Thursday, July 30, 2009
My God, it is safe to return to the multiplexes.
At first glance, "(500) Days of Summer" has the looks of a movie that would scare me away. It got decent reviews and that fact no longer means a thing to me. "The Hangover" got good reviews. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" got good reviews. "Knocked Up" got good reviews. And, in my humble opinion, they all sucked.
"Summer," from its trailer, looks to be cut from the same cloth. Dating angst for a couple of twenty-somethings. Yawn. If it's like anything else from the grimy hands of director Judd Apatow and the ultra-annoying Seth Rogan, I envision a movie that spends two hours on some drunken asshole throwing up in his girlfriend's sneakers.
But, a funny thing happened on the Road to Horrible. "(500) Days of Summer" is good. Oh, actually more than good. This is a wise and astute motion picture worthy of comparison to some of the best romantic comedies ever filmed. Funny, sad, and, as a result, authentic. And how is that all achieved? By simply showing us some decent folks with real emotions. And making it so identifiable that it hurts. Literally.
The movie is done in semi-documentary style and is exactly what the title says it is. A depiction of 500 days of Summer. Not the season. Some chick who works in the office of our hero and protagonist Tom, who endures a "relationship" with for about 500 days. Unlike most films of this ilk where the story is told from both the perspectives of the guy and the girl, this completely focuses on the male of the connection. The anti-chick flick. And, as I looked around at some of the folks in the theater for my showing, they were all guys older than in their 20s. So, there was something going on here.
Everything rings true in "Summer." The infatuation and doing nothing about it. The exhileration. The confusion. The depression. It's all there and I felt like the filmmakers had positioned a surveillance camera on my social life. The excitement is real. So is the deep dark pain. Former TV sitcom actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom captures every layer of a guy enduring a tough relationship and does it remarkably. Gordon-Levitt's grandfather is Michael Gordon, who directed one of my favorite movies ever, "Pillow Talk," so the pedigree has obviously been handed down. Grandpa's movie was terrific, and so is this.
The movie has stayed with me because it was so incredibly authentic for me. I've been through exactly what Tom goes through in this film. I've done it five times. From each one, I learned a little about myself and I learned a lot about nothing. The last one damaged me so much that the manufacturer no longer makes the replacement parts. I'm eternally broken and it's one of the few things I can't write about here just yet. "(500) Days of Summer" brought that all back for me one more time. And, in the truest sense of confusion, that return was a good thing and a very bad thing for me.
But, still, this is a movie that a guy should see. Perhaps alone. Why ruin it by going with a date? Who is probably messing with your mind as you speak...
Dinner last night: Salami sandwich and salad.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Here's a rare photo of the Cambridge police force being called into the next neighborhood disturbance.
---Folks, I'm a little quirky. I was always told that when a policeman asks you to do something, you do it.
---The first time I was ever stopped for a traffic violation, the cop was Black and very nasty.
---I didn't immediately jump to the conclusion that he was being extra abusive because I was White.
---But, now, twenty five years later, maybe he was.
---I know there are bad cops, but most are decent and put their lives into jeopardy every corner they turn. Which makes this Gates guy's reaction even more reprehensible.
---That Harvard professor is a complete dirtbag and this isn't the first time he's mouthed off.
---Granted that I have no sense of what it is like to be a Black man in America. But, if I were, I probably would have had a better shot at getting into Harvard.
---If the Cambridge cop in question was Shaft, we'd be still talking about Michael Jackson today.
---Well, we will talk about him anyway. Later in the scroll.
---Look, gang, the cop didn't know Gates was Black until he got there. It's not like he was notified in the police transmission.
---"One Adam 12, see the uppity spook in his house, eating a Slim Jim. Copy, 10-4. Over."
---And it's like we should expect Gates to be totally subserviant to the policeman.
---"Who dat? Who dere? Oh, Lordy, Lordy, it's the po-lice."
---But you do respond appropriately and this overeducated scumbucket did not. I hope he spent a night in jail and the bread was stale.
---Meanwhile, Gates was so distraught over this that he was wined and dined at one of the fanciest LA restaurants over the weekend.
---And guess what? He entered through the front door, not the back.
---America really sucks, doesn't it, Mr. Gates?
---Shithead. I hope nobody enrolls in his courses this September.
---Of course, we also have a President who threw lighter fluid onto a pile of newspapers. He jumped onto the race card so fast you would have thought it had barbecue sauce on it.
---See what happens when he talks without the teleprompter.
---So, the cop and Gates got invited to the White House to share a beer with Urkel.
---If one of them gets drunk, does that mean Michelle is the designated driver?
---That's the picture I want to see. The Oval Office with a whole bunch of empty Colt 45 bottles lying around.
---How many cop votes do you think Urkel lost last week?
---This just in: Michael Jackson is still dead.
---Rhetorical question: Would Michael's meds be covered under Obama's health care plan?
---You get the impression that MJ's doctor was so desperate he would have tried to hide the body under the bed.
---I can hear the conversation with the police now.
---"Er, Michael Jackson? Um, could you describe him to me?"
---I hope that doctor's malpractice insurance is paid off. Because Papa Jackson's got his eye on a new pair of Van's.
---Gee, if that Gates guy was living in the Michael Jackson mansion, do you think he would have let the paramedics in?
---"Ain't ya got no Black ambulance drivers working today???"
Dinner last night: Grilled chicken panini at Maria's Italian Kitchen.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
So far, it's been a wildly uneven summer season at the Hollywood Bowl. You will remember reading about my very first disastrous concert there when I saw knock-offs of Abba and Neil Diamond. In my opinion, if those bands were piped in across the universe, this would no longer be a crowded planet. Subsequently, we've seen John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater on the Fourth of July with a first act of patriotic music by the Bowl orchestra. I'd call it the Hawk and Dove evening.
One week later, there was a most enjoyable evening devoted to Henry Mancini music complete with film clips. And then there was Faith Hill who restored a little bit of my country music love after a decade or two of dormancy. Throughout all the weeks, the Hollywood Bowl venue itself was the star of the show. A great night under the stars with wine, food, and friends. So, you can't really go wrong unless, of course, it is Abba:The Music or Super Diamond.
But, last Saturday night, traditional variations were not more definitively split apart as polar opposites than the two acts of the Bowl's "Art of the Song." The most schizophrenic of evenings ever as if it was programmed by Sally Field's Sybil. Wonderfully sweet and horribly sour. The yin-est and the yang-est. Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann. By the end of the concert, we all felt like we had gone off our meds.
It started exquisitely for me. Conductor Thomas Wilkins promised us a journey through the Great American Songbook. As a kid who was forcefed those standards by my parents via a daily IV drip from WNEW-AM, this was going to be a big fat fast ball across the plate for me. Lots of Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin. And then out comes Michael Feinstein, the champion of all things singable. I've long been a Feinstein fan, because he truly cares about this kind of music and makes you want to care as well. I've seen in person before, most recently at his defunct supper club on Hollywood Boulevard. That night, I was sitting so close to the front that I got to watch his socks slowly droop every time he hit a pedal on his Steinway. Suffice it to say, sagging Goldtoes and all, Michael Feinstein never disappoints. And he certainly didn't on Saturday night.
We all innocently headed off to bathrooms and dessert. Oblivious to the horrors that would come.
Nestled back into our benches for more lyrical nirvana, it didn't take long before the bombs started to drop around us.
We were all introduced to Jewel.
Now I've heard of her and knew one or two of her songs. And she got off to a healthy start by doing Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." But, then, the screeching derailment began. Amtrak was coming through and the engineer's been drinking.
They brought out her folk guitar. And, since she was already decked out in some sort of wildly patterned evening dress from the Squeeky Fromme collection, I realized that our program was going to undergo a slight format variation. Sort of like transitioning from the snap, crackle, pop of a bowl of Rice Krispies to the 1939 bombing of London.
Jewel was going to sing her own stuff.
We had listened to Michael Feinstein perfectly enunciate every word of the most tuneful of songs essayed by the greatest American tune writers. Now, we were subjected to the marble-mouthed wailing of some dribble written by this hippie while she was trying to figure out how to shoplift carrots from Von's Super Market. Interspersed in this cacophony were tales of her difficult past. Being down on her luck. Living in abject poverty. We had gone from 1940 Manhattan cafe society to an evening with Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar: The Musical. Some nitwits in the crowd applauded her every move. I sat there like Jackie Kennedy thirty seconds after her limo passed through Dealey Plaza.
I began to wonder how this disjointed evening had ever been concocted in the first place. Was the person who programmed the first half of the show suddenly fired and replaced by somebody who's in charge of the medicine cabinet at the local mental hospital? And whose idea was it to have this ragamuffin sing her own nonsense in the middle of an evening devoted to the likes of Sammy Cahn, Irving Berlin, and even Henry Mancini? Or, perhaps Jewel was egotistical enough to think that her junk could stand alongside the works of others? If that was the case, somebody in charge obviously didn't have the cojones to raise their hand and say, "Er, Jewel, your stuff is nice, but it ain't Moon River, sistah."
On our way staggering out of the Bowl after the closing fireworks and a passable duet between Feinstein and Jewel, my mind raced with the names of all the other female singers I would have suggested for Act Two. Diana Krall. Rebecca Luker. Linda Ronstadt. Hell, there was even a suitable replacement in the audience Saturday night.
As we walked by the stage door, we ran into Michele Lee.
Michele was standing with friends alongside the bandshell and covering her face with a scarf as if she was an Iranian wife trying to hide from her irate husband. But, it was unmistably Michele Lee. And we left her know it.
Busted, she dropped the scarf and smiled.
Now, I've had past dealings with her. I actually shared a radio segment with her when she was promoting the final episodes of Knots Landing. And, after that, my writing partner and I had pitched an idea to her. But, that was years back and I'm thinking that botox injections might impact long term memory.
I told Michele that, after watching her for 14 years on Knots Landing, I could always smoke her out in a crowd. She seemed to appreciate the sentiment. The guy she was with opened his wallet to pay me for the plug. I asked how much it would be worth if I mentioned her work in "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." She brightened even more.
The evening had experienced a late inning comeback for me. And then I regretted not asking Michele Lee one more question.
Why the hell wasn't she on stage for the second act instead of that used clothing mannequin Jewel?
Dinner last night: Roast beef and salad with a slice of bacon jalapeno cornbread.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
It's been super hot (but not humid) in Los Angeles lately. The heat doesn't bother me. The 24 hour availability of central air conditioning will do that to you. I go from the super-cooled condo to the car to the office and back again. A bead of sweat doesn't have a chance of forming anywhere on me.
That was not the case when I was a kid. When my family finally upgraded to one window air conditioner, it was in the living room and that's where you hunkered down when there were no tropical breezes blowing through Mount Vernon, New York.
There is nothing more gross than a hazy, hot, and humid day in the Northeast. When clothes have to be surgically peeled off you at the end of the day. When the act of turning a page in the Daily News can be exhausting. You don't want to move for fear that the lifting of a finger will drain you of all bodily fluids.
For us, the only answer was the window fan in the kitchen. My grandmother had one mounted in her kitchen downstairs as well and that must have been how people stayed cool during World War II. Apparently, there are all sorts of scientific solutions on how to use the fan to get gusts of wind going throughout the house. It must have been handed down like family lore, because both my dad and Grandma were experts on this.
If you're in the bedroom, you turn on the kitchen fan and then close all the doors of the house except for the room you're in. Voila. The whole opening in the home gets all the intake and you have a breeze. Naturally, I would invariably go into one of the other rooms and then I would hear the wail.
"Close the door!!"
Our kitchen fan was enormous and made the sound of the D train rushing through a local subway station. Like ocean water crashing up against a shore, there was something oddly soothing with that loud whirring of our kitchen fan. I could listen to it for hours. And frequently did. Way up close. I was a weird kid.
Our kitchen fan was in an area where there was a china closet in the corner and another cabinet on the other side. The result was an odd little nook and cranny that provided me with a wonderful little crawl space. When I was really young, I'd take whatever action figures I had at the time and would use the fan as the home base for the little drama I would stage. The fan was the central point of this apartment house which housed Huckleberry Hound, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, and Yogi Bear. One character would live on one ledge near the fan. Another would live on top of the fan. That was the penthouse. It was the coolest place for them to live. Literally and figuratively. Usually, at some point during the summer, I would drop one of the toy figures into the fan and there they would live until my father would take down the fan in September or October. I would look through the speeding blades of the fan and see poor little Boo Boo Bear lying on the outside window ledge. All by his lonesome.
When I got a little older, I shitcanned the fan as a home for my cartoon figurines. Instead, I had become a reader. I always had three or four library books out at the same time. Sports and Hollywood biographies. On summer nights when I could stay up late, I'd pull up a kitchen chair and get as tight into the crawlspace around the fan as possible and read. And read and read and read. Sometimes till midnight or later. There was probably not enough light but I didn't care. As long as there was a book, the fan, and a glass of lemonade nearby, I was happy. I can remember reading both "The Godfather" and "Airport" at the foot of the kitchen fan, racing through them so I would finish them before the anticipated movie versions came out.
To this day, my apartment in New York still has a fan. Not a window model, but a box one that stands on the floor or a table. When I am there in the summer months, I still take out a book or a magazine and sit next to the fan as I read for a while. It's not the same sensation, but pretty darn close.
But, like all really special memories, nothing can be completely duplicated.
Dinner last night: Hollywood Bowl hot dog.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The first movie I ever saw at Radio City Music Hall, although I barely remember it at the time. I have since seen it multiple times and love it.
Dinner last night: Ham French Dip at Phillippe's---the usual Friday pre-game meal.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Yesterday's post on the "Manny Granny" in Wednesday night's Dodger game represents a pinnacle in baseball fan euphoria.
Today's post on the New York Mets represents a nadir in baseball fan euphoria. The lowest of the low. One more nail wielded by my hammer in the Met coffin. This time, I think it's sealed for the ages.
You probably have heard the 2009 New York Mets, the on-the-field edition, are a mess. What an A&P might look like the day after a garbage truck careens through its front door.
"Clean up please. Aisle 1, Aisle 2, Aisle 3, Aisle 4, Aisle 5, Aisle 6."
Granted that injuries have taken their toll on a team which is tended to by a staff of doctors that got their medical degrees on eBay. Yet, this Met group is built from the same architectural plan used on past gutless editions of the team. The equivalent of installing a hockey rink on the deck of the Titanic. Constructed to lose in the worst possible fashion and in a manner that rips out the hearts of their fans on an hourly basis.
The Mets are fading fast this year and already have the look of a team that's already planning its NFL Football pool. The added punch in the head this summer is that 2009 is the inaugural season of that 800 million dollar English muffin called Citi Field. By September 1, the only things that will be swirling around all those outfield nooks and crannies will be barbecue sauce-stained wrappers from the pulled pork sandwiches they sell in that monstrosity of a food court. Suffice it to say, the biggest win in Citi Field this season was when Paul McCartney showed up for a couple of concerts.
To throw more lye into the chocolate milk of Met fans, we now have the latest controversy which is truly a microcosm of the claptrap Met front office and their absolute inability to do anything right. Assistant General Manager Tony Bernazard, who in the photo above reminds me of Lloyd "Room 222" Haynes, allegedly has held some regularly scheduled temper tantrums of late. He challenges a Double AA player to a fighter, and even removes his shirt in preparation for the battle. He argues with Met closer Francisco Rodriguez and he should be the last player you want to piss off. And, apparently, Big Tony got into a scuffle with his own staff in full view of Met fans in the stands.
Now, I already know that Bernazard is a complete piece of shit. From what I was told last year by a good friend of mine who is also a buddy of deposed Met manager Willie Randolph, Tony, with an able assist from current Met skipper Jerry Manuel and resident first baseman/dirtbag Carlos Delgado, blindsided and ultimately knifed Willie's managerial career to death. In the middle of that fracas was the resident GM/numbskull Omar Minaya, who probably knows more on how to fix an apartment radiator than he does construct a major league baseball team. Omar has about as much clout in the Met organization as I do, and you all know that I have none. Willie twists in the wind and effectively burns just like that windmill did at the end of "Frankenstein." And the Met front office comes off as country bumpkins in the public eye.
So, now, one more time, a public disgrace and the Mets announce that they are investigating Bernazard's actions and they "are taking them seriously." That's the same as if President George W. Bush reacted to the 9/11 attacks by calling for a broom and a dumpster. To me, anything short of Tony's firing and subsequent public beheading is unacceptable. As bad as the team is, the front office is worse.
At the core of it all is the real inoperable tumor. Jeff Wilpon. Son of the old and addled Fred Wilpon who is basically around only to answer the nurse's cry for more Jell-O. Jeff has moved into the role of calling all the shots for the Mets and virtually all of them miss their target. He shepherded the building of Citi Field and all its bizarreness. He engineered a seating and ticketing plan that truly fucked over longtime Met plan holders like me. And, now, he runs the team by having a lowlife like Tony Bernazard act as his snitch and mole. Tied up in inane press spin and convuluted rationale, Jeff Wilpon is now going down with the ship. And hopefully is the first to have his lungs fill with water.
I had my own run-in with Junior Wilpon a few years back when I still counted as a valued Met Saturday plan ticket holder. One season, they asked me to choke down as one of the year's games a March Saturday afternoon exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles. I wrote a cordial letter to Jeff, basically stating that this game should be optional for purchase and certainly not at full season price. I got a note back from him. In his opinion, I was underestimating the importance of this exhibition game. After all, it was a rematch of the 1969 World Series teams. There was going to be tons of interest in this game. The tone was insulting and condescending. So much so that it merited a response from me.
I wrote Jeff Wilpon that, since I doubted that I could sell these tickets to any friends, he was more than welcome to sit in my seats on that afternoon. Apparently, it was a big game to him and I didn't want him to miss it. But, I also reminded him that he should wear his heaviest overcoat, gloves, scarf, and ski hat. March winds tended to get a little furious around the Shea semi-circular stands.
I never heard back from Jeff. But, in so many ways, he has let all the Met fans know what he thinks of them.
The Mets have no chance this year. Or, realistically, for as long as Jeff Wilpon runs the place. The Flushing Faithful's only fervent hope for the team rests in Jeff Wilpon's ability to crawl back up the dog's ass he was originally shit from.
Dinner last night: Salisbury steak from the Cheesecake Factory.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
It was a moment that I finally could share with Dodger history.
In my relatively short tenure as a Dodger fan, I can only listen to stories from fans who were in attendance at other seminal moments in Chavez Ravine fandom. Oh, sure, I was there the night of the 2004 NLDS when Jose Lima inexplicably mowed down the St. Louis Cardinals with innings of zeroes. There was a Nomar Garciaparra grand slam in September of 2006 that virtually solidified their entry into the postseason sweepstakes. And, I was in my own season seats last October when Jonathan Broxton literally blew away the Chicago Cubs to complete the three game sweep of the Wrigley's perennial losers.
But, I can only listen quietly and politely to the other tales of victorious frenzy. There was once an old guy in my church who told me all about being in the stands for Sandy Koufax' perfect game in September, 1965. Friends have regaled me all about Fernandomania. And, ironically, I had sold off my game seats the night that would ultimately be remembered for those "four consecutive homeruns in the ninth inning." And I was 3000 miles away when Kirk Gibson hit his monumental blast of the ages in the 1988 World Series. I was too busy sulking over the Mets' loss to the Dodgers in the playoff series that had preceded this game.
Last night, I got to join in finally. I can proudly say that I was there for Manny Ramirez' pinch hit grand slam homerun.
Admittedly, it was just another regular season game. No sudden death playoff drama. And, let's face it, the opponent was the fading fast Cincinnati Reds.
But, still. Drama was provided and the accompanying script would have probably been thrown out by Hollywood development executives. "How plausible is this?"
Setting it all up, 56,000 people had crowded into Dodger Stadium for Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night. Except, due to an errant pitch hitting his left hand the night before, Manny was not in the lineup. But, fans here had already gotten used to not seeing Manny play. For 50 games to be exact. Juan Pierre in left and frequently batting ninth, thank you very much. The folks around here didn't seem to care. They were here for the bobbleheads nonetheless. I noticed some season ticket holders who hadn't been in the park since opening day. The couple across from me brought, for the first time, infant twins and I wonder when the hell that happened. I guess they had a good reason for missing some games.
But, as Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo and the Dodgers' hurler Chad Billingsley scraped together some quality innings, the score is 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. The Dodgers load the bases and the pinchhitter for Billingsley, Mark Loretta, is in the on deck circle. I see that and think that Manny indeed is still suffering from the previous night's plunk. But, 55,999 other people started to manage. The call went out.
"Manny, Manny, Manny."
Maybe it was manager Joe Torre's idea all along. Perhaps Loretta was a decoy. Manny started to rustle in the dugout. Slowly, he walked over to the bat rack. Meticulously, he searched for his pine tar wrapped helmet. It was a scene expertly staged for dramatic effect as if Steven Spielberg was in the press box pulling the puppet strings. And, all the while, the Cincinnati Reds stood in the field and looked like fifth graders facing a surprise math quiz. They switched out their pitcher to prolong everybody's agony a trifle longer. The build-up for Manny's pinchhitting appearance was about ten minutes long.
The moment itself was only about 15 seconds.
One pitch. One swing. One ball landing perfectly about ten rows up in Mannywood.
The last time I felt a stadium rock and sway like that was in my beloved Shea Stadium on October 25, 1986 when Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner first came together for their eternal marriage under baseball law.
Last night, in the middle of earthquake country, I felt a 10.0 tremor that resulted in no damage. Unless, of course, you want to include Reds reliever Nick Masset's earned run average.
Two curtain calls. Manny playfully doing a head bobble. And another Dodger win in their streak toward October 2009. For all his heralded shenanigans, this is why he is worth every dollar. Forget the steroids and the estrogen and the nonsense. This was Manny being Manny. As far as I'm concerned, he can use his cell phone in the field any night as long as we get an evening like Wednesday.
And, for once, I was there.
Dinner last night: Sausage pizza at the Dodger game.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Nothing but dry wit here.
---"Hi, this is Michael Jackson. Am I in my grave yet?"
---Have you caught Larry King's nightly snoozefest on CNN lately? He devotes every single show to the now fizzless King of Pop.
---Larry continues to keep his finger on the pulse of America. And totally disregards the fact that most of us are done with this nonsense.
---Larry King Live should now be called Michael Jackson Dead.
---"Tonight, Michael's Love of Socks and Why He Always Preferred Goldtoe."
---"Tonight, Was Michael Jackson Going to the Next Celebrity Endorser of Jenny Craig. We Have the Inside Story."
---"Tonight, Those Bruises on Michael's Arm. Were They From Needles or Was He Simply Clumsy?"
---Meanwhile, Larry pops Old Man Jackson on and here's somebody who needs to be ignored every single Father's Day. The guy's made a fortune the last month and I bet he's still collecting food stamps.
---Once again, my dad had an expression for somebody like Daddy Dearest.
---Great line from a talk radio show: Sonia Sotamayor is nothing but Ruth Bader Ginsburg plus fifty pounds.
---She'll get the Supreme Court gig but she did nothing to warrant it in her hearings. She apparently thinks there's a law on the books that prevents the use of complete sentences.
---The only definitive thing she said all week was that you can pick up the Dyre Avenue subway near Cardinal Spellman High School.
---Trust me, I have no issue with a Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court. As a matter of fact, after listening to Sotamayor, I have an alternative choice.
---My cleaning lady. Very thorough and her vocabulary has greatly expanded in the seven years she's worked for me.
---And she's got a friend, so we can replace that decrepit mess Ginsburg at the same time, since Ruth's looking like her bags are down in the hotel lobby, too.
---No matter how you slice it, the Supreme Court remains our country's biggest joke.
---Apparently, the economic stimulus plan was a killer for our nation's pigs. As details show that millions of dollars were spent to supply ham to soap kitchens.
---The government spent over $1.00 per pound for ham. Meanwhile, you can get it for 79 cents per pound at Costco.
---I never trust a Presidential administration that doesn't know how to comparison shop in a super market.
---First, we bail out General Motors. But who knew that Hormel was in such bad shape?
---On the All Star Game broadcast last week, lifelong White Sox fan President Urkel kept calling their home field "Cominsky" Park.
---Maybe that's' where the White Sox played when they were in Soviet Russia.
---And he would know.
---Everytime I hear Nancy Pelosi speak, I wonder who put the cat in the Cuisinart.
---From the Microcosm Department: Obama's Healthcare Plan and the New York Mets medical staff.
---If you're on the Mets and the doctor tells you that you might miss tomorrow's game, don't expect to play again until 2010.
---If Obama tells you that you won't lose your health insurance on his watch, don't expect to live past 2010.
---Los Angeles has made a new stipulation. Moving forward, households are only allowed to have one rooster.
---Well, my neighbor can have two since I don't have one.
---How much can I get for selling my rights to owning one rooster?
---By the way, I won't accept payment in pesos.
---I don't have any friends who own roosters. What the hell is wrong with me?
---Trying to save money on its 26 billion dollar deficit, the state of California is going to release 27,000 convicts early.
---Now I'm convinced that I will show up at Dodger Stadium and find Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson sharing some Dodger Dogs and a couple of brewskis.
I'm done for today. We may all be done forever.
Dinner last night: Grilled ham and salad.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Hardly. But, already I'm digressing...
I was summoned last week to be a good citizen. One more time as a prospective juror for the City of Los Angeles. Doing what the Constitution and our forefathers asked me to do over 200 years ago. Be fair, impartial, and hopefully put some scumbag behind bars.
Los Angeles does jury duty right. They have a process called "One or One." You either serve one day or one trial. If you sit in the jury assembly room for one day and are never impaneled, you are done. If you are impaneled and either make it onto a jury trial or are considered a trial risk (my favorite occupation), you are done. If you are lucky, jury duty could be nothing more than one or two days. Pretty sweet. Except the price you pay is that Los Angeles will call you regularly. Usually once every two years. Like a regular colonoscopy if you're prone to polyp production. And, in my twelve years of SoCal habitation, I have been called exactly six times.
I've gone to civil court in Santa Monica. A block away from a beach and a bowling alley which is an ideal lunchtime diversion when the judges and attorneys take their mandatory three hour midday breaks. Once, I got called to Beverly Hills and this was around the time of the Winona Ryder shoplifting case. That jury I would have gladly served on. But, most of the time, I'm summoned to one of the courthouses in boring downtown LA. A few blocks from the Staples Center and, on my way to court, I drove past to see if there were any Michael mourners still hanging about.
I was on call last week and the telephone message didn't beckon my presence until Thursday. In I went, amid the dregs of society. If you want to take a microcosmic snapshot of what is wrong with America in 2009, hang around a courthouse lobby as a workday begins. It's the worst of the worst winding their way through airport-like security. Empty your pockets, take off jewelry, and remove your belts. Jurors, either real or prospective, get to cut the long line as if my American Airlines Platinum status works there. On the other side of the glass, I see some of the items that didn't make the cut past security. Two knives, a clip of bullets, several screwdrivers, and a box cutter. And perhaps this is what came out of the attache cases of some attorneys.
Once I sat through the standard orientation in the jury assembly room, I surveyed the group to see what I was stuck with for the day. One fat slob kept doing her yoga stretches against the wall. Every time she bent over, we could all see to China and beyond. Hit the cymbals, lady!
One other jerk called one of the attendants over. He didn't think he could make it through the day. You see, he had fractured his skull two weeks ago and this was his first day out of the house. Huh? He was excused, but first insisted that a member of the sheriff's department escort him downstairs, since he "had been falling down a lot."
Then there was some old fart named David Frankel. I have no problem writing his name here because he virtually introduced himself to everybody in the room. He had a grating voice like actor Wallace Shawn and had people groping for one of the screwdrivers that had unfortunately been left downstairs with security. He engaged everybody in the exact same conversation about the car he sold last month but couldn't get top dollar because the economy is so bad. Over and over and over and over. After a while, it was fun to watch people trying to duck him as he made his way in their direction.
Not surprisingly, there was a contingent of about six gay guys who became fast friends within an hour. For about forty-five minutes, they did nothing but discuss Chita Rivera. I was buried in my book, but noticed some other cliques forming. It takes a while for me to start sharing my life story with complete strangers. Apparently, I am in the minority. Some folks start opening their information coffers within thirty seconds. In the course of the day, I overheard so much stuff that is none of my business. By noon, I was privy to the menstrual cycles of at least five female jurors.
The jury assembly room has several computers available for people to use while checking in with their jobs. We are told to limit our on-line time to about 15 or 20 minutes. That, however, meant nothing to some skanky Black chick who logged onto her Yahoo account and played video games for about three hours. People waited behind her in the hope that her carpal tunnel would kick in. No such luck. Miss Thing just kept going, intentionally oblivious to those around her. I saw an amazing dynamic at work. I could see the minds of people processing what to say to her. Should I ask politely or should I not? Ultimately, nobody bothered. They all walked away, knowing full well that a tussle with this pig was going to turn into an argument that nobody wanted as she probably wields a dog-eared racist card.
No jury panels were called until 230PM. Thirty-five folks had their numbers read off like Saturday Night Bingo at Sacred Heart Church and were hustled off to a courtroom. I had bitten the bullet and now kept one eye on the clock. If I made it to 430PM, I would have beaten the jury odds one more time.
"I have a panel to call."
I look around to see who else is being schlepped to a courtroom with me. Four of the six gay guys. Called together. How does that happen? David Frankel, who is now re-introducing himself to his fellow jurors.
We enter a courtroom to be swore in. We meet the female DA. The Iranian defense attorney. And the defendent. Some Black guy named inexplicably "Cleo." He and his lawyer watch as we enter. I feel like I'm being profiled by them. Be my guest, I think. I will be of no help to you. I have no idea what crime we are talking about here, but I already am 90% percent sure you're guilty of it.
But, given the late hour, the judge invites us back the next morning for jury selection. Groans abound. David Frankel expresses his disgust by re-introducing himself to anybody who will listen.
Without knowing the crime, I can't spend the evening trying to come up with a rational excuse for getting bounced from this jury. In the past, I had always done so. Adapted my life to the case at hand. Medical malpractice? I've had a similar law suit. You're dismissed. DUI? I had friends in the past who had run-ins with drunk drivers. You're dismissed. But, this time, I had nothing to use except maybe certain Wednesday editions of this blog might be offensive to "Cleo."
I sensed something was amiss.
At 1120AM, we are finally escorted into the courtroom. I notice that, as we enter, the defendent is leaving and talking to himself at the same time. From my Perry Mason fandom, I know that the defendent needs to be present for all aspects of this trial process.
Unless, of course, there isn't going to be a trial process. The attorneys' trips down the hall had resulted in a plea bargain. I now figure it all.
"Cleo" was checking us all out the day before. And, as he surveyed the 40 prospective jurors, he needed only one hand to do the fateful math.
There were only four Black people.
I can hear "Cleo" now.
"Er, where's my brothers? Where the sisters? Where the OJ jurors at?"
And as he continued his thought processing...
"Er, what was that deal you all were talking about? Can I still negotiate? Where Howie Mandel at?"
"Cleo" knew he was sunk.
We all applauded wildly at the news of our dismissal. Only David Frankel sulked.
He'd be heading home where there was nobody to introduce himself to.
Dinner last night: Smoked ham sandwich.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Forty years ago tomorrow and I remember it like it was yesterday.
The nation was focused on Apollo 11. There were moon watching parties. Crowds gathered to view it on a big screen in Grand Central Station. It was all encompassing.
Given that Sunday, July 20 was a typical hot and humid summer's day, I can remember walking through the neighborhood and hearing Chet Huntley blaring out like he was on a loudspeaker. With all the open windows of the apartment building across the street, you could not escape him supplying the soundtrack up and down our block.
The scheduling of the day's events were etched in our minds. You knew what hour they would be undocking from the command module, what hour they would be landing on the lunar surface, and exactly when the astronauts would venture out to walk through the craters for the very first time. The latter was scheduled to take place very late on that Sunday night so, luckily, they planned this perfectly to coincide with our non-school summer schedule.
On that day, I, however, had a focus elsewhere. The Mets had just gotten good and were finally competitive for the first time ever. Neil Armstrong, pish tosh. For me, it was Tom Seaver and nothing else. The team was on the road, having just completed two series against the Chicago Cubs that launched the Flushing Faithful into their own pennant-bound orbits. The Mets were playing a doubleheader against the virgin Montreal Expos in that French dump called Parc Jarry. They lost the first game, 3-2. But, the second game was a seesaw battle that lasted 10 innings and, in those days, an unheard-of three hours. As the Mets battled through the tenth inning, I was distracted in so many directions. The Mets on the tube. The moon landing on another channel. And a violent thunderstorm outside my window. Too much for this youngster to process at once.
My dad, rarely moved by anything, was duly impressed by the moon stuff.
"You better watch this because it's history."
It was one of those super-rare moments where my family acted as one. My parents glued to the TV in the living room with me draped across the floor and spooning with my dog Tuffy. We, like the world, were together. Yet, there was one other person in the house who didn't give a shit.
My grandmother had pretty watched dismissed the space race as soon as it started.
"Wasting all the poor taxpayers' money." She'd wave in disgust whenever somebody mentioned it. As Armstrong and Aldrin strolled around the moon, Grandma had already gone off to bed.
In the weeks after, Grandma did not stop with her disdain over Apollo 11. It had been a very rainy summer and, by mid August, we were knee deep in mildew. As Grandma sat in her favorite rocking chair and surveyed the soggy neighborhood from her living room window during one more rain storm, she tried to fit the pieces together for me.
"You know why it's raining so much? God is mad at us."
"God is mad because we had no business going to the moon. He didn't want us there so now he is making it rain."
Logical? In her mind, yes. I tried to reason with the unreasonable.
"Grandma, it's raining here in New York, but it might not be like this in Texas or California."
She waved me off.
"It's raining and God is mad."
This volleyed back and forth. Logic and illogic. Sense and no sense. Finally, Grandma pulled an ace from her sleeve.
"It's true because I heard it on the television."
Her standard retort. You can't refute the things you hear on TV. I asked her who said that God was mad on the TV.
I guess this is why Cronkite, who passed on last Friday, was the most trustest man in America. My grandmother listened to him.
You can't battle that kind of logic. I walked away from the conversation in defeat. Well, at least, the Mets were winning in the summer of 1969.
Dinner last night: Wonderful picnic treats at Faith Hill's Hollywood Bowl concert.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
One of the last clever TV theme title sequences. Glorifying a lead character who was not very likeable. They don't do this kind of stuff anymore.
Dinner last night: Friday night pre-Dodger game meal at Phillippe's---Turkey French Dip with potato salad and cole slaw.
Friday, July 17, 2009
As the vintage and glorious theater marquee to the left proclaims, there are "2 Frank Sinatra Hits." Neither one of them are Mia Farrow's face. But, I digress...
These are movie theaters when movie theaters were really movie theaters. Not the prefabricated multiplexes that fill a space between JC Penney's and the Olive Garden.
If there's a movie in your weekend future, I will find it for you. Or maybe not. As is my monthly usual, I'll rifle through the LA Times and give you my punch-in-the-stomach reaction to what is littering our movie houses this weekend.
Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs: I saw the first one and figured I was done. And, from what I have heard, they were. But, now two sequels later... Hollywood executives are a lot like toddlers being toilet trained. They sit forever and never know when they're done.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Millions are flocking without me. Which edition is this? I read the first book and saw the first movie. I figured I was done. But, JK Rowling is a lot like a toddler being toilet trained. Oh, never mind...
Public Enemies: Johnny Depp as John Dillinger. Warner Brothers did these gangster movies a lot better in the 30s with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. And, in those days, they managed to tell a decent story in about 75 minutes.
The Hangover: You might want to read Len Speaks from Tuesday, July 14, 2009.
The Taking of Pelham 123: Somehow, despite the fact that I love the original and knew that this remake couldn't come close, I went to see this. And, drum roll please, this remake couldn't come close. Should be renamed 'The Taking of 12 Dollars from My Wallet."
Up: The best movie I've seen this year. Clever and thoughtful. Adjectives frequently used to describe me as well.
Bruno: Borat comes out of the closet. Apparently it is incredibly racist and inappropriate. I wonder what time the bargain matinee is.
I Love You, Beth Cooper: I Hate You, Hollywood Executives Who Keep Shoving These Insipid Romantic Comedies Down My Throat.
Moon: Something about an astronaut. Or simply that big ass sticking out of the car window in the next lane.
Drag Me To Hell: Previously titled "The Nancy Pelosi Story."
My Sister's Keeper: Watch as some kid slowly dies of cancer. Watch as Cameron Diaz tries to prove she can really act. Watch as I drive quickly past any theater playing this dreck.
The Proposal: I will gladly make this one to Sandra Bullock. Go away, please.
Transformers Revenge of the Fallen: And they can't get up. The Age of Stupid: Another documentary about global warming. And I bet you thought there was an Obama joke coming. (500) Days of Summer: (Another) romantic comedy. Girl meets boy, boy loses girl, boy buys a gerbil. The Queen and I: Will she shave her head just like Yul Brynner? That would be worth the price of admission. Oh, wait, it's about a bunch of Muslims. Hardly worth the price of admission. Tony Manero: Some guy in Chile becomes obsessed with Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever. I tell you those Scientologists will do anything to suck you in. Homecoming: A quarterback juggles two girls. Meanwhile, watch how close he gets to that center when he wants the football. Death in Love: Two brothers deal with their Holocaust survivor mom. If they put this on a double bill with The Queen and I, I could avoid two movies at the same time. Easy Virtue: Absolutely nobody I knew in college. Away We Go: And I bet you thought there was a Jackie Gleason joke coming. The Hurt Locker: What some of the Black kids in high school pushed me into. Whatever Works: Larry David stars in a Woody Allen movie. It might be against the fire laws to put that many neurotic people in one film.
The Age of Stupid: Another documentary about global warming. And I bet you thought there was an Obama joke coming.
(500) Days of Summer: (Another) romantic comedy. Girl meets boy, boy loses girl, boy buys a gerbil.
The Queen and I: Will she shave her head just like Yul Brynner? That would be worth the price of admission. Oh, wait, it's about a bunch of Muslims. Hardly worth the price of admission.
Tony Manero: Some guy in Chile becomes obsessed with Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever. I tell you those Scientologists will do anything to suck you in.
Homecoming: A quarterback juggles two girls. Meanwhile, watch how close he gets to that center when he wants the football.
Death in Love: Two brothers deal with their Holocaust survivor mom. If they put this on a double bill with The Queen and I, I could avoid two movies at the same time.
Easy Virtue: Absolutely nobody I knew in college.
Away We Go: And I bet you thought there was a Jackie Gleason joke coming.
The Hurt Locker: What some of the Black kids in high school pushed me into.
Whatever Works: Larry David stars in a Woody Allen movie. It might be against the fire laws to put that many neurotic people in one film.
Dinner last night: Leftover turkey sausage.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Here's where you get the point. I'm catching up on news I ignored because we were focusing on the rapidly decomposing King of Pop.
---This year at that nutty bull run in Spain, there was the first casualty in 14 years.
---Wish there were more. The only way we'll ever get these morons from doing this is by killing them.
---Survival of the fittest? More like non-survival of the stupidest.
---I watched the video and I see these bulls get poked with sticks. So, these assholes get what they deserve when they find themselves skewered like a shishkebob.
---And, speaking of bullheaded, what's up with Sarah Palin?
---People think she quit her job because she is focused on a 2012 Presidential run.
---Rethink it, honey. Because, if the Republican party was the Three Stooges, you'd be Shemp.
---People either love or hate her and we already have a Presidential like that.
---I'm guessing she's doing lots of speaking engagements, appearing regularly on Fox News, and making tons of bank deposits into a possible war chest.
---She's also my favorite choice to be a contestant this season on "Dancing with the Stars."
---Okay, my second favorite choice. Because I'm hearing that Joe Jackson will be entering Michael's corpse.
---"He might be dead, but my son is still a dancin' fool."
---Daddy Dearest has already made a couple of million dollars off his son's death.
---If Michael had a grave, he would be rolling in it.
---Latoya Jackson said that Michael was murdered. I'd have to agree. All that memorial nonsense certainly killed my week.
---When I pay tax dollars to the city of Los Angeles, it's fine if some of it goes for garbage disposal.
---I do draw the line at paying for Michael Jackson disposal.
---LA got stiffed for a few million bucks because the family didn't want to hit freeway traffic on their way to the memorial laughfest.
---I love the fact that Joe Jackson is hitting the interview circuit, trying to make himself into Cliff Huxtable.---By the way, I'm thinking that the only way Senora Sotomayor is not cleared for the Supreme Court is if her name turns up on one of Michael's pill bottles.
---Three scariest words in the English language: Senator Al Franken.
---Senator, gasp, Franken will be one of those grilling Ms. Sotomayor about her past.
---Maybe she should be asking him the questions. She can start with all the cocaine use when he was on Saturday Night Live.
---From the "You Get What You Deserve" Department: Some girl in NY was texting and fell down an open sewer hole.
---She, of course, is indignant. There should have been an orange cone, she says.
---My guess is she would have tripped over that, too.
---HBO is running a documentary. Ted Kennedy: In His Own Words.
---I wonder if they are running a subtitled version for the liquor-impaired.
---Along with the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing this weekend, we'll also be remembering the forthieth anniversary of the death of Mary Jo Kopechnie. And a fetus.
---And your words on that, Teddy, are???
---"One small step for man, one giant backstroke to get my ass out of this mess."
---Why did the dumbest Kennedy brother live the longest?
---The last time I paid attention to the baseball All Star Game was when I was 12.
---I didn't see a single pitch last night. Although I did watch the pre-game festivities and the video tribute to volunteers done by President Urkel and the three other living Presidents.
---Oh, yeah, and Jimmy Carter.
---When I look closely at the POTUS, I'm sure that he and Mister Ed have the same dentist.
---And what's that I see, Mr. President? A little lip gloss????
---The only Black person with lips that color is Lena Horne.
---Having lost so many years in a row, the POTUS was asked if there was a bailout planned for the National League. He laughed that he was out of money.
---So are most of us.
---I don't think they can do a stimulus plan for baseball either. Just ask Manny Ramirez who just returned from his maternity leave.
---Obama threw out the first ball and here's a big surprise: he's a lefty.
Dinner last night: Salisbury steak at the Cheesecake Factory.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I saw a movie about four assholes who go on a bachelor party bender in Vegas and can't remember what they did.
So how come I'm the one who wants to throw up?
Backtracking, you've been here before with me. There's a screen comedy that is a big hit. Critics rave that it's one of the best in years. In this case, even friends, some of them even my age, are recommending it to me. "It's hilarious."
I get suckered in all over again. And hope that, perhaps this one time, they are right and I am wrong.
When will I learn? They are always wrong and I am always right.
To say that "The Hangover" is one of the worst movie comedies of all time is probably too mild a statement. Midway through, I started to long for Jerry Lewis in "The Delicate Delinquent" or "The Patsy." Anything else but this. I have to consider that this film was written with the smallest demographic scope in mind---the 20-year-old slacker. Who else would find this cavalcade of toilet humor amusing? But, lo and behold, I looked around me to see folks who are not 20-year-old slackers having a riproaring time. What the hell is wrong with them?
Or, just maybe, what the hell is wrong with me? I am hoping nothing. I still relish the same comedies that made me laugh when I was a kid. I can watch them over and over and over, never getting tired for a moment. Gigglefests from Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, the Marx Brothers, Preston Sturges, et. al. That was comedy at its pinnacle. Despite the audience, "The Hangover" is comedy at its nadir. The lowest of the lowest of the lowest.
In sheer concept, "The Hangover" is reprehensible at best. Four horrible guys ingest enough drugs and booze to make them totally forget what they did for an entire night. They take enough illegal substance to make Michael Jackson posthumously envious. You slowly discover what the heck happened on that fateful night. One of the guys disappears for three quarters of the movie and he might be the lucky one. The other three morons deal with a baby in the closet, a tiger in the bathroom, a hooker in a wedding chapel, a band of gay Chinese gangsters, and, worst of all, Mike Tyson playing himself. The latter gets a pass on script selection since he can't even read. The rest of them should have their SAG cards torn up immediately. The biggest offender is some lunkhead named Bradley Cooper, who literally emotes with his dimples. Over the closing credits, they finally show you in photos what happened to them on this fateful night. I think it's merely a diversion so you don't read the names of those people responsible for this bowl of vomit.
This is the lowest form of humor that would make Howard Stern's sickest shows look like Allistair Cooke and Masterpiece Theater. Beyond all that, there was not one single character that I had any compassion for. I didn't care that they were lost, missing teeth, or being pummeled by thugs. As a matter of fact, if they had been killed in a car crash on the way to Vegas and concluded with a fifteen minute film, I would have thought my twelve greenbacks were well spent. There's an inherent problem in a movie comedy if you start to root for the villains.
Mercifully, "The Hangover" is about 90 minutes so you can immediately head home and stick your head in a gas oven. I wanted to invite the folks around me over to watch a DVD. Maybe "Bringing Up Baby" or "One Two Three" or "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek." When funny was funny. And nobody ever peed in a fountain.
I'll make the mistake again for sure. Another blockbuster comedy from Hollywood. More rave reviews. And more stone faced silence from me. I'll keep hoping and hoping and hoping that, someday and sometime, I won't be the smartest person in the room.
Dinner last night: Asian treats at Rock Sugar in Century City.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Since my two-summer career as a Mount Vernon playground supervisor had literally jumped the shark, I went back to the employment canvas in hopes of drawing a better picture. But now, there were other factors pulling at me.
I had gotten myself involved up to my hips at Fordham's college radio station, WFUV. And since they were on the air all year round, there was plenty I wanted to do there during the summer months. Work on the radio and play off the radio with all the friends I made there. The only rub was that, after extensive rounds of negotiation with management there, my salary for this volunteer work was, well....nothing. That was not going to be an answer.
To make matters even worse, I had made plans to move on-campus for the junior and senior years in an effort to cut down my painstakingly long fifteen minute commute to Fordham. The university was paying me nothing to work at WFUV and, at the same time, they wanted to charge me big bucks for the dormitory apartment. Sheer indignation. The only person who was even more annoyed by this nasty disparity...
"You better bring some money in to help out or you can forget about the dorm."
I'm sorry, Dad, this sounds like I have a choice, but I don't think I do. Oh, never mind.
I began to work feverishly on a plan that would satisfy me in all areas. Money coming in. Time to work at the station. Flexibility.
My college best friend and upcoming roommate had the answer on his own paycheck. Work alongside him as a vendor at Yankee Stadium.
The notion was intriguing. The Yankees were home only half the summer. It's not the Mets, so there would be no distraction in my work. And I could work at WFUV when the Yanks were on the road.
It all jelled.
There is a definite caste system when you work as an usher for a baseball team. Newbies don't get to sell beer or hot dogs. Those assignments go to the grizzled veterans who were trolling the stands back when Joe DiMaggio was patroling centerfield. Nope, I'd show up for my daily gig and had to hope that I would even get something or anything to sell that day. If the advance sale for the game was low, they wouldn't need as many vendors. And the newest folks would be told to skidaddle. That happened my first few days. I'd show up only to turn around and head back to the subway within ten minutes. Unlike the red tape my father was able to snip through for my playground gig, there was nobody he could call about this.
It took about a week to get assigned for a game. The new kids on the block of 161st Street and River Avenue always got the crap to sell. Ice cream cups. Scorecards. Cotton candy. But, even if it was garbage, you still had to sell out to get your daily commission. There was money to be made, but it was hard work. With some tray strapped around you. An apron where you kept change. And a goofy paper hat that held a button that spelled out the price of your concession. If I had any pictures of me doing this job, they would have been burned by now.
As you walked up and down the stands, you had to announce your arrival with those piercing catcalls. You adapted it depending upon what you were hawking.
"Ice cream here. Get your ice cream here. Cold and refreshing."
Except, of course, if you were still holding the very last cup that had melted to the consistency of chocolate milk an hour ago. It was no longer cold or refreshing. You might as well try to sell a container of pre-packaged diarrhea.
"Peanuts. Peanuts here. Who wants my nuts?"
I always thought that was a clever call until, of course, some girl would beckon me over and ask to see my nuts. That pretty much ended that gag.
When you were assigned for the day, you prayed silently to wind up on the field level because that section was very easy to maneuver. If they threw you in the ultra-steep upper deck, every aisle looked like Mount Fuji. With a tray full of junk, I dreaded each climb like poison.
My first time selling soda was memorable. I was also given the field level area behind home plate and it was a typical New York hazy, hot, and humid day. Ka-ching. The sweetest day of work ever.
Until I tripped down the stairs with a full tray of Coke.
Sitting on the concrete steps with sticky liquid covering me, I sheepishly tipped my paper cap to the applause around me. So, when you're watching a baseball game on TV and you suddenly hear crowd applause although there's no action on the field, just know that a stadium vendor has probably fallen down.
The great part of working at a ballpark, even in this lowly capacity, is you have immediate access to every area of the place. Nobody stops you as long as you're wearing your paper hat with a button that says "Soda $4.50." I used to work through the bullpens all the time and frequently one of the players would buy something. With a five dollar tip included. On Oldtimer's Day, Whitey Ford asked me for a soda and I complied. As I stood next to him waiting for his end of the transaction to be processed, he stared me down. And offered no cash.
"Kid, I'm the Chairman of the Board."
I tipped my hat to acknowledge his lofty presence. That's $4.50, please.
He still hasn't paid me. Gin blossomed bastard.
Yankee vendors also got to extend their employment into the football season as they were also used at New York Giant games. And this presented a interesting dichotomy for one of the units we were frequently asked to sell.
If you got assigned those little containers of Sun Dew orange drink during the baseball season, you might as well kiss your day's financial take goodbye. Nobody bought that shit.
But, one week into the football season, I discovered this swill was a premium item. Fans bought them by the carton. You didn't even have to move. All I had to do was crack open a box and I'd draw a line. They'd even ask me to pour it directly into their Thermos. I quickly figured it out.
The Thermos was full of vodka. And I was mixing their screwdrivers. Ideal for the nippy Fall weather. By the third quarter, I could be scalping this stuff for ten bucks a container.
As lucrative as that summer job was, I still was apparently not meeting the budget line item my father had on his ledger of life. So, when the following summer rolled around for what was probably my last hot weather job, I needed to rethink it all one more time. Actually, he rethought it for me.
"You can make a lot more money in my place."
Namely, the factory where he worked nights in Stamford, Connecticut. It was more than a suggestion. It was a stipulation. A demand. An edict. One more time, he made a call and got me a night job manning the shipping department. Gone was my flexibility. Gone was the chance to work regularly at WFUV. Gone was a lot of hanging out with my friends.
But, enter a shitload of money. For doing virtually nothing.
I would ride up to work with my dad around 3PM every afternoon. Then, I would head into the huge shipping room, where, for perhaps no more than an hour, I would load some metal parts into a box. And then I was done. For the rest of the evening, I would sit and listen to the radio. And write. And write. And write. The WFUV situation comedy I was producing would be going into its second season. I used my time in the shipping department to commandeer the writing staff (me) in the development of all the scripts for the year. I never wrote more regularly and consistently and successfully as I did on that dirty work bench in my father's factory. And I was paid handsomely for it. In my mind, this was the first time ever I was paid to write.
So, looking back, my father did me a huge favor that summer.
Moving forward, there would be no more summer jobs. The rest of my employment was all for real. And keeps.
Dinner last night: Hollywood Bowl hot dog.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
These folks really should be left at the station.
Truly lost. Regardless of what space they are in.
With dementia setting in, this was the only way Dad could remember his own family.
The Chinese version of "The Addams Family."
A Chorus Mom. Dance ten, kids three.
So now we have to believe all those stories about getting drunk on a Sno-Cone.
When I was the age of the kid on the right, there was no way that I was going to touch any part of my mother in a bathing suit. At the same time, when was the last time you saw somebody actually model cellulite?
Isn't that always the way it happens? You're on a nice vacation and, bang, a crippling case of scoliosis.
Dinner last night: Turkey sandwich.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Not to be confused with the lamented campaign hot potato of last year, the infamous Joe the Plumber. Nope, Tom the Handyman is real and I know him. But, the political ramifications are almost equal.
Tom is a guy who works for the owner of my condo apartment. Whenever something in our unit needs repairs, we call Tom and he usually shows up pretty quickly, even in light of the fact that he recently started a new job as a medical attendant at the local Veterans Administration hospital.
Such was the case when we suddenly need both toilet tanks to be completely rebuilt. A job that stretched over two days, but that's okay because Tom's a pretty neat guy to talk to. He's in his 60s, a former Vietnam vet, and somebody who has done a lot of "book learning" as Jed Clampett might say. He's amazingly unbiased in an increasingly biased world and I always appreciate hearing his take on issues because of this incredible and innate ability to be non-judgemental.
So, last week, I'm standing nearby to lend an extra hand if needed as Tom takes apart a toilet tank. And the round table discussion began with a rather ominous question from Mr. Fix-It.
"So, tell me. What do you think of Obama?"
Because diverse opinions these days can ilicit dirty looks and even worse, I want to choose my answer carefully. Usually, I prefer not to discuss politics in public. I took a deep breathe before speaking.
"Well, so far, I'm not a huge fan."
I think I'm in a safe zone here. Giving my true feelings but with a little fence straddling at the same time. I braced for Tom's response.
"Well, I voted for him..."
Len cues a big gulp.
"...and I think the guy's a disaster."
Okay, now anybody who reads this blog regularly knows I don't like the current President. But, what might be surprising to you all is that my view of Obama is pretty much the same opinion I have of most political leaders. They all suck. Most spend all their time either getting the job in the first place and then figuring out how to keep it. Very little care and attention is paid to their constituencies. Their fans and/or enemies, those either on the far left or the far right, pull and pull the rest of us as if we're the last piece of Turkish Taffy the day after Halloween. Nobody wins. Everybody loses. And style trumps substance every day and in every way.
But style seems to be all we are concerned with and people/voters spend a lot less time thinking about world and American history than they do about the most inconsequential of trivia. I don't give a shit what Michelle Obama is wearing. I don't give a shit what they name the family dog. I don't give a shit that their daughter was so excited during their trip to Russia that she woke her folks up at 4AM to talk about it. Don't care, don't care, don't care.
But, after talking to Tom the Handyman, I care a lot more about the important stuff. Because he opened my eyes to issues I've only considered in passing. Here's a guy who is beating himself up for making a voting mistake last Election Day. Because, as a veteran who served his country in that debacle called the Vietnam Conflict, he is already reeling from the benefits that have been taken away from him since January. Because, as a health care technician, he is already seeing and hearing from people who are petrified about their future ability to care for themselves. Because, as an American who's been in combat, he fully knows all the ramifications of a passive international stance.
I listened to him for an hour as he alternated between wisdom and a faulty fill valve in my toilet tank. To test the mechanism, he flushed. And made a point.
"That's what I did with my vote last November."
For all the pundits and commentators and bloggers on the national scene, Tom the Handyman made the most salient points of all. Because his pain is real.
"Len, do you know the story about the Pied Piper of Hamelin?"
I know it. The kids blindly following sweet music to their ultimate doom.
Tom the Handyman was making his final point. And flushed one more time.
Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich from Clementine's.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Can we all come out from under the bed yet?
---The Ringling Brothers Circus comes to the Staples Center today. It will have to go a long way to top yesterday's sideshow freaks.
---Why did they even bother to bury Michael Jackson? Just put him on tour all over the world. The Final Farewell Tour. It's over when the body is so unrecognizable that you can't even use it for compost.
---Could be the next edition of "Weekend at Bernie's."
---The hordes that flew into LA from all around the world to be near him are complete assholes. But I hope they are smart enough to remember they had round trip tickets.
---Rhetorical question: doesn't everybody keep operating room anesthesia in their own homes?
---Is that stuff available at Rite Aid? Maybe in the same aisle as Afrin and Bendadryl?
---With Michael Jackson essentially killing himself with a drug OD, I'm now super worried about Sally Field and all that Boniva she's taking.
---Remember that old commercial? Is she really a blonde? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.
---Well, was Michael white all over? Only his undertaker knows for sure.
---Let's face it. You only saw his face and hands lately. His body might have looked like one of those black and white cookies you used to buy at Zabar's in Grand Central Station.
---Watching them drive around the hearse yesterday morning, I thought it would have cool to have Al Cowlings as the driver.
---I could make a lot of money marketing a DVD of yesterday's service. With a laugh track and narration by those three puppets from Mystery Science Theater.
---The other four Jackson brothers were all dressed in matching ties and sequined gloves. Meanwhile, Daddy Joe Jackson was decked out in his Mississippi pimp finest.
---Here's hoping Daddy got through the day without hitting anybody.
---It's a well known fact out there that the grieving family was spotted the other night whooping it up at the Ivy Restaurant.
---A good old fashioned Irish wake.
---Guinness World Records reports this factoid about yesterday's memorial service: It was officially the most pairs of dark sunglasses worn indoors ever.
---Good friend Diana Ross didn't show because she thought it was a security risk.
---Except a good friend of mine recently spotted her in the supermarket putting frankfurters in her shopping cart. Not a bodyguard in sight.
---Diana's absence was noteworthy since she's supposedly in line to get his three "non-children" when Old Lady Jackson checks out.
---Now that's a sitcom in the making. Miss Supreme living with three unruly white kids.
---"You all stop messing with my wigs!"
---It would have been a clever idea for Macaulay Culkin and Corey Feldman to attend wearing nothing but tighty white underwear.
---Just like Michael would have wanted.
---I'm curious. Has Stevie Wonder ever fallen off a stage?
---One of the speakers was Pastor Lucious Smith and don't you wish your spiritual leader was also a shade of lipstick?
---Two of Martin Luther King's kids showed and Martin Luther King III has clearly not missed any meals.
---The daughter, however, looks like a nasty piece of business and talked about Michael being persecuted.
---I think she meant prosecuted...and barely that.
---Reverend Al Sharpton told Michael's alleged children that there was "nothing weird about your father."
---Gee, if the Hindenburg can blow up, why not Reverend Al?
---Two more words for Sharpton. Tawana Brawley. Tawana Brawley. Tawana Brawley.
---And two more words for Sharpton. Tax felon. Tax felon. Tax felon.
---Sharpton's also pushing for a Michael Jackson postage stamp. And isn't that where it all started for the King of Pop? Licking something on the behind.
---There was some bozo Black congresswoman from Houston who spoke and declared that Michael was innocent because he was not proven guilty.
---I think she'd be singing another tune if it was her grandson getting diddled by Michael behind the Neverland dumpster.
---This woman is my newest nomination to get kicked out of Congress.
---The guitar player from Paul Revere and the Raiders died on Monday and I wonder if he will get the same treatment.
---Okay, after all these histrionics, here's what I got out of the memorial service. Michael Jackson was...
---An amazing musical performer. Check.
---A dynamic singer with unbounding energy. Check.
---Incredibly misunderstood as a human being. Check.
---What I missed hearing about Michael Jackson at the service. He was...
---A child rapist. Check.
---A fraud who tried to pass off children as his own. Check.
---A drug addict. Check.
---A pedophile. Check.
---Making a Shakespearean descent into pure madness. Check.
---Largely ignored by his loving family and friends who did nothing to get this guy help for fear of upsetting the cash gravy train they were all riding. Check.
---Michael, thanks for the music. But you sure were a mess.
Hope you all woke up early this morning so you could experience 4:05:06 on 07/08/09.
Dinner last night: Salisbury steak at the Cheesecake Factory.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
On the day before a major holiday, I usually hunker down and don't drive anywhere further down the super market. Not last Friday. Not on July 3, 2009. Nope, I joined the assholes who hit the freeways on an exit out of town.
Manny Ramirez was returning to action in San Diego and I couldn't resist. Not that I condone his probable steroid use. But, these days, no one's indiscretion surprises me anymore. I am growing more and more immune to guilty pleas. Besides, I had always wanted to visit Petco Park when the Dodgers were there and this seemed to be as good a day as ever. And I reasoned that, on the Friday before Independence Day, most people were off from work and already at their non-Los Angeles-based barbecues.
We were smart to leave about five hours before gametime for the two-and-a-half-hour drive down the 5 Freeway. (Okay, the Golden State Freeway, Bibster) Smart move, since we arrived just 45 minutes before game time, thanks to some extra pokey traffic around San Juan Capistrano. The swallows came and went twice in the time that it took us to get through that town. Because of the lengthy drive and an ill-timed Diet Snapple, I had to pull off and pee in a San Clemente gas station. I consider this my homage to Richard Nixon.
Headed down the freeway, I noticed that my vehicle was not the only one sporting a Dodger license plate. I sensed a religious revival in the making as if Billy Graham had beckoned us all to come forward and proclaim our eternal faith in Tommy Lasorda. As slow as we were all moving, I sensed that this was a Dodger wagon train and that Ward Bond was riding in the lead car.
The road to San Diego is scenic and ugly, sometimes all at once. There are beautiful flowers lining the highway at some points. The ocean is frequently at your right. Also, on the passenger car, you might find some nuclear power plants and power lines that define the truest sense of the expression "cancer cluster." At one point, there was a huge field of wood slats coming out of the crowd. How clever, I thought. Somebody is growing broomsticks for the Swifter company. Indeed, we eventually knew some sort of vegetable was involved when we spotted busloads of Mexican lettuce pickers getting transported out after their 17-hour work day.
I had purchased game tickets on Stubhub so I really was schlepping 130 miles for some mystery seats. All I knew was that we were seated in the Toyota Terrace. I was driving a Toyota there so I appreciated all the symmetry. When we slid into downtown San Diego, I followed the crowd to parking and found up in some lot about six blocks from the ballpark. I then pulled off a move that I had not seen since the days of my grandfather. The Diet Coke I had bought in the San Clemente gas station was now backed up and I actually peed in a corner near my parking spot. But, I was comfortable. As I looked around, we were in a sea of Dodger blue. Did the Padres have any fans going to this game?
Apparently not. This was an invasion akin to the Allies landing on Normandy. "Let's Go Dodgers" chants started on the escalator ascending the stadium and did not stop for hours. We had no idea how the ballpark worked, but figured the Toyota Terrace had to be someplace in the vicinity.
Indeed, we had scored the first home run of the game. Because the Toyota Terrace is a pretty exclusive area of seats on the same level as the press box and the luxury seats. While not a suite, there is waiter service for your hot dogs, burgers, etc.. A good thing because there are not a lot of concession stands on our level, although there is a tribute to the former Padre pitcher with the "Randy Jones BBQ" stand. We skipped that and settled into our seats. And the view was astounding as we surveyed all the wonderment of Petco Park.
This was our vantage point. You will notice to the left of the pitching mound the Padres' mascot, a Friar with a big head. It ain't the Chicken, I assure you. The Friar tries to get a frenzy going, but that's tough to pull when two thirds of the fans in attendance are rooting against the Padres. I am guessing most of the Padres' fan base had scalped their seats on Stubhub and headed off to the Zoo or Sea World.
Petco Park was built around this 100-year-old building that once housed the Western Metal Supply Company. They've turned it into a bunch of luxury suites but what isn't a luxury suite at Petco. They've crammed so much stuff in this place that there's hardly an inch of space that isn't occupied by people, food, or people ingesting food. Oddly enough, throughout our travels around the stadium, there is a minimum of souvenir stands. I did not see one. So just where did the twelve Padre fans in attendance buy their Adrian Gonzalez jerseys? A mystery for the ages. Or perhaps the Padres just don't deal in commerce for anything that's not eventually edible?
On the other side of the centerfield wall, there is a family section where you sit on the grass and watch the game. But, given the number of toddlers running around there, I doubt any adult here saw a single pitch thrown. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure the last Padre these folks saw swing a bat was Nate Colbert. Are there no neighborhood playgrounds in San Diego?
The post-game stories said that the reaction to Manny on his first at-bat were mixed. I now conclude that most of those reporters are deaf. There were a lot more cheers than boos. Perhaps they were too busy enjoying their pulled pork sandwich from the Randy Jones BBQ.
And the cheers did not subside on his last at-bat for the evening. By then, the Dodgers were comfortably ahead for the night. The only Padre threat was upended, with a tip of the baseball cap to poetic justice, by a spectacular catch from Manny's defensive replacement, Juan Pierre.
Since the Dodgers put this one away early, I used the down time to wander. And, unlike most places in America, you can do that at Petco Park pretty much unaccosted. There is no worry for terrorists there. Just walk around and see if one of the many 80-year-old ushers will stop you. The Padres obviously hire the elderly. There are probably assisted living complexes all over San Diego that are virtually empty for 81 days during every baseball season.
Here I am, literally standing next to the KCAL home plate cameraman and right under Vin Scully's press box window. Vin was just about six feet above me. I have no idea why my attention is diverted to the side. It's not like I was worried about an usher wheeling himself over to chase me. My God, my eyes look like one of those Jerry Mahoney dummies.
But the ability to get so close to Vin came me an idea. How about a picture of the two of us together? I'd be happy to autograph this for you, Mr. Scully.
As it turned out, we were awash with celebrity sightings. About twenty feet in the other direction, we saw the luxury suite of partial Padre owner and former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikmann. That is him in the picture, although with the lighting, it just as well could be Jermaine Jackson.
There was a post-game fireworks show that also seemed to be dominated by Dodger fan still savoring their win. The pyrotechnics were impressive, but resulted in huge clouds of smoke. It was like I was 10 years old and this was the living room where my mom was chainsmoking through an episode of the Merv Griffin Show. If dolphins at Sea World were coughing on Saturday morning, I know why.
The Dodger caravan started its return trip up the 5. This time around, there was no traffic. Nestled into the car pool lane, I did 80 mph all the way up, Officer, and got back to LA in less than two hours.
And I did not have to stop and pee in San Clemente.
Dinner last night: Pork chops and sweet potato pancakes.