, no. Sorry. But you are not just like me. Because, even for one day, you had a sibling to share a moment with. To bitch about Mom or Dad. To argue about what TV show to watch. To be an actual voice on the other side of the room. Nobody can know our feeling except those who share it.

Indeed, I had a strange sensation when my father died. My thought, besides sadness and a bit of relief, was that I was going to be okay. Why? Because I still had one parent left. A reserve fund, if you will. But, when the second one goes, the sadness is impalpable. Your secret stash has been depleted. You are officially bloodline-less.

If being an only child made me what I am today, then perhaps it was worth it. Because I am not alone. I have friends. Many, many good friends. And, at the very least, I have those other “brothers and sisters.” Dolores, Djinn, Bib, Barbara, Amy, Larry, Bob, Patti, Ingrid, Gary, Lorraine, Dennis.

Dinner last night: Sausage pizza from Maria's Italian Kitchen.



Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 4, 2009

Amen to that. And good riddence to Facebook.


Dinner last night: Chicken salad sandwich.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Grandma's Schedule



In the picture at the top, you finally see Grandma. With me and my hand up Popeye. So to speak.

You'll notice there is a wristwatch on me, but not Grandma. The woman was timeless. But, still, growing up in my house, we had wall clocks and calendars all over the place. Frankly, we didn’t need them. You could always tell what day or time it was by paying attention to whatever my grandmother was doing. A set schedule of weekly activities that never ever varied one iota.

The morning hours after breakfast always were set aside for some sort of household chores. On Mondays, she descended down the cellar stairs to do the wash. The machine was circa 1935 and the clothes were wrung out through one of those mechanical rollers. I was always warned not to put my fingers anywhere near it. Tuesday mornings were one of two consecutive mornings devoted to cleaning her house. Major dusting. Living room, bedroom, and the stairs that went up to our apartment. With no door or wall separating our area, Tuesday was not a day you could sleep late. Because, by 830AM, there was Grandma on the top step. Wipe, wipe, spray, spray, wipe, wipe.

Wednesday mornings featured part two of the cleaning parade. Floors. With the vacuum. At perhaps the earliest hour you can imagine. Again, no sleeping late as the sound of this massive Hoover canister, probably purchased during the Eisenhower administration, could be heard from our house all the way to New Rochelle.

I got sucked into the Thursday morning project when school was out for the summer. My father would drive her to the A & P (and later Waldbaum’s) for the weekly grocery shopping. This took almost two hours as Grandma methodically propelled her shopping cart up and down every aisle. She carefully surveyed all the shelves as if some new amazing product would be added to the items on sale. Not that Grandma would deviate from anything she had routinely purchased for the past forty years. The same brand of chocolate chip cookies. The same little cans of Carnation Condensed Milk. The same box of H O Oatmeal. The same bag of specially ground Eight O’Clock coffee. You could take a picture of her cart one week and it would exactly the same the very next week. And her attention to the prices was almost Rain Man-like.

”You see this jar of pickled beets? Last week, it was 79 cents. This week, it’s 80 cents.” Nothing got past her. Amazing that she could read numbers, but not words.

Friday mornings were special. Her kitchen linoleum was washed and waxed. Every single week, as if Army troop maneuvers were regularly conducted there. By the time I was in high school, all the accumulated wax on the floor made the whole kitchen one inch higher. Of course, you risked life and limb walking through there if the floor was not 100% dry.

”Go out through the basement. The floor is not dry.”

I loved Grandma on Saturday mornings because that’s when baking would commence. An apple pie. A pound cake. A rhubarb pie. Some bread pudding. The aromas wafted through the entire house as if we were living next door to the Entenmann’s main headquarters. The finished product was always kept in her pantry and usually was missing a hunk as soon as I could sneak in there.

There were, however, some Saturday mornings we dreaded. When the bus would stop on the corner and out would come Grandma’s niece or cousin Adele. We were never quite sure of the familial connection because it was described differently on any given day. Nevertheless, Adele’s arrival heralded complete polarization. On one hand, she was more than welcome because she always brought these homemade strawberry squares which she had baked lovingly with about five pounds of butter. But, on the other hand, Adele’s visit could only mean one dreadful thing.

Grandma was going to be getting a Toni Permanent.

In her home upstairs, we would immediately go into Defcon 4.

”Quick, Grandma’s getting a Toni. Go close the door! And make sure the dog stays upstairs.” My mother began to bark like General Patton. But, if you did not react quickly, the rancid smell of a home permanent concoction could last for weeks. Luckily, this was only repeated on a Saturday once every two months.

Sunday mornings sometimes found her at the German service of our Lutheran church. But, you could always count on a big Sunday dinner getting cooked up for midday consumption. She used to eat around 1PM, but, as time wore on, she started eating earlier and earlier. Had she continued to live, by now, she'd probably be eating her Sunday dinner on Saturday night. Sadly, the great baking on Saturday didn't translate to phenomenal cooking on Sunday. Probably as a result of Depression living, Grandma made due with the barest of ingredients. Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup was used as spaghetti sauce. Salad dressing was some vinegar and a spoonful of sugar. Not even mixed together. Serviceable meals, but nothing from the annals of Rachael Ray.

Afternoons? More clock setting. A 45 minute nap on the couch, always referred to as "beauty sleep." Then, One Life to Live and General Hospital.

It might sound boring to you, but something worked about all this precision. The woman made it to the age of 92.

Dinner last night: Garlic prawns and pasta at Cafe Montana.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Huh?

This is a photo from the bowels of Dodger Stadium and, on first glance, it looks pretty nondescript. But, look closely.

We know umpires miss calls from time to time. But, indeed, they might actually be blind.

Dinner last night: Bratwurst at the Dodger game.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Still Even More Pictures from Hell

The seventies are dead. Thank God!

Would you let your child take a violin lesson from this guy?

You just know this guy drives a souped-up Nova, works as a bagger at Grand Union, and frequently stares at other guys in the gym shower.

Somebody actually spend good, hard-earned money to have Sears photograph their cat.

I love the fact that the kid in the front is wearing a leisure suit from the Sammy Davis Jr. collection, sold exclusively at K-Mart. Don't you want to know which waitress in town Dad is doing?


Just what the hell is she looking at? A meteorite? Some ceiling tiles? Or maybe she's sitting on the floor and the photographer has dropped his drawers?

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken teriyaki with side salad.